Part I: The Foundations of Reformed Catholicsm
The Principles of the Anglican Reformation
The English Reformers did not seek to establish a new religion or sect within England. Rather, the Reformers sought to bring the Church that was extant within England back to the principles of the primitive and undivided Catholic Church (Atkinson 1993). To do this, recourse was made to the teachings of the ancient Fathers, especially those writings composed in the first five hundred years of the Christian Church (Middleton 2001). The teachings of the first four Ecumenical Councils were held to be definitive for the teachings of the Church of England, for it was these councils and their teachings that formulated the only authoritative statement of the Christian Faith for the Church Catholic, what is now commonly called the Nicene Creed (Moss 1944).
A good example of the appeal to ancient Catholicism made by the Church of England can be found in her traditional position on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which found solidification in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. The celebration of the Mass, overwhelmed as it was in the Middle Ages by erroneous teachings concerning new sacrifices of the physical flesh and blood of Christ, alleviation of the souls in purgatory by such sacrifices, and corrupted views on transubstantiation, was a flashpoint for controversy during the Reformation. Many on the continent, following the teachings of Zwingli rather than Calvin or Luther, wished to reduce the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to mere symbols (McGrath 1997, 514), visual sermons at best (the writings of Church Fathers contradicted this view; see Bercot 1998, 251-259).
Those defending the position of the Church of Rome at the time of the Reformation held to an extreme view of the scholastic theory of transubstantiation that called for the metaphysical annihilation of the elements of bread and wine (this view actually contradicts the original teaching of Aquinas as well as contradicting the ancient authors of the Church; see Macquarrie 1997, 128-129). However, those churchmen teaching in defense of Anglicanism continually rejected both approaches and sought the counsel of the Scriptures and the undivided Church. The first reformed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, made clear in his treatise A Defense of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Savior Christ (1551; 1987) that it was not his intent to depart from the teachings of the Fathers in this matter. Cranmer did so by continually buttressing his arguments against transubstantiation and supporting his own views on the Holy Communion in particular with references to ancient teachers such as Chrysostom and Augustine. Whatever one may think about Archbishop Cranmer’s sacramental theories and theology, set forth primarily as a negation of one theory rather than as an establishment of a competing theory, it cannot be said that his views were uninformed by the teachings of the ancient ecclesiastical authors. Indeed, Cranmer’s entire approach to theology was defined as an appeal to primitive Catholicism.
Cranmer’s views on the Eucharist were elaborated by John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury (d. 1571) under Queen Elizabeth I. Roman Catholic controversialists held that since the Church of England had rejected views on the Eucharist held by the Roman Church (the real presence as defined by and equated with an acceptance of transubstantiation) Anglicanism was teaching an absence of Christ in the sacraments. Jewel, in his An Apology of the Church of England (1564; 2002), rejected the teachings of Rome but was very careful to make evident to the reader that Roman Catholic opinions regarding the Anglican position were misunderstandings or distortions of the facts.
"And in speaking thus we mean not to abase the Lord’s Supper, or to teach that it is a cold ceremony and nothing be wrought therein (as many falsely slander us we teach). For we affirm that Christ does truly and presently give himself wholly in his sacraments; in baptism, that we may put him on; and in his supper, that we may eat him by faith and spirit and may have life everlasting by his cross and blood. And we say not, this is done slightly and coldly, but effectually and truly. . . .For Christ himself altogether is so offered and given us in these mysteries that we may certainly know we be flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones; and that Christ continueth in us and we in him. And therefore in celebrating these mysteries, the people are to good purpose exhorted, before they come to receive Holy Communion, to lift up their hearts and to direct their minds heavenward; because he is there by whom we must be full fed and live. Cyril saith, when we come to receive these mysteries, all gross imaginations must quite be banished (Jewel 2002, 34)."
Here Jewel, much in manner and tradition of Cranmer before him, begins a defense of his stance on the Eucharist with the work of not only Cyril, but also the Council of Nicaea, John Chrysostom, and Augustine of Hippo.
In the same work, Jewel questions the rationale by which the Roman Church claims the Church of England to be schismatic by asking why the Roman Church has departed from the ways of the Greek Church, the Church that Jewel claims gave rise to the Roman Church (rather than the other way around, as the Roman Church would claim). We see here a great esteem for the principles of the Orthodox Churches of the East, even though most of the English Reformers and later Anglican divines held the Eastern (or Greek) Church to be corrupt in certain aspects of teaching and devotion (as Article XIX expresses) even though such condemnation is partially due to a misunderstanding of certain doctrines and practices.
"And if these men will needs condemn us for heretics because we do not in all things at their commandment, whom (in God’s name) or what kind of men ought they themselves to be taken for which despise the commandment of Christ and of the apostles? If we be schismatics because we have left them, by what name shall we call them which have forsaken the Greeks, from whom they first received their faith, forsaken the primitive Church, forsaken Christ himself and the apostles, even as children should forsake their parents? For though those Greeks who at this day profess religion and Christ’s name have many things corrupt amongst them, yet hold they still a great many number of those things which they have received from the apostles. They have neither private Masses, nor mangled sacraments (Here Jewel is referring to the Roman practice of withholding the cup in Holy Communion from the laity, a practice in effect in the Latin Rite of the Roman Church until the Second Vatican Council), nor purgatories, nor pardons. . . .Now then, since it is manifest that these men have fallen from the Greeks, of whom they received the Gospel, of whom they received the faith, the true religion, and the church; what is the matter why they will not now be called home again to the same men, as it were to their originals and first founders? (99-100)"
Here it is evident that Jewel sees the Greek Church as holding substantially to the Catholic faith as it was delivered from the apostles to the fathers, and he asks that the Roman Church return to the Greek Church and its principles, rather than forsaking them as “children forsake their parents.” We see in an appeal to the Orthodox East a defense of those things which all the Reformers held in common, namely a return to a common Eucharist, rather than multiple Masses celebrated by multiple priests within the same parish or cathedral, a restoration of the Cup to the laity, a service that was celebrated in the vernacular, and a repudiation of an eschatology that included additions that warranted a system of pardons and indulgences.
Jewel makes clear countless times in his Apology that the teachings he set forth had the backing of the Scriptures and the ancient Church. As the Church historian William Clark (1897) concludes:
"Jewel was. . .inclined to the Protestant side as opposed to the retention of images, vestments, and the like; but he had a clear conceptions of the historical continuity of the Church, and had no notion of the reformed Church being a new sect constructed in accordance with a certain interpretation of the New Testament. In a second sermon at Paul’s Cross, he repeated the statements of his first, maintaining the Catholic character of the English Church, and insisting that the characteristic difference between England and Rome was, that the former was primitive and the latter mediaeval (284)."