Thursday, March 01, 2007

Anglican History: Anglicanism defended from Puritan Extremists

While the forging of the Via Media of Anglicanism began with the liturgical work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the apologetics of Archbishop Jewel, and the theological genius of Richard Hooker, it was a sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, that sought to put into practice the Reformed Catholicism of Protestant Anglicanism (Clark 1897, 248-300). It was under her reign that the major doctrinal and liturgical disputes in the Church of England were “officially” laid to rest. In keeping with the ideals of the Anglican Reformation, the canons of 1571 directed that all who preach in the name of the Church shall: “. . .see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon, which they would have religiously held and believed by the people, save that what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old and New Testament, and what the catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine.”

Under Elizabeth the liturgy, the Creeds, the historic ministerial Orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon would all be preserved in the Church of England. The liturgy of the Church would be simpler and in English (clearly the language of the people, following the ancient custom of national churches as expressions of the Church Catholic; see Article XXIV). In keeping with ancient practice, married clergy would be allowed, although Elizabeth personally disliked the notion (Hibbert 1991). The matter of the Eucharistic presence was not elaborated in the Articles of Religion any further than stating that the Body of Christ is given, taken, and received in the Supper by faith (Article XXVIII). Lutherans and Calvinists could find similarities and common ground with the bare bones theology of the Articles on most points within an ecclesiastical structure that preserved continuity with the pre-Reformation Church.
The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were affirmed (in keeping with the Anglican Reformers) to be effectual signs of grace (Article XXV), not bare tokens only (rejecting Zwingli’s teaching). While the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper was affirmed, transubstantiation was firmly and explicitly rejected (Article XXVIII). Contentious matters like predestination were pronounced upon using the austere language of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Clergy were to wear vestments, namely the surplice for parish churches, surplice and cope for collegiate churches and cathedrals, and use the Prayer Book exclusively, thus providing a common national Use. The first four great Councils of the Church would provide the doctrinal basis for Anglican teaching (Middleton 2001). Essentially, all the basics for a primitive and reformed Catholicism were laid down. It was a lofty ideal. The Church of England was to be a national Church that all Christian people could honestly belong to. It satisfied many, but caused dissent and anger among others.
Queen Elizabeth is purported to have commented that she knew how much the Romans would need to be pleased in the reformed English Church, but she thought that the Puritans would never be pleased—no matter how much she agreed to their demands (Hibbert 1991; Middleton 2001). If this was her mindset, in retrospect she could be pronounced essentially correct. The Puritan element in the Church of England saw the Prayer Book as being culled from the “dunghill of the Mass” and the reformed vestments as being “popish” garb (Bourne 1947). The Church of England, in the Puritan view, was far from being rightly reformed. Episcopacy was seen as a form of prelacy not far removed from Papacy , willfully ignoring that it was the form of church governance as far back as the first century. The Elizabethan appeal to the ancient Catholic past of the English Church, explicit in the use of a fixed liturgy, the maintenance of the Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, as well as an appeal to patristic theology (the Homilies of the Church of England are punctuated with quotations from the Church Fathers) left many Puritans disquieted and desirous of further change and “reform.”

The English Civil War under the reign of King Charles the First and his Archbishop, William Laud, was a direct result of the goals and ideals of the Elizabethan Settlement and the Puritan resentment it caused. Laud defended the Episcopacy, sought to enforce the use of the Prayer Book, the wearing of vestments, the upkeep of churches, the formal training of ministers, and the use of the King James Bible (Bourne 1947; McGrath 2001). Many historians today see Laud as right in his aim, but heavy handed and errant in the method of his reach (Wedgwood 1958). He was beheaded by a Puritan Parliament for seeking to re-introduce “Popery” into England, and his King was later beheaded as well. Elizabethan Anglicanism, Episcopacy and Prayer Book, was outlawed under the Puritan Commonwealth, only to be brought back at the Restoration under Charles II in 1660. Anglicanism asserted itself again by law, but much less by force as in the days of Elizabeth and Charles. Anglicanism had grown weary of doctrinal disputes, and Puritan sympathies as well as Deist tendencies slowly crept into the Church.
Over the next century Latitudinarianism (an academic approach, at its best broadly orthodox but perhaps a little too philosophical, at its worst Deist and far removed from the relevant issues of Christian orthodoxy) became prevalent in the Church. Distinctly reformed Catholic theology, such as that taught by Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, and Andrewes was slowly forgotten (although learned men like Bishop Berkeley and William Law resisted the darker aspects of Deism and the overemphasis of Reason in establishing “natural religion”). Anglicanism—broadly speaking—became apathetic concerning its past, in practice often forgetting its own rules and theology. The reformed Catholicism of the Elizabethan Settlement that seemed hard won at the Restoration, with its appeal to the ancient Church and her doctors and martyrs, slowly sunk below the horizon, to be replaced by a Church happy to be the “Established” Church of England. The foregoing might very well be a gross oversimplification of the matter—the essential unity of Anglicanism in England between the years of 1688 and 1832 is stressed—in some detail—by Gibson (2001). Moorman (1983) also attests to the vibrancy of the Church during the 18th century. However, the very existence of extremist Low Church elements within the Church of England that seemed to stand for the very things the Puritan movement stood for argues for a certain doctrinal incoherence within Anglicanism during this period. Teachings concerning the Eucharist, which the Prayer Book describes as the chief act of worship, although in some places it was celebrated only four or five time per year, ran the gamut from the heresy of Zwinglianism—in clear contradiction to the Articles—to the near orthodoxy of Calvin’s teaching (Hall 1993; I say this because most readers today would have difficulty distinguishing Calvin’s teaching on the Eucharist from most quotes from the Henrician Bishop Gardiner), notwithstanding Moorman’s (1983) attestation that there could be no doubt as to the straightforward Anglican teaching in the Prayer Book concerning the Lord’s Supper. The 19th century would see a re-emergence of distinctly “Anglican” theology (in a rediscovery of the works of Hooker, Herbert, Andrewes, etc.) in response to the Evangelical and Oxford Movements (each right in their essentials, but wrong in their extremes).


Anonymous said...

The English people had a bone of contention with Archbishop Laud that extended beyond merely his supposed revival of popery. Laud was a tyrant and at the heart of his draconian rule was the star chamber that had severely oppressed writers like William Prynne. This became intolerable to a free people, apart from contention over theological minutiae. Second, you are ignoring the means by which Cranmer and later Elizabeth enforced their state religion: by dictatorship and suppression. Attendance at Anglican service was required. The Latin Mass of long custom and tradition was suppressed and those who officiated at it subject to capital punishment. All was not as clean and simple under Bloody Bess as your article makes out. This is not to say that within Protestant orthodoxy itself, for those who chose that form of worship, the Anglican church was not possessed a certain wisdom and judicious preservation of particular customs and practices. But perhaps that was necessary to secure the Protestant overthrow of the old order--to incorporate and thereby co-opt some cherished aspects of it. But it cannot be gainsaid that the Anglican Church was built upon the coercion exhibited by a state religion; and much harm was done to those who could not conform to the new religion. --M. Hoffman

Anonymous said...

Anyone who can call Archbishop Laud a tyrant for simply enforcing the law against all comers, the rich and well placed as well of lesser folk is . . .well, some sort of nut. Prynne was another sort of nut who refused to acknowledge the requirements of the English prayer book of his time and turned Puritan while at Durham. But the real importance of Laud is that he stood against what was to prove a greater tyranny, that of Cromwell's dictatorship which wqs the forerunner of every terrorist totalitarian state from then forward.
Second, anyone who calls Elizabeth I bloody given the difference between her reign with its numbers and that of her sister or indeed of any Roman Catholic monarch of her time is less than rational. Do we forget or ignore the St Bartholomew day's massacre and other lesser but like events in the papist states?
Thirdly to call the reforms that were instituted under Elizabeth "a new religion" is to forget that they were but a return to the practices of the whole Christian Church in the first five centuries. The seminary priests who came over from the continent to service the papist recusants also acted as spies and agents of a foreign power for the overthrow of the English Church and state, the latter still a capital crime in most countries.
The result of Anglicanism over the last four centuries is that it has produced the freest states among the nations of the world - not a bad record for a very minor country that was wracked with poverty at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I removed a comment concerning Lee Potet's ecclesiastical credentials because it has already been posted elsewhere on this site.

I'm not one for limiting free speech--just that the post was a verbatim post of something already posted.

Anonymous said...

A few questions for "Bishop" Lee Poteet:

1. Who consecrated you?

2. Can you demonstrate with proof that this consecration was within Apostolic succession?

3. Why does the "parish" you serve exist outside of any continuing Anglican denomination?

4. Valid Anglican ecclesiology presumes authority and responsibility. By claiming to be a "bishop," you claim authority -- but to whom are you responsible?

5. What are your educational credentials? From what college(s) did you graduate? Where did you take your theological degree(s)?

If you claim authority and/or knowledge, and you do, you should not hesitate to answer these questions...unless you have something to hide.

I'm waiting, "Bishop."

Anonymous said...

I see our anonymous fellow is yet unwilling to reveal his name. I wonder why. Too bad as it says something about him and his own agenda.

I am wondering about "Death Bredon" and The Patristic Anglican. Are things all right there. With 'An Anglican Cleric' I judge it among the best truly Anglican spots on the internet. Would like to know that he, at least, is ok.

I am beginning to realize that I am being censored and that is ok. You own the blog and do an excellent job. Please keep it up.

Lee Poteet

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I have only taken one posting down from this site, and it was not one of Lee Poteet's, so only one incident of censorship has been applied.

However, I don't want this site to be a battleground for personal arguments. I try and keep things on an academic level to the best of my ability.

Sorry I haven't been posting lately--busy with other things. Hope to get back to a regular pace soon.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I noticed as well that The Patristic Anglican was down. Hope everything is ok.

Anonymous said...

"Bishop" Poteet,

Why should I have to tell you who I am before you answer my legitimate questions? If you can prove that you've been consecrated in apostolic succession, why not simply do it?

You sit in judgment over anyone and everyone else, including men whose consecrations are indisputably valid -- George David Cummins, Ray R. Sutton, et al. You bash the REC, the APA, and virtually every other continuing Anglican denomination. But when I have the temerity to ask you a few questions, you refuse to answer because I'm anonymous? What a crock.

For others who are interested, check out:

This will be the last time I post here on the subject. My apologies to the blog owner for cluttering up his blog with my questions for "Bishop" Poteet.

Anonymous said...

I regret that this excellent blog has been used by someone who feels unable to give his name but who feels free to make anonymous and false charges about myself, my history and my consecration. First, I am not a "rector," but merely 'priest-in-charge.' I serve as a chaplain to those who have been absued by several continuing Church groups. They will make the decisions about affiliation and not I.

Secondly, my 3-mail address is and my telephone number is (918) 377-2582. If you have a name, please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to respond.

Finally, I apologize to the blog owner who is doing much of what I would like to be doing and that well. We may not agree on every issue or every fact, but he has the general thrust of classical prayer book Anglicanism down well. May his readers increase. I feel that my nameless attacker is abusing the blog and that I, by posting even this much, am doing likewise. It is a shame that those who claim the name of Christian should act so.

+Lee, Sometimes St. Matthew & the West.

Anonymous said...

Death Bredon is alive and well, but in his human frailty became overly frustrated about religious matters and decided to stop his Patristic Anglican Website. Perhaps in the future, after a respite to regain perspective, he may resume.

Thanks everyone for your concern.

Christ is Risen!