An English Parish Church
the "Wool Church" of
I am sorry that the last few days I did postings but hadn’t included the usual photo. The photos are, for the most part, only decorative but I do like to add them and sometimes they even illustrate a point. The problem is that I usually write and post in my office (where I have access to my library) but most of my photo collection is on my home computer. So I have added photos for the last two postings—and they illustrate various points that I wrote about—and will try not to let the lapse between the posting proper and the illustration happen again.
Well back to Cranmer’s 1552 Prayer Book. Archbishop Cranmer included in his book 42 “Articles of Religion” which set forth and clarified several points of doctrine for the Church of England. (In later books they were reduced to 39 Articles.) Many of these articles reaffirm the ancient faith of the Church in the Holy Trinity, in the two natures of Christ, in the Virgin Birth, in the Resurrection of Christ, of Original Sin, and other doctrines on which Catholic and Anglicans were then and still are agreed. There are articles where at the time there were thought to be differences between the Reformers and Catholics but which have now been, at least to some degree, resolved such as Justification by Faith and the necessity of grace. However, there were also articles which clearly delineated the newly Reformed faith from the Catholic faith of the centuries previous. Cranmer denied the doctrines of purgatory and the invocation of the Saints as well as the use of relics and images. But I want to post three of his articles as they come down to us in the Anglican tradition.
XXV. Of the sacraments. Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him. There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord. Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God. The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.
XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper. The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross. The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.
We can see in these articles a very clear break with Catholic belief and practice. These articles, in a somewhat revised but no less Protestant form, stand today in contemporary Anglicanism and in most Churches of the Anglican Communion, a priest must swear assent to them before ordination. One priest of whom I read said: “I swear assent to the Articles of Religion as I might swear assent to the Oxford Gas Works. I am aware of their existence and am not, at the current time, engaged in any activity for their destruction, but that does not mean that I approve of them.” Such mental gymnastics aside, we can see how Cranmer’s Reform of the Church of England laid the foundation for centuries of division. Any story of a “hermeneutic of continuity” with the pre-Reformation Church of England in doctrine or practice is obviously a fable.
Frederic William Maitland, the noted English jurist and historian, satirized his contemporary, William Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford and Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, by saying that Stubbs (and other High Churchmen) would have “England as Protestant before the Reformation and Catholic afterward.” We have seen that prior to the Reformation the Church of England had its own distinct character within the Roman Communion, but it is clear that whatever continuity with its Catholic faith once existed and which might later be repaired, was clearly and cleanly snapped by Archbishop Cranmer.