(I am relocating these series of posts from another one of my sites, which is not defunct but I think will be appropriate on this blog).
The Beginnings of the Reformation (1534-1549)
The reign of Henry VIII is everything but an eager campaign for reform. Henry VIII became convinced sometime in the 1520's that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalidated by braking the biblical mandate in Leviticus 20:21 condemning marriage with a brother's wife. Catherine had previously been married to Henry's brother, Arthur, however, papal dispensation was obtained to make the marriage valid between Henry and Catherine. After many failed pregnancies and only a surviving daughter, Henry became convinced that his lack of a male heir was God's curse upon his marriage. With this unease with his marriage and his infatuation with the lady Anne Boleyn, Henry began to seek an annulment from the Pope for his marriage with Catherine, in order to seek marriage with Anne. However, unexpectedly, the Pope declined Henry's request for annulment (probably resulting from several political factors rather than a genuine concern of the validity of Henry's marriage). After much deliberation between Henry and the Pope, Henry and his advisors and church leaders came to the conclusion that the Pope was a foreign power and had no jurisdiction in the realm of England. The Act of Supremacy was passed in 1534 and required of all clergy in the realm. This was not a victory for evangelical reformers for there was no doctrinal change with the break from Rome. However, the impetus for change had begun and could be seen as early as 1536, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, pushed by Thomas Cromwell and one of the earliest attempts to reform the English Church. The Ten Articles were also published in 1536 which pushed the English Church in a Lutheran direction. This was followed by the Bishop's Book in 1537, which pushed the Church in a more Reformed direction. However, these reforms were later repealed by Henry in the Six Articles of 1539. Later in Henry's reign, the King's Book (1543) continued to defend transubstantiation but encouraged preaching and attacked images. Meanwhile, the Mass remained in Latin, that is, until 1544, when the first edition of the Great Litany was published by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Litany was based upon the Latin texts found in the Sarum Missal but reformed in character when translated by Cranmer. In 1547, the Epistle and Gospel were to be read in English at Mass. In 1548, a beloved portion of our Prayer Book was published under the title "The Order for Communion." The brief service was inserted into the Canon of the Mass and entirely in English. It contained the Exhortation to Communion, the Invitation, the Confession, Absolution, Comfortable Words, and Prayer of Humble Access, right before the reception of Communion by the laity. The Litany was revised also in the final years of Henry's life. However, any major change would have to wait until the reign of his son, Edward VI, however, the it was worth the wait, for the world would completely change in 1549.
Reforms under the Reign of Edward VI (1547-1553)
While liturgical reform was simmering during Henry's reign, and began to show in its final years, it was during the reign of Edward that the Prayer Book was born. In 1549, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer published the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The 1549 BCP really was a landmark in itself. It was the first fully English service book ever produced in the history of the English Church. The 1549 BCP was the most conservative of any Reformation service book, for it retained much Medieval ceremonial and form, while maintaining reformed doctrine at its core. The 1549 BCP is shrouded in mystery as to its true purpose. There are two main theories about the intentions of Archbishop Cranmer. The first theory is that Archbishop Cranmer really intended the 1549 BCP to be the reformed liturgy of the English Church. This view would claim that Cranmer believed much of medieval ceremonial and custom could be preserved in a reformed framework so long as the doctrinal core remained firmly evangelical. Those who hold to this theory would point out that Martin Bucer critiqued Cranmer's rite and would hypothesize that Cranmer succumbed to pressure and further reformed the ceremonial of the 1549 rite to produce the 1552 rite. Another proof for this theory is the case of Bishop Gardiner, who argued that the 1549 BCP could be interpreted in an unreformed sense, i.e. as being compatible with transubstantiation and medieval notions of eucharistic sacrifice. This would have provoked Cranmer, fully devoted to reformed doctrine, to purge the rite of medieval symbolism. The other theory is that the 1549 BCP was intended solely as an interim rite to prepare the English people for the further reforms envisioned by Cranmer in the 1552 rite. The proximity between the publication of the 1549 and 1552 BCP seems to prove this theory, or at least offer those who believe it some credence. I think that the reality is probably a combination of the two. Cranmer most likely intended to retain as much medieval symbolism as possible in the reformed liturgy. However, after the publication of the 1549 liturgy he received Gardiner's defense of medieval theology under the 1549 rite and also saw Continental criticism of his work. Cranmer, ever ecumenical, sought unity amongst the reformed churches and began further work on the liturgy. Even after the release of the 1552 rite, many Reformed churchmen did not find it sufficiently "Reformed" enough for their tastes (and thus began Puritanism).
While an in-depth analysis of the 1549 BCP is beyond the scope of this simple introduction, some brief comments should be made about the Communion rite, which will be the focus of the analysis of the changes in the rite over the various editions. The title Communion rite inthe 1549 BCP reveals the overall character of the rite. "The Svpper of the Lorde, and the holy Communion, commonly called the Masse," terminology which would be abandoned in later editions of the BCP. This language recalls similar phrasing found in the Augsburg Confession, "Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence" (Article XXIV). It wasn't just the title that retained a medieval feel. The entirety of the rite preserved largely the structure of the medieval Mass while reforming the doctrine. The Mass opens with the Collect for Purity, then an Introit is sung, the Kyries follow, then the Gloria is sung, then follows the Collect of the Day and Collect for the King, the Epistle, Gospel, Creed, Sermon, Exhortation, Offertory, Sursum Corda, Preface, Sanctus and Benedictus, Canon (interestingly with an epiclesis), Our Father, Confession & Absolution, Comfortable Words, Prayer of Humble Access, Agnus Dei, a Communion antiphon, prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. The priest is ordered to vest in, "a white Albe plain, with a vestment or Cope." Other liturgical ministers ("clerks") have a prominent role in the liturgy, singing much of the people's parts and assisting the priest in the celebration of the liturgy. Accompanying the 1549 BCP was the Ordinal of 1550 which is subject to the same types of interpretation as the 1549 BCP. A brief analysis of the priest's ordination reveals a clinging to the ceremonial of the past while reforming the doctrine. For example, the priest is delivered a Bible and chalice with bread, vested in alb, in 1550, and only delivered a Bible, presumably vested in surplice in 1552. Likewise the bishop is vested in surplice and cope and is given his pastoral staff in 1550, while only given a Bible in 1552 and vested in rochet and chimere in 1552. Other notable ceremonies retained the 1549 include the exorcism and chrisom in Baptism, anointing of the sick, reservation of the sacrament, prayers for the dead, funeral masses, the sign of the cross in confirmation, and other ceremonies deemed not sufficiently reformed by other Reformed Christians. It is notable that Cranmer intended for the majority of the divine services to be sung for he commissioned, John Merbecke, published the Booke of Common Praire Noted in 1550, which provided simple settings of the 1549 liturgy for congregational singing. Merbecke's setting still remains in use today among Anglicans who use the traditional Prayer Book or Rite I services from the 1979 Episcopal book.
For whatever reason (according to how you interpret history), Cranmer decided to further reform the liturgy of the English Church. The result of these reforms was published together as the 1552 BCP. Where the former rite had been a very conservative reformation of the liturgy which sought to preserve the ritual heritage of the middle ages, the new rite was a radical departure from medieval ritual and ceremonial. Almost every aspect of the liturgy was changed with Cranmer's pen in the 1552 revision. Beginning with the daily services, they acquired their penitential introduction (all that precedes "O Lord, open thou..." in the 1662). Thus becoming a theological statement of justification by faith alone in liturgical form. However, it was the Communion liturgy that went through the most change. Anything that resembled the medieval Mass was stricken out or moved to disassociate the English Church from the errors of medieval theology associated with the Mass. Gone was the introit and the Kyrie was reshaped into the Decalogue, "Lord have mercy on us and incline our hearts to keep this law." The Gloria was moved to after the Canon. The intercessory prayer came right after the sermon, now called the, "Prayer for the whole state of Christes Church militant here in earth," thus eliminating any prayers for the dead and saintly intercessions. The Exhortation, Confession, Absolution, and Comfortable Words find their home after the Prayer for Christ's Church and before the canon and remain there throughout Anglican liturgy. The salutation, "The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit," is taken out of the Sursum Corda. The Prayer of Humble access now follows the Sanctus which has lost the Benedictus qui venit. The most notable change, however, is the Canon, which has been split in two. The institution narrative is said and then the reception of the elements follows immediately. The communicants are given the bread and the wine with these new words of administration. "Take and eate this, in remembraunce that Christ dyed for thee, and feede on him in thy hearte by faythe, with thankesgeving," for the bread, and, "Drinke this in remebraunce that Christ's bloude was shed for thee, and be thankefull." Gone are the clear expressions found in the 1549, "The body of our Lorde Jesus Christe whiche was geven for thee, preserve thy bodye and soule unto everlasting lyfe," and, "The bloud of our Lorde Jesus Christe which was shed for thee, preserve thy bodye and soule unto everlastyng lyfe." There is no Agnus Dei in the 1552 but the Our Father follows the receiving of the elements. Next there is a choice between the prayer of oblation and the prayer of thanksgiving. The Gloria in Excelsis follows this and ending with the blessing. In baptism, the anointing, exorcism, and chrisom are gone, however, the sign of the cross remains, a practice which will become a major issue with the Puritans later in Elizabeth's reign and especially under Charles I. As aforementioned, the Ordinal was also revised in 1552 with several major revisions. The life of the 1552 was short for in 1553, Edward VI died, and Mary Tudor ascended to the throne and brought England back under the submission of Rome. However, the 1552 BCP did not die then, for it shaped the core of all future English BCPs until today.
Under Mary I (1553-1558)
This section will obviously be rather short, for, no reform was made during her reign, but rather the opposite. All the reforms of Cranmer were eschewed for Rome. The Roman Mass was reintroduced in Latin and imposed on the people. Notable events during her reign are the execution of the Oxford Martyrs (Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer), and the fact that Cardinal Pole, later Archbishop of Canterbury, did not reordain Edwardine clergy.
The Birth of Anglicanism (1559-1603)
After the death of Mary I, her sister, Elizabeth I, ascended to the throne. Elizabeth I was no Romanist and began plans to remove the Church of England from Rome's grip. The Act of Supremacy and Uniformity of 1559 reestablished the Church of England as independent of Rome and as the Monarch as the Supreme Governor of her. The religious climate in 1559 was anything but settled, despite the act of Parliament. There were strict Calvinists who had been exiled to Geneva during Mary's reign and loyal Romanists who wanted to return to the ways of Mary I. Elizabeth, aware of political dangers, sought a middle way. She authorized a revision of the 1552 BCP, the use of surplice and rochet, and other practices which were meant to appease both extremists to remain loyal to the national church. Many changes were made to the 1552 rite which were meant to be moderate. First, the Ornament Rubric, was added to the beginning of the Mattins service. Initially it allowed the use of 1549 vestments to please Romanists, but later injunctions required the use of surplice, tippet, and hood, and cope on certain occasions. The "Black Rubric" was eliminated, thus allowing for a realist interpretation of the sacrament. The words of administration from the 1549 and 1552 BCPs were combined to produce a theologically ambiguous statement regarding the nature of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In 1562, Cranmer's 42 Articles of Religion were revised to 38 and appended to the Prayer Book. Notably excluded were any statements against Lutheran consubstantiation. In 1571, the Articles were revised to 39 including the article about the wicked who receive not the body of Christ. As mentioned, the Elizabethan book retained many ceremonies that the Puritans were not fond of and sought to further reform the Elizabethan church, although unsuccessfully. Elizabeth sought moderation in things ecclesiastical and tried to maintain the via media. However, the Puritans had no fondness for the Prayer book, calling it, "an unperfect book, culled and picked out of that popish dunghill, the Mass book full of all abominations." A list of ceremonies that they opposed which were contained in the Prayer book are: the sign of the cross at Baptism, the surplice, bowing at the name of Jesus (contained in the 1571 and 1604 Canons), the ring at marriage, readings from the Apocrypha, kneeling to receive Communion, holy days, and emergency baptism. Most of these were not removed from the Prayer Book.
Under James I (1604-1625)
All the issues which existed under Elizabeth's reign continued into James'. A new Prayer Book was issued in 1604 which altered little in the existing book. Although there was one major concession to the Puritans. Lay emergency baptism was prohibited as irregular, meaning that a minister of the Gospel had to perform a baptism. The Puritans didn't like the linking between baptism and salvation by making it an emergency. James I is also famous for his 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible. The project began in 1604 and was a unitive project designed to promote unity in the national church. A group of scholars was assembled to produce a version that was free of Popish and Puritan extremes and finished in 1611. The Bible was to be the only authorized translation for the Church of England. A major group of scholars began to emerge, beginning in Elizabeth's reign but flourishing throughout the 17th century. This group of scholars is known as the Caroline Divines and are part of a succession of scholars which began to give interpretation to the Elizabethan settlement and give theological shape to the emerging Anglican Church.
Charles I, Laudianism, The Civil War, and Abeyance of the BCP (1625-1660)
Charles ascended the throne in 1625 and inherited a disdain for Puritans and their theology. Charles was a proponent of High Church Anglicanism, or Laudianism, which references the leader of the High Church party at the time, Archbishop William Laud. This party stood in contrast to the Puritans and emphasized liturgy and ritual in addition to espousing Arminian theology in regards to predestination. The Caroline Divines shared in Laudian theology. Some of the more famous include men such as Lancelot Andrewes, John Cosin, Thomas Ken, Jeremy Taylor, and of course Laud himself. Charles began to get into political trouble when he refused to open Parliament and instead ruled by himself for eleven years, known as his "personal rule." To add fuel to the fire, Charles gave his stamp of approval to Laud's reform program for the Church of England. Laud planned to reintroduce some ceremonial that had fallen in disuse in the Church. He began to remove wooden communion tables and replace them with stone altars and to move them back to their position against the wall on the East side. Charles incidentally had also married a Catholic princess and many charges were brought against him saying that he was trying to restore Catholicism albeit in a stealthy manner. In 1637, William Laud implemented a new Prayer Book for the Church of Scotland, intending to bring it into fellowship with the Church of England and also share in Laudian High Churchmanship. This was the final straw for English Puritans. Beginning in 1642 and ending in 1649, a series of Civil Wars were fought. During the civil war, William Laud was beheaded in 1645 and Charles was eventually beheaded in 1649. Beginning that year, the monarchy was abolished and the Protectorate was established. Religious change came swiftly. The Church of England was disestablished, the Prayer Book abolished, and bishops exiled. In place of these a parliamentary system of government was founded, the Westminster Confession of Faith replaced the 39 Articles of Religion, the Directory for the Publick Worship of God replaced the Book of Common Prayer, and a presbyterian form of church government replaced the bishops. This was to remain until the restoration of the monarchy and the Church of England in 1660. However, many faithful churchmen refused to use the new liturgy and clung to the Prayer Book.