Many individuals today believe that Anglicanism began with Henry VIII for his simple wish of divorcing his wife in hopes to produce a male heir. Certainly it was established in the era of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, however there were many other influences that contributed to the creation of the Church of England. These influences date back to the early years of Christianity in the British Isles. After doing much analysis on this history, it is safe to say that King Henry was not the only creator of Anglicanism; he was only a contributor to its formation and the final step to its beginning.
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It is said that among the soldiers living in Britain, some were of Christian faith. St. Alban, the first English martyr, was killed in 209 CE and therefore the Christianity was certainly present by 200 CE. In 400, when the Romans left Britain and many invaders arrived, in the West and North the Celtic people maintained their faith and culture. A type of Christianity grew among these individuals which still influences our spirituality to this date. Celtic Christianity dated between 400 – 1000 CE. These stories and legends of the Celtic church are told by Saints such as: St. Ninian, St. Calumba and St. Brigit.Governed by chiefs or kings, Celtic society was organized on tribal lines. The Celtic church was controlled around monasteries ruled by abbots who ordained as priests celebrated the sacraments in the monasteries. The land for the monastery was often provided by the tribe or family unit. By 431, Ireland had received its first bishop. The government of the Irish church was controlled by the abbots however by the 1800’s .The abbeys promoted learning, taught the children, and fabricated spectacular religious art in the manuscripts, metalwork and stone carvings. The Anglican spirituality had a lot of influence from the Celtic spirituality. There was a very strong sense of the presence of God in everyday life of the Celtic Christians. In all of their daily activities, God is found. There are a vast amount of prayers from the Celtics that have these examples. There is an example in the book A World Made Whole (Fount, 1991): “I will kindle my fire this morning, In the presence of the holy angels of heaven”. This quote from the prayer shows that God is in their everyday lives, God is not forgotten. The goodness of nature and of human nature are a part of true Celtic beliefs. It see’s human as being full of potential and made in God’s image. Jesus came to free our world from its evil forces. This is an optimistic view fits well with the Anglican understanding of creation, incarnation, and redemption. Celtic Christianity has a strong sense of the unity. It insists that we are encircled on our pilgrimage by faithfully Christian individuals of an earlier era. God, the Trinity, the saints of old-all are near us and are always accessible to us in our prayers. Celtic Christianity is full of stories, images, art and music. With the arrival of St. Augustine at Canterbury in 597, Roman Christianity returned to Britain. This tradition and form of government spread throughout England steadily. Although Celtic Christianity was slowly concealed by Roman practice, many customs and traditions were kept.
It was an era of change and turmoil in the church during the 1500-1600s in Europe. There was dissatisfaction with papal government and abuses of church traditions. Furthermore the availability of new translations of Scripture from Latin into other languages fashioned a craving to look over the ancestry of the Christian faith and a desire to return to the basics of Christian ideas. In Europe individual figures like Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Martin Luther encouraged doctrinal and organizational reform. England knew of the effort of these reformers and had the Scriptures in English. However, the church was not extremely affected by them. In reality Henry VIII received from the Pope in 1521 the title “Defender of the Faith” for his paper criticizing Martin Luther. However, the King was going through some political difficulties. His marriage of almost 20 years to Catherine of Aragon had produced only one living child, their daughter Mary. Henry became increasingly worried because he needed a male heir for the throne. Henry decided to divorce his wife and that he was going to marry Anne Boleyn. Securing an annulment and obtaining a papal dispensation to remarry was not an impossible request, however it made Henry anxious. But European politics launched a problematic factor; Catherine’s nephew was the Emperor Charles V. The Pope was being threatened by the Emperor and so could not grant Henry’s request. Henry decided then to remove the church in England from the control of foreign powers. Acts of Parliament were passed, Henry’s marriage was declared invalid, and he married Anne Boleyn. The Pope rapidly removed Henry. “To gain [a son], he separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and so established the Protestant Reformation in England” . Henry took rising control of the church, suspending the monasteries and moving their riches to the crown and declared himself the head of the church in England. Henry ordered the English Bible located in all churches but stayed very conservative in matters of spiritual traditions. Henry was succeeded in 1547 by his son Edward VI. Edward had been well-informed by teachers with Protestant understanding. Throughout his reign the church was progressively more influenced by Lutheran and Calvinist tradition. In 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer, drawn up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was certified. The Act of Uniformity made its use obligatory in all churches in England. This book has become the normative statement of Anglican theology and practice. The book was a compromise between traditionalists and reformers. In 1552, a second Book of Common Prayer was issued. It followed more Protestant ideologies. During the reign of Edward VI, many Articles were published to identify the position of the Church of England on a vast amount of issues. This was an attempt to define a connection between the Old Catholic ways and the new Calvinist reforms. The 42 Articles were proposed in 1552 and these were not accepted. However in 1559, during the reign of Elizabeth, the Thirty-nine Articles were accepted as a balanced statement of the Anglican position on certain uncertain issues. Edward was then succeeded by his half-sister Mary. As the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, Mary wanted to return England to the worship of the Roman Catholic Church. During Mary’s reign, many reformers were executed however on her death, her half-sister Elizabeth became Queen. She wished to restore stability to the country, while at the same time preserving England from foreign domination. The church then should retain its heritage but remain free of the rule of the Pope. The form of liturgy, the three-fold order of bishops, priest and deacons, the sacraments were all retained. But the differences were that services were in English, the reading of Scripture was encouraged, and clergy could marry. The third Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1559. The aim of the Elizabethan church was to bring stability to both church and state. The Church of England held together in one family a variety of views by avoiding narrow definitions. Richard Hooker, 1554-1600, was the apologist for the emerging Anglican position. The Anglican approach to theology, the balance of Scripture, tradition and reason was defined by his Treatise on the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. He saw the church as changing and adapting. The church structures its existence by looking at scripture and tradition in the light of reason and experience.
Renewal and progress in the 18th century placed a new tension on personal conversion, salvation by faith in Christ’s agreed death, the sole power of Scripture, and the significance of the lecture of the Word. Influenced by evangelical clergy, the missionary movement brought the gospel to all parts of the world. At home in England, evangelicals played a major role in the abolition of slavery and the reform of social conditions. In the 19th century, the Anglo-Catholic restoration brought a new emphasis to the liturgical and sacramental life of the church. The Oxford Movement aimed at restoring high church ideals to the Church of England. In this movement we have the Low Church that of being the Anglican Church of Ireland and High Anglican Church that being the Church of England. This group of reformers was sometimes called Tractarianists because of the series of writings, Tracts for the Times, in which they set out their views. The movement emphasized the catholic and apostolic nature of the church, looking back to its historic roots. It placed new importance on the liturgical and sacramental life of the church; the introduction of vestments, candles, ceremonial and ritual followed soon after. Anglo-Catholics were involved in ministry to the slums of large English cities, and in missionary work around the world. During this period, religious orders of monks and nuns were re-established, and this continues in the Anglican Church to this day.
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In conclusion, after much research it is understood that The Anglican Church was created by many contributions and ideas that dated back to the early years of Christianity in the British Isles. King Henry VIII was the final contribution to its foundation, but would not be here if it were not for the Celtic Spirituality. However to this day there are issues with the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church though would have liked to settle once it left the Roman umbrella will not be in a settle state. It seems as if equilibrium cannot be maintained and there is still controversy to this day with this religion that was created many years ago.
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