A Restored Church


Early in the 16th century northern Europe was swept by Protestant "Reformation". Widespread and intense demands arose for the correction of abuses which had crept into the Western Church during the Middle Ages.

    The CHURCH OF ENGLAND was profoundly affected by the recovery of Biblical scholarship and other aspects of this movement, but nonetheless remained firmly Catholic in its Faith and Order.    At particular issue, once again, were the claims of the Bishop of Rome to universal jurisdiction over the whole Church, which had been firmly repudiated by the Eastern Orthodox Churches in 1054. In 1534 the CHURCH OF ENGLAND also repudiated Papal jurisdiction and recovered the autonomy it had enjoyed prior to the Norman Conquest.

    Contrary to widespread belief, the circumstances of the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon were merely the occasion, but not the cause, of this break with Rome. Henry founded no new Church; he merely restored rightful autonomy to an old one.

    During Henry's reign there were no radical alterations in English religion. The clergy remained unchanged and the Church's principal service, the Mass, continued to be in Latin, although Henry supported the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, in ordering the use of English for the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed and the Bible Readings.

    Although no longer under the jurisdiction of Rome, the CHURCH OF ENGLAND remained thoroughly Catholic, and continued to be in communion with the See of Rome during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I until 1570. Since then, the CATHOLIC CHURCH has been not all "Roman", but has subsisted in three main groups of jurisdictions: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and ANGLICAN.

    Henry VIII died in 1547 and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, during whose reign a number of reforms were introduced into the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. In general these reforms were rather less radical than those introduced into the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council in modern times.

    In the 17th century civil war erupted, culminating in 1649 with the execution of King Charles I and the abolition of Anglicanism. The parish churches were handed over to Presbyterians or Congregationalists, and for eleven years Anglicanism went underground. Politically and spiritually this was a disaster, and most Englishmen rejoiced when both the Church and the Monarchy was restored in 1660. The Evangelical Revival of the 18th century and the Catholic Revival (Oxford Movement) of the 19th century also brought renewed vigor to Anglicanism.

    The 20th century has seen the rise of utilitarian education, mass consumerism and an insatiable quest for novelty. Much of world Anglicanism has responded suicidally by abandoning its Catholic heritage and actually adopting, rather than seeking to transform, the secular spirit of the age (Zeitgeist). By contrast, the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH stands fully restored in the constant tradition of the undivided Church: the only sure basis for Christian unity.