Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Guiding Principle of the English Reformation - The Rationale

The guiding principle of the English Reformation (see previous post) is based on three foundational ideas. First, the scriptures are sufficient to teach the doctrines of Christian salvation and the standards of Christian morality. Second, the scriptures do not give a blueprint or even clear teaching for the actual ordering and worship life of the Church. Third, the English reformers believed in the scriptural principle of the unity and catholicity of the Church.

Let's apply this to the historic orders of ministry -- Bishop, Priest and Deacon. The English reformers would have agreed that these orders are not set forth in scripture in the manner they came to be practiced in the English Church of the 16th century. However, the Bible's purpose is not to give detailed directions about orders of ministry and the Bible does not set forth in detail how the historic orders are to be fleshed out. Additionally, the historic orders of ministry do not contradict the scriptures and they are the historic practice of the Church Catholic. Before the Reformation, the historic threefold form of ministry was practiced everywhere. For the English reformers, it would have been wrong to violate the catholicity and unity of the Church over an issue like this. (Remember the unity and catholicity of the Church is a clear Biblical principle.). The threefold order of ministry is an expression of the one body of Christ. Though out from under the authority of Rome, the English Reformers wanted the English Church to be an expression of the Church Catholic.

However, there was reformation in the historic orders. A comparison between the clergy in medieval English Catholicism verses the clergy after the Reformation will demonstrate this.


+ simonas said...

Please do not think me starting a flame. I do not want to do that. If you have another perspective, I would love to hear it.

What bothers me is that the Church of England started by a disobedient king, who wanted to marry the second time. What form of catholicity is that?

Peter said...

Good question Simonas.

Henry VIII was a scoundrel plain and simple.

The Anglican reformation is a larger thing than Henry's desire to be rid of wives. Henry's divorce created the space for the Bishops and pastors of the English Church to lead out in reformation.

Interstingly, for the first few years of the English Reformation -- while Henry still lived -- the doctrine of the English Church was just like the doctrine of the medieval Roman Church.

The reformation in England lasted from rougly 1534 to 1559 at the earliest and maybe until 1600 with the death of Elizabeth I. It was a long process of theological reflection and argument, political infighting and hammering out a settlement that all could live with.

+ simonas said...

Thanks for not taking offense, Fr. Peter. I appreciate the comment. I always wondered if this issue with the king was publicly dealt with. Isn't the queen still de jure the head of the church?

James said...

the king/queen has not been the head of the church of England since the Elizabethan settlemente of 1559. She is the supreme governor, which is something quite different. Some of us think that she shouldn´t be even that, but there is a very big difference between the two things.

+ simonas said...

OK, cool. I will have to look it up what it means, but I suspect it being a carry-on tradition like the UK being the monarchy. There is no real royal governance, but the tradition caries on. Also, I was thinking that church and state governance used to be a lot more interconnected then it is now.

These are all guesses. As you might notice, I'm a novice in all of this.

James said...

Yes, the connection between the Queen/King and the church used to mean something, but now it is pretty much 100% ornamental (I forget the exact protocols... I have been Anglican in England, Scotland, Belgium, Spain, the USA and Chile and get a lot of the "administrative details" muddled