Religion in Great Britain
Role of religion in modern and democratic societies, for the individual and for society as a whole. Influences of religion on governmental, business and family values and decisions in United Kingdom. Christianity and non-christian religions in Britain.
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1. Religion: Its Past and Present; Its Role in British Society
1.1 Historical background
1.2 The Conversion into Christianity
1.3 From the Reformation to Established Churches
2. Christianity in Present Day Britain
2.1 The Church of England
2.2 The Church of Scotland
2.3 The Church of Ireland
2.4 The Church in Wales
3. Non-Christian Religions in Great Britain
3.1 Islam in the United Kingdom
3.2 Hinduism in the United Kingdom
3.3 Sikhism in the United Kingdom
3.4 Judaism in the United Kingdom
britain religion christianity society
In present course work we are going to turn our attention to the most widespread religions in Great Britain, because religion and belief has an important role to play in modern and democratic societies, for the individual and for society as a whole.
It should be noted that the importance of religion lies primarily in the moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence. Any religion may be seen as a belief system. This system may affect values, laws, customs, rites and general behaviour patterns. Religion may affect the individual, group, community or nation. It may play a peripheral or an integral role within society.
It's necessary to say that religion is almost always a belief in some form of supernatural happenings or causes. It is always associated with some sort of discipline, be it physical, mental or, many deny the fact, but all are so steeped in the traditions and ideas basic to religion that psychological. Such disciplines often manifest themselves as religious ritual or habitual behaviour. Religion underpins the emotions and logic of almost everyone. In today's secular societies it is an identity for those who consider themselves to be members of a particular group. Even those who do not consider themselves to be members, or do not actively participate, but are associated mainly with those are members of a sect, effectively impossible to shake off its effects. Even in societies where the official line has been that there is no God, the ordinary people have been so exposed to a long tradition of religious concepts that almost no-one could be devoid of its effects. Religion effectively provides identify themselves and are identified by others, as belonging to the culture of the sect.
We know that one of the most significant differences between man and other living beings is the moral and the socio-moral aspect of man's existence. Man is not merely a physical being. On the contrary, man has a strong moral aspect to his existence. This moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence is the foundation on which the legal and social structures that we see in all the societies have evolved overtime. It is in fact the acceptance, appreciation and realization of mutual rights and responsibilities, which has resulted in the strong bonds of family, friendship, tribe and society. So it's religion that supports social norms, provides social integration, social control, legitimating of social values, social solidarity, social conformity, interpretation of important life cycles in society and life events, informs legal systems.
This course work is actual because, the function of religion in a society is often to explain to the people in that society their primal origins, the nature of life, the function and aims of life and reasons for living. It's not questioned that religion still continues to influence and guide people through times of crisis, helping them to face the challenges of living and even in facing death.
According to this, the main aims of my work are to single out the role of religion in British society, to study multitude diversity of religions in Great Britain, how Christian, so as non-Christian and describe religious situation in Britain nowadays, turning into its past.
Remarkably, that in a few words religion can be defined as belief in spiritual beings. More broadly, religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life. Religion has helped societies in maintaining social harmony and well as aided authorities in social control by directing citizens towards rightful behavior, because it's the major determinant of human behavior since the dawn of consciousness.
Religion may dictate a set of acceptable standards and those who wish to remain in that society must adhere to those standards, within acceptable limits. For those who are unable to do this, for whatever reason, there is the option of leaving the society or of beginning / belonging to, another religion.
It is necessary to say that religion has always been the refuge to man in times of crises. While religion offers the direction for rightful behavior in both public and private spheres, it also protect from vulnerabilities. As the media reports and other studies reveal, religion continues to be a major force and influence in the present society, including the United Kingdom, as it influences governmental, business and family values and decisions.
It must be noted that the Church is a visible organization. It is a form of «public community» and so to be officially recognized. It is not simply a private association of individual consciences whose activities have nothing to do with the world. So, one of my chapters takes the information about Christian churches, its membership, structure, doctrine and practice.
1. Religion: Its Past and Present; Its Role in British Society
1.1 Historical background
In the late Roman world a paganus was a `rustic', and the word's shift to mean `non-Christian' reflects a period when Christianity had spread among the upper classes and within towns, but not to the rural peasantry. Pagans need not share any common ground, but in Britain the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings recognized the same major gods and goddesses, but with slight variations in name, and although the native British had different deities these had responsibility for similar aspects of life such as warfare and fertility. The Romans had no trouble in assimilating the deities of either group with their own pantheon. One should not envisage either Celtic or Germanic paganism as having structures or doctrines comparable to those of the Christian church. The building of temples and existence of a professional class of priests seems to have been more a feature of Celtic than Germanic practice. What may have mattered far more to the majority of people were localized guardian spirits who might be honoured at natural sites such as a spring, a grove of trees, or a hilltop.
Christianity saw off the major pantheons of gods and goddesses without too much difficulty and major festivals of the pagan year such as midwinter could be replaced with appropriate Christian celebrations like Christmas. What was harder to eradicate was the attachment to local holy places, though healing springs, for instance, were sometimes absorbed into local saints' cults [12, p. 7].
Religion in the prehistoric period
The spirit world
Almost nothing is known about religious beliefs in early prehistoric times. It is probable that the people who lived and hunted in the Dartford area tens or thousands of years ago believed in a hidden spirit world dominated by the spirits of animals and birds, and of their ancestors.
Modern Stone Age societies studied by anthropologists have a complicated belief system where good and harmful spirits are believed to exist, and are placated through food offerings and sacrifices. Trees, rocks and other natural features take on a spiritual significance. This type of belief system is known as animism. The natural elements of wind, fire and water may also have had some place in the belief system.
The only hint of any kind of local prehistoric belief system stems from the discovery of a couple of small Bronze Age spearheads found in a gravel deposit at Hawley, near Dartford. The finder reported that these objects had been carefully placed in the gravel, perfectly aligned in relation to each other. Expert archaeologists report that bronze objects found at other riverside locations have also been carefully aligned. These bronze objects may represent a votive offering (gift) to the spirit of the nearby river.
Pagan beliefs in the Dartford Area: spirits and gods
Before the Romans came to Britain, the native population worshipped nature spirits. One of the most important cults was that associated with the Celtic mother-goddess. Small outdoor shrines were common throughout the countryside, particularly near rivers, streams or ponds. Trees, foliage and groves were worshipped by the native population.
Archaeologists working in the Dartford area have found Iron Age bronze and tin coins decorated with the symbols of pagan belief and worship. The main British pagan idols and deities were Etharun, the stag-horned god Cernunnos, the bull-horned or ram-horned God of War, Sulis the healing deity, and at least three different mother goddesses concerned with the earth, fertility, sexual pleasures and the magical aspects of warfare. Venerated animals which appear on local Iron Age coins include the boar, the stag, the horse, the bull and the dog. Birds also played an important role in religious imagery. Omens were seen in bird flight and bird call. Swans, ravens, ducks and the eagle were venerated by the native population. The whole of pagan religion was controlled by magic. The pagan Celts also believed in the Otherworld, the home of the gods. Their graves were equipped with the articles considered necessary for the Otherworld and the Great Feast [14, p. 14-16].
Druid rites and rituals in Kent
Religion and superstition played a major role in the everyday life of the native British tribes. Pagan priests, the Druids, often performed their rituals in natural places, sometimes next to sacred springs or wells. Sacrifices were used in religious ceremonies.
Pliny, the Roman historian, wrote an interesting account of the sacred rites of the Druids, involving mistletoe and white bulls.
They (the Druids) call the mistletoe by a name meaning the all-healing. Having made preparation for sacrifice and a banquet beneath the trees, they bring thither two white bulls, whose horns are bound then for the first time. Clad in a white robe, the priest ascends the tree and cuts the mistletoe with a golden sickle, and it is received by others in a white cloak. They then kill the victims, praying the God will render this gift of his propitious to those to whom he has granted it. They believe that the mistletoe, taken in drink, imparts fertility to barren animals, and that it is an antidote for all poisons. Such are the religious feelings that are entertained towards trifling things by so many people.
The Order of Druids was highly respected by the native British population in Kent. Caesar wrote:
The Druids are concerned with the worship of the gods, look after the public and private sacrifice, and expound religious matters; a large number of men flock to them for training, and hold them in high honour.
The Druids may have continued to hold some kind of power over the native population until well into Roman times, even when Christianity was adopted as the state religion [11, p. 40-41].
Paganism in early Roman times
Springhead and the cult of source
Many of the native Celtic pagan beliefs continued into Roman times. The roadside settlement of Springhead near Dartford was an important centre of pagan religion and pagan worship based on the Cult of Source. This cult was associated with healing and fertility and its temples and shrines were usually sited near a spring, the source of a river or stream. At the centre of Springhead were at least six Romano-Celtic temples within a walled compound. Two main temples seem to have replaced the others some time between 120-150 A.D. All of the temples were derelict by the middle of the fourth century. Evidence retrieved from Springhead suggests that people visited the site to obtain a cure for diseases and ill-health. Small bronze models of a human arm, hand and thumb have been found at Springhead. These were probably offered to the spirits of the springs in the hope that the diseased limb would be healed. Other pagan objects excavated at Springhead include a bone figure of Genius Cucullatus, a god of riches and prosperity dressed in a hooded cloak, and a pipe-clay figure of Venus. Votive objects retrieved from other sites include coins, tools, pots, jewellery, figurines of gods and goddesses and pieces of inscribed lead begging favours from a particular god or goddess.
Paganism at Lullingstone Roman Villa
The Romans introduced their own gods which became the subject for worship. Venus was their fertility goddess. The Celtic deities of healing (Sulis, Nodens or Coventina) were replaced by Minerva and Apollo. Jupiter and Minerva played a leading role as chief Roman gods. Diana, Vulcan, Hercules and Mars were deities associated with aggression. The Cult of Mercury was also important. Mercury was the patron of merchants, traders, travel, trade and crafts. Successive Roman emperors were also given the status of gods as part of the Imperial Cult.
The Romans were tolerant of most faiths, so long as they did not threaten the political and social values of the Empire. Exotic eastern mystery cults were introduced to Britain by soldiers and foreign tradesmen.
Pagan worship continued locally and is well represented by the finds at Lullingstone villa in the Darent Valley. The villa had a separate circular shrine building where a cult image was venerated, as well as a temple-mausoleum complete with wall paintings. In the second century A.D. a bath house was added to the villa complete with a shrine dedicated to water nymphs. The splendid mosaics at Lullingstone villa feature a scene from pagan mythology; that of the hero Bellerophon on the winged horse Pegasus slaying the monster Chimaera. This scene illustrates the triumph of good over evil. Another section of the mosaic portrays a lively depiction of the Rape of Europa.
The temple mausoleum at Lullingstone
A pagan temple-mausoleum was constructed at Lullingstone Roman Villa c. A.D. 300 upon a purpose-built terrace behind the main villa complex. This mausoleum was designed for the burial of a young man and a young woman in their early twenties. A temple was erected above the mausoleum for the performance of rituals associated with their memory. A cult room in the mausoleum provided the focus for the burials. The bodies were placed beneath the floor of the cult room in lead coffins decorated with embossed scallop shells; grave goods accompanied each burial. Coffins and grave goods were enclosed in a heavy wooden sarcophagus buried under twelve alternate layers of chalk and gravel.
Grave goods accompanying the bodies consisted of objects needed by two persons in the after-life, two flagons, four glass bottles, two glass bowls, two knives and two spoons. On the lid of the coffin that enclosed the body of the young man were the remains of a square gaming board with a complete set of thirty glass gaming pieces, fifteen white and fifteen red-brown, all decorated with spots of coloured glass. The type of game played is not known but may have been a form of backgammon [8, p. 219-221].
The term (with its synonym `heathenism') for any religion where several gods and goddesses are worshipped; its relationship to folklore has long been debated, and is central to most origin theories.
In England, the first people to discuss folklore from the outside (as opposed to participating in it) were Elizabethan Protestants, who used it as a weapon in their campaign to identify Catholicism with paganism. They sought out every possible similarity between medieval customs and rituals and those of the only two pagan cultures they knew about: Old Testament Gentiles, and classical Greeks and Romans. This was the argument of Philip Stubbes's The Anatomie of Abuses, with its famous diatribe against the maypole as a `stinking idol'; it was taken up by antiquarians such as the Revd Henry Bourne, whose Antiquitates Vulgares attacks popular customs and beliefs as coming from Pagan Rome via Papist Rome. Even Aubrey, who liked old ways, held the same theory. In his significantly titled Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme he argues that ceremonies and beliefs were `imbibed' by the ancient Britons from the Romans, and survived wherever `the Inundation of the Goths' (i.e. Anglo-Saxons) did not penetrate.
Several generations of writers referred back to Flora, Ceres, or the Saturnalia, to explain English festivals. Then 19th-century scholars showed that early Germanic and Celtic peoples had had myths and rituals of their own, independent from Rome, supplying closer precedents for English traditions. Claims for pre-Christian origins have always had great appeal among the general public, if only for the glamour antiquity confers; currently they are more popular than ever, for pagan beliefs (especially Celtic ones) are seen by many as admirable, and Christian tradition as repressive and dull.
However, there is an important distinction between showing that a custom or belief is older than Christianity, and arguing that when it is found among Christians it means paganism is still alive. Some aspects of the supernatural (e.g. fear of ghosts and witchcraft, belief in dreams) are so commonplace that they can occur in virtually any period, including our own, and do not correlate with one religion rather than another. The same is true of large categories of non-rational thought and action, e.g. those involving fate, luck, omens, and minor practices such as touching wood; Christians who think or act in this way rarely see it as inconsistent with faith. Calendar and life-cycle customs usually involve celebratory activities (e.g. dancing, special foods, drinking, disguise, bonfires) distinct from the religious side of the event (if any), but not felt to be in conflict with it. The appropriate word for these is `secular', not `pagan'.
In England, a fair amount is known about Roman, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon religions before the arrival of Christianity, but little about the conversion process itself, which has led modern advocates of paganism to claim that tolerance and continuity was the norm. For the first wave of Christianization, that which reached the Celtic Britons of the 4th century, the only evidence points the other way: when Celtic Christians reused pagan sites, they mutilated and dumped the statues of the gods. The final conversion, that of the Anglo-Saxons, is described by Bede as a peaceful process, but evidence of continuity is again scanty. Despite the interpretation sometimes put on Pope Gregory's letter, no Saxon pagan shrine has yet been found underlying a church; though (very exceptionally) some Roman sacred sites were reused. Coincidence of dates is even less significant. The dates of Christmas and Easter had been fixed long before Christianity reached Britain, and reflected Roman paganism and the Jewish Passover respectively, not the festivals of northern Europe; since every day in the Christian year celebrated at least one saint, every pagan festival necessarily coincided with a saint's day, for reasons quite unconnected with local cults.
The only significant documents are some law-codes of the 7th and 8th centuries forbidding sacrifices to Germanic deities, and some more in the early 11th century applying to the diocese of York, where Viking settlers had reintroduced them .
It should be noted that the native British believed in a hidden spirit world dominated by the spirits of animals, birds and their ancestors. They had a complicated belief system where good and harmful spirits were placated through food offerings and sacrifices. After the Roman conquest the Romans introduced their own gods which became the subject for worship. It's remarkable that the Romans were tolerant of most faiths, that's why many of the native Celtic pagan beliefs continued into Roman times.
1.2 The Conversion into Christianity
We cannot know how or when Christianity first reached Britain, but it was certainly well before Christianity was accepted by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century AD. In the last hundred years of Roman government Christianity became firmly established across Britain, both in Roman-controlled areas and beyond. However, the Anglo-Saxons belonged to an older Germanic religion, and they drove the Celts into the west and north. In the Celtic areas Christianity continued to spread, bringing paganism to an end.
In 597 Pope Gregory the Great sent a monk, Augustine, to re-establish Christianity in England. He went to Canterbury, the capital of the king of Kent. He did so because the king's wife came from Europe and was already Christian. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601. He was very successful. Several ruling families in England accepted Christianity. But Augustine and his group of monks made little progress with the ordinary people. This was partly because Augustine was interested in establishing Christian authority, and that meant bringing rulers to the new faith.
It was the Celtic Church which brought Christianity to the ordinary people of Britain. The Celtic bishops went out from their monasteries of Wales, Ireland and Scotland, walking from village to village teaching Christianity. In spite of the differences between Anglo-Saxons and Celts, these bishops seem to have been readily accepted in Anglo-Saxon areas. The bishops from the Roman Church lived at the courts of the kings, which they made centres of Church power across England. The two Christian Churches, Celtic and Roman, could hardly have been more different in character. One was most interested in the hearts of ordinary people, the other was interested in authority and organization. The competition between the Celtic and Roman Churches reached a crisis because they disagreed over the date of Easter. In 663 at the Synod (meeting) of Whitby the king of Northumbria decided to support the Roman Church. The Celtic Church retreated as Rome extended its authority over all Christians, even in Celtic parts of the island.
England had become Christian very quickly. By 660 only Sussex and the Isle of Wight had not accepted the new faith. Twenty years later, English teachers returned to the lands from which the Anglo-Saxons had come, bringing Christianity to much of Germany.
Saxon kings helped the Church to grow, but the Church also increased the power of kings. Bishops gave kings their support, which made it harder for royal power to be questioned. Kings had «God's approval». The value of Church approval was all the greater because of the uncertainty of the royal succession. An eldest son did not automatically become king, as kings were chosen from among the members of the royal family, and any member who had enough soldiers might try for the throne. In addition, at a time when one king might try to conquer a neighboring kingdom, he would probably have a son to whom he would wish to pass this enlarged kingdom when he died. And so when King Offa arranged for his son to be crowned as his successor, he made sure that this was done at a Christian ceremony led by a bishop. It was good political propaganda, because it suggested that kings were chosen not only by people but also by God.
There were other ways in which the Church increased the power of the English state. It established monasteries, or minsters, for example Westminster, which were places of learning and education. These monasteries trained the men who could read and write, so that they had the necessary skills for the growth of royal and Church authority. The king who made most use of the Church was Alfred the Great, king who ruled Wessex from 871-899. He used the literate men of the Church to help establish a system of law, to educate the people and to write down important matters. He started the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the most important source, together with Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, for understanding the period.
During the next hundred years, laws were made on a large number of matters. By the eleventh century royal authority probably went wider and deeper in England than in any other European country.
This process gave power into the hands of those who could read and write, and in this way class divisions were increased. The power of landlords, who had been given land by the king, was increased because their names were written down. Peasants, who could neither read nor write, could lose their traditional rights to their land, because their rights were not registered.
The Anglo-Saxon kings also preferred the Roman Church to the Celtic Church for economic reasons. Villages and towns grew around the monasteries and increased local trade. Many bishops and monks in England were from the Frankish lands (France and Germany) and elsewhere. They were invited by English rulers who wished to benefit from closer Church and economic contact with Europe. Most of these bishops and monks seem to have come from churches or monasteries along Europe's vital trade routes. In this way close contact with many parts of Europe was encouraged. In addition they all used Latin, the written language of Rome, and this encouraged English trade with the continent. Increased literacy itself helped trade. Anglo-Saxon England became well known in Europe for its exports of woollen goods, cheese, hunting dogs, pottery and metal goods [9, p. 13-16].
Thus, Christianity arrived in Britain in the 1st or 2nd century and existed independently of the Church of Rome. This faith became firmly established across Britain in the last hundred years of Roman government. England had become Christian very quickly due to king's support who helped the church to grow which in its turn increased the power of kings and helped England to establish close contact with Europe.
1.3 From the Reformation to Established Churches
The English Reformation was the series of events in sixteenth-century England by which the England of a wider process, the European Protestant Reformation, a religious and political movement which affected the practice of Christianity across the whole of Europe during this period. Many factors contributed to the ferment: the decline of feudalism and the rise of nationalism, the rise of the common law, the invention of the printing press, the transmission of new knowledge and ideas not only amongst scholars but amongst merchants and artisans also; but the story of why and how the different states of Europe adhered to different forms of Protestantism, or remained faithful to Rome or allowed different regions within states to come to different conclusions (as they did) is specific to each state and the causes are not agreed.
The English Reformation began as another chapter in the long running dispute with the Catholic Church over the latter's claimed jurisdiction over the English people, though ostensibly based on Henry VIII's desire for an annulment. It was, at the outset, more of a political than a theological dispute, but the reality of political differences between Rome and England nonetheless allowed growing theological disputes to come to the fore. The split from Rome made the English monarch head of the English church by «Royal Supremacy«, thereby establishing the Church of England, but the structure and theology of that church was a matter of fierce dispute for generations. It led eventually to civil war, from which the emergent church polity at the end was that of an established church and a number of non-conformist churches whose members at first suffered various civil disabilities, which were removed only over time. Catholicism emerged from its underground existence only in the nineteenth century.
Different opinions have been advanced as to why England adopted a reformed faith, unlike France for instance. Some have advanced the view that there was an inevitability about the triumph of the forces of new knowledge and a new sense of autonomy set over-against superstition and corruption; others that it was a matter of chance: Henry VIII died at the wrong time; Mary had no child; reform did not inevitably mean leaving the Roman Communion for others it was about the power of ideas which required only moderate assistance for people to see old certainties as uncertain; others have written that it was about the power of the state over vibrant, flourishing popular religion; it was a `cultural revolution'. Some, on the contrary, have argued that, for most ordinary people there was a continuity across the divide, which was as significant as any changes. The recent revival of scholarly interest may indicate that the argument is not yet over [5, p. 123].
Henry VIII ascended the English throne in 1509 at the age of 17. He made a dynastic marriage with Catherine of Aragon, widow of his brother Arthur, in June 1509, just before his coronation on Midsummer Day. Unlike his father, who was secretive and conservative, the young Henry appeared to be the epitome of chivalry and sociability, seeking out the company of young men like himself; an observant Catholic, he heard up to five masses a day (apart from in the hunting season); of `powerful but unoriginal mind', he allowed himself to be influenced by his advisors from whom, neither by night or day, was he alone; he was thus susceptible to whoever had his ear. Between his young contemporaries and the Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, there was thus a state of hostility. So long as Wolsey had his ear, Henry's Catholicism was secure: in 1521 he had defended the Catholic Church from Martin Luther`s accusations of heresy in a book he wrote, probably with considerable help from Thomas More, entitled The Defence of the Seven Sacraments, for which he was awarded the title «Defender of the Faith» (Fidei Defensor) by Pope Leo X. However, Wolsey's enemies at court included those who had been influenced by Lutheran ideas among whom was the attractive Anne Boleyn.
Anne arrived at court in 1522, from years in Europe, as maid-of-honour to Queen Catherine, a woman of `charm, style and wit, and will and savagery which make her a match for Henry'. By the late 1520s, Henry wanted to have his marriage to Catherine annulled. She had not produced a male heir who survived into adulthood and Henry wanted a son to secure the Tudor dynasty. Before Henry's father Henry VII ascended the throne, England had been beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the English crown and Henry wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession. Catherine's only surviving child was Princess Mary.
Henry claimed that this lack of a male heir was because his marriage was «blighted in the eyes of God». Catherine had been his late brother`s wife, and it was therefore against biblical teachings for Henry to have married her (Leviticus 20:21); a special dispensation from Pope Julius II had been needed to allow the wedding in the first place. Henry argued that this had been wrong and that his marriage had never been valid. In 1527 Henry asked Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage, but the Pope refused. According to Canon Law the Pope cannot annul a marriage on the basis of a canonical impediment previously dispensed. Clement also feared the wrath of Catherine's nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose troops earlier that year had sacked Rome and briefly taken the Pope prisoner.
The combination of his `scruple of conscience' and his captivation by Anne Boleyn made his desire to rid himself of his Queen compelling. The indictment of his chancellor Cardinal Wolsey for praemunire in 1529 (and subsequent death on his way to London to answer a charge of high treason in November 1530), left Henry open to the opposing influences of the supporters of the Queen and those who countenanced the abandonment of the Roman allegiance, for whom an annulment was but an opportunity. The Parliament summoned in 1529 to deal with annulment brought together those who wanted reform but who disagreed what form it should take; it became known as the Reformation Parliament. There were Common lawyers who resented the privileges of the clergy to summon laity to their courts; there were those who had been influenced by Lutheran evangelicalism and were hostile to the theology of Rome: Thomas Cromwell was both. There were those, like Foxe and Stokesey, who argued for the Royal Supremacy over the English Church. Henry's Chancellor, Thomas More, successor to Wolsey, also wanted reform: he wanted new laws against heresy.
Cromwell was a lawyer and a Member of Parliament, an evangelical who saw how Parliament could be used to advance the Royal Supremacy, which Henry wanted, and to further evangelical beliefs and practices which both he and his friends wanted. One of his closest friends was Thomas Cranmer, soon to be Archbishop.
In the matter of the annulment, no progress seemed possible: the Pope seemed more afraid of Emperor Charles V than of Henry. Anne and Cromwell and their allies wished simply to ignore the Pope; but in October 1530 a meeting of clergy and lawyers advised that Parliament could not empower the archbishop to act against the Pope's prohibition. Henry thus resolved to bully the priests. Having brought down Cardinal Wolsey, his Chancellor, he finally resolved to charge the whole English clergy with praemunire in order to secure their agreement to his annulment. Praemunire, which forbade obedience to the authority of foreign rulers had been around since the 1392 Statute of Praemunire, and had been used against individuals in the ordinary course of court proceedings. Now Henry, having first charged the Queen's supporters, Bishops John Fisher, John Clerk, Nicholas West and Henry Standish and archdeacon of Exeter Adam Travers, then decided to proceed against the whole clergy. Henry claimed Ј100,000 from the Convocation of Canterbury of the Church of England for their pardon, which was granted by the Convocation on 24 January 1531. The clergy wanted the payment to be spread over five years; Henry refused. The Convocation responded by withdrawing their payment altogether and demanded Henry to fulfill certain guarantees before they agreed to give him the money. Henry refused these conditions and agreed only to the five-year period of payment and then added five articles to the payment which Henry wanted the Convocation to accept. These were:
– that the clergy recognize Henry as the `sole protector and Supreme Head of the Church and clergy of England' that the King had spiritual jurisdiction;
– that the privileges of the Church were upheld only if they did not detract from the royal prerogative and the laws of the realm;
– that the King pardoned the clergy for violating the statute of praemunire, and
– that the laity was also pardoned.
In Parliament, Bishop John Fisher was Catherine's and the clergy's champion; he had inserted into the first article, the phrase `as far as the word of God allows'. In Convocation, however, Archbishop Warham requested a discussion but was met by a stunned silence; then Warham said: `He who is silent seems to consent' to which a clergyman present responded: `Then we are all silent.' The Convocation granted consent to the King's five articles and the payment on 8 March 1531. That same year Parliament passed the Act of Pardon.
The breaking of the power of Rome proceeded little by little. In 1532, Cromwell brought before Parliament the Supplication Against the Ordinaries which listed nine grievances against the Church, including abuses of power and Convocation's independent legislative power. Finally, on 10 May, the King demanded of Convocation that the Church should renounce all authority to make laws and, on 15 May, the Submission of the Clergy was subscribed, which recognized Royal Supremacy over the church so that it could no longer make canon law without royal licence, i.e. without the permission of the King; thus completely emasculating it as a law-making body. (This would subsequently be passed by the Parliament in 1534 and again in 1536.) The day after this More resigned as Chancellor, leaving Cromwell as Henry's chief minister. (Cromwell never became Chancellor; his power came - and was lost - through his informal relations with Henry.)
Meanwhile, having taken Anne to France on a pre-nuptial honeymoon, Henry was married to her in Westminster Abbey in January 1533. This was made easier by the death of Archbishop Warham, a stalwart opponent of an annulment, after which Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer as his successor as Archbishop of Canterbury; Cranmer was prepared to grant the annulment of the marriage to Catherine as Henry required. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth, three months after the marriage. The Pope responded to the marriage by excommunicating both Henry and Cranmer from the Roman Catholic Church [9, p. 69-72].
When Henry died in 1547, his nine year old son, Edward VI, inherited the throne. Edward himself was a precocious child, who had been brought up as a Protestant, but was of little account politically. Seymour was made Lord Protector. He was commissionered as virtual regent with near sovereign powers. Now made Duke of Somerset, he proceeded at first hesitantly, partly because his powers were not unchallenged. When he acted it was because he saw the political advantage. The 1547 Injunctions against images were a more tightly drawn version of those of 1538 but they were much more fiercely enforced, at first informally, and then, by instruction. All images in churches were to be dismantled; stained glass, shrines, statues were defaced or destroyed; roods and often their lofts and screens were cut down, bells were taken down; vestments were prohibited and either burned or sold; church plate was to be melted down or sold and the requirement of the clergy to be celibate was lifted; processions were banned; ashes and palms were prohibited. Chantries, means by which the saying of masses for the dead were endowed, were abolished completely. How well this was received is disputed: A.G. Dickens contends that people had `ceased to believe in intercessory masses for souls in purgatory'; others, such as Eamon Duffy, argue that the demolition of chantry chapels and the removal of images coincided with the activity of royal visitors. The evidence is often ambiguous In 1549 Cranmer introduced a Book of Common Prayer in English. In 1550, stone altars were exchanged for wooden communion tables, a very public break with the past, as it changed the look and focus of church interiors.
Outwardly, the destruction and removals for sale had changed the church forever. In fact, many churches had concealed their vestments and their silver, and had buried their stone altars and there were many disputes between the government and parishes over church property. Thus, when Edward died in July 1553 and the Duke of Northumberland attempted to have the Protestant Lady Jane Grey made Queen, the unpopularity of the confiscations gave Mary the opportunity to have herself proclaimed Queen, first in Suffolk, and then in London to the acclamation of the crowds [1, p. 125].
From 1553, under the reign of Henry's Roman Catholic daughter, Mary I, the Reformation legislation was repealed and Mary sought to achieve the reunion with Rome. Her first Act of Parliament was to retroactively validate Henry's marriage to her mother and so legitimize her claim to the throne. Achieving her objective was however, not straightforward. The Pope was only prepared to accept reunion when church property disputes had been settled, which, in practice, meant allowing those who had bought former church property to keep it. `Only when English landowners had secured their claims did Julius III's representative arrive in November 1554 to reconcile the realm'. Thus did Cardinal Pole arrive to become Archbishop of Canterbury in Cranmer's place. Mary could have had Cranmer, imprisoned as he was, tried and executed for treason - he had supported the claims of Lady Jane Grey - but she had resolved to have him tried for heresy. His recantations of his Protestantism would have been a major coup for her. Unhappily for her, he unexpectedly withdrew his recantations at the last minute as he was to be burned at the stake, thus ruining her government's propaganda victory.
If Mary was to secure England for Catholicism, she needed an heir. On the advice of the Holy Roman Emperor she married his son, Phillip II of Spain; she needed to prevent her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth from inheriting the Crown and thus returning England to Protestantism. There was opposition, and even a rebellion in Kent (led by Sir Thomas Wyatt); even though it was provided that Phillip would never inherit the kingdom if there was no heir, received no estates and had no coronation. He was there to provide an heir. But she never became pregnant; her apparent pregnancy was, in fact, the beginnings of stomach cancer. Ironically, another blow fell. Pope Julius died and his successor, Paul IV declared war on Phillip and recalled Pole to Rome to have him tried as a heretic. Mary refused to let him go. The support which she might have expected from a grateful Pope was thus denied her.
After 1555, the initial reconciling tone of the regime began to harden. The medieval heresy laws were restored. The so-called Marian Persecutions of Protestants ensued and 283 Protestants were burnt at the stake for heresy. This resulted in the Queen becoming known as `Bloody Mary`, due to the influence of John Foxe, one of the Protestants who fled Marian England. Foxe's Book of Martyrs recorded the executions in such detail that it became Mary's epitaph; Convocation subsequently ordered that Foxe's book should be placed in every cathedral in the land. In fact, while those who were executed after the revolts of 1536, and the St. David's Down rebellion of 1549, and the unknown number of monks who died for refusing to submit, may not have been tried for heresy, they certainly exceeded that number by some amount. Even so, the heroism of some of the martyrs was an example to those who witnessed them, so that in some places it was the burnings that set people against the regime [11, p. 90-91].
When Mary died childless in 1558, Elizabeth inherited the throne. One of the most important concerns during Elizabeth's early reign was religion. Communion with the Roman Catholic Church had been reinstated under Mary, but was again severed by Elizabeth. She relied primarily on her chief advisors, Sir William Cecil, as her Secretary of State, and Sir Nicholas Bacon, as the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, for direction on the matter.
Parliament was summoned in 1559 to consider the Reformation Bill and to create a new church. The Reformation Bill defined the Communion as a consubstantial celebration as opposed to a transubstantial celebration, included abuse of the pope in the litany, and ordered that ministers should not wear the surplice or other Catholic vestments. It allowed ministers to marry, banned images from churches, and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Head of the Church of England. The Bill met heavy resistance in the House of Lords, as Roman Catholic bishops as well as the lay peers voted against it. They reworked much of the Bill, changed the litany to allow for a transubstantial belief in the Communion and refused to grant Elizabeth the title of Supreme Head of the Church. Parliament was prorogued over Easter, and when it resumed, the government entered two new bills into the Houses -- the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity.
Puritans and Roman Catholics
On the one hand her reign saw the emergence of Puritanism. Elizabethan Puritanism encompassed those Protestants who, whilst they agreed that there should be one national church, felt that the church had been but partially reformed. Puritanism ranged from hostility to the content of the Prayer Book and «popish» ceremony to a desire for church governance to be radically reformed. Grindal was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1575 and chose to oppose even the Queen in his desire to forward the Puritans' agenda. `Bear with me, I beseech you Madam, if I choose rather to offend your earthly majesty than to offend the heavenly majesty of God', he ended a 6,000 word reproach to her. He was placed under house arrest for his trouble and though he was not deprived, his death, blind and in bad health in 1583 put an end to the hopes of his supporters. His successor, Archbishop Whitgift more reflected the Queen's determination to discipline those who were unprepared to accept her settlement. A conformist, he imposed a degree of obedience on the clergy which apparently alarmed even the Queen's ministers, such as Lord Burghley. The Puritan cause was not helped even by its friends. The pseudonymous `Martin Marprelate` tracts, which attacked conformist clergy with in a libellous humorous tone, outraged senior Puritan clergy and set the government on an unsuccessful attempt to run the writer to earth. Incidentally, the defeat of the Armada in 1588 made it more difficult for Puritans to resist the conclusion that since God `blew with his wind and they were scattered' he could not be too offended by the religious establishment in the land.
On the other side there were of course, still huge numbers of Catholics, some of whom conformed, bending with the times, hoping that there would be a fresh reverse; vestments were still hidden, golden candlesticks bequeathed, chalices kept. The Mass was still celebrated in some places alongside the new Communion service. It was, of course more difficult than hitherto. Both Roman Catholic priests and laity lived a double life, apparently conforming, but avoiding taking the oath of conformity. It was only as time passed that resistance, refusal to attend Protestant services, became more common. The Jesuits and seminary priests, trained in Douai and Rome to make good the losses of English priests, encouraged this. By the 1570s an underground church was growing fast, as the Church of England became more Protestant and less bearable for Catholics. Catholics were still a sizeable minority. Only one public attempt to restore the old religion took place, the revolt of the northern earls, the Rising of the North in 1569. It was a botched attempt: in spite of tumultuous crowds who greeted them in Durham, the rebellion did not spread, the assistance they sought was not forthcoming, their communication with allies at Court were poor; they came nowhere near to setting free Mary Stuart from her imprisonment in Tutbury, whose presence might have rallied support. The Catholic Church's refusal to countenance occasional attendance at Protestant Services and the excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V in 1570, presented the choice to Catholics more starkly, and the arrival of the seminary priests, while it was a lifeline to many Catholics, brought further trouble. Elizabeth's ministers took steps to stem the tide: fines for refusal to attend church were raised from 12d. per service to Ј20 a month, fifty times an artisan's wage; it was now treason to be absolved from schism and reconciled to Rome; the execution of priests began - the first in 1577, four in 1581, eleven in 1582, two in 1583, six in 1584: fifty three by 1590; (seventy more between 1601 and 1680). It became treasonable for a Catholic priest ordained abroad to enter the country. The choice lay between treason and damnation.
There is, of course always some distance between legislation and its enforcement. The governmental attacks on resistance were mostly upon the gentry. Few recusants were actually fined, often at reduced rates; the persecution eased; priests came to recognize that they should not refuse communion to occasional conformists. The persecutions did not extinguish the faith, but they tested it sorely. The huge number of Catholics in East Anglia and the north in the 1560s disappeared into the general population in part because recusant priests largely served the great Catholic houses, who alone could hide them. Without the mass and pastoral care, yeomen, artisans and husbandmen fell into conformism. Catholicism, supported by foreign priests, came to be seen as un-English [10, p. 123-126].
Now then, Reformation parliament proclaimed the separation from Rome and in 1534 recognized the Anglican Church as the official church in the United Kingdom. As the result, by the 1570s the Church of England became more Protestant and less bearable for Catholics. So, Catholicism, supported by foreign priests, had been considered to be as un-English.
2. Christianity in Present Day Britain
2.1 The Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the oldest among the communion's thirty-eight independent national churches.
The Church of England considers itself to be both Catholic (as in Greek: кбиплйкьт, meaning pertaining to the whole) and reformed:
Reformed insofar as many of the principles of the early Protestant reformers as well as the subsequent Protestant Reformation have influenced it via the English Reformation and also insofar as it does not accept Papal supremacy or the Counter-Reformation.
Catholic in that it views itself as being an unbroken continuation of both the early apostolic and later medieval universal church, rather than as a new formation, and in that it holds and teaches the historic Catholic Faith. In its customs and liturgy it has retained more of the Catholic tradition than most other churches touched by the Protestant Reformation .
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