Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When England was heaven

Internet connection this week may be patchy. I need to attend to what this bloke is saying at a conference. No, I am not going to England to hear him! In the meantime readers might like to reflect on and discuss - I will post comments as able - the following topic:

"The English Reformers were essentially a bunch of miserable spoilsports who took a happy England, full of wholesome religion, cheerfully supported in every village and upon each verdant pasture green, and attacked it with all the glee of people who hate maypoles and English country dancing, all in the name of the greatest misrepresentation of true Christianity since Saul's Damascene experience."

Your starting point for discussion might be to read this catalyst for the topic.

Protestant spin machine indeed! There were no washing machines in those days ...


Father Ron Smith said...

Dr Dominic Selwood's epic piece -
'How a Protestant spin machine hid the truth about the English Reformation' - makes most interesting reading, for me, at least, as an Anglo-Catholic who yet appreciates the reformed nature of
Church of England catholicism.

There can be little doubt that the Tudors made a thorough job of wiping out the traditional English love of the catholic religion - regardless of the papal connection

Interesting, though, to note that Henry VIII still insisted on the retention of the traditional form of the Mass, for his own reasons. Could one of them, I wonder, have been to retain a foot in both camps - those of both protestant and catholic religion? I would not have wanted to go to the grave with his conscience. Thank God he did not represent the religious scruples of the majority of his subjects.

MarcA said...

The revisionist view of the Reformation pioneered by Scarisbrick, Duffy and Haigh is firmly embedded in A level and undergraduate teaching and has been since the 80s..we are now into post revisionism ( more nuanced) by Ethan Shagan etc...Academic historians are unlikely to return to the narrative A G Dickens put forward in the 60s...but this chap is just silly and shrill haute vulgarisation ...not sure who he is aiming at? Not university departments for sure...

Jean said...

Smile, if this is an example of a protestant spin machine, I think they need a new public relations department.

Zane Elliott said...


'Thomas Cranmer devoted the full powers of his position as primate of all England to incalculating the Protestand faith into every fibre of English life and law. In so doing, he shattered forever medieval Catholicism's hegemony over English Society, stealthily destrotying its ingrained religious seiotics, severly disrupting its instinctive communal rhythms. The noted Cambridge Historian Eamon Duffy has recently drawn a lush and often lyrical portrait of the world Cranmer sought to leave behind: a beautiful world of soaring church towers, newly built, and instructive iridescent interiors, softly candlelit; a balanced world where affective personal piety grieved over the sufferings of Christ but festive parish bonfires abetted neighbourly fellowship made jolly with ale; a supernatural corporeal world where saints and sacramentals diverted demonic fury and fecundated husbandry and home; a supernatural spiritual world where human tears averted the doom of divine wrath as well as celebrating the the indwelling presence of divine love; and, above all else, a supernatural sacramental world where liturgy marked life's milestones and offered the daily miracle of seeing one's Maker. What would make an Archbishop of Canterbury want to end such a world as this?' asks Dr. Ashley Null, arguably the world's foremost expert on Cranmer.

Dr. Null goes on to show just hoe repressive Cathloicism in England was, and that Cranmer made a gradual change in his theology - interestingly the area he was most concerned with was the Eucharist.

Anyone who thinks that the Protestant reformation was some kind of violent stripping of the altars by partisan priests needs to spend some time considering Dr Null's fine work 'Thomas Cranmer's Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to love,'

He lays out a clear demonstration of Cranmer's great love for others and Christ that undergirds the reform that was undertaken in England.

laudable Practice said...

It is deeply ironic that the c16th illustration in the article actually shows Puritan iconoclasts attacking an Anglican church!

That there was much discontinuity pre-/post-Reformation is obvious. More interesting, surely, are the threads and rhythms of continuity, some of which Duffy himself hints at in his 'Morebath'.

And it was that very continuity which explains Puritan hostility to Prayer Book, altar, bishops, the liturgical year's feasts and fasts, stained glass etc.

Bryden Black said...

I found this comment the best:

"I just wanted to read a discussion of this chunk of history, which is presumably what Mr. Selwood intended, and instead it's turning out to be a slagging match for various Bible-thumpers, evangelicals, agnostics/atheists, and yes, Catholics, too. You have to wade through the sludge to find people offering new information on this history, or a fresh, disinterested slant on what's already known, regardless of whether it supports their particular p.o.v., sect, whatever."

Sound familiar ...?!

Kurt said...

Selwood’s article seems a bit overwrought to me, too. In many Anglican cathedrals, churches and chapels much of the medieval religious art was retained after the break with Rome. In fact the Ten Articles of Religion promulgated in July of 1536 had a qualified acceptance of images, though it forbade idolatrous worship. Zane and BC are quite correct to point out that the real iconoclasts were the Puritans, such as William Dowsing, not the more traditional Anglicans. It was extremists such as Dowsing who stripped the altars, smashed the statues, stained glass windows, etc., in the 1640s and ‘50s. After the Restoration of 1660 altarpieces, statues, sculptures, paintings, ornate textiles and other religious artworks in churches gradually made a comeback, both in Britain and America.

Here in the New World ornate altar carpets (altar frontals), silver communion plate, and traditional clerical vestments (such as the surplice) were utilized as well. The earliest of these American ornaments for which there is a written record date from 1619. Also prior to the Oxford Movement’s “Ritualist” phase, which began around 1850, the setting up of religious statues and other sacred sculptures in American Episcopal churches and chapels was not unheard of, either. And there is evidence that incense was used at the parish church in Jamestown, Virginia, as early as 1610. (The colonists also made and exported American-made incense to Europe beginning in 1608.)

In New York, which has traditionally been High Church in tone, statues, relief sculptures, paintings, incense, etc. were employed by Anglicans in the 1670s, only a half dozen years or so after the conquest of the province from the Dutch. And Gloria Dei Episcopal Church in Philadelphia may house the oldest non-Roman Catholic religious sculpture in North America dating from at least 1646.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Kurt. Good to hear that TEC in many places still honours the beauty and integrity of catholic sacramentality. After all, God as Creator and Giver of Life is the Author of all beauty. Deo gratias!

Zane Elliott said...

Fr. Ron,
I'm not sure all of your fellow High Churchmen have actually comitted themselves to what you call 'the beauty and integrity of catholic sacramentality.'

Check this website out - http://badvestments.blogspot.co.nz/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&max-results=18

P.S It may pay to have a sick bag handy.

MichaelA said...

Dominic Selwood needs to learn some basic history if he expects to have any credibility.

I am grateful that he has at least heard of the Lollards, but he is clearly not aware of recent trends in study about them - historians now believe they were more widespread than previously believed - contrary to Selwood's assertions - and they remained so right up to the time of the protestant reformation. But why let facts or scholarship get in the way of a good yarn? ;)

Kurt said...

Well, Zane, some of those vestments and churches displayed were truly awful. However, there were some that were not quite so bad. For example the Laudian altar frontal (for Pentecost?) and AB Welby’s cope and miter set seem are okay to me.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Chris Spark said...

Ok I haven't read the article - may do, but after time with Haigh and a few other revisionists, and then time with Ctranmer himself, I am fairly happy to be a Cranmerian Anglican.

But if I am reading this little quote rightly (I may not be) and the author is calling Saul's Damascus road experience a 'misrepresentation of true Christianity', the author's problem with the Reformation is just tiddlyiwinks.

Paul and Cranmer - I am happy to stick with you guys. :)

Father Ron Smith said...

Kurt, I don't thing Zane would know what a Laudian altar frontal was if he fell over one. And I don't think he's in danger of ever having to face the prospect of cope & mitre.
Preaching bands, though, he might know something about.

Peter Carrell said...

Ron I am going to let your 12.05 pm comment pass, just, as it leaves open the possibility of Zane proving you wrong!

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly sure that my father, who died last year, did not know what a Laudian altar frontal was. He did, however, lead me to faith in Christ when I was thirteen, so I'm thankful to report that there were some essentials he knew a thing or two about!


Father Ron Smith said...

Fortunately for me, Tim, I didn't have to wait that long. Thus I was able to enjoy my early years of being a server, an acolyte and a member of the St.Mary's Church choir, The King's Messengers (SPG), Sunday School and youth group. All of this just a few miles from your own Leicestershire environment, in Coventry.

I guess I had the great privilege of a good Church of England background for my faith. I learnt, very early on, the joys of the catholic faith.