I had not thought much about Thomas Cromwell but I realise I should have: he is a critical figure in the Tudorian revolution which paved the way for the full fruits of the English Reformation. A masterly politician (until he lost his touch which proved to be his undoing), Cromwell, mostly surreptitiously, fostered the birth and hidden infancy of the English Reformation.
Rather than regurgitate the whole story and its many lessons - read MacCullough directly! - I observe here a little vignette from p. 533. But first, a basic bit of Anglicanism: we pride ourselves on the ability to find the via media, the middle way, the compromise between two extremes, which enables us to live together with tension and difference, sometimes even with contradiction, if not happily ever after, then unhappily ever after.
In a limited mind such as mine, the via media Anglicana is something of an Elizabethan invention, notably at the hands of her courtly theologian, Richard Hooker (steering the good ship CofE, as he did, between the shoals of Papal Catholicism and the reefs of Puritan Protestantism).
But here is MacCullough on an determination of Henry VIII's:
"[Cromwell's] death did not end the killing [in 1540]. Two days later a notorious event embodied the King's idiosyncratic notion of the 'middle way'. Six priests were executed: three evangelicals for heresy, and three papalist Catholics for treason."
Well, that is not what most of us these days think embodies the via media!
My serious observation, though, is how tyrannical, totalitarian, and psyschopathic was Henry VIII. He was the Stalin of his day, cheerfully murdering (albeit by beheading, burning, hanging, drawing and quartering, rather than by pistol) any and everyone who stood in his way or looked like they might do so. He married Jane Seymour on the day of Anne Boleyn's execution and married Katherine Howard on the day of Cromwell's execution!
As an Anglican I can be grateful to Henry VIII for triggering (via the good office of Cromwell) the legislation which which cut the ties of the Church in England from the rule of Rome and began the life of the Church of England.
Oh, and I can be thankful that Henry VIII appointed Cranmer and Cromwell.
They say even Stalin had his good points (not least that he led the necessary effort from the Eastern side of Europe to defeat Hitler).
But, really, is there much else we Anglicans can thank Henry VIII for?
Indeed!! Thanks H8 :)
Perhaps, Peter, his treatise on The Eucharist - for which he gained the title "Fidei Defensor" ?
For demonstrating the unfortunate truth of Psalm 146.3-5.
No, not keen on Henry’s anti-Lutheranism!
So, next week, when I post on the iniquities of Donald Trump (albeit a man with fewer wives than H8), by the end of the week the comments will make me revise my opinion, and commend him for sainthood????
A: "Six priests were executed: three evangelicals for heresy, and three papalist Catholics for treason."
In the system of order through terror that monarchs of Henry VIII's time inherited-- be appalled by the opening pages of Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish-- this makes perfect, centrist sense. Marginalise the impossible extremes without hesitation; let your people play on a broad, strong centre, working out their differences as they can.
A church where every opinion is equally authoritative has never existed, but a church for *consensus-seeking inquiry* with some tolerance for eccentrics is feasible. And an improvement on what many of us see on the ground today.
B: "...we pride ourselves on the ability to find the via media, the middle way, the compromise between two extremes, which enables us to live together with tension and difference, sometimes even with contradiction, if not happily ever after, then unhappily ever after."
Yes, but we should stop. The 42A? Gorham? "Ceremonialism?" If this proceduralising truthiness has ever been real-- Virginia was still trying clergy for heresy in the early C20; TEC has recently deposed clergy for believing several old orthodoxies-- we have not seen it lately. Its method has never been usefully formulated. And why, anyway, would a bag of marbles be better than a bunch of grapes? For Anglicans as for everyone else, in is in, out is out.
C: A more historical view is that the CoE has been graced by a broad traditional centre (eg Jewell and Hooker, the Tudor and Stuart bishops, the episcopate itself), by a prayerbook able to serve as a standard of centrist Western doctrine, and by supreme governors determined to maintain both breadth and continuity. The result has been a tradition of national *pilgrim churches* with broad, resilient centres that is unique in Protestantism. These centres have been renewed by gradual reinterpretation and have withstood eccentricity and heresy at the margins without loss of identity.
D: In an age of theological ferment, The Integrity of Anglicanism seems most undermined by the lack of a discerning magisterial authority like that which Cranmer and Parker exerted on the BCP and the 10/42/39 Articles. There is no way back to an ABC acting as an English pope, synods are not capable of sorting through ongoing theological debate, and the hazard may be too temporary to warrant the permanent Anglican Inquisition that nobody expects anyway.
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