Thomas More vs. the Reformation

Now that Hilary Mantel’s superb novels about Thomas Cromwell have been made into a TV series, Wolf Hall, her points about the good guys and bad guys in Tudor England are attracting attention and controversy.  Conventionally, Cromwell has been considered a Machiavellian villain who helped Henry VIII  break from the Church of Rome because of his romance with Anne Boleyn, only to later frame her for unfaithfulness.  His foil was Thomas More–later, St. Thomas More–the humanist scholar who refused to go along with these schemes at the cost of his life.

But Mantel portrays Cromwell as a decent man, carefully navigating the whims of an unstable king, while deftly advancing the cause of reform and Reformation in a corrupt society and a corrupt church.  More, on the other hand, as Mantel tells it, is a reactionary bigot, who sought to stamp out the Reformation by burning the “heretics” at the stake (which would include William Tyndale, for translating the Bible into English).

Now many Catholics are outraged at this treatment of their Renaissance saint, who has lately been held up as the model of the Christian intellectual who puts the laws of God over the laws of the state.  Mark Movesian goes so far as to say that Wolf Hall is part of the attack on religious liberty.  The depiction of More, he says, is an example of today’s mindset that the demands of the state should trump the teachings  of the church.  But, of course, it finally comes down to whether you support the beliefs of More or his victims.

Anthony Sacramone has given a quite brilliant Lutheran reply to all of this.  He includes what More said about Luther (who also opposed Henry VIII and his shenanigans), More’s defense of heretic burning, and what Purgatory meant to the people of the time. [Read more...]

A liturgy for people offended to be called sinners

The Church of England is revising its baptism liturgy to accommodate contemporary people who are offended to be addressed as sinners.  Also missing, along with the rich language of the Book of Common Prayer, is mention of the devil and the charge to bring children to church and to teach them the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. [Read more...]

Anglicans starting a “pagan church”

The Church of England is breaking new ground in being “missional,” in the sense of changing the church to fit a particular culture.  It is going after the “spiritual but not religious” crowd by starting what they are calling “a pagan church.” [Read more...]

Church of England does the best it can on gay marriage

The Church of England has been opposing gay marriage, but votes in Parliament demonstrate that they can’t stop it.  So the state church is dropping its attempts to kill the gay marriage bill and is concentrating instead on improving it; that is, making gay marriage more like regular marriage.  For example, under the current bill, adultery is not a grounds for divorce for homosexual couples!  And lesbian spouses do not have parental responsibilities if one partner is a mother!

So adultery doesn’t violate marriage vows for gay married couples?  And parental obligations are different in same-sex marriages?  I’m curious if such differences in what marriage entails are part of the gay marriage movement overall.  If there are different rules for the two kinds of marriage, the slogan “marriage equality” is bogus.  Gay marriage would, in fact, change the institution as a whole. [Read more...]

Archbishop of Canterbury on Gay Marriage

In the United Kingdom, gay marriage has passed the House of Commons and is now being considered by the House of Lords.  The Church of England, despite its reputation for theological liberalism, is opposing the measure.  I was struck by what the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said about gay marriage in a speech before the House of Lords (of which he and other bishops are members). [Read more...]

Church of England says “No” to women bishops

The Church of England voted not to allow women to be bishops.  Bishops, priests, and laity had to pass the proposed change by a two-thirds majority.  The Bishops voted 44-3 in favor of female bishops.  The priests voted 148-45 in favor.  The measure was blocked by the laity, who voted 132-74, which was about 4 votes shy of the 2/3 needed.

The British parliament is indignant and is threatening intervention in the state church.

Some people recommend an episcopalian polity so that bishops would keep churches orthodox.  But it would seem, judging from the experience of American Anglicanism, that they don’t.   Some favor a clergy-dominated polity to keep the church orthodox, and yet, as we see here, the clergy are often the ones trying to enforce a liberal agenda.  In this case and in many others, the laity turn out to be most conservative faction in the church.

 

via Church of England blocks move to approve female bishops.


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