Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

(Alan Jacobs) Cranmer's Goals & Prayer Book Revision: Back to Basics & the Bible

More from Alan Jacobs on Cranmer's BCP and the Bible. 

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (p. 27). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

"Thus when Cranmer rose to his archepiscopal seat, he might have heard Latin employed everywhere in England, but otherwise a wide range of practice. As he later wrote, when his liturgical revisions were mostly complete and the Book of Common Prayer ready for distribution, `

"'Heretofore, there hath been great diversity in saying and singing in churches within this realm: some following Salisbury use, some Hereford use, same the use of Bangor, some of York, and some of Lincoln.' (In Scotland the Sarum rite was the norm, in part because the Scots refused to be dictated to by York; but as Scotland was then its own kingdom, Cranmer need not concern himself with it.)

"So the Easter 1548 promulgation of his `Order of the Communion' was not just concerned to shift worship services from Latin to English; it was the first unambiguous indication that Cranmer meant all the public services everywhere in England to be conducted identically. `Now from henceforth, all the whole realm shall have but one use.' 10

“Perhaps even more important to Cranmer than the establishment of one use was the regularization of the Kalendar, including what we now call the lectionary: the set of prescribed readings from Scripture. We have already seen that the first of Cranmer’s Homilies emphasized the absolute centrality of regular Bible reading to the Christian life, and that his preface to the Great Bible had made the same point some years earlier; such an emphasis continued as he built the whole prayer book. Indeed, the preface to the completed book focused on this point almost to the exclusion of others:

"`For [the church Fathers] so ordered the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over once in the year, intending thereby, that the Clergy, and specially such as were Ministers of the congregation, should (by often reading and meditation of God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able also to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth. And further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy scripture read in the Church) should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion. But these many years passed this Godly and decent order of the ancient fathers, hath been so altered, broken, and neglected, by planting in uncertain stories, Legends, Responds, Verses, vain repetitions, Commemorations, and Synodals, that commonly when any book of the Bible was began: before three or four Chapters were read out, all the rest were unread.' 11

"In addition to having the congregation get through the whole Bible (`or the greatest part thereof’) in a year , Cranmer wanted particular attention given to the Psalms, so often referred to as `the prayer book of the Bible' itself; his Kalendar outlined a schedule by which all 150 Psalms would be read each month. For Cranmer, regularization of the actual liturgy was important, but thorough knowledge of the Bible— by which alone people could be `stirred up to godliness' and enabled to `confute them that were adversaries to the truth'— was more important still.

"Indeed, one could argue that Cranmer’s chief reason for implementing standard liturgies was to provide a venue in which the Bible could be more widely and more thoroughly known. Each service would require the reading of several biblical passages. In the service of Holy Communion there were (and indeed are) typically four: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a passage from some part of the New Testament other than the Gospels , and a Gospel reading— all this in addition to the many sentences and phrases from Scripture woven into the liturgical language."

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (p. 27). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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