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

Cranmer: BCP, Mandatory Celibacy, Liberals & Traditional Marriage

More from Mr. Jacobs, this time on marriage.  Rome's mandatory celibacy is brushed away.  Yet, 1 billion humans give allegiance to Rome, although Cranmer, in the Litany, added the petition, "Good Lord, spare us from the bishop of Rome and his detestable enormities," but we digress from the main point, marriage.  Avoidance of fornication, a "remedy against sin," in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, is another stated reason.  Ever hear a sermon on "fornication" these days?  Cohabitation?  Illicit divorce?  Orphaning children by divorce?  Lifelong, committed marriages--marriage is between one man and one woman is the standard, until modern theological liberals began thundering their obiter dicta in their slow drift into relativism, fear and capitulation. Mr. Jacobs gives other observations on marriage.  Time for some leadership in Canterbury.  Time for a set of sermon series throughout England.  Ditto for American Episcopal parishes, but don't hold your breath. Time to do the preaching.  Reprobates will howl and whine.  Then, they'll clear out.  Good.  Uproot the reprobate liberals.  Plant the good seed and the elect will hear.

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (pp. 40-41). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

"The obvious contrast to the penitential tone of the rite for visiting the sick is the joyful marriage liturgy, The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, the best-known rite in the prayer book. Phrases from it come easily to mind, and it need not be described in detail here. But the theology (and perhaps also the personal experience) underlying it should be noted.

"The word `solemnization' does not perhaps sound joyous, but it is meant here to indicate that marriage is indeed a religious rite: not a civil contract, but a `holy estate' of life, as it is called in the opening pastoral discourse, which `Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee.' The rite is quite insistent on this point, and one cannot help suspecting that this is not just a repudiation of the common medieval belief that the chaste life of the `religious' (priest, monk, or nun) is intrinsically holier than the married life, though certainly Cranmer does mean to repudiate that idea. But also, Cranmer himself risked much by getting married, and did so twice. We know almost nothing about his first marriage , except that it occurred sometime between 1515 and 1519, that his wife’s name was Joan, and that he had to resign his fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford , when he wed, leaving him to scrape for a living.

"Joan died in childbirth, and their child died too, after which Jesus College offered to return his old fellowship. This led in turn to his being ordained as deacon and then as priest. As Diarmaid MacCulloch points out, if Joan had lived Cranmer would never have been ordained, and the difference that would have made to the English Reformation, and to any possible common-prayer book, is impossible to calculate though undoubtedly enormous. But she died, he was ordained, and by the time he married again— to the niece-by-marriage of a leading German Lutheran pastor— he was already Archbishop of Canterbury. We have noted his care to send his family away when Henry insisted on the absolute necessity of clerical celibacy, which may only indicate compassion, not marital devotion.

But two small moments in the Rite for the Solemnization of Matrimony perhaps tell us a little more. As with all the prayer book’s liturgies, this one draws on medieval forms: most of it simply translates the Sarum rite, which listed two primary justifications for marriage. First , marriage supports the procreation of children, and second, it is a `remedy against sin': as the bachelor St. Paul had written long before, `I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn' (1 Corinthians 7: 8 –9).

"But Cranmer added to these a third justification for marriage: `for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.' 21

"Moreover, the Sarum order contained these words: I, [name], take thee, [name], to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, till death us depart: according to God’s holy ordinance: And thereto I plight thee my troth. But to this existing form Cranmer added one more clause, one more obligation of the Christian husband to his wife, just before the mention of being parted by death: `to love and to cherish.'" 22

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (pp. 40-41). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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