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, Parliament & Act of Uniformity, 1549

Mr. Jacobs gives his review of the Act of Uniformity, 1549, legislating reform.

"The employment of the Book of Common Prayer was made mandatory through England by the Act of Uniformity, passed by Parliament in early 1549. It declared:

"'...that all and singular ministers in any cathedral or parish church or other place within this realm of England, Wales, Calais, and the marches of the same, or other the king’s dominions, shall, from and after the feast of Pentecost next coming, be bound to say and use the Matins, Evensong, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the same book, and none other or otherwise.'1

"Its passage was controversial . Among the eighteen bishops in the House of Lords during the debates over the act—which succeeded a series of theologically intense debates about the original authorization of the prayer book—eight ended up voting against it. These were largely traditionalist figures, but it should be noted that a particular person’s theology can never be inferred simply from the fact of his or her opposition to a particular version of the Anglican prayer book. As Brian Cummings has commented, “in practice, the Book of Common Prayer seemed to please almost no one. Many Elizabethans were still Catholic at heart, and conformed only reluctantly to a church now bereft of spiritual comfort and external signs. Puritans, on the other hand, mocked even the use of the surplice; rejected the wafer in favor of ordinary bread; objected to the sign of the cross in Baptism, kneeling for Communion, the ring in marriage … and bowing at the name of Jesus.” 2 To this theme we will repeatedly have cause to return.

"Nevertheless, lordly opposition was overcome: Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was approved, its uniform employment mandated (`none other or otherwise'), and sanctions for noncompliance specified . Indeed, of the 2,700 words comprising the act, more than 2,000 of them are devoted to the listing of offenses against the new book and the prescribing of punishments for any `obstinate person who willingly would disturb so godly order and quiet in this realm' by refusing to conform. Among ministers, repeat offenses could lead even to life imprisonment.3 The first copies of the book appeared in early March and were quickly adopted by evangelical parishes, and at St. Paul’s Cathedral. On the `feast of Pentecost,' or Whitsunday, June 9, 1549, the Book of Common Prayer and the Act of Uniformity became the law of the king’s whole realm. And then the troubles began."

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (pp. 46-47). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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