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:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2 November 1610 A.D. Richard Bancroft—74th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury; Department-Head of State, Anti-Romanist, Anti-Presbyterian, & Erastian Royalist

2 November 1610 A.D. Richard Bancroft—74th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury; Department-Head of State, Anti-Romanist, Anti-Presbyterian, & Erastian Royalist
This article contains some factual errors and biases. 

Ford, Nick.  “The Life and Times of Richard Bancroft Archbishop of Canterbury.”  Humanities: 360.  28 Apr 2011.  Accessed 2 Jun 2014.


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"The Life and Times of Richard Bancroft Archbishop of Canterbury"



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Archbishop Bancroft is generally regarded as the architect behind the Authorised King James Bible which has served as the basis for Anglican worship for 400 years. He was also a staunch defender of the Episcopal tradition in the Church of England. He was responsible for keeping the Puritan movement in check.

Bancroft grew up in difficult religious times. As an infant he lived in the last years of the reign of the great Protestant reformer Henry VIII. In his formative years from the age of 9 to 14 he would have experienced the Catholic resurgence under the reign of Queen Mary. For most of his life he would have experienced the Protestant consolidation during the reign of Queen Elizabeth who reigned from 1558 until 1603.

Richard Bancroft rose from humble origins to become a leading churchman. He was born in 1544 in the village of Farnworth in Lancashire. He attended a local grammar school founded by a local man, Bishop William Smyth, in 1507. From the grammar school he went to Cambridge studying at Christ’s College and Jesus College. At the age of 23 he gained a Bachelor of Arts and at the age of 25 he gained a Master of Arts.

Sometime around 1570 Bancroft became the chaplain to the Bishop of Ely, Richard Cox. Cox was an old man (aged 70) with a dogmatic and hot temper. He was a prominent churchman who had worked with Henry VIII to develop the Protestant cause. Richard Cox often encountered the Lutheran, or Puritan elements of the church who favoured simple worship. He argued with them that a Protestant Episcopal church with a hierarchy of priests and bishops was a better path. Cox’s approach was compatible with that of Queen Elizabeth. In the first year of her reign Queen Elizabeth passed the Act of Supremacy which endorsed the Episcopal Church of England. While working for Cox Bancroft would have understood the official line that without Bishops there could be no monarch. Although Protestant in theology the Puritans were a potential threat to the crown.

After work at Ely, Richard Bancroft steadily rose in the church hierarchy. He became a  preacher at Oxford University, gaining a Bachelor of Divinity in 1580 and a Doctor of Divinity in 1585. He became the rector of St Andrew, Holborn in 1584 and became the treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral in the following year. In 1586 he became a member of the influential ecclesiastical commission. In 1587 he became a canon of Westminster Abbey. In 1590 Bancroft became a prebendary of St Paul’s.

More significantly Bancroft became the chaplain for the Queen’s favourite Christopher Hatton and thereafter to the Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift. Bancroft supported the strongly anti-Puritan line taken by Whitgift. In 1584 Whitgift removed over 200 Puritan leaning ministers from office. He used the ecclesiastical commission to root out the delinquent priests. Surprisingly, especially considering that England was at war with Catholic Spain from 1585 until 1603 Bancroft had a conciliatory line towards Catholics. He had no objection to their theology provided that they were loyal to the English crown.

Bancroft was an ardent supported of the power of Bishops. On 9 February 1589 he delivered a sermon at St Paul’s cross that was so vigorous in its attack on the Puritans and the divine right of Bishops that the Queen’s councillors through that the Queen’s advisors thought that it was a threat to the supremacy of the crown.

When Bancroft became the Bishop of London in 1597 he was effectively acting as Archbishop for the elderly Archbishop Whitgift.

In 1603 and 1604 circumstances changed dramatically. Queen Elizabeth died in 1603. As one of his first acts the new King James I arranged a conference to discuss the religious views of the Puritans. The Hampton Court Conference took place in January 1604. Bancroft was one of the leading churchmen who attended. At the conference King James took a conciliatory line on many Puritan issues. His plan was to placate the Puritans while maintaining the Episcopal structure of the Church of England.

As a concession, King James accepted the need for a new Bible. The Puritans were interested in a Bible that was written in a popular, accessible language because they thought that every man should have access to the Book. Their preference was to use the Geneva Bible which had been so produced in 1560. King James, with the support of Bancroft, objected to the Geneva Bible because it contained seditious notes that emphasised the Lutheran line. King James proposed the preparation of the new Authorised King James Bible that would be produced in everyday language using original sources in Hebrew and Greek.

Shortly after the conference, on 29 February 1604 the elderly Archbishop Whitgift died. Richard Bancroft, the heir apparent was appointed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in November 1604. While in office Richard Bancroft was responsible for spearheading the King James Bible project. The project took 7 years. The new Bible was published in 1611.

During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury Bancroft continued his attack on the Puritan movement. He also worked to restore the income of individual priests and church estates that had been curtailed by the reforms of Henry VIII. In 1608 he became the Chancellor of Oxford University. While in this role, he championed the consecration of certain Scottish Bishops which lay the foundations for the Scottish Episcopal Church. He died at Lambeth Palace on 2 November 1610.

Bancroft has a double legacy. His actions against the Puritans helped to establish the Episcopal church of England and establish religious stability in England. His leadership led to the publishing of the Authorised King James Bible which celebrates its 400th anniversary of publication in 2011.

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