Church Of England

By Aude McKee


I. This is the third lesson dealing with attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church.

A. We have observed that these attempts failed.

B. Out of Luther’s work reformation did not come; rather, a new religious body was born.

C. This period, instead of being a reformation period, was a period of Protestant denominational births.

II. In the last lesson we noticed five fundamental bases on which the reformation was begun:

A. Bible – only rule of faith and practice.

B. Anything may be accepted in religion that is not expressly forbidden.

C. Justification by faith only.

D. Priesthood of all believers.

E. Removal of obstructions between man and Christ.

III. Reformatory efforts were not confined to Germany. In this lesson we give attention to the work and results of another man.


I. Reformation Activity in England.

A. Principles of the Lutheran reformation swept across the English Channel.

1. The English people had some preparation – John Wycliff and others less well known had taught against fundamental Catholic doctrines.

2. Catholic corruption had left a bad taste in people’s mouths – they were ready for changes to be made. English people loved their freedom.

3. But when the break with Catholicism came, it was more political and social than religious.

B. Henry V111 ruled England from 1509 to 1547.

1. He was devoted to the Catholic Church.

2. In 1521, Pope Leo X gave Henry the title “Defender of the Faith” for his defense of the sacramental system against the writings of Luther.

II. Henry VIII Had Marriage Problems.

A. Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon. (She was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.)

1. Henry claimed he never loved her (she was the widow of his brother).

2. She bore him six children but only one daughter survived (Mary).

3. He argued that he ought to have a son to succeed him.

4. He happened to be in love with an attendant in the Queen’s court – Anne Boleyn.

B. Henry requested permission of the Pope to divorce Catherine and marry Anne.

1. The Pope refused the request.

2. Henry then divorced Catherine and married Anne in 1533.

3. The Pope excommunicated Henry in 1534.

III. The Beginning of the Church of England.

A. Later in the same year (1534) Henry proclaimed himself the head of the Catholic Church in England.

1. Shortly thereafter he was able to get the English Parliament to make the act official by cutting the English Church off from Rome and declaring the English Sovereign (king and queen) head of the church. This was known as the Act of Supremacy.

2. The Catholic Church in England then had its name changed to the Anglican Church or the Church of England.

3. There were some changes in doctrine and practice, but in the main it was simply a Catholic Church under English rule. This organization still is nearer the Catholic system than any other Protestant body.

B. Though the initial break with Catholicism was not doctrinal, Henry VIII drafted Ten Articles in 1536. They have been summarized thus:

“The authoritative standards of faith are the Bible, the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, and for ‘four first councils.’ Only three sacraments are defined: baptism, penance, and the Lord’s Supper; the others are not mentioned in approval or denial. Justification implies faith in Christ alone, but confession and absolution and works of charity are also necessary. Christ is physically present in the supper. Images are to be honored but with moderation. The saints are to be invoked, but not because they ‘will hear us sooner than Christ.’ Masses for the dead are desirable, but the idea that the ‘bishop of Rome’ can deliver out of purgatory is to be rejected.”

1. These articles were later enlarged into Forty-Two Articles.

2. Revised in 1563 into Thirty-Nine Articles which have become the formal statement of faith for the Church of England.

C. Being born of social and political expediencies, trouble lay ahead.

1. Upon Henry’s death in 1547, his son Edward, who had a Protestant mother, came to the throne V t and continued his father’s work.

2. At his death, “Bloody Mary,” daughter of Henry and Catherine, ascended the throne.

a. England then experienced a “Catholic Reaction.”

b. Mary probably had up to 400 people put to death who had opposed Catholicism.

3. When Mary died, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, began to rule and she redirected England toward Protestantism.

IV. Interesting Things About The Church of England.

A. History in America.

1. First planted on the shores of America by Drake in California in 1578.

2. The movement grew fast in the South and “West,” but made little headway in the East for many years.

3. The American Revolution almost destroyed the Church of England in America.

a. Most of the clergy were loyal to the King of England.

b. They fled back to England during the latter part of the war.

4. In 1783, reorganization came and the name Protestant Episcopal Church was adopted.

B. Form of government.

1. Basic unit is the parish. It is overseen by the Rector (Priest).

2. Wardens have charge of the church records and collection of alms.

3. Vestrymen have charge of all church property.

4. Parishes are grouped geographically into 74 dioceses. The dioceses elect the Bishop.

5. Government in the diocese is vested in the Bishop and the diocesan convention, composed of clerical and lay members. Meets annually.

6. Every three years there is a general convention composed of two houses – Bishops and deputies. Laws passed here must be submitted to the dioceses for ratification before becoming law.

7. The ecclesiastical head of the Church is the Presiding Bishop elected by the general convention. He serves to age of retirement – 72.

C. Doctrines.

1. Children are born in sin; must be regenerated in baptism (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 273, 274).

a. Sin not inherited – it is committed (1 John 3:4).

b. Baptism is for those who can believe and repent (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38).

2. “That we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort” (Ibid., p. 605; see James 2:24).

3. Jesus “died to reconcile His Father to us” (Ibid., p. 603; see 2 Cor. 5:19-21).

4. “Baptism” can be performed either by pouring or immersion (Ibid., p. 279; see John 3:23; Matt. 3:16; Rom. 6:4).

5. Special days are observed (Ibid., p. L, LI; see Gal. 4:10-11).

6. Believe ten commandments still binding (Ibid., p. 68; see Col. 2:14; Heb. 10:9-10; 8:7-8).


1. If you had been living at this point in our study, you would have had these choices before you:

a. You could have submitted to the authority of the Pope of Rome, believed the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and become a part of that religious denomination. But to do so you would have had to deny the authority of Christ and the all-sufficiency of the New Testament!

b. You could have taken the other branch of Catholicism. You could have followed the Patriarch of Constantinople and become a member of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church. But to do this would have demanded that you affiliate with and pledge support of doctrines contrary to the plain teachings of God’s Word.

c. You could have refused to be a part of either division of Catholicism and followed Luther to become a member of the Lutheran Church. But to do this would have put you in conflict with many simple and plain teachings of inspired men, not the least of which would have been 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided; was Paul crucified for you; or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Did Luther have the God-given right to start another church?

d. Or, you could have rejected this Protestant body and joined the Catholic Church in England – ruled by the head of the British government. Could you have done this with a good conscience knowing that “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) and that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17)?

2. However, these are not the only choices you would have had – one remains:

a. You could have taken the Bible and studied it for yourself (2 Tim. 2:15).

b. You could then, upon your faith in the Lord, your repentance of your sins, your confession of your faith in Christ, have been baptized into Christ unto the remission of sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:26-40; Gal. 3:26-27).

c. You could have refused to have anything to do with any man-made religious organization.

d. By your obedience from the heart your sins have been washed away (Rom. 6:17:18; Acts 22:16).

e. By your obedience you have been added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47).

f. There is only one body and that body is the church (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18).

g. So now you have what you have been seeking -salvation from sin.

h. You are a member of the church of Christ’s choice.

i. Why ruin the work of God by joining something the Bible never heard of?

j. Why make your worship vain by upholding the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9)?

3. Why not go back of the corruptions of men to the pure Word of God – back of the churches of men to the church built by Christ (Matt. 16:18) and bought with his blood (Acts 20:28)?

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 18, pp. 558-559
September 15, 1988