You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Anglican’ category.
Before I go into Dearmer’s breakdown of the title page of Book of Common Prayer (image courtesy of Wikipedia), I wanted to point out a very important paragraph of his which relates to it.
First, carefully note the wording on the title page of the 1662 BCP.
Dearmer rightly points out (emphases mine below):
A truly admirable description! What a mass of ignorance would be removed if only people knew the Title-page of the Prayer Book! The notion, for instance, that “Priests” are a Roman Catholic institution, and the still common impression on the Continent of Europe that, the Anglican Church at the Reformation gave up the priesthood and is indifferent to Catholic order: the common idea, too, that “Sacramentalism” is a “high-church” idea foisted on to the Protestantism of England: or the notion that our proper use should be the Genevan Use, or the Roman Use, instead of that English Use which the Title-page orders. Certainly many widespread mistakes would never have come into existence had people but read the words that stare us in the face on this Title-page.
That is an excellent point, well made. All Anglicans — especially those who align themselves liturgically with Presbyterianism — should remember it.
The Anglican Church was never intended to be Presbyterian in liturgy or ritual. There is a small but vocal contingent of conservative Anglicans who say it was and would like to make it so even today. Those people point to the Puritans, who adopted a Calvinistic form of Anglicanism.
Bible Hub explains Puritan theology:
It is not too much to say that the ruling theology of the Church of England in the latter half of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century was Calvinistic.  The best proof of this is furnished by the ‘Zurich Letters,’  extending over the whole period of the Reformation, the Elizabethan Articles, the Second Book of Homilies (chiefly composed by Bishop Jewel), the Lambeth Articles, the Irish Articles, and the report of the delegation of King James to the Calvinistic Synod of Dort. 
This theological sympathy between the English and the Continental Churches extended also to the principles of Church government, which was regarded as a matter of secondary importance, and subject to change, like rites and ceremonies, ‘according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word’ (Art. XXXIV.). The difference was simply this: the English Reformers, being themselves bishops, retained episcopacy as an ancient institution of the Church catholic, but fully admitted (with the most learned fathers and schoolmen, sustained by modern commentators and historians) the original identity of the offices of bishop and presbyter; while the German and Swiss Reformers, being only presbyters or laymen, and opposed by their bishops, fell back from necessity rather than choice upon the parity of ministers, without thereby denying the human right and relative importance or expediency of episcopacy as a superintendency over equals in rank. The more rigid among the Puritans departed from both by attaching primary importance to matters of discipline and ritual, and denouncing every form of government and public worship that was not expressly sanctioned in the New Testament.
The Bible Hub essay goes on to explain the differing views of episcopacy — governing the denomination through bishops — that Anglican clergy had at that time. In short, the Puritans opposed episcopacy, which would have given the Anglican Church a Presbyterian polity.
Bible Hub cites an American Episcopalian, the Rev. Dr. E. A. Washburn, of New York, describing him as a modern-day ‘divine’ (esteemed, very learned theologian), therefore, highly knowledgeable in this subject:
‘The doctrinal system of the English Church, in its relation to other Reformed communions, especially needs a historic treatment; and the want of this has led to grave mistakes, alike by Protestant critics and Anglo-Catholic defenders …
‘The Articles ask our first study. It is plain that the foundation-truths of the Reformation — justification by faith, the supremacy and sufficiency of written Scripture, the fallibility of even general councils — are its basis. Yet it is just as plain that in regard of the specific points of theology, which were the root of discord in the Continental Churches, as election, predestination, reprobation, perseverance, and the rest, these Articles speak in a much more moderate tone …
‘We may thus learn the structure of the liturgical system. The English Reformers aimed not to create a new, but to reform the historic Church; and therefore they kept the ritual with the episcopate, because they were institutions rooted in the soil. They did not unchurch the bodies of the Continent, which grew under quite other conditions. No theory of an exclusive Anglicanism, as based on the episcopate and general councils, was held by them. Such a view is wholly contradictory to their own Articles. But the historic character of the Church gave it a positive relation to the past; and they sought to adhere to primitive usage as the basis of historic unity. In this revision, therefore, they weeded out all Romish errors, the mass, the five added sacraments, the legends of saints, and superstitious rites; but they kept the ancient Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene in the forefront of the service, the sacramental offices, the festivals and fasts relating to Christ or Apostles with whatever they thought pure. Such a work could not be perfect, and it is false either to think it so or to judge it save by its time. There are archaic forms in these offices which retain some ideas of a scholastic theology. The view of regeneration in the baptismal service, decried to-day as Romish, can be found by any scholar in Melanchthon or in Bullinger’s Decades. We may see in some of the phrases of the communion office the idea of more than a purely spiritual participation, yet the view is almost identical with that of Calvin. The dogma of the mass had been renounced, but the Aristotelian notions of spirit and body were still embodied in the philosophy of the time. The absolution in the office for the sick, and like features, have been magnified into “Romanizing germs” on one side and Catholic verities on another … The satire, so often repeated … that the Church has a “Popish Liturgy and Calvinistic Articles,” is as ignorant as it is unjust. All liturgical formularies need revision; but such a task must be judged by the standard of the Articles, the whole tenor of the Prayer-book, and the known principles of the men. In the same way we learn their view of the Episcopate. Not one leading divine from Hooper to Hooker claimed any ground beyond the fact of primitive and historic usage … The Puritan of that day was as narrow as the narrow Churchman of our own.
‘… Lutheranism and Calvinism did each its part in the development of a profound theology. The English Church had a more comprehensive doctrine and a more conservative order. It placed the simple Apostles’ Creed above all theological confessions as its basis, and a practical system above the subtleties of controversy …’
The beginning of the Bible Hub essay summarises Anglicanism well:
The Reformed Church of England occupies an independent position between Romanism on the one hand, and Lutheranism and Calvinism on the other, with strong affinities and antagonisms in both directions …
The Reformation in England was less controlled by theology than on the Continent, and more complicated with ecclesiastical and political issues. Anglican theology is as much embodied in the episcopal polity and the liturgical worship as in the doctrinal standards. The Book of Common Prayer is catholic, though purged of superstitious elements; the Articles of Religion are evangelical and moderately Calvinistic. 
In closing, the essay has this gem on the English:
The English mind is not theorizing and speculative, but eminently practical and conservative; it follows more the power of habit than the logic of thought; it takes things as they are, makes haste slowly, mends abuses cautiously, and aims at the attainable rather than the ideal.
Well said. Such characteristics gave us the Church of England and other churches in communion with her around the world.
In Britain, Mothering Sunday — Mother’s Day — is always Laetare Sunday.
This year, mums are shortchanged, as our clocks change to British Summer Time on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
Laetare Sunday is the joyful Sunday of Lent. Some traditional Anglican and Catholic clergy wear a pink chasuble. The faithful look towards the promise of the Resurrection on this day.
The traditional Epistle read on this day was from Galatians 4 and included this verse (Gal. 4:26):
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Hence the ancient tradition called Mothering Sunday, when people made the journey to their ‘mother’ church — often a cathedral but sometimes a large parish church — for worship. Afterward, some congregations ‘clipped’ the church, which involved worshippers gathering outside, forming a ring around the church and holding hands to embrace it.
The notion of the church as spiritual mother began to extend to earthly mothers, which is how Mothering Sunday developed.
Find out more in my post from 2012:
I wish all my British readers who are mothers a very happy day.
I mentioned Dearmer was an avowed Socialist. He seems to have been a bit to the left theologically, too.
In Chapter 3 of his book, he introduces the title page. This alone is worth about three posts, so I shall focus on Dearmer’s dislike of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, painstakingly written and agreed upon in 1563 by a convocation of Anglican bishops.
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
Archbishop Cranmer (1489 – 1556) wrote most of the Articles, the number of which varied depending on the monarch. Under Henry VIII, there were ten, then six. Under his successors, they increased to 42, then decreased to 39 in 1563, under Elizabeth I. She subsequently removed Article XXIX, which denounced transubstantiation. She did not want to offend her Catholic subjects.
In 1571, Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I. Article XXIX was reinstated.
The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are the official positions of the Church of England. Dearmer might have objected to them because they state particular things that could offend Catholics (the nature of Holy Communion) and Anabaptists (no mandate for commonly-held property).
You can read the full list here, along with the introduction. Today’s Anglican clergy downplay them a lot and actually discourage people from even reading them. Yet, they are still obliged to affirm at ordination that they accept the Articles.
However, as the Church Society notes:
the wording of the declaration is now such that many feel able to say it without meaning what a simple reading might suggest.
The Thirty-nine Articles have their basis in Holy Scripture. I have no problem in affirming them, although I will never be asked to do so. Wikipedia states:
the Articles are not officially normative in all Anglican Churches …
Now on to Dearmer, who points out that the Thirty-nine Articles are not on the title page of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, although they are included in it:
It makes no mention of the Thirty-nine Articles; for they form no part of the Prayer Book. They are bound up with it …
Their inclusion bothered him, because they are not binding on Anglican churchgoers:
it is a mistake of the printing authorities to compel us to buy the Articles whenever we buy the Prayer Book; and it gives Church folk the impression that the Articles are binding on them, which is not the case — for a layman is perfectly free to disagree with the Articles, if he chooses.
However, I found them helpful when I was converting. I wanted to know what this denomination believed and why before I made a commitment. It took me some time and reading to understand what a few of the Articles meant and why they were included.
Dearmer was of the impression that they were a living document and should have been updated to reflect the times:
Nothing has been done to improve them. The needs of modern thought have indeed been partly met by altering the terms in which the clergy (and they alone) have to give their assent; but this does not help the average Briton, who, moreover, is without the assistance of the learned commentaries which alone can prevent serious misunderstandings ; while in other countries, both East and West, the presence of the Thirty-nine Articles in the Prayer Book continues to do grave harm, by giving to other Churches a false idea of the Anglican theology.
Whilst I agree that the average Briton does need learned commentaries, I just did my own research. Anyone interested in doing so can. Clergy in Dearmer’s day could also have held classes on the Thirty-nine Articles so that the congregation could better understand them.
Where I disagree with Dearmer is that the Articles could be somehow improved. He could not have been more wrong! An Anglican who follows the Thirty-nine Articles will end up much further along the road to sanctification in thought, word and deed.
I much prefer what the Church Society says about them in fewer words (emphases in the original):
Officially the Church of England accepts the full and final authority of Holy Scripture as the basis for all that it believes. Some of these beliefs were summarised in the historic creeds, and at the time of the Reformation the Church adopted the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as giving a concise and systematic statement of the teaching of Scripture.
It’s a pity that more Anglicans do not understand the Articles or believe, as clergy are wont to say, that they are ‘historical artifacts’.
For decades, Anglicans have believed anything they want. Some of them are more Quaker, Baptist or Methodist than Anglican.
Dearmer did have excellent insights on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer, more about which next week.
Percy Dearmer was an Anglican priest who lived between 1867 and 1936. He was a High Church Anglican, although one who championed the English Use rite used before the Reformation over Roman Catholic rubrics.
Dearmer was an avowed Socialist (unfortunately). That said, he served in various London parish churches and wrote several books about the Book of Common Prayer, liturgy as well as a history of King Alfred and a travel book about Normandy. In later years, he was a canon at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes are interred.
Dearmer was also a lecturer in ecclesiastical art at King’s College, London from 1919 until his death at the age of 69.
He was also interested in composing and compiling hymns. He and Ralph Vaughan Williams published The English Hymnal in 1906. Two more hymnals followed: Songs of Praise in 1926 and the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.
Incidentally, when Songs of Praise was expanded in 1931, Dearmer wanted a hymn of daily thanksgiving, which is how Morning Has Broken (made famous 40 years later by Cat Stevens) first became known:
In Songs of Praise Discussed, the editor, Percy Dearmer, explains that as there was need for a hymn to give thanks for each day, English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon had been “asked to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune”. A slight variation on the original hymn, also written by Eleanor Farjeon, can be found in the form of a poem contributed to the anthology Children’s Bells, under Farjeon’s new title, “A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)”, published by Oxford University Press in 1957. The song is noted in 9/4 time but with a 3/4 feel.
“Bunessan” had been found in L. McBean’s Songs and Hymns of the Gael, published in 1900. Before Farjeon’s words, the tune was used as a Christmas carol, which began “Child in the manger, Infant of Mary”, translated from the Scottish Gaelic lyrics written by Mary MacDonald. The English-language Roman Catholic hymnal also uses the tune for the James Quinn hymns “Christ Be Beside Me” and “This Day God Gives Me”, both of which were adapted from the traditional Irish hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Another Christian hymn “Baptized In Water” borrows the tune.
Dearmer, his wife Mabel and their two sons all served in the Great War. Dearmer and his wife were stationed in Serbia where he was a chaplain to a British Red Cross Ambulance unit. Mabel served as a nurse with that unit and died of enteric fever in 1915. Their younger son Christopher died in battle that year. However, their elder son, Geoffrey, survived and died at the age of 103, and, at that age, was one of the oldest surviving war poets.
Dearmer remarried in 1916. He and his wife Nancy had three children: two daughters and a son. Sadly, their son died in active service with the RAF in 1943.
The reason Dearmer’s book Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book caught my eye is that the second chapter is called ‘The Question of Set Forms of Prayer’.
One of my personal bugbears is going to a traditional liturgical service and hear a priest substitute his own improvised prayers for the special intentions which precede the prayer of consecration. If he (or she) simply prayed them out of the Prayer Book, he would find that all his prayer needs were satisfied outside of names of national leaders or the sick and dying.
Their waffling — ‘uhh, mmm’ — and their poor prose has me praying for patience and calm just as we are about to reach the apex of the service with Holy Communion.
This is what Dearmer had to say about that and also dispensing with set prayers altogether. Remember, he wrote this in 1912, so this is somewhat surprising (emphases mine):
It is worth while, therefore, asking ourselves at the outset, Is liturgical worship a good thing, or ought the minister to make up his own prayers?
Now, there is very much to be said for extemporaneous worship in church; it is often a most useful instrument in mission work, it is an indispensable way of bringing the idea of worship to the ignorant, it secures the necessary element of freedom; furthermore, it may bring spontaneity and vitality into a service, and be a good corrective to formalism …
Nor is there anything alien to Church ways or wrong in principle about extempore services. Indeed in the earliest days of the Church the celebrant at the Eucharist used to pray thus. The service went on certain general lines, but the “president” filled it in according to his own ideas, and offered up “prayers and thanksgivings with all his strength,” the people saying “Amen” (as is told on p. 185). it was only by degrees that the prayers thus offered became fixed. Those, therefore, who argue that everything which was not done in the first two or three centuries must therefore be wrong, should logically include liturgical worship among the things they condemn. But perhaps sensible people in the 20th century no longer argue thus.
Well, often, that was because the celebrant could not read very well. Also, parchment was highly expensive and there were no printing presses until much later, in 1439.
Dearmer then mentions John Milton, an irregular churchgoer. Milton was all for extemporaneous prayer. Dearmer points out:
Milton’s mistake, was, in fact, a very simple one. He thought that every minister, would be a Milton. He did not realize what a deadly thing average custom can be, what a deadly bore an average man can make of himself when compelled to do continually a thing for which he has no natural gift. He did not foresee the insidious danger of unreality and cant. We should all, of course, flock to hear Milton praying extempore, if he were to come to life again ; but there are many mute, inglorious ministers whom we would rather not hear.
To put the prayers as well as the sermon in the hands of the officiating minister is indeed a form of sacerdotalism which the Church most wisely rejected many centuries ago. We know what a joy and help it would be to hear an inspired saint, with a genius for rapid prose composition, make up prayers as he went along; and opportunities for extemporization do exist outside the appointed services. But the Church has to provide for the average man, and has to guard against that form of clerical absolutism which would put a congregation at the mercy of the idiosyncrasies and shortcomings of one person. For extempore services, which should be a safeguard for freedom, can easily degenerate into a tyranny.
Before defending a set liturgy, Dearmer points out the importance of a sensory church service, one which will escape people who worship in plainly:
… history and a wide knowledge of Christendom show us that good ceremonies are a great preservative against Pharisaism. The reason for this is that action, music, colour, form, sight, scent, and sound appeal more freely to the individual worshipper, and more subtly, relieving the pressure of a rigid phraseology, and allowing the spirit many ways of rising up to God, unhampered by the accent of the workaday voice of man. It is only thus that the wonderful intensity of devotion among the Russian people, for instance, can be accounted for: we have no popular religious affection in the West which can compare with the evangelical spirit of this hundred million of Christians, who yet have used nothing but their very ancient forms of prayer during the thousand years since their race was first converted.
Precisely. This is what old school churchgoers refer to as the mysterium tremendum, which is very rare in our time.
Although he allows for some extemporaneous prayer, Dearmer concludes:
we may be confident that liturgical worship is the best of all. There is some loss in the use of printed words; but there is a greater gain. We have in them the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the Christian Church, the garnered excellence of the saints. We are by them released from the accidents of time and place. Above all we are preserved against the worst dangers of selfishness: in the common prayer we join together in a great fellowship that is as wide as the world; and we are guided, not by the limited notions of our own priest, nor by the narrow impulses of our own desires, but by the mighty voice that rises from the general heart of Christendom.
Our Lord had the ancient forms of the Church in which he lived often on his lips, and in the moment of his supreme agony it was a liturgical sentence, a fragment of the familiar service, that was wrung from him— “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We have a richer heritage, for it is a heritage dowered by his Spirit; and from our treasure-house come things new and old …
… there is a place and a real use for extemporary prayer, and a still greater use for the silent prayer which is above words altogether. These very things will keep fresh and sweet for us those old set forms, in which we can join so well because we know beforehand what they are about, and in which for the same reason all the people can come together in the fellowship of common prayer.
My advice — and my hope — for clergy improvising their own prayers is to sit down and write out the text in full, revising and perfecting it for however long it takes.
I was a member for several years of a large Episcopal church which had perfect prayers. The curates wrote them themselves or read them from books by other ministers. They were beautiful prayers, worthy of God. The congregation also listened and silently prayed intently. You could hear a pin drop.
Here in the UK, things are different. I blame it on the seminaries. However, if they feel it so necessary to express themselves, Anglican priests should take up the challenge to have an outstanding set of prayers of their own that fit with the language being used in the liturgy.
Jesus is our friend, but let us not forget the many Bible verses about our rightful awe we owe to Almighty God. This is the second part of Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV):
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Lent begins on March 1, 2017.
As Christians, we have the freedom to choose whether to observe this season of penitence in preparation for Easter.
Below are a few of my past posts on Lent.
Until the Reformation, Lenten spiritual disciplines were widely observed:
These included fasting, which has changed considerably over the past 50 years. Fasting is biblical as long as we accompany it with regular prayer:
Here are a few reflections on and ideas for Lent to make it a spiritually-enriched 40 days:
The point of Lent is to bring us closer to Jesus and God the Father. Ideally, we should want to continue these devotions afterwards, as part of sanctification.
If we are making other people miserable in the process, then we need to take a step back and correct ourselves or try something different.
Have a grace-filled, prayerful Lent.
This year, Shrove Tuesday falls on February 28.
As I wrote in 2016, various traditions involving food and merriment take place on this day, because Lent begins 24 hours later:
Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.
The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.
Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.
In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century …
Regarding pancake races, Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Pancake Day in much of the UK. Our pancakes are crêpes, although American pancakes are becoming more popular.
Christians observing Lent have it relatively easy today. Centuries ago, many foods — not just meat — were forbidden during this time of fasting and penitence. The BBC page on Lent states that fish, fats, eggs, and dairy products were also off the menu. Therefore:
So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without going off.
The need to eat up the fats gave rise to the French name Mardi Gras (‘fat Tuesday’). Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.
Beginners who would like to make crepes might find the following recipes of interest:
Top tips for foolproof crêpes (base recipe can also be done for savoury)
Fisheaters has a pancake recipe, too, along with recipes for Dutch Baby baked pancakes and Polish Pazcki, jam-filled donuts.
It is possible to enjoy Shrove Tuesday in a Christian way. It is unfortunate that it is uniquely associated with the revelry of Mardi Gras parades, which get so much publicity.
Why not take this time to have a fun, food-oriented celebration with family and friends?
During the Middle Ages, good Christians were expected to prepare for Lent after the Church season of Epiphany ended.
This tradition lasted until the mid-20th century in the Catholic Church. Vatican II put paid to it. However, some Anglican and Lutheran congregations also recognised Shrovetide.
Shrovetide begins on Septuagesima Sunday and comprises Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagesima Sunday (commonly called Shrove Sunday). My post, ‘The Sundays before Lent’ explains what each of these ancient names mean and what they signified in terms of spiritual disciplines. In brief, they mark the days before Easter: 70, 60 and 50, respectively. Centuries ago, some Christians began Lenten fasting the day after Septuagesima Sunday.
The word ‘shrove’ is the past tense of ‘shrive‘, an archaic verb meaning:
Present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.
The Sundays of Shrovetide provided a Latin-language based countdown to Easter. You can read more about both in my posts from 2016 and 2010, respectively:
The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)
Our forebears had a much better focus on personal piety than most of us today. Perhaps it is time for those of us abiding by the Church calendar make more use of older traditions, which also have a biblical basis with regard to sanctification.
These spiritual disciplines are not mere ‘works’. Exercised properly, they can help us to bear better fruits of faith.
Yesterday’s post addressed the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.
The post showed that, in terms of religion, the Founding Fathers envisaged it much differently than we do today. The numerous court cases from the Warren Court in the 1960s to the present have gradually redefined the relationship between church and state.
The First Amendment developed after a prolonged period of colonial and state churches — mandated denominations — which led to religious persecution and discrimination.
Furthermore, the Founding Fathers gave the United States Article VI of the Constitution which forbids a religious test for holding public office:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Ultimately, these provisions and others protect the Church from undue federal influence.
Religion in the colonies
FacingHistory.org has an excellent, detailed article on religious practice in American colonies.
Excerpts and a summary follow, emphases mine.
Not surprisingly, given that the 17th century was a time when Christianity was taken seriously, eight of the 13 colonial governments mandated religious practice, sometimes within a designated Protestant denomination. Taxes collected went to the colonial church for upkeep and clergymen’s salaries.
Refusal to participate was problematic:
in those colonies dissenters who sought to practice or proselytize a different version of Christianity or a non-Christian faith were sometimes persecuted.
Even though the colonies were overwhelmingly Protestant, there was sometimes a lack of Christian unity. Naturally, colonists favoured their own denominations, just as Christians do today. Baptists resented having to attend and pay for the Congregational Church. Even Anglicans were split between mainstream members and the Puritans, a theological conflict which began in England and was transplanted to the colonies.
Between 1680 and 1760, the two main colonial denominations were Anglicanism and Congregationalism. The latter was a Puritan offshoot, which, until recently, held to Calvinistic doctrines.
However, after this period, more colonists arriving aligned themselves with other denominations:
such as the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Unitarians and many more, sometimes referred to as “Dissenters.” In communities where one existing faith was dominant, new congregations were often seen as unfaithful troublemakers who were upsetting the social order.
ProCon.org has an excellent list of the colonial denominations and the adherence expected by colonists.
Virginia was Anglican and affiliated with the Church of England. In 1677, Governor Argall decreed:
Every Person should go to church, Sundays and Holidays, or lye Neck and Heels that Night, and be a Slave to the Colony the following Week; for the second Offence, he should be a Slave for a Month; and for the third, a Year and a Day.
Rhode Island was the opposite, supporting freedom of worship. The 1663 Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations stated:
That our royall will and pleasure is, that noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments…
It is interesting that the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams (c.1603-1683), was a Puritan minister who was banished from Massachusetts for supporting freedom of religion.
Even where colonial decrees allowed freedom of religion, their taxes often went to support the colony’s designated denomination. This is why the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut, Congregationalist, wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1801.
Colonial penalties and controversies
The religious atmosphere, even among like-minded souls, was somewhat heated in colonial America.
Returning to FacingHistory.org, in Massachusetts, a Congregationalist colony, a man complained in 1632 that:
fellows which keepe hogges all weeke preach on the Sabboth.
Massachusetts was the location of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and 1693. Although clergy frowned on deviating from Holy Scripture:
alchemy and other magical practices were not altogether divorced from Christianity in the minds of many “natural philosophers” (the precursors of scientists), who sometimes thought of them as experiments that could unlock the secrets of Scripture.
The Witch Trials were short-lived, however, religious conformity was expected in the years that followed. As late as 1768, a Boston resident wrote that:
the selectmen of Boston at last were able to “parade the street and oblige everyone to go to Church . . . on pain of being put in Stokes or otherwise confined” …
Laws were instituted that forbade certain activities on a Sunday:
travel, drinking, gambling, or blood sports …
There were no church courts for punishing religious misdeeds. The civil courts handled that, sometimes harshly. In Massachusetts:
the civil government dealt harshly with religious dissenters, exiling the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams for their outspoken criticism of Puritanism, and whipping Baptists or cropping the ears of Quakers for their determined efforts to proselytize. Official persecution reached its peak between 1659 and 1661, when Massachusetts Bay’s Puritan magistrates h[anged] four Quaker missionaries.
Virginia, as stated above, expected everyone to attend an Anglican service on Sunday.
In the mid-18th century, more Baptists moved there and were violently suppressed:
the colonial Anglican elite responded to their presence with force. Baptist preachers were frequently arrested. Mobs physically attacked members of the sect, breaking up prayer meetings and sometimes beating participants. As a result, the 1760s and 1770s witnessed a rise in discontent and discord within the colony (some argue that Virginian dissenters suffered some of the worst persecutions in antebellum America).9
England ends corporal punishment of dissenters
In 1682, England put an end to corporal punishment of dissenters in New England.
The English Parliament’s Toleration Act of 1689 granted religious freedom. It:
gave Quakers and several other denominations the right to build churches and to conduct public worship in the colonies. While dissenters continued to endure discrimination and financial penalties well into the eighteenth century, those who did not challenge the authority of the Puritans directly were left unmolested and were not legally punished for their “heretical” beliefs.
Some colonies, like Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware, were either founded on the basis of religious tolerance (the first two) or had no dominant denomination from the outset:
In the Carolinas, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, Anglicans never made up a majority, in contrast to Virginia. With few limits on the influx of new colonists, Anglican citizens in those colonies needed to accept, however grudgingly, ethnically diverse groups of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, members of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a variety of German Pietists.
Catholics, of course, were universally looked down upon. Cecilius Calvert founded Maryland in 1634 as a safe haven for them. However, in 1649, Puritans took over the colony’s assembly. Fortunately, wise heads prevailed and mandatory taxes went to both Catholic and Puritan churches.
Something similar happened in New York, which began as a Dutch colony in 1614. The prevailing denomination was the Dutch Reformed Church. The English took over in 1664, and granted religious tolerance. However, they allowed the Dutch Reformed Church to retain their properties. The New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges of 1683 granted official acceptance of all Christians. In 1697, the English founded Trinity Church (Wall Street) by Royal Charter. The funds Trinity received from the Crown helped them to become a wealthy church.
As time passed and more colonists arrived from different denominations, Anglican and Congregationalist colonies had to relax their religious laws.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure religious freedom in the newly-independent United States. For this, they relied on contemporary philosophers such as John Locke for input.
The Procon.org page shows that, by the time the colonies became states in the mid- to late-18th century, their new state constitutions granted freedom of worship.
However, where mandated colonial churches had existed, taxation continued to go to their support until the early 19th century. Even where there was no designated denomination — and even with the United States Constitution in force — there were still statutes for a religious test.
Connecticut stopped its support of the Congregational Church in 1818, 17 years after the Danbury Baptists complained to Thomas Jefferson.
Virginia repealed their religious test, along with the taxation requirement, in 1830.
Massachusetts ceased supporting the Congregational Church in 1833.
However, North Carolina did not eliminate religious references and requirements until 1875. New Hampshire deleted its requirement that senators be Protestant as late as 1877.
Today, we wonder why this took so long and whether these states were in violation of the US Constitution. Conservapedia explains that the First Amendment was for federal not state use:
The first clause of the first amendments states “Congress shall make no law..”; demonstrating that it is a restriction on laws that the Congress of the United States can pass. Nowhere does the constitution restrict State and Local Legislatures from passing any laws respecting an establishment of religion.
However, when the colonies became states, they granted freedom of worship, although, as we see, they lagged behind when it came to repealing mandatory religious tax and removing religious restrictions on legislators.
In 1940, the Supreme Court made the First Amendment applicable to the states. Current judicial interpretation:
holds that the Fourteenth Amendment extended its scope from Congress to the state legislatures, since freedom of religion can be classified as one of the “privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States” mentioned therein.
From the founding of the 13 colonies to the present, America has had close links to Christianity.
It is only in recent years — starting in the 1960s — that secularists have been denying the nation’s history in this regard.
Since then, Supreme Court decisions have confused the situation. Although most have ruled against Christianity — most famously in school prayers — sometimes they rule in favour. Prayers in state legislature led by a publicly funded chaplain are constitutional and Christian groups may use state school property and town halls for religious purposes after hours.
However, the cases will continue to proliferate as the number of secularists continues to grow.
Donald Trump was inaugurated five days ago.
Some Christians are disconcerted. A few examples of essays posted last week on the subject follow. Emphases mine below.
1/ John MacArthur’s Grace To You (GTY) blog has an excellent post by staffer Cameron Buettel who reminds GTY readers about obedience to government, specifically Romans 13:1-5 and MacArthur’s sermon ‘Why Christians Submit to the Government’.
GTY readers — conservative Evangelicals — were most unhappy. How on earth could an immoral, unbiblical man become president? One surmises they would have preferred the scheming, conniving and possibly criminal ‘Crooked Hillary’. Bottom line: Trump isn’t Christian enough to be in the Oval Office! (As if abortion and single sex marriage advocate Obama was?!)
2/ Moving along to the Episcopalian/Anglican site, Stand Firm, one of their contributors, A S Haley, was, rightly, more concerned about what he calls the Sea of Political Correctness. In ‘A Wave of PC Crashes into a Solid Barrier’, Haley points out:
The Sea of Political Correctness, fed since November 9 by the tears of the self-righteous, is now engulfing its devotees and followers. Vainly casting about for safe spaces where they may continue to breathe air unsullied by what they perceive as the sulfurous emanations of their opponents, they are gasping, choking and sinking as wave after wave of fresh emotional outbursts crashes over their heads …
The politically correct crowd was so certain of its ability to name the next President that it shattered on the shoals of the Electoral College. It has been unable since then to re-form under a single, agreed leader. It is instead trying to coalesce under a common hatred of the successful candidate. Hatred, however, like fear, needs a crowd in which to dissolve, and a crowd needs direction—which is supplied by a leader.
Although I disagree with Haley when he says that Trump’s platform lacks
concrete programs of proposed legislation and executive actions
because those had been laid out in detail on Trump’s campaign website for over a year, he is correct in saying:
there is every reason to hope that a beginning has been made—is being made as I write—and that, with God’s grace, America may truly once more show the way in its humility, in its decency, and in its willingness to serve without expectation of reward.
One of Haley’s readers wrote about the protests during the weekend of the inauguration:
In fact, since one of the main complaints about Trump is his vulgarity, the vulgarity and viciousness of these speakers should negate any of those complaints.
I hope so. How can people — e.g. the GTY readers above — miss the stark contrast?
3/ From there, I went for a Reformed (Calvinist) perspective. Dr R Scott Clark of of Westminster Seminary California is the author of several books on the Reformed Confessions. He also writes the ever-helpful Heidelblog. He posted an excellent essay at the time of the inauguration, ‘A Reminder Of Why We Should Not Long For A State Church’.
The GTY readers moaning about Trump not being Christian enough should peruse it, but it looks at something anathema to conservative biblicists: history.
… I am regularly astonished at the number of American Christians who seem to want a state-church. They seem not to understand the history of the post-canonical history of state-churches nor the difference between national Israel and the USA …
The governor of my state is a former Jesuit seminarian turned New Ager. I certainly do not want the Hon. Edmund G. Brown, Jr dictating what is to be preached or when it is to be preached. I am sure that Americans who advocate for a state-church do not want the Hon. Barack Hussein Obama or Donald J. Trump to meddle in the life of the institutional church.
Of course, when this objection is raised, the reply is an appeal to an eschatology of great expectations. This raises the problem of the chicken and the egg. Does the postmillennialist want to facilitate the coming earthly glory age through a state-church or is the state-church only to come about after the glory age has descended? This is not clear to me …
Under the new covenant and New Testament, there is no state-church. There is the state and there is the church. Calvin described these two realms as God’s duplex regimen (twofold kingdom). He rules over both by his providence but he rules the church, in his special providence, by his Law and Gospel revealed in holy Scripture. He rules over the civil magistrate by his general providence through his law revealed in nature and in the human conscience (see Romans 1–2) …
The visible church’s vocation is to announce the Kingdom of God in Christ, to preach the law and the gospel, administer the sacraments and church discipline (Matt 16 and 18) …
4/ I then sought another sensible Calvinist perspective, this time from Dr Michael Horton, who also teaches at the same seminary as Dr Clark. He is Westminster Seminary California’s J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics.
The Washington Post invited Horton to write an article on faith. On January 3, the paper published ‘Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy’. It concerns one of the prosperity gospel preachers who prayed at the inauguration: Paula White.
On the one hand, I heartily agree that White is a very poor example of a Christian pastor. On the other hand, she and Trump found solidarity in the prosperity gospel which he grew up with under Norman Vincent Peale. Furthermore, White was helpful to his campaign in getting out the vote among this sector of misguided churchgoers.
Even more unfortunate than her praying at the inauguration is the news that she will head the Evangelical Advisory Board in the Trump administration. I suspect this had not been announced when Horton wrote his article. Still, Trump is no theologian. I refer readers to Clark’s essay above.
Horton points out that such preachers have been around the White House before and are popular among certain sections of American society:
Peale and [Robert ‘Crystal Cathedral’] Schuller were counselors to CEOs and U.S. presidents. Word of Faith has been more popular among rural sections of the Bible Belt, where faith healers have had a long and successful history. But in the 1980s, the two streams blended publicly, with Copeland, Hinn and Schuller showing up regularly together on TBN.
He goes on to explain the dangerous heresy:
Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of [Joel] Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”
Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.
Again, Trump doesn’t get this because his family left their mainstream Presbyterian church in Queens after his confirmation to worship at Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. After Trump married Ivana and became even more successful, he drifted away from the church. Although in recent years he has been attending Episcopal church services, his theological formation isn’t very good. But, again, echoing Calvin’s two-fold kingdom theology, voters did not elect Trump as Pastor of the United States but rather President of the United States.
I nodded in agreement to this comment, which is 100% true:
Trump is president not a theologian and Horton shouldn’t be holding him up to that standard. Where was Dr. Horton when Planned Parenthood and the Gay marriage thingy was going full steam under Obama. Yes, Horton, we realize you are not an evangelical fundie, but jumping on Trump for this?
Michael plays the ‘guilt by association’ card very well.
Correct. I do not recall Horton criticising Obama’s policies very much. I’ve been reading and listening to him since 2009.
Trueman, a Presbyterian, is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is politically centrist but theologically conservative.
I agree with Horton’s analysis but would take the concern a step further. All Americans, not just Evangelicals, should be worried that Paula White is praying at the inauguration, though not for particularly religious reasons. By and large, the rites of American civic religion are harmless enough, bland baptisms of the status quo by the application of a bit of liturgy emptied of any real dogmatic significance or personal demands.
That is what inauguration prayers are largely about. Rightly or wrongly, everyone is represented, especially those who were helpful to the incoming president during campaign season.
He concludes that the real shame is that Trump seems to be endorsing the notion of ‘Psychological Man’.
However, once again, may I remind Drs Trueman and Horton: voters did not elect Trump to serve as the nation’s pastor-in-chief.
6/ The best rebuttals to Trueman’s article is in the comments to his essay. The two comments that nailed it perfectly came from Mike D’Virgilio, whose website is called Keeping Your Kids Christian. It looks very good.
D’Virgilio is a Trump supporter and I agree with his assessments. Excerpts follow. First, from this comment:
… I believe Trump is a net positive for Christianity because what he’s doing (including putting the huge “Merry Christmas” signs on his podium during his thank you tour) is potentially contributing to the re-building of the Christian plausibility structure of America. The term “plausibility structure” goes back to sociologist Peter Berger’s 1967 book The Sacred Canopy. In a more recent book he defines this simply as, “the social context within which any particular definition of reality is plausible”. In other words, what *seems* real to people. For the last 50 years the secularists have driven American culture off a cliff (via education, media, Hollywood, etc.) so that the dominant plausibility structure has been postmodernism/relativism/materialism/secularism (they are all logically intertwined). So God for many people (the rise of the “Nones” for instance) *seems* no more real than Santa Claus. Rarely, if ever, do people grapple with the evidence for the truth claims of Christianity; they just drift away or don’t see it as relevant at all.
So Trump, regardless of the content of his own faith, or those at his inauguration, is possibly making Christianity plausible again. Most Americans don’t pay attention to what these people actually believe, the theological content of their faith, such as it is. But all of a sudden with Trump this Christianity thing doesn’t seem like such the ugly cultural step-child anymore … None of this will change over night, but the arrival of Trump is the first time I’ve had hope in this regard since, oh, I was born!
… And I agree with pretty much everything Carl says here (I’m a graduate of Westminster myself), but I don’t at all agree that Trump is contributing to a therapeutic faith and the triumph of the psychological …
This is from D’Virgilio’s second lengthy comment:
… There is no other candidate who has done what Trump has done, or could be doing what he’s doing. Cruz is closest of the bunch, but I’m afraid he’s just not a winsome fellow. Once you get beyond the caricature of Trump, he’s a very likable, appealing showman. Everyone who knows him likes him, says he’s humble (impossible to believe for many) and kindhearted.
The greatest thing he’s done is blow up political correctness. He’s taken that on, along with the shamelessly corrupt media that promotes it, in a way no other Republican can even get close. This is huge for a Christian plausibility structure because PC is antithetical to a biblical/classical (in the sense the objective truth exists) worldview …
And Trump was Trump before the Apprentice. Trump made the Apprentice, the Apprentice didn’t make Trump. So I totally disagree Hollywood had anything to do with making the man, The Man. I don’t disagree with your assessment of the secular materialism, which is one of the reasons I initially wanted nothing to do with Trump … He doesn’t have to be an orthodox, Bible believing Christian to fight for Christians, to appreciate and respect Christians, to love America and the Christian influence in its history. I leave the soul judgments to God. I’m just grateful he’s our next president, and not that other person.
I realise some readers are apprehensive about Trump, what he might do and what he represents. I hope this has given them some food for thought, especially in terms of Christianity in America.
Let’s remember that there were four other members of the clergy besides Paula White and a rabbi. Furthermore, in his remarks, Franklin Graham reminded everyone that there is only one God.
In closing, sensible Christians living in the United States should be relieved Trump is in the White House. This will be borne out in due course.
In the meantime, rather than sitting around carping, we can always pray that he becomes a better, more orthodox Christian.
Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.
In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.
On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.
The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:
if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.
Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.
May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:
Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.
It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.
I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.
The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:
When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.
During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:
one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.
This is the iconic theme to which May refers:
May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:
I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.
As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.
She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:
My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.
May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.
What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:
This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.
She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.