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Origins of the Book of Common Prayer & Articles of Religion

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King Henry was no friend to Protestant theology. His refutations against it had won him the title “Defender of the Faith” from the Pope. Nevertheless, Cranmer and other like-minded Protestant churchmen worked slowly and deliberately to achieve reform in England. They were able to accelerate their pace after Henry died and his young son, Edward VI, came to the throne. Perhaps one of the most important breakthroughs was the Book of Common Prayer, which is a collection of services and other important resources for use in the Church of England. One of the main challenges for other Protestants is to understand how the prayers and liturgies of the Anglicans inform and establish their theology. As such, the Prayer Book is a fundamental aspect of Anglicanism. Another important document was the 42 Articles of Religion, which outlined the confessional commitments and concerns of the reformed Church of England. These were written to avoid religious controversies and to keep all Englishmen in the same church, free from the extremes of Roman Catholicism and the Radical Reformation.

It is important to remember that the English Reformation was a long one. Arguably, Anglicanism did not come into its own theologically until 1662. During this over-century-long period, it was “killed twice.” The first time was when King Edward died and was succeeded by his Roman Catholic half-sister, Mary. Called “Bloody Mary” by Protestants, she executed many clergymen, including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer himself. Mary was succeeded by her Protestant half-sister Queen Elizabeth I, who provided much-needed political and theological stability during her long reign. Queen Elizabeth worked hard to keep her clergy in line, especially those who had fled to Geneva during the Marian persecutions and desired to “purify” the Church of England along the lines of the Genevan model. These became known as the Puritans.


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