Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Ecclesiastical Vision of the Reformed Bishops under Elizabeth I 1559-1570

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Ecclesiastical Vision of the Reformed Bishops under Elizabeth I 1559-1570

Article excerpt

Upon their appointment to the initial Elizabethan episcopate in 1559-60, the former Marian exiles Richard Cox (bishop of Ely, 1559-81), John Jewel (bishop of Salisbury, 1560-71), James PiIkington (bishop of Durham, 1561-76), and Edwin Sandys (bishop of Worcester, 1559-70, and later bishop of London, 1570-77) attempted to promote an advanced model of Protestantism within the English church. As bishops-elect, the reformers saw themselves under the crown's authority but responsible for the doctrine of the church and the implementation of the new religion. Their goal was to create a genuinely reformed church of England by slowly but surely displacing the old religion with proper theology and worship. Specifically, their ecclesiastical vision incorporated three objectives: first, the replacement of the concept of apostolic succession with reformed doctrine and godly character as the foundation of episcopal authority; second, the transformation of the episcopal office from its medieval connotation of'lordly prelate' into a pastoral superintendent who served as a shepherd and teacher of his flock; and third, the modification of the recently reinstated Book of Common Prayer so that most of the ceremonies and clerical garments would be eliminated from use.

However, by 1566, Elizabeth I used her prerogative as royal governor to prevent these more radical-minded bishops from implementing their vision of ecclesiastical reform at the national level. The queen ordered the bishops to enforce the use of clerical vestments on the lower clergy; a matter of adiapliora, but nevertheless, a decision to maintain something which the reformers wished to eradicate. Faced with the prospect oflosing their offices, Cox, Jewel, Pilkington, and Sandys submitted to the queen's desires because of their own theological commitment to the Erastianism of the English church. While this action effectually ended any hope of implementing their own model of reform at the national level, and separated them from the more radical Protestants to their left, it allowed them to stay in office and carry on the battle against what they perceived to be their greatest foe-Roman Catholicism. The specifics of the progressive bishops' desire for a reformed church of England were stymied in this conflict with the queen, but clue to their ongoing labors, the groundwork was laid for the eventual triumph of Protestantism throughout the realm.

REFORMED THEOLOGY AS THE BASIS FOR RELIGIOUS CHANGE

Reformed theology was one of the principal tools by which the new bishops hoped to reclaim the English church from the Marian reintroduction of Catholicism and transform it into one of the leading churches of the international Protestant movement. This can be seen through a survey of their published writings, both individually and collectively.' Initially, however, they set forth their views a Book of Articles for the queen's benefit, following the Westminster disputation of 1559. Stung by the accusations of their Catholic opponents that they could not agree on the essentials of their new faith, a large group of Protestant reformers, all of whom had been emigres, presented a declaration of doctrine to the queen soon after Parliament closed in April of that year. Writing to Matthew Parker at the end of that same month, Sandys mentioned the declaration, saying that the former exiles had given a confession of their faith to the queen in order to show the doctrine in which they all believed and to which they all subscribed. Although the authors of the document are unknown, its preface announced that many of them had preached before the queen's majesty in recent months." Since Cox, Jewel, Sandys, and Pilkington were among that select group of preachers, it is likely that they adhered to the content of the declaration and may have helped to draft it/'

This Book of Articles of 1559, or 'declaration' as the former exiles themselves called it, reveals that reformed doctrine was at the heart of their agenda for the English church. …

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