Thursday, October 30, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church XCV

James I
Elizabeth was not only having trouble with her Catholic subjects—she was also having trouble with her Protestant ones.  The issue was that the Church of England had become rigidly Calvinist.  The clergy who had embraced Cranmer’s reforms during the reign of King Edward VI and fled to the continent to escape persecution under the Catholic Mary (aka Bloody Mary) had been exposed while on the continent to Calvinist doctrine and polity.  They had already been disposed to continental models of doctrine under the leadership of Archbishop Cranmer who had gradually drifted from Lutheran style Protestantism to the more radical Swiss ideas of Zwingli and Calvin, but Cranmer wanted to retain bishops (he was one, after all) and was in no way anxious to embrace the Presbyterian polity of the continental Reformed Churches.  But Cranmer was now dead (Mary had seen to that) and the Church was more Calvinist in doctrine than ever.  The Puritan faction saw bishops as a holdover from the Catholic era and were anxious to rid the Church of them.  Elizabeth, for her part, saw that the bishops were one of the strong props of the monarchy.  The Presbyterian model of Church government was a tad too democratic for her liking.  Indeed, Elizabeth was no Calvinist.  She had a liking for pomp and ceremony and the Reformed ideas coming from the continent were not to her taste at all.  As we mentioned in an earlier posting, in her revision of the prayerbook she made sure that the vestments and altar furnishings of her father’s day were retained.  For the most part, of course, they weren’t, except in her chapel and there was a constant tension between the Puritan faction (which controlled the House of Commons and thus the taxes that furnished the royal purse) and the Crown over the direction of the Church of England.  Elizabeth shut her eyes to the stark puritan worship followed in the parish churches; the puritans grumbled about the papist trappings in the chapel royal but in the end did nothing confrontational other than an occasional “in-your-face” sermon decrying the Queen’s tendencies towards romish idolatry.  In the end the Puritans knew they were fortunate to have a Queen like Elizabeth who would turn a blind eye to their divergent religious practices, but it also left the Church of England in a certain ambiguity of being neither fully Protestant nor sufficiently Catholic to please anyone.  
Elizabeth died March 24, 1603 and was buried five weeks later with Protestant ceremonial (such as it was) in Westminster Abbey.  She was succeeded by her 3rd cousin (some would say, and it is more proper but not common usage, “1st cousin, twice removed”) James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots.  James was the nearest relative, but there were several others who could have made a claim for the throne, notably Lady Arabella Stuart.  A 1351 English law prohibited foreigners from inheriting England lands and titles—and thus the crown and its estates.  Moreover, in his 1547 will, Henry VIII had specifically excluded his Scots cousins from potential inheritance of the Crown.  Elizabeth, of course, died childless and had never named her heir before she died.  While Lady Arabella’s claim might have been a bit stronger—given that she was English born and thus neither a foreigner nor under Henry’s ban of a Scots heir—William Cecil (aka Lord Burghley) Elizabeth’s chief minister smoothly maneuvered the succession to James who had proven experience in governing and whose commitment to the Protestant faith was unquestioned.  James arrived in London on May 7th 1603 and was crowned the following July 25th.
The coronation is most interesting.  The Church of England had been purged of just about everything Catholic, including the use of consecrated oils for baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.  But what about the anointing of the monarch for his coronation?  The anointing of the monarch, even more than the crowning, is the conferral of Kingship in Christian theology.  Previous to James all the monarchs had been consecrated and crowned in Catholic rites—even Edward VI and Elizabeth, both of whom had inherited Catholic ritual and did away with it during their reigns.  James was the first monarch to be crowned according to the Protestant Book of Common Prayer.  It was decided that the use of chrism was too important to omit so even though it had been ruled out for every other use in the Church of England at the time, it was retained for the coronation of the king. It has remained part of the coronation rite until the present day.  

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