HowEngland Became a Protestant Nation
HowEngland Became a Protestant Nation
Protestantreforming has played a key role in the process of reforming thepolitical, social, and religious practices in Europe, especially inEngland. Although protestant reformation was initiated in Germany byMartin Luther, reformists in England took it further to an extent ofholding protests to oppose regimes that seemed to fight thereformation. The term protestant was coined to describe the Christiangroups (such as Presbyterian, Baptist, and Lutheran churches) thatseparated themselves from the Roman Catholic. 1Protestant believed that the majority of the practices performed bythe Roman Catholic were inconsistent with the true Biblicalteachings. To this end, each of the reformist groups in Englandseparated itself from the Roman Catholic by teaching its subscribersa different set of beliefs. This paper will provide a discussion ofhow England reformed from the 16thcentury from the dominant Roman Catholic to a level of becoming aProtestant nation.
Priorto the emergence of the Protestant reformists in the 16th,religion and the state close associations. Anyone who opposed thepractices of the Roman Catholic was considered as a rebel of theincumbent regime and could face serious persecution. The state hadmanaged to make the practices of the Roman Catholic to be part of thedaily life of the people. The state managed to make the majority ofthe people believe that there was no difference between religion andpolitics by assuming the role of appointing religious leaders,placing
1.Heinze, W. and Dowley, T. Reformand conflict: From the medieval world to the wars or religion, AD1350-1648 (4thed.).Washington, DC: Monarch Books, 2012, p. 348.
religioussymbols in all places (including the bridges, statutes, andresidential areas), and structuring the year around religiousfestivals, unlike the current situation where only a few Christianfestivals (including Christmas and Easter) are observed. 2This implies that initiating religious reformists had to separate thestate from religion and change the daily lives of the people, whichdefinitely results in conflicts.
Someof the key concepts that Protestant reformists introduced in England
Protestantsadvocated for the adoption of many essential practices ofChristianity, but three of the way fundamental and distinguished themfrom the Roman Catholic. The confession was the first source ofdisagreement. Protestants held that people became Christians throughjustification that was obtained by them confessing their sins to Goddirectly, and not through man, while Catholics held that doing goodand confessing one’s sins through the priests was sufficient. 3Protestants believed that biblical confession as described in thetrue theological teachings was beyond doing good and attending themass. In addition, the Protestant reformists opposed the sacramentaltheology that characterized the Catholic mass by holding that theEucharist ought to be accompanied by the true theological teachingsbeyond giving Christians sacraments.
TheProtestant reformists, especially the author of Christian books,introduced the concept of conscience that was not valued by the RomanCatholic. For example, William Perkins held that rectifying people’sconscience played the role of healing the wounded
2.Rosman, D. FromCatholic To Protestant: Religion and the People in Tudor and StuartEngland.Abingdon: Routledge, 2003, p. 1.
3.Heinze, W. and Dowley, T. Reformand conflict: From the medieval world to the wars or religion, AD1350-1648 (4thed.).Washington, DC: Monarch Books, 2012, p. 30.
hearts,providing comfort to sinners who had been afflicted, and directionfor God’s servants. 4Perkins held that the ordinary mass practiced by the Catholic couldnot address the underlying issues of consciences that affectedindividual Christians. In addition, reformists believed thatconscience was the only effective tool that could help Christiansunderstand and observe the true moral and legal content of the bible.
Thethird concept was the separation of the sacred from secularpractices. Studies show that the Roman Catholic emphasized onmiracles, recovery from sickness, lost possession, all of which wereintegrated with the popular world. 5The Protestants held that the priests in the Roman Catholic did notallow their followers to distinguish between the secular from thesacred, which enhanced immorality in the church and in the ordinarylife. Protestants managed to use these unique concepts thatChristians of the day had not heard from the Catholic priests, whichmotivated them to learn more on about the content of the bible ontheir own as soon as they could access the bible written in thelanguage that they could comprehend. This made the efforts to stopreformation in England a futile exercise.
Earlyreligious reforms in England
Thefirst and the primary cause of reforms were the restricteddistribution as well as the limited availability of the Bible inlanguages that the local people could understand. The Protestantreformists believed that this was a strategy devised by Pope toconceal the truth of the Gospel and ensure that people understoodChristianity in the manner that it was dictated to them by theleadership of the Roman Catholic. The available bible version waswritten in
4.Patterson, W. Williamperkinsand the making of a protestant England.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 30.
5.Rosman, D. FromCatholic To Protestant: Religion and the People in Tudor and StuartEngland.Abingdon: Routledge, 2003, p. 8.
thelanguage Latin Vulgate, which implies that only the clergy couldaccess, read, and interpret the Bible to Christians. 6Therefore, making the Bible available in English, affordable to allpeople, and providing a detailed explanation of the key concepts ofChristianity (such as sacramental and confession) were the onlystrategies that Protestant reformists could use to win the confidenceof people who had no option other than listening to the priests ofthe Roman Catholic to understand Christianity by the 1520s.
Christianprotestant had a different understanding of the bible, which helpedthem comprehend that the monastery had failed to distinguishsecularity and sacred practices. The priests had convinced peoplethat god deeds were sufficient to please God, which implies thatsalvation was unnecessary. 7The monks who lived in the monastery held that charity work couldbalance the punishment rendered by God for sin. Protestantreformists’ understanding of the priest`s interpretation of thebible was that people needed to be good to one another and servehumanity to reestablish their connection with God, and the blood ofJesus was not required to wash away their sins. The Protestantreformists introduced a new concept and the interpretation of thebible, which held that all people were born sinners and they neededto believe in Jesus and be baptized by being immersed in water forthem to be under protection of Christ. 8Therefore, the process of transforming England and influence thepeople of England to shift from the beliefs of the Roman Catholic toProtestants began with the provision of the bibles that the peoplecould understand and teaching them new concepts that they had notheard from priests.
6.Patterson, W. Williamperkinsand the making of a protestant England.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 92.
7.Rosman, D. FromCatholic To Protestant: Religion and the People in Tudor and StuartEngland.Abingdon: Routledge, 2003, p. 7.
Theprocess through which reformists converted England into a Protestantnation
Therole of King Henry VIII in conversion of England to a Protestantstate
Theentire process of converting Europe from Catholicism occurred in the16thcentury, a time when reformists and scholars started questioning somepractices adopted by the Roman Catholic in the public and on thescholarly platforms, 910For example, Martin Luther, a German Scholar initiated these reformsin 1517 after nailing a document entitled “Ninety-five Theses onthe Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” on the door of the churchlocated in Wittenberg. 11However, initial religious reforms in England took a politicaldimension. This is because the process of converting England to aprotestant state was initiated by King Henry VIII.
Initially,King Henry was considered to be a loyal Catholic believer and hadbeen given the title “Defender of Faith” by the Pope followingthe measures he had taken to prevent reforms that were taking placein other parts of Europe from reaching England. However, Henry’sfirst wife named Catherine did not given a son, who could take theposition of an heir. 12In his mind, divorcing Catherine could allow him marry another wifeand try his lack of getting a son, but Pope refused to approve thedivorce. The disagreement between the Papacy and the monarch inEngland resulted in Henry VIII’s declaring himself as the health ofthe church in England and the state at the same time in the
9.Sanguinsin, A. Warof the Holies Part 1: The Birth of a Ruler.AT Sanguinsin, 2013, p. 11.
10.Shagan, H. Catholicsand the `Protestant Nation`: Religious Politics and Identity in EarlyModern England.Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005, p. 2.
11.Heinze, W. and Dowley, T. Reformand conflict: From the medieval world to the wars or religion, AD1350-1648 (4thed.).Washington, DC: Monarch Books, 2012, p. 138.
12.Adams, R. & Waugh, S. Revolutiontimes 1500-1750.London: Heinemann, 2003, p. 8.
year1534. 13This allowed Henry VIII to annul his own marriage and marry AnneBoleyn. Although the disagreement between the Papacy and the monarchwas initiated by personal issues, Henry went ahead and seized a lotof wealth owned by the English church, closed several monasteries,and facilitated the translation as well as the publication of thebible in Languages that the local people could understand. Therefore,the onset of the process of converting England can be attributed toKing Henry VIII, who was settling a personal grudge with the Papacyin 1534.
Thepopular acceptance of the new religious reforms in England
Themajority of the people of England were poor at the time when HenryVIII broke up with the Papacy, compared to the Catholic Church thatwas rich. Many people, especially those who felt that the church wasmaking money from the poor followers agreed with and supported HenryVIII in the process of reforming religion without regarding the factthat he was in the process of taking revenge. 14People could see that Henry and other reformists were talking senseby showing them that the church had denied them the right to readbibles in their own language and kept on making money by chargingthem for ordinary services, such as baptism, funerals, and weddings,which resulted in the popular acceptance of protestant movements?Therefore, both Henry VII and the people of England were embracingprotestant teachings out of anger and as an alternative to bettertheir lives and better their understanding of Christianity.
13.Adams, R. & Waugh, S. Revolutiontimes 1500-1750.London: Heinemann, 2003. P. 8.
Therole of King Edward VI
KingHenry VIII died, leaving his son, Edward VI, still a minor. AlthoughEdward VI was still an underage boy by the time his father died, hehad managed to learn a lot of Protestant practice, concepts, andbeliefs. After taking the mantle of leadership, King Edward VI, moveda step further from where his father left in the process oftransforming England into a Protestant nation. Edward VI made someradical changes (such as ordering that the church services beconducted in English across the country instead of Lain, theinstitution of the “Book of Common Prayer”, allowing the prieststo marry, and abolishment of the catholic mass) that gave protestantmovement roots in England. 15Although Henry VIII initiated the process of religious reform, hisson implemented key reforms that would be remembered by the commonmen who for the first time heard Christian teachings being deliveredin the language that they understood.
Roleof Mary I in the spread of protestant teachings in England
KingEdward VI died at a tender age of 15 years, which implies that he hadnot heir. To this end, Edward’s advisors chose to elevate Lady Janeas the new Queen, instead of Edward’s sisters Elizabeth and Mary.However, the remaining Catholics took advantage of the situation and,supported Mary I, Edward’s elder sister, to overthrow Lady Jane whoruled for nine days. Lady Jane was beheaded and Mary I became theQueen of England in 1553. 16From the way events unfolded, Mary developed a perception thatProtestants had denied her
15.Kelly, N., Shuter, J. and Rees, R. Themaking of the United Kingdom.London: Heinemann, 1998, p. 14.
16.Kelly, N., Shuter, J. and Rees, R. Themaking of the United Kingdom.London: Heinemann, 1998, p. 14.
theright to inherit the through, while the Catholics assisted her inaccessing what rightfully belonged to her. 17To this end, Mary I reversed the key reforms that had been achievedby her father as well as her brother and restored most of theCatholic practices. Protestants called her the “bloody Mary”because she ordered and witnessed the persecution of Protestants inEngland.
Roleof Queen Elizabeth I in reestablishment of protestant practices inEngland
MaryI reigned for a period of about three years, over which she managedto restore some of the catholic practices, but most of the protestantmanaged to keep their differentiated faith in spite of the fact thatthey could not spread it. Following her death, Mary I was succeededby her half-sister named Elizabeth in the year 1559. 18Elizabeth understood the Protestant values of her father and she hadno grudges with either of the religious groups. To this end, it waseasier for her to restore the protestant practices that her father,Henry VIII, had established and reaffirm them. Elizabeth I played therole of founding the English Protestant Church, which served as thevehicle for spreading the protestant practices and serve a sign thatEngland was now completely separated from the Papacy. Apart fromsupport the spread of protestant beliefs, Elizabeth I went a stepfurther to establish legislations (such as the Act of Uniformity andthe Act of Supremacy) with the objective of ensuring protestantbeliefs could no longer be interrupted by the change of leadership.19The acts declared the Queen to be the Supreme Governor of the EnglandChurch, returned the Book of Common
17.Sanguinsin, A. Warof the Holies Part 1: The Birth of a Ruler.AT Sanguinsin, 2013, p. 70.
18.Kelly, N., Shuter, J. and Rees, R. Themaking of the United Kingdom.London: Heinemann, 1998, p. 14.
19.Shagan, H. Catholicsand the `Protestant Nation`: Religious Politics and Identity in EarlyModern England.Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005, p. 69.
Prayers,and allowed the priests to continue marrying. Queen Elizabethremained on the throne for a period of about 45 years (1558-1603),which was long enough to ensure that Protestantism was permanentlyestablished in England. In addition, Elizabeth I introducedscripture-based music as part of religious worship. 20Therefore, Elizabeth I approach the spread of Protestantism from adifferent perspective and supported it because she believed in it,and not because she needed to take any revenge. Her faith in theProtestant values coupled with the long period of leadership was thekey factors that created an opportunity for Protestantism to spreadand England to be converted to a Protestant nation permanently.
Theprocess of converting England to a protestant took longer,conservative approach, and with the extensive political interventionthan compared to other parts of Europe. Major religious reforms beganin 1534 as King Henry VIII tried to take revenge against the Papacythat prevented him from divorcing his wile and gained roots by 1603following the efforts of Elizabeth I to create legislations thatwould protect protestant beliefs. Protestant reformist introduced newconcepts (such as confession and conscience) that were not taught inthe Roman Catholic. The ability of the Protestant reformists totranslate the bible that had been availed in Latin to English was themost significant strategy that gave them a breakthrough in theprocess of converting England to a Protestant nation. This is becausethe local people became more eager to learn the biblical content ontheir own in order to compare it with what the Catholic priests andprotestants were teaching them and then determine which one of
20.Willis, P. ChurchMusic and Protestantism in Post-Reformation England: Discourses,Sites and Identities.Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2010.
thempromoted the true theology. Elizabeth 1’s long term of leadershipcoupled with the establishment of legislations made protestantbeliefs part of the permanent religious Practices in Europe from lateearly 1563 to-date.
Adams,R. & Waugh, S. Revolutiontimes 1500-1750.London: Heinemann, 2003.
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Willis,P. ChurchMusic and Protestantism in Post-Reformation England: Discourses,Sites and Identities.Burlington,VT:Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2010.