Little Bits of History

July 1

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 1, 2017

1643: The Westminster Assembly of Divines first meets. This was an assembled group of theologians or “divines” who were tasked with helping members of the English Parliament in restructuring the Church of England. The process took ten years, from 1643 to 1653. Included in the meetings were several Scots who then returned north and the Church of Scotland also adopted the proposals. The Assembly began with at least 121 ministers and during the course of the project, nineteen others were added as replacements for those who could not or did not continue to attend. They were called into being by the Long Parliament before and during the First English Civil War. This Parliament was greatly influenced by Puritanism and opposed to the religious practices of King Charles I and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud.

Christianity came to Britain with the Romans in the 1st or 2nd centuries. Although there were Christians around, there were still plenty of pagans unwilling to convert. In 597, Pope Gregory I sent in Augustine of Canterbury to spread the Word and he became the first Archbishop  of Canterbury in 598. The Church of England has been in continuous existence since that date. Despite disruptions caused by internal politics, strife, and Civil War the Church of England considers itself to be the same church as Augustine brought to England in the 6th century. Nearly a millennium later, in 1534, King Henry VIII and the Pope had a spat over whether or not Henry could annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn and sire a male heir to the throne. In a huff, Henry simply separated himself and his country’s Church from the domain of the Pope. He married Anne who was Queen Elizabeth I’s mother.

Elizabeth died in 1603 and the discord between Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity took a bloody turn. The English Civil War was a disagreement between political factions, but also had religious elements running through it. Beginning in 1642, the War would eventually lead to the execution of King Charles I, an Anglican. The Puritanical Long Parliament wished for a more Biblical adherence in articles of faith and worship. Their grievance lay in the supposition that while the Church of England had separated itself from Rome, they were still too Catholic.  They wanted to rid the church and the country of any remaining Catholic influence.

The Westminster Assembly produced a new Form of Church Government which described the hierarchy of the church. They also made a Confession of Faith which was heavily indebted to Calvinism and included an article stating the Pope was the Antichrist and Mass is a form of idolatry. They penned two different catechisms or manuals for religious teaching (a Shorter and Larger version) as well as a liturgical manual called the Directory for Public Worship. These were adopted as doctrine by the Churches of England and Scotland and amended versions were adopted in Congregational and Baptist churches in England and the colonies.

When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion. – Voltaire

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. – Buddha

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.- Dalai Lama

All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry. – Edgar Allan Poe

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