A history of the church in England
The early English church
Christianity became established in Britain during the period that the British were governed by Rome, probably by the second century CE. During the fifth and sixth centuries, however, England had been conquered by the pagan Anglo-Saxons (made up of Angles, Saxons and Jutes – tribal groups from the coastlands of north-east Europe) and the Christian communities which remained were scattered. In 597 CE, Pope Gregory I sent a groups of monks from Rome, led by Augustine of Canterbury, to plant Christianity in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent. On arrival, he found groups of Christians around the Welsh borders and in the West of England, whose traditions were Celtic.
Though the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms gradually adopted the Christian faith, Celtic and Roman Christians clashed over some aspects of Christian practice, and these differences were resolved by a synod in Whitby in 667. Roman Catholic practice largely prevailed, emphasising:
- rule by bishops
- urban Christian centres
- uniform religious practice.
The influence of some aspects of Celtic Christianity remained, however, and it continued to predominate in some areas of Britain.
Despite further disruption caused by the invasion of pagan Vikings during the late eighth and ninth centuries, by the time of the Norman invasion (1066), the monarchs of Anglo-Saxon England were Christian, ruling over a Christianised land.
The medieval church
For 400 years, Christianity in England continued its allegiance to Rome, with periodic tensions between popes and monarchs claiming authority over each other. Mass (Holy Communion) was a spectacle watched by lay people, rather than a communion meal. The Church controlled social life through:
Religious orders of monks and nuns dominated the landscape. Such communities were centres of prayer, but also of learning, hospitality, farming and business.
Bishops were key political figures, influential in national decisions. At best, the Church was a spiritual and moral guardian, but at times it became corrupt, exercising power for financial gain or abusive social control.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries there was an increasing interest in direct spiritual experience of God and questioning of some of the emphases and attitudes of the church.
The Reformation in England
Under Henry VIII, the English (Anglican) Church became independent of Rome. Henry was responsible for closing all religious communities, for political and financial gain rather than for religious reasons. By 1600 it was a Protestant Church, emphasising:
The Protestant Reformation also removed:
Not all English Christians thought that this Reformation went far enough. Offended by the Church of England's link with the state, or rule by bishops, or a prayer book, they broke away and formed new groupings: Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist in particular. During the disrupted politics of the 17th century, more radical groups like the Quakers emerged. These are all Nonconformists because they did not conform to the state church.
The beliefs, doctrines and practices of Christians.
Rome ' the capital of Italy and the Roman Empire, traditionally founded by Romulus in 753 BC
Term applied to those who are not Christian, particularly followers of the classical religion of Greece and Rome and of the pre-Christian religions of Europe.
The supreme governor of the Roman Catholic Church who has his headquarters in Rome, in Vatican City. In certain circumstances, his doctrinal utterances are deemed infallible.
Member of male religious community.
A synod is a church council or governing body, operating at various levels of jurisdiction.
Member of a worldwide Christian church which traces its origins from St. Peter, one of Jesus' original disciples. It has a continuous history from earliest Christianity.
In certain Christian denominations leader of the Christian community within a geographical area.
The central religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, incorporating praise, intercession and readings from scripture. The central action is the consecration of the bread and wine by the priest.
The central act of Christian worship in which bread and wine are consumed in the way that Jesus demonstrated at the Last Supper before his betrayal and death.
1. Term for a worshipping community of Christians.
2. The building in which Christians traditionally meet for worship.
3. The worldwide community of Christian believers.
1. The part of a service of Christian worship where people say sorry to God for not living according to his will.
2. The practice of privately telling a priest of wrongdoing.
Disobedience to the known will of God. According to Christian theology human beings have displayed a pre-disposition to sin since the Fall of Humankind.
The act of turning away, or turning around from, one's sins, which includes feeling genuinely sorry for them, asking for the forgiveness of God and being willing to live in a different way in the future.
Member of male religious community.
A woman who has chosen to enter a religious order for women, and taken the appropriate vows.
Communication, either aloud or in the heart, with God.
The Anglican church is the 'Established' or state church of England, the result of a break with the Catholic church under Henry VIII and further developments in the reign of Elizabeth I.
Christians whose faith and practice stems from the Reformation movement in the sixteenth century which resulted in new churches being created as an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Bible, salvation is seen as God's commitment to save or rescue his people from sin (and other dangers) and to establish his kingdom.
Undeserved favour. The Bible uses this term to describe God's gifts to human beings.
The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament scriptures inherited from Judaism, together with the New Testament, drawn from writings produced from c.40-125CE, which describe the life of Jesus and the establishment of the Christian church.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
1. Title used for Jesus in the opening passage of John's Gospel.
2. The Bible is also called the Word of God.
Term given to the movements of church reform which in the sixteenth century resulted in new Protestant churches being created as an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church.
The complete commitment of oneself to a loved person or thing, and especially to God. The term is also used, in the plural, to mean prayers.
In the New Testament the term is used of all Christians but gradually came to describe an especially holy person.
1. The giving up of something deeply valued
2. Offerings a worshipper gives to God to express devotion, gratitude, or the need for forgiveness.
3. In the Bible, the sacrifice is seen to take away guilt and blame.
A journey to a sacred place made for religious reasons. 2. In Christian thought, the journey of the believer through this world towards heaven.
A place regarded as holy where people go to worship.
The 'Established' or state church of England, the result of a break with the Catholic church under Henry VIII and further developments in the reign of Elizabeth I.
A book containing written prayers to assist worshippers. 'The Prayer Book' is also a term used to denote the 'Book of Common Prayer' ('BCP').
Member of the Presbyterian Church, a worldwide Protestant church, which is governed not by bishops but by minsters and lay elders.
One of the largest Protestant churches. Stresses the importance of only baptising (usually by immersion) people who are old enough to make a personal profession of faith based on accepting the forgiveness offered by God through Jesus Christ.
Name given to members of the 'Society of Friends', founded in the seventeenth century by George Fox. Quakers usually avoid set forms of worship, leaving individuals free to contribute as they wish.
In the U.K., any Protestant group or church that does not adhere to the teachings of the State Church, the Church of England or, in Scotland, the Church of Scotland.