THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Note: this Wikipedia article examines in greater depth the various factors which formed the religious climate of Wesley’s day.

The English Reformation was a series of events in 16th century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

These events were, in part, associated with the wider process of the European Protestant Reformation, a religious and political movement that affected the practice of Christianity across most of Europe during this period. Many factors contributed to the process: the decline offeudalism and the rise of nationalism, the rise of the common law, the invention of the printing press and increased circulation of the Bible, the transmission of new knowledge and ideas among scholars, the upper and middle classes and readers in general. However, the various phases of the English Reformation, which also covered Wales and Ireland, were largely driven by changes in government policy, to which public opinion gradually accommodated itself.

Based on Henry VIII‘s desire for an annulment of his marriage (first requested of Pope Clement VII in 1527), the English Reformation was at the outset more of a political affair than a theological dispute. The reality of political differences between Rome and England allowed growing theological disputes to come to the fore.[1] Immediately before the break with Rome, it was the Pope and general councils of the church that decided doctrine. Church law was governed by the code of canon law with final jurisdiction in Rome.

Church taxes were paid straight to Rome, and the Pope had final say over appointment of bishops. The split from Rome made the English monarch the Supreme Governor of the English church by Royal Supremacy, thereby making the Church of England the established church of the nation. Doctrinal and legal disputes now rested with the monarch, and the papacy was deprived of revenue and the final say on the appointment of bishops.

The structure and theology of the church was a matter of fierce dispute for generations. These disputes were finally ended by a coup d’état (the “Glorious Revolution“) in 1688, from which emerged a church polity with an established church and a number of non-conformist churches whose members at first suffered various civil disabilities only removed over time, as did the substantial minority who remained Roman Catholic in England, whose church organisation remained illegal until the 19th century.

Resources:

This post is provides material from Wikipedia with links to articles and information on English History which forms the background for the development of Methodism. While it is lightly edited, the source is Wikipedia unless noted below. Major articles quoted have links, but can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformation

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