The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”) in the Kingdom of England over, principally, the manner of its government. The first (1642–46) and second (1648–49) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–51) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with the Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.
The overall outcome of the war was threefold: the trial and execution of Charles I; the exile of his son, Charles II; and the replacement of English monarchy with, at first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–53) and then the Protectorate (1653–59) under Oliver Cromwell‘s personal rule. The monopoly of the Church of England on Christian worship in England ended with the victors consolidating the established Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established the precedent that an English monarch cannot govern without Parliament’s consent, although this concept was legally established only as part of the Glorious Revolution in 1688.
Note: After Kings returned to power, laws were enacted to prevent the reoccurance of the chaos and upheaval of this time. Wesley’s movement was perceived as a threat to this cultural stability. No one desired a return to a Catholic England or for the Dissenters to gain political power and recreate a religious dictatorship like England under Oliver Cromwell.
Episcopacy during the English Civil War:
During the period of the English Civil War, the role of bishops as wielders of political power and as upholders of the established churchbecame a matter of heated political controversy. John Calvin formulated a doctrine of Presbyterianism, which held that in the New Testament the offices of presbyter and episkopos were identical; he rejected the doctrine of apostolic succession. Calvin’s follower John Knox brought Presbyterianism to Scotland when the Scottish church was reformed in 1560. In practice, Presbyterianism meant that committees of lay elders had a substantial voice in church government, as opposed to merely being subjects to a ruling hierarchy.
This vision of at least partial democracy in ecclesiology paralleled the struggles between Parliament and the King. A body within the Puritanmovement in the Church of England sought to abolish the office of bishop and remake the Church of England along Presbyterian lines. The Martin Marprelate tracts, applying the pejorative name of prelacy to the church hierarchy, attacked the office of bishop with satire that deeply offended Elizabeth I and her Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift. The vestments controversy also related to this movement, seeking further reductions in church ceremony, and labelling the use of elaborate vestments as “unedifying” and even idolatrous.
King James I, reacting against the perceived contumacy of his Presbyterian Scottish subjects, adopted “No Bishop, no King” as a slogan; he tied the hierarchical authority of the bishop to the absolute authority he sought as king, and viewed attacks on the authority of the bishops as attacks on his own authority. Matters came to a head when King Charles I appointed William Laud as the Archbishop of Canterbury; Laud aggressively attacked the Presbyterian movement and sought to impose the full Anglican liturgy. The controversy eventually led to Laud’s impeachment for treason by a bill of attainder in 1645, and subsequent execution. Charles also attempted to impose episcopacy on Scotland; the Scots’ violent rejection of bishops and liturgical worship sparked the Bishops’ Wars in 1639–1640.
During the height of Puritan power in the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, episcopacy was formally abolished in the Church of England on 9 October 1646. The Church of England remained Presbyterian until the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660.
Note: The above section explains the reasons behind the authoritarian power held by Bishops in the Church of England.
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: