we are common insignificant sinners with a conspicuous passion for the advancement of the Judeo-Christian faith.

the ecumenical examiner is dedicated to the power and glory of the God of Creation, Yahweh, and Yeshua the Messiah.

as tectonic shifts of reformation continue to move under the feet of the Roman church   --- the headstrong English push away from Catholicism --- but not too far  

   It all started long, long ago in a mythical, make-believe kingdom called England. There lived a king called Henry VIII had who had ascended to the throne at the young age of eighteen. It was 1509, and soon afterwards he received the papal dispensation that allowed him to marry his elder brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon. In the early years of his reign the young king allowed Thomas Wolsey to govern in his behalf, and by 1515, Wolsey had been elevated to the office of Lord Chancellor. All was well in the merry mythical land.

   In 1521 Pope Leo X conferred the title of "Defender of the Faith" on Henry for his book Assertio Septem Sacramentorum. It was Henry's way of affirming the supremacy of the Pope and establishing his loyalty to Rome in the face of the reformation movement being led by defiant radical theologians such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and others. At the time, the defender of the faith had no inclination to join the movement of radical separatists that were defying the authority of Rome.

   However, his wife, Catherine, would ultimately endure seven pregnancies, only one of which produced a surviving child, a female, christened Mary. This fact produced dynastic complications for Henry, who became obsessed with the need for a male heir to follow him on the throne. At the time there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne of England. 

   By 1525 Henry had grown famously infatuated with Anne Boleyn, and was losing interest in Catherine, given that she had been unable to provide him with a son. He sought, in 1527, to have his marriage to Catherine annulled, which set in motion a chain of events that would lead to England's separation from the Catholic church. Pope Clement VII refused to grant the annulment of the marriage, because he didn't want to anger Catherine's nephew who happened to be the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the most powerful ruler in Europe.

   Henry didn't care about angering Charles or Clement and came to the awkward conclusion that the politically convenient course of action was to replace papal authority within the English realm with the supremacy of the English crown. He, after all, was the King of England, and shouldn't have to grovel for papal favors from Rome. Protestant churches were breaking away from the Catholic church all over Europe at this time, and there was nothing that prevented England from joining the Protestant movement. He decided he would declare his own church. An Anglican church.

   In 1533 Henry broke with the Catholic church and had his marriage to Catherine declared invalid. She was banished from the court, and he married Anne Boleyn, who was already pregnant by this time. They married in a secret ceremony away from intrusive scrutiny. For these actions, Henry was excommunicated by the pope, and the English reformation was off and running. Wolsey fell out of favor with Henry for his failure to negotiate an annulment with Clement, and Thomas Cromwell was elevated to the position of Henry's chief minister. Cromwell gained Henry's confidence and appreciation by helping him with the legislative intricacies necessary to formally break with the Catholic church and install King Henry VIII as the head of the newly invented national 'Church of England.'

Anne Boleyn

   In 1534, the "Act of Submission of the Clergy" removed the right of appeals to Rome, effectively ending the pope's influence over English clergymen. Then Cromwell gifted Henry with the "Dissolution of Monasteries," 1536 - 1540, which amounted to the hostile acquisition of lands, properties and other assets of the Catholic church, which was used ultimately to purchase the loyalty of the nobles.

   The Great Bible was introduced in 1539 as the first authorized English language Bible under the authority of King Henry VIII and Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. This version of the Bible was a forerunner to the King James version and was also taken primarily from the work of William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament (published 1525) and his translation of the Pentateuch (published 1530). Tyndale's translations were first heavily edited by learned church scholars, including Catholics, who held objections to some passages. Tyndale's books had been banned by royal decree in 1530, but Henry had promised an English language Bible, from which the clergy would be mandated to read passages aloud to their congregations during services, and a copy of which would be made available to common people for reading. (see - King James I authorizes new translation)

   Tyndale's Bible translation was incomplete as he had been arrested and executed in 1536, and Myles Coverdale took up the task of translating the rest of the Old Testament.

Coverdale based his translations on the Latin Vulgate and some German texts, rather than using the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, causing some to consider his work inferior. Still, it was thought that the production of a common vernacular version of the Bible would promote congregational unity and proper instruction for the people on matters of church doctrine.

   In 1533 Anne gave birth to a daughter, christened Elizabeth. Henry's infatuation with her, however, was already wearing thin, and after two subsequent miscarriages Henry had her arrested in 1536 on exaggerated charges including adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. She was beheaded. Henry was already courting her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, and the execution cleared the way for his third marriage. Henry had apparently come to the conclusion that it was much simpler to have a wife executed than to seek a Catholic style annulment, even though he had made himself the head of the new church of England.


   Jane gave Henry what he desired more than anything, a son, christened Edward, in 1537, however she died after child birth. Cromwell, by this time, thought it an advantageous idea to establish an alliance with the German Protestants, by arranging a marriage between Henry and the German princess Anne of Cleves. However, the marriage was a disaster, and Henry divorced her only a few months later. Henry blamed Cromwell for this dreadful mismatch, and soon afterwards had him executed for treason.

   In his waning years, Henry married a teenage girl named Catherine Howard in 1540, but it was a short-lived relationship that ended when she was accused of adultery and treason. She was executed in 1542. Henry's final marriage was to a woman named Catherine Parr, though Catherine's relationship with the aging king was primarily that of a nurse. They got along quite well, and she outlived Henry, who died in January 1547. He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, and buried next to Jane Seymour at Windsor Castle.

     The binding authority of the Bible, the three ecumenical creeds and the first four ecumenical councils
     The necessity of baptism for salvation, even in the case of infants (Art. II. says that "infants ought to be baptized" and that, dying in infancy, they "shall undoubtedly be saved thereby, and else not"; that the opinions of Anabaptists and Pelagians are "detestable heresies, and utterly to be condemned.")
     The sacrament of penance, with confession and absolution, which are declared "expedient and necessary"
     The substantial, real, corporal presence of Christ's body and blood under the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist
     Justification by faith, joined with charity and obedience
     The use of images in churches
     The honouring of saints and the Virgin Mary
     The invocation of saints 

     The observance of various rites and ceremonies as good and laudable, such as clerical vestments, sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday

     The doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead in purgatory (but made purgatory a non-essential doctrine)

   In addition to the Book of Common Prayer, in 1536 Cranmer published the Ten Articles, the first guidelines meant to direct the Church of England as it gained ever greater independence from the Roman church. In these, the influence of the reformation was in fact, barely evident, and traditional Catholic doctrine clearly held sway. In brief, the Ten Articles affirmed:

   In 1549 the English National Church produced the Book of Common Prayer, published in the English vernacular, further driving the Latin language out of the English churches. The principal author was Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury. He along with others, continued to move England further away from Rome and closer to the ranks of the continental reformers. The English church had not entirely quit Catholicism, and considered itself part Catholic and part Reformed, only that the English Monarch was the supreme authority in the church, rather than the pope.

Jane Seymour

   Edward VI ascended to the throne in 1547 with the death of Henry. He was only nine years old, and the realm was in fact governed by a Regency Council. The young king took great interest in religious matters, however, and during his short reign, the Church of England's transformation into something that more resembled a Protestant institution progressed. His father had severed the relationship between the Anglican church and Rome, but Henry VIII had never allowed the renunciation of Catholic rites or doctrines. It was under Edward's reign that slightly more radical reforms were established such as the abolition of the mass, the abolition of clerical celibacy, and the imposition of compulsory use of the English language in services.

   Henry's Ten Articles left the practice of auricular confession (the sacrament of Catholic tradition, the verbal, private and personal confession to a priest) unchanged and mandatory for members of the Church of England. Thirteen years later, in 1549, when the first Edwardian Prayer Book was released, the practice was made optional. The second Edwardian Prayer Book, printed three years later, deleted the practice of auricular confession altogether and the Anglican "General Confession" of the collective congregation became the established English way.

   In 1553, at the age of fifteen, Edward took ill. As it became evident that his illness was terminal, he and his council began planning for succession, particularly in protecting his Protestant reforms from being overturned. To this end, in his last will, he named his first cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir in order to prevent a return of Catholicism. This act overstepped the rights of his two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. It was a clumsy attempt to remove Mary from the line of succession, because Edward was well aware of Mary's strong Catholic predilection.

   After his death, Edward's will would be immediately challenged, and Jane was deposed by Mary after only nine days as queen and was later beheaded. Mary I, Queen of England and Ireland, was a devout Catholic and she promptly began an aggressive campaign to undo Edward's Protestant reforms. 

   She also turned her attention to marriage and the necessity of producing an heir, which would be required in order to block her Protestant sister Elizabeth (next in line of succession) from succeeding to the throne. Her cousin, Charles V suggested his son, Prince Phillip II of Spain, and marriage negotiations were started. Phillip had a son by a previous marriage and was heir to vast territories in continental Europe and the New World. A marriage of political convenience was arranged.

   This however, brought the English crown into unchartered territory, given that Mary I was England's first official, undisputed queen regnant. Under English common law, the properties and titles belonging to a woman, became her husband's upon marriage. It was feared that any man she married would become the King of 

   It was her unbridled determination to restore Roman Catholicism to England and Ireland that led to her unpopular reputation, and the derogatory moniker, Bloody Mary. During her five-year reign, she had 283 religious dissenters executed, most of them burned at the stake. These included Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, who was first forced to watch two of his bishops burned alive. Cranmer then recanted out of fear, repudiating Protestant theology and returned to the Catholic faith. This, however, was insufficient to satisfy Mary who wasn't convinced by his sudden change of heart. When he was brought to the stake later, on the day he was to be burned, he tragically recanted his earlier recantation.  

   Mary suffered a long-protracted illness and given that she and Phillip had produced no children, she was forced to accept the fact that her sister Elizabeth would succeed to the throne. Mary I died in 1558 after only five years on the throne at the age of 42. It is thought that she had been severely debilitated due to some form of cancer, weakening her physical constitution, and she passed away during an epidemic of influenza. Phillip was in Brussels and wrote that he felt a reasonable regret over news of her death.  

Queen Elizabeth I

   Elizabeth I would be the last monarch of the House of Tudor. It had been expected that she would marry and produce an heir to continue the Tudor line, but she never did, rejecting numerous suitors. As she grew older, she became famous for her legendary virginity. She had suffered imprisonment for nearly a year under her sister's reign, suspected of supporting Protestant opponents, which only served to stiffen her anti-Catholic leanings. Upon her coronation in 1559, she ruled with the counsel of a group of trusted advisors, and one of her first acts as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, where it was decided she take the title of Supreme Governor. It wasn't awkward enough that a woman ruled England, but more so that a woman sat at the head of a major national church.

   She became a determined opponent to papal authority and in 1559 her Parliament passed a new Act of Supremacy, also repealing any of the remaining anti-Protestant legislation of her predecessor, and a new Book of Common Prayer was published.

the legendary Bloody Mary

reconciliation with Roman Catholicism becomes a bloody affair

reconciliation dies with Mary, second break cuts deeper and holds fast

   One of her first acts as queen was to order the release of several Roman Catholic noblemen that had been locked up in the Tower of London, and prominent Protestant churchmen were, in turn, imprisoned, including Thomas Cranmer. Her first Parliament assembled in 1553, from which came the declaration that the marriage of her parents, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was a valid marriage and attempts at annulment had been baseless and void. She nullified Edward's religious laws, and Catholic doctrine was restored, including, among other things, priestly celibacy.

   Phillip is credited with persuading Parliament to rescind Henry's religious laws, thus restoring the English church to Roman, papal authority. Mary negotiated a major concession from the pope, allowing the lands and properties of the church, which had been confiscated by her father, to remain in the hands of the influential nobles to whom they had been granted. This act ingratiated the nobles to her, ensuring their allegiance.

   Her primary legacy on matters religious was in presiding over what would become known as "The Elizabethan Settlement." The Settlement was an attempt to resolve differences between the Puritan, Protestant and Catholic factions in England and bring them together under a single national church. Pope Pius V would declare her illegitimate in 1570, and excommunicate her, releasing her subjects from the burden of submission. This act finally terminated the communion between Rome and the Anglican church.

   Her long reign of 44 years became known as "the Elizabethan Era," and was a welcome period of cultural, political and economic stability for the kingdom that helped develop a sense of unified national identity. However, this period was not without its hiccups and heartburn, particularly in matters of foreign policy. The matter of Mary, Queen of Scots, wars and reports of wars along the continental coast, threats from Catholic France and Spain. She couldn't keep England out of these conflicts entirely, but her interventions were generally of a defensive nature. The most spectacular of these foreign challenges came from Spain with the launching of an armada intended to forcibly return England to the Roman Catholic fold.

the Catholic challenge ultimately sinks with the great Spanish Armada

   This Spanish naval assault force was the largest engagement of the undeclared Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604). After the death of Mary, Phillip II of Spain had lost all authority as a co-monarch. Yet, as a devout Catholic, he chaffed at the idea that Elizabeth was overturning what Mary had accomplished for the church. He saw Elizabeth as a heretic and illegitimate ruler of England. The question of legitimacy arose from Roman law and the fact that Henry VIII had never officially divorced Catherine, an omission 

   It is alleged that the underhanded Phillip supported plots to have Elizabeth overthrown in order to install her Catholic cousin and heir apparent, Mary, Queen of Scots. His plans were derailed when Elizabeth had the Queen of Scots imprisoned, holding her for some nineteen years, and finally having her beheaded. Elizabeth tried to get even with Phillip for his treachery by supporting the Dutch Protestant revolt against Spanish occupation.

   In retaliation, the determined Phillip planned a massive invasion of England, in order to overthrow Elizabeth and English Protestantism, and reinstate Catholicism. Phillip's plan was going to require an enormous amount of funding, and since it included the interests of the Vatican, Phillip sought financial support from Pope Sixtus for the construction of the fleet. There were other strategic concerns, but Pope Sixtus V wasn't so much interested in protecting Spanish interests in the Netherlands as he was in the prospect of restoring the broken English communion with Rome. The plan was to sail a massive armada to England, carrying troops, supplies, livestock and weapons. They would go first to rendezvous with a large force of troops in the Spanish Netherlands and transport these men on barges to a landing point near London, protecting the barges with the fleet's ships of war.

Phillip II of Spain

   Sixtus agreed to provide a large subsidy to help finance the expedition, but knowing the unreliability of Spain, he gave nothing in advance, promising the funds only after the fleet had landed troops in England. In this way he could shrewdly save a fortune, should the expedition fail, while at the same time, he was drafting a proclamation to be published in England should the expedition succeed. In a show of good faith, however, the pope allowed Phillip to collect crusade taxes and granted his men indulgences (absolution of sins).

   The fleet was ultimately composed of 130 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers. Another 30,000 soldiers would be waiting at the rendezvous point. In May of 1588, the fleet set sail from Lisbon and headed for the English Channel. It took two full days to get the large number of ships underway. The English had made their own preparations, and had an opposing fleet of smaller, faster ships, ready and waiting at Plymouth Harbor.

   In an inauspicious start, the armada ran smack into bad weather, ultimately forcing several ships to turn back and others to put in for repairs. The entire endeavor was delayed and wasn't sighted by the English until mid-July. The first skirmish came off Plymouth with the faster, more lightly armed English ships keeping their distance from the larger Spanish ships which held a clear advantage in a close-quarter engagement. The only damage done to either fleet was when two Spanish ships accidentally collided and had to be abandoned.

was not assembled, the barges were not ready, and the troop strength had been reduced significantly by disease. While the Spanish fleet waited for instructions, the English launched a midnight attack of fire ships. These were small, unmanned sailing vessels filled with pitch, brimstone (sulfur), some gunpowder and tar, set afire and rigged up and launched towards the Spanish anchorage. The attack created a panic, and while there were no Spanish losses, most of the Spanish vessels hastily cut anchor and scattered. Their defensive formation was broken in the confusion, and the English were able to close in for battle with some modest success.

   It was the engagement at the small port of Gravelines, in the Spanish Netherlands, where the Spanish were attempting to reassemble their fleet, that, a few days later, the English launched a devastating attack that ultimately forced the Spanish to reconsider their intentions altogether. The Spanish plan to link up with the soldiers never materialized, and the invasion plans had to be scrapped. Still, the large fleet that remained, continued to pose a significant threat to England.

   Giving up all plans of invasion, the Spanish were forced by prevailing winds, to the north, harried by the English in pursuit. They were running low on food, water and ammunition, so the Spanish admiral Medina Sidonia was left with no alternative but to plot a course for home, however, he chose the worst possible route, swinging around to the north of Scotland and then turning south into the open Atlantic along the west coast of Ireland. As fate would have it, 1588 was noted for the unusually ferocious gales that blew in the North Atlantic waters. The armada sailed right into hurricane force winds, to devastating effect, losing more ships and crewmen to the weather than they had to the English.

   In the end, a total of 67 ships with about 10,000 men straggled back to Spain. The survivors were in such terrible physical condition, suffering from disease and starvation, that many more would die even after returning home. Elizabeth would consider the spectacular failure of the Spanish Catholic invasion to be the result of divine intervention, and a sign of God's approval and protection of English Protestant reforms. When Phillip II sought the financial subsidies promised by Pope Sixtus, he was refused. Adding insult to injury, the pope replied in effect, "why should he be expected to pay for a fleet that was at the bottom of the sea."

   It is said that Phillip was overheard groaning, "Oh no, the British tabloids are going to have a field day with this."

   In the wake of the Spanish naval fiasco, the Anglican Church, or Church of England, would take its place among the reformed Christian denominations, though it should be noted that the English reformation was hardly a radical step away from Catholicism. The Anglican church is generally considered to be closer to Catholicism in practice and doctrine than any other Protestant church.

   Incidentally, the Episcopalian Church would develop later as an American version of the Anglican Church. There is but one primary difference between the Episcopalians and the Anglicans. A difference that arose during the American colonial period. The Anglican church had been very well represented in the American colonies. George Washington was an Anglican. However, all Anglican clergy were required to swear publicly, an oath to the king. They were also obliged to use the official liturgy as found in the Book of Common Prayer and to read it verbatim. It included blessings for the king, the royal family, and for Parliament. These oaths created a problem of conscience for American clergy of the Anglican church, particularly as the Revolutionary War was developing.

   A split arose between loyalist clergy and patriot clergy, with the patriots praying instead for the American cause and success of the revolution. By the end of the war, the Anglican church was disestablished in all states. They were thrown out along with the metric system and the ridiculous English currency. The Episcopalian Church was founded, being forced to reorganize as a new and independent church. One that mirrors Anglicanism in all respects, except that it does not recognize the ecclesiastical authority of the English monarchy. George Washington became an Episcopalian. 

England in name and in fact. While palace intrigue occupied so many of the courtiers, Mary set about what she saw as her primary duty, undoing the reforms.

that could call into question the legitimacy of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and thus, the legitimacy of Elizabeth. An omission based on the pope's refusal to grant the annulment, which is a Catholic version of divorce. Phillip maintained that Henry did not have the right to simply declare the marriage invalid.

   A second encounter likewise resulted in no significant losses, and the Armada sought anchorage off the coast of southern England, but they were attacked and forced back out to open sea. They made for Calais on the coast of France, where they expected to make contact with the Spanish troops. They anchored in a tight defensive formation, only to learn that the army

The English crown moves the people away from Roman Catholicism and papal authority

Henry VIII