By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles
Don’t Go Lightly
John Strype, an Anglican clergyman (1643-1737) in his Ecclesiastical Memorials of the Church of England, writes, “As I have made some remarks … of Bradford and Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley, four prime pillars of the reformed Church of England.”
It is a telling description of four men who were influential in establishing the Church of England as a Reformed Church, Thomas Cranmer perhaps more than any other who was Archbishop of Canterbury through the Reformation period under Henry VIII and his son Edward VI. He was responsible for crafting first the 1549 Prayer Bookend then the 1552 Prayer Book, which subsequently became the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (with only minor changes). Cranmer also wrote the 42 Articles with Nicholas Ridley, a brilliant theologian as his assistant; these subsequently became the 39 Articles.
However, what also unites them is that were all burnt at the stake for their Reformed Protestant beliefs. Any Christian man or woman who is martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ ought to be remembered with honour and highly esteemed by the Church. The particular significance of these four and some others beside, is alluded to by Strype’s phrase “four prime pillars” of the reformed Church of England. Their lives, their doctrine and their martyrdom provide the framework that shapes, upholds, and defines the Church of England. They lived, ministered and died in the theological furnace of post-Reformation struggle.
The Reformation in England began during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), under Edward VI (reigned 1547-1553) the Church of England became more thoroughly Reformed but under Queen MaryMary (reigned 1553-1558) the Church then lurched in a completely opposite direction, as she sought to undo the Reformation and realign the Church of England with Rome. Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) then came to the throne and established the Church of England once again as a clearly Protestant Church with the so-called “Elizabethan Settlement”. This gives a particular significant to the deaths of Cranmer, Latimer and others because they were martyred for their belief in and commitment no the doctrines that shape historic Anglicanism, that find particular expression in the 39 Articles.
The Reformed Church of England was established upon the blood of those who were martyred for their faith and commitment to the biblical gospel.
Excerpted from, Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, page 85, by the Revd Dr Mark Pickles, 2017.