The May 5 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers. In this edition’s cover story, the Rev. Calvin Lane reviews The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume 1: Reformation and Identity, c.1520-1662:
The word identity in the subtitle for this first volume in The Oxford History of Anglicanism is remarkably appropriate. For generations, Anglicans have looked back to the 1520s and 1660s for the contours of authentic Anglicanism and hoisted up classical patriarchs: Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes. The picture that emerges becomes the bar by which contemporary Anglicanism is judged.
The rigorous essays here highlight how problematic such attempts are. Not only was there an unsettled messiness to the Church of England before the Restoration; there may not have been a mainstream center at all. But this pluriform condition was anything but an intentionally tolerant via media.
This volume involved 24 scholars, and they make a variety of often related arguments: Henry’s Reformation projects that featured clear evangelical aspirations ought not be described as “popeless Catholicism”; the Edwardian Reformation linked England with Zurich and that connection did not dissipate for another century; the Elizabethan Settlement was hardly settled in 1559; and those within and without the Church of England at the end of the 16th century regarded the Thirty-Nine Articles as having serious bearing on the life of the established church.
But the consensus here is not merely that the pre-1662 Church of England was Reformed. While the Reformed character of the established church seems beyond debate, we cannot isolate an unambiguous high point for Anglican orthodoxy before the 1660s by which every other trend or event among English Protestant Christians must be judged.
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