Church & State - England

Every good Christian politician from the time of Constantine to the beginning of the 18th Century would argue that God was ruler of all but how that authority was exercised was a matter for debate. The time of the Reformation in Europe a doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings" was already emerging to bolster secular monarchies. In France and England the notion that the Pope was superior to the crown was rejected; the monarch was subject to God in a way defined by the monarch.

In England the Reformation simply formalised a tendency which had been developing since the Norman Conquest and effectively restored the Byzantine model of theocracy by secular means. Paradoxically, the more theocratic the settlement was in theory, the more Erastian it was in practice.

After a period of severe Ecclesiastical turmoil in England from Henry's first difficulties with a male heir in the mid 1530s until the death of Queen Mary, Elizabeth I determined that a religious settlement was required which would, above all, guarantee stability. She was not interested in doctrine per se but only in the limitation of Catholic and Puritan extremism. Her settlement lasted until Charles II was clearly seen to be too close to the Catholic tendency. The Cromwellian over reaction (including Charles execution in 1649) was followed by monarchical restoration and, at the end of the Stuart dynasty, by the 'Glorious Revolution' which entrenched Eerastianism and Protestantism.

During the reign of Henry VIII Convocational and all other ecclesiastical powers were reserved to Parliament: the Commons always tended to be Protestant rather than Reformed; and the Bishops who sat in the Lords were appointed by the Monarch. The balance only began to shift back towards ore autonomous Church government in the mid 19th Century, culminating in the establishment of the General Synod some 100 years later.

Three general conclusions can be drawn from history:


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