Reformation Worlds

Antecedents and Legacies in the Anglican Tradition

by Sean A. Otto (Volume editor) Thomas P. Power (Volume editor)
©2016 Monographs VIII, 243 Pages
Series: Studies in Church History, Volume 13


A reassessment of the precedents, course, and legacy of the Reformation has occurred in the present generation of academic writing. This collection of essays brings together research by established and new scholars on themes of the Reformation with a particular focus on its antecedents and legacies in the Anglican tradition. Utilizing a diversity of topics, approaches, and methods, this book adds measurably to our knowledge of the place of the Reformation in Britain and Ireland as well as its European, North American, and African particularities.
Exploring a variety of themes, this collection examines the Reformation in relation to key aspects of church organization, belief, sacrament, conversion, relationships with other denominations, theological education, church and state, worship, and issues of resilience and decline. While these themes are pursued broadly, there is a particular focus on the context of the Anglican tradition in terms of Reformation preoccupations and concerns. This collection’s thematic content, chronological span, and geographical range will also challenge accepted views, deepen understanding, and highlight new areas of enquiry, bringing new research and insights to bear on established observations.
Academics will find this book of particular interest for courses on the Reformation, Early Modern Europe, and the history of Christianity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Reform, Revival, or Renewal: The Reformation After 500 Years
  • The Venerable Bede as a Visionary for Unified Christian Identities in the Anglosphere
  • The Reform Program of John Wyclif’s Sermons
  • Richard Hooker: The Confident Church of England Reformer
  • Unworthy Reception and Infrequent Communion in the Tudor-Stuart Church
  • Pastors and Depression in Early-Modern England
  • Lapsed Member and Penitent Convert: Reformation, Liturgy and Conversion in Ireland in the 1690s
  • Pioneer Irish Clergy in Upper Canada
  • Teaching and Writing History at Wycliffe College, Toronto, 1881–1944
  • Restoring Order in the Church: The Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline (1904–1906)
  • Education Reforms in Colonial Africa: Dynamics, Challenges and Impact on Christian Missions
  • No Need to Turn Out the Lights: Anglicans in Canada in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
  • ‘Absurd Hats & Squeaky Boots’: C.S. Lewis Goes to Church
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

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This volume of essays is dedicated to Alan L. Hayes by a group of colleagues, former students, and friends. Alan has had a long and distinguished career as professor of church history at Wycliffe College since 1975, being promoted to his current position as Bishops Heber and Frederick Wilkinson Professor of Church History in 1989.

Alan’s doctoral research was on The Vicegerency in Spirituals in England, 1535–1540 for which he was awarded a Ph.D. by McGill University in 1975. The thesis was a study of the role of Thomas Cromwell in achieving consensus among the different religious groups in England, correcting the abuses identified by the reformers, and thereby creating a degree of religious orthodoxy at a critical time.

This past academic year Alan has completed forty years of teaching, a remarkable achievement. In that time his teaching has focused on the history of the Church to A.D. 843; Anglicanism; Canadian Anglican history; Reformation/early modern Christianity; historiography, and the history of theological education. More recently he has developed a new course on Christianity and the Indigenous peoples of Canada. He has supervised numerous doctoral students in their work, including some of those whose work is represented here.

Alan has an impressive publishing record to his credit. Noted for his elegant prose and accessible style, Alan has authored works on the Diocese of Toronto, parish histories, John Wyclif, and numerous articles and essays. Of notable interest is a series of church reviews he contributed to Anglican and Episcopal History from 1988 onward. In addition, he has contributed to such publications as The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and The Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society. His monograph Anglicans in Canada: Controversy and Identity in ← vii | viii →Historical Perspective (University of Illinois Press, 2004) broke new ground for its thematic treatment and methodology.

In many other administrative capacities he has served Wycliffe College, the Toronto School of Theology (the largest graduate school of theology in Canada), and other para-church organizations. Alan is now in his second term as director of the Toronto School of Theology, a role to which he has brought his administrative finesse.

In dedicating this volume of essays to Alan Hayes we do so in celebration of his scholarship, teaching, and friendship.

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We would like to acknowledge the help of a number of individuals who made this volume possible. We thank our fellow contributors for their enthusiasm for this project to honor Alan Hayes and for their respective submissions. Former Principal of Wycliffe College, now bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, George Sumner, approved a grant in aid of publication for which we are grateful. Apart from his own essay in the volume, Andrew Adkins contributed significantly in other ways through his work in formatting the manuscript, compiling an index, and contributing in large part to the Introduction. At Peter Lang we want to thank Michelle Salyga and Jackie Pavlovic. John McGuckin of Columbia University approved the manuscript for inclusion in the Studies in Church History series.

Thomas Power & Sean Otto

Toronto, December 2015← ix | x →

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The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door of Wittenberg, inaugurating the Protestant Reformation. This anniversary provides the occasion for a reassessment of the Reformation. Specifically, this volume of essays examines features of the Reformation as manifested in the Anglican tradition in terms of the notable antecedent figures of Christianity in Britain and Ireland before the dawn of the Reformation, and the subsequent legacies evident there and throughout the world in the half-millennium that has followed.

Crucial to a reassessment of the Reformation is an estimation of its legacy in terms of contemporary contexts and preoccupations. Ephraim Radner observes that the laity of the various denominations resulting from the Reformation often submit confessional commitments to greater priorities of familial and communal integration or of solidarity in persecution. In sympathy with lay weariness of social disintegration and isolation, he recommends that the many separated institutions must—and can—transcend separatism in the mutual recognition of baptism. For in a world where even children are killed for Christ, Radner supposes, even Baptists might accept infant baptism as an identity marker. Increasing secularisation in the West and increasingly deadly persecution, for Radner, must press those who look to Jesus Christ for salvation to recognize that the world around them has already defined who and what a Christian is: someone who self-identifies in baptism and whose baptism now guides his or her moral (and thus political) sensibilities. For the world’s powerbrokers are not interested in abstract, otherworldly beliefs, but in concrete commitments that lead to actions that affect them. For just as the Nazis singled out Jews for persecution, so also hostile forces of another kind are rising to purge the world of those baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.

← 1 | 2 →Radner does not call upon Christians to forgo the particular spiritual epiphanies and empowerment gained from their own experience of the faith in a rush to mutual recognition; he urges them to accept the fellowship of prayer and service that resists the political motive of merely separatist non-cooperation. Rather than focus on domination and the imposing of various degrees of exclusion upon one another, he encourages fellow Christians confronted with increasing disinterest and hostility from secularists and Islamists to follow the example of Chemin Neuf, a Catholic society that has extended to and received from separated siblings in baptism the invitation to live life together in a community of good works and prayer.

Doctrinal Issues

While Radner eschews the relevance of doctrinal irresolution and denominationalism given the contemporary context, nevertheless both continue to be necessary areas of enquiry for the historian. As to the first, Sean Otto presents John Wyclif as a reformer often mistaken to be of the more ambitious sort associated with the sixteenth century. While he did elevate sermon over sacrament as later reformers did, Otto argues that his path of reform was nonetheless conservative because he resisted (recently introduced) novel doctrine and showed pastoral sensibilities informed by a minimalist understanding of scripture and of sacerdotalism. Otto looks to Wyclif’s sermon collections to make the case for his conservatism, examining the content of sermon cycles published for the use of other preachers. From his sermons, Otto observes that Wyclif wanted people to know that saints, even popes and apostles, are sinners; and that he, while not denouncing clerical status, resisted clerical abuses. Taking a minimalist (for Otto conservative) approach to scripture and the fathers, Wyclif simply affirmed the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, leaving the mechanics to mystery. For his (for Otto conservative) logic would not allow that Christ’s physical presence could be in that first host administered to his apostles. Otto argues that Wyclif also resisted the Fourth Lateran Council’s decree on mandatory annual confession, an external practice judged superfluous to—unforced and thus sincere—contrition over failure to love God and neighbour.

To show that Wyclif is the more conservative voice within the broader movement of reform in fourteenth-century England, he compares and contrasts his views with those of Bishop Thomas Brinton, who resisted laxity in his priests and yet participated in Wyclif’s condemnation. Whereas both men are shown to be repulsed by clerical greed and fixed upon Christ’s cross as the remedy for sin, Brinton emphasizes the role of priest and sacrament, and ← 2 | 3 →Wyclif the role of contrition in the heart open before God and the sacrament, if necessary, as sacramental rather than physical presence (inner intention). In the end, Brinton, emphasizing external action, reserved the right of excommunication as a form of discipline imposed from without; and Wyclif, emphasizing intention, submitted his own conscience—and that of laity in general—to God alone who imposes discipline from within. Despite the sentiments favouring liberalism and liberty that some may read back into Wyclif, Otto argues that his was a conservative ethos tied narrowly to inner obedience to God who sees much more than any bishop could.

On another issue of doctrine, Eric Griffin confronts the view that the English Calvinists, and English Puritans in particular, devalued the eucharist to the point of infrequent reception. To the contrary, his study of early modern sermons, creeds and devotional literature suggests that English reformers, Anglican and Puritan, so highly prized the eucharist and the individual’s practice of the spiritual life that fear of unworthy reception descended upon Tudor-Stuart Britain, finding its way into the Book of Common Prayer and the Westminster Confession. This resulted in infrequent reception among Anglicans and Puritans, with non-conformists more likely to press for monthly or even weekly reception. As a corrective, Griffin exegetes St. Paul’s admonition to ‘discern the body’ not as recognition of Christ’s presence in sacramental bread, as Calvin and the Church of Rome would have it, but as recognition of Christ’s presence in the sacramental community, the congregation of the faithful. Then, after reviewing the works of decidedly self-critical writers, Griffin identifies Richard Baxter, Daniel Brevint, and Richard Sibbes as Calvinists who might correct the children of the English Reformation, for they are not bogged down by scruples upon scruples. Baxter advises troubled spirits to partake of communion in faith, despite doubts about worthiness after self-examination; Brevint focuses upon recognition of Christ in the sacrament rather than sins; and Sibbes advises frequent reception of communion as a practice prompting steady spiritual growth.

What attracts Griffin to these writers is their focus upon regular, though not glib, reception of communion as an occasion for spiritual renewal. He concludes that the English Reformation became a victim of its own success. For in cultivating spiritual renewal appropriated through hearing the word of God, Anglican and Puritan reformers unwittingly promoted a non-material and individualistic spirituality that downplayed the role of the sacraments, especially the eucharist, within the ongoing and concrete communal experience of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. However, given the turn in theological thought towards the church, Griffin perceives a sign of hope that damage attendant to the English Reformation will heal without the loss of its benefits.

← 3 | 4 →In the Anglican polity liturgical, theological, and political ideas were all framed by the constitutional ties that bound church and state together. This legal relationship was foundational to the church’s establishment, and influenced how it operated. It applied to the ritual controversy that preoccupied the English Church from the later nineteenth century. The controversy cut to the heart of what it meant to be English and Anglican. Gary Graber recounts how the report of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline published in 1906 acknowledged significant interest in illegal high-church liturgical practices, yet also the overwhelming Protestant demand for enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline in favour of the Reformation settlement.

The commission recommended a revision of the BCP’s rubrics allowing qualified latitude for Anglo-Catholics and insisted that those who persisted in catholicizing tendencies be indicted by an ecclesiastical court and released from service without pay. Parliament eventually rejected the revised BCP in 1927, and again in 1928; but, in 1919, did create an episcopal assembly with lay representation assigned to address doctrinal and liturgical matters, while retaining veto power to ensure royal supremacy.

Graber suggests that English distaste for enforcement against conscience coupled with English insistence upon Protestant parameters for ordering public worship led to an unfortunate impasse on the roots of Anglican identity that leaves Anglicans today in a quandary. Some appeal to the Anglican Quadrilateral; others to institutional communion with Canterbury’s Lambeth Conference; and still others to continuity with the Ecumenical Councils and inherent episcopal authority. But, for Graber, far too many Anglicans—especially outside England—forget that Anglicanism is entrenched in Protestant culture itself, necessarily guided by its roots in a Protestant Crown that set parameters for liturgical ministers who look forward, obedient to that Protestant Crown, rather than look backward at the Catholicism that once held them. By implication, Graber asserts that resolute Anglican identity comes from acknowledging the views and practices articulated in the formative period of English Reform as the received wisdom.

Denominational Relations

On the issue of denominationalism, David Neelands presents Richard Hooker as a figure useful to ecumenical dialogue in the wake of the Second Vatican Council on account of his presumably equitable position which, although reformed, is beholden neither to Calvin nor Luther, and which takes catholic perspectives into account, though not beholden to Aquinas. Neelands argues that some reformers, in the simplistic spirit of partisan loyalty, have supported ← 4 | 5 →the Reformation by means of hyperbole entirely dismissive of a fully informed, reasonable treatment of scripture and the church’s longstanding interaction with it. Similarly, others—in their zeal for the Church of Rome—have held views that admit of no need of reformed motifs whatsoever. For Neelands, Hooker stands in the gap as a confident reformer who, at some risk, accurately articulates support for the English establishment in a nuanced way that credits and critiques Cardinal Cajetan and Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. With Rome and Aquinas, he would not acknowledge scripture as self-ratifying without the authority of the church; yet against them, he refused the idea that popes could command kings on political affairs in their own lands. With Luther, he adopted the throne-and-altar model of Christian civilization that afforded English monarchs influence among bishops, but he did not embrace the presumably reductionist notions of sola fide and sola scriptura. With Calvin, he affirmed an instrumental view of the eucharist and the importance of scripture for discerning the ways of God; but he would not venerate Calvin (whom he thought unduly prideful in matters political), nor accept the idea of irresistible grace, nor approve of the eradication of the episcopacy.


VIII, 243
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Reformation Christianity tudors Zwingli Luther Wyclif Anglican
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. VIII, 243 pp.

Biographical notes

Sean A. Otto (Volume editor) Thomas P. Power (Volume editor)

Sean A. Otto completed his PhD at Wycliffe College, graduating from the University of St. Michael’s College in November 2013. He has published a number of articles on John Wyclif, Thomas Aquinas, and on medieval theology. He is currently Assistant Registrar and Adjunct Professor of Church History at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. His research and teaching interests include John Wyclif (especially his sermons and pastoral theology), medieval theology, medieval sermon studies, medieval heresy, and the reception of the thought and works of Augustine of Hippo. Thomas P. Power earned his PhD from Trinity College Dublin. He has taught history at the University of New Brunswick and the University of Toronto. He is Adjunct Professor of Church History at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. His teaching interests focus on eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century church history. He has published in the area of religious conflict and conversion in Ireland. His current research interests focus on the history of theological education in the early nineteenth century and on forms of conversion in the Book of Common Prayer in the eighteenth century.


Title: Reformation Worlds