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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Has been recognised as such by Convocation


The Supremacy Act, which declares that the King is rightfully the _Supreme Head of the Church of England_, has been recognised as such by Convocation, and that it is within his powers to make ecclesiastical visitations and to redress ecclesiastical abuses.[424]

5. The Treasons Act must also be included, inasmuch as one of its provisions is that it is treason to deny to the King any of his lawful titles (the Supreme Head of the Church of England being one), and that treason includes calling the King a heretic or a schismatic.[425]

To complete the list, it is necessary to mention that the two Convocations of Canterbury and of York solemnly declared that "the Roman Pontiff had no greater jurisdiction bestowed on him by God in the Holy Scriptures than any other foreign (_externus_) Bishop"--a declaration called the _Abjuration of the Papal Supremacy by the Clergy_.[426]

This separation of the Church of England from Rome really meant that instead of there being a dual control, there was to be a single one only. The Kings of England had always claimed to have some control over the Church of their realm; Henry went further, and insisted that he would share that supervision with no one. But it should be noticed that what he did claim was, to use the terms of canon law, the _potestas jurisdictionis_, not the _potestas ordinis_; he never asserted his right to ordain or to control the

sacraments. Nor was there at first any change in definition of doctrines. The Church of England remained what it had been in every respect, with the exception that the Bishop of Rome was no longer recognised as the _Episcopus Universalis_, and that, if appeals were necessary from the highest ecclesiastical courts in England, they were not to be taken as formerly to Rome, but were to be settled in the King's courts within the land of England. The power of jurisdiction over the affairs of the Church could scarcely be exercised by the King personally. Appeals could be settled by his judges in the law courts, but he required a substitute to exercise his power of visitation. This duty was given to Thomas Cromwell, who was made Vicar-General,[427] and the office to some small extent may be said to resemble that of the Papal Legate; he represented the King as the Legate had represented the Pope.

It was impossible, however, for the Church of England to maintain exactly the place which it had occupied. There was some stirring of Reformation life in the land. Cranmer had been early attracted by the writings of Luther; Thomas Cromwell was not unsympathetic, and, besides, he had the idea that there would be some advantage gained politically by an approach to the German Protestants. There was soon talk about a set of Articles which would express the doctrinal beliefs of the Church of England. It was, however, no easy matter to draft them. While Cranmer, Cromwell, and such new Bishops as Latimer, had decided leanings towards the theology of the Reformation, the older Bishops held strongly by the mediaeval doctrines. The result was that, after prolonged consultations, little progress was made, and very varying doctrines seem to have been taught, all of which tended to dispeace. In the end, the King himself, to use his own words, "was constrained to put his own pen to the book, and conceive certain articles which were agreed upon by Convocation as catholic and meet to be set forth by authority."[428] They were published in 1536 under the title, _Articles devised by the Kyng's Highnes Majestie to stablysh Christen quietnes_, and were ordered to be read "plainly" in the churches.[429] They came to be called the _Ten Articles_, the first doctrinal symbol of the Church of England.

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