Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Convocation of 1559

Once I Was a Clever Boy reminds us of the Convocation of Bishops in England at the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, demonstrating the effectiveness of Archbishop of Canterbury Reginald Cardinal Pole's rebuilding program during the reign of Mary I. As John Whitehead reminds us, the five articles they passed were in opposition to the direction Elizabeth I's government was taking, as they upheld the authority of the Pope, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and other Catholic doctrine:

(1) That in the Sacrament of the Altar, by virtue of the words of Christ duly spoken by the priest, is present realiter, under the kinds of bread and wine, the natural Body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, and also his natural Blood.
(2) That after the consecration there remains not the substance of bread and wine, nor any other substance, but the substance of God and Man.
(3) That in the Mass is offered the true Body of Christ,and his true Blood, a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead.
(4) That to Peter the Apostle, and his lawful successors in the Apostolic See, as Christ's Vicars, is given the supreme power of feeding and ruling the Church of Christ Militant, and confirming their brethren.
(5) That the authority of handling and defining concerning the things belonging to faith, sacraments, and discipline ecclesiastical, hath hitherto ever belonged, and ought to belong, only to the pastors of the Church; whom the Holy Ghost for this purpose hath set in the Church; and not to laymen.

When Parliament began to legislate the replacement of the Holy Mass with the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Heath of York, as he had promised/warned Elizabeth in a private audience on religious matters, objected:

True to his undertaking, Archbishop Heath spoke out firmly: "The unity of the Church of Christ doth depend upon the unity of Peter's authority. Therefore, by our leaping out of Peter's ship, we must needs be overwhelmed with the waters of schism, sects and divisions which spring only from this, that men will not be obedient to the Head Bishop of God."

The Archbishop asked the Lords whether they thought the Church of Rome was not of God, but a malignant Church, and then went on: "If you answer yes, then it will follow that we, the inhabitants of this realm, have not as yet received any benefit from Christ, for we have received no other gospel, no other doctrine, no other Faith, no other sacraments than were sent us from the Church of Rome."

Because of the unity of this Convocation of 1559, all but one of the bishops appointed during the reign of Mary I refused to swear the Oaths of Uniformity and Supremacy imposed by this Parliament at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign. For all of them, including Archbishop Heath, this meant removal from their see, exile, imprisonment, house arrest, or some sort of constraint.

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