6.Church History

Presenter:The Reverend John Ferguson


History as a discipline gives us a sense of what we are doing with regard to the sweeps of human experience and how we should understand scripture.

The first book on English history is the “Ecclesiastical History of the Church and People of England”. It is the first English understanding of history as a discipline. A great history written in recent times is Diarmaid MacCullogh’s “Christianity. The first Three Thousand Years”. It immerses itself in the Greek Culture, which is the philosophical underpinning of the Christian Church, and Judaism, which is the spiritual underpinning. It is an understanding of history and theology.

It is very important when expanding our historical knowledge, to use primary source documents for authentification. The best source of primary source documents is Henry Bettenson’s “Documents of the Christian Church”. This book includes studies and original letters. It explains how Christians were persecuted and why.

In later documents you can see that Christianity evolves as we move into a relationship with the state. This starts with Constantine who becomes a Christian. At that time the church and state were in balance. Constantinople was created by Constantine to be a fully Christian city filed with love.

It is important in studying Anglican history to look at England. There were two strains the Celtic strain and the Roman strain. There was a struggle to develop a Christianity that was a balance between the Celtic nature of the country and the Western understanding from Europe.

Moving through English history, we see the true creation of Anglicanism during the time of the Tudors. King Henry the Eighth made a break with Rome but did not change anything in the church. His son King Edward, developed the independent Anglican Church under the influence of Thomas Cramner, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cramner desired the whole country would be filled with the love of God. When Edward died, his sister Mary came to the throne. She was known as “Bloody Mary” and put England back to a time of unrest and almost to a time of civil war. After she died, Queen Elizabeth I is left to make things right. She created the Anglican church we know today by creating a compromise between Protestanism and Catholicism to establish Anglicanism.

During the Second World War, the Bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong was informed that all British Nationals and all Chinese were Anglicans and would be interred for the rest of the war. They were to be in two separate camps, one for men and one for women. Since women would have no clergy for the remainder of the war, he ordained the first woman priest, Florence Li Tim-Oi.

Other good resources when studying Anglican history are:

J.R.H. Moorman’s “A History of the Church in England”

Diarmaid MacCullough’s “The Boy King Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation”

Diarmaid MacCullough’s “Thomas Cramner”

Adam Nicholson’s “God’s Secretaries. The Making of the King James Bible”

Cuthbertson’s “The First Bishop A Biography of Charles Inglis

John McManners’ “The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity”