I am leading a four week series on the history, theology, worship, and structure of the Episcopal Church. So we’re going back to the infancy of our identity as Episcopalians, to the very early church in England.
Last Sunday we covered the thousand years between 663 and 1662. By looking at three key events – the Synod of Whitby, the English Reformation, and the Elizabethan Compromise – we saw that controversies and compromises are in our DNA.
Here are just a few points on each of these events:
1. The Synod of Whitby was a gathering of bishops and other leaders to decide on the date of Easter that was to be used in England.
2. The English Reformation, though it seems to be a purely religious affair, was entangled with the politics of the day. Plus, the reforms put into place by Henry VIII were just the beginning of an Anglican theology and practice. We cannot identify a distinctly Anglican theology until the Elizabethan compromise.
3. The Elizabethan compromise was a set of reforms and measures put into place by Elizabeth I. During this period a priest named Richard Hooker composed “The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity” (in layman’s terms: “How Churches Should be Run”) that defined an Anglican theology that stood between the Catholic Church and the Puritans. Hooker’s emphasis on the changeable and unchangeable aspects of the Church continue to provide the theological framework for our debates in the church.