Our Wounded Anglican History: Henry VIII Deals with His Opponents

July 14, 2008

This is part 8 of a 15 part series examining the historical antecedents of the Anglican Communion.


Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh guard my life, and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in thee.


Psalm 25: 19-20


Around 1534, Thomas Cromwell, the Secretary to Henry VIII, and his closest adviser, proposed that every monastery and convent in the kingdom be visited and made the subject of a report.  Ostensibly, the visits were to uncover corruption and disloyalty to the King as head of the Church of England.  Their unspoken object would be to close as many religious houses as possible and to confiscate their wealth for the crown.  When Henry took the crown in 1509, he had inherited substantial wealth from his tightfisted father.  But that money had long since been squandered, and Henry was eager to find new sources of income.   

The visits began in 1535.   Monasteries throughout the countryside were closed and money poured into the Treasury.  There was some resistance.  It was swiftly met.  In May, five Carthusian monks from a priory in London suffered the deaths reserved for traitors.  They were dragged behind horses in their full habits.  Then they were hanged on the gallows until nearly dead.  They were cut down, splashed with vinegar in their mouths and faces to revive them, then castrated, disemboweled, and beheaded.  Their bodies were cut into pieces and put on public display.  But they went to the gallows singing.  Thomas More described their demeanor as they were being led to their deaths:  “Joyful as bridegrooms going to their marriages.” 

In June, another set of Carthusian monks were put to death because they would not acknowledge Henry as head of the church in England.  They were tied to stakes standing upright, and left to die long, agonizing deaths without food or water, wallowing in their own waste. 

John Fisher had been bishop of Rochester during the long controversy over the validity of Henry’s first marriage, had been a staunch supporter of Queen Catherine, and had openly declared that King Henry defied God’s law by making himself head of the church in England.  In 1531, Fisher’s cook had added poison to a soup that was served to the bishop and some of his guests.  Several men died, but Fisher ate only a little of the soup and escaped with wrenching stomach pains.  It had been an obvious attempt on his life.  Many lay blame for the plot at the feet of Anne Boleyn, who was desperate to establish the legitimacy of her marriage in the eyes of English subjects.  Henry never gave credence to reports of her involvement however.  The cook quickly confessed and was executed by being boiled alive. 

Bishop Fisher had repeatedly refused to take the oath of supremacy acknowledging Henry as head of the church in England.  He was deprived of his office, and, in June of 1535, he was tried for treason and convicted.  Two days after his trial, three more Carthusian monks went to traitors’ deaths.  Fisher was executed by beheading on June 22.  He was 76.  On July 1, Thomas More, whom Henry had at one time importuned to become his Chancellor, was tried for treason.  He, too, had refused Henry’s oath of supremacy.   He was beheaded on July 6.       

Father John Forrest, a religious with the Order of Observant Friars, was a former confessor of Catherine of Aragon.  In 1535, he was convicted of heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake.  Henry commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.  Forrest, however, would not long remain silent about the king’s marriage.  His continued opposition to it finally provoked Henry to send him to his death.  For this execution Forrest was chained and suspended above a fire and slowly roasted to death.   

Henry and Cromwell must have believed that it was necessary to the consolidation of his rule of the Church of England that he mete out swift and harsh punishment to the king’s detractors.  But while the public may have been indifferent to the replacement of a foreign pope by their own king as ruler of their church, the cruel execution of so many clergy and of the esteemed and honest Thomas More were events regarded with tremendous fear and dismay.  The throne was not winning itself many true friends.  Thus from its earliest days the English reformation inspired the worst of enmity between Protestant and Catholic, an enmity that would result in state-sponsored violence for two centuries to come, and an enmity that would echo down to our own day in the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland, virulent anti-Catholicism in large segments of American Protestant churches, and even continuing tensions between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in the Church of England and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.   

As much as the heart of Anne Boleyn may have been gladdened by seeing her enemies treated so brutally, she must have realized that she could not remain queen indefinitely if she were unable to produce a son for Henry.  Henry himself appears to have had numerous affairs during his marriage to Anne.  In early 1536, Catherine of Aragon died, and Henry, now freed from any hint that he was still married to his first queen, began to consider another wife.  A few months earlier, Henry had met a woman named Jane Seymour while on a progress west of London.  Lavish gifts and impassioned letters soon followed.  In January, 1536, Cromwell reportedly told an ambassador from the Holy Roman Emperor that Henry now believed that Anne was a witch who had used her arts to seduce him into marriage.  Anne began to fear that Henry would divorce her, but the reality was far worse for her than she could initially imagine.  The king did want to discard Anne Boleyn.  But he wanted no lengthy and protracted court case to determine the validity of his second marriage.  He asked Cromwell for his help.  A charge of witchcraft against Anne, a charge which carried the death penalty, may in fact have been considered.  But Cromwell presented him a much simpler and more decisive solution.     

In April, 1536, four men, plus George Boleyn, Anne’s brother, were accused of having had adulterous affairs with the queen.  Anne herself was arrested for treason.  It is unlikely that she had in fact committed adultery with any of the men, let alone her own brother, but Cromwell was nothing if not ruthless and efficient.  Two brief trials were held, and while the evidence was not strong—only one of the men had confessed, and that had occurred after lengthy torture—all were found guilty.  The five men were beheaded on May 17.  A charge of treason was usually punishable by the method used on the first group of Carthusian monks– drawing and quartering.  Henry commuted the sentences of all defendants to decapitation.  On May 19, Anne herself was beheaded.

On May 20, the day after Anne’s execution, Henry became betrothed to Jane Seymour.  They were married on May 30.  With both of his former wives now dead, no one could contest the legitimacy of this marriage.

 Father, forgive the sins of our ancestors and forgive us.  We have been callous and cruel.  We have resorted to violence and murder to achieve our aims.  We have borne false witness.  We have tortured.  We have plundered the treasure of your church and used the institution of the church in furtherance of venal aims.  We have made enemies of our friends and then dealt with them harshly simply because they spoke out against us.

Father, may we look unflinchingly at the history of our church.  May we come to face with sin where it exists, and repent of it.  May we discard our pride in our church and replace it with abject humility.     

Have mercy, Father.  Use the blood shed by Jesus on the cross to cleanse the sins of our ancestors and our own sins.  Wipe clean this stain on our history.  Restore us.  Break the cycle of repeated sins.  Free us from bondage to this history.  Begin a new creation in which you are our God and we are your people. 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord and true King.





Praying for the Lambeth bishops, July 14

July 14, 2008

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give all the bishops at Lambeth such knowledge of Christ’s presence, that they may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. (adapted from CoE Common Worship Collects)

Selected Passages from today’s lectionary:

Ps. 25:4-5, 8-10 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. […] 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Romans 11:2-6 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.


All of Lent & Beyond’s Lambeth prayers and resources are here. We’ve also got a post with links to a number of other Lambeth Prayer Resources, here.

(posted by KB)

Romans 11:1-8

July 14, 2008

I say then, has God cast away his people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1)
      LORD, we trust that you will not utterly cast away from yourself the Episcopal Church.

God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, (Romans 11:2)
      Holy Spirit, please help us all to know what the Scriptures are saying to the Episcopal Church.

“LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? (Romans 11:3)
      LORD, the leaders and teachers of the Episcopal Church are driving your prophets from the church and tearing apart those parishes that are faithful to you.

But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:4)
      Jesus, reserve for yourself and protect all those who have remained faithful to you.

Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:5)
      Jesus, please protect and defend your faithful remnant in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (Romans 11:6)
      Holy Spirit, please bring the Episcopal Church to true freedom from dependence on works. Help us repent of replacing grace with the Millennium Development Goals.

What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Romans 11:7)
      Holy Spirit, please help the Episcopal Church and the bishops assembled at Lambeth to truly seek a closer walk with Jesus. Guide us in this time of darkness in the church by your light.

Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.” (Romans 11:8 )
      O Lord, open thou our lips.
      And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.
      O God, make speed to save us.
      O Lord, make haste to help us.
      Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
      As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
      Praise ye the Lord.
      The Lord’s Name be praised.

Monday: 9, 15; Joshua 2:1-14; Romans 11:1-12 Matthew 25:1-13
Tuesday: 36, 39; Joshua 2:15-24; Romans 11:13-24; Matthew 25:14-30

      Notes from the Front Line

***** Subject: Welcome Home Initiative Prayer Update for the Albany Diocesan Intercessors
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2008 22:16:07
To the Diocese of Albany Intercessors

Our second WHI retreat is a little over two weeks away, July 28-30. Seven combat veterans are signed up and are traveling from as far away as California, New Jersey and Missouri as well as from nearer locations in Vermont and New York state. Three men will be accompanied by family, bringing the total curremt registration to 11. A couple of veterans are still prayerfully considering attending, and there may be more whom we don’t know being prompted by the Spirit as well.

We are not at liberty to release names, but the configuration of the retreatants can be summarized thus:
Army            combat deployed in Korea
Navy            combat deployed in Vietnam
Navy and Air Force            combat deployed in Vietnam
Marines            combat deployed in Vietnam
National Guard            combat deployed in Kosovo and Iraq
Army            combat deployed in Iraq Desert Storm and Afghanistan
National Guard            combat deployed in Kuwait

Keep the following issues in prayer this week:

For the Leadership Team: Pray for a fresh anointing for Fr. Nigel Mumford, Bishop Dave Bena and Noel Dawes who form the core of the Leadership Team and who will have presentations during the three days; for Mary Ellen Bena as she prepares to minister to wives; for Sue Ellen Reutsch, overseeing mental health issues as our clinical nurse; for Lynn Mumford and Sandra Lester coordinating details in the office; and for any others taking a leadership role during the three-days.

Pray for a fresh anointing on those preparing program presentations, or providing oversight for hospitality, logistics or other unfolding choices for the upcoming Welcome Home Initiative.

For Prayer Team Selection: Selection is being made for direct ministry Prayer Team this week. We hope to have two Prayer Team ministers available for each retreatant through the three days.

Pray for wisdom and discernment to the Leadership Team as this process is completed. Pray for a fresh anointing of the Spirit on those who offer their time and skills as Prayer Team members.

For Travel Mercies: We know of one vet signed up for the current retreat who is on short term deployment and will arrive back in the states just before the retreat — if not delayed. We thank God for generous local donors who have picked up the travel costs of some who were flying in from a great distance.

Pray that angels will go before and bring up the rear guard for each soldier who has committed to the Welcome Home Initiative — that God’s providence and abundant mercy will see each warrior and family safely as they travel to the retreat.

For Community Formation: The group assembling will be composed of men from different service and combat experience and of differing ages and generational perspectives. It is essential that community form quickly on this retreat and that the combat veterans be able open up to one another.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will begin to soften hearts and prepare souls now to bond with each other so that they may open up to Christ’s work for them on this retreat. Pray for a Spirit-infused wisdom for those with more experience of inner healing and for a balm of healing grace to pour out even now for the more deeply wounded by the memories of combat.

A blessing to each of you who pray for us. This prayer release is a recap of a longer update for persons who have requested to be Intercessors for the Welcome Home Initiative. Unfortunately computer issues may have negatively impacted our list. If you wish to be on the WHI Intercessors list, contact me at melizcsm@aol.com. (An update went out Sunday, 7/13.)

Sister Mary Elizabeth, CSM, for the Oratory of Christ the Healer, Christ the King Spiritual Life Center, Greenwich, NY.

Albany Intercessor


July 14, 2008

Anti-Semitism peaked in Medieval England, exacerbated by the Crusades. In 1144, the Jewish quarter of Norwich was sacked and fired. In 1190, pogroms took place throughout England, resulting in hundreds of deaths. In 1211, 300 rabbis left England and France to begin life anew in Palestine. In 1218, Henry III required the Jews to wear a badge, and many more emigrated. In 1255, eighteen Jews were hanged in response to a rumor of the crucifixion death of a boy named Hugh. During the English civil war, 1257-1267, pogroms almost wiped out the Jewish community. In 1290, Edward I ordered the 16,000 remaining Jews to leave.

O Lord God of Israel,
You promised Your servant Abraham that You would make of him a great nation and that he would be a blessing. We thank You, Lord. He was indeed a blessing to all of us. The children of Israel blessed us with a linear sense of time, rather than a cyclical one, and the awareness of living one’s life with purpose. They blessed us with monotheism, the recognition of the one true God. They blessed us with the Ten Commandments, teaching us how to order our lives. They blessed us with the Messiah.
You promised Abraham that You would bless them that blessed him and curse them that cursed him.
We confess that our ancestors and the Church of England persecuted the Jews for religious differences and financial envy.
We in the Episcopal Church have not always blessed Israel–in our parliamentary resolutions, in the media, in our relationships with politicians, in anti-Zionist activities, and in personal anti-Semitism.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Himself is our peace, who has made Jew and Gentile both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility. Christ is the Prince of Peace, a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, the King of Peace. We draw near to God through Him. We plead for mercy. Forgive our iniquities and spare the righteous.
Blessed is the nation whom God has chosen as His inheritance. For the sake of Jerusalem, we pray that her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Bless the Church of England, the Anglican Communion, and the Lambeth Conference, we pray. Amen.
Psalm 33:12, 122:6, Isaiah 62:1, Romans 11:16-18, Ephesians 2:13-14, Hebrews 7

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