Our Wounded Anglican History: Bloody Mary

July 20, 2008

This is part 11 of a 15 part series examining the historical antecedents of the Anglican Communion.

The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Matthew 13: 41-42

Edward VI, King of England, died on July 6, 1553, at the age of 15.  He had two older half-sisters, the Catholic Mary, who was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and the Protestant Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  Edward, or his council of regency, or both were fearful that Mary would undo the Protestant reforms that had been implemented under Edward’s rule.  They planned to exclude Mary from the line of succession. Since Mary was the elder of Edward’s sisters, however, it would probably be necessary to exclude both his sisters.  The grounds for exclusion were that Parliament had declared them both illegitimate.   This was contradicted by the will of Henry VIII, who had restored them to the line of succession, but the reasoning was that the current king could undo the declarations of a former king.  Guided by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and  President of the Council of Regency, both sisters were excluded in Edward’s will and he declared that the throne should be inherited by his cousin Lady Jane Grey, who just happened to be married to Northumberland’s son, Guilford Dudley. 

Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen on July 10. On July 19, Edward’s older sister, Mary, who had gathered an army and who enjoyed tremendous popular support, rode into London.   Lady Jane voluntarily ceded the crown to Mary.  Because she had cooperated, and because Mary probably understood that her cousin had been heavily pressured by her family to take the throne, she was not immediately executed.  John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, was not so fortunate.   He was beheaded on August 22.

On October 1, 1553 Mary was crowned Queen of England.  She was 37, and she believed that  needed a husband to maintain control of the throne and, perhaps more importantly, to produce a Catholic heir to the throne.   Mary was the granddaughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and at the time she acceded to the throne her first cousin, Charles V, was Holy Roman Emperor.   Charles suggested that Mary be wedded to his son, Prince Philip of Spain (who would later become king of Spain).  Mary agreed.  Philip and Mary met for the first time on July 23, 1554, and two days alter were married at Winchester Cathedral.  It was not a popular marriage for the English people, who feared that their country would come under the control of Spain.   Under the terms of the marriage treaty, Philip was named King of England.  Armed rebellions followed, and, in their wake, Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guilford Dudley were convicted of high treason and executed.  Mary’s sister Elizabeth was imprisoned.

Mary was desperate to become pregnant and announced that she was in fact with child in November. , This was a phantom pregnancy, and she would have another later during her reign.  She in fact never had children, and her husband, who seemed to view their marriage as a political alliance rather than a carnal union, was rarely in England to share her bed. 

Mary’s Parliament soon repealed all Protestant legal reforms.  The English prayer book was abolished and English translations of the Bible were banned from churches.   Heresy laws were reinstituted.  Bishops were given authority to send heretics to death by burning at the stake.  Among those executed in this manner were the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who initially recanted his Protestant views, and then, when he learned he would be executed anyway, recanted his recantation.  Here is an excerpt from a contemporary account of his execution:

When praying was done, he stood up, and, having leave to speak, said . . . “And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth.  Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand, contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be: and that is, all such bills, which I have written or signed with mine own hand since my degradation: wherein I have written many things untrue.  And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished: for if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned.  And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.”  And here, being admonished of his recantation and dissembling, he said, “Alas, my lord, I have been a man that all my life loved plainness, and never dissembled till now against the truth; which I am most sorry for it.” 

Coming to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind, he put off his garments with haste, and stood upright in his shirt. . . .  Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burning, crying with a  loud voice,”’This hand hath offended.”  As soon as the fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while.

Besides Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley also went to the fires.  Approximately 300 Protestants, most of them commoners, suffered this form of execution during Mary’s five-year reign. 

Mary died at age 42 in November 1558.  She was England’s last Catholic monarch.  History calls her Bloody Mary.     


Father in Heaven, we have sinned against you and against heaven.  We have murdered.  We have tortured.  We have refused others the right to follow their own consciences. We have done all of this in your name, as if you endorse our sinful ctions.    

Father, may we come face to face with our sin where it exists, and may we repent of our sin.  Forgive us, Father.  Forgive our ancestors.     

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.


The Anointed Rock

July 20, 2008

At my parish, today’s sermon was on Jacob’s ladder. Night is faling in the UK. May God bless their sleep.

Dear Jesus,
Were you the rock on which Jacob laid his head? For, behold, the heavens were opened, a ladder was set up, and the angels were ascending and descending on it.
O smitten rock of spiritual drink,
O sure foundation stone,
Were you the resting rock that brought forth God’s promise, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go”?
O rock of our salvation, surely You are in this place.
You are none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.
O Son of Man with angels ascending and descending, how awesome you are!
O Son of God, our resting rock, we pray,

May each bishop and spouse lay their heads on Thee. O Gate of Heaven, open wide and commission Thy holy angels to gather the fragments of their broken hearts and broken churches and knit them together in love. May they lay their heads on Thee, O Lord, in Whom all things hold together.

Genesis 28:10-22, Psalm 62:2, John 1:51, 1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:4, Colossians 1:17

The hole in the roof

July 20, 2008

Today’s lectionary reading is such a rich story (Mark 2). I’ve written several prayers from this passage through the years. JW

He was speaking the word to them. v. 2

Father, we humbly ask that You plant in the heart of each bishop attending this conference a hunger for Your word.

And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic. v. 3

Father, we humbly ask that each bishop comes with one desire only, to bring the church to You.

Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, v. 4

Father, we humbly ask that their faith in You overcome the press of our sins.

They removed the roof above Him. v. 4

Father, we humbly ask that they not count the cost.

They let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. v. 4

Father, grant them the wisdom to know when it is time to let down that which they’ve been holding up.
Dear Jesus,
We do not know the names of the four faithful friends who cut a hole in the roof to bring the paralyzed to You. We do not know the name of the widow who gave her mite. We do not know the name of the Roman centurion who trusted in Your command to heal his suffering servant. We do not know the name of the boy who gave his lunch to feed the multitude. We do not know the name of the Syro-Phoenician woman who begged that the crumbs from Your table be given to her daughter.
We do not know their names, and yet these people lead us to You. Be with the many nameless participants at the Lambeth Conference that they too may lead us to You. Amen.
Dear Jesus,

Help us be little. We need You to step into our skins. Help us make room for You.

We see a paralyzed church. We are surrounded by people who can’t stand, who can’t walk, who can’t feel, and we are overwhelmed.

This is more than we can do . . . but nothing is impossible with You. That is why we need to be little, very, very little. So You can be big, very, very big.

The paralyzed body is on the pallet. It takes four to lift it, one on each corner. It takes four to carry it, working in concert. It takes four to bring one to wholeness. It takes four. Four–God the Father, the blood of the Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the saints. The Father is not dropping His corner. The Redeemer is not dropping His corner. The Spirit is not dropping His corner.

That is why we need You to step into our skins. The paralyzed body is sliding off our corner. Help us lift the body.

See the faith of your saints holding on to the corner of the pallet, dear Jesus. Help us stand in the gap. Amen.
Dear Jesus,

We are paralyzed. We cannot walk as you would have us walk. The Episcopal Church, claiming to be Your very body, is paralyzed. We cannot walk as you would have us walk.

Is it because we talk about You more than we talk to You? Is it because we think about Your role more than we think about You? Is it because we desire the role of being Your sons and daughters more than we desire You?

Give us (four) leaders, Jesus. Give us leaders who walk as You would have them walk. Give us leaders who talk to You. Give us leaders who think about You and You alone. Give us leaders who desire You. Give us leaders who believe You can forgive sins. Give us leaders who believe You can heal. Give us leaders who are willing to interrupt the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Give us leaders who will not give up. Give us leaders who dismantle perceived barriers. Give us leaders who put aside pride and work in concert with one another. Give us leaders who have faith in You. Give us leaders to lead us to You that we may be freed from our sins and all that which cripples us.

We want to be seized with amazement. We want to be filled with awe. We want to say, “We have seen extraordinary things.” Amen


July 20, 2008

Journalists have come from far and wide to cover the Lambeth Conference.

Acts 20:32
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


July 20, 2008

O Father,
In You we live and move and have our being. Yet, we are hellbent on denying Your power and authority. We lean on our own understanding, dismissing Your precious life-giving words for another context, another people, another time.
You are Lord of heaven and earth and are not bound by temples made with hands and human philosophies. Yet we spurn the miraculous.
You determined the times set for the nations and the exact places where they should live. You did this so that men would seek You and perhaps reach out and find You, even though You are not far from each one of us. Yet we seek healing from unknown and unnamed spirits, and we grope after nameless gods, seeking knowledge and power from any source other than You.
Have mercy, Lord. Help us to break down these false assumptions and unholy allegiances. We cry out for Your people in the Anglican Communion. You will come again in glory to judge the world in righteousness. We cry out, Have mercy! Amen.
Acts 17:22-31


July 20, 2008

King David exemplifies such a spirit of praise and worship. I’ve thought it no coincidence that he was also musical. I pray that all of God’s children attending the Lambeth Conference will be stirred to sing praises to God, in the wilderness, in the sanctuary of His presence, in their bed, and in the shadow of His wings. May God’s holy name be magnified in music.

Psalm 63:1-8 (New Living Translation)
A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

God is able

July 20, 2008

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride, He is able to humble.
Daniel 4:37

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