Time Magazine Article Says Henry Viii Founded The Church Of England!


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The following is a letter to the Editor of Time magazine regarding the article entitled "Hail Mary" appearing in the March 21, 2005, issue of Time. Anglicans will find it of special interest:

Your article entitled "Hail, Mary" (Time, March 21) refers to King Henry VIII as the "founder’ of Anglican Protestantism." It is surprising that a magazine of your quality and professionalism would actually print such a feckless misstatement of historical fact.
Henry’s attempt to permanently sever papal authority over the English church was ultimately UNSUCCESSFUL. After Henry’s death in 1553, the church in England was again re-united with the Roman Catholic Church when Henry’s elder daughter, Mary, became queen. It remained Roman Catholic for the ENTIRE duration of Mary’s five-year reign, until her death in 1558.

After Mary’s death, and during the reign of Elizabeth I, a successful and final break with papal authority was effected by parliament and the English church through the enactment of a series of parliamentary statutes and a declaration by English bishops and clergy in convocation.

The Encyclopedia Americana succinctly describes this successful, once-and-for-all, break with the Roman Church: "The parliament that assembled, enacted a series of statutes affirming the independence of the church in England from Rome, while the bishops and clergy in the church declared in convocation the Bishop of Rome had no more authority in England." Thus, the pre-existing church IN England became the Church OF England implemented by the authority of parliament and the Church of England itself. The Church of England also retained the apostolic succession of its priesthood, which further emphasizes its continuity with the early Christian Church founded by Christ and the apostles.

Historical facts speak for themselves. To allege that Henry VIII "founded" the Church of England is such a profound misstatement of historical fact, it warrants a retraction! At a minimum, your magazine should take greater care in demanding that your writers exercise a more thorough effort in researching and verifying historical facts before you go to press.

Very sincerely,


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Although not an Anglican, I am somewhat conversant with English history. I was somewhat surprised to see a thread apparently questioning Henry VIII's role in the founding of the Church of England.

The letter-writer's facts are beyond dispute, but like many writers of letters to the editor, he's straining on a technicality. Henry VIII is commonly held to be the founder of the Church of England, because he did break with Rome. The five-year interruption after his death would not have been enough time for those who had an interest in re-establishing the English Church to have all died out and been replaced by a fresh batch of anti-papists. For all intents and purposes Henry VIII is properly regarded as the founder--he's the one who set things in motion.

The following quotation essentially agrees with the third paragraph of the Time Magazine letter writer as to Henry's intent (and disagrees with the letter-writer's main point, the purity of apostolic succession of the English Church), yet still gives him credit for being the prime mover, if you will:

The founder of the Church of England was Henry VIII, who broke with the Roman Catholic Church when the pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry aimed merely to supplant the pope as the head of the English church--not to remodel it along the lines approved by Protestant reformers. But under his Protestant successors, especially Elizabeth I, that was what happened--although not at all to the extent desired by English Puritans like the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Indeed, the Church of England continued to bear a close resemblance the Roman Catholic Church, as it does down to the present.

Christine Leigh Heyrman
Department of History, University of Delaware
©National Humanities Center

The Church of England was not a newly founded church either in 1534 or in 1558. Henry simply eliminated papal authority over the English catholic church. The re-establishment of Rome’s authority for the five-year period of Mary’s reign nullified Henry’s action by reestablishing the English church as fully, wholly, and one-hundred-percent "Roman" Catholic. The continuity of the first attempted break was utterly voided and of no effect.
The first break with Rome in 1534 was political rather than religious. It was the influence of the continental Reformation that moved the English church, after Henry’s death, to make a permanent break in 1558. Legislation of parliament and the convocational declaration of English church clergy established the ancient catholic church in England as the national Church of England.

It’s clear from historical documents of the period that there was no intent to create a new church. The wording of the parliamentary statues and declarations of the church as well as other official documents at the time, make this clear.

The Parliamentary Injunction of 1559, paragraph L III states: "You shall pray for Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, that is, for the whole congregation of Christian people..especially for the Church of England..." There is a consistent referral to supporters of papal authority as "papists," not as "Catholics." "Protestant" is used in its original sense to mean "reformed" or "reformer," as opposed to "non-catholic."

The 1593 Act Against Papists refers to "popish recusants." It’s clear that the Elizabethans held steadfastly to the belief that their church was maintaining continuity with the Catholic faith of the ancient church, and was not a newly-created church. (Go to website: Documents Illustrative of English Church History.)

Elizabeth, herself, used the words "romish" and "papist." In responce to a call by some bishops to return to papal authority, Elizabeth answered with a speech given in 1559: "Our realm and subjects have been long wanderers, walking astray, wilst they were under the tuition of Romish pastors...And whereas you hit us and our subjects in the teeth that the Romish Church first planted the Catholic faith within our realm...witness the ancient monument of Gildas unto which both foreign and domestic have gone in pilgrimage there to offer. This author testifieth Joseph of Arimathea to be the first preacher of the word of God within our realms. Long after that, when Austin came from Rome, this our realm had bishops and priests therein as is well known to the learned of our realm by woeful experience...they being martyrs for Christ and put to death because they denied Rome’s usurped authority." (Go to website: www.jesus-is-lord.com/queen.htm (a Fordham University website), click Elizabeth I "works," "speeches," "religion 1559.")

Also, the fact that the Church of England is a "reformed" church is absolutely of no consequence. The Roman Catholic Church has since engaged in reform (the Counsel of Trent, etc.) but is in no way a new church because of its reform.
Your response quotes one source, Christine Hayman, presumably a history professor, as if her words were absolute. Even college professors can be wrong. Ms Heyman likely was not motivated to thoroughly delve into the subject more deeply or, perhaps, was motivated by religious prejudice, which very often is the case. For every source stating that Henry "founded" the Church of England, there are just as many, or more, that do not attribute the founding to Henry, but trace its origins to the early English church of the first or second centuries.

The continuity with the ancient Christian Church in England is preserved in modern Anglicanism. Most of the Church’s historical buildings and places of worship in England found their beginnings in the early Christian Church; its priesthood remains unchanged in apostolic succession through an historically-verifiable, unbroken chain of consecrations; its spiritual leader, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, occupies an apostolic see dating back to 597 A.D.

The official teaching of the Anglican Church is that it is one of the three major branches of the undivided, catholic and apostolic, Church founded by Christ and the apostles. Anglicans recite the words of the creed: "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church" at every celebration of the Eucharist.
The allegation of Henrician origin of the church is pure fantasy and a misrepresentation of historical fact -- deeply offensive to the faith of 80,000,000* Anglicans worldwide.

*Source: 2005 Encyclopedia Britannica
I see--you main contention is that Henry VIII could not have founded the Church of England, because that church had existed from ancient times. In like manner, the Irish Church was founded long before the establishment of papal authority, although the same political and nationalistic circumstances did not combine at a later date to produce an independent irish Church.

I'm certainly willing to cede your point under this interpretation, and I wish you luck in correcting what appears to be a common misapprehension.
I fail to see the validity of the argument here - in breaking with Papal authority, Henry VIII did establish a separate ecclesiastical body, which even into the modern day associates very strongly with Roman Catholicism.

Whether the separation was continuous or not cannot distort the fact that the Church of England has its founding roots in Henry VIII's actions.

It's hard to see any sustained claim of there being a theological connection between Anglianism and any ancient pre-Augustinian English Church - the Synod of Whitby put paid to that when Britain came under Papal authority and Roman Catholic doctrine.

Somehow it seems that you are trying to argue that the CoE is some kind of ancient church - perhaps as per the old CoE propaganda that the Glastonbury story means the establishment of an English Church predates the establishment of the Roman Church, therefore means Rome should be subservient to Canterbury? :)
It seems to me that the underlying question here is this: would the C of E exist if the Pope had granted Henry his divorce, or if Henry had never sought a divorce?
I think we can conclude that it's not very likely, esp. given Henry's previous support of the Catholic Church against the Protestants for which he was awarded the tile 'defender of the faith' by the Pope (fid def on english coins).