A Summer 2003 NEH Institute.
Directed by David Cressy
and Lori Anne Ferrell.


    Church Introduction

 Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677).
Chori Ecclesiae Cathodralis S. Pauli, 1658.

What was the relationship of the religious phenomenon known as the Reformation to an institution called the Church of England? For that matter, what is a church: a building site, a set of religious beliefs, or a community?

Most scholars now recognize that the English Reformation was a long, slow, and often contentious process. The English Church—designed (and redesigned) to reflect each manifestation of English religious history from Calvinist consensus to Arminian ceremonialism—was by necessity neither monolithic nor single-dimensional as England made the transition from the medieval Catholic Church to a Protestant one. Nor was the Church of England (despite its claims to represent a middle way) particularly moderate or quiescent. From the Elizabethan era to the reign of Charles I, the Church of England harbored persistent, divisive attachments to Catholic practices, puritan and anti-puritan tendencies, and secret sectarianism. The tensions inherent in this situation played themselves out in volatile polemic over the nature of true and false churches, the relation of the Church of England to both the Protestant and the Roman Churches on the Continent, the authority of the monarch in matters of religion, and the emergence of an astonishing variety of Protestant underground movements. These controversial issues of identity-formation can also be traced in the rhetoric of increasingly contentious episcopal in-fighting as well as disputes between bishops, clergy, and laity over the ownership and physical layout of English Churches and the placement (and removal and re-placement) of furnishings such as altar rails.

The following essays provide an expansive view of the early modern Church, examining it as the subject of theological and cultural debate and as a specific location for worship practices that both ameliorated and exacerbated the societal divisions opened up by rapid confessional change.

The Eucharist


Idolatry: Icons and Iconoclasm

Reformation Women: The Case of Anne Askew

Good and Bad Clergy

The Reformation and the Colonies

© 2004 Folger Institute