#71 Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

If people think there’s problems in the Church these days, they should take some degree of comfort in the origins of the Anglican Church, aka The Church of England.

If you’re looking for a bloke who will use the Church and its teachings to provide him with a supposed God-given right for the diabolical treatment of his wife, then look no further than Henry the 8th. He’s worthy of the crown in that category.

(I feel like I keep giving history lessons with these denominational posts…)

As many would know, Henry was desperate for a male heir to the throne but couldn’t manage to get one from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Currently living under the spiritual rule of the Catholic Church in Rome, Henry requested a divorce. Unsurprisingly, the Pope would not allow it.

What’s a man to do? Start his own Church, apparently.

Anyone who’s been a longstanding member of an Anglican Church (eg myself) has definitely been in a conversation at some point, where someone has said something along the lines of “our Church only exists because some guy wanted a divorce once”. Sad but true; just check the history books.

As did Henry, deciding to return to the former glory days, when England’s Kings had all authority over Church related affairs. So, the British Parliament passed a law that stopped the Pope having any further authority over the Church in England. Henry also stopped sending England’s annual rego fees to Rome (or something like that).

However, now Henry needed someone to run the Church, despite having declared himself the authority over it – a position still held by the head of the English monarchy today (I pause to add that Elizabeth II has done a much better job than her ancestor).

Being only recently broken away from the Catholic Church, it’s not surprising that the structures that were set up within the Anglican Church had similarities with the hierarchies that existed within the Catholic Church. This also explains why many churches in America that were originally part of the Church of England are called “The Episcopalian Church”. This word comes from Greek, meaning bishop or overseer. But let’s get back to the British continent as there’s too much history if we jump ship to America and discuss the War of Independence…

Back to Henry, who needs an Archbishop to run his Church. Thomas Cranmer was the man for the job (and he didn’t really have a choice about it either). He became the very first Archbishop of Canterbury. It really is a bizarre thought to know that the very first thing the very first Archbishop did was… to declare an annulment of marriage. What sort of Archbishop does that?

I don’t want to seem too harsh on poor Cranmer though, as he probably had to annul the marriage or be beheaded for treason before Anne Boleyn. Regardless, once the Catholics came back to power with Mary on the throne, he was burned at the stake instead.

Before that happened though, he managed to write The Book of Common Prayer which was instituted as mandatory during the short reign of King Edward. Apparently, neither Catholics nor Protestants were very happy with this book. The Catholics were appalled that Mass was not in Latin and the Protestants saw too many problems within the book.

Personally, I’m surprised that any English King was happy with anything labelled as “common”. Would have thought it was beneath them…

However, it was common in the sense that it was used by everyone, and it contained the statement of doctrine for The Church of England known as The 39 Articles.

Those 39 Articles have a significant amount of fodder to explore in another post.

Until then, if you’re feeling like women don’t get a good deal in the Anglican Church, just scroll back up to the post title and reflect upon how far we’ve come.

There’s so much hope for the future.

Yours in history,


Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

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