Anglican, who? A history lesson on the Royal wedding

Published 2:51 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

With all of the recent interest  and hoopla centering around the marriage of Prince William, to  his fiancé Kate Middleton, there have been a number of questions raised about their faith and the Anglican Church.

The Anglican Church — the Church of England — was established between 37-40 A.D. by early Christian traders and travelers to Britain. Most notable of these was Joseph of Arimathea, Pontius Pilate and asked for and received, the body of Christ from the Cross. A wealthy man, he had prepared a burial tomb for himself. Now a Christian convert, it was Joseph’s unused tomb into which Christ was placed.  

Persecuted for his new beliefs, he retreated to far-flung Britain where he and others of like mind began the early church, which soon fell under the auspices of the Christian monarchy. When Augustine and Patrick landed on the islands’ shores, ostensibly to convert the Pagans, they found a thriving Christian faith replete with hundreds of bishops and thousands of priests.

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In the ensuing years the contributions, of Anglicans, to the Faith were profound. As a remote outpost, there was less political influence on the practice of Christianity than on the Continent. The Councils of the early Church reflect the nature of this richness of the Faith in Britain, as a repository for establishing doctrine against heresy for the Church Universal.

When Constantine ascended the throne, he established Christianity as the “official” religion of the Roman Empire. During his reign, Constantine established a new, eastern capitol: Constantinople.

As the decline of western Europe fell into the “Dark Ages,” the three capitols of Christianity: Rome, London and Constantinople, became not only centers for the Faith, but also the political and social guiding forces as well. Thus were established the three Catholic churches: Anglican, Roman and Eastern Orthodox.   

For over 1000 years the Church of England was headed by the reigning monarch, while working with the Pontiffs, who were generally based in Rome, in varying degrees of mutual respect. The beliefs and practice of the Faith went unchanged.

Around 1200 A.D, King John, (of Robin Hood fame,) surrendered control of the Anglican Church to Rome. After 300 years, the notorious King Henry VIII ascended the throne. Henry had wrested control of the British Church form the Pope early in his reign. The practice and beliefs of the faith remained unchanged, including saying the Mass in Latin, only it was now the British monarch who returned to head the British Church. It should be noted that Henry mercilessly persecuted those who would not pledge their fealty to him and many suffered.

Edward, Henry’s son, soon died allowing Mary Tudor, (a strong supporter of the authority of Rome,) to rule. She died a horrible death four years later, which allowed her sister Elizabeth I to become the monarch for the next sixty years While known for many things, Queen Elizabeth I, by 1549 had commissioned and published the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer,” changing the language of the worship to the common tongue: English.

With careful  revisions of the Book of Common Prayer over the centuries, the marriage ceremony, of the recent royal couple in Westminster Abbey, was the liturgy from the 1928 version, replete with all of the language of so many centuries ago. Saint Barnabas, the Anglican church in Picayune, utilizes the same liturgy (service) in their marriage ceremonies.