Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charles I and the Scottish Kirk

From author Anna Belfrage:
In England, Henry VIII proclaimed himself the Head of the Anglican Church in 1534, disbanded the clerical orders and severed his ties with Rome. But the rituals remained virtually unchanged, the Anglican Church building on the medieval (and therefore catholic) rites that were already well-established within the kingdom. After all, Henry VIII did not break with the pope due to an urgent desire to reform, but rather for the far more crass reason of wanting to exchange his wife.

In Scotland, the Reformation was led by John Knox, a disciple of Calvin himself, but was ultimately a bid for Scottish independence from the French interests as represented by Marie de Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots. The hundred or so Scottish nobles who were involved in this matter probably found it convenient to set a religious label on their actions – it had a better ring to it than to admit they were only doing this to protect their own interests. However, in difference to England, the Reformed Scottish Kirk very quickly divested itself of “popish” ritual and practise, emphasising instead the importance of the Word (scripture) and faith.

By the seventeenth century, the Scottish Kirk was a robust and thriving organisation in which the local parishes played a strong role while the overall leadership lay with the General Assembly.  It was also an organisation dominated by leaders who shuddered at the thought of having their cleansed and purified Kirk besmirched by the papist trappings that still lingered in the Anglican Church. So when Charles I decided to harmonize the religious practices in his three kingdoms by advocating a Book of Common Prayer he was throwing in a lit fuse in a munitions store, and eventually the whole thing exploded in his face. (Read more.)

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