Timeline Of The English Reformation

Adapted from the book A History of the Church of England by J.H.R. Moorman




Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Roman Church and started a movement. Both his theological and political ideas soon began to find a footing in England.


By this year Henry VIII had been married for eighteen years and was without a male heir.  Henry applies to Rome to make arrangements for the annulment of his marriage.


Henry meets a Cambridge tutor called Thomas Cranmer while lodging at Waltham Abbey.


Henry deprives the Pope's legate Wolsey of his chancellorship.


In the course of three years Henry passed seven bills through Parliament, each carefully designed to cut one of the threads which bound England to Rome. All the powers that the papacy had exerted had been transferred to the king or the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Bishop John Fisher of Rochester refuses to take the oath acknowledging the king's supremacy of State and Church, was tried, found guilty, and beheaded. A few weeks later Sir Thomas More who suffered for the same cause followed him.


Miles Coverdale produced his English Bible and dedicated it to the king.


Henry drafted an Act of Parliament to close down several monasteries. Their incomes and possessions were transferred to the king.


Henry issued the Six Articles Act described as "an act abolishing diversity of opinions." This act not only dictated to people what they should believe but made doubt or heresy a felony. The six subjects were the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the adequacy of Communion in one kind only, the necessity of clerical celibacy, the obligation upon nuns and lay-brothers to observe vows of chastity, the importance of Private Masses, and the necessity of sacramental confession.


Henry was at war with France and Scotland and again short of money. Henry passes a bill through Parliament for the dissolution of chantries and hospitals and the handing over of their endowments to the king.


 Henry dies, leaving the crown to a small and delicate boy of nine years of age, Edward VI. Everything now depended on the personnel of the Council that was to govern for the next seven years until Edward was deemed to be of age. The Duke of Somerset, an uncle of the king and convinced reformer, soon got power into his own hands.


 An Act of Parliament passed repealing the Six Articles.


 A number of distinguished Protestant theologians from abroad arrive in England. This group of foreign theologians played an important part in the history of the Church in England during the next three years.


 Cranmer prepares an English Prayer Book to supersede the Roman service books.


 Duke of Northumberland seizes power from the hands of Somerset. Cranmer's mind moves towards a much more Protestant position.


 The Prayer Book is annexed to carry reform much further. Words and phrases bore a much more Protestant interpretation.


 Cranmer draws up forty-five articles to define the doctrine of the Church of England. They were aimed partly against the medieval doctrines of the scholastics and partly against the antinomian teaching of the extreme Protestants.


 The young King Edward, at the age of fifteen, dies from a tubercular infection of the lungs. The crown went to Henry's eldest daughter Mary, a half-Spaniard and a fanatical Roman Catholic.


 A set of injunctions required all bishops to restore the old order. The reformers who did not seek sanctuary abroad were imprisoned, including Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley.


 Mary marries Prince Philip of Spain. Preparations were made for England to be reconciled with Rome.


 The English Parliament agreed to retrace all the steps which it had taken in the last thirty years. Cardinal Reginald Pole absolved the realm from its long-continued schism.


 Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were condemned and executed. Pole was appointed as Cranmer's successor.


 The deaths of Mary and Archbishop Pole seemed like a providential deliverance to England. Elizabeth ascended the throne.


 The Elizabethan Settlement:
 The Act of Supremacy revived Henry's legislation against Rome and Edward's act to restore the administration of the Sacrament to the laity in both kinds. The Act of Uniformity reintroduced the Prayer Book of 1552.  Matthew Parker was elected and consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury.


Bishop John Jewel produced a large work called the Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae. This is a vigorous condemnation of Rome and defense of the Church of England.


 Convocation set itself to revise the Articles of Religion and reduced them to 39. These are a statement of the Church of England's attitude towards the doctrinal disputes that were convulsing Europe at the time.


 The Council of Trent had now concluded and published its decrees.


 The Pope finds a collaborator in Mary Queen of Scots to flee into England and rally the Romanists.


 A rebellion to get rid of Elizabeth and restore the "true and catholic religion" was quickly suppressed.


 The Papal Bull Regnans in Excelsis excommunicates Elizabeth. The Pope dispensed all her subjects from their oath of allegiance to her.


 A manifesto called An Admonition to Parliament provided a platform for Puritan controversy and attack.


 Robert Browne separated from the Church of England to form an independent congregation of non-conformists.


 Parliament passed an act that increased the fines for absence from Church and declared that anyone joining the Church of Rome should be regarded as a traitor.


 Richard Hooker, a pupil of Jewel, published his book Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Hooker refutes the Puritan argument that Scripture is the only test of what is correct, and defends the Church's right to make her own laws so long as they are not contrary to Scripture.


 On the death of Queen Elizabeth, James was invited to unite the crowns of England and Scotland.


 James was presented with the "Milenary Petition" which was subscribed by a thousand clergy of Puritan sympathies who were anxious to gain his support.


 A conference was held at Hampton Court to debate the Puritan objections of the Prayer Book. James sided with the Anglican Establishment. A plan was laid out for a new translation of the Bible.


 The Authorized Version of the Bible was published.

 1620 The Puritans found the atmosphere of their native land intolerable and decided to emigrate to the New World.


 Charles I inherited from his father the throne and a profound belief in the Divine Right of Kings.


 Charles decided to dissolve Parliament and govern by Royal Prerogative. For the next eleven years there was no meeting of Parliament.


 William Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Throughout his career, Laud desired to see the Church of England "catholic and reformed" in the spirit of Jewel and Hooker.


 Parliament was summoned to help Charles fight a war with Scotland. A few months later, Parliament received a document by thousands of Londoners demanding the abolition of all ecclesiastical government. A week later Laud was impeached.


 Parliament presented Charles with the Grand Remonstrance, a long statement of grievances against the king and his party.


 After a failed coup, Charles left London for Yorkshire. Civil War began when Charles raised his standard at Nottingham.


 Parliament enlisted the support of the Scots. Puritan leaders met in London to draw up an agreement that might serve as a basis for an alliance with Presbyterian Scotland.


 Oliver Cromwell triumphed over the Royalist troops. This was the first decisive battle of the war and gave great prestige to the Independent party.


 The Church of England came to an end wherever Parliament could make its will obeyed. The Book of Common Prayer was declared illegal and replaced by the Directory of Public Worship.


 Charles was brought to London and sentenced to death. The execution marked the triumph of the Puritans.


 Oliver Cromwell died. His son Richard, who succeeded him as Protector, was a failure and resigned two years later.


 The army got rid of the old Parliament and arranged for the election of a new Parliament that invited the king to return.


 King Charles II was on the side of the Anglicans. They intended to see to the restoration of the Church of England as they had known it in the days of William Laud.


 Twelve bishops and twelve Puritan theologians met at the Conference of Savoy Hospital to debate Puritan objections to the Prayer Book. The bishops took up a strong and unyielding position behind primitive custom and catholic usage and refused to budge.


 A revision of the Prayer Book had been made by a liturgical committee and was now presented and approved. Altogether about 600 alterations were made, but mostly on matters of detail.


 On St. Bartholomew's day the Church of England was fully and exclusively restored. The Puritans then separated from the Church and the final act of the English reformation was closed.