Reformed Anglicans

So much of trouble in the realm of Church history arises when a false barrier is erected between “Anglican” and “Reformed” theologians. This distinction makes sense now. It does not in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I don’t mean that there was no diversity. Quite the opposite is the case. There was much diversity. However, the doctrinal position of the Church of England, along with its leading intellectuals, was thoroughly Reformed. Pretty much all of the “Puritans” were Anglicans. Some were Presbyterian, but they nevertheless viewed themselves as members of the Church of England. We could list Perkins, Preston, Calamy, Twisse, Gataker, Vines, and Cornelius Burges among these names.

The “Puritans,” though are often posed against the “Anglicans,” and thus the Puritans are considered the Reformed who may have existed within the Church of England, but nevertheless represented a different species altogether. I think such an assumption is wrong.

There are a number of ways to go about straightening this out. We could point out Vermigli and Bucer’s presence early on. We could mention that Knox personally worked on the Book of Common Prayer. But we could also simply list the clearly “Anglican” Reformed theologians.

Off the top of my head I came up with these names:

William Tyndale
Thomas Cranmer* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Frith
Hugh Latimer
Nicholas Ridley
John Hooper
Edmund Grindal* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Whitgift* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
George Abbot* (Archbishop of Canterbury)
John Jewel
Richard Hooker
John Davenant
Samuel Ward
Joseph Hall
James Ussher
William Bedell

Those last two are Irish, but definitely within the Anglican mix of their day.

I think that even Overall and Andrewes make more sense as moderate Reformed theologians than anything else. Overall thinks he is promoting a via media, but Davenant takes that via media to the Synod of Dort and has it approved. As for Andrewes, I need only refer you to Peter Escalante’s treatment of him here.

I’m sure there are more names that could be listed.  I wouldn’t want to deny that there is a difference between Reformed Anglicanism in the 17th cent. and later Presbyterianism, but I would insist that both belong under the larger heading of “Reformed.”

This entry was posted in church history by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

4 thoughts on “Reformed Anglicans

  1. Even as late as the Restoration, there were Puritans like William Gurnall (of “Christian in Compleat Armour), who conformed by signing the declaration to The Act of Uniformity and thus avoided ejection from the Church of England.

    Earlier Reformed Anglicans? John Bradford (published by Banner of Truth, 2 volumes!). Richard Cox, late of Frankfurt.

    Later? Augustus Toplady, who had Calvinist *bona fides* (see controversy w/ Wesley).

  2. While what you’ve written is true, you’ve not noted that the Great Ejection took place because Anglicanism was opposed to the Puritanism. Just remember the persecution that was inflicted on the Puritans by the Anglican church.
    Anglicanism embrace all forms of theology and even later we’d very astute and genuine Reformed theologians from the Church of England – Ryle, Story, J.I. Packer.
    I still appreciate your sharing this.

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