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Christianity had first arrived in the British Isles around 200 during the Roman Empire. Archbishop Restitutus and others are known to have attended the council of Arles in 314. Christianity developed roots in Britain and Ireland, and spread to Scotland and north England. But the Anglo-Saxon invasion

Split from RomeEdit

However, a politically supported split with Rome occurred when Henry VIII's requested annulment to his current wife was refused. A similar annulment had been granted to Henry VIII's forebear, Henry II of England. Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine on 18 May 1152. Eleanor had children with Louis VII of France. Henry VIII used the political crown and the unsuccessful persecution to sustain his break with Rome. The first break with Rome (subsequently reversed) came when Pope Clement VII refused, over a period of years, to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, not purely as a matter of principle, but also because the Pope lived in fear of Catherine's nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, as a result of events in the Italian Wars.

Henry first asked for an annulment in 1527. After various failed initiatives he stepped up the pressure on Rome, in the summer of 1529, by compiling a manuscript from ancient sources proving in law that spiritual supremacy rested with the monarch, and demonstrating the illegality of Papal authority. In 1531 Henry first challenged the Pope when he demanded 100,000 pounds from the clergy in exchange for a royal pardon for their illegal jurisdiction. He also demanded that the clergy should recognise him as their sole protector and supreme head. The church in England recognised Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England on 11 February 1531, however in 1532 he still continued to attempt to seek a compromise with the Pope, but negotiations (started in 1530 and ended in 1532) with the papal legate Antonio Giovanni da Burgio have failed.

In May 1532 the Church of England agreed to surrender its legislative independence and canon law to the authority of the monarch. In 1533 the Statute in Restraint of Appeals removed the right of the English clergy and laity to appeal to Rome on matters of matrimony, tithes and oblations, and gave authority over such matters to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. This finally allowed Thomas Cranmer, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to issue Henry's annulment; and upon procuring it, Henry married Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII excommunicated Henry VIII in 1533.

In 1534 the Act of Submission of the Clergy removed the right of all appeals to Rome, effectively ending the Pope's influence. The first Act of Supremacy confirmed Henry by statute as the Supreme Head of the Church of England in 1536. (Due to clergy objections the contentious term 'Supreme Head' for the monarch later became 'Supreme Governor' - hence one cannot technically refer to the reigning monarch as the so-called 'head' of the Church of Englan


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Anglican Catholic Answer!

The Church of England in the early days of Christianity was no more than the Church in Britain , not the whole church, but merely a Communion of Catholic Believers! It held the Catholic Beliefs of the First Thousand years,this stems from the Revelations of Christ once made to the Saints, or Holy People of God. These were recorded in Scriptures and interpreted, explained and completed by the Early Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Which in History made up the Canon of Faith for the Anglican Church. (They still do for Anglican Traditionalists.) According to S.Dorotheus of Tyre, the First Bishop of the Church in Britain was Aristobulos the friend of S.Paul, who is mentioned in Romans. He was possibly martyred in this country!

Under the Saxon Monarchs, it would appear that the Church was well and truly the people at prayer and during the Saxon period, joint Synods were held with political and Church participation. Every Synod, or most of them, started with discussion on Apostolic belief and the Canon of Faith mentioned above was affirmed. Also the place of the Bishop of Rome was queried and whilst his position as a Bishop and spiritual leader was taken for granted he was not allowed to hold intercourse with anyone in this country without permission from the state. Neither was he able to interfere in simple matters ecclesiastical without permission. It didn't start with Henry VIII, he merely enforced what had been on the statute book for about 800 years.

The matter of enforcing the statutes were the concerns of the various monarchs ,over time. Henry simply enforced them all . The question of Henry milking the Clergy with a fine was perfectly legal, they had broken the law and conspired with a foreign monarch over English business. Wolsey when he had taken his legate's position had also put himself in the wrong if he had not got Henry's permission. When we read of Henry making himself the Head of the Church? So what? The English Synod qualified this move in 1531, with the caveat, "as far as the Law of Christ allows." Henry by the way was only putting afresh on the statute books what had been there since before the Norman Conquest and taken for granted by all. Henry, or the King, as the Chief Magistrate was the head of all in this country! As indeed was every other monarch including the Bishop of Rome in his vast lands in Northern Italy. There was only limited legislative independence anywhere in Europe.

In England the Reformation took a limited course, there was no great cry from laity or clergy! It was simply Henry rocking the boat for dynastic reasons. A sordid matter of annulment. The big issues were, again, financial ones, It was the English State and Church trying to stop the flow of money from England in to the coffers of the Bishop of Rome. At one time the Pope was taking more money out of England than the King was receiving in revenue! The real change even so ,if not a revolutionary event, was a shocker, "the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England." This was a later statement, but it is what the English Reformation was about! Limiting the authority of the papacy!

As seen above, for several hundred years there had been a quarrel as to where authority lay within the Catholic Church, was it with the Bishop of Rome, or was it with the Revelation of Christ, Scripture and the Seven Councils? S.Vincent of Lerins had plumped for the Councils and Tradition as did the latin Councils of the Middle Ages. The Church in England had strong enough views, even S.Thomas More in a letter to Cromwell claimed authority lay with the Councils.Now Henry, for whatever reason, pique or conscience, had taken a stand! This is in many ways the climax of the English reformation. The Anglican Church had become a western orthodox church! Neither did Henry break with Rome, it was the papacy that cut themselves off , first from Henry and in 1570 from the English Church!

Further reading! Bishop Jeremy Collier.Ecclesiastical History of England. Vol1./ 7.

Wakeman, Ecclesiastical Hist. of England.                       Dunbar.                     England & Rome. Dunbar!

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