Some Anglican Practices To Which The English Reformed Objected In 1603

In the Church service: that the cross in baptism, interrogatories ministered to infants, confirmation, as superfluous, may be taken away; baptism not to be ministered by women, and so explained; the cap and surplice not urged; that examination may go before the communion; that it be ministered with a sermon; that divers terms of priests, and absolution, and some other used, with the ring in marriage, and other such like in the book, may be corrected; the longsomeness of service abridged, Church songs and music moderated to better edification; that the Lord’s Day be not profaned; the rest upon holy days not so strictly urged; that there may be a uniformity of doctrine prescribed; no popish opinion to be any more taught or defended; no ministers charged to teach their people to bow at the name of Jesus; that the canonical Scriptures only be read in the Church.

Millenary Petition (1603) Presented to King James I as preserved in Fuller’s Church History (1655).

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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24 comments

    • I’m curious now. Does the RCUS have more of German history or background? Does this then partly explain the confirmation practice to which Jeremy refers?

      I have heard that the German wing of Reformed Christianity tended to keep and observe certain practices which others, particularly the English Reformed, rejected. Maybe I took a joke somewhat seriously?

      • Alberto,

        The RCUS is German. They arrived in the US about 1714. Some laity formed congregations near Philadelphia under the leadership of a schoolteacher. They were supervised by the Dutch Reformed Church as a classis until the formation of the German Reformed Church about the turn of the 19th century. The RCUS was, at its height, a large (probably the largest) Reformed denomination in the US. Things went sideways with the rise of the Mercersburg Movement under the influence of Schaff and Nevin. By the turn of the 20th century it was infected with liberalism. Some of Barth’s first adherents in the USA were found in the RCUS. There was a split about 1936. Most of the RCUS went with the merger and one classis, Eureka Classis, stayed out to form the continuing RCUS. The majority ended up in what is today the UCC. The separating classis was very small (about 1900 people and handful of ministers). Most of the congregations were in the Dakotas and were Germans who had emigrated from Russia.

        For a long time, how long I’m not sure, they used only the Heidelberg. In recent years, however, they’ve adopted/re-adopted the Belgic and the Canons.

        Most of the original separating pastors were influenced by Herman Kohlbrugge, who influenced Barth. The neo-Kohlburggians did not think much of the third part of the catechism. The RCUS also took in a number of theonomists in the 70s and early 80s. They came out against theonomy c. 1985. They’ve also been influenced by the King James Only moment, though they rejected that view formally. They adopted a strict “six-normal-day” view of creation in the mid-80s too, in reaction to the Framework interpretation. In recent years they’ve published papers rejecting the Federal Vision & NPP.

    • Jeremy,

      I apologize. I didn’t intend to imply that you were somehow joking; I had past conversations in mind where I was pondering whether I was clueless about something in those PAST conversations.

    • To be fair (and as a confirmed Anglican), while confirmation has been and still is over hyped by some, the actual order of confirmation in the BCP doesn’t really contain anything much more than “Catechesis and profession of faith” except perhaps that the bishop prays for those being confirmed in words which don’t seem to imply belief in confirmation in the Catholic sense, especially as Article 25 explicitly rejects the notion that confirmation is a sacrament of the gospel the way Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are. If you don’t object to the RCUS service, it’s hard to see what there is to object to in the BCP.

      • Ed,

        One question is what was being imposed as church law and practice in 1603? A second question is how it was being explained by Anglican authorities in 1603. There’s a lot of good stuff in the older editions of the Book of Common Prayer. The Westminster Divines opposed the imposition of the BCP, the Black Rubric etc in the way they opposed the ostensibly indifferent vestments—except that they weren’t indifferent since the authorities demanded their use. It all goes back to the RPW.

  1. I wonder how many common law marriages might have ended up solemnized if ordinary folk understood that a ring and a white dress do not a marriage make?

  2. While I’m at it, is there a good, accurate reproduction of the Millenary Petition out there somewhere? I’d like to read it in its entirety. A blow-by-blow account of the Hampton Court Conference wold also be welcome.

  3. Thanks for this. I’ve been recently curious in the historical and present differences between Anglican and Reformed. Maybe in the future you could expound and explain some of these differences listed here as they are difficult to understand outside their historical context.

  4. What happened in 1662 that caused the C of E to become less hospitable? I wrote a paper about the religious affiliation of U.S. founding father James Wilson. In part I corrected some errors in what was for a long time the prevailing biography of Wilson, which blithely stated that Bishop William White’s Anglicanism was straight up Arminian. I did not have to look very far to find Anglican sources to discredit this assertion, but I also didn’t get even a general overview of Anglican history.

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