People

The Independents

What was the Puritan view of the Tudor Church?

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The Church of England, in the form Queen Elizabeth I had laid down, was acceptable to most Christians. To Roman Catholics it was totally wrong. To some Protestants, it was a half-hearted compromise. They wanted to see the total removal of all the old “Catholic” ways. Practices like signing with the cross in Baptism, kneeling at Communion, and some of the ministers’ robes were offensive to them. Many of them were doubtful about having bishops in the Church.

Some wanted to see a church just like the Reformed Church of Geneva. Elders, or “presbyters” governed this church, and its form of worship was much plainer. This did in fact later happen in Scotland, but not in England or Wales.  Those who thought this way were given the name of “Puritans”. At first they had some hopes of seeing the changes they wanted.  Gradually their support in Parliament got smaller, and the Queen was opposed to them. When James I became King, he was even more determined that they would not get their way. He threatened them with the words,

“I will make them conform themselves, or I will harry them out of the land, or else do worse.”

In 1662 Parliament forced all Puritan clergymen to leave the Church of England. Faced with this, the Puritans reacted in different ways. Most stayed in the Church of England, and “fitted in” enough to keep out of trouble. But others left the church. One group decided that the Church of England was no longer a true church, because it allowed the State to decide its form of worship. They believed God wanted the Church to be a group of people whose life was governed by the Bible. They said its worship should not follow the rules a government decided on. This group was known by different names. Sometimes, because they separated from the State Church, people called them “Separatists”. On other occasions, because they believed the church should be independent of State control, they were called “Independents”.

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