Thursday, October 30, 2008
Reformation Day: Thomas Cranmer
I thought I would use this opportunity to prematurely honor the church calendar of All Saints Day (which is Nov 1) and Reformation Day (October 31) in honoring a saint I have come to appreciate and love in the past year. This man was Thomas Cranmer.
Cranmer rose to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry VIII. Cranmer by that time had secretly married a German Lutheran girl, whose religious sympathies he shared. As Henry VIII called for a break with Rome, for fairly expedient and selfish reasons, Cranmer used the opportunity to bring Reformation principles to England. Traditionalists argued for keeping the Medieval Roman Catholic nature of doctrine in England, but Cranmer slowly and unperturbed fought for Reformation theology.
Imagine an era of the church when people came to a church service and could not read or understand the Latin service. What was worse was, these people were the clergy. It came to Cranmer’s attention how the clergy were left extremely uneducated, and he undertook the composition of the Book of Common Prayer, to educate the clergy and allow the worshippers to understand what was happening, being prayed and said in the service. Cranmer also wrote 42 articles of religion, 39 of which became the confession of the Anglican Church, including affirmation of justification by faith only, and the inefficacy of free will to save man.
After Edward VI died, Bloody Mary Tudor took the throne, and undertook her campaign to rid England of Protestantism. High on her enemies list was Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer was imprisoned and tortured until he recanted his faith, signing a document of recantation. His Catholic tormentors led him to make his recantation public. But when Cranmer was placed in front of the crowd, he instead preached salvation in Christ alone and renounced the Catholics. For reward, Cranmer was led to the stake to be burned. As the fires were lit, Cranmer extended his right hand, exclaiming that he wished it would burn first, for it had betrayed him.
Cranmer was a man that slowly plodded the soil for the gospel in England. The task required patience, diplomacy, and grace. His legacy? If you are an English speaking Protestant, beit Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, or whatever, you should take a minute to thank God for Thomas Cranmer, without whom, you may still be without the meat of the gospel.