Friday, 22 February 2013

Church History (full-time) 9.3, Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

The French Revolution by Delacroix (1830) ... the 18th century is known as the Age of Reason, or the Age of Revival, but was also the Age of Revolution

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

11 a.m.: 9.3:
Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

After our first two sessions this morning, it might be easy to see the 18th century, in terms of Church History, as the century of mission and expansion.

However, the Canadian church historian, Gerald Cragg, has described the age we are dealing with in this module as “The Age of Reason.” But we could equally also call this “The Age of Revival” or even the “Age of Revolution.”

It is a constant debate within Church History whether the rise of Methodism and the preaching and impact of the Wesley brothers forestalled a revolution in England?

As we explore this period in the history of the Church (1660-1800), we cannot ignore the social and political impact of Methodism. Nor can we ignore its impact on the Church of Ireland.

At the same time, as we consider the wider political and social context in which the Church of Ireland found itself, we have to realise that there is a clear link connecting Bunker Hill, the Bastille and Boolavogue.

And we also have to take account of the impact of the American Revolution on the Episcopal Church and the future shape of the Anglican Communion; the impact of the French Revolution on French Church, and more generally on the whole Christian Church; and, of course, the impact of the 1798 Rising on the Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland.


John Wesley ... his Journal records his travels over 250,000 miles, and he visited Ireland 21 times in a 42-year period from 1747 to 1789 Jakob Spenner and the rise of Pietism in Germany in the late 17th century, and Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and the Great Awakening in America at the beginning of the 18th century are the expressions of two movements – the Pietists and the Great Awakening – that had important influences on the Wesley brothers and the rise of Methodism later in the 18th century.

The sobriquet “Methodist” was originally given in 1729 to a group at Oxford known as the Holy Club and led by John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley traced the “first rise” of Methodism to those early years, and the second stage to 1736 when the “rudiments of a Methodist society” appeared in Georgia, where the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, were working as Anglican priests and missionaries with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now Us).

During their voyage to America, and their stay in Georgia, the Wesley brothers were deeply influenced by the Moravians, who in turn had taken on much of the teachings and experiences of the German Pietists. But John Wesley alienated the colonists, and returned to England in 1737.

Then, in 1738, Wesley helped to reframe the rules of an Anglican society that met in Fetter Lane, London.

Once again, the Wesleys were in close contact with the Moravians in London, and within three days of each other in May 1738 the brothers John and Charles had vital Christian experiences – what John described as his heart being “strangely warmed” when a passage was being read from Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans.

We could see this as the turning point in the Evangelical Revival on this side of the Atlantic. The Wesleys preached throughout Britain and Ireland: John Wesley’s Journal records his travels over 250,000 miles, and he visited Ireland 21 times in a 42-year period from 1747 to 1789.

When John Wesley found the doors of Anglican churches closed to him, he followed the example of George Whitefield, and preached in the open.

The first Methodist Conference met in 1744, and the first Methodist circuits were organised as early as 1746. Methodism gained strong positions throughout Ireland, England and Wales, but notably made slower headway in Scotland.

In America, Methodism owed its beginnings to two Irish emigrants, Robert Strawbridge from Drumsna, who settled in Maryland, and Philip Embury, who settled in New York.

The break with Anglicanism came when John Wesley decided to ordain local preachers for areas in which Methodists could not receive the sacraments. Although Wesley hoped that Methodism could stay within the boundaries of Anglicanism, and he died an Anglican priest, Methodism became a separate organisation and a separate church.

The American Revolution of 1776

Although the American Revolution pre-dated the French revolution by 13 years, many of the American revolutionaries owed a lot to French thinking at the time. This contained a strong element of religious polemic and debate.

The political philosophy of the American revolutionaries had much in common with, in some places, René Descartes (1596-1650), the French philosopher who has been called the “Father of Modern Philosophy,” and, in others, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who began life in Geneva as a Calvinist, moved to France where he converted to Catholicism, returned to Geneva and reconverted to Calvinism, and then ended his days in France as a Deist.

The American Declaration of Independence appeals to God as the ultimate source of justification for the liberties demanded by the authors, and the appeal to self-evident truth, in order to justify the basis of the Declaration, can be traced to Descartes.

Karl Barth (1886-1968) observed that the Declaration of Independence represented a Calvinism gone to seed, although its principal author, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was a Deist at heart and owed much to English and French political theory.

In the Declaration, the American revolutionaries declared:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The impact on the Episcopal/Anglican Church:

After the American Revolution, many Anglicans fled New England, moving north and settling in Canada. There, Anglicanism has been strongly influenced by a steady flow of clergy and missionaries from the Church of Ireland.

Anglicans who remained in the new United States after the revolution felt isolated from the Church of England, whose bishops were unwilling or unable to provide new bishops to serve the new church.

The first American bishop was not secured for another 18 years, until 1784 – the same year American Methodists broke with Anglicanism as a consequence of John Wesley’s ordinations of a superintendent or bishop for America. That same year saw the consecration of Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) by bishops from the nonjuring Episcopal Church of Scotland.

Although Seabury was elected Bishop of Connecticut in 1783, the bishops of the Church of England found they could not consecrate him because he could not take the Oath of Allegiance. As a consequence, the “high” liturgy of the Episcopalians of Scotland strongly influenced the Episcopal Church in America for generations.

The King’s Chapel was the first Anglican or Episcopalian church in Boston, and the first church in the US to call itself a Unitarian church.

As an aside, we should also note that, although Unitarian teachings in America first arose among the Congregationalists of New England, the first preacher to call himself a “Unitarian” was a post-independence Episcopalian, James Freeman (1759-1835). King’s Chapel, which had been founded in 1686, was the first Anglican or Episcopalian Church in Boston and in New England.

The Rector, the Revd Henry Caner, a Loyalist, had been forced to leave in 1776 when the British troops evacuated Boston. Freeman was chosen as the minister of the King’s Chapel in 1782, and he immediately set about revising The Book of Common Prayer for use in his church.

Bishop Samuel Seabury refused to ordain Freeman, who had been chosen as the minster of the King’s Chapel, and in 1785 Freeman turned the King’s Chapel in Boston into the first Unitarian church in North America. The church continues to use its own unique Anglican-Unitarian hybrid liturgy.

The French Revolution of 1789

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Voltaire (1694-1778) ... two of the key writers and thinkers in the wave of revolutionary thought that led to the French Revolution

Two of the key writers and thinkers in the wave of revolutionary thought that led to the French Revolution were Rousseau and Voltaire.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was, in turn, a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Deist. Rousseau argued that people, if left to themselves, are noble and good. Instead of the concept of the divine right of kings, he put forward the concept of the Social Contract (1762), which would pave the way for the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and, of course, the French Revolution.

Voltaire, the alias used by Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), believed God was to be adored and served, not to be argued over or made the object of institutional religion. Voltaire attacked the Church with remorseless wit, and saw nothing in it but deceit and corruption. His monumental works was his Philosophical Dictionary, based on his articles for Denis Diderot’s Encyclopaedia, first published secretly in 1759.

The French Revolution was a revolution against the excesses of both church and state. Most of the land was owned by the nobility or the clergy. Although violence was not part of the original plan for social change of either Rousseau or Voltaire, the Bastille was attacked on 14 July 1789, the prisoners were freed, and the building was razed to the ground.

Within a month, a “Declaration on the Rights of Man” was promulgated, at the suggestion of Bishop Talleyrand (1754-1838), and Church lands were taken into public ownership in an attempt to finance the revolutionary changes taking place.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord is an interesting figure in the French revolution. A prince by birth, he became Bishop of Autun in 1789. That year he joined the revolution, and became a member of the Constitutional Assembly, taking the oath to the Civil Constitution, and consecrating as bishops priests who were prepared to take that oath as bishops to fill the vacated dioceses.

Talleyrand was excommunicated in 1793, but he continued to be active in politics, becoming Foreign Minister in 1796, taking charge of the Provisional Government in 1814, and serving as the French ambassador to England from 1830 to 1834.

The French Church was reorganised in 1790, and over the next year the number of bishops was reduced from 140 to 83, bishops and priests were to be elected by the people, and the clergy were compelled to swear allegiance to the French constitution rather than the state. Gallicanism had its victory in 1791.

But during the early days of the French revolution, the Jacobins emerged as a key party. They were so named because they first met regularly in the Jacobin convent in Paris. Their leaders included Marat, Danton, and Robespierre, and with an army of peasants they marched on Paris in 1792. Those nobles and clergy who opposed the revolution were executed summarily, and Louis XVI went to the guillotine on 21 January 1793.

The Jacobins also took the affairs of religion into their own hands. On 10 November 1793, a group of deputies marched to Notre Dame Cathedral. There they enthroned a dancer of doubtful morals as “the Goddess of Reason.”

From 1793, France was almost continuously at war with its European neighbours, including England, which had consequences for Ireland, and for the churches in Ireland, too.

The Irish Revolution of 1798:

The Battle of Ballynahinch on 13 June 1798: there is a direct chain linking the events of 1776, 1789 and 1798

I said earlier there was clear connection, linking Bunker Hill, the Bastille and Boolavogue. We should not see the events in Ireland in 1798 in isolation from the events in France nine years earlier, or from events in North America 22 years earlier. Nor should we fail to put the events of 1798 into a context at home, either.

The Rising of 1798 comes as a natural sequence to a number of reforms, and unmet demands for reform throughout Ireland at this time, demands and reforms that had major impact on the Church of Ireland and its members.

In the mid-18th century, the towns and cities of Ireland were governed and controlled by self-appointing and self-perpetuating ruling oligarchies with exclusively Church of Ireland memberships, and the greatest proportion of Irish land was in the hands of Protestants, and more particularly in the hands of members of the Church of Ireland.

By 1745, a vigorous campaign was under way in Dublin to overturn the oligarchic powers of the self-selecting aldermen who ruled the city, which now had a population of 110,000. This campaign was led by two members of the Church of Ireland – Charles Lucas and James Digges La Touche. Lucas was also more open to the rights of Presbyterians, which further alienated him from many of the bishops, clergy, and others in the Church of Ireland.

But the successes of Lucas and La Touche inspired similar reforms in other cities and towns.

The Church of Ireland was also arousing increasing hostility because of the contentious issue of tithes. Tithes were an important factor in agitation in the 1760s associated with the Hearts of Oak (drawing support from Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics) in Ulster, and the Whiteboys (mainly Catholics) in Munster. Draconian legislation was introduced in 1776, and in that year 20 Whiteboys were executed, some of them on the orders of magistrates who were also clergy of the Church of Ireland.

That was the year of the American Revolution, and it saw the growth of the Volunteer movement, aimed on the one-hand at controlling the Whiteboys and on the other at replacing the soldiers withdrawn from Ireland to fight in America.

The next wave of agrarian unrest came with the Rightboys in the 1780s. Curiously, by now some of the gentry realised that release from the burden of tithes would quieten their tenants, and also leave them to pay their rents more easily. This challenge provoked a famous response from Richard Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne, who warned in 1786 that if the existing established church were overturned, the state would soon share its fate.

But the Roman Catholic Church was gaining in confidence, and Catholics were gaining in the extension of liberties by a government anxious to secure their loyalty, particularly in the face of threats from revolutionary France. Catholics were admitted to the legal profession in 1792, allowed to take degrees at Trinity College Dublin, in certain circumstances even allowed to bear arms or to become army officers – between 1793 and 1815 about 200,000 Irish recruits, the vast majority of them Roman Catholics, entered the British army and navy. And the franchise was extended to a limited number of Roman Catholics.

The government was worried that continuing clerical training in France would provide a new generation of revolutionary priests – those who were trained in France at the time of the French Revolution included Father John Murphy of Boolavogue. And so, in 1795, the same year as the formation of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Maynooth was founded with government funding as the Royal College of Saint Patrick.

Despite the popular image of a rising led by Presbyterians in the north-east in 1798 and by Catholic priests like John Murphy in the south-east, many of the leading members of the United Irishmen and their sympathisers were prominent members of the Church of Ireland, often finding inspiration for their revolutionary ideals in their religious beliefs and maintaining close links with church life.

Among the founding members of the United Irishmen in 1791 were Thomas Russell, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Simon Butler, all active and pious members of the Church of Ireland. After the society was proscribed, Russell, Tone and others climbed Cave Hill outside Belfast in June 1795, and solemnly swore not to desist in their efforts until Ireland had asserted its independence.

Prominent among the United Irishmen in 1798 was Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), whose uncles and cousins included a Bishop of Cork, an Archdeacon of Ross, and a Rector of the famous Shandon church in Cork. The brothers Henry Sheares (1755-1798) and John Sheares (1766-1798), were the most noticeable of United Irishmen among the parishioners of Saint Michan’s, Dublin – both were hanged publicly on 14 July 1798.

Other leading United Irishmen with intimate church links included Wolfe Tone, who married the granddaughter of a clergyman; Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, commander of the Wexford rebel forces, who was the grandson of two and the nephew of a third clergyman in the Diocese of Ferns; and Cornelius Grogan, a conscientious patron of the Parish of Ardamine and churchwarden of Rathaspeck, both in Co Wexford. As Grogan went to his death on Wexford Bridge, accompanied by the Rector of Wexford, Archdeacon John Elgee, it is said (by the local historian, Nicky Furlong) that “the sailors of the Royal Navy who hanged him were amazed when … they heard him recite Protestant prayers.”

In the north-east, it is often forgotten that the hero and heroine of the Battle of Ballynahinch, Henry Monroe and Betsy Gray (if she ever existed as real historical character), were both members of the Church of Ireland.

Many of these laymen and women had been fired in their revolutionary zeal by their religious convictions, shaped and moulded in the Church of Ireland. Among those religious United Irishmen was Thomas Russell (1757-1803). Known in song and folklore as “the Man from God-knows-where,” Russell combined his revolutionary politics with a strong visionary brand of millenarianism and pious sacramentalism, and his knowledge of the Bible was so exact that he could argue with professional theologians on interpretations from both Hebrew and Greek.

By 1791, he had formed his lasting attachment to radical Christianity. Influenced by the recently published works of the Jesuit Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, Russell considered the comparatively beneficial system of government instituted by the Jesuits in Paraguay as “beyond compare the best, the happiest, that ever has been instituted.” On the other hand, he contended, tyranny had endeavoured to support itself “by perverting Christianity from its purposes and debasing its purity.”

Russell was arrested before the 1798 Rising began, and his writings in Newgate Prison, Dublin, exhibit a deep self-examination coupled with a strong personal faith:

O Lord God … it is not from thy justice
Before which I stand condemned
That I expect salvation,
But from thy mercy that I expect pardon and forgiveness,
My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

When the 20 key surviving leaders of the Rising were deported to Scotland in 1799, ten (half) of them were members of the Church of Ireland, Russell among them. When he was eventually executed in 1803, it was after he had spent his last hours translating from his Greek New Testament verses from the Book of Revelation that summarised his politically beatific and visionary millenarianism: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21: 1).

Russell was buried in the grounds of Downpatrick Cathedral. Henry Monroe, who shared so many of his ideals and who was executed three years earlier, is buried in a quiet corner of the churchyard at Lisburn Cathedral.

Biographical notes on some key figures:

1, John Wesley (1703-1791)

John Wesley preaching at his father’s grave

John Wesley was an Anglican priest and theologian who was an early leader in the Methodist movement. Methodism had three rises:

• At Oxford University with the founding of the so-called “Holy Club.”

• While Wesley was a parish priest in Savanah, Georgia.

• After Wesley’s return to England.

The movement took form from its third rise in the early 1740s with Wesley, along with others, itinerant field preaching and the subsequent founding of religious societies for the formation of believers. This was the first widely successful evangelical movement in Britain. Wesley’s Methodist Connection included societies throughout these islands before spreading to other parts of the English-speaking world and beyond.

Methodists, under Wesley’s direction, became leaders in many social justice issues of the day including prison reform and abolitionism movements.

Wesley’s strength as a theologian lay in his ability to combine seemingly opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed “Christian perfection,” or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one’s heart.

His theology, especially his understanding of perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, Scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, &c), as the means by which God transformed the believer. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of Anglicanism.

Wesley was born in Epworth Rectory, 37 km north-west of Lincoln, the fifteenth child of the Revd Samuel Wesley, a Church of England priest, and his wife Susanna Annesley. At the age of five, John was rescued from the burning rectory. This escape made a deep impression on his mind; and he regarded himself as providentially set apart, as a “brand plucked from the burning.”

He was ordained a deacon in 1725, was elected a fellow of Lincoln College Oxford the following year, and received his MA in 1727. He was his father’s curate for two years, and then returned to Oxford to fulfil his functions as a fellow.

Leading Wesley scholars point to 1725 as the date of Wesley’s conversion. In the year of his ordination he read and began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century. He said the reading of Christian Perfection and Serious Call by the mystic and Nonjuror William Law (1686-1761) gave him a more sublime view of the law of God; and he resolved to keep it, inwardly and outwardly, as sacredly as possible.

The year of his return to Oxford, 1729, marks the beginning of the rise of Methodism. The famous “Holy Club” was formed by John Wesley’s younger brother, Charles Wesley, and some fellow students, derisively called “Methodists” because of their methodical habits.

John Wesley left in 1735 for Savannah, Georgia. In the midst of a devastating storm on the way to Georgia, he was deeply impressed by a group of Moravians who remained calm by singing hymns. In Georgia, he built up a positive relationship with the Moravians. Some of the charges brought against him in Georgia were on account of his unusual liturgical “experiments.” A Journal entry in 1735 reports that he spent three hours “revising” The Book of Common Prayer. This indicates that Wesley’s intense reading of the Church Fathers and writers from the Eastern Orthodox Church influenced his approaches and baffled those who knew him.

But in Georgia, he had an unhappy love affair, which culminated in John's refusal to serve communion to his prospective wife and her husband. Her husband charged John with slander for disgracing his wife's honour. He returned to England in 1738, depressed and beaten.

It was at this point that he turned once again to the Moravians. After his Aldersgate experience of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, when he heard a reading of Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he penned the now famous lines: “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” This revolutionised the character and method of his ministry.

Soon Wesley found most of the parish churches were closed to him, and he preached his first open-air sermon near Bristol in April 1739. Later that year, he formed his first Methodist Society. Similar societies were soon formed in Bristol and Kingswood, and wherever Wesley and his friends made converts.

Wesley and the Methodists were attacked in sermons and in print and at times attacked by mobs.

As early as 1739, he approved of lay preaching and pastoral work, and his first chapel was built that year in Bristol.

As his societies multiplied, and the elements of an ecclesiastical system were gradually adopted, the breach between Wesley and the Church of England widened. But the Wesley brothers refused to leave the Church of England, believing the Anglican Church to be “with all her blemishes … nearer the Scriptural plan than any other in Europe.”

In 1746, he read Lord King on the Primitive Church, and was convinced by this that apostolic succession was a fiction, that in fact that he was “a scriptural episcopos as much as any man in England.” Some years later, Stillingfleet’s Irenicon led him to renounce the opinion that neither Christ nor his apostles prescribed any form of Church government, and to declare ordination valid when performed by a presbyter/priest. It was not until about 40 years later that he ordained by the laying on of hands, and even then only for those who would work outside England.

The Bishop of London continued to refuse to ordain a minister for the American Methodists who were without the sacraments, and so in 1784 Wesley ordained preachers for Scotland and America, with power to administer the sacraments. Although Thomas Coke was already a priest in the Church of England, Wesley consecrated him, by the laying on of hands, to be superintendent in America. He also ordained Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as priests.

Wesley intended that Coke, and Asbury (who was subsequently consecrated in America by Coke) should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church. This alarmed his brother Charles Wesley, who begged him to stop before he had “quite broken down the bridge,” and not “leave an indelible blot on our memory.” Wesley replied that he had not separated from the Church, nor did he intend to, but he must and would save as many souls as he could while alive, “without being careful about what may possibly be when I die.”

Although he rejoiced that the Methodists in America were free, he advised his English followers to remain in the Church of England, and he himself died within it.

He died peacefully on 2 March 1791, and is buried in a small graveyard behind Wesley’s Chapel in City Road, London. Wesley is listed as Number 50 on the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons.

2, Samuel Seabury (1729-1796):

A window in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Edinburgh, commemorating the consecration of Samuel Seabury as a bishop

Samuel Seabury was the first American Episcopal bishop, the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, and the first Bishop of Connecticut.

Seabury was born in Ledyard, Groton, Connecticut, in 1729. His father, also Samuel Seabury (1706-1764), was originally a Congregationalist minister in Groton, but was ordained deacon and priest in the Church of England in 1731, in 1731, and was the Rector of New London, Connecticut, from 1732 to 1743, and in Hempstead, Long Island, from 1743 until his death.

Samuel Seabury (the son) graduated from Yale in 1748. He studied theology with his father, and studied medicine in Edinburgh (1752-1753). He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln and priest by the Bishop of Carlisle (1753). He was the Rector of Christ Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey (1754-1757), Rector of Jamaica, New York (1757-1766), and of Rector of Saint Peter’s, Westchester (now part of the Bronx) (1766-1775).

He was one of the signers of the White Plains protest in April 1775 against all unlawful congresses and committees, and during the American Revolution was a devoted loyalist. He wrote the Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress (1774) by A.W. Farmer (i.e. A Westchester Farmer). This was followed by a second Farmer’s Letter, The Congress Canvassed (1774), answered by Alexander Hamilton in A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the Calumnies of their Enemies. A third Farmer’s Letter replied to Hamilton’s View of the Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, in a broader and abler treatment than in the previous pamphlets. To this third pamphlet Hamilton replied with The Farmer Refuted (1775).

These three Farmer’s Letters – a fourth was advertised but apparently was never published – were forceful presentations of the pro-British claim, written in a plain, hard-headed style. Seabury claimed them in England in 1783 when he was seeking episcopal consecration. At the same time he claimed the authorship of a letter, not signed by a Westchester farmer, which under the title An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New York (1775) discussed the power of this, the only legal political body in the colony. Seabury’s clarity of style and general ease of reading would set him apart from his ecclesiastical colleagues throughout his life.

Seabury was arrested in November 1775 by a mob of Whigs, and was kept in prison in Connecticut for six weeks. He was prevented from carrying out his parochial ministry, and after some time in Long Island he took refuge in New York City, where in 1778 he was appointed chaplain to the King’s American Regiment.

On 25 March 1783, a meeting of 10 Episcopal clergy in Woodbury, Connecticut, elected Seabury bishop as their second choice (their first choice declined for health reasons). There were no Anglican bishops in the Americas to consecrate him, so he sailed to London on 7 July.

In England, however, his consecration was rationalised as impossible because, as an American citizen, he could no longer take the oath of allegiance to monarchy.

Seabury then turned to the nonjuring Scottish Episcopal Church, whose bishops at that time refused to recognise the authority of George III. Seabury was consecrated in Aberdeen on 14 November 1784, with the condition that he would study the Scottish Rite for the Holy Communion and work for its adoption rather than the English rite of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

To the present day, the ECUSA/TEC liturgy follows to the main features of the Scottish Episcopalian rite in one of its Eucharistic liturgies.

The anniversary of Seabury’s consecration is now a lesser feast day in the calendars of both ECUSA/TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Seabury’s consecration by the Scots caused alarm in the (Whig) British government, raising fears of an entirely Jacobite church in the US. Parliament was persuaded to make provision for the consecration of foreign bishops. Seabury’s tenacity made possible a continued relationship between the American and English churches.

Seabury returned to Connecticut in 1785 and made his home in New London, Connecticut, where he was the Rector of Saint James’ Church. At first, the validity of his consecration was questioned by some, but it was recognised by the General Convention of his church in 1789.

In 1790, Seabury took charge of the Diocese of Rhode Island also. In 1792, he joined Bishop William White and Bishop Samuel Provoost, who had received English consecration in 1787, and James Madison (1749-1812), who had received English consecration in 1790, in the consecration of Thomas John Claggett as Bishop of Maryland in 1792, thus uniting the Scottish and the English successions.

Seabury played a decisive role in the evolution of Anglican liturgy in North America after the Revolution. His Communion Office (New London, 1786), was based on the Scottish Book of Common Prayer rather than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Seabury was the probably the only liturgically literate member of the House of Bishops in his day.

Seabury kept strictly his obligation to the Scots to study and quietly advocate their point of view in Eucharistic matters. His defence of the Scottish service – especially its restoration of the epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Spirit, influenced the first Book of Common Prayer adopted by the Episcopal Church in 1789. The Prayer of Consecration in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England ended with the Words of Institution. But the Scottish Rite continued with a Prayer of Oblation based on the ancient classical models of Consecration Prayers found in Roman and Orthodox Christianity.

In addition to the epiclesis, Seabury argued for the restoration of another ancient custom – the weekly celebration of Holy Communion on Sundays. In An Earnest Persuasive to Frequent Communion (New Haven, 1789), he wrote that “when I consider its importance, both on account of the positive command of Christ, and of the many and great benefits we receive from it, I cannot but regret that it does not make a part of every Sunday’s solemnity.”

Seabury was ahead of his time. Two centuries later the custom of a weekly Eucharist was rapidly spreading through many Anglican parishes under the impact of the Liturgical Movement.

Seabury died in New London on 25 February 1796, and he was buried in a small chapel at Saint James’.

3, Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798):

Edward Delaney’s statue in Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798), a leading United Irishman and a member of the Church of Ireland.

Theobald Wolfe Tone was a leading figure in the United Irishmen and is regarded as the father of Irish republicans. He died from a self-inflicted wound after being sentenced to death for his part in the 1798 Rising.

He was born in Dublin in 1763, the son of a coach-maker who was a member of the Church of Ireland. He studied law at Trinity College Dublin and qualified as a barrister from the King’s Inns at the age of 26, and attended the Inns of Court in London. As a student, he eloped with Elizabeth Witherington, daughter of William Witherington, of Dublin, and his wife, Catherine Fanning, and they were married in Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin. Tone and his wife, whom he renamed Matilda, he had two sons and a daughter. She was only 16 when they married, and she lived on for 50 years after his death.

Tone submitted a scheme for founding a military colony in Hawaii, but the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, took no notice of it. Tone then turned to politics. An able pamphlet attacking the administration of the Marquess of Buckingham in 1790 brought him to the notice of the Whig Club, and in September 1791 he wrote an essay using the pseudonym of “A Northern Whig,” of which 10,000 copies were said to have been sold.

About this time, the principles of the French Revolution were being eagerly embraced in Ireland. At a meeting in Belfast two months before Tone’s essay was published, a resolution was passed calling for the abolition of religious disqualifications, “giving the first sign of political sympathy between the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Whigs.” Tone’s essay and that meeting emphasised the growing breach between Whig patriots like Henry Flood and Henry Grattan, who aimed at Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform without breaking the connection with England, and those who sought a separate Irish Republic.

In October 1791, Tone, Thomas Russell (1767-1803) and James Napper Tandy – all three members of the Church of Ireland – and others joined in founding the Society of United Irishmen. In the years that followed, Tone worked closely in his plans for revolution with a Church of England priest, the Revd William Jackson, who came to Ireland to negotiate between the French Committee of Public Safety and the United Irishmen, but Jackson was arrested in April 1794. In May 1795, on the summit of Cave Hill in Belfast, Tone made the famous compact with Russell and Henry Joy McCracken, promising “Never to desist in our efforts until we subvert the authority of England over our country and asserted our independence.”

Tone was arrested on board the Hoche by an English squadron at Rathmullan on Lough Swilly on 12 October 1798. He was sentenced to be hanged on 12 November 1798. Before this sentence was carried out, he suffered a fatal neck wound, self-inflicted according to contemporaries, from which he died a week later at the age of 35 in prison in Dublin. He is buried in the former Church of Ireland churchyard in Bodenstown, Co Kildare.


10.1, Why did the Reformation fail?

10.2, The Boyne and the Penal Laws

10.3, Disestablishment and the Ultramontane triumph

Field-trip: Agreeing date for field trip to Kilkenny.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.

Church History (full-time) 9.2, Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

The Jesuit Saints displayed in the Evie Hone windows in the Prayer Room in the Jesuit Centre for Spirituality, Manresa, Dublin … Jesuit missionary expansion is one of the major features of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

10 a.m.: 9.2:
Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion


One of the major effects of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation was a renewal of missionary endeavours in the Roman Catholic Church. We have seen this morning how the Jesuits, in particular, shaped Roman Catholic mission activities from the mid-16th century on.

New gains were made in northern Europe by the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Capuchins and Jesuits.

The Jesuits, though, were the most effective of the new Catholic orders. The opening lines of their founding document declared the Society of Jesus was founded to “strive especially for the propagation and defence of the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”

What marks the Jesuits out is not only their work in Europe, but also that they opened mission fields in India, Japan, China, Africa, and North and South America.

Those first Jesuits concentrated on a few key activities:

● they founded schools throughout Europe, with Jesuit teachers rigorously trained in both classical studies and theology.

● they sent out missionaries across the world to peoples who had not yet heard the Gospel, founding missions in places as far afield as modern-day Paraguay, Japan, Ontario, and Ethiopia.

By the time Saint Ignatius of Loyola died in 1556, the Jesuits were already running 74 colleges on three continents. The Jesuit contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry.

Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric, and became important centres for the training of lawyers and public officials.

Jesuit missions

Saint Francis Xavier in India … he is a key figure in Jesuit missions in India, Japan and China


Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who is known as the Apostle of the Indies and the Apostle of Japan, was one of the original companions of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He sailed from Lisbon to India in 1541, and arrived in Goa, the Portuguese colony in India, in 1542 to begin his evangelical service in the Indies. His mission work brought him to Travancore, Malacca, the Molucca islands and Sri Lanka.

He arrived in Japan in 1549, the same years the first Book of Common Prayer was published. He died on his way to China in 1552 after a decade of mission work in Southern India.

Under Portuguese royal patronage, the Jesuits thrived in Goa and until 1759 successfully expanded their activities to education and healthcare.


Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan in 1549. The early missions in Japan resulted in the Japanese government granting the Jesuits the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in 1580. Although, this was removed in 1587 due to fears over their growing influence, the strong Christian presence continued in Nagasaki.


Francis Xavier died on his way to China, but the Jesuit mission work there was soon on a firm footing and began to bloom. The Jesuits first entered China through Macau in 1582, when Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was sent to the Portuguese colony.

In 1594, the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano founded the first Roman-style academic institution in the East, Saint Paul Jesuit College in Macau. The college had a great influence on the learning of Eastern languages (Chinese and Japanese) and culture by missionary Jesuits.

In 1601, Ricci settled in Beijing, where he gained favour in the Imperial Court by displaying European scientific inventions and explaining astronomy.

The Jesuit missions in China in the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China. The scientific revolution brought by the Jesuits coincided with a time when scientific innovation had declined in China.

The Jesuits were also active in bringing Chinese knowledge and philosophy to Europe. The works of Confucius were translated into European languages by Jesuit scholars based in China. Matteo Ricci started to report on the thoughts of Confucius, and Father Prospero Intorcetta published the life and works of Confucius into Latin in 1687. Their work had a considerable impact on European thinkers at the time, especially the Deists and other philosophical groups of the Enlightenment.

Two Jesuit missionaries, Johann Grueber and Albert Dorville, reached Lhasa in Tibet in 1661.

South America:

The Mission … a popular portrayal of the conflicts created within Jesuit missionary work in Latin America

Jesuit missions in America were controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments.

The Jesuits were often the only force standing between the Native Americans and slavery. Throughout South America, but especially in present-day Brazil and Paraguay, they formed Christian Native American city-states, called “reductions” (Spanish Reducciones, Portuguese Reduções). These were societies set up according to an idealised theocratic model.

Jesuit priests such as Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded several towns in Brazil in the 16th century, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and were very influential in the pacification, religious conversion and education of Indian nations.

North America:

Jesuit missionaries were active in the French colonies in North America, where they also compiled dictionaries. With the colonisation of New France in North America in the 17th century, the Jesuits played an active role in Canada and the development of the French colony in Quebec from 1625, and later in Montreal and Ottawa.

The Jesuits became involved in the Huron mission in 1626 and lived among the Huron and Iroquois people, until the French colonies fell to Britain.

The suppression of the Jesuits:

It is partly because Jesuits such as Antonio Ruiz de Montoya protected the natives from slavery that the Society of Jesus was suppressed in Spain and Portugal.

In 1759, the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and Portuguese possessions and colonies. By 1767, the Jesuits had been suppressed in Portugal, France, the Two Sicilies, Parma and the Spanish Empire by 1767. Under secular pressure, Pope Clement XIV signed a decree in 1773 suppressing the society throughout the Church.

When Pope Pius VII returned from exile in France to Rome he restored the Jesuits without little delay, issuing the Papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum in 1814.

The impact of Jesuit missions:

Jesuit scholars working in foreign missions studied the local languages and produced Latinised grammars and dictionaries. For example, in Japan they produced a Japanese-Portuguese (1603). A French Jesuit missionary formalised the Vietnamese alphabet still in use today with his 1651 Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary and a Jesuit pioneered the study of Sanskrit in the West in the 1740s.

Just as the voluntary mission agencies rather than the Church itself would be responsible for Anglican mission work, initially the Jesuits and the other religious orders would have responsibility for taking the initiative in Roman Catholic mission work.

That mission work was a natural outgrowth of the Counter-Reformation or the Catholic Reformation, and it was almost a century after Jesuit mission work began when Pope Gregory XV founded the Congregation of Propaganda in 1622 to free missionary work from Spanish and Portuguese secular and political interests.

Mission in the Reformation tradition:

‘Every person, every community, a full life’ … but why were post-Reformation missions so slow in developing?

In the other post-Reformation Churches, there was little notable mission work for the first few decades or centuries.

After the Reformation, for over 100 years, the new Reformation Churches were more occupied with their struggle with Roman Catholics than with any concepts of being missionary-sending churches.

As Europeans migrated to America, they brought their religion with them. German and Dutch Protestants often formed ethnic churches, such as Lutheran Churches in Missouri, or Dutch and German Reformed Churches in Pennsylvania. Most of these ethnic denominations have merged or otherwise reached out to become more diverse and less narrowly ethnic.

English settlers brought both Anglicanism and Puritanism with them. The first English settlers in America, who landed at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, were Anglicans. In 1620, English Puritans landed in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the primary thrust of Protestant evangelism and mission was directed at Roman Catholics who, the reformers felt, were deceived about their salvation and thus in need of a fresh presentation of the Gospel.

Geographical and political limitations hindered the development of missionary activity by European Protestants. During the Reformation, the main emphasis was on reforming the church rather than on mission. Until 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia, Protestants were fighting for survival or engaged in theological controversies. The Protestant powers of the 16th century had little contact with the wider world outside Europe: Spain and Portugal controlled the sea routes.

These geographical and political limitations were reinforced by theological limitations and attitudes to mission. The Thirty Years’ War reinforced the dominant Reformation concept of a regional church – cuius regio, eius religio – under which a ruler had no reasons to support church activity outside his dominion.

This theological climate was slow to change. In 1618, the Synod of Dort – whose strict Calvinism influenced the early 17th century Church of Ireland through Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) of Armagh – declared that the children of heathens were not to be baptised, even if they had been taken into Christian households.

According to the German Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard (died 1637), the command to preach the Gospel to all the world had ceased with the apostles. In 1652, the Lutheran Faculty of Theology at Wittenberg stated that any responsibility the church might have for mission was repudiated on biblical, historical and theological grounds.

There were exceptions to this negative theology of mission: a Swedish mission to the Lapps in 1559, or a failed German group mission in Constantinople between 1577 and 1581 which is said to have converted only one single Turk.

Only after the violent conflicts known as the Wars of Religion ceased with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 did Protestant groups begin to develop a greater interest in evangelising other peoples.

And that is almost a century and a half after Luther nailed his theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, almost a full century after the first Book of Common Prayer was published and after Francis Xavier arrived in India.

Both Stephen Neill and the David Bosch hold that the history of Protestant missions supported officially by the European churches begins in the 18th century with the Pietists of Halle in Germany, who expected the imminent second coming of Christ, preceded by an outpouring of the Spirit on Jews and heathens. However, their emphasis on the salvation of individuals was a narrow missionary aim, providing what Bosch calls “a rather one-sided vertical dimension, with little understanding of man’s cultural relationship and Christ's universal kingdom.”

Anglican missions:

The Revd Thomas Bray (1658-1730) … founder of SPG (later USPG, now Us) and SPCK

So we may ask: What about early Anglican missionary work overseas?

Elizabeth I’s charter in 1583 for the first English colony in North America referred to the compassion of God “for poor infidels, it seeming probable that God hath reserved these Gentiles to be introduced into Christian civility by the English nation.” Charles I’s charter for Massachusetts stated that the principal end of the plantation was to “win and invite the natives of the country to the knowledge of the only true God and Saviour of mankind and the Christian faith.”

Despite these sentiments, the Anglican settlers in America and the West Indies, from both Ireland and England, and those “poor infidels” were left without episcopal care for two centuries. As a direct response to this neglect of the settlers by the bishops, Thomas Bray, who had worked in Maryland, was responsible for founding the two earliest Anglican mission societies, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1698, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG, later USPG and now Us ) three years later in 1701.

While the SPCK had a more universal mission in mind, Bray imagined SPG providing the men and the means for missionary work in the New World, especially among the Black and Indian peoples. SPG’s founding charter defined its main work as caring for the needs of Anglicans in America and the West Indies. But in 1710, the society carried two resolutions stating that its work related principally to “the conversion of heathen and infidels”, and calling for “itinerant missionaries” to preach the Gospel among the “Six Nations of the Indians.”

In pursuance of this plan, SPG missionaries devoted themselves to working in many parts of America and the West Indies among the Native peoples and the slaves.

Anglican missionary endeavours in India were slow to begin because of the open opposition of the East India Company. Anglican missionary work in Africa began in 1751, when the Revd Thomas Thompson, an SPG missionary in New Jersey, offered to go to the Gold Ghost (Ghana). Anglican efforts in Latin America were less organised, owing to a policy of not attempting to convert nominal Christians, and the fact that the only British colonies there were British Honduras and British Guiana.

Bishop George Berkeley, an early Irish missionary with SPG in North America

Early Irish missionaries who worked with SPG included the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753), from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, who later became Bishop of Cloyne back in Ireland, and the brothers John and Charles Wesley.

For almost a century, Anglican mission work remained the preserve of the SPG. However, SPG was seen as part of the political and ecclesiastical establishment. Because of its charter, SPG found it difficult to extend its mission work beyond the colonies. It was also seen as primarily a High Church mission agency, and in reaction to both of these perceptions, a second Anglican mission agency was founded by English evangelicals in 1799: the Church Mission[ary] Society was the first voluntary, membership-based Anglican mission agency.

The expansion of British influence through trade and colonialism opened new territories as potential mission fields for Anglicans in the 19th century. When the East India Company’s charter was being renewed, there were fresh demands for the right of missionaries to work India, with the government conceding eventually in 1833. The first Protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison (1782-1834), arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) in 1807, and commercial and political pressure on China, culminating in the Opium War and the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, had the ironic consequence of opening China to Anglican mission work. The first CMS missionaries in China included Canon Thomas McClatchie (1814-1885) from Dublin, who arrived in China in 1844.

The 19th century saw a real expansion of Anglican missionary activity in other parts of the world. The first Anglican missionaries from CMS arrived in New Zealand in 1814, and Anglican missionary work began also in Iran (1811), Palestine (1816), Egypt (1818), Japan (1858) and Korea (1865).

The influence of the Pietists

Key theological events gave a new shape and focus to Anglican mission work in the 19th century. Through the Pietists, the evangelical revival spread to England, influencing men like John Wesley, a former SPG missionary, as well as giving rise to new movements for social reform and change with men like William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) and Charles Simeon (1759-1836), one of the founders of CMS, campaigning against the slave trade and against industrial working conditions. The movement known as the ‘second evangelical revival,’ which crossed the Atlantic from America to Britain and Ireland in 1858, was linked with the formation of religious and evangelical societies, including missionary bodies, and gave new impetus to societies already existing, including CMS.

The Wesleys and subsequent Anglican mission work was strongly influenced by Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a German Protestant who became one of the early advocates for missionary work. He worked closely with the Moravians, a Bohemian group of believers that had developed from the ministry of Jan Hus (1369-1415) ministry even before Luther.

These Moravians had migrated north and had settled on lands belonging to Zinzendorf. Together they initiated the first major organised Protestant missionary efforts, and they sent missionaries (usually lay people, not clergy) to the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Far East.

The sobriquet “Methodist” was originally given in 1729 to a group at Oxford known as the Holy Club and led by John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley traced the “first rise” of Methodism to those early years, and the second stage to 1736 when the “rudiments of a Methodist society” appeared in Georgia, where the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, were working as Anglican priests and missionaries with SPG.

During their voyage to America, and their stay in Georgia, the Wesley brothers were deeply influenced by the Moravians, who in turn had taken on much of the teachings and experiences of the German Pietists. But John Wesley alienated the colonists, and returned to England in 1737. Then, in 1738, John Wesley helped to reframe the rules of an Anglican society that met in Fetter Lane, London.

The Church of Ireland and Missionary Work:

At this time, the SPG served as the main missionary society for both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. But there were few opportunities and few volunteers for missionary service.

Those who offered themselves for missionary work usually went to the colonies, principally in America.

Charles Inglis (1734-1816) of Glencolumbkille, Co Donegal, is an interesting encapsulation of the missionary involvement of some of the clergy of the Church of Ireland at this time. The son, grandson and great-grandson of parish clergy, he was ordained by the Bishop of London for the parish of Dover in Delaware. There he also worked among the Mohawk Indians, and urged the need for a bishop for the colonies.

In 1765, he settled in New York as assistant in Trinity Church, Wall Street, to Dr Samuel Auchmuty, a nephew of the Dean of Armagh. Inglis succeeded Auchmuty as Rector in 1777, shortly after the American Declaration of Independence.

But Inglis suffered for his adherence to the loyalist cause. He was attainted in 1779, and all his property was confiscated. Trinity Church was destroyed and Inglis moved with his family and 30,000 other loyalist emigrants to Nova Scotia in 1783. He was succeeded as rector of Trinity Church by Samuel Provoost, one of the first bishops of the Episcopal Church, and a son-in-law of Iboreas Bousfield, a wealthy banker in Co Cork.

Soon after American independence, George Seabury was consecrated by the bishops of the nonjuring Episcopal Church of Scotland in Aberdeen in 1784. Only then was the wisdom of Inglis’s earlier demands for bishops to serve in the colonies realised at last, if not too lately, and in 1787 Charles Inglis was consecrated in Lambeth Palace as Bishop of Nova Scotia, with jurisdiction also over Quebec, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, although his burden was eased in 1793 with the creation of the Diocese of Quebec.

Two months later, in the first Anglican ordination in Canada, Inglis ordained his own nephew, Archibald Inglis, and in 1790 he laid the foundation stone for the first university founded overseas after the loss of the American colonies.

In 1825, Charles Inglis’s son, John Inglis, became the third Bishop of Nova Scotia.

Back in Ireland, the Association for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (APCK) was founded as the Association for Discountenancing Vice and Promoting the Knowledge and Practice of the Christian Religion in 1792, and it was incorporated in 1800. Its work included the distribution of bibles, prayer books and tracts, and it later went on to found and support schools.

CMS, founded in London in 1799, soon had supporters in Ireland. The Hibernian Church Missionary Society, founded in 1814, is now known as the Church Mission Society Ireland (CMS Ireland). Its missionaries first concentrated on those parts of Africa and Asia not open to SPG missionaries under the terms of its charter.

David Livingstone’s account of his travels in Africa in a speech in Cambridge in 1857 generated new missionary enthusiasm that gave rise to the formation of new missionary societies at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Dublin and Durham, and the eventual formation of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), bringing the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism into missionary work.

A unique outgrowth of the work of both SPG and CMS Ireland was the formation of two university missions in Dublin, modelled on the Oxford and Cambridge Missions to Delhi and Calcutta: the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, which worked principally in China, and, five years later in 1890, of the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur, which worked in India.

But we have moved ahead of ourselves, and we need to return to what was happening in the Church in Europe in the 18th century.


9.3: Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.

Church History (full-time) 9.1, Trent and Jesuits: Catholic expansion

The Council of Trent … formulated the main elements of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

This week:

9.1: Trent and Jesuits: Catholic expansion;

9.2: Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

9.3: Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged


Two weeks ago [8 February 2013], we looked at the John Wycliffe and the Lollards, Jan Hus and the Hussites, and Erasmus and the dawning of Renaissance scholarship, and we asked whether they were forerunners of the 16th Reformations in Europe. We then looked at examples of the writings of three key Reformation figures – Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. And then we looked specifically at the unfolding of the Anglican Reformation in both England and Ireland.

The Counter-Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation, was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and ending at the close of the Thirty Years’ War (1648).

There are four major elements in the Counter-Reformation:

● Ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration
● Religious orders
● Spiritual movements
● Political dimensions

The reforms included:

● the foundation of seminaries for training priests spiritually and theologically,
● the reform of the religious orders,
● the foundation of new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.

It also involved:

● political activities that included the Roman Inquisition.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563):

The Council of Trent is regarded by Roman Catholics as one of the most important Church councils. It met in Trento in northern Italy from 13 December 1545 to 4 December 1563, not in one continuous sitting but in 25 sessions for three periods over those 18 years. The Council was interrupted several times because of political and religious disagreements.

Popes of the Council of Trent … Paul II, Julius III and Pius IV

When Pope Paul II was pope, the Council met for the first eight sessions in Trent (1545-1547), and for the ninth, tenth and eleventh sessions in Bologna (1547).

Under Pope Julius III the Council met in Trent (1551-1552) for the 12th to the 16th sessions.

Under Pope Pius IV, the 17th to the 25th sessions met in Trent (1559-1563).

The Council issued condemnations of what it defined as Protestant heresies of the time of the Reformation and defined Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees. By specifying doctrine on salvation, the sacraments, and the canon of Scripture, the Council was answering criticism from the Reformers.

The Council entrusted the Pope with the implementation of its work. As a result, Pope Pius IV issued the Tridentine Creed (1565); and Pope Pius V issued the Roman Catechism (1566), a revised Roman Breviary (1568), and a revised Roman Missal (1570).

The Tridentine Mass became the standard liturgy for much of the Roman Catholic Church (Trent is known in Latin as Tridentum).

In 1592, Pope Clement VIII issued a revised edition of the Vulgate Bible.

The Council is often described as the climax of the Counter-Reformation movement. But we could see it too as a major reform council.

Of course, there were other Church councils before Trent. The Fifth Lateran Council came to a close on 16 March 1517, with a number of reform proposals in areas such as the selection of bishops, taxation, censorship and preaching. But it had not addressed the major problems that confronted the Church in Germany and other parts of Europe. And a few months later, on 31 October 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses in Wittenberg.

In 1520, Luther appealed to the German princes to attack the papal Church, if necessary with a council in Germany, open and free of the Papacy. In the previous century, Pope Pius II, in his bull Execrabilis (1460) and in his reply to the University of Cologne (1463), had unilaterally set aside the principle of the supremacy of general councils, which had been accepted at the Council of Constance 1414-1418.

Pope Leo X, in his bull Exsurge Domine (1520), condemned as heresy 52 sentences of Luther. In reply, Luther burned the document and appealed for a general council, and German opinion seemed to agree that a council was the best method to reconcile differences.

It took a generation for the council to materialise. It was delayed partly because of papal reluctance, given that one of the Lutheran demands was the exclusion of the papacy from the Council. But it was also delayed because of political rivalries between France and Germany and the Turkish threat in the Mediterranean.

Remember that while Clement VII was Pope (1523-1534), the troops of the Emperor Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, “raping, killing, burning, stealing, the like had not been seen since the Vandals.”

It is said Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were used for stabling horses. Charles V strongly favoured a council, but needed the support of King Francis I of France, who attacked him militarily. Francis I generally opposed a general council due to partial support of the Protestant cause in France.

In 1533, he complicated matters further when he suggested a general council that included both Catholic and Protestant rulers of Europe who would devise a compromise between the two theological positions. This proposal was opposed by the Pope who feared it gave recognition to Protestants and elevate the secular Princes of Europe above the clergy on Church affairs.

Pope Paul III (1534-1549) realised that the Reformations had won over various princes, particularly in Germany, and realised the need to call a council. However, his first proposal was unanimously opposed by the cardinals.

Eventually, both the Emperor and Pope tried to convene a council. In 1537, Paul III issued a decree calling a general council in Mantua, beginning on 23 May 1537. Luther wrote the Smalcald Articles in preparation for the general council, defining where Lutherans could and could not compromise.

However, the council failed to meet when another war broke out between France and Charles V and when the French bishops did not turn up. Meanwhile, the German Protestants, who had just suffered a defeat at the hands of Charles V, also refused to attend.

In the autumn of 1537, the Pope moved the council to Vicenza, but the attendance there was poor too. On 21 May 1539, the Council was postponed indefinitely, and Pope Paul III then initiated several internal Church reforms.

Meanwhile, Charles V called a meeting with Protestants in Regensburg, the seat of the German Diet, but this failed to find accord between Catholics and Protestant because of different concepts of the Church and of justification.

When it eventually met, the Council of Trent opened on 13 December 1545, shortly before Luther’s death on 18 February 1546. The Pope moved the council to Bologna in March 1547 on the pretext of avoiding a plague, but eventually the council was prorogued indefinitely on 17 September 1549.

The Council reopened in Trent on 1 May 1551 when it was recalled by Pope Julius III (1550-1555), but it broke up with the sudden victory of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, over Charles V and his march into Tyrol on 28 April 1552.

There was no hope of reassembling the council while the very anti-Protestant Paul IV was Pope. The council was reconvened by Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) for the last time, meeting from 18 January 1562, and continuing until 4 December 1563. It closed with a series of acclamations of acceptance of the faith of the Council and its decrees, and of anathema for all heretics.

Three phases, three Irish bishops:

We can divide the history of the council into three distinct periods: 1545-1549, 1551-1552 and 1562-1563.

During the second period, the Protestants present asked for renewed discussion on points already defined and for bishops to be released from their oaths of allegiance to the Pope.

When the last period began, all hope of reconciliation with the Protestant Reformers had been lost and the Jesuits had become a dominant force in the Roman Catholic Church.

The number of attending members in the three periods varied considerably. The council was small to begin with, it increased toward the close, but it never achieved the numbers at the First Council of Nicaea (325, 318 present), nor Vatican I (1869-1870, 744 present).

Three Irish bishops were present at the Council of Trent:

● The Bishop of Achonry, Eugene (Owen) O’Hart, who returned to Ireland as the Church of Ireland Bishop of Achonry, but was still recognised as the Roman Catholic bishop. He was buried at Achonry Cathedral when he died in 1603 in the hundredth year of his age, and was succeeded by the notorious pluralist Miler Magrath.

● The Bishop of Raphoe, Daniel Magonigle, a native of Killybegs, Co Donegal, who was also recognised as the Church of Ireland bishop of the diocese from 1563 until he died in 1589.

● The Bishop of Ross, Thomas O’Herlihy, who died in 1579 – he too is recognised in the Church of Ireland succession lists.

The decrees were signed by 255 members, including four papal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, 25 archbishops, and 168 bishops, two-thirds of whom were Italians. The Italian and Spanish prelates were the vast majority in attendance and in contributions to the debates. When the most important decrees were passed, no more than 60 prelates were present.

The main object of the council was twofold, although there were other discussions: To condemn Protestant principles and to clarify the doctrines of the Catholic Church on all disputed points; and to effect a reformation in discipline or administration.

Charles V’s intention was for a general or truly ecumenical council, at which the Protestant reformers had a fair hearing. At the council’s second period (1551-1553), Protestant reformers were invited twice to be present and the council issued a letter of safe conduct to the 13th session, offering them the right of discussion, but denying them a vote.

Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Brenz and some other German Lutherans, started out on the journey to Trent in 1552. But the refusal to give the Protestant reformers a vote effectively put an end to their co-operation.

Corruption in the administration of the Church was one of the many causes of the Reformation. The council abolished some of the most notorious abuses and introduced or recommended disciplinary reforms affecting the sale of indulgences, the morals of convents, the education of the clergy, the non-residence of bishops, bishops having plurality of benefices, censures and duelling.

Although there were some statements on the authority of the Scriptures and justification by faith, no concessions were made to Protestantism. Instead, the council agreed that the Church is the ultimate interpreter of Scripture, and the Bible and Church Tradition (not mere customs but the ancient tradition that made up part of the faith) were equally authoritative.

The relationship between faith and works in salvation was defined in response to Luther’s understanding of “justification by faith alone.”

Other Catholic practices that were criticised by the reformers, such as indulgences, pilgrimages, the veneration of saints and relics, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary were strongly reaffirmed, though abuses of them, such as the sale of indulgences, were forbidden. Decrees concerning sacred music and religious art, though inexplicit, were later built on by theologians and writers to condemn many types of Renaissance and medieval styles and iconographies, with a strong impact on the development of these art forms.

The doctrinal decisions of the council are divided into decrees (decreta), which contain the positive statement of the conciliar dogmas, and into short canons (canones), which condemn the dissenting Protestant views with the concluding anathema sit (“let him be anathema”).

Canons and decrees:

The doctrinal acts of the Council of Trent include:

● The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was affirmed (third session).
● A decree was passed confirming that the Deuterocanonical books were on a par with the other canonical books, against Luther’s placement of these books in the Apocrypha of his edition (fourth session).
● That decree also co-ordinated church tradition with the Scriptures as a rule of faith.
● The Vulgate translation was affirmed as authoritative for the text of Scripture.
● Justification was declared to be offered upon the basis of human co-operation with divine grace as opposed to the concept of passive reception of grace (sixth session).
● Understanding the idea of “faith alone” doctrine to be one of simple human confidence in divine mercy, the Council rejected the “vain confidence” of Protestants, stating that no one can know who has received the grace of God.
● The Council affirmed that the grace of God can be forfeited through mortal sin.
● The seven sacraments were reaffirmed.
● The Eucharist pronounced to be a true propitiatory sacrifice as well as a sacrament, in which the bread and wine were consecrated as the body and blood of Christ (13th and 22nd sessions).
● The term transubstantiation was used by the Council, but the specific Aristotelian explanation given in Scholasticism was not cited as dogmatic. Instead, the decree states that Christ is “really, truly, substantially present” in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.
● The sacrifice of the Mass was to be offered for dead and living alike and in giving to the apostles the command “do this in remembrance of me,” Christ conferred upon them a sacerdotal power.
● The practice of withholding the cup from the laity was confirmed (21st session) as one the Church Fathers had commanded for good and sufficient reasons; yet in certain cases the Pope was made the supreme arbiter as to whether the rule should be strictly maintained.
● Ordination was defined to imprint an indelible character on the soul (23rd session). The priesthood of the New Testament takes the place of the Levitical priesthood. The consent of the people is not necessary for the performance of its functions.
● In the decrees on marriage (24th session), the excellence of the celibate state was reaffirmed, concubinage condemned and the validity of marriage made dependent upon the wedding taking place before a priest and two witnesses, although the lack of a requirement for parental consent ended a debate that had proceeded from the 12th century.
● In the case of a divorce, the right of the innocent party to marry again was denied so long as the other party was alive, even if the other party had committed adultery.
● The doctrines of purgatory, the invocation of saints and the veneration of relics were reaffirmed, as was also the efficacy of indulgences as dispensed by the Church according to the power given to it, but with some cautionary recommendations, and a ban on the sale of indulgences (25th and last session).

Short and rather inexplicit passages concerning religious images, were to have great impact on the development of Christian art. Much more than the Second Council of Nicaea (787), the Council fathers of Trent stressed the pedagogical purpose of Christian images.

At the 18th session (1562), the council appointed a commission to prepare a list of forbidden books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, but it later left the matter to the Pope.

The preparation of a catechism and the revision of the Breviary and the Missal were also left to the pope. The catechism embodied the council’s far-reaching results, including reforms and definitions of the sacraments, the Scriptures, church dogma, and the duties of the clergy.

As it was adjourning, the Council asked the Pope to ratify all its decrees and definitions. On 26 January 1564, Pope Pius IV issued the papal bull, Benedictus Deus. This imposes strict obedience upon all Catholics and forbids, under pain of excommunication, all unauthorised interpretation, reserving this to the Pope alone.

The Jesuits

The Jesuit Saints ... one of the Evie Hone windows in the Prayer Room in the Jesuit Centre for Spirituality, Manresa, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

New religious orders were a fundamental part of the Counter Reformation or Catholic Reformation. Orders such as the Capuchins, Ursulines, Discalced Carmelites and especially the Jesuits set examples of Catholic renewal.

The Capuchins, an offshoot of the Franciscans, were notable for their preaching and for their care for the poor and the sick, and they grew rapidly. The Ursulines focused on the special task of educating girls. The Jesuits, though, were the most effective of the new Catholic orders.

The Society of Jesus or Jesuits, who played a key role in the Counter-Reformation, were founded by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in 1534 with six other young men, including Saint Francis Xavier, who professed vows of poverty, chastity, and later obedience, including a special vow of obedience to the Pope.

The term “Jesuit,” like the names “Methodist” and “Quaker” was first used as a term of reproach and was never used by Ignatius, although members and friends of the Society in time appropriated the name in its positive meaning. The Jesuits were an important force in the Counter-Reformation and in the Catholic missions, in part because their relatively loose structure allowed them to be flexible to meet the needs of the Church as they arose and changed.

Ignatius’s plan for the society’s organisation was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. The opening lines of the founding document declared the Society of Jesus was founded to “strive especially for the propagation and defence of the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”

The founders met on 15 August 1534 in Montmartre, then on the edges of Paris, in a crypt beneath the church of Saint Denis, now Saint Pierre de Montmartre. In 1537, they travelled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III commended them and permitted them to be ordained priests.

The Society of Jesus was subsequently founded in 1540, and the first Jesuits were ordained in Venice by the Bishop of Arbe. Initially, they devoted themselves to preaching and charitable work in Italy at the height of Charles V’s wars in Italy.

Ignatius was their first superior-general, and he sent Jesuits as missionaries throughout Europe to set up schools, colleges, and seminaries.

Those first Jesuits concentrated on a few key activities:

● they founded schools throughout Europe, with Jesuit teachers rigorously trained in both classical studies and theology.
● they sent out missionaries across the world to peoples who had not yet heard the Gospel, founding missions in places as far afield as modern-day Paraguay, Japan, Ontario, and Ethiopia.

The Jesuit Constitutions, written by Ignatius and adopted in 1554, created a tightly centralised organisation and stressed total abnegation and obedience to the Pope and their religious superiors.

As part of their service to the Church, the Jesuits encouraged people to continue their obedience to Scripture as interpreted by Catholic doctrine. Ignatius wrote: “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it.”

Yet Ignatius and the early Jesuits recognised that the Church was in need of reform. Some of their greatest struggles were against corruption, venality and spiritual lassitude within the Church. Ignatius’s insistence on a high level of academic preparation for ministry, for instance, was a deliberate response to the relatively poor education of many of the clergy at the time. The Jesuit vow against “ambitioning prelacies” was a deliberate effort to prevent greed for money or power invading Jesuit circles.

Despite all this, Ignatius and his successors often tangled with the Pope and the Roman Curia.

Saint Ignatius and the Jesuits who followed him believed that the reform of the Church had to begin with the conversion of an individual’s heart. One of the main tools the Jesuits used to bring about this conversion has been the Ignatian retreat or Spiritual Exercises, which many of us heard about during our Ash Wednesday retreat in Manresa last week.

The Jesuit contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry. By the time Ignatius died in 1556, the Jesuits were already running 74 colleges on three continents. A precursor to liberal education, the Jesuit plan of studies incorporated the Classical teachings of Renaissance humanism into the Scholastic structure of Catholic thought.

In addition to teaching faith, the Ratio Studiorum emphasised the study of Latin, Greek, classical literature, poetry, and philosophy as well as non-European languages, sciences and the arts. Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric, and became important centres for the training of lawyers and public officials.

The Jesuit schools played an important Counter-Reformation role in winning back to Rome a number of European countries that had for a time been predominantly Protestant, including Poland and Lithuania.

Spiritual Reformers:

Spiritual reformers … Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Philip Neri and John of the Cross

As a sign of their combined impact on the Catholic Reformation, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595) and Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) were canonised on the same day, 12 March 1622. In many ways, this illustrates how the Catholic Reformation was not only a political and Church policy oriented movement, for it included major figures who added to the spirituality of the Roman Catholic Church, including Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales and Philip Neri.

Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) were Spanish Carmelite mystics and reformers of the Carmelite Order whose ministry focused on interior conversion to Christ, the deepening of prayer and commitment to God’s will.

Saint Teresa was given the task of developing and writing about the way to perfection in her love and unity with Christ. Her publications, especially her autobiography The Life of Teresa of Jesus is a classic of theology and spirituality.

Saint John of the Cross has been called the greatest of all mystical theologians. He served as both a confessor and a spiritual director within the cloistered communities that he and Saint Teresa of Ávila helped to establish, but he also helped build a number of those convents and monasteries.

The spirituality of Saint Philip Neri, who lived in Rome at the same time as Ignatius, was practically oriented too, but totally opposite to the Jesuit approach. He said: “If I have a real problem, I contemplate what Ignatius would do ... and then I do the exact opposite.”

Although Philip Neri refrained from becoming involved in political matters, he broke this rule in 1593 when he persuaded Pope Clement VIII to withdraw the excommunication and anathema imposed on King Henry IV of France, and his refusal to receive the French ambassador, even though the king had formally renounced his past Calvinism.

Philip Neri saw that the pope’s attitude was more than likely to drive Henry IV back to Calvinism, and probably to rekindle the civil war in France. Philip Neri bravely directed Baronius, then the pope’s confessor, to refuse him absolution, and to resign his office of confessor, unless he would withdraw the anathema.

Clement VIII yielded at once, although the College of Cardinals had unanimously supported his policy. Henry only learned the facts several years later.

So we cannot say that the Catholic Reformation was one coherent and cohesive movement. But we can say that it changed the face of European Christianity, so that the Roman Catholic Church is not simply a continuity of the Western Latin pre-Reformation Church, but another Reformation expression of the Church, alongside Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists.


9.2: Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

Appendix 1: The Tridentine Creed

I, N, with a firm faith believe and profess each and everything which is contained in the Creed which the Holy Roman Church maketh use of. To wit:

I believe in one God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary: and was made man. He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, and who spoke through the prophets. And one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I also admit the Holy Scripture according to that sense which our holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, to whom it belongeth to judge of the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

I also profess that there are truly and properly Seven Sacraments of the New Law, instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, though not all for every one; to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony; and that they confer grace; and that of these, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders cannot be reiterated without sacrilege.

I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of the aforesaid sacraments.

I embrace and receive all and every one of the things which have been defined and declared in the holy Council of Trent concerning original sin and justification.

I profess, likewise, that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially, the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is made a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood, which conversion the Catholic Church calls Transubstantiation. I also confess that under either kind alone Christ is received whole and entire, and a true sacrament.

I constantly hold that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful. Likewise, that the saints, reigning together with Christ, are to be honoured and invoked, and that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to be venerated.

I most firmly assert that the images of Christ, of the Mother of God, ever virgin, and also of other Saints, ought to be had and retained, and that due honour and veneration is to be given them.

I also affirm that the power of indulgences was left by Christ in the Church, and that the use of them is most wholesome to Christian people.

I acknowledge the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church as the mother and mistress of all churches; and I promise true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.

I likewise undoubtedly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred Canons, and general Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent, and by the ecumenical Council of the Vatican, particularly concerning the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching. I condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies which the Church hath condemned, rejected, and anathematized.

This true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved, which I now freely profess and to which I truly adhere, inviolate and with firm constancy until the last breath of life, I do so profess and swear to maintain with the help of God. And I shall strive, as far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and professed by all those over whom I have charge. I N. do so pledge, promise, and swear, so help me God and these Holy Gospels.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.