Monday, October 11, 2010

Bullinger and the English Church

Through the Marian exiles who spent time in Zurich as well as through his correspondence Bullinger exerted significant influence on the church in England. The competing imputs to the English church from Zurich and Geneva may be seen in the following quotation from Torrance Kirby:

“The Admonition Controversy, with its focus upon the institutions of ecclesiastical discipline and the jurisdiction of both magistrate and bishops, was in may ways a reply in England of the disagreement over excommunication which erupted in the Palatinate in the late 1560’s. Caspar Olevianus, Court preacher in Heidelberg, had sought a ‘purer’ church with powers of discipline independent of the Magistrate; he was opposed by Thomas Erastus who defended the magisterial supremacy. This exchange concerning the disciplinary power of excommunication escalated into a full-scale dispute over the first principles of ecclesiology and the fundamental nature of the authority of scripture. Bullinger interceded with the Elector Friedrich III in support of his erstwhile pupil Erastus and set out reasons for his opposition to the conduct of church discipline by presbyters independently of the civil magistrate, a position shortly reiterated with events across the channel. The Heidelberg dispute highlights the difference between the Zurich and the Geneva ‘brands’ pf Reform on the question of both the distinction and the interconnection between ministerial and magisterial jurisdiction. The result was something of a compromise between the two principal exemplars of a Reformed ecclesiology; by 1570 a presbytery had been established in Heidelberg although its power to excommunicate was subject to the consent of the magistrate. Bullinger’s reaction with respect to the English proponents of the disciplina – such as Field and Wilcox, as well as Walter Travers and Thomas Cartwright – is to view their challenge to the Elizabethan establishment largely in terms of this continental dispute, and to assure Bishop Sandys of his sold support of the status quo. England had become yet another battleground between two competing visions of Reformed ecclesiastical polity with the Queen and her Zurich-trained bench of bishops ranged in support of the Tigurine model now openly challenged by disciplinarian critics of 1559 Settlement, all sympathizers of the example of Geneva. Bullinger’s 1574 response to Sandys in support of the Elizabethan establishment may be taken as emblematic of the prophetical role he exercised towards England throughout his career”
(Torrance Kirby, “The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology” (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp37,38)

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