Archive for category Church of England

My English ancestors and St Leonards Church

Over the years I have always known my Sutherland name has implications of Scottish ancestry. Over recent years I have uncovered those details and yes, my Scottish ancestors go back to the ancient Kirk of Scotland, Dunrobin Castle and beyond. But what of my English ancestors on my mothers side?

My mother’s ancestors, on my grandmothers side, descend from Welsh origin through the surname of my great grandfather Henry Jones. Yet my mothers father was English through and through.

This grandfathers surname was Smithies, a direct ancestry that can be traced back to an area in Northern England known as Middleton. Here my English ancestors have direct connections with St Leonards, an ancient parish with a Church on a hill. It was here, at St Leonards, where 16th century reformer John Bradford preached and also directly referenced in his farewell to Lancashire and Cheshire. Bradford pleaded with them “Turn unto the Lord, yet once more – I heartily beseech thee.”

The Church was established in Saxon times and was also the place where the Lindsfarne Gospels and the bones of St Cuthbert were temporally kept. The Church was also attended by the Bamford family, from whom came Samuel Bamford.

At present the baptismal records directly trace my Smithies ancestors to 1658. This is a fantastic discovery for me knowing that I have been walking in the footsteps of my ancestors.

For me, after 35 years of being a Christian, I am resolved to know that in the Church of England I am standing in the right place.

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Are independent Churches in the New Testament?

The English word ‘Church’ has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The most common is a building, a place of worship, of bricks and mortar, history, structures and things. The original English word however is derived from the Greek adjective Kyriakos meaning ‘the Lord’s House’.

Church in the New Testament however is from the Greek Ekklesia, meaning Congregation. Tyndale’s 1526 and 1534 Translations immediately spring to mind here. For Tyndale, the Christian Church was never a building or a hierarchy of bishops, popes and prelates, but a collective of equal souls, united in faith and bound together through the Bible. This concept is entirely Biblical, and even though the early New Testament Church did not have the entire Canon of Scripture, they had the Apostles teaching.

For them, the Ekklesia, was not merely a gentile thing, but was known and lived among the Jews.

While there certainly were many ‘Churches’ scattered throughout the cities of the New Testament, most, if not all of them were house Churches. I have visited many ancient sites throughout the Biblical lands and a majority of early ‘Church’ buildings were constructed centuries later. Despite this, the New Testament recognises there is only one Church. The modern ideas of pulling out of one Church and setting up your own is alien to the New Testament. Likewise, the idea of popery and one man leadership is unknown. What we see is a plurality of elders and deacons and a collective of equal souls.

In the New Testament, whether a Church be in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus or Rome, it saw itself as one body. It was a heavenly reality, being built in this world and on this earth, where Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of the Father and in the midst of the Church (Hebrews 2: 12) and is head over her (Ephesians 1: 20-23)

Today however, because of false teachers and false doctrine, divisions are as common as muck. Because of circumstances, historic divisions, tribalism, the idea of one Church (in a context) simply does not work. I say this because no person who actually believes the Bible and knows that truth, can abide with a fake unity that excludes truth. As though right doctrine can be set aside, and categorised as unimportant in the cause of unifying people. It really doesn’t work!

But in Acts 21: 20, when they heard they glorified the Lord and many thousands of people believed. Other Churches grew and when Peter wrote his epistles, Churches had scattered to the south coast of Black Sea, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1: 1) and this is in the context of persecution.

Thankfully, in England, we do not have any set persecution. Individuals may seek to undermine the faith and push down conservative values, but that will get them nowhere in the long run. A democratic society must be founded on freedom of conscience, belief and speech, otherwise we are not a democracy. So long as Christians do not attempt to force their beliefs on others, we are free to maintain them. If anyone seeks to force their beliefs and ethics upon us, they are guilty of doing what they condemn others of. Simply let them do their worst and their own extremist mindsets will expose their deeds.

This is actually quite a picture of the Church in the New Testament. Believers lived their lives, had families, met together, and the world did what the world always does. The New Testament Church never persecuted anyone, but visa versa. When read in this context, Romans 13: 1-7 makes perfect sense. The Church influences society, and works with the governments, but does not not rule them.

This is where todays independent Churches have got it right. However, I have come to understand that the idea of independent churches is unknown to the New Testament. Christ did not say I will build my churches but “I will build My Church…” (Matthew 16: 18). New Testament Churches may well have been established in various cities, but they were still part of one Church.

Thus, to answer my question, are independent Churches in the New Testament? My answer is no. But again, that is just my opinion.

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Relics of Deane Church and Peel Chapel found!

Recently I had the honour of finding two historic relics connected to the ancient Parish Church of Deane. These wooden artefacts are mysterious and contain distinct wood carvings and contain the dates 1632 and 1760.

But what could they be? Well, as the picture shows they appear to be designed as frames to display items. This implies the intention behind these designs may well have been to hold objects of historic or cultural significance. Another possibility is that they were designed to hold family portraits and wood from two buildings that have survived the passage of time.

When these relics were brought to my attention, I recognised the reference to Deane Church. I immediately contacted Lee Higson (CVM, Lay minister C of E) and local Church historian Eric Morgan. Upon viewing the second relic I recognised a link. The reference to Peel Chapel implied these relics were artefacts preserved from internal structures and a building that has long disappeared. Peel Chapel was built in 1760 and demolished in 1874, and was a daughter Church of Deane.

The artefacts read:

Relic of Deane Church 1632

Relic of Peel Chapel 1760

The word relic is an interesting one and can have multiple meanings. The most common usage refers to venerated items of a saint. The church of Rome for example has many examples of relics allegedly connected to passages of Scripture or the lives of saints. In that context they are generally regarded as First, Second or Third Class Relics. Another usage is Contact Relics. However, I do not believe these items have anything to do with these classes or distinctions.

I believe these artefacts are what is known as Cultural Relics. This means the items are part of something that has long disappeared. They are basically keep sakes, recycled from historic structures of Deane Church and Peel Chapel.

These finds are thrilling and a special moment for any historian or history fanatic. For me, finding these relics was an extra special delight since Deane Church is the ancient place of worship once attended by George Marsh (1515-1555). As a Curate, Marsh ministered in this very Church, and is also the subject of a historical biographical documentary I released in 2014. Although there is no evidence the relics relate to Marsh, a 17th century Puritan link is possible.

Bolton and Deane was known historically as the Geneva of Lancashire and the tradition that 17th century Puritans would often get together and read the letters of George Marsh is widely established. These meetings are said to have taken place around the Noon Hill, Rivington Moor area. It should be noted that 1632 (the date on the relic) was the date when Charles 1 issued a charter for the colony of Maryland and 1620-1640 is the official timeframe for the Puritan Migration to New England. Maybe the first of the two relics are connected to structures or pews once used by Puritans in Deane Church?

These relics have now been returned back to the C of E. But what these relics are is a matter for research and discussion. How they will contribute to the history of Deane Church and Peel Chapel remains to be seen.

What can be certain is that finds like these can inspire hope that there is a future within the Church of England.

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How William Tyndale’s influence has guided the Church of England for centuries

Central London and her city is packed with history and it was there, in 1537, where the English Bible was first printed. An early copy, dated 1537, in the John Rylands Library locates the printing at St Thomas Hospital, Southwark. This was a Bible known as the Coverdale Bible and the New Testament was based on Tyndale’s translation.

Tyndale had left London in 1525 but his influence was never far gone. From 1525, and 1526, Tyndale’s New Testament would be smuggled into London along the Thames. His 1534 translation would prove to be his finest edition. It too made it’s way back into London and would prove to influence the Church in England for hundreds of years to come. This was made possible by the the publishing of the 1535-37 Coverdale Bible. This was eventually commissioned by Henry V111 and Coverdale’s translation of the Psalms would also feature in the Book of Common Prayer for many centuries to come. It is an important bed rock in the unity and doctrine of the Anglican communion.

Throughout the 1549, 1552, and 1562 versions of the Book of Common Prayer, it is not difficult to read the influence of Tyndale’s unmistakable New Testament translation. This influence progressed through the inclusion of the King James Version.

Research reveals that 84% of the New Testament in the AV is the work of Tyndale. These passages were printed word for word in the Book of Common Prayer and guided Christians throughout the year and the seasons of the calendar.

A number of these passages have been posted on my The Life and Teachings of William Tyndale facebook page. Here is one example.

Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above and cometh down from the father of light, with whom is no variableness, neither is he changed unto darkness. Of his own will begat he us with the word of life, that we should be the first fruits of his creatures. Wherefore dear brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. For the wrath of man worketh not that which is righteous before God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, all superfluity of maliciousness, and receive with meekness the word that is grafted in you, which is able to save your souls.”

Tyndale’s New Testament, 1534
The Epistle of St James
Chapter One

Compare this with the reading for the Fourth Sunday After Easter, from the Book of Common Prayer and see for yourself. This book has been such a blessing to me and has helped guide me during the Coronavirus lockdowns, and also many more Christians both in and beyond the Anglican communion.

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Was the Church of England formed in 1534?

Forum, Rome © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Today we often hear claims that the Church of England was formed in 1534 by Henry V111. Often these claims are followed by repeated references to the lifestyle and apparently tyrannical ways of this king of England. By all accounts, the popular claim presents Henry V111 as the boogeyman.

The problem is, it is not true. It is only a fraction of the story.

The historic truth is that the Church of England was not formed in 1534 by Henry V111 because he wanted a new wife, it was actually formed in 597 AD by Augustine of Canterbury. The history shows that while visiting the Forum of Rome, Gregory saw some slaves and was fascinated by their hair and after inquiring of them, learned that they were in fact Angles (people who settled in Great Britain). Being burdened, Gregory met Augustine (of Canterbury) in a monastery in Rome and Augustine mentioned his desire to be a missionary in Britain. Gregory granted permission for Augustine to go to Britain, and in 597 he established a Church in Canterbury where he baptised a quantity of persons. This mission is known as the Gregorian mission and this is the date and event that marks the formal history of the Church of England. Today, Canterbury Cathedral stands in the location associated with that event.

So in answer to my rhetorical title “Was the Church of England formed in 1534?” the answer is no! What happened in 1534 was the Act of Supremacy, being brought about as a response to years and years of doctrinal division and the false usurping of unbiblical teaching and unholy living of Pope’s and clergy, past and present. If you will, it can be likened to a 16th century ecclesiastical Brexit. Just as England and Britain have existed long before the EU, so the Church of England existed long before the creation of Roman Catholicism at the East-West Schism (Great Schism) of 1054.

The reality is the 1534 Act of Supremacy was an engineered event. 16th century reformers William Tyndale, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer knew full well what they were doing, and they used and engineered Henry’s desire for a new wife as a Nosus Decipio to get this 16th century Ecclesiastical Brexit Done.

Did everybody agree? No. There was and always will be remainers and Brexiteers. But thank God for William Tyndale and for Thomas Cranmer.

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My Scottish ancestors and the Disruption of 1843

Over the years I have always known my surname ‘Sutherland’ has implications of Scottish ancestry. My father often told me that his grandfather was Scottish, but I never gave it any serious thought until recently. It was then when I discovered that my great-grandfather “Daniel Sutherland” had journeyed to Lancashire from Old Machar, Aberdeenshire in the late 1890’s. The Great Depression of 1873-1896 had effected many people, including the Sutherland’s of Scotland. This lineage led me to my 3rd great-grandfather John Sutherland (1803-1884) of Golspie, just north of the historic seat of the Earl of Sutherland, the chiefs of clan Sutherland.

My 3rd great-grandfather witnessed an event known as “The Disruption of 1843”. A schism or division between the established Church of Scotland and Scottish Protestants. Some 450 evangelical ministers walked out of the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland. After ten years of bitter conflict, Scotland would never be the same again.

The history shows that proceeding the days of the 16th century, and the Scottish reformation associated with John Knox, the majority of Scottish people were in support of the reformation. During Mary Tudor’s totalitarian persecution of Christians, Knox had left Scotland for Geneva where John Calvin had established a majority position. When Knox returned to Scotland he brought this reformation with him and this foundation remained in the Church of Scotland for centuries. However, between 1833 – 1843, Scottish evangelicals underwent ten years of conflict leading to a protest against state interference with the Church. Scotland saw a mass exodus of ministers and congregations leave their beloved churches to form their own. It was a bitter business that would cause mental stress, division and upset to families and entire congregations and would cause ministers to be without homes or financial support. Thus the proceeding years saw Scotland having two churches, the Church of Scotland and the newly formed Free Church of Scotland.

Division and disruption does not always break Christianity up, it often enhances and expands it. But this disruption should never have happened, even though it was a necessary response.

Nobody wants division like this. The majority of rational people all desire peace. But historic events such as these are a finger of warning to political activists and those who cause divisions by teaching and enforcing things they ought not. There is always a cost. History proves that.

My 3rd great-grandfather John Sutherland was 40 years old when he saw this disruption with his own eyes. Yet he went on to live until he was 81. He had two children with his wife Mary. Their son Daniel Sutherland, was my 2nd great-grandfather. Daniel was 15 years old when the disruption occurred.

Their ancestors are my bloodline and the name Sutherland goes all the way back to William Sutherland (William De Moravia), the son in law of King Robert the Bruce.

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Remember the Great Ejection

In 1662, the Church of England ejected thousands of ministers from their ministerial positions. At that point, the civil war was over and England had seen the restoration of Charles 11.

Back in those days the dispute was concerning the nature of the faith when contrasted with the new revisions of the Book of Common Prayer. Today these revisions would be seen as unimportant, but maybe they were.

Outstanding ministers, preachers, thinkers and writers such as Richard Baxter, John Flavel, Thomas Watson, Simeon Ashe, Thomas Brooks and thousands more were forced out of the Church by revisionists, who wanted to sway the church with the flow of the wind.

In Albert Square Manchester, a 19th century building called “Memorial Hall” stands to commemorate this important history.

This unnecessary historic division caused the C of E to lose the very people it needed to keep. Of which the Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, rightly commented that the great ejection was “an injury to the cause of true religion in England which will probably never be repaired.”

This Bishop of Liverpool was correct and I hope the present Church of England remembers this.

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Does the 1549 Book of Common Prayer teach ‘Limited Atonement’?

The original 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer is a wonderful and historically significant Christian book. In Rylands Library I have had the honour of reviewing and researching ancient original copies of this work, in the original prints and wording.

The original Book of Common Prayer supports the claim to universal redemption as a consistent Christian truth. The text of reads as follows;

Answere:

First, I Leanne to believe in God the father, who hathe made me and the worlde.

Secondly, in God the sonne, who hath redeemed me and all mankind.

Thirdly, I God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the electe people of God” (The Book of Common Prayer. 1549. A Cathechisme.)

The proposed questions which I set forth are these;

Q. does this article consider the possibility that the world does not mean ‘the entire world’? That is the entire human race?

A. No it does not. The text clearly states in clear basic terms for simple Christians in England during the 16th century, not to view the world as meaning only the elect or the people from within the world, but all the world. If God made all the world and this means ‘all’, then it follows that when the passage speaks of redeeming “all mankind”, that it means ‘all’ and not only some.

Q. Does this imply universalism? Or does this imply universal offering of redemption?

A. I think the word “redemption” states that the passage refers to universal redemption, that is in the sense of Christ regaining possession of mankind, in the context of a payment. It does not imply universalism. I think there is not even a hint of limited atonement within this article.

Q. But does not the text say “sanctifieth me, and all the elect”? Yes, it does. That those whom have the Holy Spirit are elect and are sanctified by Him and when the Holy Spirit is given, His work is effectual for those who believe. But that belief must be present, active and continuous. A person need not be understood as ‘elect’ because he or she has been determined by God to be elect in order to believe, but that he or she is elect because they believe.

Once again we see further proofs in favor of my claim that the Calvinistic doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ need not be understood as pure reformed teaching.

We must consider that if Christ has died for all, He must have made a way for all to receive Him, as communicated throughout the New Testament. But Calvinism cruelly offers salvation to people when in reality it knows all too well that unless a person is determined to believe, he or she cannot receive the grace of God unless that soul has been predestined and elected to salvation by the deterministic power of ‘God’. It offers a man bread only to give him a stone.

It is a very cruel doctrine that is somewhat deceptively diluted by many modern Calvinist preachers and presented as reformed. Yet the 39 Articles of Religion (1562) do not teach it. On the contrary, Article XXX1 (31) states the following;

The Offering of Christ once made it that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.

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Visiting Westminster Abbey

In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.

To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.

Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.

Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.

Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.

It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.

Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.

At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.

However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.

Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.

Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.

I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.

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Why I have returned to the Church of England

Church Steeple © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

© 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Over the last few years I had been attending a Baptist Church. However, due to a recent unnecessary, unorthodox, sectarian practice of ‘re-baptism‘ I have left the Baptist church and have returned to the Church of England. 

For some, this decision may seem unhealthy. Liberalism, it seems, has corrupted the Anglican communion. Such views would not be entirely wrong.

However, things are not as simple as that. The Anglican communion is a very complicated establishment, and is deeply divided. Liberalism and a false gospel has indeed corrupted the establishment but it has not corrupted the true conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. This conservative evangelical branch, I argue, is the true Church of England. The liberal, revisionist branch is a false distortion. I believe it has forsaken the Bible.

Because of changing times, liberalism and church corruption, many churches are closing. Yet the many parishes that remain true to the Gospel, are in fact flourishing. It is to this conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England that I abide.

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© 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

In the 16th century, many reformed Christians died for the faith. Tyndale, Frith, Latimer, Cranmer, Ridley, Bradford and George Marsh, were all Church of England men. Yet it was a fight even back then. Today, over four hundred years later, there is still a continuous movement to reform the Church of England from within. Organisations such as Reform and Church Society all continue to abide in loyalty to the Bible and the principles of the doctrines of the reformation.

For me, the true Church of England is the way forward. As a churchwarden of Deane once said to me, ‘I truly believe the Church of England is “the best boat to fish from”. I believe this is true. For me, Cathedrals are some of the most inspiring monuments a person can ever visit and I am in the historic presence of some of the greatest men Christianity has ever known. Unlike many independent churches, which are often self governing and separatist, the Congregation Christ spoke of in Matthew 16: 18 was one. It was not divided into denominations. It was simply the Congregation of believers.

I have faith that Christ will continue to build His Congregation, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Being in the Baptist church, was not all bad. I still have many fond memories and those memories will remain. But the Lord would not leave me there. There is a path that I must take. For me, my Christian journey has simply reached a new era. It is simply unacceptable that the Church of England has been robbed of the Gospel. We ought not to forsake her. Something needs to be done. There must be reformation.

 

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