The liturgy and order of the mid-sixteenth century English Church in Geneva : some reflections on the life and influence of a refugee church

Jackson, Robert (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2012-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: What are the predominant characteristics of the Refugee churches established in Europe in the mid‐sixteenth century? They are, undoubtedly, those of disputation and argument, dissension and fraction. But there are exceptions, the most notable of which is the English church in Geneva, which was formed in the autumn of 1555 and whose life officially ended when the last English exiles left Geneva in the spring of 1560. The origins of the church lay in the conflicts that had arisen over liturgy in the English church at Frankfurt and these conflicts continued later in Elizabethan England when the Marian exiles, many of them from Geneva, endeavoured to impose their vision of a truly Reformed church on the church of their homeland. For a short period – between the time spent at Frankfurt and the return to England – the English exiles in Geneva were a peaceable community at home with their maker and each other and created there a church that was broad rather than narrow in sympathy. The absence of conflict appears to have enlarged understanding and tolerance of others rather than narrowed it. This had much to do with the liturgy of the church which was one centered on prayer. It was also a liturgy that emphasized practicality, participation and community. The order of the church reflected its liturgy with, in a limited sense, a democratic rather than an authoritarian flavour. The failure of the Marian exiles to impose their view of a truly reformed church on the Elizabethan Church of England reminds us of the alternative approach to ecclesiological arrangements adopted in the Netherlands. While the Dutch Reformed church became the officially established public church of the Netherlands, it was nevertheless accepted, from inception, that only a minority of the population would become communicating members, a situation which has more flavour of the twentieth century than the sixteenth. But the ecclesiological arrangements in the Netherlands were unique and it is sad to record that the effect of the refugee churches was to harden confessional differences between Protestants of the Reformed and Lutheran traditions, making unity between them increasingly unlikely.

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