The Caroline Church, 1625-40

Within just a few weeks of Charles' accession there were signs of religious change that could lead Puritans to worry about the religious leanings of the new king. Arminians were already active in principal areas of politico-religious life: William Laud (future Arminian Archbishop of Canterbury and adviser of Charles I in ecclesiastical policies of the Caroline Church) preached the opening sermon of Parliament; and Richard Montagu became royal chaplain. Rather than taking the traditional view and seeing the Puritans as radicals who wished to overturn or undermine the Church, it was Charles and William Laud, who attempted to alter traditional beliefs and practices of the Anglican Church; and it was those who voiced opposition who were branded as Puritans. Not all Arminians accepted the doctrine of Free Will [3], but they were united in a concern for ceremony and worship in the Church. Notably, Arminians wanted to worship 'in the beauty of holiness', which meant embellished churches, structured and ordered services. Arminians saw much in the Church of England to cause them distress; many churches were in disrepair, a variety of practices had developed in services - ranging from Puritan austerity to quasi-Catholic practices. Arminians were adamant about the importance of uniformity of worship that accorded with the liturgy of the Church of England. Further, they considered this best administered through the authority of bishops and clergy, an episcopalian structure to Church government. Logically following from this, Arminians supported the royal prerogative - e.g. in 1627 Robert Sibthorpe preached in defence of the Forced Loan. The appeal of Arminianism to Charles I is evident - the Arminians mirrored his own concerns for order, uniformity, obedience and hierarchy.

[3. The doctrine that denied Calvinist Double Predestination, arguing that Man could determine his own fate by choosing to reject or accept God's grace. Contentious in England as it was adopted by William Laud, to the distaste of Puritans. By the mid-seventeenth century however the divisions under Charles I and Laud over Free Will had become cloudy - for example John Milton believed in Free Will, yet was far from the Anglican centre of religious opinion on a number of doctrinal issues.]

Though Charles favoured Arminianism, Parliament viewed it with disdain. Religion had not been a significant political issue in the Jacobean parliaments, but Charles' policies brought religious issues to a major point of conflict between King and Parliament, and gave greater depth to the existing points of departure. The majority of the Commons were 'low church', Calvinistic, anti- Catholic and favoured Protestant foreign policy. Promotion of Arminians led to parliamentary attacks against those who voiced support for the royal prerogative. Robert Sibthorpe, who supported the Forced Loan, and Roger Mainwaring, who defended non-parliamentary taxation, are examples of Arminians who attracted the wrath of Parliament for their political comments. There was an attempt to settle divisions between Arminians and Puritans at York House in 1626; however, this merely established the Arminian camp had the backing of the Duke of Buckingham. While the Commons could protest at the direction of the King's religious policy, they could do little to change it. In the later 1620s Arminians were appointed and promoted in the Church, Calvinist teaching suppressed. However, the force of change at this point should not be overstated - outside theology or political debate there was little noticeable change. It was not until the advent of the Personal Rule from 1629 that the full force of Charles and Laud's Arminian drive for uniformity became felt. This was heightened from 1633 when Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Alterations to services throughout the kingdom were introduced, and it became impossible to avoid or ignore Charles' drive for uniformity and reform. The principal changes were in two key areas: the conduct of services, and the suppression of preaching.

There had been considerable growth in Puritan parishes of Sunday sermons or lectures, which held in the afternoon after the Anglican service, were not required to adhere to the formality of the official service. The King and his Archbishop wanted to curb this practice because it was difficult to control the content of these sermons, which posed a potential threat to Church authority if they were packed with subversive ideas. The attack began immediately. In 1629, Charles promulgated that catechising replace sermons on Sunday afternoons in parishes. Each lecturer was then required to read from the Anglican liturgy in his surplice and hood. Laud suppressed an association to endow Puritan preaching that had developed in London during the late 1620s known as the 'feoffees for impropriation'. Although there is no evidence that these preachers had any concern other than spiritual, Laud feared the association's potential to incite unrest.

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