Martin Bucer : his influence on the English Reformation and Anglicanism
Winston, Robert George
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Martin Bucer has until very recent times been the neglected Reformer of the sixteenth century Reformation. During the period from the 1520s to the 1550s, the name of Bucer was synonymous with that of Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli as one of the leading Reformers of the age. After gaining release from his monastic vows, Bucer followed his parents and based himself in the imperial city of Strasbourg, where he 'began to exert an influence both at home and elsewhere. This influence and the prominent position it thus gave to him was ultimately to prove personally costly, for it took him out of Strasbourg and into exile in England, where for nearly two years he was to have a major contributory role to play on both the English Reformation and the development of Anglicanism. This thesis intends to contribute to Church history and the history of dogma by assessing this impact. Having introduced the subject in chapter one, this will be achieved in three primary ways. First of all, in chapter two of the thesis I will briefly set out the backdrop to the Reformation period by considering the great movements for change that were being encountered in society and the Roman Catholic Church of that time. This was an era of transition, whereas the medieval period that immediately preceded it was one of little or no change. A continent that was unrecognisable in terms of political boundaries and economic structures was about to be reborn into the Europe that we recognise today. It was this period of rebirth that provided the environment into which the Reformation was born. Having thus set the background, chapter three will concentrate on a biographical resume of the salient features of Bucer's life. This is absolutely necessary for any attempt to rehabilitate knowledge of the Reformer amongst twenty-first century Christians. The man, his circumstances, the principles that motivated him in responding and reacting to the tumultuous events around him, the manner in which he acquired his skills as a diplomat and Reformer must all become known to us if we are to understand anything of the great Reformer that he became. In chapter four, the thesis focuses on Bucer's period of exile in England, setting out the arguments to be used in assessing the importance of his work there. First of all, I refer to the earlier influences that he exerted through the works emanating from Strasbourg that impacted the English Bible, particularly the book of Psalms. Then the chapter continues to trace the influence he exerted upon the liturgy, the ecclesiology, and even his sociological impact, based on Christian principles that he argued would ultimately lead to all men living "well and happily" in a Christian Commonwealth. Bucer established this aim as his contribution to the Reformation in England, that is, the thorough Christianisation of the realm. Many of these influences are little known and, thus, largely disregarded today. Nevertheless, Bucer had a major impact on the English Reformation and Anglicanism by means of these intluences in the literary, liturgical and ecclesiological areas. In chapter five, the thesis draws together all these strands of influence and argues that they have impacted the development of the English Reformation and have been formative not only of Anglicanism, but also -perhaps surprisingly - of the Puritan movement. The now vexed question of the oppositionist view between Anglicanism and Puritanism is addressed as an aid to assessing Bucer's influence. The question concerning the extent to which Anglicanism reflected his 'middle way' theology is addressed, as is his influence on the emergent Puritan movement with some of its early emphases. Chapter six details the concluding remarks of the thesis with special reference to further fields of study that may well disclose an even wider influence for Bucer on the English Reformation and its aftermath.
- Theology