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Posted 7 Aug 2020

This week's Church of England online service is led by Lee Gatiss.

This week’s Church of England online service is led by Rev Dr Lee Gatiss, the Director of Church Society. In his sermon, Lee reflects on God’s kindness and mercy. The prayers are led by Ros Clarke, with readings from Gideon Emmanuel and Niv Lobo. Music is performed by Olivia Chapman.

The service will be available from 9am on Sunday 9th August here.

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Posted by Geoff Locke, 7 Aug 2020

Geoff Locke reviews Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America by Michael Winship.

Cover of Hot Protestants

This is a good year to read Professor Winship’s book. Four hundred years ago, on 6 September 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers finally set sail for America – an event that deserves to be celebrated.

“The hotter sort of Protestants are called Puritans” said Perceval Wiburn in 1581.  It was a term of abuse, much like “Methodist” or “God squad”.  The Puritans, in popular estimation, were grim-faced people who disapproved of anybody having fun.  On the other side of the Atlantic – as portrayed in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible – they executed innocent women accused of witchcraft.  What Winship seeks to do is to tell the tale of the Puritans accurately and sympathetically, relating how this side of the Atlantic came to influence the other.

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King John signs Magna Carta, Edmund Evans, 1864.

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Posted by Andrea Ruddick, 6 Aug 2020

In this article from the Spring 2015 edition of Crossway, mediaeval historian Andrea Ruddick looks at the implications of the Magna Carta for the freedom of the church.

It is unlikely to have escaped your notice by now that 2015 marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta, the famous charter of English liberties issued by King John in 1215. Or, at least, the eight-hundredth anniversary of its first draft… In fact, Magna Carta did not attain its iconic status as the cornerstone of English democracy until somewhat later. Its rebranding as a repository of ‘British values’ is still more recent.

The mythology that has grown up around it as a key text for seventeenth-century English parliamentarians and eighteenth-century American revolutionaries would certainly have surprised its original compilers. For the first ‘Great Charter’, signed by John at Runnymede in June 1215, was simply the product of peace negotiations between the king and his rebellious barons. It was never intended to be a timeless statement of abstract ‘rights’. These peace negotiations proved unsuccessful, however, as John almost immediately went back on his word. The ensuing civil war was only halted by his convenient death in 1216, which enabled the political community to rally around his nine-year-old son, Henry III, for a fresh start.The original Magna Carta was a hotch-potch of traditional grievances and particular complaints about John’s tyrannical kingship, with one or two genuinely innovative ideas thrown into the mix. Many of its more specific clauses quickly became obsolete, and most of its provisions only affected the highest levels of society. Nonetheless, the principles behind its provisions, especially the idea that the king should not arbitrarily take his subjects’ property, made the Charter an important symbol of good government during the Middle Ages. It was repeatedly reissued over the next three centuries, usually as a pledge of goodwill when the king was planning to ask for more taxes.

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