Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Today in Church History

02 July 1489, Thomas Cranmer is born. Cranmer, priest and later the Archbishop of Canterbury, was an internal reformer and the author of the first edition of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.  Cranmer’s support of Henry VIII’s desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon (and support of the king as “head of the church in England”) marks him as the first “Protestant” Archbishop of Canterbury.  His encounter with Reformers on the Continent led, with twists, turns, and bumps on the way, to his  theological embrace of the Reformation as well. After repeated run-ins with the crown, he was burned at the stake in 1556.

02 July 1505, a violent thunderstorm frightens a young German named Martin Luther.  He prays for help, promising to become a monk if he survives the storm safely.  Within two weeks, he defied his father’s plans for him and made good on his promise–thus beginning a path that would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

02 July 1752 the first English language Bible published in North America rolls off the presses in Boston.


July 2, 2007 - Posted by | church history


  1. I enjoy the “today in history” entries. Today’s entry is a pretty significant threesome, and they are directly related. Certainly Archbishop Cranmer’s “defection” from the Church opened the door for the next generation, in this case Martin Luther, to begin the process of asking questions, some of which had been asked before but never answered, and others which had never been asked at all, mostly out of fear of retribution or excommunication.

    The religious freedoms which were borne of Cranmer’s and Luther’s actions directly led two hundred years later to the independence the American colonies eventually declared in 1776. While we all learn of the Boston Tea Party and other demonstrations against “taxation without representation” (still a problem in the District of Columbia), more time should be spent on the religious freedoms’ and liberties’ arguments made so as to establish several of the colonies which later became our US of A.

    If more people understood the concerns of the founders of these colonies, expressing disdain for the state-sanctioned church and hope for an unlimited future of religious freedom, today’s problems of a cross-over between church and state, violating the constitutional bar of respect of one religion over another and the accompanying restriction of the free practice on one’s religion, perhaps it would be more readily understood and possibly of more importance to more people that such a constitutional bar is of an absolute necessity.

    But I digress.

    The third date mentioned today (of the pressing of an English Bible here in the colonies) is the manifestation not only of Cranmer’s and Luther’s actions of protest, but also of the importance the colonial founders placed on having available here a Bible which could be read (in their homes) and understood by a great number of people, many literally roaming in the wilderness of what would become the United States of America.

    Comment by Jeff Noble | July 2, 2007

  2. Jeff, Cranmer’s Reformation activities came AFTER Luther’s. It was his birth that came beforehand.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 2, 2007

  3. That’s why I marked this blog as a favorite. There are things I think I know about and things I wish I knew about, and this is one place I can make those two things converge. Thanks for the correction / enlightenment.

    Comment by Jeff Noble | July 3, 2007

  4. What a nice thing to say, Jeff. Thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 3, 2007

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