Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!

As a child, I used to love the hymns of All Saints’ Day. So imagine my surprise during my first fall at our local LCMS parish, when I found that taking priority over All Saints’ Day every year was Reformation Day, commemorating Oct. 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.

Oddly, the Lutheran Service Book (the 2006 LCMS hymnal) lists only four hymns for the occasion. Not surprisingly, one is Martin Luther’s greatest hit, Ein Feste Burg, presented in both the 1941 (The Lutheran Hymnal) metric familiar to LCMS German-Americans and a rhythm that sounds more normal to my ex-ECUSA ears. [Correction] Thanks to the translation by F.H. Hedge, it appears in all the American and English hymnals, and so American Christians (if there are any left) will be singing Luther’s 1529 hymn on its sexcentennial if not its septcentennial or millennial anniversary.

Two others in the LSB list I’d never heard of: “God’s Word is our great heritage” and “O little flock, fear not the foe.” (The latter is a Winkworth translation of a lyric by Johann Altenburg).

The fourth was a Winkworth translation of a Luther hymn, in this case the 1541 “Er halt uns, Herr, bei dein em Wort.” The CyberHymnal reports the three verses as:
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.
As far as I can tell, it’s not in either of H40 or H82. says it appears in the 1977 and 1999 editions of the Australian Anglican hymnal, but nowhere else among the many Anglican hymnals that it indexes.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) has 12 hymns rather than 4 for Reformation, including the three aforementioned Winkworth translation of German hymns. But what really caught my eye was another Winkworth translation — listed as “O Lord, Our Father, shall we be confounded” (#269) but originally written by Winkworth as “Ah! Lord our God, let them not be confounded.”

The original words were written by Johann Heermann in 1630. No matter what the words, the bonus for this hymn is the use of the 1640 tune Herzliebster Jesu by Johann Crüger. Singing Crüger is one of the things I miss most from my Lutheran period.

The CyberHymnal reports the TLH words for the five verses:
O Lord, our Father, shall we be confounded
Who, though by trials and woes surrounded,
On Thee alone for help are still relying,
To Thee are crying?

Lord, put to shame Thy foes who breathe defiance
And vainly make their might their sole reliance;
In mercy turn to us, the poor and stricken,
Our hope to quicken.

Be Thou our Helper and our strong Defender;
Speak to our foes and cause them to surrender.
Yea, long before their plans have been completed,
They are defeated.

’Tis vain to trust in man; for Thou, Lord, only
Art the Defense and Comfort of the lonely.
With Thee to lead, the battle shall be glorious
And we victorious.

Thou art our Hero, all our foes subduing;
Save Thou Thy little flock they are pursuing.
We seek Thy help; for Jesus’ sake be near us.
Great Helper, hear us!
I could not find the hymn reported in Oremus using Google or its Catherine Winkworth index, suggesting that it may not be used by Anglicans anywhere. It’s too bad — not just because of the doctrinal content, but because the Crüger tune should be easy for most congregations to sing.

So if I’m asked to contribute to the New Anglican Hymnal, this timeless hymn is going to join Ein Feste Burg as part of the canon of borrowed Lutheran hymns.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One was a solider and one was a priest…

As a child, my favorite hymn of the fall season was the quintessential All Saints hymn, “For all the saints.” However, a close second was the other All Saints hymn “I sing a song of the saints of God,” which has a particular resonance with children ages 4-100.

The only hymnal I knew was Hymnal 1940, which lists a total of seven All Saints hymns (two with alternate tunes). In addition to these seven hymns (#126-130), H40 also recommends a list of 12 “also the following hymns.” In the latter list is “I sing a song of the saints of God” (H40 #243), which is officially listed among the “Hymns for Children”. In H82 (#293), it’s listed under multiple Holy Days (both saints’ days and All Saints).

As a child, I was captivated by the words that Lesbia Locket Scott (1898-1986) wrote in the 1920s. Decades later, the end of the 2nd stanza remains committed to heart:
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
In fact, it was such a vivid part of my childhood that this was one of the three hymns we (successfully) requested from H40 for the baptism of our first child.

The tune, Grand Isle, was written by John Henry Hopkins (1891-1945) to match Mrs. Scott’s words in 1940, so that the poem could become a hymn for Hymnal 1940. It’s a very easy tune to sing, and is particularly catchy in building up to the conclusion of each of the three stanzas.

Apparently I’m not the only one who found it catchy. In the COE, it’s mentioned by a calendar of the Diocese of Ely. The song has been blogged by Episcopalians like the Redhead Editor, and the God’s Friends newsletter. ECUSA has even turned it into a children’s book, to add to the profits of the Church Pension Fund.

However, I don’t want that to detract from the effectiveness of this song for children’s ministry. I don’t think Mrs. Scott (or Mr. Hopkins) could have anticipated what The Episcopal Church would become in the 21st century.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For All the Saints

As a child, my second favorite floating church holiday (after Christmas) was All Saints’ Day. Today, I might put Ash Wednesday ahead of that, but not Epiphany. Good Friday and Ascension, alas, aren’t much of day for hymn singing.
Hymnal 1940 had such wonderful hymns for the occasion that the Sunday closest to Nov. 1 was definitely the high point of low season. But when we were church shopping decades later, there was one particular hymn from our childhood that my wife would ask me to check to see if it was being sung — to determine which parish we would attend for the Sunday closest to Nov. 1. This is the same hymn that Dr. Ian Bradley introduces calls “a magnificent processional song of triumph rejoicing in the communion of saints” in his 2006 Book of Hymns.

That hymn is “For all the saints,” #126 (1st tune) in Hymnal 1940. H40 offers eight of the 11 verses of William W. How’s 19th century text. These are the same eight verses found in in The English Hymnal, which offers three different tunes: Sine Nomine, Sarum, and Luccombe. On this side of the pond, the PECUSA Hymnal 1916 only had the second tune (H16 #295), but the editors of Hymnal 1940 decided to carry both Sine Nomine and Sarum.

Like most Anglican households, the only tune we sing for these words is Sine Nomine written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906 for TEH in his role as TEH music editor. Indeed, this is the only tune that was carried forward to New English Hymnal (#197) and Hymnal 1982 (#287).

I’ve previously called this Ralph Vaughan Williams’ greatest hit (at least for church music), and justifiable so. Searching my bookcase, the eight verses and RVW tune are also found in three LCMS hymnals, The Lutheran Hymnal (#463) Lutheran Worship (#191) and Lutheran Service Book (#677). The same words and tune are also in The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990, H #526) and even the 1975 Baptist Hymnal (#144).

But when TEH came out in 1906 the tune was new so the hymnal helpfully explains: “Suitable or use in procession.” Alas, processionals seem to have fallen out of favor, or RVW would be known to many Anglicans as the author of two great church marching tunes — the other being that Easter/Ascension/Pentecost favorite, Salve Festa Dies.

Bradley helpfully notes how How’s words were originally sung to another tune (called For All the Saints) written for it in 1869 by Joseph Barnby. This is apparently the same tune called Sarum in the 1906, 1916 and 1940 hymnals. Bradley concludes that the RVH tune “is now almost universally used.”

In the original version, the TEH music editor arranged the eight verses into 3 unison, 3 harmony and then 2 unison. H40, H82, LW and NEH, are faithful to this arrangement, while the LSB would certainly allow it but is typeset in a way that does not make the unison verses obvious.

Correction, Oct. 30: As it likes to do, Hymnal 1982 drops the accompanying parts from the pew edition (presumably to sell the accompaniment edition, available for 4x as much.) However, the vocal parts are available for verses 5 and 6, as in the other editions. (Thanks to Raving Revisionist” for pointing out my error in the original version of this posting.)

The editors of H82 also resisted the temptation to bowdlerize the lyrics. Even if H82 is not my favorite hymnal, the missing accompaniment is my only complaint for the RVW classic.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doctrine matters

Recently I had a new visitor to my blog, Pastor “Amberg,”† who suggested additional hymns for my list of recommended Advent hymns. Like fellow LCMS clergyman Josh Osbun, Pastor Amberg has his own blog. (Vicar Osbun, alas, has suspended blogging after the birth of his stillborn son.)

Pastor Amberg’s blog, Lutheran Hymn Revival, quotes Ambrose and Fortunatus (among others) in the sidebar: this is my kind of Lutheran, so I subscribed immediately.

Browsing recent posts to the blog, I was drawn to one entitled “Purity of Doctrine”. Some relevant excerpts:
The praise of the Bible is always talking about what God has done for poor sinners and when the psalmist does speak of his reaction to God, it is always for a didactic reason (e.g., Psalm 139:14,ff)

The praise of pop Christian culture rarely mentions the forgiveness of sins and often speaks of our (insert incredible adjective) reaction to how (insert awesome adjective) God is.  The author of "In Christ Alone", the best contemporary song I've heard, makes similar remarks in an interview.

And so I don't think we should be perfectly fine with Lutheran churches looking for worship songs from sects that deny that Christ wants to give the forgiveness of sins in His Supper and in Baptism, the very foundation for the Christian life.  This is not a matter of music.  This is a matter of identity.  The pure Word of God defines who we are. Wouldn't it be unwise at the very least and sinful at the worst to throw out rashly hundreds of years of time-tested music and words for the sake of satisfying the capricious musical cravings of a spoiled- (I pray not completely) rotten, entertainment-driven generation?  If I were to ask my 3 year-old what he wants to eat, he would choose chocolate cake every day.  This generation would choose over-emotionalized sweets.  But who has the real love to refuse them these sweets and give them the nourishment they need?  And we wonder why they never grow. …
Elsewhere in his blog, Amberg has criticism of the doctrine of specific Anglican or Methodist hymns.I don’t know that I’d share all his criticisms of these hymns, but I completely agree with his view on the importance of hymn doctrine and the general vacuousness of most CCM or other praise music.

This is also another reason why hymnals are important: a hymnal codifies a church’s doctrine and minimizes deviations from doctrine. It doesn’t matter whether the hymnal is photocopied, oversewn or a PDF: what matters is that it has been vetted the same as any other part of the liturgy. As Anglicans, we don’t allow just anything to be read as scripture or prayer, so of course the hymn selection should be put to the same test.

† Elsewhere the blog implies that the pastor‘s real name is Mark Preus

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Non-non-traditional liturgy

Today after lunch, three Christians got into a discussion at work over traditional and non-traditional liturgy. I know one of the Christians — an East Coast ECUSA type who remains in TEC — because we used to work in the same office. The other one is the son of an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, who I met at a Bible study at work.

The Episcopalian is renting a room to the Ethiopian immigrant, and though I should meet him because we have “similar” views on liturgy. When pressed, he said that we both reject non-traditional liturgy — which is certainly true.

But then we found it was hard to define what “traditional”, “non-traditional” and “not non-traditional” worship are. Is it the words? Is it the music? Is it the theology? (“Mother God” etc.)

My companions seem to think that traditional worship and traditional theology were strongly related. I would disagree: go to almost any TEC cathedral and you’ll find the High Church Progressives (as I termed them three years ago), who want all the pomp and circumstance of traditional worship but reserve the right to modernize the theology to their heart’s content.

I suppose at some level the “traditional” is easiest to define: Orthodox or Catholic worship — possibly in an incomprehensible language — conducted by the priest according to a set form, using words and music that are unchanged for centuries. Post-Reformation, even the Anglo-Catholics switched to the vernacular as did the RCC post-Vatican II. This is pretty rare in the US today, except perhaps for a few Greek-American (Ukrainian-American etc.) kids who don’t understand the language at their Greek Orthodox Church,

So what about “traditional” is traditional?
  1. A set liturgy — ruling out most Evangelical-leaning Christians and most of the Reformed denominations.
  2. Traditional liturgy — among Anglicans, separating those who use the Book of Common Prayer from Rite II and the rest of what Peter Toon called the alternative service book.
  3. Traditional language — KJV or RSV or ESV, not the gender-neutrered NRSV or TNIV.
  4. Old hymns — ruling out all but some traditionalist Continuing Anglicans and LCMS types.
  5. Any hymns at all —  ruling out the praise bands and CCM sanctuaries.
  6. Old technology — wooden seats, no electronic organs or amplification, no PowerPoint sermons or videorecordings — probably would cover many Church of Christ parishes.
  7. Old theology — the Virgin birth, the bodily death and resurrection, the Trinity, creeds, truth of the Bible and things like that. (Let’s leave out for now theological differences between Orthodox, Catholic, Lutherans, Calvinists and others.)
As my 2007 posting meant to suggest, it’s certainly possible to find old theology with a rejection of old-style liturgy. The AMiA is filled with them. I’ve visited various ACNA parishes that firmly rejected both TEC heresies, but before they left TEC also shunned the thees, thous and Bach — places like Grace Anglican Church of Carlsbad (formerly St. Anne’s Oceanside). St. James Anglican Newport Beach and St. James San Jose (formerly St. Edward’s).

No church organized by mortal man can or will be perfect. If I had to choose, I guess I’d say #7 (old theology) is paramount, followed by #4 (old hymns.) Certainly I’ve felt at home at any hymnal-based LCMS parish I’ve visited, and I’d probably be fine at many PCA or EPC churches (even if the Presence is more Real to me than my fellow parishioners).

But is this the problem with American cafeteria-style Protestantism, with complete unbundling of worship, doctrine and hierarchy? I’d love to recover the liturgical consistency of my childhood PECUSA, but even a Schism I unification is unlikely to resolve these problems.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New is not improved

The Evangel blog has a brief post about a new translation of the Bible called the Common English Bible. Blogger David Koyzis asks:
After so many decades, is the runaway proliferation of bible translations in English still about making the Word of God more comprehensible to ordinary people? Or is it by now about niche marketing?
It also has a good user discussion of Bible translation proliferation, the style of this new translation (something like the New Living Translation), and even the need for better Spanish language materials. (Discussions like that are what popular blogs get. Sigh.)

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version, Expanded Edition (Hardcover 8910A)There’s no doubt that the Christian publishing houses push TNIVs and NRSVs and NKJVs to make a buck. While I personally use the ESV as a slightly improved (and non-politically correct) update of the RSV, I’d have been quite happy to stick with my Oxford RSV for another 50 years. I also despair that the NIV we gave our daughter for confirmation may be intentionally rendered “obsolete” (or at least out of fashion) by the time she graduates from high school.

Some of this translation fragmentation is an inherent problem of the everyone-decides-for-themselves attitude brought by the Reformation. As Koyzis observes in the comments to his posting
I rather think that the proliferation of bible translations is part of the same mindset that produces such huge numbers of denominations in North America. There is a longstanding tendency to begin everything anew when we’re dissatisfied with the old. But wouldn’t it be better to refine the old and avoid wasting so much time and effort starting from scratch?
This seems to be an an affliction the Catholics also picked up after Vatican II.

Lutheran Service Book - Pew EditionAlas, there is a similar sort of planned obsolescence for hymnals. Is it to make a buck? Clearly this is a problem with the LCMS and their Concordia Publishing House empire, which will want to sell another hymnal in 2025 or 2030 to supplant the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

Is this continual updating because of an undue fixation on the (con)temporary, the transient, the worldly culture? Is it the ahisotricity that seems to afflict every generation? Or is it our consumption-driven culture’s fixation on new! New! NEW!

For myself, the important goal for an Anglican hymnal is to provide the timeless hymns that connect us to nearly 2000 years of Christian worship. I see little that needs to be improved on Hymnal 1940. Yes, a few hymns are missing, but in this day of the Internet and laser printers, such omissions can easily be supplemented. The most objectionable part of the hymnal is that proceeds from its sales to go support KJS’ fading empire.

A few of the Schism I “provinces” seem to get this: if the CoE can use the BCP 1662 for three centuries, why can’t we use a single prayer book and hymnal for a century or even longer? Or, as happened with H40, add a few supplemental hymns in later editions (e.g. Joy to the World, Hymn #775 in the later editions of H40.)

Alas, I fear that most of the ACNA seems to prefer Hymnal 1982, despite its manifest failings, and will either continue to promote it or eventually supplant it with something even more “new” (even if not “improved.”) The decision of the LCMS with the LSB to improve their hymnal by reverting to more traditional hymnody seems to be a rare exception. (The LCMS is also unusual in having elected a new leader who vows to turn back the tide of theological modernism.)

Thanks to Google Books, musicologists and other highly motivated layman now have full access to all the great 19th century hymnals, including Hymns Ancient & Modern and Medieval Hymns and Sequences. That might get it into the hand of the music director, but it doesn’t get it into the pews (except perhaps for those parishes that either print or videoproject the hymns for each week’s worship materials.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The once unexamined Anglican life

Growing up in a religiously mixed household, I spent the first half of my childhood as a Presbyterian, the second half as a High Church Episcopalian. Obviously the latter stuck, since today I’m an Anglo-Catholic (although I could just as easily see myself as a member of a LCMS or PCA parish with a strong liturgy.)

The 60s had not yet done its full damage to ECUSA or the other mainline Protestant churches. In retrospect, it was at the end of an era, a period of blissful ignorance for American Christians. I had never heard of the late Bishop Pike while Jack Spong was still an obscure nominally Christian parish priest in North Carolina or Virginia.

Thanks to the splintering of TEC and the larger counter-revolt against unbiblical Christianity, I am far more knowledgeable about doctrine and the reasons for picking a church than I was when my parents were picking churches with nice music in close driving distance. As a preface to observations about where we Anglo-Catholics are today and what we claim to believe, I want to summarize a few memories of what ECUSA was like before battles over Women’s Ordination and the 1979 prayer book changed the church forever,

At our weekly service didn’t do bells and smells, but after attending some more “liberal” ECUSA parishes I knew we were a very high church ECUSA parish. Robes, liturgical colors, reverence, genuflecting, great organ music and three choirs (boys’, girls’, adult) and lots of acolytes were the norm. My parents made reference to “High Church” vs. “Low Church” Episcopalians, but I didn’t realize that was a 200+ year old term from the Church of England.

I knew we had a 40-year-old prayer book, but not about Hooker, the 1549 BCP, the 1662 BCP or the Oxford Movement. I knew we had a 30-year-old hymnal, but not about the 1916 or 1892 predecessors — let alone The English Hymnal, Hymns Ancient & Modern or Medieval Hymns and Sequences.

I knew we were Protestant, and compared to other Protestants we were fairly big on formal liturgy and ritual. (I didn’t realize how big the differences were until as an adult I attended a Fundamentalist church with no prayer book, no formal liturgy, no instruments, but really long sermons.) I assumed Catholics had fancy music and lots of bowing, not realizing that post-Vatican II that most US parishes were drifting towards pop music services.

I didn’t understand the crucial theological differences among Protestants, particularly between the Reformed tradition of Calvin, Knox or Zwingli — who rejected almost any Catholic liturgy or theology — and those Protestants who like Luther who had sought to reform Catholic excesses while holding to Apostolic tradition. But then I was relatively naïve about prejudice: growing up ost-JFK, I was actually in my 20s before I first saw any examples of anti-Catholic Protestant zeal.

Over the last decade, I’ve lost my innocence as one-by-one all the traditionalists have been driven from the Episcopal Church in California. I now know that being an Anglo-Catholic is a minority of those who claim the Anglican tradition in North America, and from my European travels it appears that’s almost as true in England as well.

But the most important thing I didn’t know then — but know now — is that historically differences of Anglican liturgical style were associated with far more important theological differences.

The 19th century forebears of Anglo-Catholicism — the priests and scholars of the Oxford Movement — were fighting a two-front war in the Church of England. On one front were those “liberals” who, like today, sought to minimize the importance of doctrinal inerrancy. The other front was against the Evangelicals, an unresolved tension from the first decade of the church in Tudor England.

Why does Anglo-Catholicism matter? As John Henry Newman wrote in 1834 (during his Anglo-Catholic days) in Tract #38 of the Tracts for the Times:
The glory of the English Church is, that it has taken the VIA MEDIA, as it has been called. It lies between the (so called) Reformers and the Romanists.
and in Tract #41:
I would do what our reformers in the sixteenth century did: they did not touch the existing documents of doctrine [Note 7]—there was no occasion—they kept the creeds as they were; but they added protests against the corruptions of faith, worship, and discipline, which had grown up round them.
In short, Anglo-Catholics believe in the historic catholic (small c) church. We are divided from Rome in much the same way the Orthodox divided from Rome — with differences over specific doctrine (and of course certain ecclesiastical authority), but not over the importance of the ancient church that culminated with our three creeds. (One of the key doctrinal issues with the Orthodox is of course over the exact wording of those creeds.)

As far as I can tell, there are very few Protestants who place continuity with theological tradition (at least from the first six centuries) on par with Scripture. (Perhaps a few American Lutherans feel this way, but certainly not those in the national churches of Europe.) Thus, the Anglo-Catholics hold a crucial niche in Christian theology, as well as offering a possible avenue for reunification of the Church catholic — as witnessed by Orthodox ecumenicism that has abandoned TEC for the ACNA.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dying for faith

In order to understand and articulate my Anglo-Catholic beliefs, I’ve been reading many books about the Church of England. I quickly focused my reading on two formative periods: the creation of an independent church under the Tudors (1534-1603) and the Anglo-Catholic movement of the 19th century.

Of all this reading, none of the books — nor any other book of English history — moved me as much as The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, about the disputed succession after the death of Edward VI (1537-1553) that put Lady Jane Grey on the throne for nine days before her capture and eventual execution. While the modern interpretation was that this was a bold power play between rival Tudor factions, it also reflected the first major struggle over how (or if) the Church of England would continue after Henry’s death.

Like any schoolboy, I knew that Henry VIII had three children who succeeded him, one of them Catholic. I also knew that Elizabeth I died without issue, and somehow the throne was inherited by James I (and thus the House of Stewart). I’d never heard of Jane Grey, or her younger sisters Katherine and Mary, let alone their claim to the throne of England or Jane’s brief time on the throne. (Apparently Jane was elevated as a heroine to Victorian England, as testimony to her staunch evangelical beliefs.)

Spoiler alert: I highly recommend the book, but the drama was magnified by not knowing how it would turn out. So if you have time, read the book, not the rest of this article.

Jane (1537-1554), Katherine (1540-1568) and Mary (1545-1578) were great-granddaughters of King Henry VII. Their maternal grandmother, the first Mary Tudor, was the younger sister of Henry VIII, and briefly married to King Louis XII until his death in 1515. From her second marriage to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, she had four children: two sons who died in childhood, and two daughters. The eldest daughter, Frances Brandon Grey (1517-1559) had three daughters: Jane, Katherine and Mary.

Frances was thus niece to Henry VIII, of extremely high status within the House of Tudor during his lifetime, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Although she was buried with royal honors, both her eldest daughter and her husband were eventually executed by her cousin Mary (aka Bloody Mary).

Both author Leanda de Lisle and other writers pay the highest tribute to Lady Jane, her evangelical passion and her intellect. Tutored alongside her cousins (once removed) Elizabeth and Edward, various accounts suggest that she was the most capable and serious student tutored at Henry’s royal palaces.

Certainly many of the machinations by Jane, Mary and Elizabeth were about power and control of the throne. The only clear successor to Henry was his only son Edward, and his death left an ambiguous line of succession (and eventually the end of the House of Tudor).

As all three Tudor women learned, there are limits to the authority of a queen (or prince or princess) during an era when English kings still led their troops into battle. At the age of 16, Jane Grey held the throne for nine days in 1553, in between the death of Edward and her capture by troops loyal to Mary. Despite their difference in religion, the half sisters Mary and Elizabeth agreed not to contest their respective claims to the throne, allying them against the Grey sisters and their subordinate claims.

But there is more than just raw power politics in Lay Jane’s life and death. With Henry’s death in 1547, Edward became sovereign of the church his father had created at a time when Continental intrigues (and Mary) sought to return the allegiance of CoE (and England itself) to the Pope. Instead, Edward’s reign brought the CoE its first two prayer books (in 1549 and 1552) under the leadership of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1532-1553 who was also executed by Mary.

De Lisle makes clear that the only way that Jane came to the throne (even temporarily) was because she shared the evangelical faith of Edward VI and his vision for the Church of England. The terms of Edward’s will passing the throne to Jane and her male heirs — bypassing Mary — was based on the Protestant zeal she shared with Edward.

De Lisle also argues that Jane would have been a highly knowledgeable and passionate leader of evangelical reform in Britain. Under royal tutors, Jane had learned to read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Educated as a potential royal consort, she closely followed the theological debates that raged across Europe and divided Christian from Christian during the 16th Century.

Instead, Jane was seized and imprisoned by Mary indefinitely in the Tower of London. When forces loyal to her mounted an unsuccessful revolt, she was beheaded along with other plotters. She was offered clemency if she converted to Catholicism, but she refused.

As she waited condemned, she wrote a series of devotional prayers and letters to family. De Lisle offered brief excerpts of this prayer written during her final days in the Tower:
O Lord, thou God and Father of my life, hear me, poor and desolate woman, which flieth unto thee only, in all troubles and miseries. Thou, O Lord, art the only defender and deliverer of those that put their trust in thee: and therefore I, being defiled with sin, encumbered with affliction, unquieted with troubles, wrapped in cares, overwhelmed with miseries, vexed with temptations, and grievously tormented with the long imprisonment of this vile mass of clay, my sinful body, do come unto thee, O merciful Saviour, craving thy mercy and help, without the which so little hope of deliverance is left, that I may utterly despair of any liberty. …

It was thy right hand, that delivered the people of Israel out of the hands of Pharaoh, which for the space of four hundred years did oppress them, and keep them in bondage. Let it therefore, likewise, seem good to thy fatherly goodness, to deliver me, sorrowful wretch, (for whom thy Son Christ shed his precious blood on the cross,) out of this miserable captivity and bondage, wherein I am now.  …

Only, in the mean time, arm me, I beseech thee, with thy armour, that I may stand fast, my loins being girded about with verity, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and shod with the shoes prepared by the gospel of peace: above all things taking to me the shield of faith, wherewith I may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and taking the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is thy most holy word: praying always with all manner of prayer and supplication, that I may refer myself wholly to thy will, abiding thy pleasure, and comforting myself in those troubles that it shall please thee to send me; seeing such troubles be profitable for me, and seeing I am assuredly persuaded that it cannot be but well, all that thou doest. Hear me, O merciful Father! for his sake, whom thou wouldest should be a sacrifice for my sins: to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory. Amen.
Instead of such a pious leader — who married and would likely have brought forth heirs — Jane and Mary were succeeded by Elizabeth I, who compromised between the Reformed and Catholic to maintain her power on the throne — including a 1559 revision of the BCP that attempted to split the difference between the two factions. (Anglicans bear the consequences of this Elizabeth “fudge” some 450 years later.)

At several times in the book I found myself crying for the sisters Grey. Perhaps it’s because the book — and the extant record — provides such a vivid account of their lives, unlike the numerous Christian martyrs of the first millennium. Perhaps it’s because the royally born Jane had multiple options to avoid execution but she stood by her beliefs to her death, in a way that seems incomprehensible to modern sensibilities.

I don’t know if the Anglican church (or England itself) would have been better off with the evangelical zeal of Queen Jane instead of compromising of Queen Elizabeth. I think we would have had a clearer statement of faith, and perhaps a more meaningful role of English regents as Supreme Head of the Church of England.