Thomas Cranmer Consecrated Archbishop
MANY CHURCHMEN would have jumped at the chance to become Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest position in the English church. When Archbishop William Warham died in August 1532, King Henry VIII’s choice of a successor was Thomas Cranmer. However, Cranmer was not consecrated until this day 30 March 1533, seven months later. Partly, this was because Cranmer was in Germany on the king’s business when news of the appointment came. Mostly, however, it was because Cranmer dawdled, hoping the king would change his mind.
He knew he was walking into trouble. Henry was bent on getting an annulment of his marriage to his queen, Catherine. Catherine had borne him no male heir, although she had given birth to a daughter, Mary. The king suspected his marriage was under a curse because of incest, since Catherine had originally been the wife of Henry’s older brother Arthur before Arthur’s death. The pope, under obligation to Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, would not grant an annulment. Cranmer suggested that the universities could just as well settle the question of incest as the Pope. Henry swore Cranmer had “the right sow by the ear,” and sent him with a delegation to the continent to win support for an annulment.
Soon after he finally became archbishop, Cranmer granted Henry his divorce from Catherine. In so doing, he made an enemy of Mary. Meanwhile, he conducted himself under the theory that the king was the earthly head of the Church of England. Acting on the king’s shifting whims, Cranmer often appeared weak. For instance, he ruled Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn lawful and six months later ruled it unlawful.
Nonetheless, Cranmer edged England in the direction of the Reformation. He convinced Henry to place English-language Bibles in all churches, implemented a liturgy in English, and drafted a reform of the canon laws. He seldom balked at the king’s whims, although he testified against Henry’s Six Articles and pleaded for the lives of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher whom Henry wanted to execute. His twists and turns kept him alive under Henry while the royal wrath destroyed many others. Henry even saved Cranmer’s life from one plot, playfully appointing him head of a commission to examine himself.
When Henry’s son Edward VI came to the throne, Cranmer continued to advance Protestantism in England, developing new doctrinal standards and issuing the Book of Common Prayer. When it became obvious Edward was dying, Cranmer joined those who wanted to make Lady Jane Grey, Edward’s Protestant cousin, the new queen rather than the staunchly Catholic Mary (Edward’s half-sister).
Mary ascended the throne despite the opposition. She executed Lady Jane and charged Cranmer with treason and heresy. Faced with the stake, Cranmer recanted his Protestant opinions. When he discovered that he was going to be burned to death anyway, he publicly shifted back to Protestant views, saying, “As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine.” He held the hand that had signed the recantation in the flame, burning it off and calling it “This unworthy right hand.” His last words, repeated several times, were “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Other Notable Events
Death in Burbank, California, of Anne S. Murphy, author of the hymn “Constantly Abiding.”
The steamship Stella strikes some rocks in a fog while sailing to Guernsey. Mary Rogers, a cheerful, kind, and hard-working stewardess, supervises the escape of a large number of women and relinquishes her own lifebelt to the last of them, giving up her place in the lifeboat. Raising her hands to heaven she cries, “Lord, have me!” as the ship sinks beneath her.
Death, in California, of James L. Breck, a successful Episcopal frontier missionary and educator.
Dudley Tyne speaks to a noon rally of five thousand in Philadelphia, taking as his text, “Go now ye that are men and serve the Lord.” He declares that he would rather lose his right arm than fail to deliver God’s message to his listeners. Deeply moved 1,000 men respond to his solemn words. Two weeks later one of his arms is ripped from its socket in an accident, infection develops, it has to be amputated, and in a few days more he will die. His last words will be “Stand up for Jesus father and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus.” This dying exhortation will inspire the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”
Death of Johannes E. Gossner, evangelist and founder of a mission society.
The impious Howel Harris changes course, becoming a leading Welsh revivalist.
Bishop Ferrar is burned at St. David’s at Carmarthen, the chief town of his former diocese, condemned for violating his vow of chastity. After preaching against Roman Church forms he had been imprisoned by Mary and refused to be reconciled with Rome, saying that he had taken an oath both to Henry VIII and Edward VI never to admit the papal supremacy.
(Probable date) Death on Mount Sinai of John Climacus, an Eastern hermit, author, and abbot. He had authored the popular book Scala Paradisi (The Ladder of Divine Ascent). Twelve centuries later, Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonyms Climacus and anti-Climacus, will parody this work, loathing any suggestion that humans can ascend to the divine under their own power.