Apology of the Church of England

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John Jewel (1522-1571), Bishop of Salisbury, stands as one of the leading architects and perhaps the staunchest defender of the Protestant Church of England. Writing in 1562 when the Elizabethan church was yet young and fragile, and menaced by Catholic foes at home and abroad, Jewel proudly proclaimed the independence of the English church from Roman rule, and the deep catholicity of its reformation.

Appealing throughout to the testimonies of the Church Fathers, Jewel made a powerful case that the Protestants were not heretics or innovators, but genuine reformers, restoring the church to the purity of apostolic practice and proclaiming anew the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Along the way, he refutes common misunderstandings or caricatures of Protestant teaching, and takes the offensive against what he sees as the tyrannical power of the medieval papacy.

The result is a ringing defense of the English Reformation that became an instant classic, integral to the theological self-understanding of the Church of England and to the Anglican Communion that later developed from it. It remains essential reading today for Anglicans—or any English-speaking Protestants—seeking to better understand and articulate their relation to the church’s biblical roots, catholic tradition, and sixteenth-century renewal.

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