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By Chuck Collins
September 23, 2022

JOHN JEWEL is one of the most important (and least known!) theologians in the Church of England. His contributions to Anglican thinking cannot be overestimated: alongside in importance the liturgy of Thomas Cranmer, the sermons of Hugh Latimer, and the theological acumen of Nicholas Ridley, William Perkins, and Richard Hooker.

On November 26, 1559 Jewel, who would be consecrated Bishop of Salisbury two months later, famously preached his "Challenge Sermon" in which he named 27 disputed points with the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. He declared he would become "Catholic" if anyone could show any connection of the church's teaching to Scripture and the early church fathers.

Several took up the challenge and, in the context of this debate, Jewel wrote "The Apologie of the Church of England." In this short essay he explained in a concise and beautiful way why schism is, at the same time, regrettable and sometimes necessary - the only proper response towards an institutional church that refuses to reform itself according the authority of Holy Scripture. The schismatic is the one who causes the separation, not the one who separates (schismaticus est qui separationem causat, non qui separate), i.e. the Medieval Roman Catholic Church.

Jewel, like Cranmer and all the other reformers, went through different theological phases in his personal life, but he landed with both feet with Cranmer and the other English reformers in Reformation Anglicanism. When Jewel died just shy of his fiftieth birthday, September 23, 1571, Richard Hooker, whom Jewel had helped as a boy, wrote that Jewel was the "worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years."

"The Apology of the Church of England" is available and accessible on the internet for all to read. The English translation (it was originally written in Latin) is very readable and compelling. It was translated into English by Anne Cooke Bacon, a serious self-trained scholar and Protestant theologian in her own right (I love this part of the story!). Every Anglican and Episcopalian should read The Apology every year - well, at least once to see the beauty and logic of Jewel's argument.

The Church of England stands for the supreme authority of Holy Scripture and common consensual (catholic) Christianity, over the novel traditions and magical inventions of the Medieval Catholic Church. Bishop Jewel died 451 years ago today.

"For that was not Christ's meaning, that the wheaten bread should lay apart his own nature, and receive a certain new divinity; but that he might rather change us...

And in speaking thus we mean not to abase the Lord's Supper or to teach that it is but a cold ceremony only, and nothing to be wrought therein (as many falsely slander us we teach). For we affirm that Christ doth truly and presently give his own self in the Sacraments."


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