Henry, while changing many things in the church, would not allow any deviation in essentials from the religion of Catholic Europe, which was not then so dogmatically defined as it was later by the council of Trent. Edward VI was a child, and the Protector Somerset and the council favoured further changes, which were carried out with Cranmer's help. They issued a book of Homilies and a set of injunctions which were enforced by a royal visitation. Pictures and much painted glass were destroyed in churches, frescoed walls were whitewashed, and in 1548, the removal of all images was decreed. Parliament ordered that bishops should be appointed by letters patent and hold their courts in the king's name. An act of the last reign granting the king all chantries and gilds was enlarged and enforced with cruel injustice to the poor. On the petition of convocation parliament allowed the marriage of priests; and it further ordered that the laity should receive the cup in communion.
A communion book was issued by the council in English, the Latin mass being retained for a time. Many German reformers came to England, were favored by the council, and gained influence over Cranmer. The first Book of Common Prayer was authorized by an Act of Uniformity in 1549; it retained much from old service books, but the communion office is Lutheran in character. It excited discontent, and a serious insurrection broke out in the West, the insurgents demanding the revival of the Act of the Six Articles and the withdrawal of the new service as like a Christmas game. After Somerset's fall the government rapidly pushed forward reformation. A new Ordinal issued with parliamentary approval in 1550 was significant of the change in sacramental doctrine, and the four minor orders disappeared. Altars were destroyed and tables substituted. Five bishops, Bonner of London, Gardiner of Winchester, and Heath of Worcester, then already in prison, and two others, were deprived; and the Lady Mary, who would not give up the mass, was harshly treated. The reformers were not tolerant; for a woman was burnt for Arianism in 1550 and a male Anabaptist in 1551.
Under the influence of foreign reformers, who took a lower view of the Eucharist than the Lutheran divines, Cranmer soon advanced beyond the prayer-book of 1549. A second prayer-book, departing further from the old order, appeared in 1552, and without being accepted by convocation was enforced by another Act of Uniformity, and in 1553 a catechism and forty-two articles of religion were authorized by Edward for subscription by the clergy, though not laid before convocation. A revision of the canon law in accordance with the act for submission of the clergy was at last undertaken in 1551, but the only result was a document entitled Reformatio legum ecclesiasticarum, which never received authority.
Edward died in 1553. Apart from matters of faith, the church had fared ill under a royal supremacy exercised by self-seeking nobles in the name of the boy-king. Convocation lost all authority and bishops were treated as state officials liable to deprivation for disobedience to the council. Means of worship were diminished, and the poor were shamefully wronged by the suppression of chantries, guilds and holy days; even the few sheep of the poor brethren of a guild were seized to swell a sum which from 1550 was largely diverted from public purposes to private gain. Churches were despoiled of their plate; the old bishops were forced, the new more easily persuaded, to give up lands belonging to their sees, and rich men grew richer by robbing God.
This text forms part of the History of the Church of England originally part of the entry ENGLAND, CHURCH OF from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the content of which lies within the public domain.