In the 16th century, breaks with the Catholic Church started happening all over Europe. In England, King Henry VIII rejected the pope's authority and started the Church of England, or Anglican Church. In Germany and France, reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin began their own Protestant movements. When Calvin-inspired Puritan ideas started spreading to England, the Catholic Church was no longer Enemy No. 1, and these Protestant factions began fighting among themselves.
The Church of England
In 1534, King Henry VIII requested a divorce from his wife, who had failed to give him a male heir. When the pope refused, Henry officially broke with the Catholic Church and started the Church of England, installing himself as its head. While the church reformed Catholic beliefs and practice to some extent, Henry's main goal in starting and English state religion was to put himself in the church's supreme position of authority and obtain his divorce.
At the same time England was breaking with the Catholic Church, other factions within Europe were rejecting the pope's authority on much more principled grounds. The teachings of Frenchman John Calvin, in particular, began to become popular in England, and many groups, collectively called Puritans, demanded further reforms in the Anglican Church. The Presbyterians, led by John Knox in Scotland, wanted a national church governed by ministers and elders. The Congregationalists pushed for independent, self-governing congregations. The Separatists broke completely from the Church of England to create their own communities.
Anglicans and Puritans Clash
Though the different Puritan movements in England never united completely, they all rejected the elaborate rituals, decoration and hierarchy of the Anglican Church and wanted to move it further away from its Catholic roots. The Puritans sought to simplify religious practice and abandon traditions that were not grounded in scripture. There were also socially rooted disagreements between Puritans and Anglicans that related to issues such as the observance of the sabbath. The disagreement between Anglicans and Puritans became increasingly political in the 17th century, with the monarchy fighting to keep control through the state-run Church of England, and the Puritans, represented more and more in Parliament, pushing back. The result was civil war and the temporary abolition of the monarchy. King Charles I was beheaded in 1649 and Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan leader of the Parliamentary army, became Lord Protector of England.
The End of Puritan Rule
After 10 years of puritanical, militaristic government by Cromwell and his son, the English people restored the monarchy and the Anglican Church, crowning Charles II as king and reversing the reforms that the Puritans had made to the church. While most English Puritans were integrated back into the Church of England, either willingly or with resistance, the influence of Puritanism is seen in England's later Methodist and evangelical movements, and in the establishment of England's American colonies.
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