The English Church has an unbroken history dating back almost 2,000 years to the arrival of Joseph of Arimathea in the British Isles with the Gospel in the first century. The English Church can claim apostolic foundation, unbroken continuity, Scriptural authority and Hebrew roots.
What is unique to the English Spiritual Tradition is that it had long sought to preserve its apostolic faith and practice in the face of Roman encroachments and pretensions, and later sought to restore “the faith which was once delivered” in the first century (Jude 3). That quest for Restoration has not yet been completed, but it continues today in parishes like Holy Cross.
THE FAITH IN BRITAIN IN APOSTOLIC TIMES
Tertullian (155-222 CE) — “The extremeties of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by Roman arms have received the religion of Christ” (Tertullian Def. Fidei, p. 179).
Alban the First Martyr (cir. 209) — Alban was a Roman soldier who offered shelter to a hunted Christian presbyter during a time of persecution and suffered martyrdom instead. The place of his martyrdom became known as St. Alban’s.
Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340 CE) — “The apostles passed beyond the ocean to the isles called the Britannic Isles” (De Demonstratione Evangelii, Lib. III).
Dorotheus of of Tyre (cir. 303 CE) — “Aristobulus, whom Paul saluted, writing to the Romans [Romans 16:10] was Bishop of Britain” (Synopsis de Apostol, Synops 23 “Aristobulus”).
“Simon Zelotes [Simon the Zealot] preached Christ through all Mauretania and Afric the less. At length he was crucified at Britannia, slain and buried” (Synopsis de Apostol, Synops 9 “Simon Zealotes”).
Theodore the Blessed of Cyrus in Syria (cir. 435 CE) — “Paul, liberated from his first captivity at Rome, preached the Gospel to the Britons and others in the West. Our fishermen and publicans not only persuaded the Romans and their tributaries to acknowledge the crucified and his laws, but the Britons also and the Cymry [Welsh]” (D. Civ. Gracae Off. Lib. IX).
THE GOSPEL BROUGHT TO BRITAIN DIRECTLY FROM JERUSALEM BY JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
Gildas (Albanicus) the Wise (425-512 CE) — “Christ, the True Sun, afforded his light, the knowledge of his precepts, to our Island in the last year, as we know, of Tiberius Caesar” (De Excidio Britanniae, Sec. 8, p. 25). This was in 37 CE, only six years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus!
Maelgwyn of Llandaff (450 CE) — “Joseph of Arimathea, the Nobel decurion, entered his perpetual sleep with his XI Companions in the Isle of Avalon” (Thick Velllum Cottonian M.S. See also Usher, Antiq., p. 12. Ed. 1687). Maelgwyn was Lord of Anglesey and Snowdonia, and Uncle of St. David of Wales.
Polydore Vergil (1470-1555 CE) — “Britain, partly through Joseph of Arimathea… was of all kingdoms the first that received the Gospel” (Lib. ii). Polydore Vergil was an Italian historian.
The superior dignity and antiquity of the English Church was acknowledged by the Councils of Pisa (1409 CE), Constance (1417 CE), Sienna (1424 CE) and Basil (1434 CE), with the Council of Constance (1417 CE) declaring, “the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ” (Disputatio super Dignitatem Angliae et Galliae in Concilio Constantiano. Theodore Martin, Lovan, 1517).
The Gospel arrived in Britain in 37 CE. It did not arrive in Rome before 42 CE, and many historians believe it was much later. The baptism of Russia was in 988 CE, 951 years after the Gospel arrived in Britain. The faith was brought to Britain directly from Jerusalem.
THE ROMAN MISSION IN BRITAIN
Augustine of Canterbury (597 CE) — Augustine arrived in Britain in 597 CE on a mission from Rome. To his surprise he found a flourishing British Church.
After asserting his alleged authority over the Church in Britain, the leaders of the British Church replied, “Be it known and declared that we all, individually and collectively, are in all humility prepared to defer to the Church of God, and to the Bishop of Rome, and to every sincere and godly Christian, so far as to love everyone according to his degree, in perfect charity, and to assist them all by word and in deed in becoming children of God. But as for any other obedience, we know of none that he, whom you term the Pope, or Bishop of Bishops, can demand” (Spelman Concillia, pp. 108-109. Haddan & Stubbs, Vol. I, p. 122).
Augustine’s mission in England was not welcomed by the indigenous British Church, and is commonly known as the Italian Mission.
The Venerable Bede (cir. 740 CE) — “The Britons are contrary to the whole Roman world and enemies to Roman customs.” (Bede, Bk. 2, C. 23).
Synod of Whitby (664 CE) — A joint synod of the British Church and the Roman Church to unify the Christians in the Britain Isles began the Roman takeover of the British Church. St. Colman representing the British Church insisted that the Celtic tradition could be without doubt traced back to the apostle John. After much discussion, King Oswy ruled that Roman practices would be henceforth followed.
Once this decision had been handed down from the king, Bishop Colman and all those sympathetic to the British cause departed solemnly. After returning home to Lindisfarne to speak with the monks there, Colman and his fellow monks departed back home to Ireland where they would be free to practice their religion as they desired. Centuries of debate would follow on the heels of Whitby, and the Celtic Christians in the British Isles continued to remain independent and oppose Rome until the eleventh century when they were finally assimilated into the Roman religion with the Norman Conquest.
Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (667-690) — “He was the first of the Archbishops whom the whole English Church consented to obey” (Bede). It was Theodore who organized the Church into dioceses.
Needless to say, contrary to the statement of Bede who was a strong Roman partisan, the whole English Church had not consented to the authority of Theodore or of Rome. The British and Roman Churches each continued their separate existence until the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.
THE ENGLISH REFORMATION
Anglican — The word “Anglican” comes from the Latin and means “English.” The English Church has never been called Roman Catholic, but has always, both before and after the Reformation, been known as Ecclesia Anglicana — Church of England.
In the early 16th century it became possible to reassert the independence of the Church in the British Isles and to begin the process of reformation and restoration.
Royal Authority (1531 CE) — Convocation acknowledged the King of England as “Protector and Supreme Head as far as the law of Christ permits.”
Convocation Repudiates Usurped Papal Authority (1534 CE) — Convocation of the Church of England declared that the Bishop of Rome had no more authority in the Realm of England than any other foreign bishop.
Parliament (1544 CE) — Confirmed upon the King of England the title of “Defender of the Faith,” which title is used by all English Monarchs.
The Great Bible (1539 CE) — Miles Coverdale’s translation of the Bible, based on the work of William Tyndale was published as the “Great Bible” and authorized to be read in the English churches.
English Litany (1544 CE) — Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issues an English Litany. The vernacular Litany proves so popular that he is directed to head a committee to publish a Prayer Book in English based on the Services at Salisbury Cathedral (Sarum).
English Language Communion Devotions (1548 CE) — English language Communion Devotions (Prayer of Humble Access, etc.) are inserted into the Latin Mass.
Book of Common Prayer (1549 CE) — The English language Book of Common Prayer is introduced on Pentecost Sunday 1549, replacing the Latin Services.
Counter Reformation (1553) — King Edward VI dies and is succeeded by his half sister Mary (“Bloody Mary”) Tudor, a militant Roman Catholic. Queen Mary marries King Philip II of Spain, and terrible persecution begins in England. Some 300 Anglicans are burned alive, including five bishops, 100 presbyters and 60 women. Many more are imprisoned, with thousands driven into exile. The persecution insured that Roman Catholicism would remain not only unpopular but feared in England.
Good Queen Elizabeth I (1558 CE) — Queen Mary dies and is succeeded by her half sister Elizabeth Tudor. A committed Anglican, she immediately halts the persecution in England being carried out by the Roman Catholic authorities. The exiles return. Despite many problems stemming from the Reformation/Counter Reformation, including numerous assassination plots by Roman Catholics, her reign is popular, successful and prosperous.
Archbishop Matthew Parker (1559 CE) — Matthew Parker, a pious and moderate Anglican, becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.
Book of Common Prayer (1559 CE) — A revised edition of the Book of Common Prayer once again replaces the Latin Services in the Church of England.
Bishop’s Bible (1568 CE) — Archbishop Matthew Parker of Canterbury introduces a new translation of the Bible authorized for use in the English Church called the Bishop’s Bible.
King James Bible (1611 CE) — The King James Bible is issued. It is also called the “Authorized Version” because it is authorized for use by the Anglican Church. IThe king James Bible remains today the most popular of English translations.
Scottish Book of Common Prayer (1637 CE) — The Scottish edition of the Book of Common Prayer is issued. The Scottish rather than the English Book of Common Prayer will become the basis for the American Book of Common Prayer.
THE ENGLISH CHURCH IN AMERICA
Martin Frobisher Expedition (1578 CE) — When English explorers and colonists came to North America they bring their Church with them. The Rev. Robert Wolfall, a chaplain to the expedition of Martin Frobisher, was the first to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in North America. The place was a remote spot on the barren Arctic coast where the Frobisher expedition was searching for a shorter passage to the Far East. The year was 1578.
Jamestown, Virginia (1607 CE) — The first celebration of the Holy Eucharist in what would become the United States of America was held on June 16, 1607 by the Rev. Robert Hunt in thanksgiving for their safe arrival in Jamestown, Virginia.
The Rev. Jacob Duche (1774 CE) — The Rev. Jacob Duche, an Anglican presbyter, offered the first prayer at the Continental Congress at its initial meeting in 1774, and served informally as chaplain after that. He was formally elected its first chaplain on July 9, 1776, five days after the Colonies declare their independence from England.
Paul Revere (1775 CE) — The signal lanterns for Paul Revere were hung in the bell tower of Christ Church, an Anglican parish in Boston, where Revere served as a Vestryman.
Patrick Henry (1775 CE) — A devoted Anglican, Patrick Henry gave his famous ”Give me liberty or give me death” speech on March 23, 1775, at the Second Virginia Convention which was meeting at St. John’s Anglican Church in Richmond, Virginia.
Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776 CE) — Two-thirds of the signers of the declaration of Independence were Anglicans, as were two-thirds of the signers of the Constitution of the United States. It was “Light Horse” Harry Lee, an Anglican, who proposed a Declaration of Independence, and the principle author of that document was Thomas Jefferson, an Anglican who was educated in an Anglican college.
George Washington the Founding Father of the United States was a devout Anglican, as were James Madison, the chief architect of the US Constitution and his wife Dolly. John Marshall, the father of the Supreme Court, was an active Anglican, as was Edmund Randolph, the first president of the Continental Congress.
Other important Fathers and early leaders of the United States who were Anglicans include Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, James Monroe, Francis Scott Key, and Zachery Taylor. Independence Day, July 4, 1776, is even a holy day on the Calendar of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
DID JESUS VISIT BRITAIN?
Ancient British tradition records that Jesus visited the British Isles with Joseph of Arimathea who is thought to have been the Uncle of Jesus’ mother Mary. Tradition has it that they came to Ynis-witrin, later called the Isle of Avalon, now Glastonbury, Somerset, and part of the mainland.
This visit took place when Jesus was between 12 and 30 years of age, during which period the Gospels make no mention of him. It is said that there was a tin trade between Britain and the Middle East, and that Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, had mining interests in Britain. Archeology in the 21st century has confirmed that there was indeed a tin trade between Britain and the Middle East at the time.
History further asserts that when Joseph of Arimathea returned to Britain after the Resurrection of Jesus, he and the disciples who came with him built a wattle church upon the exact site of which the ruined Norman chapel of St. Mary in the Abbey grounds now stands.
English poet William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) wrote the anthem, Jerusalem, based on this ancient tradition. Jerusalem has long been the unofficial national anthem of Great Britain.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I shall not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
You can hear this beautiful and inspiring anthem sung here:
Jerusalem, the Anthem, with simultaneous lyrics
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CHURCH IN ANCIENT BRITAIN?
The best book on the ancient Church in the British Isles that I have read is,
The Celtic Church in Britain, by Leslie Hardinge Ph.D.
Dr. Leslie Hardinge was educated in England and America. He received his undergraduate degree from La Sierra University, Riverside, California, and then went on to earn three advanced seminary degrees, and finally his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1964.
The Celtic Church in Britain, c. 2005, is self-described as, “an authoritative study of the beliefs and practices of the Celtic church, which at the same time holds much interest for the non-specialist, containing as it does fascinating descriptions of the life of the early Celtic Christians…”
You can order the book from Amazon. Here is the link:
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a locally led and governed Bible-believing congregation in the English Spiritual Tradition. The word “Orthodox” means “correct belief” and at Holy Cross parish we are committed to proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, teaching “the faith which was once delivered” in the first century (Jude 3), and preparing a people for the Coming of the Lord. We cooperate and fellowship with all who share our commitment.
Our roots run deep indeed, from 21st century Nebraska through Colonial America, to the British Isles, and all the way back to first century Jerusalem, — and we certainly value our ancient Hebrew roots! We would like to invite you to worship and learn with us.
Holy Cross Orthodox Church is located at 7545 Main Street, in Ralston, Nebraska. You will find us on the east side of Hillcrest Landing, just under the covered parking. Look for our signs — you can’t miss us!
Sunday Christian Education is at 8:30 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:15 AM, with the Holy Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) at 10:00 AM. Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall follows worship.
You are also invited to tune into our weekly half hour radio broadcast called, The Faith Once Delivered.
The Faith Once Delivered is heard every Saturday morning at 9:30 AM CST on KCRO Radio 660 AM in Omaha, and 106.7 FM in Lincoln, and can be heard throughout eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Not in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa? No problem! You can listen live over the Internet. Just go to the KCRO Radio website and click Listen Live:
The Faith Once Delivered can also be heard as a podcast. There are already twenty weekly broadcasts archived that can be heard on demand. You can access past radio programs here:
Visit our parish website at:
And our parish Facebook page at:
HOLY CROSS PARISH WELCOMES YOU!
We worship according to the use of the historic Book of Common Prayer; and our worship is accompanied by ancient chant and traditional hymns, with all of our music sung acapella. Your spirit will be lifted to the throne of grace by our incomparable English Liturgy.
Biblical sermons are preached at Holy Cross in which the Holy Scriptures are read, explained and applied. Holy Cross is not just a Bible-believing congregation, but a Bible teaching one as well.
Everyone is invited to join us for worship and fellowship, and visitors are always welcome. We are a faithful and friendly parish, and we have a place for you!
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127