UU Minute #38

Stranger Churches

The first of England’s Stranger Churches -- Protestant churches for foreigners – started in 1547, led by Bernardino Ochino of Italy, (whose name just keeps popping up in our story.)[1] A few years later, 1550, the Dutch Stranger Church of London received a royal charter and was incorporated by letters patent.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, supported the Stranger Church for two reasons: The Stranger Church provided a possible model of how a reformed Protestant Church might work in England, and it also served to help suppress those heresies that went too far – such as Unitarianism. For instance, in 1551, Dutch surgeon George van Parris of the London Stranger Church, was executed by his fellow Dutchmen for denying that Jesus Christ was God. King Edward VI wrote in his diary that day:
"A certain Arian, of the strangers, a Dutchman, being excommunicated by the congregation, was, after long disputation, condemned to the fire."
When Edward was succeeded by Mary I, Stranger Churches were shut down as Mary sought to bring England back into the Catholic fold.

Mary was then succeeded by Elizabeth I, who sought compromise. Doctrine would be a compromise between Luther and Calvin. Worship and ceremony would be a compromise between Catholic and Protestant. In 1559, one year into her reign, Elizabeth permitted re-establishment of the Stranger Church, and abolished laws for burning heretics. She also, that year, enacted the Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to worship either in the Church of England or the Stranger Church.

Protestant exiles who had fled Mary’s oppression flocked home under Elizabeth. These exiles brought with them a new Protestant radicalism picked up on the Continent, and they wanted, not compromise, but a purified English church purged of every vestige of Catholicism.

Elizabeth’s compromises did not include these more Puritan Protestants. Nor did they include Unitarians questioning the deity of Jesus or the Doctrine of the Trinity.

[1] Bernardino Ochino is also mentioned in UU Minutes #16, #23, #24, #25, and #37.

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