Reformation Anglican Worship

By Michael Jensen

My friend Rev. Dr. Michael Jensen (St Mark's Church, Darling Point, Sydney) has a new book out on Reformation Anglican Worship: Expressing Grace, Expressing Gratitude (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), which is a treat!

In terms of what is covered, chapter 1 lays out a theology of worship that undergirded the Reformation, namely, the pattern of Scripture itself. While chapter 2 sketches out Thomas Cranmer’s attempt to create a biblical piety and spirituality through his prayer books.

Then, in chapter  3, Jensen turns to the preaching of the word, noting that Cranmer enshrined a very prominent place for the preaching and reading of Scripture in the vernacular in the English church. That is followed with chapter 4, on the sacraments, where Jensen argues that the Anglican view of the sacraments is distinctly Reformed but without reducing them to mere memorialism.

In chapter five, Jensen tackles the subject of prayer. He points out that Cranmer called his book the Book of Common Prayer and not the Book of Common Worship. Lastly, in chapter 6, Jensen discusses the place and purpose of music in worship.

This book is partly a reflection of Anglican in-house debates about what is true Anglicanism and what is proper Anglican worship. Although written by a Sydney Anglican it is not an intra-Australian Anglican polemical tractate either. It is, on the whole, an attempt to root Anglicanism with its principles and praxes of worship in the broad convictions of the Protestant Reformation.

There is a great quote about why worship should be Trinitarian:

Worshiping the God who is triune makes a substantial difference to what true worship actually is. The doctrine of the Trinity means that Christian worship is a sharing in the Son’s union with his Father, through the Holy Spirit. Our union with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is the basis for this sharing of God’s people together in the divine life of God. We stand to worship God by means of the mediatory ministry of Jesus before the Father, to which we are drawn by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. As our great high priest, he sanctifies us by his blood, which he himself offered. This understanding of our relationship to the triune God was in part responsible for the Reformation’s rejection of the medieval concept of priesthood—since Christ is our supreme and exclusive mediator before God. As Torrance puts it, “The doctrine of the Trinity is the grammar of this participatory understanding of worship and prayer.”

Also interesting is the summary of Ashley Null on Cramner’s view of the Lord’s Supper:

From his extensive research into the development of Cranmer’s thinking as illustrated by the manuscripts from his massive eucharistic project in the 1530s and 1540s, Ashley Null shows how Cranmer was influenced by the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria in his developed theology of the Holy Communion. From this newly rediscovered evidence, we can see that Cranmer believed that only the Spirit is present during the Lord’s Supper, but the believer truly receives the full Christ, both in his humanity (i.e., body) and in his divinity (i.e., his spirit) because of Cranmer’s understanding of the patristic principle (of Cyril and Chalcedon) that Christ always remains undivided.19 In fact, in Cranmer’s understanding, the Spirit by faith raises believers up to the heavenly place, where Christ’s body is indeed present to be given to us.

As O’Donovan points out, for Cranmer, “the very nature of the sacrament is that in it Christ gives himself, really, to faith.” Later, Richard Hooker would echo this understanding: “The real presence of Christ’s most blessed body and blood is not therefore to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament.”

If you are into discussions of worship, church, and ministry, you’ll benefit from this book, but it will be especially relevant to those studying for Holy Orders at an Anglican seminary.


Leave a comment