So close now to our thought-provoking “Top 10” list of Christians, since/after the Apostles.
Just missing the “Ten”, King Henry 8th was crowned head of the British monarchy in 1509, and was largely responsible for thrusting the English nation into internal strife and breaking apart formally from Rome and the Pope. In 1538 Henry VIII issued a proclamation ordering “one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English” placed in every church in England. The declaration directed the clergy to put the Bible “in some convenient place whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it…” This had reversed an earlier royal decree which banned the English biblical translation.
It is widely known that King Henry, who the Pope had in previous years deemed “the defender of the Faith”, had sought an annulment from the Pope regarding his marriage to his first wife. Rome rejected his wishes and as such the King, who was already in love with his soon-to-be 2nd wife, declared that he did not need the Pope to receive an annulment or a divorce, and at that point established himself (and the monarch) to be the official head of the Church of England, rather than the Pope. During this time, in the early to mid 16th century, many countries, factions, and groups were breaking from Rome and the Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation was in full swing, led by persons like Luther in Germany, Henry in England, Calvin, and others. The king clearly had “other” reasons (unlike Luther and Calvin) to reject the Pope, but with Luther and such they were all instrumental in a widespread opinion across western Europe that the Pope should not have authority over heads of States. In addition, there were many who felt that the Roman Catholic Church had significantly veered off the course of appropriate and Biblical Christianity.
The world, and the various denominations, still feels the effects of these early protests and divisions today.
King Henry is a good example of many of the others that are in the Top 10; not always the “holiest” per se, but a charismatic “difference-maker” in the history of the universal Church nonetheless. We welcome your comments and thoughts on this selection. Thank you.