Reform to 1564

Calvin + Reform to 1546 + Reform to 1572 + Reform to 1622

The period between the deaths of Henry VIII and Luther and the death of Calvin in 1564 was marked in England by the consolidation of Reform under Henry's son Edward, and reversion to Catholicism under Mary Tudor, before the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 and the early stages of the Anglican middle way - Reformed in theology, relatively Catholic in style.

In Europe Lutheranism was established in the north, and the Swiss Reformations associated with Zwingli and Bucer acquired theological depth and a vision for a particular style of worship and church order through Calvin.

Calvin's Geneva attracted refugees and scholars from around Europe. In its first centuries Calvinism did not have an "overseas" missionary movement - but it was from early on a church with a mission to Europe and it established itself as an international faith alongside Catholicism and Lutheranism.

For Scotland 1560 marked a turning point. Royal power was weak and the prospects of English influence favourable to reform were renewed by the accession of Elisabeth in 1559. Knox and others were able to return and drew up the Scots Confession and the First Book of Discipline as the documents of a Reformed Church, modelled particularly but not exclusively on Calvin's Geneva. Edinburgh rather than St Andrews became the centre of the new church order and political power was weighted towards supporters of the Reformation.

Links between the English, Scottish, and Swiss reform movements included the still universal scholarly language of Latin which had enabled the Dutch Erasmus and the German Bucer to teach English students in Cambridge, and the shared experiences in Geneva of the exiles from persecution under Mary Tudor. Those who sat at the feet of Calvin returned to England under Elisabeth or to Scotland where Queen Mary's power was circumscribed by Protestant Lords and the preaching of Knox, taking a clear vision of what they believed a pure Church of Christ ought to be. Implementing the vision and maintaining unity were however far from straightforward.

The death of Calvin in 1564 meant that those who had learnt from him now had to work out for themselves what that vision actually required in difficult and changing political circumstances.

John Roxborogh