Religion in the Thirteen Colonies

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What problems did the Puritans have with the Church of England?

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The Puritans gained most of their power following the first English Civil War, and most of the Puritan ministers renounced the Church of England following the English Restoration of 1660 and the subsequent Uniformity Act of 1662. Puritans believed that the Church of England still maintained many characteristics similar to the Roman Catholic Church, and they supported a greater form of purity of doctrinal worship. Highly anti-Catholic, the Puritans believed that the Church of England required further reform. Additionally, they opposed the idea that the king should be the supreme ruler over the church; instead, they believed that only Christ could rule the church--be it in heaven or on earth. Puritans believed in a minimum of ritual (no use of candles or artistic images) and decried excessive preaching; like the Calvinists, Puritans also supported a strict regulation of worship and were anti-traditionalist. Puritans did not support or celebrate traditional religious holidays.

The Puritans were infuriated by the marriage of Henrietta-Marie de Bourbon to King Charles I, King James' son and successor, in 1625. She was a Roman Catholic and decidedly anti-Puritan. The Puritans also despised King Charles' advisor, William Laud, who also disapproved of the rise in Puritanism power. Charles later used his Star Chamber and Court of High Commission to suppress Puritans by conviction and imprisonment.

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The basic problem that the Puritans had with the Church of England was that it was, in their minds, too much like the Catholic Church.  The Puritans thought that the Church of England had not done enough to purify itself of Catholic influences.

Two specific disagreements were over church hierarchy and the nature of the worship service.  The Puritans did not believe in a church hierarchy with bishops and archbishops and such.  They believed that each congregation should be autonomous.  The Church of England was, to them, too hierarchical.  The Puritans also believed in simple church services centered around a sermon.  They belived the Church of England's services were like Catholic masses and therefore too ritualistic.

As these examples show, the Puritans' major problem with the Church of England was that it was too much like the Roman Catholic Church.

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