By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part VI - I am a Churchman because the Church of England is the Ancient Historic Church of this Country,
and not a new Church founded by the State, dating only from the period of the Reformation, as some erroneously affirm. When the Roman missionary Augustine came (A.D. 597) he found a fully-organized Church. History shows our Church to be the descendant and successor of one which existed long before the Monarchy was founded. Dismissing uncertain legends connecting St. Paul, Joseph of Arimathea, and others, with the bringing of the Gospel to our land, there is some foundation for the statement of Tertullian (A.D. 207): “Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita”—“Places among the Britons unapproached by the Romans but subdued to Christ.” This is the earliest record connecting Britain with the name of Christ, and from it starts the history of our Church. Three British Bishops were at the Council of Aries in France A.D. 314, a proof that there was a duly organized Church in our land long before the arrival of Augustine. In the fourth century the British Church had the honour of furnishing martyrs to the faith during the terrible persecution under Diocletian. Though persecuted and scattered by pagan invaders, its light was never wholly extinguished.
“It was in the year 635, a little more than seventy years after Colomba landed in Iona, just thirty years after the death of Augustine—that Aidan commenced his work. Though nearly forty years had elapsed since Augustine’s first landing in England, Christianity was still confined to the first conquest, the south-east corner of the island, the kingdom of Kent. Beyond this border, though ground had been broken here and there, no territory had been permanently acquired for the Gospel. Then commenced those thirty years of earnest, energetic labour, carried on by these Celtic missionaries, and their disciples from Lindisfarne as their spiritual citadel, which ended in the submission of England to the gentle yoke of Christ. Not Augustine, but Aidan, is the TRUE apostle of England” (Bishop Lightfoot). Bishop Chris. Wordsworth says: “No trace whatever can be found of the Bishop of Rome having exercised any ecclesiastical authority in England for the first six hundred years after Christ, and it is certain that England did not receive her Christianity at first through Rome.”
In early days the common faith helped greatly to draw the several kingdoms together, until at last England became one kingdom. The Nation did not establish the Church, but the Church assisted greatly to establish and consolidate the Nation. At the Reformation the English Church shook off an intolerable yoke, reasserted its independence, repudiated Roman authority, renounced Roman practices and superstitions, and declared the Bible to be the supreme authority, and by the preservation of the historic Episcopate secured the continuity of the Church of England. Of this our English Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are enduring monuments.
>> Part VII. - I am a Churchman because of the Protestant Principles of the Church of England.