Re-Visioning Lancelot Andrewes: A New Course at the Davenant Institute

Published in partnership with The Davenant Institute.

My first encounter with Lancelot Andrewes was by accident. I admit (somewhat reluctantly) that I was actually on the trail of a Puritan and instead I happened upon the “stella praedicantium” (the star of preachers), as a contemporary once called him. It was in the lady chapel of Southwark Cathedral (“St. Savior’s” in Andrewes’ day), on the bank of the Thames in London that I was confronted by the tomb of one of Anglicanism’s founding fathers, whom T.S. Eliot called “the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.”[1]

The experience that day was an odd one. There was a job fair and the cathedral nave was full of young people awkwardly introducing themselves and chatting with potential employers. A certain episode regarding our Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem came to mind, and I wondered how Andrewes was resting in that environment. The holiness of the place of worship was of great concern to him, whose liturgy for the consecration of a chapel would eventually make its mark on the American Prayer Book (1928).[2] As he says, “God He is, and Holy is His title: so would His place be a holy place; and, for God, a Temple.”[3] An effigy of the great bishop holding his most influential work, his Preces Sacrae (a book of private prayers), marks the place of his tomb. A memorial candle burns in perpetuity there, perhaps to symbolize the illuminative power his words continue to have among Anglicans.

The designer of Andrewes’ tomb also constructed the monument to William Shakespeare at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. This is a fitting coincidence, since as Eliot boldly states, “if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.”[4] John Keble spoke of Hooker’s Laws as a “turning point” in the history of the Church of England that prevented a radical theological spirit from taking hold on the church in a definitive way.[5] If Hooker’s magnum opus marked such a significant moment in English church history, Andrewes’ lectures and sermons were giving impetus to the wheels of change before Hooker had finished writing his first book. Ordained in 1580, Andrewes slightly preceded Hooker in a project that they shared mutually, namely, the crafting of a theological foundation for the Elizabethan Settlement against Puritan and Presbyterian opposition. Andrewes would come to serve as chaplain to Archbishop Whitgift under Elizabeth, dean of the Chapel Royal under James I, and as bishop of Chichester (later Ely and Winchester), he would act as one of the chief translators of the King James Version of the Bible.

Like Hooker, Andrewes’ concept of conformity was anti-Puritan and sacramental and is said to have inspired a “second Reformation” under Laud and the Caroline Divines.[6] Andrewes lived longer than Hooker, beyond Elizabeth, even to the cusp of the Carolinian era, dying just one year after attending the coronation of Charles I. His influential episcopal office and long life ensured Andrewes would leave a distinctive mark on generations to come. In fact, his Ninety-Six Sermons were promoted with such vehemence by Archbishop Laud and the king’s printer that they were imbued with an authority outshining most other published works of the day and beaming with the brightness of a veritable third Book of Homilies. As Peter McCulough notes, “Never before had any collection of English sermons by one author been printed in folio, and its royal commission, episcopal editing, and dedication to the king advertised an endorsement by central authority stronger than that afforded Hooker’s Laws (1593), and perhaps approached only by Jewel’s Apology (1562) and the official Book of Homilies (1559).”[7]

Peter Lake has coined the phrase “avant-garde conformity” to describe the theological program of Hooker and Andrewes, which is a form of Protestantism accentuated by its Christocentrism, sacramentalism, and a defense of catholic liturgy and elaborate ceremony in opposition to the Puritan emphasis on preaching and predestination.[8] Andrewes revived the position of confessor when he was prebendary at St. Paul’s, and as dean of the Chapel Royal he is said to have included altar candles, a cross, and a censor filled with incense (after the reading of the first lesson) as elements of regular worship there. Despite these “high church” features, both Calvinists and Laudians staked a claim in Andrewes’ legacy after his death. His early catechetical lectures include statements more in line with Reformed theology (among them the belief that images of Christ violate the second commandment). After his death certain Puritan publishers aimed to exploit this for their cause. The Laudian publishers countered with their own version, including notes explaining away those earlier statements with select quotations from Andrewes’ later works.[9] Today, this divide persists in another form, as scholars such as Lake and Nicholas Tyacke see Andrewes as an anti-Calvinist, whereas Peter White places him within the broad pale of Reformed orthodoxy.

It is the duty of any instructor to guide his students to the original sources, and subject the tools of analysis to continual testing, so as to safeguard against erroneous conclusions stemming from observer bias. In short,a good historian must be aware of the human tendency to read our own agendas into the past. A certain amount of historical revision of key Reformational figures like John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and more recently Richard Hooker and William Perkins, has been conducted by scholars such as Heiko Oberman, David Steinmetz, and Richard Muller over the past several decades. Among modern scholars of Richard Hooker, such as Torrance Kirby (my doktorvater), David Neelands, and more recently Brad Littlejohn, the old narrative that claimed Hooker as the architect of an Anglican via media, neither Protestant nor Catholic, (but perhaps Lutheran?) has been shown to be more of a product of the 19th century mind than that of Hooker’s own pen.[10]

It is with the same instruments of re-vision (lit. “looking again”) through the examination of the primary sources that I will be leading a seminar entitled “Anglican Spirituality: The Theology of Lancelot Andrewes” with the Davenant Institute. In this ten-week course, which will run from January to March 2021, we will focus on a selection of Andrewes’ sermons and lectures in an effort to discover what they reveal about the nature of Anglicanism past and present. We will examine Andrewes’ early catechetical lectures in comparison with his later sermons to get a sense of any development in his thought and to discern where Andrewes may or may not diverge from the general consensus of Reformed theology in his promotion of “avant-garde” conformity. Topics such as the Incarnation, the Sacraments, Prayer and Preaching will be discussed to give a balanced approach both to the doctrinal and liturgical elements of Andrewes’ thought. All who are interested in Andrewes or the nature of classical Anglicanism are encouraged to stroll past the job fair, and join me in the lady chapel.

  1. T.S. Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order, (R. Maclehose & Co: Glasgow, 1970), 15.
  2. See “The Form of Consecration of a Church of Chapel” on p. 563.
  3. The Works of Lancelot Andrewes, eds. J. Bliss and J. P. Wilson, (Oxford, 1841 – 54), vol. 3, 237.
  4. For Lancelot Andrewes, 14.
  5. The Works of Mr. Richard Hooker, ed. John Keble, (Oxford, 1888) vol. 1, lix.
  6. See the work of Anthony Milton, including his forthcoming book, England’s Second Reformation: The Battle for the Church of England 1625-1662 (Cambridge, 2021).
  7. Peter McCullough, “Making Dead Men Speak: Laudianism, Print, and the Works of Lancelot Andrewes, 1626-1642,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), p.
  8. Peter Lake, “Lancelot Andrewes, John Buckeridge, and Avante-Garde Conformity at the Court of James I,” in Linda Levy Peck (ed.), The Mental World of the Jacobean Court (Cambridge, 1991), 113-33.
  9. For more information on this, see the extensive footnotes in Peter McCullough (ed.), Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures (Oxford, 2005), 276-278.
  10. For more details see Torrance Kirby (ed.), A Companion to Richard Hooker (Brill: Leiden, 2008); and W. Bradford Littlejohn, and Scott Kindred-Barnes (eds.), Richard Hooker and Reformed Orthodoxy (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017).


The Rev. Dr. Eric M. Parker

Fr. Eric is the Rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church in Lexington, VA. A native of southern Mississippi, he holds an M.A. in Theology from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Religion from McGill University. He has co-authored a book on Nicholas of Cusa and authored various academic and online articles. He is married to Aubrey and they have three lovely children.

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