Puritan Conflicts in Early 17th Century England
Individual free will allows for a variety of different beliefs to be cultivated. Unfortunately, people do not always accept a variety of ideas. One area in the human experience that has long been disputed is religion. Religion is such a controversial topic that it has been the cause of many wars such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War. The people involved in these wars felt a responsibility to uphold and preserve their faith. In England, the Anglican Church and the Puritans in the first half of the 17th century are another example of peoples with religious problems. Although religion did not directly lead to a physical war, religious conflicts caused a good deal of frustration. Under James I, Charles I, and the Anglican Church, Puritans did not have complete religious autonomy because their beliefs often conflicted with those of the Anglican Church. Consequently, the Puritans felt a responsibility to uphold their practices.
The Anglican Church and the English government were closely related to each other; the king not only ruled the country, but was the head of the church as well. Therefore, disobeying the church meant that people also acted against the king[i]. Like governmental organization, the Church of England was based on a hierarchal structure. It favored powerful bishops, ornate services and liturgies, and allowed people to personally observe the religion. During King Charles I’s reign, royal and elite citizens of England largely composed the Church of England[ii]. These close connections between the church and the state allowed for much corruption to take place[iii].
The Puritans’ goals, as in the Reformation, continued to be to purify the church[iv]. The need they felt for reform in the Church obviously meant the Puritans were unhappy with the current Church of England. For one, they wanted less ornate church services and practices in place of the high-church polices of the Anglican Church. Salvation was a major element in Puritanism, and they stressed literacy and education to enable people to understand the Bible and be sanctified[v]. They regarded the Sabbath as a day dedicated to religious worship, and not one that permitted people to participate in recreational activities. They also complained about the clergy in the churches. The Puritans accused many of the preachers of unsound doctrines, drunkenness, swearing, sexual immorality, and an overall unfitness to preach due to a general negligence[vi].
At the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, the Puritans took it upon themselves to address their complaints, including the problem of scandalous ministers. They listed their grievances in the Millenary Petition. Among the ideas brought up in the Petition, the Puritans urged king James to allow only educated, competent preachers to be made ministers, to eliminate “pluralist”...