An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 7 March 2014

British Calvinists: William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579)

William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579) was born in Chester and educated at Brasenose College and Christ Church, Oxford. He went to France to help in his language studies. He returned to England in 1553 but his Reformed views meant he had to go into exile when Mary I came to the throne.

He was one of the first to arrive in Frankfurt which became a centre for Marian exiles. He became friends with John Knox there and supported Knox in the dispute over the form of church service. Knox wanted a more Reformed approach, others, such as Richard Cox,  a more Reformed Anglican approach - here can be seen the start of another of the inter-family disputes among the Reformed and perhaps the roots of non-Conformism. Knox had to leave and went to Geneva. Whittingham soon followed Knox to Geneva. In 1575 Whittingham published an account of the dispute: A brieff discours off the troubles begonne at Franckford in Germany, Anno Domini 1554. 

In Geneva Knox became the minister of the English-speaking exiled group there. In 1558 Whitingham was elected elder. In 1559 when Knox left for Scotland Calvin suggested that Whittingham take over as minister.

The Genevan congregation drew up a service format and a form of church discipline that was very similar to Calvin's system, with elected ministers, elders and deacons and the power of ex-communication.

When Elizabeth I came to the throne many of the Genevan exiles returned to England. Whittingham stayed to complete his work on the Geneva Bible. He also worked on metrical Psalms.

In 1560 he left Geneva for England via France. In 1563 he became the dean of Durham. 
Whittingham disliked the "popish apparel" of surplice an cope and originally refused to wear them. Several complaints were made against Whittingham, including one that maintained that he was not properly ordained. 

He died on 10 June 1579, he was buried in Durham Cathedaral. 

Some of his writings are available here:

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