Matthew Parker bigraphy, stories - Archbishop of Canterbury

Matthew Parker : biography

6 August 1504 - 17 May 1575

Matthew Parker (6 August 1504 – 17 May 1575) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder (with Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker) of a distinctive tradition of Anglican theological thought.

Parker was one of the primary architects of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the defining statements of Anglican doctrine. The Parker collection of early English manuscripts, including the book of St. Augustine Gospels and Version A of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was created as part of his efforts to demonstrate that the English Church was historically independent from Rome, creating one of the world's most important collections of ancient manuscripts.

Archbishop of Canterbury (1559–1575)

He was elected on 1 August 1559 but, given the turbulence and executions that had preceded Elizabeth's accession, it was difficult to find the requisite four bishops willing and qualified to consecrate Parker, and not until December 19 was that ceremony performed at Lambeth by William Barlow, formerly Bishop of Bath and Wells, John Scory, formerly Bishop of Chichester, Miles Coverdale, formerly Bishop of Exeter, and John Hodgkins, Bishop of Bedford. The allegation of an indecent consecration in the Nag's Head Fable seems first to have been made by the Jesuit Christopher Holywood in 1604, and has since been discredited. Parker's consecration was, however, legally valid only by the plenitude of the royal supremacy; the Edwardine Ordinal, which was used, had been repealed by Mary Tudor and not re-enacted by the parliament of 1559. The Roman Catholic Church has asserted that the form of consecration used was insufficient to make a bishop, and therefore represented a break in the Apostolic Succession, but the Church of England has rejected this, arguing that the form of words used made no difference to the substance or validity of the act.

Elizabeth wanted a moderate man, so she chose Parker. There was also an emotional attachment. Parker had been the favourite chaplain of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. Before Anne was arrested in 1536, she had entrusted Elizabeth's spiritual well-being to Parker. A few days after this, Anne had been executed following charges of adultery, incest and treason. Parker also possessed all the qualifications Elizabeth expected from an archbishop, except celibacy.

Parker mistrusted popular enthusiasm, and he wrote in horror of the idea that "the people" should be the reformers of the Church. He was convinced that if ever Protestantism was to be firmly established in England at all, some definite ecclesiastical forms and methods must be sanctioned to secure the triumph of order over anarchy, and he vigorously set about the repression of what he thought a mutinous individualism incompatible with a catholic spirit.

He was not an inspiring leader and no dogma or prayer-book is associated with his name, however, the English composer Thomas Tallis contributed Nine Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter which bears his name. The 55 volumes published by the Parker Society include only one by its eponymous hero, and that is a volume of correspondence. He was a disciplinarian, a scholar, a modest and moderate man of genuine piety and irreproachable morals.

Later years

Parker avoided involvement in secular politics and was never admitted to Elizabeth's privy council. Ecclesiastical politics gave him considerable trouble. Some of the evangelical reformers wanted liturgical changes and at least the option not to wear certain clerical vestments, if not their complete prohibition. Early presbyterians wanted no bishops, and the conservatives opposed all these changes, often preferring to move in the opposite direction toward the practices of the Henrician church. The queen herself begrudged episcopal privilege until she eventually recognised it as one of the chief bulwarks of the royal supremacy. To Parker's consternation, the queen refused to add her imprimatur to his attempts to secure conformity, though she insisted that he achieve this goal. Thus Parker was left to stem the rising tide of Puritan feeling with little support from parliament, convocation or the Crown.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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