An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Book of Homilies

In 1547, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1533-1556), issued his Book of Homilies. This was a time when many clergy did not want to preach, and when they did, some preached inflammatory sermons. Readings from the Book of Homilies were intended to insure that congregations of the Church of England would hear only officially approved doctrine. Cranmer's book was a compilation of twelve sermons. Three sermons are known to have come from Cranmer's hand-Of Salvation, Of Faith, and Of Good Works. Those sermons cover matters of greatest concern to the reformers. The whole collection is a significant expression of Reformation doctrine. Rubrics in both the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books called for one of the homilies if there were no sermon. A Second Book of Homilies was published some time prior to the Convocation of 1562, which issued the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Article XXXV lists the twenty-one titles of the homilies found in the new edition (BCP, p. 875). Although the 1662 Prayer Book repeats the 1552 rubric, clergy increasingly took up the preacher's role again. The Homilies fell into disuse and are now rarely heard.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.