An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Parker, Matthew

(Aug. 6, 1504-May 17, 1575). The first Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Elizabeth. Parker was responsible for enacting and enforcing the Elizabethan Settlement. He studied at St. Mary's Hostel, Cambridge University. He received his B.A. in 1527, his M.A. in 1528, his B.D. in 1535, and his D.D. in 1537, all from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. He was ordained deacon on Apr. 20, 1527, and priest on June 15, 1527. While at Cambridge he belonged to a group called the “Cambridge Reformers,” who helped to bring the Reformation to England. At first Parker was attracted to the teachings of Martin Luther, but then moved away from Luther as he studied more deeply the patristic literature. He supported the publication of The Institute of a Christian Man (1537), known as the Bishops' Book, which was a commentary on the Ten Articles. The Ten Articles were Henry VIII's greatest concessions to the Protestants. Martin Bucer, the reformer at Strasburg, was regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, 1549-1551, and had a great influence on Parker. Bucer represented a moderating position between Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther. Parker was chaplain to Anne Boleyn, 1535-1536. He served as dean of the College of St. John the Baptist, Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk, 1535-1547. He was rector of Ashen (Ashdon), 1542-1544. Parker was master and vice-chancellor, Corpus Christi College, 1544-1552. He was dean of Lincoln Cathedral, 1552-1553. On Dec. 17, 1559, Parker was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and served in that position until his death. His primacy was one of the most important in the history of the English Church. He had to work between the extremes of the Marian party, which wanted to restore the Church of England to Roman obedience and medieval theology, and the extreme reforming party, at first called “precisionists,” and then Puritans, who wanted aggressive reforms in the Church of England with regard to ceremonial and theology. Parker's great success was to steer the Church of England between these two extremes, and it has been suggested that he originated the via media, which is the primary characteristic of Anglicanism. He was evangelical but conservative, and catholic but reformed. He applied the broad principles of the Reformation to the Church of England without betraying the catholicity of the church. Under Parker's leadership, the “42 Articles” were revised and issued in 1563, and published in 1571 as the “39 Articles.” He supervised the translation of the “Bishops' Bible,” which was published in 1568, and which superseded Tyndale's translation and the “Geneva Bible” of 1560. It remained the official English version until the publication of the Authorized Version in 1611. Parker died in London.

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.