An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Wycliffe, John

(c. 1330-1384). English reformer of the fourteenth century. Wycliffe was born in Ipreswell (now Hipswell) in Yorkshire, England. He entered Oxford University around 1345 and received his doctorate in theology around 1372. Wycliffe was appointed rector of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, in 1361, warden of Canterbury Hall in 1365, rector of Ludgershall in 1368, and finally rector of Lutterworth in 1374, where he remained until his death. He was a critic of the worldly papacy of the fourteenth century and an opponent of monasticism. He argued that monasticism placed one class of Christians above another, and he called for the dissolution of all the monasteries. His primary criticism was of the doctrine of transubstantiation. He insisted that the bread and wine remain bread and wine after the consecration. He taught that the church is not centered in the Pope and the Cardinals but that the church is the whole company of the elect and its only head is Christ. Wycliffe claimed that the Bible is the only standard for Christian faith and practice and that it should be read in English. He and others translated the Bible from the Vulgate into English. This was his major achievement as a reformer. His published treatises included De Dominio Divino (1375), De Civili Dominio (1376), De Ecclesia (1378), and De Potestate Papae (1379). On May 22, 1377, Pope Gregory XI issued five bulls condemning the work of Wycliffe. He died in Lutterworth. The Council of Constance in 1415 condemned 267 errors in his teaching, ordered that his books be burned and that his bones be dug up and burned. Wycliffe's followers were called Lollards. He has been called the “Morning Star of the Reformation.”

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.