Churches of Christ in Kent (South East England) before and during the Reformation, thus showing, the church of Christ in England is pre-Reformation, dispelling the myth that Reformation lead to Restoration.

 

1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

 

Dover, in Kent is just a little over twenty miles from Calais, France. To the North is London, making it ideal for communication with the continent and the capital. It was in Kent where lord Cobham had his school to prepare men to preach the Gospel in the 1400s. Lollardy had long been associated with Kent. Movement was both ways to and from the continent, there was a circle consisting of Amsterdam in Holland, Colchester, London and the Kent churches. These Christians to avoid persecution would flee to the in of the above named locations. Lollards were known to refuse baptism to their children until of "riper" years.

On 29th April, 1511, six years before the Reformation (Luther nailing his "Ninety-five Theses of Religion" to the church door at Wittenberg) William Carder of Tenderden, Kent was charged with a number of articles (listed below) , including "it was enough to pray to almighty God alone, and therefore we needed not to pray to saints for any mediation". 

On May 2, 1511, six men and four women from Tenterden stood trial before William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. The hearing was held at the Archbishop's Mansion at Knoll (modern spelling Knole), where today Knole Hall is. The location is near to the town of Sevenoaks (where seven oaks once stood), Kent.

The charges were (modem spelling):

1  - That in the sacrament of the altar is not the body of Christ, but material bread.

2  - That the sacrament of baptism and confirmation are not necessary, or profitable for menís souls.

3  - That confession of sins ought not to be made to a priest.

4  - That there is no more power given by God to a priest than to a layman.

5  - That the solemnization of matrimony (by a priest) is not profitable or necessary for the well of a manís   soul.

6  - That the sacrament of extreme unction is not profitable or necessary to a manís soul.

7  - That pilgrimages to holy and devout places be not profitable, neither meritorious for manís soul.

8  - That images of saints are not to be worshipped.

9  - That a man should pray to no saint, but only to God.

10- That holy water, and holy bread, be not the better after the benediction made by the priest, than before

Article two - "That the sacrament of baptism and confirmation are not necessary, or profitable for menís souls" is ample evidence that these people had rejected infant baptism.

The other charges confirm that they had rejected the Roman Catholic Church and its errors. All were punished, and abjured their opinions, under condition that they would inform on any others that held the same views. Alice Grevill, who had been a member of the church at Tenterden for twenty-eight years, was condemned to death after refusing to abjure, her husband and two sons stood as witnesses against her. Her confession of her membership of the Tenderden church dates the church back to 1483.

Matters progressed quickly, on the 15th of May four men and one women abjured at Lambeth (London) and on the 19th four more men abjured. On 3rd June a man and women abjured, on the 26th and other woman. On the 29th July two women, on 2nd August and a man and on the 3rd, a woman. More followed, more names given under pain or torture. More articles were added, "That images of the crucifix of our lady and other saints, ought not to be worshiped because they are made with men's hands", and, "money and labours spent in pilgrimages were all in vain".  

Congregations in Kent were started in  Tenderden, Feversham, Maidstone, Canterbury and Eythorne, Eythorne and Canterbury continue to this day as Baptist churches.     

Joan Bocher (executed by burning alive, 2 May 1550 at Smithfield, London, for heresy) was a member at one time of the church at Eythorne and was well known in the congregations in Kent.  She has also been known as Joan Boucher or Butcher, or as Joan Knell or Joan of Kent.

Joan's friendship became well known with Anne Askew, and their involvement in smuggling Tyndale's New Testament into Kent from the London congregations. Anne Askew had even taken the Tyndale's New Testament into the royal court, under her skirts. 

By the 1530s the churches in Kent and London were in fellowship, if not earlier, despite for the next one hundred and fifty years of persecutions, burnings and imprisonments.

 

 (Sources consulted include - Burnet, History of the Reformation of the Church of England, and Crosby, History of the English Baptists)

 

Next - Churches of Christ become established and the burnings of those people