- via media
- The via media, or middle way, was the set of beliefs and practices imposed by Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) on the Church of England early in her reign, as a compromise between the Protestant supporters of her brother, Edward VI (r. 154753), and the Catholic supporters of her sister, Mary I (r. 1553-58), whose reigns had been torn by religious controversy and violence. The middle way was the foundation of the Anglican tradition; it is the basis for the rejection by some Anglicans of the Protestant label.Elizabeth moved slowly in transforming familiar Catholic worship patterns, but she almost immediately banned the elevation of the host, a highly symbolic act supportive of the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper and most offensive to Protestants. She moved to revise the statement of faith, approving the 39 Articles of Religion still used by the Church of England and its daughter bodies. Thus, while the basic Sunday worship retained a Catholic flavor, the official statement of belief was highly Calvinist and contained a number of specifically anti-Roman Catholic statements. Richard Hooker's (c. 1553-1600) massive Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1594-97) is often seen as the major defense of the via media written during Elizabeth's reign.In response to her decrees, Elizabeth was excommunicated in 1570 by Pope Sixtus V (1521-90). When, from the opposite end of the spectrum, some Puritan ministers refused to wear vestments and demanded the elimination of bishops in favor of presbyters (elders), Elizabeth deprived them of their positions and the income that went with them. The most vigorous protesters, such as Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), were forced into exile and/or jailed. This led to the solidification of the Presbyterians and Congrega-tionalists as separate communities apart from the Church of England.Thanks to Elizabeth's long reign, the Anglicanism of the via media was able to survive the onslaughts of later Catholic kings and of Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). A low-church Evangelical wing did eventually develop within the Anglican Communion, as well as an Anglo-Catholic high-church wing favoring movements toward Roman Catholicism.Further reading:■ Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1989)■ Richard Hooker, Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, 4 vols., W. Speed Hill, ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: University of Harvard Press, 1977)■ William L. Sachs, The Transformation of Anglicanism: From State Church to Global Communion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993)■ Andrew Wingate, et al., eds., Anglicanism: A Global Communion (London: Mowbray, 1998).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.