Here’s the fifth in a series of six kids talks on British Church History. This talk focuses on how freedom for people to worship in Britain was given through the Acts of Toleration in 1689 and the Catholic Relief Act in 1829. This talk has been given in church and also been adapted for a junior school assembly.
British Church History (Part 5) – Freedom
Different numbers make us think about different things. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the following numbers?
- 1966 [England winning the World Cup].
- 2012 [Olympics in London].
- 365 [Days in a year].
- 12 [Months in a year; Days of Christmas; Signs of the Zodiac; Disciples of Jesus].
But here are 3 important numbers that we need to remember:
6,500. That is the number of unreached people groups in the world. Groups of people who have never heard the good news about Jesus. 639 of these people groups have populations of over 100,000 people. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been heard in Britain since the first century.
2,200+. That is the number of languages that have no part of the Bible translated into it. The Bible was first translated into English in the 1380s, and was widely available from the 1530s.
200 million. That is the number of Christians around the world who face persecution (plus another 350 million Christian face discrimination and restrictions). And at one time Christians in this country were persecuted too. In fact until 1689 a church like this one would not have been allowed to meet.
It wasn’t until 1689 that the Act of Toleration was made which allowed Protestants who were not members of the Church of England (known as non-conformists or Independents) to meet to worship and have their own buildings. For those of the Roman Catholics denomination this wasn’t given until 1829.
Before these Acts in 1689 and 1829, people were only allowed to take part in the form of Christianity that the King or Queen of England said they were allowed to, and those who took part in a different form were persecuted, with many being killed.
The big problem was that the form of Christianity the King or Queen said they were allowed to take part in kept on changing. Under Henry VIII and Edward VI, England was Protestant. Then under Mary I it was Catholic. Under Elizabeth I and James I it was Protestant. Officially under Charles I the church was Protestant but there was a fear that it would become Catholic again because Charles I had a Catholic wife and appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury who made the Church of England more and more Catholic.
It particularly worried some of the members of Parliament and was one of the causes behind the English Civil War which Charles lost and was replaced ultimately by Oliver Cromwell who was Protestant and favoured Independent churches so the Church of England was abolished. Shortly after Cromwell died Charles II was invited to become king by Parliament and he outlawed independent churches and brought back the Church of England which has remained Protestant to this day.
If Independent churches were outlawed, why are they around today? The reason is that when James II was king, even though the Church of England was Protestant, he was a Catholic and there was a fear that the church would be through his son, the next king. So those in the Church of England and those in the Independent churches worked together to remove James II and made William of Orange king and the Act of Toleration was signed allowing freedom for Protestants of all sorts to worship freely in Britain. 150 years later freedom was given to those in the Catholic church.
Hebrews 13:3 says that we are to: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.” We can praise God, that in this country we are free to worship God through Jesus in variety of ways. But at the same time we should remember and pray for those around the world that live in places where they are not free to do and for those areas where it is even illegal to be a Christian.
(Photo: Janet Burgess)