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Historians investigate plays, prayers, and subversion in winter issue of Anglican and Episcopal History

22 Jan 2022 9:15 PM | HSEC Director of Operations (Administrator)

Anglican and Episcopal History CoverEpiscopal historians’ winter issue of Anglican and Episcopal History examines ways plays and prayers both confirmed and subverted order in England and Southern Africa.

The winter issue includes 2 peer-reviewed studies, 2 church reviews, 23 book reviews, and 2022 annual reports from the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church.

In “Staging Reformation: John Bale and the Performance of Protestantism”, Alexandra Whitley examines the work of Carmelite friar turned playwright and Protestant preacher John Bale (1495-1563).

Whitely analyzes multiple plays, including King Johan (ca. 1538) and Three Laws (1548), to show ways Bale subverted the traditional English morality play that was closely aligned to Roman Catholic practice in order to promote Protestantism.

As she notes, “Theater occupied a provocative place in the early years of the Reformation, and the English monarchy clearly understood just how dangerous, or valuable, it could be.”

Whitley is a third-year Ph.D. student in history at Louisiana State University.

A second study asks, “How has the prayer book responded to African contexts, and how did these impact the text?”

The Rev. Henry Mbaya writes, “The symbolic role of the prayer book as a focus of unity in the Anglican Communion was a decisive issue at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer in English determined the borders of Anglicanism and was considered the litmus test of Anglican identity.”

Mbaya, an Anglican priest and associate professor of church history at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, critiques reasons offered by scholars for not engaging in radical adaptation of prayer book liturgy in Southern Africa between 1749 and 1989. He applies the concept of invented tradition while investigating prayer book changes as the “English Church” adjusted to new contexts.

Examples used in this study include acclimating to the amaXhosa and Zulu, the Gray-Colenso dispute that led to the first Lambeth Conference in 1867, rain prayers, circumcision, and apartheid. Ultimately, Mbaya contends that the prayer book was used to reinforce power structures but also became a tool for Africans to subvert European rule because “It had been ‘owned’ by Blacks and used for purposes never intended by the missionaries.”

Church review editor J. Barrington Bates then provides a glimpse of worship services at Church of the Nativity in Boyne City, a small town and popular summer destination on the shores of Lake Charlevoix in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. A second review features Advent at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

As always, AEH boasts numerous book reviews related to recent church history and Anglican scholarship. Among them:

  • Roy G. Pollina’s Justified by Her Children: Deeds of Courage Confronting a Tradition of Racism examining ministry at Christ Episcopal Church in Martinsville, Virginia | Reviewed by John L. Kater of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong
  • Francis Young’s A History of Anglican Exorcism: Deliverance and Demonology in Church Ritual | Reviewed by Tanner J. Moore of Purdue University
  • Mischa Honeck’s Our Frontier is the World: The Boy Scouts in the Age of American Ascendancy | Reviewed by J. Douglas Ousley
  • Hilary M. Carey’s Empire of Hell: Religion and the Campaign to End Convict Transportation in the British Empire, 1788-1875 | Reviewed by C. Brad Fraught of Tyndale University
  • ·Incarnating Authority: A Critical Account of Authority in the Church edited by Paul Avis et al | Reviewed by Christopher L. Webber
  • Nancy Saultz Radloff reviews Martin Luther as He lived and Breathed by Robert Kolm and Luther and the Jews by Richard S. Harvey
  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ Christ the Heart of Creation | Reviewed by David Neal Greenwood of the University of St. Andrews

About Anglican and Episcopal History Anglican and Episcopal History seeks to raise the level of discussion, provide a forum for exchange of ideas, and review books of real worth and of interest to educated Anglicans. It is published quarterly. Full text articles are available through and for members of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church at

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