Daily life in Early Stuart England was set in the context of Christian belief and practice. The parish priest was the main link between the largely illiterate population and the technical and educated world.
The church taught subordination, norms of conduct, and patriotism. It was the major source of demographic statistics for each shire.
The Thirty-nine Articles of Faith (passed by Convocation in 1563) that defined the Anglican creed were deliberately ambiguous in order to encompass as many shades of belief as possible.
Even after the Protestant Reformation, the Church of England kept the Catholic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, and Catholic territorial divisions of two provinces (Canterbury and York) comprised of dioceses and parishes. Anglican belief was a blend of Lutheranism and Calvinism.
There was a constant tension
between the aims of uniformity and comprehension:
Millenary Petition of 1603
June 1604 Apology
Canons of 1604
1610 Commons Petition on Religion
Commons Protestation of 1621
James was bothered more by the politics than the theology of the “Puritans.” Although he himself was a Calvinist, he felt less threatened by the Catholics. Unfortunately, most English perceived Roman Catholics as the more dangerous since the Pope claimed the power to excommunicate and depose Christian monarchs (and had indeed excommunicated both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I).
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605,
although it led to stiffer penal laws, did not wipe out Catholicism as
a religion. If Catholics took an Oath of Allegiance renouncing the deposing
power of the Pope, they could practice their religion.