Christopher Howse—Has Rowan Williams damned Henry VIII to hell?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

(Please note that this is in reference to a sermon from earlier in May that was finally posted here yesterday).

There was an intake of breath among the congregation, yet I wondered if I'd misheard the Archbishop. I hadn't, for the text is on Rowan Williams's website: "If Henry VIII is saved (an open question, perhaps) it will be at the prayers of John Houghton."

John Houghton was the Prior of the Charterhouse in London, where Dr Williams was preaching, on the 475th anniversary of the martyrdom of him and 15 other monks at the instigation of Henry VIII. Prior Houghton was declared a saint by the Pope in 1970.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* TheologyEschatology

Posted May 27, 2010 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. John Wilkins wrote:

I understood it as wit, or an attempt to tease out some irony.

May 27, 8:21 am | [comment link]
2. Dan Crawford wrote:

I thought Henry had pretty much taken care of that himself.

May 27, 8:28 am | [comment link]
3. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

I was about to say what Dan Crawford did! He did a pretty good job on his own!

May 27, 8:36 am | [comment link]
4. TLDillon wrote:

Dan says it rightly…it really is that simple. Henry VIII’s arrogance, pride, and lustful desires, helped him right along the way.

May 27, 11:10 am | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Is Henry VIII saved - an open question perhaps?
Is Mary I saved - an open question perhaps?
Is Rowan Williams saved - an open question perhaps?
Is Pageantmaster saved - an open question perhaps?

May 27, 11:30 am | [comment link]
6. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Open mouth - insert foot.

May 27, 11:31 am | [comment link]
7. RobSturdy wrote:

All this talking about pride and lustfull desires paving the way to hell reminds me of a parable about glass houses.  Many thanks to Jesus his mercy on this day and in the days to come.

May 27, 11:45 am | [comment link]
8. Cennydd wrote:

As for ‘Old Harry,’  (Henry VIII)  he did himself in!

May 27, 11:52 am | [comment link]
9. TLDillon wrote:

The same could be said of Hitler and yet no one has a problem with anyone placing him squarely on the road to hell. And for the record, I am in no way a supporter of Hitler…I am using him as a comparison to those who throw that stone at his feet as well deserved as it may be….bottom line is pride, lust, and arrogance, along with a host of other sins, are things that will get us to hell if we are not repentant of them and remove them from our lives.

And agreed completely ...Thank you Lord Jesus for your sacrifice that I may come to the foot of your cross and bare my sins and repent as ask for your forgiveness although I am not worthy of it.

May 27, 11:56 am | [comment link]
10. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Which of us is worthy to be saved?  Fortunately for us, that is not the test.

May 27, 12:05 pm | [comment link]
11. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

A more interesting question is to ask if Henry VIII might have led Rowan into hell

May 27, 12:18 pm | [comment link]
12. TLDillon wrote:

rugbyplayingpriest…LMBO! That is brilliant and then one could go farther and say that we all are in a hand basket to hell along with Rowan. LOL!!! Humor is good for the soul even though your question is a good and serious one….I just had to laugh because it is so true.

May 27, 12:25 pm | [comment link]
13. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

And where are you leading your flock RPP?

May 27, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
14. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Mind you, apart from the fun he has been having startling the horses, it has to be asked whether +Rowan has finished doing his homework yet?

May 27, 1:06 pm | [comment link]
15. New Reformation Advocate wrote:


I thoroughly enjoyed your witty #5.  No need to insert foot in mouth.

In ++RW’s defense (and regular T19 readers know I’m no fan of his), it might be pointed out in all fairness that the ABoC does suggest it might be an open question and not settled one way or the other.  Which is vastly better than presuming (as so many folks do these days) that there is no such place as hell and that therefore Henry VIII is safe, like everyone else.  Which is pretty clearly what the American PB thinks, and alas, she’s not alone in that error.

I actually thought ++RW’s remark was winsome.  A little flippant, perhaps, but quite winsome.

David Handy+

May 27, 1:19 pm | [comment link]
16. francis wrote:

John Houghton, a political saint, no doubt.

May 27, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
17. teatime wrote:

Ah, Good King Harry. He had such potential! Early on, he was a Renaissance Man for his time—very intelligent and well-read, a keen sportsman, music composer, and honored as a Defender of the Faith. It later went terribly wrong, of course—might he have been certifiably mad? I think so. And God may have mercy, as we hope He will on all of us.

But, Henry gave us Elizabeth, Gloriana, albeit unwittingly. As an admirer of Good Queen Bess, I’m glad for that.

May 27, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
18. Dee in Iowa wrote:

17-teatime - I too, am an admirer of Good Queen Bess I and Good Queen Bess II, inspite of her children….would that she had spawned an Elizabeth such as Bess I…..sigh

May 27, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
19. MichaelA wrote:

Cranmer certainly thought Henry VIII was in need of salvation on his deathbed:

Then the archbishop, exhorting him to put his trust in Christ, and to call upon his mercy, desired him, though he could not speak, yet to give some token with his eyes or with his hand, that he trusted in the Lord.  Then the King holding him in his hand, did wring his hand as hard as he could; and so, shortly after, departed after he had reigned in this land the term of thirty seven years and nine months, leaving behind him three children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth”
- John Foxe, “Actes and Monuments”

And contrary to +++Williams, Cranmer clearly did not believe that the prayers of Houghton or anyone else could help Henry. The only thing that would help Henry by this time was to “call upon Christ’s mercy”.

May 27, 7:13 pm | [comment link]
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