By Ryan Hiller
Aurora University Assistant Professor of Religion Jonathan Dean recently published his second book God Truly Worshipped. The book is about Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who served under King Henry VIII and played a critical role in the formation of the Church of England. The book is part of a collection in a series on the writings of outstanding figures that have shaped Anglican belief.
Dean completed his PhD in Reformation studies at the University of Cambridge. He has been a member of the AU faculty since 2008.
Q: What interested you in writing a book on Thomas Cranmer?
A: My PhD was in 16th century church history. As a child I was always interested in the Tudor period of history. I studied the reformation for my PhD, and Thomas Cranmer, as the Archbishop for Henry VIII was influential. The publisher invited me to write a volume in the series and Thomas Cranmer was the obvious choice given my background.
He is a guy of extraordinary courage. He got married right before he became Archbishop in a time when they could not be married. He and his wife were married for fifteen years, but not openly married. He worked for King Henry VIII who destroyed people who got in his way. In regards to the marriage to Anne Boleyn, prior to her death, he wrote a beautiful letter to the king saying, “I think you are wrong about this.” It didn’t do any good. He stayed under Mary Tudor even though it meant death. He wrote another letter about why he stayed in England under her rule. He had courage and vision that we all would hope to have.
He is most famous for the Book of Common Prayer, but his letters are most interesting when looking at the life of Tudor England.
Q: How is your book different from previous books that have been written about Thomas Cranmer?
A: The aim of the series is to offer, as a reader, a selection of their writings. A number of biographies have been written in the past fifteen years but there hasn’t been a collection of his writings. Many of the words are his not mine. The series lay access to key selective texts.
Q: How is this book different from your first book?
A: The first book (Servitude and Freedom) was more of a personal explanation of how we make sense of history in the modern world. There is a connection between the two. Thomas Cranmer has the virtues we could rediscover today. What can these guys teach us today?
Q: What is the significance of the title?
A: The title is a quotation from Cranmer from when King Edward VI was crowned in 1547. Thomas Cranmer made an address that said the boy king should be like the boy king from the Old Testament-Josiah. Cranmer said that the new king needs to be like Josiah and reform the church.
Q: Can you explain your research process?
A: Most was done last summer. The book was under contract before I came to AU so I was able to utilize Lambeth Palace to look at original documents. Much of Thomas Cranmer’s writings are available in reprints. I did much of the rest at Newberry Library in Chicago. A lot of work was done there. It’s a lovely place to work. I read everything Cranmer wrote and decided what was worthy of the collection. I also read biographies to get a clear idea of him. I used intra-library loans here at AU. The librarians in the Phillips Library are some of my favorite people.
Q: Did your colleagues offer any assistance in the process?
A: Dr. Fink. He and I have similar backgrounds. His in the European Reformation and mine is in the British Reformation. We had very good conversations. Everyone in the AU faculty is very supportive. We are engaged in scholarly activities which is important to our classes. I think it is good for AU. I feel lucky to work here and feel this support. I had a nice conversation with Dr. Sherrick about it after it came out. It’s nice to have encouragement come from the top.
Q: Do you have any plans for a third book?
A: Possibly. The publisher I did this with does a series of study guides and I may do one on Christian history. I like writing and crystalizing that research. It’s therapeutic for me.
*God Truly Worshipped and Servitude and Freedom are available in the Phillips Library.