John Whitgift

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Anglican divine; b. Lincolnshire, 1532; d. London, 1604. While still young, Whitgift embraced the principles of the Reformation and was strengthened in these convictions as a student at Cambridge during the Edwardian regime. Unlike many Anglicans, he did not flee to the Continent during the reign of Mary Tudor but unobtrusively continued his studies. He was ordained after Elizabeth I came to the throne, and within a few years he was made Regius professor of divinity and master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Whitgift, faced with financial difficulties and the turbulence caused by Puritanism, rewrote the University statutes and was singularly successful in administering the finances and discipline of his college.

His success in this difficult situation and firm opposition to Thomas cartwright, the Puritan leader, brought him to the attention of the queen and her advisors. In 1577 he became bishop of Worcester and in 1583 succeeded the ineffective Grindal at Canterbury. His adherence to the Elizabethan settlement involved persecuting Catholics, but his chief concern was the threat of Puritanism within the Church of England. The Puritans, influenced by Geneva, encouraged by prominent laymen, and tolerated by many bishops, attempted to presbyterianize Anglican polity and worship. Although his doctrinal position was basically Calvinist, Whitgift rejected the jure divino claims made for the Genevan system and enforced conformity to the episcopate and Prayer Book. With the active support of the queen, he deprived those who would not conform and prevented the Puritans from abolishing the episcopate and liturgy in the Church of England.

Bibliography: p. m. dawley, John Whitgift and the English Reformation (New York 1954). v. j. k. brook, Whitgift and the English Church (New York 1957). p. hughes, The Reformation in England 3 v. in 1 (5th ed. New York 1963) 3.

[r. h. greenfield]

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Whitgift, John (c.1530–1604). Archbishop of Canterbury (1583–1604). Born in Lincolnshire, Whitgift was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, a centre of reform, where he remained throughout Mary's reign. Ordained (1560), he was successively Lady Margaret professor of divinity (1563–7), master of Pembroke Hall (1567) and Trinity College (1567–77)—where he expelled Cartwright—regius professor of divinity (1567–9), dean of Lincoln (1576), bishop of Worcester (1577), and archbishop in succession to Grindal. Though strongly calvinist, he vigorously defended episcopacy and Anglican liturgy and ritual. As archbishop, he worked hard for uniformity; his Six Articles (1583) insisted on the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the royal supremacy, to be enforced by the Court of High Commission. Despite his fierce offensive against puritans, he upheld calvinist doctrines of predestination and election in the Lambeth articles (1595).

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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John Whitgift (hwĬt´gĬft), 1530?–1604, archbishop of Canterbury. He was a fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. As vice chancellor (1573) he had a leading part in revising the university statutes. He was made dean of Lincoln in 1571 and bishop of Worcester in 1577. He became archbishop of Canterbury in 1583. In his efforts to establish uniformity of discipline in ecclesiastical matters, Whitgift had the full support and favor of Queen Elizabeth. His policy was severe toward the Puritans, and he was attacked in some of the tracts published in the Marprelate controversy.

See his works, ed. by J. Ayre (3 vol., 1851–53); biography by H. J. Clayton (1911); studies by P. M. Dawley (1954) and V. J. K. Brook (1957).

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Whitgift, John (1530–1604) English churchman. He became archbishop of Canterbury in 1583. Whitgift tried to maintain a middle course in the Reformation, upholding the recently established doctrine of the Church of England and strongly opposing the Puritans.