Theodore (602–690) was the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, best known for his reform of the English Church and establishment of a school in Canterbury with major scholarly achievements.
The gospel first came to England some time before the end of the second Century, however it was restricted largely to the Southwest.
During the next 4 centuries the Angles, Saxons and Picts, worshippers of pagan deities, took over the Eastern seaboard of England.
In 597 Pope Gregory sent Augustine
and some 40 other clergy to England with two tasks: to bring the gospel to
the pagan tribes and to gather the existing English churches together
into a unified Church.
On their arrival they were welcomed by Ethelbert, the King of Kent, whose wife was a Christian, and he gave Augustine permission to settle and preach in Canterbury, the main city of Kent. Augustine was then consecrated as bishop of Canterbury.
Augustine invited the English Bishops to meet with him to convince them to join together, and in particular to conform their churches to the practices and traditions of Rome which were slightly different to those followed in England at the time. The English Bishops, however, decided that Augustine's approach was too autocratic, as he refused to rise to greet them when they entered the assembly, and so they refused his request. Although he failed in this part of his mission, Augustine was successful in taking the gospel to many parts of England that had not previously accepted it.
The joining of the English churches thus had to wait for another hundred years, until the coming of Theodore. In 664 a new Bishop of Canterbury was needed. The priest sent by the English Church to be consecrated by the Pope died of the Plague. The Pope then chose Hadrian, the Abbot of a Monastery near Naples but he excused himself as not being up to the job. He recommended a monk named Theodore from Tarsus of Cilicia. Theodore was 66 when he left Rome for Canterbury.
On his arrival in Canterbury in 668, accompanied by Hadrian, he proceeded to visit every part of the island occupied by the English people and was welcomed everywhere. He consecrated new bishops to fill vacant sees, and created new dioceses where necessary.
In 673 Theodore summoned the English Bishops and theologians to Hertford, to the first ever synod of a unified English church. There they agreed to work together as a unified church, meeting yearly in convocation at Cloveshoch (probably near London).
This meeting of bishops and their clergy marks an epoch in the Church of England. For the first time Angles and Saxons met for common consultation, not as fellow countrymen, but as fellow Churchmen.
About 150 years before the English came together as a nation, thanks to Theodore of Tarsus, there was one united Church of England, obeying one set of canons, acknowledging the authority of one archbishop, using the same prayers and ceremonies from the Firth of Forth to the English Channel. There were still 7 kingdoms but only one Church.