The Church of England has reaffirmed its opposition to gay marriage, claiming it to be one of the biggest threats to the institution in its 500-year history.

But is that really the case? Throughout its existence, the Church of England has faced numerous challenges to its authority, especially during its beginnings.

After being founded by Henry VIII, who wished to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon against the Pope's wishes, the church's members were persecuted by his daughter Mary I, who burned scores of Anglicans during her reign.

The Enlightenment saw Europe and Britain plunge into an era of free-thinking, where science and philosophy blossomed, the printing press was invented and moral authority began to move away from the clergy.

Surely any one of these, or one of many more modern problems, represented a larger threat the sovereignty of the church that gay marriage does?

Click through our slideshow below to see what we think were or are bigger 'threats' to the CofE than gay marriage...

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  • Mary I

    Bloody Mary, as she was known, had a penchant for burning Anglicans, with hundreds burned alive at the stake during her relatively short five-year reign. The fact that her reign lead to actual deaths means Mary I could qualify as a greater threat to the CofE in the last 500 years than gay marriage.

  • Dinosaurs

    If there's anything that can challenge your belief that the world is little over a few thousand years old, it'll be skeletons of ancient beasts dated millions of years older than the world. Unless, of course, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R370YkYhV0w&t=2m24s" target="_hplink">you believe dinosaur fossils were put on the Earth by God to test your faith.</a>

  • The Enlightenment

    The period in social history which brought us iconic figures such as Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes and Mozart, was a period of time where the authority of the Church and the absolute doctrine of creationism was challenged by biologists, astronomers, mathematicians and philosophers. Surely the movement of social authority away from the Church represented a bigger challenge to the CofE than gay marriage?

  • Gareth Malone

    Not Gareth Malone himself, of course. The Antichrist, he is not. His recent success leading The Military Wives Choir to the UK Number One spot has brought choirs back into vogue. Perhaps this will lead to potential singers joining fashionable choirs, rather than that of their local church?

  • Charles Darwin

    Charles Darwin, one of the greatest scientific mind of his or any other age, pioneered the theory of evolution. In his most famous work, The Origin of Species, Darwin ruminated on the idea of humanity and other animals devloping through natural selection, adapting to surroundings and growing over time. Which is somewhat a different story to man being made in the image of God.

  • Richard Dawkins

    Fervent athiest and God botherer-botherer-in-chief Richard Dawkins has drawn the ire of the religious communities for his passionately anti-religious work. The Oxford fellow is known for his sharp rhetorical skills, dismantling the arguments for creationism during television and radio appearances, books and lectures.

  • Science

    Goes without saying.