The Reformation is and was an extremely complicated series of people and events that in my opinion continues to this day.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the corruption in the Roman church was descending into unbelievable depravity, but because of the iron grip it had politically, opposing it was a death sentence!
One way the darkness was held on the people was through forced illiteracy. Church "business" was done in Latin, and only the priests were allowed to use the language. And the written word was not available to the unwashed masses, they were to live by pronouncements from the Pope published and distributed around the church empire. To oppose what was thus written, made you subject to execution- and a lot of that was done.
I find it interesting that Martin Luther had an upbringing from Hell, a brutal father and his complicit wife. In the end, Martin chose the priesthood and the Monastery to spite his father, whom he knew hated God and the church with ugly gusto. When God broke through to Martin, He had already prepared him for the brutal conflict to follow.
Reformation is born in fire, just the way things work.
But the real momentum of the Reformation was the invention of the printing press, and Tyndale's totally illegal translation of the Scriptures into the common language- for the first time in centuries, common people could see what God had written, and how it was diametrically opposed to the Papal Bulls.
That of course sent Tyndale to the flaming stake, but the continuation of the printed gospel and growing public literacy ensured the progress of the Reformation.
Meanwhile in England, Henry VIII was unable to get an heir from his wife Catherine, and could not get a writ of annulment from the Pope. He was fooling around with saucy little Anne Boleyn, who got pregnant a bit too early.
Henry's tumultuous sex life, his impatience with the Pope, and his belief that as King he could do whatever he wished, led him to sever ties with the Pope- risking a great internal rebellion as many of the loyal Catholics in England would conclude that the subsequent excommunication by the Pope would consign them all to Hell. They weren't willing to support a King at that price!
This is all fascinating history- with Henry being succeeded by (Catholic) Bloody Mary, and then by (Protestant) Elizabeth who was a long reigning monarch who favored the new protestantism.
One can certainly understand the American founders, familiar with not only the English conflicts but also the bloody clashes in France, Spain, and Germany in the same time frame, chose emphatically to keep governance and church issues separate!
And all of that on one level- while my personal need for reformation and the acquisition of the living Christ goes on in the deeper level of my own heart and mind!
The rise of Islam and of widespread public contempt for Christianity suggests to me that while the Reformation continues, the forms are changing. And the spectre of a global conflagration becomes more and more plausible as Western Civilization abandons moral restraint.
The Scripture poses this semi-rhetorical question, "Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when He returns?"
Uh.... Will He find anyone alive???
Come Lord Jesus!