Saturday, 2 June 2012

Our Place in the Church of England

It has been a week of anniversaries. Today, of course, is the 59th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen; a strange number to celebrate with such festivities as this weekend’s, but it is all grist to the royalist mill. On Tuesday was the anniversary (the 352nd) of the wonderful Restoration of the late King Charles, and if my acquaintance is anything to go by, this is being even more widely celebrated than the Diamond Jubilee.

There are still plenty of us Highflyers about, attached to the good old way of Passive Obedience, Non-Resistance, and Hereditary Right. Like the Deputy Prime Minister, we have our doubts about the Act of Succession. But we are true to our oaths, have abjured (if not forgotten) the Pretender, and will celebrate today with unfeigned delight, although omitting the specifically Hanoverian verses.

Our attachment to Passive Obedience, Non-Resistance and Hereditary Right is, after all, shaken by yesterday’s anniversary (the 342nd) of the Treaty of Dover, although we are not convinced that the Revolution has either delivered on its promise of freedom from arbitrary and intrusive government, or avoided a French alliance. We seem to suffer still under both.

We are, however, content. You will not find us with placards outside the General Synod, chanting “a king de facto will not do”. In fact we regard the excesses of those too attached to the previous dispensation with some distaste. A little Popery does no harm, as preserving us from Puritanism, and the Stuarts’ prelediction for exotic queens set rather a precedent for Anglo-Catholics. But they do their cause no good by slavish adherence to authorities which the constitution of the Church of England repudiates, and to bishops as German as Hanover.

We are, in fact, still stuck in 1714. The Fanatics get all the converts, the Socianians write all the books, the Latitudinarians have all the bishoprics, and the Non-Jurors get all the publicity.

But what of we non-juring Jurors? We loyally proclaim afresh in each generation the profession of the Church of England, as it was left by our fathers. It is true that we would add to the historic formularies that bear witness the Homilies Against Rebellion, Eikon Basilike and the Perils of False Brethren in Church and State. But even without these additions we have been assured of an honoured place. Archbishop Laud, Thomas Ken, and Samuel Johnson have been added to the calendar (not that we use that calendar, of course). It only wants Atterbury, Bolingbroke and Judge Jeffreys and our joy will be complete.

More urgently, however, we ask the House of Bishops to fulfil the promise of its new policy and ensure for us a “constant supply” of High Tory Bishops. Our liking for moleskin waistcoats is not mere fustiness, but a matter of theological conviction. So it is only right that we have bishops who will drink their toasts over the water and archdeacons who will take the shortest way with the Dissenters. Not every bishop a Tory, of course (we could hardly expect that) but neither every one a Whig.

In turn we advise hotheads on either side to refrain from Associations, and Jacobites and Non-Jurors to cease scorning the Church of England. A little Passive Obedience and Non-Resistance would do wonders for every party in the Church of England. As ever, a bit of Highflying Toryism proves to be the true via media.

For while we might also like to see the restoration of Hereditary Right, we think it as likely as that the growth of iniquity will really be stopped, that decayed things will actually be restored, and that restored things will be properly maintained. Better to spend our energies in a serious call to devout and holy lives. And one day, perhaps, the King shall have his own again.

1 comment:

  1. We ought to keep Oak Apple Day every year, wearing our oak apples with pride.

    The roots of the American Republic, of the campaign against the slave trade, of Radical and Tory action against social evils, of the extension of the franchise, of the creation of the Labour Movement, and of opposition to the Boer and First World Wars, are in Catholic, High Church (and thus first Methodist and then also Anglo-Catholic, as well as Scottish Episcopalian), Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker and other disaffection with the Whig Revolution of 1688.

    Within those communities, long after any hope of a Stuart restoration had died, there remained a sense that the Hanoverian State, its Empire, and that Empire’s capitalist ideology were less than fully legitimate, a sense which had startlingly far-reaching consequences.

    Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy.

    It still does.