Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Year B Epiphany 1 WED 2018 William Laud

Year B Epiphany 1 WED, 10 January 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury” 

The most dangerous place to be is the middle of the road. You can get run over by both sides. And in our Anglican history, this is often the case. When the pendulum swings one way, there is a strong opposition pushing it back in the other.   
The Via Media, the “Middle Way,” was the genius of the Elizabethan compromise which enabled the Anglican church to exist till today. Even a lot of the turmoil in the Anglican Church in the last few years could be stem directly from this problematic approach to faith. We have the BCP, the Book of Common Prayer, because we found unity in practice rather than in belief. It shifted the cart and the horse around. 

And that brings us to today’s saint, William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury in one of the pivotal transition periods leading into modern times. Martyr to some, unabashed bigot to others, Laud was mostly known for his opposition to the Puritans. They wanting a “pure” Anglican faith freed from the Catholic roots from which it sprang, while William Laud encouraged a Church which leaned on its Medieval origins fully claiming “papish” approaches in worship, the elevation of the roles of the clergy, and the unification of the Church and the State. He put the King and the Church in authority over the Parliament, which would later get him into trouble.  
Just to give some context of where we are talking about in history... 
1604 King James VI of Scotland made James I of Great Britain, calls for a new official  
English translation of the Bible at the behest of the Puritans 

1607 Jamestown is founded 
1611 King James Bible, the Authorized Translation, comes out  
1625 Charles I crowned, Laud is his privy councillor on religious affairs 
1633 Laud becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury 
1638 Anglicanism enforced, Presbyterians of Scotland outraged
1640 William Laud arrested by Parliament for Treason
1642 English Civil War begins
1645 Laud executed

1649 Charles I executed
1653 Oliver Cromwell takes power 
1658 Cromwell dies, son Richard takes leadership 
1660 Crown restored under Charles II  
Laud, “in opposition to Puritanism, stressed the continuity of the visible church and the necessity, for true inward worship, of outward uniformity, order, and ceremony.”  
“He became a privy councillor in 1627 and, a year later, bishop of London. In his London diocese, Laud devoted himself to combating the Puritans and to enforcing a form of service in strict accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. The wearing of surplices, the placing of the communion table—railed off from the congregation—at the east end of the chancel, and such ceremonies as bowing at the mention of the name of Jesus were imposed, though cautiously enough to avoid unmanageable opposition. Churches, from St. Paul’s Cathedral down to neglected village chapels, were repaired, beautified, and consecrated. To religious radicals, all such reforms seemed moves toward popery.” Encyclopedia Britannica  
The Puritans detested him, and Parliament convicted him of treason in 1640 and executed him in 1645. While I may not have portrayed him in a most positive light, depending on your point of view, he did uphold common folk against landowners and saw this as part the responsibility of the monarch as part of the Divine Right of Kings.  

At his execution it was recorded that this was his final prayer: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

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Blessings, Rock