Episco-Fact #67
November 5, 2017

Given that we are celebrating All Saints Day this Sunday, are there any particularly English Saints?

There are particularly English Saints who are celebrated in our calendar. They include (very selectively), but are not limited to: Bertha and Ethelbert, Queen and King of Kent (605); Augustine, 1st Abp of Canterbury (605); Bede, the Venerable, Pr and Mk of Jarrow (735); Thomas Cranmer, Abp of Canterbury, Mtr, and Editor/Author of the 1st BCP (1556); Dame Julian of Norwich, Mystic (1417); Thomas Becket, Abp of Canterbury and Mtr (1170); Wulfstan, Bp of Worcester (1095); George Herbert, Pr (1633); Hilda, Abbess of Whitby (680); Alfred the Great, Kg of the West Saxons (899); and William Tyndale, Translator (1536). These are only a sampling of the men and women who are highlighted for exemplary lives or actions in A Great Cloud of Witnesses, the Episcopal Church's replacement to Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

There are two saints to highlight in this entry because their memorial dates bookend today's celebration of Saints. The first is Richard Hooker, November 3, whose contribution to the Anglican Communion was his theological/philosophical work called The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. It was written during the reign of Elizabeth I and was an answer primarily too Thomas Cartwright's, The Admonition, a "puritan" work that asserted: 1) scripture alone should govern human conduct, 2) scripture prescribes an unalterable form of church government, 3) the English church was corrupted by Roman Catholic orders, rites, etc., 4) the law is corrupt in not allowing for lay elders, and 5) there ought not to be bishops in the church.

Hooker responded in his wonderfully crafted iambic pentameter prose with reliance on philosophy, especially, natural law, and reason. He asserted in his works that where scripture was not clear, tradition (i.e. things like Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, the mass as constructed at that time, and the church calendar) and reason (things like the Chalcedonian Definition—that Christ was fully man and fully God) might be discerned from through the redeemed mind of the church. It is through his constructs that the Church of England, and later the Anglican Communion held to its theological and liturgical "Via Media," which might be translated the "essential way," just as readily as it is translated the "middle way."

William Temple was a quintessentially British churchman of the early 20th Century. The son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple (d. 1902), he faithfully carried on the family tradition, becoming Bishop of Manchester (1921), Archbishop of York (1929), and Archbishop of Canterbury (1942), dying in office, the last ABC to do so, in 1944. He wonderfully combined the idea of Commonwealth in Modern Society as a stake-holders place, not a share-holders place alone, and looked to imbue society and the individual with a deep sense of God among them. Two famous quotes that capture his sense of common life in a faithful world are: "When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't," and, "The church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."

 

The Rev. David Lucey