Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Foundations of the Anglican Church CXVIII

The ceiling of the 
Chapter House at

With nine bishops removed from their sees for refusing to take  the oath of allegiance to William and Mary who replaced James II as England’s Sovereign in 1688, the Church of England took on a very different character.  Of course there were thirteen bishops who took the oath and held on to their Sees (Salisbury was vacant at the time), including the Archbishop of York, and the Bishops of London, Winchester, Lincoln, and Durham—all important Sees.  Archbishop Lamplugh of York was no great shakes—initially supporting James but then changing loyalty as easily as his linen (a 18th century euphemism for one’s underwear) when William’s victory over James for the Throne was established. Lamplugh assisted at the joint coronation of William and Mary on April 11, 1689 and was permitted to keep his See. 
The deposed bishops were the core of the High Church Party in the Church of England.  High Church in the late 17th and in the 18th century meant something different than it usually does today.  There was no question in that time of adopting Catholic vestments and ceremonial.  “High Church” meant that you were Tory (conservative and monarchial) in politics, heirs to the Caroline Divines and patristic in theology, pious in prayer, and rigidly prayer-book in liturgy.  “Low Church” generally associated you with the Whig party in politics, evangelical in theology and piety, and preferring more to sermonizing than liturgy.  “Latitudinarian,” sort of Middle or Broad Church, meant that you favored rationalism in theology (rather than the patristic approach of the High Church faction or the Biblial approach of the Low Church), saw religion in terms of moral improvement in which you had great belief in human reason, and were somewhat indifferent about worship forms—preferring a dry and intellectual form of public prayer rather than either the more formal prayer-book liturgy or evangelical enthusiasm.  Archbishop Sancroft and the deposed bishops were the core of the High Church party and their deposition left the English episcopacy in the control of the Latitudinarians with a scattering of Low Church/Evangelical Bishops. 
Sprat of Rochester, like Lamplugh of York, initially supported James but switched sides to William and so was allowed to keep his See.  Hall of Oxford was another supporter of James but switched to William and Mary in hopes of being able to take possession of his See to which the canons of his cathedral were barring him.   Compton of London was Latitudinarian but had been allied to William and Mary from the beginning—he had been one of the members of the House of Lords who had invited William to come to England and claim the throne from James.  Barlow of Lincoln was another Low Churchman.  Croft of Hereford had been born in the Church of England, a convert to Catholicism, reconverting to the Church of England and now being notoriously Low Church and anti-Catholic.  Trelawney of Exeter was also a Low Churchman.  He and Ironside of Bristol had resisted James’ efforts to advance the Catholic cause and so sided with the new Protestant monarchs.  Crew of Durham and Wood of Litchfield were pretty much non-entities as ecclesiastics, both owing their appointments to the positions of their families at Court rather than to any serious merits of their own. 
As for the new men appointed by William and Mary: Richard Cumberland replaced Thomas White as Bishop of Peterborough.  Cumberland was the archetypical Latitudinarian with ties to the Cambridge Platonists and the Royal Society.  He published De Legibus Naturae (Concerning the Laws of Nature) which helped lay the groundwork for the Utilitarian school of Philosophy and was a reaction to Thomas Hobbes and the perceived atheism of his quite radical philosophy. 
Nicholas Stratford replaced Thomas Cartwright as Bishop of Chester.  Stratford also was a member of the Latitudinarian party and was one of the founders of The Society for the Reformation of Manners, a movement to suppress the currently popular vices of blasphemy, prostitution, and vulgar speech.  It was a reaction to the somewhat loose social mores of Restoration England and helped stamp England with the caricature that makes No Sex Please, We’re British so funny.  Edward Stillingfleet, also Latitudinarian, replaced William Thomas as Bishop of Worcester.  Stillingfleet was also associated with the Society for the Reformation of Manners.  He was Latitudinarian and somewhat doctrinally sloppy with a particular openness to rapprochement with the Presbyterians.  He was friends with natural philosopher, Richard Bentley who served as his chaplain. 
 John Moore was a Low Churchman who replaced Francis Turner as Bishop of Ely.  Moore was also friends with Bentley and was a member of the Royal Society. 
Edward Fowler was named Bishop of Gloucester to replace Robert Frampton.  Fowler was suspiciously far from Christian orthodoxy, being accused (perhaps somewhat unfairly) of Pelagianism and Socinianism. (Socinianism is a heresy that undermines the Divinity of Christ and the Triune Nature of God.)  On the other hand, like Cumberland, Fowler was an antagonist of Hobbes.
 Sancroft was replaced as Archbishop of Canterbury by John Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury and a close friend of William and Mary. Tillotson, like Moore, was a member of the Royal Society and like Fowler was suspect of Unitarian views which he later refuted.  Tillotson was a poor choice—indeed the whole college of Bishops appointed or surviving under William and Mary represented poor choices—for a time in which the Church of England was in crisis.   There weren’t sufficient Low Churchmen for an evangelical revival—and even if there were, they Bishops of that party were too stuffy for anything so exciting.  The High Church party found themselves excluded from the Bench of Bishops and influence in government. They represented the best of the old Anglican tradition with the rich spirituality and sound patristic heritage.  The middle ground was just too secure in their establishment to have much life.  It would leave a gaping hole in England’s religious life. 
I think there is a lesson in this for the Church today—Catholic and Protestant.  I had a professor in graduate school who used to insist that “it is better to be wrong than to be boring.”  As Catholics we have a rich heritage.  We should also have an evangelical enthusiasm—all Christians should so have.  We can’t afford to be complacent today.  The Church has become just too tedious for many in our society.  We need to address that challenge.

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