The following is my address to the 2002 Convention of the Diocese of New York in support of adding King Charles to the Calendar. Portions of it seem oddly timely, so I dig it out in honor of the day. By the way, the motion passed overwhelmingly, but did not make it through the next General Convention.
It feels odd for me, as a lifelong democrat, to be urging support for including King Charles I on the Church Calendar. I have no interest in the divine right of kings.
But it would be unfair for me to criticize Charles for supporting the monarchy. He was, after all, a monarch, one who took his office seriously, believing God had given him a divine responsibility to serve his subjects.
What is important to me, as a member of an Anglican Religious Community, is that Charles supported the first such community, and protected Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding against Purtian attacks. When Charles visited that community and saw their first English Harmony of the Gospels he was so moved by it, that he commissioned a harmony of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, so that he might better study the biblical record of the kings who ruled God’s people.
As kings go, Charles was well-meaning, but unsuccessful. And it would be a mistake to think that those who brought him down were democrats with the people’s needs at heart. On the contrary, Charles’ defense of poor farmers alienated the squires who sought to enclose and strip the land. His insistence on raising the wages of textile workers offended the cloth merchants. Military failures turned the army against him so that they twice staged coups to purge Parliament of his supporters. And Archbishop Laud’s untempered enforcement of the Prayer Book gained the ire of the religious extremists who wanted neither bishops, nor religious communities, nor Prayer Book, nor no not Christmas nor Easter neither! These weren’t Enlightenment Protestants, but religious fanatics who wanted nothing but a theocratic police state in which no one would be free from the dictatorship of the pure and the elect. If you want to know what Charles was up against, you need look no further than the Salem Witch Trials.
Charles is relevant to us today, when power brokers call for “small government,” not out of interest for the poor, but so they can profit through deregulation; when military strongmen join religious extremists to threaten the good of society, and the peace of the world.
Not that Charles was perfect. He was as flawed as any saint on the Calendar, the BVM excepted, of course. But in the day of decision, he stood for something — not only as a lay leader defending the episcopate, or as a pious Christian defending the Prayer Book, but in witness to a whole religious way of life, a way we call Anglicanism.
I urge you to vote to encourage the Episcopal Church to join our sister churches in the Anglican Communion who already commemorate Charles, not for his monarchy but for his fidelity and courage unto death in defense of the Anglican vision of the Christian faith and life.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG