Thursday, March 03, 2011

For the Feast Day of John and Charles Wesley

John and Charles Wesley, both Anglican priests, have a provisional feast day today. John is much more well known for his work in the American Methodist church. John was quite the preacher and theologian. Charles was, too, in his own right. However, most of his theology has to be gleaned from his unbelieveable amount of hymnology and hymn texts that he composed during the whole of his lifetime. I read somewhere in seminary that he averaged ten lines of hymn lyrics a day for some 40 years of his adult life.

One of which is my favorite hymn (usually sung in Advent):

Sadly, Charles and John became estranged later in life, primarily over some of the things that John did in America, particularly ordaining bishops, or bishop-like clergy, in America when the Church of England refused to do anything. They also had a falling out over the American Revolution. Charles wanted nothing to do with it and went back to England. John sympathized with the American rebellion though never officially endorsed it (to my knowledge). Charles actually went home and wrote some bitingly satirical prose poems that were published in London newspapers, one of which said some rather nasty things about George Washington. Charles took a dim view of rebellion.

In a way, Charles and John's relationship mirrored the relationship of the Church of England with what became the American Episcopal Church and also the relationship of many Colonists to one another over the Revolution. We like to pretend in Modern America that everybody was a Patriot against those evil taxing English. But really, at any given time, only a third of Americans actively supported rebellion. Another third supported the British, and a third didn't care one way or the other and simply wanted to live in peace.

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