Thursday, May 24, 2012

37 down, 2 to go

I am nearing the end of the blog series on the Articles of Religion. There are only two more after today. Today's is a piggyback on yesterday's article concerning the legal and proper procedure for the Consecration of Bishops. Today's article is cut of the same cloth, but in the civic realm:

XXXVII. Of the Civil Magistrates
The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction. Where we attribute to the King's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.
The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offenses.
It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

If one looks at this Article, one sees a battle going on concerning the Royal Supremacy, with its roots in the English Reformation under Henry VIII. Henry VIII is notorious for his wanting a divorce, but really that was only a minor part of the history. The Pope and the English Nobility had been feuding, literally for centuries. After Henry VIII, both the Catholics and the Puritans were largely adverse to the idea of Royal Supremacy. Henry used the term "Head of the Church." After Mary Tudor's death, the term "Governor" was substituted to the Monarch in relation to the Church, as it was less objectionable to many.

What went down after the Civil War and Restoration was that the Royal Supremacy became defines as civil law and courts came to trump ecclesiatical law and jurisdiction. Other religious bodies became free to govern themselves, provided they did not break the civil law in doing so. The Church of England became even more subservient to the State because it takes an Act of Parliament to change the liturgy (i.e. issue a new BCP) or redefine the Articles of Religion or to modify any existing canon. Thus, in theory, the Church of England cannot pass any new canons without consent of the crown. This largely got reformed after WWII, but, in theory, this is still the practice. 

One will also note that Rome is the target of the particular vehemence of this article. The Bishop of Rome being called out by name as having "no jurisdiction in the Realm of England." The "evils" of Papal Supremacy were outlawed (in theory) by this article. 

Also of note, summary execution of criminals and the bearing of arms in times of war upon the writ of the Civil authorities was also ceded as a power to the Supremacy of the Realm of England. I will return to these notions tomorrow, as the final two and half articles address Civil Rights and Duties of citizens of the Realm.  

This article is basically completely rejected in any version adopted by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. after the Revolution. The American replacement version from the 1792 Book of Common Prayer is this:

The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things 
temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of 
all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, 
regularly and legitimately constituted.

The American version seems to touch upon some prototype version of the doctrine of the Separation of Church and State. The Church and those in it are not above or apart from the state. In other words, the American Anglicans were clear that they were not trying establish the Three Estates of the Realm which was a hallmark of the civics the Middle Ages. The 3rd Estate of the clergy led to many abuses, and often shielded the clergy from civil prosecution in some cases. Clearly, the Early American Anglicans did not want that. 

One might wonder how those in the Episcopal Church would react today to an edict to "pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, regularly and legitimately constituted." I know many who scoff at that, paying respectful obedience only when the Civil Authority is governed by their own political party. I think we need to work on a theology of civic respectful obedience, both in practice and in conversation with those who don't agree with our political views. 

Ponder that in an election year.  

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