Friday, 7 December 2012

No Uniformity

On PM, the debate on marriage featured a Quaker on one side and, on the other, a representative of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, heirs of those Ejected in 1662. But, like the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England, not invited to join members of the Church of England at this year's 350th anniversary service in Westminster Abbey. That was kept for the safely liberal URC.

This coverage is turning into an important reminder that England's was the soil that sprouted the Recusants and the Puritans, the Baptists and the Quakers, the Wesleyan Methodists and the Primitive Methodists, the Salvation Army and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, and the progenitors of modern Unitarianism whether English Presbyterian or General Baptist (really Lollardy, older than the Church of England), whether Cookite Methodist or deriving from Theophilus Lindsey's secession from the Established Church while retaining much of its liturgical life. The definition of Englishness in terms of a kind of fundamental and ultimate indifference is as false as it is pernicious.

Those who have marvel that the Queen, and lately Lady Thatcher, have been involved in appointing bishops whom the Biblical principle of male headship required to be male should be aware that the Recusants and the Puritans were both way ahead of them, all the way back in the reign of the present Queen's namesake.

Furthermore, Catholics, Quakers, many Baptists, not a few Congregationalists, and the early Methodists, all stood in the tradition that always regarded the Hanoverian Monarchy, its Empire, and that Empire's capitalist ideology as somehow less than fully legitimate, a sense which gave rise to the campaigns against the slave trade, against the social evils arising out of industrialisation and urbanisation, for the extension of the franchise, for the creation of the Labour Movement, and against the Boer and First World Wars.

Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy. It still does. Take note.

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