Our Wounded Anglican History: Can the Pope Waive Leviticus?

July 10, 2008

This is part 5 of a 15 part series examining the historical antecedents of the Anglican Communion.


But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?

Romans 9: 20-21


To a European king in the 16 century, the desire to produce a male heir was more than an indication of pride.   A king without a son governed a kingdom that was at risk for civil war.  The likelihood that cousins and uncles and other claimants to the throne would resort to arms after the death of a king was far smaller when there was a royal son with rights of primogeniture.   Having a daughter was better than having no child at all, but many kingdoms, England among them, had historically been unwilling to accept a female monarch.  Civil wars, in addition to producing combat deaths, almost always resulted in severe economic losses, disease, and often famine because of disruptions to agriculture.  Every king considered it his duty to his subjects to beget a male heir.           

Catherine of Aragon was 23 when she married Henry VIII in 1509.  Nine years later she had produced one healthy daughter, three stillborn daughters, and two sons who did not live long enough to leave the cradle.   Henry began to despair of the prospects of a having a legitimate son.   He was by all accounts a faithful Christian.  As a boy his father had steered him toward the priesthood until his older brother died and Henry became the heir apparent.   He turned to the Scriptures for guidance and became haunted by the words of Leviticus 20:21: If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity; he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness, they shall be childless.”  

Henry began to wonder if he was being punished b y God for marrying his brother’s widow.  Yes, his father had obtained a dispensation from the Pope, but the papal dispensation dealt with the prohibition against marriage within certain degrees of affinity, which was a canonical restriction.  Could the Pope license someone to violate a Scriptural prohibition?  For her part, Catherine maintained that she was never actually married to Henry’s older brother because their marriage had not been consummated.  But was her story plausible?  As was customary, most of the English court had participated in the ceremony of putting the couple to bed on their wedding night.  Bride and groom had both been 15 years old and in apparent good health.  They were well aware of their royal duty.  How could the marriage not have been consummated?

Henry is remembered today as a promiscuous king.  He seems to have had many mistresses.  This practice was quite common among European monarchs, something that was considered by most kings to be a royal perquisite.   A king’s mistress could expect to be respected and well-treated at court.  Often her family would be awarded land and titles.  When her affair with the king ended, she would probably be married to a titled nobleman who would otherwise be above her station. 

In 1519, the king’s current mistress, Elizabeth Blount, gave birth to a healthy son.  Henry acknowledged the child as his own son, and in 1525 he named him the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, hoping to one day legitimize him so that he might have an heir to the throne.   It is possible that this birth of a son to his mistress convinced Henry that the failure of the queen to produce a son was indeed a punishment from God, resulting from his disobedience to plain Scriptural language. 

Not long after the birth of his illegitimate son, Henry began an affair with a new mistress.  A marriage to a wealthy baron was arranged for Elizabeth Blount.   The new mistress was Mary Boleyn, the daughter of the English ambassador to the court of France.  She was widely reputed to have become the mistress of the French king while her family lived there. 

She came to the English court from France in 1519.  Her father was an ambitious man and would not have discouraged her from becoming the king’s mistress.  It is unclear exactly when the affair between Henry and Mary started, how long it lasted, and whether, as has been claimed, he fathered her son.  In 1522 her sister, Anne Boleyn, followed her from France to England, and, at some point, Anne caught the king’s eye.  Henry wanted Anne for his mistress, but she refused the honor.  She believed she had a better opportunity in Queen Catherine’s inability to give Henry a son.                     

 Father, forgive the sins of our ancestors and forgive us.  We have ignored your word and your laws.  We have committed adultery.  We have succumbed to lust.  We have abandoned those to whom we swore lifelong fidelity.  We have been arrogant and greedy and claimed as our own that which can never be bestowed on us.  We have been untrue to you.  We have broken our promises.         

Father, the sins of our ancestors have grown and multiplied in our own generation.  We still commit adultery, and we still search and find ways to justify and rationalize our sinful behavior.  We do not take your written commands seriously.  We worship ourselves and our bodies instead of worshiping you. 

Have mercy, Father.  Use the blood shed by Jesus on the cross to cleanse the sins of our ancestors and our own sins.  Wipe clean this stain on our history.  Restore us.  Break the cycle of repeated sins.  Free us from bondage to this history.  Begin a new creation in which you are our God and we are your people. 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord and true King.


The processional into Canterbury

July 10, 2008

Augustine and the Benedictines arrive in England, and King Æthelberht of Kent came to meet them. Augustine told “how the compassionate Jesus had redeemed a world of sin by His own agony and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would believe.” The king could not forsake the religious beliefs he had long held in common with the whole English nation. But he agreed to receive them and made no objection to their winning converts. The Benedictine missionaries bearing “the holy cross together with a picture of the Sovereign King, Our Lord Jesus Christ and chanting in unison this litany”, as they advanced:

“We beseech thee, O Lord, in the fulness of thy pity that Thine anger and Thy holy wrath be turned away from this city and from Thy holy house, because we have sinned: Alleluia!”

May it be so today, dear Lord. Amen.

Praying for the Lambeth Conference, July 10

July 10, 2008

Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew the bishops and Primates of the Anglican Communion with your heavenly grace, and in all their weakness sustain them by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. (adapted from CoE Common Worship Collects)

Selected Passages from today’s lectionary:
Ps. 18: 27-30

27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. 28 For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Romans 9:30-33

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”


All of Lent & Beyond’s Lambeth prayers and resources are here. We’ve also got a new post up with links to a number of other Lambeth Prayer Resources, here.

(posted by KB)

Matthew 24:1-2 and Psalm 18:28

July 10, 2008

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and his disciples came up to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2)
      Jesus, day by day we see your church being torn asunder and foundation stone after foundation stone being thrown down. Have mercy on us and lead us through this time of destruction.

For you will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. (Psalm 18:28 )
      Jesus, thank you for being the light to bring us through this time of darkness in the church. Please help us take each step by your light. Thank you.

      A Prayer of St. Chrysostom.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise, that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

A word received: Yield this day to me.

Thursday: 18:21-50; Deuteronomy 3:18-28; Romans 9:19-33; Matthew 24:1-14
Friday: 22; Deuteronomy 31:7-13,24-32:4; Romans 10:1-13; Matthew 24:15-31

      Notes from the Front Line

***** I received an email yesterday from Fr. Bob Whitely, the Church of England priest who helped lead me to conversion, baptized me, and presented me for confirmation in 1961 in Belize. In it he said, “There’s an old prayer of Bishop Westcott from the 19th Century that still resonates for today’s church: We need a modern version of it.
We beseech thee, O God of truth,
That what we know not of things we ought to know
Thou wilt teach us.
That what we know of truth, Thou wilt keep us therein.
That what we are mistaken in, as men must be
Thou wilt correct.
That at whatsoever things we stumble
Thou wilt yet establish us.
And from all things that are false
And from all knowledge that would be hurtful,
Thou wilt evermore defend us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Here is my restating of that prayer:
We cry out to you, Lord Jesus Christ:
      You are the way, the truth, and the life.
Please teach us where we are currently in ignorance,
      That we may know your truth and abide in it.
Show us where we are stumbling in the darkness,
      And guide us back into your way.
Establish us in the life of your Spirit
      That we correctly discern the true from the false;
And guard us from all false teaching
      And knowledge that would be hurtful to us.
Father, defend us evermore
      Through your son Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank you.

Please pray for Fr. Bob’s wife, Margaret who is in great pain. Thank you.

***** Roxie Hansel of Christ Church Cooperstown called yesterday to say, “We had wonderful success with our first prayer table on Saturday. Twelve people came in an hour and a half and we gave out eleven crosses.”

Albany Intercessor

From our archives: A Bidding Prayer for Rowan Williams

July 10, 2008

As part of our 2007 Prayer Campaign for the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, we frequently featured a prayer written by the Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon for Abp. of Canterbury Rowan Williams. With the Lambeth Conference looming, it seems a good time to post it again and import it from our original blog to this site so that it gets more exposure.


From Dr. Peter Toon’s Anglicans-at-Prayer website.

A Bidding Prayer.

Petition and Intercession for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams

Let us in all sincerity of spirit fervently pray for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, dispersed throughout the world, that it may please God to confirm and strengthen it in pure faith, holy life and perfect love and to restore to it visible unity at the local and international level.

Lord in thy/your mercy…hear our prayer

Let us also in sincerity of spirit and fervently pray this day for the Anglican Communion of Churches, together with other Anglicans bodies joined in fellowship and service, that all may be true to their calling and seek to know and do God.s will, and to serve and worship him acceptably.

Lord in thy/your mercy…hear our prayer

Let us especially pray for Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his vocation as .first among equals. amongst the bishops of the Anglican family, and in his work as the Primate of all England and bishop of the diocese of Canterbury, that he may be given all the necessary virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit to perform and fulfill his tasks.

Lord in thy/your mercy…hear our prayer
Read the rest of this entry »

Fr. Stephen on The Habit of Prayer

July 10, 2008

Longtime readers of L&B may remember that in the past I have cited Orthodox priest Father Stephen Freeman’s blog “Glory to God for All Things” as one of my favorite devotional blogs. It is one of the blogs I’ve linked in our newly revamped sidebar (under the “various blogs” section — sorry, that’s an uninspired sidebar heading, don’t let the dull heading name cause you to overlook the links in that section, there are some great blogs & websites there!)

Tonight Fr. Stephen has a beautiful post on “the Habit of Prayer” which is truly must reading and deeply thought provoking and soul stirring. Here’s the beginning to whet your appetite:

Though created in the image of God – man has fallen far. The image is not demolished, but we have not fulfilled the likeness and we frequently distort the image beyond recognition. Part of the true human life described in Genesis, are the “walks in the Garden” with God. Man and God converse – they share communion with one another. We see the restoration of this in the life of Christ whose constant life of prayer is frequently referenced in the Scripture.

Man makes a return to the Garden when he turns to God in prayer. The essence of all prayer is communion with God. Prayer, even intercessory prayer, is always about communion with God. We do not pray in order to change God’s mind. We do not pray in order to get things. We do not pray in order to make things happen. We pray in order to be in communion with God, Who alone does what He wills, gives what He wills, and governs the universe without advice from anxious men.

As we pray, and the more truly we pray, we unite ourselves to God, and His actions. His will and His gifts become things for which we can give thanks.

I have often read about the “habit of prayer.” The one problem with this description is that it can be seen as an activity that we ought to do often, when prayer is, in fact, a state of being in which we should dwell constantly. We are not ever truly ourselves when we are not in prayer.

Go read the whole thing!

(posted by KB)

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