Maybe it’s because I have a penchant for quixotic causes, but I have always felt that King Charles I deserves a place in our Kalendar in the Episcopal Church. Despite our anti-royalist lineage and republican heritage, it would be of benefit to look again at the case for including Charles in our list of remembrances. I think this is especially so in light of the many, many commemorations added through ‘Holy Women, Holy Men’. Some of those added were people of rather unclear faith and some were added whose faith might lead them to revolt at the idea of their names being included in a kalendar of saints.
Charles’s witness to the catholic faith, in many ways, preserved the order of the Church that we now call home. His intransigence set firm the orders of bishops, priests, and deacons as integral to our identity as the Church in England. Of course, there were excesses in the Episcopate that Charles was defending and yet there was a fundamental character that was worth protecting and defending. Our identity as an Episcopal Church rests on our conviction, in the Anglican tradition, that bishops form part of the historic and ongoing definition of Church.
We, as Episcopalians, maintain that the episcopate is vital and necessary to the future reunion of the Church Catholic. We say so clearly in the Prayer Book.
We affirm on pages 876-877,
“…that the Christian unity . . .can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.
As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.
2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
3. The two Sacraments,–Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,–ministered with
unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the
varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church…”
Essential not only to our identity but the whole identity of the historic Church is the role of the Episcopate. It is this office and order that Charles died defending.
He died with his heart and mind fixed on his faith and defending his Christian duty, as he saw it, as his final words attest:
‘I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority; therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me. I die a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England. I have a good cause and I have a gracious God.’
‘I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown.’
J. Robert Wright, professor of Ecclesiastical History at The General Theological Seminary, cites historian Kenneth Hylson-Smith’s writing on Charles’s martyrdom in his case for the commemoration of Charles. He writes that Charles is
“an example in faith and conduct of that Churchmanship which emphasizes catholicity: continuity with and descent from Christ and his Apostles; the central importance in the life of the Church of episcopacy; a deep concern that the worship of the Church should be of prime importance in the life of the Church, and should be conducted with reference and awe; a focus on the altar, in churches furnished and adorned in such a way as to enhance the beauty of holiness and stimulate worship; the centrality of the sacraments, and a doctrine of the Eucharist which stresses the presence of Christ, but which admits of neither the transubstantiation of Roman theology nor of the consubstantiation of Luther; and an affirmation of the English Church as part of the historic Church, joined still, in spite of outward division, by the one Catholic faith.”
With the breadth of commemorations we now observe and propose to observe, it seems a good and natural thing for us also to remember the faith and witness of King Charles whose contributions to our order and doctrine of the Church are lasting and vital ones. Is Charles a perfect saint? No. But if we looked only for perfect saints, we would have a small sliver of faithful men and women praying for us in Heaven.
For more information on Charles see the following: