Feast of Charles Freer Andrews (February 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of India in 1900

Source = http://www.wmcarey.edu

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THE REVEREND CHARLES FREER ANDREWS

Born in Birmingham, England, February 12, 1871

Died in Calcutta, India, April 5, 1940

Priest of the Church of England; known during his lifetime as “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” and “Friend of the Poor”

The history of Christian global missions has both glorious and shameful aspects.  On the negative side, many missionaries have carried their ethnocentric and racist views with them, functioning more as emissaries of their native imperial powers than as messengers for Jesus.  These individuals have alienated many people from the Gospel.  The study of history tells me that this style of foreign missions leads frequently to indigenous peoples identifying Christianity with imperialism, and therefore rejecting both Christ and the imperialists.  So the act of embracing whatever religion is indigenous becomes an indicator of national pride and anti-imperialism.    And the cross of Christ does not prevail in another foreign land.  This is quite unfortunate.

Yet many other missionaries have advocated for the rights of those to whom God has sent them.  Some of have died for the indigenous peoples.  Charles Freer Andrews did not die for this cause, but he did dedicate most of his adult life to it.  The Episcopal Church has placed his feast on February 12, but since I already have four people on that day, I have moved him up one  day.  And he is a fine addition to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Above:  An Indian Stamp Bearing the Image of Charles Freer Andrews

Image Source = http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com/

Charles Freer Andrews became an Anglican priest in 1897.  The cause of social justice was an integral part of his faith, and the abuses of the native peoples of India at the hands of the British government concerned him.  So, in 1904, Andrews moved to Delhi, where he began to teach philosophy at St. Stephen’s College.  There he received the label Deenabandhu, which means, “Friend of the Poor.”  This was an apt title, for the priest was active in the Indian National Congress.  And, in 1913, Andrews mediated a settlement to a strike in Madras, thereby averting violence.

Andrews opposed violence, a point that caused him to disagree with his friend Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1918 when the latter participated in a military recruiting effort.  For Andrews, nonviolence was a principle not subject to compromise, even during time of war.  He did cooperate closely with Gandhi for many years, participating in negotiations with the British government and organizing an ashram. And, in India, Andrews opened a Hindu-Christian dialogue and advocated for the rights of the Dalits, or the Untouchables, arguing that they had rights, too.   Gandhi paid Andrews the highest possible compliment, calling him “Christ’s Faithful Apostle.”

Andrews also traveled to Fiji, in the South Pacific Ocean, multiple times during his life.  There he found social justice causes, too, advocating for the rights of exploited indentured workers and employees of sugar companies.  (The corporation controlled the lives of its workers, making them slaves of a sort.)

Andrews returned to England in 1935, accepting Gandhi’s suggestion that native-born Indians should lead the struggle for independence.  He did visit the subcontinent from time to time, though.  Andrews died during such a visit in 1940.

Sometimes circumstances present opportunities to do great things for God and our fellow human beings, and people, such as Charles Freer Andrews, accept the challenge.  The particulars of your call are not identical to mine or that of Charles Freer Andrews, but a principle is constant.  May I be “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” wherever God wants me to be, and may you be “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” wherever God wants you to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Gracious God, you called Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself, after the example of our Savior, so that he might proclaim your salvation to the peoples of India and the Pacific Islands:  By your Holy Spirit inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Psalm 113:2-8

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 23:8-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 219

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Revised on November 30, 2016

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