Feast of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (July 18)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Westminster Abbey, 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-USZ62-107039

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ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY (DECEMBER 13, 1815-JULY 18, 1881)

Anglican Dean of Westminster and Hymn Writer

A singularly gentle, attractive, and fascinating personality, he was universally beloved, and by his character won the homage of sceptic and believer alike, and of those who, theologically, were most implacably opposed to him.

–James Moffatt, Handbook to the Church Hymnary (London, UK:  Oxford University Press, 1927, pp. 507-508)

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley‘s family informed his adult life in profound ways.  His father was Edward Stanley (1779-1849), who became the Bishop of Norwich, serving from 1837 to 1849.  Our saint’s brother, Owen Stanley (1811-1850), joined the Royal Navy and explored the South Pacific Ocean.  The saint donated the baptismal font of ChristChurch Cathedral, ChristChurch, New Zealand (http://www.christchurchcathedral.co.nz/), in his memory.  Our saint’s sister, Mary Stanley (1813-1879), was a Tractarian who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale, encouraged an active role for religion in nursing, and devoted herself to a variety of philanthropic causes.

Arthur, educated at Rugby School under Dr. Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), and at Balliol College, Oxford, published his biography of the old school master in 1844 and became the basis of a character in the Thomas Hughes novel, Tom Brown’s School Days (1857).  Our saint took Holy Orders in 1839.  He spent much of his career at Oxford, first as a tutor.  He was  Broad Churchman–a radical moderate–at a polarized tine.  Although he was neither an Evangelical (a Low Churchman) nor a Tractarian/Anglo-Catholic (a High Churchman), he favored toleration for adherents of both pieties.  Since High Church tendencies were especially odious to many, advocating for toleration of them proved quite controversial.  But Arthur did have a Roman Catholic (formerly Anglo-Catholic) sister, so he did know someone whose piety he defended yet did not share.

Arthur, like his father, was a liberal by the standards of the day.  He supported the continued establishment of The Church of England while advocating the end of the requirement that students at Oxford affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.  He favored The Book of Common Prayer (1662) yet thought that reciting the Athanasian Creed in public should be optional.  He focused on what united Christians instead of what divided them.  Thus he was a natural ecumenist who favored Presbyterians preaching from Anglican pulpits.   He also gave some Unitarian  scholars communion once, prompting strong criticism.  Our saint, the leading liberal Christian theologian in Great Britain at the time, earned widespread respect and much opposition from his right and his left simultaneously.  But his generosity of spirit was never in question.

Our saint wrote about twelve hymns, including the following one, which features a Transfiguration theme:

O Master, it is good to be

High on the mountain here with Thee,

Where stand revealed to mortal gaze

The great old saints of other days,

Who once received, on Horeb’s height,

The eternal laws of truth and right,

Or caught the still small whisper, higher

Than storm, than earthquake, or than fire.

—–

O Master, it is good t be

With Thee and with Thy faithful three:

Here, where the apostle’s heart of rock

Is nerved against temptation’s shock;

Here, where the Son of Thunder learns

The thought that breathes, the word that burns;

Here, where on eagle’s wings we move

With him whose last, best creed is love.

—–

O Master, it is good to be

Entranced, enwrapt, alone with Thee;

Watching the glistening raiment glow,

Whiter than Hermon’s whitest snow,

The human lineaments that shine

Irradiant with a light divine:

Till we too change from grace to grace,

Gazing on that transfigured face.

—–

O Master, it is good to be

Here on the mount with Thee;

When darkling in the depths of night,

When dazzling with excess of light,

We bow before the heavenly voice

That bids bewildered souls rejoice,

Though love wax cold and faith be dim,

“This is My Son!  O hear ye Him!”

Our saint published his Memoir (1851) of his father and the Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians (1855) after becoming the Canon of Canterbury Cathedral in 1851.  As Canon he toured Egypt and the Holy Land in 1852-1853.  Then he wrote a book based on his journey.

Arthur returned to Oxford as the Chair of Ecclesiastical History and the Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in 1856.  During that tenure he toured Russia in 1857.  Then he based a book on that task.

In 1863 our saint, passed over for an opportunity to become the Archbishop of Dublin, became the Dean of Westminster instead.  That year he married Lady Augusgta Bruce (died 1876), who was close to the royal family.

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley was correct:  It is better to focus on what unites us as Christians than on what separates us.  I distrust doctrinal purity tests, which seem designed chiefly to affirm the orthodoxy of those who design and/or apply them.  Besides, I fail such tests consistently.  So did Jesus, so our saint and I have much better company in our relative heterodoxy and generosity of spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Arthur Penrhyn Stanley,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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