Good Arm, Jenny Geddes!

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Once or twice a year, I put together a band and we play down at Bucers, a local pub named after the Reformer Martin Bucer. One of the names we have used for this motley collection of a band has been the Jenny Geddes band, named after the stalwart woman at St. Giles in Edinburgh, who in the year 1637 threw her stool at the presiding minister’s head, he who was attempting to introduce the Book of Common Prayer as the form of worship there. The name Geddes is an honored one at our house — in addition to this business, I named the heroine in one of my kids’ books after her, and one of my granddaughters has a middle name of Geddes. And — this being the reason for bringing this up — last night we had a grand old time playing the blues and some other stuff.

But because of the email announcement that went out to our church about the event, I heard back that some were wondering about what beef I might have with the Book of Common Prayer. And the answer is, none at all, actually. The original BCP was the work of some of the great heroes of the faith, and modern day Anglicans could do a lot worse than return to their orginal roots and, as a matter of fact, a lot of them are doing a lot worse.

So why is Jenny Geddes to be honored and praised then? The answer is context. This event happened during the tenure of Archbishop Laud, a small-minded and petty man. His major faults were three — he abandoned the Calvinism of the 39 Articles, he attempted to achieve uniformity of worship by coercive means (which blew up in his face in Edinburgh, thanks to Jenny), and he was a persecutor of the saints, making full use of instruments like the Star Chamber. So, when Anglicans are worshiping the God of their fathers, I am all about the BCP. When they take the show on the road, as they have periodically done, I am on the side of those who resist the tyrannical binding of their consciences.

One other thing. In the interests of historic honesty, it also has to be said that when Laud fell from power, the way he was handled by his enemies was a disgrace. He was one of the bad guys in the history of the church, but he was still handled pretty roughly. His opponents, at least those responsible for his trial, had learned more from him than from Christ.

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