Charles Chapman Grafton, Christian Saint or Leader of a Circus?


What is Anglican identity?  That issue has been wrestled with over and over by Priests, Bishops and Scholars hoping to pin down those traits which identify one as an “Anglican” as opposed to anything else.  So far, the definition has been elusive because of the inclusive nature of Anglicanism.  I have friends who wish to emphasize a more congregational style of worship with an absolute reverence for the Bible even if it means reducing or shortening the liturgy to accommodate church school classes and Bible studies.  On the other hand I have friends who cannot get enough liturgy with all the bells and whistles including, especially incense.  To them reducing or eliminating liturgy is a special, kind of heresy for which no real penance exists on this earth.  However, even in the extremes one finds a common quiet devotion to the Book of Common Prayer and its deliberative dignity in presenting the scriptures through a liturgical context.

Charles Chapman Grafton who we remember today was a bishop of the Episcopal Church,   He was the bishop of the Diocese of Fond Du Lac, and an Ecumenist.  The official calendar of the Prayer Book does not denote today as a remembrance or veneration of his life and work but those of us who also use a book called Holy Women Holy Men as a supplemental reference find him listed for today.

Bishop Grafton’s life and work is significant for a number of reasons but primarily for his willingness to openly acknowledge the liturgical heritage of the Anglican church whether it be the Church of England, the Episcopal Church of the United States, or one of the other churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.  At the consecration of his successor Bishop Graton invited the Russian Orthodox Bishop, and the Old Catholic Bishop to attend.  He created a stir by releasing a photograph of all the Bishops in attendance which showed them vested in mitre’s (the tall pointed hat worn by Bishops) and Copes (a special liturgical type of cape).  These two items of clothing squarely connected the proceeding with the ancient traditions of the church and brought the issue  of our liturgical heritage into the light of day. Many referred to the photograph and the consecration as the “Fond du lac Circus” reflecting the then cautious, even suspicious, attitude of Episcopalians toward vestiture.

However, once blessed  by a bishop,  the practice of utilizing that “liturgical heritage” became more acceptable and more practiced.  It was a victory for a form of symbolism which connects us to the earliest days of the church christian and transcends a mere reading or recitation f the scriptures.  We now see the results as illustrated by the embrace of his grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and his holiness Pope Francis.

While Anglicans will continue to have differences with Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians thanks to the work of men like Bishop Grafton we feel comfortable acknowledging our common ancestor, if you will, that being our liturgical heritage.  If asked about your heritage you can clearly say you are a liturgical christian whose religious beliefs and practices extend back unto the earliest practices of the Christian Church.





Harrowing of Hell II
The Harrowing of Hell, Netherlandish, (1600)

“ O God our help I ages past our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.”  Sir Isaac Watts, para. Pf Psalm 90-1-5. Hymn 680 of the Hymnal 182 (The Episcopal Church).

“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him firm in your faith” From the Office of Compline in the Book of Common Prayer, Page 132.

The incident in Charlottesville and the subsequent rhetoric of both the press and the President leave me weak at the knees.  It is a sort of deja vu and a re-living of the events taking place in the late fifties and early sixties.  I witnessed the burning of crosses marching through the streets of my Mississippi hometown and can remember the paralyzing fear that even we white people felt at seeing such things.  We also witnessed the events surrounding the Selma march and felt the pain when civil rights workers were killed in senseless acts of violence. And then there was the tense desegregation of the universities of Alabama and Mississippi.  So here we are “back in the car again” to borrow a phrase from a popular motion picture.  Have we really traveled this long only to find ourselves having traveled in a giant circle back to the past?

It is tempting to subscribe to the popular notion that there is an evil opposite of God who through manipulation and intrigue brings on these horrendous acts of evil. But I rather fancy the notion of C.S. Lewis who envisioned not an eternal Satan but rather “devils.”  When asked if he believed in “the Devil” he responded:

Now if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No.  There is no uncreated being except God.  God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy and existence itself) there would be none of him left.

            The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these by abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God, and as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels but their nature is depraved.  Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man.  Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.

          Lewis also presents a rather unique view in describing his particular vision of “Hell”.

                  We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance and resentment.

            He further goes on to complete the picture:

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. …But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted , warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

I think we can all agree that as forewarned by the ancient prayer in Compline, the devil our adversary has had his fill this week. How to react is difficult and yet it is demanded of us by our faith to condemn racism in any form along with violence.  It is not sufficient to remain silent or apathetic. It is not sufficient to pass off the events in Charlottesville as just another violent incident involving rival gangs going at one another.  To do so is to fulfill what Lewis was saying about Hell.  The far reaching effects must be understood and examined.  It is not enough that the clergy and the Church shouts out the standard as proclaimed by our Lord. It is imperative that our public officials look beyond their own personal bias and proclaim loudly and firmly the “good angel” standard as the only standard for our private and public conduct.

Hopefully in so doing we may indeed “Be sober and watchful” and thereby avoid being devoured by our adversaries not the least of which is racism.