Intention + Conscience

William Law deserved more of my attention when I studied theology. A Serious Call (pdf here) was helpful, particularly Chapter 2’s theme: Intention. I knew he influenced John Wesley but I didn’t realize that he tutored John and Charles. I didn’t know William Law gave up his appointment as a Cambridge Fellow and the parish priesthood as an act of conscience.

A national struggle began in 1534 when Parliament supported Henry VIII’s split with the Pope, siding Great Britain with the new Protestant movement. The struggle lasted 150+ years until the last Roman Catholic monarch, James II, was deposed in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. (That’s a too-simple, two-sentence account of a complex and painful era of British history.)

William Law refused to pledge loyalty to King George I. As a “nonjuror,” he was removed from academic and clergy leadership. He became a free-lance theologian but never left the Church of England. It takes courage to stand for one’s convictions when there’s a personal, political or financial price to pay. Law demonstrated intention, conscience–and consistency.

Republicans face a similar loyalty test. Liz Cheney lost a leadership position by not showing fealty to the former president. Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham chose a road more traveled by recanting their criticism of the former president. This is a “1714 moment,” dividing families, friends, churches, parties–and a nation. William Law inspires me.

From “1714, A Glimpse of Secularity: The Church and the Hanoverian Succession,” by Brent Sirota, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 30, 2014

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