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The British Crisis and Its Significance

Address by the Right Rev. William T. Manning, D.D.
Bishop of New York

In the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Sunday, December 13th, 1936.

IN THE past few days and weeks we have been witnessing events in Great Britain so unprecedented, so tragic in their circumstances and so far reaching in their significance, that they seem almost beyond belief.

It is natural and right that at this time, and in this Cathedral, we should give expression to our sympathy with the British People and with the English Church with which we hold such sacred relations of brotherhood and fellowship. Let us not fail to be thankful that at such a moment the Church of England had two such wise, faithful, and devoted leaders as the present Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

We may, I believe, say to our brethren of Great Britain without hesitation that they have not only the understanding and sympathy of the American People, but also our deep admiration for the way in which they have met this unprecedented crisis in their history. With amazement and grief but with clear moral judgment, without harshness on the one hand or weak sentimentality on the other, the British People have recognized the great issues involved in this situation, both in the sphere of morals and in the sphere of free, constitutional, government, and they have acted accordingly. And in taking this action they have rendered a priceless service to all of us, their action has strengthened the principles which make for morality, for stability, for peace, and for progress, throughout the world.

We cannot but feel deep sympathy for the young former King in the tragic situation which he has brought upon himself. He had unusual gifts, in many ways he endeared-himself to his people and was justly popular, but all the more these recent events show the steadfastness, and the strength of character, of the British People.

First. These events show that the British Parliament and People stand, with the Historic Church of England, for Christian Moral Ideals, and for the sacredness of Marriage and the Family. The King's marriage was opposed not because he wished to marry a commoner, nor because he wished to marry an American, but because he wished to marry a woman who is divorced and who has two husbands still living. This clear testimony by the British People in support of Christian Marriage, and Christian Moral Ideals, will be felt all over the world and is of supreme importance in this time of confused moral judgment in which we are living. It will remind many in our own land that the Moral Law is the Law of God and that defiance of God's Law, as to Marriage or as to any other matter, brings its certain retribution. Some thoughtless people with small moral vision will say, and I am sorry to see that two or three of our Senators and Congressmen in Washington are reported as saying, that the King had the right to seek happiness in his own way. But has any man, King or commoner, the right to seek happiness by running after another man's wife? And does such defiance of God's Law lead to true happiness? All human experience tells us that it does not.

Second, these grave events show that Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations stand firm for free, constitutional government and against the present trend backwards to absolute autocratic rule whether under the name of Communism or Fascism. The action now taken has greatly strengthened the forces which stand for freedom and Democracy and against reversion to Absolutism or any form of Dictatorship. And we Americans have full reason to give thanks for this strong and courageous action, for in the world to-day the chief supports of free government, and of the ideals of justice, liberty, and progress for which Democracy stands, are the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America.

Honour beyond measure is due to the British Prime Minister for the way in which he has performed his most gravely responsible part in this crisis. Anyone who reads Mr. Baldwin's report to the House of Commons must feel moved to admiration by the faithfulness to duty, the fine restraint, and the nobility of spirit, which he has shown in these tragic proceedings.

From all our hearts deep sympathy goes to Queen Mary, beloved and honoured by all for her life and example as Queen, as Wife, and as Mother.

To the new King and Queen we offer our most heartfelt good wishes. The good promise of their reign is expressed in the words which are on the lips of many of their people at this time--"They remind us of King George and Queen Mary."

May God's blessing and guidance be with them as they take up their great responsibilities, and may He guide the British Commonwealth of Nations and our own Nation, and all the Nations of the World, into the way of justice, and liberty, and of that peace which is the fruit of righteousness.

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