This article delves into the historical tendency of some Anglican clergymen to decline titles of dignity bestowed by the State, as exemplified by Rev. Dr Walter Smith’s reported decline of a baronetcy. It traces this practice back to the founders of three peerages – Normanton, Limerick, and O’Neill – all of whom were clergymen. The article explores the reasons behind their reservations, highlighting the complex relationship between religious faith and secular recognition and underscoring their commitment to preserving the sanctity of their religious roles and the separation of church and state.
The recent news surrounding Rev. Dr Walter Smith’s reported decision to decline a baronetcy has brought to light a historical trend among some Anglican clergymen – their reluctance to accept titles of dignity from the State. This article delves into this practice and its historical origins, shedding light on the complex interplay between religious principles and secular honours.
The Founders of Three Peerages
The historical precedent for Anglican clergymen declining State-bestowed titles can be traced back to the founders of three notable peerages: Normanton, Limerick, and O’Neill. Each of these individuals held positions of significant religious authority within the Anglican Church.
- The first Earl of Normanton served as the Archbishop of Dublin, a role of great prominence and influence within the religious community. Despite his standing, he hesitated to accept a title granted by the State, raising questions about the compatibility of religious duties and secular honours.
- Similarly, the first Earl of Limerick held the position of Bishop of Killaloe, another esteemed ecclesiastical role. Despite his high status, he too expressed reservations about accepting a title from the government, reflecting concerns about the intersection of church and state.
- The first Lord O’Neill, Rev. Edward Chichester, had previously served as the vicar of a humble parish in Dublin. His experience representing a modest congregation may have contributed to his reticence in accepting a State-bestowed honour. This suggests a moral dilemma regarding the acceptance of secular recognition while adhering to religious principles.
Complex Relationship Between Faith and Recognition
These historical examples illustrate the intricate relationship between religious faith and secular recognition. For Anglican clergymen, who held significant roles within the Church, accepting State honours could raise questions about their commitment to their religious duties and the potential compromise of their principles.
Preserving Religious Sanctity and Separation of Church and State
By choosing to decline these honours, these clergymen demonstrated their dedication to preserving the sanctity of their religious roles and maintaining the separation between the Church and the State. Their decisions reflect a conscious effort to uphold their religious principles without being unduly influenced or entangled with secular recognition.
The historical practice of some Anglican clergymen declining titles of dignity from the State, as exemplified by Rev. Dr Walter Smith’s reported decision, highlights the intricate interplay between religious faith and secular honours. The founders of peerages like Normanton, Limerick, and O’Neill serve as historical examples of individuals who grappled with this dilemma, choosing to prioritize their religious principles and the separation of church and state over secular recognition. This practice underscores the enduring commitment of certain Anglican clergymen to uphold their faith’s sanctity and integrity.
Nottingham Evening Post – Tuesday 13 February 1900