Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prayer for Rulers

Based on the "Collect for the Queen" in the 1662 BCP

O LORD our heavenly Father, the high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of rulers, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our Ruler on earth, ________; and so replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that he may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue him plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant him in health and wealth long to live; strengthen him that he may overcome all his enemies; and finally, after this life, he may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rethinking Sunday Services

Some thoughts on Sunday worship...

Most of you will be familiar with the sort of liturgy found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  Along with most modern liturgies, it is based upon Dix's idea of liturgical shape.  There is an introductory rite, Gloria, collect of the day, readings, sermon, creed, prayers of the people, peace, offertory, prayer of consecration, communion, post-communion prayer, dismissal, roughly, with some local variations, etc.  This shape has been adopted by most Christian denominations, the exception being churches like the Reformed Episcopal Church, who have resisted the "liturgical peer pressure" on most Protestant denominations.  In addition to this modern liturgical shape, the Anglican Communion has had a major shift from being a Word-based faith to a symbol-based faith in the last two hundred years.  As you may or may not be aware, the typical Anglican service before the 1860's was Morning Prayer, followed by the Litany, and the Ante-Communion Service (Communion was celebrated at most once a month).  There was little ceremonial action other than perscribed by the Prayer Book (which in these services was mostly sitting, standing, etc.).  The meat of the service was the reading of the Scripture and the expounding of the same in the sermon.  In those times, there could have been up to nine readings from the Scriptures during a service.  There were the two readings from the Table of Lessons for the Daily Office, usually a chapter each, the Psalms from the Psalter, from one to five depending on the day and length of each, and the Epistle and Gospel of the day, usually shorter than the Office readings.  In addition to the readings, the Liturgy is saturated with Scripture; most of the versicles and responses are taken from Scripture. 

I've come to realize that, we, Episcopalians, are very much versed in the art of liturgy and the "mechanics" of public worship.  Only an Episcopalian would know what an aspergillum is or that the liturgical color for Gaudete Sunday is rose.  However, if you ask him to recite the Scriptures, you will find that he is not thoroughly familiar with God's Word.  Perhaps it is time to reconsider the ceremonial complexity of our services in modern Anglicanism.  Perhaps it is time to shed our rituals for a simpler service in accordance with the simplicity of the Prayer Book.  The Lord says, "Thy Word is truth," yet we know not the Words of life as they are contained in the Scriptures.  It is time for the Episcopalian to know and love the Word of God.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An (Episcopal) Evangelical Eucharistic Prayer?

Phillip Wainwright at the Barnabas Project has revealed a "loophole" in the 1979 BCP which might allow for a more Evangelical Eucharistic Prayer to be used in the Sunday Liturgy.  Essentially, the Evangelical complaint with the main Eucharistic prayers is their wording which implies a notion of Eucharistic Sacrifice.  While I am not opposed to a mild commemorative sacrifice in the Eucharist, I know that Evangelicals are opposed to this.  Phillip offers advice on how to write your own Eucharistic prayers.  I wanted to work the 1662 liturgy into this structure in the 1979 BCP, albeit a bit of a stretch of the rubrics.

Phillip describes his interpretation the rubrics:

"For those willing to be thoughtful in their encounter with the rubrics, here’s something I’ve done pretty consistently over the last fifteen years or so: use the eucharistic prayer on p 402 of the Prayer Book. This prayer is designed for use when using the Order for Communion on p 400, but there’s no rubric that prohibits its use in a regular service. The rubric concerning the eucharistic prayer in Rite II says ‘Alternative forms will be found on page 367 and following’ and this prayer follows p 367, even if at a distance."

First, let me quote Phillip, who offers a rationale for using this prayer:

"First, it uses the word ‘bring’ instead of ‘offer’ when indicating the elements. To say that the elements are brought can hardly mislead anyone. It’s true that they are described as ‘gifts’, but since the prayer immediately preceding these words is left to the discretion of the celebrant, they can easily be referred to in that prayer as God’s gifts, which will remove any ambiguity... Second, it refers to I Corinthians 11.26 in saying that in doing this ‘we show forth the sacrifice of His death’. Third, the language of sacrifice is firmly linked to our offering of ourselves rather than our observing the rite: ‘Make us a living sacrifice of praise’."

As I mentioned earlier in the post, after reading Phillip's post, I got the idea to see if the rubrics would permit substitution from other texts.  While they don't specifically permit this, they always say something to the effect of, "using these or similar words," thus allowing the celebrant some freedom in the choice of language. The text does perscribe that the Sursum Corda and Sanctus be used in their 1979 forms thus obligating the use of the Benedictus qui venit.  Likewise, the rubrics provide (and do not allow alternative wording) the forms for the Words of Institution and some material after it.  

A note on the format, everything in brackets is taken from Common Worship Order Two, the contemporary language edition of the 1662 BCP.  It doesn't work perfectly but it's a start, maybe someone else can improve on it.

In making Eucharist, the Celebrant uses one of the Eucharistic Prayers from Rite One or Rite Two, or one of the following forms

Celebrant    The Lord be with you.
People        And also with you.
Celebrant    Lift up your hearts.
People        We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant    Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People        It is right to give him thanks and praise.

[It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King, almighty and eternal God]

The Celebrant gives thanks to God the Father for his work in creation and his revelation of himself to his people;

Recalls before God, when appropriate, the particular occasion being celebrated;

Incorporates or adapts the Proper Preface of the Day, if desired.

If the Sanctus is to be included, it is introduced with these or similar words

And so we join the saints and angels in proclaiming your glory, as we sing (say),

[Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you, and saying/singing:]

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The Celebrant now praises God for the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who, in your tender mercy, gave your only Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; he instituted, and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death until he comes again.]

And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

On the night he was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, "Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me."

After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, "Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me."

Father, we now celebrate the memorial of your Son. By means of this holy bread and cup, we show forth the sacrifice of his death, and proclaims his resurrection, until he comes again.

Gather us by this Holy Communion into one body in your Son Jesus Christ. Make us a living sacrifice of praise.

By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Third Sunday of Advent

[This starts a new series here.  I will be posting the lectionary texts from the Revised Common Lectionary, highlighting the portions of the Bible which are omitted and offering the texts from the 1928 BCP for comparison.]

BCP 1979

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

 3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

 4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

 5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

 6But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

 7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.

 8For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

 9And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

 10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

 11For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

 16Rejoice evermore.

 17Pray without ceasing.

 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

 19Quench not the Spirit.

 20Despise not prophesyings.

 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

 22Abstain from all appearance of evil.

 23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

John 1:6-8,19-28

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

 7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

 16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

 17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

 18No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

 19And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

 20And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

 21And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

 22Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

 23He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

 24And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

 25And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

 26John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

 27He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

 28These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.


Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

BCP 1928

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

LET a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgement: yea, I judge not mine own self.  For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord.  Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.

S. Matthew 11. 2-10

NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?  Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.  And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken with the wind?  But what went ye out for to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.  But what went ye out for to see? a prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.  For this is he, of whom it is written,
     Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
     Which shall prepare thy way before thee.


O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare the way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today the Church celebrates the Conception of the Blessed Virgin  Mary.  It is a "black letter" day in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, meaning that it has no proper Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, as a "red letter" day would get.  The American 1928 BCP did not retain the black letter days so it does not occur in the Protestant Episcopal Church calendar.

In contrast with the Church of Rome, our Church does not celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  It is important to note that our Church maintains the original title and spirit of the feast over the medieval accretions included in the Roman Liturgy for this feast.  It is also interesting to note that many notable Roman theologians denied the Immaculate Conception, such as Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican Order, yet that opinion has been made dogma by the Roman Church.  The Immaculate Conception intends to distort true Marian veneration, which our Church plainly rejects.  The true spirit of Marian veneration is the veneration of Christ.  To worship the Virgin is to insult the Virgin in an attempt to rob her Son of the worship due to Him.  Our Lady does not accept invocations in her name but instead points us to the blessed Name of Christ.  We should not fumble with beads in order to gain the favor of Mary but devote ourselves in prayer and the Scriptures to glorify God in Christ.  It is a slap in the face of the "pure Virgin" as the BCP titles her to invoke her in prayer or sing praises to her name.  Humble Mary prefers that we lift our eyes to the Lord in prayer and fasting in imitation of her holy example.  How did the woman who uttered these words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word, (St. Luke 1:38)" come to be called the "Queen of Heaven"?

A theology of Mary which centers on Mary is not a Marian theology at all.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, through her life and witness, exhorts us to worship Christ alone as our Lord and Savior of our souls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Catholics Should Become Anglicans

This post was written in response to reading the following article by Fr. Lucie-Smith for the Catholic Herald:  It deals with the subject of why Catholics become Anglicans.  After reading this article, I feel that Mr. Lucie-Smith has presented a realistic picture of why many Roman Catholics choose to become Anglicans.  The problem with these reasons is that they are poor reasons for choosing any religion, not just Anglicanism, and show the complete lack of knowledge of our rich theological and liturgical heritage as contained in the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.

In this post, I will comment briefly on Mr. Lucie-Smith's observations and offer what I think are better reasons that Roman Catholics should join the Anglican Churches.

Firstly, Mr. Lucie-Smith presents his first observation:

"Firstly, marriage, and in recent times, civil partnerships: Because the Anglican church will often bless unions the Catholic Church does not recognise, some people have gone to the vicar for weddings or services of blessing and then stayed with the vicar’s community."

The laxity of discipline in Anglican churches is well-known in the Christian world and many people like to take advantage of it.  Historically, the Church of England held very strict standards in marital discipline. Divorce was not allowed in most cases.  The only case in which divorce was tolerated in Protestant orthodoxy is in cases of adultery (based off the passage in Matthew's Gospel).  Over time, many churches have adopted the "no-fault" divorce policy of American culture, lamentably, the Episcopal Church has done just that, even though the Canons direct that remarriage should not occur unless the previous marriage has been annulled.  

His second observation is that,

"Secondly, aesthetic reasons: I know of some who have decided that their pretty village church with its warm-hearted community is the place where they want to be. Many of these people, in my experience, have not been particularly religious. While they may consider themselves parishioners, they would but infrequently go to the Anglican Church."

Even though he intends this as an insult to Anglicans and, while it should not be the only reason for joining the Anglican church, there is a nugget of truth in this statement.  The Church of England is the catholic Church of the English people, just as the Protestant Episcopal Church is the national, catholic Church in the United States.  It is decent and right and proper that all citizens should be part of their national, Catholic Church and not one that is foreign and centered in Rome.  However, one should not be a part of a Church to which they do not adhere creedally.  Anglican churches are reformed catholic Churches which teach the Protestant and catholic faith of the early Church.  

His third reason is,

"Thirdly, church politics: usually when people have a blazing row with the parish priest over the positioning of the hymn board or some other cutting edge matter, they vamoose to another parish. Sometimes, though I have heard of only one case, they storm off “to join the other lot”, as they put it."

I hardly think that church politics is unique to Anglican-Roman conversions.  Practically speaking, this is probably the most common reason given for changing denominations.  

And lastly,

"Fourthly, female ordination: some Catholic women have left the Church to join the Anglicans so that they can be ordained. Some lay people may have joined the Anglicans because they support female ordination."

Regrettably, the Anglican Communion has opened the can of worms known as women's ordination.  Although we are technically still in "dialogue" about this issue, it seems that the Church at large is going to normalize the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion.  While many Romans might be supportive of the ordination of women, they should know that the issue is still not normalized in all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion.  For instance, the Church of England still does not ordain women to the episcopate.  Some African Churches do not ordain women at all.  The Province of the Southern Cone ordains women only to the diaconate.  The Protestant Episcopal Church ordains women to all three orders of ministry, unfortunately.  

He admits that these are small and insignificant in comparison to the greatest reason of them all,

"The above would all be significant but relatively small groups of people. The single largest phalanx of ex-Catholics, as far as I can gather, as those lukewarm Catholics who have been evangelised by Anglicans and have joined a thriving and lively evangelical congregation. My evidence for this is anecdotal, but my guess is that a place like Holy Trinity Brompton contains a significant number of people who were baptised Catholics, but who have now come to Jesus through the Alpha course."

This seems to be the most emotionally-charged of his claims.  He seems to be implying that evangelical Anglicans are "preying" on ignorant Catholics to fill their pews.  

Under what circumstances should a Roman Catholic join the Anglican Church?

As we see from the comments made by this gentleman, the Anglican Church has lost credibility among the other denominations, especially Rome.  This is entirely our own fault, for we have not upheld our own standards, either of doctrine or of worship.  If we were true to our own standards, we would have Morning and Evening Prayer every day, Holy Communion on every Sunday and Holy Day, we would have a rigorous fasting regimen, and a robust reformed catholicism backed by Scripture and the early Church Fathers.  Instead, due to generations of theological liberalism and Romanzing tendencies among Anglo-Catholics, we are known for moral and liturgical laxity, doctrinal confusion and even the lack of doctrine entirely, and generally, a mock of Christian denominations.  The reasons for this complex but I think, principally, it is the loss of confidence in our own formularies as standard-bearers of catholicity.  In order to regain our sense as a tradition, we have to recover our confidence in the catholicity of our formularies.  

Regaining this confidence in our own standards logically reveals the only circumstances in which Roman Catholics  should be admitted as communicants in our parishes.  

First, have they been convinced that, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation" (Article VI)?  If not, send them to the library and give them a list of patristic fathers to read in conjunction with the Sacred Writ and the writings of the Reformers.  If they are so persuaded after reading the evidence, then they should be admitted to our Church, if not, humbly explain to them that this is the doctrine of our Church.

Second, have they been convinced by the Spirit that "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings" (Article XI)?  If not, again, provide them with an explanation of the teaching of our Church and if they cannot accept it, humbly admit that they are not ready for communion with our Church.

Third, have they been convinced that, "the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith" (Article XIX)?  If not, explain to them the errors of the Roman Church and if they cannot yet accept the common errors of the Church of Rome, humbly admit that they should consider this decision in constant prayer and come back after consulting the Sacred Scriptures.

Fourth, have they been convinced that, "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God" (Article XXII)?  If not, explain to them the error of these superstitions to the corporate body of Christ and to their own soul.  If they are still yet unconvinced, commit them to prayer and dedicate your time to explaining the gravity of these errors.

Fifth, have they been convinced that there are two Sacraments of the Gospel and that, "Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel" (Article XXV)?  If not, explain to them the nature of the Christian Sacraments and where the Church of Rome "hath erred" in this matter.

Sixth, have they been convinced that, "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions," and that "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped" (Article XXVIII)?  

Seventh, most importantly, have they been convinced that, "The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits" (Article XXXI)?  If they are not yet convinced of this truth of the Gospel, remind them of Christ's, "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world," which cannot be repeated or added to by human priests.  Exhort them to trust in Christ alone for salvation but if they cannot accept this truth of the Gospel, they are not yet ready for communion with our Church.

Eighth, are they convinced that all the clergy may marry freely according to the Articles?  Will they cease in using superstitious forms of prayer in public and private?  

Only if they can submit to these teachings, should Roman Catholics be admitted to communion with our Church.  To admit someone to our Church who, either knowingly or unknowingly, disregards our doctrine, does help either them or the whole body of Christ.  If they are admitted to our Church without properly being instructed in our doctrine, what is to stop them from spreading false rumours about our Church?  The fault is not theirs but ours, for we cannot blame the ignorant.  The Gospel is not served by lowering our expectations to fill the pews.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Few Notes about this Blog

For new readers or confused readers,

The title of this blog is a play on words from the early 19th century group known as the "Hackney Phalanx" which centered in Hackney, which is now a suburb of London.

The inspiration for this blog really is a personal quest which I have made public (as I take notes on everything I read, I thought it would be beneficial to other people to read my "notes" so to speak).  I read Peter Nockle's, "The Oxford Movement in Context" and was fascinated by this subject of Anglo-Catholicism in comparison to .  I have since collected books and articles to read about this subject, mostly for my own private enjoyment and to share with anyone who is interested in the subject.

Also note, that I do not "filter" anything I say or think about this (or any) subject.  So, for instance, you might see something a few months ago which contradicts what something else I've written here.  This is an intellectual curiosity of mine and I do want to make it clear that I am not a trained scholar in this field so please do not accept anything I write as fact.  I encourage debate (and enjoy it), if you have a contrary opinion, please opine!

I really enjoy reading and discussing Anglican history and if you think I should write about something please send me an e-mail, I would love to learn more.  Likewise, if you have a book suggestion or solely want to discuss something, please also send an e-mail.

"To know the past is to know the present"

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Consecration of Samuel Seabury

Today the Episcopal Church celebrates the consecration of Bishop Samuel Seabury, which occurred on this day, November 14, 1784.  This act defined the Episcopal Church and in turn led (indirectly) to the formation of the Anglican Communion.

Samuel Seabury was consecrated by Scottish Episcopal bishops because he was unable to take an oath to the King in England and therefore, English bishops could not consecrate him by law.  The Scottish Episcopal Church has a unique history, separate of that of the English Church which stems from the Nonjuror schism in the late 17th century.  When James II was deposed in 1688, William and Mary came to England and began reigning as the monarchs.  A group of bishops, clergy, and laity, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, would not swear an oath of allegiance to the new soverigns.  These Nonjurors,as they were called, were out of fellowship with the mainstream Church and eventually set up their own churches.  Nonjurors in Scotland formed a key part of the Scottish Episcopal Church but because of their stance, William declared the Presbyterian Church of Scotland as the official, established Church of Scotland (obviously much more complicated than that but a simple summary will suffice).  Many of the practices of the Nonjurors eventually find some expression in the Protestant Episcopal Church due to Seabury's connection with the Scottish bishops.  Most importantly, (many) Nonjurors preferred the Communion Office from the 1549 and eventually produced "wee bookies" with an order of Communion similar to that rite and not the 1662 English rite.

Seabury was an influential High Churchman (and Loyalist) in the Church of Connecticut during the Revolution.  Seabury was elected by Connecticut Churchmen to be a bishop for them.  He sailed to England intending to be consecrated but due to issues raised earlier, the English bishops were not able to consecrate him.  He found support in the Scottish Bishops in Aberdeen.  Two important things happened due to this consecration besides a bishop for the Episcopal Church.  First, Seabury promised to promote recognition of the Scottish Church by the Episcopal Church.  Second, Seabury promised to use and promote the Scottish Order of Communion in the US.  This is why our historic Prayer Books in the United States have a Canon looking like the 1549 Prayer Book and not the 1662 Book.  After the Revolution and consequently during the formation of the Episcopal Church, Seabury and the Connecticut Church were opposed to the latitudinarian spirit of White's Church Constitution.  Seabury protested the first General Conventions due to a lack of episcopal representation in the Church's Convention.  Due to Seabury's resistance, we have a House of Bishops in addition to the House of Deputies in the General Convention.

I hope you spend a few moments today and remember the events that happened today in the life of the Episcopal Church.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY GOD, who by thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders of
Ministers in thy Church, and by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy holy Apostles many excellent gifts: Give grace, we beseech thee, to all Bishops of thy Church, and more especially to those who serve in that branch of the same planted by thee in this land; that, following the example of thy servant Samuel Seabury, they may diligently preach thy Word, and duly administer the godly Discipline thereof, to the glory of thy Name, and the edification of thy Church; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1963)

We give thee thanks, O Lord our God, for thy goodness in bestowing Upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by thy holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

(Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006)

The Epistle. 

Acts 20:28-32. 

TAKE heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

The Gospel. 

St. Matthew 9:35-38. 

JESUS went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching The Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Repost: Justification by Faith Alone

Although not the "formal" cause of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, it ranks close behind the abuse of the sale of indulgences as the cause of it and also one of the things that divides Romanism and Protestantism. Most of us have heard the Latin phrases, sola fide, which simply means "faith alone." The core questions we are asking here relate to how we attain salvation but more specifically within the initial experience of salvation known in theological terms as "justification," the beginning of salvation. Luther began studying and preaching on St. Paul's Epistles before the controversy with John Tetzel culminating in the 95 Theses of 1517. His theological reflection on the book of Romans centered on one central verse which caused him to seriously reflect on Roman teaching at the time. "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:17). Quoted from Peter Toon's book, Justification and Sanctification, Luther elaborates on his own personal, spiritual quest:

"I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in great love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven."

Crutial to Luther's understanding of the justification issue is the state of man after the Fall. "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:22b,23) "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God" (v. 10,11). We know our problem is grave, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8), "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14), "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3) and again in, "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another" (Titus 3:3) and this problem has no remedy which we can find in ourselves. What then are to we di in such a predicament? This is the key of the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ, proclaimed to us in the pages of the New Testament. As Romans 3:23 proclaims, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," however, the Apostle does not stop there! The rest of the verse reads, "and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:24,25). "For the wages of sin is death," however, God does not leave us to damnation from our sins, no, he freely saves for, "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

The biblical doctrine of justification by faith is something which cannot be compromised or misunderstood. The Council of Trent in the latter part of the 16th century refuted the clear Protestant and biblical teaching on justification on every point. Beginning with the formal cause of justification, the council declared, “the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation.” This is often called infused righteousness in opposition to the biblical concept of imputed righteousness which was the formal cause of justification according to the Reformers. “they are righteous because they believe in Christ, whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them.”
The Council of Trent then explains the Roman understanding of what is the instrumental cause of justification which is, “is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified,” another spit in the face of Reformation theology. Biblical theology allows faith alone as the instrument of justification (some Protestants allow that baptism is the instrument of regeneration but not justification). Luther says, “Faith, however, is something that God effects in us. It changes us and we are reborn from God, John 1:13. Faith puts the old Adam to death and makes us quite different men in heart, in mind, and in all our powers; and it is accompanied by the Holy Spirit. O, when it comes to faith, what a living, creative, active, powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do; rather, before the question is raised, it has done the deed, and keeps on doing it. A man not active in this way is a man without faith. He is groping about for faith and searching for good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Nevertheless, he keeps on talking nonsense about faith and good works.”

The last point with which biblical theology departs from Tridentine theology is in the relation between the justified and their sin nature. Trent says that a justified sinner is completely free from the stains of original sins, however, Luther states something entirely different. While on earth the sinner is simultaneously sinful and just (simul iustus et peccator). Peter Toon says this, “While on earth, the position of the Christian does not change. He is totally righteous through faith, and he remains always and completely a sinner. With reference to Christ he is righteous; but with reference to his fallen nature he is sinful. Yet this apparent contradiction does not imply a static situation. The very faith that draws Christ into the heart and creates the new nature gladly and freely allows Christ to do battle against the old, sinful nature (= “the flesh”). The result of this spiritual conflict (described by St. Paul in Romans 7, 8) should be that “Christ is constantly formed in us and we are formed according to his own image.”12 Each and every day faith is to grasp anew the word of promise which is the gospel and appropriate Christ, who is our righteousness. Further, each and every day sin, the devil and temptation must be fought. Yet despite all the daily battles, the old nature remains with us until death. There is no escape from it, nor from the possibility of sin. So Luther has no doctrine of progressive holiness or growth in sanctification (as these terms were later used). The flesh or old nature does not change; rather, Christ (or really the new nature) grows within the believer. Justification includes the daily renewal of the new nature. The believer can never say he is less sinful than he was at any earlier time!”

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Curious Experiment: The Polity of the Protestant Episcopal Church

While the American Revolution was an interesting and, as the name implies, revolutionary thing, perhaps, the ecclesiastical revolution which accompanied the new political scenario was the more radical of the two revolutions.  As has been explored elsewhere, the future of the Episcopal Church seemed very bleak at the beginning of our nation.  Many clergy and laity had fled to England, many drifted away to other forms of Protestantism or irreligion.  There were no bishops, cathedrals, deans, chapters, provinces, synods, canons, or anything substantial to hold together a church and beyond that the prospect of obtaining bishops probably seemed just as unlikely an event as there actually being an Episcopal Church.  However, through the efforts of one man, William White, the national church was eventually organized as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, developing a unique polity expressing a uniquely American approach to episcopacy.

The structures which would eventually come to govern the life of our national church in America have their roots in the anomaly of colonial Anglicanism.  When English citizens arrived here in the New World, they brought their religion with them.  Puritans and Pilgrims dominated the scene in New England, Quakers in Pennsylvania, and Anglicans in Virginia and Maryland (obviously an oversimplified picture!) which contributed to the religious diversity to which we are accustomed in the US.  There were relatively few Anglican parishes in New England in colonial times (and few in some southern colonies like Georgia and North Carolina), however, the Church was established by law in Virginia and Maryland and the number of parishes shows it (the Church was established in many colonies by law but that did not necessarily correspond to an active, Anglican parochial system).  The American Church was very autonomous with hardly any interference or intervention from the mother Church.  The colonial parishes were technically under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London (being considered part of his diocese), however, no episcopal visit ever occurred.  This lack of concern for colonial parishes from the English bishops stemmed from 18th century English conceptions about what a bishop should be (serving as a temporal and spiritual Lord of the Realm, not fit for “mission” work in the Colonies).  This is not to say that there was no concern for the colonial church.  Most notably, Thomas Bray, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, visited the Colonies around 1700 to investigate the state of affairs in colonial parishes.  His “Memorial Representing the Present State of Religion on the Continent of North America,” published in 1701, prompted the foundation of the Society, which worked hard to provide clergy and resources for the Colonial Church.  One of the SPG’s main concerns was to acquire a bishop for the Colonies.  However, for various reasons this plan failed, “The English Church did not
see the need for bishops in the colonies, since they were already under the rule of the Bishop of
London, and the S.P.G. (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) seemingly was unable to
argue successfully for Episcopal oversight” (Gundrum 1982:3).  One of the reasons was the colonial attitude to bishops, especially when considering the autonomy they had enjoyed without an episcopal presence.  This brings to light the power of vestries in the colonial parishes, especially in Virginia, where vestries had assumed a great deal of power in the absence of traditional authority structures in place in England.  This was one of the main concerns southern churchmen had with the introduction of episcopacy which would have limited their new-found power.

“The greatest opposition to the episcopacy being established in the colonies emerged, as would be expected, from those areas, especially in the south, where vestries and parishes fairly well “ran their own show”, so to speak, by being able to successfully maintain the right to select and call their own rector… In Virginia, for example, the vestry selected the minister, wardens were the executives of the parish, and the vestry even raised a tobacco tax for church support.  In the absence of clergy, they selected lay-readers, many of whom, throughout the colonies, were ordained after being trained in America.  The use of lay-readers was a wide-spread custom, but the lay-reader was selected by the vestry to lead the congregation in worship.  The powers of the Virginia vestries over clergy presented what seems to many a new and lasting type of clerical- lay relationship” (Gundrum 1982:3).

“Differences about episcopacy reflected more fundamental churchmanship divisions. In
Pennsylvania and the south, low-church views, influenced by the moderate Enlightenment, prevailed; many of the laity, and indeed the clergy too, could be categorised as Deists.  In
New England, by contrast, the clergy were predominantly high churchmen – many of them converts from Congregationalism who had come to believe in episcopacy. Their high churchmanship was sustained by their close connection with the high-church Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (Podmore 2008:135).  These differences in churchmanship and perhaps a bit of politics delayed the consecration of a bishop for the colonies until after the Revolution.  This sense of autonomy would permeate the foundational documents of the Protestant Episcopal Church (a name first used by the Church in Maryland in 1780 [135]).

The American Revolution nearly destroyed the Colonial Church, most notably in its centers in Virginia and Maryland.  Many thought that Anglicanism would perish with the small band of parishioners left after the independence of the Colonies was secured from Great Britain.  However, one man would galvanize remaining Anglicans into organizing a national church in the United States.  White’s plan for the organization of this Church would differ radically from the mother Church in England.  Perhaps its boldness can be seen by first briefly examining the structure and organization of the Church of England.  Fundamentally, the Church of England differs from the Protestant Episcopal Church in one key aspect, that being its origin.  The Church of England was established by missionaries who established episcopal sees which later came to house a diocesan cathedral.  English dioceses are named after the see of the bishop and from his episcopal office stems the entire identity of the diocese, “. An English diocese has no separate existence from its bishop: the definition of a diocese is that it is the area in which a bishop exercises his ministry” (139).  Early missionaries established sees and from that central location sent further missioners to establish parishes under the pastoral care of the bishop.  This is a fundamental difference which must be grasped for it comes to dominate the structure envisioned by White in his proposals for the organization of the Church in America.  The most fundamental difference, however, differs in a parish’s identity.  In England, a parish is a “subdivision of a diocese” and without this connection to the diocese, it cannot exist as a parish (Podmore 2008:135).  As we shall see, this was not the case in the Episcopal Church.  Besides the fundamental distinction between the diocese as the main unit of the Church in England (and as we shall see) the parish as the central unit in America, there is the issue of the equality of dioceses.  The English Church is a metropolitical Church, meaning that authority stems from a central location and flows down.  In the case of the English Church, this temporal and spiritual authority rests in the Crown, as the Supreme Governor of the Church.  The next in the line of authority is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, heads of the two Provinces of the Church of England, organized on the ancient pattern centering on the metropolitan (being Canterbury and York in England).  The authority flows down through diocesan bishops and eventually ends up at the parish level in the parish priest.  The structure of the Episcopal Church is completely different in outlook as we shall investigate here.  

The differences are in stark contrast, primarily due to the way in which the Church functioned in the colonial period, largely operating under a congregational polity.  Parishes were not tied to a diocesan bishop, except loosely the Bishop of London, who most colonists never saw.  Podmore adds, "In America, by contrast, the original state churches existed before they had bishops, and at first they were not called dioceses or required to have a bishop at all; they were certainly not defined by having a bishop. The bishops took their title from the state, rather than having a see that would give their diocese its name" (139).  It was this reality in which William White wrote his famous, “The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered,” published in 1782, “America was still at war with the English and it preceded the signing of the preliminary peace treaty on November 30, 1782, which became final on September 3, 1783.  Adding to this picture of the fast-moving events, by act of Parliament, English bishops were able to ordain colonial aspirants after August 13, 1784, and all congregations and clergy were freed from all controls of state legislatures by 1784” (Gundrum 1982:5).  White dismisses the (then) popular notion that the Episcopal Church could not survive without the rule of Great Britain, “A prejudice has prevailed with many that the episcopal churches cannot otherwise exist than under the dominion of Great-Britain.  A church government that would contain the constituent principles of the church of England, and yet be independent of foreign jurisdiction or influence, would remove that anxiety which at present hangs heavy on the minds of many sincere persons” (2).  The following is an excellent summary of White’s plan,

“White’s plan, as set forward in the Case, was simply that the American Church should build from the bottom to the top, rather than from the other way around as in England, i.e. from parish to diocese. White’s ideas were in complete agreement with those of the Revolution, that people’s interests and good government are the same, and the very best way to insure this ideal was to allow and provide for people to have maximum input into the creation and formulation of that free government…
From the Case, William White, later Bishop White of Philadelphia, produced six fundamental principles:
1. The Church is and ought to be free and independent of all foreign authority, ecclesiastical or civil;
2. The Church in The United States should have full and exclusive power to regulate concerns of its own communions;
3. The doctrines of the Gospel as then professed by the Church of England and uniformity of worship be continued, as near as may be possible;
4. The succession of ministry in three orders:
1. Bishops
2. Priests
3. Deacons
And the rights and powers of the same shall be ascertained and exercised according to reasonable law to be duly made;
5. Canons shall be made by no other authority than that of a representative body of the clergy and laity, acting co-jointly; and
6. No powers shall be allocated to a general ecclesiastical government except such as cannot be conveniently exercised by local congregations.
Without question, White intended to present a plan which fully preserved the faith, doctrine, and worship of the Church of England while changing the form of governance of the Church for the circumstance found in the United States.  His changes in government followed a contract-theory of government, and the de facto recognition that local government was already the fact; there
was no existing domestic episcopacy; and there had been no dioceses formed; thus leaving the parish as the basic unit of the Church in this country” (Gundrum 1982:6).

Gundrum also adds,

“White’s changes in governance, mitigated by the American circumstance, has:
a) Clergy and Laity – meeting and voting in one body;
b) No area of Church government is beyond the authority of such a gathering of clergy and laity, and individuals do not possess a veto;
c) Every communicant or member of the Church has a right to participate in the development of Church government through the parish delegate to the diocesan convention;
d) Bishops should continue to serve as a rector, confined to a small district; and
e) No power shall be given to any diocesan, regional, or national Church, except those which cannot conveniently be accomplished by the clergy and laity in their respective congregations” (7).

In brief, “White’s proposal was that the congregations should unite, in ‘voluntary associations’, and accordingly they formed state churches (later called dioceses), which in turn united in the General Convention,” which could have been adopted due to the nature of how the Episcopal Church had been organized, largely as autonomous parishes without a bishop or diocese.  The pre-existence of parishes before the creation of dioceses, shows the parish to be the basic unit in the Episcopal Church and similarly, the pre-existence of dioceses before the General Convention presumes certain autonomy on the part of the dioceses.  White’s plan was enshrined in our Constitution, as Podmore notes,

“The Constitution of the General Convention still treats dioceses seeking admission into union with the General Convention as pre-existing entities. According to the Constitution, the new diocese is formed ‘with the consent of the General Convention’, and the relevant canon speaks of the formation being ‘ratified’ by the General Convention, but both forms of words make it clear that it is not the General Convention that creates the diocese. A ‘primary convention’ of the new diocese adopts a diocesan constitution, and the new diocese is then ‘admitted into union with the General Convention” (131).

Part of White’s plan seems to have been motivated by a desire to return to a more primitive model of episcopacy, “The primitive churches were generally supplied by popular elections; even in the city of Rome, the privilege of electing the bishop continued with the people to the tenth or eleventh century” (3), contrasting with England, where, “bishops are appointed by the civil authority.”  Gundrum confirms that this would have been less suspicious to Americans, who had grown weary of English prelacy, “The idea of a “primitive episcopate” in no way brought forward the kinds of emotions and fear as was provoked by the English style of episcopacy” (2).  In his “Case,” White provides a sketch of his ideas about what the structure of the Church should look like.  White’s ideas gave birth to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, as Podmore notes, “‘Episcopal’ was understood in a very limited sense. White envisaged that each convention would elect a ‘presiding minister’, who would continue to be a parish priest (because the congregations would not be able to pay for a separate presiding minister). He understood a bishop as being a priest to whom the power of ordination and confirmation was given, together with certain administrative duties. In the early Church, he believed, ‘the bishop was no more than a president’.  Bishops should be elected by the clergy and laity and could be tried, and if necessary deposed, by those who elected them” (135).  And in White’s own words, “the very name of “Bishop” is offensive; if so, change it for another; let the superior clergyman be a president, a superintendent, or in plain English, and, according to the literal translation of the original, an overseer.”  Similar Low Church views were expressed by the Church in Virginia at their convention in 1785, which defined the duties of a bishop as, “ordaining, confirming, superintending clergy conduct and presiding at ecclesiastical meetings; the power to suspend or dismiss clergy, including the bishop, should rest with the convention”
(136).  Perhaps colonists were reacting against the worldliness of English bishops, but whatever the cause, episcopacy was not something early American Episcopalians considered all that important in the life of the Church,

“By and large, the office of bishop was defined in the early American church as being no different from that of any other clergyman, except that he could ordain, confirm, make clerical visitations; and finally by 1789, was given permission to serve as the presiding officer of ecclesiastical assemblies.  In all of this, the primitive aspect of the episcopacy, not the princely aspect of the office, was put forward, always with care to separate church and state while stressing the servanthood of the office” (Gundrum 1982:2).

As one could imagine, High Churchmen in the northern Colonies were not impressed with White’s Low Church episcopacy.  Contrast White’s statements with this statement from Bishop Hobart (obviously not writing at the same time),

“The Church is a divinely constituted society, of which Christ is the Head. Its officers must derive their commission from him its Head. This commission [27/28] is transmitted through a superior order of the ministry, among whom ranked Timothy and Titus, subsequently called Bishops. By union with the Church the mystical body of Christ is our union in the exercise of penitence and faith to be maintained with him its Head. Union with the Church cannot exist where we are not in union with the ministry deriving their power through the legitimate channel from the Head of the Church. The Churchman believing that this order is the order of Bishops, would think that, in separating from their ministrations, he cut himself off from the communion of the Church, and was guilty of the sin of schism” (The Churchman).

The convention of clergy in Connecticut met in March 1783 to discuss White’s “Case” and also elected Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) to be their bishop, and the first bishop on American soil.  They wrote to White, “We think an Episcopal Church without Episcopacy, if it be not a contradiction in terms, would, however, be a new thing under the sun… Nothing can be more clear than that our Church has ever believed bishops to have the sole right of ordination and government, and that this regimen was appointed of Christ himself” (Podmore 2008:136).  The story of Seabury’s consecration does not concern us here but perhaps a brief summary will remind the reader of some interesting bits of history.  Seabury left the States to acquire consecration of English bishops in London but due to complications arising from the oath to the Crown in the English Ordinal, they were unable to perform consecration (they would change their opinion later and consecrate Provoost and White).  Seabury, either acting on his instincts or “Plan B,” headed to Scotland and was consecrated by Scottish bishops.  This act created a special relationship between the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States and the Episcopal Church of Scotland, even influencing our liturgy (hence why our Communion Office resembles the Scottish Liturgy and not the English).  Bishop Seabury was not impressed with White’s plan and would not lead the Connecticut Church into participating with the other churches without some modification to the plan.  “The government of the Church by Bishops, we hold to have been established by the Apostles, acting under the commission of Christ, and the direction of the Holy Ghost; and therefore is not to be altered by any power on earth, nor indeed by an angel from heaven” (Seabury, 137).  He was principally concerned with White’s appropriation of the term “bishop” to someone who did not hold episcopal powers, according to the plan, “The rights of the Christian Church arise not from nature or compact, but from the institution of Christ; and we ought not to alter them, but to receive and maintain them, as the holy Apostles left them’. Furthermore, the episcopal office was one of government: ‘If a man be called a Bishop who has not the Episcopal powers of government, he is called by a wrong name, even though he should have the power of Ordination and Confirmation” (Seabury, 136).  Seabury was able to change the initial plans of White.  White had originally envisaged a unicameral legislature for the Church comprised of bishops, clergy, and laity.  Through Seabury’s protests, the plan was amended to include two houses, one for Bishops and one for other clergy and laity.

As history can prove, the 19th century would be a century of immense change in the Protestant Episcopal Church, stemming from the Tractarian Movement growing in England and influencing the Church by the 1840’s.  Before the Oxford Movement, however, there was an indigenous, High Church movement, led by Hobart, which led to emphasize the Episcopal office against the Latitudinarian character of the early Episcopal Church here.  Bishop Hobart led this indigenous movement from his parish in New York City as a parish priest and later as Bishop of New York.  These High Churchmen were committed Protestant Catholics (explored elsewhere on this blog) but they did not like the approach to bishops embedded in the Constitution.  Most notably, Hobartian churchmen influenced the thinking surrounding the foundation of new dioceses.  Rather than following White’s model of a group of parishes forming a “voluntary association” and then electing a presiding minister or “bishop,” future Episcopal Dioceses would be founded in the more traditional sense, flowing from a bishop who would build up a diocese around him.  The Hobartian churchmen also influenced one other significant aspect of Episcopal ecclesiology, dealing with the trial of bishops.  Up to that point, bishops were tried by their respective state churches.  The proposed reform would subject the trial of bishops to the General Convention, thus, at least subjecting bishops to the judgment of their brother bishops and not diocesan conventions (Podmore 2008: 139, 140).  This native movement merged with the foreign Tractarianism which had begun to impact the Protestant Episcopal Church by the late 1830’s and has continued to do so until the present day.  One of the issues that Tractarianism brought with it was how apostolicity and catholicity were to be understood.  Old High Church rhetoric focused on the bishop ruling his diocese as a picture of what apostolicity looked like in an Anglican context.  Tractarians had a different point of view entirely, focusing on the sacrificing priest, instead.  Podmore quotes R.B. Mullin, “Broadly speaking, if the central image in the high church imagination during the Hobartian period had been the patriarchal bishop governing from his apostolic office, for later churchmen the central image became the priest serving at the altar . . . [N]ew concerns pointed to a far greater concern for the sacerdotal role of the priest than for the apostolic role of the bishop” (R.B. Mullin on 140).  I argue that this change in emphasis (and theology) has led to a constant centralization in the Protestant Episcopal Church up until the present day, which we can see in the legal actions taken against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina.

At this point, I would like to review the present structure and organization of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, also known as the Episcopal Church, which is incorporated in New York State as the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.  We will see that White’s plan, although altered, is still the framework on which the Episcopal Church functions today.

First, I would like to briefly discuss the identity of our church which has been sinking further into confusion since the 19th century.  The official name of our Church as said above is the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, thus highlighting within our name the reformed catholic nature of our Church.  Many want to diminish either the Protestant aspect or the Catholic aspect of our Church, which in turn destroys the whole Church.  From the Preamble to the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church:

“The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order\ as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. This Constitution, adopted in General Convention in Philadelphia in October, 1789, as amended in subsequent General Conventions, sets forth the basic Articles for the government of this Church, and of its overseas missionary jurisdictions”

Canon 13 deals with parishes of the Episcopal Church, parishes are to belong to the diocese in which they are geographically located.  Their status in the diocese allows them all the rights in Diocesan Convention in the diocese in which their clergyman is resident.  The geographical boundaries of parishes are established by Diocesan Convention and new parishes established must have the consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee.  Every parish must have a vestry elected by law, “In every Parish of this Church the number, mode of selection, and term of office of Wardens and Members of the Vestry, with the qualifications of voters, shall be such as the State or Diocesan law may permit or require, and the Wardens and Members of the Vestry selected under such law shall hold office until their successors are selected and have qualified” (14.1).  Likewise the vestry serves as the legal representative of the parish and the Rector should serve as the president of the vestry, unless there are conflicts with law.  

The dioceses of the Episcopal Church, especially the oldest members, which predate the first General Convention, were made up of parishes which pre-existed those dioceses.  As White termed them, “voluntary associations,” they offer much more power to the laity as opposed to English dioceses.  Most notably, Episcopal dioceses all have a constitution and set of canon law separate from the Church’s Constitution and Canons.  The General Convention has not historically interfered with diocesan constitutions or canons and it is not required to notify or obtain consent from the General Convention for changing diocesan constitutions and canons.

“The Constitution of the General Convention requires that in each diocese there shall be a standing committee elected by the diocesan convention.  Typically, the standing committee (of which the bishop is not a member) has four lay and four clerical members, who choose their own president… The overall impression is not of the bishop as central to the life of the diocese, with a synod to advise him, but of the diocesan convention as central to the life of the diocese and supreme in its power, and of the bishop as its officer, able to act in many important matters only with the consent of the standing committee that the convention elects” (Podmore 2008:144; compare with Canon 12 of the C&C).

Episcopal dioceses are treated as equal in relation to their representation at General Convention, which is not weighted by size or metropolitcal seniority.  Each diocese elects four lay and four ordained deputies for their representation at the House of Deputies.  “The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention, each area Mission established as provided by Article VI, and the Convocation of the American Churches in Europe, shall be entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not more than four Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church, in good standing in the Diocese” (Article 1 Sec.4).  Likewise there are no metropolitical sees as in England, with Canterbury and York as having metropolitical authority over other dioceses.  All dioceses and sees are equal in authority in the Episcopal Church.  “Because all diocesan bishops are equal, and because bishops are essentially officers of their diocesan conventions, no bishop is subject to the jurisdiction or authority of another bishop” (Podmore 2008:146).  The Episcopal Church has grouped its dioceses into “provinces” beginning in 1913 (for instance, Albany is in Province II), “but, lacking metropolitans, these are not provinces in the traditional sense. There is an elected president of the province, but he or she has no jurisdiction and (since 1979) may be a priest, deacon or layperson, although, if that is the case, the vicepresident must be a bishop.  There is what is called a ‘provincial synod’ but it has no ‘power to regulate or control the internal policy or affairs of any constituent Diocese’” (Podmore 2008:146).  The Constitution and Canons define the nature of Provinces, “Dioceses may be united into Provinces in such manner, under such conditions, and with such powers, as shall be provided by Canon of the General Convention; Provided, however, that no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent” (Article VII).  This reflects a pattern I have noted when reading on the history of Episcopal polity over the past century.  That pattern being the adoption of traditional, Western ecclesiastical terms but not adopting the totality of that structure to the organization of the American Church.  For instance, as we shall see momentarily, the office of the Presiding Bishop has expanded considerably since the time of White or even Hopkins and has accumulated various responsibilities but the office is still an elected office with no metropolitical powers tied to the office as is the case of an archbishop.  The same trend can be seen with our provinces, which adopt the language of traditional provinces but not the inherent structure of them.  I believe this is the cause of the influence of Anglo-Catholicism in our Church which seeks to undermine the Protestant nature of our church.  This trend was also influenced by corporate culture in America which can be seen in the changing duties of the Presiding Bishop.  Holmes notes this centralization which began to take place in the early 20th century, “The Episcopal Church attempted to create greater efficiency and corporate consciousness by centralizing its previously uncoordinated denominational boards in the six-story Church Missions House . . . in New York City”(Holmes 145).

The office of the Presiding Bishop is an excellent example of how this gradual centralization has occurred in the Protestant Episcopal Church.  Until 1919, the Presiding Bishop was not elected but rather the senior bishop by date of consecration, since 1919, the Presiding Bishop has been elected as we know now, which is detailed in the Constitution, “At the General Convention next before the expiration of the term of office of the Presiding Bishop, it shall elect the Presiding Bishop of the Church. The House of Bishops shall choose one of the Bishops of this Church to be the Presiding Bishop of the Church” (Article 1, Sec.3) and, “The term of office of the Presiding Bishop, when elected according to the provisions of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, shall be nine years” (Canon 2.2).  It is important to note that before 1901, the Constitution read “Presiding Bishop of the House of Bishops” (Podmore 2008:158) and it is also important to note the nomenclature of the office.  Our Church does not have an Archbishop but a Presiding Bishop, thus confirming that the Episcopal Church is not a metropolitical Church with varying sees of differing authority but rather an egalitarian episcopacy where all bishops are equal and elect one among them to preside over General Convention.  Because our Church is not a metropolitical Church, “[The Presiding Bishop] possesses no jurisdiction over any diocese and no power of visitation in the canonical sense. Bishops neither promise nor owe ‘due obedience’ to the Presiding Bishop… ‘The Presiding Bishop possesses no independent authority. His authority and actions derive from the ultimate ecclesial authority of the General Convention’(Podmore 2008:160).  The Presiding Bishop’s primary role is to preside over General Convention as the general officer.  According to Canon 2.3, a Bishop elected as Presiding Bishop must resign from previous jurisdiction(s) in order to serve in that office (such as Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori resigned from her post as Bishop of Nevada).  Now, I will quote at length the duties of the Presiding Bishop according to the Canons of the Episcopal Church:

“The Presiding Bishop shall be the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church, and shall:

(1) Be charged with responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy in the Church and speaking for the Church as to the policies, strategies and programs authorized by the General Convention;
(2) Speak God's words to the Church and to the world, as the representative of this Church and its episcopate in its corporate capacity;
(3) In the event of an Episcopal vacancy within a Diocese, consult with the Ecclesiastical Authority to ensure that adequate interim Episcopal Services are provided;
(4) Take order for the consecration of Bishops, when duly elected; and, from time to time, assemble the Bishops of this Church to meet, either as the House of Bishops or as a Council of Bishops, and set the time and place of such meetings;
(5) Preside over meetings of the House of Bishops; and, when the two Houses of the General Convention meet in Joint Session, have the right of presiding over such Session, of calling for such Joint Session, of recommending legislation to either House and, upon due notification, of appearing before and addressing the House of Deputies; and whenever addressing the General Convention upon the state of the Church, it shall be incumbent upon both Houses thereof to consider and act upon any recommendations contained in such address;
(6) Visit every Diocese of this Church for the purpose of:
(i) Holding pastoral consultations with the Bishop or Bishops thereof and, with their advice, with the Lay and Clerical leaders of the jurisdiction;
(ii) Preaching the Word; and (iii) Celebrating the Holy Eucharist.
(b) The Presiding Bishop shall report annually to the Church, and may, from time to time, issue Pastoral Letters”

(Canon 2.4)

“The title ‘Chief Pastor’ was added in 1967… The title ‘primate’, added in 1982, presumably
denotes membership of the Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion established
four years earlier in 1978. It cannot mean what that term has traditionally meant in the
western Church; the Presiding Bishop is not the bishop of the first or primatial see of the
United States – there is no such thing – and indeed he or she is not now the bishop of any
diocese. (The Presiding Bishop does, however, have a cathedral, known as ‘The National
Cathedral’, which was begun in 1907 and completed in 1990.) (Podmore 2008:146, 147).  One can see the increasing centralization and power vested in the Presiding Bishop, which probably led us to the problems we face today.

I would like to add one final note about the office of the Presiding Bishop and how that office relates to the Executive Council which is also the Board of Directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missions Society.  The Presiding Bishop is chair and president of the Executive Council, which also functions as the board of directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missions Society of which the Presiding Bishop is president (of both).  “There shall be an Executive Council of the General Convention (which Council shall generally be called simply the Executive Council) whose duty it shall be to carry out the program and policies adopted by the General Convention” (Canon 4.1a) but it shall be, “accountable to the General Convention” (4.1b).  The Presiding Bishop can appoint officers to positions created by the Executive Council as well.

Now we move to discuss the real power in the Episcopal Church: General Convention.  The first article of our Constitution defines and establishes the General Convention, “There shall be a General Convention of this Church, consisting of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which Houses shall sit and deliberate separately; and in all deliberations freedom of debate shall be allowed. Either House may originate and propose legislation, and all acts of the Convention shall be adopted and be authenticated by both Houses” (Art. 1, Sec. 1).  As we have seen the General Convention is a bicameral legislature, comprised of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which has all the real authority in the Episcopal Church.  It enacts canons, amends the Constitution, revises the Prayer Book, elects bishops, Presiding Bishops, and admits new dioceses and meets every three years.  Now from the canons, concerning the House of Bishops, “Each Bishop of this Church having jurisdiction, every Bishop Coadjutor, every Suffragan Bishop, every Assistant Bishop, and every Bishop… shall have a seat and a vote in the House of Bishops” (1.2).  The House of Deputies admits, “The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention… , shall be entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not more than four Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church, in good standing in the Diocese” (1.4).  As stated earlier, the General Convention does not possess all authority as it rarely intervenes in diocesan constitutions and canons.  Podmore reflects that the General Convention lacks the “ecclesial density” that the (according to the author) General Synod of the Church of England possesses, “That means that it cannot develop the sort of corporate life that characterises the General Synod, in which the same people meet together two or three times a year for five years. It is not a body which is ‘together on the way’ (the meaning of the term ‘synod’) in quite the same manner. Indeed, the entire legislative process for an amendment to the Canons takes place at a single meeting of the General Convention; only amendments to the Constitution and the Prayer Book must be considered at two successive meetings. Thus, quite radical change can occur – and has occurred – very quickly” (130,131).  I hope that you have noticed the gradual centralization of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which started as a church consisting of parishes in voluntary association with each other, to a church comprised of dioceses united in General Convention.  Gundrum notes this transformation, first by discussing the nature of the Convention, “As you can begin to see, and as we will point out later on, “the legal supremacy of the General Convention was built on a base of broad powers, granted, retained, and exercised on the local and parish level”, regardless of the theological concept that the bishop  of a diocese is the central focus and symbol of the unity of the diocese, and that the basic unit of the Church is the diocese.  In the colonial period (and, one might say, with residuals existing in some places today), the basic unit of the Church was at the parish level” (3).

I end once again with this quote from Bishop Hopkins which I have reflected on much since I read it.

“The Church is a Protestant Church, emphatically and distinctly such, because her duty to PROTEST against error, is, in the natural things, inseparable from the right of REFORM. Is he ready to repeat her protest, to defend its duty, and to demonstrate its truth? The Church is a Catholic Church, that is, a branch of the ancient, Universal Church of Christ, in contradistinction from all heresies and schisms. Is he thoroughly persuaded of this fact, and ready to assert, against "all gainsayers, but chiefly and preeminently against that corrupt system which would fain be called the only Catholic Church, the purity and faithful consistency of her doctrines ? If not, let him be put back awhile until he learns to understand the office which the Church expects of him. He may have piety, he may have learning, he may have all high moral and intellectual capacities, he may be sound in the essentials of his individual faith so far as concerns his own salvation. But all this he might be, without any of the distinctive principles which can alone authorize us to clothe him with the commission of the ministry. Our power to give him this commission is a solemn trust, delegated to us on certain specified conditions. And if those conditions, or any of them, be manifestly wanting, we have, strictly speaking, no legal right to ordain”

“Constitutions and Canons Together with the Rules of Order for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America otherwise known as the Episcopal Church.”  Adopted and Revised in General Convention, 1789-2009.

Gundrum, The Rev. Canon James R.  “General Convention: Understood Authority or Ecclesiastical Chaos.”  Arrington Lectures 1982.  

Podmore, Colin. “A Tale of Two Churches: The Ecclesiologies of the Episcopal Church and the the Church of England Compared.”  International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 8.2. (2008): 124-154.

Posey, Walter B.  “The Protestant Episcopal Church: An American Adaptation.”  The Journal of Southern History 25.1 (1959): 3-30.