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.
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)
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.
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