Reformed Episcopal Church
Reformed Episcopal Church the official designation of a distinct body of Christians in America and Great Britain.
I. History. — This ecclesiastical organization took its rise in the city of New York December 2, 1873. The Rt. Rev. George David Cummins, D.D., assistant bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the diocese of Kentucky, separated from that Church, in a letter to presiding bishop Smith dated November 10, 1873. Within one month from that date, the Reformed Episcopal Church was organized, with Dr. Cummins as its first bishop. Bishop, Cummins was born December 11, 1822. He was related on the maternal side to the celebrated bishop Asbury, of the Methodist Episcopal Chutrch, but was of Episcopal descent on both sides. He was graduated at Dickinson College, Carlisle, in 1841, in the nineteenth year of his age. In the year 1843 he became connected with the Episcopal Church, and in 1845 was ordained to the diaconate by bishop Alfred Lee, of the diocese of Delaware. After a ministry of great eloquence, power, and success in different prominent fields of labor during twelve years, he was consecrated to the episcopate as assistant bishop of the diocese of Kentucky in 1866. During October, 1873, the Evangelical Alliance met in New York city. Bishop Cummins was in attendance, and on the eighth day of that mouth delivered an address on the subject Roman and Reformed Doctrines on the Subject of Justification, Contrasted. On the 12th, Sunday, the bishop participated in a joint communion in the Presbyterian Church of which Dr. John Hall is the pastor, delivering an address and administering the cup. The storm of adverse criticism that followed this act served to mature and intensify the conviction that had been gathering form and volume before in the bishop's mind, that the Church he had loved and served so well had fully and finally drifted from its old evangelical and catholic position. It was about this time, just at what point we do not know, that the thought of a separation from the old Communion arose, and ripened into fixed purpose. The first outward movement looking towards the organization of a separate Communion took place October 30. An account of the meeting then held is here given in the language of a prominent clergyvnan: — Rev. Dr. B. B. Leacock — who was present and participated in its deliberations:
"By invitation of bishop Cummins, five clergymen and five laymen were brought together at the residence of Mr. John A. Dake, of New York city. The bishop startled them by announcing his determination of withdrawinsfrom the Protestant Episcopal Church. When urged to reconsider his decision, he promptly stated that this was not debatable ground — that it was a question between himself and God, and as such he had settled it, and that his determination was unalterable, he then said that his object inl calling us together was to advise as to his future. There were two propositioins before him. He had been invited to go to Mexico, and give himself to the work of the organization and building-up of the Church of Jesus.
Should he do this? or should he remain in this country, and here exercise his ministry and his episcopal office? Those who felt fiee to speak advised his remaining in this country by all means, and then and there he determined that this country should be the 'sphere of labor' to which he would transfer his 'work and office.' Steps were taken before the adjournment of this meeting looking towards placing in the hands of the printer the book which the bishop refers to in his letter of resignation, written Nov. 10 — 'I propose to return to that Prayer-book sanctioned by William White.' We may regard this meeting as the first movement, outside of bishop Cummins himself, towards the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church." November 10, the bishop addressed a letter to bishop Smith, his superior in the diocese of Kentucky, and the presiding bishop of the general Church, resigning his position as a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church. On the 12th of November he paid an unannounced visit to the Rev. Marshall B. Smith, at Passaic, N. J., seeking rest and quiet of mind. Mr. Smith had withdrawn from the same church, for the same causes, and connected himself with the ministry of the "Reformed Church of America" in the year 1869. During this visit, without any prearrangement, he was met by the Rev. Mason Gallagher, who had also withdrawn from the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1871, and Col. Benjamin Aycrigg, a prominent layman of that church in New Jersey, who had withdrawn October 30, 1873. These gentlemen testify that, in the deeply serious and interesting interview, which was greatly protracted, there was, in the beginning, no foreshadowing of its practical issue. They cannot recall the precise point in the conversation where the thought of concerted action took shape. Under what they fully believe Divine guidance, that thought did rise, take form and body, and grow into purpose, until, ili the form dictated by the bishop, the call for a meeting of clergymen and laymen of like mind was written and issued. It was in these words, inserted here as important history: "NEW YORK, Nov. 15, 1873.
"DEAR BROTHER, — The Lord has put into the hearts of some of his servants who are, or have been, in the Protestant Episcopal Church, the purpose of restoring the old truths of their fathers, and of returniug to the use of the Prayer-book of 17S5, set forth by the General Convention of that year, under the especial guidance of the venerable William White, D.D., afterwards the first bishop of the same church in this country. The chief features of that Prayer-book, as distinguished from the one now in use, are the following: 1. The word 'priest' does not appear in the book, and there is no countenance whatever to the errors of sacerdotalism. 2. The Baptismal Offices, the Confirmation Office, the Catechism, and the Order 'or the Administration of the Lord's Supper contain no sanction of the errors of baptismal regeneration, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the elements of the communion and of a sacrifice offered by a priest in that sacred feast. These are the main features that render the Prayer-book of 1785 a thoroughly scriptural liturgy, such as all evangelical Christians who desire liturgical worship can use with a good conscience. On Tuesday, the second day of December, 1873, a meeting will be held in Association Hall, corner of Twenty-third street and Fourth avenue, in the city of New York, at 10 o'clock A.M., to organize an Episcopal Church on the basis of the Prayerbook of 1785 — a basis broad enough to embrace all who hold 'the faith once delivered to the saints,' as that faith is maintained by the Reformed churches of Christendom; with no exclusive and unchurching dogmas towards Christian brethren who differ firom them in their views of polity and Church order. This meeting you are cordially and affectionately invited to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to organize, and not to discuss the expediency of organizing. A verbatim reprint of the Prayer-book of 1785 is in press, and will be issued during the month of December. May the Lord guide you and us by his Holy Spirit. "GEORGE DAVID CUMMINS." That meeting was held on the day appointed, and the "Reformed Episcopal Church" organized with eight clergymen and twenty laymen, all of whom were at the time. or had been, ministers or laymen in the Protestant Episcopal Church and actively identified with the Evangelical or "'Low- Church" party in that Church, no one being allowed to vote but those who had signed the call. The Rev. Charles Edward Cheney, of Chicago, was elected bishop, his consecration to the office taking place later in the same month.
In justification of this action, writers in the interest of the Reformed Episcopal Church point to the actual state of the Evangelical school or party in the Protestant Episcopal communion. The errors and excesses of the Tractarian school had been in process of development for a period of nearly forty years. Often and thoroughly confuted on the ground of scriptural argument, they had grown to such widespread influence and strength as to be fast absorbing all the vital forces of the Church. They had become proscriptive, and, by legislative enactment and judicial trials, were repressing evangelical life and energy. Efforts had been made to procure the condemnation and expulsion of these errors from the Church. The results were of so partial and inadequate a character as to encourage rather than check the reactionary movement towards mediaeval error and superstition. Then efforts were made to secure revision of the Prayer-book, but only with humiliating failure. Petition after petition to the General Convention was treated with scarcely concealed contempt. Even the poor relief of liberty to use alternate phrases in the Baptismal Offices was unceremoniously denied to a numerously signed petition. In these efforts to obtain relief many participated who are not as yet in the Reformed Episcopal Church, but whose action shows how deeply and earnestly men who loved the pure truth of the Gospel then felt on the subject. Thus, at a meeting in Chicago, June 16 and 17, 1869, among others who strongly advocated revision of the Prayer-book was Rev. Dr. Andrews, of Virginia, one of the ablest presbyters of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and a member of the General Convention. Rev. Dr. Richard Newton, the present rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Philadelphia, introduced the following resolutions:
"Resolved (as the sense of this Conference), That a careful revision of the Book of Common Prayer is needful to the best interests of the Protestant Episcopal Church." "Resolved, That all words and phrases seeming to teach that the Christian ministry is a priesthood, or the Lord's supper a sacrifice, or that regeneration is inseparable from baptism, should be removed from the Prayer-book." These resolutions were unanimously adopted. But neither these nor any other efforts to obtain redress were of any avail. An imperious and haughty majority bound and held every conscience, and the Church followed the sacramentarian drift unchecked. Those who organized the Reformed Episcopal Church were convinced, by a long course of stubborn facts, that the cause dear to them, as the cause of the true Gospel of Christ, was at stake; that they must either sacrifice the truth or go outside of the old organization to defend and propagate it. Conviction and conscience led them to their action.
The Church thus taking shape in ecclesiastical history, though yet comparatively a small body, has, during the five years of its existence, grown, it is believed, with almost unexampled rapidity. Its apologists emphasize certain facts in this growth:
1. The Extent of Territory it Covers. — Christian denominations have, for the most part, been local in the early stages of their history, as the causes out of which they have sprung have been local. The imperative need of this Church is shown by the fact that it sprang up almost simultaneously in remote parts of the land, as from a soil quite prepared for the seed. Wherever the Episcopal Church was in existence, the reaction towards mediaeval corruptions in doctrine and ritual was more or less pronounced; and the recoil from these developments of error equally decided. The Reformed Church took immediate and strong hold of many and widely separated communities, quickly absorbing all the means and ministers which the infant communion could supply. Within two years from its origin it held positions at various points from South Carolina to Vancouver's Island, on the extreme west of the British North American possessions. The Church is now planted firmly in fifteen states in this country, in the maritime provinces and the various larger cities in the Dominion of Canada. In May, 1877, the General Council resolved, in answer to repeated solicitations, to introduce its work into Great Britain and Ireland. Already that work has extended into some ten or twelve dioceses.
2. The Friendliness with which this Church has been received by Protestant Christians and Churches. — The old Protestant Episcopal Church had met with opposition in many places, and the habitual complaint of its ministers and missionaries was that the growth of the Church was hindered by the prejudice and unfriendly criticism of the people. The Reformed Episcopal Church finds no such difficulty. The people everywhere seem willing that it should take its place in the sisterhood of churches, and gather from all communities its appropriate elements. The freedom from assumption in this Church thus wins its welcome, and opens for it that path of progress which,it is believed,leads on to a great future.
3. The Overruling Hand of God in Harmonizing Internal Differences among the Leading and Influential Minds in the Church. — It is no easy thing, under the most favorable auspices, for a number of men severing their connection with an old organization and constructing a new, to agree together in anything like a moderate position. In this case the difficulty was enhanced by the circumstances of the separation. The men who left the old Church, though actuated by a common opposition to particular errors in that body, held views, in many cases, divergent in regard to the positive principles to be incorporated in the new organization. These differences have at times appeared so grave that no human wisdom could find a path through them along which all could travel in harmony. Some conservative by habit of mind; others with an equally strong tendency to reach out towards the true ideal of a Church for the age we live in; and all men, by the very necessities of their stand, of a somewhat independent tone of mind, it was found by them hard to yield individual and personal views and preferences far enough to coalesce in a really organic structure. In every case of difficulty in the councils arising from these causes, however, the Spirit of the Lord appeared to lead the way. His presence and agency was at times so manifest as to awaken lively emotions of wonder and gratitude. Though in this Church at present, as in all others where intelligent men are free to think and to maintain their views, all do not think alike in everything, there is perhaps as much harmony as can be found in any, and much more than marlks most other, communions. In this fact of special divine guidance, this Church seems to see the pledge of future growth and success in its work.
II. Doctrines and Usages. —
1. Speaking generally, the doctrines of the Reformed Episcopal Church may be identified as those of Orthodox and Evangelical Protestantism. The men who organized the Church were of that class of clergymen and laymen in the old Protestant Episcopal Church who had been largely associated with the Christians of other Protestant Churches, and harmonized with them in belief and practice. In their choice and adjustment of doctrinal standards, they could but give expression to this agreement. When they set forth in the "Declaration of Principles" the belief that "the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the sole Rule of faith and practice," thus making the Bible the only ultimate fountain of authority in the settlement of religious questions; and when they revised the old Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, not changing their substance, but making them more distinctive, and adapting them to present phases of life and thought, they but put the Church squarely on the great platform of Evangelical Christianity. This Church, if not broader, is somewhat less particular in its doctrinal basis than some of its sister Communions. Thus, like the old Episcopal Church, it holds in its bosom, and freely tolerates, clergymen of the Calvinistic and Arminian schools of thought. The eighteenth "Article of Religion," entitled "Of Election, Predestination, and Free Will," runs thus: "While the Scriptures distinctly set forth the election, predestination, and calling of the people of God unto eternal life, as Christ saith, 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,' they no less positively affirm man's free agency and responsibility, and that salvation is freely offered to all through Christ. This Church, accordingly, simply affirms these doctrines as the Word of God sets them forth, and submits them to the individual judgment of its members, as taught by the Holy Spirit; strictly charging them that God commandeth all men everywhere to repent, and that we can be saved only by faith in Jesus Christ." This is the only distinct effort we are aware of to unite in one article of religion the two hemispheres of truth that he, one on the side of divine sovereignty, the other on the side of man's freedom and responsibility. How far this effort has been successful, the judgment of Christian men must decide. One result of it, however, is evident. The gelneral course of conviction among the clergy of this Church runs nearer the line of separation on these high ranges of doctrine than in most other Communions. The freedom to differ rather constrains to harmony than ministers to license. With but little disposition to censorious criticism, its ministers of either tendency of doctrinal thought find a fair field for united and harmonious action in extending and building up the kingdom of Christ.
In adopting the Nicene Creed as one of its symbols, this Church takes its stand on the historical Church doctrine of the Trinity, asserting not a mere modal distinction, but an essential, tri-personal distinction in the divine nature. Justification by faith, as held and taught by the clergy generally, is not a mere negative state of the remission of sin, but positive, resulting from the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The doctrines that cluster around these, as in a measure dependent upon them, are stated in the articles in harmonious and systematic order.
2. Among the distinctive usages of this Church, the following may be specially designated:
(a.) Worship. — The Reformed Episcopal is a Liturgical Church. Those who organized and those who, since its organization, have come into it and helped to form its system and direct its course in history, have been men either trained in the old Protestant Episcopal Church, where they had long practical experience of the value of liturgic forms in public worship, or convinced from experience, in churches whose worship is purely extemporal, of the importance of a liturgy from the actual lack of it. They have been convinced that the evilsconnected with liturgic services in the old parent Church are not justly chargeable to a liturgy as such, but to certain doctrinal corruptions retained in those services at the aera of the Reformatiion. During the reign of Edward VI, rapid strides were made in the line of a thorough Protestant revision of the Service-book. Under Mary the reforming work was undone, and the Romish worship restored. Elizabeth, in the spirit of statecraft, enforced a revision that should, if possible, unite in common worship both the Reformed and the Roman Catholic classes of her subjects. The two streams of doctrine were forced into one channel of Church liturgy, where they have been confined in incongruous mixture ever since. Out of the stream thus formed, and flowing down through history, the exhalations of sacramentarianism and ritualism in this age have risen. In the revision of the Reformed Episcopal Church, it is claimed, these elements of errpneous doctrine have been taken out of the stream. The liturgy in this Church embodies the richest and best contributions yielded by the most devout ages of the Church's history. shorn of the accretions of superstition and error gathered in the descent. Though it does not claim to be perfect, it does claim to be Protestant, evangelical, scriptural. As such, its use is made obligatory on occasions; and, by usage that is almost common law, is seldom omitted on any occasions of regular public worship. Yet provision is made for free prayer. Meetings for extempore prayer are encouraged, when the stately services of the liturgy are laid aside, either wholly or in part. Even on occasions of regular public worship, the minister is free to add, extempore. to the prescribed prayer. Dignity and propriety are thus united to that warmth and earnestness which a more unstudied way of approach to God is suited to enkindle. Thus the continued use of liturgic forms, with their chastening and educating influence, is secured by law, and also that liberty for times and seasons when, by rising out of the limits of prescription, worship can be adapted to all the demands of evangelistic and revival work. This, it is believed, is as near an approach as can be made to a perfect system of worship.
(b.) Government. — This is distinctly a Church of Law. Neither in the individual membership, nor in the relations of the separate churches, nor yet in the connection of the larger ecclesiastical divisions is the bond of union that of mere association, under any proper conception of that term. Opinion, whether it refer to doctrine, to polity, or to Christian life, finds its legitimate expression in the councils. In this way, in free debate, it passes by vote into particular law under the organic law expressed in the constitution; and then all, whether sections or persons, are bound by the law. The legal system is a body of canons like the old historical episcopal canon law, simply shorn of those arbitrary and tyrannical features of the old system derived from monarchical institutions in the State and autocratic episcopal rule in the Church. The application of a system of government, whether strong or weak, to actual life in a Church is not easy; for there is a constant tendency under ecclesiastical rule either to arbitrary severity or to the entire relaxation of discipline, according to the temper of persons and times and the class of influences that prevail. But it is believed important advantages attend this system of government by canon law. It is stable government. That system which is historical, having stood the test of the ages in the stress of human passion and the strife of opinion and interest, cannot but be strong and conservative. Canon law has ruled nearly all the Christian ages, adjusting itself to each age and growing into greater definiteness of form in each. If, in the purification of the doctrines of the Church, wisdom dictates, not the destruction, but the cleansing and reforming, of the system, it would seem to follow that the same wisdom teaches a like course in relation to government. Purify it, take away its tyranny; in place of its arbitrary and unequal distribution of powers and functions, introduce the checks and balances of enlightened statesmanship, and you have in the Church a fair analogy to law in the State, where the principles and forms of the Roman law are not arbitrarily thrown aside, but enlarged, purified, developed into that grand system that secures the rights of men under the Christian civilization of this modern age. Such is the wvork this Church has sought to do. It has purified and adapted the old system of canon law, not abandoned it. Thus it has united steadfastness and liberty in its scheme of government.
This system of government by canon law is a safeguard against the spread of error. Where the churches of an ecclesiastical organization are independent, or only connected by certain rules of association having no other than moral force, there is apt to be less jealousy and less exciting debate in the meetings of association, because the tendency of opinion and the results of controversy cannot crystallize into forms that bind under penalty. But this very fact is apt to lead to looseness of conviction and a light estimate of the responsibility of a teacher. And when error is taught, because the teacher cannot be arraigned under binding law, he cannot be hindered from spreading it to the full extent of his talents and influence. Under a system of canon law such as governs the Reformed Episcopal Church, such a result, with ordinary faithfulness on the part of those appointed to administer it, is impossible. Not only is dereliction in either doctrine or life liable to strict discipline, but the persons by whom and the processes in which such discipline is to be administered are prescribed, and the duty actually imposed upon the administrator. If soundness of doctrine can be enforced and innocency of life secured in a Church, such a system would seem to present the best means to the end.
(c.) Constitution and Relations of the Ministry of this Church. — In common with the parent Church, the Re formed retains a threefold distinction in the ministry — that of bishops, presbyters, and deacons. There is, however, this difference between the two communions in regard to the distinction in question. In the old Church it is generally regarded as a threefold distinction in orders. The prevailing view among the representative writers of that Church is that the Christian ministry is divinely constituted on the Jewish pattern, and answers, in the relations of the New-Test. Church, to the orders of high-priest, priest, and Levite in the Old-Test. economy. The Reformed Church rejects this view as unscriptural and unhistorical. The episcopate it regards as an office rather than a divine order. The opinion that the bishop is an apostle in the scriptural meaning of that term, and as such the divinely ordained fountain of Church authority, and Church life, and that the presbyterate descends from the episcopate in virtue of this inherent power to create it and to constitute it as a separate order, is rejected by the Reformed Episcopal Church. Looking at the subject historically, it finds the precise opposite of this to be the true statement. In the earliest infancy of the Church, under apostolic agency, deacons and elders were ordained and their respective functions assigned. About the close of the apostolic age, the emergencies of the ,growing Church created a need for supervision, not merely of individual flocks by the presbyters as settled pastors, but of the general Church, both pastors and flocks. This want was supplied by a gradual process, in which able and prominent presbyters were elevated to a general superintendence of the churches. Thus they became ἐπίσκοποι, overseers by pre-eminellce, presbyters in order, bishops in office. The Reformed Episcopal Church observes this distinction. Its episcopate, as in primitive times, is an office of supervision, not an order of divine command, separated from the presbyterate and with inherent control over it.
According to this scheme, the bishop has no inherent and necessary rights and powers above the legislative control of the Church. He cannot fall back upon essential, divinely given, irresponsible authority to rule. His office and its functions are, under God, wholly from the Church, to which, therefore, he is, in the entire range of his official position and work, responsible. Episcopal tyranny is well-nigh impossible in a system like this, Yet the episcopate is not degraded because deprived of the claim to inherent divine right. The bishops are overseers in the true and worthy sense. They draw to themselves not only personal respect and reverence for their characters, but intelligent official regard. In ordination and confirmation they are the chiefs, because the Church makes them so. In the difficulties in parishes their advice, or, in extreme cases, their acts of discipline according to canon law have full force, and have already settled troubles which, under another scheme, would have been formidable. They are evangelists so far as, in the infancy of the Church, they can be spared from parochial charges, and thus become a most important agency in Church extension.
The diaconate in this Church is a subordinate order. In theory the deacon is the helper of the presbyter; in practice his position is, thus far, only a sort of preparatory school for the presbyterate. Just what the office will become in the growth and development of the Church as it passes further into history canl hardly be foreseen. Perhaps its relation to the general ministry will not differ greatly from that which prevails in the old Protestant Episcopal Church. This historic ministry is prized, not because of any belief in the notion of an "apostolic succession" in the ministry either as a doctrine or a fact, but partly because the historic element in a Church is always important, since Christianity itself is a historical religion, and partly because the peculiar mission of this Church is in the line of the English Reformation. In the vital and historical connection of its ministry with that of the English Reformers the Reformed Episcopal Church llas the basis for its development and work. The ministry thus constituted, identical with that of the English Church, gives the Church a vantage-ground where it can stand on an acknowledged equality with the old communion, while it is purified from its errors, and is free to recognise the ministry of other Evangelical Churches as equally valid with its own. It thus stands in the gap, never heretofore bridged, between Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. It has the ministry of both. It may be destined to be the medium of reconciliation between them, as it does not arrogate superiority to the one, and lacks nothing the other justly claims.
(d.) Church Councils. — These are of three grades, corresponding to the threefold organization of the Church — Parochial, Synodical, and General.
(1.) The individual parish is organized by charter under civil law, and is, in that relation, conditioned by the laws of the state in which it is sitiated. But in its own internal structure it is composed of rector or pastor, as the case may be, two wardens, and a certain number of vestrymen. The control of the temporal affairs of the Church is in the vestry, as also the choice of a pastor in case of vacancy. But, in addition to the vestry, provision is made for the election, by the communicants exclusively, of a Parish Council. The members of this council hold an advisory relation to the pastor, are associated with him in the reception and dismission of members, and share with him the duty and responsibility of discipline. Thus the parish is organized for both the temporal and spiritual supervision of its interests. To the parish council is committed all the distinctly spiritual work of the given congregation outside of the pastor's immediate agency as the shepherd of the flock. It is possible this organization of the parish council may not be permanent in its present form, as there is some diversity of opinion on the subject in the Church. But either in its present form or by investing the wardens ex officio with the functions now restricted to the council elected by the communicants of the parish, this feature of polity will unquestionably become historic in the Church.
(2.) The Synodical Council is yet in its incipient stage, as the synod has not thus far taken practical existence and form in more than one or two instances. Provision is made for a certain number of parishes to form themselves into a synodical body under a bishop, who, though he may be nominated by the synod, must be confirmed by the General Council and hold his local position at its will. As the synods multiply in numbers, and their field of work and their immunities become clearly discriminated in the general system of the Church, there will be stated conciliar assemblies at which all legislative and routine business pertaining to the jurisdiction it covers will be transacted. Probably the basis of representation will be so modified that instead of appointments from the several churches, as now, the synodical councils will elect representatives to the General Council.
(3.) The General Council is the largest representative body of the Church, and is vested with supreme authority of legislation. It meets, as yet, annually, as its relations in the infancy of the Church are directly, not mediately, to the parishes. Already, however, steps have been taken looking to a change in the system of representation in the council, decreasing its number of members and lengthening the intervals of meeting. Eventually this council will, it is believed, meet not oftener than, if so often as, once in three years, and confine its deliberations to those general questions of doctrine and polity that affect the whole Church.
(4.) There is looming up through the mists of the near future a representative assemblage of a still wider and more comprehensive character — like an oecumenical council. It is the policy of this Church, in the spirit of its founders, to preserve an organic unity, unbroken by the lines that separate states or nations. It is evident, however, that this can only be done by a large and liberal allowance for the peculiarities of peoples living under contrasted systems of civil government, and growing up with tastes and social habits and modes of thought of distinct types. The Reformed Episcopal Church in America and in England is the same Church, yet the streams that flow out of the one fountain, as they diverge intto these several nationalities, are immediately modified by the civil, social, and ecclesiastical soil and climate they find. Identical in doctrine, spirit, and organic life, they vary somewhat in the forms of organization and worship that adapt them to their respective spheres. Already a policy is taking shape by which each national Church shall enjoy a limited independence of legislation, discipline, and worship, thus to work out its own history and destiny. Just what shall constitute the nexus, the vital ligature that shall make the Church, however widely extended, a unit, an organic body, cannot yet be identified. Such, however, will undoubtedly be the connection that it will embrace provision for the meeting of a council within a certain term ,of years, and having under its control those wide questions that affect the character and interests of the Church as a whole. This Church was not organized for a day or for a place, but for the world and for time.
These statements in regard to doctrines, orders, worship, discipline, and general usages are little more than an expansion of the original declaration of principles adopted at the organization of the Church, Dec. 2,1873, which is given as a comprehensive summary:
I. The Reformed Episcopal Church, holdinig "the faith once delivered to the saints,"declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the woid of God, and the sole rule of faith and practice; in the creed commonly called the Apostles' Creed; in the divine institution of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper; and in the doctrines of grace, substanltially as they are set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.
II. This Church recognises and adheres to episcopacy, not as of divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity.
III. This Church, retaining a liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom in prayer, accepts the Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, A.D. 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people, "provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire."
IV. This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:
First, That the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity.
Second, That Christian ministers are "priests" in another sense than that in which all believers are a "royal priesthood."
Third, That the Lord's table is an altar on which an oblation of the body and blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father.
Fourth, That the presence of Christ in the Lord's supper is a presence in the elements of bread and wine.
Fifth, That regeneration is inseparably connected with baptism.
III. Statistics. — The statistics of this Church thus early in its history are necessarily few and simple. If, however, they are carefully noted, they will, it is believed, indicate wider extension and more rapid growth than have marked most other ecclesiastical bodies in the beginning of their history.
1. The Number of Clergymen as reported to the council of 1878 was eighty-eight, of whom six were bishops, sixty-one presbyters, and twenty deacons. Already the list has swollen to more than one hundred, and is increasing as rapidly as places and means of support can be provided for those received or ordained; while the number of applicants for orders and for admission from the ministry in other churches, against whom the door is necessarily closed for want of ability to sustain them, is larger than ever before. The tabular report of the Committee on the State of the Church, covering other items made at the council, May, 1878, was very imperfect, as many of the parishes had failed to report. In its statement of the number of communicants it is thought to be very much below the actual number. It is as follows:
Communicants (assumed).......... ........ 10,000 Sunday scholars ......................... 7814 Sunday-school teachers ................. 744 Baptized, i.e. during the year preceding.... 744 Confirmed in said year...................... 615 Contributions of the parishes for all objects during same year ...$280,785 Value of Church property at time of council 600,031 Other property for educational purposes.... 200,000
"This exhibit shows an increase of more than $172,000 over the amount reported in 1877, notwithstanding the perhaps unparalleled depression of the past year." In July, 1890, there were returned 109 churches, 120 ministers, 10,100 communicants.
2. Literary Institutions. — Of these the Reformed Episcopal Church can, as yet, boast but one, and that only in the infancy of what it is hoped will, in due time of maturity, be a vigorous and influential life. The University: of the West is at present organized substantially on the plan of the London University. Non-resident professors prepare questions on which students are required to stand rigid examinations by written answers. In this university scheme, only the Martin College of Theology is thus far in organized working order. This has taken precedence to meet the wants of the Church in the education of its ministry. The times demand a ministry not only of thorough scholastic attainments, but well taught in theology in connection with the peculiarities of the Church they are to labor in. The Church seeks to compass this end by subjecting all students in theology to a uniform system of questions in all departments of theological learning. The present plan may be modified when a sufficient endowment fund shall have been secured to meet the requirements of a local institution. Through the munificent liberality of a gentleman of the State of New York, Edward Martin, Esq., the Church is in possession of landed estate in the suburbs of Chicago of large present and much larger prospective value. On this property the authorities of the university propose, eventually, to erect suitable buildings for the several colleges as they shall, from time to time, take form. It is their purpose, as the ability of the Church increases, to spare no pains to make the institution worthy of the Church and of the country.
3. Church Literature. — The Reformed Episcopal Church supports two papers that set forth its principles and defend its interests. The Episcopal Recorder, published in Philadelphia, is a weekly paper which has become historic. It was the oldest weekly issue in the Protestant Episcopal Church, in which, during more than a half of the century, it advocated those principles of ecclesiastical polity and Christian life and doctrine that are still emblazoned on its banner. Transferred to the Reformed branch of the Church, it but continues its old work in new relations, and proves a highly important agent in the defence and extension of the truth in the newly organized communion. The Appeal is published in Chicago and New York, and issued bi-weekly. While aiming specially to meet the needs of the Church in the great West, it has extensive circulation in all parts of the land; and, though only about three years of age, displays much energy and ability. Its editor-in-chief is the present presiding bishop, Dr. Samuel Fallows, and he is aided by an efficient staff of clergymen of large ability and culture. This paper exerts wide influence in the Church. So early in its history, and with the time and energy of its clergy severely taxed by initial parochial work, this Church has not as yet produced literary or theological works of extensive and standard character. Its ephemeral productions, however, from the nature of the case largely apologetic, are already numerous. Nearly all the prominent clergymen of this Church have been forced by attacks, often from the highest sources, to defend both their Church and their personal action in conforming to it. These writings constitute a body of argument, doctrinal and ecclesiastical, to which the Church points all inquirers with entire confidence, and the more so since, so far as is known, there has been no attempt to confute any single one of the many publications in question. Such, in brief, are the history and principles of the Reformed Episcopal Church — an organization called into existence, its advocates believe, by the providence and spirit of God, and' destined to exert a very deep, extensive, and lasting influence, not only in the country of its birth, but in the world. (J. H. S.)