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Protestant Episcopal Church

(alternate name since 1967: The Episc. Ch.).

1. a. Began 1789 (see 3).

The 1st permanent Angl. ch. in Am. was built 1607 Jamestown, Virginia; see also Hunt, Robert. Unfortunate conditions, arising mainly out of distance from ch. authorities and out of a growing practice of hiring local ministers temporarily, were corrected by J. Blair.* The harsh tone of the Angl. Ch. was echoed also in Virginia in rigid laws regarding Puritans and Quakers.

b. In New Eng., Puritans applied to Angls. the same proscriptions from which they themselves had fled, hence only isolated attempts at ch. organization were made. In 1698 an Episc. ch. was est. Newport, Rhode Island, and Trin. Ch., NYC, was dedicated. In Maryland the ch. grew slowly till T. Bray* arrived 1700. The SPG, organized partly in response to a petition by Bray to the king of Eng., sent a delegation to visit the chs. in Am. 1702. Result: the no. of chs. greatly increased and a better grade of ministers was secured for them.

c. G. Berkeley,* who came to Newport, Rhode Island, 1729, gave large financial support to Yale coll.; after his return to Eng. 1731 he was instrumental in forming the charters and directing the course of King's coll. and of the Academy and Coll. of Philadelphia. See also Protestant Education in the United States.

2. The Revolutionary War left the Angl. chs. in Am. disorganized. First move toward effecting organization was made by W. White,* who wrote the pamphlet The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered, pub. anonymously 1782; he urged that, without waiting for a bp., the chs. should unite in some form of assoc. and common govt., and he outlined a plan that embodied most of the essential characteristics of the diocesan and gen. convs. as adopted later.

Meantime the Maryland Legislature had (1779) passed an act committing to certain vestries as trustees the property of the parishes, but also prohibiting gen. assessments. In 1780 a conference was called and a petition sent to the legislature asking that the vestries be empowered to use money obtained by pew rents and other means of parish purposes; the name Prot. Episc. Ch., suggested for the organization, was formally approved by a conference at Annapolis 1783, definitely adopted by the 1789 Gen. Conv.

A movement to constitute an Episc. Ch. for the whole US was inaugurated, largely by White, May 1784 at a meeting at which New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were represented. Delegates from 8 states attended a conv. October 1784. Seven of the 13 States (but not New Eng.) were represented at a 1785 conv., which, despite protests against the proposed plan of organization, adopted, with modifications, principles recommended 1784 and drew up a const. and liturgy.

3. Request for affiliation with the Ch. of Eng. was granted. In 1787 the abp. Canterbury consecrated White abp. Pennsylvania, S. Provoost* abp. New York; S. Seabury* had been consecrated abp. by nonjuring Scot. prelates 1784. Thus there were 3, the canonical no. required for consecrating other bps. Two houses (Bps. and Deputies; see also 8 c) were constituted in the 1789 Gen. Conv., which also adopted a const. and Book of Common Prayer. To obviate any possible objection to the Scot. consecration of Seabury, J. Madison* was elected bp. Virginia 1790 and consecrated in Eng.

For more than 20 yrs. the ch. had to combat various hostile influences, since it was widely distrusted, being regarded as an Eng. institution. Loss of Meths., who chose to form an indep. ch., deprived the Episc. Ch. of some strength, and growth was slow.

4. a. A change came in the 2d decade of the 19th c., with new bps. for newly settled areas, esp. in the W The Domestic and For. Missionary Soc. was organized 1820/21 (“For.” included Indians within the states). Effects of the Oxford* Movement were felt in Am.

b. Ca. 1845 W. A. Muhlenberg (see Mhühlenberg, Henry Melchior and Family, 11) came into prominence. He founded a system of ch. schools, organized the 1st free ch. of any importance in NYC, introd. the male choir, sisterhoods, and the fresh-air movement (providing rural and outdoor facilities for health and recreation for the poor and underprivileged). The Memorial Movement began 1853, when a memorial, drawn up mainly by Muhlenberg but signed also by other prominent clerics, was addessed to the House of Bps., asking “whether the Protestant Episcopal Church, with only her present canonical means and appliances, her fixed and invariable modes of public worship, and her traditional customs and usages, is competent to the work of preaching and dispensing the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men, and so adequate to do the work of the Lord in this land and in this age.” In partial answer the memorial said: “… a wider door must be opened for admission to the Gospel ministry than that through which her candidates for holy orders are now obliged to enter. Besides such candidates among her own members, it is believed that men can be found among the other bodies of Christians around us, who would gladly receive ordination at your hands, could they obtain it, without that entire surrender which would now be required of them, of all the liberty in public worship to which they have been accustomed — men who could not bring themselves to conform in all particulars to our prescriptions and customs, but yet sound in the faith, and who, having the gifts of preachers and pastors, would be able ministers of the New Testament.” This memorial helped prepare the way for the Lambeth Quadrilateral 1888 (see England, C 11) and the movement for the rev. of the Am. prayer book, completed 1892 (but rev. again 1928).

c. Outbreak of the Civil War led to organization 1861 of the Prot. Episc. Ch. in the Confederate States, with close ties to the ch. in the N; the end of the war brought reunion.

Further effects of the Oxford Movement led to a serious rift. G. D. Cummins* organized the Reformed* Episc. Ch. 1873.

The Brotherhood* of St. Andrew was organized 1886. Parochial, diocesan, and provincial bds. and commissions were formed for soc. service throughout the country. The Prot. Episc. Ch. played a prominent part in interfaith movements.

5. As to doctrine, some events in the yrs. immediately preceding est. of the Prot. Episc. Ch. are enlightening. At the 1785 conv. the Nicene and Athanasian creeds were omitted from a proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer and the reference to Christ's descent into hell deleted from the Apostles' Creed. The 1786 conv. included the Nicene Creed and restored the Apostles' Creed to integrity; the Athanasian Creed was again omitted, mainly because of its damnatory clauses.

The Athanasian Creed was again rejected 1789. In 1801 the Thirty-nine Articles (see Anglican Confessions, 6), except the 21st, relating to the authority of the Gen. Council, and with some modifications of the 8th, 35th, and 36th arts., were accepted as a gen. statement of doctrine and are appended to the Book of Common Prayer, but adherence to them as a creed is not gen. required.

6. The Prot. Episc. Ch. expects of its mems. loyalty to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the one holy catholic apostolic ch. in all essentials but allows great liberty in what it regards as nonessentials. Its proposed basis for the unity of Christendom is the Lambeth Quadrilateral. In baptizing children either immersion or pouring is allowed. Participation in Communion is technically limited to the confirmed, but is practically open to all baptized.

7. The High* Ch., Broad Ch., and Low Ch. tendencies of the Angl. Ch. are in evidence also in the Prot. Episc. Ch.

8. a. The system of ch. govt. includes the parish or cong., the diocese, the province, and the Gen. Convention. A cong. is “required, in its constitution or plan or articles of organization, to recognize and accede to the constitution, canons, doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church, and to agree to submit to and obey such directions as may be from time to time received from the bishop in charge, and council of advice.”

Officers of the parish are the rector, who must be a priest; wardens (usually 2), representing the body of the parish and usually having charge of records, collection of alms. and ch. repair; vestrymen: trustees who hold the property for the corporation.

b. Direction of spiritual affairs is exclusively in the hands of the rector. Govt. of the diocese is vested in the bp. and the diocesan conv., the latter consisting of all the clergy, and of at least I lay delegate from each parish or cong. This conv. meets annually; election of delegates to it is governed by the specific canons of each diocese. Sections of states and territories not organized into dioceses are est. by the House of Bps. and the Gen. Conv. as miss. districts. Dioceses and miss. dists. are grouped into 8 provinces, to procure unity and cooperation in dealing with regional interests, esp. in the fields of missions, religious educ., soc. service, and judicial proceedings.

c. The Gen. Conv., highest ecclesiastical authority in the ch., consists of 2 houses: House of Bps and House of Deputies (see also 3). The House of Bps. includes every bp. having jurisdiction, every bp. coadjutor, and every bp. who by reason of advanced age or bodily infirmity or disability has resigned his jurisdiction. The House of Deputies is composed of delegates elected from the dioceses, including for each diocese not more than 4 presbyters canonically resident in the diocese, and not more than 4 laymen, communicants of the ch., resident in the diocese. The 2 houses sit and deliberate separately. Ecclesiastical head of the ch. is the presiding bp., elected by the House of Bps. Three orders are recognized in the ministry: bps., priests, deacons. A bp. must be consecrated by at least 3 bps. He is the administrative head and spiritual leader of his diocese; duties include presiding over the diocesan conv., ordaining deacons and priests, instituting rectors. If a bp. is unable to perform all his duties, a bp. coadjutor or a suffragan bp. may be elected. Election of a rector is acc. to diocesan law; notice of election is sent to the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese. Lay readers and deaconesses are appointed by the bp. or ch. authority of a diocese or miss. dist. to assist in pub. services, in the care of the poor and sick, and in religious training. Support of the rector and gen. expenses of each local cong. (parish) are in the care of the vestry; the bishop's salary is fixed by the diocesan conv., with the amount apportioned among the chs. of his diocese.

9. The Prot. Episc. Ch. engages in miss. work at home and abroad, supports a number of institutions of higher educ., has many orders, and fosters “brotherhoods” for men and boys.

See also African Orthodox Church, The; Fellowship, B; Teachers, 32.

See Religious Bodies (US), Bibliography of.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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