A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/English Church

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ENGLISH CHURCH. The church of England is Episcopal, and boasts a regular succession of bishops, from the times of the apostles, conveyed to them by the church of Rome. See Episcopalians.

The reformation was introduced into England during the reign of Henry VIII, who upon his altercation with the Pope, took the management of ecclesiastical affairs into his own hands, and styled himself the supreme head of the church, which title has since been given to the English monarchs. Under the king, the church of England is governed by two archbishops and twenty four bishops. The various grades among the clergy are styled, deans, archdeacons, rectors, vicars, &c.

The liturgy was introduced in the reign of Edward VI, and re-established in that of Elizabeth, with some few alterations. During the reign of this queen, the thirty nine articles were also established. It has been generally held by most, if not all Calvinists, both in and out of the establishment, that the doctrinal articles of the English church are Calvinistic. This opinion, however, had been warmly controverted by others, who interpret them in favour of Arminianism. The former opinion has been defended by Dr. Scott, Mr. Toplday, Dr. Haweis, Sir R. Hill, and more recently by Mr. Overton. The latter has been as strenuously maintained by Dr. Kipling, Mr. Daubeny, and the present bishop of Lincoln; and the dispute has never run higher upon the subject, than it has done of late years. "Each party," says Mr. Adam, "seem to understand the articles exclusively in their own sense. But as some of our reformers were inclined to Calvinism, and others to Arminianism, it is, perhaps, more natural to believe with some of our ablest divines, that the thirty-nine articles were framed with comprehensive latitude, and that neither Calvinism, nor Arminianism was meant to be exclusively established.

The law requires all persons, who are admitted into holy orders, to subscribe to the thirty-nine articles. In the course of the last century, disputes arose among the English clergy respecting the propriety of subscribing to any human formulary of religious sentiments. An application for its removal was made in parliament in 1772, by the petitioning clergy, and received the most public discussion in the house Commons, but was rejected in the house of Lords.

The churches of England and Ireland were united by the union of 1801, and form a grand national establishment; but with a free toleration of dissenters in their principles and worship without admitting them to any of its emoluments, and excluding them from many offices in the state.[1]

The episcopal church in the United States of America, which is wholly independent of that of England, has organized her government, owing to dissimilarity of circumstances, in a very different manner. In this organization, indeed, the principle is by both churches recognized, that all orders of the church, affected by the laws, should have a vote in making them. And therefore the general convention, which is the highest legislative authority of the protestant episcopalian church, is composed of two houses, the house of bishops, and the house of clerical and lay deputies, consisting of deputies from the different state or diocesan conventions of the church; and the concurrence of both houses is necessary to every act of the convention; and in the house of clerical and lay deputies, the two orders, clerical and lay, have a negative upon each other. The general convention meets triennially. In every state or diocess, there is a convention, consisting of the bishop, the clergy and laity, who are represented by delegates from the congregations, and which usually meet once a year. Visitations are made by the bishops to their respective diocesses, for the purpose of examining the state of the church, inspecting the behaviour of the clergy, and administering the rite of confirmation.

The thirty-nine articles have been adopted by the church in the United States, and are contained in all late editions of the book of common prayer, but subscription to them is not required in candidates for holy orders, as in England.


Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Adam's Religious World displayed, vol. ii. p. 337. Evans' sketch 12 ed. p. 119. Toplady's Historical Proof of the Calvinism of the Church of England. Overton's True Churchman. Kipling on the artcles, Daubeny's Vindiciae Eccles. Angl. Bp. of Lincoln's Charge, and Mr. Scott's Answer.