The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Reformed Episcopal Church

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REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH, a denomination organized by members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who give substantially the following statement of the events and circumstances which, as they believe, justify their course: (1) The Protestant Reformation in England had outwardly a political origin (in the act of the king, Henry VIII, renouncing allegiance to the Pope, and proclaiming himself head of the English Church); by which the work was biased and cut short. During the brief life of the young king, Edward VI, the regent, or protector, being in favor of the Reformation, great progress in it was made. Under Mary the supremacy of the Pope was again acknowledged. When Elizabeth became queen, wishing to harmonize her divided subjects, and hoping for reconciliation with Rome, she strove to have the Liturgy framed so as to satisfy both parties. Consequently it contained contradictory elements. At a later period, when she had found her hope futile, the articles of faith adopted were decidedly Protestant. Thus it came to pass that in the Church of England two parties found support in her Ritual; the one Protestant, the other having an affinity with Rome. (2) After the American Revolution, when the Church of England in the colonies became the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the Book of Common Prayer, having been adopted without material alterations, retained its conflicting elements. (3) The Tractarian movement, which began at Oxford, 1833, was a successful endeavor to revive the principles of antiquity and Catholicity contained in the Prayer Book, in opposition to its Protestant elements. It discarded Protestant principles and taught the doctrines of apostolic succession, priestly absolution, baptismal regeneration, the real presence and the authority of the Church. (4) These teachings produced a powerful effect in the United States also. A great increase in ritualism, and of the drift toward Rome, was soon manifested; the opposition between the “High” and the “Low Church” parties was intensified, and practical measures were adopted by each which widened the chasm. (5) Several subsequent public events fanned the flame of discontent, especially the censure of one clergyman for preaching in a Methodist church, and the suspension of another for omitting the word “regenerate” in the baptismal office. (6) Remonstrances and petitions for relief, which were numerously and urgently presented to the General Convention, produced no effect. (7) During the sessions of the Evangelical Alliance in New York in October 1873, Bishop Cummins of the diocese of Kentucky, having, by invitation, officiated at a union celebration of the Lord's Supper, in company with representatives of other denominations, was for this act of Christian fellowship bitterly censured through the press by members of the High Church party. After this, convinced that he could no longer rightfully continue in a Church whose theory and practice (as interpreted by the majority of its members) denied the brotherhood of believers in Christ, Bishop Cummins withdrew from the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church. (8) This led to the organization in 1873 of the Reformed Episcopal Church, of which Bishop Cummins and the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Cheney were elected bishops. At the same time the following declaration of principles was adopted: I. The Reformed Episcopal Church “holding the faith once delivered to the saints” declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word 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 substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. II. This Church, recognizes 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 Church, 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: (1) That the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity. (2) That Christian ministers are “priests” in another sense than that in which all believers are “a royal priesthood.” (3) That the Lord's table is an altar on which the oblation of the body and blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father. (4) That the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of bread and wine. (5) That regeneration is inseparably connected with baptism. To this statement it may be added that in this Church the bishops do not constitute a separate order, but are presbyters; in council they vote with and as their brother presbyters, and are subject to confirmation or appointment by the general council. Statistics, 1910: Churches, 80; ministers, 94; members, 9,610. The present bishops are Samuel Fallows of Chicago, Robert L. Rudolph of New York, William Brewing of Toronto and Arthur L. Pengelley of Charleston, S. C.