Reformed Episcopal Church - Encyclopedia

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REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH, a Protestant community in the United States of America, dating from December 1873. The influence of the Tractarian movement began to be felt at an early date in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and the ordination of Arthur Carey in New York, July 1843, a clergyman who denied that there was any difference in points of faith between the Anglican and the Roman Churches and considered the Reformation an unjustifiable act, brought into relief the antagonism between Low Church and High Church, a struggle which went on for a generation with increasing bitterness. The High Church party lost no opportunity of arraigning any Low Churchman who conducted services in non-episcopal churches, and as the Triennial Conference gave no heed to remonstrances on the part of these ecclesiastical offenders they came to the conclusion that they must either crush their consciences or seek relief in separation. The climax was reached when George D. Cummins (1822-1876), assistant bishop of Kentucky, was angrily attacked for officiating at the united communion service held at the meeting of the Sixth General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance in New York, October 1873. This prelate resigned his charge in the Episcopal Church on November 11th, and a month later, with seven other clergymen and a score of laymen, constituted the Reformed Episcopal Church. Cummins was chosen as presiding officer of the new body, and consecrated Charles E. Cheney (b. 1836), rector of Christ Church, Chicago, to be bishop. The following Declaration of Principles (here abridged) was promulgated: I. An expression of belief in the Bible as the Word of God, and the sole rule of faith and practice, in the Apostles' Creed, in the divine institution of the two sacraments and in the doctrines of grace substantially as set out in the 39 Articles.

II. The recognition of Episcopacy not as of divine right but as a very ancient and desirable form of church polity.

III. An acceptance of the Prayer Book as revised by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1785, with liberty to revise it as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people.

IV. A condemnation of certain positions, viz.

(a) That the Church of God exists only in one form of ecclesiastical polity.

(b) That Christian ministers as distinct from all believers have any special priesthood.

(c) That the Lord's Table is an altar on which the body and blood of Christ are offered anew to the Father.

(d) That the presence of Christ is a material one.

(e) That Regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.

The Church recognizes no orders of ministry, presbyters and deacons; the Episcopate is an office, not an order, the bishop being the chief presbyter, Primus inter pares. There are some 7 bishops, 85 clergy and about 9500 communicants. L1600 annually is raised for foreign missionary work in India. The Church was introduced into England in 1877, and has in that country a presiding bishop and about 20 organized congrega tions. The Church has a theological seminary in Philadelphia.

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