Monday, July 23, 2012

The beginnings of the Episcopal Church- The first in a series of posts

    This is the first in a series of posts that I hope will be a "Reader's Digest condensed version" of not only the history of the Episcopal Church but also of recent events that have lead to the chaotic state of today's Episcopal Church. So without any further ado, my first post about the history of the beginnings of the Episcopal Church.
     The first English Settlement at Jamestown, VA in 1607 brought the faith of the Church of England to this continent. These early settlers were accompanied by a chaplain, the Rev. Robert Hunt, who celebrated Holy Communion a mere six weeks after landing at Jamestown. Despite many hardships and sufferings of these early settlers, the settlement was securely established by 1614.  Over time as settlement along the eastern coast occurred, the faith of the Church of England was spread up and down the coast from Rhode Island to Georgia. In the colony of South Carolina, the earliest Church of England Parish is St. Philip's Church in Charleston, SC which was established in 1680.  St. Philip's Church is the Mother Church of Anglicanism south of Virginia and the Mother Church of the Diocese of South Carolina.
     After the Revolutionary War, the  Church of England in the various colonies was in a state of confusion and disarray. This situation left members and clergy of the Church of England wondering what independence from England would mean for them. The various state legislatures had abolished the taxes which had supported the Church and left many clergy to survive on their own or from the giving of their parishioners. Hundreds Church of England clergy being loyalists to the King left the colonies for England or Nova Scotia. However, in South Carolina, fifteen out of the twenty clergy in the colony were patriots! The church needed to develop a plan for unity of the church in the various colonies and to provide an episcopate. These two goals took a decade, the 1780s, to achieve. First, I will discuss how the church in the colonies established an episcopate in this country and then how the various churches in the colonies/newly formed states became to be one entity called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. 
      Even though the church in the colonies was supposed to be overseen by the Bishop of the Diocese of London, the reality was very different for the nearly two hundred years (from 1607 until the 1780s). The Bishop of London was typically a very distant figure during most of this time and as such the churches in the colonies had become accustomed to to existing largely on their own with very little oversight. Even with this much neglect,  churchmen in the colonies had requested a bishop not once but three times starting in 1701 and continuing  until the start of the Revolutionary War.  After the war, in 1783, Samuel Seabury was elected the first Bishop by the church in Connecticut. Seabury went to England for consecration but the bishops there would not consecrate him because consecration in the Church of England required (and still requires) clergy and bishops to swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown. He waited a year for the English Parliament to change the laws requiring an oath of loyalty but it became clear that parliament would not do it, so he decided to travel to Scotland where he was consecrated by three bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. There were bishops in Scotland who had refused to take an oath of loyalty to the king in 1688 who were called "non-juring" bishops. These bishops did not require a loyalty oath to the crown for those they consecrated as bishops. In 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated a bishop in Aberdeen, Scotland by three of these "non-juring" bishops- the Bishop and Coadjutor Bishop of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Moray. In 1785, he returned to this country as a bishop and presided at the first convention of the church in Connecticut in August of that year.
     The second half of the story as to how the church became to be one entity starts in September 1785 when elected representatives (16 clergy and 24 laity) from Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York met as the first General Convention of the Protestant  Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Because of the established nature of some of the state churches (South Carolina being an example), their representatives did not have the authority to agree to anything. However, they met again in 1786 and adopted a tentative Constitution which they proposed for final approval at the next triennial General Convention scheduled for 1789 in Philadelphia, PA. The three years between General Conventions had seen the development of a constitution for the nation. In fact, the constitution for the church was drafted by lawyers who also took part in drafting the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution for the newly formed Church was deliberately worded to maintain the independence and autonomy of each diocese organized within the colonies. To quote Mark McCall, "It was the explicit intention of TEC’s founders to create a decentralized structure with primary authority reserved to the diocese". The Convention of 1789 not only adopted a Constitution and Canons for the church but also authorized a Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which was used for more than a century until the 1928 BCP was authorized. For a more comprehensive look at the formation of TEC's Constitution and Canons and the early history of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Curmudgeon's blog is an excellent place to start. Hope you have enjoyed this rather brief look at the beginnings of the Episcopal Church. 

Addison,  James Thayer. The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1931.  Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, NY. 1951. 
Anglican Communion Institute-
Anglican Curmudgeon-
St. Philip's Church-

Friday, July 20, 2012

What if Screwtape were at General Convention?......

This is the title of a very funny and ironic article from the Center Aisle (Diocese of Virginia) written by a deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Mr. Belton Zeigler, and a  writer for that publication, The Rev. John Ohmer.  I will just give you a couple of paragraphs so you can decide for yourself whether you would like to read the entire article at Center Aisle. If you do, just click on the above link to the article.

Here they are:

The introduction to the article:

The sleep-deprived minds of Deputy Belton Zeigler, Upper South Carolina, and Center Aisle writer John Ohmer got to wondering about “The Screwtape Letters.” If there was an update for General Convention to C.S. Lewis’ famous exchange between two devils, in which the senior devil advises his nephew on how to win over a human soul, how might it read?

The beginning of the letter to Wormwood:

My Dear Wormwood:

So your patient is attending what they call their General Convention.

There is no need to despair. This General Convention of theirs is principally an unwieldy and expensive engine for producing bits of paper that the vermin call resolutions. You are correct in saying that irrelevancy is the great virtue of these documents and, in fact, no one outside of a small cadre of institutional insiders pays the slightest attention to the vast majority of what the poor darlings are laboring so diligently to produce.

The last paragraph:
Should calls for reform gain force, all is not lost. Encourage your patients to see every attempt to change Church structure as limits on the Church’s ministries, not on their personal power or agenda. Our patients lack the ability to see the irony in calling for radical changes to the society around them, while resisting so inflexibly the call to reform the one institution that they in fact control.

Your eager uncle,


I find it an incredibly funny and oh so true description of what happens at General Convention. I only wish the authors had waited until the end of General Convention to write the article. That would only be more funny and tragic considering some of the resolutions passed at General Convention. More on that in another post.

Brief background....

Brief Background:

     Me: Lifelong (aka "cradle") Episcopalian currently living in South Carolina and worshipping in the Diocese of South Carolina. [For those who don't know, there are two Episcopal dioceses in this state. The Diocese of South Carolina  which roughly covers the eastern half of the state from Columbia to the Coast and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina which covers the rest of the state (from Columbia westward)].

     The Diocese of South Carolina:
Some brief facts about the diocese.
The diocese was established in 1785 and is one of the original nine dioceses that came together in 1789 to form the Protestant Episcopal Church USA (now known as the Episcopal Church USA).  The diocese has its origins during the colonial period with several parishes in the diocese being 300+ years old.  These parishes continue to be active in the ministry and work of the diocese. For more history of the diocese, please read the excellent article at Wikipedia .

Recent history from the diocese's website:
      The Diocese of South Carolina has over 29,000 baptized members spread across the eastern and coastal portion of the state. Of the 181 priests canonically resident in our diocese, 107 are actively serving in parishes and missions.

      In response to the current situation in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese, in his message at the 2009 Diocesan Convention, urged us to focus on "Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age."
       Our continuing mission is, "To respond to the Great Commission by so presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that all may come to know Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord in the 
fellowship of His Church".

       This diocese is one of a handful of conservative dioceses still in the Episcopal Church. The other 
conservative dioceses are Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, and Springfield. The ongoing controversies in the Episcopal Church have been simmering for decades and have ocassinally boiled over at General Convention (the every three year gathering of lay and clergy deputies and bishops) . It is impossible to give any sort of attention to these controversies on a personal blog and expect a full and impartial statement of facts but I will give links to those who have analyzed some of the worst and more recent 
crisises in TECUSA as I find documents and blogs and link to them. 

O K. This was not so brief but it is background. On to a funny/ironic post about the 77th General 
Convention of the  Episcopal Church that just happened  (July 5-12th,2012). If you like C. S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters, I think you will enjoy "Screwtape goes to General Convention".  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am back!

WOW! I can't believe it has been several months since I posted. Much has happened in my life especially concerning The Episcopal Church and my diocese,  South Carolina. Stay tuned for an update soon!