Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Reformed Episcopal Church in Retrospect

By Robin G. Jordan

The original version of this article I posted on the Heritage Anglican Network website shortly after the Anglican Church in North America adopted its provisional constitution and canons. Even at that early stage the direction in which the ACNA was moving was evident to the astute observer. While North America has a great need for an Anglican body to uphold the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies and to maintain a constant witness against the doctrinal and worship innovations disowned and rejected by the Church of England at the Reformation, it was clear that the ACNA was not going to be that body. While the global South Primates subsequently gave the ACNA its stamp of approval as “a genuine expression of Anglicanism,” the ACNA falls far short of the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles for which Robert Barnes, Thomas Bilney, John Bradford, Thomas Cranmer, Robert Ferrar, John Frith, John Hooper, Hugh Latimer, John Leaf, John Philpots, Nicholas Ridley, John Rogers, Laurence Saunders, Taylor Rowland, and William Tyndale suffered martyrdom, and which are laid out in the historic Church of England formularies. Since I wrote the original article, it has become even more apparent that the ecclesiology and theology of the ACNA owe more to the Church of Rome than to the Bible and the Reformation. The “Anglicanism” to which the ACNA gives expression is a twenty-first century North American blend of Anglo-Catholic and Convergence theologies, and does not rightly deserve the brand name of “Anglican.”

In 1869 B.B. Leacock wrote then Assistant Bishop of Kentucky George David Cummins:

“The fact is impressing itself more and more fully on observant minds in the Evangelical party that we are not only to have a Revised Prayer Book but a Reformed Church. This means a new Church. The Lord is working out the problem. Our Evangelical bishops must not think that they can stand in the way and stay the progress of this movement. Before they know it, the swelling wave will sweep over them, and past them, and will leave them high and dry, without friends and supporters, in the old Romanized Church.

In my judgment the new Church is a fixed fact. The men are deeply in earnest who are working and praying for this thing, and their numbers are on the increase, and when we get our new Church we want its foundations laid solid on the Word of God, and its doors opened wide enough to receive within them all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. We hope to see it, with God's blessing, the Church of this land.”

Cummins would found the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873. But one wonders whether he would recognize that church today.

When the revised Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church as adopted by General Council of 2005 are compared with the Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church as adopted by the Seventeenth General Council of 1903 and revised by subsequent Councils through the Forty-fourth General Council of 1984, one is struck by how sweeping have been the changes in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In a space of less twenty-five years

In 1984 the Constitution of the Reformed Episcopal Church did not contain any affirmation of the doctrine in the three Ecumenical Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion in their 1801 form, or the Lambeth Equilateral of 1886-1888. Article VIII—Of Erroneous Direct or Symbolic Teachings stated:

“Nothing calculated to teach either directly or symbolically that the Christian Ministry possesses a sacerdotal character, or that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice, shall ever be allowed in the worship of this Church. No Communion Table shall ever be constructed in the form of an altar, no retable erected, and no candle, candlestick, or cross shall ever be placed upon any Communion Table.”

In 2005 the General Council replaced the provisions of Article VIII with those of Article IV, Section 1 of the new constitution:

“Nothing calculated to teach that in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, the elements of the bread and wine are changed into the natural Flesh and Blood of Christ, shall ever allowed in the worship or teaching of this Church. Nor shall any practice that teaches or promotes doctrines or practices specifically prohibited by the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion be permitted in this Church.”

These provisions take advantage of the fact that the Thirty Nine Articles specifically prohibit only one particular doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice, the doctrine of “the Sacrifices of the Masses” that claims that the Church repeats Christ’s sacrifice or adds to it. Under the provisions of the new constitution Reformed Episcopal clergy can teach and promote the 1958 Lambeth Conference’s doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice that claims that the Church does more than commemorates Christ’s sacrifice: the Church participates in it. However, J.I. Packer has shown in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today that, while the Articles say nothing about this twentieth century development directly, they say a good deal about it indirectly. The Articles rule out the Lambeth doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice as misshapen. Under the provisions of the new constitution Reformed Episcopal clergy are also free to teach and promote the idea that they act as intermediaries between God and humankind. They are able to not only teach that the Christian ministry is a sacerdotal ministry but also to make use of practices that imply a sacerdotal character of the Christian ministry.

In contemporary Reformed Episcopal parishes one can now find altars and retables with candlesticks and candles upon them. One can see clergy in stoles and eucharistic vestments.

In 1984 the Reformed Episcopal Church was not organized into dioceses but synods like a number of Lutheran church bodies in Australia, Canada, and the United States. The parishes within a synod elected lay deputies to the General Council. A synod consisted of at least ten parishes and at least ten presbyters. It could adopt its own constitution. Its ecclesiastical authority was its standing committee or its bishop if it had one. The boundaries of Reformed Episcopal parishes were not geographical.

In 1984 the Constitution of the Reformed Episcopal Church did not state that bishops held their office and ministry for life. An ordained minister in good standing of another denomination could become a presbyter of the Reformed Episcopal Church without being reordained. A deacon could be licensed to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion under special circumstances. This included consecrating the bread and wine. The Reformed Episcopal Church had no licensed lay eucharistic ministers who brought the reserved sacrament to the sick and to shut-ins. Indeed Reformed Episcopal presbyters did not reserve the sacrament.

In 2005 the General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church authorized the use of a new Book of Common Prayer. This new Prayer Book was touted as an Americanized version of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Yet a large part of the new Prayer Book comes from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The 1928 Prayer Book was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book. At that time Anglo-Catholicism and Broad Church liberalism were the dominant theological schools of thought in the then Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. Traditional evangelical Anglicanism had disappeared from the PECUSA by 1900. Anglo-Catholicism and Broad Church liberalism greatly influenced the theological content of the 1928 Prayer Book. The changes the 1928 Prayer Book introduced were far-reaching and even radical.

The new Prayer Book marks a significant break with the Protestant and evangelical principles of the Reformed Episcopal Church. The General Council celebrated the authorization of the new Prayer Book with High Mass! A photograph of this celebration showed the Reformed Episcopal Church’s bishops wearing chasubles, copes, and miters and bearing crosiers.

In 2006 the Common Cause Partnership Roundtable drafted what would become the Fundamental Declarations of the new Anglican Church in North America. The Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church was one of the participants. He claims to have played a leading role in the drafting of the Common Cause Theological Statement. This document gives only token recognition to the historic Church of England formularies as classical standards of Anglicanism and is so worded as to suggest that for the Common Cause Partners other standards have taken their place. It adopts and mandates the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic position that episcopacy is essential to the life and unity of the church, and makes no room for the position of the English Reformers and modern-day Anglicans who uphold that position. The English Reformers found no support for any particular form of church government in the New Testament and rejected the claims of both episcopalians and presbyterians that the form of church government they favored was divinely instituted. They retained episcopacy on the grounds that it was ancient and allowable but recognized that other churches might order themselves differently

These are just a few examples of how the Reformed Episcopal Church has retreated from the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles of its founders. Its present bishops seeks to bring the church into what they claim is the “mainstream” of Anglicanism, that is, to move the church in a more Anglo-Catholic and Convergent direction.

How would B.B. Leacock react if he were to visit a Reformed Episcopal parish this coming Sunday? He would think that he was in a Ritualist Protestant Episcopal parish of his day. He would take one glance at the Prayer Book now used in Reformed Episcopal churches and call for a revised Prayer Book. He would hear the parishioners addressing their pastor as “Father” and referring to him as their “priest” and call for a reformed Church.

The intention of this article is not to attack the Reformed Episcopal Church. Rather it is to draw attention of one of the realities of the twenty-first century. At the present time we have no Anglican church in North America that upholds the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies and that is rightly deserving of the brand name “Anglican”. We have throughout Canada and the United States a scattering of congregations and clergy that do maintain these beliefs and principles and may be branded “Anglican” but they are not united in a single organization. The few small Anglican bodies claiming theological continuity with the reformed Church of England and its formularies show how widely the influence of Catholicism, ritualism, and liberalism has spread in the North American Church and lack what is necessary for the task.

Do we need an Anglican body to uphold the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies and to maintain a constant witness against the doctrinal and worship innovations disowned and rejected by the Church of England at the Reformation in twenty-first century North America? I believe that we do. I believe that the Anglican Church in North America, despite the global South Primates’ stamp of approval, is mislabeled. I do not think that the Primates have taken the time to inspect the product that they are endorsing or to analyze its ingredients. I believe that they were premature in recognizing the ACNA as “authentically Anglican.” They may have had their reasons for doing so. However, it is certainly not because the ACNA genuinely expresses the Protestant and evangelical beliefs of the reformed Church of England and its formularies. Far from it!

The Anglican Church in North America in its Fundamental Declarations distances itself from the doctrine of the historic Church of England formularies while seeking to appear to embrace that doctrine. In that regard it has shown itself a true heir to the tradition of subterfuge of The Episcopal Church. It has aligned itself with the Church of Rome in its doctrine of apostolic succession and episcopacy and made no room for the doctrine of the English Reformers and their successors. Rather than being a genuine expression of Anglicanism, if by “genuine” true or faithful are meant, the ACNA is a product of hybridization, an offspring of the 19th century Anglo-Catholic movement and the 20th century Ancient-Future movement. This is evident from its Prayer Book of choice—the affirming or liberal Catholic 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

The Anglican Church in North America is “Anglican” in the sense that The Episcopal Church is. Both churches can trace their origin to the Church of England and both maintain a connection with the modern-day Church of England—the ACNA through its “parent provinces” and The Episcopal Church through the Archbishop of Canterbury. Neither church, however, can claim real theological continuity with the reformed Church of England and its formularies.

I am not suggesting that congregations and clergy that uphold the Protestant and evangelical beliefs and principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies and that are aboard the Anglican Church in North America abandon ship. There still may be time to turn the ship about and to return to safe anchorage. But they need to know that those at the helm of the ship have set a course that takes them away from the moorings of the Bible and the Reformation. As long as the latter are steering the ship, it will keep to that course. The further the ship sails out to sea, the further they draw away from the safety of those moorings. Eventually the ship will reach a point of no return. If they have not succeeded in turning the ship about or taken to the boats, they will have no choice but to continue the voyage wherever it may take them.

I am suggesting that they can work with like-minded Christians outside of the Anglican Church in North America to establish a new Anglican body that does uphold the Protestant and evangelical principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies. Such an organization must be a new one, with a new vision and new leadership.

At the heart of true Anglicanism is the proclamation of the gospel, not any gospel but the gospel to which the New Testament bears witness, the gospel of justification by faith and salvation by grace. The faith of the reformed Church of England and its formularies is the faith of the gospel. Whether a church calls itself “Anglican” and other churches recognize it as “Anglican,” a church is not Anglican if it does not preach and teach the gospel.

Under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic and Ancient-Future movements a number of churches have adopted doctrines and practices that the English Reformers disowned and rejected on the grounds that they are not only unscriptural but they also subvert the gospel of grace. These doctrines and practices proclaim “a different gospel.” They prevent the people from hearing the true gospel and taking it to heart.

The medieval church taught that the clergy were a sacrificing priesthood and the sacrifice that they offered was the body of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. At the Mass the clergy repeated the immolation of Christ for the sins of both the living and the dead on an altar made from stone. The vestments that the clergy wore signified the sacerdotal character of their priesthood. The teaching of the medieval church contradicted the teaching of the New Testament and the gospel.

Even though the church might cease to preach from the pulpit and teach in the classroom that the Mass is a sacrifice, a pastor wearing the vestments of sacrificing priest standing before a stone altar and lifting up the bread and wine during or after the Prayer of Consecration continues to preach and teach that it is. In doing so, he is overthrowing the gospel and effecting its destruction in the minds and hearts of the people.

The New Testament teaches that all Christians share a common priesthood—both pastors and people. A vital part of that priesthood is the proclamation of the gospel. The wearing of eucharistic vestments, the separating of the pastor from the people, the raising up of the communion table on a dais, the barring of the people from the table with a rail, and the designation of the table as an altar, all convey the message that pastors form a separate priesthood from other Christians. They denigrate the role of the people as priests of Christ and ministers (or servants) of the gospel and distort and misrepresent the true character of the pastor’s ministry.

Any new Anglican organization must first and foremost be Christ centered and mission focused. Its primary aim must be the spread of the gospel, the establishment of gospel churches, and the recruitment and training of gospel workers. This recognizes that the Protestant and evangelical principles of the reformed Church of England and its formularies are tied up with the gospel of divine grace, the rediscovery of which produced the spiritual movement that was the Reformation.

The English Reformers above all else saw themselves as “gospel men.” We need to see all we do and ourselves in the same light. Christ has commissioned his Church to go into the world and to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Wherever God has placed us, we are to be his missionaries. This is not an optional activity. It is, as the apostle Peter draws to our attention, the main reason we were called out of the darkness into God’s marvelous light. We are to share the good news with people of all ages in all walks of life. We must live the message of the gospel as well as proclaim it. We must be living embodiments of the good news.


Joe Mahler said...


The speed at which the Reformed Episcopal Church changed is astounding to me. I saw it happen. None of the leadership of that body would I trust. They knew well what they were doing. IT HAD TO BE A WELL THOUGH OUT CONSPIRACY. But look where the sheeple stayed. The wolves in sheep's clothing knew that the people would go along. IT IS SAD TO SAY, BUT LOYALTY TO AN ORGANIZATION IS STRONGER THAN LOYALTY TO CHRIST. All Christians must WAKE UP.


David.McMillan said...

It is a sticky wicket to say the least. Those of us who love liturgy are a bit confused. If you go to the Presbyterian then you are adrift in non-liturgical what is a liturgical Christian to do that is Protestant and Reformed?

aaytch said...

"What is a liturgical Christian to do that is Protestant and Reformed?"

Start over again. Come to grips with the fact that there is no other solution. Enter the wilderness bravely and without regret. Bring with you no affectation of your former bondage.

Joe Mahler said...

A question? The presiding bishop of the REC without doubt has lead the REC into anglo-romanism, was he a closet papist as was John Newman before him? Did he despise the REC and desired to ruin it from the beginning? Does "church growth" mean success to him rather than faithfulness to Christ?

I have to affirm what a presbyter of the REC who left and came back a full blown charismatic romanist, "I don't trust that bishop!"

aaytch said...

This article has also has ignited some controversy at

1662 BCP said...

Having once been in the APA, I believe that there were/are several factors which moved the REC off-track. Firstly, was the cozying-up by certain REC leaders to the APA and the influence of Walter Grundorf and others. Secondly, was the overriding desire of some in the REC to come out of the wilderness and get some recognition as "legitimate Anglicans". Thirdly, the leadership had lost sight of what Bishop Cummins had in mind when the REC began. They simply abandoned their vision and now they're part of the ac/na. They have committed and it is too late, in their minds to turn back. The "Black-Gowners" are going to die-off and the others who have been infected with Anglo-catholicism will prevail.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

We would do well to remember that +Cummins wanted Augustus Muhlenberg (of the famed Muhlenberg Memorial) to come and be a bishop in the REC. Originally there was a strong desire to take on a broader trans-party existence...but as persecution came, lines got a lot harder. (Doesn't that sound familiar!)

Thus, I think the latitude that we see in the REC now is a better reflection of its intentions than some of the angry ripostes of earlier years.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I have to disagree with the conclusion that you draw. The history of the Evangelical movement in the former Protestant Episcopal Church, the history of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the doctrinal and liturgical views of the founders of that church do not support your conclusion. The present day Reformed Episcopal Church is far from the original vision of George David Cummins and the Evangelical Episcopalians who established that church. They certainly did not envision a church in which the very things that they opposed in the then Protestant Episcopal Church, what they regarded as the "germs of Romanism," would become commonplace. Cummins was open to close relations with other Protestant churches in North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church did not require the ordination of clergy from other churches who had not been episcopally-ordained. But this openness is no argument in support of what has happened in the Reformed Episcopal Church during last 25 odd years. Cummins was certainly not open to the ritualism, sacramentalism, and sacerdotalism that characterizes today's Reformed Episcopal Church. A number of organizations no longer recognize the Reformed Episcopal Church as being "Reformed." This includes the Church of England's Church Society. The Reformed Episcopal Church is now considered to have abandoned the principles of its founders and to be Anglo-Catholic and High Church in its basic doctrinal and liturgical orientation.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

I'm in my 30s, and without access to REC material except what's on the web, I want to ask: When did the REC start requiring ordination (or at least "regularizing") of ministers from other reformed denominations? They have always done so in my short life time and I can't recall anything saying that they didn't in the past (though I understand that cooperation with the Presbyterians was one of the points that made them leave).

Robin G. Jordan said...


As earlier as 1874 the Reformed Episcopal Church received clergy from other denominations without requiring re-ordination. The 1874 REC Prayer Book contained a service for this purpose. So does the 1956 Free Church of England Prayer Book. The FCE was the English branch of the REC. Its other designation is the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. I will go through my research notes and see if I can give you a date for when the REC started "regularizing" the ordination of ministers from bodies that do not practice episcopal ordination. Conservative Evangelicals have historically rejected the Anglo-Catholic position that non-episcopal ordinations are inherently defective, and are a barrier to reunion.

A number of 19th c. Evangelical Episcopal clergy had charges preferred against them because they attended the services of other Protestant churches, took part in these services by preaching sermons or giving addresses, and received communion at these services. The High Church bishops and clergy who preferred these charges considered such ecumenical overtures as disloyalty to the then Protestant Episcopal Church. The General Convention at the instigation of the High Church party enacted a canon prohibiting Episcopal clergy from making such eucumenical overtures on the grounds that other Protestant churches did not have bishops and therefore were not true churches. This position was at odds with that both the English Reformers and the Thirty-Nine Articles. The English Reformers did not reject the validity of the orders or sacraments of their continental Reformed brethren because they had abandoned episcopacy and episcopal-ordination. The Articles do not recognize episcopacy as a mark of the visible church of Christ--only the preaching of the pure word of God and the right administration of the sacraments as ordained by Christ.

Father Robert Lyons said...

Dear Mr. Jordan,

I would disagree that the historic Anglican tradition does not recognize the Episcopacy as the benchmark for valid ordination.

Article 36 reads: "The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops and ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such consecration and ordering; neither hath it anything that of itself is superstitious or ungodly.
And therefore whosoever are consecrate or ordered according to the rites of that book, since the second year of King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same rites, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated or ordered."

The Articles give the Ordinal the force to establish the doctrine behind the conferral of orders in the Church of England.

The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal states: "And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."

The Articles establish the Ordinal as the the authority in this matter. The Ordinal speaks clearly - you have episcopally-derived orders, or you are not to be counted as a lawful minister of the Church.

Admittedly, the 1559 BCP's Ordinal is less specific, but it states that those who are not already in orders at that time (i.e., in the wake of Elizabeth's accession to the Throen) must be ordained by the form contained in said Ordinal. There is no alternative option provided by the historic BCP.

The Episcopacy has always been considered an inherent necessity in the Anglican way. I have no fault with the idea of regluarizing orders, and I would never dream of asking someone who has faithfully labored for the Lord in a ministry to deny that God had used said ministry to the good, but for good order, the quieting of conscience, and faithfulness to the entire fabric of the Anglican way, one must at least provide for a way to regularize non-Episcopal ordinations.

The Liturgy of Comprehension was never passed into usage, so following the 'grandfathering' principle contained therein is not a legitimate means by which one can address the situation in an Anglican way.

The best response is (in my opinion) to affirm publically the previous ministry of the individual being recieved, and to lay hands upon him with a formula that asks for God to strengthen and equip the candidate for the ministry of the Church as the particular body who is recieving him practices it.


Joe Mahler said...

The biggest problem with episcopacy is that it usually falls into to the hands of unsavory persons. Persons who are more interested in promoting their own agenda and most importantly their own power and prestige. Bishop Cummins of the Reformed Episcopal Church understood this when he laid aside his rochet and chemere in favor of the black gown. May I recommend Guelzo's history of the Reformed Episcopal Church. The fact is that Anglicanism recognized without hesitation the orders of Protestant ministers on the continent from the earliest. Episcopacy is an office and not an order. The bible make no distinction between presbyteros and espicopos. The 39 Articles firmly establish Holy Writ as the official doctrine of Anglicanism, and that is as it should be. There are two rules which all Christians must accept in respect to doctrine. 1. The Bible is always right in the establishing of doctrine. 2. When in doubt, see rule one.

Joe Mahler said...

By the way, where do you get your authority to use the title "father" when referring to your self? Is this pride? Why did the Apostles not do so? Why was it all right to refer to our Lord as simply "Jesus" or to the Apostles simply by their first names? Is your Biblical examples from the Scribes and Pharisees and Rabbis?

Father Robert Lyons said...


I agree that, particularlly in the wake of the ascent of Constantine, the episcopacy has oft fallen into the laps of unsavory folk. That doesn't mean the premise is flawed, only the execution.

Compare, for instance, with Constantine himself. He took a religion that was generally pacifistic in the year 300 and, by 316, had Christians killing fellow Christians. Does this mean that his formulation to solve the debates over the Nicene Creed was wrong? No. Truth is truth, even when uttered by someone steeped in sin. Likewise with the episcopacy.

Now, that being said, in my post I was simply refuting the idea that the Articles or the historic BCP accpted anything other than ordination in a historically episcopal line of succession. The Articles give authority to the Ordinal, which requires episcopal succession. I did not say that I personally accepted the concept wholesale, because I don't.

I actually have no problem viewing the episcopate and presbyterate as two manifestations of the one order of ministry, established for the well being, but not for the essential nature of the Church. Even Rome permitted presbyters to ordain others at points in their history. In the Book of Concord, the Lutherans point out the example of Alexandria, where presbyters set apart their own bishop (see Power and Primacy of the Pope). The issue is authority.

Someone can't just stand up today and claim to be a minister. They must be approved by the Church and set apart following the biblical example - with prayer and the laying on of hands. The Church of England's mode is laid out in the Ordinal (well, it was... no need to follow that horse for beating!), and the ordinal requires Episcopal ordination. It has never done otherwise. Exceptions by individual bishops, and even personal feelings and writings by authorities within the Anglican realm do not constitute the same authority as the Ordinal an the Articles; just as Ordinal and Articles are subject, ultimately, to God's Word.

I have no issue with the premise, I have issue with the statement that the Articles don't require episcopal ordination. They do, because they require the Ordinal's usage, and the Ordinal requires it.

As for the title 'Father', St. Stephen uses the term during his trial in Acts, St. Paul explains that St. Timothy is his spiritual son (what's that make St. Paul?), and it is a generally accepted term. A literal reading of the verse in question would forbid you from calling anyone teacher (rabbi), Mister, Miss, or Missus (master), and from calling your own male biological parental unit 'father'.

So, when Christians get rid of Sunday School Teachers, stop calling one another Mister, Miss, or Missus, and stop referring to their male parents as fathers, you may have a point.

That being said, I could care less what you (or anyone else) calls me. I work in a hospital Chaplaincy full time, and I get called plenty of names. I don't generally introduce myself as Father to anyone, just by my name. My collar is usually enough to tell people that I am a Presbyter...


aaytch said...

I don't find anything in the Articles or the Ordinal (1662) that requires one to believe that the calling to be a bishop or priest or deacon comes from anywhere other than the congregation of the Church, nor especially that ordination is a sacrament whereby the ordained receives powers to ordain others and thereby sustain an "historic succession." It's interesting that Cranmer considered the continental Reformed churches (eg. Geneva) as one with the Anglican Church in the Lord even while having no "historic succession"; yet regarded the Roman church for all of its claim to "historic succession" as NOT part of the true Church. Today's Anglicans are the opposite, cozying up to Rome and imitating her superstitions while having nothing good to say of Calvin and Luther.

Father Robert Lyons said...


The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal reads: "IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority."

What is the lawful authority here mentioned? While the consent of the people is a historic part of the Ordination Rite (in both Latin, Greek, Syriac, and Reformation Church Orders), the consent of the people is not enough. Prayer and imposition of hands must accompany the act, and they must be performed by a Lawful Authority. The Ordinal establishes the Bishop of a diocese as the lawful authority. Period. For episcopal Consecration, it is an Archbishop or his designee. Period.

The preface continues: "And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."

If you have not been ordained or consecrated in the historic episcopate, you shall not execute any of the functions of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon. Period. There is no wiggle room here. The Ordinal requries it. The 1559 Ordinal required it.

The personal practices of some of the Reformers do not hold the force of liturgical or canon law. The Canons, Articles, and Prayer Book are authoritative forms, not personal opinions. Regardless of anyone's views on the episcopate, its separation or distinction from the presbyterate, etc., you can find nothing in the 1662 BCP that allows for non-episcopally ordained clergy to function as bishops, presbyters, or deacons in the established English Church.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if it was commonly permitted by legitimate canonical or liturgical law, there would have been no call in the "Liturgy of Comprehension" to consider grandfathering in non-conforming clerics.

I will grant you that Cranmer and other Reformers and English Church divines highly esteemed the ministries of Lutheran and Calvinist ministers and considered them equivalent on a personal level, but the text of the Ordinal, which the Articles of Relgion establish as the authority in this matter, does not share their view.

I can't see how one comes up with any other conclusion than this.

Further, the Ordinal itself in the rite for the Consecration of a Bishop requires the Archbishop to ask of the candidate: "WILL you be faithful in Ordaining, sending, or laying hands upon others?"

This question is not asked of those being ordained as Presbyters. It is not asked of people at their baptism or confirmation. It is only asked of the Bishop-elect. This means that only a bishop of the Church of England can set apart an individual for ordained ministry within the usage of the established English Church.

Again, please note, I am not advocating for the position of the English Church per-se (though I strongly believe that all clergy should be regularized if, for no other reason, for the sake of the consciences of those who believe that both doctrinal and tactile succession are required), I am simply pointing out that one cannot claim the historic Anglican liturgy prior to the REC's BCP allowed for the reception of non-episcopally ordained clerics. Such an assertion is contrary to the liturgical and canon law of the English Church, irregardless of what anyone thought or attempted to practice.


aaytch said...


The point is that while the BCP's ordinal insists upon episcopally ordained clerics, it does not insist upon belief in tactile succession (codeword: "historic") as the carrier of apostolic authority. That is a Roman belief. It comes from believing that ordination is a sacrament, and it is connected to various other superstitions concerning the sacerdotal powers of priests.

As for the wording in the preface to the Ordinal and the question asked of the bishop-elect, you have to want to read it as tactile succession by magical hands to believe that is what it actually says.

Father Robert Lyons said...


Given that the 1559 Ordinal requires episcopal ordination, and that ordination is a tactile event, the fact is you cannot separate the two. The bishops using the 1559 had been consecrated in tactile succession by either Roman bishops during Mary's reign, or were previously deposed bishops who had been consecrated either in the Henrician Church or with the Edwardian Ordinal by bishops who themselves were consecrated in tactile succession.

This means that, no matter the ultimate doctrine the English Church uses concerning apostolic succession, an actual, tactile succession was maintained running back to pre-Henrician times.

The preface itself requires prayer and the laying-on-of-hands from bishop to ordinand. There was never a break from the pre-Reformation line (as the Romans attempted to falsely claim), and again, I see nothing in the Articles or Ordinal that can be read to assert that tactile successions wasn't considered necessary.

Now, that being said, if my choices were heretical bishop or apostolically-grounded presbyter, I'd follow the latter... but the point remains, the CoE maintained the historic episcopate inviolate, and required that its clergy be ordained in that tactile line of succession. I am more than certain that the esteemed theologians of the English Church thought that doctrine was more important than pedigree... but that's why there was to be uniformity in Common Prayer. The law of Prayer (BCP) shapes the law of Belief. The Common Prayer of the CoE reflected apostolic doctrine. It preserved the Apostolic teachings, but the historic connection was also held as a necessity for ministry in the CoE.


aaytch said...

If I receive a certified letter from the Apostle Paul with a commission to safeguard it, and it is delivered by the mailman, then tactile succession is through the mailman, so tactile proves nothing in that case.

If Paul delivers it to me himself, then tactile succession is directly from Paul but again that proves nothing since the content of the letter and commission to safeguard it are no different than if it were delivered by the mailman.

If I later fulfill my obligation and deliver the letter to the next guy together with Paul's original commission to safeguard it, is the fact that I was an intermediary of any significance? Of course not. The letter is from Paul, not from me. Only if I fail to deliver it intact to the next guy is my role noteworthy.

If I succeed in my assigned task as delivery boy, is there anything special about me, or can I claim an extra reward? Absolutely not, for it is the mere minimum standard by which I am to be judged.

If I should succeed in delivery but fail to pray the right prayer for the next guy or fail lay on hands in the proper fashion, is the content of the letter changed in some way? No. Prayer and laying on of hands is a help and comfort but it is not the task itself.

If I should fail and another man should come along and succeed in my place yet without the tactile assignment, will I get paid or will the man who actually did the job? Obviously it won't be me.

So you see the focus must be on the content of the letter and the importance of passing it on intact, not on tactile sacerdotal succession which is the means to the end and NOT the end itself.

In similar fashion, sacerdotal connotations of Roman theology vis-a-vis other aspects of the "priesthood" are entirely invalid in Anglicanism. See

Stephen said...

aaytch posted:
'Only if I fail to deliver it intact to the next guy is my role noteworthy.'

Which is precisely what has occurred.
When you take what has been handed down for 1,200 years and change it, then, it is no longer intact.

1 Timothy : 3:15 tells us that the 'pillar and bulwark of truth, is the Church.'

And, with that in mind, it can not be that several hundred of 'churches' or denominations is what Paul was speaking of, let alone one that came around 1,800 years after the original was created.