I am delighted to have been invited for a second time to join you at your annual Assembly. I do not know how this college acquired its name, but it seemed to me entirely appropriate that I open this presentation with words from St. Cyprian of Carthage, who was beheaded by the emperor Valerian in 258:
“The episcopate is a single whole, in which each bishop’s share gives him a right to, and a responsibility for, the whole. So is the Church a single whole, though she spreads far and wide into a multitude of Churches…” “The Church is the people united…to its shepherd. From this you should know that the bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the bishop.”
I have been asked to say a few words about the Anglican commitment to the historic episcopate, with particular reference to the English Reformation which produced the Church of England, and the American Revolution which produced the Episcopal Church. So, first, the English Reformation.
English coins today bear the following inscription: Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina F. D. The “F. D.” stands for Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith, a title conferred on Henry VIII (at his own request!) in 1521 by Pope Leo X in recognition of Henry’s treatise defending the seven sacraments against a certain German monk named Martin Luther.
Perhaps the Anglican commitment to the Sacrament of Holy Orders may be likened to Jacob’s commitment to Isaac’s blessing after Esau’s birthright had been sold for a mess of pottage!
More seriously, “The Reformation in England was…not doctrinal but constitutional. The Church of England had reformed in one respect only. It had denied the supremacy of the Pope and had broken relations with Rome. In doctrine and liturgy and orders…it remained a Catholic Church.” This meant among other things that the Church of England would retain the historic episcopate. It is quite right that there was some debate within the realm about the possibility of a different ordering of ordained ministry. Yet even Richard Hooker, the theologian whose great defense of the Elizabethan settlementshowed an openness to other arrangements, observed that “for a thousand five hundred years and upward…[the Church] continued under the sacred regiment of bishops. Neither for so long hath Christianity been ever planted in any kingdom but with this kind of government alone.”
More substantively, “The English Reformers believed they saw clear Scriptural warrant for Episcopal ministry.” During Henry VIII’s reign, Archbishop Thomas Crammer expressed this conviction:
Scripture openly teaches that the order and ministry of priests and bishops was not instituted by human authority, but divinely. It teaches that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, instituted in the Church certain ministers of his word as his legates and the dispensers of the mysteries of God (as Paul calls them), who not only must feed the flock with the good doctrine of Christ, but also…lead all to the perfect knowledge, love and fear of God as well as to sincere love of neighbor, who must consecrate the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the altar…and the power, function, and ministration of these ministers is necessary to the Church as long as we fight on this earth against the flesh, the world, and Satan, and on no occasion must it be abolished…
This conviction is reflected in successive Church of England Ordinals, from 1550 on:
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 revered 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 public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority.”
This statement from the Ordinal, with its references to “ancient Authors”—such as Clement of Carthage!—and the “Offices…evermore had in such revered estimation” adds the weight of church tradition to that of Scriptural authority for continuing the historic episcopate.
Finally, the Collects of Ordination speak of God’s own appointment of these “Orders of Ministers.” For example, here is the Collect for the ordination of a deacon:
Almighty God, who by thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church, and didst inspire thine Apostles to choose into the Order of Deacons the first Martyr Saint Stephen, with others; Mercifully behold these thy servants now called to the like Office and Administration…
It is also important to recognize that “The episcopate continued to be regarded, as it had generally been in the Middle Ages, as the perfecting and highest fulfillment of a priesthood which…remained in essence a deputed office under that of bishop.”
Why are Anglicans so committed to the historic episcopate? It would have seemed an odd question to most of Reformation England. The opposite question would have seemed more cogent: Why are Lutherans so committed to an ordering of ministry which defies what is “evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors” and undoes what “for a thousand five hundred years and upward…[has] continued under the sacred regiment of bishops”?
Now we turn to another time when the question “Why are Anglicans so committed to the historic episcopate?” would not have seemed to odd.
On October 20, 1765, an American, Charles Martyn, wrote the Bishop of London that “It would be as unsafe for an American Bishop (if such should be appointed) to come hither, as it is at present for a distributor of Stamps.”
As Frederick Mills, Sr. has written in his book Bishops by Ballot (on which I am relying in what follows as Crammer relied on Holy Scripture for this Book of Common Prayer):
A careful examination of the American Anglican communion in the 1760s and 1780s reveals an extensive, and in places intensive, internal controversy over episcopacy. Some Anglicans saw the prewar proposal for a bishop as possible “ecclesiastical Stamp Act,” and others were curious about who would select candidates and how bishops would be supported financially. All were concerned about what powers a resident bishop might or might not possess…Also, the hierarchical character of the episcopal office was a major objection in both the prewar and postwar decades among Anglicans as well as Dissenters.
What I found most interesting about this debate over episcopacy among eighteenth century American Anglicans is how curiously it sounds like today’s debate over episcopacy among twentieth century American Lutherans.
Because the British government and the Church of England considered the thirteen colonies to be within the diocese of the Bishop of London, no bishop had ever set foot on American soil. Eighteenth century American Anglicans who wanted a resident American bishop had to contend with two formidable obstacles.
…the 169-year existence of the church in the relative freedom and isolation of America encouraged deviations from traditional English ecclesiastical polity…Anglican clergy, especially in New England and the middle colonies, adopted the use of conventions in the absence of a bishop, much in the way that Congregationalists and Presbyterians used associations and presbyteries…to discuss church policy…In these conventions the clergy elected a president and decided issued by majority vote.
the shift to an imperial policy on the part of the British government following the French and Indian War, and the parliamentary legislation designed to implement the policy in the colonies, not only heightened tensions between the colonies and the home government, but also increased suspicion toward all institutions in America, including the Church of England, which symbolized British authority.
At the very time that the Stamp Act and Townsend Acts stirred up protests against the colonies,
…a voluntary convention of Anglican clergy [met] in Elizabeth Town [New Jersey] in October 1766…Their essentially High Church position was that the episcopacy was essential to the church and there was no substitute or excuse for the Anglican churches not completing their historic and apostolic system of church government…The sole purpose of the 1766 convention was forcefully stated “to use their joint influence and endeavors to obtain the happiness of bishops.”
Most interestingly, one of the leaders of that convention, Dr. Samuel Johnson, the past president of King’s College, and now a resident of Stratford, Connecticut, was so committed to securing an American bishop, and so doubtful that the British government would reverse its policy, that he had earlier in the year, on February 2, 1766, written his successor at King’s College, Myles Cooper: “I have sometimes thought that when we have tried all reasonable measures to obtain Bp’s from England & are denied, we ought to get a Bp where we can from Denmark, Sweden, or even Russia & to form an American Chh.”
In 1767, another of the leaders, Thomas B. Chandler, the rector of St. Johns’, Elizabeth Town, published An Appeal to the Public in behalf of the Church of England to argue for an American episcopate. It included these proposals:
That the bishops to be sent to America, shall have no Authority, but purely of a Spiritual and Ecclesiastical Nature, such as is derived altogether from the Church and not from the State—That this Authority shall operate only upon the clergy of the Church, and not upon the Laiety nor Dissenters of any Denomination—That the Bishops shall not interfere with the Property or Privileges, whether civil or religious, of Churchmen or Dissenters—That, in particular, they shall have no Concern with the Probate of Wills, Letters of Guardianship and Administration, or Marriage-Licenses, not be Judges of any Cases relating thereto—But, that they shall exercise the original Powers of their Office as before stated, i.e. ordain and govern the Clergy, and administer Confirmation to those who shall desire it.
A controversy exploded with a series of articles…in [the] New York Gazette in March…1768 and ran for fifty-seven issues. The men behind the series were…all Presbyterian laymen…dedicated to religious freedom [who] charged that the espiscopal plan was really an attempt to secure a benign episcopate and later endow it with full prelatical powers. The claim that an American Anglican bishop would be a ‘primitive or purely spiritual’ bishop was too fantastic for most people to believe.
Years later, John Adams described the reaction to the plan this way: it…
spread an universal alarm against the authority of Parliament. It excited a general and just apprehension that bishops and dioceses and churches and priests and tithes were to be imposed on us by Parliament. It was known that neither King nor ministry not archbishops could appoint bishops in America without an act of Parliament; and if Parliament could tax us, they could establish the Church of England with all its creeds, articles, tests, ceremonies, and tithes, and prohibit all other churches as conventicles and schism shops.
In spite of these deep objections to episcopacy, many held more temperate and reflective views. This anonymous letter appeared in the Virginia Gazette in 1778:
Circumstances unavoidable must soon leave us without proper or desirable persons for the performance of the duties of the clergyman…Perhaps we shall be able to prove that episcopacy, as established in England at present, is one of the many encroachments of this power upon the just rights of the people, [but] that a free election to that office was not only the most ancient usage of that country but also the true apostolic mode…The learned Blackstone, in his commentaries, book I, chapter ii, inform us ‘that election was, in very early times, the usual mode of elevation to the episcopal chair throughout all Christendom, and that (says he) was promiscuously performed by the laity, as well as the clergy.
In the summer of 1782, William White, the rector of Christ and St. Peter’s churches, Philadelphia, prepared a pamphlet entitled The case of the Protestant Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered…White contended that the former ties binding the churches in America together were broken, and “their future continuance can be provided for only by voluntary associations for union and good government.”
White argued that the “power of electing a superior order of ministers ought to be in the clergy and laity together, they being interested in the choice. In England, the bishops are appointed by the civil authority; which was an usurpation of the Crown at the Norman conquest. The primitive churches were generally supplied by popular elections; even in the City of Rome, the privilege of electing a bishop continued with the people to the tenth or eleventh century.”
Even this moderate gesture in the direction of bishops White counterbalanced with the assertion ‘that a temporary departure from episcopacy would be warranted’ under the conditions that existed in America in 1782. A Presbyterian type of ordination in which three or more ministers ordained another by the laying on of hands was considered acceptable. This alternative method of ordination was presented because it was believed it would be impossible to obtain ordinations in England for an indefinite period.
This proposal brought an immediate rejoinder by the Connecticut clergy, many of whom had supported the Stamp Act era efforts to secure an American episcopate. They wrote to White on March 25, 1783:
We think nothing can be more clear than that our Church has ever believed bishops to have the sole right of ordination and government, and that this regimen was appointed by Christ himself, and is now, to use your own words, humbly submitted to consideration, whether such Episcopalians as consent even to a temporary departure and set aside this ordinance of Christ for conveniency, can scarcely deserve the name of Christians.
White also received private letters. Abraham Jarvis was deeply offended:
Really, Sir, we think an Episcopal Church without Episcopacy, if it be not a contradiction in terms, would however, be a new thing under the sun…We know it is totally abhorrent from the principles of the church in the northern states, and are fully convinced they will never submit to it.
Moreover, he asserted, “episcopal superiority is an ordinance of Christ.”
Charles Inglis also admonished him: “In short my good brother, you proposed not what you thought absolutely best and most eligible, but what the supposed necessity of the times compelled you to adopt.”
Notwithstanding these objections, “White’s plan…was in full agreement with the revolutionary idea that in a free government the people’s interest and good government are identical, and the best way to ensure this is to allow the people a maximum voice in the formation and operation of government.” His case was so well-received that several state conventions of clergy and laity met and drew up plans for reorganizing their churches.
In Annapolis, in August 1783, A Declaration of Certain Fundamental Rights affirmed “the three orders of ministers—deacon, priest, and bishop” and required Episcopal ordination for ministerial orders.
In Philadelphia, on May 24, 1784, at “the first duly authorized ecclesiastical assembly of Episcopalians in America at which laymen were officially a part” the three traditional orders of the clergy were reaffirmed in the convention’s Fundamental Principles.
Later that year, in Boston, the Massachusetts and Rhode Island clergy adopted the Fundamental Principles but added this plea: “It is out unanimous opinion that it is beginning at the wrong end to attempt to organize our church before we have obtained a head.”
Similar results followed in Virginia, New York, and New Jersey in 1785. Only South Carolina was so hostile to the episcopacy that it voted against any bishop in its state!
But meanwhile, the Connecticut clergy acted secretly to secure a bishop. “In their view, the Episcopal churches could not organize properly until first they had a bishop, because it was his prerogative to guide the churches. To procure a bishop after the churches were organized would minimize his importance and possibly limit his powers.” They elected Samuel Seabury and dispatched him to England to receive episcopal ordination. After a year of failed negotiations, Seabury traveled to Scotland, where he was consecrated Bishop in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784.
Bishop Samuel Seabury landed at Newport, Rhode Island on June 20, 1785, and on September 27th of that year the first General Convention of Episcopalians convened in Philadelphia.
At first there was great friction between Seabury and the General Convention, chaired by William White. On August 15, 1785, Seabury wrote to White about one of the articles the General Convention had adopted:
I cannot conceive that the laity can with any propriety be admitted to sit in judgment on bishops and presbyters…In short, the rights of the Christian Church arise not from nature or compact, but from the institution of Christ…
But the General Convention did adopt a plan for securing bishops in the English line, and on February 4, 1787, White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost of New York were consecrated as Bishops in Lambeth Chapel.
In 1789 Bishop White presided over the General Convention. At the same time that another convention was drawing up the Constitution of the United States, this General Convention adopted its own Constitution and the first American Book of Common Prayer.
The Preface to that first Book of Common Prayer indicates the reasons that, in the end, American Episcopalians recommitted themselves to the historic episcopate:
It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people,’ according to the various exigency of times and occasions.
The Church of England to which the Protestant Episcopal Church in these States is indebted, under God, for her first foundation and a long continuance of nursing care and protection, hath, in Preface of her Book of Common Prayer, laid it down as a rule, that “The Particular Forms of Divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable…it is but reasonable that…such changes and alterations should be made…as…those…in…Authority should…seem either necessary or expedient.
It seems unnecessary to enumerate all the different alterations and amendments. They will appear, and it is to be hoped, the reasons of them also, upon a comparison of this with the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In which it will also appear that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require. [emphases added]
Shorn of its royal prerogatives, authorized by the common consent of laity and clergy, American Episcopalians freely embraced the historic episcopate.
For them, and for Episcopalians today, bishops are the uniquely sacramental sign both of our continuity with the Scriptures, theology, and practice of the ancient church, and as the successors to the apostles, of their apostolic mission and ministry in our own day, under, and for the sake of, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 On the Unity of the Catholic Church, cited in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, the Rite Brain, © 1998 The Church Pension Fund
 Letter Ixvi, 8, cited in Episcopal Ministry, the Report of the Archbishops’ Group on The Episcopate 1990, Church House Publishing [UK], 1990, ^ 63
 James Thayer Addison. The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1932. Archon Books, 1969, p. 6.
 titled Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (ca. 1593)
 cited in Education for Ministry, Year Three, © 1988, 1991, University of the South, p. 412.
 cited in Episcopal Ministry, op. cit., ^ 173
 De ordine et ministerio sacerdotum et episcoporum, cited by George H. Tavard, A Review of Anglican Orders: The Problem and the Solution, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1990, p. 20.
 from “The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons…” (from the Ordinal of 1662) in The Book of Common Prayer (1928), p. 529.
 other “ancient Authors” would include Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 30-107): Magnesians 7, Philadelphians 4, Smyrnaeans viii 1-2: Where the bishop is present there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church.” Trallians, iii; and Irenaeus (ca 130-200) who describes how the Apostles commissioned Linus, and how Clement of Rome received the “episcopate” from him; “He had seen the Apostles and associated with them, and still had their preaching ringing in his ears…in the same order and succession the apostolic tradition of the Church and the preaching of the truth has come down in our time.” Adversus Haereses 3.3.3.
 ibid., p. 531. This Collect was used from 1550 onward, even in American Books of Common Prayer until 1979.
 Episcopal Ministry, op. cit., ^ 173
 Frederick V. Mills, Sr., Bishops by Ballot: An Eighteenth Century Ecclesiastical Revolution, New York, 1978, p. 110
 ibid., p. x.
 ibid., p. xi
 ibid., pp. 35-36
 ibid., p. 43, cited “The Seabury Minutes.”
 ibid., p. 139
 ibid., p. 1
 ibid., p. 51
 letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818; cited in James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1931, Archon, 1969, p. 56.
 ibid., p. 299.
 bid., 183-184
 ibid., p. 185
 ibid., pp. 186-187.
 ibid., p. 155.
 ibid., p. 188. Letter dated March 25, 1783
 ibid., p. 212
 ibid., p. 188. Letter dated June 9, 1783.
 ibid., p. 184-185
 ibid., p. 191.
 ibid., p. 197.
 ibid., p. 200. They met on September 8, 1784.
 ibid., pp. 201-205 passim.
 ibid., p. 210
 ibid., p. 235.