A Historical Look Back – Staying or Leaving The Episcopal Church

From documents regarding Bishop Cummins’ formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Bishop Cummins, on leaving:

I. First, then, you well know how heavy has been the trial of having to exercise my office in certain Churches in the Diocese of Kentucky where the services are conducted so as to symbolize and to teach the people doctrines, subversive of the “truth as it is in Jesus,” and as it was maintained and defended by the Reformers of the Sixteenth Century.

On each occasion that I have been called upon to officiate in those Churches, I have been most painfully impressed by the conviction that I was sanctioning and endorsing, by my presence and official acts, the dangerous errors symbolized by the services customary in Ritualistic Churches.

I can no longer, by my participation in such services, be “a partaker of other men’s sins,” and must clear my own soul of all complicity in such errors.

2. I have lost all hope that this system of error now prevailing so extensively in the Church of England, and in the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country, can be or will be eradicated by any action of the authorities of the Church, legislative or executive.

Bishop Alfred Lee, in response:

I. You speak of “the trial of having to exercise your office in certain Churches in the Diocese of Kentucky, where the services are so conducted as to symbolize and teach doctrines subversive of the truth as it is in Jesus.” You “have been painfully impressed by the conviction that you were sanctioning, by your presence and official acts, the dangerous errors symbolized by the services customary in Ritualistic Churches.” But, my dear brother, were your lips sealed when present in your official capacity? Were you not clothed with authority to preach the Word, to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine? Could you not bear your testimony against dangerous innovations as plainly and decidedly in the pulpit and from the chancel, as upon the platform in our large eastern cities? Nay, if in one place more than in another you could be out-spoken, would it not be in your own Diocese, and among those committed to your oversight? There, emphatically, you could put forth your energies, strive “to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word, and call upon and encourage others to do the same.” This, I freely admit, is no pleasant duty, but when the question is of abandoning a post to which we once thought the Lord had called us, then is it the time to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ So long as no restraint was placed upon your presentation of the truth in sermons, charges, addresses and pastoral letters, you could deliver your own soul; neither could you “be made partaker of other men’s sins.”

That there should be within our Church false teaching and practices, symbolizing errors, is indeed a grief and burden to many of her faithful ministers and member. I am not one to make light of them.

But is it a new thing? Was the Apostolic Church unvexed by similar evils? Had St. Paul nothing to contend with from “false brethren,” and from the intrusion of “another Gospel?”

***

In combatting such errors, had you not with you the Word of God, the doctrinal standards of your Church, the protest of the reformers, the blood of martyrs, the sympathy and prayers of thousands of earnest Christians? Is such a cause to be despaired of? Does not truth rise up invincible from depression and defeat, and vindicate her heavenly birth? I believe better things of that grand old Church whose light has never been quenched since kindled at martyr pyres, and which for centuries has borne the brunt of outward hostility and internal treachery.

But admitting the dangers to be great, and the prospect gloomy, is that a reason why the pilot should desert the helm? The shepherd abandon the flock? If the shepherd sees the wolf coming is not that the time to stand at his post, even if he must give his life for the sheep? If you cannot wholly keep out the enemy, so formidable or so insidious, you may hope by all means to save some of the flock entrusted to your care. You are well aware that to a large body of the clergy and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, I might say a large majority, Romish and Ritualistic invocations are as distasteful as to yourself. Is it the post of a good soldier of Jesus Christ to desert in the hour of peril brethren who are striving to fight the good fight of faith?

7 Responses to “A Historical Look Back – Staying or Leaving The Episcopal Church”


  1. 1 Mike April 5, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks Mr. Drell. Now, if only the Windsor Bishops would immediately act to stand foursquare against the false teaching and heresies within TEC.

  2. 2 B. J. Kennedy April 6, 2008 at 12:03 am

    While I disagee with Bishop Cummins concerning ritual, especially when he makes comments like “…the dangerous errors symbolized by the services customary in Ritualistic Churches,” I do agree that in our modern day circumstances that “this system of error now prevailing” will not be overturned by anything we do from the inside. The tide has been turning since long before I was born (1982), and I am afraid now the tide has turned, and we are waiting on the waves to crash down on us in this Diocese of Western Louisiana. I feel that this diocese can not afford to wait any longer to take action to seperate itself from the Episcopal Church. I hope and pray that many churches will submit resolutions to the next convention that will call for such action. If anything could be done earlier, I am sure many would be greatful.

    I pray that we can stay together, and remain united on the voyage out of this present darkness.

  3. 3 Bob Maxwell+ April 6, 2008 at 1:36 am

    An election of a diocesan is a time fraught with many dangers. You could easily end up (like the DRG0 in several years with a leader departing alone.

    The time is past when the electon of a Windsor bishop will do anything to change TEC. After ’09,ff successful, it is like selecting a new Chief Petty Officer for a division of a sinking ship. Make sure you choose as bishop one who knows the ways of escape.

  4. 4 David+ April 6, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Reading this makes me feel like the reasons for leavng TEC in the l870’s were rather “light” compared to today’s reasons! Bishop Cummins seems like he would have had a stroke if he heard that in our context Jesus is the way but our contesxt is only one of many.

  5. 5 Gregg L. Riley April 6, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    The Oxford Movement breathed new life not only into the CoE but it influenced the catholic nature and order of The Protestant Episcopal Church of The United States in the mid to late 19th century. This revivial was most notably recognized in the Prayer Book of 1892. If only our sad divisions today were confined to “high church, broad church, and low church” expressions of the “faith once delivered.”

    Canon G+

  6. 6 descant April 6, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I think Mike has gotten the point I was trying to make in posting this. I do know that, despite my efforts, I haven’t made the kinds of stands I should have in meetings, proclaiming God’s word, save when I objected to the consecration of Bishop Beisner and quoted from scripture in making my objection.


  1. 1 A Look Back At Greg Griffith’s Crystal Ball And The Succession of Organizations On The Conservative Side of Anglicanism In North America « Drell’s Descants Trackback on June 1, 2008 at 12:40 pm

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