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§ 86. The Articles of the Reformed Episcopal Church. A.D. 1875.


I. Articles of Religion of the Reformed Episcopal Church, as adopted by the General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church, on the 18th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1875. New York (38 Bible House), 1876. They are printed in the last section of the third volume of this work.

II. The Book of Common Prayer of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Adopted and set forth for use by the Second General Council of the said Church, held in the City of New York, May, 1874. Philadelphia (James A. Moore), 1874. (This took the place of the 'Proposed Book' of 1785, republished for provisional use in Dec., 1873.)

III. Journal of the First General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church, held in New York, Dec. 2, 1873. New York, 1873.

Journal of the Proceedings of the Second General Council of the Ref. Epis. Church, held in New York. Philadelphia, 1874.

Journal of the Proceedings of the Third General Council of the Ref. Epis. Church, held in Chicago, Illinois, May 12 to May 18, 1875. Philadelphia, 1875.

IV. Bishop George David Cummins: Primitive Episcopacy: A Return to the Old Paths of Scripture and the Early Church. A Sermon preached in Chicago, Dec. 14, 1873, at the Consecration of the Rev. Charles Edward Cheney, D.D., as a, Bishop in the Ref. Epis. Church. New York, 1874.—By the same: The Lord's Table, and not the Altar. New York, 1875.

Bishop Chas. Edw. Cheney: The Evangelical Ideal of a Visible Church (a sermon). Philadelphia, 1874.

James A. Latane: Letter of Resignation to Bishop Johns of Virginia. Wheeling, Va., 1874.

Bishop W. R. Nicholson: Reasons why I became a Reformed Episcopalian. Philadelphia, 1875.

Benj. Aycrigg: Memoirs of the Ref. Epis. Church, and of the Prot. Epis. Church. N.Y., 1875; 2d ed., 1889.


Before closing this section we must notice a recent American reconstruction of the English Articles of Religion, which goes much farther than the revision of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and is disowned by it, but must still be considered as an offshoot from the same root. We mean the 'Articles of Religion' set forth in 1875 by the Reformed Episcopal Church.


This body seceded from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States under the lead of the Rev. Dr. George David Cummins, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky (d. 1876). The reason of 666his sudden and unexpected resignation was his dissatisfaction with High-Church ritualism and exclusiveness, and his despair of checking their progress within the regular Episcopal Church. The occasion was the manifestation of this exclusiveness in a public protest of the Bishop of the diocese of New York against the General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance in Oct., 1873, and against the interdenominational communion services, in which Bishop Cummins, together with the Dean of Canterbury (with the full approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury), had taken a prominent part12911291   In his letter of resignation to Bishop B. B. Smith, of Kentucky, dated Nov. 10, 1873, Cummins alludes to those solemn services, and adds: 'As I can not surrender the right and privilege thus to meet my fellow-Christians of other Churches around the table of our dear Lord, I must take my place where I can do so without alienating those of my own household of faith. I therefore leave the communion in which I have labored in the sacred ministry for over twenty-eight years, and transfer my work and office to another sphere of labor.' He compared his conduct with the Old Catholic reaction against modern Romanism.12921292   There is, however, this material difference, that the Episcopal Church as a body has not altered her creed, nor added new dogmas, as the Roman Church has done in the Vatican Council. He desired simply to organize the theology and polity of the Low-Church party on the historic basis of the American Episcopal Church itself in its initial stage, as represented by Bishop White and the first bishops of Virginia and New York. Hence his return to the 'Proposed Book' of 1785, and to the labors of the Royal Commission in 1689.

The resignation of Bishop Cummins was followed by his canonical deposition. The majority of his brethren preferred to fight the battle within the old Church, or quietly to wait for a favorable reaction, and strongly disapproved of his course.12931293   Though a gentleman of unblemished moral character, he was publicly charged by one of his evangelical fellow-bishops with the threefold crime of breaking his ordination vows, creating a schism, and consecrating, single-handed, a deposed clergyman (Dr. Cheney, of Chicago) to the episcopate. The last act was considered the crowning offense; for thereby he destroyed the monopoly of the apostolic succession, which, in the estimation of many modern Episcopalians, is the article of a standing or falling Church. Others deprecated from principle the multiplication of denominations, and feared that the new sect might become narrower than the old. Still others, though unwilling to share the risk and responsibility, wished it well, in the hope that it might administer a wholesome rebuke to the hierarchical spirit. A small number of Low-Church clergymen and laymen followed his example. A new ecclesiastical organization, under the name of the Reformed Episcopal Church, was effected at a council held in the 667Young Men's Christian Association building, at New York, Dec. 2, 1873.12941294   It has since grown steadily, though by no means rapidly. It numbers now (1884) ten bishops, ninety-eight presbyters, and about as many congregations in the United States, Canada, British Columbia, Bermuda Islands, and England. The number of communicants is about 7000. See art. Episcopal Church, Reformed, by Rev. W. T. Sabine, in Schaff-Herzog Encycl. It set forth the following


I. The Reformed Episcopal Church, holding 'the faith once delivered unto the saints,' declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, and the sole Rule of Faith and Practice; in the Creed 'commonly called the Apostles' Creed;' in the divine institution of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; and in the doctrines of grace substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.

II. This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of church polity.

III. This Church, retaining a Liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom in prayer, accepts the Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, A.D. 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people, 'provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire.'

IV. This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:

First, That the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity.

Second, That Christian ministers are 'priests' in another sense than that in which all believers are 'a royal priesthood.'

Third, That the Lord's Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father.

Fourth, That the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine.

Fifth, That Regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.

The next work was the revision of the Liturgy on the basis of the 'Proposed Book' of 1785, by the Second Council, held at New York, 1874. The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed were retained, but the clause 'He descended into hell' was stricken out from the former. In the baptismal service, thanksgiving for the regeneration of the child was omitted. Throughout the book the words 'minister' and 'Lord's table' were substituted for 'priest' and 'altar'—a change which had been proposed long before by the English commission of 1689.


A considerable number of the Western members of this new denomination were in favor of adopting simply the Apostles' Creed and the Nine Articles of the Evangelical Alliance. But the majority insisted on retaining the Thirty-nine Articles with a few changes. The 668revision was intrusted to a Committee of Doctrine and Worship, consisting of Rev. W. R. Nicholson, D.D. (since consecrated Bishop, March, 1876), Rev. B. B. Leacock, D.D., Rev. Joseph D. Wilson, and some laymen. The report of the committee was amended and adopted at the Third General Council, held in Chicago, May 12–18, 1875.

The Articles of Religion are thirty-five in number. They follow the order of the Thirty-nine Articles, and adhere to them in language and sentiment much more closely than the Twenty Articles of the 'Proposed Book' of 1785 and the Seventeen Articles of the Episcopal Convention of 1799. Articles 1 and 2, of the Trinity and Incarnation, are retained with slight verbal alterations. Art. 3, of the descent of Christ into Hades, is omitted. Art. 3, of the Resurrection 'and the Second Coming' of Christ, Art. 4, of the Holy Ghost, and Art. 5, of the Holy Scriptures, are enlarged. Art. 8, of the old series, concerning the three creeds, is omitted; but in Art. 22 the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed are acknowledged. The Articles of free-will, justification, and good works are retained, with some enlargements on justification by faith alone (which Bishop Cummins regards with Luther as the article of a standing or falling Church). Art. 18 is an abridgment of Art. 17, but affirms, together with predestination and election, also the doctrine of human freedom and responsibility, without attempting a reconciliation. The Articles of the Church and Church Authority are enlarged, but not altered in sense. Art. 24 wholly rejects the doctrine of 'Apostolic Succession' as 'unscriptural and productive of great mischief;' adding, 'This Church values its historic ministry, but recognizes and honors as equally valid the ministry of other Churches, even as God the Holy Ghost has accompanied their work with demonstration and power.' Baptism is declared to be only 'a sign of regeneration ' (not an instrument). Art. 27 rejects consubstantiation as well as transubstantiation, as 'equally productive of idolatrous errors and practices,' but otherwise agrees with Art. 28 of the old series. Arts. 31 and 32 reject purgatory, the worship of saints and images, confession for absolution, and other Romish practices. Art. 34, of the power of tie civil authority, is the same as Art. 37 of the Protestant Episcopal Church (retained from the draft of 1799), except that the words 'as well clergy as laity' are exchanged for 'as well ministers as people.'

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