- II. Monarchical Type (Roman Catholicism).
- Papal Authority Absolute (§ 1).
- Roman Doctrine of Church and State (§ 2).
III. Aristocratic Type (Eastern Church).
- IV. Consistorial Type (Lutheran).
- Luther's Doctrine of the Church (§ 1).
- The Prince and the Consistory (§ 2).
V. Episcopal Type (Church of England Protestant Episcopal Church).
- VI. Presbyterian Type.
- Rise and Extension (§ 1).
- Divine Right: Characteristics (§ 2).
- VII. Congregational Type
- Distribution (§ 1).
- Essentials; Divine Right; Church and State (§ 2).
- VIII. Eclectic Types (Methodist Churches)
- Constituent Elements (§ 1).
- Resultant Forms of Government (§ 2).
*In connection with the following treatment the reader should consult the articles on the various churches and denominational bodies in which mention is made in the course of the discussion, which articles usually contain accounts of the principles and the details of church government prevailing within the several bodies. See also such articles as CHURCH, THE CHRISTIAN; CHURCH GOVERNMENT; CHURCH AND STATE; COLLEGIALISM; TERRITORIALISM; BISHOP; DEACON; EPISCOPACY; and ORGANIZATION OF THE EARLY CHURCH.
I. Introduction: The emphasis in this discussion falls upon the developments which have occurred within the modern period, and upon the grounds of induction relative to the probable future of a church polity which are supplied by these developments. The Roman and Greek types in their pre-Reformation form were the product of a lengthened historical evolution, and only by sweeping dogmatic assumptions can they be identified with the primitive constitution of the Church. Some germs of them doubtless were on hand at an early date, but as they appeared at the opening of the sixteenth century they were remote from anything that was outlined by Christ or known to his immediate followers. It is to be noted that, while forms of polity may appropriately be named after certain leading characteristics, they are not likely to be adequately described by the titles thus affixed. In a theoretical point of view it makes a great difference whether a given polity is supposed to subsist by divine right, or simply on the basis of human discretion. Practically it is of large account whether a given polity is operated independently, or in close connection with the State. Furthermore, it is of consequence in judging a given polity to observe whether it is appreciably modified by the incorporation of some element from a different type. The subject is obviously one of great complexity.
II. Monarchical Type (Roman Catholicism): (§ 1). Papal Authority Absolute. Since the promulgation of the decrees of the Vatican Council (q.v.) and the acceptance of those decrees as having ecumenical authority, it can not be denied that the constitution of the Roman Catholic Church is emphatically monarchical. Prior to the Vatican legislation it was permissible to assume that in the general body of the episcopate there resided an authority at least coordinate with that of the pope. This assumption was widely current in the early part of the nineteenth century. But reaction from the disintegrating work of the French Revolution, powerfully seconded by pope and Curia, prepared for the enthronement of the opposing ultramontane theory. This result was consummated at the Vatican Council. The two decrees of that council relative to the papal office--the one declaring that the pope possesses the fulness of the supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, together with the right of immediate exercise of it over all the faithful, and the other asserting his independent infallibility--together constitute a formidable declaration of undivided and irresponsible rule. In the light of these decrees one may express the outcome in the equation: In point of authority the pope plus the Church equals the pope minus the Church. As complete in itself and exempt from all lawful restriction or arrest, the authority of the pope rules out the very notion of a supplement. Roman apologists, it is true, disclaim the application of the term "absolute" to the papal monarchy. By divine ordinance, they say, bishops have a place in ecclesiastical administration. The pope is bound by this fixed element in the constitution. Furthermore, he is bound by the ex cathedra decrees of his predecessors on matters of faith and morals. Consequently, the papal monarchy is not of the absolutist type. But while the pope must consent to the existence of bishops, no bishop can enter upon his office without the permission of the pope, from whom, or through whom, comes all power of jurisdiction, and who has also the right either to appoint bishops or to determine the mode of their appointment. No bishop in office can go counter to the expressed will of the pope without being guilty of a misdemeanor. No bishop can remain in office against the will of the pope. No council of bishops can be assembled contrary to the will of the pope, and no assembled council can pass any authoritative decree against his judgment. As respects the ex cathedra decrees of predecessors the pope alone interprets them with full authority, and no one has the legal prerogative to gainsay his interpretation. The pope is absolute in the same sense in which the divine head would be absolute if visibly enthroned over the militant Church. Roman orthodoxy accepts in their full significance these words of Palmieri, "The jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff is the vicarial jurisdiction of Christ."
(§ 2). Roman Doctrine of Church and State. Roman Catholic deliverances in recent times on the proper relation between Church and State show a very scanty abatement from the medieval platform (see CHURCH AND STATE, §§ 3-6). The separation of Church and State is declared to be abnormal. The most that is conceded is that the scheme of separation can be condoned for the time being where the conditions are such as to make it practically necessary. "The Church," says Philipp Hergenröther, "rejects on principle the system of the separation of Church and State"; and in saying this he but expresses the plain import of the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX., the encyclical on the Christian Constitution of States of Leo XIII., and the encyclical Pascendi gregis of Pius X. Recent teaching promulgated by pontiffs, canonists, and theologians pronounces that Church and State are not related as equals, but that the Church, as representing the supernatural order and being the infallible guardian of morals, has a preeminence of rightful authority. The authority of the Church, it should be observed in this connection, means the authority of the hierarchy. As Phillips wrote near the middle of the last century, "the clergy is the sanctifying, the teaching, the ruling Church; the laity is the Church to be sanctified, to be taught, to be ruled." Very recently Pius X. in his encyclical against Modernism (q.v.) has strongly emphasized this sentiment by classing among reprehensible errors the contention that a "share in ecclesiastical government should be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity," and by ordaining, as a condition of the assembling of congresses of priests, "that absolutely nothing be said in them that savors of Modernism, Presbyterianism, or Laicism." Herein the pontiff undoubtedly speaks in perfect conformity to the postulates of the Roman system.
In the practical exercise of ecclesiastical sovereignty the Roman Congregations constitute an important factor. At a recent date they numbered nineteen. The scheme of reorganization put forth by Pius X. in 1908 provided for reducing them to eleven.
III. Aristocratic Type (Eastern Church): In one paint of view it is more appropriate to speak of the Orthodox Eastern Churches than of the Orthodox Eastern Church (see EASTERN CHURCH, I.). While those who claim the title of "Orthodox" hold a common creed, make use of the same liturgy, and acknowledge bonds of intercommunion, they constitute in respect of government a number of independent bodies (in 1907, sixteen, namely, the churches of the four patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem: the national churches of Russia, Greece, Servia, Montenegro, Roumania, and Bulgaria; the church of Cyprus; the churches of Carlowitz, Hermannstadt, Czernowitz, and Bosnia-Herzegovina within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy; the monastery of Mount Sinai). The model of church constitution which the Orthodox Eastern Church brought down to the modern period was that recognized by the ecumenical councils of the fourth and following centuries, which knows no ecclesiastical monarch. The highest dignitaries are patriarchs set over the major provinces of the Christian world. The sole legitimate authority standing above them is the ecumenical council. Among the patriarchs of the eastern division the one resident at Constantinople was understood to be vested by conciliar decrees, especially those of Chalcedon, with a certain primacy. Mohammedan conquests interfered not a little with the working of the patriarchal constitution, but in its general framework it survived to the modern era. The power which has wrought most effectively to modify this constitution has been the example and the influence of Russia. Since more than four-fifths of the entire membership of the Orthodox Eastern Church is included within that empire, naturally the ecclesiastical scheme espoused and supported by Russia claims the right of way. The Russian state has eliminated within its territory the jurisdiction of an outside party like the patriarch of Constantinople. In 1589 it instituted the patriarchal office at Moscow. In 1721 it did away with the patriarchate and organized the Holy Synod (made up now of eight or nine bishops with the addition of two priests) to serve as the supreme ecclesiastical authority, being entrusted with over- sight of doctrine, worship, and matters of administration. Again, the policy of the Russian state was to keep a firm hand upon the management of church affairs. And this is done through provisions which secure that the Holy Synod shall not antagonize the will of the sovereign. The czar appoints a part of the members and controls in no small degree the selection of the rest. In the meetings of the synod he is represented by a lay official styled the chief procurator. The Russian code recognizes him as the overlord in preserving good order in the Church and directing its legislation. While he is not credited with power to make dogmas, it falls within his prerogative to bring measures before the synod, and the conclusions of that body are subject to his judgment. In Greece and the other national churches in the domain of Eastern Orthodoxy both of these features--the independent relation to the patriarch at Constantinople and the prominence of State authority--the Russian model is largely followed. In all the branches of the Eastern Church the former feature is exemplified. Outside of his patriarchate proper in European Turkey and Asia Minor the patriarch of Constantinople enjoys at most some trivial tokens of an honorary primacy.
The hierarchy of the Orthodox Eastern Church is not widely distinguished as to its enumeration of ranks from the Roman Catholic, except that it stops short of monarchy. It includes patriarchs, metropolitan bishops, ordinary bishops, priests, and deacons. Below the deacon are the four minor orders of subdeacon, reader, exorcist, and doorkeeper. A distinguishing feature is that the title "metropolitan" is in most instances simply honorary. Only a few metropolitans have suffragans. Another point of contrast with the Roman system is that the diaconate is not treated as a mere stepping-stone to the priesthood. Many deacons remain such all their lives and serve as curates in the parishes.
IV. Consistorial Type (Lutheran): (§ 1). Luther's Doctrine of the Church. While divine right is claimed both in Roman Catholic and in Orthodox Eastern theory for prominent features of the hierarchical system, Luther repudiated the notion of the jus divinum in the domain of church polity. He was disposed to regard polity as resting upon human election, and having its sanction in practical demands. It was contrary to his emphasis on the universal priesthood of believers to exalt the pastor over the congregation as either a necessary medium of grace or embodiment of sovereignty. Aptness to teach he rated as the great pastoral credential, and the ministration of Word and sacrament as the great pastoral function. Ordination meant for him simply a solemn public recognition of ministerial standing. On these points--the optional character of church polity and the non-sacerdotal standing of the Christian minister--Luther supplied a permanent standard to his followers (see CHURCH, THE CHRISTIAN, IV., § 2; LUTHER, MARTIN, §§ 6, 14). With his stress upon the primacy of the Evangelical message in the Church Luther could easily have reconciled himself to any form of external arrangements compatible with normal opportunity for that message. He had no objection to episcopacy as such. Had a larger proportion of the bishops been friendly to the Evangelical movement, episcopacy might have had a fair chance to survive in the Lutheran domain. As it was, it maintained only a transient existence in any part of Germany. The Scandinavian countries took an exceptional course in uniting Lutheranism with the episcopal form of administration.
(§ 2). The Prince and the Consistory. It was not long before Luther's somewhat idealized conception of the Church as essentially a teaching institute, governing and molding men by the power of the Word, submitted to practical modification under the pressure of circumstances. The disturbances wrought by the Peasants' War, the ignorance and wildness of the people, and the readiness of the nobles to make spoil of church property emphasized the need of a directing and disciplining power. The one power available for the exigency seemed to be the Evangelical prince, the secular ruler who had espoused the Reformation. So he stepped into the position of control, and theory was speedily accommodated to his actual standing by his being rated as heir, within his own territory, to the old episcopal authority. The resulting type of polity was distinctly Erastian. The government of the Church became very largely a matter of territorial sovereignty. The prince was not indeed expected to assume the spiritual office of administering the Word and the sacraments, but in the general ecclesiastical management he was accorded a preeminent function. The foremost organ of administration, under the temporal ruler, came at an early stage to be the consistory. Composed of theologians and jurists appointed by the State this body served as a constant tribunal to pass on disputed points of administration, to supervise property and educational interests, and to render judgment in the major cases of discipline. In the next grade of official importance came the superintendents, who were usually pastors, selected by the secular government to exercise a species of oversight over neighboring pastors. In the settlement of the pastors the deciding voice belonged to the State and to the local patron. The prerogative of the congregation was usually limited to the right of objecting to a presented candidate. The development, on the whole, may be described as being toward an emphatic preponderance of State authority, it being understood that the consistory was very largely the instrument of the State. Such germs of presbyterial or synodal organization as were witnessed by the first generations of Lutherans were in no wise fostered and brought to maturity.
A serious and partially effective attempt to modify this consistorial polity was first made in the latter part of the nineteenth century. An incentive in this direction was derived from the wide-spread movement toward the principle of constitutional rule which was started in 1848. Enlarged prerogative on the part of the general body of citizens naturally suggested enlarged privilege on the part of the membership in the government of the Church. The result was an extension of the rights of the local congregation in the management of its own affairs, and the granting of more or less important functions to representative bodies or synods meeting at stated intervals.
V. Episcopal Type (Church of England, Protestant Episcopal Church): Among the communions which emerged from the Reformation movement the Established Church of England was specially distinguished by the extent to which it conserved the medieval polity. It retained the hierarchical constitution, only cutting off the papacy at one end of the official line and the orders below the diaconate at the other end. Also in the scheme for the parishes, the cathedral chapters, and such aids to diocesan administration as archdeacons and rural deans much of the old system was retained. It is noticeable, however, that English Churchmen did not in the earlier period claim divine right, or exclusive validity, for their polity as against that of other Protestant communions. The statements of such eminent representatives as Jewel, Hooker, and Whitgift amount to a disclaiming of that right. The wide currency which is now accorded to the theory of a necessary episcopal organization and apostolical succession is attributable in large part to Laud and other Carolinian divines, to the Nonjurors (q.v.), and to the Tractarians (see TRACTARIANISM). The royal "supremacy" over the Church of England as originally asserted in the reign of Henry VIII. included a full complement of substantial prerogatives. In the succeeding period also, so long as the Court of High Commission subsisted, the sovereign was capable of interposing very efficiently in the management of the Church. For the most part since the revolution of 1688 the royal supremacy has signified little else than a chief share in dispensing ecclesiastical dignities. As for the lay body in general, outside of the function of parliament in relation to the establishment, it has had very scanty recognition in the plan of government of the Church of England. It has been wholly shut out from the houses of convocation (q.v.), which however cannot perform any real work of ecclesiastical government without being favored with "letters of business" from the sovereign. In the view of not a few thoroughly devoted members of the Church of England the situation calls for remedy. It is urged that in order to be inspired with due interest in the Church laymen must be associated with the clergy in the management of affairs in parish councils, diocesan councils, and the houses of convocation. Only when the lay element comes to this measure of recognition, it is argued, will the nation have any disposition to grant the Church due autonomy by enlarging the prerogatives of its own proper assemblies. This feature has become well-established in the daughter communions. In the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States the laity has been represented from the start in the house of deputies, which, with the coordinate house of bishops, forms the General Convention, which constitutes the highest legislative authority in that Church (see PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH). Laymen have seats also in the diocesan conventions with equal right of voice and vote. Usually laymen help to make up the diocesan committee which serves the bishop as an advisory body; they have also a large function in the settling of pastors and in determining the period of their incumbency. Thus in the polity of this communion episcopalianism has been united with a considerable Presbyterian element. Partly owing to the influence of this American example a similar polity has gained wide currency in the churches affiliated with the Church of England. Laymen have been members of the governing assemblies of the Episcopal Church of Ireland since 1871. The same has been true of the Scottish Episcopal Church since the revision of its constitution in 1876. The principal colonial churches--in Canada, South Africa, and Australia--as they enjoy practical autonomy have adopted in like manner the plan of governing assemblies composed jointly of clergy and laity.
VI. Presbyterian Type: (§ 1). Rise and Extension. This form of polity, which received its initial impulse from Calvin and the Genevan model, was represented before the end of the sixteenth century in Poland, various parts of Germany, Holland, France, and Scotland, and gained a standing later as an appreciable factor throughout the English-speaking world. The Calvinian conception of the Church from which the Presbyterian type proceeded has some points of distinction from the original Lutheran conception. In the former a less exclusive stress was placed upon the Church as a channel of grace through the saving ministry of the Word. Prominence was also given to the office of the Church as an instrument for promoting the rule of God in the world. Proceeding from this standpoint, the Calvinian communions naturally made larger account of discipline than did the Lutheran, and were somewhat more ready to carry a militant spirit into their religion. The training of the elect to give practical effect to God's sovereign right was relatively a conspicuous feature in their ecclesiastical scheme. In the Calvinian theory State and Church were rated as coordinate powers, having each its own province. The extent of the alliance which might be consummated between them was regarded as determined by the possibilities of mutual serviceableness. At Geneva Calvin thought it appropriate to give considerable scope to the prerogatives of the State in ecclesiastical management as being best suited to achieve the aim of the Church, the practical rule of God over the community. In Holland also Presbyterianism made connection with the State, and in Scotland it has held the status of an "established" religion. It received legal establishment in England under the Long Parliament, but did not have opportunity to enter largely into the standing assigned in the legislation. Generally, a rather jealous attitude toward State interference has been characteristic of Presbyterian bodies. In the American version of the Westminster Confession the legitimate function of civil magistrates in relation to ecclesiastical matters is defined to be the impartial protection of all denominations of Christians.
(§ 2). Divine Right; Characteristics. The claim of divine right for their polity has had considerable currency among Presbyterians. Its advocates, however, have never meant by this claim what is asserted for the papal constitution in the bull Unam Sanctam (see BONIFACE VIII.) and implied in the anathemas of the Vatican Council. It has not been held at any period that the acceptance of presbyterial rule is a condition of salvation. In the Westminster Assembly there were stanch Presbyterians, and enough of them to constitute a respectable minority, who opposed the theory of the jus divinum. In later declarations it has often been affirmed that the presbyterial form of church government is agreeable to and founded on the Word of God. But no violence is done in construing these statements in the sense of this declaration in the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church South (1879): "The scriptural doctrine of presbytery is necessary to the perfection of the order of the visible Church, but is not essential to its existence." The central feature of Presbyterian church constitution is a series of governing assemblies, constituted on the principle of representation, in which series the decisions of a lower assembly are subject to revision by a higher, up to one vested with supreme jurisdiction though not free in its exercise from certain constitutional restrictions. A second prominent feature is the parity of ministers, or the exclusion of all hierarchical gradations. A third feature is the union of ministers and laymen in the governing assemblies. According to a typical arrangement the governing assemblies are of four kinds, namely, church session, presbytery, synod, and general assembly. The first, which is entrusted with the supervision of the spiritual interests of the local church, is composed of the pastor and the lay officials called ruling elders. In the mode of instituting these officials, a congregational element comes into play. Both the pastor and the ruling elders, as is also the case with the board of deacons, are elected by the members of the local church. In respect of the pastor elect, however, the approbation of the presbytery must precede his installation, and the like sanction is requisite in connection with the transfer of a minister to a new pastorate. Within the group of churches, between which it serves as the immediate bond of connection, the presbytery fulfils a highly important and responsible function. It has been characterized as being the most important unit in the presbyterian system. Ministers and elders make up the presbytery as they do also the synod and general assembly.
The presbyterian type obtains in the Dutch Reformed and the German Reformed communions (see REFORMED [DUTCH] CHURCH; REFORMED [GERMAN] CHURCH) as well as in the numerous bodies bearing the Presbyterian name. The polity of Lutheran communions in this country is essentially Presbyterian. There is some distinction, however, as respects the legal authority of the highest assembly. While in the Iowa Synod it may approach the Presbyterian standard, it is very much below that standard in the Synodical Conference, and also below it in theory in the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South. In the "Meetings" of the Friends--yearly, quarterly, and monthly--the scheme of a hierarchy of assemblies is illustrated. Still the divergence of their polity from the usual Presbyterian type is by no means slight, since they have no general assembly, and all the meetings are democratic in composition.
VII. Congregational Type: (§ 1). Distribution. While the distinctive features of the Congregational polity were anticipated in some measure by the Anabaptists (q.v.) on the continent, it was in England at the extreme of the Puritan reaction against prelacy that this polity began in the more positive sense its record in modern history. From the days of Robert Browne, Jeremiah Burroughes, John Greenwood, and John Robinson (qq.v.), in the latter part of the sixteenth century, it has had a continuous succession of earnest adherents. The Pilgrims brought it to Plymouth in 1620, and it remained the distinctive form of church order in New England during the entire colonial period. The Baptists in all fields have been almost universally its stanch advocates. It is represented furthermore by the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Connection, the Unitarians, and most branches of the Adventists (qq.v.). The polity of the Universalists lies between the Congregational and the Presbyterian form.
(§ 2). Essentials; Divine Right; Church and State. The most pronounced feature of Congregationalism is the autonomy of the individual church. The various churches of a communion may have, very appropriately, means of fellowship and interaction, such as councils, associations, or conventions. But none of these are properly accorded any legislative or judicial authority over the local church. They are assemblies for conference, and their action is ever advisory rather than mandatory. Ecclesiastical sovereignty begins and ends with the local church. [Congregationalists hold as a second fundamental of their polity the fellowship of the churches as exercised in the conventions, associations, and councils referred to.] Within the individual congregation, according to the original New-England scheme, the proper officers were the pastor, the teacher, the ruling elders, and the deacons. The second and third, however, were not long retained. At present, within communions of the Congregational order, the regular officers are very commonly enumerated as simply pastors and deacons. The principle of the separation of Church and State was contained in initial Congregationalism as represented by the teaching of Robert Browne (q.v.). Baptists have always been earnest advocates of that principle. The peculiar conditions, however, in New England, where at first the company of citizens and that of church members were substantially identical, led to a somewhat intimate connection between Church and State. While in important respects the churches continued to exercise the functions of self-governing societies, State patronage and control ran through no insignificant range (cf. W. Walker, in American Church History Series, iii. 249, New York, 1894). The last remnant of this scheme of Congregational "establishments" disappeared in 1833.
In recent years there has been relaxation in the advocacy of the divine right of Congregational polity. Representative writers of the Congregationalists repudiate the notion that an exclusive right can be asserted for any given form of church constitution, and affirm that their own polity is happily conformed to New-Testament principles. Among Baptists the teaching is not uniform. The question occurs whether communions which adhere to the Congregational polity have been able to maintain the scheme of direct democracy, or autonomous local churches, without substantial modification. One indisputable fact is that within the last century instrumentalities for giving expression to the collective sentiment and enterprise of the whole group of churches of like name have been greatly multiplied. Very frequently the advocates of the Congregational polity declare that the style of collectivism which has thus been evolved works no detriment to the Congregational principle, since the councils or associations which have been instituted are engaged to respect the autonomy of the local church. On the other hand, some admit that the introduction of these bodies and the enlargement in various respects of their functions amount to the intrusion of a Presbyterian element into the actual administration.
VIII. Eclectic Types (Methodist Churches): (§ 1). Constituent Elements. Among communions which illustrate a union of Presbyterian and Episcopalian elements a prominent place is occupied by the Methodist Episcopal Churches (see METHODISTS). There is also a union of Presbyterian and Episcopalian elements in the church order of the United Brethren in Christ, of the Evangelical Association, and of the Unity of the Brethren (qq. v.). The Congregational element (in certain features of local self-government) discoverable in the churches mentioned is relatively inconspicuous. Recent developments in these communions have been largely in the direction of enlarging the sphere of popular government. By the last part of the nineteenth century all had come to include laymen in the higher governing assemblies. The same kind of development has been illustrated in non-episcopal Methodism, as, for instance, among the English Wesleyans (see METHODISTS, I., 1, §§ 6, 8). In the Methodist Protestant Church lay delegation has been a feature from the start (see METHODISTS, IV., 3).
(§ 2). Resultant Forms of Government. Within the principal Methodist churches the list of assemblies includes quarterly, annual, and general conferences. Between the first and the second the district conference is often interposed. Where existing it assumes various functions which otherwise would fall to the quarterly conferences. The latter are made up of the officials of the individual church--its resident ministers, local preachers, trustees, stewards, class leaders, Sunday-school superintendent, etc. The district conference consists of ministerial and lay delegates. The annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church is (1910) a ministerial body; that of the Methodist Episcopal Church South includes, besides the ministers, four laymen from each presiding elder's district. The general conferences of both churches are made up of ministers and laymen in equal numbers. Among the United Brethren in Christ (q.v.) laymen are accorded a place in all the governing assemblies. The general conference is the supreme tribunal in the entire group of communions under consideration. Within certain constitutional limitations it exercises full legislative and judicial authority. A special feature in the constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church South is the provision that the board of bishops may challenge the constitutionality of a role or regulation passed by the general conference, and hold it suspended until it has been approved in the use .of the regular method for amending a "restrictive rule" (that is, one of the cardinal limitations imposed by the constitution). As a Presbyterian element finds illustration in the governing assemblies of the Methodist economy, so an Episcopalian element is exemplified in its ministerial ranks. In that economy deacon and elder (or presbyter) are related much as they are in the Church of England and in the Protestant Episcopal Church (q.v.). Methodist episcopacy, on the other hand, has a special character as being non-diocesan. It is also free from the aristocratic assumptions often connected with the episcopal form of organization. Methodist bishops are simply the foremost rank of executives in their respective communions. In the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church a note prefixed to the form of episcopal consecration implies that bishops represent a dis- tinct office rather than a distinct order. It remains true, nevertheless, that in the larger Methodist bodies very weighty official (executive, not legislative) responsibilities are devolved upon the bishops. The legal prerogative is with them to station all the ministers (outside the limited circle of general conference appointees), though the advice of the presiding elders and the preferences of the individual churches are practically of great moment. Methodist communions generally which have an episcopal organization, as also the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Association (qq. v.), make use of a kind of subepiscopate embodied in presiding elders or district superintendents, who are placed over divisions of the territory of the annual conferences. Among the Unity of the Brethren the Presbyterian feature is prominent, the bishops, aside from the function of ordaining, having ex officio no administrative significance, and coming in practise to possess such significance only as being customarily elected to the governing boards and conferences.
Connection with the State has been foreign to Methodist history, and the same is true of the doctrine of the divine right of a specific form of ecclesiastical polity. On this theme Methodists stand with Lutherans, and only insist that in its spirit ecclesiastical administration is obligated to be conformable to the demands of the New-Testament conception of Christian citizenship.
IX. Conclusion: In view .of the enthronement of an extreme dogma as respects ecclesiastical monarchy in the Roman Catholic Church, and the propagation of a radical type of sacerdotalism through a considerable section of the Church of England, it can not be said that recent movements in the field of church polity have been uniformly in a single direction. There has been an undeniable advance in the line of the most pronounced High-church assumptions. But some rather significant tokens of reaction are already apparent. The universal movement toward constitutional rule in the secular sphere tends to make men restive under the demands of a pretentious sacerdotalism. In the ecclesiastical sphere generally, outside of the specified domains--not to mention the comparatively stationary Orthodox Eastern Church--the development in recent times has been almost uniformly in favor of popular government. Whether it has been in the interest of the specifically democratic form of ecclesiastical polity, with its emphasis on the autonomy of the local church, is a question which is likely to elicit different answers. Probably the balance is not an that side, but rather on the side of some form of representative government, though in constructing this form it may not be out of place to give a larger scope to the proper Congregational element than is done ordinarily in Presbyterian communions or in those which combine Presbyterian with Episcopalian characteristics.
On a couple of points the development has been quite pronounced. The doctrine of divine right, in anything like a stringent form, has been consigned to a diminishing constituency. A close union of Church and State, or one which makes either essentially a dependency of the other, has became through a widening circle a matter of distinct opposition.
HENRY C. SHELDON.