REFORMED EPISCOPALIANS: Origin and History. The Reformed Episcopal Church formally separated from the Protestant Episcopal Church, under the leadership of Bishop George David Cummins (q.v.), at a meeting composed of prominent Protestant Episcopal clergymen and laymen, held in New York Dec. 3, 1873. The cause of the separation was found in the rapid rise and advance of ritualism and of its controlling influence in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The establishment of an independent episcopal church was necessitated for the purpose of preserving the Low Church Evangelical principles and practises of the English Reformers of the sixteenth century, and of the early Protestant Episcopal Church in America, which fundamental principles and customs were becoming obliterated in the spread of the Oxford or Tractarian movement (see TRACTARIANISM) in England and in America, and in the consequent rapid and successful substitution of Roman dogma and rites for the historic and Biblical Reformed doctrine and Protestant liturgical worship of the old Reformed Church of England and of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the early days of American history. The Reformed Episcopal Church therefore claims to be the old Protestant Episcopal Church in the full meaning of the title, and takes its name from the historic title of the Reformed Church of England, and the great English Reformers and Protestant martyrs. Bishop Cummins immediately consecrated Charles Edward Cheney (q.v.) bishop of the West, now the synod of Chicago, which charge he still holds.
The Church in America. The church in 1910 reports 5 synods and missionary jurisdictions in the United States and Canada, 94 parishes, 7 bishops, and 99 other clergy, about 10,500 communicants, about 11,000 in the Sunday-schools, a church property, free of incumbrances, valued at about $1,670,000, controls property in use, valued at about $1,835,000, and holds and is heir to, denominational endowment funds amounting to about $350,000, not including large parochial endowments. It has a well-equipped and endowed theological seminary in Philadelphia, with an alumni roll of 64 names. It is represented in two church papers: The Episcopal Recorder, published weekly in Philadelphia, founded 1822, formerly a Protestant Episcopal organ; and The Evangelical Episcopalian, published monthly since 1888 in Chicago. The church maintains a large mission work among the colored freedmen of the South, under the care of a white superintendent. An extensive foreign mission work is conducted in India, including at Lalitpur orphanages and schools, and at Lucknow a hospital and dispensary, all under the charge of clergymen educated in the Philadelphia Theological Seminary.
The Church in England. The church has a considerable following in England, where it was introduced in 1877, now under the episcopal jurisdiction of Bishop Philip X. Eldridge, of London. The English branch now constitutes an independent but affiliated church, and reports 28 ministers, 1,990 communicants, 6,000 sittings, and 256 teachers, and 2,600 pupils in its Sunday-schools.
Doctrines and Ritual. While the Reformed Episcopal Church perpetuates the historic church as represented in the Evangelical English Reformation, it differs from the Protestant Episcopal Church of modern days fundamentally in doctrine, as well as in ceremonial and ritual. Possessing and preserving the historic episcopate, it holds that the episcopate is not a separate order in the ministry, but is an office within the presbyterate, and that the bishop is among the presbyters primus inter pares. It "recognizes and adheres to episcopacy, not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of church polity." And it repudiates the dogma of Apostolic Succession (q.v.; see also SUCCESSION, APOSTOLIC), and "condemns and rejects" as "erroneous and strange doctrine, contrary to God's Word, that the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity." It recognizes the validity of all Evangelical orders, confirmed in the laying on of hands of the presbytery; and holds communion with, and exchanges pulpits with, all Evangelical Protestant Churches, and receives from them by letters dimissory, clergy and laity without reordination or reconfirmation, and dismisses to them, as to parishes in her own communion.
It denies that Christian ministers are "priests" in any ecclesiastical sense, and has eliminated this title, as so applied, from the Prayer Book. It "rejects" the "strange doctrine" 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," and "that the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine." And it forbids the erection of any such altar in the church, where may be found only the honored, historic, plain communion table. It denies "that Regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism" of water, as taught in the old formularies, and has expurgated from the Prayer Book statements to such effect. It has adopted as the model for its Prayer Book the thoroughly Evangelical and Protestant Book of Bishop White, the first American Prayer Book of 1785, which followed the Reformed doctrinal standard of the Second Book of Edward VI. of 1552, rejecting the later American Prayer Book of 1789, and of present use in the Protestant Episcopal Church, for the assigned reason that it followed the High-church standard of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which in turn had followed the half-reformed First Book of Edward VI. of 1552.
The Reformed Episcopal Prayer Book, retaining all the beautiful historic forms of worship, is entirely free from any germs of Roman Catholic doctrine, and, having been in constant use for thirty seven years, is the only Low-church revision of the Prayer Book that has had a history of actual service in common use for a period of more than four years. W. RUSSELL COLLINS.
The "Declaration of Principles" set forth at the organization of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873 took the following form:
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 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 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.