Project Canterbury

To the Laymen of the Episcopal Church,
In the Diocese of Wisconsin

[no place:] [no publisher], 1874.

Contributed by the Reverend Dr. Charles Henery

A Special Diocesan Council of our Church was held in Milwaukee in February last to elect a Bishop to succeed the late Bishop Armitage. The result, we all know, was a failure to elect, and by a sine die adjournment, the election of Bishop was postponed to June next, and in the mean time, to wit, on Easter Monday, lay members of the June Council are to be chosen by the parishes. The proceedings of the February Council were extremely interesting in various ways, but mainly so in showing to the Church that a large portion of our clergy are far from being in sympathy with the lay element therein; also that the conservatism in the Church is very largely to be found among the laity, who, as a rule, wish to follow in the "Old Paths," and who cannot see the least necessity for trying to split hairs on doctrinal points; who care very little whether the speech of Dr. DeKoven was just inside or outside of adjudicated words in some ecclesiastical State Church trial in England or not; or to see how near we can get to the Roman Catholic Church, and not go in.

A few facts about the clerical representation in our last as well as previous Councils will show to lay brethren why the legislation of our Diocese has been such as it has, and why after the clergy had nominated Rev. Dr. DeKoven as Bishop, by a majority barely of one vote, only fifteen out of fifty-one parishes would vote to confirm the nomination. It seems that the Constitution of our Diocese, which was framed [1/2] before there were so many Educational Establishments in the Diocese, provided that all professors and teachers in schools recognized as Church Schools, and all missionaries having spiritual charges, should be entitled to vote in our Councils. Under this organic law there are ten votes of professors and tutors at Racine, five at Nashotah, one at Kenosha; and of missionaries, three to five deacons attached to All Saints' Church who have occasional or stated missionary services in Milwaukee and vicinity, in all, say, twenty-one votes. Now, it would really seem, to most fair-minded men, that in so important a matter as the election of a Bishop, Rectors and Clergymen having charge of real parishes ought to do the clerical voting; and upon such a basis, not over seven or eight of these twenty-one votes ought to have been cast. Now, what were the facts? All of the twenty-one votes except five were cast for Dr. DeKoven, and two of the Racine teachers were admitted to or advanced in the ministry not more than two weeks before the Council.

These men, except Dr. DeKoven, (who asked to be excused from voting) and except four out of the five professors at Nashotah, (the other, Rev. Dr. Cole, who in his "Appeal," of recent date, says "I have no views," is said to have voted for Dr. DeKoven), were led by a certain Rev. Dr. Everhart, who came into the Diocese one or two years since to take charge of the Girls' School at Kenosha; a Rev. Mr. Spalding, head master of Racine School, neither of whom ever had a parish in the Diocese; and another Rev. Mr. Spalding, who is sometimes called Dean of Cathedral; and of the very singular attempt of these gentlemen to kill off the opposing candidate, Rev. Dr. Hoffman, by saying he had "minister's sore throat," "was disabled," &c., &c., which attempt was shown to be a low political dodge; and also of the deliberate attempt to blacken the character of one of the leading professors of Nashotah by procuring ex-parte statements of students there--of these it is difficult to speak without saying words that ought never to be said of persons occupying the position they do; but it is plain how the clerical voting in our Diocese is done, and the Rev. Dr. DeKoven's clerical majority of barely one vote was made up brothers than rectors or ministers having charge of real parishes.

The statement of these facts with regard to this power of voting concentrated in the interest of "advanced" churchmanship, and the exhibition of its use in the last Council more particularly, ought to stir up our laymen to interest themselves more than ever in the affairs of [2/3] our beloved church, and more particularly in the election of delegates pit the parish meetings next Easter Monday. If you want Dr. DeKoven or any man of his style of churchmanship for Bishop, then elect delegates accordingly. If you don't want an "advanced" man, who believes in "Eucharistic Adoration" and in the general use of "Auricular Confession," then elect delegates who will truly represent your parishes.

It is currently reported that clergymen said immediately after the adjournment of the February Council that there would be a different of lay delegates in the next Council, and it is said (it may be truth or not) that our Diocese is being well but quietly canvassed for that end. If we know the men who are engaged in such a move, it is likely the work will be done on the Jesuit plan. So lay brethren our neighbor rural parishes are advised to watch for clerical gentlemen who take this month of March (when the traveling is so fine), to canvass the Diocese for the benefit of our church institutions and charities.

In closing this communication your attention is specially called to a portion of the Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops, issued at the close of the General Convention, in A.D. 1871. It reads thus:

"We counsel you to bear in mind, that, while, on the one hand, we must not suffer ourselves to deny any real good, by reason of mere popular outcries against ritual forms, so, on the other hand, we are never to allow professions of self-denying labor and service, to blind us to the actual dangers of any movement in the Church. What is known as 'Ritualism' is mainly a question of taste, temperance, and constitution, until it becomes the expression of doctrine.

"The doctrine which chiefly attempts, as yet, to express itself by ritual, in questionable and dangerous ways, is connected with the Holy Eucharist. That doctrine is, emphatically, a novelty in theology. What is known as "Eucharistical Adoration" is undoubtedly inculcated and encouraged by that ritual of posture, lately introduced among us, which finds no warrant in our 'Office for the Administration of the Holy Communion.'

"Although men may, by unlawful reasoning on Divine mysteries, argue themselves into an acceptance, both of the practice and the doctrine which it implies, these are most certainly unauthorized by Holy Scripture, entirely aside from the purposes for which the Holy Sacrament was instituted, and most dangerous in their tendencies. To argue that the spiritual presence of our dear Lord in the Holy Communion, for the nurture of the faithful, is such a presence as allows worship to Him thus and there present, is, to say the very [3/4] least, to be wise above that which is written in God's Holy Word; For the objects of this Holy Sacrament, as therein revealed, are, first, the memorial before God of the One Sacrifice for sins forever, and secondly, the strengthening and refreshing of the souls of the faithful. Moreover, no one can fail to see, that it is impossible for the common mind to draw the line, between the worship of such an undefined and mysterious presence, and the awful error of adoring the elements themselves. Wherefore, if a teacher suggests this; error, by actor posture, he places himself in antagonism to the doctrine of this Church, and the teaching of God's Word, and puts in peril the souls of men. In the presence, therefore, of this danger, we call upon the ministers and members of the Church to bear in mind, that while they should always cherish and exhibit that true and genuine reverence, which devoutly recognizes 'the dignity of the Holy Mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof,' yet it is the bounden duty of each one to deny himself the outward expression of what to him may be only reverence, if that expression even seems to inculcate and encourage superstition and idolatry.

"In thus speaking of dangers connected with present movements in the Church, there are other points on which your Bishops must not be silent.

"The first relates to private confession. Whenever a human soul is possessed by a searching and sincere repentance, and a longing for a deeper spiritual life, there comes, also, with these things, a keener sense of 'the exceeding sinfulness of sin,' and a desire for an authoritative assurance of forgiveness. And then, on the other hand, frivolous and worldly persons, simply because they desire to rid themselves of any sense of present responsibility or future retribution, seek for the same assurance. Advantage is taken, by some teachers in the Church, of these two entirely different spiritual states, to insist upon private confession to a priest, as either the absolute duty of all Christians, or as essential to any high attainments in the religious life. Meantime, the fact that pardon is granted to any child of God, on his repentance, accompanied by prayer and reliance on the promises in Christ, as well as in the use of the means of grace, is utterly passed by. The teaching of the Church in this matter is plain and clear.

"She permits, and offers to her children, the opening of their griefs in private, to some minister of God's Word. But she does not make this the first resort; she does not provide for its frequent recurrence or uniform practice; she does not impose it by ecclesiastical ordinance; she does not hold or declare it necessary for the forgiveness of sins, or for the attainment of high degrees of spiritual advancement; nor does she connect with it blessings which can be secured only by its observance. She simply offers and commends this privilege to those of her children who cannot quiet their own [4/5] consciences, by self-examination, immediate confession to God, with faith in Christ, repentance and restitution. Wherefore, to make this seeking of comfort and counsel not exceptional, but customary; not free, but enforced (if not by actual law, at least by moral obligation land spiritual necessities), is to rob Christ's provision of its mercy, and to change it into an engine of oppression and a source of corruption. History demonstrates this. The experience of families, and even of nations, shows that the worst practical evils are inseparable from this great abuse. To pervert the godly counsel and advice (which may quiet a disturbed conscience, into the arbitrary direction which supplants the conscience, is to do away with that sense of moral responsibility, under which every man 'shall give account of himself to God.'

"Another point of danger is a tendency toward saint-worship, and especially its culmination in the worship of the Blessed Virgin. The annals of our race, under the covenant dispensations as well as beyond their limits, show that there is nothing to which our fallen nature is more fearfully inclined, than the worship of the creature rather than the Creator. And this propensity to evil has always found its most attractive development in a sensuous disposition to deify and adore the tenderness and love of womanhood. The error of which we speak has arisen chiefly from this propensity of our nature, and it has found its apology in a perverted view of the veneration due to her whom 'all generations' are to 'call blessed.'

"There is no sin more continuously and decisively marked by the signal displeasure of God, than that of idolatry, in its manifold varieties. Hence, although we do not anticipate a general prevalence of tendencies to Mariolatry, which some have done much to encourage, we nevertheless feel that their slightest indication demands our immediate and decided reprobation. The bare suggestion that the intercession of the Virgin Mary, or of any other saint, is in any way to be sought in our approaches to the Throne of Grace, is an indignity to the one only Mediator and Intercessor, which we, His Apostolic witnesses, cannot too strongly nor distinctly forbid, in His holy and all-sufficient name.

"As fostering tendencies of which we regret to see any tokens among us, we must not fail to point out the dangers arising from devotional and doctrinal books, alien in their character to the whole spirit of our Liturgy, which have, of late years, been insidiously multiplied in England and America. Such works are chiefly borrowed from sources confessedly hostile to our communion, and tend only to weaken and undermine the loyalty of our people, and especially of our youth, to the primitive faith and worship of our Church. Moreover, let it be borne in mind, that the rich treasury of our devotional authors is full of all things that minister to edification; while the inspired Psalter, and other Holy Scriptures, too little studied by most of us in this age of hurry and unrest, leave wholly [5/6] without excuse this disposition to seek such aids to devotion as we here pointedly condemn."

After reading the above, please read the following extract from the speech of Rev. Dr. DeKoven made in the same Convention, which he said was a bald statement of doctrine which he knew would be published:

"I believe in the real, actual presence of our Lord under the form of bread and wine upon the altars in our churches. I myself adore, and would, if it were necessary, or my duty, teach my people to adore Christ present in the elements, under the form of bread and wine."

If the House of Bishops enunciate orthodox doctrine, what is this utterance from Rev. Dr. DeKoven? And what shall we say of him as to the confessional which he has introduced into his school? In answer to questions of his friend, the lay delegate from Kenosha, intended to bring out answers satisfactory to the Council, he says he only receives confession of pupils so and so, and of others in this or that way, and not from married women without consent of their husbands, finally saying these "have been my rules in all cases;" acknowledging thereby that the receiving of "Auricular Confession" with absolution, was a custom well established in his clerical administrations; and besides this, the fact is well known that he received the confession of certain students at Nashotah, until by vote of the corporation he was forbidden to repeat the practice.

Now, brethren of the laity, it is not the individual, Dr. DeKoven, whom we desire you to oppose in your election of delegates to the June Council, only in so far as he represents a kind of churchmanship foreign and antagonistic to the Protestant Episcopal Church, and in so far as he would allow practices which we as Protestants cannot sanction if he should be elected Bishop. His elaborate defence, recently published and widely circulated, contains scarcely a denial of all that has been charged against him, and we are sure its careful perusal will only convince all who love the Church and the cause of true religion, that the Pastoral Letter of our House of Bishops came none too soon, and that it is high time the question should be decided whether sophistries, dreamings and fancies of clergymen, who get up Brotherhoods of St. John, Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament, [6/7] St. Alban's (of New York) Churches, and other such societies and institutions, shall be the power in the Church, or whether shall grow land flourish the strong, old-fashioned churchmanship, which we know, if propagated in its purity, is calculated to draw within its folds weary Christians from all sect-riven Christendom.

In this connection, please notice the fact that the Rev. (so called) Dean of Cathedral (E. W. Spalding) was charged in open Council with having said that he was hindered in his Cathedral work by Bishop Armitage, in that he (the Bishop) would not allow him (the Dean) to establish the Confessional. The Rev. gentleman was challenged to deny it, if the statement was not true, but he did not deny it.

As to the to be or not to be of this Cathedral institution, (now All Saints' Church), and its relation to the Diocese and the parishes, how it shall be paid for, &c., a special committee, on this subject, of the last annual Council are to report to the coming one, and the subject, in all its relations, is to be considered, it will be well for delegates to come prepared to act intelligently upon the questions relating thereto, when it shall come up.

The laymen of our Church must realize that there is just now a crisis in our Church existence. If this incipient Romanism fasten itself upon us, a class of honest Churchmen will, without doubt, be repelled and driven off, or made indifferent to farther progress of our Church, and, possibly, of true religion. This is as we understand it, but, whether we are right or wrong, we are sure we do no harm in trying to awake our laymen to the exercise of their rights and privileges, in such way as their enlightened consciences shall dictate.


Will you please circulate this among the Laymen of your Parish?

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