Project Canterbury


Address to the Clergy and Laity of the Church throughout the United States.

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WE, whose names are hereunto ascribed, have formed an association under the title of the American Church Union, which we now cordially invite you to join. In giving you this invitation, it is due to you, and to ourselves, that we should state the reasons which have led us to take this step, and at the same time to enumerate some of the advantages which, with the blessing of Almighty God, and under His protection, we hope to secure thereby.

The necessity for such an organization is asserted by the circumstances of the times. Social and moral evils increase and multiply on ever hand. Multitudes of the young are growing up without religious education; through the press, the stage, and other agencies, the community is familiarized with scenes of lewdness, immorality, and crime; the marriage contract is made contemptible in many parts of the country, by the facility with which it may be dissolved; the responsibility of the parental relation and the care of a family are to a great extent criminally avoided; the ordinances of the Gospel of Christ are disuses, and the public worship of God is neglected. The Church, in whose divinely constituted system are contained the remedies for these and similar evils, is unable to meet the demand for her services, through lack of men and means enough to do the work which ought to be done.

But while the aspect of the times thus calls us to put forth all our strength for God, for the Church, and for the salvation of men, there has arisen within our fold an evil which threatens the subversion of our whole system. A movement has commenced, which, although confined to narrow bounds, and participated in by but few individuals, gives rise to just apprehensions, by the temper which it discloses, the rashness with which it is conducted, and the magnitude of the interests which it imperils. There are perhaps no principles of this Church more distinctly asserted, more thoroughly established, and better known and understood throughout the community as characteristic of our system, than those expressed in the Preface to the Ordinal, as follows:

"It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church--Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued and reverently used and esteemed in this Church, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination."

Our great divines have maintained these principles by arguments so conclusive that we have taken pleasure in publishing them to the world; our people have long regarded them as settled; very large numbers of ministers and laymen of the religious bodies around us have entered our communion through persuasion of the correctness of our position in this behalf; and even our adversaries, far from misapprehending our views on these subjects, have incessantly reproached us for exclusiveness and illiberality in holding them. It is well understood, that in her canons and rubrics, our Church has drawn, between her own ministry and that of the denominations around her, a line of separation; that she recognizes none but Episcopal ordination; and permits no one to officiate in any congregation unless he be what she regards as a regularly ordained minister (Canon 11, § 1, Title I.). With similar care has she ordered that "no minister belonging to this Church shall officiate, either by preaching, reading prayers, or otherwise, in the parish or within the parochial cure, of another clergyman, unless he have received express permission for that purpose from the minister of the parish or cure" (Canon 12, § 6, Title I.); and that "every minister shall, before all sermons and lectures, and on all other occasions of public worship, use the book of Common Prayer, as the same is or may be established by the authority of the General Convention of this Church; and in performing such service, no other prayers shall be used than those prescribed by the said Book" (Canon 20, Title I.). Under these regulations, and others, deliberately adopted, set forth by General Convention, assented to by the Clergy at their ordination, and well approved by the people, the Church has enjoyed peace within, and has rapidly extended her influence abroad.

There have been, and there are, however, individuals who regarded, and do regard, these principles as erroneous, and these restrictions as oppressive; although, with strange inconsistency, or in inexcusable ignorance, they sought our ministry and voluntarily submitted to its restraints. Such persons are not debarred from endeavoring to obtain relief by lawful means. Instead of taking that course, however, they attempt to effect what would be, if accomplished, a fundamental change in our system, and a repeal of most important canons, by methods without a precedent or parallel in the history of this Church for recklessness and injustice. Desiring a repeal of the laws, they treat them as if they were already repealed, and proceed at once to open, flagrant, and persistent breach of them. To seek by violence results for the attainment of which there has been provided and peaceable and orderly method; to forestall a decision by seizing on what cannot be lawfully touched without it; these are actions not merely intolerable in their nature but revolutionary in their issue. This is what is now done. The right is claimed of preaching anywhere at pleasure, regardless of the protests of those who are canonically entitled to object; ministers of non-Episcopal communities are invited to officiate in our churches; the intention is announced of breaking down every barrier between our Church and the religious bodies around her. If changes so radical as these appear desirable to any one, the proper way would be to seek them from the highest legislative council of the Church; but as if it were felt that the lawful process would be too long, and more than doubtful in its issue, the shorter method is tried, of securing them by force, and of effecting the repeal of existing laws by trampling them under foot, and defying the ecclesiastical authority to execute them. There can be no doubt what such proceedings mean; their motive is self-will, their method is contemptuous assault of time-honored institutions, and their design is revolution.

The existence of such evils around us, and the rise of such a danger within our own household of faith, seem to justify, before God and Man, our present action. We associate, as a Church Union, in order to do a conservative, defensive, and aggressive work. We unite, to maintain the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Church; to extend the knowledge of her principles and system; and to secure joint action in her defence. We pledge ourselves to yield her all loyal fidelity; to protect her Orders, Offices, and Liturgy; to assert her conservative principles against the false liberality of the day, and to secure the integrity of her Catholic position, and the respect due to her laws. We are not party men; we combine for the advancement of true Church principles; to carry our distinctive liturgical and sacramental system to every corner of the land; to take decisive and adequate measures for the defence and protection of the Church; to uphold the canonical authority of the Bishops; and to procure respect for the laws. These are our objects: and behind them we conceal no personal designs, or sectarian or partizan ends. What we do, we intend to do frankly and openly; looking to public opinion to justify our consistency, and approve of our acts.

As a conservative association, the American Church Union will aid in upholding throughout this Church the supremacy of law. We deny to no man in any society, civil or ecclesiastical, the right to seek relief from what he deems to be grievances; but we insist that he shall do this in a proper way. Laws, while they exist, ought to be respected; their repeal may be sought, but it must be sought in an orderly manner. The strength of free communities lies, not in standing armies, nor in centralized power, but in a wide and general respect for those laws which they have made in their duly-elected legislatures, and to which they assent. It is to such a respect for law that the American people justly ascribe their security and attribute their prosperity; without it, our political system would ere this have fallen to pieces. But the same rule holds good in a free Church; its safety depends on the observance of he laws which its councils have enacted; and the duty of obedience is enforced by the consideration that the interests involved are not temporal but eternal. Nothing so rapidly demoralizes a community as the sight of open defiance of public authority; no State can bear it, nor can the Church. When, therefore, we behold our canons deliberately broken, the principles of the Book of Common Prayer denied; the "godly admonitions" of the Bishop disregarded, and our household kept in agitation by lawless, disorganizing, and revolutionary proceedings, we deem it right, and our bounden duty, to use all suitable means of averting the dangers which impend, and of securing to the Church that respect and consideration which, for the moment, seem in certain quarters to be lost.

As an aggressive body, the American Church Union intends to assert the principles of the Church, to extend the knowledge of her distinctive features, and to propagate her doctrinal, liturgical, and sacramental system in a community ripe for its reception. The calls for her services and ministry were never so loud as now. By the public she is regarded as the exponent of a system different from that of Rome on the one side and that of the Protestant denominations on the other. It is as a Reformed and Catholic Church that she must address the men of this day. We aim to make her known in her true character as a branch of the historic and visible body of Christ; confident that wherever she is so known, she will be respected and loved. Yet, while desiring to promote her growth and extend her influence, we hold that there should be room enough within her fold for widely different characters; that she should be comprehensive; that inside the line drawn by her rubrics and canons, great freedom should be allowed. We recognize the diversities of taste and temper which must always exist among men; we would see provision made for them to any extent compatible with allegiance to principles and obedience to laws. We think that the Church should be inflexible toward the errors of the day, but at the same time indulgent to the legitimate desires, and studious of the reasonable wishes, of all within her fold.

As a defensive organization, the American Church Union intends to meet with promptness, and in the manner which may appear most judicious and most apt to the end proposed, all attacks upon the Church from without or from within; to test, if it be necessary, the sufficiency of our present means of discipline; and, if they should be found inadequate, to endeavor to secure, by regular and lawful methods, addition defences for the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Church, as each may be successively threatened with detriment or subversion.

Having stated our objects, we now repeat the invitation to join us in the effort to accomplish them. We make this appeal with confidence in the loyalty of the mass of our Laity as well as our Clergy. We believe that they agree with us in the desire to maintain unimpaired the principles which we have received from our fathers, which men like Seabury, White, Griswold, Hobart, Doane, and Wainwright, defended in their writings and illustrated by their labors; that they share our opinion that great damage to religion must ensue if the doctrines of the Church can be held in abeyance, and her laws defied, with impunity; that they feel with us, that the real glory of our Church has been her stability, that her conservative character exerts at this moment a powerful attraction by which thousands are drawn toward her, and still greater numbers are constrained to honor and respect her; that in her communion many find peace and quiet, who revolt in sickness of heart and in disgust from the scenes of license and individualism elsewhere presented. It is not surprising that anxiety and mistrust are felt by numbers of our people, who are justly astonished at the proceedings of those to whom they looked for an example of constancy to duty and fidelity to engagements; and, therefore, it is most desirable to inaugurate without delay measures which may tend to restore confidence and peace.

We pray and seek for unity among ourselves and amongst all the faithful in Christ Jesus; but we believe that this is to be attained, not by sectarian alliances based on negation, but, by "maintain the faith in its purity and integrity, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the Primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds, and affirmed by the undisputed General Councils, and by drawing each of us closer to our common Lord, by giving ourselves to much prayer and intercession, by the cultivation of a spirit of charity and a love of the Lord's appearing." Having these ends in view, desiring to "abide steadfast in the Communion of Saints, wherein God hath granted us a place; seeking in faith for oneness with Christ in the blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood; holding fast the Creeds, and the pure worship and order which of God's grace we have inherited from the Primitive Church;" and inflexible in the resolve to sustain the Constitution, Canons, Doctrines, and Principles of this Church, as interpreted by Catholic Rule and Practice, we have organized under a profound sense of duty, and with reference to the dangers of the hour; and in now laying this statement before the Church, we solemnly commend our cause, as that of Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order, to the favor and protection of Almighty God, and pray Him to save the right and give peace in our time.

R. S. Howland,
Morgan Dix,
Isaac H. Tuttle,
Horatio Southgate,
Wm. F. Morgan,
S. H. Weston,
Geo. F. Seymour,
G. Jarvis Greer,
C. E. Swope,
Sylvanus Reed,
F. C. Ewer,
Theo. A. Eaton,
W. A. McVickar,
N. S. Richardson,
G. H. Houghton,
S. Roosevelt Johnson,
James A. Bolles,
Walter Aylraut,
John Brown,
Thomas R. Lambert,
Alfred Stubbs,
Benj. I. Haight,
Edward B. Boggs,
C. S. Henry,
W. W. Olssen,
John H. Hopkins, Jr.,
W. Croswell Doane,
J. I. Tucker,
Clarence Buel,
Minot M. Wells,
Wm. A. Johnson,
J. Tuttle Smith,
E. M. Pecke,
A. S. Leonard,
James De Koven,
Milo Mahan,
P. K. Cady,
Cambridge Livingston,
Chas. Congdon,
John J. Cisco,
John B. Murray,
Francis Many,
G. C. Shattuck,
E. B. Perkins,
Thos. W. Ogden,
G. M. Ogden,
H. D. Paine,
Walter T. Marvin,
T. Egleston, Jr.
Edw. H. Clark,
Geo. T. Strong,
John F. Seymour,
James Pott,
S. P. Nash,
R. M. Harison,
John R. Livingston,
Thos. P. Cummings,
Pendleton Hosack.

Project Canterbury