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Rt. Rev.







The larger portion of the reply of the Rev. E. H. Canfield in this booklet, which followed the above, has been previously posted at this address, as having been penned by "A Presbyter". It is omitted here.

[1] To the Rt. Rev. H. Potter, D. D., etc., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York.

My Dear Bishop,

I have carefully read your recent Pastoral Letter. It applies in part, and is doubtless so designed, to me. I write this, to explain my position in regard to the conduct it condemns, and shall avoid, so far as I can, consistently with securing this end, any attempt to present a full reply to, or a thorough criticism of the letter. I have no doubt that it was penned and issued with "reluctance," and that you still cherish toward the "few" brethren whose "official proceedings" suggested "the propriety and even necessity" of the Letter, the same "unfailing personal kindness" which has uniformly marked your intercourse with them. My own experience most unreservedly and fully confirms your first and second statements, on the first and second pages of the Pastoral. As you refer to these personal matters, I may add, that ever since your elevation to the Episcopate, I have felt thankful that we had so kindly and paternal a spirit at the head of the Diocese, and that I have always sought to uphold your influence, and vindicate your administration.

In doing that which your Letter officially judges and reproves, I have not, as you hope, "acted hastily." I have done what I frequently observed in Pennsylvania and Virginia before my ordination; what I often did, during my five years' ministry in Ohio; and what I, and others, have done in this Diocese, so far as I am concerned, without the slightest idea that it was contrary to any law of our Church, or that any well-informed person so regarded it. You wrote me last winter that several of the Brooklyn clergy had formally complained to you, of my allowing the Rev. Dr. Budington to preach in my church. Those of our clergy who were present on that occasion approved of the service. No other [1/2] Brooklyn clergyman made any inquiries of me in regard to the matter. No one intimated that he was offended at the proceeding, or knew any thing about it, and I, in charity to them, presumed that their complaint was based on a misapprehension of the facts; that their impressions were derived from public rumor, or from a source which, in regard to some matters, seems even less reliable, the newspapers. I certainly had no reason to suppose that you disapproved of what I had done, after you learned from me what had actually taken place, until I received the Pastoral Letter.

Your letter refers to and cites certain statements and rules from the Book of Common Prayer, and from the Canons. They are, of course, as familiar to the clergy as to you, and their sacred obligations are as fully recognized by one as by the other. You cannot subscribe more honestly and heartily than I do to the declaration which we each pronounced "just before our ordination." I concur fully with you in all that follows on the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth pages of the Letter, with the reservation, that while "it is evident" to me "that from the Apostles' times," etc., I cannot say that "it is evident unto all men," etc., for this does not appear to be historically true; and also that whenever you say "the Church," I would say, in the language of the Prayer-Book and of our Canons, "this Church," or our Church. To my mind, the distinction is very important.

Some of the inferences which you draw from these premises are not so obvious to me, as they appear to be to you.

I never have supposed, nor do I now believe, that the eleventh Canon (Title I.) forbids my loaning my church to a religious association for a religious purpose, and taking any part in the services I may deem proper.

I never heard such a construction placed upon it, until I read the Pastoral Letter. The interpretation and the practice, here and elsewhere, have been averse to this theory, and I am unable to learn that any authoritative judicial decision has ever been made to that effect.

The object and the application of the twentieth Canon (Title I.) are very clearly set forth by you, on the tenth and eleventh pages of the Letter. I subscribe most cordially to every word you say in regard to it, and conform faithfully to what I understand the Canon requires. I always supposed that our Church designed in this way, to secure, not only "absolute uniformity of worship," but also, a service which would be appropriate and edifying "to her children," (her own congregations of worshipping people.) I [2/3] have regretted and mourned over the late "intrusion of novelties" in certain quarters, calculated "to disturb them in their solemn acts of worship;" but I never imagined that in this provision, she designed to forbid her ministry to preach the Gospel, except to such congregations, where it ought to be least needed. I have acted upon this view of the Canon frequently, during my ministry of twenty-one years. Hundreds of similar instances have come to my knowledge. The practice is common. While the historical interpretation of this Canon thus confirms what appears to me to be its natural meaning and application, if the history of our Church, since its enactment, furnishes a judicial decision to the contrary, I am ignorant of it.

The following are the offences of the most "flagrant" nature, which your construction of the Canon charges upon me. I loaned my church, last December, to the "Christian Unity Society," for a specific purpose. They applied to me for the use of it, "at a time when it was not required for the use of the ordinary congregation," our second service being uniformly held in the afternoon. I loaned it to this Association, just as I have done to the Christian Commission, the Brooklyn Sunday-School Union, etc., and, as other churches are often used for similar purposes, in a similar way. Not to evade, but to obey the law; in order to avoid all possibility of giving offence, even to the most bigoted and narrow constructionist, I distinctly explained to "the congregation of our Church" in the morning, that, in compliance with the request of this Association, and in reciprocation of the courtesy of Dr. Budington to the Bishop-elect of Western New-York, I had consented to its use of the church in the evening, as we had no use for it ourselves at that hour; and I also read from a note from the Secretary of the Association, an invitation to such members of the congregation as felt interested in the object of the Society to attend.

As in other meetings of this kind in my church, I was invited to conduct the devotions, and did so, giving out a hymn, reading a portion of Scripture, and offering a prayer, partly extemporaneous, and partly composed of the Collects of our Church. If I remember rightly, the Gloria in Excelsis, and an Anthem, were sung. Of this, however, I am not certain. I mention these details, not because they materially affect the case one way or the other, but to set my offence fully, and in its most glaring form, before you. I thus conducted the service, and the Rev. Dr. Budington preached an excellent discourse, in which he demonstrated [3/4] that the Protestant Episcopal Church, deservedly recognized as the mother of all the Protestant Churches, was more truly Catholic and comprehensive in her standards than any of her children. "The members of our communion" from my church, and rectors of other churches who were present, so far from regarding these things as "a flagrant violation of the spirit and intent of our law," expressed their high gratification at the services.

I have also preached three times in New-York to non-Episcopal congregations, without the use of the Prayer Book. I took no part whatever in any of the services, before or after preaching.

In the first instance, I did so to supply the place of the Rev. Dr. A. H. Vinton, who was unable to fulfil his engagement. By particular request I repeated the sermon a few weeks afterward in the same place. This was nearly two and a half years ago The course of sermons, of which this was one, was widely advertised and very numerously attended, but I never heard an intimation that my part in it was disapproved of, as in any view improper, or that any one regarded it as a violation of law. With this view I, last winter, accepted an invitation from the Rev. Dr. Hutton to preach in his church. These are the most striking and marked cases of my crimes. I confess them without reservation or apology. I have never been a member of either of the Societies, to which your Letter probably refers. I have never attended one of their meetings, except that which was held in my church. I am content to walk in the "old paths," and fondly supposed I was doing so, in a true love of order, peace and quietness. Conscious of no factious spirit, ready to make any sacrifices short of principle and my own character, for the sake of peace; with what I supposed to be an intelligent, certainly with an affectionate regard for the Church of my ancestry for many generations; with an honest and ardent desire to extend her influence and promote her interests; with no disposition to seek after novelties of any sort; desiring only to work on quietly in my humble sphere; I find my self paraded before the public as an innovator, and a violator of the law and principles of that Church, to which I have solemnly sworn true fidelity and allegiance. If this be true, I, in common with many others all over the land, (for these Canons are "for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,") deserve the severest punishment, either for our life-long ignorance, or for our wilful disregard of the most solemn promises and sacred-obligations. I do not write as strongly as I feel.

[5] It is manifest to every reader of the Letter that the gravamen of the offences complained of, consists in certain acts of ministers of our Church, from which the public might infer that the actor recognized the validity of non-Episcopal orders. This is obviously the head and heart of the offence. It stands out boldly in all the document. This constitutes the only essential difference between the use of Trinity Chapel, by a supposed minister of the Russo-Greek Church, of which the Letter approves, and of the Ascension Church by a Presbyterian, which you condemn. (The Canon no more authorizes the presence of a minister from the English Church than it does from the Baptist or Presbyterian Churches. It makes no reference to his Episcopal or his non-Episcopal ordination.) The Pastoral Letter is evidently based upon the theory, that the Canons were expressly designed to deny the validity of non-Episcopal orders, and to forbid any public acts which might appear to sanction such a doctrine. I do not question your right to draw this conclusion from them, and to hold it as a matter of private opinion, but I do respectfully protest against your attempt to enforce your inferences, in an arbitrary way, as the law of our Church. You must know that this was not the doctrine of the Reformers and Fathers of the Church of England, who framed the Articles and arranged the Prayer-Book; and that the founders of our Church in this country were "far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship."

No historical fact is more "evident" than that the Thirty-nine Articles, which are expressed in carefully selected, technical phraseology to set forth her doctrine and principles, not only avoid taking this position, but that, in defining the visible Church, and declaring what is necessary to constitute ministerial authority, language is employed which was purposely designed to recognize the validity of the orders of the non-Episcopal Churches of Scotland, and of the continent of Europe. Every well-informed person knows that, as a consequent and consistent fact, for the first hundred years after the Reformation, those having only Presbyterian orders were admitted without re-ordination to livings and benefices in the Church and Universities of England. It is equally as well known, that when the Laudean party, under Charles II., asked for a change in this particular, the legislation which granted the request was based upon other grounds than the irregularity or invalidity of non-Episcopal orders. You must know, as well as I, that most of the leading divines of the Church of England, [5/6] from the time of Henry VIII. to that of Victoria I., and, I may add, of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, from Bishop White to the present day, in the language of the late Professor Turner, "never admitted the conclusion that those who abandoned Episcopacy thereby unchurched themselves." I have always held, and still believe, not only that their views are true, but that they are demonstrably the doctrine of our Church; that those who hold opposite views are permitted to do so in a spirit of large toleration, and that our rubrics and Canons are to be so interpreted as to harmonize with, and not violate these principles, "which are generally deemed sacred." For twenty-one years I have steadfastly maintained them from the pulpit; I expect to do so while I am permitted to preach. Bishops and presbyters, in charges, in sermons, and from the press, have always done, and still do the same thing. Is it lawful thus to preach and disseminate doctrines, while any act, which, by a remote inference, the public might regard as a recognition of the truth of these same principles is for that reason unlawful? Is it conceivable that our bishops, clergy, and laity would enact Canons for the express purpose of condemning their own principles? that they would make certain acts penal offences, on the ground that what they are permitted openly to profess and preach without objection or hindrance, is a heresy, to be visited with pains and penalties, whenever it is inferentially sanctioned by outward conduct? A more natural and consistent standpoint, from which to view these rules and regulations, it seems to me would be, that they were not designed to teach doctrines, or assert principles, so much as to determine what we deemed right and best for the discipline and worship of our own ministers and congregations; leaving other denominations of Christians, in the language of the Preface to our Prayer-Book, "full and equal liberty to model and organize their respective churches, and forms of worship and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity." I see nothing in the principles of our Church to forbid an occasional exchange of pulpits and services with a Presbyterian or other orthodox minister, unless a Canon, in its nature conventional, and liable each third year to be annulled or changed, may bear this construction, and claim to be placed in this high position.

As general usage has affixed a certain interpretation to this Canon, in this diocese, I accept it as my rule, and during my residence here, of nearly sixteen years, I have been careful to act accordingly, seeking to "give no offence, that the ministry be not [6/7] blamed." Upon a careful review of my actions, which are reproved in the Pastoral Letter, I cannot feel that I have done wrong. I have done nothing which I think ought to be an offence to any Christian man; nothing which I did not believe, and do not now believe, I had, "according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church" an unquestionable right to do.

And yet the fact stares me in the face, that, without any Canonical authority, without any legal inquiry as to the facts, without any intimation to me of your purpose, you have, in the estimation of the public, virtually arraigned, tried, condemned, and punished me. The facts and the principles involved have not been changed by this procedure; but you must perceive that your relation to them, and to me, as one accused by you of a grave offence, has been materially altered. If any of the accused persons now insist upon a trial, according to the Canons, you will necessarily be a party in the case. Their acquittal is your condemnation. A formal trial of any one of the numerous cases reproved by the Letter would now be a virtual trial of yourself. All your personal feelings and interests call for the conviction and punishment of the brethren who, in other circumstances, might look to you, under the Canons, as an impartial judge, set to protect them against prejudice, persecution, or injustice. While I might add much more, I could not well have said less, consistently with my purpose; which has been not to controvert your position, any farther than it was necessary to do so, in vindicating myself. Your motives in this matter, I fully believe, were honest and kindly toward those who are rebuked.

That God may heal the divisions and hush the contentions of his Church, by purifying her from all error, false doctrine, and persecuting tempers, and by filling her more and more with the mind of her Divine Head, is the earnest prayer of

Yours faithfully and truly,
Rector of Christ Church
Brooklyn, June 2, 1865.

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