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William McGarvey and the Open Pulpit
An Intimate History of a Celibate Movement in the Episcopal Church,
and of Its Collapse, 1870-1908.

By Edward Hawks
Priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1935.

Chapter 14. The Amendment of Canon XIX

THE OPENING of the pulpits of the Episcopal Church was effected by an amendment to Canon 19 in the Code of existing ecclesiastical law. [The numbering of the Canons has since been changed.] This Canon previously read:

No minister in charge of any Congregation of this Church, or in case of vacancy or absence, no Churchwarden, Vestrymen, or Trustees of the Congregation, shall permit any person to officiate therein, without sufficient evidence of his being duly licensed or ordained to minister in this Church: provided that nothing herein shall be construed as to forbid communicants of the Church to act as Lay Readers.

It was proposed to add to this Canon such words as would permit ministers of other denominations to preach under certain conditions. This, and this only, was what was known as the Open Pulpit. No attempt of any kind was to be made to discuss the validity of ordinations or the intrinsic value of any ministerial system. If the Canon could be made to permit the occasional preaching of non-Anglicans, this was enough to satisfy the present wishes of those who proposed to extend its meaning. Everyone knew this, for it had been discussed fully by all the church newspapers for months previously. Moreover, the substance of what was called the "Open Pulpit" had nothing to do, except indirectly, with questions concerning the person who should initiate its use. It would be an Open Pulpit whether it was to be under the regulation of a bishop, a rector or a church official. The one essential requisite was that such permission should be recognized as legal, not by individual opinion, but by the canon law of the Church.

This is a most important consideration. It simplifies my task in writing this chapter. All I have to prove is that the General Convention was aware that the new legislation was proposed with a definite object; and that the amendment which was passed afforded a means by which this object could be attained. Everything else is superfluous. Were there any doubt about its purpose, it would be resolved by the witness of the Rev. Cyrus Townsend Brady, who introduced the amendment on the floor of the House of Deputies. It is also plain from the form of the amendment he introduced:

[In a letter published by The Living Church, 11 June, 1910, written after more than two years of controversy, at a time when the next general convention was preparing to meet at Cincinnati, Dr. Brady gave his mature judgment on what had been done at Richmond, and what he would be ready to do at Cincinnati, had he not failed to secure reelection as a deputy: "I will add to the joy, which must be felt by the 1172 ministers [who had signed an appeal to the bishops, quite recently, asking them to appeal the Open Pulpit amendment at Cincinnati], by saying that it may be a good thing from their point of view, perhaps, that I was not elected to the General Convention [the approaching one at Cincinnati], for I would have pressed for an increase of the privileges conferred by a new amendment to Canon 19. I would also have introduced a second amendment, making it possible for the rector of any parish, with the consent of the bishop of the diocese, to offer the use of any church for any great public meeting, such as those held in many cities in Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian or other churches in connexion with the L.M.M. To these meetings many of us repaired, we made much of the benefits accorded; yet, we were enjoying a privilege and receiving hospitality we could not extend! ... If the Church would only take advantage of her power and opportunity, she could lead in Church Unity, she could lead in everything, instead of falling behind. I am one of those who preach unity abroad and would fain practise it at home. And, in view of the spiritual power and growth, the splendid good works of the Churches around us, which I will identify for you by describing them as what you would call 'Christian bodies ', I am beginning to question whether the things we insist upon as essential, are essential after all, or whether they are not. If they are not essential, the quicker we abandon them the better. If they are essential, we who hold them so must be grievously to blame for our failure to live up to our position; and those who do not hold them must possess some supernatural virtues to enable them to get along so well without them. I hope and pray, Mr. Editor, that some one in that great convention [ยป. c. the approaching one at Cincinnati] may be found who has the courage and insight to carry on the work which God permitted me to begin, and for which I shall never cease to thank Him so long as I live. . . . Naturally I shall watch the battle for comity and unity which is certain to be fought in the convention, with the most prayerful interest; and naturally I regret that I shall not be there to bear my humble part in the conflict. Like Xavier, my last word shall be: Amplius! More! Wider!"]

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That Canon XIX be amended by adding, after the word 'Lay Readers,' these words: 'or prevent the preaching of sermons or the delivery of addresses by Christian, ministers, or men, who may be invited thereto by any Priest in charge of any Congregation, or in his absence by the Bishop, who may license them for the purpose.

This definite amendment, introducing the Open Pulpit without any possibility of mistake, was referred to the committee on canons of the lower house on the fifth day of the session. Ten days later this committee submitted its report, which was prefaced by a long preamble. Its members expressed their unwillingness to recommend an Open Pulpit, but significantly admitted that "this proposal springs from and voices a desire deep down in the hearts of all earnest people". Having in true Anglican fashion denied that they were accepting the amendment either in the form in which it was offered or in the sense in which it was offered, they proceeded to make a slight change in its wording which gave it a still broader meaning than it had before. Dr. Brady and his friends readily accepted the change. The form in which it was presented to the House of Bishops, after receiving a vote of 40 ayes, 18 nays, with 6 divided, from the clergy; and 42 ayes, 15 nays, with 2 divided, from the laity, was:

. . . provided that nothing herein shall be construed as to forbid communicants of the Church to act as Lay Readers or to prevent the minister in charge of any Congregation of this Church, when authorized by his bishop, from permitting a sermon or address therein by any Christian person approved by the Bishop.

The amendment thus accepted by the lower house was presented to the bishops for concurrence on 16 October, 1907. It was referred, as was customary, to the committee on canons of the house of bishops. Here it was again subjected to alteration. The committee reported in two days. It recommended the following alterations:

1. The words "sermon or" to be omitted.

2. The word "man" to be substituted for "person."

3. After the word "person" the words "confessing the Nicene Creed" to be inserted.

4. The words, "but not as part of any regular service of the Church," to be inserted after "therein."

The amendment as submitted by the committee now read:

or to prevent the minister in charge of any congregation of this Church, when authorized by his Bishop, from permitting therein, but not as part of any regular service of the Church, an address by any Christian man confessing the Nicene Creed, who may be approved by the Bishop.

This amendment would have made the Open Pulpit practically impossible since very few ministers of other denominations would be likely to submit themselves to a theological test. Bishop Gailor, to whom I am endebted for these particulars, said that after a discussion it became evident that the House of Bishops would not adopt the report of the committee as submitted. Agreement was finally reached in both houses of the general convention. [In The Living Church of 4 April, 1908, Bishop Gailor of Tennessee, who sponsored the amendment to Canon 19 in the House of Bishops, referred to the introduction of the resolution of the lower house in these words:

"... on the twelfth day of the session in Richmond, the House of Bishops received from the House of Deputies a message containing an amendment to Canon 19. ... We were told that in the debate this amendment had been passed by an almost unanimous vote [this was hardly true, as -we have seen~\ in the House of Deputies, and that the other House was clamoring for it, &c. And yet the House of Bishops was opposed utterly to the canon in that form. It could not have passed. There were four definitely expressed objections to it, viz.:

(1) it put the initiative in the hands of the parish priest instead of the Bishop;

(2) it put a 'sermon' on the same level with an 'address' and seemed to ignore the dignity of the 'sermon' as a ministerial function; (3) it used the phrase 'Christian person' which might include Mrs. Eddy or Mrs. Nation; (4) and it did not emphasize the exceptional and extraordinary nature of the provision by making any limitation.

"These points were brought out in the discussion, and finally an amendment was adopted, framed to meet specifically these four objections: (1) The initiative was given to the bishop. He must give formal permission. No man can be invited without first consulting the Bishop. (2) The word 'sermon' was deliberately and emphatically omitted. (3) 'Christian person' was changed to 'Christian man.' (4) The unusual and extraordinary nature of the provision was declared by inserting 'special occasions.'

"In this final form the amendment was passed; and so far as I could see and hear, no bishop voted against it; because with the discussion clear in our minds, it never occurred to anybody that the objectionable features, which we thought had been eliminated from the amendment, would be afterwards charged against it."] The final form of the amendment was worded by Bishop Gailor. [In addition to the above-mentioned communication, and due to the continuance of the controversy, Bishop Gailor again discussed the history of the amendment in the pages of The Living Church, 11 December, 1909. I make use of both statements.] It was:

. . provided that nothing therein shall be so construed as to forbid communicants of the Church to act as Lay Readers or prevent the Bishop of the diocese or Missionary District from giving permission to Christian men, who are not ministers of this Church, to make addresses in the church on special occasions,

When the amended canon was put in use its purpose was at once made a matter of dispute. Some claimed that it was intended to open the pulpits; others, that it was intended to restrict the opening of the pulpits. We are not concerned with the construction that it was possible to place upon ambiguous language after the danger of this language was recognized. What we are concerned with is this: Did not the General Convention as a whole, bishops and deputies, know that an Open Pulpit was proposed, and that the amendment satisfied those who proposed it? Did not the bishops foresee what might happen; and were they not willing to run the risk of it happening, until they found themselves, too late, in face of a serious crisis? To answer these questions we must know what the various bishops and deputies thought about the Open Pulpit at the time.
Bishop Gailor, who sponsored the final amendment in the House of Bishops, tells us that he had no intention whatever of introducing an Open Pulpit, and he seems to think that the other bishops were in agreement with him. I have already shown this, in a footnote quoted from an article that he published in The Living Church of 4 April, 1908. In the same article he denies that the amendment was intended to recognize the validity of non-episcopal ordination, or that it makes any distinction between "priests" and "prophets." To do this in his opinion would be unconstitutional since the preface to the ordination service contains these words:

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 hath episcopal ordination.

[This often-quoted passage does not establish the necessity of episcopal ordination, as Anglo-Catholics suppose. It very clearly refers to legality and not to validity. Only episcopally ordained clergymen can be reckoned as "lawful" ministers in "this Church". It says nothing of ministers ordained in other Churches. Until the Oxford Movement it was an Anglican tradition that in other countries other methods of ordination were "lawful."]

He maintains that "making addresses on special occasions" does not mean "executing the functions of bishop, priest or deacon;" neither does it mean "officiating," for this is forbidden in the body of the canon itself, and it is moreover defined in another canon (no. XV). "Making an address is not officiating," says he: "everywhere and always a sermon has been understood to be an entirely different thing from an address. Preaching is defined in Canon XV as a 'ministerial function' ... It has been said that the phrase 'special occasions' may be liberally interpreted, so as to make addresses by unordained men a regular occurrence. ... I do not answer this, I respect the intelligence of my brethren." He goes on to argue that the permission given by the amendment had been misinterpreted and misused; and he suggests that the bishops might be forced to treat it as a dead letter because they were being harried and annoyed by requests for permissions. I ask my readers to compare what Bishop Gailor says with the tract of William McGarvey which the Bishop was really trying to answer. It will be found in the Appendix.

On the other hand Bishop John Hazen White, of Michigan City, in a letter to The Living Church at an earlier date, 14 March, 1908, certainly says something quite different. He judges the intention of the bishops not by what they ought to have thought in the Convention, but by what they actually did afterward in their own dioceses. He calls for a "clear and explicit pronouncement" from the House of Bishops as to the meaning of the amendment. He suggests that an appeal should be made to it with this end in view. Such an appeal was actually made by 1172 ministers before the next meeting of the general convention at Cincinnati, in 1910. Bishop White in his diocesan convention, held shortly after the Richmond convention, referred to the Open Pulpit movement, in its accepted sense, as "a step towards progressive apostacy." He deplored the whole matter and declared that he would never act under the canon as it stood.

It is interesting to hear what Dr. Cyrus Townsend Brady, the original proposer of the amendment, has to say on the subject. In a letter to The Living Church he says:

I felt that those who favored the opening of the pulpits were contending for a principle; that the only vital thing was to get the principle recognized; and that when the principle was recognized the details would sooner or later adapt themselves.

Still more important is the opinion of Mr. George Wharton Pepper, who made the speech in the lower house which swayed the vote. As will be seen in the Appendix, in the McGarvey tract, Mr. Pepper strongly urged the affirmative arguments by exalting the "work being done by our brethren of other names"--by whom, said he, "the Spirit of God is speaking to the world." So convinced was he of the truth of his opinion that in May, 1909, after many months of controversy, he wrote an article in The Churchman clearly expressing his convictions. I make the following significant quotation:

Finally, there is the important question involved in Canon XIX. As we advance in our manifestations of spiritual unity, we approach a point beyond which we cannot go without coming to organic unity. Between the two there is a borderland, in which cases may arise that afford room for honest differences of opinion. My own view of this subject may be illustrated by an extreme case. Suppose Livingston, or Chalmers, or Williams, or Paton were to come in the flesh with a message for us of the triumphs won by them for Christ. Is there a controlling reason why we should resist our impulse to let them speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a Christian church? I am not now speaking of the possibilities of abusing the liberty of prophesying. I am interested in the fundamental principle involved. You will perceive that it is not a question of ordination, because we permit laymen to speak in our churches, provided that they are of our own communion. To preach, therefore, is not a prerogative which laymen do not share. The real question is whether the fact of devotion to our Lord is not of such transcendent importance as to make it right for us within the limits of the Church to receive the message of those who speak in His name. I know that many sincere men are of opinion that an exchange of preachers is permissible only where organic unity exists. While I cannot follow their reasoning, I have respect for their convictions. Because I hold a different view I voted for Canon XIX. I scorn to explain my vote on any other grounds. I am not one of those who say that I did not understand what I was voting for. I have only two regrets in connection with the matter: one is that, in view of what has since been disclosed to be the state of mind of many in our Church [he is referring to the conversions to Rome and the general distress and confusion], this piece of legislation should have been precipitated before there was practical unanimity in the desire for that spiritual approach of which it was intended to be a single expression; the other is that it has seemed best to those opposed to the legislation to proceed by protest, petition and organization instead of by friendly approach for purposes of conference and communion.

Other comments are interesting. The Rev. Thomas Garland, afterward Bishop of Pennsylvania, admitted that the "speeches of those who favored the amendment and of those who opposed it showed that this intention [of opening the pulpits] was clearly understood by all." Bishop Doane, the High Church Bishop of Albany, states in explanation of his vote: the Canon "does mean that there are men not in our orders, not authorized in any technical sense to officiate in our churches, who have a message to deliver, a message from God which our people need to hear, and can now, without any apparent violation of our canon law." Bishop Doane in the same communication makes it clear that he was heart and soul with the policy of still further cooperation with the Protestant sects.

Quite in agreement was the opinion of the distinguished rector of St. James, Chicago, Dr. James S. Stone. In a letter to The Living Church, he maintained that no explanation of the bishops or others could possibly prevent the general public from being convinced that the pulpits now being opened were legally opened. He recommended that the amendment be rescinded as soon as possible, a hope that after many past years' experience is now seen to be an impossibility. The principle has been conceded in the minds of all Episcopalians. It has become part of the accepted policy of the Episcopal Church in America, and this policy has been generally extended throughout the Anglican communion. The Bishop of Colorado said:

When the house of deputies sent to the house of bishops last autumn a resolution permitting sermons to be preached in our churches by those who are not ordained amongst us for the purpose, I did what I could to oppose it. And when the amendment as finally passed came before us, I was too much overcome with grief and distraction to vote. I ought then and there solemnly to have protested; and I deeply repent of my lethargy. I was really too ill with apprehension and amazement to do anything. . . . the law, some say, has not been changed, but certainly if the practice of the Church has been changed, the law must have something to do with it. ... We have never recognized an order of prophets not subject to the apostolic authority; and prophets who have nothing to restrain them from pronouncing judgments against bishops, the priesthood and the sacramental system &c . . . are an anomaly so silly and so absurd as to make an angel weep. ... I greatly fear that, notwithstanding all explanations, this amendment is revolutionary in its character, certainly in the design of it, and I believe we should earnestly ask for its repeal.

The Bishop of West Virginia takes quite a different view. He said:

a sermon may be a kind of address and an address may be a kind of sermon ... it is to be remembered that the amendment of which we are speaking makes no change in the law of our Church: it was not intended to do so.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania, Dr. Whitaker, in answering the request of his clergy who begged him not to act under the amendment in his diocese, said that he could not find that there had been any infringement of the fundamental laws of the Church in the changed legislation, nor could he find that there had been any abuse of its privileges, although by the time he spoke ministers of every denomination had delivered what were certainly sermons, in the only meaning the word could have, in churches throughout the whole country. He therefore refused to accede to the request of the petitioners. Commenting on his refusal the Bishop of Western Michigan wrote a letter to The Living Church saying: "I read with regret the answer of the Bishop of Pennsylvania to the request of a large body of his clergy and laity. The request was reasonable and couched in courteous terms . . . the writer was born in the Church, and from his youth up has loved and served her with all the strength and wisdom God has vouchsafed to him; and now, when his days are few, he must go down to his grave heart-broken over this action of the last General Convention."

The Bishop of the "Moderate High Church" diocese of Connecticut seemed in his address to his diocesan convention to have favored the new legislation: "It is a time for manifestation of the apostolic spirit, a time for large-minded and strong-hearted counsels after the example of St. Paul."

From the Anglo-Catholic bishops little was heard. They kept discreet silence. Bishop Grafton seems to have been the only one who took public action. In an open letter published in the The Living Church, 10 January, 1910, when he had in view the coming general convention at Cincinnati, he begs the bishops to modify the amendment, but he has nothing to say about its significance except to point to the distress that it caused.

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