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Memorial to the Standing Committees of the Several Dioceses of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, Touching Their Consent to the Consecration of the Rev. James DeKoven, D.D. as Bishop of Illinois.

Chicago: no publisher, [1875]




At the recent special convention of the church in this Diocese, convened for the election of a Bishop, a report was presented by a committee of thirteen, of which Rev. Dr. Cushman, President of the Standing Committee, was chairman, announcing the conclusion that "the course pursued by the lower House of the late General Convention, in the case of the Rev. Dr. Seymour," was "unprecedented, unjustifiable, illegal, and revolutionary," and denying the right of the Standing Committees of the different Dioceses to refuse their consent to the consecration of whatsoever person the Convention of Illinois might designate for the Bishopric.

Composed (with perhaps a single exception) of the friends of Rev. Dr. DeKoven, whom they claim to have been elected to the office in question, the committee appear to have labored under the apprehension that concurrence in his consecration might be difficult of attainment, and to have sought to foreclose dissent by a broad denial that the right to express it exists.

Members of the Diocesan Convention, and holding the [1/2] opinion that the alleged election of Dr. DeKoven was and is invalid, and that even were this not so, consent to his consecration should be withheld, we take issue on the threshold, with the position that the duty of the Standing Committees of our sister Dioceses is merely formal in the premises.

By the Canons of the General Convention, the consent of the major number of the Standing Committees of the Church in the different Dioceses is essential to the consecration, during the recess of the convention, of a Bishop elect, and the evidence of such consent is prescribed in the canon upon the subject, in the form of a certificate, whereby those who subscribe the same "fully-sensible how important it is that the sacred office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred," without partiality or affection, "do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that" the Bishop elect is not, so far as they "are informed, justly liable to evil report, either for error in religion or for viciousness of life;" and that they "do not know or believe there is any impediment, on account of which he ought not to be consecrated."

Thus the Standing Committees, through their clerical and lay members, and, necessarily, by a concurrence of independent and personal testimony that the Bishop elect is not justly liable to evil report, and that they believe there is no impediment to his consecration.

The solemn responsibility rests upon them of testifying according to their own information and belief, and this responsibility they cannot evade.

They are not commissioned to try any man for error in religion, or for viciousness of life; and their refusal of consent to a consecration is not a conviction of offence and an infliction of punishment. On the contrary, it amounts merely to the failure of the particular individual to reach a higher position in the Church than he [2/3] then occupies, because he cannot obtain the preponderance of testimony which is required as a condition precedent to his elevation.

It is obvious that, it is unnecessary that the nominee should have been, theretofore, judicially condemned for error in religion or viciousness of life, in order to justify the Standing Committees in refusing testimony they cannot in their consciences give. Such a condemnation would of itself preclude a valid consecration.

Nor does the testimony given or refused by the Standing Committees amount to a definition of what is or is not error in religion or viciousness of life.

So far as error in religion is concerned, so comprehensive is our Church, that the clergyman who believes in, teaches and practices eucharistic adoration, auricular confession and the like, may, notwithstanding his consecration as a Bishop fails for want of the proper testimonials, continue so to believe, teach and practice until deposed or suspended therefor by the proper tribunal.

But the Standing Committees cannot testify in favor of such a person, if they believe that that which he holds, teaches and practices, presents an impediment on account oi which he ought not to be consecrated to the sacred office of a Bishop, and be enabled to exert the awful authority which would, by consecration, be vested in him, to the inculcation and enforcement of erroneous doctrines. A Bishop is a bishop of the church, and no one can be made such without the consent of that entire body, in which he is to become an officer.

Objections ab inconvenienti to the result indicated may doubtless be suggested, but they are trivial in their character, are sufficiently susceptible of answer by similar considerations to the contrary, and are disposed of by the specific provisions of the law of the Church.

Extended argument the limits of this paper do not allow, but we trust we have said enough to entitle us to a [3/4] respectful hearing upon the particular subject matter, we intend briefly to discuss.

We are opposed to the consecration of Rev. Dr. De Koven, upon the grounds:

Firstly; That he is, in our judgment, justly liable to evil report for error in religion; that his soundness in the faith is at least so far doubtful as to form an impediment to his consecration within the meaning of the canons. And herein, also,

Secondly; That his consecration would, in our judgment, be disastrous to the Church.

Thirdly: That Dr. DeKoven was not elected a Bishop by the Convention of the Diocese of Illinois, agreeably to the rules fixed by the Convention of that Diocese.

I. As to want of soundness in the Faith.

Upon this point, we refer to the speeches of Dr. DeKoven in the sessions of the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874; to his "Catechism for Confirmation;" his elaborate Theological Defense, issued in 1874, and to his various widely published utterances in relation to the Lord's Supper, the Confessional, the Virgin Mary, etc.

We protest that the Adoration of Christ in the Elements, Auricular Confession, Prayers for the Dead, The Perpetual Virginity of the Mother of our Lord, and the Invocation of the Saints and Angels, are not doctrines of our Church, nor logically deducible from the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles, or either of them; yet this is what we understand to be claimed by the so-called Ritualists on the one hand, and by the followers of Dr. Cummins'on the other; and we find these things, although substantially all of them were reviewed and condemned by a unanimous Episcopate in the Pastoral of 1871, directly or indirectly defended and enforced in the various works and public expressions to which we have referred.

[5] In reference to Eucharistic Adoration in particular, some explanations have been vouchsafed, but they savor too much of fine-drawn metaphysical distinctions to be readily apprehended, and are clearly subject to the application of the language of the Pastoral, that "it is impossible for the common mind to draw the line between 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 act or posture, he places himself in antagonism to the teaching of God's Word, and puts in peril the souls of men."

Applicable also is the significant wording of the Pastoral of 1874; "Our clergy have large liberty; shall they abuse the gentleness of Christ, and the patience of their Mother, by pressing their own fancies and self-conceits to the utmost verge of canonical endurance? Shall they usurp the functions of the body that commissions them, and seek to make the Church more Evangelical or more Catholic than her own formularies and ritual affect to be?"

Even had the House of Bishops not so pointedly condemned the views in question, the result should be the same. The difference between what the Church affirmatively holds and what she permits on sufferance, is obvious, and because, in the spirit of a large toleration, the church has not sought the judicial condemnation of certain of its presbyters for the profession of doctrines and indulgence in practices, perilously near a violation of the law, if not quite such, this forms no reason for the approval of such doctrines and practices by the elevation of him who holds and enforces them, to the Episcopate.

It is said that the alleged Bishop-elect, in this instance, is a man of learning, ability and eloquence, and this, if conceded, furnishes the stronger reason for refusing to consent to his occupancy of an office where these gifts may be more effectually exercised to the undermining of the faith.

[6] Hundreds of our avowed antagonists are eminent in these particulars, yet all their powers are inadequate to the fracture of a single stone in the fabric which has withstood the assaults of centuries; but if we once admit into the sacred citadel and place upon its bulwarks, as a captain of the guards that defend them, one who has already fallen captive in his heart to the insidious approaches of the adversary, how long will it be before the enemy penetrates to the center of our defenses?

II. The effect of such consecration upon the Church.

We leave it to you, beloved brethren, to judge each for himself, as in the presence of Almighty God, how this will be elsewhere, but we cannot refrain from conveying to you our apprehensions as to the result in this Diocese.

Illinois is the battle-ground of the so-called "Reformed Episcopal" church. It has here a strength which we think it possesses in no other part of the country, and elements of growth which need only developement to render it formidable.

We believe that the pursuit of a proper course in the election of a Bishop would have and would still set bounds to the advance at our expense of this denomination, but if consent be given to the consecration in question, we fear it will receive and within no short period, alarming accessions.

The departure of Dr. Cummins has been hitherto earnestly and successfully denounced as unjustifiable in every aspect. If he and his followers had grievances calling for redress, full opportunity and scope existed within the Church for redress to be sought and accorded, but if a pronounced Ritualist is to be placed over us as Bishop, the argument of the supporters of Dr. Cummins will be given great advantage in the contention, for they have [6/7] always insisted, but without ability heretofore to present the question in provable shape, that our beloved Church had surrendered to pseudo-catholicity, and that no remedy existed save to retire from its communion.

To consecrate as Bishop of Illinois one of the leaders of the movement to obscure the plain teachings of the Church by importing into them the subtleties of mediaevalism, is to wrest our weapons from our hands and to drive conscientious laymen from the fold.

It is easy enough for crazy zealots to cry out, "let them go," but the Church can neither snare them on her own account nor on theirs. She rejoices in her tender love not simply over those who are lost and then found, but likewise over those whom, sorely tempted to leave her protecting guardianship, she is enabled, under the providence of God, to keep within her sheltering arms.

III. The invalidity of the alleged election.

We do not allude to the influences brought to bear to effect the assumed result we now deplore, nor to proceedings taking place in the convention, which, perhaps customary in political gatherings, are objectionable in the assemblages of the Church.

We assert that Dr. DeKoven was not duly elected, and, as the facts are admitted, perceive no difficulty in maintaining the proposition.

By Article 4 of the Constitution: "The Bishop or Bishops of every Diocese shall be chosen agreeably to such rules as shall be fixed by the Convention of that Diocese."

If the alleged choice has been reached in violation of the prescribed rules, consecration ought not to be consented to.

The Constitution of the Diocese of Illinois provides that the Convention shall be composed of "Clergy and [7/8] Laity," and that "the lay members shall consist of a delegate or delegates, not exceeding live, from each congregation in the Diocese in union with the Convention. They shall be chosen by the vestry or congregation; shall be communicants and stated worshipers in the parish they represent; and be entitled to vote for wardens and vestrymen of the same." (Constitution, Art. 5, Secs. I and III.)

The same instrument also provides that the election of a Bishop shall be made by a nomination by ballot by "the order of the Clergy," which, if approved by the "lay order," also by ballot, the nominee shall be declared "duly elected."

It is further provided, that "if two-thirds of all the clergy entitled to vote be present, and two-thirds of all the parishes entitled to vote be represented, then a majority of each order shall determine a choice. Should there not be two-thirds of the clergy and congregations present, then two-thirds of the votes of each order shall be necessary to determine a choice. (Constitution, Art. 15.)

It is, therefore, undeniable that the "lay order" could only be composed of delegates from congregations in union with the Convention, elected by the vestry or congregation, and as two-thirds of the clergy and congregations were present, a majority of each order was required by the Constitution to elect, and this must be a clear majority over and above negative and divided votes, which ballots, upon the uniform practice and construction of the Church, could not be rejected. They are votes cast, and not blank ballots, and the requisition that there must be a majority of each order when two-thirds of all the clergy are present and two-thirds of all the parishes are present or represented in the Convention, renders it plain that that majority must be secured even though a portion of both clergy and parishes present did not vote at all.

The same constitution contains provision for its own [8/9] alteration, whereby a proposition for amendment must be introduced in writing, and considered at an annual convention, and if approved, lie over to the next annual convention, and if again approved of in that convention by a majority of each order, the constitution would stand amended accordingly. (Constitution, Art. 19.)

Under the Diocesan Canons, in addition to the constitutional and canonical provisions, further regulation of legislative action might be had by rules of order, which having been once adopted, should continue in force until amended or repealed, in whole or in part. (Canons, Tit. I, Can. 5.)

At a previous convention, a rule of order had been adopted, stating that "an equal division of the lay delegates from a congregation shall neutralize the vote of such congregation."

This, of course, related to legislative action only. The repeal of a constitutional provision, or the alteration or amendment of a constitution, contrary to the terms provided for its alteration or amendment, by a "rule of order," is a novelty hardly to be contended for.

Dr. DeKoven received a majority of the clerical vote on three ballots. Three ballots of the "lay order" were also taken, and it is claimed that on the third ballot the laity gave the constitutional approval required.

The ballots as they were recorded in the journal of the convention as made up, read and approved on the morning of Friday, the third day of the session, were as follows:


"Whole number of votes cast 62
Divided and therefore neutralized 2
Necessary to a choice 31
Ayes 28
Noes 32


Whole number of votes cast 61
Divided and therefore neutralized 2
Necessary to a choice 30
Ayes 29
Noes 30


Whole number of votes cast 60
Divided and therefore neutralized 1
Necessary to a choice 30
Ayes 31
Noes 28"

It will be perceived that while the divided votes are correctly included in the "whole number of votes cast," they are improperly excluded from the number "necessary to a choice." That number upon the first ballot was 32, upon the second 31, and upon the third 31, that is to say, the number "necessary to a choice," was a majority of the whole number of votes cast. But, it will be said, Dr. DeKoven received upon the third ballot 31 votes, which is the number necessary to a choice, even although the necessary number was incorrectly placed at 30. And this is true if the 31 votes were valid and legal under the Constitution, which is not the case, two illegal affirmative votes being included therein, which, being rejected; the third ballot stood:

Whole number of votes cast 58
Necessary to a choice 30
Ayes 29
Noes 28
Divided 1

And so a majority of the Lay order refused to approve and the election failed.

The votes which we designate as illegal were thrown in the affirmative by certain officials styled "the Chancellor of the Diocese," and "the Chancellor of the [10/11] Cathedral," in spite of repeated and persistent challenge and objection.

As we have already seen that, by the Constitution of the Diocese the "Lay order" is composed of delegates from the congregations in union with the convention, elected by the vestry or congregation, it follows, as of course, that these officials had no right whatever to vote for a Bishop as members of the Lay order, to which they did not, and could not, ex officio, belong.

The Chancellor of the Diocese is a creation of one of the Diocesan Canons, which says that "he shall be ex officio entitled to a seat in the convention, with all the privileges of lay membership." (Canons, Tit. IV., Can. 5.)

The Chancellor of the Cathedral is neither of Diocesan constitutional, nor canonical creation; but it is prescribed by canon that he, "with two other laymen, shall be admitted, under the certificate of the Bishop, as its (the Cathedral's) lay delegates, with the usual privileges." (Canons. Tit. IV, Can. 4.)

We may remark in passing, that no such certificate was read to the convention, or could well have been granted, the Bishop having deceased, and no "other laymen" put in an appearance on this occasion.

The Chancellor of the Diocese and the Chancellor of the Cathedral assumed to, and did vote for a Bishop as ex officio entitled so to do. We deny that, even if these officials had the right, by the terms of the Constitution, to sit in convention, "with the privileges of lay membership," they could therefore vote for a Bishop in face of the express constitutional prescription as to those alone authorized to exercise the right of suffrage in such case; but be that as it may, it is beyond doubt or contradiction, that as the chancellors are not constitutional officers, and if allowed a seat at all, it is under the Canons only, and as they are not members of the "lay order," the composition of which is carefully prescribed by the Constitution [11/12] and to which, by the express terms of that instrument, these officers did not and could not belong, the reception of their votes on this occasion was wholly illegal and void.

That there may be no doubt entertained on these questions, we append the provisions of the Constitution, Canons, and rules referred to, being all that have any bearing on the subject.

Upon Wednesday, the first day of the session, a motion was made to strike from the list of the lay order entitled to vote the name of the Chancellor of the Diocese, which motion was laid upon the table, nor was the opportunity afterwards afforded, though repeatedly sought, to repeat that motion in its reference to the right to vote for Bishop as contradistinguished from the right to a seat, or to make such motion in relation to the Chancellor of the Cathedral, but on the calling of the roll of the lay order upon each of the three ballots, a challenge was interposed to the casting of his vote by each of these officers. This challenge was disallowed by the chair, but was repeated as to each of the individuals upon each of the ballots, and the rights of the opponents of Dr. DeKoven were thereby preserved.

Why these illegal votes were received and counted, we leave you to judge, as also of the moral weight a pretended election secured by such practices will have upon the church here and elsewhere. We had hoped the day was far distant when the pernicious maxim that "the end justifies the means," would find such countenance among us.

It has been suggested, but the suggestion seems so destitute of weight that we apologize for mentioning it, that the Convention was the judge of the qualification and election of its own members, and if it chose to let these gentlemen vote, they thereby became entitled to do so.

[13] That all legislative and deliberative bodies possess the ancient, natural, and undoubted privilege" of passing upon the election and qualification of their own members is indeed true, and it is in the exercise thereof that they may disregard any attempt to limit this privilege in violation of the fundamental law of their being; but we have never before heard that it was within their power to add to the number of their members as fixed by that fundamental law itself.

As well might State legislatures, by statutory enactment, give votes on the passage of laws to their employees, or the Senate of the United States admit associates from the territories.

What validity would legislative acts possess passed by the casting votes of persons so circumstanced?

Again, it has been said that the Diocesan testimonials will probably bear the names of a majority of both orders, and that this should be taken as validating the election.

But a Bishop can only be chosen in this Diocese by ballot and the signatures to testimonials, affixed from divers motives, and usually so far as coming from opponents of the candidate declared successful, yielded to promote harmony and without particular consideration of the momentous character of the evidence borne, cannot be resorted to as an equivalent for compliance with express constitutional provision.

Indeed, we are informed that to these testimonials the names of laymen have been affixed who were in a minority in the delegations from their respective parishes, and should not have assumed to represent them in such a matter.

We ask your candid consideration of the suggestions here made. The doubtful precedents of the past too often become the settled rules of the future, and we trust you will not permit an illegality so palpable, by being [13/14] passed over unnoticed, to be regarded as of little moment in the conduct of Episcopal elections.

Upon these several grounds, we confess our inability to comprehend how the necessary testimony can be given by the Standing Committees.

If alleged sympathy with Ritualism has heretofore prevented such testimony, we cannot perceive that avowed Ritualism can claim a more favorable result now.

If pastoral letters and a Canon passed with singular unanimity by the General convention, have been considered necessary to arrest the progress of ritualistic practices, we do not understand why such practices should be encouraged by the consent of the Church to the consecration of one of their foremost advocates.

To permit the Church in this Diocese to be placed in an attitude of open hostility to the body in its entirety, is to allow the persistent efforts of a confessedly few extremists to dominate the Church at large, and to compel it to purchase a transient peace at the price of its essential protestantism.

We have not thought it necessary to delay this presentation of our views in the desire of obtaining more signatures than are now appended.

The facts and circumstances of themselves speak in trumpet tones against the accomplishment of this taking off, and to their moral weight, additional names would add nothing.

The undersigned were favorable to the election of Dr. Leeds, but entirely willing to have accepted and supported any nominee of however exalted a standard of churchmanship, provided his soundness in the faith could not be successfully impugned. We were, and are, unwilling to consent to the consecration of any man respecting whom, upon this fundamental prerequisite, there is any substantial doubt, and have, therefore, no option except to remonstrate against the consummation of what we [14/15] conscientiously believe to be wrong in itself, and fatal to the peace and prosperity of the church.

We intend to furnish, at once, to the Standing Committee of this Diocese, and to all who may desire to combat its conclusions, copies of this paper, in order to afford ample opportunity for such reply as the friends of Dr. DeKoven may be able to make, or deem desirable in the premises.

And we remain, in the bonds of that common faith we are alike pledged to maintain to the best of our ability,

Sincerely yours,

February, 1875.

A. C. CALKINS. Trinity Parish, Chicago.

JOHN H. WILLIAMS. St. John's, Chicago.

WM. OWEN. Holy Communion, Chicago.


M. V. HOTCHKISS. Holy Communion, Maywood, Cook Co.

GEO. G. WILCOX. St. Mark's, Evanston, Cook Co.

GEORGE SHARP. Christ Church, East Harlem, Cook Co.

RUEL W. BRIDGE. St. Paul's, Hyde Park, Cook Co.

C.B. COBB, Epiphany, Chicago.

STEWART MARKS, Our Saviour, Chicago.

GEO. F. PECK, Grace, Galesburgh.

H. T. O'FARELL, St. Paul's, Kankakee.

SAMUEL WILKINSON, St. John's, Peoria.

M. GRISWOLD, St. Paul's, Peoria.

J. BENSON CLARK, Christ Church, Limestone.

Without expressing any opinion on any other question raised in this paper, and with great personal respect for Dr. DeKoven, I desire to express ray conviction that he was not legally elected.

Delegate from St. James' Parish, of Chicago.




Members of Convention.

§ I. The Convention shall be composed of Clergy and Laity.

§ III. The Lay members shall consist of a delegate or delegates, not exceeding five, from each congregation in the Diocese in union with this Convention. They shall be chosen by the Vestry or Congregation; shall be Communicants and Stated Worshippers in the Parish they represent; and be entitled to vote for Wardens and Vestrymen of the same: Provided, always, that no person under ecclesiastical censure or process, whether Clergyman or Layman, shall be allowed a seat in the Convention.


Election of a Bishop.

§ I. The election of a Bishop for this Diocese shall be made only in an Annual Convention, or in a Special Convention called for the purpose, at least sixty days before the time appointed; the object being stated by notice in writing, and sent by the Secretary of the Standing Committee to every clergyman and vestry of the Diocese.

§ II. The election shall be made in the following manner: The Order of the clergy shall nominate, by ballot, some fit and qualified clergyman for that office; [17/18] and if this nomination be approved by the lay Order, voting thereon by ballot he shall be declared duly elected. If two-thirds of all the clergy entitled to vote be present, and two-thirds of all the parishes entitled to vote, be represented, then a majority of each Order shall determine a choice. Should there not be two-thirds of the clergy and congregations present, then two-thirds of the votes of each Order shall be necessary to determine a choice: Provided, that in all cases of the election of a Bishop, no clergyman shall be entitled to vote (Art 5 notwithstanding), unless he shall have been for at least six months immediately preceding the election, personally and canonically resident in this Diocese, and during that time entitled to a seat in the convention of the same.


Alterations of this Constitution.

The mode of altering this Constitution shall be as follows: A proposition for amendment shall be introduced in writing and considered in the Annual Convention: and, if approved of, shall lie over to the next Annual Convention; and if again approved of in that Convention by a majority of the two Orders, voting separately, the change shall take place, and the Constitution so altered shall be valid and obligatory.



Of Regulation of Legislative Action.

In addition to the Constitutional and Canonical provisions, further regulation of legislative action shall be by Rules of Order, which, having been once adopted, shall [18/19] continue in force until the same, in whole or in part, may be amended or repealed as provided.


Of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral, with its Ministers and auxiliary agencies, is an essential organ of the Bishop for the reality of his office and the discharge of its duties, and is a representative institution of the Diocese; therefore the acting Clergy of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul shall be entitled, as settled Ministers, to a seat in the Convention, and the Chancellor of the Cathedral, with two other Laymen, shall be admitted, under the certificate of the Bishop, as its Lay delegates, with the usual privileges.


Of the Chancellor of the Diocese.

There shall be elected by the Convention an officer learned in the law, under the title of "Chancellor of the Diocese," whose duty it shall be to act as the legal counselor of the Bishop and of the Standing Committee in matters affecting, the interests of the Church, as his professional counsel may be asked or required. As Chancellor of the Diocese he shall be ex officio entitled to a seat in the Convention, with ail the privileges of Lay membership. The Chancellor of the Diocese shall hold his office for the term of three years, and in the event of a vacancy, the Annual Convention next ensuing shall elect a successor for the full term of three years.


3. Questions shall be decided but in this form, viz: "As many as are of the opinion that (as the case may be), say, Aye," and after the affirmative voice is expressed, "As many as are of the contrary opinion, say No." If the President doubt as to the result of the vote, as taken above, or a division be called for, the Convention shall divide; those in the affirmative shall first rise from their seats, and afterward those in the negative. No Congregation shall be entitled to be counted as more than one vote amongst the Laity. And an equal division of the Lay Delegates from a congregation shall neutralize the vote of such Congregation.

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