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Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008



Grace be with you, Brethren, and Peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.


THE Bishops have not hitherto thought it necessary to adopt the practice, contemplated or suggested by the Canons, of issuing annually a Pastoral Letter on the circumstances and condition of the Church. [* As the Canon contemplates that Pastoral Letters should, in certain cases, be read in Church, it may be well to state that it is not intended that the present Address should so be read.] At their recent Synod they have very anxiously considered, however, many symptoms of that temper of religious excitement which is one characteristic of the present age; and they think it well to meet such indications of this spirit, as have shown themselves within our own branch of the Catholic Church, with a few words of fatherly and affectionate counsel. If rightly directed, that temper may, by the Blessing of God, issue in the revival of a true spirit of zeal and self-denial, from which the most extensive benefit may be looked for; whereas if it lead to unauthorized and irregular movements, or expend itself in questions which, although of very [3/4] secondary moment, have always produced more angry feeling than has attended more important controversies, the result will be only an increase of disorder and division, to be deprecated by all who seek the prosperity of our Church, and from which the Truth itself must suffer.

It appears to the Bishops that the Fatherly counsel which they wish at this time to address to the Members of the Church, may be conveniently arranged under the heads of--The Court of Appeal--The Episcopal Authority--The Ritual of the Church.

I. The Court of Appeal.

Under this head the Bishops think it advisable to remind the Church of that provision of the Canons, which expressly forbids that any parties who may appeal to the Highest Tribunal of the Church shall be heard by Counsel. The Synod which enacted this provision never meant to imply, that in a strictly legal or forensic investigation, the advice of Counsel is not valuable, or even necessary; but the provision probably resulted from a persuasion, that the consideration of such questions as might come before the Bishops on appeal, should partake more of the character of a fatherly and equitable adjudication on the whole merits of the case, than the character of a forensic pleading and decision. It would seem that the Synod in question expressly guarded against the probability of the gradual assimilation of the Court of Appeal to Secular Courts, in respect of form and practice; and as long as the Canon remains unaltered, the Bishops consider themselves bound to act according to its spirit as well as letter. On this account, although they have permitted the presence of friends of both parties, on appeal questions, as witnesses, to see that all the proceedings are fair and equal, they have not allowed such friends to be the professional advisers of either party; and they have not [4/5] hitherto thought it advisable to constitute the Court, so as to be what is commonly called an open Court, while the law remains as it is. They may also state, that they believe the present character of the Court to be that which is most suitable to the present circumstances of the Church. It appears to them that experience in other instances has shewn that the delegation of the Bishop's judicial functions to a Canon Lawyer has failed to secure the confidence of the Church, and to promote its spiritual interest; and although some formal legal advice may become necessary in proportion as the affairs of the Church become more complicated and extensive, they would view with much fear any serious departure from the present system. They are well aware that differences of opinion must arise as to the decisions of any Court, and that no Court can be infallible; but as they are sure that the Church in general is persuaded of the earnest desire of their Spiritual Fathers to administer its laws equitably, as in prospect of the great account to which we all look forward, so they see no occasion to believe that any great change from the present system is generally desired. The Bishops have lamented the expensive preparation of cases in some recent instances. That preparation was the occasion, indeed, of producing some interesting documents; but this advantage did not, in the Bishops' opinion, compensate for the delay and expense--the complication of questions, and increased excitement which was thus occasioned. The Bishops are endeavouring to draw up some simple by-laws as to the practice of their Court, with a view to check these prolonged and expensive Preliminaries.

II. The Episcopal authority.

The Canons of this Church have not attempted (what no Canons could successfully effect) to define precisely the [5/6] limits of the Episcopal authority in each Diocese, or of the Episcopal Synod itself. The Episcopal authority resembles that of a parent over his children, and (as the Bishops believe) is like it, on the one hand, subject to limits of law, reason, and usage; and, on the other, such as it is impossible strictly to define. There will in each case be numberless instances in which the degree of deference that is rendered to the authority (parental or Episcopal) will be proportioned to the feelings of duty, reverence, and affection on the part of the children, rather than measured by a literal obligation. One of the least encouraging symptoms of the prevailing religious excitement already alluded to, is the disposition to forget this essentially Fatherly character of the Bishop's office, and to carry into the relation between the Bishop and his Clergy the cold and distrustful principles by which merely secular relations are regulated. In a recent Document (Appendix No. II) the Bishops have expressly maintained that the Dispensive Power is co-extensive with the Legislative--in other words, that they are themselves as much bound by the Synodical enactments of the Church as any other member. They lament that any other view of their authority should for a moment have been imputed to them. In every organised society, however, there must be a supreme authority for the interpretation of its laws; and the Bishops are unquestionably the supreme judges of the meaning of the Canons, subject only to a repudiation of their interpretations by the General Synod of the Church. Each Bishop in his own Diocese has a discretionary power (subject to appeal to the Episcopal College) to control and correct the discretionary power which every Clergyman possesses in his Congregation. And as each Bishop in his own Diocese is the Guardian of the Christian Doctrine and Discipline, so the Bishops collectively are the Guardians for the Church in [6/7] general of its Doctrine and Discipline. No Bishop in his Diocese can so stretch his authority as to dispense with Rubrics and Canons of the Church, although great weight is due (in the case of attempts to revive such Rubrics as may be disused) to his godly admonition and fatherly judgment. Nor can the Episcopal Synod either on the one hand supersede the Diocesan authority of each Bishop, nor on the other hand assume those legislative functions which, by the constitution of this Church, belong exclusively to the General Synod. The Bishops most earnestly call on all members of this Church, instead of giving way to jealousies as to designs and objects which do not exist, to unite with them in thankfulness to the Great Head of the Church for the possession of that Primitive and Scriptural system, and those many advantages for serving God in peace and freedom, "without fear before him all the days of our life," which they would vainly wish to recover, if through violent and ill-considered measures they injure what has been so marvellously preserved to us by the good Providence of God.

III. The Ritual of the Church.

The Note appended to the Finding of the Bishops in the case of Rev. C. Wagstaff v. Bishop of Aberdeen, (Appendix II.,) so sufficiently contains the opinion of the Bishops as to those Rubrical and Ritual questions which have often been a fruitful source of dissension in the Church, that the Bishops would not have thought it necessary to advert especially to this subject, had it not now become even too notorious that a Prayer-Book has been published with the sanction of the Bishop of St Andrews, purporting to be the Prayer-Book according to the use of the Church of Scotland, although it contains Rubrics which have been sanctioned neither by our General Synod, nor even by [7/8] the Episcopal College, and does not contain that office for the administration of the Holy Communion which is actually used, under the sanction of the Canons, by a large proportion of the Congregations of this Church. The fact that such a Prayer-Book had been prepared, and even printed and issued (without their knowledge or authority), became known to the Bishops immediately before their Synod in April at Aberdeen; and with this Book actually before them, the Bishops passed a Resolution, which they trusted would have checked its farther issue, and would have awakened those who had been engaged in so unwarranted an act to a sense of the most lamentable forgetfulness which they had shown of what was due to the constituted authorities of this Church.

The Bishops lament that, in defiance of this Resolution, the Book has been actually advertised and sold. It remains, therefore, for them only to declare solemnly, as the Synod of Bishops of this Church, that the Book, in its present form and character, has no Synodical or Canonical authority, and is not what it purports and pretends to be, the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Church of Scotland. So far as the faithful Members of this Church respect the counsel of their Spiritual Fathers, they will abstain from using or countenancing the said pretending Prayer-Book, the publication of which the Bishops most deeply lament as the needless introduction of a new element of Division and Disagreement. There never was a time, in the opinion of the Bishops, when there was more necessity, on the one hand, for a faithful adherence to essential principles, and, on the other, for mutual forbearance and charitable construction in all that is not essential: and they earnestly and affectionately exhort all those committed to their spiritual charge, abstaining as much as may be from needless contentions, and from that restless spirit which [8/9] seems to seek new matter for controversy in subjects which should rather suggest thoughts of unity and love, to "follow peace and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." They call on all Members of the Church to forbear from such questions as not only minister strife, but are likely to lead the mind rather to discussions of a ritual and ceremonial character than to the Eternal Realities which are the subject of Divine Revelation.

And now, Brethren, we commend you to God, and to the Word of his Grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway,
Clerk to the Episcopal Synod.
EDINBURGH, Sept. 5, 1850.


No. I.

ANSWER by the BISHOPS of the SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH, assembled in Synod at Dundee, on Friday, the 16th day of February 1849, to certain Memorials relative to the Twenty-first Canon of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Operations of the Church Building Fund.

THE Bishops have received four Memorials, which all refer, more or less directly, to a subject which can be approached only with feelings of the greatest solemnity. The Bishops are glad to acknowledge the dutiful language, in which they are severally drawn up; while, at the same time, they regret to see in them symptoms of an unhealthy excitement, in the minds of Members of the Church, on this very sacred and solemn subject.

In replying to the several Memorialists, the Bishops would first remind them of the spirit of wisdom and moderation in which the XXIst Canon was both conceived and expressed: and they would earnestly enjoin upon all who have addressed them at this time, the duty of praying and striving, that the same spirit may be vouchsafed to them; and that in all their efforts to further the interests of the Church, according to their own views of what is right and expedient, they may be influenced by feelings of love, charity, and tenderness towards those who differ from them.

[12] The Bishops would earnestly deprecate any attempt to alter the XXIst Canon of the Church. That Canon partakes of the nature of an agreement, between two parties who were respectively attached, by habit and sacred association, to different offices for the administration of the Holy Communion; and the Bishops are satisfied that any attempt to alter the terms of the agreement would be attended with a disastrous result.

While they, however, thus deprecate any attempt to alter the Canon referred to, the Bishops think it well to declare that, in considering the meaning of the Canon, they are bound to take into their view the past and present practice of the Church, as an indication of the sense in which this Canon is to be understood. That practice has been to abstain carefully from all attempts to enforce the use of either Office on a reluctant Congregation, whether old or new: and the Bishops declare that they would consider any attempt of this nature to be no less contrary to the spirit of the Canon, than it would be both unjust and impolitic.

Finally, the Bishops are bound to declare their disapproval of all attempts to promote the use of one office or the other by inducements of a pecuniary nature: and more especially would they view as deserving grave censure, any instances in which restrictions were laid on the free exercise of their own Episcopal authority and discretion, by bonds or engagements for the repayment of money advanced, in the event of either of the two offices being substituted for the other. They think it due to the Church Building Fund, to remind those who charge its supporters with improper interference, that it is a rule of that Society to entertain no application without the sanction of the Bishop: but at the same time they would suggest to the subscribers of the Church Building Fund, that by combined exertion in one direction they provoke a similar combination and similar efforts in another; and that such open array of one party against another, must lead to fatal consequences. The Bishops, however, are confident that they need only appeal to the feelings of devout attachment to the Church, and of dutiful respect for its Bishops, which exist among the several classes of the Memorialists, to induce them to discard whatever betokens party-spirit and undue excitement: and so to direct their efforts for the support and [12/13] extension of the Church, as to maintain inviolate the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

W. SKINNER, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Primus.
C. H. TERROT, Bishop of Edinburgh.
A. P. FORBES, Bishop of Brechin.
W. J. TROWER, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway.

The Synod was unanimous as to the whole of the first part of this document; but with respect to the concluding paragraph one of them declined to vote.



WHEREAS it is acknowledged by the Twentieth and Thirty-fourth of the Thirty-Nine Articles, that "not only the Church in general, but every particular or National Church, hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying;" the Episcopal Church in Scotland, availing herself of this inherent right, hath long adopted, and very generally used, a form for the celebration of the Holy Communion, known by the name of the Scotch Communion Office, which form hath justly been considered, and is hereby considered, as the authorised service of the Episcopal Church in the administration of that Sacrament. And as, in order to promote an union among all those who profess to be of the Episcopal persuasion in Scotland, permission was formerly granted by the Bishops to retain the use of the English Office in all congregations where the said Office had been previously in use, the same permission is now ratified and confirmed: And it is also enacted, that in the use of either the Scotch or English Office, no amalgamation, alteration, or interpolation whatever shall take place, nor shall any substitution of the one for the other be admitted, unless it be approved by the Bishop. From respect, however, for the authority which originally sanctioned the Scotch Liturgy, and for other sufficient reasons, it is [13/14] hereby enacted, that the Scotch Communion Office continue to be held of primary authority in this Church, and that it shall be used not only in all consecrations of Bishops, but also at the opening of all General Synods.

No. II.

NOTE appended to the FINDING of the BISHOPS on the APPEAL of the REV. C. WAGSTAFF V. THE BISHOP OF ABERDEEN; and here inserted, as bearing upon subjects of general interest to the CHURCH.

IT is unnecessary, and, in the circumstances, incompetent, for the College of Bishops to pronounce any judgment upon the several abstract points so largely discussed in their proceedings, and especially in the Reasons of Appeal, touching the powers of a Bishop or Ordinary over the Incumbents within his diocese.

The following Note is intended rather to prevent misconstruction as to the intent and effect of this judgment, than as a full solution of the various questions that have been raised and discussed in the Proceedings.

The power and authority of the Bishop over his Presbyters consists, not only in enforcing the observance of Canons and Rubrics, but also in superintending, and, if need be, in controlling their conduct in such ecclesiastical matters as Canons and Rubrics have either not touched at all, or have touched upon ambiguously and imperfectly. The Incumbent, in the ordinary performance of his sacred office, has to regulate many things which are not ruled by Canon or Rubric;--some things he may do, or omit to do, without in either case violating any law; and, with regard to some points, the how and the when are left in the first place to his discretion.

Thus, the music of the services, the style of the music, the words to be sung, and even the use of music at all, is not matter of Canonical or Rubrical injunction, except in regard to a very few particulars; and it is the duty and privilege of the Incumbent, in [14/15] the exercise of a sound and pious discretion, to fill up these details, which must be regulated according to the requirement of circumstances.

But it is not to be supposed, that, in the exercise of this discretionary power, the Incumbent is absolute, irresponsible, and independent of the control of his Ordinary. On the contrary, the extent of the Incumbent's privilege measures the extent of the Bishop's control. Where the law has not spoken, or has not spoken precisely, it is the function of the Incumbent to regulate in the first place: It is the function of the Ordinary to exercise a godly control over such regulations.

It cannot be maintained that the Bishop has such a dispensing power as to command the breach of any Canon. The dispensing power is held in the Canon Law to be co-extensive with the legislative power, and only to belong to inferior authorities in cases in which the legislative power has either expressly, or implicitly, or by sufferance allowed it to exist. Abstractedly speaking, a Bishop cannot dispense with the Canons of a Provincial Synod; and it is upon the authority of such a Synod that the Rubrics of the Common Prayer-Book rest in Scotland. Nor can a Bishop dispense with such Canons under any express or implied authority derived from them, since none such appears to be intended. When, therefore, any Incumbent takes upon him to correct irregularities in the performance of Divine Service, he cannot be lawfully prohibited by his Bishop. But when any practice inconsistent with the Rubrics, has been long prevalent in a Congregation, it is not right, summarily, and without due instruction of the Congregation, to alter or omit such practice. And the Bishop may very properly remonstrate against rash and hasty reforms, and it is the duty of the Incumbent to submit to such remonstrances, as being the godly admonitions of his Ordinary, at least so far as to abstain from acting on his own individual judgment, against the remonstrances of his Ordinary in so grave a matter as anything that affects the peace of a Congregation. The Bishop is, in the first instance, the proper judge as to the mode in which Canons should be interpreted; and, upon this head, there has ever been in the Ecclesiastical Law a large allowance for the effect of usage and established practice.

[16] The Bishops think it right to recal attention to the following passage in the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer, premising only that in Scotland the functions of the Archbishop are discharged by the Episcopal College. "Forasmuch as nothing can be so plainly set forth, but doubts may arise in the use and practice of the same; to appease all such diversity (if any arise), and for the resolution of all doubts concerning the manner how to understand, do, or execute the things contained in this Book, the parties that so doubt, or diversely take anything, shall always resort to the Bishop of the Diocese, who by his discretion shall take order for the quieting and appeasing of the same--so that the same order be not contrary to anything contained in this book. And if the Bishop of the Diocese be in doubt, then he may send for the resolution thereof to the Archbishop."

The Bishops wish all persons to take notice of the great care which is implied by this provision, that the peace of congregations be not disturbed by unseemly disputes and questions; and they think it is in accordance with the spirit of this passage to advise, and, so far as they have power, to enjoin, that, when a Bishop has remonstrated against any alteration in the usage of a Congregation, the Incumbent, instead of altering it on his own personal responsibility, shall consult the Episcopal Synod; and the Bishops would farther observe, that when an order is issued by the Bishop, the legality of which is doubted by the Incumbent, he may indeed, according to the strength of his convictions, disobey the order pending an Appeal to the Episcopal Synod, or he may obey it under protest. But it is to be observed, that in the former case, he undertakes the responsibility of disobeying, it may be, the lawful orders of his lawful Superior; and while, in the latter case, the proper sentence issued by the Court of Appeal might be merely the Confirmation of the Bishop's Order, in the former case it might necessarily extend to the suspension or deprivation of the Appellant.

The Bishops think it desirable to observe, that the history of the course by which the state of Rubrical observances in St Andrew's Chapel has been brought to its present state of conformity to the written documents of the Church, strongly illustrates the wisdom of attempting such improvements only in a gradual manner, and with due consideration to the How and the When. [16/17] All persons acknowledge (more or less) the importance of giving weight to these considerations, and the Bishops consider that the history referred to strongly shows the necessity of attending to them.

The Bishops cannot conclude this Note without expressing their earnest desire that Incumbents and Congregations will not attach to Rubrical questions the importance which is due to the gravest questions relating to our holy religion; and also that the attention of Congregations may be as little as possible divided by such unhappy contentions as have occurred in St Andrew's Chapel, from the great duty of preparing for eternity.

Bishop of Glasgow,
Clerk to the Episcopal Synod.

No. III.

DECLARATION by the BISHOPS of the CHURCH in SCOTLAND, occasioned by the recent Decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, given at their Synod, holden in Aberdeen, April 19, 1850.

To the Very Reverend the Deans, and the Reverend the Presbyters of the Scottish Episcopal Church: the Bishops, in Synod assembled, send greeting: Grace be with you, Brethren, and Peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

WHEREAS, certain Memorials and Addresses have been presented to us from various Diocesan Synods, expressing much uneasiness respecting the recent Decision by the Judicial Committee of Privy Council on the Appeal of the Rev. G. C. Gorham v. the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Exeter, and requesting our Paternal Advice for the allaying of doubts, hence arising, as to the true meaning of our Authoritative Formularies:--We, the Bishops of [17/18] the Church, deeply sympathizing with our Reverend Brethren the Presbyters, in their anxiety to maintain, unimpaired, the purity of "the Faith which was once delivered to the Saints,"--declare, that We do not consider the Sentence, in the case referred to, as having any authority to bind us, or to modify in any way the Doctrines which We, and the Episcopal Church in Scotland, hold, and have always taught, respecting the nature of Baptismal Grace. We have always held, as we were taught by those who preceded us in the Episcopate, that the Doctrine of the Church in Scotland is to be collected from the Scripture, the Creeds, the Articles, and other Formularies of the Church jointly, and not from the Articles or Formularies separately; and that, on the subject of Baptismal Grace, there is no discrepancy between the teaching of the Church in her XXVIIth Article, in the Baptismal Offices, and in the Catechism. We declare, then, that We teach, and always have taught, and We entreat, and, to the extent of our Episcopal Authority, do enjoin you, Brethren, severally to teach,--

1. In the words of our Blessed Saviour, that, "Except a man be born of Water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God;" or, as expressed in our Office for Holy Baptism, "None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerated and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost."

2. In the words of the Nicene Creed, with every branch of the Holy Church throughout all the world, which continues in "the One Faith," lives in "the One Hope," and acknowledges "the One Baptism," "We acknowledge One Baptism for the Remission of Sins."

3. In the words of the XXVIIth Article, that "Baptism is a Sign of Regeneration or New Birth, whereby, as by an Instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of Sin, and of our adoption to be the Sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed;" or, in the words of the Office for public Baptism of Infants, that every child baptized according to that Office is then and there "regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church."

4. With the "Catechism, or Instruction, to be learned of [18/19] every person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop," and which teaches him to say, "In my Baptism I was made a member of Christ, a Child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven."

5. That the doctrine of Baptismal Grace is so clearly expressed in the Offices and Formularies of the Church, as they now exist, and as they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in Scotland, that We see no need of more than the present Declaration, or of adding, by any Canonical enactment of Ours, to the definitions of that doctrine, as therein set forth.

All the preceding statements, Reverend Brethren, We teach, and, by the authority committed to us, We enjoin you to teach to the Flocks under your charge, in their plain, natural, and grammatical sense, without the intervention of any hypothesis--charitable or otherwise.

And now, Brethren, beseeching you to join with us in prayer, that the Church over which the Holy Ghost hath made Us overseers, may be kept in the unity of the Spirit, and in the Bond of Peace,--We commend you to God, and to the Word of His Grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Bishop of Glasgow,
Clerk to the Episcopal Synod.

This Paper was adopted unanimously, with the exception of Resolution V., in lieu of which the two undersigned Bishops adhere to the following Resolution:--

That the doctrine of Holy Baptism is so clearly expressed in our Formularies, that, although the fact of the late decision has given occasion for the present Declaration, We do not mean hereby to assert that the language in those documents is not precise and sufficient,

A. P. FORBES, Bishop of Brechin
W. J. TROWER, Bishop of Glasgow.

No. IV.

CIRCULAR, addressed to the Most Reverend the ARCHBISHOPS and the Right Reverend the BISHOPS of the ANGLICAN COMMUNION.


The Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, assembled in Synod, have ascertained that a Book, entitled "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, according to the use of the Church of Scotland," has been printed in Edinburgh, and is now sold and circulated in England.

They consider it to be their duty to inform your Lordship, and all other Prelates of the Anglican Communion, that the said Book is not the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Church in or of Scotland; that it possesses no Canonical authority; and that neither the College of Bishops nor the Church at large is answerable for a Book compiled and published without their approbation, consent, or knowledge.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's
Faithful brother and servant in Christ,
Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway,
Clerk to the Episcopal Synod of the Church in Scotland.
Edinburgh, Sept. 5, 1850,

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