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Report on Ritualism by the Committee of Five Bishops.

No place: no publisher, no date, c. 1868.


THE Committee of Five Bishops appointed by the House of Bishops, at the General Convention of 1868, "To consider whether any additional provision for uniformity, by canon or otherwise, is practicable and expedient, and to report to the next General Convention," having held sundry meetings at several different places, at each of which all the members of the Committee were present through the entire session; and having, as they believe, given to the subject-matter entrusted to them, that careful consideration which its importance merits, respectfully ask leave to report.

The Resolution under which the Committee was appointed raises several questions for examination and answer. Is any legislation touching the performance of Divine Service and "the administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church," practicable? If practicable, is it, at this time, expedient? If practicable and expedient, shall it take the shape of a canon or canons; or shall it be otherwise provided for? And, finally, what shall the actual details of legislation be? Assuredly, these are questions that touch the Church, and its ministers and members, in many and very vital points, and involve many delicate as well as precious relations.

In considering these questions, the Committee have endeavored never to forget that substantial uniformity is entirely compatible with very considerable individual liberty; that non-essentials should never be unduly magnified, and, far less, raised to an equality with [1/2] essentials, that many troublesome and objectionable things are ephemeral in their nature, and "perish in the using"; and that under any circumstances, hasty legislation is ever to be avoided. Nor have they omitted to keep in mind the wise words of the XXXIVth Article of Religion:

"It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word."

"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."

While, however, the Committee have kept these considerations in view, it has been, and is, their unanimous conviction that some action of the General Convention, in regard to the important matters named in the resolution appointing them, is very desirable, if not, indeed, absolutely demanded. Among many reasons for this conviction that present themselves, they venture to ask attention to the three following:

First. It is obvious to remark that there are among us great and growing "diversities of use," in the performance of Divine Service and the Offices of the Church. Unless something is done, and done soon, in the interests of uniformity, these diversities bid fair to equal, if they do not exceed, those which, at the period of the Anglican Reformation, were regarded as an evil to be removed; and which led to the decision that "the whole realm" should have "but one use." They occasion, moreover, even now, confusion, trouble, and perplexity, among our people; and these evils must increase as their causes are multiplied.

Secondly. It is believed that various services over and above those provided in the Book of Common Prayer, or set forth in accordance with the provisions of Title I, Canon 13, § XIV., of the Digest, and not coming under the denomination of Sunday or other [2/3] school services, are publicly used in certain churches How fat liberty in this regard is to be allowed, or in what respects it is to be restrained, the Committee do not undertake to say. It is obvious, however, that any such services are sources of disorder and confusion, in proportion as they are framed on principles and embody acts, words, or forms--come these from what outside quarter they may--that are not in accord with the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of our own Church, or are foreign to the genius and spirit of our services.

Thirdly. The Committee have reason to believe, that in some instances the Services of the Prayer Book are unlawfully altered or mutilated, and in others are so performed as to make it difficult, to say the least, to distinguish them, except in the language employed, from those of the Church of Rome. Against such wrongs our people have a right to demand protection; and whether they demand it or not, it would seem to be a plain and bounden duty to provide for it.

For these reasons, besides others which it is not necessary to rehearse, the Committee unanimously recommend action by the present General Convention; and, after maturely weighing the different modes in which this recommendation may be carried out, they further unanimously recommend, that any action which the Convention may take shall be in the form of a canon or canons.

In proceeding to state the various details which they believe ought to be made the subjects of such action as has been proposed, the Committee desire to say, that while on the great majority of the points presented there has been entire unanimity of opinion, some things are, nevertheless, proposed, and others are omitted, which, had each member's individual wish regulated the final result, would have been differently disposed of. They have strongly felt that uniformity necessarily involves the giving up of some things, and the acceptance of other things which individuals may desire, on the one hand, to retain, or, on the other, to remove.

The Committee report the following as the matters upon which they respectfully recommend legislation:

[4] The recommend that certain acts in the administration of the Holy Communion, and on other occasions of public worship, hereinafter enumerated, be prohibited by canon; to wit:

(1) The use of Incense

(2) Placing or retaining a Crucifix in any part of the Church

(3) Carrying a Cross in procession in the Church

(4) The use of Lights on or about the Holy Table, except when necessary

(5) The Elevation of the Elements in the Holy Communion in such manner as to expose them to the view of the people as objects toward which adoration is to be made, in or after the prayer of Consecration, or in the act of administering them, or in conveying them to or from the communicants

(6.) The mixing of water with the wine as part of the service, or in presence of the congregation.

(7.) The washing of the Priest's hands, or the ablution of the vessels, in the presence of the congregation.

(8.) Bowings, crossings, genuflections, prostrations, reverences, bowing down upon or kissing the Holy Table, and kneeling, except as allowed, provided for, or directed, by rubric or canon; it being provided that reverence at the mention of the name of the Lord Jesus is not intended to be disallowed; and it being further provided that private personal devotion, before or after official ministration, is not to be understood to include or justify any of the acts prohibited.

(9.) The celebration or receiving of the Holy Communion by any Bishop or Priest when no person receives with him.

(10.) Employing or permitting any person or persons not in Holy Orders to assist the Minister in any part of the Order for the administration of the Holy Communion.

[5] (11.) Using, at any administration of the Holy Communion, any Prayers, Collects, Gospels, or Epistles other than those provided in the Book of Common Prayer, or under § XIV. of Canon 13 of Title I. of the Digest.

They further recommend here,

(1.) That no Rector of a Parish or other Minister shall be allowed to introduce the Choral Service without the consenting vote of the Vestry, or contrary to the prohibition of the Bishop.

(2.) That no Surpliced Choir shall be employed except under the same limitations; and when such Choirs are employed, the only addition to their ordinary attire shall be a surplice reaching to the ankles.

(a.) That no Chancel shall be allowed to be so arranged as to prevent the Minister from officiating at the right end of the Holy Table. It is to be noted that a Credence Table is lawful.


The Committee further recommend that canonical provision be made touching the dress appropriate to clergymen ministering in the congregation; and that the only vestments declared to be appropriate to clergymen so ministering, be:

(1.) For Bishops, the present Episcopal Robes.

(2.) For all Ministers, a white Surplice; a black or white Stole; a black Cassock not reaching below the ankles; a black Gown; and Bands.

They also recommend that provision be made:

(1.) That on occasions of services, where expediency or necessity of health may require it, the University Cap may be used.

(2.) That candidates for Orders, who are licensed to act as Lay Readers, may use the academical black Gown.

[6] III.

In addition to the canonical provisions now recommended, and in consideration of the fact that "nothing can be so plainly set forth but doubts may arise in the use and practice of the same," the Committee further unanimously recommend that some action be taken to carry out, in such manner as may secure its observance, the principle declared in the Second Resolution sent to this House by the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, at the General Convention of 1868, to wit: That "In all matters doubtful, reference shall be made to the Ordinary, and no changes shall be made against the godly counsel and judgment of the Bishop."

In conclusion, the Committee recommend the adoption of the following Resolutions:

Resolved, That this Report be communicated to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies.

Resolved, The House of Clerical and Lay Deputies concurring, that a Joint Committee, consisting of three Bishops, three Presbyters, and three Laymen, be appointed, to whom the subject matter of this Report shall be referred, with directions to report to this Convention, at as early a day as practicable, such Canons as they may deem necessary in the premises.

All which is respectfully submitted.


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