Project Canterbury







Extract from a Sermon by


Bishop of New York


Preached at



Monday, January 8, 1940


NOTHING is more important to the Church than sound and thorough education for her clergy, education which will prepare them for the work of a true pastoral ministry, education which is intellectually adequate, which gives its full place to reason and welcomes Truth from every source, education which is fully in touch with the movements of our own time, but which is all based on that foundation other than which no man can lay, the foundation of belief in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself as God Incarnate, the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity, the Christ of the Scriptures, the Christ of the Holy Catholic Church always and everywhere, the Christ Who, in St. Paul's magnificent and inspired words is "Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

And there is special need to-day of fuller understanding and clearer vision of the Divine truth and meaning of the Church as the New Testament declares this to us. St. Paul can find no words adequate, no terms strong enough, to express his vision of the wonder and meaning of the Church. His words burn and glow as we read them. He adds phrase to phrase, and figure to figure, as he strives to make clear to us the splendour of this truth and the revelation that it gives us of God's power and love and of Christ's continued Work and Presence among us in this world. This tremendous truth of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Church which is the Body of Christ and of which He is the Living Head, is held up before us and proclaimed from cover to cover in our Prayer Book but we need more fully to grasp it, and believe it, and realize its power and meaning.

There are those among us who sincerely believe that we can make progress towards Christian Unity by so mechanical and [2/3] artificial a measure as the proposed Concordat between the Episcopal Church and one of the several Presbyterian Churches in this land, a measure which is earnestly opposed by many in the Presbyterian Church who recognize its artificiality and which in our own Church cannot possibly be accepted by any who wholeheartedly believe the principles and teachings of the Church as set forth in our Prayer Book.

I yield to no one in respect and esteem for our brethren of the Presbyterian Ministry but if organic unity is to be achieved between the two Churches it will have to rest upon foundations very different from those suggested by the proposed Concordat and there are many in the Presbyterian Church who feel this as strongly as any of us.

This is not the occasion for a full discussion of that Proposal but as it is being forced upon the attention of the Church at this time by articles in the Church Papers, and by other means, I will refer to two or three points in connection with it.

1. The advocates of this Concordat tell us that the Prayer Book doctrine as to the Succession of the Ministry from Apostolic times has been rendered untenable and that this belief as to the Ministry can no longer be held by anyone who is familiar with the results of modern scholarship. That statement however is incorrect, as a roll call of the scholars in this field of Church History would at once show.

In the full light of what modern scholarship has to say on this subject, it remains incontrovertible that the Church which Christ Himself founded, and which His Apostles and disciples continued, brought forth equally the New Testament, the Creed, [3/4] and the Episcopate, all under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that all of these, the Episcopate, the Creed, and the Canon of Scripture, stand on the same basis and come to us with equal authority. What history shows is that Ministerial Authority in the Church passed from the Apostles, and possibly the Prophets whose status is uncertain, to the Episcopate and that the Episcopate was developed and established earlier than either the Canon of Scripture or the fully formulated Creed, so that, as Bishop Gore declared in one of his latest utterances, the threefold Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, "is in fact, by succession, the only representative of the original Apostolate."

With Dr. Streeter's strange conjectures before them, and having in view all that modem scholarship.. has said on the subject, the Committee of the last Lambeth Conference, in 1930, says in its report "Without entering into the discussion of theories which divide scholars we may affirm shortly that we see no. reason to doubt the statement made in the Preface to our Ordinal that from the Apostles' time there have, been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." It will hardly be said that the Report of the Lambeth Conference indicates lack of scholarship, or that it expresses the view of only a group or a party in the Church. "What we uphold," that Report says, "is the Episcopate maintained in successive generations by continuity of succession and consecration as it has been throughout the history of the Church from the earliest times." Even if we should accept, as we certainly cannot, all the surmises and conjectures of some modern scholars as to the Ministry in the Sub-Apostolic period, it would still remain indisputable, as the present Archbishop of York, whose scholarship, or whose breadth of mind, will scarcely be questioned, has reminded us, that for [4/5] at least thirteen hundred years from before the middle of the second century onward, no other but an Episcopally Ordained Ministry was known anywhere in the Church, and therefore that no other form of Christian Ministry is, or can be, historic in the sense that this is. It is agreed by all, I believe, that the Reunited Church must have "a Ministry acknowledged in every part of the Church as possessing the sanction of the whole Church" and as the Archbishop of York has said in recent time, in his Address to his Synod "only by the universal acceptance of the Historic Episcopate can there come to be a Ministry thus acknowledged by every part of the Church."

I repeat that the statement that the Prayer Book doctrine has been rendered untenable is incorrect and has no foundation. In the light of the facts of history, and of all that modern scholarship shows us, the Prayer Book doctrine as to the Ministry stands wholly unshaken.

2. But, changing their ground somewhat, the proponents of the Concordat tell us that while the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church ordain their Ministers in different ways, their belief as to the Ministry is the same. The proposed Concordat states explicitly that "both Churches believe in Episcopal Ordination." But that statement is irreconcilable with the facts of history. It is the simple fact as stated above that for more than thirteen hundred years up to the time of the Reformation no other form of Ordination was recognized in the Christian Church except Ordination by Bishops [not by Presbyters], that is to say Episcopal Ordination in the Prayer Book meaning of these words, and therefore, in the Archbishop of York's words, no other form [5/6] of Ministry is, or can be, historic in the same sense as the Threefold Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.

And that statement is equally irreconcilable with the official formularies and statements of the two Churches.

The Episcopal Church, in her Prayer Book, declares solemnly and officially "that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ's Church Bishops, Priests, and Deacons" and "therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church, 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 ... bath had Episcopal Consecration or ordination."

But the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in its official statement sent to the World Conference on Faith and order and published in 1934, says "It is difficult to see how the Presbyterian Church can enter into union with Churches which regard as essential the acceptance of the Episcopacy as being historic in the sense that it can be traced directly back to the Apostles and as such is a sine qua non of the Church of Jesus Christ, or is even necessary for its bene esse."

In the light of these official words from the Presbyterian Church, the statement in the Concordat that "both Churches believe in Episcopal ordination," thus implying that the two Churches hold the same belief as to the Ministry, is to say the least an astounding one, and it is still more so in the light of the plain teaching of our Prayer Book as to "the nice and Work of a Priest in the Church of God."

[7] 3. If it were true, as this proposed Concordat declares, that "both Churches believe in Episcopal Ordination" we might well ask why was this fact not brought to light long ago.

During all its life and history in this land from the beginning, the Episcopal Church has held sacred and inviolable the principle received from the Mother Church of England, and from the Catholic Church throughout the world, that Episcopal Ordination is necessary for the office of the Priesthood. Our forefathers in this Church faced almost overwhelming difficulties in maintaining this faith, they endured unmeasured trials and made unceasing efforts, until at last they secured the Episcopate from the Church in Scotland and from our Mother Church of England. Are we now to repudiate our whole history and to become a different Church from that which we have always been? Are we now to take the position that the Consecration of Bishop Seabury at Aberdeen and of Bishop White and Bishop Provost at Lambeth was a matter of little moment and that the Episcopate which was secured for us through such effort and sacrifice is not essential to the life of the Church?

Yet this is the position that we are asked to take, for this Concordat proposes that the Sacraments shall now be administered in this Church by Ministers who have not received Episcopal Ordination and who are to be "authorized" by a ceremony which it is definitely stated is not to be a reordination.

I am confident that our General Convention will not adopt this Proposal but I am unable to understand how anyone, especially in these times in which we are living, can wish to force upon the Church a measure so divisive and disruptive, a measure which from any standpoint is so highly experimental and of such [7/8] doubtful effect, a measure which would unquestionably separate us from our fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion all over the world, a measure which is even now producing dissension and discord where before there was peace in our own household, a measure which if it were forced through would create a crisis in the Episcopal Church such as she has never known in her history.

Brethren We all know what the situation now is in this world. We know that the Christian Religion and all that it stands for is being challenged and threatened as it has not been in centuries. Men are looking to the Church with new earnestness. Many of them are asking, Why does the Christian Church not speak with greater power at a time like this, why is the Christian Church all over the world not a greater force for justice and peace among the Nations and for right doing between man and man? There is only one answer to that question. It is because the Church everywhere, our own Church included, has not believed enough in the greatness, and the truth, and the power of Jesus Christ at the Right Hand of God. Here is the work which our Seminaries must do for us, they must give the Church a Ministry not half converted, or merely academically interested, or only half believing, but on fire with faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and in His Church as the New Testament gives it to us. It is this faith in Christ and in His Church which alone will give us back the Missionary spirit and will fill the Church with evangelistic power and zeal.

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