by Kelvin 14 November, 2014 –
Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, something special happened in Aberdeen.
Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, Anglicanism in the USA was set ablaze with the consecration of the Rt Rev Samuel Seabury, their first bishop.
The fact that the consecration took place in Aberdeen is one of those quirks of church history which has shaped, and continues to shape the church of today.
The short version of the story is that the American church needed to have a bishop and elected one of their own and sent him across the Atlantic to be consecrated by the Church of England. The Church of England in its turn was having none of it, frightened off appearing to offer support to revolutionary tendencies in the United States. Frightened of promoting revolution.
Seabury had come a long way to be made a bishop and needed to look elsewhere. He had previously studied medicine in Edinburgh and perhaps we can presume that his thoughts turned back to Scotland because he had previously been north of the border. He made the the trip up to Aberdeen where he was consecrated by Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen (who was the Primus), along with two other Scottish bishops, Arthur Petrie (who had connections with my own congregation here in Glasgow) and John Skinner.
The deal was that they would consecrate Seabury so long as he took back the Scottish Liturgy to the American church and work for it to be adopted on the other side of the Atlantic. When you are in the know about matters liturgical, you can still see the similarities between the liturgies from our two churches.
The particular thing that the Scottish Rite had was the Epiclesis a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit over the communion elements. The Church of England didn’t have it though they’ve come close to adopting it since. Here in Scotland, that prayer is part of who we are and was part of our gift to America. Any true Episcopalian on either side of the Atlantic knows that the Scottish Episcopalians didn’t just hold up their hands to consecrate a bishop, but blessed the American church with something holy too.
And today, on that anniversary, I want to celebrate the US Based Episcopal Church. I wish they hadn’t tried to change their name to The Episcopal Church a few years ago, as it is downright confusing, but they’ve done so much good that I try to forget about that as much as I can.
In the various disputes within the Anglican Communion in modern times, we must never forget that the Scottish Episcopal Church was the Church that liked to say, “Yes”.
May it ever be so.
The US church received the Epiclesis from Scotland.
They’ve been using it well ever since.
God Bless America and the US-based Episcopal Church today!
Kelvin | November 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Thanks to Fr. Kelvin at ‘Thurible.net‘ for this reminder of the origins of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), when The Revd. Samuel Seabury – elected as their first bishop by clergy of the Church of England in the United States – was consecrated as such by bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, including ‘Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen (who was the Primus), along with two other Scottish bishops, Arthur Petrie (who – as evidenced by Fr. Kelvin, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, “had connections with my own congregation here in Glasgow”) – and John Skinner.
The fact that the episcopal ordination took place in Scotland – rather than in the mother Church of England – was due to the reluctance of the hierarchy of the Church of England at that time to do anything about the establishment of an independent branch of the Church in North America. This meant that Seabury had to look elsewhere for his episcopal ordination. And where better that in the Scottish Episcopal Church – independent of the Church of England and yet sharing the provenance of the historic episcopate with that Church?
This spirit of independence from the Church of England – and yet its acceptance of the commonality of the world-wide Anglican Communion in fellowship with the historic See of Canterbury – the Episcopal Church of the United States still owes its episcopal characteristics and origins to the Episcopal Church of Scotland -is a point worth remembering in the current disputes within the ACC.
And what about the fact that the Scottish Episcopal Church persuaded TEC to adopt the ‘epiclesis’ – the prayer of invocation of the Holy Spirit over the elements at the Eucharist – that was evidently missing in the English Prayer Book rite at the time? (We, in New Zealand, have the ‘epiclesis’!)
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand