Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thank God for the Scots!

Time for a short history lesson on the Episcopal Church in the United States. While we twist ourselves into knots, and bang our heads into walls, in an effort to not thoroughly offend the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, we might take a moment to consider that our true friends in the beginning of our church were farther north in Scotland.
After the Revolutionary War, those of the Church of England in the newly-freed American colonies were left without a bishop. Clergy had had to go back to England to be ordained. Now with our new relationship of no relationship with the Crown, there was a bit of a problem: who would be the bishop? An assembly of clergy held in Connecticut chose Samuel Seabury to go back to England and seek to be consecrated. Seabury went, but was told that unless he would swear allegiance to the Crown, he could not be consecrated. Afterall, the Church of England was (and is) a state religion. No "God Save the King", no mitre for you!
In Scotland, the Episcopal Church had already fallen out of favor with the government. The Roman Catholic King James I had been deposed in 1688, and most of the Anglican clergy and bishops had sworn allegiance to him. They said they couldn't undo this oath during his lifetime and became known as the "non-Jurors". Because of all of this, the new monarchs and Parliament of Scotland declared the Presbyterian Church the new state religion in Scotland. This left the Episcopal Church of Scotland unrecognized by the Scottish government. As such, they didn't have to swear allegiance to the monarchy, and were free to consecrate Samuel Seabury a bishop.
On November 14, 1784 in Aberdeen, the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen, and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness laid hands on Seabury, and he returned to the colonies as our first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in this country.
Part of the deal was that Bishop Seabury had to agree to use the Scottish prayer at the consecration of the host, which apparently is a lot longer than the one they were using in England at the time. We made some slight modifications over time, but largely the prayer used today is modeled on the 1764 rite from the Scottish Prayer Book **.
So, today we celebrate our independence... again... from England, recognizing that our Episcopal flag carries the cross of St. Andrew in rememberance of our special relationship to the Scots. And Samuel Seabury's name lives on in the church with Seabury-Western, one of the eleven Episcopal seminaries.
( information gathered from satucket.com/lectionary )
** corrected from original post. Thanks, frdougal!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you wrote this as I took the time to read about Bishop Seabury myself. I wonder how many Episcopalians know the story? Thanks for writing it.

Peggins

frdougal said...

A small correction: the US liturgy is modelled on the Scottish 1764 rite, which is unlike 1549 in that it has a very long Eucharistic prayer incorporating a "double" epiclesis which the Scots adapted from the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy of St James. 1662 stopped smartly after the words of institution and went over to the adminstration of the bread and wine, where the Scottish rite hada more thorough preparation for receiving the sacrament. (guess who wrote his graduate dissertation on the development of Eucharistic liturgies?)

SCG said...

I stand corrected, frdougal! Will note the correction, and thank you. I always defer to those who know better. :)

Anonymous said...

frdougal so good you are around to keep us straight and narrow. keep writing

Peggins

frdougal said...

Now, no one has ever accused me of keeping them straight before:-)!

SCG said...

I s'pose there's always a first-time! :-)!

Graduate Dissertation said...

Very informative and helpful. I was searching for this information but there are very limited resources. Thank you for providing this information

Graduate Dissertation Examples