Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Excellent Review of An Outstanding Book (Except for the Epilogue)

Allen C. Guelzo's For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians is a great history of the part of Christ's Kingdom into which I was ordained and where I have served as a cleric for more than a decade. This review provides excellent insight into the book and I agree with Fr. Campbell's conclusions -- it's well-worth a read but the epilogue was written with a definite agenda and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

This review, which originally appeared on the site Contra Mundum -- now, sadly, defunct -- is so accurate that I've printed out a copy of it and stuffed it into my own copy of the book so that when loaning it (I need to get my copy back!) I can urge people to read it before reading Guelzo.

I regret the formatting and the underscoring, which I was not able to correct.

-- DC+

P.S. This was written in 2002 and is, therefore, a bit dated. Dr. Guelzo is now at Gettysburg College and the Refrormed Episcopal Church is no longer a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Sorted Out

by John M. Campbell

For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed
Episcopalians, by The Rev. Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D. (The Pennsylvania
State University Press, University Park, PA 1994 404 pages)


If you'd like to understand the Anglican cedar in America, as well as
the Reformed Episcopal twig of it, read this brilliantly researched,
engagingly written book by the Rev. Dr. Alan Carl Guelzo. Dr. Guelzo
is the former academic dean of Reformed Episcopal Seminary in
Philadelphia, where he taught apologetics and church history. While
there he was a voice for the "New School" RE's, if you will, who seek
to re-establish the evangelical, reformed, Anglican identity the REC
was founded to perpetuate. This book recounts that original vision,
what made it necessary, our forgetfulness, and our remembrance.

A Movable Reformation

The REC was begun with a dual vision: to reestablish and protect the
religion of the English Reformation on these shores, and to make it a
grand, umbrageous haven for evangelicals of every stripe, who could
retire to the safety of doctrinal conservatism behind discreet
episcopal protection. Guelzo derived the subtitle of the book, The
Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians, from modernist Lutheran gadfly
Martin Marty's observation that ecumenical outcomes are often
unforeseen, even opposed to the goals and ideals of the participants,
Hence irony, a fitter word to describe RE history better than which I
cannot conceive.

"On the surface, the Reformed Episcopal schism of 1873 was the
culmination of an internecine battle between two factions within the
Protestant Episcopal Church - the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics
- each wanting desperately to direct her future. Beneath that
surface... however, the differences that polarized these factions
represented deep-seated tensions and anxieties that permeated American
culture. The Reformed Episcopalians were at the center of a fierce
struggle between the rationalist impulse of the Evangelical mind in
the nineteenth century... and the Gothic Romanticism of the
Anglo-Catholics, between classical Protestant dogma and gaudy Catholic
ritual, and between the symbols of Whig republicanism and the
ambiguous antimodernism of an industrial consumer culture (p. 3)."

The making of sausage comes to mind. Guelzo deftly points out that
those in the modern day Episcopal Church in the USA who view the REC
as a schism are remiss, due to the simple fact that ECUSA stands for
nothing, therefor it would be hard to determine just exactly what we
are in schism with.

It is sometimes hard to tell why a man might choose one tradition over
another. From the beginning of the English Reformation, which was
often as much a political settlement as a religious one, there were
those within the Church of England who were as different as night and
day, and yet were still considered good C of E men. There were

"High Churchman, who rejoiced in their Englishness and in all the
trappings of episcopacy, liturgy, and ceremony that went with being
part of the Church of England. At the other end were those whom we
even more often call Puritans, who viewed their church as parochial,
suspecting that all the elaborate justifications of episcopacy they
had been raised on were little more than strained efforts to make a
religious virtue out of a political necessity (p. 5)."

Amer-Anglican Formation

Guelzo has some remarkable insights into the peculiarly American brand
of Anglicanism that developed here. He demonstrates that political
settlements were not something endemic only to the Church of England
in England. The development of the theory and practice of American
episcopacy was a synthesis of Whig conservatism and Jacksonian
republicanism, and this is perhaps the most valuable insight he offers
in examining the background and development of the Protestant
Episcopal Church (pages 46-49), describing the rationalist/romantic
tension cited above.

He quotes another historian about how it was - and remains - a mistake
to confuse American episcopacy with the Church of England brand (page
48), and demonstrates how the centralizing tendencies in the northern
states prior to Mr. Lincoln's War can be attributed to the rejection
of Baptist localism, tempered by revulsion for "Episcopal
monarchicalism." There were enough Episcopalians in government in the
North, notables like Salmon Chase, to introduce a thesis of reciprocal
influence between church and civil government in the northern states,
but he doesn't mention that there were a few notable Episcopalians in
the South, like Robert E. Lee, confirmed in 1856, and Jefferson Davis,
confirmed in 1864, who made mature decisions to embrace
Episcopalianism, and yet went to their graves convinced of the
rightness of localism, otherwise known as States' Rights. I would have
liked to have seen this given some consideration, but I heard Guelzo
refer to these gentlemen as "traitors" more than once in his history
class, so I need not guess where that would have gone.

Guelzo takes us on a tour of the consecrations of America's first
Episcopal bishops, which is also the story of how and why "romanizing
germs" found their way into the Protestant Episcopal Church's Book of
Common Prayer, which is more "Catholic" than the English book of 1662,
which is still in use in England, and is basically the book of the REC

It was impossible for Samuel Seabury, a former chaplain in
Washington's army, to swear allegiance to George III (titular head of
the Church of England) in order to be consecrated bishop, and hope
ever to re-enter Congregational Connecticut. So he went from the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who demanded such an oath, to the
"non-juring" bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church for his
consecration to the episcopacy. Non-juring (non-swearing) Scottish
bishops who, having taken the Oath of Supremacy to the deposed papist
King James II, refused to pledge allegiance to William of Orange so
long as James was alive. From Guelzo, with characteristic wit:

"In 1689, William III, to please his Presbyterian subjects in
Scotland, as well as to stick another thorn into English High Church
flesh, disestablished the Scottish Episcopal Church and replaced it
with the Presbyterian Kirk. The Scottish Episcopalians had developed
too high a notion of episcopal grandeur to accept being shut down by a
mere king, and so they clung to a forlorn existence of their own as
the so-called Non-jurors. Disowned by the Anglican establishment in
England, they had nevertheless maintained a clear line of succession
in their bishops, and when in 1784 the Scottish primus, Robert
Kilgore, learned of the plight of Samuel Seabury, Kilgore concluded
that the opportunity to strike a bargain was at hand," page 29.

The bargain was bought, which was this: "We'll consecrate you bishop
if you make the American prayer book a little more Catholic than the
1662 book. We'd like the Oblation and Invocation we use included after
the consecration of the Eucharist if you please, as well as a
reference to and prayer for the church triumphant. Then, you can be

Seabury continued the non-jurors' line of succession in the Protestant
Episcopal Church, and the non-jurors themselves were reorganized by
the Church of England and exist today as the Scottish Episcopal Church
(and are ordaining women by the way). Ironically, William White, the
low church rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, occasional pastor to
George Washington, was consecrated February 4, 1787 by the Archbishop
of Canturbury himself after the Supremacy Oath was abolished for
foreign Church of England jurisdictions. White was very Low-Church,
suspected of mild Arianism and universalism, but by the turn of the
century these were venial sins in Philadelphia, because "Philadelphia
Episcopalianism had a distinct flavor of genteel latitudinarianism to
it... far from the polemical battlefields of new England, (p.25)."

White's Philadelphia was a cosmopolitan and tolerant place. No one was
prepared to fight for his low-churchmanship, since there was less to
define it by and hence, less to fight for. But the
Low-Church/High-Church eggs were now a-hatching, a development that
would define Episcopalian churchmanship until the middle of the
nineteenth-century in the United States when a third ingredient was
added. White had one-upped Seabury, but he too had made a concession
for his consecration; he retained the Nicene Creed and the clause, "He
descended into hell," in his American proposed prayer book, which he
had done away with in his own revision: another political settlement
for the church to live with. But "[b]y all the standards Seabury held
dear, White's consecration was incontestably valid, whereas Seabury's
was at best irregular and at worst fraudulent (p. 31)."

Ironic, that the Low-Churchmen would provide the church with what
would appear to be the more valid orders vis-a-vis apostolic
succession, for those who care about such things. In many instances,
White's Reformed Episcopal heirs could have cared less. What the
evangelicals came to be was, as Guelzo put it in an article in The
Christian Challenge some years ago, "one big, black-gown parish," with
central pulpits and honest wooden communion tables, with church
interiors largely indistinguishable from Presbyterians', and a fervor
for evangelism and Scripture unrivaled on this continent.

Rome via Oxford

While all of this was playing out in America, some Church of England
priests and scholars were blaming England's social problems on the
Reformation, and were urging a return to pre-Reformation Christianity
where everyone behaved himself. Their tracts began to emanate from
Oxford University (hence, the "Oxford" or "Tractarian Movement"),
advocating a return to primitive Christianity and the abandonment of
Reformation principles, practices and doctrines. The problem with this
approach to social reform was, among other things, they confused the
pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church with primitive Christianity. But
it wasn't even pre-Reformation Christianity to which they were casting
a yearning eye (except for reading the Ante-Nicene Fathers), but the
Church of Rome of their day. The excesses of the Rome of the
mid-1800's dwarfed anything Martin Luther could have nightmared, so
this movement was not exactly embraced in evangelical circles on these
shores when it began to migrate hence. (Believe me, Guelzo makes all
this read like cloak and dagger stuff, and holds the reader's interest
while less gifted communicators would have had us turning off the bed
stand light by now.)


In reaction to Anglo-Catholic/Tractarian influences, the evangelical
low-churchmen began to change the liturgy ad hoc to reflect their
distaste of what some words had come to mean in some quarters after
the importation of romanist definitions for them. For instance, some
began to remove the word "regenerate" from the baptismal service
("seeing that this child/person is regenerate..."), because the
Anglo-Catholics were teaching that regeneration meant salvation, as
opposed to being engrafted into the body of Christ, as a means of
grace, as e.g. Westminster divine George Gillespie or John Calvin had

The key to understanding the rest of the book, and therefor the
Reformed Episcopal Church's formation, is this: The evangelical
innovations were met with a much different reaction from the High
Church bishops than were the Anglo-Catholics' innovations, which
included the introduction of papist lingo and ceremony, including the
pushing of communion tables against their chancel walls to serve as
sacrificial altars, a development hitherto unheard of in American
Episcopal tradition. This unequal treatment was not simply the
High-Churchmen's embrace of the Anglo-Catholics; it was the beginning
of the persecution of the Low-Church faction through the introduction
of prelacy.

Most Reformed people confuse prelacy with episcopacy, which is a grave
error. A bad moderator can be as destructive as a bad bishop, while a
good man can be wise and pastoral in either office. There is goofiness
and heresy abounding among the "independent, fundamentalist" churches
today that got their errors without the assistance of bishops. While
few hard-core evangelicals would unchurch the Arminian,
dispensationalist, baptistic independent down the street, some barely
consider Episcopalians Christian at all, even if they wear out their
copies of Calvin's Institutes every two years. Americans are more
forgiving of doctrinal error than of power plays, so the idea of a
bishop telling us what to do or believe is scarier than sitting under
the ramblings of an unordained independent preacher, even if we
strongly disagree with him.

Be that as it may, the evangelicals in the Episcopal Church were now
about to experience real prelacy, the old fashioned pre-Reformation
type. For instance, the High Church faction refused to accept the
resignation of Bishop Smith of Kentucky when he retired to Hoboken,
New Jersey, and even granted him a waiver to reside outside his
diocese, in order that his evangelical, Low-Church assistant, George
David Cummins, might be kept from succeeding him, the kind of prelatic
trickery characteristic of the abuses the Reformers fought in the
sixteenth century. But it was the response to prelacy, not its
imposition, that became headline news in its day, just as in the
sixteenth century.

Bishop Cummins, to cut to the chase, participated in an ecumenical
communion service at a conference of the Evangelical Alliance at Fifth
Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, along with Presbyterians and
Methodists, not to mention the Dean of Canterbury. Dean Smith was
subsequently pilloried in the New York Tribune by William George
Tozer," late Bishop of Zanzibar," in an open letter to the bishop of
New York, for fraternizing with unwashed sectarians and conducting
episcopal duties within a diocese other than his own without the
permission of the Bishop of New York, Horatio Potter (page 129).

Suspicions abounded, however, that it was Potter who put Tozer up to
this letter, hoping that Cummins would get hit by the blunderbuss
aimed at Dean Smith, since Cummins had been pushing for prayer book
revision to excise the last vestiges of romanism, real or imagined,
from the liturgy and services. To shorten this significantly, Cummins
left the church rather than face censure or worse, consecrated another
embattled Low Church presbyter Charles Edward Cheney as bishop, and
founded the Reformed Episcopal Church in December, 1873.

The rally around evangelical Episcopalianism Cummins had hoped for
never occurred, though. What the REC devolved into over the course of
the next few decades was a Cave of Adullam for all of the disgruntled
Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and others who largely defined
conservatism by adherence to the Scofield Reference Bible notes, which
Reformed Episcopalians James Gray and Arno Gaebelein helped produce,
for which God has only recently forgiven us. RE Bishop Culbertson
headed the Moody Bible Institute for a while: you get the picture. Who
among the staid and stodgy ranks of Episcopalianism would be attracted
to this gaggle?

The High-Church Christ was kind of frosty and rationalistic. The
Low-Church Christ preached fire and brimstone, which is hard to
squeeze in among all of that liturgy. But the Anglo-Catholic Christ
was tangible (at least allegedly) in the bread and wine, and adorable
in the beauty of the nave and sanctuary (see p. 102 &f). Besides, you
could get all misty and sentimental in church and forget that you were
not paying your workers a livable wage. The Low-Churchmen were more or
less the working-class Episcopalians, and Cummins wanted to go lower
than they already were, so social stigma was there to consider as
well. The differences between the High and Dry became less and less
distinguishable with the Anglo-Catholics, Holy Scripture rarely having
been the rallying-cry for either.

Ecclesiastically, the REC came to be seen by Presbyterians and
Episcopalians alike (their two closest cousins) as an anachronism;
were they Presbyterians with a prayer book, or Episcopalians
embarrassed by a prayer book, and vestments, and even bishops?

It remains a source of amazement that within the mainline Episcopal
Church there are clergymen and laymen alike who both love Jesus and
the Bible, yet remain in a church where women and sodomists are
routinely ordained, where one diocese couldn't pass a resolution a few
years ago affirming that Jesus was the Savior, and so on. They have
drawn so many lines in the sand that they look like they're standing
in the end zone looking out through the ear hole of their helmets,
having just been tackled for a tenth safety in ten possessions. They
continue to voice "outrage" over every new outrage, from modernistic
prayer book revision to the ordination of women and sex-perverts and
prayers to non-existent deities, ever inventing new campaigns and
strategies to "take back the helm of the church," while it continues
to drift further from shore with them locked safely in the brig. The
irony of it all is that the ones who have left recently, beginning in
1977 and following, are largely the heirs of the "papists" that were
happy to see Cummins et al leave in 1873!

At any rate, what could seem dusty and parochial is told in a way that
will interest the reader unfamiliar with the REC, or Episcopalianism
for that matter, simply because Guelzo is unmatched as a storyteller.
It was a joy to read for me personally, so much so that I recommended
the book to many friends before I was finished. But that was a
mistake, which I only realized upon reading the epilogue.

A man that studieth revenge

Guelzo takes great pains throughout to keep to his theme that the REC
was begun "for the union of evangelical Christendom," and ends the
book judging her success or failure by her adherence to this standard.
He jumps carefully from rock to rock in the REC's ecumenical stream,
maintaining his sure-footedness until the epilogue.

The Reformed Episcopal Church has been involved in any number of
missionary societies, church alliances, and so on. We went into the
American south and founded a missionary jurisdiction among the blacks
with which the Episcopal Church wanted nothing to do. We have a sister
church in Canada and one in England, the latter of which was
unfortunately headed by a lunatic, so that relationship was poisoned
from the jump. But the scope and interests of the REC were from the
beginning wide, even international and groundbreaking. Our oldest
mission, e.g., is in India.

For better or worse, we were also actively involved in the early days
of the Federal Council of Churches, and there was a great deal of
enthusiasm for the FCC in the REC, recounted in this book by quotes
from those involved as both participants and cheerleaders. Guelzo
laments the theological liberalism of the FCC which drove the REC away
in 1945 (page 332), but he amazes us with the declaration that, "The
great age of ecumenical endeavor in the Reformed Episcopal Church was
over, and with it the most important reason for the existence of the
Reformed Episcopal Church."

He could have reported that the FCC was shortly thereafter exposed as
a Communist front operation by Congress, closing only long enough to
re-emerge as the National Council of Churches. I for one think it was
a good thing that the RE wagon was unhitched from an agent of
Muscovite Communism. I hardly see this fifty year-old divorce as the
end of our reason for being.

The REC is now a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Does this count for nothing? Our raison d'etre is called into question
because we left the FCC, yet Guelzo leaves our affiliation with the
NAE in the dark. Although there are other confederations with which we
might more profitably plight our troth, the NAE is still better than
the FCC/NCC if one thinks we should do something ecumenical to remain
faithful to Bishop Cummins' vision. If the REC exists to promote
ecumenism at any cost, then she is doing so in uniting with the NAE.
But it seems that Guelzo is bent on writing the obituary of the REC,
and therefore must allege that the reason we exist is to be
ecumenical, which is of course partly true, but our main purpose is to
be the Reformed Episcopal Church, not the Christian and Missionary

He writes on page 335, "With the closing of the Reformed Episcopal
seminary's historic buildings in Philadelphia in 1993, the pool of...
leadership will only get smaller." But Reformed Episcopal Seminary has
only moved across town, thank you. She now reposes in Blue Bell, PA. I
see how reporting that the historic building's closing could be used
to craft inferences, but I don't see how this will necessarily lead to
a shrinkage of the pool of leadership, especially in light of the fact
that these buildings closed nearly twenty years ago. The building that
closed in 1993 was only in use for ten years, and the dorm was the
only part of the "historic buildings" in use then.

Dr. Guelzo, as mentioned earlier, was formerly employed at Reformed
Episcopal Seminary. One would never learn that from reading the book
since it is never stated, though one is free to wonder why. He left
when the seminary hired the REC's Archdeacon of Texas, the Rev. Dr.
Ray R. Sutton, as president, and forced out the neo-evangelical former
president, David Schroder, last seen at the Christian and Missionary
Alliance's school in Nyack, New York, where we hope he doesn't do as
much damage as he did at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in his two years
there. Guelzo dedicated the book to him, saying, "For David, who fled
from Saul to the mountains..." We still wonder who played the role of
Saul in Guelzo's mind. The seminary in Philadelphia is now in the
capable hands of the Rev. Dr. Wayne Headman, by the way.

Guelzo was publicly fearful before he left that the seminary, let
alone the denomination, was adopting Christian Reconstructionism
despite many personal assurances that this was not the case. He was
apparently more comfortable after leaving RE Seminary to be at Eastern
College rubbing elbow patches with Tony Campolo and Ron Sider. His
recent re-ordination in the apostate ECUSA is astonishing in light of
his concern for catholicity in his allegation that we are being
seduced by Reconstructionism, a false prophecy if ever there was one.

Bishop Sutton headed up our seminary in Shreveport, Louisiana until
leaving to take a parish, and is firmly in place as a churchman and
heir of the English Reformation by studied choice. He made that clear
at the time of his acceptance into the REC's clergy role. He continues
his repudiation of Reconstructionism. He has done nothing in over a
decade to promote Reconstructionism, and the provost of the seminary
even sent supporters and friends a circular in which Bishop Sutton's
repudiation of Reconstructionism was stated.

Yet Guelzo sees fit to ignore this and to allege that the church has
now blundered into the hopelessly splintered "Christian
Reconstruction" camp. The REC, from his perch, "has groped wildly for
a series of 'isms' - Calvinism, dispensationalism, and more recently,
Christian Reconstructionism - less with a concern for how well these
'isms' matched the reasons for their founding than with an urge to
hitch the Reformed Episcopal wagon to any vehicle that looked like [a]
movement," page 336. Coming from Guelzo this is like saying that we
now worship trees. I have no information about whether Guelzo has
received communion from Bishop Spong.

Alan Carl Guelzo was a leader in the REC's return to a more thorough,
Reformed Anglicanism, and engaged in ecumenical contacts with
conservatives within ECUSA. Did he feel that we were, at that time,
"groping" for some "ism?" He mentions that at the founding meeting of
the more or less conservative Episcopal Synod of America in 1989, they
"welcomed a Reformed Episcopalian onto their platform," page 334. He
could have looked at his own driver's license to research that guy's
identity, who was trying to hitch the RE wagon to the Episcopal Synod
of America.

And so on and on. In order to review this book fully and to explain
the epilogue to those to whom I've recommended it, I had to get into
this messy 9th Commandment work, but I still recommend the book up to,
but not including, the epilogue.

Now go on and read it, and know this about the REC today: We are
Reformed and liturgical. We believe the Bible is the inerrant,
infallible, fully inspired Word of the Triune God. We have no
modernists, women, or sodomists among our clergy. We renew our
anti-abortion resolution each General Council. We have, in the past
fifteen years, begun to recapture the Episcopal part of our name, and
are growing healthily now that we have sorted out our Anglican
identity once and for all under the godly leadership of our current
class of bishops. And you are welcome.