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Anglican Communion?

2012 November 15
by Gordon Reid

Bishop Samuel Seabury of Connecticut was not “the first Bishop of the Anglican Communion” as some have called him on this anniversary of his consecration. He was consecrated by three Scottish Episcopal Bishops who were certainly not in communion with the Church of England, and who were, along with their flocks (who at that time numbered about three-quarters of the Scottish population), being harried and persecuted by English soldiers who were almost 100% Church of England. No Anglican Communion then!

As a Scottish Episcopalian, I have always been proud that, at one of the lowest times in the fortunes of the Scottish Church, three of its Bishops quietly passed on the gift of the Apostolic Succession to the American Church. It took that courageous act to jolt the Bishops of the Church of England into getting the rules changed so that subsequent Americans did not have to swear allegiance to a king they had just finished  overthrowing, before they could be consecrated in England.

One of the happiest consequences of the original Scottish consecration of Samuel Seabury was that the American Episcopal Church took that name (rather than the narrower one “Anglican”, or “English”) and adopted the more Catholic Scottish consecration prayer rather than the truncated English one, which stops after the Words of Consecration. It also explains why the Scottish cross of St Andrew appears in the flag of the American Episcopal Church.

The Scottish link is also upheld by the exchange of Canonries in their respective Cathedrals by the Bishops of Aberdeen & Orkney and the Bishops of Connecticut.

The subsequent development of the Anglican Communion is another story, but that body certainly did not exist when Samuel Seabury was consecrated. And if that body breaks up (which is a possibility) then the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the American Episcopal Church will undoubtedly stand together against the Provinces which do not ordain women to the Episcopate (passed in Scotland, but not yet implemented) and the  exclusion of openly gay priests and Bishops. The Church of England, at the moment, is on the opposite side in both these matters.


2 Responses leave one →
  1. Jeff Ezell permalink
    November 15, 2012

    The agreement between Seabury and his Scottish consecrators that Seabury would do his best to persuade the American Church to adopt the Scottish eucharistic canon was a very happy outcome of the Scottish bestowal of the American episcopate; likewise the infusion of old fashioned pre-Oxford Movement high churchmanship from the Scottish tradition. Seabury is, by the way, known to have worn a mitre when no other Anglican bishops did so.

    In any event, the subsequent Anglican Communion came about rather by accident, as the first Lambeth Conference was called to deal with the Colenso affair. It all seems to have been rather better when it was just a convocation of bishops from the provinces once a decade, gathered for tea parties, procession and group photos in episcopal choir garb. And frankly, it seems to have been rather better when still largely an expression of British imperialism and Anglo-American missionising.

  2. December 12, 2012

    This articles has many details that I never heard, I can say that I learned a lot through the reading.

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