Monday, July 12, 2010

The Scottish Influence on American Anglicanism

The first thing that I have to say is that this is not just another "Samuel Seabury and all that" article, though he will feature later on. The Scottish influence on American Anglicanism is wider and deeper than that mainly due to the political forces at work in Scotland, and the difficulty of recruiting clergy for the Colonies.

When the Bishop of Edinburgh declined to give allegiance to William of Orange (ironically, I am writing this on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne) he left the door open for the replacement of Episcopalianism with Presbyterianism as the form of governance for the Church of Scotland. Although in some places the old Episcopalian clergy could fly under the radar and retain their parishes, in other places, especially in the Lowlands they were "rabbled out" by the Presbyterians. Some went underground, some went to England, and others to America. These became the first wave of Scottish Episcopal clergy to come to the aid of the Church in the American Colonies.

Perhaps the best know of this first wave is the Rev'd James Blair, the Bishop of London's Commissary for Virginia 1689-1743. Blair was born and educated in Scotland and ordained in the Episcopal Church. He gained the confidence of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London, and was sent out to Virginia to act as the bishops agent in that Colony. His major influence came not so much through the Church as through his Presidency of William and Mary College where he had a hand in the education of several generations of Virginia ordinands.

Three other names among the early Commissaries suggest Scottish origins. These are Alexander Garden, Jacob Henderson, and Archibald Cummings, but I have not yet got around to tracking down any biographical information about them.

The second wave of Scottish Episcopal clergy probably came to America in the wake of the 1715 Rising - a period when things were made very difficult for Scottish Episcopalians due to their known Jacobite sympathies. However, the evidence here is harder to track. It was in this period too, that a pair of Non-Juring Bishops were sent to the American Colonies in the hope of creating an independent Anglican presence in bishopless America. Unfortunately for them, American Anglicans preferred bishopless legitimacy to a Non-Juror Episcopate.

The third generation of Scottish clergy included men like William Smith of Maryland, who were the descendents of Scottish colonists. There were also some Scottish clergy who found it convenient to leave for America after the 1745 Rising. It seems that some of these dispossessed Episcopalian clergy joined the ranks of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel's Missionaries in New England spreading the Scottish version of the High Church tradition there.

Although the numbers of Scottish clergy serving in the American Church was never large, it was enough to create an awareness of the fact that - firstly, it was possible for Anglicans to survive without the Establishment; and secondly, that there was an independent Church in Scotland with bishops. Also, there was just enough Scottish influence in New England to give a distinct High Church edge to the Anglican Church in those parts, and to create an indigenous High Church party with followers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

So, what happened to the Scottish Episcopal Church in the meantime?

After years of proscription under William and Mary, Queen Anne granted toleration to the Scottish Episcopalians early in her reign. This put the Scottish Episcopalians under the same disabilities as English Dissenters, but it was a step forward. A few years later, in 1712, the UK Parliament passed an Act allowing the creation of "Qualified Chapels" in Scotland which would allow Scottish congregations to use the 1662 BCP under the ministry of English or Irish ordained clergy.

On the other hand, the Jacobite element accepted their second class status, and maintained both their independence and their links with the English Non-Jurors. Unlike the Qualified Congregations, there was little, at least at first, to distinguish the Scottish Episcopalians from their Presbyterian neighbours when it came to worship. The "Piskies" service consisted of metrical psalms, a reading, a prayer, and a sermon like that of the Kirk, but unlike the Kirk, they used the Lord's Prayer and the Doxology every week.

After about 1700, the English BCP began to gain ground among Scottish Episcopalians, but they did not feel bound to observe it strictly. Thus, they were able to participate in the liturgical experiments of their Non-Juror colleagues in England. The first Non-Juror "Scottish Liturgy" or "Scottish Communion Office" appeared around 1717, with updated versions appearing in 1746 and 1764. These were printed as "wee bookies" to be used alongside the English BCP - a tradition that continued until the Edwardian era. The main feature of the Scottish Liturgy was the long Canon based on Eastern Orthodox models, consisting of both he Eucharistic Prayer and the Prayer for the Church. The Scots also included an epiclesis - an Invocation of the Holy Spirit - in the Prayer of Consecration.

However, inspite of their liturgical creativity, they were fighting a loosing battle. The limited Toleration granted in 1706 was diminished after both the 1715 and 1745 Risings. Under George I there was also a very real attempt to promote the erection of Qualified Chapels to syphon away middle class Episcopalians from the Non-Jurors. A tactic that was reasonably successful in the Lowlands. However, the Non-Juring Scottish Episcopalians survives - especially around Aberdeen.

Where Episcopalian Meeting Houses were built in the eighteenth century they were made to look like barns, or cottages so that they would not attract unwelcome attention from government troops. On the whole this worked well, but when Butcher Cumberland's troops were making reprisals after Colloden, Episcopal meeting houses were a favourite target. A large number of Episcopal priests were imprisoned on, often trumped-up, charges of sedition, and several were executed for acting as chaplains to the Jacobite Army in the '45.

When grudging toleration returned again following the 1745 Rising it was under very restrictive conditions. Just as the Government tried to ban the kilt and the Great Highland Bagpipes, they also tried to make Episcopalianism impossible. For example, no Episcopal Minister could preach to a congregation of more than four people outside of his own family. This led to a new form of creativity - how to dodge the regulations! In many places Episcopalians met in a cottage with the minister and his family in the hallway, and the rest of the congregation gathered in the other rooms listening through the doorways. In others, the chapel was divided with glass and wood partitions so that each pew was a "room." No matter how hard the Hannoverians tried, the Episcopalians would not conform, though, by the 1780s it was reduced to a mere four or five bishops, forty clergy, and a similar number of congregations mainly in the northeast of Scotland.

After trying unsuccessfully to obtain consecration in England, Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) came to Aberdeen looking for the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Some accounts say that he did this on the advice of either Dr. Horne (later Bishop of Norwich) who was sympathetic to the Scottish Church, others on the then young Dr. Routh, but scholars today seem to agree that this was the agreed "Plan B" before Seabury left Connecticut.

The Scottish Bishops drove a reasonably bargin with Seabury. Before his consecration he agreed to labour behind the scenes to introduce the Scottish liturgy into America. Seabury was also to push the case for the American Episcopal Church to recognise the Scottish Episcopal Church. Therefore, Seabury's consecration took place on 14th November 1784 in St Andrew's Church, which was housed over a bank in Aberdeen High Street. Bishops Skinner, Kilgour, and Petrie acting as his consecrators.

On his return to Connecticut, Seabury organised his diocese along Scottish lines. Seabury toured his diocese periodically, he called clergy-only Synods to determine policy, and replaced the English Communion service with his own version of the Scottish Liturgy. He also entered into tortuous negotiations with the Protestant Episcopal Church organising in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States. A dialogue which was not made any easier by Seabury's Tory past, and clericalist outlook.

It was probably providential that the Right Rev. William White of Philadelphia was the dominant influence in the new PECUSA. The other English consecrated bishop, Provoost of New York, hated Seabury's guts, and if he had been the Presiding Bishop we might have ended up with regional Episcopal Churches. Eventually Bishop White brokered a deal whereby the Diocese of Connecticut and its bishop could come into the General Convention on generous terms. White encouraged the replacement of English Prayer of Consecration by that of the Scottish Liturgy in the new American BCP. He also revised the PECUSA Constitution to incorporate an Episcopal veto - which was a further accomodation to Seabury's views. Lastly, White pushed for recognition of the Scottish Church alongside the Estabished Churches of England and Ireland as fellow Protestant Episcopal Churches. White also agreed to seat Seabury in the House of Bishops, despite Provoost's strident objections to the propriety of accepting his Seabury's Non-Juror orders. On the other hand, Seabury remained uncomfortable with the presence of the laity in the General Convention, and with the democratic nature of the new Church.

Such had been the depth of Seabury's objections to the proposed Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church that he had attempted to get further bishops conscrated in Scotland. This would have enabled him to "go it alone" by forming a New England Church independent of that of the Middle and Southern States. However, the Scots, following the death of the Young Pretender, were in the process of making their peace with the British Government. The Scots' refusal to consecrate more bishops for America finally gave Seabury a powerful reason to make peace with the Protestant Episcopal Church.

One final point that has to be ade is that William White and William Smith were not altogether without Scottish influences. For example, one characteristic White decision - to create a House of Bishops with a Presiding Bishop rather than an Archbishop - finds its precedent in the Scottish House of Bishops presided over by the Primus. White was also open to making real changes, not just political ones, to the English BCP. One suspects that it was this openness on the part of Bishop White and Dr. Smith that allowed the American BCP to develop as a compromise betwen the English and Scots traditions.

Oddly, the Scottish Episcopal Church also had to make its own compromise with Church of England influences in order to achieve peace. In order to have the Penal Laws removed, the Scottish Episcopal Church had to agree to pray for King George. Later they accepted the English BCP and the Thirty-Nine Articles to allow the Scottish Church to absorb the Qualified Chapels. So like the Episcopal Church in America, the Scottish Episcopal Church found itself reconciling Scottish Non-Juror and English influences to produce a reinvigorated local Church.

One enduring legacy of the relationship between Seabury and the Scottish Bishops has been the bonds of affection that have existed between Scottish and American Episcopalians. It is sad to see both churches sobadly infected with liberalism today, but it remains the case that the old Episcopal tradition, as it stood before the invasion of secular humanism from 1960 onwards, is a strong a vigourous expression of Reformed Catholic Christianity. In order for Continuing Anglicanism to survive it is extremely important that Continuing Anglicans return to that tradition, rather than that of Revivalist Protestantism, or Rome.


  1. Amen to the last paragraph! But when are Continuing Anglicans going to get together?

  2. Fr David
    It's already happening in the 3 main jurisdictions ie. APCK, UEC and the ACC.
    Hopefully those of the ACA who cannot swim the Tiber will look to us.


  3. Bishop Robinson,
    This was fascinating reading. I only new the sketch outline of the story before, and never knew the conditions of the Scottish Church.

    What books do you recommend to readers on the Early History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this Country as well as ones on the non jurors?


  4. Fr David
    I believe this is already in the form of the UEC,APCK and ACC.
    Hopefully those of the ACA who cannot swim the tiber will look to us

  5. I would think when we begin to love the classical prayer book tradition above that of the missals and Ritual Notes. As an aside, My Lord Peter, who was the English gentleman who built the Church on his estate that got him thrown into the Tower under Cromwell and what was the name and the location of the Church?

  6. The Church you are thinking of was built by the Shirleys of Staunton Harold in Leicestershire. I have never had the opportunity to visit it, but I am assured that it is something worth seeing.

  7. I should perhaps add that one of the Shirleys was buried at Horkstow, Lincolnshire. I served as a lay reader in that parish some twenty years ago!

  8. Fr. Ron: You also have the Federation of Anglican Churches in America (FACA). This consists of the APA, EMC, REC, AMiA, and DHC. Now let us see if we can get the two together.

    Fr. David

  9. Fr David
    That might be a tall order, given their relationship with the ACNA, WO and PB.
    But Im sure the continuing churches would welcome them in, but ( isnt there always a but ? )
    I feel there is nope hope for the ACNA to become anything else but TEC LIte.
    But we can hope.

  10. Fascinating article, but permit me to share a bit regarding the Rev. Alexander Garden. Why everybody in South Carolina knows that he was born 1685 and died in Charleston in 1756. He came to America in 1719 (which places him in the second, not first, wave of Scottish Episcopal clergy. He served as Rector at St Philip's, Charleston and was appointed Commissary in SC. In that function he pioneered in summoning annual meetings of trhe clergy and made sure all were properly ordained and licensed, He also labored in the instruction of the slaves. He entered into controversy with George Whitfield, particularly on the doctrine of Justification (wherein he was probably on the wrong side). His son, Alexander Garden II, was a distinguished physician and botanist. The gardenia was named in his honor by Linnaeus. Unfortunately he was a Tory in the Revolution and departed to England. His son, Alexander III, however, redeemed the family name by fighting in the Revolutuonary army.

  11. Well lets try this again.
    I would love to see that happen Fr David, but( theres always a but).
    The affiliation with those of the ACNA seems to be a very tall order with WO, various Prayer Books etc.
    My personal problem stem with those ie the REC for welcoming in the parishes that abandoned the UEC and those who split from the APA.
    Still it would be wonderful for all to come together.

  12. The APA was only ever an "observer" at ACNA. I believe that the REC will be backing out of ACNA soon unless ACNA overturns any ideas of WO. But with Duncan in charge that too will be a tall order. I am not quite sure what AMiA did. They somehow changed their status with ACNA. I believe that the ACC sent an observer to the last FACA meeting. Let us pray that unity is in the future for the Continuing Anglican Churches.