3/10/2005

Not Just Another Denomination

There have been laments that if the Episcopal Church is expelled or quits the Anglican Communion it would be "just another denomination," and of course that lament then is followed by the charge that those who voted for the two decisions at the core of the our contentions are somehow changing our church identity from a "communion" to a "denomination". So I found it instructive to find this in the Preface to the (US) Book of Common Prayer, a preface written in 1789 and published in every version of the US Book.

"But when in the course of Divine Providence, these American States became independent with respect to civil government, their ecclesiastical independence was necessarily included; and the different religious denominations of Christians in these States were left at full and equal liberty to model and organize their respective Churches, and forms of worship, and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity; consistently with the constitution and laws of their country."

This sentence seems clearly to consider the Episcopal Church to be one of the "denominations of Christians in these States."

So if we, in the Preface to our Prayer Book consider ourselves a "denomination" modeling and organizing "their respective Churches...in such a manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity; consistent with the constitution and laws of their country," it would seem we have already determined some 216 years ago that we are what the realignment folk think we are in danger of becoming. Where is the crisis?

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