Philander Chase



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Letter to the Editor of the Churchman's Manual regarding the role of the Laity in the Church




Philander Chase, Churchman's Manual, The Protestant Churchman, editorial, letter to the editor, England, London, Protestant Church, Protestant Episcopal Church, Anglican Church, Episcopal Church, laity, bishops, scripture


Editorial Type

To the Author of the Churchman’s Manual

26. St. James Place,


Jubilee College, Robins Nest P.O. Illinois

April 9th, 1846.

My dear Sir--

I re’d, a few days ago, your letter dated the 15th of Jan: 1846. and wit it a “little work[“] entitled “the Churchmans manual,” which you say has been altered and improved till it “has been much read in Brittain[sic] and not unknown in the United States.”

This little work you have been pleased to dedicate, you say, “to the Chief Bishops in England and Ireland & Scotland” “and the Presiding Bishop in the U States of America.”

If by the last be meant myself, I beg leave to decline the address; for I would not willingly countenance the thought of dropping the name “Protestant,” given always to my venerable Predicessors[sic].

You do not say that “the Chief Bishops to whom you have dedicated your “work” have actually given their assent to all it contains by formally authorizing you to say it was “by permission.” Had they done this it would have grieved the true friends of the Epis’l Church in America: for thereby would have been manifested a disapprobation of the Constitution of the Pros, Epis’l Church of the United States which has never heretofore been expressed by them.

Please to turn to the 30th and 31st questions of the Churchman manual.” These relate solely to the “Forms and Ceremonies” and you ask by what authority they are set forth”? The answer is-- “By the authority of those to whom God hath entrusted the Spiritual government of the Church.” The next question is Who are they? Ans’r “The Bishops or Apostles” “Assisted by the Priests or Presbyters.”

Here, it is evident, you leave out the Laity entirely. By the principle above laid down they have nothing to do “in setting forth” “the forms and ceremonies of the Church” and if so, certainly not in making her laws and ordinances.

If this be correct, the Church, since the prophets have been fulfilled in kings becoming her nursing fathers & queens her nursing mothers, has been in an error. But for the present we would say nothing of Emperors sitting in her councils nor of kings and parliaments making laws & setting forth forms of prayer & the ceremonies: but to one thing we would most respectfully call your most serious attention because it involves the sorrow in our bosom already alluded to. On the first leaf of our American prayerbook are printed these words

“The Ratification of the book of Common prayer By the Bishops the Clergy and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in Convention, this the sixteenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.”

This convention having in their present session set forth a book of common prayer and administration of the Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church do establish the same”

Here you observe that the Laity are an integral part of the Convention of the P.Ep Church in the U States. Our practice therefore is contrary to the principle laid down in our manual; and should the latter be approved by the Chief Bishops in England Ireland and Scotland it would manifest an hostility towards us of America hitherto unknown & most to be deplored if it be true.

It is somewhat remarkable that in referring to scriptural authorities by which the laity are supposed to be rejected from the [councils] of the Church the selfsame chapter & verses are mentioned by “the Manual'' that are selected by Bp White and all the American written on this subject to establish the contrary principle-- viz that the Laity ought to have a seat in our Conventions. In the 15th Chap’r of the Acts of the Apostles there is given an acct of the 1st council of the Christian Church. This was at Jerusalem and St. James the first Bishop presided. And who were they over whom he preceded and who had a voice in its decisions? The apostles and Elders Only? Not so the record-- In the 4th verse it appears that the Messengers from Antioch were “received by the Church” and “the Apostles and Elders”: “the Church” consisted of the “Brethren”; the Laity such of them as attended & represented the main body of baptized persons in Jerusalem and vicinity. And there when acting with the Apostles and Elders & thus being an integral part of council had however not only to receive messengers from Antioch but to act upon the substance of that message and to send both messengers and message back to Antioch. Read the 22 & 23 verses of this 15. Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

“Then it pleased the Apostles & Elders with the whole church to send chosen men of their own company to antioch[sic] with Paul & Barrabas viz Judas named [Barsobas] & Silas Chief men among the brethren: & they wrote letters by them after this manner. The Apostles & Elders & Brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the gentiles in Antioch & Lyria & Cilicia.”

In the 25th verse the language is such as to lead to the same conclusion. “It seemed good unto “Us.”

By this word “Us” must be meant the signs of the letter. And who were they? answer, “the Apostles & Elders “with the Whole Church.”

These are the references which the author of the Churchman’s manual has been pleased to designate in order to convince the reader “from holy writ” [thro] the Laity are not an integral part of the councils of the Church of God--nor have any power or right to give sanction to Eccessiastical[sic] law or to the “establishment of the forms and ceremonies” of the Church of God. Your candid mind on a reexamination of the subject will I trust perceive that the evidence, to which your readers are referred, proves the contrary. However this may be, One thing is a fact, the first Convention of our primitive Church in America admitted the Laity as an integral part of that Body-- and acting with the Presbyteres, all laws, made by them, & sanctioned by the house of Bishops, are valid.--and none else.

This has been approved by the practice of all the individual Dioceses--and never questioned by any one parish in the Utied[sic] States.

And till the Oxford movement and other tendencies to Rome no fault has been found with us in England. Your little work however seems to speak a different language & to lay down a different principle: a principle evidently concurring with the practice of the Papal Communion which was always to depress the Laity and exalt the Clergy especially all such as are inclined to exalt the pope, above the civil power.

In reply to your statement that your “little work” “is not unknown in America” I would respectfully observe that whoever being a true Protestant has read it with approbation has not been aware of the error which it has been the humble endeavour of the subscriber to point out an error which if generally re’d and acted on will destroy the Prot. Episcopal Church in America and erect on its ruins a papal temple.

In view of such a catastrophe and the struggles which must precede it. I can not but devoutly thank the Good God that we honestly and scripturally can claim the Laity as our safeguard in the solemn crisis which seems to await us. While scarcely a man among the Laity, worth a fig for his honesty or talents has apostatized to Rome-- how crowded are the ranks of the clergy in following poor Mr Newman in his “Developments”--all ending in Rome for the present--but in what next year we can not say perhaps atheism.

How thankful therefore ought we of America to be that the Episcopal Church in her incipient steps was free to obey and follow the example of the first Churchmen in Jerusalem by admitting the Laity as a constituent part of the [?] legislature! What a privilege it is that we have seen in our struggles with the papists the benefit of their counsel. They have spoken and they will speak against all Romanizing tendencies.

As in the first Convention of the Christian Christ in jerusalem, so the Apostles and Elders their successors can safely rely on their “Brethren” of the Laity for and in making whole some laws by which the Church shall now be purged both of impurity in morals and heresy in doctrine: & then all things “be so ordi[?] that peace & happiness truth & justice religion & piety may be established among us for all generations.”

With great respect I am Dr Sir

Your faithful friend & Humble Ser’t in the Lord.

Philander Chase Sen’r Bp of the Prot Epis Church in the U States.

Letter to the Author of the Churchman's Manual



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