The Mission & Foundational Beliefs of the
Reformed Episcopal Church

 

1) Our Mission Statement

2) Holy Scripture

3) The 39 Articles

4) The Historic Creeds

5) The Declaration of Principles


Mission Statement

Adopted by the Bishops of this Church
December 3, 1992
Revised by the Council of Bishops, October 2, 2003

Built upon the foundation of the authoritative Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Reformed Episcopal Church sets her highest priority on biblical worship and declares her commitment to the work of evangelism, the bold and unadulterated proclamation of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 8:4). In keeping the faith once delivered to the saints, the Reformed Episcopal Church, however, does not believe evangelism to be the end, but rather the beginning of her divinely given vocation.

In addition to being evangelical, she is deeply committed to discipleship, the work of training evangelized men and women in Christian living (St. Matthew 28:20). When the Gospel is truly proclaimed and the mercies of God are made known, redeemed men and women must be led to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, which is their spiritual service (Romans 12:1). Thus, the Reformed Episcopal Church understands the Christian life to be necessarily corporate. The Gospel call of salvation is not only to a savior, but also to a visible communion (I Cor.12:27) being indwelt by Christ's Spirit, transcends both temporal and geographic bounds.

Therefore, the Reformed Episcopal Church is creedal, following the historic catholic faith as it was confessed by the early undivided Church in the Apostles' (A.D. 150), Nicene (A.D. 325) and Athanasian Creeds (circa. A.D. 401); sacramental, practicing the divinely ordained sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper as outward and visible signs of His inward and spiritual grace; liturgical, using the historic Book of Common Prayer; and Episcopal, finding unity with the Church of the earliest Christian eras through submission to the government of godly bishops.

In this fashion, by embracing the broad base of doctrine and practice inherent in apostolic Christianity received by the Church of the English Reformation and expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Reformed Episcopal Church has a foundation for effective ministry in the name of Christ to a world which is lost and dying without Him.

Approved, General Committee, October 5, 2003

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Holy Scripture

 

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39 Articles

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.

III. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
As Christ died for us, and was buried; so also is it to be believed, that he went down into hell.

IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

V. Of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
The First Book of Kings
The Second Book of Kings
The First Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles
The First Book of Esdras
The Second Book of Esdras
The Book of Esther
The Book of Job
The Psalms
The Proverbs
Ecclesiastes or Preacher
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
Four Prophets the greater
Twelve Prophets the less

And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

The Third Book of Esdras
The Fourth Book of Esdras
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Judith
The rest of the Book of Esther
The Book of Wisdom
Jesus the Son of Sirach
Baruch the Prophet
The Song of the Three Children
The Story of Susanna
Of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasses
The First Book of Maccabees
The Second Book of Maccabees
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

VII. Of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

VIII. Of the Creeds.
The Nicene Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, frohnayma sarkos, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh,) is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

X. Of Free Will.
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of Comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works.
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

XIII. Of Works Before Justification.
Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.
Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

XV. Of Christ alone without Sin.
Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world; and sin (as Saint John saith) was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

XVI. Of Sin after Baptism.
Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

XIX. Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

XXI. Of the Authority of General Councils.
[The Twenty-first of the former Articles is omitted; because it is partly of a local and civil nature, and is provided for, as to the remaining parts of it, in other Articles.]

XXII. Of Purgatory.
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard.

XXIV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understood of the people.

XXV. Of the Sacraments.
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offenses; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

XXVII. Of Baptism.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.
The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

XXX. Of both Kinds.
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.
Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

XXXIII. Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.
That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath authority thereunto.

XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

XXXV. Of the Homilies.
The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.

Of the Names of the Homilies.
1 Of the right Use of the Church.
2 Against Peril of Idolatry.
3 Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4 Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6 Against Excess of Apparel.
7 Of Prayer.
8 Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10 Of the reverend Estimation of God's Word.
11 Of Alms-doing.
12 Of the Nativity of Christ.
13 Of the Passion of Christ.
14 Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17 For the Rogation-days.
18 Of the State of Matrimony.
19 Of Repentance.
20 Against Idleness.
21 Against Rebellion.

XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
The Book of Consecration of Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, as set forth by the General Convention of this church in 1792, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither hath it any thing that, of itself, is superstitious and ungodly. And, therefore, whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to said Form, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.

XXXVII. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.
The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.

XXXVIII. Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common.
The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

XXXIX. Of a Christian Man's Oath.
As we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.

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The Historic Creeds

The Apostles' Creed


I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed


I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come. Amen.


The Athanasian Creed
QUICUNQUE VULT

THE Catholick Faith is this : That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son : and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one : the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son : and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate : and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible : and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal : and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals : but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated : but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty : and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet there are not three Almighties : but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God : and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods : but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord : and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords : but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity : to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholick Religion : to say, There be three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none : neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone : not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons : one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other : none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together : and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid : the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation : that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess : that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds : and Man, of the substance of His Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man : of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead : and inferior to the Father, as touching His Manhood; Who although He be God and Man : yet He is not two, but one Christ; One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh : but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance : but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man : so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation : descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty : from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies : and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting : and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the Catholick Faith : which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

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Declaration of Principles

Their Historic Context

In the 19th Century, major changes occurred in the Anglican Communion, especially in the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. As a result of a liberal movement in the previous century (18th), some began to argue that the English Reformation was wrong and that Anglicanism should return to a more Medieval Church. To do so, however, meant a significant departure from historic Episcopalianism. As a result, there was a concern on the part of others to protect what can be called the Anglicanism of the English Reformation. Their view was that liberalism was to be combated by clearly proclaiming the Good News of salvation through faith in Christ, by protecting the integrity of the Holy Scriptures, and by preserving the Prayer Book of Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop who was martyred for denouncing certain innovative Roman Catholic doctrines of the Middles Ages.


One evangelical priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg, attempted to summarize the core issues for evangelicals in the 19th Century by formulating in essence what became known to the Reformed Episcopal Church as the Declaration of Principles. The Rev. Mr. Muhlenberg was himself an evangelical who worked in close ecumenical association with the Old Catholic Church. As such, he was a high church "Gospel Man," which explains why some evangelicals of his day had a range of liturgical practice, while uniting around the ancient Reformed Catholic truths. Although he never became a Reformed Episcopalian, the newly established Reformed Episcopal Church made good use of his statements.


Some in the latter quarter of the 19th Century concluded that their beloved Protestant Episcopal Church had so dramatically changed that they had no alternative but to preserve the old Church by forming another denomination (though not another church). In 1873, the Rt. Rev. George David Cummins, the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky in the Protestant Episcopal Church, believed he must continue the old Church by becoming the founding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, thereby maintaining historic succession of orders to this very day in the REC. It was Bishop Cummins who utilized the Rev. Mr. Muhlenberg's seminal statement that became the Declaration of Principles. Cummins even wanted him to become a bishop in the REC. Thus, the Declaration of Principles are the heart of the essential convictions of the Reformed Episcopal Church. However, given who the Rev. Mr. Muhlenberg was, his churchmanship, and what Bishop Cummins said he wanted the Reformed Episcopal Church to be, the following clarifications should be kept in mind as the reader attempts to interpret the Declaration of Principles.


First, the opening principle clearly recognizes Scripture as a primary authoritative document, but not exclusively so. Holy Scripture was not given in a vacuum apart from the Church, and thus, the ancient creeds as interpreted by their English commentary, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, are also authoritative.


Second, the statement on the episcopacy is straight out of Richard Hooker, the late 16th Century Anglican theologian, who wrote the classical defense of Anglicanism, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Hooker endorsed episcopal polity as rooted in Scripture and as historically verified by its universal, uncontested acceptance for the first 1500 years of church history. Nevertheless, this classical Anglican resisted being so exclusive as to unchurch those who did not have bishops (his European Reformed brethren) by denying the validity of their Baptism or Communion. Those who came later in the 19th Century decided to depart from the English Reformation of Hooker and reject the Holy Communion of nonepiscopal protestant denominations. As such the second principle embraces the episcopacy for the well-being but not the being of the church.


Third, the Prayer Book of the REC is the 1785 American version of the 1662 BCP. Due to the allowance for revision, the 1928 and the Australian BCP are permitted for use as long as the Declaration of Principles are placed in the front of the Prayer Book.


Lastly, the denials of the 4th Principle clearly oppose any language defined to imply that the sacraments in and of themselves convey salvation apart from faith. However, a negative does not establish a positive. Particular terms such as priest, altar, and real presence are not actually forbidden, only their incorrect use. Specifically, these denials should in no way be understood as rejecting the clear language of documents subscribed to in the Declaration of Principles (The Scriptures, Book of Common Prayer, Thirty-Nine Articles, etc.) (1) The Articles allow the use of the word priest as the anglicized version of the word presbyter by their consistent use of it to describe a minister of the Word and Sacrament (XXXII, XXXVI), and not as someone who can uniquely provide atonement (XXXI) is clear. (2) Table and altar are used interchangeably in Holy Scripture (Malachai 1:10, 12), suggesting the table of Holy Communion is an altar of praise and thanksgiving. (3) The Articles affirm belief in the real presence of Christ when they say, The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner (XXVIII). (4) The Holy Scriptures (Titus 3:5) and the Catechism of the BCP speak of baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace such that regeneration should be understood as normally occurring at Holy Baptism, but not inseparable with Baptism.


Thus, the Declaration of Principles are not an attempt to depart from historic Anglican beliefs. Rather, they are an expression of a return to the old paths of the Protestant Episcopal Church and our English Reformers, in the words of Bishop Cummins. Moreover, their rejection of peculiar Medieval errors that have sometimes reappeared in the history of Anglicanism has held Reformed Episcopalians to orthodoxy for 123 years without a single occurrence of schism or doctrinal deviation.

The Declaration of Principles
Of the Reformed Episcopal Church
Adopted, December 2, 1873

I.

The Reformed Episcopal Church, holding "the faith once delivered unto the saints," declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, as the sole rule of Faith and Practice; in the Creed "commonly called the Apostles' Creed;" in the Divine institution of the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; and in the doctrines of grace substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

II.

This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity.

III.

This Church, retaining a liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom in prayer, accepts The Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, A.D. 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people, "provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire."

IV.

This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:

First, that the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity:
Second, that Christian Ministers are "priests" in another sense than that in which all believers are a "royal priesthood:"
Third, that the Lord's Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father:
Fourth, that the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine:
Fifth, that regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.


1995, The Reformed Episcopal Church.

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