You have visited our web page because you want to learn more about Episcopalians (Anglicans) in general, and the Southern Episcopal Church (SEC) in particular. Or perhaps you just surfed in because you were browsing around the web. Whatever the reason, let me tell you more that you may understand more about us. It is not easy in this short space to tell you all you may wish to know about the Southern Episcopal Church, It is tempting to say, “Take a Bible, a copy of the historic (1928) Book of Common Prayer, come worship with us, and you will begin to understand the Southern Episcopal Church. Ultimately, that is the best way to discover who we are. But for now, let us try to answer some questions you may be asking about our faith and practice as Traditional Anglican Christians, as Southern Episcopalians.
We are a branch of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church instituted by Jesus Christ faithfully continuing the Anglican tradition. We uphold the historic Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order and Evangelical Witness as set forth in the 1928 American edition of the Book of Common Prayer. We accept as binding and unalterable the received Faith and Traditions of the Church, and its teachings. These include the historic, three-fold male, Ordained ministry of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, as set forth in the Holy Scriptures; the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; and the writings of the bishops and doctors of the ancient Church, especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church.
The word 'catholic' is often misunderstood as meaning Roman Catholic. But Rome has no copyright on these words. The words "Catholic Church" in ancient times referred to the universal Church, teaching the entire Faith of Jesus Christ which He gave to the Apostles. In our day, when the Church is sadly divided, the term catholic Church denotes those branches of the Church who, though separate, still teach the Apostolic Faith and continue Apostolic practice; these include not only Roman Catholics but also all those who continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world as the means of “redemption” and “salva-tion”. The word 'Anglican' refers to our heritage and roots in the Church of England while ‘Episcopalian’ is the term most often used in the United States.
As sons and daughters of the Church of England, our religious heritage reaches back to the earliest days of Christianity in England and beyond that to our Lord's commission to the Apostles to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel." When British settlers first came to this continent, they brought their (Anglican) Faith with them. After the American Revolution Anglicans in the United States called themselves the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. In 1789 they adopted a Book of Common Prayer whose Preface states that: “...it will also appear that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship..." (1928 Book of Common Prayer, page vi).
The answer is no! It is a new church structure but not a new Church. Unhappily, in the realm of the Church there have been many times when large groups of Christians have been led into heresies against the sound doctrine and Faith once delivered to the Apostles. In the late 50’s and early 60’s there began a movement by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States to water down the traditions and truth by an influx of liberal minded pseudo-intellectuals who came to worship their learning above the Truth of God. Even to the point of teaching doubts concerning the Virgin Birth, the resurrection and even the divinity of our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ. To be ordained to Holy Orders, men didn’t even have to profess a belief in the Christian Faith, much less the Apostles Doctrine and teachings of the Fathers. In addition, there were some who were proposing ordination to Holy Orders those not scripturally qualified, new liturgies, and a new Prayer Book using "inclusive language"
The Southern Episcopal Church was formed for the purpose of giving Episcopalians a church in which to worship in the faith and practice of their fathers. The Church was founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1962, by concerned churchmen who felt they could not sit by idly while the liberal clergy in the Protestant Episcopal Church set out to totally destroy the entire principles of Christianity that had been handed down by the Apostles and entrusted to their care. Desiring to hold firm to the Faith once handed to the Apostles, The Rev. Burnice H. Webster was consecrated Bishop, through Anglican (and several other) lines of the Apostolic Succession, in 1965. The Southern Episcopal Church was chartered in Nashville, Tennessee, by Bishop O. J. Woodward and Bishop B. H. Webster. Bishop Webster became the first Presiding Bishop. In 1990 Bishop Webster died and Bishop Huron C. Manning, Jr., was elected Presiding Bishop. Christ Catholic Church (Diocese of Boston), an Old Catholic denomination founded by the late Archbishop Karl Hugo Rehling Prüter, became a part of the SEC in 2008. Bishop Manning retired as SEC Presiding Bishop in 2014 and was succeeded by Bishop William Martin Sloane. The Southern Episcopal Church (SEC) exists as an independent province of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in the Anglican tradition with parishes throughout Australia, South Africa, and the United States.
Christianity is truly a conservative religion, not following every liberal whim of men's minds and moral laxities. Men of Christian principle must always stand firm for that which is right and good and true. It has always been a rather widely accepted fact that the South had a tendency to be more conservative in their thinking and morals. Since the Church was established in the South, since Christians should be conservative in morals and in thinking and not given to accept things just to appease the majority, and since it was established by true conservative Southern Ladies and Gentlemen, why not the Southern Episcopal Church. A Church that is open to all Episcopalians and other Christians who remain conservative in their Christian Faith, and sincerely desire to remain in the “catholic” Faith once handed down to the Apostles.
The Traditional Anglican Faith is thoroughly grounded in Holy Scripture. We believe "....the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the authentic record of God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands - a revelation valid for all men and for all time." The Apocrypha is also used in our worship; being read for instruction it is not used to prove doctrine. We hold that the ancient Creeds - the Apostles’ and Nicene express the Faith of the Church and are to be understood as they are written. These Creeds, which come to us from the ancient councils and Fathers, summarize the faith “once delivered to the saints" (St Jude 3). By them we are taught that God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that God the Son became man, born of a virgin as our Lord Jesus Christ; that by our Lord's sinless life, death and resurrection, He gained access for us to God the Father and opened the way far us to be children of God (joint heirs by adoption) with the Son, and to live with Him for all eternity. On Christian morality, we believe that "every Christian is obliged to form his conscience by the Divine Moral Law and the Mind of Christ as revealed In Holy Scriptures and by the teachings and Tradition of the Church." Such teaching is especially seen in the Sermon on the Mount (St. Matthew 5, 6, and 7) and in our Lord' s Summary of the law, which states that we must first love God with our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
There are two Sacraments
Baptism and Holy Eucharist ordained of Christ in the Gospel:
Baptism: by water and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19) makes us new creatures. (John 3:5; Romans 6:4) and conveys grace and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). The Holy Eucharist: also called the Lord's Supper, the Holy Communion, and the Divine Mystery, was instituted by our Lord at the Last Supper when He said: “This is my body which is given for you....This is my blood of the New Testament...As oft as ye do this do it in remembrance of Me. (I Corinthians 11:24; Matthew 26:20- 28; Mark 14: 17-25; Luke 22:14-20) and by which He strengthens His people with His Body and Blood (John 6:41-59).
Men are trained for the Diaconate and Priesthood at Holy Trinity College and Seminary, in Florida (correspondence courses are available) and/or by the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese or Missionary District. Men who feel they may have a vocation to the Priesthood should first contact their parish priest. Aspirants to the Priesthood will be put in contact with their Bishop to determine specific training requirements. Men ordained in another jurisdiction have different training needs than a man who has never had any Theological training.
To be ordained into the clergy of the church a man must have attained the age of 21 years, be a confirmed member of the Church, of good moral character and willing to study. He must serve 1 full year as a deacon before he can be considered for ordination as a priest. However, he must be 25 years of age to be ordained to the priesthood. This is to assure that a man has the maturity and understanding to serve as a leader in the Church.
The Southern Episcopal Church (SEC) accepts all Baptized and Confirmed Episcopalians at her Communion Table, as well as all Christians (baptized believers). The S.E.C. has entered into several Inter-Communion Agreements with other Anglican jurisdictions; however, the Southern Episcopal Church in the United States is not directly tied or affiliated with any other group of continuing Episcopalians. The S.E.C. has never been involved in the battles and splits in groups that have developed over the last few years. The S.E.C. is painfully aware of how the Body of Christ has been so tragically dissected over the past several years. We pray daily for unity. All who are looking for peace and love are invited to investigate the Southern Episcopal Church.
The S.E.C. feels that these organizations have amply demonstrated that their mission is not to spread the Gospel of Christ but rather to be more political in nature. Therefore, as part of the Body of Christ, we cannot support these groups.
The Southern Episcopal Church uses the historic 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), as the standard for worship. In some parish churches, the BCP is supplemented at times with the People's Anglican Missal. This represents one of the finest collections of Christian wisdom and devotion; more than seventy five percent of it is taken directly from Holy Scriptures. Christians from the earliest times have used fairly set forms of worship. These traditional services were translated from the Latin by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and set forth in 1549 as the first Book of Common Prayerin the venacular of the people.
Since then, to meet the needs of a new day, the Book of Common Prayer has been revised a number of times, the 1928 being the norm. But throughout it has remained essentially unchanged. Many of its prayers have been prayed by Christians for more than 1400 years. You might wonder why we use set forms of worship. It is because it trains us in our praying - to adore God to thank Him and to confess our sins to Him, as well. as petition Him and make intercession to Him. We do not get into the rut of praying only one way - and since the law of belief is closely tied to the law of prayer, set forms of worship can help keep our beliefs orthodox.
The mainstays of Anglican worship are the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Office of Morning Prayer/Matins and Evening Prayer/Evensong. The Daily Offices, which can be traced back to the Old Testament, are services of Psalms, Scripture Lessons, hymns and prayers. The chief act of Christian worship is the Holy Eucharist, through which we keep our Lord’s command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Essentially, Yes! You may find some variation of customs from parish to parish. If you are new to Anglican worship you may find same customs in the worship service unfamiliar. The priest at your local parish will be happy to explain to you the symbolism of our worship. One general rule of thumb for Anglicans is that we stand to praise God, sit for listening to instruction, and kneel to pray. One of the several exceptions occurs when we stand to pray at Baptisms and Weddings.
Worship is a prime responsibility for all Christians. We believe that the life of Christian service is possible only through a full life of worship, through which we receive God's love and express our love to Him. Hence, we believe it is our obligation not only to worship God together every Lord's Day but also to have a daily life of prayer. A number of our parishes are able to offer the Daily Offices and the Holy Eucharist during the week, as well as on the Lord's Day.
We believe that all Christians are given special Spiritual Gifts by the Holy Spirit. These Gifts are meant to be used for the benefit of the entire Christian community. A Christian should determine as soon as possible which of the Spiritual Gifts he/she has been given, and then develop, exercise and use these gifts in their personal ministry. There are many opportunities for service and to exercise your Spiritual Gift(s). It has been well said that the Southern Episcopal Church movement has been built upon the efforts of its laity. Within the parish there is the need for altar guilds, acolytes, church school leaders, teachers, lay readers, choir, and the parish committees which help in the carrying out of the parish's mission. Also, a number of our parishes are in the process of obtaining their own property, building new structures or renovating existing ones for use in worship.
A vast array of talent is needed to complete these tasks. Also, many parishes have study groups, prayer groups, youth groups, and church school classes, offering further opportunity for involvement, In addition, there exists the need for workers in the "outreach" vineyard - visiting the shut-ins, hospitals, jails, homes for the aged and infirm, youth hostels, halfway houses, etc. Around the parish are, usually, more tasks to be accomplished than there are people to assist. Every Christian is a minister. Everything we do in God’s service to our fellowman is a ministry of the Church. Often we consider what we do not important, but Christ said, ”In as much as you did it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me.” There are no unimportant ministries.
Beyond the parish you will find many Southern Episcopalians involved with community concerns or serving on different committees of the Diocese and/or National Church. Also, you will find many of our parishioners taking an active part in the government of their city/county, state and national politics as good citizens. The laity are an integral part of the government of the Southern Episcopal Church, The parish vestry (similar to a board of directors) is comprised of parish members and is charged with the management of the temporal affairs of the parish. Synods, or meetings, of the dioceses and the National Church. have active lay participation. Each parish sends lay representatives to the Synod. Anglicans take seriously our Lord's call to all Christians to serve Him. This means both a ministry within the Christian family and a ministry to the world to spread the Gospel and to tangibly show forth Jesus Christ in our lives.
We acknowledge that Rule of Faith laid down by Saint Vincent of Lerins: “Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere always and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic" The Church is the Body of Christ at work in the world. She is the society of the Baptized called out from the world: ‘in it, but not of it.’ As Christ's faithful Bride, she is different from the world, and must not be influenced by the world and all her materiality. We repudiate all deviation or departure from the Faith in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order.
Come and worship with us! Seek out the nearest Southern Episcopal parish, a congregation with: An Unchanging Faith-In An Ever-Changing World We will be glad to welcome you and to answer your questions. If there is no Southern Episcopal parish near you, gather one in your own home and inform the Bishop for your area. If you need assistance in forming a home congregation or need further information, or you would like to receive our newsletter, please write to:
The Southern Episcopal Church
417 West South Street
Carlisle PA 17013-2829