"WHAT IS AN EPISCOPALIAN?"
Rev. W. Norman Pittenger
General Theological Seminary
New York, N. Y.
Sir:---What is so, and what is not so in the Protestant Episcopal Church, set forth in your "Look" magazine article, under the heading "What Is An Episcopalian?" recalled to mind the "semi-Solomon, half-knowing everything from cedar to hyssop," portrayed by Macaulay in his "Life and Letters." The article furthered, by contrast, my appreciation of the profundity and exactitude of Catholic Church evaluation of religious principles and history.
Your "Protestant Episcopal church being a branch of the Anglican Communion," as you say; holding in "common with the Archbishop of Canterbury the Book of Common Prayer" cannot rightly claim to "preserve the ancient Catholic creeds." This is evidenced by the fact, aside from the invalidity of Anglican orders, that only two of the seven Sacraments, that were administered by the Catholic Church since apostolic times, are recognized as valid therein. The attack in the Book of Common Prayer upon transubstantiation, upon the Mass, numbers your church among the anti-biblical, anti-historical Protestant sects.
Right you are, Henry VIII did not "found" your Episcopal church; though he did establish the first Protestant Church of England; the church "by law established," which opened the road for the advent of your church. The death of that Bluebeard King of England was followed, as you know, by Queen Mary's restoration of the Catholic Church to its pre-Henry VIII status in England. Then came the reign of "Good Queen Bess," the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII, who founded the second "church of England," of which your Protestant Episcopal church is a "branch," as you say.
To claim, as you do, that your P.E. Anglican church is a part of the Church that Christ established, which is the Catholic Church, that began to function in the first Christian century, is as far from correctness historically as it is doctrinally. The 16th century proclamation of the Elizabethans against the authority of the Roman Pontiff, to whom Christ gave His "keys" (thus delegating His authority to Peter), placed your Mother church, and its P.E.C. offspring, outside the sphere of the Church that Christ established; just as the 13 Colonies were outside the British Empire, when the Founding Fathers issued their Declaration of Independence, that repudiated the head of the Colonies, King George Third.
The repudiation of the Pope by the Queen of England and her Parliament, which repudiation you falsely declare to have been due "to unwarranted unsurpations of authority," placed the Anglican church, and its P.E.C. daughter, outside the Church that Christ-established; because as St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, said, "Where Peter is there is the Church."
Surely it is not within the power of you, or any other Protestant Professor of Christian Apologetics, to reconcile the status of the P.E.C. with the declaration of Tertullian, a foremost Ecclesiastical writer of the early Christian centuries, that "Nothing could be hidden from Peter, called the rock, as it was upon him as the foundation stone that the Church was built; Peter who received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, with power to bind and to loosen on earth as in Heaven." Again, "the Lord gave the keys to Peter, and by Peter to the Church (Pres. No. 22, Scorp).
Of what value is your claim, that "the basic beliefs of Episcopalians is the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds," when they interpret the articles therein according to their individual concepts? It requires a Protestant mentality to cry out "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," while reciting the Apostles' Creed in churches that repudiate the Church that has borne the name Catholic ever since it was applied to the Church under the jurisdiction of Pope Peter by St. Ignatius, who had appointed him Bishop of Antioch.
The Lutherans realized the anomaly of this, hence they changed their Apostles Creed to read "I believe in the Holy Christian church." Harnack, the famous Protestant Professor of Ecclesiastical History, made the significant declaration, which I submit for the consideration of Protestants who say the Apostles Creed, that the term "Catholic," at the end of the second century, "described the visible orthodox churches which, under definite organization, had grouped themselves round the Apostolic foundation and especially round Rome, as distinguished from heretical communities."
You ought to know, though your "Look" article does not evidence it, that the Apostles' Creed, or the Nicene Creed (which is an amplification of the Apostles' Creed), would not have been known to us had not the teachings of the Apostles been passed down traditionally in the Catholic Church before they were formulated by the bishops and priests assembled in Councils presided over by the Pope's legates.
You ought to know, though your writing shows no evidence of it, that the term Catholic was not in the original Apostles' Creed formulated by the Catholic Church. It read, "I believe in the Holy Church." The term Catholic was inserted in the Apostles' Creed by Rome during the 4th century to designate the Church under the universal jurisdiction of the occupant of the Chair of Peter. This was at the time when, as Harnack realized, heretics began to claim to be Catholics, as do the P.E.C.'s in our country, and the members of their Mother church in Great Britain.
Thank God there have been an estimated two thousand scholarly Anglicans, many of them ministers, who graduated from their man-made church into the Church established by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, against which "the gates of Hell" have endeavored to prevail through Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but without success. Among those converts are Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Manning, Father Faber, Father Dalgains, Father Ambrose St. John, William George Ward, T. W. Allies, Gilbert K. Chesterton, Michael Chapman, Father Bridgett, Msgr. Ronald Knox, Father Owen Dudley, the Caldey Community of Monks, and a host of others. I prayerfully hope your name will be added to the list.
Sincerely in the Lord,