November 14, 2019 by Jesse Lebus
St. Luke’s, friends and family:
Today marks the 235th anniversary of a crucial event for members of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America: the consecration of the first Bishop of the Anglican Communion in the United States, Samuel Seabury. During the colonial era, there were no Anglican bishops in the New World; and persons seeking to be ordained had to travel to England in order to do so. After America had gained its independence, it was important for the church here to have its own bishops, and an assembly of Connecticut clergy chose Samuel Seabury to go to England and be consecrated.
There was a problem, however. When Seabury arrived he was denied. A number of reasons could be counted, but most importantly no bishops were willing because he would not take an oath of allegiance to the King. In light of these circumstances, Seabury turned to the north, asking his fellow clergy in the Episcopal Church of Scotland to consecrate him as a bishop.
Because of political circumstances associated with the monarchy, the Episcopal Church of Scotland was not recognized by the government, was free to consecrate Seabury without permission, and it did. That’s why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag.
In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. As a result he became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.
In return, he promised them that he would do his best to persuade the American Church to use as its Prayer of Consecration (blessing of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper) the Scottish prayer, taken largely unchanged from the 1549 Prayer Book, rather than the much shorter one in use in England. This prayer, adopted by the American Church with a few modifications, has been widely regarded as one of the greatest treasures of the Church in this country.
Eternal God, you blessed your servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America: Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.