The Episcopal Church and the Pending Crisis
— Letters from Bishop Lay
, of Arkansas
We find in the Little Rock (Ark.)
True Democrat, of the 12th, the following letters from Bishop Lay
It will be seen that there is no hesitancy on the part of those high, in, authority in the Episcopal Church to accord to our Southern Government full ability and power to establish for itself free and sovereign independence.
--The information contained in the accompanying letters will be of interest to the members of the Episcopal Church in Arkansas
Will you be no good us to procure their insertion in one of your Little Rock
Brethren: In a pastoral letter lately issued to the Clergy and Laity of Arkansas
, I took occasion to intimate a doubt existing in my mind as to the nature of my Episcopal jurisdiction.
I hoped at that time to have an opportunity to confer with you and to obtain your sanction for the course determined upon.
Farther consideration has persuaded me that it is best to wait no lunger; much as I would value your counsel and advice.
Under the Constitution
and Canons by which we have been governed the Church
claimed jurisdiction over ‘"all persons belonging to it within the United States
."’ Within the organized dioceses, jurisdiction when given by the diocese and confirmed by the General Convention, was absolute and permanent except for cause.
Not thus is it however outside them limits.
Into States and Territories not organized into dioceses, the Church
sent Missionary, Bishops ‘"to exercise Episcopal functions."’ She imposed upon them peculiar restrictions, for they are bound to discharge their functions ‘"under such regulations and instructions as the House of Bishops
may prescribe, and the Home
of Bishops may at any time increase or diminish the number of States of Territories over which the said Bishops shall exercise Episcopal functions."’
The Diocesan Bishops possess a character, and are invested with a jurisdiction which remains unaltered by any re-arrangement of provincial boundaries.
The Missionary Bishop
is emphatically a missionary or delegate sent forth by the general body, subordinate to the Episcopal College
, and in effect dependent for jurisdiction upon its will.
Of the Missionary District
of the Southwest
, part is now territory of the Confederate States
, part of the United States
, while the political position of other portions can not be as yet determined.
I have therefore forwarded to the presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States
my resignation of the jurisdiction received from said church.
There is no power competent to confer ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the State of Arkansas
This anomaly will be relieved whenever a General Convention in the Confederate States
shall be established.
In the interim, I shall continue to perform such Episcopal offices as may be desired, and to watch over the welfare of the Church
, her ministers and her people.
On this point I trust I may not be misunderstood.
It is no part of my design to intermit any of my official labors in behalf of the Church
in this western region.
Although my relations with the clergy will be those of courtesy instead of canonical obligation, I am sure no practical inconvenience will be experienced.
I trust that you will approve of the determination thus announced, although in arriving at it I had not the benefit of your advice.
It is proper to add that I have not received, nor do I feel at liberty to receive, any salary from the Board of Missions since the 1st of April last, a period anterior to the secession of Arkansas
I remain, with sincere regard,
Your friend, and brother, Henry C. Lay
I do hereby resign my jurisdiction as Missionary Bishop
of the Southwest
, and declare my purpose no longer to claim or exercise such jurisdiction within the United States of America
In the providence of God, a new Government has been formed by the confederation of eleven States formerly numbered among the United States of America
The Bishops, Clergy and Laymen within these limits being no longer citizens of the United States
, have also ceased, under the terms of the Constitution
and Canons, to be within the jurisdiction of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Inasmuch as the Missionary District
heretofore assigned me embraces territory in both nations, it becomes me to declare that I no longer claim any Episcopal authority within the territory of the United States
Arrangements are now in progress for the establishment of a General Convention in the Confederate States
, which will I believe, have the approbation of all the clergy and members of the church among us, In pursuing this course we are actuated by the conviction that the Confederate States of America
have now an independent national existence, and are well able to maintain their independence.
I doubt not, venerable father, that it is a grief of mind to you in your declining years, to witness the unnatural strife now raging between those who once were brethren.
It can be ended only when others consent that we shall be free to govern ourselves, and to discharge, without interference, the peculiar responsibilities which God has laid upon us.
Will you not add your prayers to ours that the sense of justice may return, that the foot of aggression may be stayed, and that relations of peace and amity may be established between the Confederacies of the North
and the South
I remain, with unfeigned respect, your
friend and brother in the Church of Christ, Henry C. Lay
of the South