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Doc. 161. Confederate Episcopal Church.

The subjoined is taken from the Richmond Examiner of November 14th:

We publish below, as general information, and to gratify our numerous readers belonging to that communion, “The Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America,” as proposed by the General Convention of that church, lately held at Columbia, South Carolina.

The Convention, we learn, was well attended, all the bishops of that church in the Confederate States being present, except Bishop Polk, of Louisiana, together with a full attendance of clerical and lay deputies. The venerable Bishop Meade, of Virginia, as senior bishop, presided over the body. The general tone of its deliberations, though entirely free from asperity toward the church of the North. gave evidence of a deep and settled conviction, on every hand, that the separation in church organization, like that in civil government, was, and ought to be, complete and perpetual.

In taking the necessary steps to form an independent church organization for the Confederate States, every thing was done with harmony and good feeling, and but one important change from the old constitution was made — namely, that which permits a State to divide herself into two or more dioceses (jurisdiction of a bishop) without the consent of the General Council. The several State councils are required each for itself to ratify this constitution.

The missionary fund and work of this church in the South, it was found, had suffered no decline since the separation from the North, but both were on the increase, even under a provisional arrangement. [378]

Constitution proposed for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.

article I: This church, retaining the name of Protestant Episcopal, shall be known as the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.”

Art. II. There shall be in this church a General Council. There may be also provincial councils and diocesan councils.

Art. III. The General Council of this church shall meet on the second Wednesday in November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, at Augusta, Ga., and on the same day in every third year thereafter, in such place as shall be determined by the Council.

In case there shall be an epidemic disease, or other good cause to render it necessary to alter the place appointed for such meeting, the presiding bishop may designate another convenient place for holding of such Council; and special meetings may be called at other times in the manner hereafter to be determined.

The General Council shall consist of two houses — the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

The House of Bishops shall be composed of all bishops of this church having jurisdiction within the Confederate States or the territories thereof.

Each diocese shall be entitled to an equal representation, clerical and lay, in the House of Deputies. Such representation shall consist of not more than three clergymen and three laymen, communicants in this church, resident in the diocese and elected by the Council thereof.

Before they shall proceed to business, a majority of the dioceses which shall have adopted this constitution, shall be represented in the Council. The representations from two dioceses shall be sufficient to adjourn.

In all business of the Council, freedom of debate shall be allowed.

Each house shall have the right to originate acts, and when any act shall have been passed in either house it shall be transmitted to the other house for its consideration. No act shall have the operation of law, unless concurred in and authenticated by both houses.

When any proposed act shall have passed the House of Deputies and shall be negatived by the House of Bishops, the House of Bishops shall, when requested by the House of Deputies, signify in writing their non-concurrence within three days after such request shall have been made.

In all questions, when required by the clerical or lay representatives from any diocese, each order shall have one vote, and the majority of suffrages by dioceses shall be conclusive in each order, provided such majority comprehend a majority of the dioceses represented in that order. The concurrence of both orders shall be necessary in such case to constitute a vote of the house.

If any diocese should omit or decline to elect clerical deputies to the General Council, or should omit or decline to elect lay delegates, or if any of those of either order elected, should fail to attend, such diocese shall, nevertheless, be considered as duly represented by such deputy or deputies as may attend, whether lay or clerical. And if, through the neglect of any diocese which shall have adopted this constitution, no deputy therefrom, either lay or clerical, should attend the Council, the church in such diocese shall, nevertheless, be bound by the acts of such Council.

Art. IV. Whenever any one of the Confederate States shall contain more than one diocese, said State may, with the consent of all the dioceses thereof, constitute an Ecclesiastical Province, in which a Provincial Council may be held at least once in three years, which council shall be made up of all the bishops having jurisdiction within the province, and of such representatives, clerical and lay, from the dioceses within the province as may be determined upon by the Diocesan Council thereof. If there be more than one bishop within the province, the senior bishop by consecration shall preside in the Provincial Council, and when there shall be three, or more than three bishops, they shall form a separate house.

Whenever such council shall legislate, its acts shall be of force within all the dioceses embraced within the province.

Art. V. There shall be held annually, in each diocese, a Diocesan Council, to be composed of the bishop or bishops of the diocese, and of a lay and clerical representation from each parish of the diocese. This council shall legislate for only diocesan purposes.

Art. VI. The bishop or bishops in each diocese, shall be chosen by the council of that diocese, agreeably to such rules as it may prescribe; and every bishop of this church shall confine the exercise of his episcopal office to his proper diocese, unless requested to perform any act of that office by the ecclesiastical authority of another diocese.

Art. VII. A new diocese, formed in any of the Confederate States, or in any territory thereof, not now represented, may, any time hereafter, be admitted to union with, and representation in, the General Council of this church, on acceding to this constitution: Provided, there were, at the time of organization, and are, at the time of making application for admission, at least six officiating presbyters within such diocese, regularly settled in a parish or church.

A new diocese may be formed within the limits of any existing diocese, with the consent of its council, and bishop or bishops thereof, or, if there be no bishop, of the ecclesiastical authority thereof; and a new diocese may be formed within the limits of two or more dioceses, with the like consent: Provided, that no such new diocese shall be formed which shall contain less than ten self-supporting parishes, or less than ten presbyters who have been for [379] at least one year canonically resident within the bounds of such new diocese, regularly settled in a parish or congregation, and qualified to vote for a bishop; nor shall such diocese be formed, if thereby any existing diocese shall be so reduced as to contain less than fifteen self-supporting parishes, or less than fifteen presbyters who have been residing therein, and settled and qualified as above mentioned: Provided, that no city shall form more than one diocese.

In case a diocese shall be divided into two or more dioceses, the diocesan of the diocese so divided, may elect the diocese over which he will preside, and shall become the diocesan thereof. And the assistant bishop, if there be one, may elect the diocese to which he will be attached; and if he be not the one elected by the bishop, he shall be the diocesan thereof.

Art. VIII. The mode of trying bishops shall be provided by the General Council. The court appointed for that purpose shall be composed of bishops only.

In every diocese the mode of trying presbyters and deacons shall be prescribed by the council of the diocese.

None but a bishop shall pronounce sentence of admonition, suspension, or degradation from the ministry, on any clergyman, whether bishop, presbyter or deacon.

Art. IX. No person shall be admitted to holy orders, until he shall have been examined by the bishop and two presbyters, and shall have exhibited such testimonials and other requisites, as the canons in that case provided may direct.

Nor shall any person be ordained either deacon or priest, until he shall have subscribed to the following declaration, viz.:

I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.

No person ordained by a foreign bishop shall be permitted to officiate as a minister of this church, until he shall have complied with the canon or canons in such case provided, and have also subscribed the aforesaid declaration.

Art. X. A Book of Common Prayer, administration of the Sacrament, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, articles of religion, and a form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating bishops, priests, and deacons, when established by the General Council, shall be used in those dioceses which shall have adopted the constitution. No alteration or addition shall be made in the Book of Common Prayer, or other offices of the church, or the Articles of Religion, unless the same shall be submitted to one General Council, and by a resolution thereof, made known to the council of every diocese, approved by the diocesan council. and adopted at the subsequent General Council.

Art. XI. Bishops for foreign countries may, on due application therefrom, be consecrated, with the approbation of a majority of the bishops of this church, signified in writing to the president bishop; he, thereupon, taking order for the same, and they being satisfied that the person designated for the office has been duly chosen, and is properly qualified.

The order for the consecration shall be conformed, as nearly as may be, in the judgment of the bishops, to the one used in this church.

Bishops so consecrated, shall not be eligible to the office of diocesan or assistant bishop in any diocese in the Confederate States, nor be entitled to a seat in the House of Bishops, nor exercise any authority in the said States.

Art, XII. Any alteration in this constitution shall be originated in the General Council. When adopted in one General Council, by a majority of the House of Bishops, and by a majority of the House of Deputies, said deputies voting by dioceses and orders, such alteration shall be made known to the several diocesan councils, and, if agreed to by two-thirds of them, and ratified in the ensuing General Council, the same shall be a part of this constitution.

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