From the Library of
Samuel L. Pollard
Given by his family
THE FAILURE OF
AS SET FORTH BY
FREDERICK JOSEPH KINSMAN
LATE PROTESTANT BISHOP OF DELAWARE, U.S.A.
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY
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FAILURE OF ANGLICANISM
AS SET FORTH BY
FREDERICK JOSEPH KINSMAN
LATE BISHOP OF DELAWARE, U.S.A.
[THE following letter was written by the Right Rev. Joseph
Kinsman, Bishop of Delaware, U.S.A., on July 1, 1919, to the
Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of
America, in order to explain why he could no longer continue
to hold Episcopal office in that Church. It is interesting to
Catholics, not because it tells them anything which they did not
know about the character of Anglicanism, but because it illus
trates the difficulties which those born and reared in that heresy
encounter in their search for the truth, and the grace and
courage necessary if they are to overcome them. Anglicans
glory in the " comprehensiveness " of their Church ; it was this
very " note " which at last convinced Dr. Kinsman that it was
not the Church of Christ. Christ's Church is a teaching Church,
whereas " to tolerate everything is to teach nothing," as the
disillusioned Bishop came finally to realize. He was, of course,
an advanced Anglican clinging pathetically to the " catholicity "
of the sect in which he was ordained. He took his degree at
Keble College, Oxford, and received his " orders" in England.
In America he was a pillar of the High Church section, a vehe
ment writer on its behalf, arid the recipient of many testimonies
to his erudition in the shape of academic honours. He states
in the following candid lines the reasons why he found it impos
sible to hold jurisdiction in a Church which does not know her
own mind, much less the mind of Christ.]
The story of the author's life and conversion is given in detail
in his volume Salve Mater (Longmans) .
2 The Failure of Anglicanism
To the Right Reverend Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, D.D.,
D.C.L., LL.D., Presiding Bishop of the Pro
testant Episcopal Church.
MY DEAR PRESIDING BISHOP :
I hereby present through you to the House of
Bishops the resignation of my jurisdiction as Bishop
of the Diocese of Delaware.
RESIGNATION OF OFFICE
1 take this step with utmost regret, both as relin
quishing a post assigned me by the Church to which
1 owe the greatest blessings of my life, and as sever
ing my connection with the State of Delaware and its
warm-hearted people, for whom during eleven years I
have come to have an ever- deepening affection. The
only post I could wish for myself is that of Bishop of
Delaware. I resign it because I can no longer hold
any post of authority in the Protestant Episcopal
Church. Fuller experience which has come to me as
Bishop and more thorough stud)- of the history of
our communion have forced me to abandon the
interpretation of the Church's position which I held
at the time of my consecration ; and 1 can adopt no
other which would warrant mv continuance in office.
REASONS FOR RESIGNATION
A brief statement of the opinions I have come to
hold cannot attempt fully to justify them, though it
will show the necessity of my present action. The
Bishops will think me wrong as to facts or as to
inferences, possibly as to both ; but, right or wrong,
the opinions have been deliberately adopted, and
must determine both my action and theirs in dealing
with my case.
The view of the Church's position which I have
held, certainly the prevailing view in the House of
NOV 1 8 1985
Reasons for Resignation 3
Bishops, is simply that the Episcopal Church, strong
in its " appeal to antiquity," stands firmly for the
doctrine of the Incarnation as contained in the
Scriptures and the Creeds, and, by emphasis on its
sacramental character, perpetuates the life of the
Catholic Church. But I have ceased to believe and
here I part company with the Bishops, and contradict
my convictions and teaching in past years -that the
actual facts bear out this contention. In spite of the
greatest unwillingness, I have come to feel that the
interpretation of the Anglican position which con
nects it chiefly with the Protestant Reformation is
the one more consistent with its history viewed as a
whole ; and that its dominant tendencies are increas
ingly identified with those currents of thought and
development which are making away from the de-
finiteness of the ancient Faith towards Unitarian
vagueness. This would seem to me to be due not
merely to local or temporary conditions but to certain
informing principles always more or less apparent in
Anglican history. To preserve balance and propor
tion of the truth, the Episcopal Churches have aimed
at comprehension by compromise. I have come to
believe that this habit of compromise involves increas
ing surrenders of truth, in spite of religious revivals
aiming at stronger insistence on the ancient Faith.
RESULTS OF OVER-COMPREHENSIVENESS
The chief causes of difficulty for me have been
three : (i) tolerance of denials of the Faith, seeming
to indicate failure to defend the Church's doctrine ;
(2) tolerance of imperfect views of Sacraments, seeming
to result in failure rightly to use them ; (3) a theory
of Orders which seems to nullify them.
i. DENIAL OF DOGMA
(i) Creeds. -It is unquestionable that the Anglican
Communion is officially committed to the doctrines
4 The Failure of Anglicanism
of the Scriptures and the Creeds. Authoritative
declarations have always asserted this, and would do
so now. But custom seems to nullify this theoreti
cal position : Consuetudo est optima legis interpres.
Attacks on Creeds in general and on specific doctrines
are common ; they are tolerated, sometimes encour
aged, by those in authority ; they are made by those
officially appointed to teach Creeds and defend them.
For example, the Episcopal Church accepts with
out question the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of our
Lord as recorded in St. Luke's Gospel. The clergy,
bound by oath " with all faithful diligence to banish
and drive away from the Church all erroneous and
strange doctrine," are theoretically bound to combat
denials of the Virgin Birth in as resolute and business
like a way as the Bishop of Ohio did thirty years ago.
But is this now possible ? Denials of this doctrine
have become common, e.g., among eminent divines
in the English universities and in the larger American
dioceses. Even in some cases formally brought to
the attention of Bishops, there has been no public
condemnation. In refusing to notice them, ecclesias
tical rulers have represented a very general impatience
with doctrinal discussions, an abhorrence of heresy-
trials, and a disparagement of theological truth. No
one Bishop can set up for his diocese a standard
notably at variance with that of the Church at large,
nor try to banish as " erroneous " from his own
territory what is notoriously not " strange " elsewhere.
In conniving at doctrinal laxity, he fails to vindicate
the Church's theoretical position ; but he usually
represents the tone and temper of his people due to
the habitual restiveness at the supernatural prevalent
everywhere in Protestantism. After long struggle
against the conviction, I have been forced to admit
that this toleration of doctrinal laxity seems to me to
indicate that the Church's discipline fails to express
and defend its doctrine, and creates an insuperable
difficulty for those who believe in the fundamental
importance of the historic doctrine of the Incarnation.
Uncertainty about Sacraments
2. UNCERTAINTY ABOUT SACRAMENTS
(2) Sacraments. The Episcopal Church permits and
encourages a variety of views about Sacraments.
Its standard, however, is determined by the minimum
rather than the maximum view tolerated, since its
official position must be gauged not by the most it
allows, but by the least it insists on. Its general
influence has fluid qualities always seeking the lowest
possible level. The stream of its life cannot rise
higher than its source in corporate authority. In
dividual belief and practice may surmount this ; but
they will ultimately count for nothing so long as they
find no expression in official action ; nor can the
Church be judged by the standard of individual
members acting in independence of it.
Like many others, I attach the highest importance to
the doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration, of the^Real
Presence in the Holy Eucharist, of the Eucharistic
Sacrifice, of the sacramental character of Confirma
tion and Penance. All these doctrines the Church
tolerates ; but, so long as equal toleration is given to
others of a different or even neutralizing sort, it does
not definitely teach them. To tolerate everything is
to teach nothing. Hence though individuals among
us may urge the importance of these definite beliefs,
they cannot claim the full authoritative backing of
that portion of the Church to which they profess
The sacramental teaching of the Episcopal Church
is non-committal, with the consequence that its official
teachers are habitually vague in their utterances, and
that the beliefs of many of its members are approxi
mately or actually Zwinglian. A general policy of
comprehension by reduction of requirements to the
lowest terms prevents conversion by rising to highest
possibilities. Although there has been marked advance
among some of our people owing to deeper hold of
sacramental truth, there has been even greater advance
6 The Failure of Anglicanism
among others toward rationalistic scepticism. On
the whole, the Church seems to be swayed by the
tendencies of the age- opposed to the supernatural
owing to ambiguities inherent in its system, always
subject to an intellectual law of gravitation.
3. ORDERS DOUBTFULLY VALID
(3) Orders. The immediate occasion of my resigna
tion has been a change of view concerning Anglican
ordinations. I received and have conferred Orders
in the Episcopal Church, believing Holy Orders
to be a Sacrament of Divine appointment, necessary
for valid ministrations. In this I simply shared the
conviction of many English and American divines,
certainly of most of the Bishops with whom I have
had closest contact. Hesitation about the use of the
word " Sacrament " as applied to Orders, as not one
of those " generally necessary," cannot obscure the
sacramental character of the formula, " Receive the
Holy Ghost for the Office of a Priest (or Bishop) in
the Church of God." In the best of company 1
have taken this as representing the true teaching of
the Anglican Communion about Orders, though it
involved explaining away dubiousness elsewhere in
formularies and in practice.
During the past three years, however, I have been
reinvestigating the question of Orders, being largely
influenced to do so by arguments that Anglican
Orders " have no special theory attached." This
contention, though lacking support from many whose
judgement is of special weight, has that of many
great names, of the preponderance of lay opinion,
and of important precedents. In comparing the
arguments for esse and bene esse (the theory that the
Church in ordination confers a Sacrament though
many clergy do not know it, as contrasted with the
other that the Church confers no Sacrament though
some of the clergy think so) I have been forced to
Orders doubtfully Valid 7
admit that the defenders of the latter seem to make
out the stronger case, and that this must be taken as
the more probable opinion of Holy Orders in the
Anglican Communion. I have yielded to the argu
ments for this ; but I give up the Orders.
Consideration of this matter had created such grave
doubts in my mind last December, that I had to
refuse requests from the Bishops of New York and
Pennsylvania to hold ordinations for them during
Advent, at which time also I finally decided to resign
my diocese. Only during the past month, however,
have I been able to see what must be the further
consequences for myself.
To my mind, Orders to which " no special theory is
attached " are Orders to which no special importance
is attached. Orders of this description do have the
theory attached that no special theory is necessary,
which excludes the sacramental view. To the Orders
of the Catholic Church the theory is always attached
or rather, in them the principle is inherent that Orders
is a Sacrament, perpetuating the Apostolate instituted
by our Lord. If the " no special theory " be the more
correct one, Anglican Orders are proved dubious, if not
invalid through defect of intention. If so, I for one
cannot perpetuate them, nor can I hold them.
Doubtfulness about the character of Orders and
the assumption that special forms in ordination are
non-essential seem to underlie many prevailing schemes
for promoting unity. Too often we are content
with names without regard to the things they
signify, giving the titles " bishop " and " priest "
without clear apprehension of the offices they re
present ; laying great stress on " Holy Communion "
without full apprehension of what the central Christian
rite really is ;' urging the use of the ancient Creeds,
yet letting it be understood that those who wish may
8 The Failure of Anglicanism
say " Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the
Virgin Mary/' meaning thereby that Jesus was one
of the sons of Joseph.
"Is the Creed worth defending ? " " Are the
Sacraments Divine mysteries ? " "Is Holy Orders a
Sacrament ? " I believe the only answer the Church
should make to all of these questions to be a prompt
and emphatic " Yes"; yet I have come to feel that
our communion by its non-committal attitude virtually
answers " No." Hence I have no choice but to resign
my place and to declare my withdrawal from the
ministry : the Bishops have no choice but to accept
the resignation and proceed to my deposition, since
resignation for these reasons involves renunciation at
least of the Discipline and Orders of the Protestant
I ought not to regret doing what under the cir
cumstances is necessary and right. I do sincerely
regret that the action will cause pain to many and
sever ties and associations which I supremely value.
Though forced to give up the ministry of the Epis
copal Church, 1 have not ceased to appreciate the
depth and reality of its religious experiences, or to
believe that through it Our Lord gives His grace to
all who approach Him in good faith ; nor have I
ceased to recognize that it is a training-school for
saints and is making valuable contribution to American
Christianity. My personal feelings for it can only
be those of gratitude. To it alone I owe the convic
tions which have led to my present action.
With great respect and affection,
FREDERICK JOSEPH KINSMAN.
BIRCHMERE, BRYANT POND, MAINE,
July 1, 1919.
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Narratives of Conversion
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