One, Catholic, and Apostolic: Samuel Seabury and the Early Episcopal Church

By Gundersen, Joan R. | Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2006 | Go to article overview

One, Catholic, and Apostolic: Samuel Seabury and the Early Episcopal Church


Gundersen, Joan R., Anglican and Episcopal History


PAUL VICTOR MARSHALL. One, Catholic, and Apostolic: Samuel Seabury and the Early Episcopal Church. New York, New York: Church Publishing, 2004. Pp. xx + 284, preface, bibliography, index, CD-ROM appendices. $30.00.

Bishop Paul Marshall's study of Samuel Seabury and the events surrounding the writing of the 1789 Book of Common Prayer is a blending of biography and liturgical studies. Unfortunately, the blend does not work well. The advocacy that lends passion to his liturgical scholarship distorts his historical statements. The blend leaves him with no clear audience. Scholars will be put off by his historical treatments and the general reader by the depth and technical nature of his liturgical discussions.

Liturgical scholars will find the accompanying documentary appendix on CD-ROM useful, although the 1780s drafts of the Book of Common Prayer are available on-line. The appendices contain little shedding historical light on the surrounding events or Seabury himself.

Marshall is persuasive that Seabury had a good grasp of the theology involved in the liturgical discussions and worked consistently to move Americans towards the sacramental understandings of the Scottish church. The 1789 Book of Common Prayer, not surprisingly, is a compromise document. The book clearly outlines the fluidity of both doctrine and liturgy in the 1780s, reinforcing that it was not a given that the Episcopal Church's first official liturgy would follow closely its old-world models. One, Catholic, and Apostolic documents the discussions around, and implications for, Eucharistic meaning in the placement of prayers, the role of the "Prayer of Humble Access," and why the phrase "descended into hell" in the Creed was controversial. The author, here, is in his element.

Samuel Seabury is Marshall's hero, saving the church from the crass and duplicitous efforts of William White, William Smith, and low churchmen of the South who wanted a liturgy stripped of theological richness in order to make it acceptable to citizens of the new nation. …

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