We love you, American Episcopalians!


Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, something special happened in Aberdeen.

Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, Anglicanism in the USA was set ablaze with the consecration of the Rt Rev Samuel Seabury, their first bishop.

The fact that the consecration took place in Aberdeen is one of those quirks of church history which has shaped, and continues to shape the church of today.

The short version of the story is that the American church needed to have a bishop and elected one of their own and sent him across the Atlantic to be consecrated by the Church of England. The Church of England in its turn was having none of it, frightened off appearing to offer support to revolutionary tendencies in the United States. Frightened of promoting revolution.

Seabury had come a long way to be made a bishop and needed to look elsewhere. He had previously studied medicine in Edinburgh and perhaps we can presume that his thoughts turned back to Scotland because he had previously been north of the border. He made the the trip up to Aberdeen where he was consecrated by Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen (who was the Primus), along with two other Scottish bishops, Arthur Petrie (who had connections with my own congregation here in Glasgow) and John Skinner.

The deal was that they would consecrate Seabury so long as he took back the Scottish Liturgy to the American church and work for it to be adopted on the other side of the Atlantic. When you are in the know about matters liturgical, you can still see the similarities between the liturgies from our two churches.

The particular thing that the Scottish Rite had was the Epiclesis a prayer invoking the holy spirit over the communion elements. The Church of England didn’t have it thought they’ve come close to adopting it since. Here in Scotland, that prayer is part of who we are and was part of our gift to America. Any true Episcopalian on either side of the Atlantic knows that the Scottish Episcopalians didn’t just hold up their hands to consecrate a bishop, but blessed the American church with something else that was holy too. And along the way, of course, we helped to kick what was to become the Anglican Communion into being. One sometimes feels that the C of E has never entirely caught up with the implications of that in the years since.

Today, on this anniversary, I want to celebrate the US Based Episcopal Church. I wish they hadn’t tried to change their name to The Episcopal Church a few years ago, as it is downright confusing, but they’ve done so much good that I try to forget about that as much as I can.

In the various disputes within the Anglican Communion in modern times, we must never forget that the Scottish Episcopal Church was the Church that liked to say, “Yes”.

May it ever be so.

The US church received the Epiclesis from Scotland.

They’ve been using it well ever since.

God Bless America and God Bless the US-based Episcopal Church today.


  1. The dear Scottish bishops who consecrated Samuel Seabury have my gratitude forever, and our Prayer Book is greatly enriched by the inclusion of the Epiclesis from the Scottish Rite.

  2. Bro David says

    And the heritage was passed on as my home church, the la Iglasia Anglicana de Mexico, being a daughter of TEC basically uses the Spanish language TEC prayerbook (with epiclesis), apropriately modified, as our church’s liturgy.

    I think that the US church was not trying to be THE Episcopal Church, but, the generic Episcopal Church in the short name, as opposed to the Protestant Episocopal Church of the United States of America, which is the legal title. And TEC was trying to represent the church’s full constituency, which is not as a national Anglican church, as is the Anglican Church of Canada, or a regional Anglican church, as is la Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America, but a multinational church with dioceses in many countries. I’m sure that you would squirm a bit to be called the Scotland-based Episcopal Church. It’s not cool or comfortable to say.

    Are there Scottish Episcopal churches that aren’t technically part of Scotland geo-politically?

    • There are no Scottish Episcopal Churches that are not in Scotland. (Though I’d dearly love to invade a well known local provincial neighbour).

      It may be a bit squirmy to refer to it as the US-based Episcopal Church but it is quite hard to simply use The Episcopal Church on a blog read in Scotland. That name just doesn’t make any sense here as it is what many people here would call the Scottish Episcopal Church.

      Unfortunately, the Protestant Episcopal Church’s renaming of itself which was for good reason to avoid being seen as US-centric and imperial reads rather badly over here.

      • Bro David says

        Since I don’t much understand the relationship of all the tiny islands around Great Britain and Ireland I wasn’t sure.

        Too bad we aren’t in the day when it was just the Church.

  3. Thank you, Father Kelvin, for this reminder of an historic event of some special note. In the present climate of unrest in the Anglican world, it is good to note that Scotland and the U.S.A. have a precious link through their shared episcopal provenance that is not directly originated (by their own default) by the mother Church of England. This spirit of independence emphasizes the infinite variety of our shared Anglican reformed catholicity. A Unity in Diversity!

  4. AnnaMarie Hoos says

    Thank you, Kelvin, for remembering us. May the bonds of affection always flow both ways.

    Those reading this thread might enjoy seeing the full de Rosen mural from which Kelvin took the detail above, which is on the north wall of the Nave in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco:


    Y’all come visit.

  5. Ann Fontaine says

    Thank you Thank you. That point in the Eucharist is the most important for me as a priest – I feel like I am standing in the center of time — all before and all after flowing through those of us gathered at that moment.

  6. The Scottish Episcopal Church did not invent the epiclesis, but adopted it from various ancient Eastern rites. So both the Scottish and American Churches could be said to be more in touch with the liturgical roots of eucharistic worship than those churches who use variants of the Reformation prayer-books.

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