The governance of the church

The UECNA is run on what might be described as a ‘Bishop in Synod’ or a ‘Bishop in Presbytery’ system where the duties of governance are shared. This echoes some aspects of Ussher’s plan for a moderated Episcopacy which was proposed during the run-up to the English Civil War, but its more specific context is William White’s The Case of the Episcopal Church in the United States Considered (1782.) White proposed creating State and Federal Conventions consisting of clergy and laity to administer the Church, over which would be elected a presiding office who would undertake the functions of a bishop until such time as the historic episcopate could be secured from England. The State Conventions started meeting in 1783, and the first General Convention was held in 1785.

At this stage, the Conventions were unicameral with the clergy and laity sitting and deliberating together, and this was only modified in 1789 to encourage and facilitate Bishop Seabury’s participation in the General Convention. With various small adjustments, the bishop and convention; bishops and convention model at state/diocesan and federal level has continued until this day. It’s intention is to make the government of the church cooperative and consultative, rather than a straightforward monarchical system.

In broad terms, the Diocesan Convocation or Convention, and General Convention decide the broad outlines of policy, set the budget, and address local and national concerns. They also elect the Standing Committee, and the National Council which act as permanent consultative bodies to the bishop(s) between the meetings of the various synods. In some ways, it is the bishop in consultation with the standing committee which is the backbone of diocesan administration. For example, the standing committee approves candidates for ordination, and grants permanent Canonical Residence to clergy. It also consulted in connection with some disciplinary issues, and when there is no resident bishop, it acts as the ‘Ordinary’ of the diocese.

The Bishop, on the other hand, can trace his origins back to the New Testament, and, in accepting the 1662 Preface to the Ordinal, the UECNA is committed to the view that bishops constitute an order distinct from the presbyters in the Church. This was a ‘push back’ against the Presbyterian claims concerning the parity of ministers – an issue that was all too relevant in the aftermath of the English Civil War. The bishop’s duties are to celebrate the sacraments, and to preach the word of God, which are functions which he shares with the presbyterate, to administer the discipline of the Church, which he starts with the Ecclesiastical Courts, and to act as Guardian of the Faith, to confirm, and to ordain. In administration and ordination he is expected to consult with the Standing Committee of the diocese, but it must be understood that the clergy owe Canonical Obedience to the bishop, and, if the bishop’s directions are in accordance with the Canons of the Church, follow his direction.

On the whole, the sort of Bishop-in-Synod government practiced in the UECNA works well if all those who participate in it – bishops, clergy, and laity – understand their duties and responsibilities. It is not a democratic system, but rather a representative system which allows for a broad range of voices to be heard in the administration of the Church. There is, however, one area in which the Bishops and Synods have no discretion, and that is doctrine. The doctrine of the UECNA is based upon the Holy Scriptures, the three ancient Creeds, and the Ecumenical Councils, as interpreted through the Articles of Religion, the Homilies, and the Prayer Book.

Presiding Bishop Peter Robinson discusses 18th Century Anglicanism

Peter Robinson, presiding bishop of the United Episcopal Church of North America, was recently the featured guest on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program on December 31, 2020. Host Chris Arnzen interviewed the presiding bishop on the topic “Lessons to be Learned from 18th Century Anglicanism Today”.

Click here to listen to the program.

Presiding Bishop Peter Robinson guest on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio

The Most Rev. Peter Robinson, presiding bishop of the United Episcopal Church of North America, was a guest on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio show on September 22, 2020. He was interviewed by host Chris Arnzen on the topic of “The Fall of the Episcopal Church & the Rise of Biblically Faithful Episcopal Bodies”.

Click here to listen to Part 1.

Click here to listen to Part 2.

baby hand

Presiding Bishop: The gift of life

This, perhaps, is not going to be the most closely reasoned of my pieces, mainly because there is a good deal of emotion involved, and also because as someone who read history at university and has a continuing interest in that field, I see the historical parallels, and fear greatly for where western society as a whole is heading.

The revised New York abortion statute which basically allows abortion up to birth throws into stark relief the difference of outlook that exists between a secular mindset and that of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The whole ethical justification for abortion involves, at some level, the tacit rejection of the notion that, firstly, God is the author of life, and, secondly, man is made in the image and likeness of God. What the New York abortion law starkly states is that human beings are just another animal species whose numbers can be controlled by whatever means are deemed ‘humane’; and it inhabits the same bleakly utilitarian territory of moral relativism as the Third Reich’s Eugenics Law, though without the same explicitly Eugenicist language being employed in the drafting of the statute.

The abortion debate is not one that exists in isolation, but it also has grave implications for the elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled. The cheapening of life in the womb will lead to cheapening of other forms of life that are not considered ‘viable’ for whatever reason, especially as the liberalisation of abortion laws inevitably leads to the consideration of euthanasia. To put the argument in extreme terms: why should the born have any more right to life than the unborn that the legislature of New York state has declared to be so expendable? If the evidence from Belgium and the Netherlands is to be believed, once euthanasia is conceded, usually in the form of Physician Assisted Suicide for the terminally ill, it is rapidly expanded as an “option” for the disabled, and the mentally ill. A quick survey of Pro-Life websites will furnish sufficient evidence of the steady expansion of Euthanasia once it has been legalised for ‘extreme’ cases. The idea of mercy seems to be increasingly merged with the notion of convenience, as the criterion by which who is euthanized is determined. Also, given the way in which healthcare is regulated today, the decisions regarding abortion and euthanasia will be increasingly taken out of the hands of the medical profession, and placed into the hands of government. Increasingly, the ethical standards of the West are in thrall to the relativism that enslaved the Nazis, though without their pseudo-Darwinian racial theories.

As a Christian, I believe firmly that, because life is the gift of God, and because humanity is made in God’s image and likeness, every human life is in a very real sense sacred from its beginning at conception to its end in natural death. I also believe that when one man makes the decision to take the life of another, especially an innocent, he is stepping out of his proper function as a steward of creation; and, whilst exceptions have traditionally been allowed for the workings of justice, and in the case of a Just War, these concessions are truly exceptions to the consistent ‘option for life’ that one sees in Scripture. This means that I have to go on record as opposing not just abortion, but euthanasia, as being contraventions of our common humanity given and created by God. They are both misplaced mercies. Abortion always has two victims–the child and the mother. When I was ordained, I knew about the first, but when I started in pastoral ministry, I soon came to realise that in addition to obvious victim of abortion, there is usually a second, thanks to the emotional and psychological trauma suffered by the mothers.

As a society, we seem to have come adrift from our cultural moorings in the philosophy of the Greeks and the Revelation of the Bible, and are drifting ever closer to an ethnic, moral, and societal collapse, which Western Civilisation will be extremely fortunate to survive. A culture cannot exist without basic principles, and the respect for human life is perhaps the most basic principle of all.

writing

Welcome from the Presiding Bishop

The mission of the Church is to be God’s Kingdom here on earth, to preach His Word, to celebrate the Sacraments, and ‘to show forth the Lord’s death until He come again.’ Therefore, the function of the United Episcopal Church, like that of every other part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, is to be a faithful witness to God’s love towards us as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ.

If you would like to know more about the UECNA, please browse through these pages, and if there are matters not addressed here about which you would like to know our teaching, please contact your closest UECNA minister or the National Office (click here).

We firmly believe that the best way for the Church to advance the Christian Faith is to abstain from ecclesiastical politics, and to devote all our energy to preaching the Gospel of Christ and celebrating the sacraments of our Redemption. Our mission as the Church is to point always beyond ourselves and towards our Saviour, preaching the Gospel of God’s Love in Christ for humanity.

In Christ,
+Peter D. Robinson
Presiding Bishop