Muhlenberg Memorial

Statement presented by William Augustus Muhlenberg, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, New York City, and others to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church at the 1853 General Convention. It reflected Muhlenberg's ecumenical vision of a church both catholic and reformed that could include all Christians. It proposed "some ecclesiastical system, broader and more comprehensive than that which you now administer, surrounding and including the Protestant Episcopal Church as it now is, leaving that Church untouched, identical with that Church in all its great principles, yet providing for as much freedom in opinion, discipline, and worship as is compatible with the essential faith and order of the Gospel." The Memorial upheld the traditional catholic teaching of the Episcopal Church concerning the Creeds, the eucharist, and episcopal ordination. It urged that Episcopal bishops should ordain qualified Protestant clergy who could accept the basic teachings of the Episcopal Church. These clergy would continue to serve in their own denominations. The apostolic succession was thus to be shared more widely through the Episcopal Church for a comprehensive Protestant Church. The Memorial also urged that the Episcopal Church should relax "somewhat the rigidity of her Liturgical services." Although the immediate results of the Memorial were small, it heralded the beginning of significant ecumenical activity in the Episcopal Church and later movements for liturgical reform. It is seen as the precursor of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1886-1888), and the Commission on Church Unity of the House of Bishops (1856). The Commission on Church Unity eventually became the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations of the General Convention. See Muhlenberg, William Augustus.

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