“Turning Points in Episcopal Church History”
A Lenten program for St. Michael and All Angels, Seaford

In his book Why Study the Past?, the Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us of the need for “immersion” in church history in order to understand and appreciate our current situation. He argues that this is especially necessary in periods of anxiety and change, such as the one we are currently experiencing in our denomination and the Anglican Communion. When we consider the ways in which Christians who came before us thought, lived, worshipped and behaved, we can better appreciate our own situation and our own calls to ministry. During our Wednesday evenings together during Lent we will cover the rich tapestry of church history from the formation of the church following our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection to the present day. This is almost two thousand years of “stuff”!

So, to get a handle on this vast amount of material, we will focus on four “turning points” as anchors for our interactive discussion. Each “anchor” will be considered within the context of trends and events leading up to and deriving from the focal point that serves as the climax of each individual session, as follows:

March 4The Council of Nicea. We are a faith tradition which professes a creed that contains a historical statement (Can you find it?). During the first 1500 years of the Christian faith, the church established and refined its identity in a wide variety of forms and settings.

March 11The Elizabethan Settlement. One historian answers the question “Did Henry VIII create the Church of England?” with the response “No, but Queen Elizabeth did!” Within the second 300 years the basic shape of our Anglican theology and practice was established.

March 18 The formation of the Episcopal Church in America. The newly independent United States of America implemented a constitutional “separation of church and state.” Our Episcopal Church (complete with bishops!) was created in the context of the polity of the new republic. Over the next 200+ years our church was nurtured and matured.

March 25The First Lambeth Conference. In 1867 a global meeting of Anglican bishops was convened for the first time at Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The ideas of unity within diversity, of churches in “brotherly intercommunion,” evolved from this and the succeeding thirteen conferences.

We’ll start each session promptly at 7 p.m. with Evening Prayer, using services from the historical period to be discussed that evening. Our only text will be the Book of Common Prayer (1979) plus any materials the session leader may hand out.

Program leader: Dr. F. W. (Ted) Gerbracht, Jr. Ted is an experienced educator and strategic consultant in both the corporate and religious not-for-profit worlds. He currently teaches church history at the Mercer School of Theology. He has served as Treasurer of the Diocese of Long Island, and is currently Treasurer of both the General Theological Seminary and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. In addition to an M.B.A., Ted has masters’ degrees in Asian History (St. John’s University) and History and Political Science (Butler University). His Ph. D. in medieval history is from New York University.

© 2007 St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church