Reformed Episcopal Church

December 2, 1873 –

The Reformed Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the Diocese of the Southeast, which also has churches in Tennessee and Florida. In the early twenty-first century there were approximately thirty-one parishes and missions in South Carolina with about 2,500 members, and they were about evenly divided between whites and blacks.

This small denomination (approximately six thousand members nationwide in 2000) was organized in New York City on December 2, 1873, by eight clergy and twenty laypersons who had been members of the Protestant Episcopal Church. It emerged out of the low-church / high-church controversy of the mid–nineteenth century. Assistant Bishop George Cummins of Kentucky and Charles Edward Cheney, rector of Christ Church, Chicago, were both opposed to the ritualism and ecclesiasticism of the high-church party and especially to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which taught that at baptism a person is not only initiated into the Christian community but is also truly “born again,” regenerated, made new. The immediate cause of the division was Cummins’s participation in a joint communion service with Presbyterians and Methodists at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, a service at which the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was not used. Cummins was criticized for this and withdrew from the Episcopal Church.

The Reformed Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the Diocese of the Southeast, which also has churches in Tennessee and Florida. In the early twenty-first century there were approximately thirty-one parishes and missions in South Carolina with about 2,500 members, and they were about evenly divided between whites and blacks. Many blacks who joined the Reformed Episcopal Church had left the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Reformed Episcopal Church has three theological seminaries, one of which is the Cummins Memorial Theological Seminary in Summerville, which was established in 1876. The office of the Diocese of the Southeast is located at the seminary.

Guelzo, Allen C. For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

McCarriar, Herbert Geer, Jr. “A History of the Missionary Jurisdiction of the South of the Reformed Episcopal Church, 1874–1970.” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 41 (June 1972): 197–220; (September 1972): 287–324.

Price, Annie D. A History of the Formation and Growth of the Reformed Episcopal Church, 1873–1902. Philadelphia, 1902.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Reformed Episcopal Church
  • Coverage December 2, 1873 –
  • Author
  • Keywords organized in New York City on December 2, 1873, by eight clergy and twenty laypersons who had been members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Assistant Bishop George Cummins of Kentucky and Charles Edward Cheney, rector of Christ Church, three theological seminaries,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date May 10, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 9, 2019
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