On  November 10, 1873 the Assistant Bishop of Kentucky of the Protestant Episcopal  Church wrote his letter of resignation to the Rt. Rev. Benjamin. Bosworth  Smith, D.D., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese  of Kentucky. ?

 

"Under a solemn sense of duty and in the fear  of God, I have to tell you that I am about to retire from the work in  which I have been engaged in the last seven years in the Diocese of Kentucky,  and thus to sever the relations which have existed so happily and harmoniously  between us during the time... I, therefore, leave the communion in which  I have labored in the sacred ministry for over twenty-eight years, and  transfer my work and office to another sphere of labor. I have an earnest  hope and confidence that a basis for the union of all evangelical Christendom  can be found in the doctrine of Justification by faith. To this blessed  work I devote the remaining years of my life, content, if I can only see  the dawn of that blessed day of the Lord. I am, dear Bishop, faithfully  yours in Christ. ? George David Cummins."

 

Less than five days later,  Bishop Cummins circulated a notice to "others of like mind  and persuasion."

 

Dear Brother. The Lord has put into the hearts of  some of His servants who are, or have been, in the Protestant Episcopal Church, the purpose of restoring the old paths of their fathers. On Tuesday, the second day of December, 1873, a meeting will be held in Association Hall, corner of Twenty-third Street and Fourth Avenue, in the City of New York, at ten O'clock A.M. to organize an Episcopal Church on the basis  of the Prayer Book of 1785: a basis broad enough to embrace all who hold  'the faith once delivered to the saints', as that faith is maintained  by the Reformed Churches of Christendom. This meeting you are cordially and affectionately invited to attend. The purpose of this meeting is to organize, and not to discuss the expediency of organizing. May the Lord  guide you and us by His Holy Spirit...' George David Cummins.

 

When the appointed day arrived,  the Reformed Episcopal Church came into being. Bishop Cummins then addressed  the group.

 

"One  in heart, in spirit, and in faith with our fathers, who at the very beginning of the existence of this nation sought to mold and fashion the ecclesiastical polity which they had inherited from the Reformed Church of England by  a judicious and thorough revision of the Book of Common Prayer, we return  to their position and claim to be the old and true Protestant Episcopalians  of the days immediately following the American Revolution, and through  these, our ancestors, we claim an unbroken historical connection through  the Church of England, with the Church of Christ, from the earliest Christian  era.' 1

 

The choice of the name Reformed  Episcopal Church clearly demonstrates that our founders did not consider  themselves as revolutionaries who were intent on overthrowing the work  of the past. Instead, they saw themselves as reformers, intent on removing  the corruption of the present while holding fast to the purity of the  Church in prior ages. Professor D.O. Kellogg explained in 1893.

 

Anglicanism , the parent of  the Protestant Episcopal Church, not only stamped hereditary marks on  her offspring but has been imitated in all her mutations. A glance at  the history of the Church of England is pertinent therefore to that of  the Reformed Episcopal Church, which is only reformed incidentally, for  in gist and core it is a restoration, and shall have been called the Restored  Episcopal Church. If its true relation to the organization from which  it was cloven is to indicated in its name. It took and strives to maintain  the original position of the Church of England, when it became Protestant,  and of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Bishop White's time. We have  called it the reformed, but it is the Restored Episcopal Church. 2

 

Like the English Protestant  Reformers of the Sixteenth century, Bishop Cummins "sought to prove  that a national Church could indeed reform itself around the Protestant  principles of sola scriptura and sola fide without sloughing off fifteen  centuries of the Church's history. 3

 

Like Richard Hooker, early  Reformed Episcopalians would have been quick to urge: "Let  us be loath to change, without urgent necessity, the ancient ordinances,  rites, and long approved customs of our venerable predecessors. .. antiquity,  custom and consent in the Church of God, making with that which the law  doth establish are themselves sufficient reasons to uphold the same, unless  some notable public inconvenience enforce the contrary... We neither follow  Rome in her errors nor reject what is sound simply because it is hers.  Not everything that idolaters have done is to be abhorred, but what they  have done idolatrously. For of that which is good even in evil things,  God is the author.'4

 

This fundamental conservatism  is revealed in comments made by Bishop Cummins in response to his critics: "We  only want to take out all that can be interpreted as teaching false doctrine;  the rest should remain as it is. The fewer changes we make the better;  ours is an Episcopal Church, and we do not wish to do away with our offices  and liturgy". 5

 

It was with this intention  and in this spirit that the Reformed Episcopal Church was founded. At  that founding , Bishop Cummins presented the Declaration of Principles  of the Reformed Episcopal Church for adoption, which principles were intended  to be unalterable . In other words, if the Reformed Episcopal Church failed  to adhere to these principles, she would cease to exist as the Church  she was founded to be.

 

It has been claimed by critics  that the Declaration of Principles are an additional authority to the  Holy Scriptures and the 39 Articles of Religion. This is not true. The  Declaration of Principles are the expression of the Evangelical understanding  of the Thirty-Nine Articles. In effect, what the Declaration of Principles  does is establish certain clear cut boundaries which Reformed Episcopalians  may not cross.