An Anglican Hero: William Reed Huntington


In the Anglican church calendar, today is the feast day of Episcopal theologian William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), whose achievements include spearheading the 1892 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, and formulating what became known as the “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral,” the four-point statement of Anglican/Episcopal identity that is still used today.

Huntington cared deeply about Christian unity. His intent was to articulate a few core beliefs that made the church distinctively Christian and Episcopal; beyond those, the church should make room for a wide diversity of views. Those four points were the Holy Scriptures as the word of God; the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds as the rule of faith; the sacraments of baptism and communion, as ordained by Christ; and the historic episcopate (bishops who traced their lineage back to the apostles). Bryan at Creedal Christian provides a nice overview of those principles and their implications in today’s post.

James Kiefer, who writes the saints’-day bios at The Daily Office, observes:


The reader will notice that the four points of the Lambeth Quadrilateral: Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments, and Ministry, correspond roughly to the points listed in Acts 2:41f, where Luke speaks of those who received the Gospel as it was preached on Pentecost.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.

These early Christians were in the apostles’ doctrine. That is, they believed what the apostles taught about the Resurrection of Jesus, and about His victory on our behalf over the power of sin and death. That is to say, they believed the doctrine summarized in the Creeds.

They were in the apostles’ fellowship. That is, they did not seek to serve God as unattached individuals, nor did they form groups of persons of like minds with their own in whose company they might worship. They joined themselves to the existing band of believers, whose nucleus was the apostles. That is, they were united by participation in the ministry of the apostles and those whom the apostles deputized to carry on their work.

They participated in the breaking of bread. That is, they were regular participants in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. (That they had received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism has already been specified.)

They participated in the prayers. As far back as our records go, Christian services of worship have consisted principally of two things: (1) the reading of the Holy Scriptures and preaching based on them, accompanied by prayer, and (2) the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The pattern was set by Our risen Lord at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), when He first opened the Scriptures to His companions, and then “was known to them in the breaking of bread.” The former part, the prayers and readings and sermons, would often be referred to simply as “the prayers.”

Huntington’s classic The Church-Idea: An Essay Towards Unity is available used at Amazon.com.

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