Feast of James De Koven (March 22)   Leave a comment

james-de-koven

Above:  James De Koven

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES DE KOVEN (SEPTEMBER 19, 1831-MARCH 19, 1879)

Episcopal Priest

The feast day for James De Koven is March 22.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) spell his name with a space separating “De” and “Koven.”  Nevertheless, some of the histories of The Episcopal Church in my library omit the space, spelling his name “DeKoven.”  “De Koven” is consistent with my research at newspapers.com, where I have found articles from the 1870s using the space.

The native of Middletown, Connecticut, graduated from Columbia College (1851) and the General Theological Seminary (1854).  He, ordained a deacon in 1854, went westward.  The following year the great missionary bishop Jackson Kemper (1789-1870) ordained De Koven to the priesthood.  Our saint taught church history at Nashotah House, administered a preparatory school, and worked as assistant priest at the Church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, Wisconsin.  In 1859 he became the Warden of Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin.  He remained in that post for the rest of his life.

De Koven was a ritualist at a time when the Oxford Movement was controversial in The Episcopal Church.  Candles on altars caused major theological arguments, oddly enough.  The issue of ritualism reached the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874.  De Koven came to prominence in The Episcopal Church as a defender of ritualism.  The broadness of the denomination, he argued, should allow for ritualism and transubstantiation.

The General Convention of 1874 amended Canon 20 (Of the Use of the Book of Common Prayer“) as follows:

If any Bishop have reason to believe, or if complaint be made to him in writing by two or more of his Presbyters, that within his jurisdiction ceremonies or practices not ordained or authorized in the Book of Common Prayer, and setting forth or symbolizing erroneous or doubtful doctrines, have been introduced by any Minister during the celebration of the Holy Communion (such as

a.)  The elevation of the Elements in the Holy Communion in such a matter as to expose them to the view of the people as objects toward which adoration is to be made.

b.)  Any act of adoration of or toward the Elements in the Holy Communion, such as bowings, prostrations, or genuflections; and

c.)  All other like acts not authorized by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer):

It shall be the duty of such Bishop to summon the Standing Committee as his Council of Advice, and with them to investigate the matter.

If, after investigation, it shall appear to the Bishop and Standing Committee that ceremonies or practices not ordained or authorized as aforesaid,…have in fact have been introduced as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the Bishop, by instrument of writing under his hand, to admonish the Minister so offending to discontinue such practices or ceremonies; and if the Minister shall disregard such admonition, it shall be the duty of the Standing Committee to cause him to be tried for a breach of his ordination vow.

–Quoted in James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States, 1789-1931 (New York, NY:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), page 210

Only one trial resulted from the amendment.  The trial of Oliver S. Prescott of St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended in an admonition, which did not change the ritual practices in that parish.  The General Convention of 1904 repealed the amendment of 1874 unanimously.

De Koven’s ritualism prevented him from becoming a bishop.  In the 1870s he was a candidate for bishop in several dioceses and came closer to being a bishop of two more dioceses.  He was not alone in experiencing difficulty in becoming a bishop due to the politics of ritualism.  At the General Convention of 1874, for example, George F. Seymour did not receive consent to become the Bishop of Illinois.  Four years later, however, he did become the first Bishop of Springfield.

De Koven turned down non-episcopal opportunities to leave Racine College and to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; and New York, New York.  He died at Racine on March 19, 1879.  He was 47 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

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Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues,

you inspired your servant James De Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true:

Grant that all ministers and stewards of your mysteries may impart to your faithful people,

by word and example, the knowledge of your grace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 24:1-8

Psalm 132:1-7

2 Timothy 2:10-15, 19

Matthew 13:47-52

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 283

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