Above: Charles Henry Brent
Image in the Public Domain
CHARLES HENRY BRENT (APRIL 9, 1862-MARCH 27, 1929)
Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist
The Feast of Charles Henry Brent falls on March 27 in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Brent was a native of New Castle, Ontario. He, born on April 9, 1862, studied at Trinity College, Toronto. Our saint, ordained an Anglican priest in Canada in 1887, served first as the assistant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Buffalo, New York. From 1888 to 1901 he lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts. There, as the Assistant Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, with the responsibility for the African-American congregation of St. Stephen’s Church, our saint worked in the slums and came under the influence of the Social Gospel movement.
In 1901 the Episcopal House of Bishops selected Brent to become the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, a position he held from 1902 to 1919. There he built up The Episcopal Church, not by “stealing sheep,” but by focusing on evangelism. He famously refused to compete with the Roman Catholic Church; he would not, in his words, “set up one altar against another.” Brent did, however, seek to convert people to Christianity. He also established ecumenical relations with the new Philippine Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic priest. In the Philippines Brent also became involved in the movement to oppose opium trafficking. He served as the President of the Opium Conference at Shanghai in 1909 and represented the United States on the Narcotics Committee of the League of Nations in 1923.
From 1917 to 1919 Brent doubled as the Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces. At the request of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, he organized and supervised the chaplaincy.
In 1918 Brent accepted election as the Bishop of Western New York, with Buffalo as his see city. He began his duties the following year and remained the bishop of that diocese for the rest of his life.
Brent was an ecumenical leader in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the modern ecumenical movement. In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland. The pioneering ecumenical conference increased cooperation among missionary societies. Our saint, a convinced ecumenist, became a leader of the cause in his denomination. Later that year the General Convention of The Episcopal Church proposed what became the First World Conference on Faith and Order (1927) at Lausanne, Switzerland. At that gathering, over which Brent presided, representatives of about 90 denominations–from the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to Quakers and some Baptists–discussed doctrine. The purpose of the conference was to promote doctrinal unity. Nevertheless, doctrinal differences became apparent quickly, but the gathering did encourage subsequent ecumenism.
Brent died at Lausanne on March 27, 1929, while traveling in Europe. He was 66 years old.
In 1907 Brent published a certain prayer, one included in his original language in Daily Morning Prayer, Rite One, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).
Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace: So clothe us in thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name. Amen.
Morning Prayer, Rite Two, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a modern-language version of that prayer. So does Daily Morning Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer (2013), of the Donatist (in the broad definition of that term) Anglican Church in North America. Any form of the prayer is absent from the corresponding ritual in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).
Brent’s legacy includes not only a meaningful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) but the World Council of Churches (founded in 1948) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion since 1988).
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A
THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639
THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION
THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS
Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one:
Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance,
that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,
we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
—Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 293