Feast of Henry Knox Sherrill (May 11)   2 comments

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Image in the Public Domain

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HENRY KNOX SHERRILL (NOVEMBER 6, 1890-MAY 11, 1980)

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Witness for Civil Rights

Henry Knox Sherrill made his mark on The Episcopal Church, the United States of America, and the global church.

Our saint grew up in a devout family and became an Episcopal priest.  His parents were Henry Williams Sherrill (1853-1900) and Maria Knox Mills Sherrill (1855-1932).  His brother was Franklin Goldthwaite Sherrill (1883-1933).  Our saint, born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 6, 1890, graduated from Yale University with his Bachelor’s degree in 1911.  At Yale his mentor had been Henry Sloane Coffin (1877-1954).  Then he attended the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1914.

The young priest opposed intolerance and favored progressive causes throughout his life.  He began his ministerial career as the Assistant Rector of Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts (1914-1917).  Next he served as a Red Cross chaplain, assigned first to a hospital in Boston (1917) then in Talence, France (1917-1919).  Our saint, discharged from the U.S. Army after World War I, served as the Rector of the Church of Our Saviour, Brookline, Massachusetts (1919-1923), then as the Rector of Trinity Church, Boston (1923-1930).  During his time in Boston in the 1920s Sherrill also taught pastoral care and homiletics at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, and pastoral care at the Boston University School of University.

Sherrill became a bishop in 1930.  He, the Ninth Bishop of Massachusetts from October 14, 1930, to June 1, 1947, served as the chairman of The Episcopal Church’s Army/Navy Commission and the General Commission of Army/Navy Chaplains.  In the latter capacity our saint traveled widely in combat zones.  For this work he received the Medal of Merit, the U.S.A.’s highest award for a civilian.  Sherrill, Presiding Bishop from January 1, 1947, resigned as Bishop of Massachusetts on June 1, 1947, in accordance with national church canons.  As the Presiding Bishop our saint oversaw the organization of the Episcopal Church Foundation, the creation of the Seabury Press, and the progress of civil rights in the denomination.

That commitment to civil rights ran deeply with Sherrill.  In 1946 President Harry S Truman had appointed our saint to serve on the Civil Rights Advisory Committee, which produced the signal report “To Secure These Rights” (October 1947).  Sherrill also presided over the decision to change the location of the denominational General Convention of 1955 from Houston, Texas, where African-American delegates would not have received equal housing arrangements, to Honolulu, Hawai’i.  That was a controversial decision.  Under Sherrill’s leadership the General Convention of 1955 issued a strong statement decrying racial segregation and discrimination as being contrary to the will of God.  Our saint also supported ecclesiastical integration openly:

Integration in the whole church is inevitable; it is fundamental to the heart of the Gospel.

–Sherrill, September 18, 1956; quoted in David E. Summer, The Episcopal Church’s History:  1945-1985 (Wilton, CT:  Morehouse-Barlow, 1987), page 37

Sherrill was also an ecumenical leader.  He served as the first President of the National Council of Churches from 1950 to 1952 then as the President of the World Council of Churches from 1954 to 1961.

Our saint, who resigned as the Presiding Bishop on November 14, 1958, for health-related reasons, received 21 honorary degrees from universities such as Columbia, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton.  He retired to the Boston area, where he died on May 11, 1980, aged 89 years.  Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (in office 1958-1964) succeeded him.

Sherrill’s legacy has continued not only via institutions, but also via his family.  He married Barbara Harris.  The couple had four children, who had their own families and other direct and indirect influences.

Edmund K. Sherrill became a priest.  He was the Bishop of Central Brazil in 1975 and the Bishop of Northern Brazil five years later.

Barbara Prue Sherrill married Mason Wilson, Jr.

Henry Williams Sherrill (1922-2001) became an Episcopal priest.

Franklin Goldthwaite Sherrill II, or F. Goldthwaite Sherrill, served as the Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, New York, New York, from 1967 until his retirement in 1993.  He died, aged 87 years, in late July 2017.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CALLIXTUS I, ANTERUS, AND PONTIAN, BISHOPS OF ROME; AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS, ANTIPOPE

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Henry Knox Sherrill,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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2 responses to “Feast of Henry Knox Sherrill (May 11)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of John Hines (July 19) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (September 3) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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