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Feast of Charles Inglis (August 12)   3 comments


Above:  St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1910

Image Source = Halifax Public Libraries



Anglican Bishop of Nova Scotia

The feast day of Charles Inglis, the first bishop of The Church of England in the colonies and the first bishop in what became the Anglican Church of Canada, in The Church of Ireland is August 16.  In the Anglican Church of Canada his commemoration falls on August 12, the anniversary of his consecration as a bishop in 1787.  (That is his Canadian feast day in The Book of Common Prayer of 1962, yet his feast is absent from The Book of Alternative Services of 1985.  Both books have official status in Canada.)

The Church of England, for various reasons, never stationed a bishop in North America until 1787, when Inglis became the first Bishop of Nova Scotia, with jurisdiction over churches in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, and Bermuda.  Four years earlier, Samuel Seabury (1729-1796), a priest in Connecticut, had sailed to England  to seek ordination to the episcopacy.  He, being an American, could not swear loyalty to the British crown, so The Church of England refused to consecrate him.  In 1784 bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church consecrated Seabury.  He became the first bishop in The Episcopal Church (organized in 1789) and the first Bishop of Connecticut (in 1785).  Seabury wore a mitre Charles Inglis had designed.

The Reverend Archibald Inglis (died in 1745) was the Rector of Glen and Kilcarr, in Ireland.  He had three sons, the eldest of which was Richard Inglis (born circa 1720), who succeeded him immediately.  The youngest son was Charles Inglis, born in 1734.  The death of Archibald when Charles was 11 years old prevented our saint from attending a university.  Nevertheless, Charles did read deeply in the Greek and Latin classics and learn some Hebrew.  From 1754 to 1758 our saint taught in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Then he returned to England to become a priest.

Inglis was a priest in North American colonies from 1759 to 1783.  For six years he served in Delaware.  His parish was 33 miles long and 10-13 miles wide, containing four congregations, with the main one at Dover, when he started.  By the time Inglis left he had added a fifth congregation.  1764 was an eventful year for our saint.  Early in the year he married Mary Vining (born in 1733).  By the end of the year he had buried her and their twin daughters, all of whom died at childbirth.

Next Inglis served at Trinity Church, New York, New York, from 1765 to 1783, first as an assistant priest (1765-1776), then as the senior assistant priest (1776-1777), then as the rector (1777-1783).  During his time at Trinity Church our saint and his friend, Thomas Bradbury Chandler (1726-1790), worked together to advocate for the establishment of the episcopate in British North America.  Inglis was a staunch Loyalist and Royalist in revolutionary New York.  In 1776 he received a written request from George Washington, who was planning to attend church on a forthcoming Sunday, to omit the prayers for King George III and the royal family from the Litany in The Book of Common Prayer (1662).  Inglis ignored the note and read the Litany in full, with Washington in attendance.  Later that year our saint wrote and published a rebuttal to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776).  New York Sons of Liberty burned copies of our saint’s text.  The following year, upon the death of Samuel Auchmuty, Rector of Trinity Church, Inglis became the rector of the parish.  Our saint had been de facto rector for a time in 1776-1777, when the ailing Auchmuty had taken time off.

Inglis married his second wife, Mary Crooke, in 1773.  The couple had four children:

  1. Charles Inglis (Jr.) (1774-1782), buried at Trinity Church, New York;
  2. Margaret Inglis (1775-1841), who, in 1799, married Sir Brenton Halliburton (1775-1860), who became the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia;
  3. Anne Inglis (1776-1827), who, in 1793, married George Pidgeon (1760-1818), a missionary priest in the Diocese of Nova Scotia; and
  4. John Inglis (1777-1850), who became a priest, his father’s assistant, and the third Bishop of Nova Scotia.

Inglis, who received two degrees from Oxford University (honorary Master of Arts, 1770; Doctor of Divinity, 1778), lost his wife, property, and parish in 1783.  Mary died; our saint buried her at Trinity Church.  Then, with the British Empire recognizing the fact that the United States (plural in those days) were not British via the Treaty of Paris of 1783, politics changed greatly in the former colonies.  American revolutionary governments seized the property of many Loyalists, including Inglis.  Furthermore, many Loyalists emigrated from former American colonies for various destinations in the British Empire.  Among those destinations were the maritime colonies of British North America.  Late in 1783 Inglis resigned from Trinity Church.  Then he and his children departed New York City for mother England.

Inglis lived in England for just a few years.  During that time he renewed his friendships with Samuel Seabury and Thomas Bradbury Chandler, for all three men were in London at the same time.  Seabury and Chandler, also Loyalists, eventually returned to the United States, for they made their peace with the revolution and found communities in which their politics were not insurmountable obstacles.  And, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, Inglis designed Seabury’s mitre.  Our saint also encouraged the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SPCK) to translate The Book of Common Prayer (1662) into the Mohawk language.  In 1786, after Chandler, citing health problems, declined the offer to become the first Bishop of Nova Scotia, Inglis accepted the position.  The consecration occurred at Lambeth Palace on August 12, 1787.

Bishop Inglis presided over the Diocese of Nova Scotia, a vast territory spanning Ontario in west to the maritime colonies and Newfoundland and Labrador in the west to Bermuda even more to the west.  At the beginning of his episcopate the work was indeed daunting, for there was just one proper church building, that of St. Paul’s, Halifax.  Many colonists had little or no interest in organized religion.  Others, however, were Roman Catholics, Calvinists, and revivalists.  Inglis was critical of all of them.  Of dissenting Protestants he wrote:

Their wild notions are imbibed, which militate against both Church and State.  The minds of the people are hereby perverted against our excellent Church….For my part I shudder at the probable consequences of such a state of things, if continued.  I see in their embryo the same state which produced the subversion of Church and State in the time of Charles I.

Of revivalists he wrote:

Instantaneous conversion accompanied by strong bodily agitation, divine and immediate inspiration and even prophecy, with the impeccability of those who are once converted are among their favorite doctrines and pretensions.

Our saint, a man of the Anglican establishment, was equally critical of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, labeling it an “intolerant sect.”  (To be fair, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism was also quite critical of Protestantism and Anglicanism.)

Inglis built up his see.  Although he expanded the Litany slightly to include civil officials in colonies, he insisted that priests otherwise follow The Book of Common Prayer (1662) to the letter.  He also oversaw the construction of more than 23 church buildings and visited congregations faithfully, confirming many people yet not converting the majority of the population to Anglicanism.  In 1789 our saint founded King’s College, Windsor, as a seminary.  Despite all his hard work, Inglis proved unable to fill all vacancies in missions.  That fact disturbed him.  In 1796 the bishop moved from Halifax, citing issues of climate and weather, and relocated to Clermont, a farm and orchard near Windsor.  And, in 1809, our saint joined His Majesty’s Council, ranking immediately after the Chief Justice.

Inglis worked closely with his youngest child, John Inglis (1777-1850).  The father ordained the son deacon in 1801 and priest the following year.  For 14 years John served at Aylesford, near Windsor.  During many of those years he served as his father’s assistant.  In 1807, at John’s urging, King’s College, Windsor, remaining a seminary, began to admit non-Anglicans, although subscription to the 39 Articles of Religion remained a requirement for earning a degree.

Inglis suffered a stroke in the summer of 1811.  He asked the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders to appoint and consecrate John as the Bishop Coadjutor.  Our saint assumed that he would die soon; he survived until February 24, 1816, aged about 82 years, instead.  In 1812, however, eccelesiastical officialdom decided not to make John a bishop yet.  The stated reasons were the son’s inexperience and allegations of nepotism.  Neither did the church send another bishop until 1816.  The tenure of Robert Stanser, the second Bishop of Nova Scotia, was not a glorious age of church growth, for he spent 1817-1824 in England for health reasons before vacating the post.  Finally, in 1825, John Inglis, the Rector of St. Paul’s, Halifax, from 1816, became the third Bishop of Nova Scotia.  He served in that capacity for a quarter of a century.

Our saint’s published works (mostly sermons) included the following, apart from those to which I have provided links in this post already:

  1. An Essay on Infant Baptism:  In Which the Right of Infants to the Sacrament of Baptism, is Proved from Scripture, Vindicated from the Usual Objections, and Confirmed by the Practice of the First Four Centuries (1768);
  2. A Sermon on II Corinth. v. 6:  Occasioned by the Death of John Ogilvie, D.D., Assistant Minister of Trinity Church, New-York (1774);
  3. A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency of the Lieutenant Governor, His Majesty’s Council, and the House of Assembly, of the Province of Nova-Scotia:  in St. Paul’s Church at Halifax, on Sunday, November 25, 1787 (1787);
  4. A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Nova Scotia, at the Primary Visitation Holden in the Town of Halifax, in the Month of June 1788 (1788);
  5. A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Province of Quebec, at the Primary Visitation:  Holden in the City of Quebec, in the Month of August 1789 (1789);
  6. A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of Nova-Scotia, at the Triennial Visitation Holden in the Town of Halifax, in the Month of June 1791 (1791);
  7. Steadfastness in Religion and Loyalty Recommended, in a Sermon Preached Before the Legislature of His Majesty’s Province of Nova-Scotia; in the Parish Church of St. Paul at Halifax, on Sunday, April 7, 1793 (1793);
  8. A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. Paul at Halifax, on Friday, April 25, 1794:  Being the Day Appointed by Proclamation for a General Fast and Humiliation in His Majesty’s Province of Nova-Scotia (1794); and
  9. A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Nova-Scotia at the Triennial Visitation:  Holden in the Months of June and August, 1803 (1803).

Useful sources of information about the bishop include the following:

  1. A Missionary Apostle:  A Sermon Preached in Westminster Abbey, Friday, August 12, 1887, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Consecration of Charles Inglis, D.D., First Bishop of Nova Scotia (1887), by William Stephens Perry;
  2. A History of the Parish of Trinity Church in the City of New York, Part I:  To the Close of the Rectorship of Dr. Inglis, A.D. 1783 (1898), edited by Morgan Dix; and
  3. Leaders of the Canadian Church (1918), edited by William Bestal Heeney.

Charles Inglis did not hold political differences against those who opposed British rule.  Neither do I, an American, hold his Royalism against him.  He was an ecclesiastical pioneer, a proverbial giant upon whose shoulders others stand.  As the Bishop of Nova Scotia he sought the best interests of his diocese and the Kingdom of God.  Our saint was indeed a man people should continue to honor.








O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Charles Inglis

to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and feed the flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ

and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719