Archive for the ‘Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity’ Tag

Feast of Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Charles Gore (January 14)   2 comments

Anglican Communion

Above:  The Flag of the Anglican Communion

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Anglican Priest and Cofounder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist



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Episcopal Priest, Cofounder of the Society of St. John the Baptist, and Bishop of Fond du Lac



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Anglican Bishop of Worcester, Birmingham, and Oxford; Founder of the Community of the Resurrection; Theologian; and Advocate for Social Justice and World Peace



January 16  and 17 seem to be auspicious days for celebrating founders of monastic orders.  So far the list has consisted of St. Antony of Egypt and St. Pachomius the Great.  With this post I remain within the theme yet depart antiquity for the 1800s.  Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Charles Gore join the company of saints at this weblog.  The Church of England celebrates Gore’s life on January 17.  The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives of Gore and Benson on January 16 and the life of Grafton on August 30.  I have decided to follow the Episcopalian practice of joining Benson and Gore on January 16 and to depart from the Episcopalian practice of commemorating Grafton on August 30.  A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is my project–one of my hobbies–so I have full authority with regard to it.


This composite account begins with Richard Meux Benson, born to a wealthy family in London, England, the United Kingdom, on July 6, 1824.  He, tutored privately at home for years, went on to attend Christ Church, Oxford, where he met to major influences, the Tractarians Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) and John Henry Newman (1801-1890).  Our saint graduated with his B.A. in 1847 and his M.A. two years later.  Benson took Anglican Holy Orders in 1849, served briefly as the Curate of St. Mark’s, Surbiton (1849-1850), then became the Vicar of Cowley, Oxford (1850-1886).  In 1865, at Cowley, he, along with two other priests, founded the Mission Priests of St. John the Evangelist, which became the Society of St. John the Evangelist (S.S.J.E.) the following year.  The S.S.J.E. became the first stable Anglican religious order for men founded since the English Reformation.  Members, who were active in the outside world, lived communally, recited the Divine Office together daily, meditated privately at least one hour daily when possible, and spent designated days on spiritual retreats and in silence.


The two cofounders of the S.S.J.E. were Father Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill and Father Charles Chapman Grafton.  The latter, a native of the United States, had started his sojourn in England.  Grafton, born to a wealthy family in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1830, had entered the ordained life after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1853.  He, after studying with the Right Reverend William Rollinson Whittingham, the Bishop of Maryland from 1840 to 1879, entered the Sacred Order of Deacons on December 23, 1855.  Grafton served at Reisterstown, Maryland, for a few years.  He became a priest on May 30, 1858.  Next he served as the Curate of St. Paul’s Church, Baltimore, and as the Chaplain of Deaconesses in the Diocese of Maryland.  Our saint lived in England from 1865 to 1872.


Benson served at Cowley until 1886, when he resigned to devote his full attention to the S.S.J.E.  From 1870 to 1883 the order spread to the United States, India, and South Africa.  Our saint wrote the rule for the order, the Superior of which he remained until 1890.  Afterward he traveled the world for a few years.  Benson spent a year in India then eight years in Boston.  He spent the Lent of 1895 preaching and teaching in parishes in Baltimore, despite the fact that his high churchmanship  had prompted critical comments by William Paret, the Bishop of Maryland from 1884 to 1911.  Benson returned to England, where he remained for the last 16 years of his life.  He took communion every morning.  When he could no longer walk to take communion, someone pushed him in a wheelchair.  Benson died on January 14, 1915.

Benson wrote much.  Searches at yielded the following results:


Grafton returned to the United States in 1872.  He became the Rector of the Church of the Advent, Boston, Massachusetts, an Anglo-Catholic parish.  Grafton also left the S.S.J.E. due to a jurisdictional dispute regarding Benson.  Grafton did, however, help to found the American Congregation of St. Benedict, now the Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved.  Then, in 1888, he, with Mother Ruth Margaret, founded the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity.

Above:  The “Fond du Lac Circus,” 1900

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In 1888, the Diocese of Fond du Lac elected Grafton to become its bishop.  The consecration occurred on August 25, 1889.  Bishop Grafton expanded the diocese.  He did this via two financial channels–his wealth and the wealth of people in the East whom he persuaded to contribute.  Nevertheless, perhaps Grafton’s most memorable moment occurred in 1900, at the consecration of Bishop Coadjutor Reginald Heber Weller.  Grafton, an ecumenist with strong interest in ties to Old Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, invited distinguished guests to participate in the consecration of Bishop Weller.  Bishop Antoni Kazlowski of the Polish National Catholic Church and Bishop Tikhon (now St. Tikhon) of the Russian Orthodox Church joined Episcopal bishops in the conscration of Weller.  The ecumenical breadth of bishops offended many Protestant-minded Episcopalians, who also objected to the photograph of all the bishops in full episcopal regalia.  The sight of Episcopal bishops in copes and mitres was a cause of much ecclesiastical controversy.  In time the scandal of the “Fond du Lac Circus” died down.

Grafton died on August 30, 1912.  Two years later, Cathedral Editions of his complete works (Volumes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII) debuted in print.


Charles Gore was sui generis–of his own kind.  He was a liberal–a social radical, even–yet many theological radicals considered him to be too conservative.  Gore valued tradition yet many traditionalists thought he was too liberal.  He was an Anglo-Catholic yet many Anglo-Catholics considered him to be insufficiently Anglo-Catholic.  Others expected him to fit into a round hole, but he was a gloriously square peg.

Gore, a native of Wimbledon, London, the United Kingdom, came from a privileged family.  His privilege continued as he studied at Harrow then at Baillol College, Oxford.  In 1875 he became a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford.  He, a deacon in 1876 and a priest in 1878, served as the Vice Principal of the theological school at Cuddesdon from 1880 to 1883.  Next he was the first Principal of Pusey House, Oxford, from 1884 to 1893.

Gore was a popular preacher.  He served as the Incumbent of Radley from 1893 to 1894 before becoming the Canon of Westminster in 1894.  Sundays on which he preached were much-anticipated days for many people.

In 1887 Gore founded the Society of the Resurrection, which became the Community of the Resurrection five years later.  The new order started with six priests, and our saint served as the first Superior (1892-1901).

Gore became a bishop in 1902.  He served as the Bishop of Worcester (1902-1905), the Bishop of Birmingham (1895-1911), and the Bishop of Oxford (1911-1919).  He retired to London in 1919.  Our saint wrote and preached a great deal, lectured at King’s College, and served as the Dean of the theological faculty of London University (1924-1928).  He died of pneumonia on January 17, 1932, after returning from a trip to India.  Gore was 78 years old.

Gore’s theology included much room for ambiguity.  He embraced higher criticism of the Bible, allowing for the realities of science and history, yet he insisted on the veracity of biblical miracles and the truth of the Church’s ancient creeds.  Nevertheless, some traditionalists questioned our saint’s Christology, especially when he argued that Jesus, as God incarnate, had taken on human limitations to his knowledge.

Gore favored a reasoning faith, a synthesis of critical reason and Christian faith.  He called this synthesis liberal Catholicism.  (Note the lowercase “l” in “liberal,” O reader, for that is crucial.  There is such a thing as Liberal Catholicism, with strong Theosophical influences.  Gore was hardly a Theosophist.)  Gore’s liberal Catholicism included defenses of apostolic succession and support for tradition.  It did not, however, follow tradition blindly, for it accommodated reason, science, and history.  As Ross Mackenzie wrote of our saint in the Christian Passages section of The Episcopal Church’s Education for Ministry, Year Three (1991),

Catholicism meant for him the establishment of a visible society that is the home of salvation.  But it must be a liberal Catholicism, appealing to scripture, antiquity, and reason in its concern for liberty, equality, and fraternity, “real expressions,” he said, “of the divine wisdom for today.”

–Page 493

This Social Gospel aspect of Gore’s theology found expression regarding many issues.  Sound theology, he insisted, must translate into positive social action.  In 1889 he helped to found the Christian Social Union, an outgrowth of Tractarian social concern.  Gore criticized imperialism, including that of his own nation-state.  He also advocated for international reconciliation after World War I.  The passage of time has confirmed that Germany suffered due to the ravages of the Great War and to vengeful treaty provisions, leading to high levels of resentment.  Nazis fed off that sense of grievance as well as other factors.  The article of the article on Gore in Volume 10 of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1968) noted our saint’s concern with social issues such as housing, education, world peace, and industrial relations.  That author wrote that this concern flowed from Gore’s

fundamental theological conviction of the unity of grace and nature in the divine purpose.  From this premise he concluded that his pastoral office demanded the broadest concern for human welfare as well as watchful care for the good order of the church.

–Page 583

Many works by Gore and some about him came to my attention when I searched at, my favorite website.  I have divided these works into categories, the first of which is original works by Gore:

The second category is works to which Gore contributed:

The third category is books Gore edited:

The fourth category is works in which another person edited Gore’s words:

Finally, in its own category is a response to Gore:


The Synoptic Gospels tell a story about a wealthy young man.  In Mark 10:17-3, Matthew 19:16-30, and Luke 18:18-30, a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  According to our Lord and Savior, this young man, who has kept certain commandments religiously, lacks one thing:

Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

–Luke 18:22b, Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1966)

The young man leaves a sorrowful person, for he trusts in his wealth, not in God.

Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Charles Gore came from backgrounds of economic privilege, but did not trust in that privilege.  No, they trusted in God.  They cared about the problems of the less fortunate and of those near and far, and acted accordingly.  They built up the Church, for the glory of God.  They were trees which produced good fruit.







Gracious God, you have inspired a rich variety of ministries in your Church:

We give you thanks for Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Charles Gore,

instruments in the revival of Anglican monasticism.

Grant that we, following their example,

may call for perennial renewal in your Church through conscious union with Christ,

witnessing to the social justice that is a mark of the reign of our Savior Jesus,

who is the light of the world; and who lives and reigns with you

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

1 Kings 19:9-12

Psalm 27:5-11

1 John 4:7-12

John 17:6-11

–Altered from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 171