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Feast of William White (July 17)   3 comments

Above:  Second Street North from Market Street, with Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800

Engraver = William Russell Birch (1755-1834)

Image Source = Library of Congress

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WILLIAM WHITE (MARCH 24, 1747-JULY 17, 1836)

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

On the Episcopal calendar of saints July 17 is the Feast of William White, one of the three original bishops (with Samuel Seabury and Samuel Provoost), and the father of the denominational constitution.

White was a man of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Eventually he developed a well-earned reputation as the “first citizen” of that city.  He, born there on March 24, 1747, was a son of Esther Hawlings and attorney and surveyor Thomas White.  Our saint graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1765 then studied theology privately under the tutelage of the priests at Christ Church as well as Provost William Smith of the College of Philadelphia.  White, ordained to the diaconate in England on December 23, 1770, returned to that country for his ordination to the priesthood, April 25, 1772.  The following year our saint married Mary Harrison.  The couple had eight children.

White balanced overlapping ecclesiastical portfolios from the 1770s until his death in 1836.  He, for a time during  the Revolutionary War the only Anglican priest in Pennsylvania, due to the expulsion of Loyalist clergymen, was the following:

  1. Assistant Priest, Christ Church and St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia (1772-1779);
  2. Chaplain of the Second Continental Congress (1777-1781);
  3. Rector, Christ Church and St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia (1779-1836);
  4. Chaplain of the Confederation Congress (1781-1788);
  5. Bishop of Pennsylvania (1787-1836);
  6. Chaplain of the U.S. Senate (1789-1800); and
  7. Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (1789, 1795-1836).

Meanwhile, White also served as a trustee of the College of Philadelphia and the University of the State of Pennsylvania (until 1791) as well as the merged University of Pennsylvania (1791f).

Above:  Christ Church, Philadelphia, 1814

Engraver = James Peller Malcolm (1767-1815)

Image Source = Library of Congress

From 1782 to 1789 White made an effective case for a national “Protestant Episcopal Church” separate from The Church of England.  He presided over the first three General Conventions (1785, 1786, and 1789), helped to write the Proposed Book of Common Prayer of 1786 (never adopted), and sought to reconcile factions and unite them into one denomination.  Samuel Seabury, from 1784 the Bishop of Connecticut, was an old Loyalist.  Samuel Provoost and White, from 1787 the Bishops of New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, had been rebels.  Provoost and Seabury were not on writing or speaking terms with each other for a while.  There were also regional and theological-liturgical differences; the churches from Virginia to New York disagreed with those of the South and New England with regard to the proper roles of bishops and lay members.  Delegates to the General Convention of 1789, with White presiding, forged a constitution and produced The Book of Common Prayer (1789), in use for 103 years.

Above:  William White

An image from July 19, 1838

Image Source = Library of Congress

White was influential in other ways too.  Our saint taught theology to John Henry Hobart (1775-1830) in 1797-1798 and ordained him a deacon (1798) and a priest (1800).  Hobart, from 1816 to 1830 the Bishop of New York, was also a towering figure in The Episcopal Church.  Over the decades White had various assistants.  One of these, from 1811 to 1831, was Jackson Kemper (1789-1870), a protégé of Hobart and the first missionary bishop (consecrated in 1835) in The Episcopal Church.  Another circle of influence radiated from Kemper.  One member of that circle was James Lloyd Breck (1818-1876)William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) assisted White from 1817 to 1822.  Muhlenberg became influential in The Episcopal Church by, among other legacies, encouraging the use of flowers, the singing of hymns, and the founding of ecclesiastical institutions to provide social services.  He and Anne Ayres (1816-1896) founded the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion (1845), the first Anglican religious community for women in North America.

White, unlike Muhlenberg, preferred traditional metrical Psalms to hymns, which were new in The Episcopal Church in the 1800s.  The bishop considered hymns too Evangelical and prone to enthusiasm, which he described as

animal sensibility.

White, aged 89 years, died in Philadelphia, on July 17, 1836.  His direct and indirect influences on The Episcopal Church have never ceased to exist, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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O Lord, in a time of turmoil and confusion you raised up your servant William White,

and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper,

that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace:

Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders,

that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 3:15-19

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14

1 Timothy 3:1-10

John 21:15-17

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 467

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