Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Today's "saint" has a St. John's Connection!

At the weekday services at St. John's we commemorate the "Saint of the Day" appointed. Although there is no formal canonization process in ECUSA like the Roman Church, we have a calendar that contains lots of saints in common with the Roman Catholic Church (such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Mary, and the Apostles) as well as those of particular Anglican/Episcopal Holiness, whose lives were examples of heroic virtue. They are listed on the ECUSA calendar, and a bio published in a book called "Lesser Feasts and Fasts".

Today, March 22nd, is the Feast of Blessed James DeKoven of Wisconsin. The www.satucket.com website lists the following info on Fr. DeKoven.

James de Koven was born in Connecticut in 1831, ordained to the priesthood in 1855, and promptly became a professor of Church history at Nashotah House, a seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin. He also assisted at St. John Chrysostom Church in Delafield, Wisconsin. In 1859 he became Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college in Racine, Wisconsin. Nashotah House was from its inception dedicated to an increased emphasis on the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and on the use of ritual practices that recognized and honored that presence. In the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874, de Koven became the chief spokesman for the "ritualists," defending the use of candles, incense, bowing and kneeling, and the like. He reminded his hearers of the numerous assertions by prominent Anglican theologians from the Reformation on down who had taught, and the ecclesiastical courts which when the question came up had ruled, that it is Anglican belief, shared not only with Romans but with Lutherans and East Orthodox, that the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament is a real and objective presence. However, he was eloquent and firm in saying: "The gestures and practices by which we recognize the presence of Christ do not matter. Only Christ matters."
In 1874 he was elected Bishop of Wisconsin, and in 1875 Bishop of Illinois, but because he was "controversial" he failed both times to have his election ratified by a majority of Bishops and a majority of Standing Committees of Dioceses, as required by canon law.
He died at his college in Racine, Wisconsin, on 22 March 1879


So besides the points of connection to me (I went to Nashotah House, albeit 137 years later, and also served as the seminarian assistant at St. John's Chrysostom in Delafield), he is also connected to St. John's Church. Our first Rector, Fr. William Armitage, went on to succeed the great missionary bishop Jackson Kemper as diocesan of Wisconsin, and therefore was not only James DeKoven's bishop, but James DeKoven was elected to succeed him when Bishop Armitage died in 1873 (but DeKoven was never elevated to be a bishop due to Church politics...).
Finally, Bishop Armitage died while in New York on Church business and is buried here in Detroit. His funeral sermon was preached by James DeKoven! It can be found here http://anglicanhistory.org/dekoven/sermons/sermon21.html
As I read about the controversies in the 19th Century it reminds me that although the 'issues' are different today (quite frankly, the battle today is between biblical relevance and biblical disregard altogether rather than 'churchmanship'), the reality is that there have always been deep disagreements in the Church.