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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What is old is new again

As the Traditionalists in the Episcopal Church continue in amazement that having taken one step forward (the Primate's Communique, signed by our own Presiding Bishop too) and now two steps backward (invalidation of the election of Mark Lawrence to be bishop of South Carolina by the same P.B. over technicalities, and now the House of Bishop's rejection of the meat of the Primate's Communique), today's feast day is a wonderful reminder that trouble is nothing new for traditionalists in ECUSA, particularly for Anglo-Catholics in the Church.


Today is the Feast of Bl. James DeKoven. He is a member of the Episcopal Church's calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts and is of particular interest to me and has points of connection to this parish as well.


He was a professor at Nashotah House (my seminary) from 1855 to 1859. He also administered the local prep school (now St. John's Military Academy in Delafield, WI), and assisted Bishop Jackson Kemper at St. John's Chrysostom Church in Delafield where I was a seminarian assistant and had the privilege of preaching from his same pulpit. He was later the Warden of Racine College, now the DeKoven Retreat Center.

In 1874 he was elected the Third Bishop of Wisconsin, to succeed the first Rector of St. John's, Detroit, later second Bishop of Wisconsin, William Armitage (who had died, and was buried from St. John's, Detroit, at Elmwood Cemetery with Fr. DeKoven preaching the sermon).

But as a "High Churchman" with a belief in the catholic nature of the Church, the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament, and the use of Ritual in worship, he was deemed unworthy of the Episcopacy and was turned down for 'consent' by the majority of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church. He was elected Bishop of Illinois the next year and was turned down again.


The ECUSA Lesser Feasts and Fasts records this portion of a speech he gave at General Convention in 1874 concerning ritualism. "You may take away from us, if you will, every external ceremony; you may take away altars, and super-altars, lights and incense and vestments;...and we will submit to you. But, gentleman...to adore Christ's Person in his Sacrament - tha ti shte inalienable privilege of every Christian adn Catholic heart. How we do it, the way we do it, the ceremonies with which we do it, are utterly, utterly, indifferent. The thing itself is what we plead for." (p.176)


Of course, the issue now isn't ceremonial, ritual, etc. Even unitarians and other heretics wear chasables now! Now the issue is whether Jesus Christ is uniquely Lord, the Bible is the Word of God, and whether we are to submit to him and it....or make it up as we go along.

And of course we commemorated his feast today at Holy Communion in the Chapel, with candles, cross, chasable, incense and the service of benediction as well! Fr. DeKoven would be pleased.


photos - James DeKoven, the original chapel and hall for Nashotah House, St. John Chrysostom Church Delafield, and Taylor Hall at Racine College.