February 2020

Dear Friends,

On Saturday January 25, on the second ballot, the convention elected The Rev Craig Loya to be the next Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. (If you would like to learn more about him, you will find his a short bio, essay responses, resume, and a short video at mnBishopSearch.org) That got me thinking about the first bishops of the Episcopal Church.

By long and strong tradition three bishops are required to consecrate a bishop. And, only a bishop can ordain priests. This was a problem for those trying to establish the Episcopal Church in the United States after the Revolutionary War. We had no bishops.

After the Revolution, a secret meeting of Connecticut clergymen in Woodbury, on March 25, 1783, named The Rev. Samuel Seabury or the Rev. Jeremiah Leaming, whichever would be able or willing, to seek episcopal consecration in England. Leaming declined; Seabury accepted, and sailed for England.

After a year of negotiation, he found it impossible to obtain episcopal orders from the Church of England because, as an American citizen, he could not swear allegiance to the crown. He then turned to the Non-juring bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland.

On November 14, 1784, in Aberdeen, he was consecrated by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness, in the presence of a number of the clergy and laity. (Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2003)

Seabury became the first bishop of the Episcopal Church. As part of his arrangement with the Scottish Bishops, he agreed to use the Scottish form for the celebration of Eucharist in the American Book of Common Prayer.

By 1786, English churchmen had helped change the law so the Church of England could offer episcopal consecration to those churches outside England. On Feb. 4, 1787, the Archbishop of Canterbury and three other English bishops consecrated William White as Bishop of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost as Bishop of New York. (https://episcopalchurch.org/history-american-church)

At last we had three bishops on American soil and could continue to supply the expanding church with bishops, priests, and deacons.


The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries