Consecration of Samuel Seabury, first Anglican Bishop in North America, 1784 | For All the Saints

Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church, was consecrated to the episcopate by “Non-Juring” Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1784.

Source: Consecration of Samuel Seabury, First Anglican Bishop in North America, 1784 | For All the Saints

A most important commemoration for all American Anglicans: the consecration to the episcopate of Samuel Seabury, the first Anglican Bishop not only in the newly-minted United States, but North America! (AFIK, that includes our friends to the north in Canada, but if I am wrong about that, I’m sure someone will correct me.)

“Samuel Seabury, the first bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church, was born in Groton, Connecticut, on the thirtieth of November 1729. After ordination in England in 1753, he was assigned to Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey as a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel…

“After the War, a number of Connecticut clergymen, meeting in secret on the twenty-fifth of March, 1783, named Seabury or Jeremiah Leaming, whoever would be willing and able, to seek episcopal consecration in England. Leaming declined, while Seabury accepted and set sail for England.

“After a year of negotiation, Seabury 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… Seabury then turned to the Non-Juring bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and on the twenty-fourth of November 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 clergy and laity.”

In addition to being a proud Anglican and Anglophile, I am also a proud Scott, so this story does my heart good on both counts!

Also worthy of note:

“Seabury played a decisive role in the development of the American Book of Common Prayer, when he kept his promise, made in a concordat with the Scottish bishops, to move the American Church to adopt the Scottish form for the celebration of the Holy Communion, with the restoration of the epiclesis, the prayer for the Holy Spirit, to the eucharistic prayer, as well as the prayer of oblation after the Words of Institution and the epiclesis, which had disappeared from the prayer of consecration in English Prayer Books after the first (1549) version.”

Notwithstanding my great appreciation for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (England), I believe that the Scoto-American form of the eucharistic prayer is more fully catholic in the proper sense of that word: not Romanist, but in keeping with the tradition of the ancient and undivided Church of the first millennium.

For that, as well as for the gift of the episcopate to North America, we who are American Anglicans owe Bishop Seabury a debt of gratitude!

See also this Biographical/Historical Note, from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, which notes that

“Upon his return [from his consecration overseas], Seabury became rector of St. James’s Church, New London, where he remained until his death. This period of Seabury’s life was one of the busiest in the history of the American Church. On August 12, 1785, following American independence and the first Convocation, he authorized the adoption of prayers for the state in his first pastoral letter.

“A liturgy of a slightly altered version of the Scottish Communion Office of 1764 was published with the advice of the clergy. Constantly traveling over rough roads and in all weather, Seabury performed long-absent ecclesiastical acts in an effort to build his diocese. Between May of 1791 and November of 1795, he spent weeks visiting parishes in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Most of New England regarded him as their bishop, and he often visited Long Island.

“In his journal, he records traveling between fifteen hundred and two thousand miles and administered eighteen hundred confirmations, fifteen ordinations, the consecration of six churches, and the bishop of Maryland [my home state!], Thomas J. Claggett. In fewer than 11 years, he ordained 93 deacons and priests. Candidates from even the middle and southern states would seek him out.

“In 1811, he performed his last ordination of Alexander Viets Griswold, who would later become bishop of all of New England except for Connecticut… Such exhausting demands took their toll, and Seabury missed his first appointment in late 1794. On February 25, 1796 while visiting the home of the warden of his New London church, Seabury suffered a heart attack and died.

“With all his activity to build the church, it is easy to wonder how he had time to write sermons, and lift his following from a languid to a faith-filled community. A controversial figure for his teaching and personality (his enemies called him a ‘pensioned Tory’) Seabury was yet a champion of ‘revealed’ religion, where he saw no conflict with reason. His oratory was more dramatic than favored at the time, but his sermons were rooted in profound biblical knowledge.

“Without sacrificing practical virtues and personal religion, he emphasized the Church’s polity and sacraments, including baptism, confirmation, penance, frequent reception of the Lord’s Supper and the apostolic origin of the ministry.”

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him!

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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