Broad, tolerant charity

Daily Reading for March 22 • James DeKoven, Priest, 1879

In the midst of the debates over ritualism, James DeKoven, a clerical member of the House of Deputies, vigorously espoused the Anglo-Catholic position. . . . Concerned about the evangelicals’ efforts to restrict the range of doctrinal and liturgical beliefs in the Episcopal Church, DeKoven delivered a memorable speech to his fellow deputies in 1871. He defended ritualism on three grounds. First, he noted that many Anglo-Catholic practices not only were used in the early church (the elevation of the bread and wine) but also were ancient and biblical in origin (the use of incense in worship). Second, he suggested that beliefs such as the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements strengthened the religious commitment of the Christian faithful. And third, he argued that a “broad, Catholic, tolerant charity” was needed to encourage the spread of Christianity throughout all segments of American society.

In the end, sharp disagreements over the meaning of liturgical rituals and texts—theological differences intensified by latent anti-Catholic prejudices—tore the institutional fabric of the Episcopal Church in a way that the moral issue of slavery had failed to do only a few years before.

From The Episcopalians by David Hein and Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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