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Yankee Bishops

Apostles in the New Republic, 1783 to 1873


Charles Henery

The office of bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States has long begged attention from historians. Yankee Bishops: Apostles in the New Republic, 1783 to 1873 is the first collective examination of the American episcopate and offers critical insight into the theory and practice of episcopal ministry in these formative years. In this period, one hundred men were elected and consecrated to the episcopal order and exercised oversight. These bishops firmly believed their office to mirror the primitive pattern of apostolic ministry. How this primitive ideal of episcopacy was understood and lived out in the new republic is the main focus of this study. Yankee Bishops is also the first book to scrutinize and analyze as a body the sermons preached at episcopal consecrations. These valuable texts are important for the image and role of the bishop they propagate and the theology of episcopacy expounded. The final portrait that emerges of the bishop in these years is chiefly that of a sacramental and missionary figure to whom the pastoral staff came to be bestowed as a fitting symbol of office. These bishops were truly apostolic pioneers who carved out a new, vigorous model of ministry in the Anglican Communion. Yankee Bishops will be a primary source in Anglican and ecumenical studies and of general interest to the reader of American religious and social history.
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Chapter 7: A Master Builder


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The consecration of a bishop was among the more august solemnities of the church. “It is the introduction of another Ruler and Pastor of pastors into the divinely appointed corporation, to which the Lord Jesus Christ,” as William Odenheimer of New Jersey reminded Arthur Cleveland Coxe on his elevation to the venerable office in 1865, “has committed the extension of His faith, and the government, discipline and edification of the faithful.”1 In the fulfillment of this charge, it was expected that a bishop would prove himself to be a wise master builder, to appropriate a Pauline image, not only in the laying of new foundations, but also in preserving and building upon the apostolic labors of others. This image of a master builder, indeed, was invoked at Odenheimer’s own consecration in 1859. On that occasion the preacher, Alfred Lee of Delaware, prayed that the newly consecrated might show himself a master builder, laying foundations “broad and deep” upon which “countless numbers in ages yet to come will learn the song of the redeemed!”2

The work of master builder required many properties. Primary among these was an ardent zeal for the interests of the church. Those “clothed with this overseership,” as Lee exhorted Odenheimer, were looked to “for example, guidance and encouragement;” and upon them rested more heavily the responsibility to promote the “efficiency, extension and success” of the church.3 This obligation demanded that a...

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