The consecration of Samuel Seabury
It is worth our remembering that the existence of American bishops was not an assured thing. In addition to longstanding local antipathy toward them at home–many saw potential American bishops as no more than unwelcome, would-be agents of the Crown–the English bishops found it impossible to consecrate a bishop for a church in a foreign jurisdiction.
“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. 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. On his return home, Seabury was recognized as Bishop of Connecticut in Convocation on August 3, 1785, at Middletown. With Bishop William White, he was active in the organization of the [Protestant] Episcopal Church at the General Convention of 1789.”1
In observance of this day, Lesser Feasts and Fasts provides a very fine collect, which, in this time at which respect for bishops is at a low ebb, may put us in mind of what bishops are–and of what the Church is.
We give thee thanks, O Lord our God, for thy goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by thy holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
1. The Church Pension Fund, The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, together with the Fixed Holy Days, Conforming to General Convention 2006 (New York: Church Publishing, 2006), 452.