Samuel Seabury and Charles Inglis: Two Bishops, Two Churches

Samuel Seabury and Charles Inglis: Two Bishops, Two Churches

Samuel Seabury and Charles Inglis: Two Bishops, Two Churches

Samuel Seabury and Charles Inglis: Two Bishops, Two Churches

Synopsis

Samuel Seabury (1729-96) and Charles Inglis (1734-1816) were the first bishops of the Anglican churches in the United States and Canada respectively. This study compares and contrasts the seminal episcopal ministries of both men. Areas investigated include the introduction of episcopal ministry into virgin territory respecting such matters as confirmation, ordination, and clerical discipline. Unlike Inglis, Seabury was forced to deal with wholesale liturgical revision. Seabury rejected the "Proposed Prayer Book of 1785" and the revision of 1789. While both editions were generally accepted for the sake of denominational unity, they were far from Seabury's ideal. As liturgical revision was intertwined with polity, ecclesiology is considered in detail in the concluding chapter. Through a consideration of the early Lambeth Conferences, the conclusion draws out the implications for the Anglican Communion of these two seminal episcopacies. It is argued that the polity and liturgy of each national church established in Seabury's and Inglis' era has had implications reaching far beyond their own times.

Excerpt

Although sources for the the early lives of Inglis and Seabury are slim, a brief outline of their origins and early careers is nonetheless necessary. Placing these men firmly within the era to which they belong will help shed light on their political and religious positions. Even this brief overview will afford a better perspective from which to understand and appreciate the decisions and actions of Inglis’s and Seabury’s episcopacies. Flushing out the general outlines of their lives will provide insight into Inglis and Seabury as men who experienced and helped shape the pivotal events of the late eighteenth century.

Origins

Charles Inglis was born in 1734 at Glencolumbkille, Ireland, the third son of the area’s Church of England (Anglican) minister, Archibald Inglis. Not only was Charles’s immediate family clerical, with his father and older brother Richard in holy orders, but the Inglis clan could trace its clerical origins all the way back to Scotland in the 1650s.1 With great financial effort, Charles’s brother Richard had been sent to Trinity College, Dublin, in order to secure the education necessary for entry into the ministry. His father Archibald’s death in 1745, when Charles was only eleven, ruled out this option for the younger son. Charles relocated to a nearby parish, where his brother Richard was rector. In his teen years, Charles most likely attended the local school where “he would have obtained a fair classical education and a sound grounding in mathematics.”2 Given the family’s limited options, the Inglises looked to the New World as the best opportunity for Charles’s future.

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