Posts tagged 1905
On November 5, 1905, St. Tikhon ordained Ingram N.W. Irvine an Orthodox priest. It was a courageous action, and I cannot help but think that St. Tikhon’s feelings on the matter were bittersweet. He knew — he must have known — that he was indeed ushering in a new “epoch in Church history,” as Irvine put it. He knew Irvine’s baggage, and Irvine’s dreams. He knew that Irvine would work for a distinctly American Orthodoxy, one in which English would increase and Slavonic would decrease. But more than that, he knew that by ordaining Irvine, he would irreparably damage the close relations he had built up with leading Anglicans, most especially his dear friend, Bishop Charles Grafton.
Bishop Grafton was a great man. He was the Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, but he was much more than that. He was the head of Nashotah House, one of the preeminent seminaries in the Anglican world (and in the very year of Irvine’s ordination, Nashotah House had awarded Tikhon an honorary doctorate). Grafton was also one of the leading lights of “Anglo-Catholicism,” that High Church part of Anglicanism which was most friendly towards Orthodoxy. In his long life — he was 75 when Irvine was ordained — Grafton had done as much as anyone to foster close ties with the Orthodox Churches, and virtually from the moment of St. Tikhon’s arrival in America in 1898, Grafton was a close friend and confidant. Grafton represented the very best that the Episcopal Church had to offer, and for Tikhon, his friendship was invaluable.
And Tikhon must have known that, in accepting Irvine, he would lose his friend. On November 4, 1905 – the day of Irvine’s chrismation and ordination to the diaconate – Grafton wrote in a letter, “I have been very busy this last week in the endeavor to stop Bishop Tikhon from ordaining Dr. Irvine to the priesthood on Sunday the 5th November.” He continued,
[Tikhon] is a good, gentle, pious Christian Bishop who has been imposed upon. For the sake of the Russian Church I am sorry it should take up with a man who rightly or wrongly has been deposed from the priesthood. There was no necessity for it, for Dr. Irvine could have appealed to the Court of Review lately established, or to the House of Bishops sitting, as they do, in Council. The action of Archbishop Tikhon can only be based on the view that we are no part of the Catholic Church and so all relations between us must terminate, or on the ground that he has received authority from the Holy Synod to receive appeals from our courts. In the latter case I said that we had received no notice of such authority being delegated, and if we had, and had accepted it according to the Canon of the Universal Church which he was bound to respect, he could only hear appeals from bishops and not from priests who were confined to appeals within their own nationality or province.
While well intentioned, Grafton was in error. Of course, his arguments display a fundamental ecclesiological misunderstanding: Grafton thought that the Orthodox and Anglican Churches were both parts of the “Catholic” (Universal) Church, and thus that the Orthodox had to respect the territorial rights and judicial decisions of the Anglicans. In Grafton’s (and the Anglicans’) view, St. Tikhon was roughly paralleled by the Russian Ambassador. Ordaining Irvine was equivalent to the Russian Ambassador declaring a convicted American criminal to be innocent, and then bestowing a Russian consulate on him. The Russian Ambassador had no such rights; he was in America for diplomatic purposes, but he had no jurisdiction here. The same basic restrictions applied to St. Tikhon, so thought the Anglicans.
Incidentally, Grafton also misunderstood his own Church’s appeals process. When Irvine was defrocked by his Episcopal bishop in 1900, the Episcopal Church had no mechanism by which he could appeal the punishment. They established a court of appeal in 1905, but that court was not able to make retroactive rulings. Irvine simply had no way of being reinstated in the Episcopal Church.
Grafton concluded his letter with strong words:
My telegrams will be published in next week’s Living Church; our presiding Bishop has protested. The Archbishop has made a big, bad blunder. I asked the Russian Ambassador to interfere with his influence. But I fear Tikhon will steer his craft on the rocks. My hope is that God will in some way overrule this to good, for it is Satan’s work.
Neither God nor the Russian Ambassador prevented Irvine’s ordination. Richard Hatfield — than an Episcopal priest, but now Fr. Chad Hatfield, the chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Seminary — wrote in 1992, “The friendship between Grafton and Tikhon ended with the ordination of [Irvine]. … The ordination of Father Irvine brought to an abrupt close the first phase of Orthodox-Anglican relations in the new world.”
The following article appeared in the English-language supplement to the November 1905 issue of the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, the official publication of the Russian Mission:
The Rev. Ingram N.W. Irvine, D.D., was, on St. Mary’s Day, Nov. 4th, received into the Holy Orthodox Church by our beloved Archbishop the Most Rev. Tikhon, D.D. and on the same day advanced through the Minor Orders and elevated to the Diaconate. On the following day, Sunday, he was ordained Priest and as[s]igned to his duties at St. Nicholas Cathedral viz; that of Priest in charge of the English work.
The Rev. Dr. Irvine, for over a quarter of a century, was a Priest of the Anglican Church, or as it is known in the U.S. “The Protestant Episcopal Church”. He is a graduate of The General Theological Seminary, Chelsea Square, N.Y. City, and was ordained both Deacon and Priest of the Episcopal Church by the first Bishop of Long Island — the Rt. Rev. Abram Newkirk Littlejohn, D.D., LL.D.
The Rev. Doctor for several years was Rector of St. James Church, Smithtown, Long Island. While as such he became acquainted with the widow of the “Prince-merchant” and millionaire A.T. Stewart. It was at his suggestion, that Mrs. Stewart gave a building, then being erected for undenominational purposes, as a Cathedral for the Diocese of Long Island and richly endowed both it and several schools.
Dr. Irvine has filled several important pastorates in the Protestant Episcopal Church and has held the positions of Rural Dean and Cathedral Dean.
The following Prelates and Clergy were in the Sanctuary and officiated on the occasion of his ordination to the Holy Orthodox Priesthood — His Grace, Most Reverend Archbishop Tikhon, D.D. of North America and Aleutian Islands, The Right Rev. Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn, N.Y., Very Rev. Fr. A. Hotovitzky, Dean of the Cathedral, Rev. Fr. E. Zotikoff, Rev. Fr. Joanniky, Rev. Fr. Solomonidis, M.D., Rev. A. Kalneff, Deacon.
A number of members of the Protestant Episcopal Church were at the Service. The venerable Hon. Wm. S. Price, who was for fourteen years Chancellor of the P.E. Diocese of Pennsylvania, came with his daughter, Mrs. Brown, from Philadelphia to show by his presence his respect for Dr. Irvine as well as his approval of the act of the Holy Orthodox Church. Another striking character in the Congregation was that of the great army surgeon who ministered to the Martyr-President of the U.S. — Abraham Lincoln, when he was shot in Ford’s Theater, Washington D.C. at the close of the late Civil War, — we refer to Charles A. Leale, M.D., of 604 Madison Ave. N.Y. who with his daughter Miss Lillian was present. Herbert Noble Esq. one of the most celebrated members of the New York Bar, as well as the Rev. Thomas P. Hughes, D.D., LL.D., and both members of the P.E. Church, were also present. The Congregation was very large and filled every part of the Cathedral. The music under the leadership of Mr. N. Greevsky was well rendered.
Thus passed off a remarkable service which marked an epoch in Church History and which was attended by representatives of all parts of the Church of Christendom, and since it’s [sic] performance has brought out the spontaneous commendation of sober minded Christian scholars.
While this article doesn’t have a listed author, I am certain, based on the writing style, that it was written by Irvine himself. It was the Russian Mission’s introduction to its first “American” convert priest.
No doubt Irvine felt it necessary to defend and justify himself. As soon as news of his impending ordination became public, many Episcopal Church leaders raised an outcry against it, mostly on the grounds that the Russian Church did not, in their view, have the authority to ordain a defrocked Episcopal clergyman to the Orthodox priesthood. We’ll present the Episcopal perspective later; for now, it’s enough to understand that Irvine was probably feeling pretty defensive when he wrote this article.
One of the things that jumps out about this article is at the end, where Irvine refers to the “Church of Christendom.” He wasn’t an adherent of branch theory, exactly, but at the time of his conversion, his ecclesiology wasn’t far from it. In the years that followed, Irvine’s ecclesiology did evolve a bit, becoming more traditionally Orthodox in the process.
Also notable is the involvement of three canonized Orthodox saints — Tikhon, Raphael, and Alexander Hotovitzky. St. Tikhon was the main celebrant who ordained Irvine; St. Raphael assisted; and St. Alexander was Irvine’s sponsor into the priesthood.
Finally, and, in my view, most interestingly, Irvine acknowledges the beginning of “an epoch in Church history.” He certainly knew that Protestants had become Orthodox before him, and he was probably aware of the fact that even other Protestant clergymen had converted to Orthodoxy. But there was something different about Irvine’s ordination. It was such a public affair, involving such a visible figure, that it could not be ignored. But more than that, Irvine was a man with a vision, and he had the support of two great hierarchs, Tikhon and Raphael. His dream was to see the use of English spread in American Orthodoxy, and for Orthodoxy to “penetrate the United States,” to use St. Innocent’s words, and he would spend the rest of his life working towards that goal.
On today’s episode of my American Orthodox History podcast, I discuss Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, a famous Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy under St. Tikhon in 1905. We’ll have lots more to come on Irvine, but for starters, here are his seven reasons for converting to Orthodoxy. This is from his 1906 book, A Letter on the Anglican Church’s Claims.
First, the Anglican Church is not the true platform of unity. She is too political and diplomatic, always compromising for expediency and shading like a chameleon to attract each Protestant Sect.
Second, because the Anglican Church, while she teaches the true Faith, still permits the filioque.
Third. Because she allows her Bishops in some respects to be more papal than the Pope of Rome and she gives to her laymen the casting vote in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship.
Fourth. Because I can do more good for Jesus Christ according to the dictates of my own conscience, and for the Unity of Christendom, in the Holy Eastern Church than I can in the Protestant Episcopal.
Fifth. Because the Holy Eastern Church says just what she means; and means what she says.
Sixth. Because all of her priests and children have but one mode of conducting worship and believe exactly in one interpretation of the Sacraments.
Seventh. Because God the Holy Ghost, on the morning of Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1905, in St. Mary’s Church, Philadelphia, in response to my the inquiry of my soul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ commanded me in an irresistible way, ‘Go and work for the Holy Eastern Church.’ And I was obedient unto the voice.
This is my answer.