When Your Calling and Election is Sure (I): The Jerusalem Bishopric

In 1841, Lutherans and Anglicans decided that there were enough Protestants in the region of Jerusalem that they should be served by a formal church functionary. The region of service was to include Syria, “Iraq,” (the term at the time was “Chaldea”) Egypt, and Ethiopia. As you can imagine, such a scheme was bound to leave controversy and discomfort in its wake. And your imagination would be correct if it did that.

The plan was to generate a bishopric whose bishop would be nominated by England and then Prussia alternately. While a laudable exercise in ecumenical feeling, it didn’t come without denominational conditions. Lutherans were not terribly happy with episcopal ordering as conceived by High Church Anglicans. The latter in fact objected to any idea of Protestant union in serious ways. Interestingly, the first bishop of the Jerusalem See was a Christian convert who was formerly an Orthodox Jew.

Michael Alexander was the first joint bishop of Jerusalem, and appointed another Jewish convert archdeacon.

Michael Alexander was the first joint bishop of Jerusalem, and appointed another Jewish convert archdeacon. Image: Wikipedia.

While things started hopefully, as more Germans moved to Palestine the two on-the-ground groups became estranged. Lutherans still did not like the Anglican insistence on the meaning of sacraments (essentially baptism and the Lords Supper), and Anglicans did not like the lack of support for the Thirty-Nine Articles. Finally, when the Anglicans decided to require that all succeeding bishops be consecrated by the Church of England rite, the union fell apart. After that, the See was maintained by English rule, which it kept up until 1976.

There is a kind of point to this in regards to Mormonism, aside from any connection via the Mormon Jerusalem eschatology. Actually, there are a lot of them. As far as the stated topic, you’ll have to think about it. I’ll give some hints.

When British clergy (and to some degree congregations) got wind of the Jerusalem Bishopric, there was considerable talk. Dealing with that unrest, the questions, and even outrage, was troublesome for the Archbishops. Partly this was because of Anglican preaching style. The Oxford Movement in particular, saw preaching as something that should emulate the ancient apostles, not drawn to controversy, but making disciples (they must not have read Paul much).

Before I get to the Mormon connection here, such as it is, and just for fun (and later purchase), I want to say something about Anglican expectations of sermons in the period. The Oxford group saw preaching as having four elements and three venues, the latter intended for three very different audiences. The elements were (simplified) 1) developing respect from listeners, 2) helping them to clearly understand your point, 3) moving their feelings, and 4) edifying them. [Sounds like a general conference instruction manual.] The venues were Plain, University, and Visitation. Plain meant speaking in a common style to the common people, avoiding deep discussions dependent on knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc., leaving metaphysics and philosophy alone. In a sense, University meant just the opposite.[1] And finally, the title Visitation came from clergy conference and training. Bishops visited church unit clergy to instruct, correct, answer questions, and so on. During those episodes, sermons were delivered, and they could be wonderfully nineteenth-century Mormon in broad stylistic terms.

Newman as Cardinal. It all depends on whether a Pope trusts you. Image: Wikipedia.

Newman as Cardinal. It all depends on whether a Pope trusts you. Image: Wikipedia.

Ten years before the Jerusalem Bishopric heat, a bishop was reported as visitation preaching on “treat[ing] the Church Societies, King’s College, London, cathedral establishments, clerical duties, preaching . . . deportment . . . the Irish plunderers and traitors, necessity of meekness and firmness in the clergy”[2] (the Irish plunderers!) Visitation sermons could be as eclectic as any Brigham Young address.

When the Jerusalem Bishopric (JB) became a hot issue, at the end of 1841, bishops, archdeacons, and university clerics preached that it was still a safe bet to be part of the “established” church. They weren’t over the edge. Think of something like preached assurances about the manifesto for comparison. John Henry Newman, at the time in Oxford, had stirred the pot with his Tract 90 (largely a kind of sermon reconciliation of the Thirty-Nine Articles and Rome), and he preached damage control for that and the JB (in writing–he was never extempore at the pulpit). Almost at the same time Newman felt that his positions were less than effective, that the JB was actually proof that the Church of England lacked apostolic character and finally left the Church of England. He wound up a Catholic Cardinal. Newman is parabolic fodder for later.[3]

And in terms of Joseph Smith, polygamy and radical theology were typologically Mormon equivalents of the JB (among many possibles), perhaps not in degree, but in kind, if you will. Joseph never fully addressed polygamy in his own name, but he did defend the 1839-44 theological record, which was in some (possibly paradoxical) sense a proxy for polygamy, trying to make those extensions and innovations a part of normative Mormonism. He was successful to a degree, but there were Prussians in the mix, and it simply wasn’t in the cards as permanent. Next time, I want to consider something about sermon cycles and the topic at hand (assuming I can think of something to say).

[1] In essence, University and Plain styles were at war in Colonial America long before. Harry S. Stout, New England Soul (Oxford, 1986).
[2] “A Charge Delivered at the Primary Visitation in August and September, 1832,” by William Howley, Christian Remembrancer 15 (1833), 20-1. It was Robert Ellison’s piece in A New History of the Sermon: Nineteenth Century (Brill, 2010) that tipped me off to thinking about the JB controversy in terms of the post title.
[3] Preaching is fun stuff.


  1. A Happy Hubby says:

    I am so sick of “elections” I am not sure I can read this right now! ;-)

  2. J. Stapley says:

    I must confess that I’m going to have stay with you to see what you are seeing, but I’m enjoying it.

  3. Happy Hubby, no blame. J., I’ll bring it around hopefully.

  4. Jason K. says:

    Let’s see: High Church Anglicans, preaching, and Mormonism. I’m with you so far, and looking forward to more.

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