July 27: William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909

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About this commemoration

Wiliam Reed Huntington

“First presbyter of the Church,” was the well-deserved, if unofficial,
title of the sixth rector of Grace Church, New York City. Huntington
provided a leadership characterized by breadth, generosity,
scholarship, and boldness. He was the acknowledged leader in the
House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention
during a period of intense stress and conflict within the Church. His
reconciling spirit helped preserve the unity of the Episcopal Church in
the painful days after the beginning of the schism, led by the Assistant
Bishop of Kentucky, which resulted in the formation of the Reformed
Episcopal Church.

In the House of Deputies, of which he was a member from 1871 until
1907, Huntington showed active and pioneering vision in making
daring proposals. As early as 1871, his motion to revive the primitive
order of “deaconesses” began a long struggle which culminated in
1889 in canonical authorization for that order. Huntington’s parish
immediately provided facilities for this new ministry, and Huntington
House became a training center for deaconesses and other women
workers in the Church.

Christian unity was Huntington’s great passion throughout his
ministry. In his book, The Church Idea (1870), he attempted to
articulate the essentials of Christian unity. The grounds he proposed
as a basis for unity were presented to, and accepted by, the House of
Bishops in Chicago in 1886, and, with some slight modification, were
adopted by the Lambeth Conference in 1888. The “Chicago-Lambeth
Quadrilateral” has become a historic landmark for the Anglican
Communion. It is included on pages 876–878 of the Book of Common
Prayer, among the Historical Documents of the Church.

In addition to his roles as ecumenist and statesman, Huntington is
significant as a liturgical scholar. It was his bold proposal to revise
the Prayer Book that led to the revision of 1892, providing a hitherto
unknown flexibility and significant enrichment. His Collect for
Monday in Holy Week, now used also for Fridays at Morning Prayer,
is itself an example of skillful revision. In it he takes two striking
clauses from the exhortation to the sick in the 1662 Prayer Book,
and uses them as part of a prayer for grace to follow the Lord in his


I O Lord our God, we thank thee for instilling in the heart
of thy servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love
for thy Church and its mission in the world; and we pray
that, with unflagging faith in thy promises, we may make
known to all people thy blessed gift of eternal life; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart
of your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love
for your Church and its mission in the world; and we
pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may
make known to all people your blessed gift of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Job 22:21–28
Ephesians 1:3–10
John 17:20–26

Psalm 133

Preface of Baptism

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


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13 thoughts on “July 27: William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909

  1. Jut so everyone knows that I am not critical about everything …

    New Hebrew Reading: This reading from Job is very nice and fits well with blessed Father Huntington.

  2. The Job 22 readings have to go (22:21-30 is also assigned for Jan Hus, July 6). The words may sound “very nice and fitting,” but they’re the words of Eliphaz the Temanite, not the Word of the Lord. Read on to Job 42:7-8: “[T]he LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’”

  3. July 27: William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909

    The Job 22:21-30 reading, spoken by Eliphaz, isn’t saying anything but standard wisdom theology in this reading. In this commemoration, with Huntington as the focus, the affirmations are entirely justified and proper. Just because somebody (King David, Solomon, Moses, Abraham, others) offended, does not negate their non-offending aspects, nor does it negate the idea that all scripture is written for our learning. In Huntington’s case, what it says seems to be fitting, proper, and true as a contrast between choosing God’s way (as Huntington did), as opposed to some rebellious ungodly way. (Eliphaz’s error was presuming Job had to repent for something he had done wrong – which is a safe bet about most of us, but not in this story’s unique and explicit plot about Satan’s gratuitously pushing Job to the extremes simply to see if he (Satan) could break Job’s faith in YHWH.) I have issues with blithe, pie-in-the-sky appeals to wisdom passages as proof-texts that say “do the approved thing and everything will be hokey dorey” — but this use of Job is not such an instance. The Book of Job is inspired, not just the words of Job.

    I don’t know why we lost the LFF option of Psalm 145:8-13, but we did – perhaps as part of the rationale, in the BCP lectionary, that provided a longer psalm selection for daily office use and a shorter selection for use between lessons at Eucharist. I wish we still had the option: Psalm 133 is awfully short, and while it is sensuously rich I’ll bet some very neat people have less than a keen appreciation for oil dripping off their heads into their beards onto their collars.

    The gospel selection seems excellent. I don’t mind losing Ephesians 4:11-16 from LFF, compared to Ephesians 1:3-10. Even the Collect strikes the right tone.

    I love this commemoration, and I’m glad it’s there! Thank you!

    • But the inspired author’s point is that “standard wisdom theology” of Job’s friends isn’t the answer to Job’s suffering. I don’t think the author meant us to to take Job as a special case, whose situation is not applicable to our own. If the sentiment is good theology, it ought to be easy to find a passage elsewhere in the Hebrew scripture where it is clearly the words of an true prophet or the inspired author/Author. When we quote it from here, we’re descending to the level of the radio evangelist I once heard go on for a hour on how “If you aren’t successful and happy, it’s because you aren’t heeding the word of the prophet Eliphaz as set forth in the 22nd chapter of Job . . .”

  4. Steve, thanks for responding. I think we differ in our assessment of “standard wisdom theology.” I agree, it isn’t the answer to Job’s suffering, but then nothing is. I suspect the God we see playing cat-and-mouse with Job (albeit through Satan) is more like the Mt. Olympus crowd than the God we know in the rest of the scriptures. It’s like he tosses lightning bolts at Job just to see how far he’ll flinch. Then, when the book gets to the majestic chapters on “where were you when…” that’s not an “answer” either — it simply reminds him “Hey, this is GOD you’re dealing with — not a mortal, finite, created, limited human peer.” (Which is true, humbling, awe evoking, — but still not an “answer” in the sense of an explanation that morally justifies God’s treating Job that way. It amounts to : “HOW DARE YOU ASK?”)

    So I do see Job as a special case. He’s “without sin” — unprecedented in the OT, and since I take the Book of Job to be a literary creation, as opposed to a historical account, it’s a special case made up to fit the plot. (Which also gets God off the morality hook for being capricious and somewhat masochistic, for setting Satan on him to such a merciless degrees of testing.)

    I can’t disagree with you about your radio profiteer example — obviously Eliphaz isn’t an OT prophet, and the cross isn’t a lucky charm. In my ears, at least, there are times when wisdom literature is misused for its messages which, if taken at face value that way, does seem to put forth a gospel of “positive thinking” (be religious and multiply your assets) — but requiring the reduction of religious faith to a sort of adversarial game, with limited rules, and players who are basically manipulating God into granting favors in return for the performance of approved religious behaviors. It’s not new.

    The reading we’re talking about certainly has lines that are judgmental and shallow when spoken to Job as correctives and as advice on how to get back on God’s good side (note the manipulative aspect). I’m sure I’m less than completely accurate, but I take wisdom literature as being fatherly advice about life in general, amounting to “do things God’s way; don’t kick against the goads.” (I’m not sure what a goad looks like but I’ll trust St Paul knew a goad when he kicked one.) I don’t, however, expect wisdom to fill in the blanks in telling exactly what constitutes “God’s way.” The rest of our life, hopefully, comes into play in that regard, very much dependent on Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Christ in others, our experience of hands-on service, scriptures as a whole, sacraments, common worship, individual prayer, our relationships, and really, all the resources we share with and derive from the church and the world. And we still don’t get it perfect. Huntington lived an admirable Christian life, and that’s really what I see the Job lesson highlighting. I just don’t see USING the Eliphaz speech to highlight it, as being a problem. A lot of the wisdom-based Psalms say the same sorts of things.

  5. Back on the feast itself, I’ve always thought that the greatest hero of the REC split was Bishop John Johns of Virginia. Depsite his own evangelical preferences, he stayed true to the Episcopal Church. Had he joined the breakaway faction, there’s no doubt that most of the diocese would have followed him. That faithfulness, plus his equally courageous action in bringing the diocese back into the US church following the War between the States, should earn him a date of his own, or at least a mention here. (As a staunch low churchman, of course, he’d have been outraged to find himself in a kalendar of saints, but I suspect he sees things differently now.)

  6. Perhaps we should call the bios in HWHM “hagiography,” in that they present the proposed saint only in a positive light (such as his formulation of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and his reaching out to Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians) and do not mention possible negative, as well as positive effects on the church. Although Huntington’s convictions and accomplishments were good for the church in many ways, his idea of “church union” made/makes it difficult for members of the Episcopal Church who thought–and still think– the 39 Articles were still relevant and important for the church. He is quoted as saying in _The Peace of the Church_ (1891) and _A National Church_ (1898) that the articles ought “not to continue to be considered…one of the essentials of the Anglican position.” To propose him as a saint, without paying attention to this part of his teachings, the part that negates truths recovered during the Protestant Reformation, does not contribute to the unity of the Episcopal Church, which by tradition is both Catholic and Protestant.

    • Actually, the Calendar Comm. frequently used the term hagiography among ourselves. It would have been enough to be the author of the basic form of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, but his service in the House of Deputies during a very difficult period, and his initiative that led to the BCP, 1892 certainly deserve a place here. As John 17 reminds us, he was trying to do God’s will, as he understood it. May we have more ecclesiastical leaders with his vision and courage.

  7. It must have been a very difficult period, and I agree that he deserves a place in HWHM for all the reasons you mention. The church is going through a difficult period now, also, and I pray that those responsible for liturgical revision in the future will be aware of sensitivities of many to the value of the 39 articles and of some of the emphases at the time of the Reformation which many in the church today would not like to see us lose. I don’t Reading the biographies and writings of the people in HWHM is helpful to an understanding of church history. I’ve ordered a couple of the things Huntington wrote. Not about Huntington, but about Adelaide Teague Case: in the book she wrote in the 1920s, which was referenced on this website, the Table of Contents indicates that what she was interested in working strongly for through Christian education was what she called “Liberal Christianity.” Perhaps there was a different understanding then from now about the meaning of the term, but today the church seems to be sorting itself out (in the minds of many) into “liberal,” Anglo-Catholic,” and “Evangelical.” The ideal situation, in my opinion, would be mutual respect among the three groups, with the intention to listen and understand each other’s strengths and points of view. I was a little surprised on the identifying questionnaire for those participating in the SCLM survey when we were asked to say whether we were “high, ” “broad,” or “low.” I remember the old joke about “low and lazy, middle and hazy, high and crazy” but those terms seem pretty irrelevant now. Why weren’t the terms “liberal,” “Anglo-Catholic.” and “evangelical” used? They seem more relevant to where we are today.

  8. I’m not sure if anyone has noticed that the Rite II collect is missing the words “you and” between “reigns with” and “the Holy Spirit”. This is true in the print version of HWHM as well.

  9. I suggest as a subtitle “Advocate for Christian Unity, 1909”. The fact that he was a priest appears in the bio.

    Line 1, first paragraph: “William Reed Huntington was born in 1838, at Lowell, Massachusetts.” (I have been unable to find the actual date of his birth, which should be added here)

    Add a fifth paragraph with the date and place of his death, which we have been unable to verify. Some sources give the date of death as July 26, while some say it was July 27, 1909. He probably died in New York, but I would not state this without proof.

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