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Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, two of the ﬁrst African-American bishops in the Episcopal Church, were instrumental in the struggle of minorities to take their place in the highest positions of leadership in a church often hostile to their presence.
Born in Delaware in 1869, Edward Demby attended Howard University and became an Episcopalian while serving as the Dean of Students at Paul Quinn College in Texas. Bishop John Spalding recognized Demby’s gifts for ministry and sent him to work in the Diocese of Tennessee. Ordained a deacon in 1898 and a priest the next year, he served parishes in Illinois, Missouri, and Florida. In 1907, he returned to Tennessee as rector of Emmanuel Church in Memphis. He was also appointed as the Archdeacon for Colored Work, with responsibilities for the segregated “colored convocations” in the South.
While serving as Archdeacon, Demby was elected Bishop Suffragan for Colored Work in the Diocese of Arkansas and the Province of the Southwest. A major contributor to the westward expansion of the Episcopal Church, Demby drew African Americans into the church through his work with black hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Despite the difﬁculties he encountered among the white leadership in the South, Demby worked his whole life toward the full recognition of African Americans in the Episcopal Church.
Henry Beard Delany was ordained to the episcopate the same year as Edward Demby. Born a slave in St. Mary’s, Georgia, Delany also served as Archdeacon for Colored Work, working in the Diocese of North Carolina. He was called to be Bishop Suffragan for Colored Work in the Diocese of North Carolina, but his ministry extended into the dioceses of East and Western North Carolina, South Carolina, and Upper South Carolina.
Delany was a strong advocate for the integration of African American Episcopalians into the wider church despite the Jim Crow laws of the day and the efforts of many leaders of the white majority in the church who viewed the presence of men like Demby and Delany as threats to their power and authority.
I Loving God, we offer thanks for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of thy Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to thy honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II Loving God, we thank you for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of your Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to your honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 2:1–12
Preface of God the Holy Spirit
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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