This afternoon, Feb. 24, 2014, Nashotah House Theological Seminary welcomed the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, the Rt. Rev. William Franklin. In a lecture on the legacy of the Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton, he noted Bp. Grafton’s Gospel-centered Christian mission.
A supporter of the Oxford Movement, Bp. Grafton was Second Bishop of Fond du Lac, in the northeastern area of Wisconsin.
“Among the many things that stand out in Grafton’s life, there are three we can take away from the study and remembrance of his life,” said Bp. Franklin in his talk given to students and faculty. “The church can be sustainable; we can reach out to the larger community in a ‘web of grace;’ and we can continue to tell the story of the Gospel – all as he did.”
Born in Boston, Bp. Grafton was a member of Church of the Advent, an Anglo-Catholic parish. In 1853 he graduated from Harvard with a degree in law but found himself drawn toward the ordained ministry.
After the Civil War Bp. Grafton traveled to England and while there, co-founded the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the first Anglican order since the Reformation. In 1872 he became the fourth Rector of Church of the Advent.
“We wonder what made Grafton succeed?” said Bp. Franklin. “He continued to be faithful, knowing he was God’s child, and he continued to build friendships. And problems that arose, he always said, ‘As Episcopalians, we need to move from establishment people; we are a people who are sent.”
Grafton continued to put his Tractarian teachings into practice. It was the time of a catholic revival, with a focus on new churches, new congregations with a call to the frontier.
“While in England, Mr. Grafton had learned from the teachings of Pusey and its social effects upon neighborhoods,” said Bp. Franklin. “The Gospel was transforming lives. What made Grafton remarkable was his faithfulness to Christ and his ability to draw clergy from different forms of Anglicanism for the sake of mission.”
Grafton helped to establish the The Benedictine Order of St John the Beloved. In 1888 with Mother Ruth Margaret founded the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity. Grafton was consecrated Bishop of Fond du Lac on April 25, 1889.
“Under the Tractarians’ teaching personal piety revived,” Bishop Grafton wrote in a letter to the Church of the Advent, “The characteristic of their preaching was a vivid presentation of Christ crucified. In contrast with the preceding morality and formalism, the Evangelicals dwelt largely on man’s lost condition, his deliverance through the satisfaction made on Calvary, and the need, in order to its individual appropriation, of a living faith. They were somewhat strict in their discipline. They assembled frequently in each others houses for Bible expositions and prayers. ” *
The Episcopal Church during Bp. Grafton’s time knew great challenges – a shortage of funds, displaced communities, disagreements over worship. However, he had the hope of the promises of God to guide him, “Union and communion between her estranged members may be interrupted, yet her organic unity cannot be destroyed. The gates of Hell may injure but cannot prevail. Like the mangled Body of her Lord all her bones may be out of joint, yet not a bone be broken.” +
* excerpt from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton, STD, LLD, Second Bishop of Fond du Lac, edited by B. Talbot Rogers, Warden of Grafton Hall, Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Fond du Lac, Volume II.
+ Sermon Preached at the Consecration of The Church of the Advent, December 1, 1894, the Right Reverend Charles C. Grafton, S.T.D., LL.D., Bishop of Fond du Lac.
Note: A portrait copy of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton, Bishop of Fond du Lac, given by Church of the Advent, Boston may be found in the James Lloyd Breck Refectory, Nashotah House Theological Seminary.
Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac and Rebecca Terhune ’15