Believing Thomas

musings on the church calendar from one who seldom doubts

John Henry Hobart,  Public Domain,

After the young American nation had won its independence from the British at least two problems of considerable significance faced the Episcopalians. Not only was there an element of concern about how their fellow Americans felt about the closeness of American Episcopalians with the British elements of the Church of England, but also there was the dispute among Episcopalians who favored what was called “High Church” and those who preferred “Low Church” services. Into this potentially dangerous mix came John Henry Hobart.

Born September 14, 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Sea Captain Enoch Hobart and his wife, the former Hannah Pratt, young John was the grandson of John Hobart. His great grandfather was Peter Hobart, a Cambridge graduate, teacher and pastor in Suffolk. England, who moved to America in 1835. Unfortunately, Captain Hobart died while young John was still a baby. When he was nine John became a student at the Episcopal Academy where he studied classical courses under Professor Andrews. When his teacher became Provost at the University of Pennsylvania, his student followed him and remained there from 1790 to 1791, when he transferred to Princeton University, graduating with a BA in 1793 and an MA in 1796. Between 1797 and 1798 he worked as a tutor while studying theology under Bishop William White and was on June 3, 1798 ordained a deacon by Bishop White in Philadelphia. Afterward he was ordained as a priest in 1800. Subsequently he served first at Trinity Church in Oxford and later at All Saints in Perkiomen (both in Pennsylvania) before moving to New Jersey where he served at Christ Church, New Brunswick.

In 1803 the young priest accepted the call of Trinity Church, New York to serve as assistant minister. While there his support for the Episcopal traditions was revealed in An Apology for Apostolic Order and Its Advocates, published in 1807 as well as in Essays on the Subject of Episcopacy, published in 1806. When John M. Mason attacked the Episcopacy in The Christian’s Magazine which Mason edited, Reverend Hobart engaged in a series of letters defending the Episcopal view and the Apostolic Succession concept.

In 1811 the Diocese of New York elected Hobart its assistant bishop with right to succeed Bishop Benjamin Moore whose illness resulted in Bishop Hobart’s actually managing the Diocesan’s duties from 1811 until the death in February, 1816 of Bishop Moore resulted in the formal succession of Bishop Hobart. He then tried to achieve an annual visit to every parish in the diocese. His interest in helping members of the Oneida resulted in an active missionary program to these indigenous Americans and assistance to many of them in relocating to Wisconsin.

The American Antiquarian Society to which he was elected in 1814 now has many works written by or about Bishop Hobart including some of his sermons and other theological articles.

Hobart was a very active participant in the organization of the General Theological Seminary, serving as professor of Pastoral Theology and its first dean. It was not surprising that this seminary became supportive of the high church movement stressing continuity with the Church before the Reformation, while still disagreeing with particular doctrines of the Roman Catholics. Bishop Hobart particularly influenced later bishops Benjamin Onderdonk and Jackson Kemper.

With all of the energy and physical strength necessary to accomplish all that he had managed his health began to suffer. Between 1823 and 1825 he tried getting away and visiting Europe. He died September 12, 1830 at Auburn, New York. He is buried at Trinity Church, Manhattan, near General Theological Seminary. Episcopalians remember him each September 12th. What a wonderful life we celebrate. +

(c) 2016 Thomas H. Peterson


Wikipedia. "John Henry Hobart." Web. Accessed August 2016.

Wikipedia. "Calendar of Saints (Episcopal Church)." Web. Accessed August 2016.

McFarland, Cynthia. "John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York." James Kiefer's Hagiographies. Web. Accessed August 2016.

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