Remembering Algernon Crapsey

On a Sunday evening in February 1905, the Rev. Algernon Crapsey stood at the pulpit of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Rochester to deliver the 12th and final lecture in a series that had proven very popular.

He chastised the illogical thinking of Protestants who criticized all the other alleged miracles of the world’s religions except their own. He further suggested that: “A belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is no longer possible to an educated man, or for anyone in fact, who reads his Bible with reasonable intelligence and attention.”

What he said next was, to the hierarchy of his church, utterly unthinkable.

He challenged the notion that the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection from the dead were literal, actual occurrences.

“In the light of scientific research, the founder of Christianity no longer stands apart from the common destiny of man in life and death, but he is in all things physical like as we are, born as we are born, dying as we die, and both in life and death in the keeping of that same Divine Power, that Heavenly fatherhood, which delivers us from the womb and carries us down to the grave. When we come to know Jesus in his historical relations, we see that miracle is not a help, it is a hindrance, to an intelligent comprehension of his person, His character and his mission. We are not alarmed, we are relieved when scientific history proves to us that the fact of his miraculous birth was unknown to himself, unknown to his mother, and unknown to the whole Christian community of the first generation.”

Crapsey’s comments touched off a firestorm.

Read it all.

Update: A brief obituary of Algernon Crapsey is here.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Theology

9 comments on “Remembering Algernon Crapsey

  1. Churchman says:

    I strongly doubt that Crapsey ever challenged what this author calls “immaculate conception of Jesus Christ” since there is no such thing. Yet another example of confusing the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception… ugh.

    Some of Crapsey’s writings are available online:

  2. Wilfred says:

    So the crapsey autobiography was titled [i] The Last of the Heretics [/i] ?

    Too bad he wasn’t.

  3. wvparson says:

    It is interesting to note that in the era being considered Episcopal clergy still thought of the area around the church and the people who lived there as the parish and parishioners. We have forsaken much to reach our present reality, of churches and a membership attracting adherents to this or that brand of “Episcopalianism.

  4. Cousin Vinnie says:

    Maybe not the last, but few heretics today can boast such an appropriate name.

  5. Jeffersonian says:

    I reckon he’s got the whole story now.

  6. Ed the Roman says:

    The idea that the ancients did not know that conception without sex and return from death just didn’t happen is so pathetic that only someone with no trace of a liberal education could believe it.

  7. Katherine says:

    This, from 1905, shows the deep cultural roots of our current problems.

  8. Sidney says:

    Crapsey sought to motivate Christians to follow Jesus’ example and become more responsive to the suffering of others.

    No church can survive on that principle – none ever has, and none ever will. To be successful among the masses, churches have to convince people that actually, “following” Jesus as our Lord and Savior does NOT mean giving up the good life – and certainly it doesn’t mean following Jesus to the cross. That is reserved for the few. This is where the concept of the atonement has been exceptionally important over the centuries. The church had to explain away the scary problem of Jesus’ suffering crucifixion, and the atonement does it. Successful chuches teach: Jesus died for YOU, so you have it easier – not harder.

  9. Charley says:

    Algernon Crapsey…. wow…. Dickens couldn’t have come up with a better name if he’d had a knife at this throat.