October 18: +William Rollinson Whittingham (1879)

William Rollinson Whittingham was the fourth bishop of Maryland and it was in his diocese that Epiphany was founded in 1842. Whittingham was only four years older than Epiphany’s founding rector, John French. Consecrated at age 35, Whittingham was the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church at the time and had been in the position a year and a half when Epiphany’s founding meeting was held. Whittingham was born in New York City, the first child of Richard Whittingham and Mary Ann Rollinson. His younger brother and only male sibling also became an Episcopal priest. He was educated at home and later attended General Theological Seminary (GTS), graduating in 1825. He received a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from Columbia University in 1827. Whittingham was ordained a priest in 1829 and served parishes in Orange, New Jersey and New York City before accepting a professorship at GTS. In 1840, a diocesan convention elected Whittingham bishop of Maryland. On September 17 of that year at St. Paul’s Church, Baltimore, Whittingham was consecrated and thus became the 36th bishop in the American succession.

The diocese of Maryland at the time of Whittingham’s consecration included the entire state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Whittingham’s first visit to Epiphany was in March 1842. Although he kept Baltimore as his see city, he would make annual visitations to the DC churches. He presided at a service at Epiphany in January 1852 for the consecration of the original church building. His last visit was in April 1873. The little mission church that grew up during his episcopate would play host to the consecrations of Whittingham’s next two successors – Pinkney in 1870 and Paret in 1885. At the time of his consecration Whittingham was the youngest of the American bishops. At his death he was the second-oldest, having been in office thirty-nine years. In the book “The Episcopate in America, ” William Stevens Perry writes, “Whittingham was a scholar of rare attainments, a sound theologian, an impassioned speaker, a clear debater, and a most devoted bishop. Outspoken, fearless in his defense of the right, scrupulously conscientious, and self-denying, he will ever be remembered among the foremost bishops of the American Church.”

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