An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

DeKoven, James

(Sept. 19, 1831-Mar. 19, 1879). DeKoven was born in Middletown, Connecticut. He graduated from Columbia College in 1851 and as valedictorian at the General Theological Seminary in 1854. DeKoven was ordained deacon on Aug. 6, 1854, and priest on Sept. 23, 1855. In 1854 he became professor of ecclesiastical history at Nashotah House and rector of St. John Chrysostom at nearby Delafield, Wisconsin. In 1858 he became warden of St. John's Hall, a preparatory school in Delafield. DeKoven became warden of Racine College in 1859 and served there until his death. DeKoven was the most widely known and respected leader of the Anglo-catholic movement of the nineteenth century. DeKoven was known as the “American Keble.” He was influenced by the Oxford Movement (Tractarians) and brought many of their principles, especially the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, to the attention of the Episcopal Church. DeKoven was also a ritualist, and under his leadership, the choir at Racine College was vested. He allowed lights (candles) on the altar of St. John's Chapel. At the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874 he defended eucharistic adoration and pleaded for comprehensiveness in doctrine and worship. His addresses to General Convention on these occasions are considered to be some of the most significant moments of oratory in the history of General Convention. A stringent canon on ritual was avoided through DeKoven's advocacy. But his defense of ritualism caused many in the Episcopal Church of his day to be suspicious of him. He was nominated Bishop of Massachusetts in 1872 and of Milwaukee in 1874. He was elected but not consecrated Bishop of Illinois in 1875 because he did not receive the necessary consents from a sufficient number of diocesan standing committees in the Episcopal Church. He was never made a bishop. DeKoven died in Racine. His shrine is on the grounds of the DeKoven Center, Racine, Wisconsin. His life is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Mar. 22.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.