An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

DuBose, William Porcher

(Apr. 11, 1836-Aug. 18, 1918). Theologian and educator. He was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina. He graduated from The Citadel in 1855, and received his M.A. from the University of Virginia in 1859. His study for the ordained ministry at the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina at Camden was interrupted in 1861 by the Civil War. DuBose served as an adjutant in the Confederate Army. He was wounded in action and taken as a prisoner of war. After his release, he was ordained deacon on Dec. 13, 1863. He began his ministry as a chaplain to Confederate soldiers. After the war, he was rector of St. John's Church, Fairfield, South Carolina. He was ordained priest on Sept. 9, 1866. DuBose served as rector of Trinity Church, Abbeville, from 1868 until 1871. He was chaplain at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, from July 17, 1871, until June 30, 1883. He helped to establish the School of Theology at the University of the South. DuBose taught in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Theology. He was the second dean of the School of Theology from July 31, 1894, until June 24, 1901. DuBose is recognized as a major theologian in the history of the Episcopal Church. He published seven books, the first of which was The Soteriology of the New Testament (1892), which presented his systematic approach to theology. He then applied this theological system to the history of the early church in The Ecumenical Councils (1896), and to the NT. DuBose worked out his theological system relative to the synoptic gospels in The Gospel in the Gospels (1906), the Pauline literature in The Gospel According to Saint Paul (1907), the Letter to the Hebrews in High Priesthood and Sacrifice (1908), and the Johannine writings in The Reason of Life (1911). DuBose's theology was deeply rooted in the lessons of his experience. He discussed his experience and theology in his autobiographical Turning Points in My Life (1912). In this book he described a powerful experience of conversion he had while he was a cadet at The Citadel. This experience was formative for the rest of his life and ministry. DuBose came to understand salvation in terms of a continuing process by which the objective truth of God's grace may become increasingly a subjective reality for the believer. DuBose's experiences of loss, poverty, and suffering-during the Civil War and afterwards-were formative for his understanding of the role of the cross in the life of Christ and in the Christian life. DuBose's experiences of discovery in education as a teacher and student were formative for his understanding of the needed openness of the church. He was ecumenical in outlook and wary of the claims of ultimate truth held by any faction of the church in isolation. He believed in the working out of extremes and the unmasking of errors through open discussion. He was a frequent contributor to the ecumenical journal The Constructive Quarterly. DuBose believed in the continuity of church tradition, but he also believed that the truth must be discovered anew in each time and situation. He died in Sewanee. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Aug. 18.

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.