An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

White, William

(Apr. 4, 1748-July 17, 1836). First Bishop of Pennsylvania and one of the chief architects of the newly independent church. He was born in Philadelphia. White graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1765 and then studied theology under Richard Peters and Jacob Duche. He was ordained deacon on Dec. 23, 1770, and priest on June 25, 1772. White was assistant minister at the United Parishes of St. Peter's and Christ Church in Philadelphia, 1772-1779, and rector of the United Parishes from 1779 until his death. He was a chaplain to the Continental and Constitutional Congresses and the United States Senate from 1777 until 1801. On Aug. 6, 1782, White published The Case of the Episcopal Churches Considered, in which he argued for the temporary ordination of deacons and presbyters by presbyters until the episcopate could be obtained. Despite his argument in The Case, the church maintained an episcopal polity. Many of his other ideas in The Case, such as lay representation in the church's legislative bodies, were adopted in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church. He was consecrated Bishop of Pennsylvania on Feb. 4, 1787, and served in that position until his death. White was Presiding Bishop from July 28, 1789, until Oct. 3, 1789, and from Sept. 8, 1795, until his death. He died in Philadelphia.

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.