Friday, April 5, 2013

Since you asked....The Famous 'Circus' Photo

In 1900, Bishop Grafton found himself at the center of controversy when he presided at the consecration of R.H. Weller as Bishop Coadjutor of Fond du Lac. A number of bishops from neighboring dioceses took part in the service. Also in attendance, at Grafton’s invitation, was Tikhon, the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. After the service, the bishops went outside to pose for a picture. For the first time ever, bishops of the Episcopal Church were photographed wearing copes and mitres. The picture, which became known as "the Fond du Lac Circus," and was widely published in church publications and became a heated controversy.

There were a number of controversies associated with this photo. First, the Episcopal Church had always had high, low, and broad factions that emphasized different aspects of the faith. The low church faction typically identifiea itself as Protestant. Contrast this with the high church faction which has identified itself with other "catholic" churches, such as the Roman, Old Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This photo was the first public photo, showing Episcopal bishops dressed in catholic vestments (as opposed to the more Protestant rochet, chimere, and tippet) and was an outrage to low church members of the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Grafton had invited Tikhon and his Orthodox entourage and Bishop Kozlowski of the Polish National Catholic Church to come to the service, not merely to observe, but to participate. Ultimately, they did not, but they did vest and sit with the other bishops present. Even this was scandalous to the low church members of the Episcopal Church who held that Episcopalians had more in common with the other Protestant denominations than with the Old Catholics or "Greek Catholics" (i.e., Orthodox).

(via, the Diocese of Fond du Lac)

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