William White was born in Philadelphia, March 24, 1747 and received his education at the college of that city, graduating in 1765. In 1770 he went to England, was ordained deacon on December 23 and priest on April 25, 1772. On his return home, he became assistant minister of Christ and St Peter’s, 1772-1779, and rector from that year until his death on July 17, 1836. He also served as chaplain of the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1789 and then of the United States Senate until 1800. Chosen unanimously as the first bishop of Pennsylvania in 1786, he traveled again to England for his consecration with Samuel Provoost, bishop-elect of New York. The two men were consecrated in the chapel of Lambeth Palace on Septuagesima Sunday, 1787, by the archbishops of Canterbury and of York and the bishops of Bath and Wells and of Peterborough.
Bishop White was the chief architect of the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was chosen Presiding Bishop at the inaugural General Convention in 1789 and again in 1795, serving in that office until his death. A wise overseer of the Church’s corporate life during its first generation, endowed with gifts of statesmanship and reconciling moderation, White was also a theologian of no mean ability. Among his protégés, in whose formation he played a large role, were such leaders of the Church’s next generation as John Henry Hobart, Jackson Kemper, and William Augustus Muhlenberg.
adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
O Lord, in a time of turmoil and confusion you raised up your servant William White, and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper, that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace: Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders, that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania, are published on the Lectionary Page website.