25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONSECRATION OF THE BISHOP THURSTON
October 27, 1884
MR. PRESIDENT AND FRIENDS: -- The people of Ohio have been very fortunate in their whole history and they count among its most felicitous events that the Protestant Episcopal Church of this Diocese has always had at its head a man of high and rare qualifications for his influential and responsible office.
Sixty-five years ago Philander Chase was elected and consecrated the first Bishop of Ohio and was charged with the duty of planning and extending in this, then new country, the Protestant Episcopal Church. At that time our State had not a mile of artificial thoroughfare and the very richness of its soil which gave the region its boundless promise made it during more than half the years the dread of the traveler and the immigrant. But the pioneer Bishop was of iron-like temper, with matchless courage and force, in spite of difficulties, hardships and discouragements, successfully did his appointed work. He gathered congregations in the wilderness, and founded Kenyon College to be for all future time the standard bearer of His Church in the garden of the Northwest.
The successor of Bishop Chase was the Rt. Rev. Charles P. McIlvaine. During more than forty years he was at the head of the Church in Ohio and almost from the beginning he was regarded as a commanding figure both in our own country and abroad, and was everywhere honored and trusted as a born leader of men. One of his eminent and judicious friends, Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, said of him: “He was of a form and countenance (and, I would add of a dignity of men and character) which often suggested Washington.” In the very crisis of the civil war on which hung the fate of the nation, and of the cause of liberty throughout the world, President Lincoln selected him as one of the three illustrious Americans who would represent our country in England—the very spot where the danger was most threatening. This high duty like every other devolved upon Bishop McIlvaine was so performed as to attract to him increased confidence and admiration. When he was called hence it was recognized throughout the Christian world that one of the pillars of Church and State had fallen.
The place once held by Bishop Chase and then so splendidly filled during so many years of his noble life by Bishop McIlvaine, has acquired in the judgment of the thoughtful and good among the people of this part of the United States a consideration and esteem not surpassed by any station or secular or sacred known in our State. To have filled it without in any degree disappointing the anticipations with which these brilliant precedents justified has been the happy fortune of him to whom we now wish to express in words simple and few the warmest felicitations upon the beneficent results of his faithful and devoted labors during the last twenty-five years. Gathered as we are, by sentiments of friendships for Bishop Bedell-sentiments which are shared by a large number of the best citizens in our State without regard to sect or religious opinions, we need not consider at large the peculiar mission and characteristics of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Its importance and value as a conservative force in our political system and a moral force in our social condition, is very generally acknowledged by those who are not within its pale. An intelligent American observer in England makes the statement also that no other religious organization is more safely abreast with advancing science in the English Church
To engage in the work of widening and strengthening the influence of this Church, Bishop Bedell came to Ohio a quarter of a century ago. For this field of labor he was nobly equipped. His gifted father was the beloved pastor of a church in Philadelphia, made great, prosperous, and widely known by his earnest and winning eloquence. From his father our honored and much loved friend the heritage of an intellectual and moral character which with the power of his genius for work, talents and culture, have under Providence cheered and blessed the congregation and people of this Diocese.
Allow me, in conclusion, on behalf of the sons of Kenyon College, to offer to Bishop Bedell the tribute which he gave to his early instructor, Dr. Muhlenberg: “You have known him as an ecclesiastic***always searching for ways that would make the Church more large hearted and far-reaching, or as a mover of charities, wonderfully gracious, beneficent and successful; but we have known him as a guide of youth, and almost a father, patient, forbearing, watchful, honest plain-spoken, frank, and so loving.” The sons of Kenyon College with one voice and with full hearts wish for Bishop Bedell the best blessings of Heaven!