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Walter Conrad Klein, Fourth Bishop
Walter Conrad Klein, fourth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, was born on 28 May 1904 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Lehigh University and General Theological Seminary, receiving Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees in theology. He later received a PhD in Semitic languages from Columbia University in 1940. Ordained to the priesthood in 1928 by Bishop Sheldon M. Griswold, Klein served on the staff of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in Manhattan and as curate of Grace Episcopal Church, Newark. He had brief stints as vicar of St. Augustine's Parish in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and as rector of St. Barnabas Parish in Haddington, Pennsylvania, before entering World War II as a U.S. Navy chaplain. He married Helene Rosentreter in 1935 and had two children, a daughter, Katherine, and a son, John.
Klein discerned early in his career that he had little interest in parish ministry. After the war, he had the opportunity to go to Jerusalem, serving two years as canon residentiary of St. George's Anglican Cathedral. There he researched several future books on the psalms and on Eastern Orthodox liturgy. From 1950 to 1959, Klein was Professor of Old Testament Literature and Languages at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Then in 1959, he became Dean of Nashotah House in Wisconsin, an office that brought him to the attention of the diocese. He had earned a reputation within the national church as a spiritual leader of parish retreats, was well-known for his books on spiritual development, and had visited Northern Indiana in 1955 to lead a Lenten Quiet Day for women.
The choice of Klein as fourth bishop was influenced in many ways by his Anglo-Catholic liturgical beliefs and the feeling that he would uphold the Catholic character of the diocese. Even so, many came to regard him as an unfortunate choice because he lacked the temperament to be a successful bishop. Introverted, serious, formal, occasionally cantankerous, aloof, and deeply intellectual, he had little ability to show personal warmth. Since he had never served as a rector, he possessed few if any pastoral skills. He disliked making parish visitations and avoided learning names of the laity he met. Clergy were never invited to his home and were also kept at a distance. Seminarians at Nashotah House were fond of saying of him, "There by the grace of God goes a German U-Boat commander." He would sometimes arrive at parishes by taxi, fully vested and even in a cope. As Robert Center observed, Klein's sense of discipline "had the tendency to leave congregations feeling that the bishop's visitations were the fulfillment of duty rather than a chief pastor mingling delightedly with his flock."
It was Klein's practice to celebrate the first Mass of Easter on the evening of Holy Saturday, and he required all the clergy to attend. He followed the Mass with a large dinner with the result that all the clergy returned home in the early hours of the morning and were often exhausted on Easter morning.
With the Baby Boom generation fully underway, Klein took an interest in evangelism, capitalizing on the spirit that had motivated Bishop Mallett. The diocese commissioned the Summerfield Report in 1965, which made proposals for more effective work in the diocese. It recommended closing some missions and opening others. It also promoted the opening of the Wawasee Retreat Center, a proposal acted on swiftly with the opening of the center in 1966 under the ministry of the Rev. David Hyndman. It also recommended parish status for St. Anne's, Warsaw; Holy Trinity, South Bend; and St. Paul's, Gas City. Center criticized the report for having exaggerated expectations and for making proposals that had already been considered.
Klein was interested in finding intellectual solutions to complex problems, sometimes hastily. The Calumet area had always proved challenging to administer, so he decided to join with the Diocese of Chicago in a joint Pilot Program, headquartered at Christ Church, Gary, to develop a ministry program to serve people in the area that bordered the two dioceses. The plan included seeking ecumenical cooperation with leaders of other denominations, hoping to utilize interdiocesan resources for development and use existing buildings for missionary work. Missionary outreach to Spanish-speaking residents became a priority, and two priests, the Rev. Jose Irizarry of Puerto Rico and later the Rev. Aquilino Vinas of Cuba, reached out successfully to the Hispanic communities, but funding became a major factor that led to its suspension in 1969. As Center writes, "the Pilot Program was seen as but one among many programs in competition for time and money."
Wishing that the diocese had an endowment, Klein became interested in increasing stewardship across the diocese in 1965 and launched a program called Tithing Transforms. Despite his personal shortcomings at effective pastoral communication, the event proved successful. In 1967 the diocese approved a missions budget of $100,000, a 30% increase from the previous year. Even so, Klein himself often turned off individual donors with his cold demeanor and lack of skill at fundraising. Once, a gathering of wealthy business men was held in Fort Wayne with a bar for drinks. Men helped themselves without paying. When the bishop arrived, he upbraided the men for thinking that the diocese would underwrite the cost of the alcohol and demanded that they pay up. His words had been so caustic that they had the effect of leaving the men feeling humiliated with no incentive to give any money to a missionary cause. Some recalled that they had been prepared to write four-figure checks.
This lack of sensitivity on the part of the bishop carried over to the social issues of the 1960s. When Bishop John Pares Craine of Indianapolis was actively endorsing the civil rights movement and taking positions against the Vietnam War, Klein remained silent on these issues and did not perceive himself in any sense an agent for the social gospel. This silence was particularly felt in the largely African American parish of St. Augustine's, Gary, whose own membership had endured years of discrimination and had found little support from diocesan leadership.
Not all clergy agreed with the bishop's silence. At South Bend, Dean Robert Royster served on the board of the Urban League and was interested in improving race relations. At Trinity Fort Wayne, the Rev. George B. Wood, a former Urban League president, endorsed the ministry of Martin Luther King, attended a King speech, and supported integrated housing. Because he served as chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, however, he remained strongly in favor of the Vietnam War and assured that there would be no peace protests. The pro-war stand was also echoed at St. John the Evangelist, Elkhart, where its rector, the Rev. Carl Richardson, was active in the National Guard. At Gethsemane, Marion, however, the rector, the Rev. Timothy Riggs, gave an anti-war sermon.
The future Bishop William Sheridan, then rector of St. Thomas, Plymouth, explained the diocese this way in a 1999 letter to the historian Jason Lantzer: "The diocese [in the 1960s] was a typical Midwestern one - conservative. Its reaction to civil rights and Vietnam was Midwestern." In truth, however, the diocese had a national reputation as a "citadel of Anglo-Catholicism" and was more conservative than many other dioceses, even in the Midwest. Klein distrusted Presiding Bishop John Hines and believed him too liberal, both politically and theologically for the time.
Klein and the diocese were forced to address the racial situation when the Special General Convention II was held at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend in 1969. It was the first such special convention held by the national church since 1822. This time, the Diocese of Northern Indiana and the Diocese of Indianapolis were co-hosts with the expectation that the convention would serve as a forum for discussions on ecumenical relations with several churches. Klein seemed well adapted for this role, having written about ecumenism and developing a warm relationship with the leadership of the Polish National Catholic Church. Moreover, the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, had given many Anglo-Catholics the hope of greater Episcopal-Catholic cooperation. For the convention, Klein assumed chairmanship of the Arrangements Committee, and Dean Robert Royster of the Cathedral had taken on a large, full-time planning role for the convention. A controversial proposal, opposed by Klein, held that the convention would seat a variety of extra unelected delegates, including women and minority groups, to better reflect the changing social mood of the time.
On August 31, a group led by the Rev. Paul Washington and Muhammad Kenyatta, an official with the Black Economic Development Council, took the floor and demanded time to present their case to the convention. Kenyatta argued that the Episcopal Church had profited from decades of racism, and according to the Black Manifesto passed several months earlier, the church owed the African American community reparations from its support of slavery. The delegates agreed to give the Union of Black Clergy and Laity $200,000 for black community development. The delegation from Northern Indiana and several other dioceses had opposed the move, demanding that any contributions be specified and designated. While the reaction to the move in Northern Indiana was strongly unfavorable, it failed to win the support of even more moderate dioceses, who agreed with conservatives and voted against the payment of what they considered ransom. Many parishioners enacted a so-called "pocketbook boycott" by withholding pledges to the national church, greatly affecting its budget church and leading eventually to Presiding Bishop Hines's resignation. In Fort Wayne, Rev. George Wood hired plain-clothes police to sit in the congregation since he feared someone would take over the microphone of the parish. A more positive result from the proceedings was that a wider group of the church's leadership recognized that it needed to listen more closely to the demands of constituents and have more diversified leadership.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Klein's episcopate was a restructuring program from 1966 to 1968 that cleared away many unnecessary committees and made the diocese operate more effectively as an entity. Under the leadership of Paul Philips, a Fort Wayne attorney, the Diocese of Northern Indiana became a single corporate structure, and the Board of Trustees was eliminated. The bishop became president of the corporation with the Diocesan Council serving as the board of directors, while the former "Bishop and Council" was disbanded. The Council would play a legislative role in any interim period between bishops but would not play an executive role. Operations were limited to the bishop and his cabinet. The Standing Committee, consisting of three priests and two laymen, continued to as the diocese's judicial function. In addition, the new program created five executive divisions: Administration, Development, Operations, Treasurer, and Chancellor (in charge of legal affairs). For the first time women were allowed to serve as delegates on committees, and the canons were amended to reflect the change. The restructuring plan was approved at the diocesan convention in 1968.
Klein announced his intention to retire in 1971, and unlike previous elections, a special convention now considered an array of candidates that had been gathered by a sub-committee of the Standing Committee. The Rev. William C. R. Sheridan, rector of St. Thomas Church, Plymouth, was chosen on the ninth ballot, and the Kleins retired to a quiet, private life in an apartment provided to them in La Porte. He died of cancer on 1 March 1980, and Sheridan would hail him as "the master of the spiritual life in nearly all its aspects" and "a strong tower of orthodoxy."
If Klein's episcopate was disappointing for those who desired the diocese to be more responsive to change, he nonetheless administered the diocese competently on a shoestring budget with only a secretary as support staff and no Canon to the Ordinary. A godly bishop with a cold veneer, he had a compassionate side that he kept deeply private, but it could be seen in the effort he made to visit priests in the hospital and in the detailed correspondence he maintained with some priests, sometimes over long periods. He was profoundly disappointed that no capital drive had occurred, that he had no staff, and that some parishes remained divided despite his best efforts at reconciliation. Yet the number of clergy in the diocese went from 52 to 63 and total giving increased significantly. His dislike of evangelicals and his unwillingness to diversify the diocese liturgically were perhaps major weaknesses. He told the Rev. Cory Randall, then on a veto interview for the rectorship of Trinity Fort Wayne, "I don't want any evangelicals in my diocese." Randall had replied, "If I found them, I would encourage them." He approved of Randall, thinking him tough enough to take him on. A strict conservative Anglo-Catholic to the end, his great accomplishment, he later said, was preserving the liturgical orthodoxy of the diocese at a time when the national church was undergoing significant change.
Interview with Bishop Walter Conrad Klein by Rev. Robert Center, 4 January 1971, Audio File
Order of the Consecration of the Very Reverend Walter C. Klein ... 29 June 1963
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William Cockburn Russell Sheridan, Fifth Bishop
William Cockburn Russell Sheridan was elected the fifth bishop of Northern Indiana on 15 April 1972, and he called the event the "most terrifying experience of my life." He had expected another candidate to be elected, and he had not prepared himself for the experience. Sheridan was the first, and to date only, bishop to be elected from its own fold of priests and was consecrated on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, 24 June 1972, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church on the University of Notre Dame campus. The gift came because of his close friendship with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh and Bishop Leo Pursley of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Among the consecrans were Bishop Francis C. Rowinski of the Polish National Catholic Church whose orders are considered valid by the Vatican. Following the tenures of two bishops who were not considered pastoral and were not well liked, Sheridan proved himself to be both a pastoral and beloved bishop.
Sheridan was born in New York City on 25 March 1917. He had a patrician appearance and bearing. His mother was English-born and a devout Anglican; his Irish-born father was a Roman Catholic and an alcoholic. William grew up in Baltimore and attended St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Maryland; then he spent a year at the University of Virginia before the Great Depression forced him to drop out for lack of funds. He later was accepted into a baccalaureate program at Nashotah House Seminary, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1939 and a liberal arts degree from Carroll College in Wisconsin in 1943. Many years later Nashotah granted him honorary Master's and Doctor's degrees. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1943 by Bishop Noble Powell of Maryland and the same year married Rudith "Trudy" Treder of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. They would have five children, including twin sons.
After ordination, Sheridan served briefly at Mt. Calvary Church, Baltimore, and as curate at St. Paul's Church, Chicago. He was also briefly a priest at Emmanuel Episcopal Mission, in Garrett, Indiana. In 1944, he became rector of Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion, and vicar of St. Paul's Gas City. In 1947, Bishop Reginald Mallett ordered him to St. Thomas Church, Plymouth, where he served a long rectorate of 25 years. For ten years he was also chaplain of Culver Military Academy.
Sheridan was a strong Anglo-Catholic and a conservative at a time of profound change in the national Church. He set out to be a pastoral bishop after years of cold formality from his predecessor. In this regard he brought several innovations to his episcopate. One was his decision to rotate the diocesan convention to various parts of the diocese, with every third year held at the cathedral in South Bend. A second was to build relationships among the priests of the diocese by having them and their wives to dinner at the residence. He had planned for clergy across the diocese to get to know one another better, and as many as two or three suppers were served weekly.
Third, Sheridan instituted the bishop's pastoral weekend when making visitations, spending two days meeting with vestries, ECW chapters, guilds, and the ill in hospitals. "As I look back at those years," he later wrote, "the 'Pastoral Weekends' were an arduous undertaking, but I felt they were absolutely necessary." He held approximately 35 such weekends each year, traveling between 27,000 and 33,000 miles a year and sleeping annually in some 60-70 motels. He regarded the liturgical and theological unity of the diocese, still strongly conservative and Anglo-Catholic, as its greatest asset, echoing what Bishop Klein before him had believed. In particular he relished the compliments of a fellow bishop who, in observing a diocesan convention, commended Sheridan for the harmony and spiritual warmth that existed among the priests with no apparent competing interests or jealousies.
Sheridan remained steadfastly opposed to the ordination of women and refused to allow women priests to serve in the diocese. He also led the opposition in the House of Bishops and was frequently quoted in the press at the time. He did allow the Rev. Sarah Tracy to serve as deacon in 1985, and he made a distinction of women serving in the diaconate and those in the priesthood. He also blasted Bishop John Shelby Spong for his series of books that questioned the traditional teachings of the Anglican faith and called him the "great heretic of our time."
As a strong ecumenist with ties to many local Catholics and Protestants, Sheridan felt that the ordination of women challenged the historical nature of the priesthood and rendered it impossible for Anglican orders ever to be recognized by Roman Catholics, a long-desired goal. It also strained much of the ecumenical dialogue that he had worked decades to cultivate. "I could almost literally weep at the anguish of hundreds of priests and thousands of lay people," he wrote, "as the contemplate the possibility of the future ordination of women priests and bishops being forced...As your Chief Pastor, I see the possibility of the sheer, tragic, unnecessary WASTE OF SOULS."
For this opposition, Sheridan has endured some criticism in more recent historiography, which has compared him unfavorably to Bishop John Pares Craine of Indianapolis, who was among the first to support women priests and was a strong advocate for civil rights. Jason Lantzer has observed in an article for Anglican and Episcopal History that opposition to women priests remained in the Diocese of Northern Indiana even after Sheridan's successor, Francis Gray, assented to the ordination of women in 1989. In the late 1970s, during Sheridan's episcopate, the Rev Jackie Means of the Diocese of Indianapolis, ordained by Bishop Craine, came to Gethsemane Church in Marion to preach at the invitation of the rector. Her sermon so distressed the congregation - as did the news of it upon reaching the diocese - that the congregation formally voted not to recognize women's ordination. However, in 1997, little more than a decade later, the parish called the Rev. Megan Traquair, who had a successful rectorate.
The diocese suffered economically for most of Sheridan's episcopate due to a national recession in 1973. Many parishes were in arrears in paying their diocesan assessments, and many could barely afford to keep their rectors and vicars. Sheridan recalled, It was a severe blow to the finances of the Diocese of Northern Indiana. One parish was once $6,000 in arrears of its assessment... That recession, of course, destroyed any plans for a capital funds drive in the diocese. Somehow we never defaulted on our fair share quota to the National Church, but often at the cost of trimming many diocesan projects." An Episcopal Church-wide initiative called Venture in Ministry (VIM) sought to raise funds across the national church for missionary use in parishes and dioceses. Each diocese formed a VIM committee to design a plan that best suited its needs.
Sheridan worked to establish a strong, caring pastoral presence, but he was not, by his own admission, an administrator. Instead, he relied on his Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Bradley McCormick, to assist with many tasks. That included editorship of the diocesan newspaper, The Beacon, which Sheridan regarded as an essential tool of communication. Some in the diocese considered the bishop somewhat comical and noted that he sometimes got lost in the liturgy of services he conducted. But Sheridan saw McCormick as invaluable and "made it possible to try to be a 'pastoral bishop.'"
Of the new prayerbook, which was introduced in several trial versions in the 1970s, Sheridan became an enthusiastic supporter. The trial liturgies allowed for the celebration of daily offices, encouraged weekly communion and greater congregational participation, all of which appealed to the High Church wing of the Episcopal Church. The roll-out came with much experimentation and varying degrees of success. At Trinity Fort Wayne, the new prayerbook with modern language was used at the 9 and 11 o'clock services, with Rite I reserved for 7:30. A small group continued to keep the 1928 prayerbook alive at special services on Saturdays. St. Paul's, La Porte, and Gethsemane, Marion, both resisted the new prayerbook and were reluctant to implement its use. At Trinity Michigan City, the new book was used at the main Mass, together with musical experimentation. Fr. Robert Center, its rector, also taught classes on the history of Eucharistic liturgy. In the end, the transition to the new prayerbook proved successful and varied celebrations of the Eucharist became commonplace.
As a deeply traditional Anglican for whom the symbols of faith were very important, Sheridan took a romanticized view of the episcopate. He enjoyed being photographed in his cope and miter, and he was frequently shown clutching his pectoral cross. Yet he was quick to point out that they were only symbols of the office and not the office itself. "A bishop is, or ought to be, a servant of Christ Jesus our Lord, a servant with many responsibilities to his Savior and King. He is called to that office. God have mercy on him if he has sought after the Episcopate - or even lusted after it. He is to 'share' that servanthood. The work share cannot be stressed too much. He is to share both in the happiness and the pain of the Diocesan family. A Father-in-God is to have a special love for priests and deacons in his care...in addition to the lay people. A Father-in-God must be quick to try and inspire others - in order that they will also carry the opportunities and burdens of the Holy Gospel and the Church into life itself as witnesses for our Blessed Lord. There is a saying: No bishop, no church; no church, no sacraments; no sacraments, no certain grace; no grace, no salvation."
Although Sheridan was born with a Baltimore accent, it morphed into something more mid-Atlantic or even English-sounding after becoming a bishop, which some regarded as an affectation but was actually a way for him to overcome a stuttering problem. It enhanced his patrician bearing to those who knew him. Once, a woman at Trinity Fort Wayne stooped down to kiss his ring, and he exclaimed, "Oh, ma'lady!" in a way that generated smiles. He was at ease with both pastoral conversations and small talk, which set him apart from his predecessor. On another occasion, while processing in his cope and miter, Sheridan heard a little boy call out, "There goes the king!" He stopped and turned and said, "No, there goes the king's servant." The bishop also had a most welcome lighter side. He was known to State Police for speeding on U.S. 30 and was frequently given warnings but with a sense of humor. On another occasion, he was in a diner wearing his magenta shirt and a waitress came up and said, "How are you, robin red-breast?" He found the story funny and often told it with great relish. If he regarded the symbols of the episcopate a bit too seriously in some ways, his capacity for laughter and self-effacing humor won him many friends and was also a marked contrast from his predecessors.
After his retirement in 1987, Sheridan threw his support to the Episcopal Synod, which worked to oppose women's ordination, even though it had become commonplace throughout the Church. His successor, Francis Campbell Gray, allowed women priests into the diocese in 1990 as he worked to bring Northern Indiana into the greater fold of the national Church. Even though he disagreed with Gray privately, he always publicly voiced his admiration and support. To priests who confided that they wanted to go over to Roman Catholicism, Sheridan consistently advised against it, stating that they had taken an oath to uphold the Church and should be bound by that vow. The Catholic Church, he said, had even greater problems than the Episcopal Church.
Near the end of his life, during the episcopate of the more evangelical Bishop Edward Little, Sheridan saw the Anglo-Catholic identity of the diocese morph into something new as the national Church changed all around him. Nashotah House would no longer wield its ideological influence on the diocese as it once did, and even it began to admit women into its ranks by this time. In June 2005, Sheridan participated in the ordination of the Rev. Susan Bunton Haynes at St. Thomas Plymouth and told Bishop Little, "Indiana has the best women priests." His views about women in the priesthood had softened. He had also told the historian Jason Lantzer in 1999 that the five women priests serving in the diocese at that time were "of superior quality." All had asked him to serve as supply priest, and several asked him to mentor them. He told the Rev. Megan Traquair that because of her long and faithful service at Gethsemane, Marion, she could now consider herself among the "Marian fathers." Within three months of his assisting with Susan Haynes's ordination, on 24 September 2005, Sheridan died at his home near Culver, a former country church he had converted into a residence. Near the end of his life he wrote, "God forgive me for all my failings and failures. God, also, be thanked for all His Grace and Mercy for those things which prospered!"
Even if some aspects of the style of churchmanship that Sheridan practiced had grown out of fashion, he remained a very spiritual priest, enjoyed being called "Father Sheridan," and was inspirational to many for his personal sense of piety and devotional life. As the last old-style Anglo-Catholic bishop, however, he found that his brand of conservatism, the one his predecessors had practiced, was fast disappearing from most quarters of the national Episcopal Church by the twenty-first century.
Jason Lantzer, "Hoosier Episcopalians, the Coming of Women's Ordination, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer," Anglican and Episcopal History, volume 52 (June 2003): 229-254.
Jason Lantzer, "Tradition, Transition, Turmoil, and Triumph: Indianapolis Episcopalians Confront the 1960s and 1970s." Indiana University thesis, October 1999.
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, Audio File, by the Rev. Robert Center, 1989
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 1
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 2
Ordination and Consecration of the Rev, William C. R. Sheridan ... 24 June 1972
Ordination and Consecration of the Rt. Rev. William C. R. Sheridan, Commemorative Booklet, 1972