Henry Whipple vs. Jackson Kemper

Welcome to Midwestern Missionary Mahem! Today in the Saintly Smackdown Henry Whipple takes on Jackson Kemper. Two outward-looking nineteenth century American bishops who helped shape the future of the Episcopal Church.

Yesterday, Rita trounced Zita (or was it the other way around?) No, we're pretty sure it was Rita over Zita 79% to 21%. Actually, upon further review, it was Zita over Rita!

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Henry Whipple

The westward expansion of the United States in the nineteenth century due to belief in Manifest Destiny carried with it an unstoppable tide of cruelty, dishonesty, and corruption toward Native Americans. Often, we whitewash past actions by arguing they should be judged “in the standards of their time;” yet much like how  Bartolomé de las Casas held the Spanish to account for atrocities in the time of Columbus, Henry Benjamin Whipple reminds us that well over a century ago, brave saints spoke boldly against the degradation and maltreatment of indigenous people in the name of Jesus.

Henry Whipple was born in upstate New York in 1822, and became an Episcopalian under the influence of his grandparents and wife. After attending Oberlin College, he worked for a brief time in his father’s business until he was ordained priest in 1850. He would serve parishes in upstate New York and Chicago, gaining a reputation for service to immigrants. It was from Chicago that Whipple was elected as the first bishop of Minnesota in 1859 at the age of thirty-seven, a see he would occupy for 42 years until his death in 1901.

Whipple would eagerly set about planting the church in his diocese, making regular trips across Minnesota, including in the harsh winter. After his first visitation in the nascent diocese, he returned with a commitment not only to establish missions among the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples, but also to advocate for their welfare and well-being.

Bishop Whipple made fierce pleas for clemency for native warriors who fought against the United States in the Dakota War of 1862. On December 26, 1862, thirty-eight Dakota were hanged for supposed war crimes in the largest mass execution in American history. Their “trials” lasted mere minutes; the accused were afforded no lawyers. Whipple decried these show trials in the press, pleading for clemency, and opposing mass executions, deportations, and genocide of native people. Whipple’s defense of indigenous people earned him scorn from his white peers; many of his fellow bishops deemed him mad. Whipple would even call to account his own cousin, Henry Sibley, the architect of punitive treaties with native peoples and of the war against the Dakota. Whipple’s pleas had an impact: while 303 had been condemned to hanging, President Lincoln commuted the sentence of 265 of those in a fiercely unpopular decision.

Bishop Whipple’s moral clarity when the powers around him resisted his judgment remains the foremost marker of his ministry, and among his legacies is the ordination of the first Native American priest in the Episcopal Church, Enmegahbowh. His legacy is reflected in the Pauline motto of the Diocese of Minnesota: Pax Per Sanguinem Crucis – peace by the blood of the cross.

Collect for Henry Whipple

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Henry Whipple, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP)

David Sibley

Jackson Kemper

The influence and impact of Jackson Kemper reaches across the centuries. His mark on the Episcopal Church – from evangelism and education to the support of Native Americans – still reverberates today.

Kemper, the first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church, is known as “The Bishop of the Whole Northwest.” And for good reason – most of his ministry years were devoted to the Midwest at a time when settlements were stretching westward.

Descriptions of Kemper range from being kind to being a zealot. Nonetheless, he maintained one focus - to spread the word of God throughout the new regions of this burgeoning country.

Born in New York state on December 24, 1789, Kemper’s father was an assistant to General Washington in the Continental Army and his mother came from an important Dutch family in New Amsterdam. At Columbia College (now University), Kemper studied theology with Bishop Henry Hobart, graduating in 1809. After his ordination in 1814, he served as Bishop William White’s assistant in Philadelphia. Ordained a bishop in 1835, no sooner had a bishop’s miter been placed on his head that he headed west for new regions.

Kemper’s original territory was today’s Indiana and Missouri. From there, he expanded his ministry into neighboring areas: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, as well as points south.

Life was not easy on the frontier, but nothing deterred Kemper. Despite hardships, Kemper trekked thousands of miles utilizing all available travel modalities – ships, horses, and walking.

His accomplishments were astonishing: organizing dioceses, planting churches, ordaining priests and deacons, confirming thousands, founding schools and a seminary.

Dedicated to education and training of much-needed clergy, he founded Kemper College in St. Louis, Missouri. Although financial difficulties closed the school in 1845, his determination was not stymied. His next school was Nashotah House in Wisconsin in 1842, still operating as one of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church. In 1852 he founded Racine College, which closed in 1933.

He was a tireless advocate for Native Americans and promoted mission work among the Potawatomi, Seneca, Oneida, and Huron Tribes. Of significance, Kemper ordained Enmegahbowh, of the Ottawa Tribe, as a deacon in 1859. Later, Enmegahbowh became the first Native American Episcopal priest.

When the Diocese of Wisconsin was formed, Kemper was named provisional bishop from 1847 until 1854, then bishop until his death in 1870.

Kemper was married twice; he and his second wife Ann had three children. He died on May 24, 1870, in Nashotah where he is buried.

His legacy lives on. In addition to Nashotah House, the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry, founded in 2013, is a joint venture of the Dioceses of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, West Missouri, and Western Kansas. Kemper’s feast day is May 24.

Collect for Jackson Kemper

O God, who sent your son Jesus Christ to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that we, like your servant Jackson Kemper, may proclaim the Gospel in our own day, with courage, vision, and perseverance; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, now and for ever. Amen. (LFF 2022)

Neva Rae Fox

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118 comments on “Henry Whipple vs. Jackson Kemper”

      1. on the outside chance Henry Whipple is a distant relative, voted for him. and his regard for the indigenous people ❤️

  1. In that time, scarce a bishop dared stand
    With the peoples who first held this land.
    Very few keep their head
    When whole families lie dead;
    Whipple did, so let’s give him a hand.

  2. I live in Minnesota and have been influenced by Whipple and his views. How could I not vote for him?

  3. Daughter of the House married to a son of the house...how could I not vote for Jackson Kemper? Come on alum....jump on this train!

  4. Why did Lent Madness not come through my e-mail this morning ? It has never before failed to show up in my in box.

  5. Unfortunately I received yesterday’s contestants in my inbox this morning at 1:42 am so was unable to vote for Zita.

    I didn’t receive today’s contestants at all; I found them on the website and voted.

    Anyone else have the same experience?

    1. Rather than depend on my highly unreliable email service, I head straight to the website to read the profiles and vote.

  6. Another tough one, but I stuck by my first choice of Henry Whipple, who fought public opinion of the Dakota people and stood by their sides in life and death during a horrible and embarassing time in our young nation's history. Maybe some day, I pray, we will get this right! God bless Bishop Whipple!

    A side note for David Sibley. I love the description "Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith"!

    1. I usually go for the one who left the greatest legacy, but 265 lives saved now means more than educating for the future.

    2. I’m a David Sibley fan since Twitter days; loved watching his first run on Jeopardy! and delighted to see him advance the other night. But I think it’s St. Paul who gets credit for that line.

  7. I voted for Kemper because of his expansive impact. Oh...and Zita won yesterday as she should.

  8. I almost didn’t vote because both stories leave me with so many questions. But then I would not have been able to comment. We in Canada have been so criticized quite rightly for our actions regarding our First Nations peoples. It has been called genocide. This story of hangings without trial is likely just the tip of the iceberg. I am glad that this bishop acted on their behalf but it leaves me wondering what else needs to be done in the States to redress abuse of First Nations peoples. We in Canada have so much more work to do to redress the past and the present. Is that happening in the States. I voted for Bishop Whipple but do wonder which of them actually ordained Enmegahbow.

    1. I echo this comment. As I read, I kept thinking about the "but...." that is lurking in the shadows. Starting with, where did they stand in regards to the practice of taking children away from their families to be "civilized" in church-sponsored schools? This was at one time considered an exemplar of missionary work. I am not accusing; I do not know. But I tremble. And so far, I have not voted.

      1. I can't speak for Kemper, but I know that Whipple did everything he could to educate himself in the culture and languages of the two main indigenous groups in his diocese. He had Enmegahbow teach him to speak Ojibway and together they learned Dakota. He wrote comparisons of the two Native American cultures and their religions for priests coming to MN territory. He was called "Straight Tongue" by the Firsts Nation people not only because he advocated vociferously FOR them to those in power ex: writing letters in which he pointed to the very corrupt system of Indian agents, for example)) but he also spoke to them about what he knew was coming, - the onslaught of whites which he and they were powerless to stop. He told them they would need to learn English to deal with it and find ways to handle the capitalism that was coming soon to the prairie or woods near them and he did so not to "kill the Indian to save the child" but "to save the Indian and their children from genocide. They understood and honored him then - I hope we can understand and honor him now.

  9. Was I the only one who thought this was going to be a Grey's Anatomy match-up??? Any other Grey fans who see the connection?

  10. These two men must have known each other, right? I like envisioning them up in heaven, laughing together about being up against each other today!

    1. Given the time overlap and the fact that Minnesota and Wisconsin march together geographically, I'd be very surprised if they hadn't known each other.

  11. Kemper ordained Enmegahbowh as a Deacon in 1859.In 1867 Whipple ordained Enmegahbowh a priest. Since I am a deacon I will vote for Kemper. Both Kemper and Whipple lived in very bad times for Native Americans. Bishop Charleston has a book called "We Survived the End of the World." So it is still a little bitter to vote for these leaders, even though they seem to have tried, and at least they both recognized that Enmegahbowh was a human being worthy of ordination.

  12. Why are you confusing us? ZITA won yesterday not Rita………. Look at the final votes……

  13. There seems to be a problem with voting on the iPad, using either Safari or Duck Duck Go; CAPTCHA didn't work. On the desktop computer, voting was easy and straightforward; CAPTCHA worked flawlessly.

    I voted for Whipple, for his work in saving many of the Dakota from execution.

  14. We are called to stand for justice, even in the face of opposition. Henry Whipple was my choice today.

  15. Bishop Whipple's advocacy for Native Americans, especially his plea for Clemency for the men convicted in the Dakota War of 1862, rings out to me. It took a long time for white people to regard their humanity as equal to their own--still an issue today.

  16. This was a difficult vote because both were important, and worked at the same time and in some of the same places. I voted for Whipple because I was fascinated by the things he did, just slightly more than Kemper. I'm sure when Kemper comes again I will vote for him then!

    1. Kemper was "up" in 2015, and got to the Saintly Sixteen. Good writeups on him that year--worth a read

  17. Fun fact that these two bishops both ordained Enmegahbowh; first as deacon and then as a priest. I always learn from these posts!!

  18. The "legal" slaughter of the Dakota was one of the great crimes against the Native people of the Midwest and it was supported by the hysteria among the settlers that was magnified by politicians and newspapers of the day. I vote for Whipple because of his courage, not only in growing the church but because of his defense of the "least [in power] of these."

    1. There is a St Paul newspaper of the time in the archives of St. Mark's Cathedral, Mpls, which reads, in banner headlines, "Bishop Offers Savages Most Sacred Rites" and angrily reports that Bp Whipple "performed" the Eucharist and offered it to the condemned Dakota prisoners being held at Ft. Snelling. Let's hyst sat that at the time, he was not the most popular guy in town! But he persisted in going to stand with the condemned, and later, when he was lauded becuas of all the lives he HAD managed to save, he said, he felt a failure because he couldn't save them all.

  19. Voted for Whipple today, though I could’ve voted for either. I was relieved to know that it wasn’t the Mr. Whipple of the Charmin ad.

  20. These two men had so much in common, and are both certainly worthy to move on to the Saintly Sixteen. Insistence on justice for the oppressed, even at the cost of being considered mad, inclined me to Henry Whipple. But today I also get to claim personal connections as so many do -- I was born in Chicago, lived for 10 years in Minnesota, and my sister went to Oberlin. Whipple it is.

  21. I voted for Kemper, in honor of my "twin", Nashotah graduate Father B. He called us twins because we share the same birthday, although separated by a few decades. Father B was a great spiritual mentor and friend.