Algernon Sidney Crapsey : The Last of the Heretics
By Stephen T. Neese, Visiting Assistant Professor at The College at Brockport.
A biography about a man whose life reflected the religious, social and cultural conventions of late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The fascinating changes that Crapsey experienced in his personal life paralleled the intellectual developments that attended the nation as it moved from a Protestant, Christian culture to a primarily secular one. Recognizing those transformations in the life of Crapsey helps us to understand them at the societal level as well. After a short stint in the military during the Civil War, Crapsey began his career as a young man caught up in the pomp and ritual of the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism. He maintained a long romance with the medieval communitarian- based Anglican institution. He eventually became a leading missioner or, one who brought instruction and Episcopal evangelism to various places both at home and abroad. He was, at one point, the leading candidate for the Bishopric of Omaha, Nebraska though he ultimately declined the offer. But as he became more successful at one point traveling to Great Britain, he eventually witnessed the discrepancies between the hierarchical church and the laity. The seeds of socialism both Christian and secular were set at this point. He became more and more broad- minded and liberal in his thinking leading to his utterances of heresy and eventual excommunication between 1905-07. His trial captivated the nation twenty years before the Scopes Monkey Trial, and every major newspaper carried its developments. As he moved on in years his life deepened becoming more interesting and legendary as a favorite circuit speaker, author, avowed communist and New York State’s first youth probation officer. For many, his death at the end of the decade of the twenties marked the end an era of modernism in America. As a true progressive, Crapsey had not only helped to initiate a process that brought successive modification to society, but he also helped to establish a tradition of liberality within the Episcopal Church. The subsequent controversies surrounding Bishops Pike and Spong attest to this tradition, as does the current controversy concerning the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.
Dr. Stephen T. Neese was QAR Professor of American History at the State University of New York at Brockport. He has previously written “Algernon Sidney Crapsey and the Move for Presentment,” in Anglican and Episcopal History. Prior to this he has written 15 publications on Great Basin archaeology on file in the Special Collections library at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and with several United States Federal agencies.
Newcastle : Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007.
vi, 458 p. ;2 2 cm.
Neese, Stephen, "Algernon Sidney Crapsey : The Last of the Heretics" (2007). Brockport Bookshelf. 114.