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With a century of remove from the life of JP Morgan—who has met his end in the same way each of us will, in his case in a simple grave in the soil of his native Connecticut—we can acknowledge with gratitude his support of church life and still offer a critique of the methods by which he came about the wealth that enabled him to offer it.
He funded the liturgical revision committees and private press publishing for the American Book of Common Prayer in 1892, and supported the work of the commission that produced the 1928 Book. ) He has also left to the world a model of churchmanship that is perhaps unexamined in terms of its long-term influence for Anglican culture.
(He was reputed to have committed the entirety of the BCP—collects, Psalter, epistles, gospels, all of it—to memory.) His parish church benefited from his largesse, too, creating in Manhattan a model of English squirearchy dependent in a fresh way on the takings of industry, railroads, shipping, manufacturing. In the same breath, we long for the likes of a latter-day JP Morgan who could support with financial abandon our churches' efforts at refugee resettlement, racial reconciliation, environmental stewardship, ecumenical cooperation; and still we know that the dependence of our churches on the largesse of billionaires in days of yore is much unlike anything we experience today or can expect to know again.
The soles on our shoes are tired, as are our feet themselves.
We've been back and forth from one of the older theological colleges in the Anglican world to a venerable parish church, to an important academic library with strong theological holdings, and also met in service of a church publisher whose work is entering its thirteenth decade.
It was an occasion to reflect much on the five centuries since the Lutheran reforms began—particularly in light of the Joint Roman Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation to be held tomorrow in Lund and Malmö.But it was also an occasion to think on the life of one of the most prominent lay persons in the history of the Anglican Communion, JP Morgan.He gave serial donations of 0,000 (contemporary numbers) to support the work of triennial meetings of the General Convention.He offered a 0,000 pittance to jump-start the building of the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City.
John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was a banker and financier whose wealth bankrolled a wide variety of projects in the Gilded Age Anglo-American world.
He supported museums, hospitals, universities and a great variety of other institutions, but his personal projects often focused on the maintenance of his church, the Protestant Episcopal Church.