John Stark Ravenscroft
John Stark Ravenscroft (1772-1830) was the first Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North Carolina.
Born near Blandford in Prince George County, Virginia in 1772, his early life was spent in Scotland. He went to William and Mary College and in when he was 27 years old he decided to become a lawyer. In 1810 he had a conversion experience and joined a denomination known as “Republican Methodists,” eventually deciding to become a minister. He later began to have doubts about the validity of the large number of Christian sects and eventually joined the Episcopal Church.
In April of 1817, Bishop Moore of VA ordained Ravenscroft to the diaconate in the Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. On May 6th Ravenscroft was ordained a priest in St. George’s Church, Fredericksburg. BY 1823 Ravenscroft had been elected Bishop of North Carolina.
Bishop Ravenscroft was a controversial figure, but was well loved by Episcopalians in North Carolina. His is a good example of pre-tractarian high-churchmanship. His strong assertion of the special emphasis of the Episcopal Church in certain areas, and strong criticism of, amongst other things, Baptist theology, won him a great deal of criticism. Ravenscroft wasn’t one to shrink from a fight, and became embroiled in a debate with the Bible Society of north Carolina of a statement in one of his sermons that the Bible could not be properly studied without a qualified teacher. Ravenscroft went back and forth with Presbyterian Dr. John Rice and eventually published a tract to explain his position more fully, The Doctrines of the Church Vindicated from the Misrepresentations of Dr. John Rice, and the Integrity of Revealed Religion Defended against the “No Comment Principle” of Promiscuous Bible Societies.
Ravenscroft’s works are subtitled “His sermons and controversial tracts,” pointing to his ability to take unpopular stands on theological matters. One of these matters was his theology of Baptism, which was highly critical of what was rapidly becoming the dominant (baptist) model. I’m transcribing his sermon on Baptism for this site and including resources from elsewhere as well.