An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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Onderdonk, Benjamin Tredwell

(July 15, 1791-Apr. 30, 1861). Controversial Bishop of New York. He was born in New York City. Onderdonk graduated from Columbia College in 1809. He studied theology under Bishop John Henry Hobart of New York, where he learned high church principles. He was ordained deacon on Aug. 2, 1812, and priest on July 26, 1815. Onderdonk served as assistant minister at Trinity Church, New York, from 1814 until 1835. He served as professor of ecclesiastical history, 1821-1822, and as professor of ecclesiastical polity and law, 1821-1861, at the General Theological Seminary. On Nov. 26, 1830, Onderdonk was consecrated the fourth Bishop of New York. He was an aggressive supporter of the Oxford Movement. In Nov., 1844, he was brought to trial by the House of Bishops on charges of "immorality and impurity." To some extent, his disciplinary trial reflected the larger controversy in the Episcopal Church over the Oxford Movement and its supporters. On Jan. 3, 1845, he was suspended from the office of bishop and from all the functions of the sacred ministry. William Manross notes in A History of the American Episcopal Church (1935) that the verdict against Onderdonk reflects "the bitter party feeling which prevailed at the time, especially as the voting throughout the trial was pretty much along party lines, all of the evangelicals voting to condemn Bishop Onderdonk and most, though not all, of the High Churchmen voting to acquit him." Onderdonk tried until his death to have the suspension remitted but never succeeded. Onderdonk died in New York City. Henry Ustick Onderdonk was his brother.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.