Elected 1785, Day 1; 1789 (ex officio)

Rev. William White was not only the first President of the House of Deputies, but also the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop White was born in Philadelphia in 1748. After his graduation from college in 1765, he studied theology, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1772. In addition to ministering to the United Parishes of St. Peter’s and Christ Church in Philadelphia from his ordination until his death, he was the chaplain to the Continental and Constitutional Congresses and the Senate from 1777-1801.


White was instrumental in forming the new Episcopal Church’s constitution, and was a staunch proponent of lay membership. In The Case for the Episcopal Church, which he published anonymously in 1782, he proposed that since the American church had no episcopate of its own, ordinations might be performed by deacons and presbyters until an episcopate could be established. This proposal was not adopted; however, after the Scottish consecration of Bishop Samuel Seabury, it was not needed. White and Samuel Provoost of New York soon followed in Seabury’s footsteps and White was consecrated Bishop of Pennsylvania on Feb. 4, 1787. White had originally been a proponent of a single House, but in a compromise with Seabury, he agreed to sit apart from the deputies. White served as Presiding Bishop of the Church from July 18 to Oct. 3, 1789, and again from 1795 until his death in Philadelphia in 1836.


The Case for the Episcopal Church, 1782. Written by William White, and published anonymously in 1782, this pamphlet proposes federal organization of the Church and upholds the principle of lay representation.