missionary work in the expanding west. Among them, Kemper, with missionary experience in western Pennsylvania, Virginia, and eastern Ohio, was elected unanimously as the first Missionary Bishop in the Episcopal Church: with responsibility for what now comprises the states of Indiana and Missouri. His jurisdiction eventually included what are now the states of Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.
William White, Richard Channing Moore, and Philander Chase served as consecrators. New Jersey Bishop George Washington Doane, “the rankest Puseyite in the country”, as he'd been called, preached at the consecration. The
final words of his sermon were: "Go, bear before a ruined world the Savior's bleeding Cross. Go, feed with the bread from heaven the Savior's hungering Church. Go, thrice-beloved, go, and God the Lord go with you!"
In 1838, Kemper was formally made bishop of the entire Northwest Territory, later the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. At the request of Bishop Otey who was disabled by illness, Kemper also made an episcopal visitation of all the states along the Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, and the southern Atlantic Coast.
In the same year, he was chosen as bishop of Maryland in a strongly contested and chaotic election. Having given the call serious consideration, he nevertheless declined to accept. His immediate concern was “inventing” a new model of episcopacy, one that had never been practiced by an Anglican bishop anywhere before. There were few, if any, precedents on which to depend or to look to for guidance. Kemper called himself the “dray horse” of the Church, finding himself separated so much from his loving family who remained in the East. He often saw them only on
Christmas: the one day out of the year which he reserved for himself.
Bishop Kemper’s life as a missionary is almost inconceivable to us today. He traveled from the shores of Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico: by steamboat, on horseback, by stagecoach, and often on foot. He slept in the open or on the hard floor of a remote hunter’s cabin or in an Indian wigwam. In one instance, he traveled for four days in order to confirm a young person in northern Wisconsin. He organized six dioceses, consecrated nearly a hundred churches, ordained over two hundred priests and deacons, and confirmed almost 10,000 souls. He lobbied, unsuccessfully, in the East for a German translation of the Book of Common Prayer to use in his ministry to German immigrants. Pleased with the Winnebago mission at Oneida in Wisconsin, he pressed for further work with Native Americans: “…why should there not be a hundred similar congregations among the red race of this country?” Bishop Kemper later confirmed five people of the Ojibwe nation, among them John Anmegahbowk Johnson, now commemorated on June 12 in the Episcopal Church's liturgical calendar as Enmegahbowh, the first Native American Episcopal priest.
During the Civil War, almost alone among the Episcopal bishops, Jackson Kemper chose not to speak about or promote the war. Many of his tiny mission stations suffered when the men were called up to service. Nashotah House seniors were threatened with the draft, and Kemper decided that, if necessary, he would ordain them in order to exempt them from military service. At the end of the war, he did compose a prayer of gratitude that was used throughout his jurisdictions, but he never gave in to national chauvinism or jingoistic patriotism.
early ministry came back clearly.
miles during the 35 years of his episcopate: more than St. Paul himself. Bishop Kemper was eulogized in a sermon preached in 1882 by the Rev. Professor William Adams of Nashotah House: “[Bishop Kemper] has always seemed to me to have been chosen and formed by the decree and power of God, for just such work as he had to do. He was kind-hearted and social in all his feelings; beneficent in the highest degree; sympathizing evermore with the sick and sorrowing. He was sweet in temper and pleasant in speech, and at the same time he was full of the weightiest business ability and of far-reaching wide-thoughted missionary plans. If there was ever a man framed and adapted for the work he had to do in this world, for the people among whom he had to labor, and also for the peculiar state of the country which was to be the sphere of his enterprise, it was Bishop Kemper, the Missionary Bishop of the Church in this region of the Northwest… A spotless, stainless, loving-hearted Bishop of the Church!” Bishop Talbot of Indiana summed it up well when he wrote: “No bishop in the line of our American episcopate has succeeded in concentrating upon himself more entirely than he, the love and veneration of the Church.”