DuBose, William Porcher

April 11, 1836–August 18, 1918

His catholicity was expressed in his concern for the unity of the church and in his commitment to the Bible as the church’s book. He insisted that the Bible is both human and divine: its form is human, and its content is divine.

Professor, theologian. DuBose was born near Winnsboro on April 11, 1836, the son of Theodore DuBose, a plantation owner, and his wife, Jane Porcher. He graduated from the Citadel in 1855 and received his M.A. from the University of Virginia in 1859. He studied for the ordained ministry at the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina at Camden. DuBose served as an adjutant in the Confederate army, and after his ordination as deacon on December 13, 1863, he served as chaplain to Confederate soldiers. He was ordained as a priest on September 9, 1866, and served as rector of Trinity Church, Abbeville, from 1868 to 1871. From 1871 until 1883 he was chaplain at the newly established University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, where he helped to establish the School of Theology and was its second dean from 1894 to 1908.

DuBose is recognized as a major theologian in the history of the Episcopal Church. He published seven books, the first of which was The Soteriology of the New Testament (1892), which was his New Testament theology. The Gospel in the Gospels (1906) was a study in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and The Gospel According to St. Paul (1907) was a study of Romans and Pauline the- ology. High Priesthood and Sacrifice (1908) was a study of Hebrews, and The Reason of Life (1911) was a study of the Johannine literature. These five books established DuBose as a major New Testament theologian. In 1896 he published The Ecumenical Councils, a study of the first seven ecumenical councils of the church. He discussed his experience and theology in his autobiographical Turning Points in My Life (1912).

DuBose was a leading liberal catholic theologian in the Episcopal Church in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His catholicity was expressed in his concern for the unity of the church and in his commitment to the Bible as the church’s book. He insisted that the Bible is both human and divine: its form is human, and its content is divine. His theology was rooted in the first seven ecumenical councils, which defined and described Jesus Christ as fully human, fully divine, in one person. He also expressed his catholicity in centering theology in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in his understanding of the church and its sacraments as the continuing presence of Jesus Christ. His liberalism was expressed in his commitment to the critical study of scripture; his recognition of the development of doctrine; his unending search for truth wherever it might be found; his understanding of evolution, process, and growth; and in his efforts to reconcile historic Christianity with modern ideas. His work was recognized in England during his lifetime as the writings of a major incarnational theologian. He died in Sewanee, Tennessee, on August 18, 1918.

Alexander, Jon, ed. William Porcher DuBose: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.

Armentrout, Donald S., ed. A DuBose Reader: Selections from the Writings of William Porcher DuBose. Sewanee, Tenn.: University of the South, 1984. Slocum, Robert Boak. The Theology of William Porcher DuBose: Life, Movement, and Being. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title DuBose, William Porcher
  • Coverage April 11, 1836–August 18, 1918
  • Author
  • Keywords Professor, theologian, Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, adjutant in the Confederate army, served as chaplain to Confederate soldiers, published seven books, insisted that the Bible is both human and divine,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 29, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 15, 2016
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