Quarrel Made Parish Stronger, Priest Says

A former Episcopal priest whose congregation is battling the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan for control of historic Mariners’ Church in downtown Detroit says the controversy has not weakened his parish.

“In fact, we have become a stronger group,” said the Rev. Richard Ingalls, the traditionalist rector of Mariners’ Church, located near the banks of the Detroit River.

Ingalls was named rector of Mariners’ in 1965. He and his parishioners have been at odds with the diocese for the last decade over attempts to introduce the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer into every congregation in the diocese.

Mariners’ has steadfastly refused to give up use of the 1928 Prayer Book despite continuing pressure from the diocese. In January, Ingalls renounced his license as an Episcopal Church priest but vowed to continue as rector of Mariners’.


At times, the controversy has been bitter and public, as it was this past summer when Bishop Stewart Wood of the Diocese of Michigan sought to pay a pastoral visit to Mariners’ but was met on the church steps by angry parishioners who barred his entry.

Failing in attempts to install a new rector at Mariners’, Wood filed suit in August in county circuit court seeking clear title to the 141-year-old church. On the same day, trustees of Mariners’ filed suit in the Michigan Court of Appeals arguing that the church’s 1848 incorporation by the state Legislature created it as a congregation independent of control by any denomination.

A court date has not been set in either case, said Ingalls, adding, “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”