Robert Kelsey Walton

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Robert Kelsey Walton (1881-1933) was an American Theosophist who was a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church.

Personal life

Robert Walton was born on November 17, 1881 in Chicago, Illinois, as the son of Myron K. Walton and Jennie Kelsey Walton. He was educated in the public schools of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and earned an LL.B. law degree at the University of Michigan in 1904.[1] While at the university he was a reporter for the Michigan Daily-News and a member of the Theta Theta Chapter of the Chi Sigma fraternity.[2][3]

Walton joined the Bar in New York City, and practiced in the firm of Parker, Davis, Wagner & Walton. On August 24, 1911, he was married to Georgina Frances Jones, the daughter of John P. Jones, who had been a U.S. Senator from Nevada. The wedding took place in Lucerne, Switzerland.[4][5]

The couple moved to Los Angeles, and on August 14, 1917, Walton was ordained as a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church. Within a few years they were divorced, with Georgina living in Los Angeles, and Robert at Casa de Paz in Ojai, California. He died on June 4, 1933.[6]

Theosophical Society involvement

Both Robert and Georgia Walton were admitted to the American Theosophical Society on December 21, 1906. They were recommended for membership by Julia H. Coffin and J. P. Hugh Price. In June 1916, Georgia joined the Santa Barbara Lodge, and remained a member until June 30, 1921, when she became inactive. During the years 1912-1920, both Waltons contributed articles to Theosophical periodicals. Robert was particularly interested in social reconstruction, working with W. Scott Lewis at Krotona. He was demitted from the Los Angeles Lodge on November 1, 1920, and became a charter member of the Besant Lodge of Krotona.[7]

Liberal Catholic Church involvement

Walton was ordained by James Ingall Wedgwood to the priesthood in St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, Echo Park, Los Angeles, California on August 14, 1917.[8] That year he was called to visit Bishop Charles Webster Leadbeater who had become very ill in Sydney, Australia. However, just before the Waltons sailed, they were notified that CWL was greatly improved. In 1918 Walton applied for a renewal of his passport. A letter attached to his application explained his need for rapid departure, and gives interesting details about the Liberal Catholic Church:

Since that time [1917] I have been devoting my entire time and attention to my work as Priest of the Old Catholic Church, mostly in the Church of Saint Alban and the Angels at Krotona, Hollywood, where another Priest and I between us conduct eight regular services a week and minister to about one hundred and eighty-five people. I am also Vicar General for the Church in America.

The Presiding Bishop of our Church went in July, August and September, 1918 from London, England, across America to Sydney, Australia, where he is now engaged with Bishop Leadbeater, the Bishop for Australia, and bishop Mazel, the Bishop-Auxiliary for Australia, in making some changes in our Church Liturgies and Rituals, and in editing a new hymn book, and a new missal of prayers and collects, etc. On the 17th day of September, 1918, I received from Sydney, Australia, a cablegram from Bishop Wedgwood, Bishop Leadbeater and Bishop Mazel, constituting the Episcopal Synod, the highest authority and governing body of the Church [requesting his assistance in Australia].

This constitutes an official order from my ecclesiastical superiors, which I eagerly obey and I shall sail as soon as my Passport is extended. It is of great importance to our Church work that I go at this time so that the work in America can be fully organized. We have at present no Bishop in this country. A Bishop is the only official who has the power to formally admit new members into the Church. Priests may perform baptisms but no confirmations. The Bishop is also the only official authorized to ordain Sub-Deacons, Deacons and Priests. It is probably that as a result of my visit a Bishop will be consecrated exclusively for the American work. This may or may not be myself, depending somewhat, probably, upon my ability to pass the requisite examination. If this does not happen, my visit, it is fair to assume , will be of importance to the Church work here, since I may thus present forcibly the American point of view concerning vital theological and liturgical questions pending for decision before the Bench of Bishops all of whom are British or Australian.

I have engaged passage with Steamship Agent A. M. Culver, [who] has reserved passage for me on the Sonoma, due to sail from San Francisco October 22nd. The length of time they will need me in Australia I cannot with certainty foresee, but expect to remain there from two to five months...[9]

After he returned from Australia, Father Walton had to handle a difficult situation in the Church:

In April 1919, four Liberal Catholic places of worship were open in the United States. The Saint Alban Church in Hollywood had more than 200 members. But six months later, frictions between members of the Theosophical Society who were also members of the Church, and those who were not, became so severe, that the Krotona Institute requested the Church to leave the premises. The Rev. Walton sent a letter to all the Liberal Catholic Communities asking them to refrain celebrating Services on the premises of the Theosophical Society. If this situation reduced the growth of the Church for awhile, it also was at the origin of its independent development in North America.[10]

Writings

Both Robert and Georgina wrote for Theosophical magazines. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists more than 30 articles that they contributed during the years 1912-1920.

Notes

  1. "WALTON, Robert Kelsey", Who's Who in New York (City and State), Issue 7, 1115.
  2. Catalogue of Graduates, Non-graduates, Officers, and Members of the Faculties, 1837-1921, 1923 University of Michigan.
  3. The Michiganensian University of Michigan Yearbook (New York: Who's Who Publications, Incorporated, 1918), 1115.
  4. "WALTON, Robert Kelsey", Who's Who in New York (City and State), Issue 7, 1115.
  5. "Miss Jones to Wed Abroad; Daughter of ex-Senator from Nevada Will Marry Robert Kelsey Walton." Special to The New York Times (August 06, 1911).
  6. Microfilm of Membership Ledger Cards. Yellow Series Roll 8. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  7. Microfilm of Membership Ledger Cards. Yellow Series Roll 8. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  8. "The Church Comes to the United States." A Short History of the Liberal Catholic Church and St. Raphael's Parish web page. Available at this website.
  9. U. S. Passport Application. October 8, 1918.
  10. "Biography" compiled by Maurice H. Warnon for the Liberal Catholic Institute of Study. Available at this website.