Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

South Africa

By A. Hamilton Baynes

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray, 1908.

Chapter III. The Colenso Controversy

WE now come to events which have made the ecclesiastical history of South Africa at once memorable and tempestuous. Hitherto, in spite of all the difficulties of Bishop Gray's earlier years, we have watched the Cape working out the justification of its title as the "Cape of Good Hope." The creation of the three new dioceses of Grahamstown, Natal, and S. Helena, and the Missionary Bishopric of the Zambesi, the awakening of missionary enthusiasm at the Universities in connection with the latter, the development of educational work in the creation of a diocesan college for the colonists and of a missionary college, at Zonnebloem, for the natives, and the general uplifting of spiritual life and thought, all seemed to promise great things for the future. But suddenly the sky became overcast and storm-clouds gathered, and a long series of theological and legal controversies sadly reaffirmed the [54/55] appropriateness of the earlier title, "The Cape of Storms."

The very names--Colenso, Gray, Natal--recall to the older generation among us memories of heated and extraordinarily complicated battles. And this complex and tangled dispute was like a game of cross questions and crooked answers, in which each side was unwittingly playing into the hands of its opponent and accomplishing results the very opposite of those which it held most dear. This will become plain if, disregarding for the moment the chronological sequence, we look back on the whole turmoil and try to disentangle the underlying principles which animated the leaders in the conflict and made them at once so determined and so irreconcilable.

One ideal at work was freedom for the Church to develop its organization in a new country on primitive and apostolic lines, unimpeded by the civil power and the legal entanglements which seemed to such idealists to encumber the Establishment in England.

Another ideal was freedom of thought and action, so that the essentials of Christianity might be presented to a vigorous and childlike race of heathens in attractive simplicity, stripped of the [55/56] elaborate subtleties of dogmatic theology which had puzzled the brains of long generations of controversial divines in the older countries.

So stated it might seem as though there were much kinship between these two ideals of freedom. As a matter of fact, the two came into acute and irreconcilable conflict. For the first ideal involved freedom from the civil power, and the second found in the civil power its great ally. To the one the Civil Courts represented all that was worldly and cold and unsympathetic, to the other they stood for the calm and dispassionate reason restraining the prejudice and passion of fanatics and securing liberty of thought.

These were, broadly speaking, the ideals of Gray and Colenso respectively. And yet it was the Privy Council, which Bishop Gray so vigorously denounced as "the masterpiece of Satan for the overthrow of the Faith," which was really accomplishing his ideals by declaring that the Church of South Africa was a voluntary association, in no better case, and in no worse, than other religious bodies, and therefore free to go its own way and work out its own rules. And it was the Privy Council, to which Bishop Colenso so ardently clung, that was undermining his position by [56/57] declaring the Letters Patent null and void, and so removing the last shreds of establishment from the Church in South Africa.

It was a strange irony that brought these conflicting ideals into such violent contact within the Equation. little Church of South Africa, and a still more perverse fate which embodied them in such hopelessly incompatible personalities as those of Gray and Colenso--the Oxford theologian and the Cambridge mathematician; the one representing the very soul of the Oxford Tractarian Movement and the spirit of Athanasius and the early Councils, the other breathing the Cambridge scientific spirit, which lightly handled these ancient sanctities and was ready to throw them all into the melting-pot of modern criticism.

The interest of the controversies with which we have now to deal is partly theological and partly ecclesiastical: that is to say, it concerns particular doctrines, and it also raises the whole question of the constitution of the Church, its legislative bodies, and its judicial tribunals. It is the latter rather than the former, the ecclesiastical rather than the theological question, which will chiefly concern us. And therefore, before we approach the Colenso case, it will be well to notice another [57/58] lawsuit which raised the question of the legal position of the Colonial Church.

This is the case of Long v. Bishop of Capetown The Bishop, in his plans for the development of the organic life of the Church, had long been very anxious to institute regular diocesan and provincial synods. But the proposed synods were viewed with some uneasiness by certain of the clergy, in the fear that they might circumscribe the limits allowed to the Church by English law. This uneasiness led Mr. Long, the incumbent of the parish of Mowbray, to refuse to give notice of the synod in 1856, and to decline to summon a meeting of parishioners to elect a lay delegate. The Bishop passed over this refusal; but when it was formally repeated in i860 the Bishop felt that the refusal of clergy to fall into line would stultify his synod, so he took action. Mr. Long was summoned to appear before the Bishop and his assessors. Sentence of three months' suspension (though without loss of stipend) was passed on him, and on his ignoring the sentence he was deprived. Mr. Long appealed to the Supreme Court of the colony, which upheld (Justice Bell, however, dissenting) the Bishop's sentence. There was then an appeal to the Privy [58/9]

Council. It should, of course, be borne in mind that, in this and all other ecclesiastical cases in South Africa, the Court to which appeal was made was not the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy council. Council, which is the court of final appeal for ecclesiastical suits in England, but the Judicial Committee, which is the Appellate Court to which all appeals go from the Civil Courts of the colonies. The judgement of the Privy Council was startling. It reversed the decision of the Cape Court. It reaffirmed what the Court below had held, that the Bishop's Letters Patent of 1853 conveyed no coercive jurisdiction, inasmuch as they were granted after the Cape Colony had received representative government. When once a colony has been granted representative institutions it is ultra vires for the Crown to impose its Letters Patent, as it thereby encroaches on the liberties it has already granted. But, while denying the coercive jurisdiction of the Bishop, the Supreme Court had held that this deficiency was supplied by the voluntary submission which Mr. Long had given to his Bishop when he received his licence and took an oath of canonical obedience. In reviewing that contention the Privy Council made use of momentous words, which have fixed the [59/60] status of the Colonial Church. "The Church of England," it said, "in places where there is no Church established by law, is in the same situation with any other religious body, in no better and in no worse position; and the members may adopt, as the members of any other communion may adopt, rules for enforcing discipline within their body which will be binding on those who expressly or by implication have assented to them." The decision went on to ask what was implied in Mr. Long's oath of canonical obedience, and it laid down that it implied obedience to things which a Bishop in England could lawfully demand of his clergy. But to require a clergyman to attend a synod, and to give notice to others to attend a synod, which was to make laws for the Church, was beyond what an English Bishop could lawfully demand; and therefore Mr. Long was justified in disobeying the order of the Bishop of Capetown.

The judgement, as it will be readily seen, was important, not so much for its view of the particular question of the lawfulness of synods, as for its dicta with regard to the status of the Church in the colonies as a voluntary society in which all discipline must rest on contract on the part of the [60/61] clergy to obey the Canons and Constitutions of the Church and to submit to such voluntary tribunals as the Church may create.

We now come to the case of Bishop Colenso. We have already noticed the personal equation which was bound in the course of nature to bring two such minds as those of Gray and Colenso into conflict. And the divergence was even more hopeless, if that were possible, between the Bishop of Natal and his own dean. For some time past that divergence had been growing acute. One of the first points of difference had been the question of the baptism of polygamists, on which Colenso took a more indulgent view than that of his brethren. Another was the constitution of a Church Council, the Bishop of Natal favouring a much larger infusion of laymen than the dean or the Metropolitan, and proposing that clergy and laymen should vote together and not by orders. Another grievance of the Dean of Maritzburg was created by certain expressions of Bishop Colenso about the Eucharist. On this subject, however, the Bishop of Capetown was more liberal than the dean, and advised that Bishop Colenso's words were not beyond the limits of freedom allowed by the Church of England. But the crisis [61/62] came with the publication of Colenso's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. At the first reading of it Bishop Gray foresaw that it would lead to a conflict, that he himself would feel compelled to take steps to check what he regarded as heresy, even if his office of Metropolitan were not promoted, as he felt sure it would be, by Dean Green. An anxious correspondence followed between Bishop Gray and Bishop Wilberforce, of Oxford, as to what steps should be taken. This was in the second half of the year 1861. In November of that year Bishop Gray also wrote to put the matter before the Archbishop of Canterbury (Sumner). And he tells the Bishop of Oxford that Bishop Colenso quite approved of his letter to the Archbishop. In May, 1862, Bishop Gray went to England, Bishop Colenso being about the same time on his way thither. On the voyage the Bishop of Capetown heard for the first time, from a fellow-traveller, of the impending publication of Colenso's work on the Pentateuch.

On the arrival of Bishop Colenso Bishop Gray wrote to him urging him to meet certain English Bishops to discuss the views put forth in his published writings. But in all the overtures of this [62/63] early stage in the controversy one feels how inevitably the matter was drifting into open war, because of the impossibility of two such minds seeing things from the other's point of view Bishop Gray, although animated by real Christian sympathy, cannot think or speak of or to Bishop Colenso otherwise than as an erring brother who has to be brought back to the Faith. In other words, Colenso naturally felt that he was already judged--that there was no possibility of open-minded and impartial hearing from Bishop Gray or from those Bishops before whom Bishop Gray wished to bring him. So again, in writing to the Dean of Capetown, who was, as it proved, to be the chief of the prosecuting clergy, the Metropolitan says (speaking of the procedure he proposes to adopt if the matter comes before him judicially), "I will not be bound by the narrow limits, as to the Church's Faith, laid down by Dr. Lushington or the Privy Council. I will not recognize them as an authority as to what are the doctrines which the Church of England allows to be taught. The Privy Council will make itself, if not checked, the de facto spiritual head of the Church of England, and of all religious bodies in the colonies." Whatever may be said about the [63/64] Privy Council, Dr. Lushington was the Official Principal of the Court of Arches, and the "narrow limits" which he had laid down in deciding what was the Church's Faith in the recent notorious judgement on Essays and Reviews were that he declined to be led into a general discussion of Scripture and antiquity, and stuck to the question of what came within the Thirty-nine Articles, to which the clergy had made their subscription. Here, again, Bishop Colenso had good right to feel that in any trial to which he might be brought by the Bishop of Capetown there was no standard of legality which they would both recognize. The standard by which he claimed to be tried was the legal formularies of the Church of England. The standard which alone would satisfy Bishop Gray was the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, long and stormy discussions took place among the English Bishops who were asked by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for advice as to their line of action towards the Bishop of Natal. Ultimately a resolution proposed by the Bishop of Oxford was carried, to the effect that the Society should "withhold its confidence from the Bishop until he has been cleared from the charges notoriously incurred by him." [64/65] A general discussion then followed, in which the Bishop of Capetown announced that he was advised that he could, under his Letters Patent, or by his Metropolitical authority, summon Colenso to appear before him, if his office were promoted, but at the same time appealed to the Bishops of the Church at home not to leave all the burden on the shoulders of the Metropolitan of a small and distant Church, but to pronounce an opinion on the writings of the Bishop of Natal. The difficulty of pronouncing such an opinion, without prejudging the cause which was ex hypothesi to come before a judicial tribunal, was sufficiently evident, but the Bishops ultimately passed (by twenty-five votes to four) a resolution proposed by the Bishop of Oxford, viz.: "That we agree after inhibition common counsel, under a great scandal, to inhibit Colenso. We would not assume the Bishop's guilt, as he has not yet been tried, nor make a charge against him, but assert that there was a great and notorious scandal."

Though there were only four dissentients who formed the minority against this resolution, they were four of the most eminent of the Bishops--Archbishop Thomson of York, Bishop Tait of London, Bishop Thirlwall of S. Davids, and [65/66] Bishop Prince Lee of Manchester. At a further Bishops' meeting on February 7, 1863, a letter was drawn up and signed by all but Bishop Thirlwall, calling on Bishop Colenso to resign his see. But seeing that Bishop Colenso's object was, not merely to propound certain views of the Bible and of Inspiration, but to test the right of clergy to hold views, which to him were the truth, without disloyalty to the Church of England, and that his resignation would have been an admission that this question was settled in the negative, it is hardly surprising that he declined to adopt this course.

Bishop Gray returned to the Cape, landing on April 11, 1863. In the following month formal Articles of Accusation against Bishop Colenso were laid before the Bishop of Capetown by Dean Douglas of Capetown, Archdeacon Merriman of Grahamstown, and Archdeacon Badnall of George. They were of great length, traversing all Bishop Colenso's published writings. The months which followed were occupied by a Visitation of the diocese, so that it was not till November 17th that the hearing began. Two Bishops of the province sat with the Metropolitan as Assessors, viz., the Bishops of Grahamstown and of the [66/67] Orange Free State (Cotterill and Twells). The verbatim report of the proceedings, published as a pamphlet, covers 405 closely-printed pages. Bishop Colenso, who was still in England, instructed a certain Dr. Bleek to appear and hand in a written protest, in which he declined to admit the jurisdiction of the Court, at the same time admitting the publication of the incriminated writings, and denying "that the publication of these passages, or any of them, constitutes any offence against the laws of the United Church of England and Ireland." The judgement of the Bishop of Capetown, following the "opinions" of his assessors, was given on December 14th. After fully entering into the various charges, the Metropolitan pronounced his sentence, which was that Bishop Colenso was deprived of his bishopric and prohibited from the exercise of any divine office within any part of the Metropolitical Province of Capetown. The case ended with a final protest from Dr. Bleek against the legality of the proceedings, and an announcement that the Bishop of Natal intended to appeal, and to resist the execution of the judgement in such ways as he should be advised to be proper.

Bishop Colenso now, acting under such advice, [67/68] petitioned the Crown to hear his appeal, and the law officers of the Crown advised that his petition should be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for their consideration. The case came on for hearing on December 14, 1864. Sir Hugh Cairns, Sir Robert Phillimore, and Mr. Badeley appeared for the Metropolitan, and protested against the jurisdiction. Judgement was delivered on March 20, 1865. Here again, then, we have a judgement which is obviously of such momentous consequence with regard to the status of the Church in the Colonies that it is worth while to quote some of its expressions. The Judicial Committee recited at length the clauses of the Letters Patent granted respectively to the Bishop of Capetown and the Bishop of Natal which purported to bestow Metropolitical jurisdiction on the former. It proceeded to show that legislative institutions had been conferred on the Cape Colony by Letters Patent in 1850 (between the date of Bishop Gray's first Letters Patent and that of his second, when the new Dioceses of Grahamstown and Natal were constituted). It then recited the proceedings in the trial of Bishop Colenso before the Bishop of Capetown under his assumed authority as Metropolitan by virtue of [68/69] the Letters Patent. "In this state of things" the judgement says, "three principal questions arise: (1) Were the Letters Patent of the 8th December, 1853, by which Dr. Gray was appointed Metropolitan . . . valid and good in law? (2) Supposing the ecclesiastical relation of Metropolitan and Suffragan to have been created, was the grant of coercive authority and jurisdiction, expressed by the Letters Patent to be thereby made to the Metropolitan, valid and good in law? (3) Can the oath of canonical obedience taken by the appellant to the Bishop of Capetown, and his consent to accept his see as part of the Metropolitan Province of Capetown, confer any jurisdiction or authority on the Bishop of Capetown by which this sentence of deprivation of the Bishopric of Natal can be supported?"

Then follows the critical point on which the whole case turned. "With respect to the first question, we apprehend it to be clear, upon principle, that after the establishment of an independent Legislature in the settlements of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, there was no power in the Crown by virtue of its prerogative (for those Letters Patent were not granted under the provisions of any statute) to establish a [69/70] Metropolitan See or Province, or to create an Ecclesiastical Corporation, whose status, rights, and authority the colony could be required to recognize. After a colony or settlement has received legislative institutions, the Crown (subject to the provisions of any Act of Parliament) stands in the same relation to that colony or settlement as it does to the United Kingdom."

The first question, then, is answered in the negative--the Letters Patent are not good in law. The judgement proceeds: "The same reasoning is, of course, decisive of the second question." Even if the Letters Patent established the personal relation of Metropolitan and Suffragan, they had "no power to confer any jurisdiction or coercive legal authority."

The third question is very summarily dismissed: "The argument must be that both parties being aware that the Bishop of Capetown had no jurisdiction or legal authority as Metropolitan, the appellant agreed to give it to him by voluntary submission. But even if the parties intended to enter into any such agreement (of which, however, we find no trace) it was not legally competent to the Bishop of Natal to give, or to the Bishop of Capetown to accept or exercise, any such jurisdiction."

The conclusion of the whole matter is very short and simple: "Their lordships therefore will humbly report to Her Majesty their judgement and opinion that the proceedings taken by the Bishop of Capetown, and the judgement or sentence pronounced by him against the Bishop of Natal, are null and void in law."

Here was confusion worse confounded. Both Deadlock. parties were started on the down grade, which led inevitably to more hopeless and irreconcilable divergence. The protagonists were both strong men, neither of whom was inclined to do things by halves. Each was quite clear as to the object he had in view. And so began that deadlock which was to last for many years to come. Bishop Gray had already announced, quite clearly, to his friends what his future course was to be. In case Bishop Colenso came back to Natal, he would proceed to excommunicate him and to appoint another Bishop. Bishop Colenso, on the other hand, deemed himself committed to maintain his freedom as a Bishop of the Church of England and therefore, to ignore a judgement such as that delivered at Capetown, which was now shown to have no legal coercive force. The more clerical bodies, such as the Houses of the [71/72] Convocation of Canterbury, condemned him, the more strong became his motive to assert the liberty which the Civil Courts gave him. And yet his victory was a very partial one. No pronouncement had been obtained one way or the other with regard to his theological views. His writings had never been so much as mentioned before the Privy Council. Their decision gave him merely the empty and negative victory of overthrowing the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan under his Letters Patent, and that through a mere slip of the lawyers in issuing a document which purported to be what it was not. And even that victory was something of a defeat. It had cleared up the point that henceforth there would be no more Letters Patent issued, that the Church was a voluntary society, that it must now proceed to make its own rules to be voluntarily accepted by its members, and so it had cleared the way for Bishop Gray to proceed with his plan of getting a new Bishop appointed without incurring the charge of breaking any law or encroaching on the Royal supremacy.

Seeing that the Privy Council was really, though unwittingly, strengthening Bishop Gray's hands, and delivering him from the Erastianism which [72/73] he loathed, it seems strange that he should have deluged it with such fierce torrents of reproach. He speaks of it as the "Dagon of the Privy Council," "The masterpiece of Satan for the overthrow of the Faith." "It is," he says, "through Civil Courts that the world in these days seeks to crush the Church"; "In that body all the enmity of the world against the Church of Christ is gathered up and embodied." On the other hand, it was this same Privy Council, which was in reality hastening the emancipation of the Colonial Church, which Bishop Colenso put in the forefront of his confession of Faith on his return to Natal, in November, 1865: "We have made choice," he said, "to be bound by her [the Church of England's] laws, to submit to the decisions of her chief tribunals, to the interpretations that may be put upon her formularies by her Supreme Courts of Appeal."

[Indeed, Bishop Gray, in reply to Bishop Tait's inquires (see below), quotes with satisfaction an amendment which had been carried by thirty-one, votes to three:--"That . . . this Synod assents to, and accepts, the position assigned to this Church by the judgement of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the appeal case, Long v. the Bishop of Capetown, viz., that of a voluntary religious association, not established by law."]

[74] In the meantime we have another very important judgement to consider. In 1866 Bishop Colenso instituted a suit in Chancery against the Trustees of the Colonial Bishoprics Fund (Mr. Gladstone and others) to recover his stipend. The trustees had withheld it on the ground that the donors of the Fund had given their money on the understanding that the Letters Patent were what they purported to be, and that they had conferred on the Bishops who held them such jurisdiction as English Bishops possessed. But now that the Privy Council had pronounced the Letters Patent to be null and void, and that no such jurisdiction existed, the subscribers felt themselves aggrieved. And, to show this, they produced a letter from Miss Burdett-Coutts, who had been the largest donor. The case came before the Rolls Court, and the Master of the Rolls, Lord Romilly, pronounced judgement on November 6, 1866, in favour of the plaintiff, compelling the trustees to pay the Bishop's stipend. This judgement appeared in some ways to contradict the previous decisions, though the Master of the Rolls attempted to prove that it did not do so. He maintained, at great length, that the Letters Patent were far from being null: that they did, [74/75] in fact, a great deal of what they purported to do, that they did create a Bishop and a diocese, that the only thing which they failed to do was to create a coercive jurisdiction. For this purpose--to enforce the decisions of his Court--his forum domesticum--the Bishop must have recourse to the Civil Courts, that if he had recourse to them they would enforce his jurisdiction, and that, therefore his position was none the worse, that he was in every respect a Bishop of the Church of England, and that the Church in the colonies was still part of the Church of England as by law established. Lord Romilly went one step further, and tried to show that the Church in the colony was really in a better position under the new view of the Letters Patent than it would have been had those Letters been all that they purported to be. "In the one case," he said, "if the Letters Patent effected all that they were originally supposed to effect, the law on the subject would be declared by one prelate of the Church of England with an appeal to another prelate, and possibly finally to the Primate of All England, where the matter would end. In the other case, the law would be declared by a civil tribunal, with an appeal to the Sovereign in [75/76] Council, where also the matter would end. The law," he went on to say, "it is important to observe, is and must be the same in both cases, and ought to be similarly administered, and that law is the law of the doctrines and ordinances of the Church of England. The former are fixed and immutable, the latter are equally fixed until altered by statute. This law, whether it be enforced by the ecclesiastical or the civil tribunal, is the same and should receive the same construction, and when ambiguous, the same interpretation."

Now, it is of the utmost importance to consider this dictum, both because this judgement, most of all, was considered by Bishop Colenso, and those who shared his view, to be "the Charter of the Colonial Church," and because it seemed to suggest a line of policy for the Church in the colonies which might have, but has not, been adopted.

The line of action it foreshadows is this--the members of the Church of England in the colonies, though pronounced to belong to a voluntary society, may, if they will, renounce their voluntary position, and instead of attempting, as a voluntary society, to legislate in synods, to draw up their Constitution and Canons, to which [76/77] all their members are to bind themselves by contract, and to appoint their own tribunals to administer discipline, may bind themselves simply to the laws of the Church of England. On the strength of this mutual contract the Bishop may assume the visitorial powers of an English Bishop for purposes of discipline, with the single exception that whenever the exercise of discipline may be needed, he shall go before the Civil Court and ask for the arm of the law to enforce with civil pains and penalties the decisions he may have arrived at. Now, what would be the position of the Colonial Church if it had accepted this advice? First of all, it would absolutely renounce all right to initiate legislation. Its law must for all time be the law of the Church of England. "Ah, but," it is said by the Master of the Rolls, "that law remains immutable." (Poor cast-iron Church of England!) But even the Master of the Rolls admits an exception. It may be altered by statute. But the Colonial Church has no representation either in the Convocation of the Home Church nor in the Parliament which frames such statutes, and therefore, however widely the circumstances of the Colonial Church may differ, however many may be the new problems calling [77/78] for new treatment, the Church in the colony is invited to abandon all power of meeting such new problems and needs by legislation. [See Appendix B.] But, is it true that the law of the Church of England remains immutable even apart from direct legislation? The law of the Church is not merely statute law. It also has its common law, which is based upon decisions of the Courts, and that common law changes inasmuch as decisions vary. The law of the Church is different now from what was before the famous Lincoln Judgement. How was the change effected? "Fresh light," as it was called, was brought before Archbishop Benson on several points which had been previously decided by the Privy Council, and accordingly he reversed their decisions. Then, what happened? These points came before the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council on appeal, and, with the arguments of counsel and the judgement of the Archbishop before them, and the advice of the episcopal assessors, the Ecclesiastical Committee accepted the reversal of their own previous decisions, and that reversal became so far the law of the Church. From any such chance of obtaining a modification [78/79] of the law the Colonial Church would have been shut out if it had accepted the specious advice of the Master of the Rolls. It would have had no access to the Ecclesiastical Courts at home where these points might be reopened. It would have had to bring them before the Civil Courts, which would have declined to discuss them, contenting themselves with simply asking what has been the previous decision on this point. Hence the Colonial Church would be doubly bound in fetters of iron, debarred from all legislation either by statute or by the modifications of unreasonable decisions. [See Appendix B.]

The importance of this question will be seen when we come to the question of the constitution of the Church of the Province and its famous "third proviso."

Bishop Colenso's return to Natal was promptly followed by the threatened excommunication, excommunicated

This was accompanied by a private letter from Bishop Gray, to which Bishop Colenso replied at great length, setting forth his whole position.

There was now, of course, nothing left for the Metropolitan to do but to find a suitable man willing to take up the difficult and unenviable [79/80] task of the Bishopric which Bishop Gray had declared to be vacant in Natal. The first suggested name was that of the Rev. F. H. Cox, of Hobart, in Tasmania. When he declined the post, Bishop Gray made great efforts to persuade Mr. Butler, of Wantage (afterwards Dean of Lincoln), to accept the office. For a time it appeared that Mr. Butler would be the Bishop. But ultimately the Archbishop of Canterbury strongly advised him that it was desirable that a man of less marked partisanship would have a better chance of reconciling the divided Church, and Mr. Butler withdrew. A great many others were suggested and sounded, but ultimately Mr. Macrorie, Vicar of Accrington, was selected and undertook the somewhat thankless task.

Then arose a long series of somewhat excited and acrimonious discussions about the place of the new Bishop's consecration. It was one thing to say that the Church of the colony was a voluntary society, and therefore free to make its own arrangements as to the Bishops it appointed and consecrated, but it was quite another thing that such a consecration, which certainly seemed to flaunt the Privy Council, should take place in [80/81] England, where a Royal mandate for the consecration was a part of the service in the Prayer Book. Letters and telegrams were flying about as each new place of consecration was suggested and abandoned. And ultimately, after many strenuous efforts to arrange the consecration in this country, Bishop Gray somewhat reluctantly yielded to pressure, and decided to consecrate his new suffragan in his own cathedral at Capetown. The consecration took place there on the Feast of the Conversion of S. Paul, 1869.

The same year saw further litigation. Bishop Further Colenso applied to the Supreme Court of Natal, to transfer to him the properties of the Church of England in Natal that were vested in Bishop Gray. The Court decided (Judge Connor dissenting) that, inasmuch as Bishop Gray's Letters Patent were dated a short time after those of Bishop Colenso, the trusteeship of Bishop Gray had, in that short interval, lapsed, and the properties had passed to Bishop Colenso as his successor in Natal. This judgement was upheld on appeal by the Privy Council.

The position of Churchmen in Natal under these confusing and conflicting judgements can be imagined to have been one of extreme difficulty and [81/82] complexity. Each side had a certain justification. Those who accepted Bishop Macrorie, with varying degrees of warmth, could say, "Whatever the Law Courts may say as to technical flaws in Letters Patent, we accept Bishop Gray as our Metropolitan, and his sentence has for us spiritual authority. We therefore can no longer give allegiance to a Bishop whom he has deprived of his office; and, on the other hand, are bound in conscience to accept the Bishop whom he has consecrated to rule over our Church." Those, on the other hand, who still adhered to Bishop Colenso could say, "Whatever Bishop Colenso's views may be, we are law-abiding Englishmen, and the Crown having pronounced that Bishop Colenso is still the legal Bishop of Natal we cannot refuse to obey him." As a matter of fact these sentiments were expressed, as was not unnatural, in somewhat more vigorous language, and "the contention was so sharp between them" that in more than one case scenes of physical violence took place as to the possession of buildings. Dean Green, ejected from S. Peter's Cathedral, of which he had been Rector, and from his parsonage, set to work to build the new Cathedral of S. Saviour's; and all over the colony Bishop Macrorie had to face [82/83] the task of supplying new churches in the place of those which had been handed over to Bishop Colenso.

The next important event in the constitutional history of the Church in South Africa is the Provincial Synod, which was held in 1870. The Church in South Africa had been pronounced, on the highest authority, to be a voluntary association; and it had been pointed out that, whatever discipline might be needed, to secure law and order in that Church, must be based on the voluntary compact of its members to obey the Canons and Constitution as agreed to by the whole body. The first work of the Provincial Synod, therefore, was to draw up in a formal manner the principles of its association--its Constitution--and also the rules for its practical working--its Canons. The first Article of the Constitution stated that "the Church of the Province of South Africa, otherwise known as the Church of England in these parts: first, receives and maintains the Faith of our Lord JESUS Christ as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds, and affirmed by the undisputed general Councils; secondly, receives the doctrine, Sacraments, and discipline of Christ, as the same are [83/84] contained and commanded in Holy Scripture, according as the Church of England has set forth the same in its standards of faith and doctrine; and it receives the Book of Common Prayer, and of ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, to be used, according to the form therein prescribed, in public prayer and administration of the Sacraments and other holy offices; and it accepts the English version of the Holy Scriptures as appointed to be read in churches; and, further, it disclaims for itself the right of altering any of the aforesaid standards of faith and doctrine." Then follows a proviso securing to the Church the right to make alterations which shall be made by the whole Anglican communion, or which are necessitated by special local conditions, and a second providing that any such alterations shall be confirmed by a General Synod of the whole Anglican communion. And then comes the "third proviso," already alluded to, which has been the centre of much controversy. Its terms are, "Provided also, that in the interpretation of the aforesaid standards and formularies the Church of this Province be not held to be bound by the decisions, in questions of faith and doctrine, or in questions of discipline relating to faith or doctrine, other than those of [84/85] its own ecclesiastical tribunals, or of such other tribunal as may be accepted by the Provincial Synod as a Tribunal of Appeal."

It is impossible, within the limits of this brief survey, to trace all the steps of this dreary and bitter controversy, and I shall not therefore attempt to record all the incidents of the conflict which the situation rendered inevitable. But it may make the story more intelligible, and keep together the underlying principles which are of permanent importance, if I add, in the form of an Appendix, a chapter describing the later stages of the Natal controversy, and so enable the reader to understand the position which at present exists.

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