Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

South Africa

By A. Hamilton Baynes

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

Appendix A. Later Stages of the Natal Controversy

BISHOP Gray died on September 1, 1872, in his sixty-third year, his death being chiefly due to a fall from his horse, so that he and his great friend Bishop Wilberforce were, so far, alike in the circumstances of their death. At this moment we are concerned, however, with that event in its bearing on the Church controversy dealt with in Chapter III.

In the following month (October, 1872), Bishop Colenso wrote a long letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury as to the legal position of affairs in South Africa, and the possible effect of the constitution of the Church of the Province on the tenure of property. According to the Bishop's view, all the property vested in Bishop Gray under his first Letters Patent was lying derelict for want of a trustee to hold it. The second [171/172] Letters Patent, having been pronounced void, failed to create a corporation to which the property held under the first Letters could pass. This applied to property in all the three dioceses, Capetown, Grahamstown, and Natal. In addition to this there was much property acquired at a later date, but vested in the Bishop of Capetown "in trust for the Church of England." In all these cases there would be difficulty about the succession in the trust, and unless the new Bishop were clearly a Bishop of the Church of England, and not simply a Bishop of the Church of the Province of South Africa, neither Courts nor Legislature would give recognition to any claims the Bishop might make to succeed to the trusteeship. Bishop Colenso went on to point out particulars in which the Church of the Province of South Africa would be held to be a distinct body from the Church of England from a lawyer's point of view. "(i) Because the Synod has expressly excluded the Bishop, clergy, and laity of the Diocese of Natal from all share in its deliberations; (2) because of the third proviso [which he proceeded to quote]; and (3) because the Synod forbids any clergyman to celebrate Holy Matrimony between persons, the divorced [172/173] husband or wife of either of whom is still alive, thus making it criminal for the clergy of the Church of the Province of South Africa to do what would be perfectly lawful for a clergyman of the Church of England."

Whatever may be thought as to the force of the first and third of Bishop Colenso's reasons, there was considerable force in the second, as was brought out in the next important judgement which was pronounced by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This was the case of Merriman v. Williams. The plaintiff in this case was the Bishop of Grahamstown (who had succeeded Bishop Cotterill when the latter was translated to the See of Edinburgh in 1871) and the defendant was the Dean of Grahamstown. Although Dean Williams had taken a prominent part in the Provincial Synod of 1870, and in the election of Bishop Merriman, he afterwards attached himself to the party who held the same views as the followers of Bishop Colenso in Natal, and called themselves "Church of England" as opposed to the "Church of the Province of South Africa." After a long period of disagreement between the Bishop and the Dean, which was made the more public and unpleasant [174/175] by the fact that the latter had taken to journalism and become editor of a local paper, which he could use as the organ of his ecclesiastical views, the Bishop brought things to a point by applying to the Supreme Court of the Colony to restrain the Dean from preventing his preaching in the Cathedral Church of S. George. The Supreme Court of Cape Colony gave its decision against the Bishop, declaring that the Church of the Province had separated itself "root and branch" from the Church of England. And then the matter came, on appeal, before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. As between the Bishop and the Dean the Privy Council decided in favour of the Bishop, on the ground that the Dean, by subscribing to the constitution of the Church of the Province, and taking the prominent part which he had in its organization, had debarred himself from objecting to it. But the question was not merely between these two suitors. Third parties were concerned, and, as against those who had not subscribed to the constitution of the province, but still claimed allegiance only to the Church of England "as by law established," and subscribed to its formularies and to the interpretation put upon them by the constituted authorities, the [174/175] Court pronounced that the Bishop could not claim a right to property which was held "in trust for the Church of England as by law established." This result was arrived at by an examination of the Constitution of the Church of the Province, and especially of its "third proviso." The Court recognized that there might be, after the judgements declaring the Church in South Africa to be a voluntary body, a necessity for it to constitute its own ecclesiastical tribunals, "But their lordships consider that the proviso under consideration is very much more than a recognition of the facts of the case; and that the Church of South Africa, so far from having done all in its power to maintain the connection, has taken occasion to declare emphatically that at this point the connection is not maintained. ... In the Church of South Africa a clergyman preaching the same doctrines [as have been held legal in England] may find himself presented for, and found guilty of, heresy. . . . There is not the identity in the standards of faith and doctrine which appears to their lordships necessary to establish the connection required by the trust on which the Church of S. George is settled. There are different standards on [175/176] important points. In England the standard is the formularies of the Church as judicially interpreted. In South Africa it is the formularies as they may be construed without the interpretation. It is argued that the divergence made by the Church of South Africa is only potential and not actual, and that we have no right to speculate on its effect until the tribunals of South Africa have shown whether they will agree or disagree with those of England. Their lordships think that the divergence is present and actual. It is the agreement of the two Churches which is potential."

Here, then, is another "Charter of the Colonial Church" according to the views of Bishop Colenso's friends. And it is worth while once again to pause and ask what course the Church of South Africa ought to have adopted. There is, no doubt, the simple and alluring advice of Lord Romilly. The Church of South Africa might simply have bound itself by the laws of the Church of England, whatever, in the providence of its legislative authorities, in which the colonies had no share, that law might be, and by the decisions of Courts to which it had no access. But it is inconceivable that the great and growing Church of the whole colonial [176/177] empire should renounce all power of legislation, and leave itself helpless in the hands of legislators six thousand miles away, of Convocations in which it had no voice, and Parliament in which it had no representation. It is inconceivable that it should renounce all power of discipline of its own--have no Ecclesiastical Courts--but resort, in every case of ritual or doctrinal irregularity, to the Courts of the State; to have the most sacred questions debated and decided by judges who might be agnostics or bitter antagonists of the Church. It was inevitable, therefore, that the Church, being declared a voluntary body, should provide its own machinery both for legislation and for discipline. But was it wise or necessary to announce beforehand, as the third proviso does, that Privy Council decisions will not be held binding? Archbishop Benson, for one, never disguised his opinion that it was a mistake. He himself, in the famous Lincoln case, set aside certain decisions of the Privy Council, but he did not begin by declaring (though he was invited by counsel to do so) that he would disregard the judgements of the Privy Council. In the same way, he felt that it would have been wiser for the Church of [177/178] South Africa to try each case on its merits, and, if the evidence seemed to justify a reversal of the previous judgements, then would have been the time for the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Church of South Africa to assert their independence. There is no doubt that this course would have saved the Church from many troubles and perplexities, and there has been more than one attempt made in the Provincial Synod to repeal the third proviso. But to remove it after it has stood part of the Constitution is a very different thing from leaving it out at the first. Many men who would have voted against its original insertion would not vote for its deletion. To have had it and removed it would be held not merely to restore the non-committal attitude; it would be taken to imply a deliberate acceptance of Privy Council judgements. And there are few branches of the Anglican communion which would be prepared to-day to adopt that attitude.

Such was the position of the controversy when Bishop Colenso died in 1883. The Law Courts had had before them certain clearly-defined questions as to the title to property held under certain trusts. They had pointed out the course which [178/179] would have secured to the Church of South Africa an indefeasible title. If she had had no third proviso, if she had retained the name "Church of England," if she had frankly and unconditionally accepted Church of England law and Privy Council interpretation of that law, her title to property held "in trust for the Church of England as by law established" would have been as good as the circumstances admitted. That, and that only, was the business of their lordships of the Judicial Committee. It was not their business, and they never pretended to regard it as such, to say whether, in view of other and higher considerations, such a course was expedient. It was no part of their function to advise, for instance (to take one small point), whether the title "Church of England" was really the most suitable for a Church out of England which might, in the future, comprise many nationalities. They had to define the conditions of a legal title to property, not to advise the Church on ecclesiastical polity, as to how she would best advance the kingdom of God.

In the recent controversy in the Free Church of Scotland (which presents many points of similarity to the case of Natal) the Judges did [179/180] not say that the Free Church ought not to have joined the United Presbyterian Church. That was no part of their business. They were not commissioned to guide or dictate ecclesiastical polity. What they did say was that the union of the two did introduce certain complications with regard to the trusts on which the property of the Free Church was held. It remained for the Church itself to say whether the gains of the union justified the risk of such complication, and indeed (as it proved) loss of property. But, although the Lords of the Judicial Committee never dreamed of so exceeding their rightful function as to dictate to the Church in South Africa what might be her true policy for the good of men in the future, they were so interpreted by the so-called Church of England party. That party, on the strength of these utterances, adopted a tone of moral superiority. They claimed a special loyalty to the Mother Church, and obedience to the sovereign, as if to secure a legal title to property were a higher duty than to provide for the development and self-government of the growing Church of the British Empire beyond the seas.

At Bishop Colenso's death, then, there were [180/181] two separate Anglican Churches in South Africa. In Natal the so-called Church of England had its Church Council and a certain number of clergy who had been ordained by Bishop Colenso or adhered to his party. In the Cape Colony there were certain congregations which, without such organization or episcopal superintendence, adhered to the same principles and remained aloof from the Church of the Province, refusing to accept its Constitution and Canons, or to send representatives to its Synods. On the other hand, there was the Church of the Province, represented in Natal by the Diocese of Maritzburg, fully organized according to the rules of the Province, with its Bishop and archdeacons, its Diocesan Synod, its cathedral with dean and chapter, and its parochial clergy.

When Bishop Colenso died Archbishop Benson strongly advised Bishop Macrorie to resign the See of Maritzburg. Both parties might then have accepted a new Bishop; much bitter controversy might have been avoided; and the breach might have been healed more easily than at a later date, when years of painful recrimination had widened it. The way for Bishop Macrorie's resignation seemed at that moment [181/182] to be made easy, for the See of Bloemfontein happened to be vacant, and he would have been cordially welcomed in that diocese. However, Bishop Macrorie wrote quite definitely to the Archbishop, giving his reasons for remaining at his post. "I am persuaded," he said, "that, independently of the heavy responsibility incurred by the voluntary severance of so sacred a tie, the effect of such a step, instead of tending to secure the object which we have at heart, must produce the saddest confusion in men's minds, confirming the strangely erroneous notions which prevail on one side respecting the Church and her constitution, and on the other unsettling men in those principles which the struggles and sufferings of the past twenty years have been designed to teach them."

The course which things took after Bishop Colenso's death tended rather to stereotype the existing division; and, although the dissentient party was weak as regarded the number of their clergy, it included many influential laymen, and the legal position with regard to property gave it additional solidity.

All the property held in trust for "the Church of England," of which Bishop Colenso had been [182/183] trustee, was placed by the Supreme Court of Natal in the custody of Curators of the Court, chosen from the so-called Church of England party. The Church Council continued to meet, and to administer the affairs of that body, and a constant agitation was maintained to obtain from the Mother Church the appointment of a successor to Bishop Colenso as a Church of England Bishop. First, Sir George Cox (Bishop Colenso's biographer), and later (on Bishop Macrorie's resignation) the Rev. W. Ayerst, were nominated by the Church Council for the office, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked to consecrate. The Archbishop naturally disowned any locus standi in a province wholly outside his own, and declined to do anything to perpetuate the schism in the South African Church, and refused to apply for the Queen's mandate for the consecration.

At last, in 1891, Bishop Macrorie decided to resign, and, after his return to England, accepted an appointment to a canonry at Ely. Bishop Macrorie, when first called to Natal, had fully realized the enormous difficulty and the thanklessness of the task before him. He had faced it in a heroic and saintly spirit. Throughout [183/184] his long episcopate he had combined firmness of principle and courageous persistence with the utmost gentleness and courtesy. And when he laid down his office ungrudging testimony was borne, even by those who remained unreconciled to the Province, to his goodness and his saintly and loving character.

Bishop Macrorie having resigned, Archbishop Benson felt that the time had come when he might, if it were desired, intervene with some hope of success. Accordingly, he allowed it to be known that if both parties (the Synod of the Diocese of Maritzburg on the one hand, and the Church Council of the Diocese of Natal on the other) were willing to delegate the appointment of a Bishop to him, he would send a single Bishop, whose work it would be to draw together the two bodies. After a protracted correspondence between Sir Theophilus Shepstone (representing the Church Council) and the Archbishop, both parties delegated the selection of their Bishop to Archbishop Benson, and he appointed the present writer, who had been for nearly four years his domestic chaplain.

The new Bishop was consecrated on Michaelmas Day, 1893, in Westminster Abbey. He landed in [184/185] Natal on November 23rd, being accompanied by the present Bishop of Natal, whom he had brought out to fill the vacant post of Archdeacon of Durban, the Rev. J. C. Todd, his chaplain, and other clergy. The Bishop was met on board the Scot by a large number of representatives of both sections of the divided Church, and that evening a large and enthusiastic soirée was held in the Town Hall, Durban, to welcome him, at which, for the first time, all parties combined and vied with each other in the warmth of their welcome. The following Sunday the Bishop was enthroned in S. Saviour's Cathedral, Pietermaritzburg, by the venerable Dean Green, and preached his first sermon, and that same evening preached in S. Peter's, which had been the orginal cathedral of Bishop Colenso, being accompanied by the Dean, who had not officiated in that church, of which he had been the first incumbent, since he had been ejected by Bishop Colenso.

For the moment all seemed enthusiasm, and the prospects of final and cordial reunion seemed of the brightest. But those who looked below the surface knew only too well that there were still storms ahead. In his reply to the address of welcome in the Maritzburg Town Hall the Bishop [185/186] had begged his audience to allow all controversy to rest, at least for the first year, to accept the position as it was, to impose no new conditions, to ask for no further concessions on either side, not to reopen old sores, but to secure a period of peace for Church work to go quietly forward: to restore a better mutual understanding and a truer sense of proportion.

This request, heartily as it was received, was not granted. Very soon the "Church Council" of the so-called "Church of England" met and drew up an address to the Bishop in which they demanded that he should sign an undertaking to preserve intact the Constitution of that Church and the bye-laws of the Church Council. This was not only a new condition, which had formed no part of the agreement between the Archbishop and Sir Theophilus Shepstone (acting on behalf of the Church Council), but it was in direct contradiction to all that the Archbishop had insisted on, and it would have meant that the new Bishop was to close the door to reunion, and to tie his own hands before he put them to the work. It would have meant that, so far from accomplishing reunion, the Bishop acquiesced in the continuance of two separate and rival Churches, and agreed to act in [186/187] a dual capacity as the Bishop of both. All appeals to the members of the Church Council not to press this demand were in vain, and there was nothing for it but for the new Bishop to meet the Church Council and put formally before them his reasons for declining to sign such an undertaking. There was no time to consult the Archbishop of Canterbury as to his decision in this matter; but the Archbishop, as it afterwards proved, was even more strongly opposed to any such concession than the Bishop himself, for he wrote, "You must not sign even the Thirty-nine Articles if they are imposed as a condition of acceptance." This demand of the Church Council proved to be as the letting out of waters, and there began a new course of controversy. The Bishop met the Church Council and put before them clearly what he could and what he could not do in the way of concessions to the "Church of England" party. He said, "I am prepared to guarantee to your congregations protection from the third proviso, to accept from your clergy a simple declaration of obedience to me as a Church of England Bishop" (instead of requiring them to sign the Constitution of the Church of the Province) "and to administer the properties subject to the trusts in which they [187/188] are vested--that is, for the purposes of the Church of England."

The Bishop's position was this:--The Church of the Province of South Africa is a voluntary association, to the laws of which people are bound by voluntary contract. These congregations and clergy have not yet voluntarily accepted that constitution, and they are not to be coerced. Until they do so accept them they are in the same position as that which Mr. Long occupied at the Cape, when he was held by the Courts to owe obedience to the Bishop of Capetown in any matters which a Bishop of the Church of England could command, but not in matters which belong only to the Constitution of the Church of South Africa, as, for instance, the announcing of synods or attending them, or submitting to their decrees. All that must come voluntarily when it comes. In the meantime these people stand to their Bishop on the basis of the Church of England, subject to its laws and the interpretation put upon those laws and no other. Certain congregations at the Cape had remained on this footing from the beginning, from the Synod of 1870 at which the Constitution of the Church of the Province had been first drawn up. To this condition of affairs [188/189] the Bishop was willing to assent, but not to the maintenance of a separate Church claiming to maintain a separate diocesan organization and imposing conditions on its Bishop (such as the signing of the bye-laws of the Church Council) unknown to the Church at home. To agree to this last would have been to stultify himself and to defeat the whole object of his mission, viz., the drawing together of the two into one Church.

The Bishop was also justified in offering such special terms to those who had not as yet seen their way to agree to the Constitution of the Church of the Province by a canon which had been passed in 1883, which authorized "the Bishops ... to take such measures . . . with regard to churches held under special trusts, particularly those involving legal connection with the Church of England as by law established, as shall in their judgement best conduce to the peace of the Church, . . . and further sanctions such action of the said Bishops as shall guarantee to their ministers (being clergy of the Church of the Province) and to the congregations thereof, that nothing shall be required in the conduct of their services which cannot be required in the Church of England as by law established."

[190] But no such concessions would satisfy the extremists among the Church Council. They had repeated, through so many years, the dicta of the law courts as to the separation "root and branch" of the Church of the Province from the Mother Church (dicta referring, it will be remembered, solely to the tenure of property) that they would be satisfied with nothing less than the recognition of their own little body as the "Church of England," to which all the rest of South Africa must come back. Hence they proceeded to extremes. They decided that until the Bishop had signed the required declaration he was not their Bishop, thus repudiating their unconditional delegation to the Archbishop. And at several consecutive sittings of the Church Council, at which the Bishop was present, he was not invited to take the chair, which was occupied by the senior presbyter (as provided by the rules on occasions when the Bishop of the diocese was not present).

Further than this, the Curators had, after six months, made no sign of fulfilling the undertaking made by the Church Council as to the payment of the Bishop's stipend out of the funds in their custody, and they were being threatened with [190/191] legal proceedings if they ventured to do so. It was plain, therefore, that things had come to a deadlock, and some step was necessary to secure a modus vivendi. The Bishop, therefore, proceeded to draft a Bill, to be introduced into the Natal Parliament at its ensuing session, creating him trustee, in succession to Bishop Colenso, of all the properties of which the trusteeship had lapsed owing to the cessation of Letters Patent which had created the Bishop of Natal a "corporation sole," This brought matters to a head. The members of the Church Council had definitely to make up their minds whether they did or did not want a Bishop. If they did they would be bound to support the Bill. If they did not, they would have to show their hand by opposing the Bill. And in that case the Bishop felt pretty sure that they would have the colony, and even the majority of their own constituents, against them. There followed a series of stormy meetings of the Church Council, held sometimes in Durban and sometimes in Pietermaritzburg--the two parties within the Council (which we may call the Moderates and the Extremists) being pretty equally balanced. At last, on May 2, 1894, after a whole day's discussion, an amendment to a resolution approving [191/192] the Bill was carried by fourteen votes to eleven. This amendment simply postponed all consideration of the Bill in consequence of the Bishop's refusal to sign the declaration. It was a victory for the Extremists, who then rose to leave the meeting with much jubilation. At this point, however, the Bishop intervened to explain the position. He thanked those members who had by their words and votes striven for peace. He explained that the Bill was drafted in the hope of settling once for all the question whether he was or was not their Bishop, which at present seemed (in their view) to depend on a chance majority of the Church Council. The Bill, if passed into law, would have enabled him to provide for their wants in the matter of clergy. And it would have justified him in administering the properties on the basis of Church of England law. But he had no intention of pressing the Bill unless he was assured of their hearty support. The Bill being dropped, the Bishop explained the position in which they were left. "You have set aside your delegation and declined my services as Bishop. Nothing is further from my thoughts than to intrude where I am not wanted. I shall not, therefore, [192/193] attempt to act as your Bishop. But if your clergy are loyal to the Mother Church and to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to their Ordination vows, they will place themselves under the Bishop appointed by his Grace with the licence of the Queen. Further, any congregations who object to be deprived of the services of the Bishop and clergy, and of their connection through him with the whole Church of England, have a way open to them. They can, by formal vote of the vestry, disown the action of the Church Council, sever their connection with it by withdrawing their delegates, and place themselves and the appointment of their clergy in the hands of the Bishop."

This declaration had the desired effect. Instead of breaking up (as it was about to do when the Bishop rose), the Church Council hastily decided to adjourn till the following morning to consider the Bishop's announcement. On the following day the Church Council was reduced to the humiliating position of having to perform its own happy dispatch by recommending the vestries to make their own terms with the Bishop. Accordingly, within a few weeks, all the vestries of the dissentient churches had met and (encouraged by the [193/194] unanimous advice of the newspaper press of the colony) had passed resolutions disowning the action of the Church Council, and placing themselves unconditionally in the hands of the Bishop.

The actual words of the resolution passed at S. Peter's (Bishop Colenso's cathedral) were as follows:--"That this vestry, having lost confidence in the Church Council, and disowning the action taken by that body at its last sitting, regards it as no longer representing the feelings of this vestry, and hereby places this church, the conduct of the services, and the appointment of the clergy and the control of its affairs, confidently and unreservedly, in the hands of the Bishop."

From this time onward the Church Council ceased to exist, and the work of reunion went quietly forward. The curators carried out the undertaking as to their contribution to the Bishop's stipend, the deacon in charge of S. Peter's Cathedral was, with the approval of the congregation, removed, and Archdeacon Baines appointed Incumbent. Under his wise and affectionate pastorate the congregation finally threw in its lot with the Church of the Province, appointing delegates to the Synod. Two others of the dissentient clergy were, with the approval of their congregations, [194/195] removed, and the itinerary system, by which one of their number had fomented disunion in country places, was discontinued. The one congregation that continued to give trouble was S. Paul's, Durban. On its incumbency becoming vacant the Bishop proposed to appoint Archdeacon Baines. In accordance with his promise to the dissentient congregations, the Bishop did not require from their clergy an assent to the Constitution of the Province, but simply those subscriptions which are required in the Church in England; so that, for instance, in the case of S. Paul's, Durban, the archdeacon, in his capacity of minister of that church, would have been subservient to the law of the Church of England, and to no other. But because, in his capacity as archdeacon, Mr. Baines had subscribed to the Constitution and Canons of the Province (just as the Bishop himself had done), the congregation refused to receive him. And again there was a dead-lock. This was only relieved by the Bishop offering to move to Durban for a year and undertake, with the help of a curate, the incumbency himself. At the end of that time the congregation willingly accepted a clergyman who signed the Constitution, even in his capacity of incumbent.

[196] Still, the two congregations of S. Paul's and S. Thomas's, Durban, had not yet followed the example of S. Peter's in fully uniting with the Church of the Province and sending representatives to the Synod. The great stumbling-block, always alleged, was the third proviso. The Bishop had never held out any hopes of getting that proviso repealed, for the reasons given above. But he had consistently pointed out that that proviso contained its own solution. For it foreshadowed the creation of a Court of Appeal which would have made impossible what had happened in Bishop Colenso's case, viz., the condemnation of a clergyman in South Africa without appeal to the Mother Church. If the latent promise contained in the third proviso of a Court of Appeal in England could once be fulfilled, so that the last word on faith and doctrine would be said at Canterbury and not at Capetown, the sting would be removed from the obnoxious proviso.

On these lines of reform the Bishop concentrated his energies. He went home to the Lambeth Conference of 1897 full of hope that the urgent needs of the much-tried Church in Natal would persuade the Bishops to agree to that which [196/197] was proposed on the agenda, viz., the creation of a Court of Appeal (or, as it was called, a Tribunal of Reference) for the whole Anglican communion. Five days after landing in England, however (Easter, 1897), the Bishop was laid low with enteric and peritonitis, and for five months (till long after the Lambeth Conference had concluded its sittings) he lay between life and death. It was a matter of acute disappointment to him to hear that, chiefly owing to the misgivings of the American Bishops, the proposal of a Tribunal of Reference had been thrown out. However, the Conference had not been altogether barren of result as far as Natal affairs were concerned. It had resolved that a "Consultative Body" should be created, and that the constitution of it should be left in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus, for the first time, the Anglican communion was to possess a central standing committee. It occurred to the Bishop that this Consultative Body might provide, for the time being, that which was needed. For it was possible for the Provincial Synod of South Africa, by its own canons, to make this Consultative Body its Court of Appeal. But there were many difficulties in the way--many preliminary questions [197/198] to be settled. Would the Consultative Body agree to act in a judicial capacity? Would the Provincial Synod agree to do what might seem to be going behind the Lambeth Conference, and obtaining that which it had refused to grant? And finally, most important of all, would the dissentient churches in Natal accept such a solution as a basis of reunion?

As to the last of these questions, the Bishop, on his return to Natal, proceeded to call a joint meeting of the vestries of S. Paul's and S. Thomas's, and put to them the question, whether, in case he should succeed in persuading the Provincial Synod to create this Court of Appeal, and so take the sting out of the third proviso, they would accept the olive-branch and agree to complete reunion. After a long debate the united vestries resolved by a majority of more than three to one that they would do so. The two other questions were complicated by the fact that a whole year passed, and the Provincial Synod, which meets only at intervals of five or six years, was at hand, and nothing had been heard from the Archbishop of Canterbury as to who were to be the members of this Consultative Body. Till this was known it was impossible to ask the Consultative Body [198/199] whether it would agree to act as a Court of Appeal, and it was unlikely that the Provincial Synod would agree to legislate in the dark, and place themselves in the hands of a body which was still, as far as its constitution was concerned, an unknown factor. As only two months were left before the meeting of the Provincial Synod (in October, 1898), and it was too late for further correspondence with the Archbishop, the Bishop decided to make a rapid journey to England.

On his arrival at Capetown, en route for England, the Bishop found that the reply of the Archbishop, for which he had waited a whole year, had that day arrived. This announced that the Consultative Body was to consist of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, of the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, of the Archbishop of Armagh and the Primus of Scotland, of one episcopal representative of each Colonial Province, and one representative of Dioceses not organized into Provinces. Owing to a terrible railway accident, which had delayed the train for nine hours, the Bishop had only five minutes to decide whether to go back to Natal or to go on to England, but he decided that it would be a great reinforcement to his proposal if he were able to [199/200] announce that the English Bishops who were members of the Consultative Body approved of his proposed canon. So he proceeded on his voyage.

In a three weeks' visit he was able to secure the warm approval in writing of all the English Bishops whom the Archbishop had now appointed as members of the Consultative Body. Armed with this support he returned to Capetown, and after a long and animated debate the Provincial Synod passed the new canon, with only three dissentients. Telegrams of rejoicing flowed in from Natal, and on the Bishop's return there the congregation of S. Thomas's fulfilled their pledge and gave in their final alliance to the Church of the Province, appointing their delegates to the Diocesan Synod. The congregation of S. Paul's, after long and anxious meetings, finally went back upon their undertaking, and professed to have discovered new reasons against carrying out their promise to unite. It was this resolution which largely contributed to the Bishop's decision to resign. After such a breach of faith it became increasingly difficult for the Bishop to build any fresh bridge by which the congregation of S. Paul's could pass, with any sort of grace, across the chasm which separated [200/201] them from the Province. But he knew that, in case of his retirement, the next Bishop would not occupy the sort of dual position which he had held, but would be a Bishop of the Church of the Province, pure and simple, and that the congregation of S. Paul's would have to make their choice between accepting him and the organization of the Province, or of losing at once the ministrations of Bishop and incumbent, for it was clear that the Vicar of S. Paul's would not remain at his post in opposition to the new Bishop. It may be seen from the letter published in Archbishop Benson's Life (vol. ii, pp. 509-10) that he had not asked the Bishop to remain permanently in Natal. He had sent him out rather, as he said, as a Vicar-apostolic than as a Colonial Bishop in the ordinary sense, and he had mentioned seven years as the period for which he wished the Bishop to pledge himself, which period had now expired. In January, 1901, therefore, the Bishop resigned his office and, according to his expectation, his namesake and former Archdeacon was appointed as his successor, and he felt that the work could not have been committed to safer or wiser or kindlier hands. The new Bishop's consecration took place in Capetown on August 4, 1901. The [201/202] forecast already mentioned, as to what was likely to happen at S. Paul's, Durban, was very soon verified. Within a few months of the arrival of the new Bishop the congregation had decided to throw in its lot with the Church of the Province, and it is now represented in the Diocesan Synod. This important step may be said to have practically completed the work of reunion. It is true there was still one clergyman with a small following in a little church near the docks at Durban who remained aloof. But in this case the reasons were mainly personal, neither of the Bishops having seen their way to invite his co-operation.

One thing only remained to cement on the material side the spiritual union thus accomplished. The legal difficulty as to the Church properties remained. We have seen that the trusteeship vested in the Bishop of Natal had lapsed with Bishop Colenso's death, as the corporation created by Letters Patent ceased with the cessation of that method of appointing Colonial Bishops, and the properties remained in the hands of curators of the Court. And the Grahamstown judgement continued to be a bar to the use by the Church of the Province of these properties held in trust "for the Church of England." The [201/202] case was very similar to that of the Free Church of Scotland. In both cases certain constitutional modifications were held so far to depart from the original trusts as to invalidate the title of the main body of the Church to properties which it had previously enjoyed, and gave a control of those properties to a comparatively insignificant body out of all proportion to its size and importance. In the case of Scotland, legislation has been obtained, though even now it leaves the smaller claimant with an undue share. In the case of Natal, legislation was needed both to create a new trustee and to declare the United Church to be the "Cestui que Trust." With this object the Bishop, on the advice of the Synod and with the co-operation of certain leading laymen, introduced a Bill into the Natal Parliament; but outside influences, which the few still remaining dissentients in the Church were able to invoke, sufficed to block its progress, and the attempt was, for the time, abandoned. It cannot, however, be long before the congregations whose churches are still in the hands of the curators (such as S. Peter's, Maritzburg, S. Paul's and S. Thomas's, Durban, and a few others) and indeed Churchmen throughout the diocese, will make their influence felt, and [203/204] will ask the Natal Legislature to follow the precedent of the Imperial Parliament, in the matter of the Scottish Churches, and to deliver them from a state of things which materially hinders their development. This might be done, not as in the case of Scotland, by dividing the properties between two Churches--for in Natal there is now only one--but by a short Declaratory Act declaring that the Church of the Province, the legal decisions notwithstanding, is to be held to be "the Church of England," as intended by the Trust Deeds of the properties concerned.

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