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Eight Years in Kaffraria, 1882-1890.

By Alan G. S. Gibson, M.A.
S.P.G. Missionary to the Pondomisi, and Archdeacon of Kokstad

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1891.

Chapter XII. The Ecclesiastical Position of S. John's, and the Question of the Supply of Missionaries

IT has seemed to me that it would not be devoid of interest if a few words were added on the ecclesiastical position of S. John's.

S. John's is one of the group of dioceses which form the ecclesiastical province of South Africa, of which the Bishop of Capetown is Metropolitan. These dioceses are, at present, eight in number (although it is probable that at the next Provincial Synod new ones will be formed), i.e., Capetown, Grahamstown, S. John's, Maritzburg, Zululand (a missionary bishopric up to this date), inland Bloemfontein and Pretoria, while the total is made up by the island see of S. Helena. Each diocese is subsidised by the S.P.G., which makes annual grants varying in extent from £385 to the diocese of S. Helena, to £3206 to that of Grahamstown. These Block Grants are distributed locally by the various Diocesan Finance Boards to the S.P.G. missionaries in the dioceses, and a statement of the distribution is sent home to the Parent Society.

The diocese of S. John's is also helped--very liberally, if we consider the size of the Scotch Church--by the Episcopal Communion north of the Tweed; indeed, this diocese (along with Chanda) forms her special mission. It was the Scotch Church which, through the action mainly of the late Bishop Cotterill, first of Grahamstown and then of Edinburgh, came forward to guarantee the stipend for a Bishop of Independent Kaffraria; and it was by her Bishops that Dr. Callaway was consecrated in Scotland, the missionary bishopric thus formed being afterwards formally incorporated into the South African Province. The subsidies from the Scotch Church vary in amount: in addition to the Bishop's stipend of £500, about £300 or £400 is usually voted to the General Kaffrarian Fund. This, however, by no means represents all the help that is given to us by Scotland. Considerable sums are appropriated to various individual missionaries, and the Scottish Church Women's Association, both by means of mission-boxes and by grants of money, renders most invaluable aid.

The Cape Government, again, makes liberal grants to schoolmasters and teachers; and about £300 a year is received in English subscriptions for the Kaffrarian Church Fund. To meet these various sums, the diocese raises some £2500 locally, and subscriptions or donations to particular parishes bring up the whole receipts of the diocese normally to £10,000 or £11,000 for ecclesiastical and educational purposes. Out of this, clergy, catechists, teachers, &c., have to be paid; churches, parsonages, schools, built and kept in repair; boarding-schools maintained--in fact, the whole machinery and working of a diocese which is not much smaller than Scotland carried on.

The Provincial Synod ordinarily meets once in seven years, thus giving time for two or three meetings of the Diocesan Synods in the intervals. In the Provincial Synod, as in the Diocesan, duly elected lay members sit, as well as clergy. These lay members must be communicants: the term communicant being defined in the constitution to be one who "shall have received the Holy Communion three times at least during the preceding year, at the hands of some clergyman, either of the Church of this Province, or of some other Church in communion with the same."

The South African Church, as one of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, "receives the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ, as the same are 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."

Thus the daughter Church deliberately affirms her oneness with the mother, and deliberately binds herself down to that continued unity. On the other hand, she no less carefully vindicates her spirituality by the statement--

"Provided, also, that in the interpretation of the aforesaid Standards and Formularies the Church of this Province be not held to be bound by decisions, in questions of Faith and Doctrine, or in questions of Discipline relating to Faith or Doctrine, other than those of its own Ecclesiastical Tribunals, or of such other Tribunal as'may be accepted by the Provincial Synod as a Tribunal of Appeal."

It is interesting to see how certain difficulties which arise in England are dealt with in the unestablished Colonial Church.

The question of criminous clerks is met as follows. Any clergyman to be admitted to any office in the Church of the Province has to make and subscribe before the Bishop a declaration, undertaking, among other things, to accept and immediately submit to any sentence depriving him of any or all the rights and emoluments appertaining to his office which may at any time be passed upon him, after due examination had, by any Tribunal acknowledged by the Provincial Synod for the trial of a clergyman. Saving all rights of Appeal allowed by the said Provincial Synod.

Now, as any Bishop or Clergyman of the Province may be presented for trial on charges for the following offences--

1. Crime or immorality.

2. Heresy or false doctrine.

3. Violation of any Law or Canon of the Church of the Province.

4. Wilful contravention of the Rules and Regulations either of the Provincial Synod or of the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese in which he holds office.

5. Neglect of the duties of his office, or conduct giving just cause of scandal or offence.

And as the Clerk so presented has already undertaken to accept the judgment of the ecclesiastical tribunal, it is at onee obvious that the matter has become comparatively

The question of patronage has not yet come prominently to the front in the diocese of S. John's, although there can be little doubt that it will most naturally do so as endowments and kindred benefactions become more frequent. At present all the patronage lies in the Bishop's hands, except in the case of two parishes: in one, where half the stipend is guaranteed by the people, the appointment rests jointly with the Bishop and Vestry; in the other, where a Church has been given and half the stipend is guaranteed by the people, the right of presentation, guarded as in Provincial Canon 12, has for the present been given.

From speaking of institution and patronage, we pass naturally to the burning question of foreign missions: How is the supply of clergy to be maintained?

The first and most obvious way is by the formation of that which is now considered as one of the best recognised needs of such work, a native ministry. That such must be our goal is a matter of common sense; and perhaps few dioceses have so thoroughly thrown themselves into the work, first under Bishop Callaway, who ordained the first native priest in South Africa, and then under his successor, the present diocesan. A roll of two native priests and seven native deacons is a living testimony to the fruit of their efforts, and of the Theological Tutor and Warden of the College.

On the other hand, there is another side to the picture. There is a great difference between the African tribes, whose education and civilisation is still immature, and the nations with whom the Apostles came into contact, or those with whom the Church has to deal in the ancient, historic empires and countries of the Bast, who have centuries of the inherited ideas of civilisation helping to mould their characters, a habituation to theological ideas, albeit of an erroneous type, and who have perhaps acquired by means of philosophy natural virtues of self-restraint. With the Kaffirs, all these things are as yet in their infancy; and it must be long before the Native Church can stand entirely alone, if she is neither to sink into lethargy on the one hand, nor, on the other, let her zeal outrun her discretion. The Kaffrarian Church has indeed been fortunate in her first priest, one who is a noble instance of what a Kaffir priest may be, even in the first generation of Christianity, and we may fairly hope that before long other native priests may be added to the two already working in Fingoland and Pondomisiland; but it may be thought that festina lente should be our motto, if we look forward to entirely withdrawing, within a comparatively short time, all our white clergy.

It is also a fact that at present not a few natives much prefer as their pastors Europeans rather than those of their own colour, possibly, in some cases, from unworthy motives, but also at times for valid reasons, which brings us back again to the same point, that, both for the present and the future, there will be--in addition to the native clergy, many of whom will probably not pass beyond the diaconate--a large demand for white clergy.

Now there are ready to hand white persons who have the inherited characteristics of Europeans, and yet who, having grown up in the country, are entirely in touch with the natives, understand their character, their modes of thought, are as familar with their language as with their own mother tongue. It is from among the colonial boys of Kaffraria, as it seems to me, that we must look for the present for some of our best missionaries, if only they can be given such an education as England alone can give--the public school education, followed by the university life and the theological college, all moulded together in the atmosphere of antiquities, and the reverence which attaches to that which is old, as well as of godliness and a sound public opinion, which belongs to a nation that is avowedly Christian.

As Kaffraria has been in the van in raising up a native ministry, so she has not been behindhand in her endeavours to obtain a colonial priesthood. One of her first archdeacons was a colonial man, and the huge work of S. Mark's, as well as the combined parishes of S. Albans and All Saints, are in the hands of men who hail respectively from Natal and Kaffraria. In the present generation there are "at home," preparing for a missionary life in the country from which they have come--one in Edinburgh about to enter on a medical course to qualify himself for a medical missionary; one about to go to Oxford after finishing' a school course of the highest promise; one still at school with a hopeful future before him. Behind these there comes to the mind the figure of another, still at Umtata, in employment there, putting by as much money as he can save yearly to facilitate his coming to England at an early date.

In the present, then, we must look much to colonial agents, as well as to natives, if there is to be an unfailing source of missionaries in Kaffraria. But just as with the former there are difficulties of one class, so with the latter arise difficulties of another nature, mainly financial. Those who might become good and able priests of the Church have at times to be let slip because there are no funds available for their adequate education.

But neither natives nor colonists are likely, for many years, to supply us with all that we need in the way of candidates for ordination; so that it is not possible (even if it were desirable, which is open to grave doubt) to dispense with the assistance of missionaries from home, whether men from S. Augustine's and the other missionary colleges which give a valuable special education, or men fresh from the university or theological college, or others who are already in holy orders.

And now we come to the prime difficulty. How are such men to be paid? It is with the greatest labour and most careful financing that it is possible to carry on the present work. How can it be possible to extend it without fresh funds? And yet extension is an absolute necessity if the heathen are to be evangelised and the Christians kept in the faith; and fresh ordained helpers for our clergy are absolutely needful if they themselves are not to collapse under a burden which is far too heavy for them, and if their work is to be consolidated.

Is there not a way ready to hand, which the authorities at home are beginning to recognise, but which needs further development and organization?

The native missionary work in Kaffraria may be said to be twofold: that which belongs to the central station of each parish, including the organisation of the whole district, and the evangelisation of the heathen around. For this, knowledge of the work, of the people, and of the language are requisite. Besides this, there is the itineration from one Christian station to another, involving the various duties which have been glanced at before, and which may, for ordinary visits, be summed up in--examination of school, baptizing, celebrating, preaching, examination of classes, and instruction of Church workers.

It is with no thought of derogating from the value and importance of such, work that I style it routine work; but because it can be comparatively easily acquired, and runs on in much the same course station by station. It is work most necessary for the welfare of the Church, work most precious in the sight of God; and, in the paucity of priests at present, it is work which has necessarily to monopolise almost the whole of our time, to the great loss and apparent neglect of the central station, the general organisation of the parish, and the heathen. And yet, at the same time, it is work which could be done without the special qualifications which are needful for the other, which demands a far wider and deeper knowledge of local circumstances and life. A six weeks' or two months' careful study of the language will, in ordinary cases, enable the English priest to celebrate and take other services in Kaffir intelligibly and intelligently; for all other matters, where speaking is a requisite, the services of an interpreter may be employed (as is done in the magistrates' offices) when a Christian congregation is being dealt with; while the individual treatment of soulg can be left to the senior missionary in charge, who would still make a point of visiting every station in person quarterly.

A layman, or a deacon, is--for the purpose spoken of now--comparatively useless. The great cry is for assistant priests. They must be in priests' orders, so that they may be able to celebrate the Holy Communion, and thus supply the constantly recurring need at the various stations: at the same time, they should be young, so that they may be the better able to acquire, at any rate in some degree, the language, and because thus they are less likely to have wives and families to be supported. In using this language, let it not be thought that an absolute clerical celibacy is being advocated--as a matter of fact, it may well be urged that we need married missionaries as well as celibates; but, on the other hand, we need the latter as well as the former, and, where funds are so very scarce, and the harvest-field is so wide, we must have regard to expenditure. It is quite fair, under the terms of the missionary charter of the one Church, for the daughter abroad out of her poverty to appeal, first to her own children, and then to the mother at home, for support for the labourer who is worthy of his hire; but it may well be asked, Is it fair that she should tax others, in the face of the pressing needs of humanity everywhere, for the support not only of a wife, who indeed may be and often is a labourer, and an excellent labourer too, but also for the support of a large family of children, for whom no other provision is made, by endowment, private benefaction, or personal means? Older missionaries, indeed, have their fixed salaries on which they have been able to marry: well, often, for them, and for the diocese to which they can show the picture of Christian domestic life, and to which they may Jbe supplying in the present a valuable unpaid worker in the person of the wife (our own diocese gives examples of many such), and may supply in the future valuable colonial priests in the persons of their children (and here again Kaffraria may be pointed to): for these we may thank God: but now we are speaking not of the past, but of the present and the future, a present certainly marked by appalling needs and terrible want of means. In such straits as these no choice is left us: we must cut our coats according to our cloth.

What, then, might be done from home to help us is this: 'to send out young men in priests' orders, who have served their first two years since admission into the diaconate, to help the more experienced missionaries as assistant priests: these men to remain abroad for three years, working during that time for bare subsistence, not for a salary, and remaining during that time (surely it is not much to ask) unmarried for the sake of God: their service abroad to count as service at home, with a view to any preferment that they might have bestowed upon them, and their old diocese to welcome them back again on their return. To us in the mission-field the gain would be enormous and obvious to those who thus came out to work with us for a time the advantage of the foreign experience, the wider views of life, the readier handling of men of all sorts, would be great; to the Church at home the benefits that would accrue would be none the less, for every returned missionary would kindle in his new sphere of work fresh missionary zeal, and that must necessarily react upon the home work: the parish that does most for foreign missions does also most for home needs.

If such a plan as this is ever to be realised--supposing, that is, it is worth realisation--its execution must depend upon two classes of people--the Bishops of England, and the mothers of England. It is a certain fact that not a few priests are ready to go abroad, if they were only asked to do so by one with the authority of our Fathers in God; and it is highly probable that many others would be quite ready to go if they were sent by those who are the generals of the great Church army. There is latent in the Church of England a spirit of love of discipline, and of obedience to orders in many quarters, only waiting for, yes, and often longing for, those orders, to be called into action.

But if there are any people in England who are responsible for the fewness of missionary workers, it is the relations and friends of those who wish to go abroad. Here, again, it is no theory constructed in the sphere of fiction that is being broached, but simply a fact learnt by sad experience that is being stated. Is it not extraordinary that parents who think it (and that quite rightly) an honour for their sons to wear Her Majesty's uniform, and as officers in the naval and military services to go abroad, should think that the one thing to be avoided in this world is for their sons to become missionaries? Is it not still more marvellous that they will readily let them go out to scenes and occupations and manners of life far removed from home, and full of great temptations, because there may be riches in store for them there, but when they wish to take the crusaders' cross upon their shoulders, and go forth to wrest, not the sepulchre of a dead Lord, but the heritage of a living Lord from the infidel, then, and then only, they will stretch out their hands and pull them back?

If it is impossible to expect English mothers to bring up their sons with the missionary idea, to dedicate them from their birth to that Christlike life, to foster the thought in them as they grow up; if they deliberately will to be behind Jewish mothers, at least we may ask that they will not stand in the way of their sons giving themselves to foreign service. Some such there are--thank God for it--who, at the cost of whatever anguish, have cheerfully sent out their sons without a murmur: let their number be multiplied an hundredfold. But if the mothers will spare their sons, then à fortiori, should the fathers and other relations and friends be willing to let them go.

The question of the supply of missionary clergy is a vital one for the Church at large. It is not only quantity that is needed, but also--as is strongly urged by those who preside over S. Augustine's College, Burgh, Warminster, and the other missionary colleges which have formed some of the most efficient clergy who are working abroad, and as is felt perhaps yet more strongly by those who have all the phenomena of mission life before their eyes--quality that is demanded. If it is hard to be a good clergyman at home, far harder is it to be so abroad.

For the ideal missionary, linguistic powers are at least a great desideratum, if not an essential. Through the medium of interpreters much may be done, and yet there can never be that fulness of intercourse which there ought to be between pastor and people. And if the literature of the country is to be formed, there must be white men, conversant with the full meaning of English, realising thoroughly the signification of theological terms, who shall at the same time be adepts in the native language, to translate, to adapt, and to compose. Far more is required than mere Bible and Prayer-Book: there must be manuals and class-books also.

Again, if the quality of "enduring hardness" is requisite anywhere, it is so in the mission field. Not that the life there, in such countries as Kaffraria, is hard; in many ways few lives can be pleasanter, or healthier, or freer from danger; and yet there is need of endurance for the perpetual journeyings to and fro on the part of those to whose lot they fall (for they do not fall equally to all), and also of self-denial, that every doit that can be spared from the bare necessities of life may be put to the extension of the work of God.

Then the missionary who works in a colonial or semi-colonial diocese must be a man of sound education. He will have to live and work under a scathing fire of criticism; men will carefully weigh his statements; they will be quite ready to mete out to his education and training the respect that they may deserve, and equally ready to despise the lack of those qualifications. The atmosphere is republican in a sense, and critical. There are perhaps, in proportion to the whole community, more who are tinged with free-thought in a free-thinking country abroad than there are at home in conservative England. Outward conformity to religion is not equally de règle in the wilds as it is in the circles of a civilisation of eighteen centuries. Men are quite ready and willing to hear and be convinced, but they will not be convinced by the preaching of foolishness or the claims of ignorance.

And where to each small community there is but one church and one clergyman, the latter must be a man of tact and of some breadth of view, lest by needlessly insisting upon what are not essentials, he drive away into schism, or repel from the frequentation of the sacraments, some of the flock committed to his charge. As in England, so in South Africa, are there to be found representatives of different schools of religious thought; but in the latter country there is no choice of churches in one town representing those various schools, so that the need of tact and consideration and careful discrimination between what are principles and what are non-essentials is infinitely greater abroad.

Yet once more, the missionary must be a man of sound judgment. How many questions will come before him for solution of the greatest difficulty--some which must be solved in isolation, without the help of mutual counsel and advice; some which must be solved almost on the instant', some involving in them issues of the highest importance, with which the fate of whole tribes, at times almost of churches, may be bound up; some for which there is absolutely no experience in the past to guide him; some about which be cannot but feel that there are vestigia nulla retrorsum. Save for the help of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, the missionary might well deem that his task was an utterly hopeless one.

And if he is to succeed with the native tribes, above all things he must have the gift of sympathy. Without this, endurance, eloquence, free-handedness, linguistic powers, will profit him nothing. Sympathy is the key to the native mind.

Above all, the priest abroad, even more than the priest at home, needs depth of spirituality. More, for his life is to be lived, in a great measure, in isolation; he will not have the help of frequent communings with his brother priests; he will not enjoy the opportunities of constant retreats; he will be called to pass a large part of his time among the heathen, that is, among people of a lower moral standard, and no spiritual standard whatsoever. "Who is sufficient for these things?" Only the "man of God."

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