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Charles Perry Scott
First Bishop in North China

By the Right Reverend Bishop Montgomery, D.D.

[London] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1928.



Bishop Scott has been called (I think deservedly) the father of the "Chung-Hua-Sheng-Kung-Hui." But the share that he had in its first beginnings needs a little explaining. Forty years ago, I don't think that there had ever been a meeting of Anglican bishops, however few, still less a meeting of bishops and clergy, anywhere in China. The first idea of such a meeting was, I think, Bishop C. J. Corfe's, who in 1890, came out East as first Bishop in Corea. In 1897 the first Conference of Bishops was held, the senior bishop, Bishop Moule, of Mid-China, presiding. It may without prejudice be stated now that one of the strongest motives in bringing such a Conference about was the dismay felt by men like Bishop Corfe, Bishop Scott and Bishop Graves, at what threatened to be a real impasse between the English and American Church Missions over questions of jurisdiction at Shanghai, etc. The Conference met again in 1899 and 1903, and in the latter year some clergy were present.

On these three occasions only four or five China bishoprics were in existence, but Bishop Corfe (of Corea) was always invited to be present. In order to realise how Bishop Scott came to the fore, it is only necessary to explain that first, Bishop Corfe could not lead, as his diocese being outside China he was only present by invitation; secondly, that Bishop Moule was ageing rapidly, and though ever kindly and courteous, was hardly alive to the essential need and innate possibilities of such gatherings; thirdly, that Bishop Scott, consecrated at the same time as Bishop Moule, but a far younger man, was thus the natural leader, not only by seniority, but even more by a patient farsightedness, which enabled him to see the course to be followed and to follow it steadily through discouragement and difficulty.

For knowledge of the subject he naturally turned to Bishop Graves, who with his American training had experience to fall back upon, and whose strong, alert mind carried things forward more than once when Bishop Moule's apathy was tending towards inactivity. Bishop Graves had acted as secretary to the three previous meetings of bishops, and it was a circular letter from him as secretary (in 1906) which led to an appeal from the clergy of the different dioceses (now eight in number) to their bishops to summon another Conference. The result was the Conference of 1907, attended by seven bishops and sixteen priests, with Bishop Corfe and Bishop Arthur Turner, the second Bishop in Corea, as visitors.

Once more we may see the hand of God in the matter of leadership. Bishop Moule could not be present till the second day, and Bishop Scott was chosen chairman pro tern. When Bishop Moule arrived next day, he declined the chairmanship to which he had been elected, and Bishop Scott was formally elected in his stead.

The 1907 Conference determined inter alia that in 1909 there should be another Conference with Chinese clergy and laity present; and that Conference, when it met, drafted the preamble and constitution and first two canons for a General Synod of the Chung-Hua-Sheng-Kung-Hui. This draft was referred to the Diocesan Synods for approval. In all this work Bishop Scott was both leader and author, and it was a happy issue to labours which had extended over fifteen years that in 1912 he was once more chairman of the now enlarged Conference, which formed itself at its last session into the "General Synod of the Chung-Hua-Sheng-Kung-Hui." For another eighteen months he was the first chairman of its House of bishops, resigning when the time for resigning his diocese drew near. In 1915, at the outset of its second meeting, the General Synod passed a resolution of gratitude "for the long and devoted labours" of the bishop, and placed on record "its conviction that the successful organisation of the Chung-Hua-Sheng-Kung-Hui has been largely due, under God's guidance, to the stedfast faith and perseverance of Bishop Scott through many years of patient labour toward that end."

Bishop Graves, writing from Shanghai, adds the following testimony:--

"His patience, tact and sympathy were of the greatest service in the many difficult questions which came before us. Many of these were very naturally caused by the fact that the ecclesiastical systems of the Church of England and of the Church in the United States were so different, and here he seemed to understand the American point of view at once, and to form a sort of bridge between us, and so contributed greatly to the harmony with which our discussions were conducted and to the happy result at which we finally arrived. Perhaps I myself was the one who felt this most deeply, because I was a very young and inexperienced bishop, and because until 1902 I was the only one who was not English; but we all recognised his great gift of sympathy, and when the fifteen years of conference and preparation were over we rejoiced that he presided at the first General Synod of the Chinese Church."

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