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Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By Frank L. Norris

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

Chapter VI. The Church in South China

IN a previous chapter we traced in very brief outline the history of the entry of the English Church into China, and in another chapter that of its entry into Peking, the capital of China. In the following chapters we must try to follow out the story of its expansion. "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which is indeed the least of all seeds: but when it is grown ... it becometh a tree."

The order in which the different parts of the work will be presented seems to require a word of explanation. A glance at the map of China at the beginning of this volume will serve to show that, with a single exception in South Hunan, the Church has hardly penetrated China elsewhere than in the valley of the Yangtse and the Province of Ssuch'uan. She has attacked the borders of the country in the south, in Fuhkien, and in Chehkiang: from Shanghai her work extends far [65/66] west into Ssuch'uan; but north of Shanghai she has so far only touched the maritime Provinces of Shantung and Chihli. If we attempted to make our survey in any chronological order, we should be forced either repeatedly to abandon that order, to trace out some local development, or else to lose all idea of locality, i.e., of territorial growth, in the attempt to follow contemporaneous effort in places as far apart as Hong Kong and Peking.

It seems preferable, therefore, in dealing with the subject of Church expansion, to view it locally rather than chronologically: to endeavour to realize how far the Church has spread, rather than how fast the growth has been.

We will, therefore, begin our survey in the South, with the story of the development of Church work in the island of Hong Kong, and in the two Chinese Provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi.

It will be remembered that when, in 1849, Bishop Smith was consecrated as the first Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, his jurisdiction extended over all English clergy throughout the Far East. Work in Hong Kong had been begun in connection with S. Paul's College; but on the coast of China a foothold was first secured in Fuhkien and [66/67] Chehkiang, and in the town of Shanghai. But as that work will come before us in connection with other dioceses, we may for the present confine our attention to Hong Kong and the evangelization of the mainland in Kwangtung and Kwangsi. This last was practically postponed until the arrival of Bishop Burdon as third Bishop of Victoria, in 1875, his predecessors having found the supervision of the widely-scattered existing Missions elsewhere quite as much as they could manage.

Bishop Alford, who had succeeded Bishop Smith, was a man of great energy and enterprise, and a keen supporter of the Church Missionary Society at home. But as Bishop he found his relationship to the Society somewhat of a difficulty. He had already formulated plans of his own for putting an end to the difficulty; but when, without regard to those plans, Bishop Russell was consecrated "Bishop in North China"--a step which left the Bishop of Victoria merely the oversight of a tiny English colony and of the Mission in Fuhkien--he resigned his see, and was succeeded by one of whom we have already heard, and of whom we shall hear more in a later chapter, John Shaw Burdon.

Bishop Burdon was a man of remarkable energy and ability. He had done pioneer [67/68] work in Chehkiang, and had been the first English missionary to enter Peking. "From the first, however, Bishop Rurdon felt the same difficulties at Hong Kong which had so oppressed Bishop Alford's spirit. The Church Missionary Society was the only Church Society labouring in South China, and its only important work was in Fuhkien. A Bishop could practically neither extend its operations nor start independent missionary agencies; and the colonial work in the island of Hong Kong was too small for an able and large-minded man." [History of the Church Missionary Society, iii. 218.]

The above extract is quoted from the History of the Church Missionary Society, and it reads sadly. In the next chapter we shall see that in the Society's Fuhkien Mission there was great need of closer episcopal supervision; but apparently both these Bishops, though themselves warm supporters of the Church Missionary Society, and one of them for many years one of its leading missionaries in China, felt paralysed, as Bishops of Victoria, because " they could neither extend its operations nor start independent missionary agencies." One cannot help contrasting this state of things with that presented by another China [68/69] diocese. The Bishop of the present Diocese of North China superintends a diocese largely supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. It is true that he cannot extend the Society's operations unless the Society finds the necessary funds: but not only has he always enjoyed absolute freedom from home control in every other respect, but there was nothing to prevent him starting an "independent missionary agency," in spite of the fact that he himself was an old missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and continued to be a loyal supporter of that Society. As a matter of fact, full half of the work that has been done in North China and Shantung has been done by the help of such an independent agency--in other words, by means of funds, and sometimes of workers, supplied by what is now known as the North China and Shantung Missionary Association.

In 1876 a clergyman, named Mr. Davys, went out to Hong Kong, taking with him six young men to be trained at S. Paul's College for work in the China Missions of that diocese. Fifteen years later, the Rev. C. J. Corfe, R.N. (afterwards Bishop in Korea), made the same experiment under Bishop Scott at Chefoo in Shantung. In [69/70] both cases it failed to accomplish its immediate object; but in neither case did the self-sacrifice of the man responsible for the experiment fail to yield the Church some fruit. Of the students from S. Paul's, Hong Kong, as from S. Peter's, Chefoo, some were afterwards ordained and did useful work, though none eventually worked in the dioceses where they were trained.

Mr. Davys was not the man to be checked by a first failure, and he proved a great help to Bishop Burdon in starting evangelistic work by Chinese catechists on the mainland in Kwangtung, in the district round Canton. Thus at last the door was opened for aggressive missionary work in close touch with the island of Hong Kong, where the Bishop's residence was fixed. The pity of it was that he had no forces to pour in and take advantage of the opportunity. In 1882 Bishop Burdon was in England, and one result of his visit was a fund for thus extending the mainland work, and, if possible, for making a fresh start in the adjoining Province of Kwangsi. But the money was useless without the men. From 1883-1886 only seven men were forthcoming for all the C.M.S. Missions in China, and during the same period the S.P.G. Mission in the North secured but two recruits. [70/71] In the face of such scanty reinforcements, Churchmen cannot but feel humbled at the thought that in the very next year, 1887, the China Inland Mission received offers of service from six hundred volunteers, and actually sent out one hundred missionaries to China.

However, after waiting for five years, Bishop Burdon was at length enabled to start a medical Mission at Pakhoi in Kwangsi (which had been opened as a treaty-port by the Chefoo Convention of 1876), and a second doctor was sent out at the same time to itinerate in Kwangtung. The Bishop's own enthusiasm for pioneering found full scope in adventurous journeys up the West River into Kwangsi, journeys which paved the way for more permanent efforts in later years.

In Hong Kong itself the Church was slowly establishing itself amongst the Chinese population under the guidance of the Rev. J. B. Ost, assisted by a native deacon. An excellent girls' school was also opened by the Female Education Society, which here, as in Foochow and Ningpo, to some extent supplied the place of women's work under the direct control of the Church Missionary Society, which in those early days was still an unknown thing. But the transfer of Mr. Ost [72/72] to the Mission in Chehkiang caused the work on the island of Hong Kong to suffer temporarily; and both there and on the mainland reinforcements were badly needed. Why they were not forthcoming is not so clear: for the barren years of 1883-1886 were not repeated some years later. From 1896-1899 fifty-three new missionaries in connection with the Church Missionary Society went out to South China, twenty-two to Mid-China, and eighteen to the newly-opened work in Western China. But of the fifty-three who came to the South China diocese, Fuhkien absorbed no fewer than forty-six, while only seven were available for Hong Kong and the mainland in Kwang-tung and Kwangsi. How great the need of men was at this time is illustrated by the fact that after his resignation in 1897, and a very brief visit to England, Bishop Burdon returned to Pakhoi in order to enable Mr. Beauchamp, the missionary there, to take a much-needed furlough.

This lack of adequate support had doubtless added to the cares of the Bishop's closing years, and he was no longer young. Accordingly, in 1897, he resigned his see, which was well filled by the appointment of the Rev. J. C. Hoare, of Ningpo; but, as we have seen, the aged Bishop [72/73] returned to China, and in spite of a heavy blow suffered through the death of his wife, he remained in China for some years. Bishop Burdon passed to his rest at Royston, on January 5, 1907, in his eightieth year.

Bishop Burdon's episcopate had probably not been the happiest years of his life. Controversies on the Term question (i.e., as to the proper Chinese terms for God and Spirit), on the possibility of substituting rice and tea for Bread and Wine in the Holy Communion, and on the adoption of native dress by women missionaries, though we need not go into them now, were at the time like thorns in the side of one whose real ability and goodness were counteracted to some extent by the tenacity with which he held to his own opinions. Moreover, he was never popular in the colony itself, where he had perforce to live, and where his great capacity as a missionary did not of itself secure him from criticism as a colonial Bishop. But his work in China will be judged, not by his part in controversies, nor only by his administration of a confessedly difficult diocese, but by the intrepid pioneering of his earlier years, and by the enduring value of his literary work. Probably, in his own judgment, the happiest fruits [73/74] of his episcopate were the progress made in planting the Church in Kwangtung, and the opening of work at Pakhoi, as well as the great growth of the Church in Fuhkien--which will be noticed in another place. Bishop Hoare reached Hong Kong at the close of the year 1898, and for nearly eight years he worked as Bishop of Victoria. From the first he set himself to accomplish three objects, two of which were of primary importance from the missionary point of view, while the third was the supply of a crying want. He found within his diocese on the mainland three treaty-ports with small colonies of English residents, for whom during all the years that had passed since the diocese was first established no spiritual ministrations had been provided by the Church. Bishop Hoare realized the importance of not allowing English communities to remain uncared for, as a standing reproach in the eyes of the Chinese, who watched a Church making efforts to convert themselves while it cared not, apparently, to shepherd its own children. Accordingly, one of his first acts was to secure a clergyman to pay regular pastoral visits to Canton, Amoy, and Swatow; Fuhchow being adequately provided for by the missionaries resident in the place.

[75] Of greater importance perhaps to the missionary future of the work in South China was the effort to relieve the Bishop of Victoria of the oversight of the great mission work in Fuhkien. During the earlier years of his episcopate the Bishop was forced to be absent from the southern end of his diocese for long periods at a time on episcopal visitations in the Fuhkien Province. The fact that the Bishop thoroughly enjoyed these tours, in spite of the language difficulty and the anxiety about the work accumulating elsewhere, made him no whit less anxious to be relieved of them as soon as might be: and after many delays his efforts were finally crowned with success by the consecration of the first Bishop of Fuhkien in 1905.

But the Bishop of Victoria, who had been for all the previous years of his missionary life in charge of the Training College at Ningpo, would have been untrue to his past had plans for the proper training of a native ministry for South China been allowed to slumber for any length of time. Consequently he had not been long resident at Hong Kong before S. Paul's College became once more the home of a band of students preparing for the sacred ministry. An attempt had been already [75/76] made to begin such an institution on the mainland, and the question of where the work might best be located was one which naturally gave rise to differences of opinion. But, so long as the conditions remain as they are now, it would seem that the wisest course is that adopted by Bishop Hoare, namely, the establishment of the college in the only place where it would be in close personal touch with himself.

But the Bishop's interest in the college was not allowed to interfere with the other work of the diocese; and during his short episcopate not only was the work of the Church in the island of Hong Kong placed on a new and better footing, but the missionary work on the mainland was pushed forward with great vigour and success. In both of these enterprises he had the experienced help of Archdeacon Banister, who had been transferred from Fuhkien to Hong Kong in 1897. The Hong Kong Church is not numerically very large, but it enjoys the distinction of having been since 1901 entirely self-supporting. One of the Bishop's last interests was the drawing up of its constitution, so as to emphasize its position as a part of the Catholic Church, while at the same time allowing it freedom from the trammels of the "Church of

England as by law established," under which the English work in the colony necessarily comes.

The following three principles are set forth in the preamble of the authorized "Regulations for the self-support and self-government of the Chinese branch of the Anglican communion in Hong Kong":--

(1) The Anglican Church in Hong Kong is in communion with the Church of England, and abides by her standards of doctrine and discipline; and is subordinate to the Bishop of the Church of England in Hong Kong.

(2) The Chinese branch of the Anglican communion in Hong Kong is united with the European branch of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, the only distinction being that of language. Hence all who are not hindered by ignorance of language can combine in fellowship.

(3) Seeing that Hong Kong contains several churches and chapels and scattered congregations, it is feared that congregational self-support and government would be injurious to the whole body of the Church. It is therefore decided to form vestries to [77/78] administer the affairs of each church or chapel, and also a "Church Body," to administer the affairs of the whole native Anglican Church in Hong Kong. We have dealt at some length with the Bishop's attempt to draw up a constitution for the Native Church in Hong Kong, because it marks a courageous effort to deal with a very difficult question. How far it can be considered a final solution remains to be seen; but alike in its treatment of the question in relation to the English Church in the colony on the one hand, and to the Church Missionary Society on the other, it affords evidence of one of Bishop Hoare's strongest characteristics, his splendid courage.

In Kwangsi the work has spread from Pakhoi to the neighbouring city of Liem-chow, occupied in 1902, and it is hoped shortly to establish a station at the important town of Nanningfu; while, far up in the interior of the province, some three hundred miles from Fakhoi on the south-west, and Canton on the south-east, the town of Kweilin was occupied in 1899, and a few years later that of Yungchow, which lies just within the southern border of Hunan. It will be seen how largely the work on the mainland developed during the few [78/79] years of Bishop Hoare's episcopate; but a glance at the map will reveal how, even so, the work in South China has really only been begun, and the time has surely come for greater efforts in this part of the field.

The Bishop whose labours we have been recording has been called away from his diocese. On his return from his last visit to England he purchased a small boat, planning to adopt at Hong Kong the method he had found so effective with his students in the old days at Ningpo. He intended to take four or five of them at a time on preaching tours among the neighbouring islands and on the coast of the mainland; and it was while engaged in the first of such tours that he met his death. He died as he would have wished to die, not only at his post, but while actively engaged in the evangelistic work he loved so well, drowned, with the students who accompanied him, in the great typhoon of 1906. His loss is one which cannot easily be measured. A man trained as he had been, the son of a saintly father, the scion of a well-known English family, was bound to bring to his work ideals wider and higher than those of other men. That he would, if GOD had spared him, have done great things for his own [79/80] diocese, may be gathered from what he actually accomplished in less than eight years. But to the student of Church development in China his loss means more than that. Like another Cambridge Bishop in China, Bishop Cassels, he was imbued with a great longing to see the "Church of China" formed by the union of the various Anglican dioceses, both English and American. It has pleased God to take him away just as a movement in that direction is beginning. May the same Divine Providence bestow a double portion of his spirit on his successor, and thus cause his death to help rather than to hinder the cause he had so much at heart.

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