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Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By Frank L. Norris

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

Chapter XIII. Inter-Diocesan Organization

WE have tried in the last seven chapters to convey some idea of the work which the Church has accomplished in the various Anglican dioceses in China. But no such record of detached efforts would be complete without some notice of the attempts already made to promote inter-diocesan co-operation and organization. The subject of the present chapter follows naturally, therefore, upon what has been already said; but it gains a far greater importance in view of the future development of the Church's work.

The first movement towards any kind of co-operation was due largely to Bishop Scott, of North China, and Bishop Graves, of the American Church Mission; and these two Bishops may claim a large share in the developments which have since taken place. Conferences of Anglican Bishops were held in Shanghai in April, 1897, in October, 1899, and in October, 1903; and a [188/189] larger Conference in which the presbyters were represented by elected delegates, was held in April, 1907.

A glance at the list of Bishops taking part in each Conference will serve to mark very clearly the developments of the last ten years. In 1897 there were four China Bishops (Mid-China, North China, Western China, and the American Bishop of Shanghai and the lower Yangtze Valley--Bishop Burdon, of Victoria, being absent--with Bishop Corfe, of Korea. Two years later the same Bishops met, with the addition of Bishop Hoare, of Victoria. In 1903, though Bishop Cassels and Bishop Corfe were unavoidably absent, the Conference welcomed, for the first time, a Bishop of Hankow, to which jurisdiction the American Church had recently consecrated the Rev. J. A. Ingle. In 1907, the Bishops of Fuhkien and Shantung were present for the first time, and though the vacancy in the See of Victoria (through the death of Bishop Hoare) robbed the episcopal representation of completeness, the other seven Bishops were all able to be present.

The resolutions passed by the first Conference call for little remark. An attempt was made, which proved abortive, to provide an adequate Chinese [189/190] name for the Anglican communion; and although the desirability of a common version of the Prayer Book was recognized, action in the matter was postponed in view of the great difficulties attending it. ["The Church that follows antiquity" was the name proposed.] The Committees appointed by the Conference, however, did much useful work, in connection with a common formula for Holy Baptism, common terms for the three Orders of the Ministry, and Church discipline. At the ensuing Conference in 1899 these Committees presented their reports, and resolutions were passed on the last two subjects. It was further decided to adopt a transliteration of "Anglican" instead of the term proposed at the previous Conference, and an important series of resolutions on Christian Marriage was passed.

At the Conference in 1903 two resolutions of considerable importance were passed, one forming an appeal to the Church at home, the other having reference to the organization of future Conferences. The first of these resolutions may be quoted here, as nothing has occurred to alter its propriety or to affect the wisdom of its recommendations:--

"We earnestly urge the Church at home to use [190/191] greater efforts to extend the work of the Church to all parts of this Empire.

"In carrying out the above object we consider that the Church should bear in mind the following points:

"1. It should be made an aim to occupy strongly one or more stations in each province, rather than to establish many weak stations.

"2. The men sent out should be thoroughly well qualified men.

"3. No men should be sent to establish new stations unless they have had adequate experience in existing stations, or can be sent under the guidance of experienced missionaries.

"4. Women-workers should also be called for, but should only be sent to established stations in which they can be under proper protection."

It is to be feared that this earnest appeal has so far met with little response at home.

The other resolution of the 1903 Conference to which we have referred, suggested the enlarging of the scope of the next Conference by securing representation of the presbyters, details being left to [191/192] the Standing Committee. It derives its importance from the fact that it proves that such a step, actually taken in 1907 in answer to a memorandum from the presbyters themselves, had already commended itself to the judgment of the Bishops. Events led to the temporary suspension of the Standing Committee appointed after the 1903 Conference; and it was this fact which led the priests to move themselves in the matter in 1906. The result of a joint letter to the Bishops, signed by fifty-three clergy, was the summoning of a Conference in the spring of 1907, at which not only, as has been said, were the seven Bishops of our communion all present, but two representative priests from each of the eight dioceses. It is impossible here to deal at any length with the important subjects which came up for discussion; but some of the resolutions passed by the Conference call for special remark, because of their peculiar bearing on the subject of this book.

Reference has already been made in these pages to the peculiar difficulties and dangers arising from lack of intelligent co-operation in the past between the English and American branches of our communion in delimiting the areas of episcopal jurisdiction in China. When adjustments [192/193] have to be made, in matters of this kind, it is only natural that strong feeling should be engendered and considerable sacrifices called for on both sides, before a satisfactory conclusion is reached. If the one element existed to a considerable degree before the Conference met, it is no less true that the spirit which made the other possible was no less in evidence at the Conference itself; and if nothing else had been accomplished, the resolution which "loyally accepted the ruling of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of the American Church" on the question of jurisdiction which had arisen in connection with the Chinese Church in Shanghai, and which urged the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to take steps "to bring into harmony the principles and practice of the various branches of the Anglican communion in this respect," would in itself have made the Conference memorable.

But much more was done. A series of resolutions was passed dealing with the organization of the Anglican communion in China, three more dealt with the next meeting of the Conference, others with joint action in matters affecting the Church, and four more with our relations to other Christian bodies. Another resolution dealt with [193/194] a matter which may prove of very great importance, namely, an invitation to the Church of Canada to establish a missionary diocese of our communion in one of the unoccupied provinces of China, an invitation which there is reason to hope will be cordially acceded to in the near future.

Rut the resolutions passed with reference to Anglican organization in China, may, under God's providence, lead to no less important results. The Conference agreed that the time had come to take definite steps for the formation of a General Synod, and appointed a Committee to consider and formulate a plan for the formation of such a Synod, the Committee to report to the next Conference--to be held in 1909--at which the Chinese clergy and laity should be represented. Thus the first steps have been taken towards that goal, which has been so often referred to in these pages, the establishment of a Church of China in full communion with the other branches of the Anglican communion. No more need be said on the subject here; but reference must be made to what may prove a courageous attempt to solve a great difficulty.

Scattered up and down the coast of China, from Hong Kong, in the South, to Newchwang, in [194/195] the North, are communities of foreign residents, mostly English people, and many of them Church people. What is to be their relation, and the relation of their chaplains, to the Church of China? A Committee has been appointed to consider, amongst other questions, that of episcopal jurisdiction over such chaplains and congregations; and the suggestion was made that they might be put under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Victoria, who, as a Colonial Bishop, would be to some extent outside the Church of China, and yet in full touch with local needs.

The last point that calls for notice is the action of the Conference in regard to other Christian bodies at work in China. The appointment of a Committee on Unity, and the instructions given to it, resulted in the issue of an open letter on Unity at the time of the great Centenary Conference in Shanghai, in a proposal for a common prayer to be used by all Christian congregations in China every Sunday (which was cordially accepted), and in a helpful conference with representatives of several other denominations. That nothing definite has immediately resulted is a matter for satisfaction rather than otherwise; but it may be claimed at least that the action of our [195/196] communion in this respect made a very real and deep impression on our brother-missionaries at the Centenary Conference, and has thus paved the way for the exercise of that influence on others, which we feel that the Anglican communion is meant in God's providence to exert.

Thus, both within and without, this last effort to realize its own unity has equipped the Anglican communion in China with new strength and power for the furtherance of its own work, and for the fuller realization of the Will of God.

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