Anglican Church in Corea:
Being Documents, original and translated, issued by Authority during the Episcopate of the First Bishop of the Church of England in Corea between 1889 and 1905
by C. J. Corfe, Bishop
SEOUL, June 25th, 1899.
The recent baptisms in Kanghoa and Seoul, together with the admission of whole families into the fold of Christ's Church, have, filled us with devout thankfulness to Almighty God Who has thus answered the prayers which have been offered up daily for now ten years in different parts of the world as well as by yourselves in Corea.
But with this feeling of devout thankfulness there ought to come a sense of increased responsibility--a responsibility to which, indeed, my clergy are alive, but which has to be shared by every member of the Church. So long as the Church of England in Corea was represented by the few Europeans why habitually worship in our churches and chapels our responsibility to others was limited to "walking honestly toward them that are without." By the consistency of our lives it was our duty to show all with whom we came in contact the supreme truth and power of the religion which we professed. But during the past two mouths our duties have become at once more definite and more serious. By the mercy of God, Coreans,--men, women, and children--have been brought into "the household of the faith" and made with us, "partakers of the Divine nature." In regard to our elative positions in God's sight there is now no difference between us and them. It is just this identity of relationship between us and them and God which is now filling us with thankfulness. And yet, in another way, there is all the difference between us and them. They are our youngest brethren in Christ--resembling those whom S. Paul calls "babes in Christ." All our experience has been learned in Christendom, all theirs in Heathendom. Now that they have been brought out of the darkness of superstition into the clear light of the gospel of Christ they will look to profit by the example of Christian characters long formed. The eyes which began by looking on us with suspicion, then with eager inquiry, are now looking towards us not merely for sympathy and encouragement but for instruction in many details with which they know that we, their elders in Christ, must needs be more familiar than they.
And herein lies the increased responsibility of us all whereof I have already spoken--a responsibility which rests on you, my brethren, even more heavily than on the clergy. And our Corean Christians are of the laity. Like yourselves they have received instruction in the way of salvation from our lips. They know that their newly assumed Christian duties are not. more binding on them than on you--that whatever privileges can be claimed by you belong equally to them. If then we would welcome them as brethren, if we would give them what they now most need, namely edification, the time has come--has it not?--for us to ask ourselves how far the life of Christian devotion and practice in each one of us is a life which they will recognize as consistent with that which they are beginning to learn is the devotion and practice of the full members of the Church. The rules which are the invariable condition of enjoying the privileges of the Catholic Church are new to them. They are well known to us who have grown up under them in a country where we have breathed the very atmosphere of Christian tradition. Is our practice according to our knowledge? We have, now living amongst us servants, teachers, friends, acquaintances, who are bound by the same rules and entitled to the same privileges, it will inevitably follow that, in their inexperience, they will look to you for guidance and will follow the example which you set. It is then your great privilege to create a Christian atmosphere, to perpetuate the traditions of the one, undivided Church of God in this land of your adoption.
Permit me to put before you certain matters in which it seems to me our practice will most affect them and in which their practice, born of a new enthusiasm, ought to produce a wholesome effect upon us.
The 5th Vol. of the Catechism for Catechumens contains, as some of you have seen, an outline of those rules and practices by which we members of the Church of England are taught to order our lives. In such matters therefore our Corean Christians have been taught what you yourselves have learnt, what the Church of England everywhere has taught in her recognized formularies, based by her on the Bible, the Prayer Book, and the undoubted traditions of the undivided Church. You will not indeed expect them to have received from us any teaching in such matters diverse from that which you have received.
So in our instruction of the Catechumens, we have taught them that Fasting and Almsgiving are duties imposed by God on all men and therefore imposed by the Church of England on her members: that confession of sin and absolution are necessary for all; and that when the sin-burdened soul desires the further need of sacramental confession and the assurance of individual absolution these blessings are within the reach of every member of the Church when they are asked for: that the communion by the faithful of the Body and Blood of Christ is equally obligatory on all Christians because of the Divine command and as being the supreme and continuous witness to visible unity.
On such fundamental matters as these you will not expect my clergy to have spoken with hesitation or to have even suggested to the Catechumens that the diversities of opinion and practice in these respects which characterise and often agitate our brethren at home may with advantage be reproduced by the Church out here. Most happily our devotional practices, during the nine years of preparation for these baptisms, have presented a uniformity and a unanimity which I believe to be absolutely without parallel in the history of the Church. Of this well considered, well tried, well attested uniformity our Corean brethren are now to have the full benefit. But if, by the mercy of God, we have been able for nine years to maintain a Pentecostal unity of "doctrine and fellowship" we must see that--now more than ever--we exhibit a Pentecostal "power" in our daily "witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" by a diligent use of that "great grace" which is within the reach of us all.
The question of sacramental (as distinct from general) Confession will present to our people few of the practical difficulties which beset our brethren at home when they wish to avail themselves of a liberty which is secured to us by the Prayer Book. The Exhortation to the faithful in preparation for Holy Communion on the Lord's Day and to the sick in preparation for death will be listened to by Coreans without the accompaniment of any of those irrelevant issues which are now confusing simple folk at home. As with yourselves so with them, if Sacramental Confession is "compulsory" it will be because the conscience of the individual, not the priest, compels. The priest "exhorts," "moves," and then waits to exercise his ministry on those who find that they cannot otherwise "quiet their own conscience." But the Laity of this Diocese know quite well by this time that Sacramental Confession is neither on the one hand neglected by us nor on the other is it required by the Clergy as a necessary preliminary to receiving the Holy Sacrament.
Closely connected with this matter is the question of Church discipline. Our Fathers in Christ who wrote the Preface to the Commination Service deplored the loss of the discipline of the primitive Church and our brethren in England still pray annually that it may be restored. What difficulties there are in the way of its restoration at home I know not. But here, though it cannot be "restored," I see nothing to prevent its being established. At the same time I must remind you that whatever Canons of Discipline the future Synod of the Church in Corea may promulgate they cannot be binding, without your consent, on you, in a country where, though you are aliens, your rights are secured to you by Treaty as subjects of the Queen and members of the Church of England.
If then you wish fully to identify yourselves with our native brethren and take your great part in building up a national Church in Corea I counsel you to make a fresh study, with this view, of the Church's order and discipline as contained in the Prayer Book; and to remember that while you can follow out here the Church's rules in all simplicity, without either being misunderstood or raising angry controversy, your determination to fall into line with our Corean brethren in such matters cannot fail to be most helpful to them and most beneficial to your own souls.
Our Blessed Lord's teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere, with regard to Fasting and Almsgiving has naturally formed an important part of the instruction of our Catechumens. The Church--I need do no more than remind you--has provided rules whereby her children may be helped to obey these commands of Jesus Christ with regard to the due regulation of their bodies and their substance. For years, by the issue of Almanacs, we have been endeavouring to familiarize our enquirers with the names of the Church's round of Fast and Festival. In these privileges and duties our Corean brethren have now an equal share with us; and (let us be sure) they will be helped or hindered in their use of them by the use or the misuse which they see we make of them. With respect to Almsgiving they will be taught at once the duty of supporting their churches and their ministers as well as of relieving the sick and poor amongst them to the utmost of their ability. Having been yourselves supplied with churches and the manifold means of grace free of charge you will see that in regard to Almsgiving for the support of the church and the Church's poor, you, like our Corean brethren, are at the beginning of the lesson. They, in common with all Coreans, believe us to be possessed of great wealth and they must see that we at least are doing ourselves what we require them to do. Fasting and Almsgiving are repugnant to the natural man. They are designed to strengthen the Corean in the weakest part of his nature. The Church's distinction between days of fasting and days of abstinence will form the subject of a separate Pastoral from me shortly. But whatever self-denial, in these two respects of Fasting and Alms-giving, our Corean brethren accept for themselves I pray you, most affectionately, to adopt henceforth for yourselves as far as possible; and this for your own sake but, even more, for the sake of those of us who are but beginners in the work of subduing the flesh to the spirit.
But above all things I desire to have your co-operation in our attempt to make the Lord's Day a reality to our Christians--and this again not only for their sake and our own but for the sake of the surrounding heathen to whom the Sunday is either unknown or is in danger of becoming, especially in the Treaty Ports, a secular holiday. For ourselves and for our people we must do all we can to make the beginning of each week a day of "holiness unto the Lord"--knowing that in proportion as our Sundays are ill spent our belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus will be weakened. And yet we are in Corea for no other purpose than to give our witness of this resurrection with "great power." Accordingly, our Christians are being taught to welcome that day with special joy and preparation--to lay aside as far as may be all occupations that hinder them from coming to church to discharge that threefold duty of Christian men--of worshipping God, feeding their souls, and meeting their brethren in God's house. They have been taught to attend the Holy Eucharist every Sunday and to receive every Sunday the Body and Blood of Christ for the preservation of their bodies and souls. Thus, every Sunday, they will both be strengthened themselves and will strengthen others--each individual member proclaiming and sealing the unity of the Church by his example whilst be secures for himself a closer union with her Divine Head. For them (as I trust for us all) there will be no absence from this service on the Lord's Day without due cause and no attendance an this service without communicating on the Sundays and principal Festivals of the year. If hitherto we have allowed the Lord's Day to pass without this fresh cementing of our union with Christ let us do so no more. We must not set them a bad example in the Church itself.
Let then the gathering in of these poor people be an inducement to us, as it certainly is an opportunity for us, to "renew our strength" and "to do all things to edification."
And by those of you who are exercising your Lay ministry as Missionaries it must ever be borne in mind that henceforth our example is going to speak much louder than any words or out wind ministrations. Our work as Missionaries will be estimated (may I not say also, our success will be guaranteed?) by the fidelity, the generosity, the enthusiasm with which we ourselves observe the commandments of God and of His Church.
Commending you to God and praying for a greater outpouring of His Holy Spirit upon you,
I am your faithful and affectionate
Servant in Christ,
CHARLES JOHN CORFE,