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, Advent, 1900.
Dear Fellow-labourers in the Lord,
We have been engaged in the active work of the Mission for now fully ten years. In 1890 the two stations in Seoul and Chemulpo were opened. In 1892 a third was added in Manchuria and, shortly afterwards, work was begun in the island of Kanghoa. These four stations constitute the various centres in which the fully equipped work of the Church is now being carried on and towards which it gravitates. In all of them, as soon as God permitted it to be definitely begun, the work has been continuous. Often amidst great difficulties in supplying them with an adequate staff of clergy the services of the Church have, nevertheless, been performed in all four, with scarcely a break, Sunday after Sunday.
At first our places of worship were either rooms set apart for the purpose in the Mission houses or Church rooms built or adapted for the due celebration of the Holy Mysteries. The recent completion of the stately Church in Kanghoa enables me to say that these temporary buildings have, in all four of our mission stations, been now replaced by permanent structures, containing all things needful for the reverent and intelligent performance of divine worship.
In 1890 and for some years after, the congregations using our Churches were necessarily European, who must ever be considered to have the first claim on our ministrations (see Gal 6. 10 and 1 Timothy 5. 8). But to day, in our three Corean Mission centres, we have not only clergy who are able to minister in the Corean language but Coreans--men, women and children, together with the boys and girls of our schools and orphanage--who daily delight to receive their ministrations. These Coreans, in all three stations, are either Christians, Catechumens or Enquirers; whilst of the Christians, those who have been confirmed are regular and frequent communicants. Thus, in all three stations the church exists in its fulness, having permanent and adequately furnished buildings, which are attended daily by the faithful laity, who are ministered to by resident priests and superintended by a Bishop who, so far, has been able to oversee all and to be a connecting link between each.
In this enumeration I am, for the present purposely omitting the English work in Manchuria and the Japanese work in two of our Corean stations and other parts of Corea:--the former because it is not strictly mission work and latter because I have as yet, been unable to get the Japanese Christians ministered to by clergy in their own language. For my present purpose too, I may omit the work done amongst Europeans in Seoul and Chemulpo, for, though we are always ready to minister to them, it happens that the members of the Church of England amongst the European residents of these two ports--always few--are now very few indeed.
Thus, then, we have in these three stations a variety of agencies and a growing number of Corean Christians and Enquirers--hospitals and dispensaries which both affect our pastoral work and are affected by it--an orphanage and a boarding school--village schools by which we hope to bring the children and their parents into the Church--a printing press which from the first has done monumental service and, lastly, the independent stations opened this year in the South of Kanghoa. All these agencies are wholly Corean. The language used both in the Church and outside, is Corean. The Holy Scriptures and the Book of Common prayer which are being translated with all due speed into Corean are the only books used in our Churches. A Catechism for the instruction of our Catechumens has been compiled in Corean and authorised for use throughout the Diocese. Prayers, hymns and tracts in Corean have similarly been provided, for the supply of the devotional needs of our people tit home and in Church. Services of preparation for Holy Communion and of thanksgiving after, together with private prayers to assist their devotions, have been carefully framed and are used by all our Christians every week in our three Churches.
The ordering of our Churches and their ritual are such as to enable any of our Christians travelling from one station to another to feel instantly at home, the order, the usages and the practices in all our Churches being uniform. And although we are as yet without Canons of Discipline attempts are made, and from the first have been made, in each of our stations to deal in the Church's way with those cases which our pastoral experience leads us to believe are cases where discipline ought to be exercised. In a word, as it has been our desire ever since 1890 so it has been our invariable practice, ever since we had a practice, to commend to Coreans the Gospel of the Grace of God in every way that could be devised, declaring to them "all the counsel of God" but in such a way as to induce them to accept it not as a foreign religion, still less as a badge of European civilisation, but as satisfying the needs of the human heart, which in all men, is "naturally Christian."
And as the life of the Church can no more be stopped with safety than the life of the individual I have indulged in this brief retrospect, of matters which are well known to you all, in order that I may place before you what I cannot but feel are our most pressing needs in the immediate future. If the chief work of the past five years has been the diffusion of the seed, the all important work of the present is to learn how to use the growth which God has given.
The consolidation of the first fruits that they may be "pressed down and shaken together" even though they do not yet "flow over"--this appears tome to be the pressing need of the immediate future. As the mission was begun by a Bishop so the whole of our aim--the aim (I thankfully record it) of every member of the mission staff--has been to avoid Congregationalism. So long as we had no congregations this aim amounted to little more than a hope, an intention, a resolution. But now the congregations are here and, whilst the welding together of the component parts of each congregation is mainly the work of the priest in charge of each mission, the welding together of the various congregations into a coherent body, is the work of the Bishop, clergy, and faithful laity acting together. It is that work to which I would now invite you all.
No one with any accurate knowledge of the history of the mission during the ten years of its existence would call the diocese a "priest-ridden" Diocese; but some of those who are most intimate with its history have at times been tempted to regard the Mission as somewhat "Bishop-ridden." I do not want to take this opportunity of either justifying or defending myself for anything I have said or done amongst you in my ministry. A Bishop must needs lead and in any other diocese than this he has the help of his clergy who welcome him when he arrives and aid him in a hundred ways with their counsel. I had no such help, for there were no clergy either to welcome or to advise. And so for some time though I had to lead, there were none to follow. That was in 1890. It is different now. Now there only needs to be a consolidation of our component parts and the Diocese if it is Bishop-ridden will be so no longer. It has been my constant joy to know that whatever my lead has been it has been followed loyally and faithfully by all of you--you who, with scarcely an exception, are far better qualified than I to judge as to what is best to be done in your several departments. But the Bishop must perforce lead and whilst I thank you from my heart, for all your fidelity and affectionate co-operation you will not be surprised to hear that the strain of the last ten years, being no longer necessary to the Church, is one from which I would fain be released by you.
And the time must come when our Corean Christians will wish to take their rightful part in Church organisation. The docility with which they follow the lead of their clergy is a most encouraging symptom of their capacity to take this part when the opportunity is offered to them. And the opportunity ought now no longer to be delayed. If we are ever to have a native ministry we must begin to encourage them to organise for its support as well as for the purposes of maintaining their Churches, of giving alms to the sick and poor and of propagating the Gospel in Foreign parts. It will be long indeed before the Church of Corea is a self-supporting Church. Nevertheless, in my opinion, we cannot too speedily now lay down the lines on which self-support and a native ministry are in the future to be developed. The questions must soon arise, if they have not already arisen, in their minds what is to be done with the alms which are given at the weekly Eucharist? And for what purposes appeals for their alms should be made?
Closely connected with this and with the need of Church organisation is the subject of the Mission Finances.
The funds which have made our medical and nursing, our education, printing and orphanage work possible come, as you are aware, mainly from sources external to Corer,. On the other hand the repairs and insurances of our Churches and mission buildings as well as the maintenance of the clergy have hitherto been provided by the grant from S.P.G.
There is a material difference between these two separate sources of income. The latter is fixed and assured for a given period, at the expiration of which we hope that the Society's grant will be renewed.
The former is precarious in its nature and uncertain in its amount.
(1) The Education Fund which is used for our Christian and village schools.
(2) The Hospital Naval Fund which concerns only the Medical work at St. Matthew's and St. Luke's.
(3) The Children's Fund which is expended principally in the Orphanage.
(4) St. Peter's Missionary Association which enables the Sisters to carry on the Women's Hospital and Dispensaries in Seoul.
(5) The Association of Prayer and Work for Corea which is now providing for the maintenance of the Sisters and Nurses and, when it can, helps us to defray the expense of passages.
(6) The S.P.C.K. which has helped us in many ways and now gives us a small annual grant for the support of a doctor. This source of income however, though precarious, is fixed.
With regard to the work maintained by these funds it is increasing yearly. Looking at the last Annual Report it is difficult to see how these six sources can suffice much longer to supply our growing needs.
Turning once more to the S.P.G. grant it is now wholly expended on the maintenance of missionaries and buildings. There is no margin. Nor can a margin be expected to be found in the Special Fund for Corea which is administered by the Society. Formerly the donations of the members of the A.P.W. were sent to this Special Fund which was opened for Corea by S.P.G. in 1889. But the maintenance of our Sisters and Nurses has so largely increased of late--with the increase of their numbers--that there is but little left for the Special Fund.
You will understand, therefore, that the financial condition of the Mission is just now giving me not a little anxiety. There are so many sources of income, each 'earmarked' for specified undertakings, each undertaking threatening to exceed the limits imposed by the income. There is no possibility of making up a deficiency in one fund from the surplus of another, and no possibility of taking money from the S.P.G. grant to help the rest. There are two dangers to be apprehended from this condition of affairs. The getting enough money from these six sources of income to supply the increasing demands of the Mission impost's a tusk upon the Bishop which, even if it were fitting for him to undertake it, is entirely beyond his powers. To him it becomes a growing evil with which, year by year, he is less able to cope. The time has come for me to endeavour to find some means by which these various sources of income may be consolidated and thus, I hope, increased so long as our need of money increases.
But, again, I have to consider the view which S.P.G. takes of those various associations or committees formed for the purpose of assisting the Society's Missions on whose behalf it has opened Special Funds. When I look round and see these churches, schools, mission houses and other buildings which have been bought or built mainly or entirely by the Society's Annual grant to Corea I reflect that the money which has done such things has been spared by the Missionaries--the Society's Agents themselves--who have preferred that, their bare maintenance being secured, the balance of the annual grant (which in the earlier years of this decade was large) should be expended in this way. I am sure that the Society will never be forgetful of the self-denial shewn by all the members of the Mission Staff through these ten years. And I am very anxious to take all the advantage I can of the provisions made by the Society for receiving and disbursing, according to the intentions of the donors, the Special Funds entrusted to its care for particular Missions.
In a word, whilst in the first part of this letter I dwelt on the need of consolidating our various Corean congregations--preparing for the day when (please God) we shall be an organised Society with our own Constitution, Synod and Canons--I am now impressing upon you the need of bringing our home finances--so far as may be--into one channel through which will flow-all the offerings which our many friends are disposed to give to Corea.
Two advantages, I think, would result. The funds from these various sources would come to us through the Special Fund of S.P.G. This would help forward the work of consolidating the Church in Corea since but one account would have to be kept instead of several. And secondly, if we have at home one organisation to deal with we shall be more likely to get a hearing from the people who are sincerely trying to do their duty fairly by the Foreign Missionary work of the Church.
Sooner or later we must have a Finance Committee in Corea for the distribution of these funds; and on that Committee--later perhaps rather than sooner--our Corean Christians must be represented if any serious attempt is made to foster the spirit of self-help amongst them. At present they think that we are 'made of money' perhaps because they see that everything which we tell them they need instantly appears. But they must be made to feel that a share of the responsibility rests upon them when it has to be decided in what directions and in what proportions the money given ought to be spent. And when there is a Committee which is responsible to the donors for the expenditure of the money given--whether the donations are represented by S.P.G. or by the freewill offerings of our poor people--a great step will have been taken towards teaching our Corean Christians that the offerings from England are intended to supplement not to supersede the efforts of the Church of Corea.
At least three of the funds of which I have spoken are now shewing signs tlmt they are unable to bear much longer the strain which is being put upon them here; and unless something in soon done in England--analogous to that which, now that our congregations are formed, we have to do in Corea--I fear that there will be a disaster so serious that we may have not only to close hospitals and schools but to postpone indefinitely the developement of a native ministry. What that something will be I cannot say for I do not know. But I am so concerned at the possibility of our becoming (financially) a rope of sand that I have determined to take the first opportunity which offers of going to England--I hope for not longer than six months--not indeed to beg for money but to gather as many of these funds as possible into one organisation and so to bring them into line with the S.P G.'s Special Fund for Corea.
And as I desire to connect once for all the consolidation of our finances in England with the consolidation which I look forward to in the immediate future of the Church in Corea it will be necessary for me to approach the Archbishop of Canterbury who, as President of the S.P.G., will be guided by the advice of the standing Committee. As to the organisation of the Church in Corea I see nothing to prevent our setting ourselves to the task of preparing for it at once. I have already suggested to the Vicar General a method of procedure which if I am absent I trust he will see his way to adopt. It is a method which if I mistake not, will go a long way towards making Congregationalism as impossible amongst us in the future as (thank God) it is at present.
In conclusion I will ask you to bear one or two things in mind. By many of our most generous supporters this Mission has always been known as Bishop Corfe's Mission to Corea. By many others it is known as the S.P.G. Mission to Corea. How true, in a sense, this latter name is I need not say. I have often called the Society "the Mother of Churches" and she has been a true mother to us, But what the Society aims at in its work is what each one of us is aiming at--namely the establishment of a branch of the Catholic Church in Corea, complete in its organisation and, from the first, learning so to develope its energies, spiritual and temporal, as to present to all men a concrete body--a seedling at first, but a seedling whose "life is in itself." Humanly speaking, these three fully equipped mission stations in Corea--so close to one another in position, so identified with one another in faith and practice, so united to one another in spirit and the love of the brethren--will form the nucleus of the future Church. I do not know that I shall live to see it formed but I feel I must strain every nerve before I die to get the Church at home to recognise the Mission, not under my name nor under the honoured name of the Society but as one of her own children--"a very member incorporate in the Mystical Body" of Christ.
No doubt my going to England will be attended with inconvenience, perhaps with danger. But I must not think of that. Nor must you. A Bishop's duties are sometimes performed better out of the Diocese than in it. And, so far as I can see, the danger to be apprehended from my leaving the Diocese for six months is less now than it has ever been. The parishes are organised and settling down to there work. The hospitals only await the return of Dr and Mrs Baldock to resume their former activity. The Mission Press has already been moved to Kanghoa where, I hope, it will provide employment for some of the elder boys in the school. Arrangements have even been made for placing Sisters in Kanghoa as soon ns the return of the two now in England makes it possible. Only one or two more details have to be disposed of and then, if my way seems clear, I shall leave. But as the date of my departure, if it comes at all is likely to be sudden I shall have to go without taking leave of you. For this reason as well as for the purpose of taking you into my confidence--as is my wont in all matters which concern the welfare of the Mission--I have written thus at length--relying on you to support me with your daily prayers (whether I am permitted to attempt this difficult task in England or am compelled to bear the burden a little longer in Corea) and begging you to set yourselves to the more important, less difficult and pleasanter task of consolidating our Mission with a view to preparing yourselves and our dear people for the day (which may God hasten!) when the Church in Corea shall be enabled to do her work on Apostolic lines, in Apostolic directions and with Apostolic equipment.
I am your faithful servant and affectionate friend,
C. J. CORFE.