Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By the Rev. A. E. David, M.A.

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1908.

Chapter III. The First Bishop of Australia

THE appointment, in 1829, of William Grant Broughton as archdeacon, marked the first step towards the dawn of a brighter day in the dark continent of Australia. As assistant-curate of Farnham he had been brought previously under the notice of the first Duke of Wellington, who, with his keen eye for men, had discerned in the young priest qualities of peculiar promise. On the duke's nomination Mr. Broughton had been appointed Chaplain of the Tower, and it was after holding this office for a few months that the duke offered him the vacant Archdeaconry of New South Wales. In this connection it is worthy of note, as marking the tardy growth of England's conscience in regard to her responsibilities to those whom she was sending across the seas, that in an interview with Mr. Broughton, the duke, after speaking of the possibilities which lay before the colonies, should have concluded with the [32/33] pregnant words, "They must have a Church." That Church owes a deep debt of gratitude to the great soldier for his selection of one who in after years so ably and faithfully translated the duke's words into an accomplished fact. In September, 1829, Mr. Broughton arrived in Sydney to take up the duties of his office.

In the Letters Patent constituting the See of Calcutta, Australia had been included within the jurisdiction of that bishopric, from the occupant of which it could naturally expect no direct episcopal oversight. Referring to this arrangement, and the size of his own area of jurisdiction, Bishop Broughton 'at a later period described his position as "having one church at S. Albans, another in Denmark, another at Constantinople, while the Bishop would be at Calcutta, hardly more distant from England than from many parts of the Archdeaconry of Australia." On arrival he at once proceeded to acquaint himself with the spiritual condition of the population. In the course of five years he had visited all the different settlements, and endeavoured to excite the settlers and the Government to undertake the erection of schools and churches, devoting also what time he could spare to the compilation of a grammar of [33/34] aboriginal dialects, with a view to the evangelization of the blacks, who wandered round the occupied country in considerable numbers. Meanwhile the population was rapidly increasing, and, although some years before his arrival five chaplains had been commissioned to minister in New South Wales, the spiritual needs of the colony had far outstripped the powers of one archdeacon and his handful of clergy.

To meet these overwhelming necessities he determined to visit England in 1834, and in his appeal to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge stated that since the establishment of the colony more than 100,000 convicts had been transported, of whom it was estimated 25,000 were still resident in the place. This number was being increased by annual additions of 2,500 to New South Wales, and 2,100 to Van Dieman's Land. Up to 1826 the British Government had assisted in erecting churches and providing schools, but since that date the burden of this provision had been thrown on the colony, with the result that since 1821, notwithstanding the enormous increase in population, no additions worthy of notice, except churches at Newcastle and Port [34/35] Macquarie (then occupied as penal settlements), had been made to the number of places of worship belonging to the Church. In the interior a few meagre buildings, unfitted for the decent celebration of divine service, had been erected.

By his energetic efforts public interest at length was successfully aroused, and in answer to his appeals the home Church, through the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, granted considerable sums for Church extension, which, with private contributions, amounted to £13,000. Also, the archdeacon was enabled by these means to double the number of his clergy, each one of whom, as he stated, "would have the effect of adding a year to his life, or prevent its being shortened by that interval through overwhelming anxiety and distractions." But the most important result of his visit to England was that he was enabled to induce Church and State to co-operate in founding a see in Australia, and on February 14, 1836, he was consecrated, under Letters Patent, by Archbishop Howley, as its first Bishop. On his return he found that English aid had created a better disposition among the settlers to contribute towards providing the essentials of divine [35/36] worship, for at a meeting of the principal colonists, held soon after his return, a sum of £3,000 was subscribed for this purpose. A year later a diocesan committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was formed, which in their first annual report (1837) stated that thirty-two additional churches were in course of construction, and that a gratifying increase had taken place in the ranks of the clergy. These signs of local growth are noteworthy as indicating that the Church was at .last entering upon a new phase of its life, in which it was no longer to be an exotic institution, but was striking its roots deep into the new soil with good promise of future self-propagation. This movement was aided in 1840 by the determination on the part of the home Government, in deference to colonial remonstrances, to stop the transportation of convicts to New South Wales, though the system continued in force elsewhere in Australia. England thus was no longer to send out the dregs and scum of her population as the founders of empire. From this time onward Australia occupied an important place in the system of English colonization. The capabilities of the country were becoming known, and they [36/37] tempted, not only capitalists, but also workers, to exploit her latent resources. In less than half a century from the time that the first convicts touched her shores Australia had grown into a dependency which, despite her origin, gave promise of developing into one of the nations of the world.

As a separate see which demanded fuller organization, and with vast possibilities of future expansion before it, the new Church also possessed opportunities which Bishop Broughton was not slow to recognize, and he threw himself vigorously into the varied and extensive work of his office, of which the salient features only can be here recorded. As a member of the Legislative Council he fought hard for the maintenance of the privileged position of the Church of England, and offered strenuous though futile opposition to the measure introduced in 1834 for the equal treatment of all religious bodies in the matter of State assistance. In this connection also he was called upon to take part in a prolonged struggle upon the education question, first of all against the introduction of undenominationalism, and subsequently against proposals by which Roman Catholic schools would receive an undue proportion of the education grant, in both of which [37/38] cases his opposition was successful. Of the latter struggle he wrote, "I am set in the front of the battle against the forces of the Roman Catholics, and have almost singly to sustain against them the cause of the Church of England." The appointment, in 1845, of Dr. Polding as Archbishop of Sydney and Vicar-Apostolic of New Holland caused great apprehension and excitement in Sydney, and was met by a firm and dignified protest from Bishop Broughton, who denied the right of the Roman Church to intrude a Bishop into the jurisdiction of "a lawful Bishop of Australia according to the canons and usages of the Church." The Bishop regarded this instance of Papal aggression as an invasion of the rights of Canterbury and an attack upon the supremacy of the Crown, consequently he was disappointed that the question was not taken up in England, and his experience in this matter led him to regard the oath of supremacy as useless, and to advocate its abolition in the colonies.

In connection with this question of the Royal Supremacy, he was also involved in another controversy which caused much friction. Chaplains were sent out by the English Government entirely apart from the Bishop's control, and from time [38/39] to time clergy thus appointed set the Bishop's authority at defiance. Ultimately, in the case of the Rev. C. B. Howard, a clergyman stationed in South Australia, Lord John Russell acknowledged the right of the Bishop's jurisdiction, and chaplains were directed to pay canonical obedience to their spiritual superiors. It is interesting to note in connection with these questions of Papal aggression, jurisdiction, and especially religious education, that, in the words of Bishop Broughton, written just before his death, "every great question which has agitated the mind of the Church in this country (England), has had, as it were, its previous rehearsal upon the narrow stage of the colonies."

Visitation, for the purpose of stirring up the enthusiasm of settlers and administering the rite of Confirmation, naturally occupied a large part of the Bishop's time, and how faithfully and laboriously he discharged this important duty his journals show. Not only did he penetrate to the remotest settlements within his diocese proper, but he found time to visit Tasmania and New Zealand, which places lay outside the area of jurisdiction conveyed to, him under Letters Patent. In the meantime the population was increasing by leaps and bounds, and the demands made upon his [39/40] energies and generosity were almost overwhelming. One of his first acts on entering upon his episcopate was to collate to the newly-formed Archdeaconry of Van Dieman's Land an old college friend, the Rev. William Hutchins, whose name and labours are commemorated in the grammar school at Hobart. Archdeacon Hutchins died in 1841, but his work prepared the way for the establishment of the See of Tasmania, which was founded in the following year. In 1836 the settlement of Port Philip, now the state of Victoria, was formed, and grew rapidly. Shortly after its foundation the town was visited by Bishop Broughton, and arrangements were made for settling a permanent clergyman in the place who should minister in a little wooden church already erected. Thence he proceeded to Hobart Town, from which place he sailed for New Zealand, where, after visiting the various missions, he ordained to the priesthood the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, subsequently the first Bishop of Wellington. In 184o the islands of New Zealand were formally added to the British dominions, and, through the assistance of the newly-formed Colonial Bishoprics Council, founded at the instance of Bishop Blomfield, they were constituted a diocese, to which, in 1841, [40/41] the Rev. George Augustus Selwyn was consecrated Bishop. This subdivision of his vast area, together with the appointment of the Rev. Francis Russell Nixon as first Bishop of Tasmania, came as a welcome relief to Bishop Broughton, who was enabled to give greater attention to the affairs of the Church on the island-continent of Australia, where new settlements were springing up on all sides.

In 1836, under the auspices of the South Australian Colonization Association, which in the previous year had obtained a grant of lands in that part of Australia from the Imperial Government, the colony of South Australia was practically founded, and two years later the Rev. C. B. Howard arrived as its first resident chaplain. In 1824 the Moreton Bay district, in what is now Queensland, had been proclaimed a penal settlement, to which convicts were transferred notwithstanding the nominal cessation of the transportation system. On the district being thrown open for free settlement, Bishop Broughton dispatched the Rev. John Gregor, in 1843, to minister to the six hundred settlers in that locality, the population of which was rapidly increasing. Thus in the course of a few years Bishop Broughton found himself called [41/42] upon to oversee an area comprising the whole of the south-east of Australia, which to-day is the scene of the labours of thirteen Bishops. Referring to these prolonged visitations, Bishop Broughton wrote pathetically in 1843, "I have just been a journey of fifteen hundred miles, occupying more than three months, and I ought to start again to-morrow. It cannot, must not, go on."

In 1844 he urged strongly upon the Archbishop of Canterbury the necessity for establishing a see in South Australia, but owing to difficulties felt by the Colonial Office, he received no encouragement. Two years later, however, the matter was taken up by the Colonial Bishoprics Council, and arrangements were made for the formation of three new dioceses--Adelaide, Melbourne, and Newcastle. Through the generosity of the late Baroness Burdett-Coutts the See of Adelaide was endowed; whilst by the aid of contributions and the self-sacrificing surrender of a large proportion of his income by Bishop Broughton, the endowment of the Sees of Melbourne and Newcastle was facilitated. This subdivision of his diocese relieved Bishop Broughton of a jurisdiction of 880,000 square miles. The Dioceses of Melbourne and Adelaide [42/43] were co-extensive with the settlements of Port Philip and South Australia, whilst that of Newcastle comprehended an area of 500,000 square miles lying to the north of Sydney. S. Peter's Day, 1847, must ever remain memorable in the annals of the Colonial Church, for on that festival there were consecrated by Archbishop Howley in Westminster Abbey four Bishops who would in after years play an important part in influencing its destinies, namely, Robert Gray, Bishop of Capetown; Charles Perry, Bishop of Melbourne; Augustus Short, Bishop of Adelaide; and William Tyrrell, Bishop of Newcastle. Through this long delayed forward movement, the original Diocese of "Australia" was reduced to an area of 100,000 square miles, and, as it could no longer be properly termed "Australia," Bishop Broughton's charge was reconstituted, and under fresh Letters Patent he was created Bishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of Australia, with jurisdiction over the Bishops of Tasmania and New Zealand. His induction to the metropolitical see took place on January 25, 1848, being the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the colony.

Bishop Broughton had now more time to visit the many settlements springing up within his own [43/44] diocese, but the state and prospects of the outside districts filled him with dismay. "Wherever I go," he wrote home, "it is but to witness a scanty population scattered over tracts of country hundreds of miles in extent, without churches or ordinances, clergy or instructors of any kind, and without any means of Christian education for the children." To meet these wants he made a large sacrifice of his own income, and with the assistance of grants from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, he was enabled to provide a few additional clergy. The previous decade had brought troublous times to the colonists owing to bad seasons and dissensions connected with land tenure, and money was scarce; still the progress of diocesan affairs was by no means stayed, and at Sydney and within the more closely settled area church building went steadily on, assisted by the liberality of several active and generous workers in England, notably the Rev. Edward Coleridge. The foundation stone of S. Andrew's Cathedral had been laid by the Governor, Sir Richard Bourke, as early as 1837, but no great progress had been made until 1846, when a new committee was formed and fresh plans adopted. In 1846, [44/45] S. James's College, for the training of candidates for Holy Orders, was opened at Sydney--the precursor of Moore College, founded in 1856 by the munificence of a wealthy colonist, Mr. Moore, who bequeathed about £20,000 in money to the diocese, and also a considerable area of land, the latter for the purpose of endowing a theological college, to be called after his name.

The discovery of gold during the last years of the Bishop's episcopate added much to his labour, and anxieties. The rush to the goldfields brought a mass of people, representing all classes, sects, and creeds, into the Diocese of Sydney. The first rush was to Ophir, near Bathurst, in 1851, where thousands collected in a few months, and much social disorder and laxity of morals prevailed. The Bishop was one of the first to appreciate the necessity of bringing religious influences to bear upon the cosmopolitan population attracted in such large numbers to one district. He immediately hurried to the spot, and, stimulated by his precept and example, the miners erected a canvas church on a wooden frame within a period of four days, in which the Bishop was able to preach and celebrate Holy Communion on the Sunday following. This is a [45/46] typical instance of the unforeseen demands made upon the resources of the Church by the sudden displacement of population owing to the gold discoveries. Sailors deserted their ships in the harbour, teachers abandoned their schools, whilst artisans, tradesmen, and others, left their pursuits, to join the mad rush in order to become rich in a day. That this mineral wealth enriched the community goes without saying, but the moral effect of the gold fever was disastrous. Disturbances were frequent and widespread, and the Church in New South Wales and Victoria was confronted with a new call upon her energies, to which she found the greatest difficulty in responding.

For some time past the necessity for a more central form of organization in the management of Church affairs, especially in regard to matters of ecclesiastical discipline, had been keenly felt by the Bishops. In practice the exercise of jurisdiction through Letters Patent had proved nugatory, whilst the confusion occasioned by the Gorham Judgement was creating unsettlement in Australia. With a view to determining such matters and formulating a policy for the Church in Australia, the Metropolitan summoned a [46/47] conference of his suffragans in 185o. The whole question of the relations of Church and State was at this time wrapped in much obscurity, but the gathering was a memorable one as representing the first definite step on the part of a Colonial Church to free itself from the shackles of Erastianism. The summons to the conference was responded to by the whole of the Australasian bench of Bishops. There were present the Metropolitan (William Grant Broughton), George Augustus Selwyn of New Zealand, Francis Russell Nixon of Tasmania, Augustus Short of Ade4aide, Charles Perry of Melbourne, and William Tyrrell of Newcastle, the last-named being secretary. A month only could be given to deliberation, and at the outset, owing to the uncertainty of their position, the conference passed a resolution affirming that they did not claim to exercise the powers of an ecclesiastical synod. Eventually the following recommendations, as containing an outline of Church polity, were made:--(1) The Canons of 1603 were acknowledged to be generally binding on Bishops and clergy, but revision was stated to be desirable. (2) Provincial and diocesan synods of Bishops and clergy, together with provincial and diocesan conventions of the [47/48] laity were recommended, whilst questions affecting the temporalities of the Church should not be decided without the concurrence of these conventions. (3) Church membership, giving a title to the ministrations of the Church, should be secured to the baptized, on condition that they were conformable to the doctrine, government, rites and ceremonies contained in the Book of Common Prayer. (4) Communicants only should be eligible as members of the conventions. (5) Discipline should be exercised over Bishops by the Bishops of the province; over clergy by the diocesan synod; over laymen by private admonition, by excluding from Holy Communion according to the rubric, and in the last resort by excommunication, which would release the clergy from the obligation to use the Burial Service over them. (6) Clergy should not be removed from their benefices except by sentence of the diocesan synod. (7) The rubrics should be observed, and clergy who concluded the AnteCommunion Service with the Offertory Sentences, and Church Militant Prayer were not to be regarded "as holding opinions at variance with the sound teaching of the Church." (8) Warnings were issued against the solemnization or [48/49] contracting marriage within the prohibited degrees, and persons contracting such marriages were stated to be liable to be expelled from Holy Communion. (9) In order to relieve "the perplexity of pious and thoughtful men," a clear pronouncement was made upon the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, from which the Bishop of Melbourne unhappily dissented. (10) All defective, erroneous, indefinite, religious instruction in Government schools was emphatically discountenanced. (11) The establishment of an Australian Board of Missions for the evangelization of the heathen of Australia and of the islands of the Western Pacific was urgently advised.

These recommendations, which, in the light of after events, disclose remarkable wisdom and foresight, were subsequently submitted to the various dioceses for their approval, but the time was not yet ripe for independent synodical action, and the answers returned deprecated any action which seemed to infringe on the prerogative of the Crown. In view of the importance and the obscurity of this question, the Metropolitan decided to visit England in order to take counsel with the home episcopate. He arrived in 1853, as the bells were tolling for the funeral of his old friend [49/50] and patron, the great Duke of Wellington. Early in the following year, after a short illness, he was called to rest, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. He was a man of great power and intellectual capacity, and through his apostolic labours in laying the foundation of the Church in Australia he will always stand forth as one of the most prominent figures in the history of that Church. Honoured by friend and foe alike, he advocated unflinchingly the cause of what he felt to be true and right, and he passed from his labours followed by expressions of universal regret. To quote Sir Alfred Stephen, Chief Justice of New South Wales, "No man ever went down to his grave full of years and honours carrying with him more deservedly the respect and veneration of his fellow-colonists. . . . I believe that by all classes and by all sects no man in the colony was more universally respected than Bishop Broughton." To this lay testimony may be added that of his successor, Bishop Barker: "The memory of the late Bishop may well be held in honour throughout the Province of Australia. His zeal and diligence, his high-minded and disinterested sacrifices, the foresight displayed in the creation of new dioceses, the patience with [50/51] which he met the difficulties of his position, are well known to me: and although it was not my privilege to be numbered among his personal friends, the opportunities I have possessed of becoming acquainted with the excellences of his character and the primitive virtues of his life have inspired me with a genuine and affectionate regard for the first Bishop of Australia."

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