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The Proposed Bishopric of Ballarat

From Mission Life, Vol. III (1872), pages 726-728.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006


A PARAGRAPH in the daily papers has recently informed us that a Bishopric has been established at Ballarat, in the Diocese of Melbourne, and that the appointment of the first occupant of the new see is placed in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We have reason to think that the statement is premature, for, from an application which has been sent to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, we learn that only some £3,000 have been promised or paid towards the endowment which has been fixed at £20,000, in order to give the Bishop an income of £1,000 per year.

The Church Assembly of the diocese is entirely wise in determining that an income, adequate yet moderate, shall be provided before the Bishop is selected. It is on all accounts essential that a Bishop shall not depend for his income on voluntary payments, which may be withheld if he happen to be unpopular; and it is hardly less desirable that lack of endowment should lead to the appointment of a man whose private resources shall form one of his chief recommendations, because [726/727] they render him indifferent to professional income: in the one case the people may be tempted to use the power of the purse tyrannically, in the other to shirk their legitimate burdens and not to pay anything. We rejoice, therefore, that the rocks on which similar schemes have more than once been shipwrecked are likely to be avoided in the present case.

But seeing that the alternative schemes of diving the diocese or appointing a coadjutor-Bishop have been before the church for some seven or eight years, we can congratulate Victorian Churchmen neither on the alacrity with which their plans are matured, nor on the scale on which their pecuniary contributions are made. There are, by the last census, 729,000 souls in the colony, of whom rather less than one-half are members of the Anglican communion. Taking the number at 350,000, remembering also the immense prosperity and rapidly-increasing wealth of Victoria, it does strike us as strange that any help should be sought from England to raise the sum of £10,000; for the State Aid Grant will contribute an equivalent sum to whatever may be raised voluntarily, and therefore the effort of the Church is limited to a moiety of the whole. Still more strange, even painfully so, is it, that only about £3,000 have been collected, when help from England is sought for as a stimulant to colonial zeal.

The question then is changed in form, and we are tempted to see the causes of such economy, to use no stronger term, which is in painful contrast with the open-handed liberality with which are colonists are wont to be credited. There must be some lack of enthusiasm, some failure of appreciating the results of an active episcopate, some deficient education in the matter of almsgiving, some weak spot in the system of Church finance, where, after an appeal to a large and wealthy diocese, such pitiful results ensue. We believer that the large sums granted by the local legislature must plead guilty to the indictment of demoralising the people. It is the old story: a Churchman in the colonies has to be taught (and the lesson is not quickly learned) to contribute to the maintenance of the church in which he worships; while the Nonconformist, who has been accustomed to do so all his life, feels it no hardship, the Churchman is always asking what the Government is going to do, and be is very willing that the Government should discharge his obligations for him.. There must be hosts of wealthy men living in luxury in England on the fortunes which they made in the Antipodes; some of them, no doubt, have large interests in the colony still: on these then, as well as on the people actually resident in Victoria, the church has an equitable claim. The progress of the Australian Church in the last twenty-five years has been very great; in Victoria itself the clergy have increased from 3 to 120, and the churches are now more than 200. Much attention has been given to organisation and to machinery. A [727/728] Church constitution, in which the three orders of Bishop, Clergy, and Laity are represented, has been recognised by the colonial legislature, and is in full working order; and nothing has been left undone to secure uniformity of ritual and teaching. We begin to fear that too much attention has been given to organisation, and to the maintenance of uniformity, if only £3,000 are forthcoming for the division of a diocese nearly as large as England, with a Church population of 350,000. We write this with no ill-feeling, but rather to encourage Melbourne Churchmen to greater efforts.

The diocese is one of four which were founded in 1847, and Bishop Perry is one of the four prelates who were consecrated in Westminster Abbey on St. Peter's Day of that year. One, alas! the Bishop of Capetown, is no longer with us; the other three, the Bishops of Melbourne, Newcastle and Adelaide, still remain. If the Churchmen of Melbourne want examples to stimulate their zeal, we point to the history of the three dioceses, which are of the same age, but none of which have enjoyed such material advantages as their own. To begin with, the area of Melbourne is only 80,000 square miles; Adelaide was nearly four times, Newcastle more than six times, Capetown nearly thrice as large. Melbourne alone has produced gold to an extent which has depressed the value of specie in England, until some of us are at our wits' end what to do in the face of the decreased purchasing powers with a sovereign possesses. In South Africa various climatial visitations have from time to time reduced the country almost to bankruptcy, and a vast heathen population has received the care of the Church, while it has of course drained its resources and checked its powers of expansion; nevertheless the single diocese has grown into six, exclusive of the Centre African Bishopric, and the 13 clergy of 1847 have become 135 in 1872. The original Diocese of Adelaide has been divided, and neither the parent see nor the daughter Diocese of Perth receive any help from England. Newcastle was in 1859 relieved of the colony of Moreton Bay, which formed its northern portion; and in 1867 a further re-arrangement was advantageously made by the establishment of the See of Grafton and Armidale. Melbourne alone has remained the same area as when it was first established a quarter of a century ago.

If these lines should be read by Victorian colonists, we would assure them that they are written with no unworthy motive, no desire to give pain; they deal simply with facts, which are borne out with figures, and the conclusion to be drawn from these facts we do not suggest.

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