Project Canterbury

Leaders of the Canadian Church
Edited by Canon Bertal Heeney

volume two
Toronto: Musson, 1920. 299 pp.

by The Ven. Archdeacon Dobie, D.D.
St. Chad's College, Regina, Saskatchewan

AT a meeting of the Provincial Synod of Rupert's Land, held in Winnipeg in August, 1883, the following resolution was passed:--

"Whereas, the Bishops of Rupert's Land and Saskatchewan have consented to a separation from the Dioceses of such portions of their respective Dioceses as lie within the district of Assiniboia in the North-West Territories, as denned by the Dominion Parliament and set forth in a map under date 15th of March, 1883; therefore, the Provincial Synod hereby forms the Province of Assiniboia into a Diocese to be known at present as the Diocese of Assiniboia. Secondly, the Provincial Synod hereby authorizes the Metropolitan to inform the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of this Province, of the formation of such district of Assiniboia, and to request His Grace to appoint a Bishop to said Diocese as soon as His Grace is satisfied with respect to the provision for the support of the said Bishop."

At that time there were in the District of Assiniboia three clergymen working, one at Regina, the Rev. F. W. Osborne, an S. P. G. Missionary; one, the Rev. J. P. Sargent (afterward Dean of Qu'Appelle), who travelled from Brandon westwards to Regina, ministering to settlements along the line of the C.P.R., and one, the Rev. Gilbert Cooke, a C. M. S. missionary to the Indians at Touchwood Hills. It was to this new Diocese with its far-stretching boundaries that the Right Reverend, the Hon. A. J. R. Anson, came in 1884.

The previous year Canon Anson, as he was then, responding to the needs of this newly opened district, had offered his services to the Bishop of Rupert's Land. He had given up an important work as rector of Woolwich to come to strengthen the hands of the Bishop in his efforts to provide the ministrations of the Church in the West. He visited several of the centres of settlement acting as Bishop Machray's commissary for Assiniboia. When he had seen the great need of more Clergy and of funds to support them, he returned to England to try to get men for the work and to raise funds for their support. This he was successful in doing.

He was on the eve of returning to carry on the work for which he had given up the Rectory of Woolwich when the Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom the appointment rested, offered him the Bishopric of the new Diocese and urged upon him that it was his plain duty to accept it. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel having guaranteed £400 a year for the income of the Bishop until the £ 10,000 for the endowment of the See could be raised, he was consecrated on St. John the Baptist's Day, 1884.

In the events leading up to his acceptance of the Bishopric we get an index to the character of the man. He had been moved by the letters of Bishop Machray, written to the missionary societies in England, to give up his Rectory at Woolwich and offer his services for work in the West. In accepting the Bishopric there were three main factors that weighed with him: the voice of authority in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury calling him to the work; he had taken a foremost part in raising the money that was needed for the work; but the reason that carried most weight with him was that he felt very deeply the need of men who could in a large measure support themselves and not be dependent on others for income. He had means of his own which placed him in this position. He appealed to men to come to the work simply for the work's sake--even asking them, if they had private means, to give not only themselves but all they possessed to the work, and if they had nothing of their own to come, and having food and raiment therewith to be content.

There was to be a common fund out of which all were to share alike, and the grant made by the S. P. G. for the support of the Bishop was to be added to this fund.

Three Priests came out with the Bishop, and two others shortly afterwards joined the staff, accepting the principles upon which he had made his appeal.

He was not unmindful, however, of the duty of the people unto whom these priests ministered. If he and his Clergy were making sacrifices in order to carry the message of the Gospel to the people scattered over the Diocese, no less was it the duty of the laity to give of their substance for the cause of Christ and His Church. It was a constantly reiterated charge to them that they should not be dependent upon the offerings of the people in the Mother Country, but should develop as quickly as possible a large measure of self-support. No one was in a better position to make this appeal, for not only did the Bishop give freely of his own, but he was able to do much by the kind gifts of his personal friends and relatives in England. During the eight years that the Bishop laboured in the Diocese he not only shared the income of the See with his clergy, but he gave practically the whole of his private income for the work.

The Bishop on his arrival in 1884 took up his residence at Regina, but the following year moved to Qu'Appelle, where he had procured a section of land two miles north of the town. Here a residence was built for the Bishop, and a large house which was for some years used as a college for theological students, and a home for agricultural students, who were taught the principles of farming. Here also were certain laymen who were banded together in a brotherhood to do whatever work they could, and in any capacity in which the Bishop cared to employ them.

The household was a strange mixture, but it lets us see something of the mind and vision of the man. It had in some ways a touch of monas-ticism about it. The farm, with its pupils who paid fees, was meant, among other things, to be a source of income for the support of the theological students and the lay brothers who managed the household, and were meant to be of service to settlers nursing them in sickness and helping them in other ways. That the scheme did not fulfil its anticipations in no way detracts from the vision of the man. He was determined, above all things, that the Church over which he presided should be as far as possible a self-supporting Church, free from dependence upon England for the money necessary to carry on the work. Conditions at that time militated against the success of the scheme, for not only was it a new country, where men had to learn by experience something of climatic conditions as these affected the production of grain and other agricultural products, but the country was at that time having a series of crop failures owing to lack of rain. It was a trying time and there were days of real hardship for everyone, but the Bishop never lost hope. He shared the hardships without complaint, and whatever he may have thought, at any rate no murmuring escaped his lips.

In 1886 besides the buildings already mentioned, through the generosity of friends a building was erected to be used as a boys' school, and a Master in Priest's Orders was obtained, but just as the Bishop was looking to see one of his visions made a reality--the school was ready in September--the Priest had to return to England on account of ill-health, and no successor was at that time forthcoming. The Bishop was keenly disappointed, for he had seen in his journeyings about the Diocese the great need for such an institution for the young boys scattered about on the homesteads. Settlement was sparse, public schools were few in number, and the Bishop saw numbers of boys growing up without that educational training so necessary to a nation's proper growth. His disappointment was consequently great when he had to abandon the hope of opening the school until some man with a missionary spirit would offer to take up the work of the school under the same conditions in which the clergy of the Diocese were labouring, that was, without any guaranteed stipend. The school was not, as a matter of fact, opened until 1889, and in the Charge to his Synod in 1890 we get the mind of the Bishop on the matter near to his heart at all times. He recognized that the public schools in the Diocese were good as far as they went, but they did not educate the whole man. They left on one side that which was so necessary for their real well-being, definite religious instruction. "Education in the truths of our holy religion is no exception to other education. If it is to have any effects on the minds of the young, it must be clear, definite, dogmatic."

The Bishop felt very keenly that education in religion ought to form a part and a very important part in the education of the young, and pleaded earnestly for the support of the Synod in furthering the interests of the boys' school within the Diocese. He made a solemn protest against the grave anomaly, as it seemed to him, of the present system of public education in the country, that one religious body should have special privileges, such as those granted to the Roman Catholic Church, and that all other religious bodies should be grouped together under the unmeaning name of Protestant, as though the Church had nothing more to impart to her children in religious faith than a protest against the errors of Rome. He maintained that the Catholic Faith of Churchmen was something more than a mere negation, and it was a real grief to him that Churchmen should be content to acquiesce without a protest against the anomalies existing, or, that they should not be at more pains to see that their children had a right grounding in the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. To educate the intellect only was to leave untouched the great moral forces upon which a nation should be built. He was a voice crying in the wilderness, but religious readers everywhere are coming to recognize the soundness of his views and are urging for some form of religious instruction in the public schools.

The Bishop felt very keenly the great loss of power in the Church through the disjointed state, which then existed, with its two Provinces and four independent Dioceses, and welcomed the move that was made in 1890 towards consolidating the Church in Canada; and although he had been told by the Metropolitan that if the Diocese of Qu'Appelle sent delegates to the proposed conference which was to consider the question, it would be the only one within the ecclesiastical Province, he did not hesitate to urge upon his Synod to appoint two delegates to represent the Diocese, notwithstanding the fact that it was held by some in authority that the Provincial Synod was being ignored. He saw in the steps being taken a new power which would have far-reaching effects, adding incalculably to the efficiency of the Church. The want of unity in the Church he felt to be a great hindrance to its progress and its power for good in the country, so he threw himself whole-heartedly into the scheme which contained the possibility of united action, for therein in his judgment lay the solution of some of the weakness of church work and organization. He wished to see the East and the West more closely united, and the Canadian Church --he considered the name of the Church of England in Canada a misleading title--speaking with power and weight which such unity would give in any matter of public legislation, such as national education or laws concerning marriage. Not that only, but he considered the Church in Canada should undertake the mission work amongst her own Indian population, and not leave that great duty to the missionary efforts of the Mother Church.

It has been pointed out that in the early years of his Episcopate there was a common fund. As the number of parishes increased and money was raised locally for the stipends of the Clergy, the question of appointments to parishes naturally arose. These appointments had been up to 1890 entirely in the hands of the Bishop. A Canon was prepared and submitted to the Synod in that year with a view to giving the parishes some voice in the matter. The Bishop was anxious that only the highest principles should prevail. He knew the danger that lurked in giving the parish the power of election, and he wanted the Synod to be guided by the real principle of Church Government. To avoid the danger of mere expediency which |might arise when the congregation should have the appointment of its own Parish Priest, simply because they paid for him, he wanted to have a common treasury into which all the faithful paid according to their means, and out of which each district was apportioned according to what it needed for the maintenance of the necessary ministrations of the Church. This he felt would do away with much parochial narrowness. The Parish Priest would be much more of a free agent in preaching the Gospel and all that its teaching involved, and without fear or favour to reprove, to rebuke, to exhort, to instruct with all authority.

The Bishop, as is known, held very definite views as to the position of the Church as a branch of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, and whilst he had an intense dislike of party shibboleths, he was of the definite opinion that the Church would make greater progress in this country by the maintenance of the authority of the Church as the one body of Christ, endowed by Christ Himself with all gifts necessary for the healing of souls and their establishment in all godliness of living. Mention has already been made of the want of power of united action in our Church as a hindrance to the progress of the Church, but there were other things which he felt to be no less hindrances to that progress: the want of more freedom and elasticity in the way of conducting services. He wanted other kinds of services besides those which are normally ordered in the Prayer Book, especially for those who were not accustomed to our services.

His opinion on the subject of the name by which the Church is known in Canada was one to which he held tenaciously all through his episcopate, and is often referred to in his charges to his Synod. To him the name was not only meaningless, but positively harmful, anomalous and indefensible. He was, of course, quite well aware of the difficulties in the way of changing the name, but he never ceased to regret that a misleading name had been saddled upon the Church.

Bishop Anson was not the man that would have appealed to many to be chosen as a Colonial Bishop. He had many characteristics which would be considered as unfitting him for such a post. He was, to begin with, of a very retiring disposition, quiet to a degree, not ready of speech in an ordinary way. His upbringing and anterior life would be supposed to not exactly fit him for such a life as the Bishop of a Prairie Diocese is called upon to live. Whilst not a recluse in the ordinarily accepted use of the word, yet he was a student, a scholar of no ordinary calibre, but perhaps not a great student of men. The mark, however, that he left upon the life of the Church in the Diocese and on the lives of many who came into contact with him, clergy and laity alike, is indelible. A man of great personal holiness, a great preacher in its best sense, of intense earnestness, and, as will have been gathered from what has already been said, of a self-sacrificing nature worthy of all imitation, he never spared himself; he endured hardness as a good soldier of Christ. What those hardships meant to him only those who were about him could know. He never spoke of them, but his way of accepting them inspired many lesser men to go on when otherwise they would have fallen by the way. He was not a man easily understood, but to know him, his ideals and the motives that inspired him, was to thank God for such a leader. He laid the foundations true and deep, and to him more than to any other man the Church in Qu'Appelle owes a debt which cannot be overestimated.

The Bishop resigned the See in December, 1892 and returned to England, but he never ceased to take the greatest possible interest in the Diocese, and as President of the Qu'Appelle Association he worked untiringly to forward the work of the Church he had shepherded with such loving care for more than eight years.

At his last Synod in June, 1892, the following resolution was passed by a standing vote:--

"That this Synod had heard with much concern and deep regret that their Bishop, who may be called the founder as well as the organizer of the Diocese, is about to resign his charge to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"This Synod recalls the fact that nine years ago, when as Canon Anson, the Bishop first came to this country, there was no church or parsonage, and only one clergyman who held services at various points on the newly built railway. The work accomplished since that time is due to the self-sacrificing missionary zeal of the Bishop.

An endowment of $50,000 has been raised for the Bishopric, twenty-four churches have already been built, parsonages are found in almost every parish, and for several years past a staff of eighteen clergy has been maintained. In addition to this, St. John's College, the Diocesan institution at Qu'Appelle, has been built, and has already done useful work in the Diocese. When all these facts are considered by the clergy and lay members of this Synod, who feel themselves bound not only by the obligations thus created, but by far deeper ties of personal reverence and affection for the Father in God, from whose hands they have received for nine years the bread of their spiritual life, they view with much sorrow the prospect of a separation.

"This Synod would therefore express its gratitude to God for the blessings the Diocese has received at the hands of His servant their Bishop; would thank the Bishop most sincerely for his untiring and self-denying labours in their behalf; would pray that God would grant to him many more happy and restful years, and ask that they may ever, as they feel sure they will, be remembered in his prayers."

This appreciation was reiterated by the Synod which met in June, 1909, just after the Bishop's death, in a resolution, part of which was as follows:--

"Bishop Anson will ever be remembered for his holy, devoted, self-denying labours, his unbounded liberality, his great sympathy, his singleness of heart and simplicity of life, ever forgetful of self while intent upon helping ana1 encouraging others."

The Bishop had a busy life in England, first as Warden of S. John's Hospital, Lichfield, and later as Canon of Lichfield and assistant to Bishop Legge in that Diocese. He passed to his rest after some months of great suffering in May, 1909.

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