Project Canterbury

Address of Metropolitan

By Francis Fulford

From Journal of the Proceedings of the First Provincial Synod of the United Church of England and Ireland in Canada, held in the city of Montreal, from Sept. 10th to Sept. 14th inclusive, in the year of our Lord MDCCCLXI, with an Appendix.

Montreal: Printed by John Lovell, St. Nicholas Street. 1861, pages 15-25.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2008


HIS LORDSHIP then delivered the following Address:

Right Reverend and Reverend Brethren, and Brethren of the Laity,

It has been with no ordinary feelings of interest that I, and I am sure I may say that all of us, have looked forward to this meeting of the first Provincial Synod of the Church of England in Canada; and, appointed as I was, certainly most unexpectedly to myself, to the responsible office of Metropolitan of this Province, I have earnestly sought for that gracious help of God's Holy Spirit, which we have now, in our united prayer, just solemnly invoked; and I also ask the kind co-operation and consideration of all the members of this Synod to aid and uphold me, while I endeavour, to the best of my judgment and ability, to discharge the important duties devolving upon me. And when I look around and reflect upon the character and standing of those who form this our great Council of the Church, when I remember of what body they are the representatives, I cannot but feel stirred up to give God thanks that hitherto he has thus helped us, and am animated also with a good hope for the coming time. What a contrast is thus afforded to the recollections of many here present! Indeed there are two of my Right Reverend Brethren, who from their age, and long and active labours, no less than their office, may in an especial manner be looked upon as Fathers of the Church in Canada, and of many of its important institutions. Our Senior Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Quebec, in an address he made to his own Synod last year, spoke of the commencement, within the recollection of some aged men still living, of the Episcopate of the first Anglican Bishop in this country, with but five Clergymen in the whole Province, with which his Diocese was co-extensive. Though [15/16] the Clergy had been largely increased, yet still they were but few and widely scattered, when my Right Rev. Brother himself succeeded, as the Bishop of the same undivided Diocese, now upwards of a quarter of a century ago: while my Right Rev. Brother of Toronto has stated that at the time of his ordination by the first Bishop of Quebec in 1803, he made but the fifth Clergyman in the whole of the Upper Province. We are assembled here, as the representatives of five separate Dioceses, (reckoning that of Ontario,) with not less than three hundred and fifty Clergy officiating in them.

In the days of its early struggles, the Church was strictly missionary in its character, and supported almost entirely by external aid. But a great change has been gradually working throughout it; and its whole position has assumed a very different aspect. Having grown into so large a community, occupying so extensive a territory, possessing such various interests and institutions, and with an increasing character of stability and permanent establishment in the country, it was felt that some organized system of regular government and discipline was imperatively called for. Circumstanced as we are in this country, it was necessary that this should originate within the Church herself: and under the sanction of our Synod Acts,* [* See Appendix (B), page 73.] which, having been passed by the Provincial Legislature, received the sanction of the Crown, we have been enabled to meet in our several Dioceses, in our corporate character, and make regulations for our internal government and discipline. These organizations are yet in their infancy amongst us; but watching as I have done, most carefully, their rise and progress, and largely participating in every movement, dating from the Conference of Bishops of British North America, held at Quebec in 1851, I feel fully persuaded that we are acting with true wisdom in originating them; that they were become essentially necessary to us in our present state, and that they will, under God's blessing, [16/17] increasingly contribute to the efficiency of the Church; that they tend to excite a greater interest in the breasts of the laity, and disseminate generally amongst us truer and more enlarged views respecting it.

But if it be well to gather separate parishes together in each Diocese, for the promotion of good government, and as indicating the corporate character of the Church under one chief Pastor, so also it is still farther desirable to gather separate Dioceses together, according to the ancient usage of the Church, in Provinces: that the representatives from the several Dioceses, meeting together, may consult respecting such matters as concern the Church in its more collective capacity; and be themselves, again, links in a still farther bond of the whole body of the Church throughout the world.. We know the enormous power which is wielded by the Church of Rome from that unity which arises from the submission of the members of that communion to the single authority of the Pope, as the universal Bishop. We deny any such claim both on Scriptural authority and on the testimony of the universal church, from the beginning. But Dr. Field, formerly Dean of Gloucester, in his learned and elaborate Treatise "Of the Church," while combating the claim of the Bishop of Rome, argues strongly for the true corporate character of the Church; and its great power and influence, when duly exercised. He argues that "the fulness of ecclesiastical power and jurisdiction is in the companies, assemblies and synods of Bishops and Pastors, and not in any one man alone." And then he goes on to show the gradation of these assemblies: "Things were so ordered in the beginning that as Presbyters could do nothing without the Bishop, so the Bishop in matters of moment might do nothing without his Presbyters. If any difference grew between the Bishop and his Clergy, or if (consenting) any one found himself grieved with their proceedings, there was a Provincial Synod holden twice every year, in which the acts [17/18] of Episcopal Synods might be examined. These provincial synods were subordinate to national and patriarchal synods, wherein the primate of a nation or kingdom, or one of the patriarchs, sat as president; and in the national and patriarchal synods the acts of provincial synods might be re-examined and reviewed. So that it is evident that the power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction resteth not in Bishops alone, but in presbyters also, being admitted to provincial and national synods, and having decisive voices in them, as well as Bishops; nor in any one Metropolitan, primate, or patriarch, within their several precincts and divisions, but in these, and their fellow bishops jointly; and that much less there is any one in whom the fulness of all ecclesiastical power, and the right to command the whole Church, doth rest." And so the Church should rise higher and higher in its order, until, if it were possible, which in these days of division and separation it is not, we should come up to the general or oecumenical Council, such as was held on great occasions from time to time in the first few centuries of the Christian era--and whose authority in certain cases our own communion acknowledges.

But if we cannot arrive at such a consent of Christendom in its entirety, how much is it to be wished, that we could be seeking, and, as far as may be, advancing towards it--and hear our widely spreading branch of the pure and reformed Catholic Church of Christ speak with the full voice of her collective body! And why may not this be prayed for and hoped for? The Church of England for upwards of two hundred years after the era of the Reformation was confined, almost entirely, within the four seas that surround the British Isles. Its wonderful progress within the last half century, or rather more, including the trans-Atlantic Branch in the United States, has almost equalled in magnitude the growth of the Church in the Apostolic age. But it has been so sudden, and so widely extended, particularly during the [18/19] last twenty-five years, that we were not prepared for its grandeur or the consequences of its complicated organization and one serious matter now under the consideration of the Church at home is, how to secure the harmony of its parts, the general unity of the whole, together with the necessary independent government of the several branches in all matters of local detail and internal discipline; how growing branches are to keep up their individuality and corporate character in their own localities, and yet preserve unbroken their real ecclesiastical standing in relation to the Mother Church? Upon this important subject I received a letter of enquiry some time since from a member of the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury, and I felt that I was as yet in no position to give any satisfactory reply. Parishes are independent of one another, but united under one Bishop in each Diocese. Dioceses are independent of each other, but have a means of united action in each Province, under one Metropolitan. Then all these Provinces must have some coherence, some means of united action, some means of being heard in matters of common interest to all. Are there not occasions when it would be a glorious thing, if the whole reformed Catholic Church could make herself heard with a voice of authority, and speak trumpet-tongued to the world on high matters of faith? Have not all a common interest in the authorized version of the Word of God and the Book of Common Prayer, both of which are now being assailed from various quarters?

It was, then, to take a step in this direction that, after we had organized our Diocesan Synods in this Province, three of the four then existing Dioceses presented memorials to the Queen, asking Her Majesty to appoint a Metropolitan, that we might have the power of carrying onward our ecclesiastical organization. There is no question of the fact that the office of Metropolitans was one of very early date; it is alluded to in the sixth Canon of the General [19/20] Council of Nice, held as early as the year 325, as the ancient custom of the Church which was to be adhered to; where it is called archaia ethe, (antiqua consuetudo); and one reason mentioned is that no consecration of a Bishop was to be allowed in any province without the Metropolitan taking part in it:--not, however, that he was to exercise any arbitrary power, but that the consecration was to be determined by the majority of votes in the Provincial Synod--"sustineat sententia plurimorum." But this Canon provided against a private or independent action of suffragan Bishops proceeding to the consecration of new Bishops at their own discretion. The development of its organization in the early Church, no doubt arose out of the necessity of finding ways for the discipline and government of its rapidly extending branches--making all to harmonize and carry out one great principle and course of action. Thus it was ordered by the Council of Antioch: "Let there be two provincial Synods every year, and let the Presbyters and Deacons be present: and as many as think they have been in any way hurt or wronged, then expect the determination of the Synod."

The power of the Metropolitan was in calling the rest of the Bishops to the Synod, in appointing the place of meeting, and in sitting as President in the midst of them; and as, Dr. Field, observes, "so were things moderated, that neither the rest might proceed to do anything, without consulting him, nor he do anything without them, but was tied in all matters of difference to follow the major part. The causes that were wont to be examined and determined in the meeting of the Bishops of the Province, were the ordinations of Bishops, when any churches were void, and the depriving and rejecting of all such as were found unworthy of their honour and place; and in a word, any complaint of wrong done in any Church was there to be heard. Thus at first all matters were to be determined, heard and, ended by Synods, and they holden twice, every year. But in process of time, when the [20/21] governors of the Church could not conveniently assemble in Synod twice a year, it was first decreed at the sixth General Council that they should meet once; and afterwards, many things falling out (partly from the poverty of such as should travel to Synods), to hinder their happy meetings, we find they met not so often; until at length it was ordered that Episcopal Synods should be held once every year, and provincial, at least once in three years. And so in time causes growing many, and the difficulties intolerable in coming together, and in staying to hear these causes, thus multiplied end increased, it was thought fitter to refer the hearing of complaints and appeals to Metropolitans, and such like ecclesiastical judges, limited and directed by canons and imperial laws, than to trouble the pastors of whole Provinces, and to wrong the people by the absence of their pastors and guides." Such seems to have been the reasonable, and we may say almost the natural growth of the early ecclesiastical polity of the Catholic Church: to provide for its government, its unity, and its increase. Parishes, Dioceses, Provinces, Patriarchates, and General Councils, one after the other, in due succession. "The spirits of the prophets being bound to be subject to the prophets."

In process of time the assumption by the Bishop of Rome of the character of vicegerent of Christ upon earth, and his claim to be the sole universal bishop, gradually undermined the whole system and, as I said before, the reformed Catholic Church in England from its position, at first failed to realize the necessity or the wisdom of its reconstruction; which, however, is now urgently demanded by the complicated, and at present undefined nature of the relation between the widely extended and increasing members of its spiritual family, as the body of Christ. Blackstone, in his celebrated "Commentary on the Laws of England," mentions that "it hath been an ancient observation in the Laws of England, that whenever a standing rule of law, of which the reason perhaps [21/22] could not be remembered or discovered, hath been wantonly broken in upon by statutes or new resolutions, the wisdom of the rule hath in the end appeared from the inconveniences that have followed the innovations." And that has often proved a truth in ecclesiastical, no less than in civil polity. And if there has been any rule of law or system of organization that once gave power to the Church, which has fallen into abeyance, through disuse or misapprehension of its meaning and application, it will be our wisdom to try and revive it, adapting it, as far as we may be able, to present circumstances and times, and to any canons and laws, either Colonial or imperial, to which we owe obedience.

In consequence of the memorials presented to the Queen, respecting the appointment of a Metropolitan for the Province of Canada, I received in July, last year, the Patent which has been read to you. Upon looking it over, I found that there were some important omissions in the Preamble; one of which was the leaving out every reference to the present Bishop of Quebec, as having presided over this diocese before me; and making me the successor of Bishop Stewart; and also in the description of the districts contained in the Diocese of Quebec. In consequence, I did not think it right to have it enregistered or published in full, without first communicating with his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was then in Canada, in attendance on H. R. H. the Prince of Wales. The Duke desired me to write him an official letter on the subject, and he would forward it to the Queen's Advocate General for his opinion. I accordingly wrote such a letter: and on the 21st of January last I received a communication from the Secretary of His Excellency the Governor General, together with a draft of a new Patent: Mr. Pennefather wrote to me as follows:--"The Duke of Newcastle has been advised by the Queen's Advocate that the errors mentioned in your letter to him of August 24, 1860, [22/23] do not affect the validity of the instrument, but His Grace has thought it advisable to cause fresh letters patent to be prepared, of which a draft copy is enclosed. His Grace has given directions that this draft shall be placed in your hands for the purpose of being submitted as well to your Lordship, as to the other Bishops concerned, and also to any person in whose legal knowledge, and experience you may have confidence." I had, however, sometime previous to the receipt of this draft of a new Patent, caused so much of the original one to be printed, as had reference to my actual appointment as Metropolitan, and the powers intended to be conferred upon me--leaving out the preamble, where the errors occurred; and which contained no matter of any great moment that was necessary to the understanding of its nature. I sent several copies of this to the different Bishops; and it was printed in full in the Toronto Ecclesiastical Gazette, in one at least of the Daily Newspapers in this city, and I believe elsewhere. I subsequently visited Toronto, London, and Quebec for the express purpose of conferring with the Bishops of the several Dioceses, and any other persons, clergy or laity they might wish to be present with us. I found a strong impression entertained, in some quarters, that the tenor of the Patent was not altogether in harmony with our Synod Acts. Now as it is thought necessary to issue a new Patent sent out here for our consideration, and as the Queen's Advocate, in a marginal note to the draft, asks "whether any and what additional powers are requisite for the proper carrying out the objects of the Church Synod Act, and the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in this matter?"--it seems to me that we have just the opportunity we require of seeing matters so adjusted, that hereafter we may hope to work cordially end satisfactorily together. I thought it my duty not to send home the draft, until I had brought the whole subject before this general meeting of the Canadian Church. I wish it to be calmly and wisely and fully investigated. I covet for my office no extraordinary nor [23/24] unnecessary power or authority still less do I wish to contend for what may be unsanctioned by the law of the Province. I should myself wish the whole matter to be referred to a committee of the Synod, who should be instructed to enquire into the bearings of the Synod Acts and the Patents of the several Bishops; and, if there is any inconsistency, to report how the powers and office of the Metropolitan can be made to harmonize with them. And I should wish them to take a still higher and wider view of the subject, and see how too our relations with the mother Church of England, and all its branches extending through every quarter of the world, are to be preserved in loving and faithful unity. We have present here amongst us able lawyers, learned divines, and those who are zealous for the honor of Christ and the increase of his Church,--persons fully competent to do ample justice to so great a subject. It is a subject which must be taken up sooner or later, and calls for some definite action. From Canada first went forth the word which led to our present Diocesan organization, which is being carried forward through all the Colonies of England. It would be a noble completion of our work, if we were, under the gracious guidance of God the Holy Spirit, not only to settle any internal difficulties and harmonize the action of our own Provincial Synod, but also strike again for our Reformed Church the key note of primitive antiquity, which shall find an echo in the farthest limit of this Continent, and throughout the various portions of the other Hemisphere--proclaiming aloud before heaven and earth, that "we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."

I have trespassed somewhat on your patience, while I have entered into these details, but I hope the subject and the occasion will be sufficient excuse. I should have rejoiced if it had fallen to my lot to have listened to another occupying this place instead of me; but, having been called to this office, I have given the subject long and anxious thought and enquiry; [24/25] and in any discussion that may arise, or in any arrangements that may be prepared for our future proceedings, whatever difference of opinion may be manifested, I trust that we shall all endeavour to preserve such a temper, as becomes those who are met together to consult for the welfare of Christ's Church, and to promote the glory of God. I have no intention to dictate to the Synod what shall be their present sent course of action; but in case we are prepared to proceed to our organization, with a view to the future despatch of business, I have caused some papers to be printed, which can be placed in the hands of different members, and form the basis of our deliberations. They are framed something upon the same plan as was acted upon when our Diocesan Synods were first constituted, and consist of a proposed "Declaration of Principles," a "Constitution," and a "Permanent Order of Proceedings." Something of this kind will be necessary before we shall be in a condition to enter upon any Synodical business. The Synod will, of course, adopt, alter, or amend them, as they shall think fit. And may God, in His great mercy, for Christ's sake, give us grace to do that which shall be most conducive to the increase of piety, and the furtherance of true religion and purity of life.

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