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The Life of John Travers Lewis, D.D.
First Archbishop of Ontario

By His Wife

London: Skeffington and Son, no date.

Chapter III. Consecrated First Bishop of Ontario

Surely in the election of John Travers Lewis to the newly formed Diocese the man and the hour had, in the providence of God, met. There was, however, a delay in the reception of the Queen's Mandate giving him and his successors the status of Lord Bishop of Ontario. This delay, which was so little understood in a small city, choked the enthusiasm of the people, who desired a speedy consecration, and it gave room for any scandalmongers of the day to suppose that some defect must have been found in their choice.

The following letter from the Duke of Newcastle was, however, eventually received:

"Downing Street,
"20th August, 1861.


"I have received your despatch, No. 46, of the 25th June, 1861, forwarding a copy of a letter from the Bishop of Toronto, and requesting that, in conformity with the desire expressed by his Lordship, Letters Patent should issue, appointing the Reverend J. Travers Lewis, LL.D., as first Bishop of the proposed Eastern See of Ontario.

[43] "I have to inform you that the necessary measures will be taken for giving effect to the wishes of the Synod in this respect: but I think it right at the same time to acquaint you that it will be impossible, in the short time allowed since the receipt of your despatch, to complete the necessary instruments and transmit them to the Colony by the date which you have assigned as that of the meeting of the Synod in September next.

"I have, etc.,

(Signed) "Newcastle.

"The Rt. Hon. Sir E. Heard, Bt., K.C.B., etc."

This communication was followed early in the next year by the Letters Patent, dated February 18th, 1862, which cost £500. This indebtedness was quite unexpected, and so alarming that representation was made that it formed one-half of the Bishop's stipend, who had already been nearly nine months halting, being neither Rector of Brockville nor Bishop of Ontario, and was eventually deleted. The joy amongst the people was great, as this was the first consecration in Canada, the Bishops having hitherto been chosen in England and consecrated before they sailed.

This solemn service was held on 25th March, 1862, at the Cathedral Church of S. George, Kingston, Ontario, by the Most Reverend Francis Fulford, D.D., Lord Bishop of Montreal and Metropolitan of Canada, assisted by their Lordships, the Bishops of Quebec, Toronto, Huron, and Michigan.

[44] This was the first episcopal consecration held in Canada, and the Church had thus attained to a new era in her history. Bishop Lewis was only then in his thirty-sixth year, but his scholarship, executive, and speaking ability marked him as one well chosen for the position.

The first meeting of the Synod of the new Diocese was held on the 9th and two following days of April, 1862, at Kingston. The Bishop called the Synod together thus early after his consecration in order that an Act of Incorporation might be obtained from the Provincial Legislature during that session.

The proceedings commenced with morning prayer, sermon and communion in the Cathedral, the Rev. Dr. Lauder, the Bishop's secretary, being the preacher. In the course of the sermon he reminded his audience that "in sixty years the Church's progress in that colony had been from having one bishop and four clergy to their present status of five bishops and more than 300 clergymen."

The Synod met by appointment at 2 p.m., and was opened by the Bishop with prayer. The routine business of adopting a constitution and other necessary preliminary arrangements to put the Synod into working order having been gone through, the Bishop proceeded to read the first portion of his address, which brought before Churchmen the real and true method of combination and association for the good of the Church. It suggested the genuine Church principle on which conjoint efforts ought to be made for carrying out their work. Since 1842 there had been [44/45] in those Canadian dioceses "Incorporated Church Societies." They were incorporated for the purpose of their being enabled to hold property in the colony. The condition of membership, and, of course, of having any power in administration, was of a pecuniary character. It was not necessary that a member should also be a member of the Church. Anyone, by subscribing five dollars--(a guinea)--a year, was eligible to become a member of the Church Society.

The Bishop took a different view of this matter from that which had hitherto been acted upon. He suggested making the Synod the only Church Society; and that there should be no legal difficulty in the way he proposed that the Synod itself should be incorporated and thus become the legislative, and also the administrative, body for all Church requirements in the diocese.

The following particulars were strongly urged as reasons why they should have no Church Society, but that the Synod itself should be incorporated:

1. Simplicity in the working, and saving in expenses, would be effected; the one organisation being sufficient.

2. The Synod must be incorporated to be able to manage the funds of the Church.

3. The missionary efforts of the Church would not be left to any voluntary association, but would emanate from the Church itself.

4. The interests at stake were too great to be entrusted to any body of men not necessarily communicants.

[46] 5. Church Societies hitherto had not been successful.

6. All excuses for withholding aid from a Mission

Board constituted by Synod, on the score of centralisation, would be avoided, as all parishes would be equally represented in the Synod.

Notice of motion was then given by the Rev. Dr. Patton that an act of Incorporation of the Synod be applied to the Legislature.

This motion was subsequently acted upon, and a petition and draft of a Bill agreed to.

The Diocese thus gained a position such as rarely, if ever, had been enjoyed by any branch of the Church.

It had free and uncontrolled Synodical action, both in regard to discipline and order, and also in the management of all the funds available, or that should hereafter be obtained, and the recently formed diocese, with the youngest bishop at its head, thus threw off the trammels of Church Society rules and tests, and boldly stood forward to assert the sufficiency of the Church's own organisation for all Church purposes. Every baptised person was to become eligible to take part in the management of all Church matters, as every communicant--but only such--was eligible to become a member of the Synod.

The motion was carried by a large majority.

Another subject of great importance which was introduced was the difficulties that had arisen about the theological teaching of the Provost of Trinity College, Toronto. Everyone was aware that the Bishop of Huron had publicly condemned the teaching as having a Romeward tendency. The new Bishop of [46/47] Ontario traced the origin of these differences to the old contest between Calvinism and Arianism, and completely exculpated the Provost's teaching from all unsoundness, in so far as it had been assailed by the Bishop of Huron. He asserted, on his own knowledge, that the latter Bishop, in the College Council, had clearly stated it as his decision on the subject, "that the Provost's teaching was not opposed to the doctrines of the Book of Common Prayer, but that there were yet in it tendencies to very grave errors." Of course, the logical inference from such an assertion was that the doctrines of the aforesaid book had "tendencies to very grave errors." This of itself was sufficient to satisfy any rational mind that the Provost had been most unjustly accused of unsound teaching. The Synod came to this conclusion by a vote 28 to 5 of the clergy, and of the laity present of 12 to 5, and therefore by this large majority voted that Trinity College had the confidence of the diocese.

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