Project Canterbury

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

By His Wife

London: Skeffington and Son, no date.

Chapter V. The First Lambeth Conference

When the Bishop of Ontario first put forward his idea of a conference which would include the overseas bishops and especially those of the colonies, he began at the Triennial meeting of the Provincial Synod in Montreal in 1865. It was a surprise, and far from meeting with united approbation. Even Bishop Fulford, then Metropolitan, cast a doubt upon this ardent appeal, saying that Lambeth would not like Canada to take such a lead. But this did not damp the plan that laid so forcibly on his mind.

It was, therefore, on Saturday, the 16th of September, 1865, being the fourth day of the third Triennial Meeting of the Provincial Synod, that the Bishop of Ontario moved the following address, which was carried by both Houses, and in the House of Bishops nemine contradicente:

To His Grace Charles Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, D.D., Primate of all England, and Metropolitan:

May it please Your Grace,

We, the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Province of Canada, in Triennial Synod assembled, [71/72] desire to represent to Your Grace that in consequence of the recent decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in the well-known case respecting the Essays and Reviews, and also in the case of the Bishop of Natal and the Bishop of Capetown, the minds of many members of the Church have been unsettled or painfully alarmed, and that doctrines hitherto believed to be Scriptural and undoubtedly held by the members of the Church of England and Ireland, have been adjudicated upon by the Privy Council in such a way as to lead thousands of our brethren to conclude that, according to this decision, it is quite compatible with membership in the Church of England to discredit the historical facts of Holy Scripture and to disbelieve the eternity of future punishment. Moreover, we would express to Your Grace the intense alarm felt by many in Canada lest the tendency of the revival of the active powers of Convocation should leave us governed by Canons different from those in force in England and Ireland, and thus cause us to drift into the status of an independent branch of the Catholic Church, a result which we would at this time most solemnly deplore.

"In order, therefore, to comfort the souls of the faithful and reassure the minds of the wavering members of the Church and to obviate so far as may be the suspicion whereby so many are scandalised, that the Church is a creation of Parliament, we humbly entreat Your Grace, since the assembly of a general Council of the whole Catholic Church is at present impracticable, to convene a National Synod of the Bishops of the [72/73] Anglican Church at home and abroad, who, attended by one or more of their Presbyters or Laymen learned in Ecclesiastical law as their advisers, may meet together and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost take such counsel, and adopt such measures, as may be best fitted to provide for the present distress in such Synod presided over by Your Grace.

(Signed) "F. Montreal.
"Metropolitan, President.

(Signed) "Jas. Beaven, D.D.,

Quoting from the "Canadian Biography," by Fennings Taylor.

If we are not mistaken, the Bishop of Ontario at the time of his consecration was the most youthful member of his order in the British Dominions. Besides the grand qualifications of youth and learning, Bishop Lewis is said to be a remorseless logician, deeply read in ecclesiastical law, fertile in resource and full of enthusiasm. Moreover, he is courageous by nature and aggressive from duty, sanguine by temperament and adventurous from necessity. Being a confident as well as a bold man he is thoroughly inclined to face difficulties in the persons of those who make them. Less ardent men would probably have hesitated before committing themselves to a resolution whose success included a gathering in one great National Synod of Bishdps, Presbyters and Laymen, the representatives of the Anglican Church, in almost every part of the habitable globe.

Before the Bishop left for the Lambeth Conference, Ottawa had sprung up surprisingly, and was fast becoming the chief city of Canada. Its position on [73/74] the beautiful river of Ottawa and the many threads of communication invited attention. In his early days he had known it as Byetown, when it consisted of a blacksmith's forge, a tavern, and several shanties. In later days a beautiful hotel was built where the tavern had been, and the manager often welcomed the Bishop and his friends, recollecting their small kindnesses when they were boys. Several churches with parsonages had been erected, and the place had been so diligently worked during the five years of his episcopate, that the Bishop was able to hold a Confirmation.

At the meeting of the Ontario Synod in 1867 the Bishop reported that during the five years since the Synod first met, 5,500 new communicants had been added to the Church and thirty-one new churches had been built, many of them costly and ecclesiastically correct; also fifteen new parsonages had been provided, in many cases with glebes attached, making a total of thirty-eight parsonages in the diocese.

The stand which the Bishop took relative to Church matters naturally raised some opposition to him on the part of those who differed from him, and who thought he had allied himself too closely with the High Church party.

In The Guardian of March 20th, 1867, the following paragraph appeared:

In a former letter, in alluding to a charge of the Bishop of Ontario, I stated that he had "taken stronger ground in favour of an advanced ritualism than any other Anglican [74/75] Bishop to my knowledge." I have since received an authenticated copy of his address, and find that the secular papers from which I derived my view, grossly mis-represented what he said. His lordship has not advocated either altar-lights, incense, or gorgeous vestments, though from the newspaper reports it would be inferred that he was in favour of all three.

He says: "There is nothing essentially Romish in a grand ritual. The Oriental Church which, as against Rome, is thoroughly Protestant as ourselves, has a ceremonial which to us would seem excessive. The Lutheran Church has a ritual compared with which our own, as ordinarily seen, seems meagre, and yet no sane person can doubt its Protestant character. The body of Christians called Irvingites rejoices in a gorgeous ritual without at all compromising the Protestantism of its members. The fact seems to be that the common sense of mankind knows that Ritual is one of the most powerful agents for embodying, impressing and perpetuating great principles; and well is this known to be the case by such organisations as the Orange and Masonic and Temperance Societies. I cannot, therefore, indulge in indiscriminate denunciations of ritual which only becomes deserving of censure when it is contrary to law, and when the actors in it become liable to the censure denounced by the 34th Article against him--"Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church."

His Lordship further condemns "the use of services unauthorised in the Prayer Book, and the apparent straining to assimilate the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and that of the Romish Mass."

He thinks there is no danger amongst us of a reaction from the error of laxity in ritual to the error of excess [75/76] in ritual, since there has always been an anxiety on the part of the majority of the clergy to observe decency and order in their ministrations, guided, as far as our circumstances will permit, by a rigid adherence to the laws of the Church.

The Bishop is administering the affairs of his diocese in a very efficient and successful manner.

He is now engaged in establishing a Church Grammar School at the beautiful village of Picton, on the Bay of Quinte, and hopes to have it open for the admission of pupils next spring. A very commodious house and extensive grounds have been secured. The amount of money given in his diocese for the year ending 30th June towards Church objects, he estimates at 100,000 dollars.

In this diocese, a movement is now being made to establish a first-class Church School for girls.

In 1869 he also clearly showed to his Synod that he was not in favour of extreme ritual. "The Session of the last Provincial Synod," he said, in his charge that year, "was rendered memorable by the passing of a resolution which has done much good in allaying alarm, caused by fear lest unlawful or obsolete practices should be introduced into the ceremonial of the Church." The resolution referred to was one disapproving of the elevation of the elements in the celebration of the Holy Communion, the use of incense, mixing of water with the sacramental wine, the use of wafer bread, lights on the Lord's Table, vestments other than surplice, stole and hood.

As early as 1868 a motion was made in Synod in favour of establishing a Bishopric at Ottawa, and a [76/77] committee, in the following year, reported a scheme for providing an episcopal income without an endowment; but, this not being adopted, it was moved in the Synod of June 1870 that the Bishop be requested to remove the seat of the See to Ottawa. This was carried by the clergy, but rejected by the laity, and was therefore lost.

Somewhat to the surprise of many, however, the Bishop removed to Ottawa. The Synod was called together in the middle of winter, January 12th, 1871, to consider the question of electing a coadjutor Bishop "to reside in Kingston," which meant that the Bishop had resolved to leave Kingston and remove to Ottawa. This Synod was largely attended, and splendid speeches were made. It was evident that men's minds were deeply stirred on the question. The Synod had already declared against such a step. The Bishop used all his power in favour of it, but in the end it failed. The clergy, by a majority of nine, supported the measure. The laity, by a majority of ten, were against it, and it was lost.

The Bishop, for the time being, had lost the firm hold that he once had upon the Synod. In the regular meeting which followed this somewhat disturbing Synod, viz., in June 1871, the Bishop, though he had taken up his residence in Ottawa, made no allusion to the matter. His address was very brief, and simply referred to the business of the diocese. In it he stated that the average number confirmed in the diocese each year since its formation was 1,033. Funds were in a satisfactory condition, with the [77/78] exception of the Widows' and Orphans' Fund, for which the Bishop made an urgent appeal.

Kingston was now without the bodily presence of a Bishop, but the question of a coadjutor was still kept before the diocese, especially as about this time the health of Bishop Lewis began to fail.

St. George's Church, Kingston, remained the Cathedral of the Diocese, but in Ottawa, a chapel-of-ease to Christ Church, the old parish church of the city, was handed over to the Bishop as his church. Here, Sunday after Sunday, assisted by the Rev. H. Pollard as his curate, the Bishop officiated, the building being called the "Bishop's Chapel."

The following letter is interesting, as showing the Bishop's plan when preparing to hold a visitation:

"To the Clergy of the Diocese:

"Reverend and Dear Brethren,

"I propose (D.V.) holding a Visitation and Conference of the Clergy of the Diocese, as in former years, on Tuesday, October 28th (SS. Simon and Jude) in the City of Ottawa, at which I request your attendance. The proceedings will begin with a celebration of the Holy Communion in Christ Church at 11 a.m.

"The first meeting of the Conference will be held on the same day, at 3 p.m., in St. John Evangelist Church. At Evensong in Christ Church, at 7 p.m., I shall deliver a charge.

"On succeeding days the following will be the order of proceedings: Holy Communion in the three city [78/79] churches at 8 a.m.; Meeting of the Conference in St. John's Church from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., from 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"The following subjects are proposed for discussion: "I. Future supply of duly qualified candidates for the ministry in the Diocese; II. Inadequacy of parochial contributions to clerical stipends, causes and remedies; III. Unsatisfactory position of stipends in proportion to length of efficient service; IV. Sunday Schools: 1. Organisation, 2. Teachers; V. Women's work in the Church; VI. Young Men's work and associations in the Church; VII. Parochial difficulties, what they are and how to meet them; VIII. Deepening Spiritual life, specially in connection with Retreats, Missions, etc.; IX. Diocesan and Parochial statistics: benefit--neglect--remedy; X. Church literature of the Dominion; XL Division of Diocese; XII. Minor Orders in the Church, are they expedient?

"The clergy are invited to prepare papers on any of the above subjects; the numbers of the papers being limited to two on each subject, and not to exceed twenty minutes in the delivery. Brethren who purpose favouring the Conference with such papers are requested to communicate their intentions as soon as possible to my Chaplain, Canon Bedford-Jones. Speeches of not more than ten minutes in length will follow the reading of the papers.

"The clergy who are able to be present are requested [79/80] to notify the Ven. Archdeacon of Ottawa without delay, in order that provision may be made for their accommodation.

"It is proposed that the clergy shall lunch together each day at 1.30 p.m. The clergy will appear at the Visitation, as well as at the Celebration on the 28th, in surplices and hoods.

"Praying that our meeting may result in spiritual blessings on ourselves and the Church throughout the Diocese, I am, Rev. and dear Brethren, Your faithful Brother in Christ,


The difficulty of finding a suitable house in Ottawa may be imagined, as in those early days one with nine bedrooms and a basement dining-room near to the kitchen, only offered a drawing-room eighteen feet square. The Rector of Ottawa--remembering how the Bishop had almost insisted upon parsonages being provided close to the churches he built, so that each of his clergy might realise the comfort of a home and have some relaxation with his family after his day's work--gallantly handed over his rectory to the Bishop.

The presence of the Bishop in Ottawa was imperative at that time, when different heresies were afloat, seeking recognition, and those forging them came better equipped for the fray than a struggling Church which was almost dependent on uncertain gifts. The chief of these heresies was agnosticism, well argued, the promoters of which tried hard to get a footing amongst the most intellectual and ambitious [80/81] of the young men, who naturally liked to be associated with the latest ideas.

The Bishop lost no time in dealing with this most important of all heresies, and he held meetings disproving the statements made. Only one defender of agnosticism replied, and he was answered by another lecture from the Bishop. Both lectures were printed and had a wide circulation. They reached England, and upon the Bishop's next visit he lectured to "men only," exposing and disproving the statements made. These lectures are still extant, and show how very thoroughly and clearly the Bishop entered into this matter.

Other subjects he lectured upon were "Religion and Chemistry," "What is Religion?" addressing himself chiefly to young men.

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