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The Life and Work of the Most Reverend John Medley, D.D.,
First Bishop of Fredericton and Metropolitan of Canada

By William Quintard Ketchum
Rector of St. Andrews, N.B.

Saint John, N.B.: McMillan, 1893.

Chapter XIII. Diocesan and Provincial Synods--Bishop chosen Metropolitan--Extracts from Addresses to the Provincial Synod--Presentation of Crozier--Address and Reply

AS early as the year 1856, the question with regard to the formation of a Diocesan Synod was agitated. The work undertaken by the Diocesan Church Society, which embraced the clergy and representatives of the laity, in some respect supplied the place of a Synod. In nearly all the other Canadian Dioceses they had their Diocesan Synods, in connection with which the home missions were maintained. At the time referred to, Fredericton and Nova Scotia alone stood aloof from the synodical system which had been adopted elsewhere in the Dominion of Canada.

In his charge to the clergy, delivered in 1856, the Bishop alludes to this subject. "Our Church," he says, "though amply supplied with standards of doctrine, is ill-furnished with discipline, and this is sometimes exercised in an informal manner.... The power left in the Bishop's hands to enforce discipline is encumbered with many legal difficulties.... The establishment of a code of Church laws would be one use of a Synod legally constituted."

"When we look back to that time, it seems strange and unaccountable to notice the warm opposition to the measure of which we are speaking. This was the case with regard to several of the largest and most influential parishes in the Diocese. By a church newspaper of the day this opposition was encouraged. It was contended that undue power would be given to the Bishop, and the rights of rectors of parishes might be infringed.

"The best answer however," the Bishop said, "to these objections, is, that in the Church Society, no freedom of discussion, no independence of opinion has ever been checked by the presence and veto of the Bishop, and that no measures adverse to the liberties of the clergy or laity have ever been carried by his influence. If, therefore, the constitution of the Synod should resemble that which is already in operation, what is there to fear? Or, why should this unworthy suspicion be entertained? Synodical assemblies would also be found useful in regulating the temporal affairs of the Church, and in devising such prudent measures as may promote its enlargement and prosperity."

It was not, however, till the lapse of six years after the charge, from which we have quoted, was delivered, that a Synod was constituted. During these years the rough edges of party spirit were being worn off. Time works wonders in this way, when there is really no ground for distrust or suspicion. A meeting called for the especial purpose decided unanimously in favour of a Diocesan Synod. The efforts of the best and most capable among the clergy and laity were engaged in the preparation of a Declaration of Principles, a Constitution and Canons. Proper and due authority was assigned to the Bishop. A charter of incorporation was obtained from the legislature, with authority to act in all matters relating to the well-being of the Church. Still later an act of the legislature was obtained, codifying all the laws relating to the Church of England in the Diocese, with the enactment of other provisions agreed to by the Synod. The organization of the Diocesan Synod, it must be admitted, has benefitted the Church in many ways. As in the deliberations of the Church Society, so without exception it has been in the Synod; in no instance has any conflict arisen with the Bishop. As chairman at all meetings, he presided with uniform impartiality and patience. Among the laymen attending the meetings of the Synod have generally been included the foremost men in the Province. They may have held decided opinions, differing in some cases from those of the Bishop, and perhaps from a majority of the members of the Synod; but in no one instance has there been party strife, or a party vote in the Synod of the Diocese of Fredericton.

In this respect a striking contrast is presented in some of the other Dioceses of Canada. There you will find a marked line, a decided party vote, especially in the election of delegates to the Provincial Synod.

From various circumstances affecting the Dioceses in Ontario, and from the fact of many important livings having been filled by clergymen from Ireland, there was at one time a strong majority in the Provincial Synod, opposed to anything that might be called High Church views. There was danger, it was thought, lest measures might be adopted which might be deeply regretted throughout the Church in the Dominion, something allied to the line taken by the Church of Ireland.

Not a shadow of party feeling was manifested in the election of the first delegates to the Provincial Synod. The Synod itself was impartially represented. For the most part, however, the delegates were ready to act in concord. On their admission to the Provincial Synod, together with the delegates from Nova Scotia, many of whom were of a like type, the state of things there underwent a change. Dangers, which had been previously anticipated, were no longer dreaded. A prominent member of the Synod, as the proceedings went on, and questions of importance were discussed, was heard to say: "We greatly rejoice in the presence of your people from the Maritime Provinces; you are the very salt of the earth."

Of more importance still was the presence of the Bishop of Fredericton in the upper house. His wise counsel, his deep learning and theological attainments, were of the greatest value. Later on additional strength was added to that body by the attendance of the Bishop Coadjutor of Fredericton, with his bright scholarship and high intellectual culture.

In the Annals the Bishop wrote with regard to the first attendance at the Provincial Synod: "The delegates were received with great enthusiasm." He alludes to the presence of the Bishop of Lichfield (Dr. Selwyn), and his address at a great missionary meeting.

It is added: "October 3rd, the Bishop of Lichfield, with his chaplain and secretary, arrived at Fredericton, having travelled from Nebraska, one thousand five hundred miles, to show his friendship. He preached twice in the Cathedral, and dwelt most earnestly on the missionary work, especially on the life and labours of Bishop Patteson, of Melanesia. Great numbers attended.... He left us, much to our sorrow, on Monday, the 5th, to attend the General Convention in New York."

Upon the resignation of Bishop Oxenden, the Bishop of Fredericton was chosen to fill the office of Metropolitan. At first the Bishop's position was somewhat unsatisfactory, but not from any personal objection. It was claimed, that in point of law, the office pertained to the See of Montreal. The subject was discussed at length in the Synod, without any animosity, and the question was finally settled in favour of an election on the part of the House of Bishops. A canon was passed to that effect. By all parties, the manner in which the duties of the Metropolitan were performed by Bishop Medley met with full approval.

The first meeting of the Provincial Synod, under the Bishop of Fredericton as Metropolitan, was held at Montreal, September 8th, 1880. The Metropolitan, in his address to the Synod, alludes to his election as the choice of the bishops. He then speaks of the position of the Church in the colonies as wholly set free from the ties which were long supposed to connect us with the State in England. This freedom required great caution. "Our wisdom," he said, "lies in making a broad distinction between what may be fairly regarded as things alterable, and of no vital consequence, arising either out of necessary political changes or the usages and feelings of congregations and the fluctuating sentiments of the times, and those deep and solemn truths revealed to us in holy scripture, embedded firmly in our three ancient creeds, interpreted by the first General Councils of the Church, and secured to us by our own formularies, to which the ancient rule, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, may be safely applied."

The Metropolitan urged the need of deeper learning on the part of the clergy, especially with reference to the works of the primitive fathers, and the records of Church history. He then alludes to the proposal before the legislature, which was subsequently carried, to legalize the marriage of a man with his deceased wife's sister. "I trust," the Bishop added, "that it will be deemed desirable by this Synod to express in a canon what has previously been expressed by resolution, and to guard, as far as possible, our clergy and our laity from participating in marriages contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, contrary to the mind of the Church in its purest ages, and contrary to the judgment of the Reformed Church of England. [The advice of the Metropolitan was acted upon by the Synod.]

"And now to bring this address to a close, we pray that the same spirit of brotherly love and forbearance which characterized the last session may be shown on the present occasion. Let the awful words of the inspired apostle never be absent from our minds, that the 'fire' of God's searching Judgment shall 'try every man's work of what sort it is.' No man amongst us can devolve on the collective body the responsibility which God has imposed on himself alone, and no man, therefore, should forget that if he build 'the wood, hay and stubble' of faithless counsels and unworthy actions on the great foundation of God's Church, the last he will both try and consume it; the scheme which he deemed most successful shall perish in the sight of all men, even as the leaves and trees of the forest are caught up in the blazing whirlwind, and their place is found no more."

Immediately after the first day's session of the Provincial Synod, the Prolocutor--the Venerable George Whittaker, Archdeacon of York--in the presence of a large number of clerical and lay delegates, and in their behalf, presented the Metropolitan with a very costly and most beautiful crozier, or Metropolitan's staff, accompanied with the following address:

The first assembling of the Synod of this Province, under your lordship's presidency, has been regarded by many of its members as a most fitting occasion for presenting you with a small token of the veneration and affection with which you have been long and justly regarded by the members of the Church in Canada.

Your prolonged episcopate, extending over a term of thirty-five years, has furnished abundant testimony to your unwearied devotion to the duties of your sacred calling, and has given repeated occasions for proving your unshaken fidelity to the holy doctrines and the godly discipline of Christ, while the words of counsel in which your lordship addressed us, at the opening of the present session, give us profound cause for thankfulness, that, in a time of peculiar danger, we enjoy the inestimable benefits of witnessing the example of your steadfastness and of being warned with all fidelity as to our own most solemn obligations.

Such are the grounds on which our reverence for your lordship rests, while those of us who have enjoyed the privilege of personal intercourse with you cannot but have learned to regard you with deep affection. Witnessing, as we do, in your instance, a rare blending of strength with gentleness, of the unyielding constancy which refuses to relinquish any truth, or to abandon any duty, with a genial, courteous spirit of Christian sympathy, which draws others to itself by cords of love.

We pray that your lordship may long continue to preside over this Ecclesiastical Province, and that, if it should be necessary that your Diocesan labours should be-shared with another, there may be associated with you one in whom you may place the fullest confidence, who may serve with you as a son with a father, affording not only official relief, but also the solace of personal friendship and of cordial intercourse.

This offering of our reverence and of our love is the emblem of that pastoral office which you have so long and faithfully discharged, and as we present it to you we would direct our thoughts and hopes to the Great Day "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear," when all who, constrained by His love, have lovingly tended His sheep on earth, "shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away."

To this address the Metropolitan made the following reply:

My Dear and Honoured Brethren:

Your words of affection and reverence can hardly be received by me without feelings of deepest thankfulness, humility and fear--of thankfulness for so unexpected and too little deserved tokens of your esteem and love, of fear lest the Great Searcher of all hearts should find in me far more, and more glaring, imperfections than your too partial eyes discern.

Still it is no small consolation to me, amidst the trials and burdens of my holy office, to know that my exercise of that office for so long a period, has won for me the regard of so many whom I esteem and love, and it will be an additional incitement to labour on in our Great Master's work, and to beware that no unwise or faithless act of mine may rob me of that approval which I hold so precious.

What could be more appropriate, what more touching, than the symbol of the Shepherd's pastoral office, committed to me by Him who laid down His life for us all! This valuable token of true love will be dear to me as the remembrance of yourselves individually, and as the symbol of a hope which looks beyond the grave to a place of blessed reunion, where the Shepherd and the sheep shall find resting places, quietness and assurance forever.

I thank you for the interest you take in my desire for a Coadjutor. At the age of nearly seventy-six, I naturally desire not idleness but help, and the help, I trust, by God's blessing to obtain, and I ask your earnest prayers that all you have spoken may be fully realized. ... So may the love of God be with you all.

To the account of the presentation given by the Bishop in the Annals of the Diocese the following note is added: "The crozier is to be the property of the Metropolitan and his successors in that office."

At the meeting of the Provincial Synod, July 12th, 1883, the Metropolitan delivered an address, in which he says:

As three years have. passed quickly since we last met in Synod, and each year calls more loudly upon us to "work while it is day," and that day short, so uncertain, full of a terrible responsibility, you will pardon me, I trust, for setting before you this urgent question, What is to be the future of the Ecclesiastical Province of the Canadian Church?

I call it the Canadian Church, not for a moment forgetting that dear Church of England, in whose sheltering arms the earliest years of many of us were spent; but chiefly to call to your remembrance that no love for the old country, no union and communion with the Church of England in the Catholic faith, can absolve us from a sacred and solemn trust for the good of Canada, for which we must give an account when our privileges, our duties, and our works shall be weighed in the balance of God's merciful, but even-handed justice..........

Our position in Canada is a trying one. We live in the very midst of a very whirlpool of diversities of beliefs, of bodies all vehemently asserting their position in the Church of Christ; one large and important section claiming to be the only representatives of the Catholic Church on earth, others denying this claim, but divided into various sects and parties, yet full of energy, proving the strength of their convictions by the fire of their zeal, honourably desirous to raise and maintain their position by institutions of learning, and by all the other appliances which modern enterprise and ingenuity uses to increase its members and make itself a power felt and recognized in the body politic. We should do ill to overlook, we should do worse if we attempt to despise such efforts of Christian sentiment and earnestness. Even when we deem it misdirected, it' is important for us to remember the peculiarity of our position. On some points we closely touch our neighbours, even while we seem most to differ from them. In others, while we seem to agree, we are forced to admit essential differences. For example, we entirely agree with our Roman Catholic brethren in all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, as set forth in the three great creeds, and asserted by the four (Bishop Jewel says the six) first general councils. We have no difference with them as to infant baptism, or the primitive, origin of liturgies; many of our collects unaltered, or only slightly altered, are taken from sources which they honour alike with ourselves; had they been content to add no new articles of faith, and above all, not to insert a new and impassable wall of partition between us, we might have dwelt at unity in one house; but, as long as their additions to the primitive faith remain, union is impossible.

Turning to the other side, we might suppose that those who-believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and have no fellow-feeling for Roman doctrine, would have little to find fault with in the Church of England. But here we are met by very considerable differences both in doctrine and discipline.

I cast no reflection on the personal piety of a single member of these vast communions. God forbid that I should presume to undervalue true piety, wherever it is to be found, or refuse to recognize--thankfully to recognize--the glorious fruits of the Holy Spirit of God. Amidst the melancholy spectacle of a disunited Christendom, it is good never to forget this truth, that Elijah's ministry was sent to the ten revolted tribes, and that God had seven thousand chosen ones, where His prophet knew not one.

The Bishop goes on at some length to speak of the proposed measure with reference to unity among the various Christian bodies. He points out the uselessness of any attempt to force the subject of union on any of the religious bodies which surround us, and that we must not surrender any truths committed to our trust which serve as a connecting link with the primitive ages of the Church. He then proceeds:

We have all the elements of strength in oar Church if we wisely use them--an ancient foundation, primitive usage, brilliant examples, sanctified learning, capacity for progress, missionary zeal, a providential awakening from sloth and indifference, a wonderful eagerness for the right interpretation of Scripture, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, we may stretch out our branches to the sea and our boughs unto the river, and make our Church known, respected, beloved, progressive, wherever our language is spoken or our empire bears sway.

The Bishop then alludes to the recent consecration of Dr. Sullivan as the second Bishop of Algoma, the Missionary Diocese of the Canadian Church, and he urges most strongly continued and generous support, not only in the missionary work, but in making a provision for the endowment of the Diocese. He speaks of the mighty prospects opening up in the great Dioceses in the West, and of one of the Bishops there, once a pupil and then a teacher in his Sunday school in England more than forty years ago.

The Bishop concludes in the following words:

What brotherly greetings we have ever met with from our dear sister Church in the United States is well known to us all. No differences in civil government can ever part us. We belong to the same lineage, we are heirs of the same promises, we cherish the same truths, we maintain the same Church government. We are numbered with them in faith, in worship, and in love. We joy in their presence among us, and in the words of truth and soberness that flow from their lips, and our hope is to be numbered with them in joy everlasting.

But bear in mind that we are on our trial; keen eyes are watching our success or failure. "Canada expects every man to do his duty."

At the meeting of the Provincial Synod, in 1886, the Metropolitan made a brief address, referring chiefly to matters of a practical character. At the close of the proceedings he gave utterance to the following words, his last words to the Provincial Synod:

I earnestly pray that both in what we have done, and even in what we have left undone, a higher wisdom than our own may have guided our deliberations, and that God may pardon whatever has been done amiss.

The Bishop was unable to attend the meeting in 1889. Acting in his place, at the opening of the Synod, the Bishop of Montreal said: "He was sure they all regretted the absence of the Most Reverend the Metropolitan, and still more the cause of his absence."

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