REVEREND FATHERS IN CHRIST, AND DEAR BRETHREN OF THE LAITY:
IN His Name Who has called us and made us one in Himself, we extend to you our Episcopal welcome and invoke His blessing on our Council.
Following the precedents of former years we shall confine our remarks to the practical work of our own Diocese. There is much to interest us in the movements of Christendom in every part of the world. We should not be true Christians if our hearts did not beat the quicker at every threatened attack, at every advance of the kingdom. There is much to interest us in the many new theological questions which archaeological and historical discoveries present. There are many problems concerning the development of the Church in America awaiting solution, but that which is of the most stringent importance, and demands our engrossing attention, is the field of our Diocese, in which God has made us fellow-laborers. We have gratefully to record the number of our Clergy, which now amounts to forty Priests and two Deacons, with six candidates for Holy Orders and three Postulants. During the past year we have ordained one Deacon, advanced six to the Priesthood, and received four from other Dioceses. When we look back and remember that on coming here a few years ago we had but sixteen or eighteen Clergy actually at work in this field, we have great cause for thankfulness. We have three Postulants and six candidates for Holy Orders, who are being educated at the General Theological Seminary, the Western at Chicago, and one of our candidates is pursuing his studies at the Missionary College, Dorchester, England.
While speaking of the growth in our Clergy list your Bishop can but express his thankful recognition in the increasing intellectual and devotional standard, and his loving and heartfelt acknowledgment of the Clergy's devotion and loyalty to himself. If there has been a steady, perhaps unprecedented, advance in every portion of the Diocese, the Bishop feels that under God it is owing largely to the self-sacrificing lives, persevering labors, and the determined zeal of the Clergy. Knowing as he does their many privations, the isolation of their lives, the difficulties of their work, and the ofttimes discouragements, he cannot speak with the coldness of official recognition, but, thanking them from his heart, invokes God's blessing upon them. May it be ours to stand, dear brethren, together unitedly, as we do to-day, when we shall have completed the decade of our Episcopate, and numbered, as we hope, fifty Clergy.
Next to the Clergy, among the agencies for the development of Christ's kingdom, comes the Sisterhood, which by God's good gift has been planted in our Diocese. These religious communities of women are now found in the Anglican Communion everywhere throughout the world. It was the privilege of your Bishop in past years to assist in the founding of some communities in England, and also in this country. The revival of Religious life in our midst is one of the surest tokens of God's blessing upon us. It is one of the most signal proofs of the validity of our Orders and the efficacy of our Sacraments. It is only within the Catholic Church that this type of sanctity has been produced, for it is only within the Church that there are the Sacraments which can produce it. The religious life is based upon the three Evangelical counsels uttered by our Lord, of poverty, chastity, and obedience. By a life of an entire self-consecration it bears witness to the supreme importance of our eternal interests and the royal pathway of self-sacrificing love by which they may be attained. The Church everywhere is stronger by virtue of the prayers and labors of her Religious. Under the Holy Spirit's guidance your Bishop was led some years ago to found the Community of the Holy Nativity, which has through the gift of one of its associates a permanent home in our Diocese. It has, as some of you know, its own special dedication and line of work. While other communities have been founded chiefly with a view to philanthropic, charitable, or educational purposes, their members giving themselves to the training of children, the care of orphanages, the nursing of the sick, and the uplifting of the fallen, the community of the Holy Nativity has been called of God and founded to do chiefly a spiritual work. It comes to the aid of the Parochial Clergy in their ministrations, helps them in preparing candidates for baptism, confirmation, and other Sacraments. The Sisters go from Parish to Parish and give Bible readings and instructions, and visit from house to house, organize Guilds and other societies, teach in Sunday Schools, open their houses for retreats, and keep, in addition to the ordinary Choir offices, hours of daily intercession for the conversion of sinners and the advancement of Christ's kingdom. How very useful and blest the ministrations of these Sisters have been in other parts of the country, and in this Diocese, many of you, my brothers, have borne most grateful testimony. May we not ask you to make, through your sermons and instructions, the unique character of this community and its special dedication, more widely known. There is a lamentable ignorance on the part of many Churchmen of the Divine counsels upon which the Religious life rests. In our busy and active age there is a natural tendency to look for its manifestation only in the outer works of charity. These most readily appeal to the spirit of our age, and in the beginning of the revival of this life in our Communion it was what first attracted attention. But the Religious life has no other foundation than the life of Jesus Christ Himself. His own life was based upon the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and these developed to a supernatural degree. These are the marks which will hereafter shine forth with luminous splendor from the Bride of Christ, and it is this higher side of the Religious life that the awakened spiritual conscience of the Church is now discerning. It belongs, therefore, especially to the Clergy, to recognize this Community as a spiritually endowed ally, sent to help them in their labors. In our day when the new woman is much in evidence, let it be ours to present the higher beauty and service of the new woman of the Gospel. Let parents be taught that when a call comes to any daughter to enter the Religious life, it is Christ Himself who is doing them, not a hardness, but the greatest possible honor, by asking a bride at their hands. Let them realize that when such a call comes into the family, it is as much a call to the parent to dedicate his child to God's service, as it is for the child to respond to the Master's voice. As they can in no more sure way bring a punishment upon themselves if, out of selfish considerations, they hold back their child, so by a loving -act of trust to the call of Jesus they must surely win for the child they love and for themselves God's highest rewards. As in the time of old, devout Hebrew women prayed that they might be the mother of the promised Messiah, so should all Christian parents hope and pray, that by God's blessing some one of their children might be thought worthy to be called to the highest vocation God can bless His creatures with--called to be His imitator and companion in the Religious life.
The Bishop desires to express his own strong Anglican, perhaps democratic, feeling against centralization of power, and the dangers incident to it. In our American Church we justly congratulate ourselves that the Priesthood of the Laity is so fully recognized, and also that of the Clergy, and of their Bishop. We seem to possess all the advantages of the Congregational and the Presbyterian systems, while preserving our Episcopal order. With us the laity have a choice in respect to their Bishops and Pastors, take part in Diocesan Councils, are equally represented with the Clergy, at the General Convention, and can act as a separate House. These three bodies, of Laity, Clergy, and Bishop, have in our Diocesan Councils and at the General Convention, a veto upon each other. Our Church Legislation is thus not determined as in political assemblies by mere majorities, but by an agreement of Orders. For our object in our legislation is not to discover what would be called elsewhere the voice of the people, but to know the voice of God. Our Councils meet under the guidance, we believe, of the Holy Ghost, and He gives to each of the Orders of Laity, Clergy, and Bishops, their separate gifts. When they agree and act in concert together, we may, therefore, believe it is by His guidance, Who maketh men to be of one mind in a house. It is this Voice of the Spirit we seek, and by it are guided.
One cannot fail to notice how fully the rights of the Priesthood of the laity are preserved in our American Church organization, and is it too much to ask them to remember that it is by the generous concession of the Bishops and Clergy, that they are possessed of greater rights and privileges than those possessed by the laity in any other branch of the Church in the world. In England they have in the Diocese but little to say as to who shall be their Bishop. In the Parishes the Rectors are appointed without the expression by the congregation, or their representatives, of any choice on their part. In the conventions of the Church they have no voice or representation. Surely if anywhere there should be a generous confidence on the part of the laity in the Clergy, and reciprocal effort to protect the Clergy in their spiritual rights and prerogatives, it should be amongst American Churchmen. Here in America, the Church is happily freed from union with the State, has recovered her powers of legislation, as the Church of England has not. We are therefore here engaged in working out, by the legislation of our General and Diocesan Councils, the balanced order of our Apostolic Church. It is a noble work in which we are engaged, for it may have world-wide results. In this recovery by the laity and Clergy of our powers, doubtless some mistakes may be made in pur legislation, and conflicts may arise between our General and our Diocesan legislation, which may call for adjustment. It is simply wonderful how, during the century, the Church's order has been developed, and the functions of the different parts been more intelligently understood. It is partly from both these causes, that in several Dioceses, the question, how best to fill the vacancies in parishes, has been agitated and improved legislation suggested. Let us say here, that in our judgment it would be wise that the Canon proposed last year and sent out by the Committee on Legislation, should be withdrawn. We will not trouble you with our objections to the measure as proposed; it is sufficient to observe that it would not command the hearty consent of a considerable number of the laity, and though it may by a minority of them, yet it is my privilege to guard the rights of minorities, not only because they have rights and wisdom, but because, as Churchmen and brethren we know that harmony and unity in the Diocesan household is exceedingly dear to God, and there He most effectually works to the extension of His Kingdom.
Now, as the Law of the Church stands to-day, there is a likelihood of friction arising between a Bishop and a Vestry, in the exercise of their rights in the choice of a Rector, and this is leading Dioceses, quite irrespective of their stamp of Churchmanship, to seek for a remedy, which shall lessen the probability of friction, while preserving the rights of both parties.
Let us see how the matter stands in our own Diocese, by the Canon Law, in case of a vacancy. When a Parish is vacant, the spiritual jurisdiction which has been delegated to the Rector, reverts to the Bishop. It becomes his duty, according to Canon X, "to see that Parishes are supplied with services during any vacancy of the Rectorship. The expense of services shall be defrayed by the Parishes." You see that the Vestry have no power to invite any one either in or out of the Diocese, to the service, but must accept whomsoever the Bishop sends. In this way, it is possible for a Bishop to prevent the congregation from having any one save whom he selects. Again: By the General Canons, Clergymen outside the Diocese cannot come in and officiate in any Parish without the Bishop's consent. He can inhibit any such Priest.
Moreover, just as in the case of the Diocese, so in that of the Parish, there is another party concerned. The Clergy and laity select their Bishop, but the Diocese is only a part of the National Church, and therefore all other Dioceses, by their Standing Committees, must have their say. The Bishop, designated by the choice of the Diocese, is to be taken into the House of Bishops, and become a member of that body, and therefore all the other Bishops must act in confirming the election.
In like manner, the Parish has its rights in choosing a Rector, but the other Parishes with whom it is associated in Council, have their rights, and the Bishop, who is to guard the entrance into his Diocese of all Clergymen who are without, and who is to give over the spiritual authority he has held during the vacancy of the Parish, has his. Therefore, the Diocesan and General Canons have given him the power he now has, and practically he can now keep any one from entering the Diocese. If a Vestry elect a Rector, he cannot come in and officiate without the Bishop's license, even if he bring Letters Dimissory from another Diocese. The Bishop has now the power, for six months, without assigning any cause, to forbid his officiating; and at the end of that time is only obliged to "communicate his reasons to the Diocese to which he belongs"--so that practically he has a veto on any election of a Priest outside the Diocese. This is the way the law stands to-day.
Now let us consider the rights of the parties. Surely the Parish, represented by its Vestry, has a right of selection as to the person who is to be over them in the Lord, and whom they will have to support, just as the Diocese has a right of selection as to who shall be its chief Pastor and Ruler.
But the Parish, no more than the Diocese, stands alone. The Parish is related to the Diocese, just as the Diocese is related to the whole Church. If the Parish was alone concerned, it might be the same case as that of a man selecting his wife. But you see that, as in the case of the Diocese, the Parish has a right in the matter of selection; but it is not an exclusive one, like that of a man selecting his wife. That is, by Canon law, the Bishop has a check upon any such independent selection. It would not be wise for the laity to limit the Bishop's authority, for it is given for their protection. Whoever may be your Bishop, he will have the grace of government which belongs to his Order, and the responsibility of his office which checks personal opinion; and you of the laity can surely trust him to exercise his Episcopal authority justly, and the Clergy have not been deceived in their large and generous grant of power to you, who, as laymen, share in the Priesthood.
For, observe, the Bishop's authority is given him, and ought not to be lessened, that he may protect the rights of the congregation; the rights of parishioners, the contributors, the baptized and confirmed, the communicants and devout; the rights not only of the majority but of the minority, the rights not only of the holders of the purse, but the offerers of prayer. It is his to protect, if need be, the rights of the congregation against a Vestry which may not represent it. For it may happen, and sometimes does, that a Vestry does not fairly represent, at the time of a vacancy, the wishes of the congregation. They may have obtained office, and continue to hold it against the wishes of the congregation; or their choice may represent only that of a small majority. Is it not the Bishop's duty to protect, in Parishes, the rights of all? Is it not his duty to see that no person is chosen by a bare majority, whose presence, instead of harmonizing a Parish, would lead to factions, and so weaken and perhaps disintegrate a Parish? Is not a disaster in any one Parish an injury to us all? Have not other Parishes, represented by their Bishop, this same right as to who shall form one of our family circle?
It is surely the Bishop's duty to protect a Vestry against itself, when in ignorance, or under some mistake or influence, it has selected a person morally unworthy. A Bishop has means of information which the laity have not. He must at times exercise the authority the Church has placed upon him -- it may be seemingly, arbitrarily. But he is acting for the Diocese and as its Representative and Head to protect it from the intrusion into it of unworthy persons, or those who would not be peacemakers, but disturbers of our harmony and peace.
What, with the condition of affairs before us, should we seek by our legislation?
In respect, then, to the filling up of Parochial vacancies, while the laity have a right to the expression of their own wishes as to who would be a suitable minister (the same kind of a minister would not be suitable for every Parish), the Bishop, by the Canons of the Church, is empowered, acting on his own judgment, not to allow any Clergyman outside his Diocese to be incorporated in it. The Bishop, so to speak, stands at the front door of the house, or Diocese, to say who shall enter into the Diocese. The Wardens and Vestry, representing the people, stand at the door of their own separate Parochial apartments, and no one should be forced upon them without their willing cooperation. The object of wise legislation should be, therefore, to lead to a cooperation by conference between Bishop and Vestry in the selection of a Pastor. He would be a most unwise Bishop who would endeavor to force upon a congregation a Clergyman whose views and practices were not in accord with the Parish; and it would be impossible for him so to do under any circumstances, when we remember that the control of the purse is always with the laity. They could always annul such action of the Bishop by making the proffered salary of any nominee, proposed against their better judgment, so small that he could not accept it. On the other hand, it would often be unwise for a Vestry to make a selection without consultation with their Bishop, seeing that he has sources of information concerning character, standing, and abilities which are not open to the laity, and where possibly it might be his duty to protect the rights of a congregation against a Vestry which might not represent them. It appears to us it would be the wise course to direct by Canon, first, that on the vacancy of a Parish the Bishop should be notified, and no action should be taken without conference with him. He might then after conference with the Vestry make a certain number of nominations, leaving it to the Vestry to accept one of them or not, but giving to the Bishop the power of vetoing any election of an unsuitable or unworthy Clergyman. This would preserve the rights of both parties and compel conference and so harmonious action. The Parish has its rights and the Diocese has, as represented by the Bishop, its rights, and both should be preserved.
In conclusion, we would suggest that the Clergy avail themselves of the meeting of the Bishops of the Anglican Communion, in England, to bring before their congregations the duty of studying the history of their Church, and of the advisability of forming reading clubs for that purpose. Every instructed Churchman becomes a power in the community. We can but believe the more the Church is known, the more the balanced wisdom of her government, and her conservative yet liberal spirit, the more she will attract the intellectual and the devout. During the meetings of the Conference we would ask your prayer for the preservation of the faith, the drawing together of the Eastern and Anglican Churches, the development of the Religious life, the increase of the missionary spirit, and for a growing trust and confidence and charity among the members of our Communion. Plead, dear brethren, as you may have the opportunity, the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, for these great ends. The future of the world's civilization and the progress of Christianity lies very largely, we believe, with the Anglo-Saxon speaking peoples, and the Anglo-Catholic Church has, in its development, a most important duty to perform. Secure in the indubitable possession of Orders, in the grace of the Sacraments and the Catholic faith, let us renew our efforts, draw in love more closely one to another, and press forward to a victory which we know, under the great Captain of our salvation, is assured.
Commending you to His care and protection, and asking your prayers that our shortcomings may not hinder that blessed work, we bid you, in His name, God-speed.