Project Canterbury

Five Years' Church Work in the Kingdom of Hawaii

By Thomas Nettleship Staley
Bishop of Honolulu

London, Oxford and Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1868.

Chapter VI. Difficulties and Prospects

IT has been already stated that a farewell service was held in Westminster Abbey on the eve of the departure of the Mission to the Islands. The Committee were of opinion that a few parting words from the Bishop might be then appropriately delivered on the nature and prospects of the work before him. The following is an extract from the sermon preached on the occasion:--

"Such, Brethren, are the chief outlines of the task we are undertaking. I cannot hide the fact that its accomplishment seems beset with difficulties and perils. If the ground were wholly unoccupied, as it was when we were first invited to take possession of it in Christ's name, the case would be very different from what it actually is. It is hoped that the introduction of that pure and complete development of [83/84] Divine truth it is our happiness as English Churchmen to enjoy, concentrating in its worship and teaching all that is good and beautiful and true, in the two extremes, without running into the excesses of either, may dispel some of those doubts, which systems so antagonistic as those now at work there, must have created in their minds. It may be so; but it may produce the contrary effect. And a vast responsibility devolves on those to whom is entrusted the direction of this sacred enterprise, to see that the former, and not the latter, be the result of their efforts. Nothing would shake all religious belief in the islands more effectually than for us to assume an attitude of hostility to those forms of Christianity with which they are now familiar. We must show the people how, beneath the defects and corruptions of this or that communion, there lies a substratum of truth in the admission of the great historic facts of the Creeds, which may well increase their faith in those facts, and lead to greater charity and forbearance in our treatment of those Articles of the Faith which are called in question. We are to speak the truth, but it must be in love; and we are to give all who have been hitherto labouring with so much devotion and earnestness in their Master's cause, while we have [84/85] been looking on with cold indifference, the credit they deserve. We must make it clear we do not go forth to ignore or over-ride what has been done by others.

"And this suggests another danger--that of seeking to proselytize. It is an admitted fact that a large number of the people are in active communion with none of the existing bodies, and among them we must seek to labour, not doubting that, as we thus exhibit and carry to them the Church's message in all fidelity and zeal and love, she will attract many others, whom she would effectually repel were she to assume a posture of unfriendliness or aggression. If we keep before our eyes the fact, that the great object of the Mission is the salvation of the souls and bodies of those among whom we are going to labour, and not the numbers we can count as members of our communion, we may hope, by God's blessing, to escape this danger.

"In the complex character of the population, we may see another ground for the exercise of prudence and caution. An adaptation of the formularies and system of the Church to the feelings and requirements of any one element may prove very unsuitable and mischievous in the instance of another.

[86] "In the national jealousies, too, which usually prevail in a centre of resort such as this--one owing its independence to the forbearance of its more powerful neighbours--we have reason for care and circumspection."

Though the principles of Christian forbearance thus laid down have been adopted in practice as far as human infirmity would permit, yet the dangers foreseen have not been wholly evaded. The death of the King, in 1863, was followed by an outburst of most malignant writing in the Congregationalist organs, English and native, in Honolulu. To the credit of the more respected of the American missionaries and the French Romanists, it met with their strong reprobation. Still the assertion, dinned into the ears of the people week after week, that the Mission was all a scheme on the part of England to annex the Islands, and obtain more national influence in the Pacific, absurd as it was, had undoubtedly an evil effect. The most unscrupulous statements were circulated, to the effect that it was only intended to be a temporary measure, and that at any time it might withdraw, and leave those who united themselves with the Church "as sheep without [86/87] shepherd." So late as the beginning of last year, it was printed in the "Honolulu Advertiser," one of the organs referred to--of course without a shadow of foundation--that "the Society for Propagating the Gospel had, by a majority of nine to three, refused to give the Mission any further assistance," the authority being a statement to that effect made at a Congregationalist missionary meeting in the United States. Other assertions, intended to injure the influence of the Church, have been referred to in a previous chapter.

In the spring of 1867, the captain of a small American gunboat then in the harbour, at a gathering of American missionaries, held in their chief place of worship at Honolulu, thought it consistent with his profession to utter a tirade against England, and denounce the Bishop and clergy, contrasting the policy of England towards the natives in New Zealand with that of the United States towards the Hawaiians. To this and other similar attacks made from time to time on the members of the Mission, it has been their wont to make no reply, but, leaving it to others to defend them, rather to live down such abuse by the quiet and unobtrusive discharge of their duties.

[88] It is fair to the American Government to say that its transactions with the Hawaiian kingdom have ever been conducted with honour, justice and consideration. The mischief arises from a small faction (what would in the United States be called ultra-Radical), living at Honolulu. From the bulk of the American residents the King's Government and the Anglican Church have both met with sympathy and respect. But the insolence that His Majesty has to endure from these intriguing politicians will be best illustrated by the fact, that, the Government at Washington having very properly ordered home the obnoxious gunboat, the offended captain wrote a letter to the Islands, strongly advocating their annexation to the United States, which was printed in the opposition journal, and circulated over the land!

When, in 1865, the House of American Bishops, by a resolution, expressed their sympathy with the Hawaiian Church, and admitted its chief pastor present among them as an honorary member of their House--an earnest of that unity, two years later, to be illustrated at Lambeth--the anger of the Puritan press of the United States knew no bounds. Articles were written in its principal organs, retailing all the [88/89] malignant abuse that had reached them from the enemies of the Anglo-Hawaiian Church at Honolulu. The following, from the New York "Round Table," is a specimen. But for its mischievous intent, it might be amusing:--

"This British saint [the Bishop], under the genial tropical skies, quickly expands into a diplomatist; and under the soft, velvety glove of mellifluous religious rites, is the hard, clammy hand of Britain feeling for a naval station in the centre of the great tranquil sea. The Bishop has not slept at his post. Temporarily, at least, American influence is dead. We believe every dollar given to the Bishop strengthens the influence of a country that deceived a people in rebellion by promising aid, and insulted a nation by shielding piracy with international law."

Appeals such as this to the national susceptibilities greatly impeded the efforts that were made at the time to obtain funds in the United States. Nothing, however, could exceed the kindness of the President and Mr. Seward to the Bishop, under all the vituperation which he had to undergo, while both treated the charges of his being a political [89/90] intriguer with the ridicule and contempt they deserved. [The "Boston Daily Advertiser," one of the most respectable journals in the country, said, in 1866, "We do not insinuate--we charge that this Mission is a part of a long-standing intrigue to make British influence paramount in a group of Islands which, politically, are the key which will hereafter control the Pacific." Such writing as this must tell upon the American support of the Anglo-Hawaiian Church. We trust," says the same journal, that, in considering this subject, no member of the Episcopal Church of America will forget he still remains a citizen of the United States, and that he is to guard against any blow aimed at her influence or honour." All this was subsequent to the action of the House of American Bishops, a few months before. Nothing could be warmer than their sympathy, and that of the Board of Missions.] Bishop Kip, too, of San Francisco, wrote, in vindication of English Episcopacy in Hawaii, a letter which was deemed conclusive. [Vide Appendix.]

From a diplomatic correspondence published, lately in the "Honolulu Gazette," it appears that even the visit of good Queen Emma to England, the pious and benevolent objects of which were above all suspicion, formed the subject of earnest representations to Washington on the part of the Rev. Rufus Anderson, Secretary of the American Congregationalist Board of Missions, who pointed out to Mr. Seward the political dangers to the United States that such contact of the humble Royalty of Hawaii with the intriguing Court of Great Britain might be expected to occasion. [90/91] Nor would any thing satisfy this sensitive divine until despatches had been exchanged on the subject between Mr. Seward and the American minister in London!

It is obvious that the anticipations of the Farewell Sermon in Westminster Abbey, as to the kind of difficulties which would have to be met, have been more than realized. No forbearance, no courtesies, nothing can apparently mitigate the jealousy--if it would not be more correct to say the affectation of jealousy--that has been evoked. The absence of the Bishop in England to obtain funds, the unfinished state of the chancel, every needful change in the staff of labourers, are referred to as showing that the Anglican Church has no solid support, and will most likely be "withdrawn speedily from the Islands." Assurances from the Clergy in private and public, letters from England, the arrival of stone-work for the cathedral, are all in vain as refutations of these assertions.

Yet, amid the calumny and persecution to which the Anglo-Hawaiian Church and its royal supporters have had to submit, and which has certainly checked its growth, and retarded the local resources of a [91/92] pecuniary kind which it had a right to expect, it has more than held its own. [Many cases could be named of parents being threatened with social excommunication, and loss of employment, if they sent their children to the English schools or attended the Church.] So late as last February, a leading native wrote thus:--

"The Church is growing rapidly in the outside districts, such as Kona, Wailuku, and Lahaina. The local judge on Molokai, who is a member of our Church, states that there is a nice opening on that island; and, as the King lives a good deal there, a resident clergyman would not be out of the way. We want such men as ----, who are getting very popular with the natives."

There is much involved in a clergyman's "getting popular" when labouring among any of the Polynesian races. On the first start of every Mission of the Church, very much depends upon the acceptability and personal influence of the individuals composing its staff, as to how far or not it meets with success. Indeed, that a missionary should be "successful;' it is almost essential that he should be "popular." Such men are not always forthcoming. There may be zeal, ability, energy, self-denial; but without untiring patience, tact and good temper, all will be in vain. The natives are not slow in finding out, too, whether [92/93] a man is come to devote himself, in a true missionary spirit, to their welfare and improvement; to live permanently, as well as labour among them, or only for a few years, as a stepping-stone to something else. The harm done by men leaving a Mission after a few years' work, however efficient it may have been, exceeds the benefit of their services. The difficulty of the language has been, perhaps, just surmounted when the post is abandoned, and a successor has to be found, who has again to go through the same process and encounter the same difficulties. Thus, no way is made; while the unhinging of the native mind, the constantly having to begin afresh, the inevitable result--a loss of all confidence, are most mischievous.

The Roman Catholics have an advantage in this respect in their foreign missionary work. A priest goes out to live and die among his flock. He never thinks of returning to his native land, except in his old age; and very rarely even then.

And if stability in its personnel is requisite to the success of a Mission, not less so is it in the matter of pecuniary resources. For a native population to know that their chief pastor is absent in order to procure the means of maintaining his work among them--that it is implied in his very office, that [93/94] he should, every few years, leave them, "as sheep without a shepherd," to stimulate the flagging zeal of his fellow-Churchmen at home by descriptions of his work and reports of his success--must be every way a sad discovery for them to make. It may be doubted how far any Church can properly be said to be a Missionary Church at all, that imposes this duty upon those who hold her Divine Commission to go among the heathen. After being thirty years in the Sandwich Islands, the French Vicar Apostolic is supplied with ample funds from the French branch of the Propaganda at Lyons, not only so as to maintain all his priests and nuns, but to erect picturesque neat stone churches at all the chief places. In a letter dated April 29th this year, Mr. Whipple, of Wailuku, states that "the Romanists have just begun to build one there, where Anglicans have only a wooden school-church; and that it is to cost $6000, all furnished to the Vicar Apostolic from his supporters at home."

It may well be asked whether, with better-marshalled forces, more certain supplies of money, a machinery for its disposal simpler and more centralized, Rome can fail to have the advantage in her foreign missionary work, notwithstanding our purer [94/95] Faith, and our more attractive, because more intelligible, ritual.

On the whole, it may he said that the future vigour and development of the Church in Hawaii depend very much, and will do so for some years to come, upon external support. Surely, considering the years that England suffered these Islands to remain unblest with the light of Christianity--years during which the Anglo-Saxon race was introducing into them forms of evil, physical as well as moral, before unknown--that support ought by her to be cheerfully and ungrudgingly given.

Project Canterbury