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The Transfer of Honolulu: Address by the Bishop of Honolulu to His Diocese

By Alfred Willis

Honolulu: The Diocese, 1899.

Reprinted in The Living Church, June 17, 1899.

My dear brethren of the clergy and laity in the diocese of Honolulu:

The time has arrived when, as chief pastor of the Anglican Church in Hawaii, I should make fully known to all members of the Church in the islands the course of action that the changed political conditions has rendered desirable to be taken to secure the present well-being of the Church and promote its advancement in the future.

At a recent General Convention of the American Church held at Washington, it was recognized that the Hawaiian Islands having passed under the dominion of the United States, the responsibility for making spiritual provision for their new possession devolved upon that branch of the Anglican Communion, although immediate action could not be taken, inasmuch as the islands had for a considerable period been a missionary diocese of the Church of England.

A resolution postponing the consideration of the course to be atken until after conference with the authorities of the Church of England, having been adopted by the Convention, it did not at first appear open to me to move in the matter until I had received some communication indicating the steps that should be taken under circumstances which have never before arisen in the history of the Anglican Communion. No advices, however, having been received, there appeared, on mature consideration, no valid reason why I should not atke the initiatory step toward handing over to the Church in the United States a responsibility which that Church is ready and desirous to assume.

Under these circumstances, the course that I have adopted has been to forward to the Archbishop of Canterbury (with whom, so far as the Church of England is concerned, the final authority rests) a recommendation that the spiritual jurisdiction of these islands be transferred to the Church in the United States as soon as that Church is in a position to receive it and to make provision for its support.

As an offshoot for the Church of England, the Anglican Church has taken root in these islands, and had the country remained in an independent political condition, the mother Church would, without doubt, have continued to foster its growth until it became a self-supporting diocese of the Anglican Communion.

But the trend of public events has been otherwise. The annexation of the islands to the United States points to the advisabiity of the Church in America taking up and continuing the work that has hitherto been done by the Church of England. With this transfer of responsibility in view, I have placed my tenure of the oversight of this mission in the hands of the Archbishop, so that it may cease as soon as, but not until, the House of Bishops in America is ready to consecrate a bishop to succeed me.

It is quite possible that this transfer of jurisdiction may not at first commend itself to all members of the Church in the islands, in consequence of the various nationalities our membership comprises. But when it is clearly seen that such a transfer follows the natural order of events, and that it would be an anomalous statement of things for the Anglican Church in Hawaii not to be attached to the American branch of the Anglican Communion, I am confident that the action I have taken will meet with general approval.

At present I have no means of knowing whether the transfer can be effected during the present year, or whether it will be necessary to to wait for the action of the General Convention in 1901. In either case, there is much that you can do in preparation for the change. Times of transition are so often periods of disintegration that I take this opportunity of impressing upon all who realize what it is to be members of the Church of Christ, that the present is a time for united effort to strengthen those foundations that we have been permitted to lay, and to maintain in efficiency the agencies for evangelization and Christian education already established, so that the first American bishop may be welcomed to a missionary jurisdiction full of zeal and earnestness to aid him in the work of further development and expansion.

Under the new order of things, I look forward with confidence and hope to a bright and harmonious future for the Anglican Church in Hawaii. For the realization of a future so full of promise the one aim of all, both clergy and laity, will be to promote the glory of God and the advancement of His Church.

May the Divine Head of the Church who, at His Ascension, sent down from the Father the Holy Spirit, by whom the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, direct our way in peace, remove all causes of reproach from amongst us, and guide us in all our actions to the accomplishment of His will and the edification of His people, so that the Anglican Church in Hawaii, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, may never cease to be His blessed instrument for the conversion of the heathen and the salvation of souls.

Faithfully and affectionately,

Your brother in the Lord,


Honolulu, April 9, 1899.

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