Project Canterbury

Colonial Church Histories: New Zealand

Containing the Dioceses of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Waiapu, Wellington, and Melanesia.

By Henry Jacobs

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1887.

Part II. The Period of Organisation.


The Bishop's Second Pastoral--Meetings to Consider Basis of Constitution--Auckland Meeting--Wellington Meeting--Nelson Meeting New Plymouth Meeting--Wanganui, Lyttelton, and Otago Meetings--Christchurch Meeting--General Remarks.

In the following year the bishop addressed another "Pastoral Letter to the Members of the Church of England in the Diocese of New Zealand," dated "St. John's College, October 5th, 1853." This he begins by saying. "You will probably have heard already of my intention of sailing for England in January next. You are entitled to expect to receive from me a statement of the reasons which have led me with great reluctance to come to this determination." Five reasons are given, of which it will be sufficient for our purpose to mention the first and second. They are as follows:--"The necessity of obtaining the consent of the heads of the State and of the Church in England to some form of Church Constitution adapted to our circumstances and wants." On this follows the interesting remark: "The lamented death of the Metropolitan Bishop of Sydney, who went to England chiefly for this object, appears to have led to the postponement of the question, till further information shall have been furnished by the Colonial Churches." Then his lordship mentions the steps he has taken for the purpose of obtaining the information required, so far as the views and wishes of his people were concerned, showing [206/207] herein his dissent from the suggestion of the Christchurch Committee, that he should put forth a scheme of his own and expect the acquiescence of the people in it. "In order," he says, "that I may go prepared to represent fairly and fully the mind of the Church in this country, I have convened public meetings at all the principal settlements, and have caused the resolutions passed at each meeting to be printed in a tabular form, with my own original draft. You will oblige me by signing your names, each according to his own judgment, under that column which most nearly expresses his own views." The second reason is thus given: (2) "The necessity of removing, if possible, the difficulties which still prevent the subdivision of the diocese of New Zealand."

We will now proceed to report the result of the meetings at the several centres:--I. The Auckland meeting appears to have strangely confused a Diocesan with a General Convention, but, apart from this mistake, and substituting "General" for "Diocesan," they arrived at a clear statement of the general composition and working of the General Synod, as it now exists, except that a proviso is now added to the effect that either of the three Orders may, at any time, if it think fit, call for a separate sitting. The wording, as it stands, is this:--"That a Diocesan Convention be one assembly, consisting of the bishops, clergy, and at least an equal number of the laity, and that, subject to the foregoing principles, such Orders do conduct their deliberations in one convention or assembly, deliberating together, but voting by Orders, a majority of each Order being [207/208] necessary to afford validity to any laws or decisions." For Principle No. 4 [Footnote: For "General Principles" see page 192.] they substitute the following, which is also, substantially, the arrangement finally arrived at and now in force. "4. That every adult Church member, who shall make a written declaration that he is a member of the Church of England, shall be entitled to vote at the election of lay representatives to the first General Convention. No person, not a communicant of the Church, shall be eligible for the office of lay delegate." With regard to Principles 5 to 9 inclusive, they assented to the bishop's original draft. A very large number of signatures was attached to that column in the tabular return which represented the Auckland meeting, including the names of Bishop Abraham, the Rev. F. Thatcher, Sir F. Whitaker, Colonel Haultain, and Sir George Grey's successor, Sir T. Gore Browne.

I I. The Wellington Church meeting adopted in the main the Original Draft, suggesting no alteration in the substance, but only in the wording. The column representing the results shows the names, amongst others, of Sir G. Grey, E. J. Eyre (Lieutenant--Governor), Octavius Hadfield, clerk, Dr. Featherston, A. De B. Brandon, Henry St. Hill, Dr. Prendergast, and Samuel Williams, clerk.

III. The Nelson Churchmen appear to have accepted the Original Draft entire, since the chairman of their meeting, the Rev. H. F. Butt, appended his name--apparently as chairman and in the [208/209] name of the meeting--to the column containing that Draft. [Footnote: See "New Zealand Church Almanac for 1856," page 44.]

IV. The New Plymouth Church meeting adopted the Original Draft, except as regards No. 4, with respect to which they arrived at substantially the same result as the Auckland Churchmen. Their wording is as follows: "That every adult Church member, who shall have been duly registered, be entitled to vote at the election of lay representatives to the first General Convention. But such members of the Convention to be communicants. At the foot of their column are many names, including those of Henry Govett, clerk, G. T. B. Kingdon, clerk, Arthur G. Purchas, clerk.

V., VI., VII. The Otago and Wanganui Church meetings adopted the Original Draft without alteration, as did the Lyttelton meeting, but with the following important addition: "That there should be in each diocese a separately constituted corporate body, in whom should be vested, and by whom should be administered, the Church revenues of such diocese." Only a few names are appended to this column, but amongst them is that of William Donald, better known as Dr. Donald, a well-known Churchman, acute and clear-minded, staunch and loyal, a member of the General Synods of 1865 and 1871.

VIII. Lastly, the Christchurch meeting, in spite of the decided declaration in the committee's letter, in favour of a scheme being put forth by the bishop, to be acquiesced in by Churchmen generally, adopted [209/210] many more deviations from the bishop's Original Draft than any other meeting in the country. The inconsistency is undeniable, but admits of this palliation: the recommendation was made by them before the bishop's Draft reached Canterbury; afterwards, the bishop himself invited suggestions with a view to alteration. They availed themselves, at any rate, of the opportunity, emphasising especially, in common with their neighbours in Lyttelton, the diocesan element, which, as we have already pointed out, appears to be ignored in the Original Draft. Thus they propose (1) that the first Principle should stand as follows: "That the bishop, clergy, and laity in each diocese shall be three distinct Orders, the consent of all of which shall be necessary to all acts binding upon the diocese at large." It will be seen in the sequel of our narrative that this accentuation of the diocesan element on the part of the representatives of the diocese of Christchurch was a prominent feature at the General Synod of 1865, and won for itself acceptance in the Revision of the Constitution which was then adopted. Secondly (2), they were by no means satisfied with the basis of membership proposed in the third clause of the Draft, but recommended that not only the representatives to be elected by the laity should be required to be communicants, but the constituents also; and, more than this, that both electors and elected should make a declaration, not only that they were "members of the Church of England," but should add the words, "and of no other religious denomination." Thirdly (3), in their proposed amendment of clause 5 of the [210/211] Principles, they make mention for the first time of a Provincial, or General, Church Legislature; and they drew a noticeable distinction between appointment to offices and removal therefrom, with reference to the bodies which should regulate the one and the other. It will be best to give their resolution on this subject in full; it is as follows: "That it shall rest with each Diocesan Convention to decide how and by whom all patronage shall be exercised within the diocese; and also to fix the amount of all salaries, fees, and other allowances within the diocese; but that the duty of determining the manner in which all persons holding Church offices shall be removable from the same, shall be reserved for a Provincial Synod." (4) On the sixth clause, with reference to incorporation, the Christchurch meeting, following the line of Mr. Godley's letter, recommends that the Church body should be incorporated, "if possible, by the local legislature." In what follows in the same clause, they return to their main contention, in favour of diocesan properties, in Common with other diocesan matters, being regulated by a Diocesan Convention. The words are: "But that sites of churches, burial grounds, schools, and lands for the endowment of the Church, should be vested either in the Diocesan Corporation, or in parochial or other corporations, according as the Diocesan Convention shall determine in the case of each particular property or site." (5) In place of the long clause, No. 7, bearing on the relations between the colonial branch and the mother Church, this meeting adopted the following: "That measures be taken to maintain and preserve to the utmost [211/212] union with the mother Church, due regard being had to the independent action of the Colonial Church." But (6), although setting much by a due independence of action, as rightfully to be claimed on behalf of the Colonial Church, the meeting declined to follow the lead of the committee, as indicated in Mr. Godley's letter, with regard to the Authorised Version and the Formularies, and declared its assent, with respect to No. 8, to the Original Draft. Lastly (7), with reference to the steps to be taken to carry out the views of the New Zealand Church in these matters, it significantly struck out in No. 9 the reference to the petition to the Imperial Parliament, leaving it to the Bishop of New Zealand to take such steps as he in his sole judgment should deem desirable.

The column representing the views of this meeting bore thirty-five signatures, including nearly all the clergy previously mentioned, together with the names of the following laymen, viz., James Edward Fitzgerald, the brothers Tancred, John (now Sir John) Hall, Charles C. Simeon, Alfred C. Barker, Conway L. Rose, the brothers John and Samuel Bealey, Charles C. Bowen, W. G. Brittan, R. Westenra, senr., and Spencer A. Perceval.

It is not out of place to remark that the special origin of the Canterbury Settlement, according to which it was designed to be a complete section of the English Church, headed by its own bishop, is sufficient to account for the prominence given in this quarter to the diocesan feature of the proposed organisation,-and that, although the actual [212/213] appointment to the bishopric was still in abeyance; for Canterbury Churchmen kept ever jealously in view under all disappointments the fulfilment of the original design.

We must not omit to state that the Original Draft itself received 64 signatures, being mostly those of clergymen and laymen resident in or near Auckland, including Robert Maunsell, B. Y. Ashwell, John Frederick Lloyd, F. Gould, G. A. Kissling, and V. Lush from among the clergy, and those of Sir W. Martin, W. Swainson, Col. Wynyard, Col. Hulme, Reader Wood, and Col. Kenny, from among the laity.

It will be seen from the foregoing narrative that the history of the Church Constitution of New Zealand is the history of a gradual and cautious building up, directed by "a wise master-builder." The work was carried on in perfect harmony; and, so far as there was difference of opinion, it was such as to contribute to that healthy "progress by antagonism," which appears to be the economy of God alike in nature and in human history.

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