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 III. The Period of Subsequent Growth and Development.


Meeting of Third General Synod--Its Members--General Character of Session--President's Address--Hauhau Outbreak--Openings for Reconciliation--Diocesan Basis-Lengthy Debate--Revision of Constitution--Amendments actually made--Dioceses to have Independent Management of Property--Discipline Statutes.

The Third General Synod met at Christchurch on the 27th April, 1865. The place of meeting was a large loft above a store on the east side of Cathedral Square, known as Symington's Rooms. There were present throughout the session the Bishop of New Zealand, president, and four other bishops, being those of Christchurch, Wellington, and Waiapu, and Bishop Patteson. Bishop Hobhouse, of Nelson, wrote to express his regret at his inability to attend on account of ill health; he had, in fact, already resigned his see. Eleven clergymen attended regularly throughout, being, with scarcely an exception, men whose names are well known in the land. From Auckland and the north came the Rev. Dr. Maunsell, and the Revs. J. F. Lloyd, R. Burrows, and E. B. Clarke, now Archdeacon of Waimate: from Wellington the Rev. A. (now the Ven. Archdeacon) Stock, and the Rev. R. Taylor; the Ven. Archdeacon Hadfield was unable to attend through illness. Nelson was represented by the Rev. J. C. Bagshaw, though now [283/284] belonging to the Christchurch diocese, and the Rev. F. 'Tripp; Christchurch by the Rev. J. Wilson, the Ven. Archdeacon Jacobs, and the Rev. E. G. Edwards, afterwards Archdeacon, who specially represented the interests of the Rural Deanery of Otago and Southland. There were fifteen lay members, most of whom attended regularly; the following call for special mention, as having taken an active and influential part in this, which was, without doubt, one of the most important Church assemblies that has ever met in New Zealand--Sir W. Martin, the Hon. H. J. Tancred, Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald, the Hon. J. (now Sir John) Hall, Dr. Donald, and Mr. J. Grigg. The Synod held fifteen sittings on as many days, and devoted itself most earnestly to the subjects it was called upon to consider. The session had been looked forward to with anxious expectation, and the members showed themselves, one and all, deeply impressed with the extreme importance of its issues, and with a consequent sense of grave responsibility. The Constitution was on its trial; the peace and unity of the Church of New Zealand were felt to be hanging in the balance. That there was much animation and warmth in the debates, it is needless to say; but we may thankfully add that there was very little, if anything, of acrimony and bitterness. The first clash of arms seemed formidable; but very soon, by the blessing of God, a spirit of concession and mutual conciliation began to manifest itself; and, before the close of the session, the clouds had entirely cleared away, and there was left behind a sense of relief, and of general contentment and satisfaction, [284/285] The causes, so far as we can trace them, of this happy frustration of so many warning signs and threatening auguries deserve some study. The real and deep-seated dread of disruption and discord was, no doubt, the leading cause. The mana of Bishop Selwyn, to borrow the significant Maori expression, counted for much; the combined power and sweetness of his character, for more. The calm, dignified presence and moderate counsels of the Bishops of Christchurch and Waiapu and Bishop Patteson, and, certainly not least of all, the mediating and peace-making spirit, joined with the mitis sapientia of Sir William Martin; the good sense, we may add, and the practical and conservative temper of the laymen generally, all tended to soften asperities, and to conduce to unity. There was another circumstance also of a less obvious character, which was not without its influence in bringing about, as a matter of policy, certain timely and judicious concessions on the part of the president and his chief supporters. It was this; the Canterbury clergy had found unexpected sympathy and support on the part of some of their brethren from the north; and the consequence was, that there was a strong clerical phalanx, powerless to carry any measure by its own strength against bishops and laity, but sufficiently strong in its power of veto to enforce respectful attention to its views and wishes, and to suggest the necessity of conciliation and mutual accommodation. If any one will take the trouble to examine the division lists of this session, he will find that they bear out the correctness of this remark.

We pass now to the detailed records of this session; [285/286] but in doing so we must mention, that we have passed over some painfully thrilling events in the history of the native Church, which occurred almost immediately before the opening of the Synod. We refer to the Hauhau outbreak, and the martyrdom of the Rev. C. S. Volkner. The first fury of that sudden outburst had barely spent itself when the Synod assembled; the Bishop of Waiapu had come, so to speak, out of the midst of the flame, which had well-nigh caught the skirts of his robes. We have passed over these events till now for the express purpose of introducing them to our readers in the impressive language of Bishop Selwyn, who thus commenced his address to the Synod of 1865:--

"The three years which have passed since we last met in Synod have taught us the salutary lesson of disappointed hope. We had then been cheered by signal mercies--the consecration of Bishop Patteson, the ordination of native pastors, the harmonious working of our Diocesan Synods, the cessation of war--all these visible blessings encouraged us to lift up our hearts in thankfulness to the Giver of all good, and to indulge in bright and cheerful hopes for the future. 'Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' It is of His wisdom that we meet now in sorrow rather than in joy. It is good for us that we have been afflicted. The war, which seemed to have come to an end, was renewed by the perversity of a few misguided men. Mixed with the new element of the confiscation of land, it acquired a bitterness unknown before. The missionary clergy were believed to be the agents of [286/287] the Government in a deep-laid plot for the subjugation of the native people. Our congregations melted away; our advice was disregarded. Exasperated by continued defeat, and loss of friends and relations, many became reckless. The feeling grew among them that they would abandon the religion of their enemies and set up one of their own. An impostor from Taranaki [Footnote: Horopapera Te Ua] placed himself at the head of the movement. Pretended miracles, unknown tongues, inspirations from heaven, messages of angels, were alleged as usual in support of the imposture. The delusion spread and reached the east coast. New tribes were to be startled and overawed. A leader of inferior rank [Footnote: Kereopa] demanded of the people of Opotiki the sacrifice of their own missionary. No other life was touched of the many white men who fell into their hands. It was a murder of fanaticism. You have all read the details of the outward workings of this mystery of iniquity. [Footnote: For further and more detailed information respecting the Pai-Marire, or Hauhau superstition, see Bishop Williams' "Christianity Among the New Zealanders," p. 366; Tucker's "Life and Episcopate of Bishop Selwyn," vol. ii. 197; and "Forty Years in New Zealand," by the Rev. J. Buller (Hodder & Stoughton), chap. xii. p. 343.] Join with me in recognising the finger of God, working with hidden wisdom, yet evidently in love. 'The fierceness of man shall turn to His praise.' God has granted to our native Church an evidence like those in the days of old. Our first martyr died at peace with his enemies, and with prayer for his murderers. My elder brother, [287/288] in his poem of 'Boniface,' has supplied me with words so applicable to Mr. Volkner's death that I make no excuse for quoting them:--

This is the will of God, and let us meet it,
As men who know the body may be killed,
But the soul lives for ever. Sure am I,
That this shall be no hindrance to the faith.
The blood of martyrs makes the good seed grow.
Have we not read how, after Stephen's death,
The Gospel spread more widely? Let us wait.'"

The true origin and significance of this strange and sudden revulsion are thus briefly depicted in a letter written by the bishop towards the close of this year to the Rev. E Coleridge:--"The Hauhau superstition is simply an expression of an utter loss of faith in everything that is English, clergy and all alike." In the midst of the extreme anxiety and sorrow caused by these events, and by the Maori war in general, there was one circumstance to which he often referred as affording him the liveliest satisfaction and the deepest comfort: not one of the native clergy whom he had ordained proved unfaithful to his ordination vows, or abandoned his allegiance to the British Crown.

But to return from this brief digression to the history of the General Synod. The remainder of the primate's unusually long address was chiefly occupied with an earnest defence of the Constitution. The limits assigned to this work forbid us to attempt even an analysis of this document, which was, in fact, a reply to the Report of the Christchurch Commission. The language of that report was needlessly sharp and [288/289] irritating; no wonder if the reply was severe and even sarcastic. But it was conciliatory towards the close. On one point it cannot be denied that his lordship convicted the Canterbury men of serious inconsistency. They vigorously repudiated, as we have seen, the property element of the Constitution. The report says of the Constitution:--"It is impossible to accept it with the property element. The Synod of Christchurch has expressly refused to do this." And yet that Synod had by its president presented a petition to the General Synod of 1862, praying for such an alteration of one of the property clauses of the Constitution (No. 27) as would declare the Synod of the diocese of Christchurch "to be a body duly constituted to represent the branch of the United Church of England and Ireland, for the purpose of appointing trustees to hold Church property within the diocese." [Footnote: With reference to this subject, and especially to the enactment of the Christchurch Board of Trusts Statute in response to the Christchurch petition, the bishop could not refrain from the following choice piece of satire:--"I may be allowed to illustrate and relieve this dry subject by a little fable which I have lately met with. A hedge-sparrow had built its nest so compact and comfortable that the cuckoo wished to lay her eggs in it. The hedge-sparrow in charity, and not in guile, offered to build her another nest quite as good and nearer to her haunts. Three months afterwards, in the month of June, when the cuckoo changes her tune, she came again to the hedge-sparrow and said, 'Let me pull down your nest, for it is built on too low ground, and I will soon build you a better.' 'No,' said the hedge-sparrow, we cannot trust your skill in building of nests, for ever since you came to the country, you have laid your eggs in a nest built for you by another bird. You do not know our wants, for we are not fly-catchers, but humble groundhogs and eaters of grain. You fly too high for us, for we live in the haunts of men, but you dwell in a cloud-cuckoo region of your own. No, we will not let you pull down our nest, till we are sure that you can build a better one for our callow young.' "]

[290] Despite, however, the severity, whether well or ill deserved, of the greater portion of the address, there were not wanting passages in it, which, in addition to the conciliatory tone of the peroration, held out hopes of concession, or of a modus vivendi, which might satisfy both sides. For example, an ample prospect seemed to be offered of a thorough revision of the Constitution in the following words:--"One very important part of our business will be the careful consideration of the Constitution Deed with a view to its amendment." Then, as to the requirements, that the Constitution should be re-cast on the basis of Church authority, and that the president should convene a Provincial Synod as Metropolitan, he made this declaration emphatically and ex cathedra:--"If, as the Metropolitan of New Zealand, I have authority to summon a Provincial Synod, this is the synod which I have so convened." Was it one of the demands, that the inherent and independent rights of dioceses should be more clearly recognised in the Constitution? The Primate showed himself far from unwilling to consent to such recognition; for he says, "It may be worthy of consideration whether the independent existence of diocesan synods may not be more clearly expressed in the Constitution Deed." And, lastly, the sharp edge of the dissatisfaction felt on [290/291] the score of the objectionable property element was blunted by such passages as these:--"We meet here in council for higher purposes than to discuss questions of property." "Let all the holders of these various properties meet together in synod for far higher purposes than to jangle about the administration of the things of this world."

We will proceed now to give a brief summary of the proceedings and acts of this Synod. The very first notice of motion given on the first day of the session was the following by Archdeacon Jacobs:--"1. That, in the opinion of this Synod, it is necessary to recognise the inherent and independent rights of dioceses. 2. That a revision of the Constitution, based on the foregoing principle, is imperatively required." In bringing forward the first of these resolutions on the following day, the mover argued, first, that the principle he advocated was in strict accordance with the history and constitution of the Church in the primitive ages; secondly, that it had been acted upon in other provinces of the Anglican communion at the present day, notably in the United States and in Canada; and, lastly, that the question was a thoroughly practical one, giving instances of serious departures from it in the actual legislation of the General Synod, which might be most mischievous as precedents. For example, in Statute 3, for Organising Archdeaconry and Rural Deanery Boards, it was laid down, not merely that it was desirable that such boards should be constituted under certain general circumstances and conditions, but enacting that such boards shall be [291/292] constituted in certain named districts--Otago, for example. This, it was argued, was a distinct infringement of the rights of the dioceses, within the limits of which such boards were to act. Again, in Statute No. 4, for the Formation of Parishes, it was provided, that no alteration of the boundaries of a parish should take effect without the consent in writing of the Standing Commission of the General Synod. Other similar interferences with what seemed clearly to be diocesan rights and functions were instanced from the "Instructions to Trustees," enacted by the General Synod. The motion was seconded by Mr. G. A. E. Ross. It is recorded in the minutes that, after considerable discussion, the Bishop of Wellington "moved the previous question," which was seconded by Sir William Martin. The debate was adjourned to the following day, and, having been then resumed, was again adjourned. On the third day the amendment was put and negatived, a majority of the clergy being against it. The Rev. R. Burrows then moved, as an amendment on the original motion, "That, whereas the status of the colonial branches of the Church appears to have been placed in a clearer light by the recent legal decisions in England, it is expedient that a committee be appointed to consider how far the provisions of the Church Constitution, and of the legislation arising out of them, can be modified so as to bring them into nearer conformity with the declared legal position of the Church." Archdeacon Jacobs asked and obtained leave to withdraw his motion in favour of this amendment, and, after some discussion, the debate was [292/293] again adjourned. Finally, on the fourth day of the debate, May 3, the amendment though it received a large majority of the clerical votes, was negatived by the lay as well as the episcopal order--the voting being as follows, bishops, ayes 1, noes 4; clergy, ayes 9, noes 2, laity, ayes 5, noes 8. On the same day a marked proof was given of the unwillingness of the Christchurch members generally to proceed to extreme measures. The following motion was brought forward by the Rev. J. Wilson:--"That this Synod, having had satisfactory proof adduced that the diocese of Christchurch associated itself with the system of the General Synod under a misapprehension as to the real nature of that system, declares that it is competent to the bishop, clergy, and laity of that diocese to negotiate de novo as to the conditions on which they will remain in union with the General Synod; and, should no conditions be agreed upon satisfactory to both parties, to retire from their present connexion with the General Synod." But the motion lapsed for want of a seconder.

The air having been thus cleared, it was agreed on all hands to proceed to the important work of revising the Constitution Deed "with special reference to the preamble, and to the lames which concern the relations between the General and Diocesan Synods, the management of property, and the declarations to be made by clergymen and office-bearers." The Synod addressed itself to this business earnestly and amicably in committee of the whole house, and several sittings were mainly occupied by it, so that it was not until the twelfth day of the session that the [293/294] Constitution Deed was reported with amendments. The alterations made in the Constitution at this time were very numerous, and not a few of them of extreme importance, far more so indeed than is commonly supposed. In the brief space at our command, it would be altogether out of the question to set them forth in extenso; any person desirous to obtain accurate knowledge of the changes introduced at this epoch must carefully compare together the two documents, the Constitution Deed of 1857 with the amended Deed of 1865. We must confine ourselves to a few of the principal alterations, and we must add that the significance of some of these can only be fully comprehended by means of continual reference to the documents just referred to.

I. The Preamble. The new preamble is not only shorter and more dignified, but there are substantial differences between it and its predecessor. There are clear indications, for example, in the first document, that the Constitution was regarded at that time as tentative and possibly temporary. It was stated to be "desirable that the members of the Church in the colony should, so far as they lawfully may, and until due provision shall be made in that behalf by competent authority, associate themselves together by voluntary compact as a branch of the United Church of England and Ireland." In the amended document the words in italics are omitted, it being assumed that the General Synod is the "competent authority," and the only one, for determining its own Constitution. Again, according to the old preamble, the Constitution purported to be the result of an [294/295] agreement arrived at by "the bishops"--at that time two in number--"and certain of the clergy and laity, representing a numerous body of the members of the said United Church in the colony of New Zealand," whereas, by the terms of the amended document, the Constitution is distinctly based on the authority of the General Synod, the last clause being thus worded:--"And whereas the said Constitution has now been revised at a session of the General Synod, held at Christchurch, in the year of our Lord, 1865; now, therefore, the bishops, cIergy, and laity, in General Synod assembled, do solemnly declare and establish as follows":--The existing Constitution therefore claims to be established by competent authority; the original, by its own account of itself, professed to be only tentative and provisional.

I I. Qualification of Representatives. It is a striking evidence of that tentative character, of which we have just spoken as marking the Constitution Deed of 1857, that it shrank from laying down as a qualification of lay representatives in Synods, that they must be communicants. It was indeed a resolution of the Conference, in laying down the imposed "course of future procedure," that "no person be eligible as a representative at the First General Synod, except he be a communicant of the Church of England"; and in the explanatory report it is stated, in an almost apologetic way, that "the qualification required for lay representatives is the same as that which has been sanctioned by law in the diocese of Victoria"--that is, Melbourne--"and by voluntary compact in the diocese of Adelaide, viz., that the lay representatives [295/296] shall be communicants of the Church of England." But in the Constitution Deed itself (clause a), it was merely laid down that "it shall be lawful for the General Synod to fix any standard of qualification" for the office. In the amended Constitution of 1865, this serious defect is supplied by the addition of the following proviso to clause II:--"Provided that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a lay representative for any district in any diocese, or as a Synodsman, or as a member of any archdeaconry or Rural Deanery Board, unless he be a communicant, and of the age of 21 years or upwards."

III. Diocesan Synods. In clause 20 of the old Deed it was laid down that "for the purpose of carrying into effect the objects of these presents, a governing body, or Diocesan Synod, shall be formed in each diocese." In the revised Constitution (clause 19), the existence is assumed of the "Diocesan Synod in each diocese," and it is simply enacted that it "shall be similar, as far as possible, to the General Synod in constitution and mode of procedure." On the other hand, although the independent existence of Diocesan Synods is thus recognised, a clause is added (clause 20), giving a right of appeal to the General Synod, "or to any Board, or Court of Appeal established by the General Synod in that behalf," to any person who may deem himself "aggrieved by any act or decision of the Diocesan Synod, either in the case of property held under, or administered by, the Diocesan Synod, or in any other matter; and the General Synod, or such Court of Appeal shall finally decide such appeals."

[297] V. appointment of Bishops. The clause which had reference to this matter in the Constitution Deed of 1857 (No. 25), ran as follows:--"Saving any rights of the Church and of the Crown, the nomination of a bishop shall proceed from the Diocesan Synod, and, if sanctioned by the General Synod, shall be submitted by the General Synod to the authorities in Church and State in England for their favourable consideration." To this extent, but not further than this, the Conference felt warranted to go by Mr. Labouchere's letter to the Governor-General of Canada, quoted in an earlier chapter of this book. But, as time went on, the policy of the Home Government inclined more and more in the direction of conceding complete freedom of action to the Colonial Churches as to the appointment of their bishops. So that now at length, in 1865, the Synod felt itself at liberty, though not without some trepidation, and some astonishment at its own temerity, [Footnote: Before the close of the session, the Synod passed a resolution, on the motion of the Bishop of Christchurch, seconded by the Rev. Dr. Maunsell, instructing the bishops to "memorialise the authorities of the State in England for the purpose of obtaining their consent" to this "regulation"; but the problem was developing itself rapidly at that time, and the action of the home authorities rendered it unnecessary to forward any such memorial.] to substitute the following (clause 23) for the old clause (25) of the Constitution:--"The nomination of a bishop shall proceed from the Diocesan Synod, and, it such nomination be sanctioned by the General Synod, or, if the General Synod be not in session, by [296/297] the majority of the Standing Committees of the several dioceses, the senior bishop shall take the necessary steps for giving effect to the nomination: Provided that every such nomination shall be made upon condition that the person so nominated shall, before accepting the nomination, declare in writing his assent to this Constitution."

To the Deed of Constitution, thus amended, divested of all that was provisional and temporary, and definitely based on the authority of the Church by representation, were appended the signatures of the "members of the Third General Synod of the branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in New Zealand," including two who were unable to attend in persons, viz., Bishop Hobhouse of Nelson, and Archdeacon Brown.

With regard to the claim of the Diocesan Synod of Christchurch to be recognised as a body representing the Church for the purposes of "The Religious, Charitable, and Educational Trusts Act, 1856," the alteration in clause 27 (in the amended Deed, clause 25), petitioned for by that Synod, was not made, but it was resolved, in preference, to invoke the aid of the Legislature for the purpose of effecting the object in view. Sir William Martin and the Hon. John Hall were accordingly instructed to prepare a draft bill for the purpose, and Mr. Hall was requested to take charge of the same for the purpose of carrying it through the Legislature. The result was that, in the next session of the General Assembly, held that same year, "The Religious, Charitable, and Educational Trusts Act Amendment Act, 1865," was [298/299] passed, the 2nd clause of which is as follows: "Every Diocesan Synod, which hath been already constituted, and every Diocesan Synod which shall be hereafter constituted, in the branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in New Zealand, shall be deemed and taken to be a body of persons associated for religious, charitable, and educational purposes within the meaning of 'The Religious, Charitable, and Educational Trusts Act, 1856.'"

We must not omit to mention, that the Ecclesiastical Courts Statute, No. 9, and the Ecclesiastical Offences Statute, No. 10, were enacted in the course of this session, but in a provisional form: that is to say, it was provided, (1) that the former of the two statutes, in which the latter was involved, was not to come into operation in any diocese, until it should have been adopted by a resolution of the Synod of that diocese; and (2) that it should continue in force until the end of the next session but one of the General Synod and no longer. By the latter provision the Synod ensured that the highly important and delicate questions involved in these statutes should receive further consideration after the lapse of six years, with the advantage, possibly, of some acquired experience, and of light thrown upon them from other quarters.

Such is the memorable history of the Synod of 1865, which had been looked forward to with so much anxious expectation, but which, by God's blessing, saw a threatened schism averted, peace restored, the Constitution completed, and placed on its rightful basis.

Project Canterbury