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.


Fourth General Synod--Select Committee on Jenner Case--The Debate and its Result--Other Measures of the Session--Farewell Addresses to Bishop Selwyn--Farewell Services--Departure--Letter written on board the Hero--Bishop Jenner arrives in Dunedin--Diocesan Synod convened--Final Struggle and its Result.

The Fourth General Synod was opened by the president (the Bishop of New Zealand, and now also the Bishop of Lichfield), in the Cathedral Library, Auckland, on the 5th October. It sat for eleven days, breaking up on the 17th. There were present six bishops, including Bishop Patteson of Melanesia. The Right Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, D.D., took his seat for the first time as second Bishop of Nelson. There were also present fifteen clerical, and eighteen lay, representatives: among the latter was the president's second son, Mr. J, R. Selwyn, now Bishop of Melanesia, who then assisted his father as his private secretary. The only reference in the president's address to the burning question, which was in every one's mind, was of the quietest and most business-like nature. It was as follows:--"The first question which will require your attention, is an act to validate the election of members chosen to represent the two portions of the present Diocese of Christchurch. This necessity has arisen from the [323/324] unforeseen delay in the constitution of the Diocese of Dunedin. It seemed to me to be expedient that a full representation of the clergy and laity in the Rural Deanery of Otago and Southland should assist in deciding the important questions affecting the new diocese, which will be brought before us. On this subject I have only further to recommend that any matters involving personal considerations be referred, as in former instances, to a Select Committee to be chosen by ballot." Accordingly, on the fifth day of the session, the following resolution, moved by the Bishop of Christchurch, and seconded by the Rev. A. Gifford, was carried:--"That a committee be appointed to consider and report upon the expediency of bringing to completion the ecclesiastical arrangement proposed for that part of the Diocese of Christchurch which is included within the Rural Deanery of Otago and Southland." The result of the ballot was that the following were elected, viz., the Bishops of Christchurch, Wellington, and Waiapu, the Dean of Christchurch, [Footnote: Formerly Archdeacon Jacobs. Appointed dean by the Bishop of Christchurch on the 31st March, 1866.] the Ven. Archdeacons Govett, Hadfield, and Williams, the Rev. Dr. Maunsell, the Hon. J. B. Acland, C. Hunter Brown, Esq., F. D. Fenton, Esq., Sir William Martin, William Swainson, Esq. On the following day the Bishop of Wellington (the Right Rev. C. J. Abraham) asked to be relieved from serving on the committee, and that another bishop should be balloted for in his place; the result was that Bishop Patteson was elected. The Bishop [324/325] of Christchurch was appointed chairman of the committee, and the Dean of Christchurch secretary. [Footnote: The writer has still in his possession two of the original drafts of resolutions adopted by this Committee, in the handwriting respectively of Bishop Patteson and Sir William Martin.] The Bishop of New Zealand and Lichfield attended to give evidence at one of its meetings. On the ninth day of the session the Bishop of Christchurch brought up the report of the committee. It had been adopted unanimously after long and earnest consideration, and was as follows:--"Your committee, having carefully considered the subject submitted to them, and having taken such evidence, and examined such documents, bearing thereupon, as were within their reach, including a statement by Dr. Jenner, beg to report as follows:--They have ascertained that the endowment fund for the proposed diocese is, in its present state, insufficient for the support of a bishop. They have further ascertained that the objections entertained in the contemplated diocese to the alleged opinions and practices of Bishop Jenner preclude the probability of the speedy completion of this fund. At the same time they are led to believe that the pecuniary circumstances of Bishop Jenner, so far as they are able to form an opinion upon them, are such as would cause him to be wholly dependent upon that fund. In coming to a decision they have not thought themselves called upon to take into consideration the alleged ritualistic practices of Bishop Jenner, but they consider that the state and prospect of the [325/326] Endowment Fund, and the circumstances above referred to, constitute sufficient reasons for the following decision, namely:--That they are not prepared to recommend the Synod to confirm the appointment of Bishop Jenner." On the following day, October 16th, the Bishop of Christchurch moved, on behalf of the committee, "That the appointment of Bishop Jenner to the See of Dunedin be not confirmed by the Synod." The debate which ensued was prolonged and exceedingly animated, the Synod being almost equally divided. There was no little heat, and much barely suppressed excitement on both sides. Bishop Abraham warmly espoused the cause of Bishop Jenner, as did also the president, who manifested unmistakeable signs of annoyance and even vehement indignation, saying, amongst other things, that he "looked upon the action of the committee as amounting to an attempt to depose Bishop Jenner." Justice to the bishop was strongly urged on the one side; on the other, it was replied, that justice was due to the diocese also, and to the Church generally. The irregularity of the nomination might perhaps be condoned; but the Synod could not abdicate its undoubted right of giving or withholding confirmation. The fact of Dr. Jenner having been prematurely consecrated without the Synod's consent, though by no fault of his own, could not bar the Synod of its right; and if, for any reason, it should seem likely to be to the injury of the diocese that he should enter on the office of bishop therein, then--salus reipublicae suprema lex--the supreme legislature of the Church of the province was bound [26/327] to refuse its sanction to the appointment. In the "statement" presented to the Synod by Bishop Jenner, and read with much emphasis by the President, it was urged, that an "engagement of more than ordinary solemnity had been entered into, the two contracting parties being the Church in New Zealand, speaking and acting by her Metropolitan, and Bishop Jenner, and that the simple question to be decided was, 'Do the interests of the New Zealand Church demand, and will justice and honesty admit of, the repudiation of that engagement by either of the parties, without the concurrence of the other?'" But, on the other hand, it was replied, that no such binding engagement had been entered into, inasmuch as no individual had any right to pledge the faith of the General Synod. At the same time much sympathy with Bishop Jenner personally was expressed by many who felt under the necessity of opposing his claim. Two amendments on the original motions were successively put and negatived, and the position was becoming a painfully strained one, when it was agreed to adjourn the sitting for half an hour to give an opportunity for free discussion. On resuming, Bishop Patteson made an earnest appeal for a peaceful solution, whereupon Archdeacon Harper [Footnote: Eldest son of the Bishop of Christchurch, M.A. of Merton College, Oxford; Archdeacon of Westland, 1866; Incumbent of Timaru, 1875.] moved, seconded by the Dean of Christchurch, "That, whereas the General Synod is of opinion that it is better for the peace of the Church that Bishop [327/328] Jenner should not take charge of the Bishopric of Dunedin, this Synod hereby requests him to withdraw his claim to that position." It was explained that the request to withdraw a claim by no means implied the acknowledgment of a right. Further debate ensued, and some opposition, but, ultimately, this amendment was adopted without a division. If it appears a somewhat "lame and impotent conclusion," the cause must be attributed to the extreme unwillingness of the members of the Synod to come to an open breach with their President, whom they unfeignedly admired and revered, whose splendid hospitality they had enjoyed, and from whom they were on the eve of parting.

On the following day, the last of the session, the Standing Orders were suspended for the purpose of passing through all its stages at one sitting a "Bill to provide for the Division of the Diocese of Christchurch into two separate dioceses." The enacting clauses of this measure were as follows:--"1. From and after the First Day of January, 1869, the Provinces of Otago and Southland shall cease to form a part of the Diocese of Christchurch, and shall thenceforward form a separate and independent diocese to be called the 'Diocese of Dunedin.' 2. Until a day to be fixed in that behalf by the Standing Commission, the Bishop of Christchurch shall continue to have charge of the said Diocese of Dunedin, and, for the purpose of the 'Statute for the Organisation of Diocesan Synods,' shall be deemed and taken to be the bishop of such diocese."

The exciting nature of this controversy, which [328/329] occupied such a prominent place in the proceedings of this Synod, must not cause us to forget that some other important measures were framed and adopted at this session, tending to the completion of the organisation of the Church's system. I. The first of these was, a "Statute for the Appointment of a Primate, and for vesting in him certain powers." The chief provisions of this enactment are, (1) That the General Synod shall, as occasion shall require, elect one of the bishops to be Primate; (2) That he shall be styled The PRIMATE; (3) That the election shall be by ballot; (4) That no member of the Synod shall propose a candidate for the office, nor shall there be any speaking on the merits of candidates; (5) The bishop for whom more than one-half of the votes of each of the three orders shall be given, shall be the Primate; (6) If there shall be no such majority on a first ballot, a second, and, if necessary, a third shall be taken; and, if there shall be no such majority on the third ballot, then the Senior of the Bench of Bishops shall be Primate, seniority to be counted from the time of consecration. II. Secondly, a statute was passed "to provide for the Appointment of Successors to the Missionary Bishop among the Islands of Melanesia." The principal provisions are that (1) The members of the mission may recommend to the General Synod some fit person to fill the office of Missionary Bishop; (2) The General Synod shall appoint the person so recommended, if it think fit; (3) Such recommendation and appointment may be made before the occurrence of a vacancy; (4) If no such recommendation be made, [329/330] the General Synod shall appoint; (5) The term "Missionary Diocese" shall be understood to mean the Mission Field of any missionary bishop, whether, such mission field be formally defined by fixed territorial limits or not. III. Thirdly, an important addition was made to the "Statute for the Organisation of Archdeaconry and Rural Deanery Boards," providing for the constitution of Native Church Boards in certain districts, in which "the native population is intermixed with the English, and it is found impracticable, by reason of the difference of language and of circumstances, to combine both in the same Boards." This portion of the statute was translated into the Maori language by the Ven. Archdeacon Leonard Williams.

The first of the above mentioned statutes--that for the appointment of a Primate--having been duly enacted, the Synod proceeded on the eighth day of the session, October 14th, to the election of "a bishop who should be Primate upon the resignation or death of the Bishop of New Zealand," the President having first invited the Synod to unite in prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the work in which they were engaged. The result of the ballot was that the Bishop of Christchurch was declared elected. The new Primate did not enter on his office until July, 1869, when he received notice from the late Bishop of New Zealand that, his resignation of the office of Metropolitan had been registered in the office of Faculties of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And now the formal connexion of the Synod with [330/331] its great bishop, the founder of the system of which it is the crown, was fast drawing to its close. On the last day of the session the Bishop of Christchurch, on behalf of a numerous committee appointed on an earlier day, presented and read to his lordship a farewell address composed by Bishop Patteson. It is a touchingly beautiful and pathetic document, specially noteworthy for its warmth, affectionateness, and unconventional character. We regret that we can afford space only for this short extract:--"How can we ever forget you? Every spot in New Zealand is identified with you. Each hill and valley, each river and bay and headland is full of memories of you; the busy town, the lonely settler's hut, the countless islands of the sea, all speak to us of you. Whether your days be few or many, we, as long as we live, will ever hold you deep in our inmost hearts." [Footnote: The Address is given in full, together with the Reply, in the Rev. H. W. Tucker's "Life and Episcopate of G. A. Selwyn," vol. ii. pp. 261-265.] The reply was worthy of the address, and was thoroughly characteristic of the man, so full of self-abnegation, of devout thankfulness for the past, of prayerful hope for the future. We must not forget to add that two very affecting native addresses to the President were presented and read at an earlier period of the session, being rendered into English by the Rev. E. B. Clarke, now Archdeacon of Waimate--one from the natives of the Waimate and Bay of Islands, presented by their clergyman, the Rev. Matiu (Matthew) Taupaki, the other from the Maori people in general. The [331/332] bishop gave another brief address to the Synod at the close of the proceedings, declared his connexion with them as their president to have come to an end, and pronounced the benediction.

The last closing scenes of the great missionary prince's abode in the land with which he had so thoroughly identified himself--New Zealand's farewell to her hero-bishop, a true man and king of men, so large-minded and unselfish even in his faults--had now arrived. Tuesday, October 20th, was the day of parting. St. Paul's Church was thronged at the farewell service; the communicants were reckoned by hundreds, old Wesleyan missionaries being conspicuous among them. Shops were shut, and business suspended, bishops, clergy, members of Synod, ladies, townsfolk, artisans with their wives and children, crowded the streets, all trooping down towards the wharf. Hundreds pressed around to shake hands for the last time with the bishop and Mrs. Selwyn, whose departure was regretted only next to that of her husband, and with his faithful friend, Bishop Abraham, who for his sake came to New Zealand, and now for his sake was accompanying him to Lichfield. Many made their way into the saloon of the steamer to take their last farewell, and many remained long on the wharf, straining their eyes to catch the last glimpse of the Hero, as it bore their friends away to Sydney. May the influence of his teaching never depart from the land--the brightness of his noble example never fade away from its people's eyes!

We must now return to Bishop Jenner. As Bishop [332/333] Selwyn had openly espoused his cause in the Synod, and made no secret of his wish to persuade that body to confirm the appointment, so now, when the responsibility of making the nomination was placed where it properly should have rested from the first, on the shoulders of the Rural Deanery Board, now about to be promoted to the rank of a diocesan synod, he saw no impropriety in making a last effort to secure the appointment of Dr. Jenner, by endeavouring to persuade the members of the Board, who would probably be mostly members of the Synod, to adopt him as their nominee. He accordingly wrote a long letter to the Rev. E. G. Edwards, dated "S.S. Hero--at sea, 22nd October, 1868," and headed "For the Rural Deanery Board of Otago and Southland," the burden of which was to urge, that no other reason besides insufficiency of income had been alleged by the Select Committee of the General Synod, why confirmation of the appointment should be withheld, and that "nothing had been proved by any opponent of Bishop Jenner, which ought to debar him from entering upon the duties of his office, whenever a sufficient income, clear of all incumbrances, could be supplied." "In the absence," so the bishop wrote, "of any definite charge or insuperable difficulty, such as ought to exclude Dr. Jenner from the bishopric of Dunedin, we all concurred in the request that, for the sake of the peace of the Church, he would resign his claim. But this argument of peace has a double aspect. Bishop Jenner may claim of his opponents with greater justice that, for the sake of the peace of the Church, they should [333/334] withdraw their opposition For his sake then, and for the sake of the Synod, and for the sake of the peace of the Church, I do most earnestly entreat my dear friends and brethren in the Rural Deanery of Otago and Southland to withdraw their opposition, and to accept Dr. Jenner as their bishop."

Had the Synod of the new diocese been elected and ready to act, when this letter reached its destination, it is very probable that it would have succeeded in bringing about the desired effect. But an unexpected event occurred, which completely altered the position, and produced fresh complications. Bishop Jenner, who had said in his "Statement" submitted to the Synod, "This then is the position of affairs at the end of June, 1868. Bishop Jenner remains at home until after the meeting of the General Synod, in deference to the opinion, so strongly expressed as to admit of no resistance, of Bishops Selwyn and Harper"--changed his mind, and left England before it was possible to hear what had transpired in the Synod. Travelling via Panama, he arrived in Lyttelton at the end of January, 1869, did not come over to Christchurch--a distance of seven or eight miles by railway--to confer with Bishop Harper, but hastened on by the same steamer to Dunedin. There his sudden arrival electrified; not church-people only, but the whole community, and provoked intensely painful dissension and bitter controversy. The newspapers teemed with remonstrances, rejoinders, attacks, and recriminations. Many took up the bishop's cause warmly, and loudly complained of the harshness and injustice of the treatment to which, in their view, he [334/335] had been subjected. An attractive presence and the bearing of a gentleman--not to speak of his renown as a church musician and composer--won for him many supporters. On the other hand, newspaper reports of services and ceremonies of an advanced Ritualistic type, in which he had recently taken part in England, accompanied by a letter of disapproval written by Archbishop Longley, were scattered broadcast throughout the two provinces, and, while they excited much ignorant prejudice, perplexed and irritated even the moderate and soberminded, and awakened doubts and misgivings in the minds of some even of the warmest advocates of the bishop's cause. In a word, the new diocese was split in two from end to end. As had been the case in the Synod, so it was now; some clamoured for justice to Dr. Jenner; others pitied the diocese more, and, according to their temperament, either mildly deprecated, or vehemently protested against, the appointment as a menace of perpetual discord. Some believed in, and appealed to, his promises of moderation and caution for the future; others scouted them, as utterly untrustworthy. "Can the leopard," said they, "change his spots?" At a meeting held at the Athenaeum, Dunedin, on the 30th January, for the purpose of devising means of opposing the appointment, the chairman, Mr. W. Carr Young, read a telegram from the Bishop of Christchurch in these terms, "Bishop Jenner has come out without authority from me; nor do I propose giving him authority to officiate in Otago or Southland." Dr. Jenner, on his part, writing on the 6th February to the Otago Daily [335/336] Times, from St. Paul's Parsonage, where he was staying as a guest, declared that "he had no idea of forcing himself on the diocese as its bishop." "If," he wrote, "it appears that the feeling of the Church in these provinces against me is really what it is represented to be by my opponents, all I can say is, that nothing will be easier than to get rid of me. But it is due to myself, as well as to my numerous friends here--whose most kind and cordial welcome will never fade from my remembrance, wherever the rest of my life may be passed--not too hastily to yield to the demands of those who are urging my immediate resignation of all pretensions to the new see I am not here as bishop of Dunedin. I have not assumed that title since I landed in New Zealand. It has, I may also observe, been my fixed intention, ever since my arrival, not to officiate in any church in the colony until my position should be more clearly defined than it has been since the decision of the General Synod." A formal inhibition was actually issued by the Bishop of Christchurch, and Bishop Jenner did not officiate in any church during his stay in New Zealand. But Bishop Harper did not disapprove of his going round the diocese, and ascertaining for himself the feelings and wishes of church-people in the chief centres of population with regard to his claims. Accordingly, he first held a meeting at St. George's Hall, Dunedin, on the 12th February, at which the chair was taken by the Hon. Dr. Buchanan, a man of high character and standing in the country, and at which the bishop defended [336/337] himself vigorously against the errors imputed to him in doctrine and practice, and manfully urged his claims to the see for which he was consecrated. Then, after about a fortnight's stay in Dunedin, he visited Waikouaiti, Oamaru, Clyde, Queenstown, and other places, and addressed meetings wherever he found convenient opportunity.

Meanwhile the Bishop of Christchurch took the necessary steps for convening the first meeting of the Diocesan Synod; giving ample time, and making the fullest and most careful arrangements for securing as thoroughly satisfactory a representation of the laymen of the two provinces as it was possible to obtain. The licensed clergy were nine in number. The day appointed by the bishop for the opening of the session was Wednesday, the 7th April, when his lordship presided. Rarely has the first meeting of a newly-constituted legislative body, whether ecclesiastical or secular, commenced under circumstances so exciting. The final struggle took place on the second and third days of the session, April 8th and 9th, the sitting, which began at 4 p.m. on the 8th, having been prolonged through the night, and the division having taken place at break of day on the 9th. The bishop did not move from the chair from 11.30 p.m. on the 8th, until 6 a.m. on the 9th. The motion, hotly debated through these long hours, was to the effect, that "the Synod declared its willingness to accept Bishop Jenner as bishop of the diocese of Dunedin, and requested the confirmation of his appointment as such, in the manner prescribed [337/338] in the Church Constitution, provided that within three months no charge of unfaithfulness to his ordination vows should be made and established." The result of the division was, that four of the clergy voted in favour of the motion, and three against it, one of the nine not having come up to the meeting of the Synod. Of the laity, ten were in favour of the motion, and fifteen against it, so that it was declared to be lost. Bishop Jenner sailed for England shortly after.

No proposal was made for the nomination of any other clergyman to occupy the new see; the recent strife had left behind it too much soreness of feeling and mutual distrust to allow of any common counsel being taken for this purpose; the soothing effect of time was imperatively needed to allay the mischief. The most hopeful prospect that opened itself under the circumstances was, that the next meeting of the General Synod, which was to be held in Dunedin itself in 1871, might pave the way to the settlement of the diocese under a duly appointed bishop. Meantime, the old proverb which says, "It is an ill wind which blows no good," was exemplified in the case of the Dunedin gale, which blew so fiercely on the night of the 8th April, 1869. The following extract from a letter received by the writer of this history from Sir William Martin, dated Auckland, 30th July, 1869, bears witness to one good result:--"I suppose the next mail will bring tidings of the acceptance and registration of our late bishop's resignation: which done, the reign of our new primate will commence; and that, I think, under happy auspices. For whatever [338/339] evils may have attended the case of Bishop Jenner, certainly one good effect of the Dunedin synod has reached us here. The conduct of the President, under circumstances of a trying kind, has earned for him much confidence among churchmen here."

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