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THE

PRIMARY CHARGE

DELIVERED BY

The Right Reverend

JOHN MANWARING STEWARD,

BISHOP OF

THE DIOCESE OF MELANESIA,

in his Cathedral Church of S. BARNABAS', NORFOLK ISLAND,

ON

Monday, 6th October, 1919.

  

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2005


[3] THE CHARGE

My brothers and sisters in the Lord, I have called you here this morning that I may lay before you, as clearly as I am able, the policy that, with God's help, I propose to follow in our work here in Melanesia.

And first and foremost of all I set before me two principles:

1. That the only right and Catholic manner of rule in a Diocese is that of the Bishop and his priests together.

I do not disparage for one moment the great work that has been and is now being done amongst us by women and laymen, nor do I dream of criticizing the actions of my brother Bishops at home and in the Commonwealth of Australia our the Dominion of New Zealand, who have associated the laity with the Clergy in their Synods.

Circumstances alter cases, and it will be enough for me to say, that for ourselves, I do not think that our present circumstances justify our making any departure in Melanesia from what I believe to be, as I have said, the only right, Catholic and primitive manner of rule in a Diocese.

But at the same time I am anxious and shall try to ensure that our laity of the Mission Staff, men and women, have their right and proper say in the management of our affairs.

The other principle I have alluded to is this--

2. That our Native Clergy must have exactly the same positions in our Councils as the Missionary Clergy.

[4] The one real justification for our presence in the Islands is that we intend, by God's grace, to build up there, an indigenous Church of Christ--The Church of Melanesia; and this, I am convinced, we cannot hope to do until and unless we give our Native Clergy a rank and position equal, in all Church matters, to that of the Missionary Clergy.

Without further preamble, I will read to you an outline Constitution of the Mission, which I propose to follow as well as circumstances shall permit.

I have no intention of making sudden and rash changes without proper and due trial; but, with God's assistance, I mean to make trial, at any rate. But I beg of you to remember, that unless you give me your full and hearty co-operation, even at the expense of some, perhaps considerable, personal inconvenience, we cannot hope that our trial shall issue in success. But I am so happy in the assurance that you will not shrink from any effort to set our work on a true and satisfactory basis, for ourselves and our successors, that I, personally, have no fear for the future.

The proposed Constitution, then, runs as follows--

1. The Rule and Government of the Mission shall be by the Bishop in Synod.

2. The Synod shall consist of all members of the Staff in Priests' Orders residing in the Diocese.

3. No decision of the Synod shall be binding on the Mission, unless passed by a majority of 3 to 1 and approved by the Bishop.

4. The Bishop shall veto no decision passed by a greater majority than 6 to 1.

5. The Synod shall meet not less often than once every seven years.

6. At the same time as the Synod meets there shall be a general Staff Meeting of all the Missionary workers.

7. No decision of the Synod shall be binding on the Mission unless agreed to by a majority of the General Staff Meeting.

[5] 8. The Bishop shall be further assisted and guided by an Advisory Council of the Synod, consisting of--

(a) A Commissary for the Northern half of the Diocese.

(b) A Commissary for the Southern Half of the Diocese.

(c) A Missionary Priest from the Northern half of the Diocese.

(d) A Missionary Priest from the Southern half of the Diocese.

(e) A native Priest from the Northern half of the Diocese.

(f) A Native Priest from the Southern half of the Diocese.

9. This Advisory Council shall meet not less often than once every three years.

10. Furthermore, the Bishop shall, as far as possible, meet the Northern and the Southern members of this Advisory Council separately, at least once every year.

11. The two Commissaries shall be elected by the whole Staff of the Mission.

12. Each representative shall be elected by his "peers".

13. A General Staff Meeting may be convened by the Bishop, or by not less than 3 members of the Staff of not less than 5 years of service in the Mission, at any time that may be deemed necessary.

14. The Bishop shall summon a Synod at any time, when requested to do so, by a majority of not less than 6 to 1 of its members.

15. The Bishop and all Members of the Staff shall be considered bound to obey loyally and faithfully and to carry out any decisions duly agreed upon by the Synod and General Staff, in accordance with paragraphs 3, 4 and 7.

16. A decision of the Advisory Council ratified by a majority of not less than 3 to 1 of the members of the Synod, agreed to by the Bishop and a majority of the Mission Staff, or ratified by a majority of [5/6] not less than 6 to 1 of the Members of the Synod and agreed to by a majority of the Mission Staff, shall be considered equivalent to a decision of the Synod.

17. This ratification may be obtained by letters from each person giving his or her individual vote.

18. Members of the Synod or of the General Staff unable to attend may record their votes beforehand in writing to the Bishop, but may not vote by proxy.

19. Notice of any motion to be brought before the Synod must be given in writing, at least 6 months before the date of the meeting of Synod.

20. Each Member of Synod should receive notice of such meeting in time for him to avail himself of paragraph 18, if he so desire.

Such is the outline Constitution that I propose, and of that Constitution I purpose to make trial.

As a first step towards the attainment of that object, I will ask the Staff to meet together as soon as they possibly can, and select the names of two Commissaries whom they will recommend to me, that I may appoint them, if possible, before we sail for the Islands.

Should they be unable to do so, I propose to nominate two priests, to act in that capacity until such time as the Staff shall be able to choose their own representatives as I have suggested.

You will clearly understand that the proposed Constitution I have read to you is only tentative; I do not consider myself bound by any of its clauses, until we have had an opportunity of giving them a trial, and have then formally agreed to them in a due and proper manner.

That we may not proceed with undue haste, I would especially draw your attention to clause 15.

We cannot allow the decisions of our Synod to be a mere form of empty words. So we shall be slow to pass Canons, which we shall solemnly promise to observe loyally and faithfully.

[7] I now pass to matters of perhaps lesser, but I still, I believe, pressing importance.--

(1). ON TEACHERS,

Now, I fear, we are all agreed that our Teachers, as a whole, though we thank God for many striking exceptions, are not satisfactory.

Our first aim must be to make our Training College a reality, and to select the best of our present teachers and place them in some position of oversight over those less gifted or less satisfactory than themselves, and thus pave the way to a greatly increased native ministry.

Our ideal should, it seems to me, be the Parish Priest, ministering to his own flock, and that of a size not beyond his powers.

Then they must Teach. We cannot remain content with men who merely read prayers and make a pretence of teaching a few children when they, or the children, have nothing better to do.

I would ask all of you, who have charge of districts, to keep a very careful eye on your more promising teachers; that from time to time they may be sent on to our Training College, and there tested and prepared, if found suitable, for higher work in the Church.

As one newly raised to the Episcopate, I am very fearful lest I should fall into the sin of "laying hands suddenly on anyone," especially as my own desire is so strong to see a large increase in our Native Ministry. Now, in the choice of those who should be ordained, I must, and do depend very largely upon my Priests in charge of districts; therefore, my dear brothers in Christ, I charge you very solemnly, in the sight of God, to make due trial of those you recommend to me for ordination. Be faithful stewards of this ministry. Be not led by partiality or personal preferences or dislikes. Pray earnestly to God for guidance in this matter, and realize how great a treasure is here committed to your hands; and with God's help we shall make choice of good and fitting ministers of the Gospel, from among our people.

[8] (2). THEN COMES THE QUESTION OF STIPENDS.

I do feel most strongly that, if these teachers of ours do their real work, they are deserving of some more commensurate recompense than they are receiving at present. But this is a matter more for future consideration than, perhaps, for immediate action.

But now, I enter upon a matter that calls, I feel, for action in the very near future.

(3). THE MINISTRY OF PREACHING.

We must realize more than we have done hitherto, I fear, the greatness, the glory and the responsibility of the Ministry of Preaching. Some of our Teachers, who now preach, are simply, I am afraid, profaning this high and holy office. I feel that the time has come when Preachers should be required to hold a License from the Bishop for that work, and therefore I beg of you to consider this matter among yourselves, and to advise me how best we may regulate this Ministry.

I am inclined to recommend Three Orders of Teachers.

1. Preachers
2. Teachers
3. Readers

We should realize that a Preacher may be nothing of a Teacher and vice versa, and make a point of seeking to find in which direction the abilities of our present staff of native Teachers may trend. We may find that we have some men with a real gift of God-directed eloquence, who cannot teach. Let us then recognise this gift of God, realizing that He has not gifted all alike, and set that man apart for that special work, for which God has fitted him. In the same way, there may be some excellent Teachers, who have not the gift of Preaching. These too, we should not attempt to force such men to undertake a work for which they are not fitted, but yet make use of that real teaching-power, which we recognize to be God's especial gift to them.

And so, again, there must be a number of earnest God-fearing men, who are neither Teachers, nor Preachers, [8/9] but who are yet desirous of serving God publicly, and capable of doing so reverently and fittingly. From this class we might recruit our third order of Readers, who would conduct the daily services in their villages, while the Preachers and Teachers, might perhaps, at first, be itinerating; though this is not the ideal, of course, at which we should aim.

I do not wish to make any sudden changes among our old and perhaps less capable Teachers; they may be left to pass quietly to their rest, while we are striving earnestly, with God's help, to build up their successors. But I am personally prepared to bless and set aside any men who may at this time be presented to me, as fit for the office of Preacher. I would urge you to aim at lessening the number of sermons in your villages churches, until you have more men really capable of preaching. We should emphasize more the value of coming together for worship, rather than for instruction,--of coming to God's house, more for what we desire to offer, than for what we hope to receive.

(4). THE SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH.

And here, I would remind you, that we in Melanesia profess ourselves firm believers in the value of Christ's Sacraments above and before all. Let us make every endeavour that our people shall not suffer more than we can possibly help from lack of the means of grace ordained by God and, as our Catechism tells us, "generally necessary to salvation."

We Priests have to play many parts in the Islands--advisors in matters spiritual and temporal, school inspectors and masters, but always, always remember that above and before all, we are ordained to be "Stewards of the Mysteries of God."

And this subject leads me to consider two of the lesser Sacramental offices.

(i). The question of Private or Auricular
Confession.

[10] I would ask you to recommend this practice to your people only after very careful consideration. Here are one or two questions that I think each man should put to himself, before he urges his people to open their grief to him and receive from him the comfort of Absolution.

(a) Can you understand what they say, without unduly paining them by asking for plainer expression of their grief?

(b) Do they really grasp the meaning of what you are asking them to do, and what you offer them?

(c) Will the knowledge you will gain in the Confessional make it almost impossible for you to observe to the utmost the secrecy, to which you are pledged?

Remember it is a very heavy sin to violate the secrecy of the Confessional in the SLIGHTEST way.

You must NOT know anything you hear thus. It must not influence your manner to the penitent--outside the Confessional; it must NOT in any degree influence your behaviour to other people whom you may suspect to be implicated in the sins confessed to you. No one must be able to guess by any word or action of yours that you have learnt any fact in this way.

The Secret of the Confessional is INVIOLABLE without the permission of the Penitent.

I fear that a sense of my own sinfulness may make me too lenient in dealing with offenders brought to my notice, but I dare not be slack in reproving and even punishing to the utmost, any who should be guilty of violating this most sacred trust.

And finally, you must, if you recommend Private Confession to your people, practise it yourselves.

I shall always be ready to consult with and advise any individual priests, who may so desire, in the matter of hearing the confessions of their people; and while I must always be ready to hear the confessions of any of my Staff, who may desire it, I must say here that I do not consider that the Bishop is the best confessor for his priests in our rather peculiar circumstances. I will [10/11] always in this, as in all matters, be at your service, if you wish it, but I, personally, do not desire you to feel in any way bound to take me as your confessor.

The whole matter of the hearing of the confessions of our natives is one that I feel needs so very different treatment for individual cases, that I do not propose to discuss the matter more fully here and now, but, as I have said, I shall be ready and glad to give such counsel and help in the matter, as I may be able to do, to any who ask me.

(ii). Then I pass to Confirmation.

I desire to make this a marked moment in the lives of our Christians. I propose then, as far as possible, to administer Confirmation at a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The actual service will take place after the recitation of the commandments and the responses thereto.

The newly confirmed should make their first Communion at this service, and Candidates should therefore be thoroughly prepared to receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord before they are presented to me for Confirmation.

I shall endeavour always to be present in a village where Confirmation is to be administered, at least for some hours on the evening before the day of the Confirmation, and not to leave that village for some hours at least after the service is ended. May aim will be to sleep at least two nights at the place where any Confirmation is to be held.

As to the ages at which I desire candidates for Confirmation to be presented to me, I suggest that for those baptized in infancy or as little children, 14 is the youngest age at which they should be presented; but on the other hand, as far as possible, Confirmation should not be delayed till they have reached a greater age than 18. Confirmation is not a reward for past services, but a help for future struggles; a beginning, not an ending.

[12] I mention the ages of 14 and 18 as a guide, not as a fixed and unchangeable period.

_______

I now pass to the consideration of the Administration of the Discipline of the Church.

And here one principle stands out clearly. A public offender must be publicly restored to full communion.

A priest has a perfect right to decide whether or no he will privately hear the confession of a notorious evil-doer and privately administer absolution, or no; but if the offence is publicly known by the Church people, the offender must be publicly received back before the Church.

The word Excommunication is sometimes used rather loosely. The Church recognizes two forms of Excommunication:--

1. The greater Excommunication; and
2. The lesser Excommunication.

The pronouncement of the former is the duty of the Bishop alone. Its effect is to separate the offender from membership of the Body of Christ,--to put him out of the Church.

The lesser excommunication may be pronounced by any Priest over any offender from amongst the people who have been committed to his care. Its effect is to prohibit the offender from attending the Public Services of the Church for a greater or lesser period of time,--to put him out of Church. Such excommunications, however, should be reported to the Bishop from time to time.

Should an offence be committed for which the greater excommunication seems necessary, but at a time when the Bishop is not within reach, the Priest in charge of the district where the offence is committed, or the offender lives, may pronounce sentence of excommunication, pending the arrival of the Bishop. But on the arrival of the Bishop the Priest must at once report his action, and the Bishop will then confirm or reverse the sentence, as he shall, on due consideration and enquiry, think right.

[13] A person dying, whilst under the sentence of the lesser excommunication may be buried by a Priest, using the authorized Form of Service. I have a form of such a service, in English, which might be used, until such time as a duly authorized Form of Service has been appointed for use in the Diocese.

No service of any kind shall be held at the burial of a person dying under the sentence of the greater excommunication.

The greater excommunication shall only be pronounced upon open and notorious and habitual offenders against the laws of the Church, or such as deliberately set themselves in opposition to those laws.

The lesser excommunication is pronounced upon persons guilty of occasional breaches of the laws of the Church, and may consist in--

(a) Exclusion from the Holy Communion.

(b) Exclusion from Daily Mattins and Evensong; or

(c) Exclusion from all Services held in Church.

The lesser excommunication is usually inflicted for a set period of time, which may be shortened or increased according as the Priest thinks right.

The greater excommunication continues in force until the sinner shews signs of true contrition, when it is annulled by the Bishop who imposed it, whereupon the penitent passes into the condition of one under the lesser excommunication, and remains in that condition as long as the Priest deems necessary.

The greater excommunication may be expressed in Mota by "me vure luea nan o Loglue."

The lesser excommunication may be expressed in Mota by "ni we toga avarea galtag." In pronouncing such a sentence, one would use some such phrase as "Inau we vureluea nan o Loglue," for the greater excommunication.

[14] "Inau we mapua avarea, nan wa pirin lai tea

   Ganarano    Qon  
 Ape   Tataro val qon

 o
 Week  nivisa,"
   Vugtuwale alo Ima we Rono    Vula  
       Tau  

for the lesser.

Where the custom exists that the penitent shall make a "thank-offering" for the readmission to full communion, the following points should be noticed:--

(a) It must be most clearly explained that it is NOT a 'fine' inflicted for his offence.

(b) He should be told to place it in the Alms bag when next he attends the Holy Communion.

(c) Under no circumstances shall the amount be specified

(d) Nor shall the offering be made a preliminary to, or part of, the readmission ceremony.

Until such time as a form of readmission for penitents, for use in the whole Mission, be drawn up, each Priest must submit the form or manner of readmission used by him, to the bishop for his approval or, if necessary, correction.

Each priest shall, in the mean time, put in writing the form used by him, to prevent confusion amongst the people, in case his successor or another Priest, acting in his district, should, through ignorance, follow some other form employ unaccustomed ceremonies.

A Priest has jurisdiction to bind or loose only in the district in charge of which he has been placed by the Bishop, and can only exercise those powers in another man's district,--

(a) By permission, direct or implicit, of the Priest in charge of that district, or,

(b) By order of the Bishop.

I have a form of readmission for penitents that I shall be glad to show to any one who requires it.

_______

[15] I now pass to one or two matters of far smaller importance, indeed, but upon which it seems to me advisable to make some pronouncement.

(1.) THE DRESS OF THE CLERGY.

It is desirable that as far as possible the Eucharistic Vestments be worn by the Celebrant at the Holy Communion.

A pattern for a plain Chasuble, suitable for taking with one when travelling round one's district, can be obtained from myself, if any Priest wish for one.

Ministers assisting at a Celebration of the Holy Communion, a Confirmation, an Ordination, Wedding or Baptism, should wear Cassock, Surplice and Stole.

The Minister at a Baptism, Wedding, Readmission of a Penitent, Absolution, and other Sacramental Rites, including the Churching of Women, should wear Cassock, Surplice and Stole.

At Choir offices, Priests and Deacons must wear Cassock and Surplice, except under most exceptional circumstances.

Priests may also wear a Black Scarf or Tippet of silk if they have a Master's degree of any University in the British Empire, or of stuff, if they have not such a degree.

The hood of this or any other degree, or of any Theological College which is duly qualified to grant the right to wear a hood, may also be worn.

A Deacon may also wear the Scarf or Tippet if he so desire.

Deacons and laymen alike may wear the hood with cassock and surplice, but a layman may not wear the scarf, or tippet, or a stole.

The stole may also be worn by the Clergy when preaching, but should not be worn while taking part in a Choir office.

According to the Canons of the Church of England, the biretta or cap of any shape must not be worn in Church, except by one who, by reason of great age or any infirmity, requires a covering for the head.

[16] These are, of course, matters of but slight importance, but it is desirable that in matters of dress, as well as in greater matters, all things should be done "decently and in order."

_______

It remains for me to deal briefly with some of the Ornaments of the Service.

I am strongly of opinion, that all that tends to render our Services beautiful and impressive not only helps our people to realize the Holiness of our Worship of God, but also tends to increase our own reverence, and promotes the Honour and Glory of Almighty God.

I am prepared, as your Bishop, to allow and countenance with my presence as full a ceremonial as is compatible with the fabrics of our Churches. But I would ask you to consult me before making any great change in existing ceremonial.

I must reserve to myself the right to decide the question of the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of communicating the sick, in each separate case, on its individual merits.

I cannot permit Reservation of the Species for any other purpose, as I am personally convinced that it is repugnant to the Canons and Laws of our branch of the Holy Catholic Church to do so.

Such questions as Prayer for the Departed and Invocation of Saints, I leave to your private judgements, with the proviso, that you must use the utmost caution in instructing our people about such matters, and must introduce no new custom of this kind without careful instruction beforehand. Nor may any Invocation of the Saints be used in Public Services without my consent, obtained after seeing a copy of the proposed devotion.

With regard to our Daily Services, I fully recognize that some alteration from our present methods is permissible, if not even desirable. I would only ask you, in making any changes, to stick closely to the example of our Book of Common Prayer, and submit any proposed changes to me, at your earliest opportunity.

[17] I cannot authorize any alteration in the Service of the Administration of the Holy Communion, except in matters of detail only.

In all matters connected with Public Worship, I simply ask you to remember three things:--

I. The Church's Rule. Nothing must be taught that cannot be proved out of Holy Scripture, and nothing practised that is not agreeable to the spirit of the Book of Common Prayer.

II. Pray be very, very careful not unnecessarily to offend, or confuse the minds of the people whom God has committed to your care; and

III. Remember that in all things concerning the services of the Church, the decision of the Bishop of the Diocese must be the final word on the matter.

Lastly, my dear brother Priests, I have to say before you and before our Heavenly Father that I will strive so to serve you as your Bishop that I may deserve the confidence you have shewn in me by choosing me to be your most unworthy Bishop. I earnestly beg your unceasing prayers that I be enabled so to do, and your whole-hearted co-operation in the work to which it has pleased God to call me, by your choice, and to which I have been duly consecrated by the Bishops of the Church of New Zealand.

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Printed at the Melanesian Mission Press, Norfolk Island. 1919


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