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The Anglican Church in South America

By the Right Rev. Edward Francis Every, D.D.

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1915.

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Mission to Brazil, or the "Brazilian Episcopal Church

THIS Mission was begun in 1889 by two young American priests, sent out by the American Church Missionary Society (since merged in the "Board of Missions"). They buried themselves in the interior of Southern Brazil and set themselves to acquire a thorough mastery of the language, and of the modes of thought and life of the people. They soon realized that if the Brazilians were to be won to the faith as their Church had received it, it must be through the Brazilians, and they threw their strength into training the best men among their converts. This meant slow progress at first, but rapid development afterwards. The Mission was visited after several years' labour first by the Bishop of West Virginia, who confirmed 150 candidates and ordained four Brazilian deacons, and afterwards (by request) by Bishop Stirling of the Falkland Islands in 1897, when on his way to the Lambeth Conference. He administered Confirmation to 160 more candidates, and ordained three Brazilians to the priesthood, and his successor, paying a friendly visit in 1905, found that his memory was cherished with affection and reverence, the link with the historic Anglican Communion being understood and valued. Bishop Kinsolving was consecrated in 1900, and from that time the mission has had its own independent life.

In 1906 the State of Rio Grande de Sul (the southernmost in Brazil) had been largely occupied. There were then five churches, substantial and dignified buildings, in the principal cities, including Porto Alegre, the state capital, and Rio Grande, the port, and eighteen mission stations; the staff consisted of the Bishop, four American priests, four Brazilian priests and one deacon, and three deaconesses, two of whom were Brazilian; the communicants numbered 800, and the baptized members from 3000 to 4000; there were nine Sunday schools with some 700 scholars. By 1914 the work had so grown that it was divided into three archdeaconries, viz. Rio de Janeiro (the federal capital had been occupied for some years), Porto Alegre, and Rio Grande. By this time the number of clergy was eighteen, the increase being entirely among the Brazilians, all having been trained in the Theological College at Rio Grande. The Diocesan School is now a prominent institution. There are sixty students in residence, with seven professors. The work is carried on at present in four houses, and the director, Rev. W. M. Thomas, pleads earnestly for better accommodation. It is stated in a report of the Sixteenth Annual Convention (which corresponds to our Diocesan Synod), held at Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, July 8-12, 1914, that the account of the work in the various parishes, read by the priests in charge, gave evidence of the progress made; that the educational work carried on by the Diocesan School showed a promising future; that the problem of the Sustentation Fund for the Brazilian Clergy was being satisfactorily solved; that the spirit of fraternity and charity which prevailed during the discussion between both the clerical and lay delegates showed that day by day they were advancing in the Christian life; and that the interested congregations which gathered to hear the special preachers, the kindness and attention shown by the townsfolk to the delegates,--all this, and with reason, had justified the exclamation of one of the veterans of the ministry, "This is the best Conference which I have ever attended." It is at the same time an honour and loss to the Church that Rev. H. C. Brown, D.D., has been appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Virginia. The translation of the American Prayer Book into Portuguese was largely his handiwork, as was also the recent revision of the Portuguese Bible; and while pre-eminently the scholar of the mission, he was also a fresh and instructive preacher, and a wise and vigorous parish priest. The Bishop naturally made appropriate and touching reference to this event at the recent Convention, concluding with these words, "It is to be hoped that on the day of his consecration to the Episcopate, which will be announced beforehand, the ministers who received their instruction at his hands will invite their congregations to a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and thus be with their old master in the most solemn act of his life."

With reference to women's work, there was a meeting of the Ladies' Aid Society during the Convention which was attended by delegates representing various branches throughout the diocese, and also a special service at which Dr. Brown was the preacher. The society has sixteen branches and 401 members.

This work of the American Church will not compare in volume either with that of the American Presbyterians or Methodists, though it is widely extended, especially in the south. Nevertheless, like the Church in the United States itself, its influence and weight in all that concerns the common progress of Christendom is very great and out of all proportion to its numbers. The other missions named say openly that it can accomplish a work which lies beyond their own power, and alone of all missions in Brazil it has never encountered any open opposition.

In an article by Bishop Kinsolving in The East and West, April, 1903, three causes are stated as justifying the American Church's advance into Latin American lands: (i) The Pope's reply to the Encyclical of the Archbishop, with reference to which the late Bishop of Salisbury stated, "It now seems to be the duty of the Anglican Church to establish a worldwide communion without reference to the Roman claims." (2) The Spanish American War, which seemed to reveal the general weakness of Spanish civilization and the deadness of its religion, and (3) The Expansion in Church and, State, which seemed to be forced upon Americans almost against their will.

It may be noted that not only was this work in Brazil approved by the whole American Church, but it was cordially recognized by a resolution of the Lambeth Conference in 1897, bidding Godspeed to the reform movement, and expressing the hope that it would continue to develop on Catholic lines.

In the article referred to some interesting quotations are given. The presiding Bishop at the Baltimore General Convention of 1892 said, in his last public utterance, with reference to Church work in Mexico and Brazil, "Those peoples lie there upon the highway of the nations, bruised and wounded, fallen among thieves, stripped of religious rights and like to die, and we must go down in the spirit of the Good Samaritan with the oil and wine to bind up their wounds and give them succour. Is it said it has not been our custom? The sooner we make it our custom the better." And another Bishop stated his conviction "that the canons of the undivided Church cannot wisely be applied to the present dissevered condition of Christendom."

One point seems clear, that where there are many missions, as in Latin America, Presbyterian, Methodist, and others, an Anglican Church Mission should be one which clearly represents its own distinctive principles. It is not for the Anglican Church simply to swell the tide of general evangelization, but to contribute that for which it specifically stands in Christendom. It often happens that those who are most in sympathy with letting light into the darkness of South America are scarcely distinguishable from ordinary Protestants. This charge cannot be brought against the American Church Mission in Brazil. Indeed, it seems to the writer to unite what is essential in both schools of thought in the Church. An account of a celebration of the Holy Communion which he attended in one of their churches in 1906 may illustrate this.

Three clergy, after robing and prayer in the vestry, entered and knelt round the Communion table, which was entirely bare of ornament (this, it was explained, was out of deference to some of the more ignorant converts). The church was well filled with a general congregation, and one of the clergy proceeded to the reading desk and read Morning Prayer. There was nothing that called for special comment except that there was no choir in the chancel, and that the singing was congregational and hearty. The Communion Office began as usual, and the sermon was preached in the usual place. After the prayer for the Church Militant, the whole congregation remained in their places. It was evidently not the custom for any to leave the church. There were a large number of communicants. All communicated who were confirmed and in good standing, i.e. those who had the right to come. There was no non-communicating attendance on the part of church members. Nor was there any risk (so it was said) of those who were not communicants taking it upon themselves to come forward. The position was perfectly understood. Those who were privileged, used their privilege; those who were not, did not claim a right which was not theirs. Yet it was evidently a lesson and inspiration to them to be present and an appeal to them to become full church members in the future through Confirmation.

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