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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.

Origin and Growth

FIVE Bishops now exercise jurisdiction in the South American continent, viz. the Bishop of Guiana (a British colony and the only British colony on the continent), the Bishop of Trinidad (a West Indian diocese, which includes Anglican congregations and missions in the neighbouring republic of Venezuela), the Bishop of the Falkland Islands (whose reduced jurisdiction since 1910 extends over the republics on the Pacific coast), the Bishop in Argentina and Eastern South America (i.e. the republics east of the Andes, which comprise the greater part of the continent), and the Bishop of Southern Brazil, who represents the Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America to the Brazilians. The reasons for the existence of the first two and last are clear, but as to the other two, who divide the jurisdiction of the greater part of the continent between them, the question might easily be asked, "What business has the Anglican Church at all in these regions, which are alien, Latin, and Roman Catholic?" The answer is that the number of the resident English, both in the cities and scattered throughout the "camps," or country districts, amply justifies it. Though compared with other foreigners, e.g. Germans, Italians, etc., our numbers are small, and contrasted with the people of the countries themselves, insignificant, still in themselves the British constitute an important element both on account of the magnitude of the commercial interests they represent, and because a large proportion of them fill positions of trust; the English working-man, i.e., scarcely exists, he cannot compete with the Latin immigrant, whose standard of living is so much lower and who has no language difficulty to face. The actual numbers are not easy to give, for Government statistics exclude all who are born in the country (these they claim as citizens), and include Irish Roman Catholics and others. Perhaps a reasonable estimate would be 73,600 distributed as follows:--

Argentina 50,000
Chile 20,000
Peru 1,000
Uruguay 2,000
Paraguay 600

However, the Anglican Church has a strong ground of appeal as the national Church of English-speaking people, and the more weak and scattered a minority, the greater the need for efficient organization as a means of self-preservation. The actual origin of the Anglican Church in the South American republics dates back to the early years of last century, and is to be found in the consular chaplaincies of Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Pernambuco in Brazil, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Montevideo in Uruguay, Valparaiso in Chile, and Lima in Peru. In these cities there were British commercial colonies of a more or less permanent character, for communication with home in those days was scanty and difficult, and the idea of establishment being much more generally accepted than it is now, and religion more of a social necessity, they naturally turned to their official representatives, H.B. Majesty's Ministers or Consuls, for help. Usually a grant of money towards a building was made by the Foreign Office, and half the stipend of the clergyman subscribed upon certain conditions; but in some cases, at any rate these funds were derived from a voluntary tax on the British merchants themselves.

The "Regulations for the Management of British Church Affairs at Foreign Ports and Places," issued by the Foreign Office, are strange reading to us. They are decidedly erastian in tendency. Such expressions as "British Church Establishment," "British Protestant Church," and other foreign-sounding titles, which occur in the records of some local Churches, are probably due to this origin. Indeed, the organization seemed to rest upon a basis of nationality and money far more than of principle or doctrine. Naturally the official element was dominant, and the consul, of whatever religion he might be personally, all powerful. Another weakness of the system was that it did not develop the spirit of self-help. No doubt it was a wise policy, when the time came, to withdraw this Government help, and it is to the credit of some chaplaincies that they gave it up voluntarily. Most of these chaplaincies ceased to be "consular" many years ago, and now the only one remaining is Pernambuco in Brazil, and there the arrangement ceases with the tenure of office of the present chaplain. Montevideo also draws a small government grant for a year or two more. These chaplaincies were always served by clergy of the Church of England, who (until the appointment of the first Bishop of the Falkland Islands) received their licence from the Bishop of London. This, indeed, was their only link with episcopacy, for they were entirely without episcopal supervision or counsel. In those days it does not seem to have been thought necessary. It was the work of Bishop Stirling, first Bishop of the Falkland Islands, appointed in 1869, to draw together these scattered elements into diocesan form, a work involving no little tact and patience, which, however, it certainly received. It was at this time that the South American Missionary Society came into prominence as an agency in general Church affairs (hitherto it had been chiefly a missionary agency to the aborigines); but of this we shall say more later. The point to be noticed now is that certain permanent consequences in the character of these dioceses seem to have followed from their historical origin. The Churches in the cities mentioned are still largely supported from the national point of view as patriotic institutions, rather than from the purely religious, i.e. banks and business houses subscribe, and according to locally legalized "constitutions" which the churches enjoy have some say in the management of affairs. This power is rarely if ever abused, and, indeed, the laity have a wholesome sense of responsibility for their clergy's welfare. Nevertheless, their tendency is to regard themselves as close corporations, rather than spiritual centres for expansion, and the fact that in many cases those who would be Nonconformists at home are happily associated with Church people themselves in the privileges of membership or even office, tends to make the character of the Church and its teaching less distinctive and forceful than it might be. And further the Churches still suffer from isolation and remoteness, and their tendency is to Congregationalism; they find it difficult to realize their fellowship with brother Churchmen who may be in another republic many hundreds of miles distant. Yet in spite of all difficulties there has been growth and expansion. The outline of this expansion shall now be given, the details to be filled in later.

The most notable instance has been in and about Buenos Aires. Without any impulse from home or the help of any society, as the tendency to live in suburbs outside the city developed itself, and the distance to St. John's Church seemed inconvenient or prohibitive, Church-people secured sites, built churches, and in some cases halls and parsonages also, supported their chaplain, and developed a full self-supporting Church organization. Four chaplaincies came into being in this way.

In other directions there has been similar development with the help of the South American Missionary Society. Rosario chaplaincy in Argentina, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Concepcion and Sandy Point in Chile, all now of independent status, were for many years liberally helped by the Society, and much other work was done of which there is now no trace. In some cases the communities ministered to disappeared on account of mines being closed or colonies failing, in others the work was interrupted by revolution, and the English-speaking population moved elsewhere. Yet new efforts were always put forth and Santiago de Chile is an instance of an old chaplaincy revived, and to this day Alberdi and Rosario Talleres, separated from St. Bartholo-mews, is supported by the Society. Fray Bentos in Uruguay, too, has never become self-supporting, but owes both its initiation and in part its maintenance to the Society in unbroken sequence. On the Pacific Coast the most notable instance of independent expansion has been in the nitrate region to the north of Valparaiso, chaplaincies having been estab-lished by local effort between 1900 and 1910 at Iquique, Antofagasta and Taltal. Speaking generally, it may be said, that the growth of Church organization to the south of Valparaiso was due to the Society's initiative, that to the north was independent of it, though for many years an efficient lay reader has been maintained at Coquimbo. Nor must it be forgotten that the Society supplied the primary initiating and unifying factor in the Bishop. Moreover, it goes without saying, that the three missions to the aboriginal Indians, viz. the original mission in Tierra del Fuego, that in the Paraguayan Chaco, and that to the Araucanians in Southern Chile, were entirely the Society's work. Another special work of the Society has been to minister to the Welsh colony in Chubut. It has also taken the lead in maintaining camp chaplains, or travelling clergy to minister to scattered English people in Argentina. In 1904 it adopted the chaplaincy of Concordia, thus enabling the chaplain to extend his ministrations throughout the provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes. Afterwards, independent camp chaplaincies were started in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Cordoba, and work was also undertaken in Paraguay, which has developed considerably since. By 1910, the year of the division of the diocese of the Falkland Islands, there were some forty-five clergy, thirty in the republics of the Plate and Brazil, and fifteen in the Falklands, Chile and Peru (the two clergy in the Falklands were supported in part by the Colonial Office, and a grant is still made in respect of the educational work done by them in the colony), and the jurisdiction of the Bishop extended from Pernambuco in Brazil to Lima in Peru, i.e. over a coastline of 7000 miles, including congregations and missions scattered over the whole continent south of the equator. Thus it will be seen that the present dioceses of the Falkland Islands and Argentina and Eastern South America had their origin in the consular chaplaincies in the coast towns of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; that these scattered chaplaincies were gathered into some kind of unity by the action of the South American Missionary Society in providing a Bishop; that the work as a whole received a great impulse for growth by means of this action, and that considerable expansion followed both by means of the Society and independently of it, until the extent of the work, and more especially the vast area it covered, justified the division of the diocese in 1910. It remains now to give a sketch of the work in the six republics actually occupied by the two dioceses.

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