Project Canterbury






Church Work in Mexico,






Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Delaware.






[3] Being impressed with the conviction that the recent history and present condition of the Mission work in the Republic of Mexico, which our Church adopted and sanctioned in 1875, are but imperfectly known, I have felt it a duty to place before the Church facts and considerations that seem to me important. In doing this it seems unnecessary to review the proceedings, either in this country or in Mexico, prior to the session of the General Convention of 1883. Not only was the Church fully informed, from time to time, of current events, by publication in The Spirit of Missions and otherwise, but there was presented in the General Convention of 1880, a full report of the proceedings of the Mexican Commission of the House of Bishops up to October, 1880, which was brought before both Houses, and appears in the Journal of the Convention, pages 176-181. A part of that report, inadvertently omitted in the Journal, was published in the Spirit of Missions for May, 1883. At the meeting of the General Convention and of the Board of Missions in 1883, a similar statement was presented, setting forth all essential particulars up to October 23, 1883, which is published in full in the account of the triennial meeting of the Board of Missions of 1883, pages 475-478. To these official communications any one is referred who wishes to have a connected view of the mutual relations of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States and the Mexican Church, commonly known, from its original title, as "The Church of Jesus," but in the Covenant, formed between the two Churches, designated as "the Mexican Branch of the Catholic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, militant upon earth."

[4] The Mexican Commission of the House of Bishops, in the last mentioned report, of October, 1883, expressed their dissatisfaction with the conduct of affairs in the Mexican Church, and stated that a telegraphic message had been sent to Bishop Riley, requesting him to resign his jurisdiction and retire from the work. With this request, after subsequent personal conference with the members of the Commission, the Bishop complied. He presented to the Commission, on the 24th of April, 1884, in the city of New York, his resignation, in which he pledged himself to exercise no Episcopal authority or perform Episcopal acts in his Diocese, or in the Republic of Mexico.

Previously to this resignation, the Board of Managers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, on the 12th of December, 1883, confirmed the following resolution, which had just before been adopted by the Foreign Committee.

"WHEREAS, The Mexican Commission in a report made to the Board of Missions in Philadelphia, October, 1883, expressed its dissatisfaction with the conduct of affairs under the charge of the Bishop of the Valley of Mexico with whom they are associated for the government of said Mexican Church under a Covenant

"Therefore, be it Resolved,

"That the resolution of the Foreign Committee of November 13, 1883, asking for special contributions to sustain for the time being what has been adjudged to be really valuable work in Mexico, be so far modified as to request that contributions for the work under Bishop Riley be sent to the Mexican League as the proper channel through which to transmit such contributions, until further action of this Committee, and that the Foreign Committee withdraw from all official connection with the work under the charge of the Bishop of the Valley of Mexico until such time as the said Committee receive satisfactory evidence from the Mexican Commission of the House of Bishops, that a proper adjustment of the differences between the said Bishop and the Mexican Commission has been made, and that this resolution take effect on the 20th of December, 1883."

I suppose that the words, "what has been adjudged to be really valuable work in Mexico," may refer to the concluding sentence of [4/5] the report of the Mexican Commission alluded to, and to the resolution adopted by the House of Bishops communicated to the Board at the same time, viz:


"The Commission, in conclusion, cannot but declare that, notwithstanding so many obstacles; there exists today a field of spiritual work in Mexico of great promise, if properly taken hold of and placed under the supervisory care of wise administrators.

"We ought not to lose all that has been accomplished through the labors of years of sacrifice and toil. If the hay and wood and stubble have to be removed, yet the foundations are there, and on them wise master builders may yet erect Missions that shall become great living forces in the regeneration of Mexico."

Resolution adopted by the House of Bishops

"Resolved, That this House earnestly recommends to the Board of Missions that Mission work in Mexico be carried forward."

The importance of this work is also fully attested by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Elliott and the Rev. George F. Flichtner, who visited Mexico at the special request of the Mexican Commission, in April, 1883, for the purpose of a thorough investigation, which was very faithfully made. They say, in the conclusion of their report, that they "have become convinced that there is in the Republic of Mexico an opportunity and a demand for missionary work, which is peculiarly our own, larger and more promising in its results than any we have yet undertaken outside of our own country, but that to be successful, it must, while entered upon in the spirit of love and enthusiasm for humanity, be brought at least for the present under the more direct supervision and control of the authorities of the Church to which, especially, it looks for counsel, support and sympathy."

The withdrawal of the Board of Missions from all official connection with the work was to a large extent the denial of such "counsel, support and sympathy," at a most critical period. Just when the embarrassed ministers and struggling congregations needed a strong [5/6] arm to sustain them, that arm was withdrawn, The Board Indeed requested that contributions be sent to the Mexican League, but the effect of the repudiation of the Mission was of necessity so damaging as to impair confidence in the work, and thus greatly diminish contributions. Meanwhile, faithful laborers in the field, no longer receiving their regular stipends, were sadly straitened, and in some cases were really suffering for the necessaries of life. In this crisis, the Christian women of the Mexican League came forward with noble resolution. To their power, and beyond their power, they endeavored to meet this exigency. The hearts of the distressed and anxious workers were cheered by their timely sympathy and aid. Congregations were kept together. The orphans were not turned adrift. By their unwearied and self-sacrificing zeal the threatened collapse was averted, and there still remained a church in Mexico in sympathy with our own, although sadly depressed and weakened.

But the burden is a heavy one, too heavy to be borne exclusively by the League. The Mexican Commission of Bishops, it must be borne in mind, is in no sense a missionary body, and does not undertake to raise or disburse funds. It was appointed to represent our church in ecclesiastical relations. For the efficient conduct of the work, the agency of the Board of Missions was evidently what was needed. The resignation of Bishop Riley removed one of the reasons assigned by the Board for the withdrawal in November, 1883. From conversation with members of the Board, it was understood that the autonomy of the Mexican church was the main cause for their reluctance to resume the work, but that if it could be made a Mission, to be conducted like the other Foreign Missions, the Board would be favorably inclined.

The Executive Committee of the Mexican League brought this subject to the consideration of the Mexicans, and urged them to ask to be received as a Mission of the Board. The prominent Clergymen in Mexico gave their concurrence to this measure, although they were apprehensive of some opposition on the part of those strongly disposed to maintain in active operation their independent organization. The difficulty, however, proved less than was expected. The subjoined letter reached me in June, 1885, of which the following is a [6/7]


To the Rt. Rev. Alfred Lee, D.D.

"We, the undersigned, Presbyters, Readers, and Members of the Church of Jesus in Mexico, present this address with the utmost respect, gratitude and affection.

I. We return to yourself and the whole Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, for ourselves and all our brethren, our most sincere and cordial thanks for the noble and disinterested protection extended to us for sixteen years, and the pecuniary aid so generously given.

2. We deeply regret mistakes and defects which in the past may have discouraged our kind and liberal friends, which we trust will be completely forgotten.

3. Having been brought up in the bosom of the Roman Church we feel that we are not possessed of the wisdom and experience needful, nay indispensable for the government of another branch of the Church, as the history of past years clearly shows, and knowing the prudence and sound judgment of your Church, which has been to us a tender mother, we do, most respectfully and earnestly, in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, beg you to present and urge our petition to the Board of Missions that we may be received as a Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of North America.

4. We ask you to consider us as representing two of the three Dioceses which compose our Church, i. e. "The Capital," and "The Valley of Mexico." We cherish the hope that our brethren of the Diocese of Hidalgo will concur with us in this application, and shall do all in our power to effect this object.

Praying God, Three in One, to abundantly reward our protectors, and to obtain for us a favorable answer to this our petition--we hereunto set our hands, in the Sacristy of the Church of San Francisco, [7/8] in the city of Mexico, this fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1885.

I. MARURI, Presbyter.
ELIGIO LOPEZ, Presbyter.

The undersigned Presbyters, Antonio Carrion, Enrique Hernandez Ortiz and Isaac Bustamente, of the Diocese of Hidalgo, having come to the Capital, entered into conference with the Presbyters Maruri and Arellano, and the Assistant Reader Rodriguez, and having heard and considered the above document, declare their agreement with all and each one of its resolutions.

In testimony whereof, we hereunto set our hands in the Sacristy of the church of San Francisco, in the city of Mexico, this ninth day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1885."


This document was communicated without delay to my associates in the Mexican Commission, all of whom cordially joined in the annexed memorial addressed to the Foreign Committee of the Board of Missions.


Dear Brethren:--As members of the Mexican Commission of the House of Bishops, we desire earnestly to recommend to your favorable consideration the petition of the Clergy and Lay Readers of the Mexican Church, bearing date June 5th and 9th, 1885.

[9] As will appear by the minute of the proceedings to be presented to you, these brethren request you to adopt the work in Mexico as a Mission under your charge, upon the same footing as your other Foreign Missions.

The resolutions to this effect were adopted on the 5th of June by three Presbyters and two Lay Readers, representing the Dioceses of the Capital and of the Valley of Mexico, and on the 9th instant were concurred in by three Presbyters from the Diocese of Hidalgo, the action in each case being unanimous and hearty. The signers constitute the working force in that field.

A very interesting and touching communication has been addressed by the same persons to the chairman of the Commission, a copy of which is subjoined.

We beg leave to reiterate the conviction which we have heretofore expressed as to the important opening for the pure Gospel of Christ in that Republic. Providential indications seem to beckon our Church in that direction. By the noble perseverance of the Christian women of our Church, the work in Mexico, once so full of promise, has been preserved from disintegration and collapse, but the Mexican League cannot be expected to continue its exertions much longer without the moral support that will result from the recognition of the Clergy and Congregations in that country as a Mission by the Foreign Committee. We have strong grounds for believing not only that such recognition is of vital consequence, but also that it is very desirable that it should be given with as little delay as possible. While disclaiming any right officially to advise the Committee, we desire to use our good offices in behalf of the appeal of our Mexican brethren, for whose truly Christian spirit and bearing under very trying circumstances we are free to confess our sincere admiration."


[10] These two papers came before the Foreign Committee at a meeting held July 14, 1885, and the following action was taken.

"Resolved, That this Committee sympathizes with the Mexican Commission of House of Bishops, and with the League in aid of the Mexican branch of the Church in the object in view and,

"Resolved, That for the purpose of further consideration of the matter, and for the arrangement of such action as may be necessary to bring the subject matter of the several communications now before the Committee to the attention of the Board of Managers, a special committee of three be appointed to obtain the fullest possible information with instructions to report directly to the Board at its next meetings."

From members of this Committee I learned that more full and precise information was desired by them, and testimony that the signers of the petition represented officially the Mexican Church and were duly constituted representatives of the various congregations. Constitutional and synodical machinery of the Church had been so disarranged by the changes which had taken place within the last three years as to make regular action impracticable. There was no individual, or canonical body, vested with unquestionable authority to convene a General Synod. Under these circumstances I wrote to the Rev. I. Maruri, the Senior Presbyter, (a truly faithful and excellent man, since that time happily released from his cares and toils), advising that a Convention be held, to which all the congregations should he invited to send delegates. Mr. Maruri fully concurred in this proposal, and, in concert with the Rev. A. Carrion, and other ministers and workers, began at once to take the preliminary steps. The notification of the distant and scattered congregations was a work of time, and involved trouble and expense. A special remittance for this purpose was made by the Mexican League. The Convention met in the capital on the 28th of December last. It was composed of four clergymen and thirty-seven lay delegates, representing as many congregations. Another lay delegate arrived before adjournment. Five congregations in the Diocese of the Valley of Mexico declined to send delegates, and protested against the Convention, but the [10/11] Diocese was represented by one clergyman and delegates from six congregations.

The Convention was organized by the election of Rev. Antonio Carrion as President; and Mr. P. Rodriguez, as Secretary. After full discussion the following petition, previously reported by a committee, was unanimously adopted.

"We, the undersigned, having been officially constituted the representatives of the Church of Jesus, in the republic of Mexico, and acting officially in behalf of said Church, do hereby request the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States of America, to receive us as a Mission under its charge, to be constituted like any other Mission under its direction; and we hereby promise to hold all organization in abeyance and to subject ourselves to the full canonical authority of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States of America, until, in the judgment of said Board of Missions, as well as in our own judgment, we shall be able, spiritually, canonically, and financially, to maintain our stand as an Independent Branch of Christ's Church.

"To the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America."

A true copy. Attest:

Associate Secretary.

This petition, subscribed by all the delegates, was brought before the Board of Managers, at their stated meeting, January 12, 1886, with the following result:


"Resolved: That the Secretary be instructed to inform the signers of the paper this day submitted, that in view of the insuperable difficulties in the way, and the inadequacy of the information received, this Board does not feel that it can at present assume charge of the work in Mexico.

[12] Resolved: That this Board express the heartiest sympathy with the effort of the Mexican League to maintain a pure faith and worship among the people of Mexico."

So that after this long period of suspense, and the pains taken to meet all the expressed wishes of the Board of Managers, after this unreserved surrender of the work into the hands of our authorities, there comes a decided rejection. The Board declines to have any thing to do with the struggling Church which has offered to put itself entirely under the control and direction of the Managers. In this connection let it be borne in mind that a Covenant was entered into between this Church and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, in which the latter pledged, its "nursing care" to the former "during its early growth and development, and until the said Mexican Church shall attain to a sufficiency in its Episcopate for the administration of its own affairs, according to the requirements of the ancient canons and the primitive usages of the Church of Christ." [This Covenant is published in the Journal of General Convention of 180, page 179.]

I am aware that it may he said that the stipulations of this Covenant were not carried out by the other party and it may be considered void. Into the technical question I do not propose to enter. If there has been non-compliance, the present petitioners in Mexico ought not be held responsible. They had no part in the general administration of Church affairs. If the management of the official head caused dissatisfaction, is it right to deal severely with the whole body? And if it could be fairly and fully established that our church is released from strictly legal obligations, shall we repudiate the claims of equity and Christian sympathy? Is it magnanimous in a strong Church to take advantage of the letter of the bond? For whatever unpleasant complications have arisen, these ministers and congregations who now ask for our help, are not responsible.

One branch of the work in Mexico has enlisted the warm sympathy and received high commendation from all who have had the [12/13] opportunity of inspecting it, the orphanage tinder the care of Mrs. Hooker. The noble and disinterested labours of this estimable lady have elicited the most unqualified admiration on the part of visitors, both Mexicans and foreigners, not connected in any way with the Mission. Shall not such a worker and such an enterprise be sustained?

It cannot be questioned that there is now open a great door for the spread of the gospel in its Scriptural purity among the millions upon this continent who speak the Spanish tongue. And it is greatly needed. The religion that has taken possession of those lands is nominal Christianity, actual Mariolatry. The most general and sincere worship is addressed to the Queen of Heaven. But the influence of Rome is on the wane. The Bible is penetrating into those regions, so long oppressed with ignorance and superstition, and the entrance of God's word giveth light. Other Protestant bodies are laboring with marked energy and success. Large congregations are gathered, churches built, and schools established by Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries. We have been disposed to flatter ourselves that we possessed peculiar adaptation and special advantages. Shall we confess a failure after having been so confident? There is an unlimited field, room for all, and no necessity for rivalship or jealousy. Shall we not take our share in endeavors to spread throughout those fair regions the uncorrupt gospel, and to lift up those numerous and religiously disposed populations to a higher level of faith and morals? We have not to force the doors, and obtrude our aid upon the reluctant and hostile. The invitation comes from them. They appeal to us for help in their need. When, in a vision of the night, the man of Macedonia appeared to the great Apostle, saying, Come over and help us, the immediate conclusion of Paul and his fellow-workers was, that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel there. The voice comes to us from the living Mexican. Are we sure that no divine call is thus conveyed? The infant church has been sore wounded, and may seem to lie prostrate and bleeding by the wayside. Shall we fold our robes in cold indifference and unconcern, and pass by on the other side?

[14] The Spanish, Portuguese and Mexican Church Aid Society, of which the Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Plunkett, is President, is helping forward a very important and promising work of reform and evangelization in Spain and Portugal. At the last annual meeting of that Society, a Resolution was adopted to the effect, "That in view of the great burden already imposed on this Society by the daily increasing work of reform in Spain and Portugal, it is desirable that the responsibility of collecting funds for the Church in Mexico should rest in the future with those friends in America who have an already existing organization, and who have better opportunities for becoming acquainted with the details of the work." It is added, "The reasonableness of the above decision will, we feel sure, approve itself to the friends of the Church in Mexico, both here and across the Atlantic; and the proposed division of labor will, we confidently hope, be found entirely consistent with a union of prayer and sympathy between all who have the common interests of these three Churches at heart." Our brethren, beyond the Atlantic, rely upon us to carry on the same work in this Continent, which they are zealously and successfully promoting in Europe.

That there are friends, and well-wishers of the cause in our Church, able and willing to sustain it, may be concluded from the fact that the Mexican League, since it was organized in i86, has raised and expended the sum of $117,652.96, and that with all the discouragements of the last three years, the receipts since October 3d, 1883, have amounted to $27,713.64.

That there is also in Mexico zeal and energy to co-operate, is shewn by the keeping up of their worship under such depressing circumstances, and by the building of two new churches in the Diocese of Hidalgo.

But the need is urgent of a wise and efficient superintendent upon the ground. Such a person should be placed there with as little delay as possible, and be liberally sustained. Such a watchman could strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die, and infuse new life and hope into these sorely-tried brethren, one with us in [14/15] communion and fellowship, and revive confidence and courage in our own Church

February 6th, 1886.


While preparing the foregoing statement the following letter reached me, which I append without comment.


"Rt. Rev. Alfred Lee, D. D.

If there are in the world hearts grieved and saddened, such are ours. The Rev. Secretary of the Missionary Society has answered the petition of the Church of Jesus, sent to the Society through the medium of its representatives assembled in Convention, but in a manner so concise and laconic that it has caused great surprise. As you will see by the copy annexed, the reasons given are--first, existing insuperable difficulties, and, second, insufficient information.

We cannot imagine what these difficulties are. We have endeavored to give full information. From the Committee appointed by the Society we received a series of questions addressed to our Ecclesiastical body, tinder date of September 18, 1885, to which the said body returned answers, after careful consideration, on the 31st of October.

The said communication of the Missionary Society contained a sketch of the points and language which should be embodied in the petition to be sent from our General Convention. The document proposed to the said Convention, adopted unanimously, and signed by all the members, and forwarded to the Board of Missions, was a literal translation of said sketch.

The idea of an independent Church was very strongly cherished by our brethren, and it was only with much effort that their concurrence could be obtained. Several of the Clergy having become convinced of the expediency of the change labored with earnestness [15/16] and success to bring the whole Church to the same conclusion, and sought to carry out to the fullest extent the suggestions of the Committee.

The unsuccessful result is greatly to be deplored. In the inevitable shock which ensued, we have lost the respect and affection of some of our brethren, the fact of the application having been extensively known. The negative answer of the Board of Missions places us in an extremely mortifying and painful position--almost beyond our endurance. The most painful thing is the answer we must give to all the Congregations represented in the Convention. Our work cannot go on as in the past. Those Congregations need ministers and pecuniary assistance--wants which we cannot expect the League to supply:

It is to be feared that many of our Congregations will leave us for other connections, and that the words of the Rev. J. M. Green, in The Christian at Work, will be verified--"Speedily, the labours of the Episcopal Church in Mexico will be a thing of the past."

For the honor of our Lord, the character of the noble Episcopal Church, and the memory of our martyred brothers whose blood was poured out for the establishment of this Church, the Missionary Society ought not to abandon us. No Christian body in this country has had fuller sympathy than our own Church. Shall this precious opportunity be forfeited? To yourself, whom we have regarded as a spiritual father, we earnestly look to advocate our cause.

The decision of the Missionary Society is to us so surprising and unlooked for, that we can but think there is some misunderstanding.

As a last resource, and before giving up all hope, we crave a personal interview with the Managers of the Board or Missions. Possibly, through God's assistance, we might induce them to change. May we look for your approval and encouragement to visit New York for this purpose?"

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