THE DIOCESE OF NEW YORK."
WE have lately seen an address to the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York.
This address is subscribed by about one hundred gentlemen. Whether the subscribers are all Episcopalians, we know not. It is certain that several of them are rarely seen in Church, and are not regular worshippers in it. They are, however, respectable men, and it is to be lamented that any respectable man in this city should be found, who could be induced to subscribe such a paper. It must, however, be a source of great joy and gratification to every sincere Episcopalian to find so few willing to sign it. Immediately after the adjournment of the Convention in October last, we were told, and it was publicly declared by several of the gentlemen whose names are on that paper, that in the elections for Vestrymen in the several Parishes this spring, care would be taken to elect Vestries opposed to the Bishop and the present order of things in the Church. These gentlemen have been active ever since in endeavoring to foment discord in the different congregations, to excite an opposition to the Bishop, and to embody in the Church a party strong enough to carry their threats into execution of managing the Vestries in the [1/2] Diocese. And the result of all their exertions has been to embody a party of one hundred in all the Episcopal Churches in the city, willing to act with them in their noble enterprise. It is known that many persons were applied to, to sign the paper, who refused to do it, and several whose names appear upon it, it is believed, subscribed it without reflection, or a full consideration of its aim and object.
We earnestly entreat Episcopalians seriously to consider the object of this address, and not suffer themselves to be led astray by an artful appeal to their passions and prejudices, from a persuasion that the rights of the Laity have been disregarded and violated by the Bishop.
By the 8th Canon of the General Convention of 1841, it is declared that, "at any annual Diocesan Convention, the Bishop shall deliver an address, stating the affairs of the Diocese since the last meeting of the Convention; the names of the Churches which he has visited; the number of persons confirmed; the names of those who have been received as candidates for orders, and of those who have been ordained, suspended or degraded; the changes by death, removal, or otherwise, which have taken place among the Clergy; and in general, all matters tending to throw light on the affairs of the Diocese, which address shall be inserted in the journals."
By the 5th article of the Constitution of the Church in the Diocese of New York, it is declared that "the Bishop shall preside in the Convention; but in case of a vacancy or necessary absence, the members shall elect a President from among the Clergy."
There is nothing in the Constitution or Canons of the Church in this Diocese requiring or authorising the Bishop to make any address to the Convention.
The delivery of the annual address is made his duty by the General Convention. It is imposed upon him as Bishop of the Diocese, and in obedience to the Canon of the General Convention; and in the discharge of the duty thus imposed [2/3] he is manifestly responsible to those under whose direction he acts, and not to the Diocesan Convention, which Constitutionally has no power to require the address from the Bishop, and none to prevent his making it.
Again, with the doctrines contained in the address of the Bishop, the Diocesan Convention can have nothing to do, unless in the form pointed out by the Canons of the Church. The Diocesan Convention may present the Bishop to the House of Bishops for any crime, for heresy, &c. In no other way can the Diocesan Convention interfere with the Bishop in the discharge of his duties.
Having seen what are the duties of the Bishop in relation to the address which he is bound annually to make to the Convention of the Diocese, let us examine for a moment what he did say in that address in the passage complained of by these one hundred brethren.
In the part of the address to which we have alluded, the Bishop says "when I speak of the general harmony of principles, views and feelings among the clergy of the Diocese, as matter of joy and gratitude, you will not misunderstand the reference which I have in my mind touching the character of those principles, views and feelings. Their excellence and holiness consist in their conformity with the improved spiritual character of the Churchmanship of the day, the evangelical unction which it mingles with Catholic observances, and the discreet and orderly devotion into which it moulds spiritual affections and sensibilities. Much of the alarm and uneasiness which now disturb honest and good minds, results from a want of a just appreciation of the evangelical system. But this again is giving way under an unwonted degree and direction of religious inquiries happily excited by an opposition which desires and seeks quite a contrary result. The alarm and uneasiness reach not those who have an enlightened appreciation and just esteem of the sound Catholic principles, which have ever characterized this diocese, which found in my immediate predecessor, [3/4] an illustrious and efficient champion, and which our diocesan periodical press has ever maintained and defended. The Churchman's Magazine, the Christian Journal, the Gospel Messenger and the Churchman, have for more than thirty years kept steadily before us the system of evangelical doctrine and duty, which, however its depreciation may be sought by the artifice of a name designed to injure it, presents the comfortable gospel of Christ in such wise as it was revealed for man's guidance, consolation and salvation."
The paper read in the convention, and which Mr. Duer proposed to have entered on the minutes, was in the following words. We write it at length, in order that we may not misrepresent it:--"Whereas the Bishop of this diocese, in the address delivered by him to this convention, has expressed in strong terms of commendation his approbation of the course and sentiments of the religious paper called "the Churchman," published in this city, and whereas the undersigned members of the clergy and laity, now in attendance on this convention, entertaining a sincere conviction that the doctrines maintained in the said paper, and the spirit and tone in which the same is conducted, do not entitle it to the confidence and support of Protestant Episcopalians. They do therefore, most respectfully dissent from the opinion so expressed by the Bishop of the diocese, and do hereby request that this their declaration of dissent be publicly read and entered on the minutes of the Convention." This paper upon its face is a dissent from the opinion of the Bishop. Now to the address of the Bishop no assent is required from the convention or any member of it, and if they are not required to assent, what right can the convention or any member have to dissent and to have the dissent appear on the minutes.
Moreover let it be understood, that the Bishop no where in his address recommends "the Churchman" to the support of Episcopalians. That he nowhere refers to its views in relation to the transaction in St. Stephen's Church--or to its [4/5] views in any other particular. The Bishop speaks of the Catholic principles of which his predecessor, Bishop Hobart, was an illustrious and efficient champion, and which principles have been kept before us for thirty years, by the Churchman's Magazine, the Christian Journal, the Gospel Messenger, and the Churchman. It is then the principles and doctrines so advocated by Bishop Hobart, and kept continually before us by these periodicals, that the Bishop approves of in his address, and from which the gentlemen who signed the paper presented to the convention by Mr. Duer, dissented, and wished their dissent entered upon the minutes.
It was not the course of the Churchman in relation to any particular matter of which the Bishop in his address spoke in terms of commendation, but of its doctrines and principles. For the doctrines and principles contained in the address of the Bishop, he is not responsible to the diocesan convention. If his doctrines are heretical or his principles unsound he must be held responsible for them in the mode pointed out by the Church, and in no other.
The reading of the paper by Mr. Duer in the Convention, with the request that it should be placed upon the minutes, was in effect charging the Bishop with promulgating unsound doctrines, and was, so far, intended to operate as a reprimand. It was endeavoring to do through an artful contrivance what the signers of it did not dare to do openly. If the intention was merely to express an opinion that the "Churchman" was not worthy the support of Churchmen, why did they not move a resolution to that effect? Such a resolution would not have answered the purpose of gentlemen; it would not have reached the Bishop. The Bishop, not the "Churchman," was their object.
They had already signally failed in one mode of attack. The insidious resolutions touching the ordination of Mr. Carey had on the morning of that day been rejected by an overwhelming majority--Clergy and Laity had united in the [5/6] emphatic rejection. Something must yet be done--the convention was drawing to a close--they were driven to a last resort.--The "Churchman," therefore, was made the scapegoat--and eo nomine they made their assault upon their Bishop, his principles, his doctrines and official acts. The Bishop felt, as almost every man present felt on that occasion, that this paper was an indignity to the Church at large--to the General Convention whose canons it contravened--and especially to him in his episcopal character and office. He acted accordingly, ruling that for his principles, his doctrines and his episcopal acts, he was in no wise responsible to the Convention there assembled. He refused to receive the paper; and on account of this refusal is the appeal to which we are now replying made to the people.
It is well known that many of the gentlemen who have been foremost in their opposition to the Bishop, declared before they went into the Convention, that they deemed the Bishop a weak, inefficient man, wholly under the control of others, and that they intended to expose his imbecility, and thus bring him and his Church principles into contempt. But before the Convention was over, they found it necessary to hold a different language; they found this imbecile too powerful for them to put down, and now he is represented as a bold usurping tyrant who put them down. He is weak or strong, as it may suit their purpose to represent him--and, by means either of one representation or the other, must he be deprived of the good opinion of his diocese, or never will they be satisfied. Is this the mode in which Churchmen should endeavor to secure the peace and, promote the prosperity of their Church?
We feel sure that such an example will never be generally respected or followed by the laity of the diocese of New York. Episcopalians, let us reflect deeply and in the fear of God before we act. We will not be drawn from our adherence to our well tried principles by this declamation about the invasion [6/7] of the rights of the laity. If there has been any invasion of rights, it has not been of the rights of the laity merely--for the Convention whose authority it is alleged was disregarded, is composed of both clergy and laity, and the paper presented by Mr. Duer was signed as well by clergymen as by laymen. If there has been any invasion of rights, the Bishop was not the author of such invasion, but Mr. Duer and those who acted with him were the authors--for they did attempt to trample down the Episcopal prerogative--they did attempt to set at naught the laws of the General Convention, and through that attempted desecration, they assailed the rights of every Bishop and priest and deacon and layman of the Protestant Episcopal church in these United States.
If there be any one duty more imperative upon Churchmen than another--next to their more immediate duties to their God and Saviour, it is the duty of faithfully preserving the peace and harmony and unity of the Church, and of duly submitting to the order and good government of the same. We trust that such Churchmen, and such only as are known to be faithful to this duty, will be selected as Vestrymen throughout the diocese of New York.
New York, March 27th, 1844.