Project Canterbury





The Clergy and Laity








Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2009

To the Clergy and Laity of the Diocese of New York.


WHEN I gave to the Convention my acceptance of the nomination to the high and responsible office which I now fill, in alluding to the extent of our Diocese, I expressed my conviction that, while much was to be done, we were able, by the blessing of God, to accomplish much. I then stated that should the nomination be confirmed by the Church, I should, after my consecration, and as soon as I should be sufficiently informed, offer my views upon the principal points of interest touching our present condition and future prospects.

Before, however, entering upon this subject, as I now propose, I must again, and in a more formal manner than I was able to do at the Convention, express my grateful and affectionate thanks for the confidence you have reposed in me. I then did it in great distrust of my fitness for so important a charge, and under a trembling apprehension lest I should disappoint your just expectations. I cannot say that these emotions are entirely removed, nor do I feel that they ever will be; but in deep thankfulness I must acknowledge that the many assurances of confidence I have received, not only from our own Diocese, but from all parts of the Church in these United States, and from many respected brethren and friends in our Mother Church of England, the great kindness I have experienced at the [1/2] hands of brethren and friends in this city and its neighbourhood, and the cordial reception I have met with during my recent visitation, have all concurred to allay many fears, to encourage me and send me to my work buoyant, and in the hope, through the divine blessing, of a good measure of success attending my efforts to promote peace, unity of action, and zeal amongst brethren labouring to a common end--the prosperity and extension of the Redeemer's Kingdom. For this I devoutly and constantly pray to the great Head of the Church, and for this I again solicit your unceasing prayers.

That our Diocese should have suffered in consequence of the unhappy state, in which it has been left for so many years, deprived of the services of a resident and living head, might reasonably have been anticipated. But it must be a source of great satisfaction to the friends of the Church, as well as a cause for devout gratitude to God, that our progress has not been in any sensible degree arrested, nor the interests of pure religion obstructed. There has, indeed, existed amongst us, for some time past, too much of a spirit of controversy, and too much coldness of feeling, if not positive antagonism, between those who should have walked together in the house of God as friends. But thanks be to Him who, by His Blessed Spirit, "controls the unruly wills and affections of sinful men," we are all fast returning to a better state of mind. If I rightly read the temper of the Diocese, there is a very general determination to "forbear one another in love, and endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;" to put out of sight and out of memory all topics of dispute, where stern principle is not at stake; to discourage all agencies through which they have [2/3] been made so prominent, and to dwell mainly, if not exclusively, upon those points in which we agree, rather than upon those in which we unhappily differ--that we may once more present to the eye of the Christian world a united brotherhood, and yet again challenge that commendation, uttered by those who are without, "See how these Christians love one another!"

One striking evidence of this pervading spirit is that there is a growing disposition to work rather than to contend, and to engage in deeds of charity rather than in mutual recriminations concerning tendencies to the doctrines and practices of Rome, on the one hand, or to those of Geneva, on the other. I have a good hope, therefore, that we shall be enabled henceforth, by the grace of God, to practise greater charity, not only amongst ourselves, but also towards those who are separated from us, and while we firmly resist their errors, and boldly rebuke them even, where the plain line of duty demands this course, we shall be willing to imitate them in all in which they exemplify the Gospel of Christ, and indulge no more bitter sentiment towards them than that of being "provoked to love and to good works."

It is to works, brethren, that I would now call your attention, to works of charity and mercy, to labours, self-denials, sacrifices, and offerings, to comfort the bodies and to save the souls of men. The Saviour of mankind was, when on earth, emphatically the healer and consoler, and if He designed to "leave us an example, that we should follow His steps," they who believe truly will of necessity abound in good works. I would exhort you all, then, beloved in the Lord, to give your thoughts, your personal exertions, and of your means, [3/4] according as God has blessed you, more largely and more constantly than you have yet done, to works of charity.

In the enumeration of these, there are certain of them to which the attention of the members of the Church is directed by the authority of the Convention, and by special enactments all parishes are required to contribute to them annually. There are others, again, which seem to belong, if not exclusively, yet chiefly, to the city. To these I shall, by God's permission, upon a future occasion, not far distant, call the especial attention of this portion of the Diocese. In the present letter I shall confine my remarks to those to which I have first alluded. I regret to be obliged to say, that while in some instances these positive and authoritative requisitions of the Church have been strictly and regularly attended to, yet by a great majority of our parishes one or more, and by some all, of these canonical provisions have been totally disregarded.

I beg leave to call your attention to the law, as it now exists in full force. In Canon XIII., Of the Episcopal Fund, Section 2d, you find this provision: "It shall be the duty of every Rector or Minister, having charge of a congregation in this Diocese, to cause an annual collection or contribution to be made by said congregation, in aid of the fund for the support of the Episcopate; and in the case of a vacant parish, this duty shall devolve on the Wardens and Vestrymen?"

Canon XIV. Of the Diocesan Fund. Section 1. "Whereas it is indispensable to provide a fund for defraying the necessary expenses of the Convention, and particularly the expenses of those of the clergy who [4/5] may have to travel from a distance to the Convention, it is hereby required of every congregation in this Diocese to pay to the Treasurer of the Convention, on or before the day of its annual meeting, a contribution of not less than one-and-a-half per cent on the amount of the salary of its clergyman, which fund shall, from time to time, be appropriated in part, by a committee of the Convention, to the purposes above mentioned."

Canon XV. Of Diocesan Missions, Theological Education, and Contributions for other Church Objects. Section 4. "In every Parish of the Diocese provision shall be made for at least monthly Church offerings, by collection or otherwise, for Theological Education, Diocesan Missions, and other Church objects, it being the duty of the Clergyman to give due notice to the congregation of the time and object of such offerings, or collections, and also to call their attention to the importance and claims of the respective objects to which the offerings are to be applied."

Canon XVI. Of the Fund for Aged and Infirm Clergymen. Section 1. "A collection shall be made annually in every congregation in this Diocese, to be applied in relief of Clergymen disabled by age or disease; said collections to be made on the annual Thanksgiving Day, or the Sunday next before, or next following."

These are the clear and positive requisitions of the law, and no discretion is allowed in the terms of their enactment as to obeying them. Now it is the boast of our whole country that we are a law-abiding people. It is also the privilege of our Church, and one which the most enlightened members of our mother [5/6] Church of England refer to with a holy envy and a deep regret that they do not now enjoy the same advantage. They congratulate us that we have the power to make canons for our own guidance, and are not fettered in this respect by any state alliance. Surely, then, we do not justify our boast, nor do we show a suitable gratitude for our privilege when we neglect, or bid defiance to, the laws which we ourselves have made. To what extent we are liable to such accusations may be seen by reference to a statistical table, very carefully drawn up, which will be found in the Journal of the last Convention, as Appendix No. 2, page 127.

There are two hundred and eighteen churches and chapels in the Diocese, duly belonging to it, and entitled to representation in the Convention, and all but thirty-four of which were actually represented. If the table be correctly made up, but twenty-one Parishes out of the whole number have made all the collections, and sixty-seven have not made either of them. Did this result exhibit some just proportion between the ability of the respective parishes and their contributions, we might draw some consolation from it, painful, at the best, as it is to contemplate. But it will be observed by those who will take the trouble to examine this document, that while some of the poorest parishes in the Diocese have faithfully discharged in whole or in part the obligation laid upon them by the Canons, some of the wealthiest are recorded as delinquent.

It will be further noticed, that the amounts collected for the respective purposes, prove the existence of a very marked difference in the interest they have awakened.

[7] I ask your attention to a statement a little more in detail, and in the order in which the summary is given on page 134 of the Journal.

The Episcopal Fund.

To this 32 churches out of the whole number have contributed, and the amount is $264.43.

I will abstain from any remarks concerning the causes which have led to this obvious neglect, and will merely say, that a deficiency here will be less sensibly felt than when it touches either of the other funds. It is of great importance, indeed, that an amount should be raised adequate to the independent support of the Episcopate, and capable also of meeting the demands made upon it when more than one incumbent is obliged to depend upon it for maintenance. Under the present circumstances of the Diocese, it is well that this is not our sole reliance. I am, providentially, connected with a parish endowed with abundant means, and which has long acknowledged and acted upon the principle, that its funds are not to be limited to its own uses, but are to be judiciously employed for strengthening and encouraging the Church throughout the Diocese. I trust and believe, therefore, that it will not be deemed a burden upon that wealthy corporation to aid the Diocese by adopting measures to support the deficiency in the pastoral services of one of its ministers who has been honoured by you in being raised to the Episcopate, when he is absent from the city upon visitations or is otherwise employed in official duty. Moreover, in this connection, I desire to express my deliberate and long-formed opinion, that it is no disadvantage [7/8] to a Diocese or its Bishop that he should devote a portion of his time to the pastoral care of a special flock. It seems to me that he can thus keep himself in more active sympathy with his brethren of the clergy than if he had no such connection. He will have an ever-recurring experience of the peculiar cares, labours, and responsibilities that fall upon them, and thus while over them in the Lord, he will, at the same time, be in the fullest sense a fellow-labourer with them. And again, he may enjoy, what it has already been my satisfaction to prove, the comfort of returning from time to time to the duties which by long use have become a habit of life, and of lightening the labours and anxieties attendant upon the care of all the churches, by visiting the sick, the afflicted, and the poor, and catechising a portion of the lambs of the flock. This alternation of duties I find to be a relief as regards both; and in view of the peculiar organization of Trinity Parish, and its abundant means to carry on the parochial work, notwithstanding the absences and the time which attention to the Diocese will demand from me, I believe it to be no disadvantage to either. I shall, therefore, be unwilling to relinquish the pastoral care, until the congregation of which I have charge clearly manifests its wish that I should do so, or until experience proves that the interests of the Diocese demand it. In either event, whether the Episcopal Fund be large or small, I shall, without the hesitation of a moment, throw myself exclusively upon the portion of it which may be assigned for my support.

But I will no longer dwell upon a topic which might seem in a measure to be personal to myself, and [8/9] to which I would not have alluded as I have done, were it not of obvious interest to the Diocese at large, and one in regard to which I esteem it no less due than respectful to them, that I should frankly express my feelings and the result of my best judgment.

The Diocesan Fund.

To this 112 parishes have contributed the sum of $1500.74, which I believe has been sufficient to meet all the demands now made upon it. But it would be most desirable were there to be an amount raised adequate to defray the whole, instead of a part merely, of the expenses of the clergy who attend the Annual Convention, and of those also who attend the General Convention. The journey to the city, and necessary charges of various kinds, are a heavy tax upon many of the clergy, especially those who come from a distance, and who are in general, by reason of their very inadequate incomes, least able to meet it. And yet every encouragement should be given to a punctual attendance at Conventions, that the whole Church may be represented, and the clergy from remote parishes be cheered, encouraged and strengthened by communion and fellowship with each other and with their Bishop.

In connection with this subject, I must be permitted to say, that I earnestly wish the members of the Church in the city where the Convention ordinarily assembles, would be more forward to exercise the rites of hospitality towards their brethren from a distance. In many instances the clergy when they come here are offered no private house, but are obliged to resort to hotels and boarding-houses, where [9/10] the in-door associations, considering the errand on which they come, cannot be very comfortable or profitable to them, and where besides, in this expensive city, they are obliged to pay sums that they can ill afford. I am confident that there are large numbers of families who would not only be willing, but to whom it would be a pleasure, to receive as a guest some worthy servant of the Church. If the clergy of the city will take this matter in hand, as I trust we shall do before the next Convention, I have no doubt, but that by simply giving a suitable notice and making the proper arrangements, we shall be enabled very materially to add to the comfort and to diminish the expenses of our brethren from a distance. I do not allude to the lay delegates, as they are almost universally able, as they are prompt, cheerfully to meet the expenses incident to an attendance upon the Convention. It is an honour to the Church, and a material element of its prosperity, that we have such a body of able, intelligent, and pious laymen, to whom we are greatly indebted for wisdom in counsel and efficiency in action, and who, while their presence strengthens the hands and encourages the hearts of Bishop and Clergy, we trust and believe are themselves repaid not only by a consciousness of performing their duty to the Church, but by the satisfaction they derive from conferring with each other and with the clergy upon all questions of a common interest touching the Diocese.

The Education Fund.

This fund has received in the past year but $261.03 from 34 churches. It is remarkable that of the five [10/11] canonical funds the smallest amount should have been contributed to this. Surely the Church in this Diocese is not as indifferent to the cause of Education as such a fact would seem to indicate. This, I suppose, to be the explanation. The Canon has confided the subject of Education to the incorporated Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning in the State of New York. Now as this Society is endowed, it is generally supposed that there are funds sufficient to meet all the wants of the Diocese in this department of its work. Such, however, is not the case. A much greater amount of good could be accomplished, and many pious, intelligent and deserving young men could be aided in preparing for the ministry, were the Society to be intrusted by the parishes with larger contributions. I trust that these considerations will have weight with all, and that we shall no longer have the mortification of seeing such a pitiful sum appropriated by voluntary contributions from this large and wealthy Diocese to a cause of such vital importance as that of Education.

The Missionary Fund.

In the past year but 97 parishes have contributed to this fund, and the whole amount produced is only $1554.72. This I look upon as the most unfavourable and discouraging statement of all; and should it be received as indicative of the degree of interest felt by us for the advancement of the Church, I fear we should be constrained to acknowledge that we are not lukewarm, simply, but absolutely cold and well nigh dead. The Missionary cause is one that nearly concerns every parish in the Diocese, and [11/12] one that no parish can refuse sympathy with, or decline making contributions to, and at the same time claim to be a body of faithful Christian men. Were we called upon to specify that department of effort which more than any other should be considered the manifestation and the proof of a living Christianity amongst any body of professed believers in the Gospel, it would be the cause of Missions. They who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be indifferent to the progress and extension of that Church which He hath bought with His own most precious blood, which is His chosen and beloved spouse, and which He hath made His visible representative here on earth. And not only can they not be indifferent, but they will burn with a holy zeal for it; they will pray and labour for it; they will ever be ready to give to it, and never cease or slacken their exertions while any thing remains to be done to extend the knowledge of the Church, or to enlarge the bounds of its influence. Having this deep conviction, it is a source of grief and mortification to me to be obliged to make such a report, and it is my imperative duty to exhort you to consider within yourselves what is the true cause of this our apathy, and faithfully and promptly to set about finding its proper remedy.

But I must gratefully acknowledge that I am enabled to throw some little light upon this dark representation. The Missionary cause, though it has been thus neglected, as a canonical requisition, has met with a good degree of encouragement in other forms. The Pastoral Aid Society has been prominent in this work. It does not, as I am informed, profess to appoint Missionaries, as this would be an interference [12/13] with the authority of the Missionary Committee, which claims its powers from the express appointment of the Convention; but it gives aid to Missionaries who have already been duly appointed; and in other ways, by enlarging the salaries of ministers connected with feeble parishes, by aiding in the building of churches and parsonages, it is doing valuable service, and I have had repeated occasions of witnessing the beneficial results of its operations. I can give no detail as to the amount of money which it has collected and distributed, as I have no cognizance of its proceedings, and have seen no report of them. While its influence is to extend and strengthen the Church, I shall, nevertheless, wish it God speed.

There are also other agencies at work, to which we may look with great satisfaction, and concerning which I can speak with some degree of confidence. These are the associations which have been formed in certain counties for the double purpose of strengthening the bonds of Christian brotherhood, and carrying on the Missionary work within their respective bounds. I believe that in every instance, by the constitutions of these associations, their unity with the Church is secured by making the Bishop their presiding officer. It will be my purpose, therefore, regularly to attend their stated meetings, whenever it can be done consistently with other duties. Did I not feel it to be important thus to give unity of action to the Missionary work of the Diocese, my desire to avail myself of every opportunity to meet my brethren of the clergy, and the actual experience I have had of the happy effect of such gatherings, would prompt me to this resolution. During my recent visitation in the [13/14] northern part of the Diocese, I attended one of these meetings in Albany. The clergy of that city, of Troy, and of the vicinity, were assembled, and I must be permitted to declare that I have rarely, if ever, enjoyed greater social pleasure, sanctified by religious influences, and have rarely, if ever, seen in any body of men, a more enlightened and quickening zeal for the advancement of the Church. Their efforts are wisely planned and energetically carried out, and the fruits are already becoming manifest in the beautiful harmony that subsists between them, and in the success of their undertakings. Another similar association I expect soon to attend in Duchess county, and yet another in Westchester county. From both of these I receive cheering accounts, and I anticipate much satisfaction from thus meeting my brethren, face to face, and conferring with them upon the interests of the Redeemer's Kingdom.

The Fund for Aged and Infirm Clergymen.

To this fund 106 churches have contributed $3,302. 37. Here, however, while we have great satisfaction in recording the generous amount which has been given by those who have performed their duty, the discouraging fact must also be recorded, that not quite half the parishes have obeyed the deliberately expressed will of the Diocese. This fund presents an object which should awaken our deepest sympathies. You, all of you, well know, and my brethren of the clergy you have too often bitterly to experience how inadequate, in many cases, is the provision made for the support of the ministry. Although "the Lord hath [14/15] ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," yet many faithful and devoted ministers are obliged to resort to other occupations to eke out an income totally inadequate to their necessities, and even then can barely support their families upon the very smallest scale of decency. What provision can they possibly make for old age and infirmity? The very least, therefore, that justice demands from the members of the Church, in relation to them, to say nothing of the obligation to "esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake," is that provision should be made for their comfortable subsistence, when they have borne the burden and heat of a long day, and are obliged to give up their labours in the vineyard of the Lord, because they have no longer strength to endure them.

My beloved brethren, after you have examined the reference which I have made to the Canonical Law of the Diocese, and the statement of facts which I have exhibited, showing to what extent that law has been obeyed by us, is it too much for me to hope and to believe that you will with one voice unite with me in saying, It is indeed true that we have many deficiencies to supply, that we have a higher reverence for law to teach and to practise, that we have a more enlarged and active spirit of charity to stir up and maintain, and that therefore we must "arise and be doing." If this be your decision, I am bold to affirm that the "Lord will be with us." He "without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy," will be our Protector and Guide. He will protect us against assaults from without and dissensions from within, so that neither the [15/16] malice of the enemy nor our own carnal will and frailness shall do us harm. He will guide us in the way of peace, and make the path that lies before us prosperous. Let us be a working Church, and we shall become a united Church and a loving Church. We shall forget our dissensions, we shall rise superior to disputes about postures, and places, and garments, and without disturbance of feeling we shall make allowance for differences of observance excited by differences of spiritual temperament, provided the integrity of our holy ritual be preserved, and provided we sternly resist the slightest corruption of the Catholic faith, by running into errors on the right hand or on the left.

I believe that our active co-operation in doing the work that needs to be done for the Church, will encourage this temper of forbearance, which is essential to the preservation of unity. We have principles of union sufficiently comprehensive, and defined with sufficient clearness. They are embodied in our Book of Common Prayer. Let none of us fall short of its requisitions, and let none of us presumptuously go beyond them. Here are Scriptural doctrine, Godly discipline, and the forms of Saintly worship equally removed from both Romish and Puritan novelties. Let this, and this alone, be the ground on which we rally in defence of "the faith once delivered to the Saints" and then as a firm and united phalanx, resisting all pressure from without, we shall be prepared to go forth and "fight the battles of the Lord against the mighty."

With constant prayers for your growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus [16/17] Christ, and with the present invocation upon you of Blessing, from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I am, dearly beloved brethren,

Your faithful friend
And servant for Christ's sake,
Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of New York.

Season of Epiphany; 1853.

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