Project Canterbury

A Few Practical Words, by a Layman, in Favor of Dividing the Diocese of New York.

No place: no publisher, c. 1861.





THE QUESTION NOT A NEW ONE.--The pioneer movement in the whole Anglican Communion since the Reformation, in the matter of SUBDIVIDING Dimwits, was made in the year 1834, by the late Bishop of New York: peace to his ashes! At that time, Manchester and Ripon had not been set off in England; and no division of a Diocese had taken place either in England herself, or in any of her Colonies. In 1835, at the instance of the same Bishop, our General Convention rejected the policy of allowing either Assistant or Suffragan Bishops on the ground of the inconvenient size of Dioceses; and adopted instead the policy of division. Subsequent legislation has abolished all territorial limitation, with the exception that there shall not be two Bishops in one city. The minimum number of Parishes in a Diocese entitled to elect a Bishop is six; and the minimum number of officiating Presbyters, regularly settled for a year previous to going into an election, is the same. The question is, consequently, by no means new; more than twenty-five years having elapsed since division became the settled policy of our Church.

THE FIRST DIVISION OF THE DIOCESE OF NEW YORK.--General Convention having paved the way, the late Bishop of New York, in the year 1836, again drew attention to the subject of Division at the Annual Convention. He showed an immense amount of Missionary ground in the Diocese. In three counties we had no church; in seven, we had but one each; in fifteen, but two; and in five, but three; so that in neither one of thirty counties were there more than three churches of our Communion! "A proper system of missionary operations," the Bishop believed, "would give us a church in almost, if not quite, every town in the State." In 1837, the Convention voted in favor of division; in 1838, the new Diocese of Western New York was set off; and in May, 1839, its first Bishop was consecrated in Auburn. The rapid growth of Western New York from that time to this is a striking proof of the sound policy of division as well as of the Divine origin of Episcopacy.

GROWTH OF THE PRESENT DIOCESE OF NEW YORK SINCE 1838.--Upon comparing the census of 1835 with that of 1860, it will be found that the increase of population in the intervening period was 1,713,025; of which only 439;433 belong to Western New York, while the remaining 1,273,592 are to be credited to the present Diocese. In 1834, there were only 198 of our clergy in the whole State; in 1861, the number of clergymen canonically resident in. the present Diocese alone was 361. The number of organized congregations in the whole State, in 1834, was 205; in 1861, in the present Diocese alone, it was 294. The number confirmed in the whole State, in 1834, was 781; in the present Diocese, in 1861, it was no less than 3,342. The communicants, in like manner, have increased from 9,738 to 26,757. These figures are alone sufficient to establish the need of prompt relief to the present Bishop of the Diocese. No wonder he speaks (Convention Journal, 1861, p. 84) of the "severe labors" involved in visitations requiring 7000 miles of travel!

WHAT THE CHURCH AT LARGE EXPECTS OF THE BISHOP OF NEW YORK.--It has been the settled policy of our Church, for many years past, to expect the Bishop of New York to officiate as Chairman of the Domestic Committee of the Board of Missions; Chairman of the Foreign Committee of the same Board; Chairman of the Standing Committee of the General Theological Seminary; and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the General Protestant Episcopal Sundays School Union and Church Book Society; besides exercising the hospitality appropriate to the largest and wealthiest See in the United States.

WHAT THE DIOCESE OF NEW YORK EXPECTS OF ITS BISHOP.--To travel at least seven thousand miles in each and every year; to visit 297 churches and chapels in their order; to meet with the members of the Missionary Committee,--the Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning,--the Trustees of the Fund for Aged and Infirm Clergymen,--the Corporation for the Relief of Widows and Children of Clergymen,--the Protestant Episcopal Tract Society,--the New York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society,--the New York City Mission Society,--the Missionary Society for Seamen in the City and Port of New York,--the Trustees of Columbia College,--the Trustees of S. Stephen's College, Annandale,--the Trustees of Trinity School,--the (clerical) Managers of S. Luke's Hospital,--S. Luke's Home for Indigent Christian Females,--the Orphans' Home,--the House of Mercy,--and the Church Charity Foundation. The rapid growth of the Church is constantly adding to this list, and tasking the energies of the Bishop beyond the capacity of any one man.

Reason WHY A SECOND DIVISION HAS BEEN DELAYED.--The indefinite suspension of the Bishop of New York; on the 3d of January, 1845, was an absolute bar to any movement for a second division, up to the time of his death (30th of April, 1861); because the consent of the Bishop exercising full jurisdiction is indispensably necessary to the success of any measure of the kind. The responsibility of carrying through, or of defeating, a second division, has since devolved, in great measure, upon the present incumbent of the office. It has been widely believed, for several years, that a majority of the Clergy and of the Laity are friendly to a well-considered plan for a second division, to be carried into effect at the earliest feasible moment: always provided that due regard is paid (1) to the rights of the Bishop; (2) to the rights of the Clergy; (3) to the rights of the Laity; and (4) to the rights of the portion set off for an independent Diocese.

WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF THE PARTIES CONCERNED?--(1) The Bishop has an unquestionable right to defeat any movement of the kind by simply allowing it to become known that he will not give his canonical consent to any plan of division; in which case, the question will necessarily slumber until the See becomes vacant. This is the negative policy. On the other hand, he has only to place himself at the head of the movement, if he wishes to carry it through pretty much according to his own liking. This is the affirmative policy. A third course is to abstain from denial or approval, and to throw the responsibility of settling the question upon the Convention of the Diocese. This is the neutral policy. (2) The Clergy, as a large and influential Order, have an unquestionable right to enter into, or abstain from, at their pleasure, a full and free discussion of the question of Division in all its bearings: and it is only by such full discussions, in local gatherings, that the wants of each portion of the Diocese can be fairly made known. (3) The Laity, as holding the purse, can favor, or thwart, any measure of Division by their mode of handling the financial questions involved. And (4) the portion set off as an independent Diocese has a right to expect to be endowed as liberally as Western New York. Its Diocesan Missions should be sustained for three to five years by the joint contributions of the old Diocese and the new; and it should also be allotted its share pro rata of the Episcopal Fund.

WHAT THE BISHOP HAS DONE IN THE PREMISES.--At the annual Convention in October, 1861, the Bishop expressed his wish "to afford the fullest opportunity for discussion and action." He therefore recommended the appointment of a committee of Thirteen to consider and report upon the whole subject, so that the action of our next Diocesan Convention might be submitted, if necessary, to the General Convention which assembles in the city of New York on Wednesday, the first day of October next.

WHAT THE COMMITTEE OF THIRTEEN HAVE DONE.--Only two meetings are understood to have been held. The Bishop attended and addressed the second of these meetings. At the close of his remarks, an adjournment was carried to the month of May.

WHAT THE DIOCESE OUGHT TO DO BEFORE THE COMMITTEE MEET AGAIN.--Let the clergy and laity of each parish fairly consider this question on its merits, and send in their conclusion, whether pro or con, to the Committee of Thirteen. Let those who are opposed to any division at all say so like men; and let those who are friendly indicate what their preference may be for a line of division.

SETTING OFF NORTHERN NEW YORK A SIMPLE AND FEASIBLE PLAN.--In view of the great want, in Northern New York, of a Bishop who will devote himself to THE MISSIONARY WORK OF THE CHURCH, the writer would respectfully urge the erection of Northern New York into an independent Diocese: a fair sum being allotted for the commencement of an Episcopal Fund, and the support of her present diocesan missionaries being guaranteed for three to five years. Let the new Bishop reside in Albany; let him be called to fill the existing vacancy in the rectorship of S. Peter's church in that wealthy city, so that he may have a substantial parochial footing; and let him, of course, be provided with an efficient Assistant of his own choice.

STASTISTICAL TABLE.--The following statement will show the number of counties, towns, churches, missionary stations, vacant stations, communicants, and average annual contributions, in the proposed new Diocese, as nearly as they can be gathered from sources open to the public:--

It is not easy to discover why a section of the State including within its limits such towns and cities as Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Greenbush, Lansingburgh, West Troy, Johnstown, Cohoes, Ogdensburgh, Canton, Malone, Plattsburgh, Champlain, Essex, Keeseville, Saratoga, Ballston, Catskill, Hudson, Little Falls, Cooperstown, Cherry Valley, Morris, Sharon Springs, Sandy Hill, Fort Edward, and Glen's Falls, should not have a Bishop of its own. This is the crying need of our present Diocese: this is the direction in which our Bishop requires immediate relief. This is a scheme of division that cannot fail to commend itself to approval the more it is examined. And not the least of its merits is this: that, the moment a majority is ascertained to favor it, it will not take our Diocesan Convention more than one day to prepare its action for the final approval of the General Convention.

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