Project Canterbury

Anglican Jurisdiction in Europe from an American Viewpoint

By Stephen F. Bayne, Jr.

Transcribed in 2013 by Richard Mammana from a typescript contributed by the Right Reverend Pierre Whalon

Note: I have prepared this memorandum for the use of the American clergy and laity who will share in this Conference on Anglican Jurisdiction in Europe planned for December 14-16, 1966. So far only the bishops concerned have discussed this matter; and it was our feeling, when we met last July, that it was time now to broaden the base of discussion as we began to consider possible lines of solution to a puzzling ecclesiastical arrangement. Since I am only occasionally in Europe, I thought it would be easiest if I set down these thoughts on paper, so that we—at least the American third of the Conference—might start somewhere nearly abreast of one another. Needless to say, this memorandum proposes no solution, “American” or otherwise. It simply sketches the history of the Convocation of the principal issues involved, from an American point of view.


“The Convocation of the American Churches in Europe” is an infra-diocesan association of congregations of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in Europe. It is established in the Constitution and Canons of PECUSA, and is represented in the General Convention by its clerical and lay deputies, as would a Missionary District be represented; support is given to it from the Church’s Program and Budget; but it is deliberately not established nor supported in the category of a Missionary District. Currently it includes seven congregations as well as a few institutions and other activities. It meets annually, with the clergy and Lay representatives of the congregations, to adopt its own budget and to take other steps as needed for the management of its affairs.

The principal canon relating to the Convocation is Canon 14, “Of Congregations in Foreign Lands.” This canon states “It shall be lawful, under the conditions hereinafter stated, to organize a congregation in any foreign land, other than great Britain and Ireland, and the colonies and dependencies thereof, and not within the jurisdiction of any Missionary Bishop of this Church.” Then the Canon goes on to prescribe the procedures and terms of such establishment. All such congregations wherever situated, are under the government and jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop; but he may “from time to time, by written commission under his own signature and seal, assign to any other bishop of this Church, having a seat and vote in the House of Bishops, the full charge of one or more of such congregations...” In fact, I think there are no such isolated congregations anywhere in the world, apart from the continent of Europe. In any case, those on the Continent are the ones we are concerned with; and it is to them that this canon applies.

In its wording, it goes back to 1859, when the revised Canon 5 (as it then was) made substantially these same provisions for American congregations abroad. The immediate occasion for that canon was the establishment of Holy Trinity Church in Paris, the earliest of the permanent American congregations in Europe. But the 1859 legislation itself was a development of earlier laws dealing with the status of American missionary work overseas. Our first such major expression of concern for the life and work of the Church outside our national borders was in 1821. In that year, the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society” was established by the General Convention—a decisive step forward [1/2] for our weak young church, when for the first time, we began to plan for our obedience to mission overseas. (That is still the corporate name of our Church, incidentally.) At that time there were stirrings of special interest, in our Church, in certain overseas areas. One was Africa—a concern ultimate to give birth to our mission in Liberia. Another was our relationship to the Eastern Orthodox Church—an exploration which was to lead, thirty years later, to a major development of Anglican/Orthodox relationships shared extensively by the Church of England. A third was a nascent interest in a mission to China. Finally, there was a strong impulse toward missionary work among the Moslems in the Ottoman Empire and other eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. The Greek revolution against the Turks in 1821 was a vivid spur to this last-named concern and led, in 1830, to the establishment of a mission in Athens. Later still, in 1844, this impulse led to the election of Bishop Southgate as our bishop in Constantinople, a post he filled until he returned to the States, a widower, in 1850. The same Convention, in 1844, also elected Bishop Boone as our first missionary bishop in China.

All this is ancient history, and only important as it may establish a background for our own particular concern. One factor must be added—it is hard for us now to understand this, but at the time, in the first half of the 19th Century, there was no such thing as “The Anglican Communion.” When this first mission was being launched in Greece, for example, bishops and clergy of our Church were still forbidden by law to preach or even officiate in the churches of the Church of England. Although we were regarded as in some sense especially related to that Church, it was not until 1840 that Parliament moderated the law of the realm sufficiently to permit an American clergyman to perform Divine service and preach (for not more than two days in any one place). This could be said to mark, symbolically at any rate, the establishment of full communion between our two churches. But it was not until the climactic S.P.G. anniversary of 1852 (celebrating 250 years of service by that great society originally founded to support and provide for the infant Church in the American colonies), that the reality of anything that could be called “The Anglican Communion” was tangible and credible. In 1853, the American Bishop McIlvaine broke new ground in sharing in the consecration of a bishop in England; in 1863 another American bishop dedicated a British chaplaincy—in Stockholm; and those isolated instances, which now perhaps would not be surprising, were remarkable indeed in their time.

Again, it should be remembered that it was not until 1842, when the Diocese of Gibraltar was established, that any episcopal oversight was provided for the British chaplaincies in Europe, by the Church of England. In 1825, the tiny Episcopal Church in Scotland was disturbed enough about the lack of an Anglican bishop in Europe that they those and consecrated Bishop Luscombe, who served until 1846. Not until 1886 was a suffragan chosen for the Bishop of London, to care for the Anglican congregations in northern and central Europe (now known as the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Fulham); and this despite the long-standing tradition that the Bishop of London was responsible for the pastoral care and oversight of all Anglicans outside of organized dioceses.

All this, I think, sets the stage for what now appear to us strangely-unilateral attitudes in planning for the Anglican life and presence in Europe. We would not behave so now, when so many channels and agencies of inter-Anglican planning exist; but it never occurred to the Church of England that any other Church was concerned, when the Diocese of Gibraltar was founded, anymore than it occurred to our forebears, in mid-century Paris or Rome, that the Church of England had the slightest interested in the provisions we were making for our own people in Europe. The relationships grew to be cordial, indeed. The then-Bishop of Gibraltar took a prominent part in the dedication of St. Paul’s, Rome in 1876, for example, and admonished the American congregation in these words: “You have the responsibility of showing, in concert with your English brethren, what the principles, doctrines, and worship of our Reformed Church really are, [2/3] when they are displayed in their true colors.” But it was recognized that autocephalous national churches had their own individual responsibilities, in areas where no Anglican bishop had or claimed territorial jurisdiction, to provide for the care of their own people; and this principle governed our various churches for many decades.

In our case, a “bishop in charge” has been provided since the first American congregations existed. Bishop Alonzo Potter of Pennsylvania, for example, was the first Anglican clergyman to celebrate the Holy Communion in Rome, at the founding of what is now St. Paul’s congregation, in 1859. Bishop Littlejohn of Long Island presided at the dedication of St. Paul’s present building seventeen years later. And over the years there has been a succession of such appointments. Almost without exception they have been senior diocesan bishops. Only in two cases, I believe—that of Bishop Larned before and after the Second World War, and of myself in the years 1960 to 1965—has the bishop actually been resident in Europe. But the care of these congregations, a particular responsibility of the Presiding Bishop, has been a consistent concern of our Church. In my case, my appointment originally was largely suggested, I’m sure, by the fact of my impending residence in London. But general responsibility for American Episcopalians overseas is also ne of my particular assignments, as director of the Overseas Department; and I have been grateful for the continued confidence of the Presiding Bishop in this respect.

The Situation and Its Needs

Is it not enough simply to continue the present pater of Anglican episcopal ministry in Europe? None of the three bishops concerned regards himself as a “territorial” bishop, in the sense that the Bishops of London or New York might do. We all represent churches which are in full communion with one another and in most cases with a church of the land, as with the Old Catholic Churches in Germany or Holland, for example, or the Lusitanian Church in Portugal; we are guess of countries in which we claim neither national nor missionary status; we are not concerned to establish an indigenous church of the Anglican family; our task is that of the supervision of English-speaking chaplaincies, ministering for the most part to expatriates; and our relationship with one another is that of companions in sharing in a common task which requires all of us together for its performance. All these things are true; and it is therefore also true that what appears to be an “anomaly” is not fundamentally so. Our concurrent jurisdictions violate no cardinal principle of Catholic polity, as our churches understand that polity, whereas an “American” church in London or an “English” church in New York would clearly violate our basic principles.

In Brazil we have another ambiguous situation, often likened to the European one, in which the (English) bishop in Argentine still has ordinary responsibility for a group of English-speaking chaplaincies within the Brazilian Church. Here, indeed, there is an anomalous situation, for there is a national Anglican church of the land in Brazil, and every principle of Catholic order would seem to dictate an end to the parallel jurisdiction. No doubt such an end will and should come. In the meantime all concerned are content to await a new spirit in the congregations themselves which will, in due course, doubtless demand an end to the anomaly. But the situation is not really parallel to the one in Europe, strictly speaking.

Yet, despite all that can be said to justify the status quo, nobody is happy with it. If it is not anomalous, it is certainly provocative and troubling to see even jurisdictions of chaplaincies overlapping. Almost never do two Anglican bishops visit the same community on the same day; but we might; and while that would indicate nothing more serious than a calendar stupidity, still it would suggest to the world a lack of corporate Anglican solidarity which all of us would dislike. And on the positive side, particularly when it comes to the planning of new work or the coordination of existing responsibilities, all of us are handicapped by our parallel lines. This is especially [3/4] true, and painful, when it comes to our participation in ecumenical activities, an area of supreme concern in all three jurisdictions. Such considerations, arising out of the still-new and burgeoning awareness of the depth and significance of Anglican unity, press us all increasingly to find some solution to the ambiguous and sometimes wasteful duplication which now characterizes Anglican jurisdictions in Europe.

As we move toward this fuller unity in Europe, what are the principal concerns of the American Church? I list five of them, which seem to me the cardinal ones, at least in my own thinking.

1. The first is the need to provide adequately for the care of American church-people present in Europe for a shorter or longer time. These Americans overseas fall into several clear categories. The largest single group, at the moment, is the military; in their case, Anglican ministration is provided for them through our military chaplains, who are basically military figures, and are within the general concern of the Suffragan Bishop for the Armed Forces, Bishop Lewis. He has no ordinary responsibility for the chaplains or the men and women concerned; indeed his field is worldwide; yet direct responsibility for Anglican ministry to them is in his hands.

Tourists, of course, represent another major group. But their stay in Europe is so brief that our theater of ministry to them is usually limited to little more than providing information as to available church services, as through our directory of churches in Europe, which includes all Anglican services as well as those of the wider Episcopal fellowship. Students comprise still another sizable group of Americans. Our ministry to them is a scattered one, in some cases carried out through American or other Anglican congregations, in other cases carried out through ecumenical agencies of various kinds.

Then there is the diplomatic community which usually comprises a very considerable sector of the congregation of any Episcopalian church as of most Anglican churches. Finally, one could isolate the business community—often likely to be more nearly permanent than any other, and often furnishing the backbone of the local congregation.

No doubt there are other minor categories as well. But with respect to all of these people, particularly because so large a proportion of them are in Europe for a fairly short time, the Episcopal Church at home feels, rightly, a particularly responsibility to minister adequately to them. Their European stay is likely to be only a sector of a long life of discipleship in the Church at home. For that reason alone, it is incumbent on the Church at home to keep in touch with them, and continue their training and experience in the ministry of their Church. This is not to say that only the Episcopal Church can minister adequately, within the Anglican family, to Episcopalians. It is to say that the fifty or sixty thousand of them with whom we are in touch do constitute a first demand on our resources and ministry while they are in Europe. Sometimes this may take the form of an American church in Europe. But this is by no means the only way in which this ministry is fulfilled.

2. Second, the Episcopal Church needs to maintain its own links with the life of Europe—particularly the ecclesiastical life of Europe—just as the United States needs its links with the European community. Our relationship to that community is quite different in character from the relationship of Britain, for example; the American role in world affairs is a peculiar and most difficult one, no doubt. But there is no substitute, as far as the Episcopal Church is concerned, for the personal links it has with the life of European nations; and one of those essential links is that of an through the life of the Church.

[5] 3. Third, the Episcopal Church has need for an ecumenical presence in Europe. The Anglican Communion is not a monolithic body—it is a fellowship of churches in full communion with each other. Each church has a contribution to make to all the others; each church has much to learn from all the others; each church has a responsibility for all the others. In the European ecumenical community, it has sometimes been the privilege of the Episcopal Church to take the lead in this or that ecumenical concern, precisely as other Anglican churches have had similar privileges. It was, for example, possible for the Episcopal Church to take a particular initiative, in company with the Church of Ireland, with respect to the little churches in Spain and Portugal—a lead which ultimately was fruitful of very wide developments in the Anglican Communion. This was not because of any particular excellence in the Episcopal Church. It was due simply to our freedom to move, at a certain time, in a certain way. And this ecumenical initiative is always an important one, with respect to any Anglican Church.

Relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church in the United States, for example, are radically different in texture and possibilities than those of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England. Similarly, relationships between the Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Churches, in the United States, are radically different from those elsewhere. The genius of Anglican ecumenical development has been in the very wide frontier of encounter and dialogue in which churches of our Communion share, all of which ultimately feeds the united life of the family. This is notably true in Europe. In this ecumenical area, parallel lines may even be a strength, as long as there is full coordination and communication all along the line.

4. Fourth, Europe is a singular theater of inter-Anglican encounter and dialogue. Perhaps more than in any other part of the world, the different churches and traditions within the Anglican family here meet one another, on common soil, where none threatens another, and all can share a common task. Precisely because we are not concerned to establish indigenous national churches in Europe, we are free to learn much about one another, find mutual enrichment from one another, and increasingly join hands in the common task of bearing our Anglican witness in the unique, plural religious culture of Europe. Our traditions are different. The discomfort of British Anglicans with some of our American ways is no greater than the parallel discomfort of Americans with British ways. There are moments when, on either side, we are tempted to solve the problem by simply fleeing to some more comfortable nationalistic association than the local Anglican chaplaincy may be. But this is not a posture to be defended. What we all earnestly seek and desire is a mutuality of life, in which the emphasis will fall not on our separateness but on the radical and profound common affirmations we make in our Anglican allegiance. If we are to have a common jurisdiction in Europe (an end for which I devoutly pray) it must therefore be the kind of jurisdiction which adequately represents the multiple Anglican traditions. This would certainly include not only English and American churches—it ought to speak as well for the very wide variety of Anglican life represented in the European community.

5. Finally, I am aware of the extremely limited resources which even all of us together can bring to bear on the vexing problem to ministry to the English-speaking people everywhere in Europe. I am impressed, as every Anglican must be, at the very great wealth of the Church of England, not only financially, but in terms of personnel. No other Anglican church can hope to match their splendid resources. But even my brief experience in Europe has taught me that were our resources a dozen times as great as they are, we simply could not hope to minister adequately. Separately, our hope is even less bright.

I think, for instance, of the deployment of Americans which current political [5/6] decisions in France will entail, with one large group of Americans likely to move to Stuttgart and another to Brussels or thereabouts. The need here is not for a multiplication of American churches, save as a final desperate expedient. The need is for the provision of additional hands, to minister to suddenly-swollen congregations. And how this is to be done, on a unilateral basis, I frankly do not know. I say again, all of us together do not have enough to do the job; how much less can we possibly hope to do it when we move along without being able to plan collectively for the common task.

At any rate, those are the thoughts which occur and re-occur to me, as I contemplate the European corner of my responsibilities. I wish I could see some simple solution to it. I’m sure that the solution cannot lie simply in terms of establishing a single diocese, along traditional lines—whether that diocese be English or American or whatever. The problem cannot be solved simply by the application of the resources of one church or one tradition to it. The only possible hope for us, I’m sure, must lie in our finding a way in which the unique problem Europe presents can be met by a unique inter-Anglican solution.

Perhaps a little college of bishops might be the result—certainly three bishops is not an extravagance when we begin to think of the very wide spectrum of our interests and our congregations. Again, it might be possible to think of some system whereby the traditions of the individual congregations could be maintained, and the Episcopal leadership provided in turn from the two churches most concerned, or even more. Or again, we might have to be content simply with a Council of European Churches, within which all three jurisdictions were somehow represented.

All this still lies before us, and I would be most reluctant to try to pre-judge the outcome. I can see the problem. I can see the areas of chief concern to us as Americans. I think I understand something of the sensitivities of the others concerned, although I do not necessarily share them. Most of all, I long to see an end to what cannot help but be a confusing and disturbing situation. As it is, we look to the world outside as if we were a congeries of nationalistic congregations, rubbing each other raw. At best, we look an uncommonly amateurish group of Christians, talking a much better game of unity than we actually play. I know that these things are not true about us. I am plagued by the unanswered problems, and the needs for which we are not doing any serious corporate planning. Feeling this way, and longing to see in Europe the finest expression of inter-Anglican unity rather than one of the most uncertain and confused. I come back to the problem with a firm hope that somehow God will guide us to what will be a just and right solution.

15 October, 1966

Project Canterbury