Project Canterbury

Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate
Being Reminiscences and Recollections
of the Right Reverend
Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D.
Bishop of Minnesota

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Chapter XXVIII

IN the year 1871 I was honored by receiving the following letter proffering me an English bishopric.


My dear Bishop: I now write formally to ask you on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury and myself (to whom the King and Synod of the Sandwich Islands have committed the choice of a bishop to preside over the English mission there, and to found, if so it please God, a Native Church there from the Mother Church), whether you will undertake the post.

I very earnestly trust that God the Holy Ghost may move your spirit to undertake this work. For believing that your health will not allow you to continue your labors amidst your own beloved people, I believe that in this new Bishopric you may, God helping you, lay the foundations which shall extend throughout those Islands until you meet Bishop Patteson from the South.

I am ever aff'ly yours,

After earnest prayer for Divine guidance I sought the advice of the bishops who knew most of Minnesota, the Sandwich Islands, and myself, and who at the same time fairly represented the theological opinions of the House of Bishops. My physician had advised me to seek a warm climate, believing that the severity of Minnesota winters demanded it.

The following letters represent the conflicting advice which I received.

NEW YORK, April 25th, 1871.

My dear Bishop: As I saw a good deal of Archdeacon Mason on his way back to his mission, I was not unprepared for your communication. Certainly the proffer of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester is highly honorable to you, and an honor very well deserved.

But considering all things, without making many words about it, I incline to the opinion that you ought not to separate yourself wholly from your present charge. The nature of your work is such that I do not see how you can leave us altogether. But if the King and the Hy Synod, and the English People would take up for the present four or five months' presence each year in the Islands, I think you could get a good winter climate, now easily reached, and do all that is really necessary there.

I have this moment received from S. Winton the enclosed. He is anxious I should advise you to accept. I have just been writing him to ask how they would fancy what I have suggested above. There can be no harm in asking without knowing your feeling. God help us! Give us all grace and wisdom, and help me to trim my own Lamp!

Ever affectionately yours,

My dear Brother: There are so many and such grave questions connected with the offer sent by the Bishop of Winchester that I feel the greatest hesitancy in offering any opinion in the premises. Had your election been directly made by the Synod, sanctioned perhaps by the King, the matter would have been simplified. As it is, there seem to me to be many questions growing out of the reference of the election of a bishop to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester. Does it indicate and will it involve suffraganship to Canterbury? To what Book will it bind the Bishop? These and many other perplexing questions rise to the surface at once.

And so my dear Brother, I know not what to say. Did you not preclude me from taking personal matters into account I should say, if no relief can be given you in Minnesota, if the islands will give you relief, it would be well to go. But I dread the going, and if you can possibly be relieved so as to retain Minnesota, I should hope and pray that such would be the course that things might take.

It does seem to me that what between King, Synod, Bishops in England, and what not, things are in such a snarl in those islands that Solomon himself would hardly hope to set them straight.

I cannot, therefore, advise, but I can assure you of my sincere hope that some relief may be devised which will keep you in the diocese which you have nobly founded and worked on, and of my earnest prayer that God would guide you by His good Spirit.

Believe me ever,
Most affectionately yours,

MIDDLETOWN, April, 1871.

JERSEYVILLE, April 19th, 1871.

My dear Bishop: Your letter of the 14th was forwarded me at this place, and I have read it and thought over it with profound interest. The deep attachment of your diocese to yourself, and your fidelity to them, are beyond all question. We must meet the question simply on the basis of necessity, that change is imperative. In that aspect of the case, the opening seems to be of obvious Divine guiding; and my impression is very decided that you ought to encourage the development of it, and that we should meet the case by such expression and legislation, if needful, as may be consonant with the breadth of the occasion.

There seems to me to be no limit to the importance of the results to be attained by it, ecclesiastically and socially. Bishop Staley was not the man, perhaps, to cope with the representatives of Missionary Sectarianism in the islands. But it is certainly true that the Yankee management and bitterness were not to be praised. You can meet all these nominally, and they will intuitively admit the differences, and largely recede from avowed collision. Annexation is the manifest destiny of the Sandwich Islands, and you of all men among us can with godly wisdom fashion the social elements. The work to be done directly for Christ and His Church you can measure better than any one else, because of the intimate association of your brother with it.

As a demonstration of our Anglican fellowship, the incident will be glorious. Everything in the movement seems prolific and wonderful with far-reaching issues, and I say with my full conviction, by all means favor the project. Everything I can do in my humble place to shape or facilitate, you may rely upon me for, and I trust will use me.

I could talk to you about it for hours developing issues present at least to my imagination. I am writing, however, in a hurried moment with a call to our service in my ear.

May the Lord prosper the work which I feel He has inspired.
Ever affectionately,
Your friend & br.

BALTIMORE, April 19th, 1871.

My own very dear Brother: It is a sad contradiction to the concluding request of your startling letter that "no personal considerations shall be allowed weight," that I am about to give an answer hinging wholly on "personal considerations." But then I am going to allow them weight not "against the interests of the Kingdom of Christ," but for those interests, as they present themselves to my judgment.

Were "personal considerations "quite out of the question, I should be sorely perplexed to decide between the momentous claims that are in the balance, there is so much to be said for either in itself, and so many reasons for regarding either as peculiarly fit to be urged upon you, as your special work for which you are Providentially adapted, and to which there are strikingly clear indications of your having a Providential call.

But it is on this last point that the personal consideration comes in, and to my mind determines the question.

My continual anxious inquiries about your health, made at every opportunity, have left but one impression, that your burning zeal and love would bear you up a little while longer, and but a little while.

Distinctly, more than once, I have looked at the question whether the Church might not find some mode of providing for the prolongation of your earthly labor, by taking you away from loads which you would never of yourself lay down, and removing you from cries for increase of toil and care to which you could never close your ear. The very position now offered you has even flitted through my mind, not, of course, as attainable, for of that I did not dream, but as a conceivable advantage to the Church, had she the power of saying to you, "Drop your present work, and go there!"

My ground for decision is, the duty of the Church to desire and aim at the prolongation of your life for work in the office to which God has called you, if such prolonged official labor can be assigned you in the kind of field for which you have proved to be peculiarly fitted. Now, I believe the Sandwich Islands Episcopate to have equal needs, and to offer equal fruit of labor with any that have hitherto been offered to your attention.

Sorely, then, as I should sorrow at putting you still farther away, clearly as I see the difficulties to be met in providing for the relinquished work, I must say, go!

Ever truly and most heartily, your loving brother,

SYRACUSE, April 20th, 1871.

My dear Bishop: The question you so considerately present to your Brethren is one of great solemnity, and great interest to the Church, as I am sure we all must feel.

The trend of my own thoughts upon it is a clear conviction that the only consideration which should decide you to propose a separation from your present Episcopal Charge, even to accept the impressive invitation you have received,--is the exigency of your bodily health. . . .

But on all other grounds I have no hesitation at all in saying I believe the Church of God will be best served, and your own work for it best done, by your remaining in that place and state where a benignant and wise Providence has stationed you and permitted you to plan and water so effectually for the Kingdom of Christ.

Dear Brother in the Lord, may His blessed Spirit give you light and power! May He comfort your heart, direct your judgment, and strengthen your body, and lengthen out your dear life for many years of labor.

Ever faithfully and affly,
Yrs in Jesus Christ,


CINCINNATI, April 26th, 1871.

My dear Bishop: It is with the greatest diffidence of opinion that I venture to write you in answer to your communication of the 7th. More reliable judgments you will receive from others of your brethren. If I consider only the comparison of field of usefulness between your present and that to which you are invited, I do not see much difficulty. In your present, you are established in the high confidence and affections of the Diocese. All there is, under God, of your handiwork and to a great extent of your organization. But as to the Indians you have a door such as hardly any other could obtain. But I need not particularize.

At the Islands you would enter on other men's labors. As to the Island Diocese, I must say that while such a man as the late Bishop, with his extreme views and ritualistic aspirations, and, if I am not mistaken, a very cold shoulder toward the brethren who had preceded him and their whole work, could never conciliate them, it is very conceivable that you would do much in that way. It would probably be that looking on you, not as the introducer of the intrusion, as they must regard it, and being conciliated by your spirit and great lovingness, there would be a good measure of cooperation.

My dear brother, it would be a great bereavement to lose you from our Church, and I do not see the way to that distinctly open by any means. Nor do I think you will consider that I have given you much help toward a settlement of your question of duty. It must perplex your mind a good deal. The Lord has told us when we "lack wisdom "what to do, and none can guide but He, especially when His great work to sinners is so much involved. My dear Bishop, may He so determine your mind, that being ready to take His yoke upon you, whatever it be, you may have the sweet rest of being assured of His will.

Yours very affectionately,

The bishops were divided, and I therefore had to decide the matter for myself, which I did, believing that my duty was to care for my schools and my Indians as long as I lived; and that my Father knew when to call me home. I therefore sent the following letter:--


My dear Brother: After one of the hardest trials of my life I have decided to stay in Minnesota. I submitted the call to the Episcopate of the Sandwich Islands to the godly judgment of those brethren in the Episcopate who knew most of Minnesota and myself, and at the same time fairly represented the theological opinions of our branch of the Church. Had they concurred in the opinion that I ought to go, I should have felt that it was a call from God and that at any sacrifice I was bound to obey it. They do not agree, and I am thrown back upon myself. After much reflection and prayer I have come to the conclusion that duty calls me to stay with my own beloved flock. A change might imperil our schools, our missions, our Indian work, and fetter the Church at a time when the state is developing more rapidly than at any period of its history. In case of my death all would feel that it was God's providence and no harm could come to His work; but for me voluntarily to relinquish this field would dishearten some of the bravest of our clergy whose affection for me has helped them amid great trials.

I have tried to do right after asking wisdom of Him who giveth liberally, and I now crave your prayers that it I have erred no harm may come to the Church of Christ.

Thanking you for your affectionate interest, I am Your friend and brother,

In response to my letter I received the following, but my mind had become clear as to my duty.


May 26th.:


My dear Bishop and Brother: I have received your letter of May 1st, and thank you for all its love most welcome to my heart. But your not heading our mission was a grievous blow to us all. Bishop Potter of New York has suggested to me that you might be willing in another form to undertake this work, and to accept the Headship of our English mission, retaining Minnesota, and going to us in Hawaii from December f to April. I shall ask Bishop Potter to write to you his view on the American Church side of this plan, and I send this letter open to him for the purpose.

For our side I offer you, with the entire approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury, this plan, and we have written out for the assent of the King and the Synod. You would, ofcourse, head the Church there as preeminently an English mission, using our translated Prayer Book, etc., but in your own person knitting the two branches of England and America into a very blessed unity. It is of vital importance to our mission that we have an early reply from you.

I am Your Faithful Friend and Brother,

NEW YORK, 38-9 22 ST., June 7th, 1871.

Dear Bishop Whipple: S. Winton's note for you is just received, and I lose no time in forwarding it to you. In my note to him suggesting the winter arrangement, I said nothing to commit you--I may have said that plan struck me as feasible and that you might be able and willing to adopt it; tho' I did not believe you could adopt the first plan of separating yourself entirely from your Diocese.....

It seems to me easier to go to the S. I.'s than to a good resort in Europe, and that with your animating and executive powers you could do so much for the Church there, and with really no loss to your own Diocese, and, as the Bishop says, forming a blessed link between the two Churches, England and America.

God bless and guide you.

After my decision it was a pleasure to receive letters like the following from my beloved brother of Maryland.

BALTIMORE, May 5th, 1871.

My very dear Friend and Brother: Although I still think that, knowing only what I know of the different interests in question, and regarding them all from my point of view, I was bound to give you the advice I gave the other day, I have no doubt you have done the right thing in rejecting it, and adopting a different course; and I think, had I been in your place, I should have done the same. May God abundantly bless your choice, and reward you with the fruits you most desire.

Certainly to me, for one, personally and officially, it is a matter of rejoicing that the closeness of our brotherhood is not to be relaxed, as it must have been by your translation to the more remote field of labor and with an altered ecclesiastical relation.

But now must come up another question. Who will take the Indians? For certainly you are not to be killed outright by longer attempt to join the two branches of your rapidly developing work in your noble Diocese of Minnesota, and the enormous labors and responsibilities of due attention to the gigantic range of the Indian territories and tribes. For one, I look to you for the answer to that question. Your ever loving

Friend and brother,


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