Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.



IN January 1923 Frank received an invitation to act as chairman at the second Anglo-Catholic Congress, and wrote the following characteristic reply:

10/1/23. My dear Wilson,

Your cable has just come. I read it to mean that you will have one and the same chairman for all sessions of the Congress. There I think you are wise. To choose me for the job is not what I call wisdom. But the decision rests with two of my priests who are fairly near at hand; they will answer me to-morrow. Frankly, it is very difficult, because half the staff is going on furlough: but it is even more awkward as it means shifting an ordination. But I feel that the Congress has a claim on us all, and a claim that is not to be set aside unless other claims cannot be met in any way at all. So we'll leave it at that till the morning.

January nth. Douglas and Palmer say that on the whole they think I ought to go. It remains to consult my Vicar General, and he is up in the hills. A runner is just off to him. So we wait perhaps thirty-six hours for his reply. He is concerned, for all my responsibility falls on him when I go.

Saturday, January 13th. Archdeacon Mackay says 4 go.' So I am now cabling to say I will come and take the chair--a mighty long way!

More anon.

Yours affectionately,

He left Africa in the middle of May, and on arriving in England devoted himself at once to the work of preparation. I quote from The Green Quarterly of January 1925.

There was no doubt that he was at the helm. From the first he assumed these responsibilities almost unconsciously. He had exactly those qualities which make for leadership, an immense strength of resolution, fearlessness, a magnetic influence, a clear head, a mind for detail, and yet all the charm of an entirely spontaneous humility. One thinks of him, for example, on one of those stifling afternoons preceding the Congress, surrounded in the Congress office by a number of journalists who were seeking copy for their respective papers. A few of their questions were perhaps a little irritating, and some of them unnecessary, and, in any case, the combined interview was an ordeal, especially in that trying atmosphere. But the abiding impression of the incident is the Bishop's courtesy, his good humour, his willingness to answer every question which was put to him, whatever its nature. None who came in contact with him failed to realise that beneath his firmness of character and perfect self-composure, there were those tremendous depths of spiritual humility and grace. 'I may not kiss your ring, my lord,' said a Roman Catholic priest to him, as he rose to go, 'but there is one thing I should like far more to do: I should like to kiss the hem of your garment.'

Before the Congress took place he addressed a long letter to the Members urging them by prayer, repentance and communion to prepare for the meetings, and reminding them of the object such a Congress had in view. The following extracts reveal his mind.

We are to come together to listen to papers teaching us about our Lord, and to discover what it is our Lord desires us to do that His Kingdom may be more firmly and widely established, and our own souls more truly sanctified. We must not say 'Sirs, let us show you Jesus': but 'Lord Jesus, show us Thyself.'

Secondly, it is necessary to bear in mind that, if God means to use our Congress, we must allow Him to dominate it. It is no sort of good trying to impose our methods on Him. We must be ready to accept His. Otherwise our Movement will cease to move onwards, we shall just drop out of the advance with Christ. . . .

Again, if we would prepare aright to be guided by God the Holy Spirit, we must put away all party spirit. It has taken us many years to escape from the spirit of party that is characteristic of British religion. We now stand for the Catholic Faith common to East and West. We are not concerned with the shibboleths of low Church, high Church, broad Church, liberal, modernist, or even the new 'non-party' party. We stand or fall with Christ's Church, catholic and apostolic. And we wait patiently till the Holy Father and the Orthodox Patriarchs recognise us as of their own stock. We are not a party: we are those in the Anglican Communion who refuse to be limited by party rules and party creeds. Our appeal is to the Catholic Creed, to Catholic worship and to Catholic practice. . . .

What we need is a large-hearted readiness to work with others for the common cause. Uniformity within the unity of the Church is not essential to Catholicism: in fact, it dates as an ideal from an age that was concerned to overcome schism by schismatic methods.

At the same time we Anglo-Catholics have need to stiffen our backs, lest, with an eye to an easy victory, we bow our heads in modern houses of Rimmon. We must not sacrifice Catholic truth to success. Nor must we lean on their patronage and sympathy who in their hearts are opposed to our ultimate aim. We are definitely called by God to end party spirit in the Anglican Communion and to lead British Christians to love the Catholic Church. We shall never do this by compromise of the truth; brotherly charity does not require the betrayal of principle.


Sixteen thousand tickets were sold for the Congress, and something like two-thirds of that number managed to be present in the Albert Hall at once. There were overflow meetings at the Kensington Town Hall and special meetings at the Queen's Hall intended primarily for young people. The weather was terribly hot, the atmosphere in the Albert Hall was at times stifling, but the enthusiasm never flagged.

The Congress opened on July 8 with the Mass of the Holy Ghost in St. Paul's Cathedral. There were many bishops in copes and mitres and an Eastern Patriarch with his diamond crown. The space beneath the dome was filled with robed priests, and the huge congregation filled every corner of the building. The precentor and two minor canons officiated, and the Bishop of Willesden pronounced the absolution and the benediction. The music was by Palestrina, and the Book of Common Prayer was used throughout without omissions. To some Anglo-Catholics the service was a revelation of what was possible in strict obedience to the Church of England.

The Bishop of London came to the opening session in the Albert Hall and delivered his presidential address. Afterwards Frank was in the chair at every session, except on one evening when he presided at the Queen's Hall.

A journalist remarked that he seemed at once to hold the vast audience in the hollow of his hand. He had but to rise and there was silence; he could check applause by a movement; when he smiled everybody laughed, when he prayed there was a tense hush. On the second morning he conducted a short meditation, standing before the crucifix. It was very simple, but it focused men's thoughts on the subjects of the papers. He pictured Jesus in His manhood and on the Cross, he called to mind the precious Blood of Jesus, and Jesus in His people, hurt by us to-day.

Another journalist remarked on how naturally Catholic formulae came from his lips. Living out of England in a diocese where all were of one mind, he had become accustomed to such language. Other speakers at the Congress used it also; but they conveyed the impression of uttering party shibboleths, as if in defiance of Mr. Kensit and his myrmidons outside.

But what surprised many was his readiness, his tact and his humour. When the Bishop of London privately expressed disapproval of two hymns in the Congress book which were in honour of our Lady, Frank appealed to his audience not to ask for them. ' Let us who reverence our Lady Mary remember that she is the Queen of courtesy, and out of courtesy to our President let us deny ourselves the joy of singing these hymns.' In proposing a message of homage to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he concluded: ' You owe him more than you think. He is not bound to like the looks of you; but he helps.' He introduced Bishop Gore as ' Our Prophet,' and no description could have been briefer and more apt. Bishop Gore has done more than anyone in our time to reveal the moral implications of dogma, and has been consistent in his witness to the Sovereignty of God and His unchanging laws of love and righteousness. But if Frank could characterise a bishop in a phrase, he knew also how to compliment lesser folk. At the Queen's Hall he told the audience that their singing was better than in the Albert Hall, ' but this,' he added, ' is due to the fact that we have here the choristers of All Saints, Margaret Street'--and the twenty little boys on whom he smiled blushed delightfully.


The papers and speeches at the Congress were grouped under these headings: God above us; God with us; God in us. Some of them were learned, most of them were forcible, and the committee who selected speakers had made few mistakes. At the end, on Thursday evening, Frank spoke about what should be the outcome of such a presentment of the Faith.

First he called on his hearers to contemplate the Christ of Bethlehem, and said:

I want you to listen to Him as He leaps from the Father's throne across the gulf which separates Creator from creation, across the gulf which separates holiness from sin: to listen to Him as He leaps the gulf and appears in human form amongst us men: and listen to Him as He says to you, ' By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.' . . . See if it be not the case that some of us are called by our Lord to take a leap, after the manner of His, a leap which will carry us out of that state in which we were born, or which we have made for ourselves, into a new kind of state, a state of life in which we can build up the fellowship of man with man in Christ. . . . We cannot simply sweep away all the social customs in which we have been born and bred--and God forbid that we should try. We cannot pretend to an equality of culture, of taste, of temperament, that in no case can be seen to exist; but if God leaped a gulf for you, you can leap gulfs for God.

Secondly, he spoke of the Christ of Calvary, the naked Christ who was obedient unto death, and reminded Anglo-Catholics that if they were following the ancient path, they must yet beware. 'The path is Catholic, but do not boast about your path! Fix your eyes upon Him, Who goes before you, Jesus, the naked Christ.' Is not He the condemnation of all luxury, self-pleasing and self-indulgence?

He reminded priests that 'priesthood . . . implies a strictness and a sternness in the following of Christ that is sometimes sadly to seek.' He turned on the young men and asked them about their vocations. 'What would you sacrifice for the naked Christ?' He turned to parents and asked them, 'Can you give to Jesus some of the joy that He has given to you? Dedicate your children.'

So he passed to the obedience of the Cross, and showed how the spirit of discipline was absent from the Church to-day.

Ideally, we move in an atmosphere of self-sacrificing obedience. Ideally, as I set out to go to the altar of God, I step out in definite obedience to offer the sacrifice of Christ's obedience. I ask you, in the ordinary English parish church how much obedience is there?

He asked the laity about their duties. Did they make their confessions? Did they fast?

There is, he said, a sort of air of softness--yet He calls you. What does it matter if you get a headache when you are representing Calvary before the Father? Do you want to feel especially well and buoyant as you come from the contemplation of Christ on Calvary? Brethren, you know you don't!

Thirdly, he spoke of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the necessity, as it seemed to him, of bringing home His presence, by emphasising devotion to Christ in the tabernacle. It seemed to him that 'the one thing England needs to learn is that Christ is in and amid matter, God in flesh, God in sacrament.' He went on:

But I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have, if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in His Blessed Sacrament, then, when you come out from before your tabernacles, you must walk with Christ, mystically present in you, through the streets of this country, and find the same Christ in the peoples of your cities and villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum. ... It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacrament and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating Him in the bodies and souls of His children. . . . You have your Mass, you have your altars, you have begun to get your tabernacles. Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them; and, when you have found Him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of His brethren.


The speech was listened to with rapt attention. His splendid voice rang out through the great hall. There was a note of yearning in its tones, you could not escape from his insistent passion, his passionate love of God, his consuming pity for the sons of men. A great wave of emotion flooded the assembly, men were moved in spite of minor disagreements; respectable dignitaries, afraid of compromising themselves, were swept away by the common enthusiasm. It was not only what he said, it was his character and its reality which dominated the crowd. He at least had the right to say such things and to make such an appeal. He had himself leaped the gulf which separated Europeans from Africans; he had forsaken all to follow his Master. There was no doubt that he had found Jesus in the Sacrament of His Love, and there was no doubt that he had served Jesus in the persons of the poor and despised. Professor C. H. Turner, looking back upon that evening, said, after Frank's death, at a meeting in Hertford College Hall: 'I think the Bishop of Zanzibar was the greatest man I ever met: I know that he was the greatest orator I ever heard.'

That is the note I should like to end on, but history forbids my doing so. The Congress had been a great success. The Faith had been expounded by first-rate scholars. The audience had been attentive and appreciative. Religion had been uplifted for a moment out of party ruts and ecclesiastical disputations. That is how it appeared to those who were present.

But how did it appear to the British public? What did they know of it and its results? As they opened their papers and scanned the headlines, what met their eyes? The Anglo-Catholic Congress sends a message to the Pope. The Bishop of Zanzibar tells the ritualistic clergy to fight for their tabernacles. And then every pen was dipped in gall, and an acrid controversy ensued. Who was responsible for this but Frank himself?

He desired peace so fervently, and was a man of war.

The 'Fight for your tabernacles' slogan came of course from the speech epitomised above. The word tabernacle was itself a challenge, a provocation, and it set even Anglo-Catholics at variance.

The message to the Pope was apparently unpremeditated. Frank had taken counsel with no one. Messages were being sent to the King, the Archbishop, and Eastern Patriarchs, and it occurred to Frank, 'Why no message to the Pope, the first Bishop in Christendom?' In a moment he had drafted it. Here it is:

16,000 Anglo-Catholics, in congress assembled, offer respectful greetings to the Holy Father, humbly praying that the day of peace may quickly break.

He read it to the Congress, and it was received with applause. There was at the moment no opposition and the message went. Two days afterwards Dr. Frere (now Bishop of Truro), who was not present when the message was proposed, made his protest at the end of his paper. 'Messages of this sort do more harm than good, because they are bound to be misunderstood both here and there.' The protest was met with shouts of 'No' and also by applause, from all parts of the hall. It was the only occasion throughout the Congress that any such divergence of opinion was shown. Frank at once rose, not to emphasise the fact that the original motion had been passed without a dissentient voice, but to take the whole responsibility upon himself.


Frank was quite impenitent about tabernacles, and very indignant with me when I suggested that he had been carried away by the enthusiasm of his audience and said more than he had intended to say. He always believed that he had adhered strictly to the speech, written beforehand, which was afterwards printed. He may have done so; but in the Albert Hall his words had an emphasis which I, at least, do not find in the printed page. He denied that he had said anything about benediction or exposition, which he had always believed to require an episcopal licence. He had told Anglo-Catholics to fight for their tabernacles, and the language used was natural to him, but what did it mean? He meant that they must fight for reservation, and that he believed no bishop had the right to forbid.

Somebody told him that the bishops, in conclave at Lambeth, had decided to license aumbries, and that he, by his tabernacle speech, had queered their pitch. He replied, 'How was I to know that? 'It did not much matter whether the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in a tabernacle or an aumbry, but aumbries could not be constructed in the mud walls of native churches. Whether Frank was rightly informed about Lambeth, or misunderstood his informer, I cannot say. After three years, we still await the episcopal decision; but there has been a conference at Farnham, and would that Frank had been alive to express his opinions on some of the pronouncements there made!


About the telegram, he wrote in his Defence of the English Catholic as follows:

Why did I suggest it?

Because it was, to my mind, an evidently right thing to do. In 1920 we bishops who met at Lambeth publicly called upon all Christian people to pray and work for reunion. We declared that reunion with Rome was our Lord's will. We pointed out how especially close were our ties with Rome and the Orthodox East. And we publicly expressed our determination to submit ourselves to the conscience of the Roman Church in the matter of orders should terms of reunion be in other respects settled. I was, therefore, strictly within my rights in assuming that in all parishes, more especially in Anglo-Catholic parishes, the bishops' words had been read, explained and emphasised; and that for the last three years English church people had been stirred up to desire, and pray for, reunion with the Roman and Orthodox Churches. On the platform of the Congress was an Orthodox Archbishop, in whose person we did honour to the Orthodox Patriarchs. It was only fitting, then, that we should pay such honour as was possible to the Pope of Rome. Hence my proposal that we should respectfully greet him, and call to his mind the fact that we are humbly praying for the day of peace. It seemed so obviously right! And in spite of many bitter, angry letters and press articles, it still seems to me obviously right, courteous and Christian. For were the Pope our enemy, Christ would still bid us love him! And as for asking for an affront to the English Church, even if this were as true as in fact it is false, we are not excused from acting Christianly by fear for our own dignity. No! the action of the bishops in the Lambeth Conference of 1920 is a sound precedent for the despatch of the telegram. And, if I am denied this precedent, I fall back confidently upon our Lord's own teaching. I remain impenitent about the telegram.

Of course, I feel sympathy with priests whose flocks are affrighted: I know how easily English people shy at mention of the Pope. But I humbly submit, as a member of the Lambeth Conference of 1920, that the priests were then given a glorious opportunity, by some 250 English Bishops, of accustoming their flocks to a vision of a reunited Christendom, with the Pope as the central figure; and they appear to have missed it! May I, as humbly, suggest that before the telegram be quite forgotten, the Lambeth Appeal, in its relation to reunion with Rome, be explained to the people concerned?


This is not an apology but a justification, and lest it should be misunderstood, it is necessary to say a few words about Frank's general attitude towards the Roman Church. He earnestly desired reunion with Rome, but never felt the least inclination to make an individual submission to the see of Peter. He was fully convinced of his own priesthood and of the validity of the Sacraments which he ministered. To deny those Sacraments meant for him a denial of the Lord Who gave them. It would be equivalent to saying, with St. Peter, 'I do not know the man.'

In his The Fulness of Christ he had attacked the Papal system and Vatican decrees from a theological point of view, and thereby incurred the enmity of the Roman press in England, though I am not aware that anyone has answered his argument.

Yet he went on hoping that the day would come when Rome would acknowledge our Orders and Sacraments, and when Rome would give an authoritative interpretation of infallibility which would make it possible to reconcile that doctrine with the facts of history and theological truth.

Surely he was right to hope and pray that the day may be at hand, though to some of us it seems very far off. At present reunion is not desired either at Rome or in England, except by a very few; and until the desire is much more general, nothing is likely to happen. Rome does not recognise us as an existing body, and is therefore only concerned in proselytising individuals. Englishmen are aware that Rome, vaunting its catholicity, is none the less at present an Italian Church. Jesuits only study our history to discover what may be said against us, and the ordinary Englishman only remembers what he learnt in school histories about Papal scandals and Jesuit intrigues. No desire for reunion is likely to arise while each side specialises, for controversial purposes, on what is evil in the other.


Our candid historians do not help, nor do Anglo-Catholics who ape Roman manners and are for ever apologising for the Church of England. It has become a fashion to drape the Church of England in the white sheet of a penitent, and there are some 'advanced' young men who think they prove their catholicity by treating with contempt their spiritual Mother.

There was just that amount of justification for the Bishop of Durham's letters in The Morning Post in Defence of the Church of England. He had not been present at the Congress, he could not, when he wrote, have read the papers, but he does know what Anglo-Catholics stand for, and, because of his own very different standpoint, he charged them with disloyalty to the Church of England.

Frank replied in two trenchant articles, and made out a good case for Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England.

Every one, except the Bishop of Durham, knows that the English standards are purposely drawn up to include as many as possible of the English people. There are limits, but they are wide. As I see it, the essential points of Catholic theology are insisted on, and the essential points of Church organisation. But, since different minds lay stress on different doctrines, only the essentials are required of all alike.

This arrangement may be faulty; it is, however, historically the fact. Cardinal Bourne may not approve of it. The Bishop of Durham denies it. But it exists, despite them both. And in God's providence it is helping towards the return of England to the Catholic Faith of Christendom.

His arguments are forcible and his plea for the Anglo-Catholic party is a just one, but it will be noted that in controversy he has gone back on the letter he addressed to the members of the Congress. He writes as the leader of a party, he claims for that party its rights, he denies that his party wishes to dominate, but demands that it shall have adequate recognition. Frank, in the unity which prevailed in Zanzibar, could condemn unreservedly the party spirit in England. Frank, amid the controversies of England, found he had to take a side and contend for it manfully. But he could none the less fairly say that Anglo-Catholics 'believe, of course, that if their message be given a fair chance it will one day triumph; but they have no wish to interefere . . . with those in the Church of England who differ from them.'


In the weeks after the Congress he was very active. He was at Nottingham, at Liverpool and other places. The Anglo-Catholic committee were anxious that he should resign his see and devote himself to propaganda in England. This he refused to do. His real work was in Africa for Africans, to Africa he had given his life, and he was going back there to die.

On the last night he was in England, August 28,1923, he dined with me at my club, and I realised how he was ageing and how tired he was. After dinner, we drove down to the Church House for his farewell meeting. The doors had been opened at 7 o'clock, and before the half-hour they had to be closed for the great hall would hold no more. When we arrived at five minutes to eight, five or six hundred disappointed people were still waiting in Dean's Yard. Frank went to address them, while Bishop Gore opened the meeting and Father Douglas spoke until he could arrive.

On reaching the platform all sign of weariness vanished. While he spoke he seemed ten years younger. The Anglo-Catholic Congress and its controversies were forgotten. He was going back to Africa and he relied on our support at home. He was full of the needs of his diocese, but for the moment he was speaking to us and he remembered that we not only had pockets but had also souls.

You people in England cannot really undertake the task of driving the Devil out of Africa, unless you are really and truly in the matter of your Mission work within the heart of our Lord. . . . Lift up then, into the heart of Christ, all your thoughts about Missions, all your thoughts and your prayers and your subscriptions. See Africa from the heart. Set to work on this great task of fellowship, and, jointly with us, let us move back into the simpler and sterner life marked by the Cross of Jesus Christ. Now I wish you all from my heart, good-bye.

Then we all stood up and, at Bishop Gore's suggestion, said 'Good-bye, Bishop, God bless you'; and received for the last time his blessing.

May the Spirit of Jesus always guide you, the Passion of Jesus draw you, and the Love of Jesus enfold you; and the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you always. Amen.

Outside in Great Smith Street was an excited crowd. Traffic was stopped and the Bishop was mobbed by his admirers. He dodged behind an omnibus, and, once free of the pressure, ran all the way up Great Peter Street to the clergy house of St. Matthew's, Westminster. It was only from his admirers that Frank ever ran away.

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