Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.



IN his isolation Frank was comforted by the thought that he was a Catholic Bishop and that his work was to build the Catholic Church in Africa. He did not look on the Church as a human institution, which could be changed or modified for anyone's convenience. He believed that the Church was founded by our Lord, belonged to Him and was His mystical Body. Its continuity was an historic fact; and to deny its principles was to reject the age-long guidance of the Holy Spirit; while to belittle its claims was an act of treason to the Lord Who purchased it at the price of His own Blood.

But in this Church Frank derived his particular mission from the See of Canterbury, and his work was supported by those who were in communion with that See. It was therefore for him of the first importance that the source of his authority should be pure and should not fail. To vary the metaphor, he thought of himself as commanding in the front firing-line and preparing for a glorious advance; but he was somewhat doubtful about the security of his base. Were the authorities at home alive to the dangers which menaced not only Foreign Missions but Christianity itself?

In 1913 he experienced three shocks. The first was the Kikuyu Conference, where it seemed to him that the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda were bartering away, or at least compromising, our Catholic inheritance. The second he received through a parcel of books, which included Foundations and Dr. Henson's Creed in the Pulpit; and it seemed to him that the Faith was being attacked by those who should defend it. The third was the intelligence that a clergyman, who had been indiscreet enough to invoke the saints, had been promptly inhibited.

To Frank it all seemed very strange. Were the authorities at home indifferent about the constitution of the Church and the fundamental articles of the Faith? Were they only eager to suppress those who strayed beyond the somewhat narrow limits prescribed for Anglican devotion? What did the Church of England really stand for? He was resolved to have an answer to these questions, and sat down to write his second Open Letter, which he addressed to the Bishop of St. Albans.

It is the fashion to say that he was very impulsive: he was, and he believed in his impulses; he believed they were of God, and that he acted under compulsion. He was certainly not one of those jolly and pugnacious persons who rush into a row, as a schoolboy into a football ' scrum,' for the fun of it. He hated public controversy. He was very highly strung, very sensitive, and suffered under abuse. Yet he knew what he was doing when he wrote; he meant to, and did, startle English churchmen all over the world.

He was certainly impetuous in attack, and there were many who thought that he was unfair, and some who tried to excuse him on the score of fever and the climate; but there is no trace of nervous excitement in the Of en Letter. It is admirably arranged, gravely and clearly written. It is perfectly logical, very brief and to the point. There were many replies in justification of Kikuyu, and many defenders of Modernism, but no one answered the points in the letter.

In the concluding section, he wrote:

I am well aware that in speaking of Modernism, Pan-Protestantism, and denial of Catholic practices in one letter, I am not acting with worldly wisdom, for those who may agree with me on one point will probably be opposed to me on another. Yet I have written what I have written in calm deliberation in God's sight.

The three subjects treated of concerned Faith, Order, and Worship, and he challenged the Church of England to declare her mind and cease to be 'a society for shirking vital issues.' His views on worship must be dealt with much later. This chapter shall be devoted to the Kikuyu controversy, and the next to his fight with Modernism.


The British Protectorate of East Africa, now known as Kenya Colony, is larger than the United Kingdom and its population is estimated at over four millions. This vast region is known on Anglican ecclesiastical maps as the Diocese of Mombasa, and the Bishop of Mombasa in 1913 had a staff of under thirty priests!

Other religious bodies, Roman and Protestant, had also entered the country. Of these, the Romans far outnumbered the rest. They were united, pursued a consistent policy, and followed up other Missions in their work. Mohammedans were also aggressive and had converted many on the coast, but had not been so successful inland. They were, however, united, worked together and knew their own minds. Confronted by the solidarity of Rome and the solidarity of Islam, it is not surprising that the Protestant bodies should see the necessity of some sort of union.

At home there are people who do not pray like the Lord Jesus that all may be one. They rejoice in ' the dissidence of Dissent and the protestantism of the Protestant religion.' They think such happy divisions keep religious bodies active and alive, although, in fact, they are only tolerable because in crowded England each can pursue its own way unnoticed by its neighbours. The curse which the schismatic temper has entailed on Christianity can only be rightly appreciated in the Mission field.

Different religious bodies begin by poaching on one another's preserves, then insist on rigidly defining their own frontiers, and finally discover that they can no longer minister to their converts who travel. This was important in the Protectorate for, since the construction of the railway, East Africans wandered up and down the line in search of work. But what was the status of a Christian converted by the African Inland Mission, when he found himself in a township served by the Church of England, and then proceeded to work on a plantation in a Presbyterian district? He at least was perplexed. He could easily understand the difference between Catholic and Protestant, but all Protestants seemed to him alike. He knew nothing of English history and nothing of the doctrines, now abandoned by Nonconformists, which were once thought to justify secession.

From 1904 onwards there had been friendly conferences; and in 1913 the Presbyterians at Kikuyu invited the representatives of several missionary societies to meet at their pleasant station seven thousand feet above the sea. The Bishop of Mombasa was elected chairman, and the Bishop of Uganda, although a visitor and outside the Protectorate, acted as Secretary. The Conference was inspired by a desire for greater unity, and everyone was conciliatory. In consequence the now famous proposals for federation were drawn up and signed.

All the members of the Conference remained loyal to their own convictions and loyal to the societies which had sent them out. They were all, however, quite properly, looking towards the future, when the work of missionaries would be done; and they did not wish their converts to perpetuate English sectarianism. They hoped to found a native Protestant Church over against Rome.

They agreed on the paramount authority of Holy Scripture, they professed a 'general' belief in the facts which are summarised in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, they pledged themselves to administer the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and they arranged that a native ministry should be ordered by the laying on of hands. The said native ministry was to consist of four orders, junior preacher, senior preacher, district preacher, and minister; and they were all to be trained in one way, whether they were Church of England, Wesleyans, Baptists, or Presbyterians.

To meet immediate needs, it was decided that all the sects should recognise the validity of one another's ministries, that the converts of the Church of England should receive communion from other bodies if they could produce a certificate entitling them to do so; and that no requirement of Confirmation should be made from Baptists, Wesleyans and others who wished to frequent our altars. Exchange of pulpits was provided for, and an undenominational service was sketched out to which no one could object. So, while each religious body retained its own services, the natives were to be accustomed to a common form, which would, of course, ultimately prevail.

Pan-Protestantism had achieved a triumph; and it was proclaimed when, on the evening of the last day, the Bishop of Mombasa celebrated the Holy Communion in the Presbyterian church, and the representatives of many religious bodies participated in a common sacrament.

Three months later Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury denouncing the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda for the part they had taken at Kikuyu, and formally charged them ' withj propagating heresy and committing schism.' It was a sad anticlimax to the pious movement inaugurated by the Presbyterians, but can his action be justified, and was the charge true?


The charge was not, strictly speaking, true. Frank had been misinformed. Only proposals had been agreed to, and no federation had taken place. The two Bishops were not inspired by a schismatic temper; they were, on the other hand, trying to heal schisms of the past. They had no heretical intention, for they only accepted the proposals on condition that they were allowed and ratified by the Archbishop of Canterbury. They admitted that the united communion was technically irregular, but they could put in a good plea that the circumstances were exceptional, and that an enlightened charity should condone their action. The sympathy of all good men should be extended to the Bishops; and yet I believe that Frank was right and that they were mistaken in their policy.

The two Bishops, in their zeal to heal the schisms in the Mombasa diocese, were rendering a new schism in the Church of England inevitable. They had forgotten Zanzibar. They were conscious of the opposition of the Roman Church and hoped to overcome it by federating all the Protestant sects; but they had forgotten to ask themselves if the Church of England was a Protestant sect; and they had forgotten that in Zanzibar the Bishop was maintaining the Catholicity of the Church of England, also in opposition to Rome.

They were eager to prove their friendliness for religious bodies with whom they agreed in almost everything except their separation. They forgot that their proposals would embarrass the Bishop of Zanzibar in the friendly relations which he had hitherto maintained with the Society of Friends and members of the Lutheran Mission. They were forcing him to speak out in a way which might antagonise them.

They were faced with the great difficulty of the Christian native who travelled from one district to another, who ought to find a spiritual home. They forgot that the Diocese of Zanzibar was bounded on the north and west by that of Mombasa, and that on the east communication was easy and frequent by sea. The Zanzibar Christian had also some claim to consideration when he moved out of his diocese.

The Bishop of Uganda was quite right in maintaining that the proposals only contemplated a federation and not a union; but he forgot that if it were successful the federal authority would soon be supreme, and the peculiarities of federated units would be chiefly interesting as survivals of a past age.

The Bishop of Uganda was no doubt right when he maintained that no one who was asked to preach in a strange pulpit would say anything likely to offend those who asked him. He might have gone further and said that no one preaching in his own church would be likely to offend, when he thought that many of his hearers belonged to a different body. But what was likely to be the result of so much discretion and good taste? Would it not ultimately mean that a very indefinite faith would be taught which might, or might not, be in accord with a 'general' acceptance of the Nicene Creed? But it is not the language of compromise which grips a man's soul and inspires a faith which can remove mountains.

The Bishop of Uganda said, quite truly, that he and his brother Bishop had no intention of abandoning the Book of Common Prayer. The undenominational service was only intended to be used when natives of different faiths came together. But it was the common form which was to unite them, while it was the Book of Common Prayer which would keep them apart. If the federation were successful, it was obvious that the Book of Common Prayer would soon be only the property of certain foreign missionaries. Frank himself, as we shall see hereafter, was no bigoted adherent of the Prayer Book, and was in favour of a variety of devotions, but he was insistent that the Liturgy should have its rightful pre-eminence, and was not prepared to run any risk of seeing it displaced by an Undenominational Directory of Worship.

The Bishop of Uganda protested that each of the federated units would preserve its own discipline, and that therefore all Anglican converts would have to be confirmed before becoming communicants. But some of the sects were very lax in admitting converts to the sacraments, and in all federations it is the laxer rule which is bound to prevail. How could an Anglican priest continue to insist upon the necessity of confirmation when he was normally communicating Wesleyans and Baptists who were unconfirmed?

The Bishop of Uganda hoped that, as the Anglican converts were most numerous, so the native Church of the future would be Episcopalian. But were his hopes likely to be justified? The native was likely to ask: 'What is the good of ordination? You acknowledge the ministry of that unordained member of the Inland Mission. You encourage me to receive the sacrament at his hands. You must, therefore, acknowledge that ordination is of no consequence. You may like to maintain the titles of Bishop and priest which you have inherited from your forefathers, but they are not my forefathers, and I have no sentimental attachment to their customs. Let us be free from a nomenclature which reminds us of that Roman Church which you have taught us to abhor.'

Lastly, Frank did not believe in the future of that native Church which the enthusiasts of Kikuyu hoped to call into existence. To him the scheme seemed to be designed rather with a view to the susceptibilities of conflicting sects, than from any consideration for the needs of Africans. He did not believe that 'a Church' with an indefinite faith, with no determined rule of life and a haphazard form of government would be strong enough to weld Africans together, to uplift them as a race, or to defend them against being exploited by Indians and Europeans.


It is unnecessary to say that the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda did not contemplate any of these evil results and found it difficult to understand the cause of Frank's opposition. The Bishop of Uganda started home to plead for his proposals, and came by way of Zanzibar that he might see its Bishop.

They met and drafted elaborate minutes on their points of disagreement for the instruction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which no doubt enlightened him, but are now of no importance to us. It is better to remember that the two men met face to face and each acknowledged the charm and goodness of the other. Their education and experiences were so different, and yet they found much in common. They both had the same single-hearted devotion to the one Lord, although they could not agree on how He was best to be served. I am sorry that I have lost the delightful description of Dr. Willis which Frank wrote to me, and it is pleasant to remember that in a controversy where conscience forbade either to compromise, their friendship remained unbroken to the end. When Frank died, the Bishop of Uganda wrote to the Universities' Mission:

He was a great man, a great missionary, a born leader, and one of the most devoted followers of Jesus Christ that I have ever met. Humanly speaking, no one can fill the place he has left empty.

Personally, I thank God for the controversy that first brought me into contact with the Bishop of Zanzibar, and taught me to see and to appreciate the true spirit of Christ which inspired him and made him what he was--a man whom one could whole-heartedly honour and could not but love.

It is useless to pretend that there were the same amicable relations between Frank and the Bishop of Mombasa, and the friction between them did not start with the Kikuyu controversy. Long before, when Frank was principal of Mazizini, and the see of Zanzibar was vacant, Dr. Peel had come there to perform necessary episcopal functions. He then made no secret about his disapproval of the diocese, and refused to ordain the deacon Frank presented to him, because he did not come up to, or come down to, his own standard of Anglican orthodoxy. In this refusal he was, of course, entirely within his rights, but it was an unfortunate beginning of a connexion which was never friendly.

In 1912 the Archdeacon of Mombasa translated certain passages from a Swahili manual originally written by Canon Samwil Sehoza, and delated the Bishop of Zanzibar for heresy to Lambeth. Frank had edited, in part re-written, and authorised the book and took full responsibility for all its contents, but he was annoyed that he had received no notice of the Archdeacon's action, and had been given no opportunity for acknowledging the accuracy of the translation. The Archbishop, I believe, submitted the quotations to theological experts, who did not find that they were contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England. Anyhow, nothing more was heard of the charge; but it is well to remember that heresy-hunting was not started by 'the Zanzibarbarian' bigot.

Thirdly, Frank did not believe that his converts were kindly received in the Mombasa diocese. There was always the difficulty, that the Zanzibar Christians went as a matter of course to confession and that the clergy of the Church Missionary Society sometimes refused to give in private 'the benefit of absolution,' which the Book of Common Prayer in its large-hearted charity offers to sinners.

One Christian woman, who was detected in making the sign of the Cross, was warned that she would not be allowed to come to church unless she surrendered the practice. Another Christian man for the same offence was publicly reproved and made the text of a sermon, although in this case the missionary magnanimously concluded that he might be regarded as a Christian.

I do not suppose that similar instances of narrow-mindedness could be quoted of the diocese of Zanzibar, but we have to remember that Mombasa Christians were not likely to feel very much at home there; and when, at a much later date, there was a proposal to form an East African Province, it was, in spite of the Bishop of Uganda, vetoed by the native members of his Mission. Some of them had travelled as far as Zanzibar, and had come back with the story that an altogether different religion was practised there.

Zanzibar represented one extreme wing of the Church of England and Mombasa the other, and the great moderating influence of the Church of England as a whole was unknown and unfelt in East Africa. Many of the missionaries of both dioceses had little or no experience of Church work at home, and of the inevitable allowances which have to be made in England for opinions other than our own.

Frank had realised this quite early as a missionary. Before he had been in Africa two years he wrote to me:

Out here we get heartily sick of the present confusion of faith at home. Certainly the Mission Field would be a bad training for work in England. I should strongly oppose any scheme for three years service abroad: unless every man so serving was pledged to a moderate S.P.G. policy. The Faith and the C.M.S. religion are expressed in such clean-cut lines out in the Mission Field, that it requires all one's past experience, short as it is, to keep from cutting oneself adrift from English thought in religion. We go our own way: find it to be the only way: and we cannot conceive of any other way. This is why those of us, who have never had to find a footplace at home, are so narrow-minded out here--a narrow-mindedness which tinges our views on every kind of subject.

At length, in February 1914, the Bishop of Zanzibar landed in England to find the whole country in an uproar over his Open Letter. Professors and eminent scholars were producing pamphlets for and against the Modernists, and lesser people were filling the columns of the daily press with evidence of how little they understood about the points at issue.

The Bishop found awaiting him addresses of congratulation and promises of support from the Society of the Holy Cross, The Guild of the Love of God, the Catholic League, and other bodies. Father Murray of Longton had collected the signatures of seven hundred priests to a memorial in the Bishop's favour. There were also numerously signed addresses from the dioceses of London and Norwich, and one from Australia and Tasmania. These were no doubt gratifying, but, on the other hand, there were the letters from all his friends full of good advice, which needed answering, and piles upon piles of abusive letters which could not be answered because they were anonymous.

The papers even found it necessary to illustrate 'The Heresy Hunt.' One of them, which lies before me, contains portraits of the Bishop of London 'who fears that the trouble will split the Church,' of the Bishop of Durham (Dr. Moule) 'who supports the arraigned Bishops,' of the Bishop of Oxford (Dr. Gore) 'who will resign if the Bishops win,' and of a Kikuyu chief 'who is the chief cause of the trouble and cannot understand it.'

But the person with whom Frank had to deal was the Archbishop at Lambeth. He took all the questions very seriously, was courteous to everyone, but refused to get excited. All parties were contending for a victory, and the Archbishop was only concerned with preserving the Church of England.

About the Church of England Frank knew very little, and the Archbishop knew all that there is to know. Frank saw the truth and wanted it to prevail; but, if the Archbishop saw the same truth, he knew that it would not prevail until others saw it also. The Church of England progresses slowly through the centuries, and gradually grows accustomed to ideas; but she will not receive them because of any man's ipse dixit. She lives and grows but only reasons subconsciously.

The greater number of her efficient members are people of irreproachable character and a simple piety. They say their prayers, read their Bibles, attend Church and make their communions. They call themselves High, Low, or Broad according to their taste in ceremonial, but they are quite unversed in ecclesiastical questions, and have no grip upon theological principles. In quiet times they hate most of all the logical and enthusiastic members of their own party; but they are generally prepared to support them if there is a movement to persecute or an attempt at suppression. In quiet times they work very amicably with their fellow churchmen of other parties, and it is only during crises, precipitated by extremists, that there is any danger of schism.

These are the people who really count, but beyond them are a vast crowd who have been baptised and confirmed and profess to belong to the Church. They require her blessing when they are married and expect to be buried by her when they are dead. They are infrequent attendants at her services and recognise no obligation to conform to her rules. They are ready to criticise her on all occasions, and delight in telling newspaper readers: 'Although I am a churchman, I am sufficiently broad-minded to see that every other religion is better than my own.' They count for nothing in the religious life of the Church, they contribute but little towards her financial support, but in newspaper offices their letters are received as voicing the lay opinion of the Church of England. They were one and all shocked by the Open Letter of the Bishop of Zanzibar. They asked one another: 'Are we going back to the days of the Inquisition?'

Beyond them again are the extremists. They are profoundly dissatisfied with the Church of England as she is, and they have a vision of what she might be. They are energetic, enthusiastic and progressive, but they are not all progressing in the same direction--some may be following a Bishop of Zanzibar and some a Bishop of Uganda. But both extremes mean to drag the great mass of rather inert Christians along with them, and so comes the tug of war. Because of their zeal and energy, they may be responsible for a schism.

It was just this that the Archbishop was resolved to prevent. For years he has been tolerant and patient with extreme men of all parties. He knows that they are the life and the salt of the Church; but he has never intended that either extreme should win a victory that would render it impossible for the other party to remain within the Church.

'Are we a society for shirking vital issues?' asked Frank; but the Archbishop could answer: ' The points at issue are not clear to the vast majority of churchmen, and until they are no decision such as you desire is possible.' He was in no hurry, he belonged to an established Church. Its foundations were on a rock and they were very deep down beneath the drifting sand which covered them. Frank, on the other hand, was laying foundations and he wished them to be secure. At home he could only see the shifting sands, swept hither and thither by gusts of opinion. He was bitterly conscious that the foundations offered him by the Foundationers were only loose stones, and he was certain that the scaffolding hastily improvised by the pious men at Kikuyu was quite inadequate for a permanent building.


Frank, we have seen, made a mistake in charging the two Bishops with heresy and schism. He made a further mistake in demanding that the case should be tried by the Archbishop and his corn-provincial Bishops. Uganda, Mombasa, and Zanzibar had Bishops who did not belong to the Province of Canterbury and were outside the purview of its jurisdiction. They depended on the Archbishop alone. Frank was probably right in asserting that he could not recognise the personal opinion of an Archbishop as an authoritative decision. To have done so would have been to admit a Papacy at Lambeth. I do not know whether he was right or wrong when he declared that he should not regard the findings of the Lambeth Committee as binding on his conscience, because, while it was true that such a committee could make no claim to jurisdiction, it was the only body available, and the Catholic Church, apart from the Papacy, has no machinery for dealing with Bishops in partibus, who are ipso facto outside any provincial organisation.

Frank was awkward, and does not appear to advantage in his published correspondence with the Archbishop. He had a legal mind, and was far too apt to take exceptions on technical grounds. He was unduly suspicious, and the elaborated politeness of his address was, oh, so terribly official. I do not know if the Archbishop was irritated, but I do know how irritated ordinary men were, even men inclined to sympathise with the opposition to Kikuyu.

But if Frank was irritating the British public by his letters, he was charming people by his presence. With ceaseless activity he was rushing about the country, preaching, addressing meetings and attending conferences. Wherever he went he made friends. He made friends even when he failed to win supporters. Men could not resist the charm of his goodness even when they lamented his course of action.

In June he brought out his Case against Kikuyu. It had been written at the Archbishop's request for the Committee of the Lambeth Conference, and to them it may have been useful. In some ways, he never wrote anything better, and this little pamphlet would be a good introduction for anyone wishing to study The Fulness of Christ. But as an apologia it was a failure. He goes back to first principles and then with lucid logic develops his argument, but the English care very little for first principles, and his logical deductions all of them depend on the acceptance of the premises from which he starts. To the ordinary man the whole pamphlet appeared to be abstract and remote from life. It was not persuasive and the personal element is almost entirely absent. It is only just at the end that the author for a moment reveals himself, and it is because we are now more concerned with him than with his controversy, that we quote the passage.

Easier were it to receive in brotherly love all who seek fellowship with us, honouring their principles as we honour their lives and labours. But He Who came to send a sword upon the earth will not have it so. Rather must we drink of His cup, and true to principle however unpopular and seemingly destined to bring failure in its train, we must be content to become the scorn of men and the outcasts of the people.

For, whatever else may be said about reunion and the methods of attaining it, one thing is above all else true: without principle we shall accomplish nothing. And since the movement that produced the Kikuyu Conference is evidently at fault in the matter of principles, it is necessary to move backwards and return to prayer and study.

Such a move backward is no loss: so to move along a wrong road is no gain.

But Frank was far from adopting a non possumus attitude. Soon after arriving in England in March 1914, he had published his Proposals for a Central Missionary Council of Episcopal and non-Episcopal Churches in East Africa, and hoped that its publication might 'prove that a sense of responsibility for a trust received does not necessarily imply a hatred of one's neighbours.'

He showed in this tract what a wide field there was for co-operation without any surrender of principle, but the proposals came a year too late. The delegates at Kikuyu had passed far beyond them, and a backward step is very difficult. For this Frank was not to blame. He had not been invited to Kikuyu; and, although the proposals there accepted vitally compromised his position, his brother Bishops had never consulted him. This is something that should be remembered. They had acted in a way that must affect him and his whole diocese, and forgotten his right to be considered. However they might deplore his subsequent action, it was he, and not they, who had a right to complain.

To do them justice they did not complain. The Bishop of Uganda's tract on The Kikuyu Conference is delightfully written. I have already criticised its contents, but no one could read it without being impressed by the sincerity of the author and the Christian charity which inspired him. The Case of Kikuyu by the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda is also an example of perfectly fair controversial writing; but, while Frank had maintained a principle, they had worked up an admirable case for what was expedient. Frank's pamphlet has a more permanent value, theirs was more effective at the time.


Those who only read Frank's letters to the press thought he was a narrow-minded bigot, while those who only knew him upon platforms saw a very gallant gentleman, who, without bitterness, could maintain his cause by many a telling phrase and illuminate the darkness of theological prejudice by flashes of humour. But it was only those who knew him well who understood the strain from which he suffered. His nerves were fretted by the criticism of his friends, his heart was chilled by the luke-warmness of his supporters, and his sensitive soul was bruised by a mass of misrepresentation and abuse which was heaped upon him by his more ignorant opponents. It was the fashion to say, that he suffered from the effects of the African climate: he himself said, that he suffered most of all from the cutting blasts and rigours of England.

So the months dragged on from February to July; and it was only at the close of the latter month that the Consultative Committee of the Lambeth Conference was able to meet. And suddenly the world had lost all interest in Kikuyu. The war cloud was just about to burst, and everything was forgotten but the imminence of the peril.

A few days later, knowing nothing of any decision, Frank was on his way back to his diocese, to find that most of his staff were interned, and to hear that his African flock were being ill-treated, flogged, and dispersed by the Germans; but with unabated courage he still faced his duties.

How great that courage was! As he worked through those days of war with their own terrible anxieties, his life work and all that he had lived for was at stake. Sixteen years before he had come to Africa, an apostle of the Catholic Faith, to build up a Catholic Church. Had he been altogether wrong in his faith or his faith in the Church of England? Would a declaration from Lambeth drive him out into the wilderness, and whither was he then to go? His faith survived the strain, perhaps his war activities helped to relieve it. At any rate he had to wait more than six months before the Archbishop published his pronouncement on Kikuyu.


At Easter 1915, the pronouncement was made and some weeks later it arrived at Zanzibar. In an Appendix annexed to it were the findings of the Consultative Committee. This Committee was very sympathetic with the Bishops of Uganda and Mombasa, and had not a word of sympathy for the Bishop of Zanzibar, but they justified him on all the points which the Archbishop had submitted to them. They disapproved of the proposed federation. They demurred to the terms in which the proposal for an interchange of pulpits had been drafted. They were unwilling to countenance any tampering with the Confirmation Rubric, although they thought that a Bishop in exercising his pastoral discretion might dispense particular people in exceptional cases. About the proposals for inter-communion they were quite definite:

It seems to be implied that members of our Church would be encouraged and even expected to communicate in non-Episcopal Churches. We are bound to say that we cannot regard any such arrangement as consistent with the principles of the Church of England.

Lastly, they refused to pass any judgment upon the united Communion, but they deprecated any attempt to treat it as a precedent, and they thought that its repetition, far from promoting unity, would 'imperil that measure of unity which we now possess.'

This report was signed by the Archbishops of York, Armagh, and Jamaica, by the Primus of Scotland, by the Bishops of Winchester, Exeter, and Gibraltar, by Bishop Copleston once Metropolitan of India, by Bishop Ryle once Bishop of Winchester, and by Bishop Wallis.

In his pronouncement the Archbishop does not differ from these conclusions, but in adopting them he is even more conciliatory than the committee. His style is stately and dignified, his tone is impartial. He minimises as far as possible the nature of the Kikuyu proposals and is anxious not to condemn anyone. As the very wise ruler of the Church, he is more concerned with composing differences than in formulating principles; he wishes to keep doors open for reunion in the future, while he cautiously recommends that it would be better for the present not to go through them. He looks forward to the next Lambeth Conference as the time for discussion. The Archbishop with great practical wisdom tried to stifle a controversy, which he considered inopportune, by giving a judgment which restrained action and pointed out dangers, but which did not determine between principles. Frank with his zeal for truth and passionate adherence to principle was not satisfied. He had no answer to his question, 'For what does the Church of England stand?' He resolved at least to make his own position clear and so wrote The Fulness of Christ. It is an apologia for my attitude in the recent Kikuyu controversy, and the kernel of the Gospel that I have myself received and now try to deliver to my diocese.

Unfortunately it did not make his position clear, for most people expressed their inability to understand the book.


This remarkable book has very little in it which directly refers to Kikuyu, and is a resolute endeavour to get back to first principles. It was composed in days of great stress, and written with extreme rapidity in hours stolen from sleep. It represented, however, years of painful thought and prayer and the author considered it to be his best work, but it is uncommonly hard to understand.

The author was thinking upon a level few have reached, which seemed to many to be divorced from the actual world where they were at home. He writes of the Church, but seems to neglect her history and development. He is the champion of revealed truth but scarcely ever quotes the Bible. He believes in authority but relies on no authorities. The book is entirely his own, the product of his sole mind.

He assumes, without proof, the principles from which he starts and only concerns himself with asking why they are true. He believed with Aristotle that no science proves its first principles, but unlike Aristotle his method is entirely deductive. He writes as a theologian for theologians and presupposes a deposit of revealed truth.

His method is more in accord with that of Latin theologians than with our own, and the attitude of modern Anglicans to revealed truth is obscure. They mostly write as if they believed in the evolution of religion and are chiefly concerned in verifying hypotheses in experience. Of course, if there be a revelation of God, we have only to define its content, to discover its implications, to apply it to the circumstances of life, and to relate it with the knowledge otherwise known. If, on the other hand, we are out to discover truth, we shall be wise if we survey the history of past thought, analyse the results hitherto arrived at, and then by way of induction pass forward towards the wider view. For those wedded to the latter method, Frank's book was a nightmare, but even to them a plea may be made for reconsideration.

The critics are themselves fond of tentative hypotheses, and without a hypothesis no progress can be made. Such hypotheses are either verified or disproved according as they do or do not cover the facts. Now in The Fulness of Christ we have an explanation of the Catholic Church, its nature, purpose and method of functioning. We have in consequence to ask, does it accord with facts and offer a reasonable account of why they are so.

The book has been worked out in a highly scientific and abstract manner, and it is a mistake to believe that modern theologians care for a scientific method. Scientists try to discover what a thing is in itself, and in their laboratories take endless pains to prevent the intervention of alien elements or causes. In the same spirit Frank approached the study of the Church--what was the Church in itself and in the mind of God?--and he refused to qualify his conclusions by taking into account the temporary confusions of its present condition--the blemishes which result from the sins of men.


It is with some trepidation that I offer a summary of the book, because I am conscious that there is much in it that I do not understand, and what I do understand is difficult to compress.

It should be obvious that until men are at one with the Creator they cannot be at one with His creation, nor could they remain at one with the Creator, if they were at variance with those who are His. But an at-one-ment among men necessitates a visible society, and if it be a result of an at-one-ment with God, the origin of the society must be divine.

How had this at-one-ment been rendered possible? Men could not rise to God's level, but God could limit Himself and come down to theirs. So God became man. Godhead and manhood are at one in Jesus Christ; but we can only participate in this at-one-ment by our union with Him, and the measure of our union with Him is seen by the way we forward His atoning work. But this also necessitates a visible Body or Church.

To put the same truth in another way--the essential Church is our Blessed Lord, God in manhood, and the accidental Church consists of those who have been incorporated into His mystical Body, and this Church exists to represent God in manhood reconciling all things to Himself.

In consequence the first note of the Church is unity, but it is a unity in diversity. No one Christian can represent the Christ, in Whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily, but each in his place, time and circumstances may hope to reflect somewhat by living in personal communion with Him; and it is through the ever extended representation of the Christ that the work of reconciliation proceeds. But it is just because this is so, that a means of unity for all and each must be provided, and our Lord established centres of such unity when He ordained the Apostles to represent Him in the world, and these centres still exist by His authority in the Apostolic ministry.

Each Bishop is a centre for a local church, he is also the link between his own diocese and others; and it is through the correspondence and intercommunion of the whole college that the Catholic Faith is preserved intact. As God is the God of Love, Who therefore cares for details, so He has provided this framework for the preservation of a unity which is necessary for our Lord's atoning work. The Episcopate then is essential to the Church's life, and Bishops are the organs through which the mystical Body functions.

The whole Body exists for the at-one-ment of God with men and of one man with another, and we must not forget that this at-one-ment only became possible through sacrifice. The Great Lover gave Himself into the hands of men and identified Himself with them. He made Himself one with them in the midst of their sinful surroundings, and offered Himself wholly on their behalf in reparation to the Father. The Church is called to be true to this way of Love, and each of her members must be ready to sacrifice self for others. It is the Church's duty to show forth the Lord's death to the Father as their only ground of reconciliation with Him, and to show it forth before an unbelieving world as the way by which men may become at one. In consequence sacrifice and priesthood are essential to the Church if that Church is really to represent the Christ of Calvary to the world. The Mass becomes the necessary centre of worship, for it celebrates the central fact of at-one-ment, and communion with our Lord and one another is the pledge of that unity which our Lord died that we might enjoy.

This perhaps is sufficient and we need not go on to speak of the Bishop's views on Sacraments, Church authority and the Papacy, for in these last chapters he deals with technical points. It is sufficient to make clear that anyone thinking along these lines could have nothing to do with the proposals made at Kikuyu. It also shows that Frank's attitude was not so much due to any specific doctrines or practices of Nonconformists, but to their separation. When they called themselves Independents and gloried in being Free Churchmen, it seemed to him that they were opposed to the whole Gospel of Redemption. They had something to contribute and were refusing it to the common stock. In consequence at the end of his book he writes as follows; and I quote the passage in his own words in order that I may show how natural it was that his position was often misunderstood.

A man may retain his personal union with Christ, while altogether refusing to recognise his relation with the members of the Body. That is to say, he may take all Jesus gives directly, but on his side refuse to meet all the claims that Jesus in the mystical Body makes upon him. He may reject in fact the second mode of our relation with Christ, the mode of relation with Him, in and through the whole Body. In which case his union with Christ is maintained directly by Christ's mercy, apart from the full activity of the movement towards atonement. Such a man takes with both hands what Christ brings, but will not join with Christ in the inner life of the brotherhood. He is a member who draws upon the common source of life, but does not move at the order of the common mind, nor admit his duty of co-operation with the other members.

And the Catholic Church justly refuses to receive such a man to a share in those of her actions that depend for their essential meaning upon the mutual interrelation of all the members in Christ. The Nonconformist to-day is he who refuses to conform with that side of our relation with Christ upon which are based all the Church's sacramental actions; and he has no right to claim a share in these actions until he accepts the underlying relation.

The Lord Christ, Who is Eternal Love, will give richly to the separated member, adding richer gifts in proportion to the man's personal innocence and good faith. But it is evident that, in respect of the mutual relationship which binds all the members to one another in Christ, the man can receive nothing peculiar to the relationship, since he will not assist in maintaining it. ...

. . . Here, then, our discussion comes to its natural end, on a sad note of personal disagreement. Yet we turn from it in confidence, with certain hope of love's ultimate victory. Not always will our misunderstandings continue, not always will our memories of religious wrongs prevail. For imperfect as is our present state, and many as are our moral and intellectual limitations, we Christians all behold Jesus crowned in His Glory.

While I am at one with the general line of argument maintained in this book, I cannot help wishing that Frank had been endowed with a greater historic sense. I think also that in the concluding passage which I have quoted he is altogether unfair to Nonconformists. They certainly could not hold his theory of atonement without coming back to the Church from which they separated; but, on their own lines, their religion has not been selfish, a mere taking without response. They have a noble record in the way of service and have done much to reconcile the world to Christ. That their pride in being Free Churchmen is inconsistent, I admit, but we are none of us altogether logical. Frank would have admitted all this freely and at once when face to face with Free Churchmen. He was really large-hearted and generous in his appreciation of all evangelical work; and it was only in his study that he worked out his problems and wrote as if formal logic ruled the world.


With the publication of The Fulness of Christ, the public controversy about Kikuyu may be said to have ended, but two years later the Bishop of Uganda invited Frank to attend the second Kikuyu Conference, and he went.

On receiving the invitation, he was far away on the mainland and there was no time to go via Zanzibar. He had no clothes to speak of, but Canon Pearse lent him an old military coat, and Archdeacon Birley provided him with pyjamas and shirts, and so in khaki shorts and a military coat he proceeded to Kikuyu.

The new Bishop of Mombasa had just arrived and Frank said he was charming. Bishop Willis of Uganda was there as chairman and they were old friends. Dr. Arthur, the head of the Presbyterian Mission, was hospitable and gave up his house to the three Bishops, but most of the delegates had to live in tents and endure the cold ' Scotch mist' of the morning as best they might.

There were over a hundred delegates present, Church of England, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Baptists, members of the Inland Mission, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, and stray representatives of American sectarianism. They joined together in prayer, and Frank conducted one of their prayer meetings; they sat on hard benches without backs and listened to one another's long sermons; and Frank preached one of them which was probably not the shortest. The Head of the Inland Mission expounded the Epistle to the Hebrews, and Frank liked that better than anything else, for it was Scriptural and showed great spiritual insight. And then there was the Conference and that impressed him not at all.

He was not very happy at Kikuyu, though he made some friends, and his admiration for Presbyterian Missions was confirmed. He found the Bishops of Uganda and Mombasa very kind, and he was attracted to the head of the Inland Mission, who objected to the Church of England, first because of the Romeward tendency of some, and still more that others were giving up their belief in our Lord's Divinity.

Frank talked over with these three his own proposals for the reunion of Christendom, and would have liked to explain his scheme to the Conference, but when the Bishop of Uganda proposed that he should do so, the Archdeacon of Mombasa declared that they could not waste their time by listening to the Bishop of Zanzibar's 'accidental and fortuitous remarks.' 'I do not know,' said Frank afterwards, 'whether my remarks would have been accidental and fortuitous, but I should certainly not have claimed for them the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as most of the speakers have done for their own utterances.'

Those same accidental and fortuitous remarks were reserved for the Lambeth Conference, and Frank took little part in the discussions at Kikuyu. He did once ask, when they had agreed to handing on their converts to one another: 'If I have a candidate for Confirmation or Baptism, how am I to hand him over to my brother Wesleyan in the one case, or to a Quaker in the other?' but to this question he could get no answer. One member of the Conference did suggest that the boundaries should be done away, and missionaries should minister to their own flocks, but this was the most unwelcome proposal made at the Conference, as the various religious bodies had only arrived at conditions of peace by a rigid delimitation of frontiers.

But the point that struck him most forcibly was the futility of the proceedings. Here were a hundred delegates belonging to many sects, and they had met together to plan the African Church of the future, and not a single African was present. Accustomed as he was to a Diocesan Synod, largely composed of Africans who spoke what was in their minds, it all seemed to him absurd.

Frank thought that his visit to Kikuyu was a failure, but he had done much to allay prejudice. The good Protestants had imagined that he was a gloomy bigot, with a soul enslaved to the superstitions of the Dark Ages; and when they met him he surprised them. One said: 'He preached like Thomas a Kempis and not like a modern man '; and this was said quite kindly, for The Imitation of Christ, slightly expurgated, is a book which a Protestant may read.

Apart from his doctrine, Frank appealed to men's hearts and won them, even when he did not convince their minds. One missionary confessed: 'I prayed very earnestly that you might not come, and now I am glad that you came.' They had moved into an atmosphere of goodwill, where mutual understanding might grow and where alone truth can prevail. The resolutions passed at Kikuyu are not likely to have any permanent importance, but with even a little more charity the world is certain to be better.

On his return, Frank spent the Sunday at Nairobi, and preached three times--twice to soldiers and once to C.M.S. converts. On the Monday morning he had a great send-off. The C.M.S. clergy came to say goodbye, and raised a cheer as the train steamed out of the station.

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