Project Canterbury

Proposals for a Central Missionary Council of Episcopal and Non-Episcopal Churches in East Africa

By Frank Weston, D.D.
Bishop of Zanzibar

London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.


THE following scheme sums up, in brief outline, what to my mind is the possible plan of cooperation between Episcopal and non-Episcopal Churches.

Into any Missionary Council formed on lines such as here indicated I would gladly enter; provided, of course, that the Federation proposed at the Kikuyu Conference be entirely dropped by the Episcopal Churches and Societies concerned.

No one can rightly deny that there is a large field of action in which all Christians can combine, and the moral influence of such combined action would prove unspeakably valuable in heathen lands.

And, on the other side, it has already been proved possible for various Churches to co-operate over a large area of action, without in any way sacrificing those particular dogmas and practices for the sake of which Christendom is disunited.

The scheme here unfolded has long been in my mind; it would have formed my contribution in any Conference opened to me; and I hope that its publication may serve to prove that a sense of responsibility for a trust received does not necessarily imply a hatred of one's neighbours.


March 10, 1914.






I. The Council shall consist of members of Missionary Societies and of African Churches, Episcopal and non-Episcopal, to be elected as hereafter set forth.

2. No Missionary Society or Church shall be represented in the Council that does not proclaim the Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ, His supreme authority as the final Revelation of God to man, and His mediatorial presentation of man to God; or does not administer baptism by immersion in, or affusion with, water, with the form of words that the custom of the Universal Church requires. (See Note I.)

3. Any Church or Society that is not eligible for, or that does not desire, representation on the Council may be invited to send delegates to any meeting in which the Council is to discuss matters of general interest to Missionary Societies; but such delegates shall not vote, nor shall their presence be taken by the Council as in any way committing the principals whom they represent.

4. It shall be open to the non-Episcopal Churches and Societies to delegate the election of their [7/8] representatives on the Council to any Federation that they may establish among themselves. (See Note 2.)

5. The Council shall consist of:--

(a) Ex-officio Members:

(I) The Bishops of dioceses seeking representation.

(2) An equal number of official Heads of non-Episcopal Churches.

(b) Elected Members:

(I) A fixed number from each diocese, to be elected on a system to be settled hereafter.

(2) An equal number of members of non-Episcopal Churches, to be chosen either by a Federation of non-Episcopal Churches, or on a system to be settled hereafter.

At least one-third of the elected members of the Council shall be African.

The Chairman must always be one of the ex-officio members; he shall be elected annually, and is eligible for re-election.

The Executive Committee shall be elected annually, of which one-half must be Episcopalian, and one-half non-Episcopalian, the Chairman to possess no casting vote. (See Note 3.)


6. The Council shall not allow members to raise questions affecting the Christian ministry and sacraments, nor interfere in any way with represented Churches in their views of the same. (See Note 4.)

7. The Council shall take no share in any policy by which Communicants of any one represented Church shall receive Holy Communion in another Church.

[9] 8. The Council shall take no share in any policy by which preachers of any one Church shall preach in the public services of any other Church. (See Note 5.)

9. The Council shall not countenance any college for the training in common of ministers for Episcopal and non-Episcopal ministries. (See Note 6.)


10. The chief duty of the Council is to foster a common policy with regard to:--

(I) The general moral and intellectual training of candidates for baptism.

(2) The general intellectual qualifications of teachers.

(3) The general intellectual qualifications of ministers in African congregations.

(4) The suppression of heathen rites and customs that are opposed to Christian ethics.

(5) The administration of the Christian Law of Marriage.

(6) The discipline of public offenders against Christian Law.

(7) The treatment of the lapsed.

(8) The organisation of African Churches in parochial and district councils, with a view to training converts to take their parts in Church life and work.

The Council shall also take official note of the boundaries voluntarily fixed between mission and mission, and of any readjustment of the same made from time to time, and shall act as a Court of Arbitration on matters referred to it. (See Note 7.)

11. With a view to the fulfilment of the duties laid down in paragraph 10 (I), (2), and (3), the Executive [9/10] Committee shall receive, from each represented Church, syllabuses of instruction, &c., and shall report thereon to the Council. The Council may require conformity with a common intellectual standard, but it shall not offer any comment upon the dogmatic tone of any syllabus, unless it is evident that a departure has been made from the requirements laid down in paragraph 3 above.

12. The Council shall have power to suspend from membership the delegates of any Church that shall deliberately offend against paragraph 3 above, or shall fail to aim at conformity with whatever common standard of morals shall be determined under paragraph 10 (4), (5), (6), and (7).

13. The Council may put out, at its discretion, suggestions for Bible Study and Intercession, but such suggestions shall have no force until they have been promulgated by the local authority in each district.


14. The appended form of service of Spiritual Communion, with confession of sins that produce disunion, shall be used before or after meetings of the Council; and, if authorised by local authority, it shall be used (outside the official services of the Churches) in order to provide for communicants of other Churches who are not to receive communion at the local celebration of the Lord's Supper.

It is recommended that wherever possible the service be held in a building other than the church, so that the sense of the guilt of disunion may be deepened in all hearts. (See Note 8.)



§ 2. The purpose is to admit as many as possible. And also to avoid all reference to "loyal acceptance of Scripture," or "Creeds as general expressions of belief," phrases that are too vague to use as grounds of common agreement.


§ 4. This allows for a Federation of non-Episcopal Churches, and for common action to lie between this Federation and the Episcopal Churches. Personally I much desire to see a federation of non-Episcopal Churches in the mission field.


§ 5. The idea of equal representation of Episcopal and non-Episcopal delegates is important as securing the advisory character of the Council, and providing for unanimity before any advice can be given.

The reservation of one-third of the seats to Africans is vital.

(a) It is just and right that Africans should be heard in what concerns Africa.

(b) It provides that the more intelligent Africans shall come to understand the differences between us, and help us to settle them.

(c) It provides a common meeting-place for leading Africans of various Churches and Societies: a meeting-place that is much to be desired.


§§ 6 and 7. These clauses safeguard the dogmatic position of each Church and Society.

The strict observance of them will enable men who think with me to sit upon the Council; while the disregard of them [11/12] would result in many of us severing ourselves from communion with those who had set them at naught.

This is a hard saying; but, in fact, it only means that some of us are so sincerely convinced of the Episcopal position that we feel bound in honour not to surrender it. And we expect the members of non-Episcopal Churches to feel as strongly about their own several positions.

Let us each be strict in observing those points for the sake of which we feel compelled to keep the Church in disunion.


§ 8. This clause is so worded as to leave untouched the question of preaching in prayer-meetings and Bible-study circles, that are not in any sense public and official services.


§ 9. Here we are safeguarded from any lowering of the atmosphere that each Church should desire to find prevailing in its seminaries.


§ 10. (I) It is much to be desired that the moral standard required of candidates for baptism should be, as far as possible, the same in all missions. Not much can be done by common action, but at least we might agree as to the average period of preparation, and the ordinary moral ideas that should be presented to each one before baptism.

For the rest, local circumstances differ as much as dogmatic positions; nevertheless we may well do what we can.

(2) and (3) Intellectual standards of examination are within the bounds of possibility, and are much to be desired.

(4) It is of the first importance that we should come to a common understanding of the evil of most heathen rites, centred as they are in a debased worship of life viewed in the idea of sexual reproduction.

(5) This point will be difficult, but we must seek at saving African Christians from adopting the civil law of divorce. Any Church that did not keep the strict law against divorce would make the work of the Council in this respect of small avail, and might cause its dismemberment.

(6) Although each Church has its own system, we need common action to save one another from the insincere penitent, [12/13] who plays off one Church against another. Nor, in fact, need we despair of an ultimate policy of public penance for all the Churches so long as we keep silent about absolution.

(7) Here again we need a common agreement, that our lapsed may be restored to those to whom they really belong.

(8) The importance of this is too evident to need emphasis. But we must point out that the Central Missionary Council has no place in any local scheme of organisation. It merely exists to help each Church to do its best within its own limits.

Boundaries.--These are fixed voluntarily, and are capable of readjustment.

Government rules help to make them necessary, for the sake of peace within the territories.

But, of course, in acknowledging boundaries no Church retreats from its view of its own superior excellence as a revelation from God, or binds itself to observe such boundaries to the end of time. All that is meant is that, for the present, in our circumstances, we have each more than enough to do where we are, and do not propose to open new work where already the Name of our Lord is preached.

Arbitration.--This is merely a general provision to meet any problems that may arise from time to time as between Church and Church.


§ 14. This service is intended to satisfy a desire for common prayer. My feeling is that it would be more fitting, and more honest before our Lord, to use it outside church buildings. And certainly, under this scheme, each local authority would decide where it should be held.

The only possible alternative would be silent prayer, after the custom of the Friends, no one leading or raising his voice at all. I prefer the appended service, or one like it.



Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father.

The Collect for Trinity XIX.

Let us confess our sins before God.

Almighty God, Heavenly Father, Who hast made us of one blood, and redeemed us in the blood of One, that we may be one in Thee; we most humbly confess before Thee the sins that have led to our disunion. We acknowledge before Thee the past sins of kings and people, of clergy and laity; sins of anger, passion, and cruelty; sins of ignorance, blindness, and arrogance. We acknowledge the unforgivingness of nations and churches. We confess and bewail our own blindness, hardness of heart, and self-assertion. We have sinned by impatience, pride, and un-charity; we have exalted human reason above faith, and self-pleasing above Thy Will.

We most humbly beseech Thee, O Father, to wash us from our sins, to help us in our weakness, to breathe into us Thy Spirit, and to unite us to one another and to Thee in Thy dear Son; in Whom we approach Thee, by Whom we beseech Thee, and for Whom we would surrender all that we have; Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Let us make an Act of Faith.

O my God, I believe in Thee, three Persons and one God; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And I believe that Jesus Christ was made man, and died for me. And I believe that He is the Truth, Who neither deceives nor is deceived.

Lord, I believe: help Thou mine unbelief.

Let us make an Act of Hope.

O my God, I hope in Thee, relying upon Thy dear Son's self-abandonment in 'ove for me. I hope in Thee to help me in all my troubles; to forgive me all my sins; to carry me through all temptations; to bring me to that perfection which Thou hast purposed for me; and finally to unite me to Thyself in heaven.

O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.

Let us make an Act of Charity.

O my God, I love Thee, Who art perfect Love. I desire Thee, Who art perfect Beauty. I thirst for Thee, Who art eternal Life. I yield myself to Thee, Who art the Holy One, the Lord of all.

And for Thy sake I would love my neighbour as myself.

Let us make an Act of Self-surrender.

O my God, I am Thy servant. I give myself to Thee. I desire to do Thy will. Whatsoever Thou shalt teach me, I will accept; whatsoever Thou shalt ask of me, I will surrender; whatsoever Thou shalt command me, I will do.

Give me Thy grace, with Thy love: I ask no other thing.

Let us make an Act of Communion.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Bread of Life and King of Love: for our sins' sake I may not now receive Thee sacramentally.
Yet I pray Thee come to me, in spiritual presence.
Lord Jesus, come to me that Thou mayest heal me.
Lord Jesus, come to me that Thou mayest sanctify me.
Lord Jesus, come to me that I may feel Thy presence.
Lord Jesus, I have nothing.
Lord Jesus, I am nothing.
Lord Jesus, I desire nothing but Thee and Thy love.
Come, Lord Jesus, and make me Thine own.

(Here shall silence be kept for a space.)

Lord Jesus, keep Thy hand upon me, lest I do Thee any harm.

Glory be, &c.

As it was, &c.

The Grace of our Lord, &c.

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