Late Bishop of Barbados and the Windward Islands.
To the Clergy and Laity of the Church Council of Antigua,
Before whom this Discourse was delivered, and to whom primarily it was addressed, though also designed as a Charge to the Diocese, these thoughts, originally uttered extempore, but subsequently (at their request) reduced as faithfully as possible to writing, are now submitted with profound respect and sincere affection by their faithful servant in the Lord.
JOHN MITCHINSON, Bishop.
March 13th, 1882.
THE misgiving is so present to my mind, as doubtless it is to the minds of many of you, my reverend and lay brethren, that, in view of the uncertainties of human life, and of the entirely changed position of the circumstances under which you and I were brought together, this may possibly be the last occasion I shall ever have of addressing you with the authority which my delegated office carries with it, that I have invited your attendance to-day within the walls of our Cathedral Church, in order to lay before you some considerations which I think ought to claim your serious attention with greater fulness and gravity than I should have cared to use in the usual address from the chair at the opening of our Church Council.
First, and paramount in importance, is the question of the completion of the Endowment of the Bishopric. It is discouraging to reflect how little has been done hitherto to effect this, either by the owners of property in these islands, whether resident or absentee, or by the rank and file of the Diocese. The apathy hitherto shewn is the more inexplicable, when one reflects on the palpable urgency of the case, and its really momentous interest to every congregation. One cannot but be struck by the absence of anything like large lump contributions from those presumably well able to afford it in the proprietary and mercantile bodies, and still more so by the absence of anything like annual subscriptions or donations spread over a period of years from members of those bodies, which would long ere this have brought the modest sum total aimed at within a measurable distance of completion.
 It is even more to be deplored, for it argues even more wide-spread apathy, that those little rills which ought imperceptibly perhaps, but none the less effectually to have swelled the main stream, I mean the covenanted contributions from every congregation in the diocese, should have become so feeble and intermittent, and in many cases should have dried up altogether. Evidently had it not been for the Bishop's own liberal donation, and for the arrangement by which he is now enabled to devote more than half his salary, less the expenses of visitation and actual administration of his Diocese, to the Endowment Fund, but little progress would have been made in providing against the inevitable, from the time when the mandate "set thine house in order," was borne in upon the reluctant Diocese.
As it is, if the Bishop's life is prolonged till the latter part of the current year, the fund will have reached £6,000 out of the £io,000 contemplated as a minimum sum, and there still are large conditional grants from Societies to be claimed as the fund swells in magnitude. Is some sustained and resolute effort to complete it once and for all a thing impossible? I feel sure that when God in His good Providence shall see fit to call your revered Bishop to his rest, some united effort will be made throughout the Diocese to perpetuate the fragrant memory of one who has such strong claims on its affections and gratitude; and I can scarcely doubt that the form which such memorial will take, will be the completion of the Episcopal Endowment and the perpetuation of the See, as being an object known to be dear to the heart of Bishop Jackson while he lived. Would it not be a more graceful and acceptable act of appreciative homage to do this in his lifetime, and thus remove a load which I know adds materially to the burden of his physical infirmities, and overclouds with reasonable anxiety the late evening of his useful life?
One suggestion at least is worth your consideration. At least relieve the coadjutor's salary, which now goes to the Fund less Visitation Expenses of this deduction. This can be [4/5] done at once by the islands of the Diocese voluntarily contributing pro rata towards the expenses of visitation. The amount required from each would be but trifling, and yet the saving to the fund considerable. This was the arrangement which was cheerfully adopted and loyally carried out year by year by the Windward Islands on my undertaking their gratuitous supervision. I arranged. to pay my annual visit to them as far as possible in one tour, and my travelling expenses were shared proportionally among them; the clergy and laity of each island eagerly, and with true West Indian hospitality, providing for my locomotion and maintenance during my visit. Is this simple and kindly arrangement any less feasible in the Leeward than in the Windward Islands?
A second point to which I wish to draw your attention is the unification of the Diocese. Its very geographical character is hostile to this. Fourteen islands, not even bound by the tie of national identity, separated from each other by a broad girdle of sea, all necessarily more or less insular in character and feeling, as well as in position--are, at the best, with difficulty welded into a homogeneous whole. State establishment to some extent effected this (though it was never universal throughout this Diocese), by providing with more or less certitude, and more or less variation, a recognized code of ecclesiastical law, and a mode of enforcing it. Though this is gone, we still ride albeit insecurely at one anchor,--we still have a Bishop armed with coercive jurisdiction by letters patent from Her Majesty. But this cannot be for long; and even now the tendency to disintegration is marked alike in the Diocese generally and in each of its larger islands, where the un-churchly system of Congregationalism, proclaiming as its watchword "Every man for himself," threatens to import a centrifugal force into the relations of parishes and congregations to each other. So far as the maintenance of unity in the Diocese is concerned, a laudable attempt was made to secure substantial identity in the rules originally adopted by the Church Councils where such bodies exist. But they only [5/6] exist in four islands; and even in these the codes have, through the necessities of local legislation, now hopelessly drifted from each others' lines; so that there is not now even the semblance of unity of system in the Diocese; while as to any means by which the Diocese, as a Diocese, may make its voice heard, or may legislate for itself collectively, there is absolutely nothing. Believe me, this a state of things fraught with ultimate danger, and should be with all convenient speed remedied. In a dis-established Church there can be no law but that founded on the consensual pact of its members; and it concerns the very dearest interests of that Church that means be devised by which its living voice may from time to time find utterance in salutary enactments or canons for its regulation, discipline, and development.
This can only be done by the organization of a Diocesan Synod. It was originally, I know, the intention of your Bishop, so soon as a favourable opportunity should occur, to summon a Synod of his Diocese. His idea was that this Synod, to carry full weight with it, must comprise all the Clergy of the Diocese with a large representation of the communicant laity. I venture to think so large a scheme alike impossible and unnecessary. It would be practically impossible, and, if possible, undesirable to draft every clergyman away from the scattered islands of the Diocese, on however important an errand, and at however rare intervals. for an absence from his cure of some duration: and it would be almost more impossible to secure corresponding attendance of really representative laymen. In these busy islands we cannot be said to have any men of leisure; all are engrossed by their lawful avocations. What considerable body of laychurchmen here could spare the 'time for a protracted absence from their secular duties, even to discuss and legislate on matters so dear to them as the well-being and good governance of their Church?
But I venture to think that a small representative synod of clergy and laity would meet all the wants of the case. [6/7] In my Diocese of the Windwards our Synod is composed of the Chancellor and Registrar of the Diocese and its two Archdeacons ex-officio, and of four elected priests and as many elected communicant laymen. The number was small, but amply sufficient to do its work, and the code of canons drawn up by them met with all but universal acceptance in the Diocese, and is now its Church-law. Your Diocese is already fairly divided into two Archdeaconries which would furnish such a system of representation, care having been taken first to secure the adhesion of the Church Councils where they exist, and of the representative Parochial Boards where they do not, to the outlines of the constitution and functions of the Diocesan Synod. As soon as the Synod was called into existence, the Church Councils would confine their attention to local organization, leaving matters affecting the Diocese and the Church generally to be settled by the Synod.
One useful work which your Synod will undertake will be the organization of the Cathedral as a Diocesan and not merely local institution. The question has already been mooted by a respected member of the Church Council of Antigua, who has devoted much thought to the elaboration of a scheme for erecting an honorary chapter in St. John's Cathedral. His effort is entitled to full and respectful consideration, but it has always seemed to me to be premature: there lacks originating authority, and even though it should be granted that the Bishop's letters patent conferred on him the authority proprio motu to call into existence such a body, the Diocese has, in my opinion, a moral right to be consulted on the abstract desirability of its creation, as well as on the details of its constitution. This defect obviously the Synod could properly supply, and might embody in a canon the general structure and functions of the Cathedral Body.
I earnestly hope the Synod may see its way speedily to making the Cathedral a true Diocesan centre, which at present it most certainly is not. It is now a very real local centre of the Anglican Church in Antigua, and I cannot sufficiently rejoice that, now the Vestry have taken the bold (but most [7/8] wise) step of lighting the spacious Church throughout, it has taken its legitimate place as a centre of vigorous church life in this island, and more particularly in the city of St. John's; and I devoutly hope and believe that earnest and faithful preaching, improved psalmody and hymnody, and services varied alike in their scope and there ornateness to suit the varying spiritual needs of differently constituted worshippers, will make it increasingly more and more so. But at present the Cathedral is simply a great parochial church. Outside the island of Antigua it does not form the least appreciable factor in the interests and sympathies of the Diocese. To some extent this must always be the fate of a Cathedral Church that is more or less difficult of access from the Diocese generally: how much more, when it is the metropolis of a scattered group of islands l But something may be done to bring it more en rapport with the disjecta membra of the Diocese as their head, by associating with it a few of the more eminent and representative clergy of the Diocese, even by so slender a tie as the holding in it a non-residentiary and honorary canonry.
But this is far from being the only advantage of a collegiated Cathedral, even though its stalls are lined with nought but barren honour. The Capitular Body forms the most natural and least objectionable Diocesan Council, aiding the Bishop, when required, by advice, and in so far forth relieving him of the odium of exclusive responsibility in determining such delicate questions as grow out of candidature for orders, leaves of absence and arrangements for locum-tenency, and many other details of administration, which, especially in a small Diocese, are most invidious when thrown on one man's shoulders, but which yet demand firm and fearless handling.
Nor are these all the uses of a Cathedral Chapter in the Colonies. During the vacancy of the See they form a kind of Council of Regency, as guardians of the Spiritualities They hold in commission those functions of the Bishop which are not proper to his order, and secure that the due [8/9] administration of the Diocese shall go on uninterrupted till a successor enters on his duties. It would have been well for my late Diocese of Barbados, in the light of the prolonged and deplorable vacancy of the See, if the project of furnishing St. Michael's Cathedral with an honorary Chapter, of which this would have been one of the specified functions, had not proved abortive and been suffered to collapse.
Moreover, the Cathedral Chapter furnishes a body of men competent from their standing in the Diocese, and pledged by their very position as Canons, to aid the Bishop as Commissioners and Assessors on his Spiritual tribunals. It must, alas! happen that scandals will from time to time arise among the clergy demanding investigation and trial. It is sad that it should be so; but the priesthood are but frail and fallible men, liable like every other vocation to number among their ranks the evil with the good, and reflecting with tolerable fidelity the standard of conduct of the society in the midst of which they move, and which they as a body are striving to elevate. Scandals, I repeat, are inevitable, and, experto credite, it is often most difficult to induce fit men to undertake duties so odious and distasteful as that of enquiry into them. It is to the general interest that there should be some whose honourable but responsible position obliges them at the expense of private feelings thus to aid their Bishop and serve their Church.
One other advantage to be looked for from a Chapter connected with the Cathedral is, that it gives the Bishop the opportunity of conferring marks of distinction and approval on his deserving priests. Preferment, in the vulgar sense of the term, exists not in the Colonial Church. Whether for evil or for good, disendowment renders impossible easy berths and lucrative benefices: its tendency is to drag all stipends down to a dead level of parsimonious uniformity. Where such conditions exist, it becomes impossible for the Bishop to prefer the experienced or meritorious priest to some less laborious or less scantily remunerated cure. But by conferring [9/10] on him an honorary stall in his Cathedral he publicly marks his sense of the man's worth, and supplies the lack of more substantial promotion. And let no one smile at the trifling nature of the reward. If the dispenser of such honour be justly and scrupulously recognizant of good work by whomsoever done, if he be free from party bias in the administration of his trust, and broad in his appreciative sympathies as the Church he serves is broad in her definition of orthodox Churchmanship, I fearlessly assert such honour is not to be gauged by sterling value. Pericles, in his great funeral oration, recognizes this appreciation of honour as contrasted with lucre as a trait in human nature, though he limits it to declining life; you, my lay brethren, look forward with natural ambition to the scrap of ribbon which is the mark to you of your Sovereign's approval of zeal and fidelity in her service: do not doubt that your brethren of the clergy equally value such recognition from their Bishop, who to them in this world must be the fountain of honour.
Let me now pass on to a hasty review of your financial position. This has of course its strong as well as its weak points. Among the strong points may fairly be mentioned the fact that the Diocese is at this moment officered with its full complement of clergy. There is no cure actually vacant, though some are served by very young priests, and some few (for all practical purposes) by deacons. Disendowment has already made inroads on the phalanx of the state-paid clergy of the diocese. In Antigua, where it has been busy, and where its resuils may now be fairly gauged, it is satisfactory to be able to state that, at the end of 1881, every minister on the voluntary footing had been paid in full his covenanted salary up to date. And to this I ought to add, that the fabrics of the Churches generally, and of most of the parsonages (where they exist), are in satisfactory order, and not likely to be a source of heavy expense in the immediate future.
While, however, I admit the encouraging aspect of all this, I must in all faithfulness point out to you what I conceive to be [10/11] the weak points of your position. To one I have already referred, viz., the dangerous tendency of your system (in spite of the corrective of the tithe on all receipts paid to the general fund), to selfish congregationalism, a system which sooner or later must, in my opinion, starve out or deteriorate the Church in poorer districts, and which perilously stakes her very existence in "the highways and hedges," on the sustained acceptability and even popularity of the individual clergyman. I myself gravely doubt whether, except on the hypothesis of a universally able and devoted priesthood--a dangerously large postulate--such a system will in the long run be found to work, unless it is corrected by the adoption of the itinerating principle of the Wesleyan Methodists, which suffers no Minister to reap the proverbial consequences of familiarity.
Be this as it may, we cannot, I fear, shut our eyes to the fact that at present we are but just maintaining our clergy-staff, and barely that--and are leaving no margin to meet other legitimate needs of church life and organization, to say nothing of church extension. Let me indicate some of these needs. In the first place, many cures in the diocese are unprovided, or inadequately provided, with parsonages; and in Antigua, in one instance at least, the existing fabric is falling into irreclaimable decay without any effort being made by the parishioners to repair it; while in another instance a commodious school-house is metamorphosed into a parsonage, and the school most undesirably relegated to a transept of the church. In my opinion, a well-placed and well-kept residence for the clergyman is only second in importance, both for social and financial reasons, to a well-placed and well-kept church. Till every parish in the diocese is so provided you will not be able to contemplate the financial out-look with well-founded complacency.
Again, you are absolutely without a Superannuation Fund. This want has not been felt hitherto; for under the regime of Establishment and Endowment the ageing clergyman possessed a freehold in his benefice with all its emoluments quite [11/12] independently of his sustained efficiency, so long as he could go through the minimum routine of duty, albeit in ever so perfunctory a manner. He depended not on his unflagging exertions for his maintenance. As his ministrations became feeble and spiritless, his congregation might dwindle, his flock might become alienated, Dissent might oust the Church as misrepresented by him from the affections of the people; he nevertheless was assured of his temporalities till death relieved the parish of what all felt to be an incubus. Or, on the approach of the feebler period of life, he might, as a public officer, possessing definite claims upon the government, apply for his pension and retire, and leave the field open to younger hands and a fresher brain. This solution of the inevitable decay of physical vigour is cut away by Disestablishment Our clergy are no longer public officers, and have no claim on the State for retiring pensions, while on the other hand the former solution, viz., by holding on to the end, is impossible under Disendowment; it would mean not mere desertion by the flock, but more or less gradual starvation. This then is a real difficulty which must be grappled with. I had it lately forced on my consideration, when one of my elder brethren now serving a disendowed cure, laborious and fatiguing u every cure in these island dioceses needs must be, asked me, "My Lord, what is to become of us grey-beards in a few years' time"? No doubt the clergy must be prepared to tax their scanty incomes for this, as well as to procure some provision for their widows and orphans--another crying want! But to you, brethren of the Laity, they must look, as they have a right, for large help in the solution of what is even more a layman's than a clergyman's problem.
These are pressing personal needs: to them I ought to add what I may call the moral obligations of a church that is really alive and thriving spiritually; viz., contributions to Home and Foreign Missions. If "they that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak," can any reflecting Christian man who reads his New Testament doubt that the [12/13] comparatively thriving islands of Antigua, and St. Kitt's, and Montserrat, and St. Croix, and St. Thomas should render willing and substantial aid to the poverty-stricken congregation of Barbuda, Anguilla, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and lend a helping hand to the numerically small handful of Protestant Brethren in Saba and St. Bart's. These and the like are your Home Missions. Foreign Missions too have their claim--a claim I rejoice to think loyally recognised hitherto by Antigua Diocese according to its ability. These must be kept up--may I venture to hope, largely augmented and made a more general diocesan effort than at present?--not only to maintain the credit of the Diocese, and to secure its keeping faith with the other dioceses of the Province in supporting the Mission to which as a Church we are already committed, but because experience has shewn the unwisdom of allowing far-reaching sympathies to be narrowed by home needs however urgent, and, conversely, has demonstrated how zeal in the world-wide propagation of the Faith always stimulates in its propagators a deeper value for that Faith, and an increasing readiness to support and cherish it.
I spoke of it as a matter for fair congratulation that in the Diocese generally the disendowed Church was paying her way so far as clergy stipends were concerned. I fear, however, that in strict truth the case ought not to be stated so hopefully. We lean largely on extraneous aid over and above our voluntarily raised funds. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel is at this moment contributing no less a sum than £750 per annum to this Diocese, and of this it is right that you Churchmen of Antigua should be reminded that close on £300 is expended in your comparatively affluent island. But dare you lean on this? Assuredly not: these grants hang by a slender thread; they have for some time been doomed to withdrawal; had it not been for the influence which your Bishop justly has at the Board of the S.P.G., and for the strong (and most true) representations he has urged, of the crippling effect that their withdrawal would have on Church life here at present, [13/14] they would ere this have been withdrawn; and assuredly ere long they will be withdrawn, and I will go a step further and say they ought to be withdrawn. Whatever may be the case with poverty-stricken Tortola and Anguilla and Barbuda, which may be legitimately regarded as bona fide missions of the Church, I fearlessly assert that Antigua and St. Kites and Nevis and Montserrat can and ought to support the Church within them without extraneous aid.
And what is to supplement this aid when withdrawn? I will tell you what ought to supplement it, and what could replace it an hundred-fold; the contributions of the upper classes, the owners of the soil (which, till Disendowment, was entirely charged with Church support), in something like proportion to the aggregate contributions of the humbler classes. If you wish to know what proportion is borne in Antigua by the contributions of the gentry to those of the peasantry, I challenge you to a careful perusal of the financial statement to be presented this day to the Church Council, and to a comparison of the two heads, "Subscriptions," and "Weekly Pence" in all the; different parishes in Antigua; the former comprising the larger contributions of the upper classes to the Church, the latter the aggregate of minimum payments of the poor. You will find that, with one exception, the latter are in every parish vastly in excess of the former: in fact it is not too much to say that at present in Antigua two-thirds of the voluntary contributions towards Church support come from the humbler classes.
I believe the true remedy for this is to be looked for in Concurrent Endowment. The curse of the West Indies, as of Ireland, has been absenteeism. It has been a curse in more ways than one: it has gradually deprived them of that healthy public opinion which is engendered by the presence, example and social intercourse of a large body of cultivated, educated country gentlemen; it has deprived the peasantry of the kindly solicitude, supervision and personal interest of those whose dependants they are, and who are bound to have [14/15] their moral and spiritual, as well as material welfare at heart; and it is a curse financially, for they divert to other regions the stream of wealth which ought to fertilize the soil from which it springs. One scarcely can expect from people who have unconsciously come to regard property out here simply as a source of income, just as they might regard so many thousands invested in the Funds or in some commercial speculation, and who verify in their own persons the proverb, "out of sight out of mind," either a lively susceptibility to the religious wants of the human tools that fabricate their wealth, or a liberal support accorded to their religious ministrations. Concurrent Endowment can secure that this solicitude is enforced, and that men shall not be regarded as mere "animated machines" for the production of wealth.
From the State's point of view concurrent endowment is both sound and equitable policy. It is sound policy, if the civilizing influences of religion alone be taken into account, to the exclusion of any higher consideration. Viewed as the logical complement to an efficient police and a sound system of popular education of the young, religious ministrations partially secured by non-preferential state support supplemented by the voluntary zeal of the several religious bodies, are but provision made by the community in its own interests and for its own security to carry on the moral and spiritual education of its adult population. And it is equitable, for the State declining (as after disestablishment she does) to interfere in the regulation or discipline of any religious body, is bound impartially to aid all forms of Christianity whose numerical importance and recognized efforts for the general weal give them a fair title to State-aid, which is accorded, you will observe, not of inherent right, i.e., not simply because they are divergent forms of Christianity, but because they are patently ancillary to the State in its great function of guarding and furthering the welfare and happiness of the Community.
From the Church's point of view, Concurrent Endowment may be frankly accepted: it is no depriving her of a birthright [15/16] to which she has an indefeasible claim. Endowment (so called) in the West Indies stands on a very different footing from Endowment in England. Here it is simply another name for a tax-raised subsidy to religion, and being tax-raised, it ought, in my opinion, to be proportionately shared by all who contribute to that taxation. You at least, my Antiguan brethren, have nothing to dread from the application of the principle to you. By the lately taken census, you claim over 17,000 Anglicans out of a sum total of 35,000, i.e., but a fraction under 50 per cent of the population. And, even in those islands of the Diocese where this is not the case, be it remembered that though Concurrent Endowment may not strengthen our own beloved Church, yet Religion is thereby strengthened by its efficient ministrations being more adequately secured, albeit those ministrations lack (as we believe) that full validity and comely Catholic order, or else that primitive simplicity and freedom from accretions of mediaeval error, which we Anglicans claim as our priceless heritage. Wherefore at this with St. Paul " we do rejoice, yea and will rejoice"; and; like him, we will with all honest spiritual weapons wage such good warfare with our rivals and supplanters, that the verdict of the next census shall restore us to our more legitimate relative position and to proportionately augmented State-aid.
Let me in conclusion indicate the conditions on which we of the Anglican Church may, in my judgement, fairly be disposed to accept concurrent endowment, should it be offered by the State:--
(1.) That population according to the last census be taken as the sole basis of the proportional grant to those Christian Communities which the State may resolve to subsidize, as in the main embracing the population of each several colony.
(2.) That the distribution of the grant be subject to revision each decade, according to the census.
 (3.) That the State do abstain impartially from interference with the internal affairs of any subsidized Religious Body, and from any attempt to regulate the disposal of the grant to each, subject to the following conditions, which it ought rigidly and impartially to exact of all who accept a public subsidy:
(a) That each subsidized Religious Body annually present to the Government an abstract of their entire receipts and expenditure, so as to satisfy the State that its subvention is bona fide expended in the interests of Religion within the Colony.
(b) That in consideration of the subsidy, a definite number of ordained ministers, proportional to the grant made, be always maintained (subject only to a temporary dispensing power vested in the Executive), by each Religious body.
These, my reverend and lay brethren, are the topics I was anxious to lay before you. I simply ask for them that calm and dispassionate consideration which you have always accorded to all suggestions and proposals that I have heretofore had occasion to submit to you.