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The Diocese of Jamaica
A Short Account of Its History, Growth and Organisation

By J.B. Ellis, M.A.

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1913.

Chapter XI.

IT may be well for many reasons here to anticipate a little and give the results of past synodical proceedings in the form of a short summary of the main features of the Canons, as now in force. The present volume contains forty-eight Canons, which are grouped in five sections. Most of them have stood the test of time and experience and it is very unlikely that they will be substantially changed, though it is quite certain that, if any addition or alteration can be made in the direction of improvement or of adaptation to new conditions and requirements, there will be no hesitation about making it. It is possible that Churchmen in England will see in parts of the Canons of the Jamaica Church--if they ever read them--signs of the adaptability of Western institutions rather than of the inflexible conservatism of the "unchanging East," but when due account is taken of local needs and conditions, they will find that these Canons are solidly based on the principles, and are full of the spirit of the Mother Church at home. [The Canons of the English Church, except in so far as they may be altered, modified, or repealed by a rather roundabout process, are still a part of the Canon Law of the Jamaica Church. (See Canon iv, Art. 2). It is, however, quite possible that these venerable instruments, which James I. described himself as "having diligently, with great contentment and comfort, read and considered," are no more carefully studied in Jamaica than they are in England.] Many of them deal with matters of Diocesan organisation and others make legal and binding on the clergy certain duties which are part of the recognised machinery of a well-worked English parish.

The Canons are prefaced by a Declaration of Principles, in which the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments are received as the Word of God, and as the Rule and Standard of Faith; the Book of Common Prayer and Sacraments, together with the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as a true and faithful declaration of doctrines contained in the Holy Scriptures; the Orders of Bishops, Priests and Deacons ought to be retained as Scriptural and Apostolic; the authority of the Church of England is admitted and accepted in all matters affecting the fundamental doctrines or discipline of the Church, as is also the authority of the Provincial Synod, that the union of the Jamaica Church with the other Dioceses of the Province may be increased and strengthened. The concluding Article declares that irrespective of all kegal obligations it is "the duty of all persons claiming membership in the Church of England in Jamaica to submit voluntarily to all rules and regulations of Church order and discipline, passed and declared by its Synodical authority."

Following this Declaration of Principles, the first section of the Canons deals with bodies to which the Jamaica Church owes and acknowledges subordination. These are the Provincial Synod of the West Indies, the Provincial Court of Appeal and the English Church Committee of Reference. The Provincial Synod consists of the Bishops, titular, coadjutor, or assistant, of Antigua, Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica, Nassau and Trinidad, the Bishop of Barbados also representing the diocese of the Windward Islands. The Canons and acts of the Provincial Synod are binding on the Jamaica Church, as far as they are from time to time approved and adopted by "the Diocesan Synod. The Provincial Court of Appeal consists of the Archbishop and two other Bishops and possesses jurisdiction in all cases in which an appeal is made from any decision of the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Court to be hereafter mentioned. The Church Committee of Reference is composed of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London or (if either of the latter decline to act) of the other Bishops of the Established Church according to rank and seniority and has authority to deal with any matter referred to it either specially or by any Canon of the Church.

The second Section contains fourteen Canons which deal with diocesan and parochial organisation. The Government of the Church is vested in a Diocesan Synod, which consists of:

(1) The Bishop, who is president.

(2) The coadjutor or assistant Bishop.

(3) Every clergyman holding the Bishop's license.

(4) Lay representatives and ex-officio Lay members.

Lay Representatives, who hold office for one year, are elected by the registered male communicant members of each congregation and by such male non-communicant members and subscribers as shall sign a declaration that they are baptized laymen of twenty-one years of age or upwards, and that they belong to no other denomination. Lay Representatives must be registered communicants. Every congregation, numbering fifty registered communicants, may elect one lay representative, and every congregation, containing not less than two hundred registered communicant members, may elect two representatives, this latter number being the maximum for any congregation. Two or more neighbouring congregations not numbering individually fifty registered communicants may combine to elect one lay representative. The ex-officio members are the members of the Incorporated Lay Body, the chairman of the Diocesan Financial Board and, if they are communicants, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. The Synod thus constituted is the legislative body of the Church and meets annually, unless summoned by authority, given in the Canon, for some especial purpose.

The central executive work is entrusted to three bodies, the Incorporated Lay Body, the Diocesan Council and the Diocesan Financial Board. The Incorporated Lay Body consists of four communicant lay members appointed by the Synod, as vacancies occur. All Church property is vested in this body, which was created by the Synod of September, 1870, and is empowered to exercise all the rights and duties of a corporation. It is not in itself an administrative board, but its members are ex-officio members of the Financial Board, with which they act jointly in the administration of Church property and finance. The Diocesan Council consists of the Bishop, the coadjutor or assistant Bishop, the Archdeacons and twenty-four other members, twelve of whom must be clergymen and twelve laymen. Half of the twenty-four members, i.e., six clergymen and six laymen, are annually nominated by the Bishop, and half are elected at the annual meeting of Synod. The duties of the Diocesan Council, which meets once a month, unless specially summoned, are defined as being "to assist the Bishop in all matters connected with the administration of the Diocese which are not specially committed to the management of the Diocesan Financial Board," but it cannot act contrary either to the provisions of the Canons or to any resolution or instruction of the Synod.

The duties of the Diocesan Financial Board are to administer, according to rules approved by the Synod, the funds and the revenues of the Church. Its constitution is as follows:

Permanent Members:--The Bishop, the coadjutor or assistant Bishop, the Archdeacons, the Commissaries, and the members of the Incorporated Lay Body. Non-Permanent Members:--

(a) A chairman annually appointed by the Synod.

(b) Twelve members elected by the Synod, nine being communicant laymen, and three clergymen. Four of these twelve members, three laymen and one clergyman, retire annually in the order of their appointment and are eligible for re-election.

To enter in any sort of detail into the various funds which the Financial Board has to administer would mean in the first place to transcribe many pages of the Canons and in the second, to explain many points which need no explanation in Jamaica and which (in other connections) will be more appropriately mentioned in subsequent pages. To explain the principles of Diocesan Finance ought not to be very difficult. The basis of it is the Diocesan Church Fund, which, for purposes of administration is divided into three main sub-sections, namely, the Diocesan Expenses Fund, the Episcopal Stipend Fund and the General Sustentation Fund. The Diocesan Expenses Fund, the income of which is mainly derived from assessments from every Church and Mission Station, makes provision for the payment of the stipends of the Office staff, and of other charges fixed by Synod. The name of the Episcopal Stipend Fund explains itself. Its revenues consist of interest on money invested for the Endow--ment of the Bishopric, collections at Confirmations and assessments on churches. The stipend of the Bishop must not be less than £500 a year, with a hitherto un-reached maximum of £800; that of the coadjutor or assistant Bishop is £400 a year. The General Sustentation Fund is the source from which poor and struggling churches, or churches which have suffered from some natural calamity, such as drought or storm, may be helped to carry on their work or to tide over some temporary difficulty. The income of this Fund is derived partly from the interest on the General Endowment Fund and partly from assessments. Something will be said later on about endowments and assessments, as well as about other moneys administered by the Board. This section of the Canons then proceeds to deal with the constitution and functions of Parochial Councils: the fourteen civil parishes into which Jamaica is now divided are recognised as ecclesiastical parishes, and for each of these is appointed a Parochial Council. This Council consists of every clergyman in the parish holding the Bishop's license, one communicant member from the Committee of each Church, the lay representative to Synod of every congregation within the parish and any member of the Incorporated Lay Body who resides in the parish. Chairmen of Parochial Councils are nominated annually by the Bishop in Synod, and have the alternative designation of Rural Dean. The duties of a Parochial Council correspond with those of a Ruri-decanal Chapter in England, with the addition of such extra duties as are created by the exigencies of the voluntary system. The best-worked parishes are generally those in which the quarterly meetings of Parochial Councils are most regularly and most fully attended. They give opportunity for the interchange of thought and speech between clergy and laity, they serve to break the monotony of what is often an isolated life with its inevitable tendency to lethargy and self-containedness, and they give the younger clergy opportunities of learning from the experience and mellowed wisdom of their seniors in the ministry. It should not be overlooked here that in recent years the attendance at these meetings has much improved, the Councils being all in good working order; in one or two cases the distance that has to be travelled and the condition of the roads at certain times make it difficult for lay members living in outlying districts to be present very regularly.

Each Church, too, has its Church Committee, elected annually by those members of the congregation who are entitled to elect lay representatives to Synod, and consisting of not less than eight and not more than twelve members, eight of whom must be communicants. The duties of Church Committees are carefully denned by Canon and are too obvious to need repeating here. Two Churchwardens are annually appointed, one by the clergyman, and the other by the Committee, from among the members elected to serve on the Church Committee.

The constitution and duties of the Education Boards are then prescribed: there is a General Board, called the Diocesan Education Board, which consists of the members of the Diocesan Council; and there are local boards, called the Parochial Education Boards, the membership of which is the same as that of the Parochial Councils with the addition of three laymen, if desired, to associate with any Council for educational purposes. The Education Board acts as a vehicle of communication between the Government Education Department and elementary schools, assisted by State subsidies, under the control of Church of England managers. In addition to this it deals, often on the recommendation of the Synod, with larger questions connected with the growth and extension of elementary education in which the Island Government is keenly interested. There are times of course when the Board has to safeguard what it considers to be the interests of the Church, not so much in respect of denominational education as in the maintenance of Church buildings used for school purposes; but the main efforts of the Church, through its executive authorities, are in the direction of increasingly satisfying the educational needs of the Colony, irrespective of denominationalism.

Two Canons in this section contain very minute and carefully prepared rules for the management of the Widows' and Orphans' Fund and the Clergy Pensions Fund, to be hereafter referred to. Ecclesiastical Returns, the Missionary Work of the Church and the duties of the Registrar are then dealt with in successive Canons; and the Section concludes with the Canon of the Cathedral Chapter. The Chapter was created in the year and consists of the Bishop (who is the Dean); the Coadjutor or the Assistant Bishop; the Archdeacons; six Canons, of whom the Rector of the Cathedral Church is ex-officio the senior; and a Lay Treasurer. One Canonry is reserved for a Canon-Missioner, but is at piesent in abeyance pending the complete financial .arrangements for the maintenance of so desirable an addition to the Cathedral and Diocesan staff.

The third Section contains nineteen Canons which refer to the Ministry and services of the Church. Bishops are elected by a special Synod summoned for that purpose and no election is valid unless a clear majority of the votes of both orders has been given to one nominee. It is also permissible to delegate the nomination of a Bishop to the English Committee of Reference. Every election, or nomination, to the Bishopric requires the confirmation of the Archbishop of the West Indies and of a majority of the Bishops forming the Provincial Synod. The Section then lays down rules for the administration of the Diocese in the Bishop's absence; for the action to be taken on the resignation or death of the Bishop; for the appointment, if desired, of a Coadjutor Bishop (with right of succession) or an Assistant Bishop; for the appointments of Archdeacons, Commissaries and Rural Deans, all of whose functions are defined with no more than the usual vagueness which characterises such definitions. [Provision is also made in this Canon (xxl.) for taking action "in consequence of a long unexplained absence of the Bishop from the Diocese, or of other circumstances arising which seem to indicate that there is a practical vacancy of the See "although no formal resignation has been sent in.] The status and titles of the clergy--whether rectors, curates-in-charge or curates--are all clearly explained, and rules are laid down for the appointment, institution and removal of clergy, and also for certain "clerical duties" which are incumbent on every clergyman. These refer mainly to Sunday duties and fall very far short of the minimum amount of work which falls to the lot of even the most casual of clergymen. There must be a Sunday School in every district, under the supervision and encouragement of the clergyman, who is also required to take an active interest in public educational efforts. Subsequent canons in this section deal with Deaconesses, Lay-Readers, Catechists, Candidates for Ordination; others refer to the conduct of Divine Service and to any modifications which may be permitted in the Forms prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, to Sponsors in Baptism, to the Law of Marriage and Divorce and to Burials. Parents, if communicants, may be sponsors for their children. The disestablishment of the Church slightly affected the question of marriage. Clergy are now appointed marriage officers by the Government, and in addition to the marriage service in the Prayer-Book (which is required by Canon) have also at stated places in the service to use the declarations required by the State for civil marriage. This is an improvement on the practice which prevails in some countries, and certainly in one denomination, of separating the civil from the religious ceremony. A clergyman is not obliged to use the Prayer-Book Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony for any marriage unless both the parties are baptized persons, nor is he required to remarry a divorced person during the lifetime of the second party to the previous marriage, and he is forbidden to re-marry a person for whose offence a divorce has been granted when the innocent party is still living.

The fourth Section contains two Canons referring to Discipline (i) of the Clergy and (2) of the Laity. The procedure through a Diocesan Ecclesiastical Court in the former case is given in detail at very considerable length and need not be recorded here; in the latter case the first three rubrics in the Prayer Book Service for the administration of the Lord's Supper are embodied in the Canon, with the addition that a repelled person may protest to the Bishop against his repulsion, and the ishop shall cause due inquiry to be made in a manner laid down in the Canon.

The last Section of the Canons contains miscellaneous provisions and regulations on various matters which could not be appropriately grouped in any other section.

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