Project Canterbury

Foreign Chaplaincies.

By M.

From The Colonial Church Chronicle and Missionary Journal, Vol. XII (No. CXL), February, 1859, pages 41-52.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2008


GREAT efforts have been made in the course of the last fifty years by the Church at home to meet the ever-increasing needs of a growing population. Great efforts have been made for and by the Colonial Churches; but what has been done during this time for the English congregations and Chaplains on the Continent? Their condition is even worse than it was half a century ago.

The Church of England has a difficulty in dealing with her children scattered through Europe and Asia, which is peculiar to herself. Romanists, having adopted the strange theory--strange, were we not so familiar with it--that that portion of the Western Patriarchate which adheres to the Bishop of Rome constitutes the whole of Christ's Church, find no difficulty in establishing themselves in the face of and in antagonism to all other Christians, wherever they may be found, ignoring their existence, and acting in their presence just as though they were heathens. Protestant Dissenters, for the most part, considering the adherents of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, as cut off from the body of the Church by the superstitions in which they are plunged, are as free to act throughout the major part of Christendom as though there were no Christians but themselves. The Church of England rejects this simple theory, which Ultramontanism and Ultra-Protestantism alike adopt, knowing, to use Bishop Andrewes' words, that it has a sound very like Donatism about it, [1] [(1) Resp. Ad. Bell. p. 164. Oxf. Ed.] however convenient it may be for the tactics of party warfare.

[42] Consequently, she has a difficulty in the present state of Christendom. What is to be her attitude towards the continental Churches? Shall she set up altar against altar, priest against priest, bishop against bishop? If not, what is her duty towards foreign Churches and communities? And still more, what is to become of her own children scattered in larger or smaller bodies throughout Europe, Asia, and South America? There are difficulties we say, and because there are difficulties we have done nothing--we have left things "to settle themselves," and accordingly they have settled themselves by sinking into a state disgraceful to the English Church, and lowering even to our national character.

We propose to inquire, what is the position of foreign Chaplains and English congregations on the Continent, at present, both theoretically and practically, and to turn our readers' attention to the very important Resolutions on this subject, which the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel has just passed.

Theoretically, all the British Chaplains on the Continent are in spiritual things subject to the Bishop of London, with the exception of those placed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Gibraltar. Theoretically, all such Chaplains are licensed by the Bishop of London, and look up to the Bishop as their director in difficulties. Theoretically, the Bishop of London confirms all the members of the different congregations who are of fit age and qualifications. Theoretically, he sees that churches are consecrated, congregations established, clergy appointed, wherever they are needed for the spiritual edification of our countrymen abroad, whether residents or travellers. In matter of fact, he does none of these things. In matter of fact, Chaplains officiate without the licence of the Bishop of London if they please, and they do not have recourse to him on the occurrence of any difficulty, except at their own free pleasure. In matter of fact, the Bishop of London cannot confirm members of the different congregations who require confirmation, and they very frequently remain unconfirmed. In matter of fact, the Bishop of London cannot see that churches are consecrated, congregations established, or clergy appointed where they are needed. There is about as much practical truth in this theory of Episcopal supervision as there is in the claim of the Khan of Tartary to be Emperor of all the world. Its only use is, that it witnesses against ourselves to a great truth, a great principle, of which we acknowledge the binding force, while at the same moment we trample it beneath our feet.

So much for the theory which the Church holds with respect to foreign Chaplains and congregations. Next let us see what [42/43] position they hold in the eyes of the State. The affairs of foreign Chaplains and Chaplaincies are administered under the Consular Act, by which a consul at any given place is empowered to advance a sum equal to the subscriptions raised on the spot for the support of a Chaplain belonging to the English Church, or to the Presbyterians. Clause XIII. of this Act provides "that all such Chaplains shall be appointed to officiate as aforesaid by His Majesty, and shall hold such their offices for and during His Majesty's pleasure, and no longer." Clause XIV. enacts that the consul shall convene meetings of the subscribers once a year, and that all British subjects who have subscribed 20l. in one sum, or 3l. annually, shall have the right of voting at such meetings; and that all questions are to be decided by a majority of votes. Clause XV. gives power to such general meetings of establishing rules for the management of such Churches, subject to the sanction of the consul and the approval of the Crown.

It will be seen that this Act, which was passed in the reign of George IV., does not perhaps defy, but certainly it ignores ecclesiastical principles in every respect. The nomination of Chaplains is given to the Crown, that is, to the Foreign Secretary. All British subjects who choose to subscribe may have the control of the Church, be they members of the English Church, Presbyterians, Romanists, Socinians, or Jews. The Foreign Secretary and the subscribers keep the whole power over the Chaplains in their own hands. The Bishop's authority, and the authority of the Church, are simply shelved, disregarded, and unacknowledged.

It may be asked how it is that we have so long submitted to an Act framed in such a spirit as this. One reason has been, the general dislike of Churchmen, to which we have already alluded, to grapple with the real difficulties of the question. But the chief reason is, that together with the Act a set of Regulations was issued, which, as long as they were adhered to, neutralized the evils of the Act. One of these Regulations provided that the subscribers were not to interfere with the Chaplain in the spiritual administration of the Church. Another, that clergymen of the Church of England were to obey the Bishop of London, and that all Chaplains belonging to the Church of England were, at the request of the Foreign Secretary, to be licensed by the Bishop of London in all spiritual matters, and to obey his orders thereupon.

Here we see the danger of trusting to well-conceived Regulations as a means of correcting the vices of an ill-drawn Act of Parliament. There was nothing amiss in the working of the Act, so long as it was accompanied by these Regulations. But Regulations are at the mercy of a minister, however capricious, [43/44] ignorant, or hostile he may be. And this the Church found to her cost in the case of the Consular Act. About ten years ago a clergyman became unpopular with his committee of subscribers, who thereupon elected a new Chaplain. The Foreign Secretary nominated the clergyman so elected as the legal Chaplain. The Bishop of London supported the original Chaplain, and refused to license his successor. Upon this, the Foreign Secretary repealed the Regulations which had been previously enforced, and gave notice to the Bishop of London that his licence would not henceforth be required. The result has been that the reckless and off hand manner of dealing with ecclesiastical subjects, for which Lord Palmerston has more than once made himself notorious, has left the English congregations on the Continent without the guarantee of the Bishop's licence for the qualifications of their Chaplain, and has left the Chaplains without any protection from the interference of a mixed body of subscribers in things spiritual.

Practically it is almost impossible to imagine a more thorough system of hap-hazard than that of our continental Chaplains. Whether there is a Chaplain or not is, so to speak, a matter of chance; who the Chaplain shall be is a matter of chance; whether he has any qualifications for his post is a matter of chance; whether he has been ordained at all, or has been deprived for misconduct, is in some instances doubtful; the latter point might be generally secured in the case of appointments under the Consular Act, as in these days the Foreign Secretary would scarcely appoint without a guarantee to that extent, but there are numbers of cases where Chaplains have not only no stamp of approval from the ecclesiastical, but not even from the secular authority. Many Chaplains officiate on the nomination of innkeepers, many on no nomination at all. In the former case the paymaster and director of ceremonies is the innkeeper, whether Romanist or Protestant; in the latter the officiating minister picks up what salary he is able to collect by the offerings of travellers and tourists. But let us suppose the case of a Chaplain appointed under the Consular Act. How is he appointed, and what is his status when appointed? If the consul or British minister be unfavourable, no appointment is made; and accordingly, down to the present day, we have seen even Madrid without any Chaplain or English Church service. Mr. Buchanan, we rejoice to learn, is about to wipe away the disgrace which in this respect has hitherto attached itself to the British minister at the court of Spain. But let us suppose the consul or minister a religious man, and all the circumstances favourable. Some active-minded person determines on "getting up" a congregation. He goes round to all the resident families [44/45] of the place, calls on the visitors who happen to be there at the time, and writes to those who have lately been staying there. Among the residents there are sure to be a certain number of Scottish Presbyterians--there are probably one or two hard-headed men, who, having witnessed the St. Januarius or La Salette style of religion, with which they are surrounded, have come to think poorly of any religion whatever; and perhaps there is some mercantile house, established for a generation or two, the heads of which, having been in want of some religion, have conformed to the religion of the country. Nevertheless, all of them are British subjects, and would count themselves insulted if they were not invited to take part in any work of importance to British interests. So they show their liberality by subscribing; and by the help of the London houses that have dealings with the place or country in question, a sufficiently large sum is collected to form a maintenance for a Chaplain, when met with an equal sum by the Government according to the provisions of the Consular Act. Then comes the appointment of a clergyman. If the consul has any one to recommend, his nomination is probably at once accepted, and the consent of the Foreign Office obtained; if not, a meeting of the subscribers is called; no one happens to have a clerical friend or brother anxious for change of air, and a proposal is made to write to some one in England about it. But to whom? The Bishop of London is far too much occupied with the home work of his enormous diocese. It is not the work of the Foreign Office to receive such applications. Who can they have recourse to? In this difficulty, perhaps a lately-arrived traveller suggests that in the course of his tour he fell in with a very agreeable man, with whom he had travelled for some days, and last Sunday, to his surprise, he found that he was a clergyman; he was still in the neighbourhood, and if it were the pleasure of the meeting he would write to him. The fact of his being close at hand is much in his favour, and he is accordingly summoned, looked at, and approved. The Foreign Office gives its consent to the choice of the subscribers, and the new Chaplain is installed. No one, probably, thinks of asking to see his Letters of Orders, still less to inquire whether he has any special reason for which he found it desirable to leave England. It would be the duty of a Bishop or of a Board of Examiners to inquire into both of these things; but the consul and subscribers are not Bishops and Examiners, and if it be not a duty to make such inquiries, it is an impertinence.

The Chaplain having been appointed in some way similar to this, we will suppose that by good fortune he is everything that a chaplain ought to be--what will be his position? [45/46] The subscribers appoint a committee to manage the affairs of the Church. The "Regulations" which accompanied the Consular Act having been done away with, there is nothing to prevent them from interfering in spiritual things. They are Churchwardens magnified in power and multiplied in number, controlling and governing the clergyman at their will--an embodied "public" which the unhappy clergyman can only satisfy by carefully avoiding any display of zeal, and doing as nearly nothing as is respectable. His church is of course a room in the consul's house, or in the hotel, or the Protestant church, which is lent by the owners for the purpose. In any of these cases he is bound to have no more than the two services on Sunday at the most. If the service appears dull, one class of his subscribers, and therefore a part of his income, double the amount of their subscriptions, falls off. If he enlivens it with music, another class deserts him. In short, he is the slave of the worst evils of the unchecked voluntary system. We have known a committee refuse to allow a clergyman to hold a second service on the Sunday, when he was willing and anxious to do so, because they thought it unnecessary, while they opened the church, which they kept closed against him, to a notorious dissenting minister who chanced to come to the place, and was at once invited by them to officiate. We have known a man of bad character, whose very ordination was doubtful, retained in his position, against the energetic reclamations of a portion of his congregation, by a majority of the votes of the subscribers, the minority consisting of all the religious members of the Church, the majority comprising within it three Jews, two Roman Catholics, and several unbelievers, who, as they had subscribed largely in order to prove their respectability, had each of them a considerable number of votes. Indeed, if a Chaplain turns out immoral, inefficient, negligent of his duties, heretical, he has no ecclesiastical superiors to check him, and if he has pleasant social qualities, he may reckon on escaping from any inquiry, investigation, or punishment. The result is such as might be expected. Probably there are few of us who, on inquiring what has become of some worthless contemporary at the University, have not been told in answer, that he is a foreign Chaplain somewhere on the Continent. We shall not easily forget the astonishment with which, when we were some years ago travelling in the Levant, after having with great difficulty discovered the English Chaplain at an out-of-the-way station, we contemplated the discovery that we had made; the feeling of astonishment soon sank into one akin to dismay and shame.

But we have hitherto been only contemplating those cases where a consul, or a zealous individual, or an innkeeper, or a [46/47] sense of respectability, or a private speculation, has brought a Chaplain into being. There are many places where none of these motives have been strong enough to effect such a result, powerful as the last three are. The result is no Chaplain, no Church, no congregation, no religion after the Anglican type, if any at all; for there is no watchful eye surveying the field from an eminence, and seeing where aid is needed. As an example of what follows from thus leaving things alone, we may take the religious state of Xeres. For generations there have been English families settled there, who have been engaged in the wine trade; they had withdrawn themselves from the means of grace offered by the Church to her children in England, and whose business was it to see that they should have means of grace provided them there? Clearly no one's. So no religious ministrations were provided, and the result is, that there now exists at Xeres a colony of English-speaking Roman Catholics--men, women, and children--who have lapsed into Romanism from sheer want of some religion when they were deprived of their own. In other cases our countrymen have lapsed into infidelity, or are living in entire disregard of religion. If we were to enumerate the places where one of these three results has followed, we should have to give a list comprising a large number of the spots where Englishmen are settled. If we were to add to them those places where there is some provision, but still very inadequate provision, for our countrymen's religious needs, there would be not many cities or towns on the Continent which we should have to omit. Look at France, Belgium, and Switzerland, with a resident, and of course scattered, British population of 20,000, increased at certain seasons of the year by travellers and tourists to a fabulous number, for whom there are provided about thirty-five clergymen, two-thirds of whom are without any Episcopal licence! Look at Spain, with only one British Chaplain within it to this hour!

The result of this state of things on the foreign mind cannot be sufficiently lamented. With the exception of France, where we are regarded as Calvinists, there is perhaps scarcely a country in the world where Englishmen are considered as Christians. Certainly not in Spain; certainly not in Italy; certainly not in the East, and only in parts of Germany. We may impute this, to a great extent, at least in Western countries, to misrepresentation; but can we so shape off our responsibilities? Are we guiltless?

What remedy is there for the evils which we have been describing? The Resolutions which we announced last month as having been passed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel will go some way towards providing a remedy, though [47/48] they are far from being all that is required to meet the difficulties of the case. The following are the Resolutions referred to; they were passed at the monthly meeting, December 17th, 1858:--

"1. That it is desirable that more efficient and systematic measures should be taken for providing Episcopal superintendence over the clergymen of the Church of England officiating on the Continent of Europe, and for administering the rite of Confirmation.

2. That it is desirable that all clergymen so officiating should hold a licence from the Bishop of London, or from some Bishop specially appointed to exercise such superintendence.

3. That it is desirable to take steps for raising a fund to be applied, under the direction of the Society, to the assistance of such English congregations abroad as may be willing to place themselves in connexion with the Society.

4. That such assistance should be given in any of the following modes, viz.--

(1.) By contributions towards the purchasing, renting, building, or endowing of churches, or places of worship for the use of such congregations.

(2.) By contributions towards the stipend of the minister thereof.

(3.) By the Society's undertaking to hold property in trust for such congregations, as far as the same can be done consistently with the laws of the country in which the congregation is assembled.

5. That congregations desiring such assistance be invited to communicate with the Society, furnishing such information as may be required.

6. That returns be procured of the numbers of settled or occasional residents in different places on the Continent, with all such information as may assist the Society in its object.

7. That all clergymen recommended or assisted by the Society should be required to satisfy the Board of Examiners.

8. That an annual list should be printed and circulated every midsummer of clergy on the Continent who are duly licensed by the Bishop of London.

9. That a form of return from the clergy be prepared, and suggested to the Bishop of London."

The first three of these Resolutions, it will be seen, lay down principles--principles with which every member of the Church must thoroughly agree and sympathise, though they have hitherto been too much neglected and overlooked in our religious dealings with Continental congregations. The principle of the first Resolution is that of Episcopal superintendence over clergymen and congregations. This is simply the reiteration of [48/49] what every member of the Church of England maintains in theory, though unhappily the theory has never been reduced to practice with respect to foreign Chaplains and congregations. We are at a loss to know why "the Continent of Europe" is alone specified. Surely South America requires Episcopal superintendence even more than Europe, if we are to judge from the abuses which have occurred in connexion with the British Chaplaincies in that country.

The second Resolution indicates the manner in which such Episcopal superintendence may be guaranteed in a greater degree than at present. "It is desirable that all clergymen so officiating should hold a licence from the Bishop of London, or from some Bishop specially appointed to exercise such superintendence." Certainly it is something that a clergyman should hold a licence from a Bishop; but we need scarcely say that the only practical use of his holding such a licence, so far as Episcopal superintendence goes, is, that it serves as a symbol of his willingness to submit himself "to the godly admonitions" and the authority of the Bishop; and if that authority is never exercised, the licence, in this point of view, is little else than an idle form. The Bishop from whom the licence is held must be able to exercise authority. Therefore he must be "a Bishop specially appointed to exercise such superintendence," and not "the Bishop of London." We have seen what the Bishop of London's superintendence has been hitherto; and why should it be otherwise in future? Rather, is it not almost a necessity that it should become year by year more impossible for the Bishop of London to exercise it? At present, the Bishop of London has charge of a greater number of souls in London alone than at the beginning of the fifteenth century were under the care of all the Bishops of England. Cranmer and our Reformers declared their conviction that 70 Bishops were needed for the 4,000,000 who inhabited England at the period of the Reformation; and now something like 2,500,000 is the population of the London Diocese alone. It is impossible, then, that the Bishop of London, in addition to the enormously overgrown diocese which he has at home, can look after the spiritual interests of all the British residents and travellers on the Continent. [1] [(1) There are no less than 100,000 travellers who pass through the one city of Cologne each year.] The best method by which such superintendence can be exercised by a Bishop specially appointed for the purpose, we will consider presently.

The third resolution declares or implies that, under present circumstances, it is the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel which ought to be the head-quarters of the Church of England's Continental ecclesiastical system, in the same way that it is of [49/50] our Colonial ecclesiastical system. It is undeniable that this is the case. The Society holds so high a position in the confidence of all English Churchmen, that no equally good, centre of action could have been selected. It likewise has the machinery and the experience for conducting the necessary business in an eminent degree.

We need not refer particularly to the other resolutions. They exhibit marks of having been very carefully and maturely considered, and will, we have no doubt, be found to fulfil the purposes of their framers. The information to be derived from the clergy-returns will be most useful as a basis for further operations. The annual publication of a list of the clergy who are officiating with Episcopal licence will be a great safeguard. The necessity of satisfying the Board of Examiners will effectually preclude unworthy candidates, so far as the Society's influence extends. And we know, from the manner in which the Society deals with its Colonial missionaries, that the authority of this Board of Examiners will not be pressed in such a way as to interfere with Episcopal rule wherever there is a Bishop to exercise government.

Many ways have been suggested by which this Episcopal superintendence may be effected.

It has been proposed that Archdeacons should reside in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and other capitals, for the purpose of acting as the Bishop of London's eyes, and giving him all necessary information with respect to British spiritual interests in the several European kingdoms. This would be quite ineffective. The Bishop of London cannot act on such information if it is transmitted to him. He has already the charge of as many souls in England as our Reformers estimated as sufficient employment for forty Bishops, territorial or suffragan. And Archdeacons would be wholly useless for purposes of confirmation, consecration, and similar works.

In consequence of these objections to the Archidiaconal scheme, it has been proposed that the chief Chaplain in each continental capital should be himself a Bishop, charged with the care of those clergy and congregations which exist in the particular country in which he is residing. This is objected to by some as a transgression of ecclesiastical principles. We have the highest respect for several persons who hold this opinion, but we are persuaded that it is erroneous. We should not invest our Bishops in such case with territorial jurisdiction, but merely with the care of the Anglican congregations throughout the country. There is no valid ecclesiastical objection to this arrangement, which does not hold equally against our having priests and deacons abroad. It is founded upon a theory of the unity of the Church, which [50/51] in the present circumstances of Christendom is a theory and not practically true. But though there is no valid ecclesiastical objection to the scheme, there may well be reasons against it on the grounds of expediency, and there are certainly legal difficulties in the way. We hope to see the time when the English Church shall be able to appoint her own Bishops for what places she pleases, at what salaries she pleases, whenever, wherever, however she pleases, in England, in the British dominions, out of the British dominions, without let or hindrance of any sort from the State or any other power. But at present she has not this power, and could not appoint Bishops for the English congregations in foreign countries without an alteration either of law or custom which seems as binding as law. We will not therefore discuss the advisability of this scheme while it is a thing practically impossible. We think too that we can act more wisely and better. We have but to go on with a system which has been already begun.

Let us regard the whole British population outside of the British isles, according to the old theory, as being in the quasi-diocese of the Bishop of London. From this quasi-diocese we have cut off one great group of congregations, and placed them under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Gibraltar. This has been a great step for good. Had the excellent Bishop of Gibraltar been as capable of carrying out the practical part of his work as he is of seeing and laying down what ought to be done, we should have seen greater results from the establishment of that Bishopric than we have yet seen. But we shall see them still, under his successor if not under himself--results affecting both the British residents of the Levant, and the foreign Churches with which the Bishop, living at Malta, is especially brought into contact. By the establishment of the Bishopric of Gibraltar, Italy, together with the seaboard of Spain and Portugal, and the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean, have been separated from the quasi-diocese of London. Let us proceed in the same course. Let us again take another part of English territory and establish there a Bishop who shall relieve the Bishop of London of another portion of his quasi-diocese. The Channel Isles seem to be situated most suitably for the residence of a Bishop, who should exercise jurisdiction over the clergy and congregations in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, as well as ruling the Channel Islands themselves. The Bishop of St. Helier's might be able to superintend the British population of Paris, where spiritual affairs have fallen into such an unhappy state of confusion. He might establish clergy in the great towns of France where at present there are none, and where consequently the English are losing the English Church's religion. He might know where lines of railway were being constructed [51/52] by English workmen and engineers, at present left without any clergyman to look after them, and send them a missionary Chaplain to move from place to place with them. But how is a Bishop of London to be expected to know and do these things? At the next avoidance, then, of the see of Winchester, when we trust to see that diocese subdivided into two or three sees, let the Channel Isles he erected into a Bishopric with spiritual jurisdiction in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The advantage to the Channel Isles would be not small, to residents in France, whether permanent or occasional, enormous.

The congregations in South America might be placed with advantage under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Guiana.

There will still remain Germany and the North without any special provision for Episcopal superintendence. But we may perhaps be contented with one or two steps at a time. We are not prepared at present to say where the site of the Bishopric should be which would comprise the Anglican congregations of these countries within its limits. But it is evident that there would not be the same difficulties in sending a quasi-missionary Bishop to North Germany as elsewhere, because the Protestant Governments of Prussia and Hanover would probably rather welcome one to their capital than otherwise. But we leave this point for the present, only adding that we know that among the more earnest and active of the Chaplains in Germany, there is a great longing at present for special, or at least very much greater Episcopal supervision. [1] [(1) We have previously spoken of the ill-report borne by many English Chaplains abroad. We cannot but gladly testify that there are many likewise who are also an honour to their Church. To show that this is the case, we need only refer to the Chaplains at Frankfort, at Baden, at Cologne, at Dresden, at Wiesbaden, in Germany (the first three of whom are all anxious to build a Church for their congregation)--to the clergy at Paris and Rouen, in France; at Brussels, in Belgium--to Mr. Puttock, in Brazil--to Mr. D'Orsey, at Madeira--to Mr. Hill, the American clergyman and English Chaplain, at Athens--to Mr. Curtis, the excellent missionary clergyman sent to Constantinople by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel--to whom many more might be added.]

But we must not enter further on this tempting theme, nor on that of the blessed effects which a raised religious tone in our Chaplains and their flocks might have on foreign Churches and communities. We must recollect that what we have at present before us is especially the string of Resolutions passed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; and we conclude by at once expressing our thankfulness that the Society has taken up the cause, and reminding our readers that the Society's efforts will be powerless, unless attention is paid to that part of the third resolution which declares that it is desirable that a fund should be raised, to be applied, under the direction of the Society, in the manner therein specified.


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