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Foreign Chaplaincies--English Church at Madeira

From The Colonial Church Chronicle and Missionary Journal, "Correspondence, Documents, etc.", Vol XIII (No. CXLIV), June 1859, pages 227-229.

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


SIR,--I am sure I only express the sentiments of every true Churchman resident in "foreign parts," when I most cordially thank you for the valuable article on Foreign Chaplaincies in your February number. Possibly the enclosed printed statement may be of some use as an illustration of the article, and as affording information as to the present state of the struggle in this island. I am, &c.

Chaplain to the English Church, Becco dos Arranhas.
Madeira, 7th April, 1859."

Copy of "printed statement" forwarded to Dr. Phillimore.


The Churchwardens of the Rev. A. J. D. D'Orsey's congregation in Madeira, formerly under the Rev. R. T. Lowe, feel it to be their duty to provide against misrepresentation or mistake, by a concise statement of their position, as explicit as may be consistent with the brevity requisite to secure attention. Disclaiming any motive or interest whatever beyond a sense of duty to the Church of which they are members, they profess, therefore, on the part of the congregation and themselves,--

1. That the principle they desire to maintain is that precisely which they from the first asserted under Mr. Lowe: namely, the due freedom and independence of the spiritual authority of the Bishop and Clergy.

2. That they are quite aware that the authority of any English Bishop in a foreign country and diocese, as here in the diocese of the Portuguese Bishop of Funchal, is purely 'conventional,' and binding only by its moral force, and by virtue of submission to it voluntarily. But they believe that, when thus acknowledged, it ought to be as freely exercised as dutifully obeyed.

3. That such free exercise and obedience are impossible in Madeira on the part of the Government chaplain and his congregation, under the Act of Parliament (6 Geo. IV. c. 87), as interpreted by the present 'New Regulations' issued by Lord Palmerston in 1848. He is by their force and tenour, neither free nor bound to obey the Bishop. The 'General Meeting,' composed of persons who may be of any, or of no religious creed or denomination, and voting by a mere money qualification, possesses a complete control over the exercise of his spiritual duties. He can at any moment be cashiered, and virtually dismissed, by a majority of votes in this body, without trial and without appeal. The Bishop has no power to protect him, and no voice whatever in the matter. And they have ascertained on the best authority, that the Bishop's licence, granted to a clergyman so [227/228] circumstanced, is itself entirely invalid, and, as it was pronounced by the late Bishop of London, 'an unmeaning and useless form,' amounting to no more than a mere 'certificate' to character.

4. That the congregation, therefore, which they represent, cannot conscientiously yield, in any degree, their acquiescence or assent to such a system, by accepting or attending the ministrations of the Government Chaplain, and prefer having recourse to those of the Rev. A. J. D. D'Orsey; who, though unlicensed by the Bishop of London, is desirous to obtain his lordship's licence (if unfettered by lay interference), and who is not only free but pledged to obey his canonical and spiritual authority: considering such desire and freedom on Mr. D'Orsey's part to constitute a higher claim on them than the mere possession of a licence, coupled with a want of freedom to obey the bishop, in case of any collision between his directions or decisions and the pleasure of the General Meeting.

5. That in this course they entirely disclaim any sort of disrespect to the Crown or Government. But considering, that in this island, under the dominion of the Crown of Portugal, the authority of the Crown or Government of England, or of any Act of Parliament, is equally 'conventional' with that of the Bishop of London, they decline, as they are free to do, accepting the terms of pecuniary or other temporal advantage, under which the British Government, by the Act of Parliament (6 Geo. IV. c. 87), and the present 'Regulations,' offers them its Chaplain: believing such acceptance to involve forgetfulness or compromise of their privileges and duties as members of the Church of England, and especially remembering, that it has more than once been declared emphatically by the Crown itself (as by Queen Anne), that 'the government of Presbyters by Bishops is a fundamental part of the constitution of the United Church of England and Ireland.'

6. That they consider, therefore, this their position to be more truly respectful to the Crown itself than a blind acquiescence in a code of mere temporary official Regulations, liable to constant change and fluctuation, according to the pleasure of the Foreign Secretary of State for the time being; and of which two different sets, varying diametrically in the very point in question, were in fact issued by the same Foreign Secretary, Viscount Palmerston, within ten years: the first duly recognising, the second, now unhappily in force, wholly ignoring the spiritual authority of the Bishop.

7. That, finally, in this their position, they have the satisfaction of having received from the best authorities the most ample assurances of their having neither impaired their hold on the communion of the Church, nor forfeited their claims on the protection of the State: of which they are at liberty to print the following conclusive proofs.

'The College, Durham, Sept. 3d, 1856.

MY DEAR SIR,--The same reason which makes me decline affecting to give you any formal authority to pursue your ministrations in Madeira, namely, that I have no jurisdiction there, is equally strong in inducing me to say that I consider your ministrations there, without [228/229] the formal authority of any Bishop--even of the Bishop of London--to be fully valid.

The Anglicans in Madeira, not being able to communicate in the congregations of the Bishop of Funchal without participating in a worship which they must deem to involve sin on the part of those of our Church who join it, are obliged to seek a ministry of their own. This ministry, under such circumstances, I hold to be not only not schismatical, but necessary; for, without it, I know not how the people could partake of Holy Communion.

I am, my dear Sir, yours faithfully in Christ,

Rev. A. J. D. D'Orsey.

P.S. Of course I highly approve the having report to the Bishop of London, for the sake of peace and order (unless under extraordinary circumstances), though I do not deem it necessary to the validity of your ministrations.'

'Foreign Office, August 28th, 1856.

SIR,--I am directed by the Earl of Clarendon to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st inst. explaining that your object in having sought an interview with his lordship was to obtain some official recognition that the congregation which has elected you their chaplain have not in so doing prejudiced their claim as British subjects to the protection of their Government, and I am to state to you that both you and your congregation will be entitled to British protection as British subjects resident abroad, and will continue to receive it quite independently of your ecclesiastical opinions, position, or conduct, so long as you do not forfeit that privilege.

I am Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

Rev. A. J. D. D'Orsey.'

'5, Arlington Street, March 17, 1859.

SIR,--I have received your letter and the printed statement which accompanied it.
Under the very particular circumstances in which, unhappily, the members of our Church are placed in Madeira, I do not think that the course which you have adopted is either uncanonical or illegal.

Your obedient servant,

The Rev. A. J. D. D'Orsey.'"

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