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The Mexican Episcopal Church

Letter of the Four Bishops, and Historical Statement of the Provisional Committee.

Hartford, Connecticut: Junior Auxiliary Publishing Co., 1894.

The Committee hitherto known as the "Advisory Committee to the Presiding Bishop on Church Work in Mexico" has become "The Provisional Committee on Church Work in Mexico," and has undertaken to care more directly for the support of the workers. At the last meeting of the Missionary Council in Hartford, after hearing the report of the condition and needs of the movement, the following resolution was adopted by the Council:

Resolved, That this Council have heard with great interest the report of the Rev. Henry Forrester and the Rev. Antonio Carrión regarding the present condition of Church Work in Mexico, and commend that work to the members of the Church.

It is most important that Churchmen should bear in mind the fact that the only ground upon which this work is undertaken and commends itself to the sympathy of our people is the earnest desire of Christian people in Mexico to be permitted to receive the privileges of the Church, without being compelled to accept the unlawful terms of communion imposed by the Church of Rome, to which they had been attached. Never in the varied story of that work has the outlook been more encouraging than it is now. It cannot properly be maintained without the expenditure of $12,000 a year for the support of the clergymen and readers and of the Orphanage and other schools. And we earnestly appeal to our brethren in the United States, both clergy and lay people, to give out of their sympathy, to remember this movement of reform in their prayers, and to give generously of their substance for its support. With the consent of the several bishops Mr. Forrester and Mr. Carrión are prepared, during the next few weeks, to present the needs in such churches as may be open to them.

J. WILLIAMS, Provisional Bishop of the Mexican Episcopal Church.
A. N. LITTLEJOHN, Bishop of Long Island.
HENRY C. POTTER, Bishop of New York.

November 1, 1894.

The Provisional Committee on Church Work in Mexico begs to call attention to the foregoing letter and also to the following sketch of the history and present condition of the Mexican Episcopal Church.

In 1864 the Foreign Committee of our Board of Missions became interested in the reform movement originating with certain of the Roman Catholic clergy in Mexico, and the Rev. E. G. Nichols was sent by the committee to [2/3] that country. After several months' residence there, during which he was associated with the Rev. Manuel Aguilar, one of the pioneers of the reformation in the city of Mexico, and others of the reformers, Mr. Nicholson returned home and made a favorable report of the work; but for various reasons nothing further was done by the committee at this time.

During the following few years the committee referred occasionally to the conditions in Mexico, where an organization was effected, in 1871, under the name of "The Church of Jesus." This was due, principally, to the influence of Manuel Aguas, a priest of the Roman Church who had joined the reformers. He was promptly excommunicated of course, and as it was seen to be impossible to carry on the work of reformation within that communion, it was necessary to organize apart from it. Unfortunately, Aguas died in 1872, and soon thereafter the new movement came entirely under the control of a presbyter of the American Church.

In this same year the American Church Missionary Society took charge of the financial interests of the Church of Jesus and was for five years its generous supporter.

In 1875, some of the American bishops having become deeply interested in the movement, Bishop Lee, of Delaware, accompanied by the Rev. Dr. Dyer, secretary of the society above mentioned, made a visit to Mexico. They found there a band of Nicene Christians struggling against the innovations of Rome, and appealing to the Nicene Church of the United States of America for help in the struggle. The result was a covenant between the American bishops and "The Mexican Branch of the Catholic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ."

In 1877 the American Church Missionary Society transferred the financial support of the Mexican work to the Foreign Committee of the Board of Missions, which for some years made regular appropriations for its support.

Under the covenant above mentioned, an American presbyter was consecrated in 1879, by American bishops, as Bishop of the Valley of Mexico, one of the dioceses that had been organized in the Mexican Church.

In 1884, this bishop, having proved a failure, so far as his particular work was concerned, was induced to resign his jurisdiction, and in order to carry forward the work the Mexican Church petitioned in 1885 that it might be taken as a mission of the American Church until the mistakes of the past should be remedied, and the ecclesiastical, canonical, and financial conditions of the Mexican Church should admit of its independent action as a National Church. An organization, composed of clergy and readers, was formed under the name of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico, to be the local authority in Mexico, and this was recognized by nearly all the congregations and by the American bishops.

At the General Convention of 1886 the Board of Missions refused to place the Mexican Church on the footing of a mission, but instructed its Board of Managers to appoint a presbyter, to be nominated by the Presiding Bishop, to guide and counsel the petitioners in the future conduct of their work. The Board consented to receive contributions for the work, but would make no [3/4] appropriation for it from the general mission fund. This action left the Mexican Church in a position even more isolated than that occupied by the Church in Haiti.

Early in 1887 the Rev. W. B. Gordon, of Delaware, was nominated by the Presiding Bishop, appointed by the Board of Managers, and went to Mexico.

In 1891 the resigned bishop returned to Mexico, and, together with the few congregations which had hitherto declined to recognize the authority of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico, petitioned to be admitted into union with the Church under its jurisdiction, and the petition was granted. Thus all the congregations were again united in one organization, and in the articles of union the authority of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico was acknowledged, and the Presiding Bishop of the American House of Bishops was recognized as their Episcopal head, being practically elected as the Provisional Bishop of the Mexican Church. In accepting this arrangement the Presiding Bishop imposed the condition that the resigned Mexican bishop should have no authority in the Mexican Church, and this condition was accepted by all concerned, including the resigned bishop himself.

The Rev. Mr. Gordon was reappointed from year to year under the same conditions as in 1887, and at the General Convention of 1892 the Board of Missions renewed, in substance, its resolution of six years before, commending the work in Mexico to the support of the American Church. Mr. Gordon having resigned, on account of ill health, the Rev. Henry Forrester, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was appointed to succeed him under precisely the same conditions.

In 1893 the constitution of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico was amended so as to include representatives from the congregations, and at the first meeting thereafter Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, Holy Baptism, and the Holy Communion were adopted. These were approved by the Provisional Bishop and are now in use in all the congregations. They fulfil, so far as they go, all the conditions of the article concerning the Liturgy in the Covenant between the two Churches, and ire declared, by competent judges, to be most admirable offices. A Confirmation Office has since been adopted, approved and put in use.

The same year the resigned bishop separated himself, and so long as he retained possession of the Church of San Francisco, which had figured heretofore as the cathedral of the Mexican Church, he had a small following. He was unable to hold this property, however, and since it passed back into the hands of the Romanists, its former owners, his following has dwindled away to practically nothing; while the Church, under the direction of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico and the Provisional Bishop, has gone on with its work successfully.

From the present conditions in the field it will be seen that the work in Mexico compares favorably with any foreign work in which the American Church is interested. There are twenty-two congregations counting from one [4/5] thousand to twelve hundred communicants, served by five presbyters, two deacons and twelve readers (five of whom are candidates for Holy Orders), all natives; ten parochial schools with their respective teachers, and about four hundred pupils in the proportion of two girls to one boy; a divinity school having eight students; the Dean Gray Memorial School for boys, which is preparatory to the Divinity School and has four pupils; and the Mrs. Hooker Memorial School and Orphanage, having forty-one indoor and twenty outdoor pupils, with four teachers. All, except the last, which is under the exclusive direction of Mr. Forrester, are governed by the Cuerpo Eclesiastico, all its acts requiring the concurrence of the resident representative in Mexico of the Provisional Bishop. Between the sessions of the Cuerpo Eclesiastico, the Standing Committee elected by it, composed of three presbyters and two laymen, exercises the governing power with the same condition. The Bishop of New Mexico and Arizona is the Commissary of the Provisional Bishop for the performance of Episcopal functions in Mexico. He visited the Mexican Church in January, 1894, confirming three hundred and sixty-two persons and ordaining two deacons.

In the United States, the interests of the Mexican Church are cared for by the Provisional Committee on Church Work in Mexico, appointed by the Presiding Bishop, consisting of four bishops, eleven presbyters and ten laymen. The executive chairman is the Rev. H. Y. Satterlee, D.D., the secretary, the Rev. Wm. Tatlock, D.D., and the treasurer. Mr. Edward R. Satterlee. This committee is aided by a Ladies' Central Committee in New York, having associate members in seventeen dioceses, the president of which is Mrs. Fordyce Barker. It is desired to obtain pledges of contributions, monthly, quarterly or annual; so that the Provisional Committee may be able to guarantee to the ministers and other workers in the Mexican Church a definite support. It is absolutely necessary, if the work is to go forward, that this monthly aid shall not be less than one thousand dollars, in addition to the salary and travelling expenses of our representative in Mexico. About two thousand dollars a year is now pledged for the support of scholarships in the three schools in the city of Mexico, and additional scholarships are needed, at the following figures: theological, $250; boys, $100; girls, $80 a year. Partial scholarships may be provided, if desired, and contributions may be made at any time to any particular object, or to the fund for the general work, out of which, supplemented by local contributions, the clergy and other workers receive their support.

The money is disbursed in Mexico--except that for the Mrs. Hooker School--through the Standing Committee, acting with Mr. Forrester's concurrence, according to schedule approved by him; and reports are made, quarterly, to the Provisional Committee of all receipts and disbursements. Money intended for the work of the Mexican Episcopal Church should be sent through the channels approved by this committee, and through these alone.

The appeal from Mexico comes from a people who, being unable longer to accept the distinctive teachings of the Roman Church, desire to reform the religion of their country, following the principles that governed the English [5/6] reformers. As the authorities of the Roman Church in which these people were bred will not allow any reformation to be carried forward within that Church; it was necessary to organize a reformed Church, in which the Faith, the Order and the Ethics of the Gospel might be held as they are in the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The appeal is from our brothers in Christ to us, their brethren. For our brothers they are, struggling out of ignorance, superstition and darkness, into light, faith and knowledge. Strange indeed would it be if, while we are in duty bound to carry the Gospel to the heathen, we should not go to the help of our brethren in Mexico, because they are our brethren! The bond of union which should give them a double claim upon us is why we should recognize no claim at all! If these brethren were content to remain, and to have their countrymen remain, in the condition of their forefathers, perhaps something might reasonably be said against interfering in their behalf: but when they stretch out their hands and lift up their voices in appeals to us for help, how can we refuse to hear them? "Whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his compassion from him; how dwelleth the love of God in him?" "While we have time let us do good unto all men, and especially unto them that are of the household of faith." The work we are called to do for these brethren is to help them along until they are able to go alone, and particularly in the education of their children, of young men for the ministry, and young women for teachers of the parochial schools.

Mr. Carión is unable to remain in this country longer than this month, but Mr. Forrester will stay as long as may be necessary to enable him to accomplish the object he has in view, and all persons who desire to confer with him may address him at 2 Bible House, New York City. He is desirous, however, to return to Mexico as soon as possible, and will be glad to have early opportunities to present the claims of the work in Mexico to any who would like to be informed about it, whether congregations, diocesan or parochial societies, or individuals, always provided that he will not make public appeals in any diocese against the will of its bishop, nor in any parish without the approval of its rector.

Pledges and contributions should be sent to Mr. Edward K. Satterlee, Treasurer, 67 William Street, New York City, who will make acknowledgment every three months in The Spirit of Missions. Contributions intended for Mr. Forrester's salary and travelling expenses should be sent to Mr. George Bliss, Treasurer, Church Missions House, New York City.

On behalf of the Provisional Committee.

Executive Chairman.


NEW YORK, November 16, 1894

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