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Mexican Protestant Church


This pamphlet is published under the auspices of
the Rt. Rev. Bishop J. D. WILMER,
of the Episcopal Church of New Orleans.





Text courtesy of Margaret B. Smith, Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
1335 Asylum Avenue; Hartford, Connecticut 06105



Of the efforts undertaken with the aid of God, to establish the Mexican Episcopal Church; derived from the ingenious and instructive statements of Mexican Presbyters, whom we have had, for many years, the pleasure to know, and to be on terms of intimacy with them and to assist them in their difficult enterprise.


In the year 1854, seven curates and four itinerant vicars, with the object of consulting how they might best uproot fanaticism and teach the people the doctrines of Jesus Christ in their purity, formed their first convocation in the city of Mexico, and resolved therein to add to their number, so as to extend the sphere of their influence. This was realised shortly after, by the accession of nine more Ecclesiastics. In this second convocation they found reason to lament how little the Spirit of Charity prevailed among the Bishops, Curates and others; entrusted with dispensing spiritual food among the people, so that hypocrisy prevailed among all classes of society and the most frightful idolatry, the corruptions of which are palpably to be seen, especially among the aborigines.

It was determined to continue these meetings, and to hold them weekly to enquire into the cause of and to seek the cure of these many evils; and the convocation was organised by the election of a President, to direct its discussions. These meetings were continued for two years; and their novelty attracted to them a great number of Ecclesiastics; for the doors were left open to all such, as with good intentions, might come to contribute their knowledge and information in aid of the labors of the convocation.

Time having developed the fact that some of these clergymen were wanting in prudence, and others in perseverance, the more resolute in their good designs determined to choose a smaller body, as a supervising one for the other. With the like purpose they divided the latter into sub-divisions of five individuals in each, and selected those having the most zeal, and sent them into the country.

[4] The most remote curacies were allotted to them; and they were advised to have as frequent conferences as possible by three together, and from time to time to give account of their labors of the directory as to the difficulties they might meet, and to receive from the directory such instructions as would produce unity of action. Other curates having been put by the bishops in possession of the temporalities of the curacies, and in the place of those sent by the society, the society found its efforts almost altogether defeated, and for this reason made a representation of the facts to the Pope, signed by seventy four clergymen.

The President of the Republic instead of sending it to Rome as requested, sent it from the United States, where he was, to the new Government then at Vera Cruz, that it might avail itself of this Ecclesiastical element in favor of the policy which it proposed to pursue. This resulted in the decree of legal authorization, of the year 1859, which reads as follows:


The Most Excellent Senor President,

Being desirous that none should be persecuted or molested, much less the clergy of the Republic, whose mission can be made just so useful to the people, and desirous moreover that every one may recognise his good will and intentions, and that he may possess, at the same time the means of placing himself in contact with the persons who compose such clergy, appoints you his general agent.

Trusting that your patriotism, your sound judgment and honest desire for the public good will induce you to accept this office His Excellency the President gives you full authority to communicate this to your worthy companions and to assure them of this favorable intentions towards them, and of his firm determination to give them all the special protection in his power to bestow.

As it will be a very great aid to the public peace, that the directors of the conscience of men should not lead them astray, and as it is an evident fact, that to such misleading, is to be charged, [4/5] the sanguinary character of the existing civil war, it should be your first care to show the pastors that there is no contradiction between the constitution and the dogmas of christianity; between the new laws of the Republic and the primitive doctrines of the church.

You will please give them to understand that it is the interest of all, and especially of the clergy, that they should purge the conscience of men, and calm the evil passions which the superior clergy have been enkindling, and that they should energetically contribute to the pacification of the Republic, because a good part of it is ready to abandon a religion which will not allow it the internal peace, consolation and tranquility of mind which are the principal blessings which men desire to obtain from any religion. Another portion, and certainly no small one, has begun to consider the clergy as the sworn enemy of all civil and political progress, and of all moderate and stable Government. None of this can be hidden from your superior intelligence, and your clear reasoning will make your fellow clergymen sensible of all the advantages they can secure from the good will of the Government.

Convinced too, as is the President, that the high dignitaries of the church are seditious, principally from a desire to satisfy their unbounded pride and to secure their intolerable despotism over their inferiors, and that they propagate ideas more than ultra montane, ultra-anti-social, if one could say so, it will be against them that the Government will need to employ a policy of the utmost severity; while to those who employ themselves, in reality, in the cure of souls and in tending the vineyard of the Lord, as those Ecclesiastics use the phrase, the government will give a powerful protection, effectual to defend them against all the wrongs and insults of these their superiors, who have hitherto not been made practically responsible for their own acts.

You can assure them, therefore, that all who, obedient to the precepts of their Divine Master, give unto Caesar, with on strained and selfish interpretations, that which is Caesar's shall [5/6] be well protected and pecuniarily aided, when they need it, in all places occupied by the constitutional forces.

That this Government may have it in its power to distinguish those who, in reality, subject themselves to the civil laws, and have a disposition to live in peace with society, you will please give them a document, in which you will give them credit for their good antecedents or for their new line of conduct, showing thus that they deserve the confidence of His Excellency, the President, and you will advise them to bring to the notice of the President their necessities and situation as they may have brought them to your knowledge.

The work committed to you is a great one; but not beyond your capacity. The Republic is wide in extent, but by an active and well conducted correspondence, you can make your own sphere of action equally extensive.

The government will take care that your efforts shall be rewarded in proportion to their usefulness to the country, and the Government will take equal care to recompense all those worthy priests, who, believing theirs is a mission of peace, yield their assistance in giving it to the Republic.

Although that which is styled its "good offices," constitutes all that the Government can do in favor of the clergy, since the declaration which it has made of the independence of the church and state, because it sincerely desires that this should be made effective, nevertheless, you will know the many influences which a Government can employ to favor any enterprise, and in this instance, and to show its good will toward those who co-operate in so good a work as that of the pacification of the Republic, it will use all lawful means for their benefit and it always will be disposed to, and will assuredly employ them in the preservation of the individual rights of the clergy, which are so often trampled upon by arbitrary superiors.

To a person of views as elevated as are yours, I need not offer other recompense than the satisfaction of your own conscience, the good opinion and support of wise men, and the good name you will leave to a posterity which will bless you, for the [6/7] good offices you will thus confer upon unhappy Mexico. Care will be taken, however, to meet your expenses to the extent which your advices will make known to us.

You will please accept the assurances of my appreciation and high consideration.

God and Liberty! Vera Crux, October twenty fifth, eighteen-hundred and fifty-nine.

To the Senor Presbyter and Licenciate,
I certify the foregoing to be a true copy.
Mexico, February 22, A.D. 1861.     
Chief Under Secretary, pro tem.

From this period the Government commenced to give commissions to the society, and while it is true that it has no object other than to procure peace for the nation, it is also true that, in effecting this, it drew upon the society the hatred of all enemies to the constitution.

Here will be found the cause of the emigration of the Ecclesiastics from all the points occupied by the intervention, because they regarded it as the protector of the enemies of religious liberty.

The members of the corporation travelled in search of their personal security; those who are not marked men found it inviolable secresy, and those too well known await in the mountains or in foreign lands, the strong protection of a power superior to that of the Romish Bishops, because they have no confidence that these prelates will sincerely forgive those whom they style Ecclesiastical Reformers.

The toleration of different forms of religion, proclaimed by the laws of reform, notwithstanding the respect with which they have been preserved by the empire, so-called, has been ideal rather than effective; for practically there cannot be said to be any other religion in Mexico, than the Catholic, Apostolic [7/8] and Roman, because the one or two chapels, in which a few foreign Lutherans meet together, and in which not a single Mexican is to be found as an active member, cannot form an exception. Indeed so deeply rooted in the national character is the Romish fanaticism, that even men of the highest culture and intelligence will not hear any man preach the gospel, however authoritatively he may have been ordained, unless they are satisfied that at some time he has celebrated the sacrifice of the mass.

A profound conviction of this and of the exceptional circumstances of Mexico, induced two Presbyters, the Licentiate Don Rafael Diaz Martinez and Juan Francisco Dominguez to undertake the voyage from Mexico to the United States, to openly protest against the abuses of Rome in the presence of the Right Reverend Bishops of New York. For nearly two years they practiced with the most scrupulous exactitude the holy rites of that church, proving in this way that they are animated by a proper spirit. In lieu of devoting themselves to the study of the English language, which might give them personal advantages; they have given their attention wholly to searching into the Holy Scriptures that they might be able to deliver to their fellow Presbyters and the whole Mexican people the eternal truths contained in Holy Writ, in the vernacular tongue of the Mexican nation, conforming in this respect to the articles of religion propounded by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1801, in which they said "It is a thing plainly repugnant to the word of God and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have public prayer in the church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understood by the people."

Being invited by the distinguished Committee on Foreign Missions of the Church to make known their wishes and intentions in reference to Mexico, these reverend Missionaries, in reply thereto, ingeniously made manifest their views, adding that to labor with good result in so holy a cause, they would need all the protection of the church, on account of the innumerable dangers which would necessarily environ them in Mexico.

[9] Confident of this they undertook the voyage to Matamoros; but on arriving at that place they were advised that their lives would be in great danger there, and that at the least they would, suffer rigorous imprisonment. For this reason they resolved to consult with the reverend clergymen of the Episcopal Church in Brownsville, the nearest place in which to worship God. These humble pastors deemed it best to retain our Mexican Missionaries in that American city, which is in sight of Mexico, hoping for better opportunities. Those learned men, reduced to the utmost poverty, had for their beds a little handful of straw in a wretched hut, whose fissures exposed them to the weather and gave entrance to innumerable noxious insects which abound in that region. Their food was such as would be in keeping with their mode of life otherwise.

It is but just that we should say of the Episcopal Church of the United States, that our Mexican Presbyters were received with the utmost christian hospitality in the cities of New York and New Orleans. We have no doubt that the letters of the Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions must have been prevented from reaching them, for we cannot believe that any christian of the United States, whose charity has bestowed immense sums upon the missions in Africa and China, would have not even an obolus to bestow on our brethren, who like sentinels on the out-posts, bar the passage of the sectaries of darkness, who, in sight of the great American nation, lord it over their Mexican victims, and threaten the whole continent.

These Mexican Missionaries have not only suffered, with christian resignation, these and many other hardships, of which we make no mention, because their modesty will not allow us to do so, but they have used every effort employed by the primitive Christians, to go into Mexico, with no aid except that from on high, that they might scatter the seed of the gospel and make known the peace of God; by means of it, calming the passions, which, amid the fury of warfare, seem to have taken possession of its inhabitants. While, as persons so well known among their fellow countrymen, they might, by simply going into a Romish [9/10] Church, acquire all temporal conveniences, they have preferred the martyrdom which fanaticism might execute upon their persons, rather than for an instant falter in the faith to which their protest bound them. They have publicly shown to the Christian world the true excellence of a Presbyter who protests against the errors of the demoralized Romish sect, and who, like the great St. Paul, from being a persecutor of the truth, has become its most distinguished defender.

God has rewarded the edifying faith of these worthy missionaries, since they have gathered together within four months a congregation of one hundred and ninety-eight families, who have covenanted to sustain with their blood the New Christian Church of Mexico, with so thorough an independence of Rome, that they have nominated the Missionary Presbyter, the Licenciate Rafael Diaz Martinez as the Bishop of the Mexican Church, and have asked the Episcopal Church of the United States to accord to him consecration as such, thus transmitting to the Mexican nation the Apostolic succession, which event, so much to be desired by all Christians, will forever exclude the See of Rome from all intervention in their ecclesiastical affairs. This is the most earnest desire of the above mentioned families, who have signed their names to the official documents which establish the acts stated in this true and simple narration.

Many other christians, guided by the example of these new disciples, are constantly joining the congregation in search of the truth, and look with anxiety for the consecration of their first Bishop who may clear away the difficulties of the church, according to the knowledge which they have of the customs of the country and the earnest charity which animated them; they have the utmost confidence in their pastor elect, because they know he puts his whole reliance upon Divine aid.

Can he doubt the inexhaustible goodness of God, who sees the christian faith established in a nation composed of heterogeneous elements, which tend, by their inveterate habits, to work its ruin, but now united together solely by the spirit of christianity form an irrefragible proof that the God of nations has sent forth [10/11] the angel of peace to so unite them together, by the precious bonds of charity, that all may see the effects produced by the spirit of the gospel? Let us all praise the incomprehensible Providence of the Omnipotent!

Mexico: City of Matamoras, July 31st, 1866.
Signed by the faithful of the Mexican Episcopal Church.

I certify the foregoing to be a copy of the original which remains in my charge, as Secretary of the Mexican Episcopal Church.

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