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Right Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, D. D.











Reproduced by kind permission of the Hockin Reference Library, Dunedin, 2009.



To the Most Rev. the Primate of New Zealand.


I have much pleasure in submitting to you an account of my visit to the Islands of the Pacific, undertaken at the request of the Bishops of New Zealand, with the special sanction of the General Synod, after it had heard the interesting facts brought before it by the Bishop of Dunedin, at Auckland, last February.

I shall not enter into details, which can be deferred for another occasion, but simply record what places I visited, what was the condition of the members of our Church, and what openings there appeared to me to exist for future action.

I first of all, after five and a-half days in the Janet Nicol steamer, landed at Tonga, which was visited by Bishop Selwyn, when Bishop of New Zealand, thirty-eight years ago. Here I did not expect to find many members of our Church, and, indeed, there are not many. In Nukualofa, which is the capital and king's residence, I found fifteen professedly belonging to the Church of England; but the residence of a week or two would certainly bring others to light, besides many who would gladly avail themselves of the ministrations of our Church, were they regularly established.

A European Service, as it is called, is held in the two separated churches, by the Rev. J. B. Watkin and the Rev. J. Moulton, on alternate Sunday evenings.

It will scarcely be thought strange or intrusive after what has appeared in the Press, that I should refer to the present aspect of ecclesiastical affairs in Tonga. Visiting all the parties concerned on both sides, I had the opportunity of learning and understanding the position of matters.

It appears to some that the peculiar circumstances of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Tonga, separated as it is into two distinct divisions, with reference to questions, not of doctrine, but of financial and organic arrangement, indicate an opening of which the Tongans might desire to avail themselves for accepting that form of Church organisation from which the early Wesleyan Church, confessedly to its own great regret, felt itself bound to secede.

[4] Whatever may be the case in the future, this question was not in my view in undertaking this visit, which was, as your introductory letter clearly points out, intended to be made to the members or adherents of the Church of England, commonly so called.

I find, however, that, in spite of any desire to the contrary, we are painfully interested in this question in the proportions it has now assumed, for the result of such divisions has given great impulse to Romanism, which has benefitted by them, as it naturally would. Owing to these divisions, it has commenced missions where formerly there were none; and thus, few though they be, our own people, who formerly had the undisturbed benefit of Wesleyan ministrations, are becoming exposed daily more and more to the erroneous teachings of Romanism. I could substantiate this by instances if it were necessary. So that in spite of ourselves we are interested in this matter, and should do something to protect our own people, few and isolated though they be.

If, in the course of events, the chief feature of our Church should prove a centre of unity, as it did in the primitive centuries, we could not turn a deaf ear to those who wished either to join us, or to adopt a similar organization to our own, but should be bound to help them. I wish to bear record of what I saw of the noble Christian literary and educational work done by the Rev. J. E. Moulton in Tonga, and, if I am to be true to my own impressions, I cannot pass on without referring to the work of a different kind, though in the very important sphere of Tongan politics, carried on by the Hon. Shirley Baker, the premier, who holds a position of great influence, and has the making or marring of a people in his hands. I can only here express the regret felt by all who know the circumstances that men of such ability should be spending any of their acknowledged powers in artificial conflict. No one can pass through Tonga without regretting that there should be any cause for complaining of the revival of such arbitrary dealings towards Nonconformists to the State religion as call to mind the sinful and foolishly tyrannical acts of those in high authority in England immediately after the Restoration. On the other hand, it would seem right to note that there is a time at which the preaching or teaching of Christianity, after it has done its first work, is in danger of degenerating into the propagation of sects, bearing either an honoured name of the past or some equally honourable territorial title.

While I am sure that a few more Europeans would be found in Tonga to welcome the services of our Church, there will [4/5] probably be in the future additional settlements in other parts of the Tongan group possessing such fertility and so favourable a climate to attract Europeans.


My next visit was to Samoa, in which group of Islands I landed at Apia, the chief settlement in Upolo, the largest of the three principal Islands forming the group. Here, I may state at once, there is a clearly defined sphere for a clergyman of our Church. There is no European Missionary now residing there, and only an occasional evening service is given in a building called truly, though somewhat forbiddingly, "the foreign Church." The community is composed of very varied religious elements, but a Clergyman of tact and diligence would combine them.

Here as at Tonga, no one could reasonably impose on us or on any body of Christians an injunction not to receive or admit those who come to us spontaneously, from whatever previous teaching they come. If the multiplicity of temptations constitutes an additional claim on us to supply our people, however few in number they may be, this would seem to operate here more than in most situations in the South Seas.

Settlers, traders, and clerks, officials, and professional men, unvisited, unwarned, uncomforted, and unshepherded, seem to say, though in small numbers and isolated positions, "Come over and help us."

We gladly recognise the marvellous success and evident blessing which has attended the labours of the Missionaries of the London Missionary Society, who, nevertheless, will scarcely find fault with us for failing to see that their congregational system has the same elements of permanency as that which has been so long tried in the Church from the first to the present day. I may mention one incident which shows the kindly feeling of the Missionaries towards my mission. Hearing that I proposed to have a celebration of the Holy Communion, the Missionary at Malua spontaneously directed that the vessels for that Sacrament which are used in King Malietoa's Church, at which the King was attending that morning, should be lent for use at my service at 11 a.m. I am sure that if we recognise one another's worth so far as we can, we shall have a better prospect of union, so far as that is desirable, than if we stand aloof from one another.

I baptised 14 children, brought to me by parents and friends; in one case, a family of five, both parents being members of our Church who had not had an opportunity, owing to absence when any chaplain visited the Island, all vessels not carrying chaplains.

[6] Were this in my own diocese, I should not hesitate to send a clergyman at once, and I do not think the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel has on its lists a more distinct claim than this. The objection of the fewness of the numbers is counter-balanced by the influence of their position, and by the evils which have arisen in a place where there has been much lawlessness arising from the want of a definite government. It is the sad old story of native authority subverted, and that of necessity, without any other to put in its place.


I stayed nearly eight days in Samoa and was fortunate enough to obtain a passage in H.M.S. Miranda--Captain Rooke, which had conveyed His Excellency the Hon. J. B. Thurston, C.S.M.G., Acting Governor of Fiji, to Samoa as High Commissioner, and was returning. The Governor of Fiji received me most kindly. I communicated your letter to him and also one from His Excellency the Governor of New Zealand, Sir Wm. Jervois. He gave me a warm welcome to Fiji, entertained me most hospitably at Government House, and did everything to make my visit successful and agreeable. Captain Rooke, at some considerable inconvenience to himself, gave up the use of his cabin, and in a variety of ways, along with his officers and men, assisted my work. The passage from Samoa to Fiji, including stoppages, took nearly seven days, and on the voyage I was much impressed with the fact that there are many English speaking persons in the Pacific who are apparently not reached by any organization except when they happen to be in the neighbourhood of European Missionaries.

Any fear of our getting influence over Christian Natives, if such a thing ought to be a fear to our Wesleyan or Congregational Brethren, is really reduced to a minimum from the fact that the Natives know little or no English. The vast body of Christian Natives in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, knows no English at all.

One would desire to see some plan by which, without a break of the continuity in their ministry, the additional organization which our branch of the Church of Christ has conserved could be added to the grand work, of simple evangelization from gross heathenism to the elements of Christian belief and practice, which has been carried out effectively by the Divine Blessing on the labours of men working manifestly under the guidance and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

[7] Recent historical researches seem to show that the Orders our Church recognizes were evoked in primitive times as much by the requirements of the age demanding individual centres of union, as by direct provision, and the present condition and transitory state of the Native Churches in India, China, Africa, North West America--and I may now add--the Pacific, seem to show that History is repeating itself.

I stayed three Sundays in Fiji--two at Suva, and one at Levuka, and was kindly received by the two clergy, the Rev. J. F. Jones at the former and the Rev. W. Floyd at the latter place.

The latter clergyman has been in Fiji for fifteen years, and borne the burden and heat of the day. He remains at Levuka, which has ceased to be the capital of the Colony; this change has deprived him of more than half of his flock, but there are, and always will be, enough left in Levuka to form a separate charge. I held two confirmations, consecrated one church, and delivered twelve sermons and two lectures in Fiji.

I had the opportunity of laying before both congregations the position taken with regard to the Church in Fiji by the General Synod of the Church of New Zealand, and the result seemed to be that they needed much further information before they could themselves form an opinion what it was best for them do. The position is peculiar. Fiji is now a British possession, a Crown colony, it is not in the same position as it was when the Bishopric of Melanesia was constituted, and this somewhat complicates the question. It would be necessary to ascertain what the Crown would do with regard to a Bishop in a Crown Colony.

Some Church members in Fiji seem to have an exaggerated view of the value of the distant connexion between Fiji and the Diocese of London, and associate with that link the continuance of a grant from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, now enjoyed by Fiji.

There is no consensus of opinion as to these matters amongst the members of the Church, nevertheless their views, or at least the views of the most active and influential among them, may be gathered from the addresses which I append; although they are replete with observations on my visit almost too kindly expressed, yet I add them as an indication of Church feeling.

I need hardly say that the questions involved were new to many. Episcopal supervision was supposed by some to mean only the performance of such acts as are attached  by our formularies to the office of the Bishop, but I pointed out to them that [7/8] in the Church of the Province of New Zealand at least, it means something far wider reaching and more beneficial than that, but that whatever it was it could only be properly and fully carried out by a Bishop having a definite and responsible position.

It was accordingly resolved that I should communicate with the Bishop of London, whose license is held now by the two clergy in Fiji, and that his views should be laid before the members of the Church in Fiji. It is true that the Bishop expressed a desire to the Bishop of Melanesia that he would relieve him of a duty impossible for himself to discharge from so great a distance as London, but no recommendation to that effect has reached the members of the Church in Fiji. Any recommendation from the Bishop of London under the circumstances would naturally carry great weight with the Church members in Fiji.

The first question, however, which arises, is the necessity for a Bishopric in Fiji--not, indeed, to evangelise the Fijian Natives, or any portion of them, for that is already done up to a certain point--our own people require looking after--they require sympathy, confirmation, and help, such as one holding the office of Bishop may reasonably be expected to give them. I submit that one is needed, and needed now. The post is one of truly a missionary character, and it should be filled by one who is acquainted with Melanesian work, for he would have 4000 Solomon Islanders ready to his hands, who are now, without any ministrations, in different parts of Fiji. This large number seems to form a claim on the services of the Bishop of Melanesia, who is much desired and longed for by the Fijian Church members, both from their personal knowledge of him gained during his visit to Fiji, six years ago, and his labours in the Islands.

If he cannot supply the want, there are those to be found who have proved their efficiency in Melanesian work, and who would also bring to the European work of such a Bishopric, English experience fitting them to deal with clergy hereafter ministering to English speaking congregations in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, etc. It is one thing to send a Missionary Bishop, another to endow a Missionary Bishopric; we may be able to do the former at once--we might only be able to accomplish the latter gradually, but it would seem wrong to delay the former till the latter was achieved, if men, fitted men, can be found ready to accept the post.

The steps to be taken seem to me to be the ascertaining the exact legal position of Fiji ecclesiastically, the designs of the Crown with regard to it as a Crown colony, the wishes of the Bishop of London, now de facto the source of clerical authority [8/9] in Fiji, the mind of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which makes a grant to Fiji, and then the laying of such information before the members of our Church in Fiji, leaving them by a conference or convention among themselves, so far as it appears that they have the power, to take what steps they approve, to associate themselves with such ecclesiastical province as may be most conducive to their welfare. If your Lordship could urge upon the Bishop of Melanesia the desirability of paying a special visit to Fiji to meet such a convention of representive members of the Church of England, commonly so called, after the receipt of the information above alluded to, I venture to think the best results would follow, especially in connection with the large numbers of natives there from Melanesia. Judging from my own intercourse with the Chairman of the Wesleyan Mission, the Rev. J. Langham, in Fiji, I do not think that a Bishop sent out primarily to members of the Church of England would be received otherwise than cordially, and events would be left to solve themselves. Whatever solution may be in store, the success of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in Tonga and Fiji through its European and Native agents, will ever be written on the pages of the History of the Church of Christ, and, which is of far more value, constitute a proof that the Gospel in the lips and lives of earnest, devoted and Christ-like men, is as full of power as ever to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

Our concern, however, at present, is with our own people, properly so called, and any organization which will help them to lead in the midst of many disadvantages consistent Christian lives, will be conferring blessings on the thousands by whom they are surrounded, and whom they necessarily influence for good or evil.

I cannot close without expressing my indebtedness to several clerical and lay members of the Church in my own Diocese, upon whom my absence on this mission of the Church has imposed labours which would otherwise have been undertaken by me.

I wish to add also that the members of the Church of England are deserving of our sympathy, for the liberality, energy and patience they are now exhibiting in a time of much financial depression in Fiji.

I have the honour to be,

Your Lordship's faithfully and obediently,


The Most Rev. The Lord Primate of New Zealand.




To the Members of the Church of England, resident in the Islands of Fiji, Samoa, and the adjacent Islands of the Pacific.


At a meeting held at Auckland in January last, at which were present all the Bishops of the Province of New Zealand, commonly called the Church of England, with the associated Bishop of Melanesia, and the Primate of Australia (then a visitor in New Zealand), a letter from His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury was laid before them, requesting their consideration of the expediency of making some provision for the episcopal supervision of the English congregations in Fiji, Samoa, and other adjacent islands, and it was resolved that an arrangement be made, if practicable, for the visit of these Islands prior to any arrangement being make for their permanent supervision, and that for this purpose they should be visited by one of the Bishops during this present year.

At a subsequent meeting, at the earnest request of his Brethren, the Right Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, Bishop of Nelson, undertook this visit, and on behalf of the Church of New Zealand, which by a resolution of its General Synod has expressed its thankful concurrence in this action of her Bishops, I now commend to your favourable acceptance and welcome our beloved Brother, and invite you to take counsel with him with a view to a more permanent arrangement for the ordering of the Church of which you are members and her ministrations among you. Assuring you of the deep interest taken by the Church of New Zealand in your spiritual welfare, and of her desire to assist your efforts in furthering it to the utmost of her ability,

I am, my dear Brethren,

Your Brother and Servant in Christ,

Primate of the Church of the Province of New Zealand.

Bishopscourt, Christchurch, New Zealand,
August 2, 1886.



To the Most Rev. the Primate of New Zealand.


At a meeting of members of the Church of England, held at Suva on the 20th of September, 1886, it was unanimously resolved that a letter should be written by us in reply to your Lordship's communication presented to us by the Bishop of Nelson.

We, the undersigned, the Chaplain and the Committee of Holy Trinity Church, therefore beg to offer, both on behalf of ourselves and the rest of the members of the Church of England in this town and district, our most sincere thanks to you for the interest you have shown in our spiritual welfare, by desiring that these Islands should be visited by one of the Bishops of the Province of New Zealand.

An Episcopal visit to Fiji was very much needed, and it was with more than ordinary satisfaction that we welcomed the arrival of the Bishop of Nelson amongst us. The Bishop has consecrated our new Church at Suva, and has also held a Confirmation Service, at which a fair number of our young members were confirmed. Both in his official acts and in his private intercourse with us he has shown us every kindness, help, and sympathy. We assure your Lordship that we very sensibly appreciate the work which he has done amongst us, and. whatever may be ultimately decided as to our ecclesiastical connexion, we shall always welcome with pleasure and gratitude a visit from any Bishop whom the Synod of New Zealand may appoint to come for the purpose, as we feel sure that such a visit can but tend to strengthen the Church of England in this colony.


Suva, Fiji, September 21, 1886.



LEVUKA, Sept. 28, 1886.

To the Most Reverend H. J. C. Christchurch, Primate of the Church of the Province of New Zealand.


As members of the Church of England resident in Fiji, your letter addressed to the Members of the Church of England resident in the Islands of Fiji, Samoa, and the adjacent islands of the Pacific, has beenreceived, and also read to us by the Right Reverend the Bishop of Nelson.

We feel how difficult it is to adequately express our gratitude for the interest displayed in our spiritual welfare by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of New Zealand, and particularly to the Bishop of Nelson, for the kindness and consideration he has shown in personally undertaking all the inconveniences and privations involved in so long a journey, and to parts so far removed from the ordinary track of civilization.

We have, as your Lordship wished us to do, taken counsel with the Right Reverend the Bishop of Nelson, with a view to the more permanent arrangement for the ordering of the Church of which we are members, and its ministrations among us.

After hearing the kind and welcome advice and words of the Bishop of Nelson, and considering the letter of your Lordship, we wish to express to your Lordship and the other Bishops of the Province of New Zealand our heartfelt thanks for the kindness and thought we have received at the hands of the Bishops of New Zealand, and to express our sincere desire that the visit of the Bishop of Nelson will be the harbinger of many other such visits by the Bishops of New Zealand.

Before proposing any alteration of the status of the Church of England in Fiji, it will be necessary that the members thereof in different parts of the Colony should take counsel together, and as the brief sojourn of the Bishop of Nelson does not permit this ere he leaves Fiji, it is our intention to further address your Lordship hereafter.

For the Members of the Church of England in Levuka.

R. H. HEADDEY, Churchwardens.



To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Nelson.


We the Members of the Church of England resident in Suva, most reverently and most heartily welcome your Lordship to this Colony. We regret extremely that owing to the difficulties of our position in many respects we have not been able to accord you that outward expression of welcome which, under more favourable conditions, we should have wished to give, but we feel sure that you will accept our efforts, small and insignificant as they may appear, in the same spirit in which we now offer them.

We would in the first place desire to express our extreme gratitude to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for the kindly interest which he has taken in our Church in commending us to the consideration and care of your Lordship's Right Reverend Brethren the Primate of Australia, the Primate and Bishops of New Zealand, and the Bishop of Melanesia; for the expression of sympathy and promise of help which was conveyed to us by the letter of the Primate of New Zealand read to our congregation on Sunday last; and lastly to yourself for the evidence of that good will shown by the presence of your Lordship amongst us here to-day, notwithstanding the great personal trouble and inconvenience which your visit to us has necessarily incurred.

We assure you that such an expression and evidence of real interest in our welfare are by no means lightly regarded by us, and will be valued by us in no small degree.

Our numbers and our capabilities are but few and slight at present, but the impetus which their Lordships' efforts and your own will give to us both collectively and individually, will not be merely temporary in its nature, but, with God's blessing, be productive of permanent benefit to us. It is in this spirit we now come before you, and we are sure that our confidence in your kindness of heart and liberality of mind is not misplaced.

This is the first official visit of a Bishop of our Church to Suva since it became the capital of the Colony, and the fact of your Lordship being the first visiting Bishop here, will be permanently [13/14] marked in our minds by the opening of our Church, which we shall, in the proper manner, most reverently and humbly petition your Lordship to consecrate on Saturday next, and although we have not been able to present it in a condition of final completion, yet we trust that it will, even now, meet with your Lordship's approval and be accepted for the high purpose for which we dedicate it.

In conclusion, we humbly ask your Lordship to convey to the Synod our earnest desire to do our utmost to meet the wishes of their Lordships, and of whatever Bishop may finally be appointed over us, and our hope that the affairs of our Church in Fiji may be guided by them with that care and consideration which this distant and most isolated offspring of our great Mother Church most surely needs.

We remain, My Lord Bishop,

Your Lordship's most obedient humble Servants,



Suva, Fiji, 14th September, 1886.



To the Right Reverend the Bishop of Nelson.


On the occasion of your Lordship's visit to the Church in Levuka, the members of the Church of England there resident desire to express to you their appreciation of your great kindness and self denial in so doing.

[15] Your Lordship, we are aware, in making a visit to Fiji and the adjacent Islands, took upon yourself this duty in addition to the existing important duties devolving upon you as Bishop of your own Diocese.

The extra duties so self-imposed were not those of an ordinary kind, but such as necessitated a protracted sea journey to places where all the luxuries and most of the conveniences of civilized life are wanting.

That Levuka should have to be included in this category we much regret, but the inconveniences and hardships your Lordship has had to undergo, increase our sense of obligation and respect for your labours.

We hope, however, the benefits your Lordship has conferred upon us as members of the Church, by your distinguished presence, your courteous and affable demeanor, and your eloquent and impressive preaching, will be some reward to you.

In saying farewell we do so in the hope that your Lordship may ere long again visit the Church in Fiji.


R. H. HEADDEY, Churchwardens.


Levuka, Fiji, 28th Sept., 1886.

ANGUS TURNER, Printer, 191 Gloucester Street, Christchurch, N. Z.

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