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The Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Missions of the English Church in Foreign Lands

From The Colonial Church Chronicle, and Missionary Journal, Vol. IV (May 1851), pages 422-427.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007


SIR,--Any person who has watched the progress of the Church of England Missions for the last ten years, must have satisfied himself that the appointment of Bishops is the surest method by which extension and permanency can be achieved. The great increase in the number of Clergy and the consequent improvement in morality and religion following the establishment of the Colonial Bishops, are proofs of this assertion. The complaint, however, is that we advance too slowly. In the course of ten years, notwithstanding the unwearied efforts of the Colonial Bishops' Fund Committee, and of the able Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, many important provinces are still devoid of Episcopal supervision, and there is faint prospect of the want being soon supplied. The difficulty is that an impression exists that nothing can be done without large endowments; and it is a very slow process to raise 15,000l. for any bishopric, while there are so many claims upon the charity of Churchmen at home. The English Bishops have surmounted in great measure this objection, but it is apparently impossible to induce Earl Grey to consent to the Church spending her own money in her own way.

Had the English Church from the time of its Reformation occupied herself about pagan nations, a greater freedom of action would have been gained long ere this day. The disorders of that time seem indeed to have paralysed the action of every branch of the Catholic Church, and produced a general lethargy. The Anglican Communion never realized its true position as the destined Evangelizer of nations providentially placed within the sphere of its influence. America was refused Bishops; the West Indies and India were left to themselves. The Greek Church alone consolidated her mighty conquest of Russia and Siberia, yearly absorbing into her capacious bosom tens of thousands of semi-barbarous people.

The revival everywhere within the last twenty years has been remarkable. The proceedings of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel establish the fact that the indifference which was the reproach of our Church has disappeared, and all Christian communities are realizing the responsibilities laid upon them. The success attending the ministration of our new Bishops proves that we have struck upon the proper mode of proceeding. Strange it is that we were so slow to follow the example held out in the inspired writings. When St. Paul appointed Timothy, Titus, and Epaphroditus to ordain Presbyters in every city, and superintend the infant Churches, we contented ourselves with sending out simple Presbyters without [422/423] Episcopal superintendence, and therefore incapable of developing the Church from themselves. When the Presbyter died, the infant Church died with him for a time. Having found out our error, how can we most easily regain our lost time? The depressed and forlorn condition of the Scottish Church makes her inertness in the cause of Missions more excusable. When the penal statutes were removed in 1792, (statutes which prevented, under the pains of imprisonment and banishment, religious services to more than five persons,) the spirit of the Church was quite broken, her congregations reduced to about fifty, and her members to a mere handful. Since that time her position is stronger, for she has her 120 Clergy governed by seven Bishops; she has established a magnificent College, founded a Cathedral, and is vigorously prosecuting the education of her humbler members.

During the American war, her existence was scarcely known, and her candlestick all but removed; but an event was about to bring her existence as a living branch of the Holy Church into prominence. I have alluded already to the cruel policy of the English Government, which in America, where it professed to have established the Church, refused to plant her in her integrity. Even after the severance, the boon of the Episcopate was refused. In despair a party in the American Church proposed (by advice of Dr. White, afterwards Bishop of Pennsylvania) some transitional measure of provisional Episcopacy, to be afterwards in better times superseded by an Hierarchy on the Apostolic model. Happily this source of future division was not consummated. In 1784 Dr. Seabury applied to the humble Scotch Bishops for that gift which was unattainable elsewhere. In an upper chamber in Aberdeen, three Bishops met in secret for fear, not of the Jews but of their own countrymen, and imparted to the Transatlantic Continent the gift of the Apostolic succession. That little plant has been watered by the dew of God's blessing, and has already brought forth fruit fifty-fold.

Since that period the Scotch Church has done little except to strengthen her domestic position: her members have, it is true, to a certain extent supported the great English Missionary Societies, but there has been no systematic action whatever.

The time has now arrived when, owing to the doubtful relations of the English Church to the Colonial Office, an opportunity for immediate action, and a Christianizing of our emigrant countrymen, is presented. I should be unwilling to say that any systematic hostility is shown to the Colonial Church by Government, but doubtless no great favour is evinced to it. Sir Robert Peel was never friendly, and did nothing to foster it, except the appointment of the two West Indian Bishops, which he was pressed to do in order to give a fair trial to the Slave Emancipation Act. This coldness to religion, which has continued among all our statesmen without exception, has had the tendency to give more liberty to the Colonial Church than to the Church of England herself. The sum of her liberty seems to be this, that. whenever an endowment of 15,0001. is secured, a See [423/424] will be constituted, provided the nomination of the Bishop be vested in the Colonial Minister, who however consults the Archbishop. It is needless to say how difficult it is to procure a large sum for endowment, and how much more easy it is to procure annual contributions from the faithful. The loss to the Church by the anxious waiting for endowment is incalculable. The nomination to the Bishopric of Victoria was from this cause delayed for six years, and had it not been secured by the munificence of a "Brother and Sister," it would have been no nearer to attainment now. In the face of Rome what has not our pure Church lost? In the face of Socialism and infidelity how many precious souls have been lost? Consider, too, how unfairly we are treated by this iniquitous rule. The State permits to the Church of home free synodical action, and she may appoint Bishops without hindrance. Thus a few years ago, a Bishop was sent out to Adelaide with a capital sum of 300l. in his pocket, and told to shift for himself, and from that moment he has supported his position with respectability from the alms of his flock. The conclusion of the matter is, that if our Church is to thrive, she must give up all ideas of establishment, and ask for nothing but a fair field and no favour: She must have free synodical action, full power to divide parishes, constitute bishoprics, and organize herself. Aided by her Divine Head, and fostered by her innate vigour, she will advance and finally overshadow one-fourth of the habitable globe.

I now proceed to inquire to what extent the perfect freedom of action which GOD has conferred upon the Church of Scotland as a compensation for her loss of endowments, may be made available for the spread of the Gospel according to the Anglican rite. The general opinion is that we in Scotland are not ripe for an independent Mission of our own, that our poverty renders it impossible for us to maintain Bishops and a staff of Clergy in any foreign country. We are contented to give our own Bishops 100l. per annum, and judging by our niggardly conduct to our Spiritual Fathers, charity herself may deem us hardened against the claims of others. I trust that the day may soon come when we may take a juster view of our duties and responsibilities, otherwise GOD may visit us sharply with His displeasure: The English Missions are indeed partly our own work: we have subscribed our money to them, and are interested in their advancement. But can we furnish no more valuable assistance than a few paltry pounds? We enjoy the great privilege of being free from State control: we need not ask Earl Grey's permission to nominate a Bishop to a Mission; we require no endowment from Government, and Government cannot interfere with our action. If it were necessary to consecrate twelve Bishops for foreign countries within one month, the Scotch Church could confer the grace of the Apostolic Succession upon them without hindrance.

I. I propose, then, that we should co-operate with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the first instance, and consecrate some of their Missionaries. When our present misunderstanding with the Church Missionary Society is removed, and it gives up its connexion [424/425] with the unhappy schism in this country, then we may form a similar alliance with it.

A movement apart from both Societies has lately taken place. It was some six months ago proposed to our Bishops by certain parties at Oxford, that a Bishopric should be planted in Borneo at Sarawak, Sir James Brooke's settlement. The Bishops in Synod assembled declared that they were ready to act, but difficulties were advanced which are not yet overcome. Another Bishop has been proposed for the sequestered Pitcairn's Island.

I am confident that I speak the true sentiments of the Scotch Bishops, when I say that wherever fair scope is offered for their services, they will be freely rendered. Be it remembered, too, that a good many years ago, Dr. Luscombe, the Chaplain of the British Embassy at Paris, and Commissary of the Bishop of London, was consecrated a Scotch Bishop, and confirmed over the whole of France, Belgium and Holland.

The Scotch Church, it seems to me, can act, first, in countries not under the Imperial Crown, and, secondly, in the British Colonies and possessions. In China there are Missions in each of the five cities opened to our trade by the late treaty. In Victoria there is an Anglican Bishop, in Shanghai one (Dr. Boone) sent by the American Church; I propose that the fittest Clergymen settled respectively in Amoy, Canton, Ningpo, and Fowchoofoo, should be appointed Bishops, and they might all be placed under the Bishop of Victoria its Metropolitan. If seminaries for the instruction of the natives were planted in these towns by the Bishops, Christianity might make considerable progress within ten years. It is certain that, in the face of persecution, the Jesuits had many flourishing Missions under native Bishops and Clergy during the last century, and there is no reason to doubt our success when so many obstacles to the spread of the Gospel have been removed.

I read with interest in your last number the movement in progress in the West Indies for a systematic attempt to convert the Pagans of Dahomey and Ashantee. One defect was obvious: nothing was said of Bishops. The torpid state of the Church Missionary Society's establishments proves that they have been founded on the old defective principle. Taking warning by this experience, let the Bishop of Barbados and his colleagues consecrate three Bishops, and send them forth. These, when they have reared their men, may consecrate natives, and in the course of time an impression may be made on the Continent which gave birth to Saints Cyprian and Augustine. I do not believe that there is any law against such action by the West Indian Bishops, but if there should be difficulty, then let the heads of the Mission be sent to Scotland in their way, and the defect can be supplied.

I have already spoken of Sarawak. Would there be any objection to the consecration of Mr. M'Dougall, who is doing a great work there?

Another Bishop might be planted in Caffraria, and placed under Bishop Gray's jurisdiction.

[426] The American Church papers announce that there is in the Sandwich Islands a strong desire for the permanent establishment of the Church under a Bishop, as the services held by the United States Naval Chaplains are very attractive, and would probably, if continuous, secure the adherence of the king and his nobles, who are disgusted with the tyranny of Congregationalism. This Mission would form a connecting link between China and Bishop Selwyn's operations among the South Sea Islands.

Here then is room for the immediate appointment of nine Bishops.

II. But the assistance of the Scottish Church need not end here. It might be given to English possessions where a Bishop is already at work, and lost, so to speak, amidst the vast field of his operations. I disclaim the slightest desire to interfere with the jurisdiction of the Anglican Bishop, nay, I propose that the new Bishop or Bishops should be appointed at his request, and should in civil and ecclesiastical status be subordinate to him, and perform the duties at present devolving on Archdeacons, with the addition of episcopal powers, assisting him to confirm, consecrate churches, and found Missions, but disclaiming any authority except what might be delegated by him, and referring every disputed point to his adjudication. I do not presume to say (writing cursorily) how this could be settled, but assuredly there can be no insurmountable difficulty in arranging the matter, when the object is the same, viz. the salvation of souls.

The admirable Bishop of Toronto, whom I am proud to acknowledge as a countryman, has issued an appeal, in which he prays for some help in a country as large as Great Britain, and where the Church of England is starting into vigorous life in the bosom of the primeval forests. He wishes Sees to be fixed at Kingston, Woodstock, and St. Mary's, on Lake Superior. But, even supposing that the Colonial Bishops' Fund could find an endowment for Kingston, there is no reason to think that for many years the others can be constituted except in the way I propose.

A Bishop might also he established at Vancouver's Island as a suffragan of the Bishop of Rupert's Land.. Two more should be appointed at Sherbrooke and Gaspé in Lower Canada, to relieve the Bishop of Quebec; one at Charlotte-Town in Prince Edward Island, another at St. John's in Cape Breton, to aid the Bishop of Nova Scotia. The senior Clergyman in Bermuda should be appointed Bishop there.

I might go on to show that a proper distribution of Church funds in the Diocese of Jamaica would endow Sees in Honduras and the Bahamas, but I do not at present advert either to the West Indies or to our splendid oriental empire, where the simple expedient of conferring episcopal functions on thirty of the Missionary Clergy would at once impart to the Indian Church great vigour, and almost the dignity of an establishment. It is much to be desired that this should be looked to in 1853, when the Charter is renewed.

There are other places, such as Launceston and Fremantle in Australasia, Graham's-Town and Singapore, where the Church could [426/427] be planted in its integrity without additional cost. Are not such men as Archdeacons Marriott and Merriman worthy of consecration?

We have here, then, an immediate demand for Bishops, under our first head, viz. in countries not British possessions--

Three Bishops in China, three in Western Africa, one at Sarawak, one in Caffraria, one in the Sandwich Islands.

Under the second head--

Two in Upper Canada, one in Vancouver's Island, two in Lower Canada, two in Nova Scotia, one in Bermuda, two in Australasia, one in Singapore, one at Graham's-Town. In all twenty-one Bishops, exclusive of those who are required for the East and West Indies.

But how are they to be supported? They need not be munificently remunerated. They must be, for the Gospel's sake, satisfied with a moderate competency. If Presbyters can exist in tolerable comfort on their small stipends, a reasonable addition might suffice. I propose that in no case should more than 250l. in addition to their present allowances, say in all 400l. per annum, be given. This would, for twenty-one Bishops, require 5,250l. per annum.

It is calculated that the sums contributed by Scotland to the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel amount to at least 1,000l. per annum; excluding the few congregations who annually give a collection for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. I reckon that our 120 congregations would contribute at least 5l. each, amounting to 600l., which is about half the amount which the offertory for the Church Society produces. Allowing an addition for what a comprehensive scheme would produce, we might reasonably expect 1,800l. per annum from Scotland. Moreover, considering how easily a large annual sum was collected in aid of the four last Australian and Cape Bishops, there could be no doubt of a sum of 4,000l. being collected in England. Thus there need be no encroachment on the present distribution of the funds of the Society. When fairly established, the Colonial Church would maintain her own Bishops and Clergy by offertory collections as in the United States, and by endowments of land now of small worth, but ultimately of immense value.

As a layman I have for many years taken deep interest in the prosperity of the Colonial Church, which is one of the most encouraging facts in this time of trouble and rebuke. Although Socialism and infidelity are active, although the Roman Church is making unheard-of efforts, yet I believe (as I have heard from the lips of two Colonial Bishops) that the Reformed Communion is fully keeping her own, wherever she has fair scope to act. The best defence against Papal aggression is, to add to the number and efficiency of our Bishops, and to go on quietly in our own appointed course, until it shall please the Great Head of the Church to restore its long-lost unity.

If the Scottish Church could originate so great a movement, it would argue much for her inherent life and vigour, and would assuredly be the augury of brighter days for herself.

Your faithful Servant, F..

Diocese of Glasgow, April 1851.

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