NOTES. Selwyn and the Declaration
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Selwyn and the Declaration
Octavius Hadfield, writing to his sister about Selwyn, stated,
He is a most remarkable man. I never saw his equal. He possesses talent of the first order, and comprises the most opposite qualities .... He possesses a courage which no opposition can daunt; a determination of purpose which no obstacle can arrest; a resolute adherence to principle which no apparent advantage can for a moment interrupt. 1
George Kissling was more succinct--Selwyn 'writes affectionately yet gains his points'. 2 This was all very well when the Bishop, the missionaries and the Parent Committee saw eye to eye, but when, as over the question of the Declaration, there was disagreement, then 'resolute adherence to principle', became something of a handicap.
Selwyn insisted that all candidates for ordination, and this included the Society's catechists, sign a Declaration agreeing to go to whatever station the Bishop decided. To begin with the older ordained missionaries were only too glad to have some order and efficiency in the placement of missionaries. Colenso, typically enough, had bridled at signing, but under William Williams' persuasion had finally done so. Theoretically, however, it was the C.M.S. London Committee which had always determined the location of a missionary, generally in consultation with the local committee. Henry Venn for the C.M.S. maintained that even when a missionary was ordained by the Bishop and sent forth under his licence, 'the Society, standing in the position of the Patron, . . . determines ... the special location of the Minister'. 3 But so long as Selwyn did not require the Parent Committee to concede its abstract right of location, the Committee was quite willing to ratify any choice of location the Bishop might make. There had been the case of Richard Davis whose appointment to Kaikohe was not immediately sanctioned by London, but this was bound up with the misunderstandings that had befogged the St John's establishment at Waimate. It was Selwyn's insistence on his de jure as well as de facto right, that firmed up the Parent Committee's attitude and made a confrontation out of something that need never have been a practical issue. Henry Venn wrote:
The Committee must remind your Lordship that they have never yet exercised their right of the ultimate control over the location of Mis-
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sionaries in a way to interfere with your plans .... The Committee have also conceded to you the power of acting in cases of sudden emergency by making temporary appointments. But when you nevertheless require from the Missionaries of the Society a recognition of your abstract right of location, and claim from the Committee a change of system upon the same ground, they feel bound to state with all explicitness their determination to maintain the principles of the Society inviolate. 4
William Williams in his role of mediator, tried to persuade Selwyn not to force the issue, asking, 'whether if the Society grants your Lordship the substance, you may not safely leave them the shadow'. 5 The tragedy, as Williams saw it, was that while the Bishop and C.M.S. were locked in dispute, the mission in New Zealand was going to suffer. Until this matter was settled the London C.M.S. was unwilling to present any further candidates for ordination, and as it had already agreed with the Bishop to send only ordination candidates from England in the future, this meant that the supply of missionaries was likely to be cut off. 6
Why then did Selwyn persist in what seems to have been simply stubborness for no practical purpose? One of Selwyn's favourite parallels was between the Church and the Army--the former had the higher calling, but the latter was able to claim the more complete obedience. He regarded himself as 'a subaltern in the Church's army, bound to go wherever his commanding officer sent him', 7 and when the subaltern became the commanding officer, the principle still held good. In his stand over the Declaration, Selwyn was being neither intentionally provocative nor capricious, but acting in a way which was consistent both with his temperament and belief. His aim in New Zealand was 'to try what the actual system of the Church of England can do, when disencumbered of its earthly load of seats in Parliament, Erastian compromises, corruption of patronage, confusion of orders, synodless bishops, and an unorganised clergy'. 8 He would not have considered the C.M.S. patronage 'corrupt', but he may have felt it was no longer necessary except as a supply service similar to that provided by the S.P.G. He re-emphasised this conviction in his charge to the second synod, 19 September 1847:
It is not so much that I have vacated any other order to which I was formerly ordained, but that I have been consecrated to another office, the duties of which are added to those for which I was responsible before .... And even in the power of coercion, which I seem to exercise, it is not so much in my own person that I so act,
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as in the spirit of the whole Clergy, or rather of the Church Catholic, the execution of whose decrees is vested in me. 9
There was another factor clouding the clarity of the argument, the 'high church--low church' controversy, in which it was judged more important to establish bridgeheads than build bridges. Baptismal regeneration, episcopal authority, the value of non-conformist sacraments, were all fighting phrases, and the heat of the battle was fierce. In this atmosphere the evangelical C.M.S. in England even more than in New Zealand, was inclined to be wary of Selwyn whose affinity with the 'high' or 'higher' S.P.G. was well known. Robert FitzRoy wrote to Selwyn from England, 31 October 1846,
I wish you would convince people here and the C.M.S. particularly that you are not a Puseyite! I am sure they are more or less afraid of you on that score. 10
Selwyn did not ingratiate himself with the C.M.S. secretaries by assuming in his letters that the Committee would suffer from a general want of confidence in a Bishop, and would have preferred a lay agency.
The deadlock on the location question was partially settled the following year. 11 Selwyn concluded his synod charge on the nature and limits of episcopal authority with these words:
It remains then to define, by some general principles, the terms of our co-operation. They are simply these: that neither will I act without you, nor can you act without me. The source of all diocesan action is in the Bishop; and therefore it behoves him so much the more to take care that he act with a mind informed and reinforced by conference with his clergy. 12
This was, in effect, what happened over the location of missionaries. A Central Committee of representatives from each District with the Bishop as chairman was set up in 1847, and to it was entrusted all the ordinary arrangements for the location of C.M.S. clergy. The Parent Committee still claimed control for deciding on a case which might effect the general policy of the mission.
1846 marked a turning point in William Williams' attitude to the Bishop. For the first few years he had wholeheartedly and thankfully supported and defended Selwyn. In 1846 he openly disagreed with Selwyn over his system at St John's, from which he was preparing to remove Leonard, and over his uncompromising attitude towards the C.M.S. In the following years his esteem and respect for Selwyn remained, but it was qualified. There was surely some intended irony in his remark to Archdeacon Brown: 'We know a little more of our good friend the Bishop than we did and shall be able to profit by our knowledge.' 13