THE APPEAL OF THE BISHOP OF NATAL. To THE EDITOR
OF THE "SPECTATOR."
SIR,—You will, I trust, allow me as a clergyman of the Church of England, deeply interested in the result of the recent hearing of the Bishop of Natal's case before the Judicial Committee, to make a few remarks on your leading article in the Spectator of December 24 on "Bishop Colenso's Appeal." I might indeed ask how, if the Church of England in Southern Africa is wholly " a voluntary society," the Queen could transfer any jurisdiction in it or over it to the Arch- bishop of Canterbury, and how the Crown could make any rules whatever for such a society ? But I must express my deep regret that you should appear (for it is, I think, no more than appear- ance) to foreclose the question by asserting that the Bishop of Natal knew that he was to be subject to Bishop Gray as Metro- politan, and that " the mere fact that Bishop Gray's patent is fifteen days the later in date does not seem very important." This is just one of those points which it is most necessary to ascertain, but on which we cannot yet speak positively. I will, however, assume with yourself that " the resignation of Bishop Gray, the division of his see, his re-appointment as Archbishop, and the ap- pointment of Dr. Coleuso as his suffragan and Bishop of part of his old see, was in reality all one transaction." In such a case the transaction would follow the ordinary routine, and the Bishop of Cape Town's patent would naturally be drawn out first, and the others worded in strict accordance with it. Instead of this we have a strange anomaly, which invests the matter with very grave suspicion and urgently calls for explanation. But you appear to take no notice of the fact that the Bishop of Natal has never de- clined to accept the Bishop of Cape Town as his Metropolitan in the sense and to the extent defined in Dr. Colenso's patent ; in other words, he submits to Bishop Gray as the Bishop of London is subject to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Being present at the bearing, I heard this repeatedly insisted on by the Bishop of Natal's counsel ; but the extent to which the Bishop of London is subject to the Archbishop of Canterbury as his Metropolitan is just the very point in question. If it can be determined that the Archbishop of Canterbury can sit in judgment on Dr. Tait on charges of heresy, then Bishop Colenso will concede the same right to Dr. Gray, but he will still claim the right of final appeal to the Crown which would be claimed and exercised by Dr. Tait against the Archbishop of Canterbury. And if in the case of Dr. Tait a final appeal from the Archbishop of Canterbury could not possibly lie to the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, so neither can it in the case of Dr. Coleus°. The broad issue is raised not by any alleged definitions of Metropolitan powers in Dr. Gray's patent, but in the limitation of that power to the extent of that of the Archbishop of Canterbury over his English suffragans. Every one of these has the right of final appeal to the Crown,—a right enjoyed not only by the Bishops, but by the humblest incumbent of the Church of England in this country. Why you should think that the Bishop of Natal would not have been sur- prised, if ten years ago he had made the discovery that Bishop Gray's patent placed him in a different position from his own patent, I really cannot see. At best such a supposition is mere surmise, while all the evidence at our command points just the other way.
I ask, then, very seriously, and they who are competent to do so seem bound to explain, the reason of that mysterious delay which occurred in the signing of Bishop Gray's patent. Surely the patents of Bishops Gray, Armstrong, and Colenso, must have been prepared at the same time, and the intention must have been to issue them in the proper order. If the Bishop of Cape Town was satisfied with the subjection of his own suffragans, in the same way and to the same extent that the Bishop of London is subject to the Archbishop of Canterbury, what possible reason could there be for the mysterious delay of fifteen days? Was it, or rather must it not have been, that the idea of a final appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury was an afterthought ? Bishop Gray may well have deemed it worth his while to secure such a result, even at the eleventh hour, for such an appeal at once establishes in the colonies that system of pure ecclesiastical despotism which we have utterly renounced and shaken off in England. But what are we to say or to think of the covert method of introducing this system ? It is unquestionably a matter of grave suspicion, which it is the duty of Bishop Gray or his friends, if possible, to remove.
One admission which I heard from the mouth of Sir Hugh Cairns, as he pleaded the cause of Bishop Gray, is of incalculable importance. Whatever his client may have asserted, the Solicitor-General main- tained absolutely that all the Metropolitical power exercised by the Bishop of Cape Town was "an emanation from the Crown." No one will, I suppose, venture to assert that the Crown of England can give to any one the power of judging according to the law of a society called the Catholic Church ; it can delegate no jurisdic- tion regulated by any other law than the law of England, and this law secures to every beneficed clergyman of the English Church the right of final appeal to the Crown from the decision of all Ecclesiastical Courts. 1 do not think that the nation is at all likely to acquiesce in a state of things which deprives a Bishop of a right which is secured to the meanest beneficed clergyman in the land. —I am, Sir, &c., G. W. C.