When members of that oft-maligned institution, the Anglican Church – the 'Tory Party at prayer' – encountered the far-flung settler empire, they found it a strange and intimidating place. Anglicanism's conservative credentials seemed to have little place in developing colonies; its established status, secure in England, would crumble in Ireland and was destined never to be adopted in the 'White Dominions'. By 1850, however, a global ‘Anglican Communion’ was taking shape. This book explains why Anglican clergymen started to feel at home in the empire. Between 1790 and 1860 the Church of England put in place structures that enabled it to sustain a common institutional structure and common set of beliefs across a rapidly-expanding ‘British world’. Though Church expansion was far from being a regulated and coordinated affair, the book argues that churchmen did find ways to accommodate Anglicans of different ethnic backgrounds and party attachments in a single broad-based ‘national’ colonial Church. The book details the array of institutions, voluntary societies and inter-colonial networks that furnished the men and money that facilitated Church expansion; it also sheds light on how this institutional context contributed to the formation of colonial Churches with distinctive features and identities. The colonial Church that is presented in this book will be of interest to more than just scholars and students of religious and Church history. The book shows how the colonial Church played a vital role in the formation of political publics and ethnic communities in a settler empire that was being remoulded by the advent of mass migration, democracy and the separation of Church and state.
European settlers in Canada, Australia and South Africa said they were building ‘better Britains’ overseas. But devastating wars, rebellions, epidemics and natural disasters often threatened these new societies. It is striking that settlers in such environments turned to old traditions of collective prayer and worship to make sense of these calamities. At times of acute stress, colonial governments set aside whole days of fasting, humiliation and intercession so that entire populations could join together to implore God’s intervention, assistance or guidance. And at moments of relief and celebration, such as the coming of peace, or the birth of a royal, the whole empire might participate in synchronised acts of thanksgiving and praise to God. This book asks why acts of ‘special worship’ with origins in early modernity became numerous in the democratic, pluralistic and often secularised conditions found in the settler societies of the ‘British world’. Such intense and highly visible occasions had the potential to reach all members of a colonial society: community-wide occasions of prayer were hard to ignore, they required considerable organisation, and they stimulated debate and reflection on a range of political, social and religious issues. The book argues that religion, and more specifically traditional rituals and practices, had a vital role to play in the formation of regional identities and local particularisms in what remained, in many ways, a loosely networked and unconnected empire.
The Church of England, migration and the British world
The introduction surveys the existing literature on colonial settler religion; it also explains that the book seeks to move the study of the Church of England’s place in empire beyond the rather narrow framework provided by traditional ecclesiastical and religious history. Existing studies of the expansion of the Anglican Church have tended to focus on the activities of missionaries who sought the conversion of non-Christians. Those works which have looked at the established Church’s relationship with settler communities have not provided a sustained discussion of the institutional structures and networks that sustained the Church and contributed to its imperial expansion. The introduction points out that the Church in the three chosen case studies – Upper Canada, the Cape Colony and New South Wales – performed a variety of roles: churches were spaces in which colonists developed ideas about representative government; they were also institutions that allowed colonists to cultivate attachments to a variety of national and ethnic identities. For these reasons a place can be found for the Church in fields as varied as colonial political history, the history of diaspora and the history of expatriate culture.
Chapter one, which examines the recruitment of the foot-soldiers of the institutional Church, draws attention to the sheer variety of clergy who peopled the Church in the British world in the pre-1860 period. The chapter highlights common dynamics in the development of the colonial clerical profession in the three chosen case studies. We will see that the aims of churchmen from across the Church party spectrum were frustrated by a persistent set of recruitment problems back in Britain—the major problem being that was no centralised or coordinated system for recruiting clergy. The first part of the chapter surveys the range of government organisations, voluntary groups and private individuals that played a part in recruitment; the second half provides a detailed examination of the clergy themselves. A number of questions about the recruitment, training, education and social and ethnic backgrounds of the clergy are considered. The recruitment of clergy shows that power was far from being centralised in the colonial Church: this was an institution that was made up a variety of networks and connections; it was also one that allowed a range of actors to have a hand in finding the men who would staff and run the colonial Church.
This chapter charts the emergence of a colonial laity and compares this with the contemporaneous development of the colonial political public. The colonial Church was transformed by the growing visibility and significance of a colonial laity that was increasingly being asked to stump up the cash that would facilitate the maintenance and further expansion of the Anglican Communion. The chapter shows that the identity and make-up of the colonial laity was a contested and problematic issue throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. In theory all the inhabitants of the British colonies were defined as members of the empire’s established Anglican Church; in practice, churchmen wanted to limit the right to sit in church vestries and administer Church property to a narrower community of regular communicants. Clergy also found that the growing strength of the laity posed a number of difficult questions: how could clergy articulate their clerical authority when they were dependent on the voluntary subscriptions of their churchgoers? How could a Church maintain centres of authority when much of the responsibility for finding and funding clergy was delegated to networks composed of evangelical lay persons?
Bishops were essential for the effective running of a distinct colonial Church. As the nineteenth century wore on bishops began to play a much more important role in the administration of the Church; the figure of the ‘missionary bishop’ also became a key symbol of Anglican renewal and expansion after the mid-1830s. The formation of the Colonial Bishoprics’ Fund (CBF) in 1841 has usually be taken as a key moment in the formation of a colonial Church that was episcopal in outlook and capable of funding and administering itself. This chapter argues that existing work has under-examined two important dimensions of the CBF’s work. Historians have not asked why its fund-raising activities were so successful. The chapter also shows how the expansion of the episcopate was far more contested than existing accounts have given credit. Various Anglican and non-Anglican communities in the colonies resisted the imposition of a more high church, episcopal and English colonial Anglicanism. By showing how individual bishops sought to conciliate these dissentient groups, the chapter sheds light on the kind of postures bishops had to adopt if they were to succeed in creating a popular and genuinely national Church in the colonies.
Though there is a growing literature on the metropolitan support for conventional missionary activity, it is only recently that scholars have turned to consider the subject of metropolitan involvement in settler Churches. This chapter examines the nature of the flows of information and ideas, as well as men and materiel that travelled between the ‘mother Church’ and its branches in the colonies. One of the chapter’s key findings is that influence did not always run out from the metropole to the colonial periphery: he we shall see that the reorganisation of the Church’s missionary arm—the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel—was intimately linked to the reform and revival of the home Church’s institutional structures in the ‘age of reform’ period in the 1830s and 1840s. The chapter’s other broad aim is to identify the distinct contribution that the branches of the Church in England, Ireland and Scotland made to the expansion of the colonial Church. Given the range of metropolitan Anglicans who had a hand in overseas Church expansion, it is not surprising that churchmen found it difficult to establish a coherent British support base that did not impair the unity of the colonial Church.
This chapter considers the varied networks that connected the overseas branches of the Church both with one another and with the Church back in Britain and Ireland. Most scholars of colonial Anglicanism have seen the 1850s as the dawn of a new era of Anglican communication and networking. Generally, however, scholars have been drawn to the connections that emerged between colonial, American and British bishops; less has been said about the multifarious connections that linked the clergy and laity who were lower down the ecclesiastical ladder. By attending to the array of personal, non-official and day-to-day exchanges that flowed between colonial Anglicans, this chapter helps us to see the colonial Church in a new light: not only was this a Church where ecclesiastical authority pressed lightly on clergy and laity; it was also—at points—a relatively open and fluid structure that allowed different kinds of Anglican to recruit clergy and raise money for church-building projects. Participative networks of this sought could, however, be flimsy, and they could be threatened by the arrival of authority figures such as bishops.
This chapter considers the Church of England’s relationship with the growth of a range of voluntary associations and societies in the colonies of European settlement in the middle third of the nineteenth century. The Church both contributed to, and benefited from, the growth of a world of voluntary endeavour in the settler colonies. While clergy promoted the establishment of charitable and benevolent societies, fraternal bodies like the Orange Order provided much of the Church’s rank-and-file support in areas like Ontario. This chapter argues that a study of the Church’s engagement with two types of association—the national benevolent society and the Orange Order—can help us answer important questions about the Church’s changing relationship with ethnic and loyalist identities in the colonial world. For instance, the Canadian Church’s involvement with the English St. George’s Societies sheds light on how churchmen were rethinking the role and identity of their Church in an age of disestablishment and political reform. On the one hand associations gave the Church a means of broadening its appeal; on the other, they highlighted the weakness of a Church that was forced to rely on powerful communities of laymen for support and funding.
The conclusion argues that the story of settler religion in the first half of the nineteenth century is in many ways the story of the tension between an evangelical lay voluntarism and a Church hierarchy that was trying to mould a series of self-governing and self-financing Churches into a coherent, disciplined and uniform Anglican Church. The conclusion also assesses where we should place the Church of England in existing narratives of colonial expansion. From some angles the colonial Church does look like a conservative institution that was aligned with the forces of loyalism and reaction; but from another perspective the Anglican Church appears as an institution that sat well with the forces of reform and voluntarism that was transforming the colonies of European settlement in the decades after 1830.