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Henry Lascelles Jenner

Henry Lascelles Jenner: the first Bishop of Dunedin?

Andrew Metcalfe —

The very early days of the Diocese of Dunedin got off to a rocky start with the first Bishop appointed not able to take his seat. The controversy of what happened to Henry Jenner has echoed down through the years. In August 2018 Dr Tony Fitchett gave the following talk about Jenner at the Anglo Catholic Hui held in All Saints Church, Dunedin.

"May I start by thanking the organisers of this conference for asking me to speak about Bishop Jenner. I should say that I wouldn’t describe myself as Anglo-Catholic, with capital A and C, though I certainly maintain that the Anglican Communion is part of the catholic church (small ‘c’s)

I grew up in Nelson, where clerical garb for Communion services was cassock, surplice and scarf, with celebration from the northern position, and I was at secondary school in Christchurch. The only time I saw a chasuble was if we came to Dunedin on holiday. I was present when cope and mitre were worn for the first time in Nelson Cathedral, in 1965. Holy Communion in 1991 at Carrickfergus, near Belfast, was like a time warp back to 1950s Nelson.

34 years and two days ago, in the Diocesan Synod, David Best, Vicar of this parish, asked the President: “Is there any intention to instigate proceedings to enable Bishop Jenner to be formally recognised as the first Bishop of Dunedin, or any intention, in common justice, to declare him the first bishop of this diocese?”

Standing Committee had just published ‘Seeking A See’, the diary of Bishop Jenner’s visit to New Zealand in the hope of taking up the Bishopric of Dunedin.

The book’s editor, the Revd John Pearce, argued in it that Jenner was the First Bishop of Dunedin - a claim endorsed by the Bishop of London, in a Foreword to the book, and by almost all its reviewers, in New Zealand and England (though not George Griffiths in the ODT).

What was it about?

Early New Zealand Anglican bishops, from Selwyn in 1841, were appointed under Royal Mandate.

The 1857 Constitution of this Church provided that

“The nomination of a Bishop shall proceed from the Diocesan Synod, and, if sanctioned by the General Synod, shall be submitted to the authorities in Church and State in England for their favourable consideration”

In 1859 the Otago Rural Deanery Board – a sort of local synod - was established for Otago/Southland, then part of Bishop Harper’s Diocese of Christchurch.

In 1861 the Board decided to raise an endowment for a Dunedin Bishopric.

In March 1865 the Privy Council ruled that the Crown had no power to create dioceses, or appoint Bishops by Letters Patent, in colonies with an independent legislature.

In May1865 General Synod amended the constitutional provisions for appointing bishops, to:

“The nomination of a Bishop shall proceed from the Diocesan Synod, and if such nomination be sanctioned by the General Synod, or, if the General Synod be not in Session, by a majority of the Standing Committees of the several Dioceses, the senior Bishop shall take the necessary steps for giving effect to the nomination”.

General Synod also mentioned a future Diocese of Dunedin.

After General Synod , Selwyn and Harper met with the Standing Committee of the Board, and Selwyn suggested that at its next meeting the Board should ask him to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury “to know if his Grace could name an eligible person as Bishop of Otago and Southland”.

The Board discussed the matter in June, but refused Selwyn’s request, because of the lack of endowment.

But Selwyn had already written to Archbishop Longley, asking him if he knew of anyone suitable for the task. Longley responded, not by suggesting someone, but by offering the future bishopric to Henry Jenner, Vicar of Preston-by-Wingham, and Minor Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, who accepted.

Jenner was well connected, had read law at Cambridge, played cricket for Cambridge and the Gentlemen of Kent, founded the Choral Union of the Cathedral, was secretary of the Ecclesiological Society, and had written a pamphlet about ensuring a supply of flowers of appropriate liturgical colours for decorating churches, by encouraging rich parishioners to grow them in their hot-houses.

Selwyn accepted Longley’s action, but the Board didn’t. It resolved not to accept Jenner, because of the lack of endowment and the bypassing of its authority. However Harper, who wasn’t present, vetoed the resolution, and it never reached Jenner.

The Archbishop already had someone to consecrate as a bishop for New Zealand – Suter, to be second Bishop of Nelson – so on August 24th Longley consecrated them both, in the case of Jenner “into the office of a Bishop in the United Church of England and Ireland in the Colony of New Zealand”.

Faced with this the Board gave in, and resolved to “recognise the duty of making preparations for his reception”.

It apparently also received reports of Jenner’s “High Church views and ritualistic practices” but expected Jenner to arrive soon, and had doubts about the reports.

More on the Oxford Movement

During the second phase of the Oxford Movement, following Newman’s move to Roman Catholicism, some Anglo-Catholic priests began using liturgical ritual to emphasize the importance of the Eucharist, and this triggered sometimes bitter opposition.

In the late 1850s and early 1860s there were riots in some churches in the East End of London, such as St George’s-in-the-East, ostensibly protesting about such “popish” innovations as vestments, mixing water with the wine for Communion, wafers rather than bread, making the sign of the Cross, elevating the host, the eastern position, and having candles burning on the altar, but probably organised, through a sort of rent-a-mob, by exploitative East End employers, whom the hardworking East End clergy had denounced, and publicans and brothel-keepers whose trade was affected by the social work of the clergy.

One of Bryan King’s curates at St Georges, later, when at St Alban’s Holburn, was prosecuted in a series of cases that went all the way to the Privy Council, and another priest, in 1877, was imprisoned for contempt of Court when he disregarded the orders given at a trial under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874.

Ritualism triggered high feelings, in Jenner’s time, as the ordination of women did in the late 20th century, and same-sex relationships do now. Riots occurred in some English churches, and clergy were prosecuted and even imprisoned under Britain’s Public Worship Regulation Act.

Concern about Jenner’s churchmanship didn’t subside.

In September 1867 a letter in the Guardian drew attention to a Memorial to the Archbishop, instigated by the Vicar of Riverton, complaining that the appointment was made against the Board’s wishes, and that, as Jenner had identified himself with the Ritualistic Party, ‘the peace and harmony of the proposed new diocese would be destroyed, and great numbers of most earnest members alienated from the church by the presence of such a chief pastor, and ... the work of the Church in these provinces would be hindered if not brought utterly to a standstill.”

Jenner responded at length, and in October William Carr Young, a Dunedin churchwarden, Lay Reader, and member of the Board, who visited England that year and in May attended the “Feast of Dedication” at St Mathias, Stoke Newington, in which Jenner took part, wrote in reply. He was shocked by the robed procession, candles, and other High Church ritual [see SaS, p.69] he saw at St Mathias. He met Jenner and the Archbishop, and wrote to New Zealand about Jenner’s “extreme views and practices”.

A long correspondence between Jenner and the Archbishop ensued.

Jenner denied any intention of introducing ritualism to Dunedin, writing to the Board in July that “Nothing, in my opinion, would be more ridiculous than to attempt to carry out “high ritual” in New Zealand, particularly in such a settlement as that of Otago.”

The Board responded, voting 12 to 9, that “this Board does not feel justified, in the fact of the assurance, in endeavouring to dissuade the Bishop from taking charge of the See” .

In July the Board resolved that the question of the formation of the diocese, and the appointment of a bishop, should be referred to the General Synod. Some members wrote to Harper saying they had no confidence in Jenner’s promises.

At the 1868 General Synod, where the future diocese was represented by clergy and lay reps, a Committee considered those matters, and reported that because of the inadequate endowment, and the likelihood that arguments about Jenner would affect fund-raising, his appointment shouldn’t be confirmed.

Jenner had written to the General Synod, claiming that a contract had been entered into between the NZ Church, acting through Selwyn, and him, but it was pointed out, during a bitter debate, that no-one had the right to pledge the faith of General Synod.

General Synod finally resolved “That whereas the General Synod is of the opinion that it is better for the peace of the church that Bishop Jenner should not take charge of the Bishopric of Dunedin, this Synod hereby requests him to withdraw his claim to that position.”

It also passed a statute constituting the Diocese of Dunedin, to take effect on January 1st 1869, and providing that the Bishop of Christchurch was to have charge of the new diocese “until a day fixed by the Standing Commission”.

At the beginning of 1868 Jenner felt that opposition to him was waning, and he should come out to New Zealand, but he waited till after General Synod. He arrived in Wellington on January 27th, 1869, the same day the ODT reported a sermon of his, in which, comparing the Evangelical and Catholic movements, he “gave expression to some very advanced doctrines indeed”.

He came to Dunedin via Lyttleton, but did not go to Christchurch to see Harper. He travelled throughout the diocese, though, speaking at many meetings, and received a mixed reception. St Paul’s was supportive - Jenner got on well with the vicar and choir, and later gave a public lecture on church music, with illustrations by the choir. Invercargill, initially hostile, was won over, but some parishes firmly rejected him. And debate continued in the papers.

The Diocesan Synod convened for the first time on April 7th 1869, Bishop Harper presiding.

A long motion was moved in support of Jenner, stating that his appointment should be confirmed unless it could be proved that he’d been unfaithful in doctrine or discipline, and asking the Standing Committees of the dioceses to sanction the appointment if no charge was brought and proved within three months.

Debate began at 8.00pm on August 8th, and continued through the night till a division was taken at 6.00am on the 9th.

The clergy voted 4 to 3 for the Motion, but it was lost 10 to 15 in the house of laity, and a move to refer the matter to the Archbishop of Canterbury failed.

Jenner left for home on May 15th 1870 (he hadn’t resigned his living at Preston), but argument continued in the ODT and the Otago Witness.

In 1870 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Tait, after discussions with Jenner and Selwyn, wrote a so-called ‘Judgement’ which, though admitting he’d heard only one side of the case, gave his opinion that Bishop Jenner “has an equitable claim to be considered Bishop of Dunedin”. Tait advised Jenner to forgo his claim, but Jenner wasn’t prepared to.

So General Synod in 1871 passed a motion which concluded “That ... whereas the law of the Church requires the sanction of the General Synod to the nomination of a bishop to any See in New Zealand, ... this Synod does hereby refuse to sanction the nomination of Bishop Jenner to the See of Dunedin, whether that nomination were in due form or otherwise. But at the same time this Synod begs to express its sympathy with Bishop Jenner in the painful position in which he has been placed.”

The Diocesan Synod didn’t address the matter of a bishop in 1870, but in 1871 it nominated Samuel Tarratt Nevill to be Bishop of Dunedin.

He had doubts, not least because of Tait’s statement, but was reassured by Sir William Martin that Bishop Jenner had never been appointed Bishop of Dunedin, and “if I did not accept he was now probably the last man who would be asked to do so.”

He was consecrated, and enthroned on June 4th 1871.

Jenner purported to resign the see on June 16th, but never relinquished his claim to have been the First Bishop of Dunedin.

Bishop Abraham, who’d joined Selwyn at Lichfield, wrote to the Guardian in 1871, supporting Jenner’s claim.

Canterbury and other English bishops agreed with Jenner, stating in 1872, and again in 1874, that they would recognise Nevill as Second Bishop of Dunedin.

In 1872 Jenner published a pamphlet in support of his claim

“The See of Dunedin, NZ, The Title of The Rt Rev HL Jenner, DD, to be accounted the First Bishop, briefly vindicated.”

During the 1874 General Synod a Select Committee reported on the grounds on which the Synod had acted regarding the Bishopric of Dunedin, and Synod resolved that:

“... Dr Jenner, not having been appointed to the See of Dunedin in accordance with the laws of the Church in New Zealand, ought not to be recognised as having been the first such bishop; and this Synod does recognise the Right Rev Samuel Tarrat Nevill, DD, as the present and First Bishop of Dunedin.”

In 1874 Henry Jacobs, Dean of Christchurch, who’d attended the relevant General Synods, published a rebuttal of Jenner’s pamphlet and Abrahams’ letter.

In 1924 by Henry Lowther Clarke, in his authoritative “Constitutional Church Government in the Dominions Beyond the Seas”, agreed with Jacobs.

Sixty years later Bishop Mann concurred, noting that Jenner’s alleged appointment had never been sanctioned, and he had never been enthroned, so he’d never been Bishop of Dunedin, but, like the 1871 General Synod, Bishop Mann sympathised with Bishop Jenner.

“The tumult and the shouting dies ...” But, “Lest we forget ...”

Nicola Wong

We Love The Place O God (Tune - Quam Dilecta) (click on this link for Youtube version of this hymn)

Tune composed by Henry Lascelles Jenner.