725 | A Plan for an American Bishop


    A Plan for appointing a Bishop to reside in America for the Purpose of Ordination, & for the Support of such Bishop in his Residence there.

    By an Act of the 26 Hen 8 Ca 14.1

    for the Nomination of Suffragans & Confirmation of them, It is enacted that every Bishop being disposed to have any Suffragan shall name two discreet spiritual Persons & present them to the King praying him to give to one of them the Dignity of a Bishop and the King shall have Power to give to one of them the Title of a Bishop of any of the Suffragan Sees within the Province whereof the Bishop presenting him is.

    And the King shall present such Bishop to the Archbishop of the Province requiring him to consecrate him; who shall consecrate him accordingly.

    Provided that no such Suffragan shall take or receive any Profits from their Sees nor use or exercise any Jurisdiction or episcopal Power within any Diocese or Place in this realm or elsewhere within the Kings Dominions but only such Profits Power & Authority as shall be licenced & limited to them to take & execute by any Bishop within their Diocese to whom they shall be Suffragans, by Commission under his Seal & for such time only as shall be limited in such Commission. And the Residence of such Suffragan shall serve for Residence upon any other his Benefice & such Suffragan may have two Benefices with Cure.2

    Upon this Act this Proposal for appointing a Bishop to reside in America is founded.

    The Bishop of London is generally reputed to be the Diocesan of America; and has been usually confirmed in that Office by a Commission from the King. Let that Commission if it does not subsist now, be revived with such additional Powers, if any, as may be wanted for the present Purpose.

    Let this Bishop present two Divines to the King praying him to appoint one of them to be his Suffragan.

    Let the Person so to be appointed be previously engaged to reside in America for a certain time and let him be provided with Benefices in England sufficient to support him in America.

    It would not be amiss if some very good Benefice which did not necessarily require Residence should be appointed to this particular Service, and, as it were, annexed to it.

    By the Act the Office of Suffragan will be a Dispensation of Residence upon his Benefices.

    Let the Bishop of London grant to the Suffragan a Commission empowering him to ordain and confirm in America with such other Powers as shall be thought proper carefully avoiding the Exercise of any coercive Jurisdiction.

    When the time limited for this Service is expired, let the Suffragan be rewarded with an English Bishoprick; and let this Service be considered as a Step to a Bishoprick.

    Besides the Support which such Suffragan will derive from his Benefices in England, he will receive some Assistance from the Benefactions allready made for the Support of a Bishop in America; & there is no Doubt but many other Benefactions will be added to them when an Appointment has once taken Place.

    It is not improbable that the Residence of the Bishop will be sollicited by different Provinces & Provincial Appointments will be made to engage such Residence.

    If more than one Bishop shall be thought necessary to America another may be made in the like Manner; and a third also for the West Indian Islands if wanted.

    At first it will be best to appoint only one and let him be settled with as little Shew & Parade as possible.

    The properest Place for the first Settlement will be at Perth Amboy in New Jersey where there is a very good House built for the Governor (who at present chuses to reside at Burlington) ready to receive him; and the Inhabitants who are allmost wholly of the Church of England are well disposed to this Appointment.

    After the Business is quieted the Bishop may be removed wherever it may be thought more proper viz to Philadelphia, if there is to be but one for the whole Continent, or to New York or Williamsburgh, if there are to be two. But this should wait for an Invitation.

    By this Proceeding all the Difficulties which have hitherto obstructed the appointing a Bishop in America will be removed. The pretended Jealousy of the Dissenters of the Admission of a Bishop into America, which is generally artificial, will be exposed, if they should urge it against an Appointment made according to Law and granting to those of the Church of England no greater Priviledges than what the Dissenters in America of all Denominations enjoy themselves, namely a Power of continuing the Succession of their Ministry within their own Country, & of using the religious rights which belong to their Church.

    The Difficulty also of providing for an American Bishop, with which this Business has hitherto laboured more than it ought to have done, will be removed by making----a Provision for him out of the Revenues of the Church of England, which by laying it upon some of the Dignities may be done without any Disservice to the Church.

    As for establishing Church Discipline over the Ministers of the Church of England in America, otherwise than by a voluntary Submission (in which way it is now exercised with Effect by the dissenting Ministers of all Denominations) as it cannot be done at all without the Authority of Parliament, nor with Propriety without the Concurrence & Good Will of the Ministers of the Church & their Congregations, it would be better to postpone it to a more proper Season, which probably the Appointment before recommended will soon bring forward.

    Ms, AC     BP, 12: 261-264.

    In handwriting of Thomas Bernard. The “Plan for an American Bishop” is undated but may have been prepared for the Rev. Henry Caner, rector of Christ Church, when he traveled to England in the late spring of 1768 (No. 620).3 Thomas Bradbury Chandler’s An Appeal to the Public in Behalf of the Church of England in America (New York, 1767) had generated fresh controversy over the Anglicans’ campaign for an American episcopate, and drew replies from spokesmen for other denominations throughout the colonies, including Massachusetts’ Rev. Charles Chauncy, to which Chandler published rejoinders.4 Equally, FB’s “Plan” might have been drawn up following the death of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Secker on 3 Aug. and in anticipation of being able to influence his successor.5