Robert Hall Baynes and the Madagascar Bishopric

The history of the diocese of Madagascar, created in 1874 under the oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury, declares that the first Anglican missionaries arrived in Madagascar in 1864, sent by the (high church) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG). In fact there had been missionary activity for many years by the (nonconformist, mainly Congregationalist) London Missionary Society (LMS), who in 1861 invited the (low church Anglican) Church Missionary Society to join them; both missions were supervised by Bishop Ryan of Mauritius (where Anglican work had begun in 1810 when rule passed from France to Great Britain; its early ministers were civil chaplains serving the colonial administration). In 1863 SPG had persuaded the Archbishop of Canterbury and a group of other archbishops and bishops that a resident bishop for Madagascar was necessary, even though clerical and congregational numbers were few, if mission was to be successful; Bishop Ryan supported the project. A Madagascar Committee was set up, but funding was not found until 1869. CMS and LMS joined forces in resisting this proposal, not necessarily for territorial reasons - resenting the incursion on 'their patch' (about which an agreement had previously been made) - but because they believed it would create division and confusion among native converts, by raising such questions as the validity of non-Anglican orders and re-baptism (to which Venn, the CMS Secretary, referred). See the contemporary comments below, from a Hawaiian journal, on the 'law of religious amity' - a theme that under various names was to complicate the work of the Anglican missionary societies until they fully joined forces in recent years.

In 1870 the Archbishop proceeded with the process for the appointment, and offered the post to the Rev. R.H. Baynes. On hearing of this, his Coventry parishioners offered to increase the value of his living by £300 a year to entice him to stay. He declined, writing to them

In the island to which my thoughts have of late been directed there is, however, a great mission field, 'white already unto harvest', opening up to efforts of our Church, and there are special circumstances belonging to it which make it differ from any ordinary work of a similar kind. A great, and by God's blessing a most successful, work has been carried on in Madagascar for the last fifty years, by the agents of the London Missionary Society. All honour to that great society for the earnest manner in which ever, amid trials and fierce persecutions, it has continued its labours, until the old idolatry has been down, and the Queen herself has become, in the language of prophecy, 'a nursing mother' to their Church. It seems, therefore, highly desirable that any bishop who goes forth to head missions of our own Church should have some practical knowledge of Dissent, and be able to respect the work of others while he diligently pursues his own. It may be with reference to this view that the Archbishop of Canterbury writes to me—'I have no doubt that many qualifications meet in you which seem to point you out as particularly fitted for the post'.

The following exchange of correspondence (presented to the House of Commons in March 1871, by royal command) sets out the sequence of events:

The Archbishop of Canterbury to Earl Granville.—(Received November 9)
Addington Palace, Croydon, November 7th, 1870.
My dear Lord,—
A strong desire has been expressed that there should bo a Bishop of our Church in Madagascar, and my opinion is that such a Bishop should be appointed for our own people and their converts in the island. I have the honour of recommending to your Lordship the Rev. Robert Hall Baynes, Vicar of St. Michael's, Coventry, as a person qualified for the Bishopric which it is proposed to create for Madagascar.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel supplies a salary of £300 a-year. If your Lordship approves, I shall feel obliged if you would recommend to Hor Majesty to grant a licence for consecration.
Believe me, &c.
(Signed) A.C. Cantuar
Earl Granville to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Foreign Office, November 26th, 1870.
My Lord,—
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Grace's letter of the 7th. instant, referring to the desire which you state has been expressed for the appointment in Madagascar of a Bishop of the Church of England, for which office your Graco submits the name of the Rev. Robert Hall Baynes, in whose favour you request that Her Majesty should bo recommended to grant a licence for consecration.
Before I am in a position to come to a decision upon your Grace's application, I must request that you will have the goodness to inform me:—
First. How many British clergymen there are now in Madagascar;
Secondly. What is the number of the lay members of the Church of England in the island; and,
Thirdly.  Whether the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mauritius might not be extended over the community as a preferable arrangement to the appointment of a special Bishop.
l am &c.
(Signed) Granville
The Archbishop of Canterbury to Earl Granville—(Received December 31)
San Remo, Italy, December 23, 1870.
My dear Lord,—
Your Lordship did me the honour of addressing a letter to me on the 28th of November, on the subject of the proposed Bishopric in Madagascar. Your Lordship asked for information on three points, which it is now in my power to furnish.

1. Your Lordship asked, 'How many British clergymen there are now in Madagascar?'
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which as your Lordship is probably aware, is the prime mover in this matter, has at this moment no missionary clergyman in the island. At one time it had two. But of these, one is now sick in Mauritius, another sick in England. Should, however, a bishop be appointed it is the intention of the Society at once to send with him a staff of three clergymen. Moreover, as I am told, two or three native teachers would probably be added to the list of clergymen. The Church Missionary Society, as appears from last year's report, has at present three missionary clergymen in the island. But as I have just learnt, this Society declines to place its clergy under a Bishop of Madagascar, and would prefer to leave them under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mauritius. The Society has just sent me a Minute, passed at its last meeting, on this subject, which probably it has also sent to your Lordship.

2. Your Lordship asks, 'What is the number of lay members of the Church of England in the Island?'
The number included in the Missions of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel is, as I am informed, 400. But it is not the number of Christians, lay or clerical, to be superintended, but the number of heathen to be converted, that will furnish employment to a Bishop, and constitute the ground for establishing a Bishopric in the island.

3.  Your Lordship asks, 'Whether the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mauritius might not be extended over the community, as a preferable arrangement to the appointment of a special Bishop?'
The establishment of a separate Bishopric for Madagascar is the desire of many of my Episcopal brethren; and also of others well versed in the internal Management of missions, who, as they assure me, find that the attempt to convert the heathen in Madagascar is greatly impeded by the absence of a Bishop, and who consider the superintendence of a Bishop in Mauritius to be by no means a substitute for a Bishop living and working with a separate staff of missionaries in Madagascar itself. On this subject I have received a letter from the present Bishop of Mauritius, who has practical experience of the wants of our Church in the island.

In this letter the Bishop remarks, that the appointment of a bishop to Madagascar does not imply merely jurisdiction, but action and constant superintendence, which he says is needed for the development of missionary work, and which can be maintained only by a Bishop actually resident. The Norwegian and Roman Catholic Churches, and other Christian bodies, it appears, have their organization complete. It is felt, therefore, to be a hardship to the English Church that it is placed in a worse position in this respect. The Bishop enumerates certain practical difficulties in the way of episcopal superintendence being conducted in the Island of Madagascar by a Bishop of Mauritius. Some of these difficulties are certainly by no means insuperable. There can, for example, be no reason why, as has hitherto been the case, the Bishop of Mauritius should forfeit a portion of his income during his absence in Madagascar; nor, I presume, can there be any reason why he should be rgarded, when he visits Madagascar, as being absent from his post, because outside the limits of the colony, and be liable to have the time of his absence deducted from the amount of leave to which he is entitled. Such annoyances, to which a former bishop has been exposed, need not, I presume, be repeated. The Bishop, however, mentions other difficulties of a more serious nature, which deserve your Lordship's consideration, They are the expense involved in travelling from island to island, and the great difficulty of communication at certain times of the year. During some months, as the Bishop informs me, communication altogether ceases.
Yours faithfully
(Signed) A.C. Cantuar
The Rev. C. Sandford to Earl Granville—(Received January 5, 1871)
Lambeth Palace, January 4, 1871.
My Lord,—
As the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed a lotter to your Lordship a few weeks ago, in which his Grace nominated the Rev. R.H. Baynes as a fit person to be appointed to the proposed Bishopric in Madagascar, I think it my duty to inform your Lordship that Mr. Baynes now withdraws from the work, for which he had been recommended, as appears from the letter which I enclose.
Believe me, &c.,
(Signed) Charles W. Sandford, Commissary to the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Rev. R.H. Baynes to the Rev C. Sandford
St Michael's Coventry.
My dear Sir,
As the Archbishop is still abroad, I write to you in his absence, and with much sorrow, to say that on reconsidering the whole question of Madagascar, with the sound help and advice of our Diocesan, I feeel bound to withdraw from a work to which I looked forward with much hopefulness and joy.
I would never shrink from a hard and difficult work, but with the wranglings and jealousies that have gathered round the appointment of a Bishop to that island, I feel that at present there is little prospect of a successful mission being carried on. The inclosed letter to my parishioners will more fully state your [sic] view on this subject.  Will you kindly communicate with his Grace as I do not know his Grace's address.
I am, &c.,
(Signed) R.H. Baynes
Earl Granville to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Foreign Office, January 11, 1871.
My Lord,—
Your Grace's letter of the 23rd of December, respecting the proposal to create a Bishopric in Madagascar, was forwarded to me on the 31st by Mr, Sandford, and was under my consideration when I received a letter from Mr. Baynes, and another from Mr. Sandford, from which it appeared that Mr. Baynes, having in view the "wranglings and jealousies that have gathered round the appointment of a Bishop to that island, felt that at present there is little prospect of a successful mission being carried on", and therefore he withdrew from the appointment.

The course thus taken by Mr. Baynes renders it unnecessary for me to enter into any details respecting the main question of the appointment of a Bishop of the Church of England to reside at Madagascar. I observe that your Grace gives no positive opinion as to the expediency of establishing a Bishopric at Madagascar, and will, I am sure, agree with me that in the face of the difficulties and objections which have deterred a clergyman so highly spoken of as Mr. Baynes from undertaking the duties of that office, it would neither be desirable nor expedient to proceed to the creation of the proposed Bishopric, or to move Her Majesty to grant a licence for the consecration of a Bishop whose advent in the island would be calculated to produce schism in the Anglican community, and, therefore, have an injurious effect on the conversion of the heathen inhabitants to Christianity.
I am, &c.,
(Signed) Granville

Another report, by the SPG Standing Committee, and including letters from its Secretary to LMS, is here.

Reactions to Baynes' withdrawal were mixed. Evangelicals welcomed it. For example, the Congregational Union of England and Wales (the main backers of the London Missionary Society) announced, in The Christian's Penny Magazine & Friend of the People,

The project of sending a Bishop to Madagascar has been once more dropped, and the Rev R.H. Baynes, instead of taking ship to make confusion in that island, will stay to comfort his attached Coventry congregation. The Church Missionary Society has lately come to the defence of the London Missionary Society by issuing a very clear and admirable statement of the whole case, and urging weighty and conclusive reasons against the proposed introduction of sectarian questions into the missionary operations of Madagascar. From this statement it appears that the Society which proposed to send out the Bishop had last year but a single missionary in the island, for though the Church Missionary Society has three, they did not desire the special services of a bishop exclusively for themselves.

The Methodist New Connexion Magazine said
We are glad to record that the Rev. R.H. Baynes, Vicar of St. Michael's, Coventry, has had the wisdom to decline the appointment to the Bishopric of Madagascar, a scheme promoted by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, against the decided protests of the London and Church Missionary Societies. It is to be hoped that the sectarian scheme will now fall through, and Madagascar, now so promising, be spared ecclesiastic [sic] strife.

Evangelical Christendom on 1 Feb 1871, claimed - no doubt correctly - that Baynes made his decision in response to the CMS minute, whereby their missionaries would continue to work to the Bishop of Mauritius, which would have made his position impossible; it went on to quote his bishop's 'advice':
We mentioned last month, in our missionary intelligence ... the purport of the minute adopted by the Committee of the Church Missionary Society with reference to the proposed bishopric of Madagascar. In this document it was stated that the committee had resolved not to place the Society's missionaries under the new bishop. The minute, it appears, was forwarded on the 12th of December by the Rev H. Venn, Hon. Secretary, to the Rev R.H. Baynes, Vicar of Coventry, who had accepted the appointment to the projected bishopric. Mr. Baynes, as appears from a letter which he addressed to his parishioners, acknowledged the receipt of the minute to Mr. Venn, and, without entering into any discussion at all, simply asked if he thought it quite honest to suggest that the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society in Madagascar, if a bishop were appointed to that island, 'should remain as heretofore under the Bishop of Mauritius', when he knew that the Bishop of Mauritius had distinctly told him that such an arrangement would be impossible; for that the moment ihe Bishop of Madagascar was consecrated, the Bishop of Mauritius could only go there at his request and as his friend. And, bearing in mind (continues Mr. Baynes), that for us, as English Churchmen, a bishop is absolutely essential to the true working and success of every mission—for it is his office not only to guide and direct, but to 'ordain elders in every city', and to admit the baptized by sacred rite of confiimation to the full fellowship of the Church of God—I ventured further to say that this 'minute' would suggest to many earnest Church people at home that the first word of his society's name had for the future better be omitted altogether. The result was that Mr. Baynes, after consulting his diocesan, and carefully reconsidering the whole question, with the altered circumstances which this unfortunate minute had disclosed, came to the conclusion that it was his duty, having regard to the peace of the Church, to withdraw altogether fiom the office of Bishop of Madagascar, and this he has accordingly done.  We give below the letter in which my wise and kind diocesan, as Mr. Baynes designates Dr. Phillpott, Bishop of Worcester, gives his judgment on the matter:—
Hartlebury, December 26, 1870.
My dear Mr. Baynes,—

After reading the paper, which I return enclosed, I have no hesitation in saying that I think it very inexpedient in the interest of religion and of the people of Madagascar that a bishop should be sent to reside there. I am not fond of giving advice; I can only say, making the case my own, that nothing would induce me to go there under the circumstances which the minute of the Church Missionary Society describes. I pray God to help you in a right decision. —Yours very truly, H. WORCESTER.

As a 'thank offering' on resigning the Bishopric of Madagascar, in 1871 Baynes presented to his parish church two candlesticks, remarkable for their beauty of design and execution. But his own journal, The Churchman's Shilling Magazine & Family Treasury, despaired of the outcome, and drew a parallel with events in the New Zealand diocese of Dunedin (with which, coincidentally, there is a link through Bryan King's family in the years following the Ritualism Riots), citing Bishop Ken and John Keble as representatives of the authentic Anglican way:

The formal resignation, by Bishop Jenner, of the see of Dunedin, to which he was legally appointed and consecrated, although the people of the diocese refused to accept his authority, has terminated one of the most unhappy passages in modern Church history. Those who know Dr Jenner are well aware that he is the personification of a manly English prelate, with an instinct, it is true, in favour of church order and discipline, but with no inclination or intention to compel his brethren to adopt any hard and fast line in their interpretation of the Prayer Book rubrics. The views he holds are those of the school of which Ken was one of the brightest ornaments, and of which Keble, in these later days, was the well loved representative; and we have yet to learn that they are in themselves sufficient to disqualify a man from filling the highest office in the Church. The absurd allegation that the bishop was identified with ritualism was founded on nothing more than the fact of his having taken part in a dedication festival at St. Matthias, Stoke Newington,—a proceeding for which, in connection with equally advanced churches, the Bishop of Winchester might also be brought to book; and yet the Dunedin laity raised their objections to him on this very ground, and supported, it is to be feared by other bishops whose "views", although in another direction, are more extreme, they have gained their end. The persons really injured are the Churchmen in the diocese, who have lost an honest and true-hearted leader, and coupling the action in this case with the equally scandalous opposition of the Church Missionary Society to Mr. Baynes's appointment to Madagascar, we are inclined to ask whether, after all, these gentlemen are not acting the part of sectarians, and are thus losing all claim to the title of Churchmen.

Interesting comments are found in The Friend (vol 29.4, April 1871), the journal of the Anglican church in Hawaii - which references Richard Hooker, and the support of the great Bishop Selwyn for pulling back from an appointment:
Law of Religious Amity
There is much said and written of late years respecting the law of nations. Grotius, Wheaton, Hooker, and others, have written upon this subject, yet the principles of the law of nations are not as yet fully defined. Just so in regard to the law of religious amity. This is a law supposed to regulate the various sects aod denominations of Christians in their intercourse with each other. As an illustration of this law, we would instance the tacit understanding between the London Missionary Society and the American Board of Missions, that the former should occupy and evangelize islands in the South Pacific, and ihe latter in the North Pacific. Another illustration of this law is now bring exhibited by the English missionaries sent to the island of Madagascar. The London Missionary Society has the honor of having commenced this missionary work, and of having vigorously and successfully carried it forward in Madagascar. Now the friends of this Mission in England maintain that it would be a gross violation of this law of reliigious amity for any other missionary society, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for example, to send missionaries to Madagascar, because they would naturally introduce dissensions anil divisions among the converts. This subject has been warmly discussed in England during the past few months. The case of Bishop Staley in these islands has been frequently cited for illustration. We are glad to learn from the March number of St. Andrew's Magazine that the subject is likely to issue in a way to harmonize with the law of religious amity; and furthermore, we rejoice to learn, from the same source, that the English Bishop Selwyn advocates views and opinions upon this important subject in harmony with the Rev. W. Ellis and the Rev. Dr. Anderson. We copy as follows from the St. Andrew's Magazine:
The Rev. R. H. Baynes, the Bishop Designate of Madagascar, has declined to occupy the bishopric, fearing that, under the j present circumstances of the Malagasy Mission, disappointment, scandal and failure would inevitably ensue. His decision is supported by Bishop Selwyn, who says: 'If the fairest opening for missionary effort lie before us, if the ground has been pre-occupied by any other religious body, we forbear to enter. I can speak from observations ranging over nearly one-half of the Pacific Ocean, that whenever the law of religious amity is adopted, there the Gospel has its full and unchecked and undivided power; wherever the servants of Christ endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, there the native converts are brought to the knowledge of one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.'
In the London Record of December 26, 1870, there is an interesting report upon this
subject by a committee ol the Church Missionary Society. In that report we find the tollowing sentence: The difficulties connected with the Bishopric of Honolulu afford a caution against sending a bishop into a sphere of a native church organized upon another principle. From this it would appear that the affairs in our little Kingdom of Hawaii are made to influence missionary and ecclesiastical operations on the other side of the globe.

The Church Herald (a high church weekly, started in 1869) reported in 1873
On Saturday there was a meeting of bishops on the question of the Madagascar bishopric, when it was resolved to make one more appeal to Earl Granville to grant the Royal licence for a new bishop; but a general feeling was manifested that should such final application be ineffectual, steps must at once be taken for the consecration of a bishop, either in Ireland, Scotland, or the Cape. An opinion was espressed that there was nothing in Praemunire or any statute to prevent the Archbishop of Canterbury from consecrating beyond the limits of the British Crown.

In the event, the diocese was created in 1874, with its first bishop Dr Robert Kestell Kestell-Cornish (he added the second 'Kestell' to his name in 1871) - right (the National Portrait Gallery also holds a postcard print of him). An Oxford graduate, he had been incumbent of two Devon parishes, and at the time of his appointment was Rector of Landkey, Barnstaple. He returned to England in 1896, as Rector of Down St Mary, and died in 1906. (His son George was the third bishop from 1919 to his death in 1925; other family members served in Africa, in the military and consular services.)

Thus the SPG 'style' was established. However, as these remarks of A.H. Grant in Time (vol.8, 1883), show, the nonconformist influence remained strong:
At the present moment Dr. Cornish is at the head of clerical staff of some ten or twelve missionaries who minister to about five-and-twenty churches, and superintend the teaching of thirty schools. With all the activities, however, of other Christian communities, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, it remains that the prestige of first occuptation still attaches to the ecclesiastical order of the representatives of the London Missionary Society. Independency may be regarded as the religion of the court and the official classes generally; and in the case of our guests, the Malagasy envoys, it will have been observed that their communions and other acts of faith and devotion were performed almost exclusively in the temples of Congregationalism.

The diocese was divided into three in 1969 - Antananarivo, Toamasina and Antsiranana - which with two other dioceses on the island has a total of about half a million Anglicans. It is part of the Province of the Indian Ocean (formed in 1973), together with Mauritius, Seychelles and La Réunion (which is a missionary area under provincial care).

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