Wednesday, April 11, 2012

George Selwyn

(5 April 1809–11 April 1878) was the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand. He was Bishop of New Zealand from 1841 to 1858. His diocese was then subdivided and Selwyn was Primate of New Zealand from 1858 to 1868. He was Bishop of Lichfield from 1868 to 1878. The educational institutions named in his honour include Selwyn College, Cambridge (1882), Selwyn College, Otago (1893), and Selwyn house at Kings School, Auckland, New Zealand.

After graduating, Selwyn worked at Eton, becoming assistant master and tutoring the sons of Lord Powis. In 1833 he was ordained deacon, a priest in 1834, and acted as curate to the Rev. Isaac Gossett, vicar of Windsor from 1833 until 1841. Both at Eton and at Windsor, Selwyn displayed much organising talent. In 1841, after an episcopal council held at Lambeth had recommended the appointment of a bishop for New Zealand, Bishop Blomfield offered the post to Selwyn.

He was consecrated at Lambeth on 17 October 1841, and sailed on 26 December. He appointed William Charles Cotton as his chaplain. The missionary party of 23 members set sail from Plymouth late in December 1841 on board the barque Tomatin. On the ship, in addition to their luggage, were various animals and four hives of bees. On the voyage out he so far mastered the Māori language with the help of a Māori boy returning from England, that he was able to preach in that language immediately on his arrival, and acquired enough knowledge of seamanship to enable him to be his own sailing master among the dangerous waters of the Pacific.

Selwyn had decided to set up residence at the Waimate Mission Station, some 15 miles (24 km) inland from Paihia where the Church Missionary Society had established a settlement 11 years earlier. On 5 July 1842 Selwyn set out on a six month tour of his diocese leaving the Mission Station in the care of Sarah, his wife, and Cotton. By October 1843 more missionaries had arrived at Waimate, and Selwyn, accompanied by Cotton, embarked on his second tour, this time to mission stations and native settlements in the southern part of North Island. Their journey was made partly by canoe but mainly by walking, often for large distances over difficult and dangerous terrain. Part way through the tour Selwyn decided to split the party into two sections with one section led by himself and the other by Cotton. After being away for nearly three months, Cotton arrived back at Waimate early in 1844 and Selwyn returned a few weeks later.

Later in 1844 Selwyn decided to move some 160 miles (257 km) south to Tamaki near Auckland where he bought 450 acres (180 ha) of land, giving it the name of Bishop's Auckland. The party left on 23 October and arrived in Auckland on 17 November. During the first six months of 1845 Selwyn was away for much of the time and management of the settlement, and particularly the schools, fell to Cotton.

Bishop Selwyn's see was an early foundation in the series of colonial sees organised by the English church, and his organisation and government of his diocese proved of special importance. In six years he completed a thorough visitation of the whole of New Zealand, and in December 1847 began a series of voyages to the Pacific Islands, which were included in his diocese by a clerical error in his letters patent. His letters and journals descriptive of these journeyings present the reader with a vivid picture of his versatility, courage, and energy. His voyagings resulted in 1861 in the consecration of John Coleridge Patteson as bishop of Melanesia.

Selwyn elaborated a scheme for the self-government of his diocese, and in 1854 visited England for the purpose of obtaining power to subdivide his diocese, and permission to the church of New Zealand to manage its own affairs by a "general synod" of bishops, presbyters, and laity. His addresses before the university of Cambridge produced a great impression. On his return to New Zealand four bishops were consecrated, two to the Northern and two to the Southern Island, and the legal constitution of the church was finally established.

The first general synod was held in 1859. Selwyn's constitution of the New Zealand church greatly influenced the development of the colonial church, and has reacted in many ways on the church at home. By 1855, the New Zealand wars interrupted the progress of Christianity among the Māori, and caused an almost universal rejection of the Church of England. Selwyn was a keen critic of the unjust and reckless procedure of the English land companies, and was misunderstood by Englishmen and Maoris alike. His efforts to supply Christian ministrations to the troops on both sides were heroic and indefatigable.

In 1867, he visited England a second time to be present at the first Pan-Anglican synod of the Lambeth Conference, an institution which his own work had done much to bring about. While he was in England he accepted, with much reluctance because of his love of New Zealand, the offer of the see of Lichfield. He was enthroned as ninety-first bishop on 9 January 1868. In 1868 he paid a farewell visit to New Zealand. He governed Lichfield till his death at the age of 69 on 11 April 1878. He died at the bishop's palace, Lichfield, and was buried in the grounds of Lichfield Cathedral.

Propers for George Selwyn - Bishop, Missionary and Primate of New Zealand.

The Collect.

Almighty and Everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of thy Church in many nations. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land evangelists and heralds of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Epistle - Ephesians 2:11-18

The Gospel - St. Matthew 10:7-16

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