On the first of July, 1880 the ACR began. Its name back then was ‘The Church of England Record’. Its very first article explains its object and purpose – and it’s remarkable that (1880s language conventions notwithstanding) it’s still the ‘vibe’ of the ACR, 142 years on. Note the references to ritualism, liberalism, mission, children’s and youth ministry, godliness of life, personal evangelism, etc. Here are the inaugural words:
OUR OBJECT AND OUR PURPOSE.
It was stated in the prospectus which we issued a month ago, that “it had been long felt by a large number of the members of the Church of England in this colony, that a paper was required which might be regarded both by those who are within and those who are without her pale, as a fair representative of her Reformed and Protestant character, and to which they might look for authentic information regarding her proceedings.” The present publication was announced as designed to supply this want. “It was intended to be a faithful record of the Church’s work, no less than a faithful exponent of her doctrines.”
This is our answer to those who may ask for a reason of our appearance; and we deem it a suitable declaration of the purpose we have in view.
The promoters of this effort are jealous for the honour of the Church of England. They wish her not to be misunderstood by those without; they desire that she may be properly appreciated by those within, her communion. They are fully convinced that she is one of the purest branches of the Reformed Church of Christ, and that she represents in her constitution, her doctrines, and her worship, rightly understood and devoutly celebrated, the Church of the first ages. They regard her as containing within her borders at the present time, notwithstanding a large mixture of tares and wheat, a numerous body of Christ’s true servants, whose works prove them to be living branches of the True Vine. And they believe her to be a power for good, which, rightly directed and employed, will achieve yet greater triumphs over infidelity, indifference, and ungodliness, than those which have signalised her history in the past.
But if she is to do this, she must be true to herself. It has not been by her name, but by her principles and by the truth which she holds, that these victories have been won; and by the genuine spiritual life which she has displayed, imparted to her by Christ, her living Lord. And it has been in those periods of her history, when this life has been most vigorous and influential, that the greatest successes have been gained.
All her true friends are anxious that she should maintain that onward career which she has been heretofore pursuing in this colony. They are anxious that she shall bear her part, according to her ability, in leavening the land with righteous principles. They wish to see her diligent and laborious in training up her children, as they spread themselves over the territory, to hold the Christian faith with a firm and unwavering confidence, and in the practice of Christian virtues, free from idle superstition on the one hand, and from unwise and irrational freethought on the other. This we believe to be the task entrusted to her in this colony. And in this we desire to help her, with such means as may be at our disposal.
In our endeavours to do this we may find it requisite to present our readers, from time to time, with expositions of her principles, and to justify them by argument and an appeal to the Word of God. Her doctrines, as they are defined in the articles, creeds, and homilies, we fully hold to be in accordance with that word; and we are prepared to defend them against all misrepresentations and misconceptions.
Her constitution also, and her mode of worship, we maintain to be agreeable to that word, both in spirit and in essence. And we shall try to keep our readers more correctly informed on these points, that they may fully appreciate their privileges as members of such a Church, and be quickened to greater zeal in using them for their spiritual improvement.
The work which has been carried on by the Church of England in this colony is sometimes not as fully appreciated as it ought to be, even by her own children, from their imperfect acquaintance with it. Much that has been done, and much that is doing, is unknown. We think that in this respect there is room for fresh effort, in collecting and recording the Christian work of the Church in various parts of the colonial vineyard. We purpose therefore to gather authentic information of this nature and supply our readers with it, convinced that it will have both a stimulating and encouraging effect upon those by whom it is read. We shall always be much obliged by the reception of such communications as will enable us to produce this intelligence in a useful and readable form; and above all we shall be gratified by information of any really spiritual results from the various agencies which are employed.
Another branch of operations to which we shall devote attention is the work of Foreign Missions. With the exception of the Melanesian Mission, little or nothing is done amongst us for the advancement of this grand enterprise. And it is commonly supposed that we have so much to do which is of a missionary character in our own dioceses and colony, that we cannot take up the object of spreading the gospel among the heathen. This we hold to be a mistake, and we hope to see it more and more exploded. The notion is as erroneous in conception, as it has been proved to be by experience. Every Christian is responsible to his Lord for doing what he can to make the gospel known throughout the world; for to the whole Church the command was given—“Go ye into all the world, and disciple all the nations.” The Church of Christ as a body has not yet fully realised the weight of this command; but it has been found by experience, that the endeavour to carry it out has brought to any Church new life and energy for internal work, and that its power for home efforts has been thereby greatly increased. One thing which is needed to awaken greater interest in the subject is information—clear and well authenticated accounts of what is going on in the missionary field in all parts of the earth. It will therefore be our desire to afford such information, culled from the reports and publications of missionary societies. We believe that the natural effect of this will be to awaken thought, and to lead many to ask whether they are doing what they can for their Master, in making Him known to the heathen and non-Christian world.
It will further be the design of this publication to promote spiritual life in the family and in individuals. For this purpose we intend to devote a special column, or columns, to subjects which will have a tendency to promote and foster that life. Devotional readings and papers for the young, adapted to their peculiar requirements and tastes, will form a regular part of each issue. And we trust that the paper will thus be found a welcome visitor in the family circle, both by parents and children, imparting a healthy Christian tone to their relations.
Our Sunday-schools will be another branch of Church work to which we hope to devote regular attention, offering suggestions for their improvement and greater efficiency. They need the fostering care of the Church, and we shall do our best to kindle a greater interest in them.
The subject of Temperance is one which will also receive due consideration at our hands. The evils of intemperance are so gigantic that every reasonable effort ought to be made to resist and eradicate them. The Church of England has her own Temperance Society, which is now working with renewed life and energy, and our columns will be open to its friends and supporters to help forward the work and promote its success. Every friend of morality and purity of life, of truth and integrity of principle, may well be invited to join its crusade; for there is nothing which so undermines and destroys these qualities in man as that widespread evil against which it wages war.
Our aim will, in short, be to stimulate the Church to healthy action, to strengthen and uphold all that will tend to advance its best and highest interests, and to maintain truth, charity, and practical godliness within its borders.