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|Aubrey George Spencer|
|Bishop of Jamaica|
A lithograph of Spencer, with his coat of arms
|Church||modern day Church in the Province of the West Indies|
|Born||12 February 1795
|Died||24 February 1872
Torquay, Devon, England.
|Previous post||Newfoundland and Bermuda|
Bishop Aubrey George Spencer (12 February 1795 – 24 February 1872) was the first bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Newfoundland and Bermuda (1839–1843). He was also bishop of Jamaica. His brother George Spencer became Bishop of Madras.
George Spencer was born at London, England. He was the son of William Spencer (1769–1834), younger son of Lord Charles Spencer, and a great-grandson of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough; his German mother Susan being a Countess of the Holy Roman Empire. He was educated at St Albans School, and privately in Greenwich prior to joining the navy. His health failed him, he was discharged, and he decided to become a priest. Spencer went to study at Magdalen Hall, Oxford and was made deacon in 1818. He was ordained a priest in 1819 by the Bishop of Norwich. His first assignment was officiating as a curate at Prittlewell, Essex, before becoming a Society for the Propagation of the Gospel missionary to Newfoundland. There he served at Ferryland and Trinity Bay before the cold undermined his health and he moved to Bermuda. Having been appointed Archdeacon and Rector of Paget and Warwick, he published a collection of his sermons, acquired a Lambeth D.D. and turned down in 1829 the offer of the Archdeaconry of Newfoundland. In 1839, he readily accepted when, perhaps helped by his aristocratic and Whig connections, he was offered the bishopric of Newfoundland. He was consecrated Bishop of Newfoundland alongside John Strachan the first Bishop of Toronto. Their consecration took place at the chapel in Lambeth Palace 4 August 1839. William Howley, being archbishop of Canterbury, with Bishops Charles James Blomfield of London, William Otter of Chichester, and John Inglis of Nova Scotia participated in Spencer's consecration.
Bishop of Newfoundland
In Newfoundland he increased the number of clergy by offering stipends guaranteed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, built schools and new churches, and laid the foundation stone for a cathedral. He reorganized the church into rural deaneries, revived the Diocesan Church Society to raise money, and formed a Theological Institute to produce a local ministry. To increase the number of clergy he ordained schoolmasters belonging to the Newfoundland School Society. He obtained control of that society by becoming a Vice-President, licensing its schoolmasters (if not ordained) to act as lay readers, and appointed the Rev. T. F. H. Bridge, his ablest assistant, to act as its local Superintendent. He described the society, in its 21st Annual Report, as "the greatest bulwark of the Protestant faith in that dreary and benighted land".
Spencer was described by Prowse, the 19th century Newfoundland historian, as "an evangelical of the old school of Wilberforce and Bickersteth." He had little time for dissent, and the Methodists were quick to attack his making the Newfoundland School Society an auxiliary of the church, accusing him of having "high and exclusive claims", and of influencing the younger generation and "infusing into their minds the common notions of the high church party". They were surprised that Spencer's Anglicanism, although low church, did not favour them. Had they read his sermon preached in St John's, they would have realised that not only was he very anti-Tractarian and anti-Catholic, he also insisted on the Church of England having its ministry from the Apostles and condemned those who rejected forms and undervalued the sacraments. Part of Spencer's legacy to his successor, Edward Feild, was thus rather poor relations with the Methodists.
He was once again troubled by ill health and in consequence obtained his translation to Jamaica where he was bishop until 1855. He then retired to England, to Torquay, and he occasionally assisted the aging Bishop of Exeter, Phillpotts. His last publication, A Brief Account of the Church of England, its Faith and Worship: as shown by the Book of Common Prayer, published in 1867, was circulated in Spanish and Italian by the Anglo-Continental Society, and was a decidedly Protestant work. It declared that the reformers had aimed to maintain apostolic succession, that the Church of England was merely a part or branch of the catholic Church of Christ, that all other Christians in England were in error, that Auricular Confession was inadmissible in the Church of England, that there should be no adoration of the consecrated bread and wine at communion, and that a branch of the Church without bishops was still a church. It was very traditional and very Protestant. His long illness caught up with him and in 1872 Spencer died.
- Methodist Missionary Society, Reports and letters, 1789 - 1875. Especially NA Box13E.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Pascoe, G. Digest of SPG Records, 1701-1892. 5th Ed. London, 1895.
- Prowse,D.W. A History of Newfoundland. 2nd Ed. London, 1896.
- Reports of Newfoundland Schools Society, 1823 onwards.
- A Sermon Preached at Lambeth Palace, on Sunday, August 4, 1839, before the Most Rev. His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Rev. the Lord Bishops of London, Chichester, and Nova-Scotia at the Consecration of the Lord of Bishop of Newfoundland, and the Lord Bishop of Toronto and Published by the Command of His Grace the Lord Archbishop, by Edward Scobell (London: J. Hatchard, 1839)
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Contemporary obituary from Project Canterbury
- Aubrey George Spencer
- Sermon Good Friday, 1842
|Church of England titles|
|New diocese||Bishop of Newfoundland
1839 – 1843
|Bishop of Jamaica
1843 – 1855