HC Deb 18 March 1908 vol 186 cc562-5
MR. BRIGHT () Oldham

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India what circumstances connected with the use of the Government church at Jullundur for services according to the rites of the Presbyterian churches of Scotland preceded the orders to the Gordon Highlanders to go to Calcutta, and for what reasons did the licence given by the Bishop of Lahore forbid the celebration of the Holy Communion; and whether any objections were made by the chaplains of the Church of Scotland or the officers of the regiment.


I have no information as to the circumstances preceding the transfer, nor do I know whether any objections were made by the chaplains of the Church of Scotland. The Bishop's licence was framed in accordance with what I understand to have been the general practice of the Indian bishops in recent years.

SIR J. JARDINE () Roxburghshire

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is now able to state whether the licence given by the Bishop of Lahore to the Gordon Highlanders to use the Government Church in the Jullundur Cantonment excluded them from celebrating Holy Matrimony or the sacrament of the Lord's Supper by Presbyterian ministers in that building; whether the Gordon Highlanders engaged a theatre in the station for holding-divine services according to the rites of the Churches of Scotland; and whether there has been any instance on record during the administration of India by the Honourable East India Company or under the direct government by the Crown of Presbyterian soldiers being officially precluded from celebrating the Lord's Supper in an Indian Government church.


As to the first two Questions, I have no definite information. I understand that for some years past, the Bishops have refused to allow Holy Communion to be celebrated according to Presbyterian rites in consecrated churches, and I can only regret that they should feel bound in conscience to take this view of their duty.

MR. GULLAND () Dumfries Burghs

Are the bishops within their legal right?


I am told it is so.


Will the right hon. Gentleman lay on the Table Papers giving the legal authority under which the bishops monopolise these Government churches?


There is a perfectly good historical answer to my hon. friend's question, but it would take too long to give it now.

MR. SMEATON () Stirlingshire

Are not the fabrics of the Church of England supported by the taxation of the Indian people, and are the movements of His Majesty's troops to be dictated by the Bishop of Lahore?


All that is done is within the law.


Did the troops-have to engage a theatre? and was the regiment offered an outside shed with a sort of off-license as regards the sacrament?


Notice must be given of any further Question.

MR. LAIDLAW () Renfrewshire, E.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether any part of the Ecclesiastical Law of England has been extended directly or sub modo to such distant places in Upper India such as the Jullundur Cantonment, so as to vest the Government churches in the bishops of the Church of England; whether the Governor-General in Council or the Commander-in-Chief in India has any power to require that such churches be open at regulated hours to the officers and men of Scottish regiments and their families stationed at such places for the purpose of divine services, including the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and Holy Matrimony; and whether, now that under the present rules the Gordon Highlanders and their families have been marched right across India to Calcutta so as to be able to attend a Presbyterian church, he can see his way to divest the Indian bishops of the powers of vetoing the use of the Government churches by Presbyterian soldiers, and vest that power in the higher military or civil authorities of the Provinces or in the Government of India.


The question of law as regards Indian church buildings has been submitted more than once to high legal authorities, who have unanimously held that, so far as consecrated buildings are concerned, Government would not be justified in causing any services other than those of the Church of England to be performed without the consent of the bishop, or in interfering with the bishop's control over the building. Garrison churches are not now consecrated to the use of the Church of England, except when separate provision is made for other denominations, and in view of the arrangement recently made not to post Scottish troops to stations having no Presbyterian or unconsecrated church, except in temporary emergencies, I see now no sufficient reason to introduce legislation to alter the status of consecrated churches.


I give notice that I will call attention to this matter on the earliest opportunity, and move a resolution.

MR. MORTON () Sutherland

Has the Episcopal Church of England any rights in India that the Presbyterian Church or other religious bodies have not?


I would not describe the state of facts quite in that language, but there is no doubt that by an old statute the Church of England has certain privileges in consecrated churches.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make provision to extend these privileges to the Scottish Church?


No; if I were to interfere at all in the matter it would be to withdraw privileges altogether.

MR. HERBERT () Buckinghamshire, Wycombe

Arising out of the refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to promote legislation, may I ask whether the Government of India regard the defence of India as of less importance than the prejudices of the bishops?

[No Answer was returned.]