HC Deb 14 December 1962 vol 669 cc755-847

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Speaker

It is probably convenient if I indicate now the position on the Amendments. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), in line 4, leave out from "the" to the end and to add: Church of England does not give a Christian lead to the country by promoting policies which would establish a more Christian order of society and does not oppose anti-Christian policies which might involve the destruction of the country and the horrors of nuclear war", is out of order, and the Amendment in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew), in line 5, at the end to add: and full use made of the machinery provided by the Church Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, under which the Church works out in its own assemblies the details of any reforms it desires, before submitting them to Parliament for approval". I do not think it right to select.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be very glad if you would clarify your Ruling for the information of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. This Motion is very vague. It refers to the Church of England, and I am at a difficulty to understand whether it is a vote of confidence in or vote of censure on the Church of England. I should like to know how wide the debate may go.

Mr. Speaker

All I can tell the hon. Gentleman at the moment is what the terms of the Motion are. No doubt if the hon. Gentleman should at some time seek to speak in the debate I would be able to give him guidance should he wander from the strict path of order.

11.7 a.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

I beg to move, That this House is mindful of the fact that the majority of the people of this country adhere to the Christian religion and that the Church of England is by law established; and is concerned that the relationship between Parliament and Church shall, in the interests of both, be effectively maintained. I am sure many hon. Members will think it strange that I should be moving a Motion such as this, but it is as well to remind ourselves from time to time that man does not live by bread alone. One of my objects is to reassert and restate the supremacy of Parliament in the affairs of the Established Church of England, and to allow the House of Commons, for the first time in many years, an opportunity of expressing its views, or the views of constituents, on this very important matter. In order that many points of view may be put by hon. Members, I will content myself by introducing the subject as briefly as possible.

Many hon. Members will rightly ask, "What is the Church of England, and how does it differ from other Christian Churches in this land?" That is a fair question. The Church of England is presumed to be the church of all the Christian people of England. It is the national church, with our Gracious Sovereign Lady at its head. A description of the Church by that great theologian, Dr. Hooker, would be very appropriate. He said: There is not any man of the Church of England but the same man is also a member of the Commonwealth—nor any man a member of the Commonwealth which is not also of the Church of England. That is a very broad description.

The Church of England differs from all other denominations of the Christian church in this land by reason of its being the State church. It possesses many rights and privileges possessed by no other denomination, and during its long history vast endowments have been conferred on it by the nation as a whole. It is therefore, in my view, very proper that so long as the Church of England remains established the supremacy of Parliament shall be maintained and, in the words of the Motion, "effectively maintained".

May I for a few moments describe the relationship between the Church and State and also describe the present government of the Church. We have two Convocations, the Convocations of Canterbury and York. Each Convocation consists of two houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy. We also have the National Assembly of the Church of England, commonly known as the Church Assembly. It consists of three houses. First, there is the House of Bishops, which contains all the English diocesan bishops; secondly, the House of Clergy, which is really a combination of the two Houses of Clergy of the Convocations; and thirdly, the House of Laity, about which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) will speak in more detail if he is fortunate to be called in the debate.

The legal machinery of the Church government is briefly as follows. Measures passed by the Church Assembly can be brought by its Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee. Many hon. Members know how this Ecclesiastical Committee is set up. It consists of Members drawn from this House and from another place. Even if this Ecclesiastical Committee absolutely approves of any measure, it must still be submitted to both Houses of Parliament for approval. Therefore, Parliament is supreme.

This machinery normally works easily and well so long as no great fundamental or doctrinal issue is involved, such as, for example, the great controversy about the 1927 and 1928 Prayer Books. To my mind, the great trouble is that when there is a clear clash of opinion between Parliament and the Church Assembly such as occurred in 1927 and 1928, bishops and clergy, while still agreeing on establishment, also agree to bypass the authority of Parliament. This is what has happened since 1927 and 1928.

I will be completely honest. Although the bishops approved the 1928 Prayer Book for circulation among the churches, I should like to read its first page. It merely states: The publication of this book does not directly or indirectly imply that it can be regarded as authorised for use in churches. Although we have a difference of opinion about this, it is well to remind ourselves that in civil life we have to be amenable to civil law. I administered the civil law for a number of years, not only the law of Northern Ireland but the law of this House, and I was never asked by people who broke the law to try to have it amended to suit them. This is an important point. I believe that the result of illegality can only be confusion and division, which is thoroughly bad for the Church of England, for the character of the nation as a whole and for the cause of Christian religion generally.

This year, 1962, is the 300th anniversary of the 1662 Prayer Book. The reformers then were up against a difficult task. They had the same many interpretations of the Christian message, but they agreed on one broad general standard. That general standard was the great Reformation settlement embodied in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. I am not against reform. I am all for reform, both civil and religious, and I believe that another reformation is necessary in the Church today. I sincerely believe that.

I ask myself how that reformation will come about. I am firmly convinced that it will not come through a divided church. I am firmly convinced that it will not come through the enforcing of the law by this House or by the enforcement of the law by the bishops of the Church.

My first point on how that will come about is simply this. We must get back to the Bible, to the teachings of Holy Scriptures. We must get back to the teaching of the justification by faith and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion which are embodied tin our great historic Church of England. I believe that if Church and nation alike get back to the Bible, there is no doubt that the sable curtain which divides the Church and the people will be drawn aside and allow the dawn of the glorious reformation to come upon this country.

My second point is that the councils of the Church should be opened up to the laity. The laity should be given its share in the ordering of worship in the parish church as well as in the Church as a whole. I am in complete agreement with the late Bishop of Rochester. I may say honestly here today that "although the earthly tabernacle of his house has been dissolved, he being dead yet speaketh."

I believe that if democratic government comes to the Church of England, not only will we have a reformation but a greater interest will be taken in the things of the Church by the man in the pew. It is well to remember that we as Members of this House represent the man in the pew in the Church of England. We have to put forward his points of view. Some hon. Members may have forgotten about that, but we have a responsibility to him as well as to the Church.

I remind the House that we are concerned today not only with man-made arrangements about Church government, but with the great eternal things of the spirit. If out of this debate can come constructive suggestions for the restoration of good order and good feelings within the Church of England such as will produce a greater degree of Christian charity and harmony and help to restore the Church of England to its position as the truly national church of all the Christian people of this land, my moving of the Motion will not have been in vain.

The Church has entered upon another new year. This is the season of Advent. We will soon come to the season of Christmas, the season of good will among all men. I should like to finish with the well-known quotation used by our late King George VI in his Christmas broadcast some years ago: I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown' and he said 'Put your hand in the hand of God and it shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.'".

11.19 a.m

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

The whole House will agree that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) has rendered a service in putting down this Motion today and inviting the House to draw attention to the state of the Church of England. It is a long time since we have had a major debate on the relationship between Church and State and, in view of the important series of Measures that will be forthcoming from the Church Assembly to Parliament in the relatively near future, it is convenient that we should have this opportunity of a preliminary review of the position.

The hon. Member for Armagh has spoken with studious moderation, which the whole House welcomes. One might have feared that the ecclesiastical experience of Ireland, its whole history inflamed by bitter religious dissensions, was not, perhaps, the happiest background for an approach to the affairs of the Church of England. Moreover, whatever changes may ultimately be made in the Canon Law of England, they will have no binding effect in Northern Ireland.

Perhaps the most serious criticism which the hon. Gentleman made, and one with which the House will probably wish to deal in the debate, was the suggestion that the Church of England has by-passed the authority of Parliament and that the result of illegality can only be confusion. I know that that view is held, but, in fairness to the authority of the Church, we should remind ourselves of how the present position has come about.

I noticed that the hon. Gentleman did not say very much about the first part of his Motion in which he asks the House to assert that the majority of the people of this country adhere to the Christian religion. I am glad that he put that in the Motion because I believe it to be profoundly true. One knows that there has been a marked decline in attendance and church-going of recent years, but I, for one, do not believe that attendance at church, important though that is as part of the Christian duty of worship, is the only criterion of adherence to the Christian faith. One knows that a great many people today by listening to religious services on the wireless and television, by reading the modern publications of the Bible, and in other ways are influenced by Christianity although they may be only very occasional churchgoers.

We are principally concerned with the peculiar position in our land of the established Church of England. It has great advantages. I do not refer merely to the presence of bishops in the House of Lords, to the fact that the Archbishop has the right to crown the Sovereign or that the clergy of the Church of England have precedence at certain national and civic occasions. Perhaps the most notable and important feature of establishment is that every citizen has the common law right to go to his parish church, to be married there, to have his children baptised there, and, ultimately, if he wishes, to be buried in the churchyard. As a corollary to that right of the citizen, the minister, the parish priest of the Church of England, unlike Nonconformist ministers, has a recognised right to visit every house in his parish.

Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

The duty.

Mr. Fletcher

The duty, yes. It is these features which distinguish the Church of England from other denominations.

Corresponding with those advantages there are restraints, and the most notable restraint is ultimate Parliamentary control. The Prayer Book of the Church cannot he changed without Parlamentary authority. The Book of Common Prayer is scheduled to the Act of Uniformity of 1662. As the hon. Gentleman said, we are celebrating the tercentenary of the Prayer Book this year. It has stood the test of time, and there are a great many people who would not wish any changes to be made in it. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that in practically every parish church in the land today there are deviations of one kind or another from the form described in the Prayer Book. Some of these deviations have, or may have, doctrinal significance, but a great many of them have no doctrinal significance at all.

The position is that, for many years, these irregularities, or, as the hon. Gentleman would call them, these illegalities, have produced a state of tension in the Church which has caused serious concern. That a section of clergymen should, with however good intentions, conspicuously disobey the law, and continue to do so with impunity, is not only an offence against public order, but also a scandal to religion and a cause of weakness to the Church of England. This is no new situation. I quote there from the Report of the Royal Commission in 1906. It was because of the situation which existed then that the House and the Church both thought that something must be done. The Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline, composed of very eminent persons, was set up. The Royal Commission made recommendations and in their Report made a statement which I shall quote because I believe it to be as true today as it was then. The law of public worship in the Church of England is too narrow for the religous life of the present generation. It needlessly condemns much that a great section of church people, including many of her most devoted members, value; and modern thought and feeling are characterised by a care for ceremonial, a sense of dignity in worship, and an appreciation of the continuity of the church, which were not similarly felt at the time when the law took its present shape … The Church has had to work under regulations fitted for a different condition of things, without' that power of self-adjustment which is inherent in the conception of a living church … The result has inevitably been that ancient rubrics have been strained in the desire to find in them meanings which it has been judicially held they cannot bear. That was written in 1906.

It was largely because of that situation that something had to be done. As the House knows, the Act of 1919, generally known as the Enabling Act, was passed with a view to giving the Church a limited autonomy but reserving to Parliament the right of veto. I suggest that, with the notable exception of the Prayer Book controversy, this has worked very well. Let us recognise that there has been a large series of Measures dealing with matters, major and minor, passed after considerable care and debate by the Church Assembly, and, as a rule, adopted here without any discussion at all. The Ecclesiastical Committee has also functioned well. There have been some occasions when Measures have been sent back by the Ecclesiastical Committee because, on constitutional or some other grounds, we thought that they could not be recommended to the House unless changes were made, and on those occasions changes were made in accordance with the wishes of the Ecclesiastical Committee.

I suppose that most of us here recall reading the great debates of 1927 and 1928 on the Prayer Book controversy. It was precisely in order to deal with this confusion and irregularity and wide variety of services in different churches that an alternative form of Prayer Book was introduced in 1927 and 1928. I recall following the controversy at the time and hoping that the House would approve the Measure. It was approved in another place. Here, after a memorable debate, almost 35 years ago to the day, it was rejected by 230 votes to 205. Looking back over those 35 years, I feel now that Parliament acted rightly. Although at the time I was in favour of the alternative book, I think, looking back, that Parliament was not only justified in asserting its authority but rendered the Church and the nation a service. I think that today a great many bishops would agree that it is fortunate that they are not hamstrung with that alternative book and no other.

Although the House rejected the Measure and asserted its undoubted Parliamentary control, the problem of discipline, or indiscipline, remained and remains. It is notable that, contrary to what had been anticipated at that time, there was no great explosion in Church centres as a result of our vote. There was no sudden demand for disestablishment, nor an immediate rift between Church and State, as many sponsors of the Measure had predicted. On the other hand, the Church, still faced with the problem of discipline, has been actively seeking some solution that will be acceptable both to the Church and Parliament.

The hon. Member for Armagh suggested that, because the bishops still permit the use in churches of that alternative book rejected by Parliament, they are flouting the authority of Parliament. I do not personally think that that is a charge which can validly be made. It would be very difficult for the bishops, having given spiritual blessing to the alternative book, to prosecute clergy in their diocese who used it with the support and at the wish of their congregations.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

The rejection of the Prayer Book in 192–28 surely was on a doctrinal basis. The doctrine was repugnant then, as indeed it is now.

Mr. Fletcher

The rejection of the book was for a number of reasons. If one reads, as I read the other day, the reasons, one will find that a variety of reasons induced this House to reject that Prayer Book. It is true that doctrinal reasons played their part, but the Church was still faced with a problem which it is now anxious to solve. In this context one must try to reconcile bath the duty of the Church and the rights of Parliament.

I quote what Archbishop Davidson said at the time, with which I agree: It is a fundamental principle that the Church—that is the Bishops, together with the clergy and laity—must in the last resort, when its mind has been fully ascertained, retain its inalienable right, in loyalty to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to formulate its faith in Him, and to arrange for the expression of that holy faith in its form of worship. As the obverse to that, may I quote a passage from the Report of the Archbishops' Commission, Church and State, which appeared in 1952—I had the honour to be a member of the Cammission—and which put the corollary to Archbishop Davidson's proposition. After first quoting Professor Sykes, who was also a member of the Commission, and subsequently the Dean of Winchester, we said: It has been Parliament's function to retard, and upon occasion to frustrate the designs of particular generations of clergy towards alterations which were in advance of the general body of opinion. We believe this also to be true, though much will obviously depend on what precisely is understood by 'the general body of opinion'. In our view, it is possible and reasonable to interpret the action of Parliament as having had the legitimate purpose of delaying change until the mind of the Church was unmistakable, and not the illegitimate purpose of permanently overruling that mind upon a spiritual issue. Obviously, this is not the occasion to go into the details of merits of the Measures which will be coming along in a year or two. What we are primarily concerned with is what should be the approach of Parliament. The Church, having been given by the expressed will of Parliament, this limited autonomy subject to our veto, I should have thought that our chief duty was not principally to examine the merits of the Measure but to see whether the mind of the Church was made up. I still think that, if matters involving doctrine come before us which a substantial minority of opinion in the Church opposed, then Parliament, as representative of the laity, has a right and duty to intervene.

On the other hand, if, as may be the case, after years of patient inquiry in the Houses of the Church Assembly, Measures are then passed by substantial majorities notwithstanding the fact that there may be a relatively small minority opposed to change, then I doubt whether Parliament would be wise to override the expressed will of the Church.

I say that for this reason. I am impressed, and I have no doubt that a great many other hon. Members are impressed, by the objections very profoundly and sincerely felt by those evangelical clergy and laymen who are opposed to some of the Measures being considered by the Church Assembly. I suppose that most hon. Members here have received the communication which I have received and which was published in the Press signed by four persons whose names command great respect, three of whom are personal friends of mine: Lord Brentford, a colleague of ours for many years; the Rev. John Stott, whose powerful and persuasive sermons Sunday after Sunday, including those on Reformation Sunday, at All Souls, Lang-ham Place, fill that church with conspicuous success; and the Rev. Peter Johnson, the vicar of my own parish church in Islington.

I am sensitive to a great deal of pressure from the clergy and people of my own constituency in Islington. where people feel very deeply about these matters and where very strong conviction's are held. I hope that in the interval between now and the time When Measures are brought to Parliament for approval they will continue to exert all the influence that they can in the Church Assembly in trying to get further concessions and modifications to their point of view. I think they have already succeeded to a great extent, particularly, for example, in the preamble to the Vestures of Ministers Measure about which they feel strongly. I hope nevertheless that, if the Church Assembly eventually approves Measures by a substantial majority in each House, in the interests not only of unity of the Church of England but of Christian unity, they will hesitate before asking Parliament to intervene and veto responsible decisions of the Church.

If they were to do that, they would encounter the danger of producing a tension between church and State which, though successfully surmounted in 1928, might not be equally successfully surmounted again and which might produce a demand for disestablishment, which though it might not be unwelcome in certain high quarters—

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Fletcher

—for various reasons, of course—is a result which, I think, my evangelical friends would devoutly hope to avoid

There are two other matters which I should like to mention, and this seems to be an opportunity for ventilating them. I am sure that the House will wish to do everything it can to meet the legi- timate grievances of those who have signed the letter to which I have referred and those who think with them. There are two immediate steps which could be taken which would do something to allay their misgivings. The Liturgical Commission, as it is called, has been set up and will eventually have the responsibility of proposing various alternative forms of service. This is something not within our competence, but it is within the competence of the Archbishops, and I am told that Evangelical anxieties would be much allayed if at least two clear-cut Evangelicals, one with rich pastoral experience in parishes and the other with a broad theological knowledge, could be put on the Liturgical Commission so that before it ever produced services, the Evangelical representation could be clearly made in the private fellowship of such a small commission.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

And a layman.

Mr. Fletcher

And perhaps a layman, as my hon. Friend suggests.

There is one other subject which should be mentioned in this context, for this is a grievance which I have often heard expressed and which ought to be made known publicly. It looks as if eventually this House will be presented with Measures which have the unanimous support of the Bench of Bishops. Prima facie one might well think that it would be very difficult to assume that all the bishops have completely overlooked the fears and apprehensions of the extreme Evangelical minority. It is pointed out, with what justification I know not—I quote from a letter which I have received from an Islington vicar only this morning— no cleric outspokenly opposed to the 1928 Revision ever reached the Episcopate". We do not as a rule discuss episcopal appointments in this House—we are not allowed to question the Prime Minister about them—but I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and the Patronage Secretary will read this debate and it is therefore worth observing that this grievance is felt—I do not know what all the bishops would say about this—that at the moment there is no representative on the Bench of Bishops who adequately expresses this particular sector of ecclesiastical opinion.

Mr. Speaker

With respect to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), that must be out of order, because it is an indirect introduction of that which we cannot discuss.

Mr. Fletcher

I am much obliged. I thought that you would say that, Mr. Speaker. I was not sure whether I ought to introduce it, but I now pass from it.

It is my belief that the challenge in the world today is a challenge to Christianity itself, the challenge of atheism, the challenge of materialism—

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

The challenge of war.

Mr. Fletcher

—the challenge of war, and not least the challenge of indifference. In my view, before this challenge the differences of emphasis and doctrine among different denominations pale into insignificance.

Indeed, the challenge to Christianity is the more dangerous as the Christian world remains both divided and intolerant. In our own generation, great strides forward have been made towards not unity but at any rate greater sympathy and understanding between one denomination and another. I refer, for instance to the Ecumenical Movement, the growing respect for the World Council of Churches and the influence being brought to bear in our own country by the British Council of Churches. It is not insignificant, as the current Vatican Council shows, that the Church of Rome is steadily moving towards a more liberal and tolerant attitude.

I therefore feel that anything which tends to perpetuate the controversies of long ago is a disservice to Christianity as a whole. We cannot fight the battles of the Reformation indefinitely. There is impatience with insularity. Uniformity is no longer regarded as particularly meritorious. There is a revolt against the relative impotence of divided Chistendom and there is gradually arising throughout the world a picture of a broadly catholic and comprehensive Church, freed from the bondage of either authoritarian or literal intolerance and embracing in the religion of Jesus Christ each and every element validly contained within the great Christian tradition.

If that is so, and if it is true that no denomination or section can claim the monopoly of the Christian faith, I suggest that the House might well consider that its primary duty is to assist those religious bodies, and notably the Established Church, which are conspicuously engaged in the task both of regularising their domestic affairs and at the same time steadily developing closer relations and sympathetic understanding with other Christian bodies.

11.47 a.m.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

We have listened to a most excellent and comprehensive speech. The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) on his studious moderation. He certainly deserves the same accolade himself. I join with him in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh, the ancient primatial seat of Ireland, for having introduced this debate and so giving us an opportunity of debating the affairs of the Church of England.

I have heard it suggested that perhaps it was impertinent for a Member for Northern Ireland to introduce or take part in a debate upon the Church of England. I would not accept that doctrine, any more than I would accept the doctrine that a Member from Scotland or from Wales had no right to vote in the debate on the affairs of London government last Tuesday night, or that there is any difference in the position of Members of Parliament, geographically or otherwise, when, for example, we come to discuss a Private Bill to flood a Welsh valley to provide water for a Midlands city. There is no difference. It is the right of every Member of the House of Commons to discuss the affairs of the Established Church.

In the course of this debate, it may be necessary for Christians to argue among themselves, or to criticise the actions of each other. I hope that those who are opposed to the Christian religion will not take too much comfort from the fact that Christians can be sincerely divided, because, as the hon. Member for Islington, East indicated in his peroration, the things which bind us together, the invisible Church of Christ, are greater and stronger than anything which may appear to divide us in public. Let that be clearly understood. If we have to offer any enitieism, it is offered in charity and Christian charity, and in full knowledge of that fact.

The question of the relationship of Church and State is an ancient one. It precedes the Christian religion. The problem of how to reconcile the laws of a man's religion with the laws of the State goes back further than the Christian religion. It goes back to the ancient Kingdoms of Israel, to the conflicts between the Kings and Prophets. It exercised the minds of the Greek philosophers. The whole history of medieval Europe is dominated by the conflicts between Empire and Papacy. The story of the constitutional development of our own Church is shot through with this great problem. So much mental energy, so much expenditure of intellect, so much passion, so much prejudice, so much bloodshed, murder, and war has been poured out on this that I agree with the hon. Member for Islington, East that one does not want to go back and rake over the ashes of ancient controversy and arouse again the prejudices and the passions. There is no doubt that religious prejudice and passion are the strongest of all things. They more than anything else tend to affect things which men hold most deeply and sincerely, and it is therefore necessary to deal, as the hon. Gentleman did, with some of the things that have occurred in this century.

My hon. Friend posed what I think is a question fundamental to this whole discussion, namely, what is the Church of England? The hon. Member for Islington, East seems to have in his mind one interpretation which differs from mine. What is membership of the Church of England, and what constitutes it? It is impossible to debate this subject unless one has some idea of what the Church is. Who are the members of the Church of England? Are they, for example, those who appear on the electoral roll of parishes in the Church?

If one takes that test, the Church of England consists of about 2,887,000 people—a small minority of the nation. If that be the test, the Church of England is a small minority Church and clearly ought not to be the Established Church. If the test is those who appear once a year to take Holy Communion, the figure, I regret to say, is even smaller. It is 2,248,000. This is the figure for the Easter Communion.

It ought to be clearly understood that if these narrow tests of membership of the Church are applied these are the people, and these only, for whom the Church Assembly speaks. It is only these people who have any right to take part in the election of persons to the Church Assembly. Therefore, if it is customary to talk of the voice of the Church of England as coming from the Church Assembly, it is impossible to maintain that the Church of England is other than a minority Church, and it is difficult indeed to justify the Establishment.

If this narrow test is not the true test of what is membership of the Church of England, is the test confirmation? Are those who are confirmed according to the rites of the Church of England members of the Church of England? If this be so, the figure is just over 9 million—again, alas, a small minority, less than 20 per cent. of the nation, and again it would be difficult on this figure to justify the maintenance of the Established Church of England as being the Church of the nation.

If one is not to apply those narrow tests, what does constitute membership of the Church of England? Is it baptism according to the rites of the Church of England? I think that here we are getting nearer to a truer definition of membership of the Church of England. On this test one gets a figure of 27 million, which is certainly over half the nation. If one accepts that test, I think it is possible to justify the continuation of the Establishment.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

What is the source of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's figures?

Captain Orr

Those figures are from the last census. I will tell the hon. Gentleman the precise source but I am satisfied that the figures which I have quoted are correct, and I do not think that anyone would quarrel with them.

Mr. G. Thomas

We want to know.

Captain Orr

I will let the hon. Gentleman know.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Do they include Scotland?

Captain Orr

No, nor do they include Wales and Northern Ireland.

If we take the Sacrament of Baptism as the test of membership of the Church of England, I think that we are getting nearer to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh answered a question in the words of Bishop Hooker. I am not sure that I go as wide as that, although I recognise that every person in this land has a common law right in the affairs of the Church of England. I am inclined to think that the proper definition is those who have been baptised in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism according to the Holy Scriptures. Whatever denomination or sect people have been baptised in, I believe that the Sacrament of Baptism in indivisible, and that anyone who has been baptised a Christian has the right of membership of the Church of England. This is my definition, though I accept that people will disagree with me.

If one takes the test of baptism according to the rites of the Church of England to be the test of membership, the 27 million of our fellow countrymen who are baptised members of the Church of England constitute the members of the Church of England. If this is the only test upon which one can justify the maintenance of the Established Church, then it can be seen that the Church Assembly, and in particular the House of Laity of the Church Assembly, represents a small minority of the Church of England.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

It may represent a small minority, but surely that is the small minority that wants to be represented? The others do not want to be represented, because they have not taken the trouble to get on the electoral roll.

Captain Orr

I do not accept that. I think that the majority who do not appear on the electoral rolls clearly understand that Parliament is the correct forum for their representation. They are members of the Established Church, and it is clearly understood that the only forum for the great majority of people in the Church of England is the House of Commons, and this is the principle which the Motion seeks to establish.

I am heartened in this by the Report on "Church and State" published in 1952 by a Commission appointed by the Church Assembly. The hon. Member for Islington, East, who was a distinguished member of that Commission, quoted from the Report, and perhaps I might give two other short quotations from it in justification of what I am saying. After a considerable argument, the Report says on page 23: Hence it is arguable that, however paradoxically, the House of Commons represents the mind of the inarticulate mass of laymen more closely than does the House of Laity. There is another quotation, also germane to this debate, on page 17: However anomalous it may"— I do not accept the anomaly— Parliamentary control has in fact operated to prevent each successive school of thought in the Church first from being itself extinguished and later from dominating the others. This has been true at one time of the Latitudinarians, at another of the Evangelicals and at another of the Anglo-Catholics. Many fear that the demand for liberty heralds an attempt by one or more of the main sections of opinion within the Church—High, Low and Broad—to capture the organisation and to extrude the other sections, and so to endanger the comprehensiveness of the historic Church of England. There, apart from my own argument, is clear justification for the supremacy of Parliament in this matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh referred to the controversy over the Prayer Book in 1927 and 1928. Here was a clear clash of opinion between Parliament, which in my view represents the broad mass of the laity of the Church of England, and the Church Assembly. The tragedy of what happened in 1927 and 1928, without going over all the arguments, was that there does not appear to have been any real and effective attempt to reconcile the breach either on the part of Parliament—and I think we were to blame, too—or on the part of the leaders of the clergy.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Gentleman refers to the events of 1927. Does he recall that the fate of the Prayer Book on that occasion was decided by an eloquent and moving speech by Mr. Rosslyn Mitchell, a Scottish Member who was not even a member of the Church of England? Does not the hon. Member think it anomalous that speeches by Scottish Members should decide the fate of the Church of England?

Captain Orr

No, I do not think it anomalous. As I have said, I would not distinguish between one Member of Parliament and another in his rights in this matter. I do not accept that that is anomalous.

I was talking about the failure of attempts by Parliament, the Church and the Church Assembly to devise some way of reconciling the position. Indeed, I believe that the bishops of the Church of England have, by the actions they have taken, made the breach wider. I say so in all charity to them. By conniving at the use—and more than conniving, as I shall show—of the Prayer Book which was rejected by this House, they have rendered the House ineffective in this matter. This is not a division between Church and State. It is a division between one section of the Church and another, and consequently it is a serious division.

There is such a mass of evidence on the subject that one could weary the House for ever in producing it. I shall simply produce one up-to-date example. It is from the pastoral regulations of the Diocese of Southwark. I take this example because the Bishop of Southwark happens to be a friend of mine, so that when I criticise him he knows that it is done in a friendly spirit. In his pastoral regulation dealing with the subject of confirmation, the bishop, in one of his notes, has said: The 1662 service or the 1928 service may be used. In either case the whole congregation must have copies of the service but if the 1928 service is used the final paragraph of the introduction will be read by the bishop.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is that the present bishop?

Captain Orr

It is. This regulation was published last year. It is a clear breach of the law.

Sir G. Nicholson

I thought I heard my hon. Friend say quite clearly that this had nothing to do with Parliament because it represented something internal in the Church.

Captain Orr

No, I did not say that. Those are words that I would not like to be put in my mouth. What I said was that the clash that occurred in 1927 and 1928 should not be interpreted as a clash between Church and State but as a clash between one part of the Church and another.

Clearly, ever since the rejection of the Prayer Book in 1928, the bishops have not only condoned but have actually promoted the use of the 1928 Prayer Book. I do not doubt that they have done so from the very highest motives, but the result has been, without doubt, a fresh impetus to that lawlessness in the Church which we all know about and which the hon. Member for Islington, East referred to. I think everyone will admit that it exists.

That lawlessness in the Church has grown to such an extent as to infringe the common law rights of the ordinary lay members of the Church of England. If a member of the Church of England goes to almost any diocese in this land and expects, as he has in law the right to expect, to go to the nearest parish church and take part in the services of the Church according to law, according to the Book of Common Prayer, he has at present the greatest possible difficulty in doing so.

If he is to find such services he will probably find himself more at home in the Methodist Church than in the Church of England.

Sir G. Nicholson

That is absolute nonsense.

Captain Orr

From a sitting position, my hon. Friend says that that is absolute nonsense. I will tell him about the Diocese of London as an example. It is the only example I will give. The Thirty-first Article of Religion says this: … the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits. Many people disagree with the wording of that Article. Nonetheless, it is one of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, to which all members of the Church of England assent. I have a list here of some 48 churches in the Diocese of London in which these masses are advertised as part of the service.

A similar situation arises with regard to the Twenty-eighth Article dealing with the reservation of the Sacrament. I have a list of 48 churches in the Diocese of London, none of which would deny that this Article is contravened. Again, with regard to the Twenty-eighth Article, I have a list of 30 churches in the diocese in which benediction with the Sacrament takes place.

These are all clearly lawless and infringe the common law rights of members of the Church of England in this country. The sad fact is that not only do the bishops condone or turn a blind eye to the practices. Again I will quote the Bishop of Southwark—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

A very good man.

Captain Orr

—because he will understand that there is nothing personal in this attack.

Mr. Hughes

A very good man.

Sir G. Nicholson

You have already said it once.

Captain Orr

I have a notice of service in Christ Church, Union Grove, on the centenary of dedication of 6th May, 1962, which says: Solemn and Pontifical Mass by the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Southwark will take place here. That is clear and unmistakable evidence of lawlessness within the Church. Again I must emphasise that I do not doubt the motives or the deep sincerity with which people engage in these practices, but they are clearly contrary to law, and if the Church of England is to be by law established then it ought to obey the law and all the members of the Church ought to obey the law.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

Is my hon. and gallant Friend going on to tell the House what steps ought to be taken to counteract these alleged illegalities which are taking place? Does he intend to get into touch with the Attorney-General or other organs of the law with regard to prosecutions and to call upon the whole array of law, ecclesiastical and civil, to restore order, because there is no question of the supremacy of Parliament being involved? That is not in doubt.

Captain Orr

My hon. Friend has invited me to make the rest of my speech and to deal with what I think ought to be done now. I hope he will agree that before dealing with the remedy it is necessary to make a clear diagnosis of the disease. Clearly, the disease in the Church of England, let us face it squarely, is a confusion which, in fact, amounts to anarchy, and something has got to be done about it. As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, the Church Assembly has been patiently considering a number of proposals regarding the reform of our Canon Law and a reform of the Prayer Book.

Everyone agrees that the Church of England requires a great new reformation. But, alas, these reforms which are proposed, many of them unexceptionable, contain proposals which are highly contentious. They may command majorities in the Church Assembly, but the Church Assembly represents a minority of the Church itself, and there is grave danger of exacerbating the divisions within the Church. What one wants to see is the bringing together of the whole body of Christian people of the land, if that is at all possible.

It is a curious thing that those in favour of latitude for themselves are opposed to latitude which would bring us nearer to our brethren in the Free Churches and the cause of unity of the Christian people which we want to see.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

When my hon. and gallant Friend says that the Church Assembly represents only a tiny minority of the Church, is he not overlooking the fact that the Church Assembly might claim to represent nearly 100 per cent. of the clergy?

Captain Orr

I accept that completely. I would certainly grant that the Church Assembly is the best possible way of representing the majority of the clergy, although there are people who would claim that the House of Clergy is not as representative as it might be. It contains a great many ex officio members. Granting my hon. Friend his point that it represents the clergy, nonetheless Ito me it would be novel and obnoxious to suggest that the clergy are the Church of England. I would not grant that.

Sir P. Agnew

No one suggests that. My hon. and gallant Friend ought to withdraw that.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Are we not in a tremendous difficulty here, because if the clergy do not represent the Church of England it cannot be said that Members of Parliament do because very few represent a majority of their own constituents—most represent a minority of their constituents.

Captain Orr

No, I still adhere to the doctrine that once the man is elected he represents all his constituents.

As I said before, there are some highly contentious proposals, some of which, I think, may lead to division within the Church and within the nation, and we ought to seek a way of reconciling these things before they come to an open clash in Parliament. That is why my hon. Friend and I were at pains to seek a Motion which would not precipitate any distinct clash of opinion.

I am of the opinion that possibly one of the best ways of dealing with the subject now is to have another Royal Commission to inquire into the affairs of the Christian Church, not only the Church of England, and its terms of reference should be wide enough to consider questions of Christian unity in the country. It seems to me that Parliament, after the collection of voices and after the delay which that would cause—which I think might be a good thing for pause and reflection on everyone's behalf—would be in a better position to consider the whole question.

I believe that what one wants to see in future is not a narrow Church of England representative of the majority of the nation, but a great national Church in which our brethren of the Free Churches would be with us and of which it would be possible to say, "This is the National Church of Christ". This should be the aim, and I think it would be right, because, although we have our differences as Christians, as I said before, we are talking about the visible Church and our differences are about it, but the things which are unseen are the things which would unite us best in the face of the materialism and the indifference in the world. After all, the things that are seen are temporal but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Sir P. Agnew

Before my hon. and gallant Friend sits down, will he say whether in this new National Church, which, presumably, would have to have a new agreed set of formulae for all the constituent churches which would form part of it, he hopes would be included the Roman Catholics?

Captain Orr

That is a provocative and a hypothetical question. It is that very question, along with many others, which I should like a Royal Commission to examine. I am not in any way, I hope, either bigoted or intolerant in my approach to things, but I want to see a national Churches. I think we have a kinship with our friends in the Free Churches which we could not possibly have with the Catholics.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

Before my hon. and gallant Friend sits down—

Mr. Speaker

I think we should abide by our own ritual and accept the fact that there is something final about sitting down.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) on introducing this subject today and also on speaking, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said, in such moderate language. I was in Northern Ireland a little while ago and saw chalked up on the wall "God is love; kick the Pope."

Mr. Emrys Hughes

"To hell with the Pope."

Mr. Thomas

I realise that there is no subject more likely to stir our emotions than this question of religion.

I am a Methodist, a Nonconformist, although a very great part of the Methodist worship coincides with that of the Established Church. Our creeds are the creeds of John Wesley's Church. He remained a member of the Church of England to his dying day and he regarded himself as a member of the Church of England. Not only am I a Methodist, I am a Welshman. We have a Disestablished Church and hon. Members may say, "Why, then, do you participate in this debate?" But, of course, there was no reluctance on the part of hon. Members from England, Scotland and Ireland to take part in the great controversy about whether we should have a Disestablished Church in Wales.

I am reminded, Mr. Speaker, that one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker Clifton Brown, invited me to serve on the Ecclesiastical Committee of the House. I said, "I cannot do that, Sir, I am a Nonconformist". Mr. Speaker Clifton Brown said to me, "So far as I am concerned, you are a Member of this House, and all Members of the House must have equal rights and privileges in speaking on this question". I wanted to say that in order at least to satisfy myself that I am entitled to join in this family discussion about the Established Church.

I was a little "needled" by the claim that the Church of England represents all the people in the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East said that the vicar had the right, the duty, to call on everyone who lives in the parish. But what about the other clergy? What about the Methodists and Congregationalists? What about the Roman Catholic priest and the Salvation Army, the Baptists and others.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What about the people? Surely the hon. Gentleman is not arguing that all these people have the right and the duty to go from door to door? What about the people?

Mr. Thomas

My hon. Friend disturbing element.

I think that the days when even the Established Church could claim that everyone who lived in a parish was automatically the responsibility of the priest have gone. That is an out-of-date idea and a little arrogant. It is certainly not in good taste since we have a large body of people in this country with other religious convictions. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said that there were 27 million people in the country baptised into the Church of England. I was very surprised, because that is a high figure. I am glad to hear that so great a part of our nation regards baptism as important in the family life. But of course it is over half of the English people.

According to the 1963 edition of Whittaker the Methodists in this country have 1,105,734 members and probationers. When we count the children belonging to the Methodist faith, we would be fair to assume that 3 million more come from the baptism of children. The Calvinist Methodists are listed separately as 136,716 communicants. The Jews number 450,000; the Roman Catholics in England and Wales are 3,660,000, in Scotland, 792,640 and in Northern Ireland, 484,214. The Church of Scotland—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Which one?

Mr. Thomas

The Presbyterian Church of Scotland, 1,292,617; the Congregationalists, 206,830—

Mr. Hughes

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves Scotland—

Mr. Thomas

One moment. I knew that the hon. Gentleman was getting restless again.

The Congregationalists, 206,830, and the Baptists, according to the figures supplied to me, 603,299. This is a summary. Now I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hughes

Regarding the statistics for Scotland, I presume the hon. Member is aware that there are three different bodies claiming to call themselves the Church of Scotland. There is the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland. To which is he referring?

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman will know that I am talking about the Presbyterian Church of Scotland—

Mr. Hughes

There are two of them.

Mr. Thomas

I think the hon. Gentleman is looking for difficulties.

I wish to refer to the fact that the total population of England and Wales amounts to 42,663,080 and it has been stated that 27 million have been baptised into the Church of England. I believe that the main purpose of our debate today, those of us who are not communicants of the Church of England, though we are deeply sympathetic to the part played by the Church of England in the life of the country, is to ensure that so long as we have an Established Church this House shall keep its authority.

There is a case against Establishment which the Church of England people will see for themselves. Inevitably in the minds of the masses the Church is associated with the Establishment in the land. It has been associated in the minds of a great many people with the party opposite. We are all aware of the old sneer, and it was a sneer, about the Tory Party at prayer. But those days are gone. The Bishop of Southwark bears his own testimony to that.

We have in our own generation witnessed a remarkable change in the Church of England. When social questions are raised, questions of capital punishment, questions of the moral challenge of the bomb, questions of compassion for the welfare of people, we find great debates going on in the Church. I do not expect the Church of England any more than any other to reach unanimity on great moral issues. I do not believe that it is easy to say that all Christians must agree about the use of nuclear weapons. I know where I stand. I try to be a Christian pacifist. But it would be the height of arrogance to deny to other people the sincerity of their convictions and at the same time to recognise them as Christian people.

The fact is that today the greatest need in our land is for Christians to knock down barriers which are dividing them. The conversations which have been proceeding between the Methodist Church and the Anglican Church have been held in a very happy atmosphere. They have been under way now for some years. Small—I must not say small—important paints remain to be resolved between the Methodists and the Anglican Church, but I should like to see a freer recognition of intercommunion between the members of other Churches who are Christians and ought to be allowed to share in a communion service in the Established Church of the land.

I know that controversy will come to us later in the life of this Parliament, or the early days of the next. I hope that the Church of England will realise that there are many of us in other denominations who look with sympathy at their efforts to put their own house in order, but who at the same time expect them to show an understanding of the deep religious convictions of people who want to walk hand in hand with them in Christian service in this land. We have been reminded of 1662. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke as if only the Prayer Book was established then, but it was the year of the great ejectment and that is what Nonconformity has been remembering this year.

It was a matter of very great significance that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury should join in a common service with Nonconformists in this very city to celebrate 1662. The old bitterness has almost gone and that is a good thing. Of course, there is always an underworld of people who will cling to prejudices.

Sir G. Nicholson

It is true of all of us.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member should speak for himself.

Sir G. Nicholson

Surely the hon. Member will recognise that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) never said a truer wood than when he said that the things people feel moist deeply about are prejudices. I ask the hon. Member to examine his own conscience and see if he does not recognise prejudice in himself. I recognise it in myself.

Mr. Thomas

I am sorry if I spoke sharply to the hon. Member. I have been nurtured in a Methodist home and I love Methodism. I respect other people's religious convictions as I expect them to respect mine also. There is an underworld of prejudice which is resistant to any getting together with people of other Churches. I am so glad that a new atmosphere is now coming upon us. I believe that the younger generation are sickened by the hostility which some Christians show towards each other and that there is a deep desire for a Christian expression of greater harmony to be heard in the land.

I conclude much on the lines of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East. I believe that in this materialist age in which we live old landmarks are disappearing, old values are sometimes being pushed out of the way, but the need for our people to be reminded that they belong to God, to be reminded that we are a people with obligations to worship and obligations to take our faith into every part of our public and private lives is greater today than it has been in my lifetime before. I believe in attendance at worship. I go much further than my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East. I believe that it is very hard rot people to hold their Christian convictions if they do not join in worship with other Christian people.

It is all very well to say that we can keep our Christianity without being attached to a church, but it soon becomes weaker. I believe that this House ought to encourage the calling of people to warship, be it in the Established Church, or be it in other parts of the Church Universal. If this can be done, this debate today will have served an honourable purpose indeed.

12.35 p.m.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

I should like to join with other hon. Members in thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) for raising this subject, and also for the very real moderation with which he raised it. The debate so far has been a remarkable example of a change that has come over Christian discussion in this country in the last few years—that we have got away to a very large extent from the old controversies.

I shall try to do nothing to raise the temperature in any way, although I am going to express a slightly different point of view from that expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), if only because by nature of birth and upbringing I look with a slightly kindlier eye than he does on bishops. All three of the first speakers in this debate started with the question, what is the Church of England? All three came out with different interpretations. I think the best interpretation, if we are looking at the nature of the Church, is that under the Act of Uniformity the Church of England's duty is to keep the mean between the two extremes. This has always seemed to me, particularly at this time, to be the greatest service the Church can render.

If it is to keep the mean between the two extremes in the country, it must surely also try to keep the mean between the two extremes in itself. I say that recognising that I am one of the extremes. I am an Anglo-Catholic—I make no secret of it—but I would willingly go to the masses which my hon. and gallant Friend read out, and, indeed, I do so from time to time. But I am also happy in the fact that I live in a Low Church diocese and a Low Church parish and can worship just as happily there as in All Saints, Margaret Street, OT any other church in London. This is the secret of the Church of England. Without it the Church of England means nothing and becomes just another church in the land. If it remembers what it stands for in the form of comprehension and keeping the mean and tolerance within itself and tolerance outside itself, which far too often in the past it has not shown, particularly to sister churches, I believe that it has a great and vital mission to perform in this country.

We should not forget in this debate that when we talk of the Church of England we are talking of only two provinces of a world-wide communion. The Anglican Church, those two provinces, is controlled by an outside body. It is a matter of some significance that the daughter churches that the Church of England has thrown up have all had the same conflict within them that we have in England, but they all have been able to resolve it without recourse to an outside body like the House of Commons.

This should show that the argument advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend of the necessity for absolute Parliamentary control in order to resolve tensions inside the Church of England is not necessarily a good one. I believe as an advocate, if not necessarily of complete disestablishment, of a change at any rate in the present establishment, that the idea of this House of Commons or Parliament as a whole representing the laity of the Church of England may have been valid once, but is no longer valid. To take an example, we have had reference in this debate, somewhat naturally, to the controversy over the Prayer Book in 1928.

It is said that the House of Commons as a whole rejecting the Prayer Book rejected it while representing the laity of the Church of England. In that Division, not only did the majority of the Members in this House who were members of the Church of England vote in favour of the deposited book, but a majority of the Members from English constituencies voted in favour of the deposited book. It was not thrown out by the people of England but by the people of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They had a perfect right to do so; I am not questioning their right to do so, for it was undoubted. They would have the right to do it again under the present system if they did not like the reforms. But I dispute their right to do it in the name of the people of the Church of England. They can do it in the name of the people of England or of Britain as a whole, but not in the name of the communicant members or the enrolled members of the Church of England, or even, pace my hon. and gallant Friend, the baptised members of the Church of England, including those 25 million who do not choose to be represented in the institutions of the Church.

One must consider not only the changing nature of the Church but the changing nature of this House. When the relationship between this House and the Church was set up, everybody here was a member of the Church of England. Nobody else was admitted. Indeed, up to a hundred years ago nobody else was admitted, but to our great joy we have with us today people from other denominations and from none. But that has changed the basis of this House.

The basis of the Church has changed from being a Church representing all the people to 'being a Church representing sonic of them—some of them enthusiastic about it and some of them using it, as they use the National Health Service, for convenience on various occasions. While I do not dispute that there is something good and symbolic in having a national Church, if only to have a Church which people can stay away from, nevertheless I think that it is folly to maintain that the Church of England as it appears now has the same meaning in the State as it had in 1662 when the Act of Uniformity was passed.

Much has been made of the lawlessness of the Church and the fact that the bishops encourage the use of the 1928 Book. We should look to our own House. The 1928 Book is used in the Chapel of the House of Commons. When I brought my eldest son to be baptised in this building we could not get a copy of the 1662 service; there was not one available. There was only the 1928 copy. What right have we to cast stones at the bishops of the Church of England if we allow that sort of lawlessness to go in this very building? And no bishop can have done this, because this is a Royal Peculiar and comes under the jurisdiction of no bishop. I think that it is time that we clarified our minds a bit about what it is that Parliament can do with the Church of England. What is the present position?

Captain Orr

My hon. Friend is aware that as this is a Royal Peculiar it does not come under the control of the House?

Mr. Kirk

I dare say that if this House expressed a desire to have the 1662 Book here, the authorities concerned—who I believe are uncriticisable in the House—would speedily provide an alternative form of service.

What is the present position of the Church of England? We have been conducting a debate which at times has sounded to me rather like an autopsy, and yet I would say, with the greatest deference to hon. Members from other Churches, that possibly at this moment there is nowhere in our religious life in this country where we get more vitality, excitement and experiment than in the Church of England, and particularly among the laity of the Church of England. In the parish in which I live, the church is genuinely the centre of the religious life of the community, partly because there is no Methodist church. There are small churches of other denominations, but the Church of England is part of the life of the village as such.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is a very grave danger in continuing with the Church in the exact position that we are in now. Establishment has certain advantages. These have been listed. It has certain disadvantages in the form of Parliamentary control. But I believe that in the present form there is one overwhelming disadvantage in that people tend to sink back into the arms of the Establishment and to use it as a kind of armchair, rather than be thrust out into the world in the way in which I think they would if the Church were not established, or at any rate not established in its present form.

I believe that quite a lot could be done within the terms of the Enabling Act. The reports on synodical government are of very great importance in this respect. Certainly the question of the representation of the laity is of vital importance. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the laity in the Church government are elected by a system of suffrage which makes the rotten boroughs look like universal democracy. Furthermore, they are elected by a voting system which is incomprehensible to a senior wrangler. I was for a time in charge of the elections within the Diocese of Oxford, which was a piece of honest nepotism on the part of my father; I was only 17 at the time and it brought in a little bit of money to me. There had been an election in a very small poll, and it took the whole day counting the poll of 300 votes 14 times, on one occasion having to distribute thirteen two-hundred-and-sixtieths of a vote among the various candidates. When I hear arguments in favour of proportional representation I am apt to be a little depressed about the whole thing. Incidentally, the same eleven candidates were elected at the end of the fourteenth count as had been elected at the first count, but it took rather a long time to do it.

All this could be thrown away. It would be possible to have a much simpler system of election and a much wider electorate. I do not see why the electorate should be restricted to members of the diocesan conference. This seems to me to be utterly unreasonable. I would have everybody on the electoral roll entitled to elect members in the National Assembly of the Church of England. But if this were done, and it were acceptable, I would at the same time say that the role of this House must to a certain extent be diminished. If we introduce more democracy inside Church government, we cannot at the same time subject it to some control outside it.

I think that the solution may be in the form of establishment which has not been referred to today to any great extent —the establishment to be found north of the Border. We tend to forget that we are not the only Established Church in this country. The Church of Scotland is established, too, and the Church of Scotland has got round this problem in a very ingenious way. It has complete internal self-government within the terms of the Schedule to the Church of Scotland Act, 1921—that is, the so-called Articles Declaratory of the Faith of the Church of Scotland. If it were possible for the Church of England to agree on either the Thirty-nine Articles, or an amendment, or a bringing up-to-date of the Thirty-nine Articles, or on a new schedule of Articles Declaratory of the Faith which would be legally binding on everyone and not, as my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, ignored by many at the moment; if it were possible to do that and to incorporate it into an Act of Parliament, and then to allow within the terms of that Act a reformed Church Assembly freedom to legislate as it wished, we could combine the freedom of the Church and the establishment of the Church at the same time. But I must honestly say that if we cannot do that, then I believe that the only solution to the present problem is the final disestablishment of the Church, which in effect might be a very good thing.

I did not wish to go into details of great controversy this morning. I wished to put forward a point of view which I know is minority in the House but which I hope will gain a certain amount of support later. If we go back to the historic definition of the Church—the Church which keeps the mean between the two extremes—that involves, I think, a Church ready to embrace at any time fellow Christians of any kind, whether in the Free Churches or in the Church of Rome, who wish to co-operate with us.

It has been my very great privilege and pleasure for seven years to work very actively with the ecumenical movement. I was at the World Conference of Churches in New Delhi and have taken an active part in the Conference of European Churches and the British Council of Churches. In all this I have found the service which the Church of England can render to be enormous, provided that the Church is humble enough to realise that that service must he in brotherhood and parity with other Churches and not leading and dominating. There is great life left in the Church and a great task for the Church to do. It can do it, but I do not believe that it can do it if it is crippled in the way that it is at the moment by the shackles of Parliamentary control.

12.49 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I agree very much with a good deal that was said by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), and in particular with his advocacy of what is sometimes called the Scottish solution. I also agree with him that if there were another head-on clash between Church and State, perhaps as the result of another snub by Parliament comparable with that of 1927 and 1928, then disestablishment would become inevitable, with all its consequences for good or for ill Personally, I think that it would probably be for the good of the Church at any rate, if not of the State. But I also feel that, should Parliament administer another snub of that kind to the Church, the initiative for some measure of disestablishment. perhaps only by way of the Scottish solution, would come from the Church rather than from this House. Indeed, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, very soon after he succeeded to that office, hinted as much in a reference that he made to the relations between Parliament and the Church of England.

On the whole, this debate has been extremely friendly, and hon. Members of all points of view have been trying to express those views without bitterness and without prejudice. Of course, we all have our prejudices, as has been said —nobody can deny that—but it is really our duty to try to restrain ourselves from bitter or wounding expressions of them.

I was glad to see an article about the Irish Church in the latest issue of the magazine called Anglican World, because it contains a lesson that may be of value to us in this House during this debate. The article refers in a laudatory way to that great scholar and divine, Jeremy Taylor, and it observes that this is a time when the leaders of thought in the Irish Church are seeking to interpret a way and a faith that are positive and to shun the cruder negatives of a former controversial method. That article was written by the present Archbishop of Dublin.

We have, on the whole, managed to shun "the cruder negatives of a former controversial method", but I must be allowed to say that I thought that I was beginning to catch faint echoes of that former method in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). If I may refer to the hon. and gallant Member's speech for a moment, I should like to say that, of course, he and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) are, constitutionally, absolutely night in their claim to speak and vote, jusit as are the English Members, on issues of this kind. That does not mean that I do not think that there is a kind of anomaly in the situation which has just been described—that what appears to be an expression of, at any rate, the articulate majority of the Church should be frustrated by the speeches and votes of hon. Members who do not belong to that Church and who do not represent constituencies in which that Church operates. Nonetheless, I absolutely accept the constitutional right of all hon. Members to speak for the Whole of Britain, including England, and not only for their own particular constituencies. That is a truism.

Mr. Ede

And Northern Ireland as well.

Mr. Driberg

Yes, certainly.

I am not altogether happy about the various possible definitions of the Church of England which the hon. Member gave. There are these different levels of membership. All of them in a sense are true. The baptism test is, I am afraid, not an entirely correct or fair test nowadays, for the simple reason that, unfortunately, baptism has to some extent—I think even more in the country than in the towns—become a social superstition. A lot of people who have no overt or deliberate association with the Church like to have their babies "done". This is a well-known phenomenon of our society, corresponding, perhaps, to the white wedding that the bride's mother always prefers—a social rather than a strictly religious phenomenon.

Obviously, too—I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South himself would agree—when he says that the Church of England, the national Church, represents everybody in this country, he presumably means everybody except those who have specifically chosen to belong actively to other churches, to be Roman Catholics or whatever they may wish to be. Clearly, we cannot say that they are members of the Church of England, in any real sense. We also know that a large number of purely nominal members will write "C. of E." on an Army form, perhaps without considering very much what it means.

I feel, however, that this business about the "inarticulate laity" is rather overdone. There is an element of myth about it. There is no reason why the laity, if they are interested at all, should not become articulate, and if they are totally uninterested I do not see how they can be said to "adhere", as the Motion says they do, to a body or to a religion in whose observances they take no part at all.

On the contrary, I think that the main difficulty and danger is one which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) in his admirable speech. Towards the end of his speech he spoke of some of the major issues that confront us. Indeed, it has sometimes seemed that the Church of England in its Assemblies, and in this House too, occasionally, has been—well, "fiddling while Rome burns" is hardly an appropriate metaphor—

Mr. Ede

Burning while Rome fiddles?

Mr. Driberg

—I mean discussing the trivia of ecclesiastical observance while these great issues of nuclear war and racial conflict—all these other things about which we are deeply concerned—seem to be ignored so largely by leading spokesmen of the Church.

I will not attempt to discuss in detail the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), which you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled out of order. While I agree with the spirit of it, I do not think he is entirely fair to the archbishops and bishops of the Church. As has been said in a totally different context, they cannot be too far ahead of those whom they lead. It would be impossible for the Archbishop of Canterbury to pronounce ex cathedra, as it were, on the subject of nuclear war in a way which, unfortunately or fortunately—unfortunately, as I think—he must know would be totally unacceptable to a large number of practising churchpeople. There are differing views on these great issues within the Church and those of us who take one view, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said, have no right to accuse of insincerity those who take another view. One may find it very strange that they take the other view. One may not understand or agree with it, but one must realistically accept the fact that different views are held by people who are perfectly sincere Christians.

Therefore, it is extremely difficult for the archbishops to make an all-out pronouncement against, for instance, the nuclear deterrent. But the attitude of the bishops on capital punishment has changed very much in recent years. Also, since the Church of England is the mother church of the Anglican Communion, we can be proud of the stand for racial freedom and equality that has been taken by the Church of the Province of South Africa—by people like the former Bishop of Johannesburg, the Archbishop of Cape Town and others who are really standing up for Christian values in everyday politics in that land. I do not think that the poor old Church of England, or the Anglican Communion, is still quite so sunk in darkest night as my hon. Friend seemed to be suggesting in his Amendment.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Which Amendment is my hon. Friend referring to?

Mr. Driberg

Yours. Since the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South mentioned him, may I say a word in defence of the Bishop of Southwark, who is a personal friend of many of us in this House. It may be—I entirely accept what the hon. and gallant Member said—that the Bishop of Southwark has ruled in one way on a particular case. I must, however, add in fairness to him that the Bishop has incurred considerable unpopularity among some of what would be called the more extreme AngloCatholic churches in his Diocese by requiring them to use the 1662 Order of Holy Communion: and this, I imagine, is a ruling acceptable to the hon. and gallant Member. I do not think that any of us, whatever our point of view, ought to adopt a rigorist attitude on these matters. I was a little sorry that the hon. and gallant Member seemed to be echoing the debates of 1927 and 1928 when he started reading out the numbers of churches in London that do this or that—

Captain Orr

My reading-out of the churches was in response to an interruption from behind me which suggested that what I was saying was wrong.

Mr. Driberg

I did not realise that. I am sorry if the hon. and gallant Gentleman was tempted into being a little less tolerant, objective, and impartial than he showed himself to be in the rest of his speech. I think, quite honestly, that the objection to that kind of thing—the names of the services and so on—is based largely on a misunderstanding of the real nature and purpose of the Thirty-nine Articles: they are a deliberately ambiguous document, designed historically to hold together within one communion the more Catholic-minded and the Puritans. In a sense, this was perhaps a little disingenuous of those who framed the Articles. If one goes through them carefully, one finds innumerable phrases, including some quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, which are susceptible of two interpretations, one in a more Protestant and one in a more Catholic sense.

To come to the general question of illegality—with which is tied up the whole theme of the debate, the supremacy of Parliament—it is the case that illegality, in the strict and technical sense, is almost universal in every parish church in the Church of England. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right in saying that it is very difficult for an ordinary churchman to go to his nearest parish church and find the 1662 Book carried out. Of course this is so. I hardly know of a single church where it is, or could be at the present time, carried out exactly. All sorts of things are done, by Evangelicals as well as by Anglo-Catholics, which are not provided for in that Book. The 1662 Book provides for a sermon only during Holy Communion; but sermons are preached at Morning and Evening Prayer as well. This is one example. One could quote dozens. Similarly, there are a number of services which are now generally accepted and enjoyed, such as harvest festival services, and necessary services such as the consecration of a new church, for which there is no form in the Book of Common Prayer.

Therefore, there must be some revision. I think that this is generally agreed on all sides. It is just a question of where the line is to be drawn and what the nature of the revision is to be. I myself think that the authorities of the Church have shown great wisdom in this respect. They have not attempted to repeat the method of 1927 and 1928; that is to say, they have not laid down a complete alternative book, which, if approved by Parliament, would be legal for optional use. They are instead going to ask us in due course—this debate is a prelude to further debates which we shall be having on the subject—for permission to experiment, to undertake strictly controlled experiments in liturgical reform, lasting for seven years.

This point should be noted. These experiments are to be undertaken in any parish church only when the parochial church council agrees to them; and this surely brings in a measure of that lay participation and that democracy which has been pleaded for. I entirely agree with that plea. I do not think that it could be argued by the hon. Member or by anybody else that the average members of a parochial church council are the sort of unrepresentative laymen who are alleged to pack the House of Laity. They are very much the ordinary churchgoing people in a parish. Therefore, this will be a valuable point in favour of these reforms when they come before us.

Sir P. Agnew

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the mere fact that this procedure is to take place, if the House agrees to the Measure providing for it, will in itself be a stimulant to more people wishing to come forward to be members of parochial church councils and give their councils support?

Mr. Driberg

I entirely agree. That is a very good point. One would wish that more of the ordinary laity could be elected to the Church Assembly, but there is this difficulty. To a certain extent, similar criticisms could be levelled at local government. There are many local authorities whose meetings take place at times when ordinary people who have to work every day cannot possibly get to them. This is true of county councils, rural district councils, and other forms of local government. Moreover, as we know, the polls are very low in local government elections. But we do not therefore accuse local authorities of being totally unrepresentative bodies because, in some cases, they have not been voted for by a majority of the electors.

Mr. Cordle

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether, in these proposals for the new Prayer Book upon which he is now touching, there will be any doctrinal alterations? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell us a little more about that.

Mr. Driberg

I do not think that it would be proper at this stage to argue in detail the proposals that will or may ultimately reach us from the Assembly. I should suppose that there would be no change in the doctrinal balance of the Church of England, which has often been defined, not as a Protestant Church —as the hon. Gentleman knows, the word "protestant" does not occur anywhere in the Book of Common Prayer —but as Catholic and Reformed. That describes very well the doctrinal basis and balance of the Church of England, and I am sure that these will he maintained in any experiments which are made. There is no proposal for a completely new Prayer Book: as I said, there will be a proposal to permit various liturgical experiments.

I agree with those who say that it is fortunate—perhaps one should say "providential"—that the 1928 Book was rejected by this House, because we might have been tied to it more strictly than in practice we are. I do not mind these experiments going on in the Church of England, although they are technically illegal. There are, after all, many laws on our Statute Book which are not enforced. There are laws concerning Sunday observance which are not enforced, including the law requiring all parishioners to attend church every Sunday. We cannot send to prison or fine all those who do not go. There are innumerable obsolete laws. In any case, the law by which the Church of England is established is not a Statute Law at all: "established"—condita—means "maintained" or "supported" by law. This is one of the difficulties one would face in bringing about disestablishment, if one wanted to, but that is another matter.

We happen to be in the middle of a period of liturgical ferment and experiment, in all the churches. What is known as the Liturgical Movement is having a wide influence in the Roman Catholic Church, among Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, too; I regard it as extremely important—possibly more important than it looks—in that it may be a kind of reconciling force between Christians of different denominations. We shall probably continue to be divided for a considerable time yet, but we can learn to understand each other's point of view; and when, for example, a Roman Catholic service is performed, as it is beginning to be, with much greater use of the vernacular and in a much simpler way, so that a Protestant would, perhaps, feel more at home in it than at a grand, elaborate ceremony, then there is some hope that we shall understand each other and begin to grow together.

In passing, I may mention a remarkable liturgy that has been published recently in English—a translation of the vernacular French liturgy used by the French Protestant community at Taizé. It is a liturgy which I think any Christian, whether of a Catholic or an Evangelical tradition, would feel at home with. I say this from reading it; I have not actually seen it enacted, but I believe that it is deeply moving and impressive.

I referred to a moment ago to the allegedly unrepresentative character of the Church Assembly and of its House of laity and I ventured to suggest a rough comparison with some local authorities and the apathy of the electorate in municipal elections. In the trade union movement, too, there is a comparable apathy. It is well-known that a large number of trade unionists do not regularly attend branch meetings, or not as regularly as they should. Indeed, apathy or indifference is perhaps the greatest of all those dangers and challenges listed by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East towards the end of his speech.

My hon. Friend spoke of the challenge of materialism. "Materialism" is a word one should try to define when using it, because there are at least three meanings of it. There is the dialectical materialism of the Marxists, and there is what one may call the dollar-chasing materialism of the West—the acquisition and accumulation for its own sake of more and more material goods: the worship of Mammon. But there is also, thirdly, what William Temple used to call Christian materialism: he used to say that the Christian religion was the most materialist of the great world religions. Unlike some of the great religions of the East, it does not deny or despise the flesh. On the contrary, the sacramental principle which most Christians, Catholic or Protestant, accept means precisely the consecration of material objects, and means that real values are conveyed thereby. Thus one should not always use "materialism" as a term of mild abuse without stopping to think what it means and how, because Christianity is a materialist religion, we must all be concerned with the material welfare of our neighbours. That is what politics is largely about. We should try to bring into politics the spirit of the Good Samaritan.

Unfortunately, we have in the past quarrelled so much among ourselves that it is no wonder that those who do not accept the Christian religion sneer at us, using ironically the phrase, "See how these Christians love one another", or, quoting Lucretius: Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum". Just as much as materialism it is indifference or apathy that is the real challenge. It is because of this that I do not altogether accept the view of the hon. Member for Down, South that an inarticulate laity is being dominated and frustrated by a clerical tyranny.

I can never get out of my mind a disturbing phrase used in an article in a church newspaper a few years ago by two young clergymen who had worked for six months in a factory while awaiting ordination. They said that, to the overwhelming majority of their workmates, the Church of England, and Christianity generally, was "not merely an enigma but an insignificant enigma".

1.19 p.m.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

I hope that it would not be presumptuous of one who has been in the House for only three years to say that it is probably on occasions such as this that the House rises to very great heights. I have regarded it as a continuing privilege to have been permitted to listen to the debate and I confess that I intervene with some sense of anxiety lest I fall from the very high standard which has been universally set and which was maintained no less certainly by the speech of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg).

I wish to deal in a preliminary way with one small point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) who, for the moment, cannot be with us. It was distressing to some of us that he should have felt "needled" by something which was said. None of us who is a member of the Church of England would wish that anyone as distinguished as himself should feel that way. I see that the hon. Member has returned to the Chamber and I inform him that I intend to deal with a point which he raised simply because some of us were distressed that he should have been "needled". It is a very small point, and it is no more than this. I think that the hon. Member saw in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) an apparent arrogant claim that the Church of England, as of right, represented all persons of the parishes concerned.

With respect, that was not what my hon. Friend was seeking to convey. He was seeking to convey no more, as I understand it, than that it is only upon the rectors and vicars of the Church of England that there is laid the duty of looking after all those in their respective parishes. Quite clearly, this does not give them, and it is not intended to give them, something of the nature of authority over distinguished members of the other great Churches. That was the very limited point and, as it appeared to cause hurt to a very distinguished member of another Chundh, I wanted to try in my own inadequate way to put it right.

There has been much discussion on the principle of Establishment, and very many expositions better than anything I could advance have been put forward to justify it. In this context, it is important to remember how Establishment derives, because I believe that some of the difficulties that some hon. Members on both sides feel when dealing with doctrinal matters stem from a misunderstanding of that historical past. It is the conception of a national Church, originally free from any form of outside interference. It is an historical fact that all through the Middle Ages the national Church was in constant conflict with the great Papacy in Rome, although not often on doctrinal matters.

The differences were what I might call "political" controversies over the persons who should be appointed to bishoprics, and so on. All through that period of conflict, the English Church was in full communion with Rome, with insignificant exceptions it obeyed the same Canon Law, and at that time it acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Pope. The climax, as we all well remember, came in the reign of Henry VIII, but the point I seek to make is that the Reformation was first of all political and administrative, and that the changes in doctrine really came later—

Mr. Emrvs Hughes

Was not the Reformation also an economic revolution?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will not question that necessarily. The only point I seek to make is that it was not essentially a doctrinal matter. Persons looking back on that period so often, if I may put it in a phrase, assume that at one moment the Church of England was Roman Catholic—to use modern phraseology—and, at another moment, was Protestant. Frankly, that is not historically the fact. The fact is that a churchgoer would, at that time, have noticed only marginal differences for some years, and I respectfully think that this distinction is of the very greatest importance when we try to decide to what extent this honourable House should concern itself with matters of doctrine—

Mr. Gresham Cooke

And was it not also true that Henry VIII, although he became Defender of the Faith, and so on, really tried to keep the essentials of the European Catholic religion in England at that time?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes—my hon. Friend is strengthening my argument. I do not go further than to make that quite clear distinction of what happened at that time.

Nothing of what I have so far said denies the advantage there is to the Church of England in being the Established Church. I make brief reference to it only, for it has been very well expressed, particularly in the remarkably able speech of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) but, in fact, it is true, is it not, that Establish- ment has steered the Church of England away from domination by one school of thought? The hon. Member for Islington, East, produced a quotation which very clearly brought that out. If I may say so, this is excellently illustrated by the two distinguished and devout men who at present occupy the Archbishoprics of York and Canterbury, for, while each stems from a different churchman-ship, both are clearly great and broadminded persons in their own right.

From the nation's point of view, an Established Church can be justified by there being much to be said for the open and visible claim that there is Divine authority behind all things temporal. Thus, we illustrate it by the very fact that we start our proceedings in this House with prayer. Thus, we illustrate it by the solemn act of consecration—in which, increasingly, the whole nation joins—when the Sovereign is crowned, and while, clearly, it would not be impossible for those two acts—and I merely instance them—to continue if the Church were disestablished, it clearly leads to great difficulty if there is not a national Church whose responsibility is the conduct of such occasions as that. I believe that the assurance that there is a Divine intent behind all we do is all the more important today, and to me, at least, it would be regrettable—and it would be misinterpreted—if the Church of England were to be disestablished, and no longer he the nation's spokesman in these matters.

Establishment, of course, has brought, and continues to bring, difficulties and problems for the Church of England no less than it would for any other established Church, and here, too, it is important to remember some part of history. Much play has been made of what happened in the great Prayer Book controversy of 35 years ago. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) feeling, as I know he does, very deeply about these matters, raised in a restrained way some of the divisions, to which he personally takes exception, resulting from that controversy. I ask him, however, to recall that it was this House which, only 10 years previously to that Prayer Book controversy, had itself passed an Enabling Act, with which he is well familiar, and that large numbers of churchmen rightly or wrongly considered that that Enabling Act had, of itself, solved exactly the sort of problem which reared its ugly head again in controversies that we would now much rather forget.

The Life and Liberty Movement, long associated with the name of the great Archbishop Temple and those working with him, believed that that settlement, if I may call it that, of 1919 had given to the Church that freedom to decide its own doctrine and form of worship, while keeping it a form of Established Church. It came, I think, to many of those churchmen—and to many other people—as a very considerable surprise and shock when this House firmly proved otherwise. I am not saying that in extenuation. I am only asking my hon. Friend to understand, as we have sought to understand his difficulties, the background and feeling which so many churchmen brought to bear at those difficult times.

It is hardly surprising that there was reaction. It is hardly surprising that those who were working so hard to express their form of worship in, as they would think, a more modern form should actively canvass other ways of achieving the same objective. We can all rejoice with the hon. Member for Islington, East that calmer judgments prevailed on all sides in 1927 and 1928.

My own verdict would be the same as that of the hon. Member for Barking that, as we now know and as we are advised by scholarship, the Prayer Book of those days was not the best that care and ability could produce and that this House took the right decision, although, I believe, for the wrong reasons. Reading those debates again, I somehow doubt whether quite so many hon. Members of the House of those days were influenced by that kind of consideration as is sometimes suggested.

Those days, however, have now gone. The important thing surely is that the Church of England has learnt the lesson, for it was possible at that time to say, "The Church does not know its own mind. The Church is deeply divided. If you do not know, why should we in the House authorise a change?" It is for that reason that I warmly commend the principle—I go into no detail—which the Church is now working out and which, in due time, it will bring to this House.

I think that the hon. Member for Barking is right in saying that this is no time to go into the detail of any changes that may be proposed. In due time, there will have to be opportunities for this House to consider what changes are proposed. I do not think that we shall see them in the lifetime of the present Parliament and it is far better in these fundamental matters to take care and time over them. It is, however, important that this House appreciates, even at this early stage, the close safeguards which the Church itself is proposing for the measure which it proposes to bring forward in connection with the Prayer Book.

The changes which are proposed have somewhat unhappily been called experiments. I regret the word "experiment" I say to my friends in the Church that since so often these matters are questions of presentation, the word "experiment" should be avoided. It conjures up some more extreme change of a kind of which we sometimes read here or there which, perhaps not unnaturally, excites anxiety and animosity in those reading it.

What is proposed is something far more modest than that. It is to enable the Church, under close safeguards, to try for a strictly limited period of time an alternative method of service or a variegated form of service to see whether it meets the wishes and requirements of those who have framed it and those who use it. It must be aproved by a two-thirds majority of the Houses of Convocation and Laity. It can only be used under present proposals for a seven-year period with an extension for a single further seven years and no more. At the end of that period, it must be dropped unless this House otherwise decides. I draw out the point previously made that approval must be given by the parochial church council of the church in which it is proposed to use this order of service.

I feel that those, like myself, who believe that it would be right to move on and allow the Church to have this measure of freedom are at one with the proposers of the Motion. We certainly would not be prepared to give what might be called a blanket authority to the Church to make just whatever experiments and changes it wishes. In this way, it seems to me that we steer the middle course between the unhappy debates of 1927 and 1928, when there was a fixed form of Prayer Book, and the present time. This point, too, was usefully brought out by the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Barking. It would be of inestimable benefit not only for general services but for particular services to be dealt with in this way.

Examples have been given, but I take one in which we see the Church of England with some of its most happy use of language—the institution and induction of a new rector or vicar. Like probably many other hon. Members, I attend each service of this nature in my constituency, because I always take the view that the representative of the temporal authority should attend so important an occasion for the Established Church. That, however, is a service which finds no place in our Prayer Book. There is much to be said for legalising and putting it on a proper basis.

I mention the next point with some reservation and with great care, and I do so only because I, like other hon. Members, have received correspondence which illustrates vividly how many constituents and friends are worried and bothered about it and feel very deeply. It is, of course, known that the Church is coming forward in due time with what is known as the vestments Measure dealing with the vestments which the Church of England shall properly wear.

My own feeling is exactly in line with that which was given in another place by Archbishop Tait 88 years ago, when the same difficulties and controversies were being discussed. He said: No one can be more pained than I have been at the spectacle of laymen as well as clergy concentrating their whole attention on vestments and matters of ceremonial, at a time when no man with eyes in his head can look at the state of Europe without regretting that such matters should occupy the attention of those whose thoughts and best exertions should be devoted to the ungodliness and ignorance which disgrace the century in which we live and which require all the efforts of clergy and laity to remedy them. That puts the matter in proper perspective.

The difficulty of the Church derives from the ambiguity of the form and order laid down in the Prayer Book that the ornaments of ministers should be those of the second year of the reign of King Edward VI. While, I know, many hon. Members feel that this has a deep doctrinal significance—and I would not for one moment seek to trespass upon their deeply-held feelings—I cannot but feel that the outward and visible vesture is of little significance compared with the dignity and the spirit in which the worship is offered. I hope that when we come to consider this matter we can do so with the same measure of toleration which has been a marked and conspicuous feature of our debate today.

One cannot expect that the Church of England will not be criticised. Criticism is inevitable for any great national institution. It is widely said that the Church of England, like every other Church, is a dying and less effective instrument than before. Like other hon. Members—I cannot be alone in this—I read all the parish magazines which are published, in considerable number, in my constituency. It is one of the ways in which I like to keep in touch with parish affairs. I read also the published material of the Free Churches and Roman Catholic Churches with which I am privileged to have happy and close relations.

What impresses me in that month-by-month record of what is going on is not the paucity but the abundance of life in the church congregations, not the occasional dead wood which, unfortunately, one finds in any man-manned institution, but the vigour of the leadership of so many of those, both ordained and lay, who are working within the churches. It is not the ageing nature of the congregations which impresses me but the vigour and youth of so many. I think that it is largely through ignorance that people make such broad blanket criticisms, and they do ill-service to the devoted work of large numbers of people, ordained and lay alike.

However, these churchmen are churchmen of the twentieth century. When called upon on Sundays to invite their Lord to "prevent" them in all their doings, they probably have not had the privilege that I had of being educated in the establishment close to this Palace where we worshipped daily in an abbey church and could, perhaps, construe "prevenio" and understand what it was we said. They are men and women of the twentieth century who, rightly, I suggest, wish these things to be expressed in words which are alive to them and which they us. It would be a tragedy if it should later turn out that this House sought to stand in their way.

1.42 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I join with the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) in what he said about the wav in which this debate has been conducted. I looked forward to hearing the debate with some anxiety, but there has been very little said in the course of it that could give any of us cause to regret that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) took the fortune of the Ballot to put his Motion down. It was significant, of course, that he was a Member for a constituency where there has been no Established Church for ninety years, and it was interesting, also, that the sharpest personal exchanges occurred between another Member for a Northern Ireland constituency and some of the Members for English constituencies.

The orthodox view of a church, whether in Anglican England or Presbyterian Scotland, is that it is a body co-extensive with the community, admission to which depends on baptism subsequently confirmed by a profession of faith. To that extent, I accept the definition given by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). But this is not the only conception of a church in this country.

This year, we have been celebrating from two entirely opposite points of view the Act of 1662 which accepted the definition which I have just given. But there are some of us who belong to causes which believe that the church should be gathered within the community. When one travels across New England, one sees the typical Congregational church which was built by the early settlers, and on the board outside one sees the words "Gathered in Plymouth, 1620, in Salem, 1628, in Concord, 1636". These were people who separated themselves inside the community, as they had done in this country, in order to present their view of the way in which organised Christianity should work within the community.

We are dealing today with two things. We are dealing with ecclesiasticism and we are dealing also to some extent with doctrine. Ecclesiastically I am a Congregationalist. I believe that the living Church is the authority for the community who have been gathered into it. Therefore, if there had been any possibility of a Division today, I should have found myself in this position. I should have voted for the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) because that represents a further application of the Congregational method of government to the Established Church as we know it. To that extent, it would suit me. But then I should have voted against the Motion, even as amended, because I do not think that it is a fact that the majority of the people of this country adhere to the Christian religion. I see no sign of it.

In my experience, all the Churches, established and not established, are continually lamenting their receding influence over the life of the community as a whole. I could not assent to such a declaration being made in the House.

Sir G. Nicholson

Would the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion be that the word should be "faith" or even "ethic" instead of "religion"?

Mr. Ede

No. It is the word "adhere" which, in my view, does not truly represent the present situation in that context.

I believe that in the living Church itself the members who are openly and delayed active members are the people who should settle all matters of doctrine. When it comes to ecclesiasticism, one is entitled to see that such a machine is created as can enable everyone to see that that process has properly been gone through. I hold the view enunciated by Sir Cyril Norwood as long ago as 1927: It is clear that there are two systems, a faith once for all delivered, and a faith progressive and widening, as the thoughts of men widen". He followed that up by saying: They cannot exist together inside the same Church without disrupting it, as they are disrupting the Church of England today"— presumably that was 1927— and they cannot be taught inside the same school, or the same national system of educa- tion. One or other must go outside into schools of its own". That shows how willing people are to make declarations as to the attitude of the mass of the country. He then said: I believe that England has long ago made its choice, and that the right system for English schools is that which I have described second in order"— that is, that England had made up its mind in favour of a faith progressive and widening, as the thoughts of men widen". I very much doubt whether that is true. But the fact that efforts are made to express in modern terms, reconcilable with the state of knowledge today, the problems which confront us is well illustrated in an article by the late Archbishop Garbett in the Sunday Times in 1957 under the title "The Mystery of Life". He wrote: What is Man? He comes into existence in the evolution of the mammal species on a little planet that revolves around the sun amid the many thousand stars of the Milky Way. There is nothing more wonderful in that than in any other part of what is rolled round in earth's diurnal course, with rocks and stones and trees. But Man in his evolving history shows himself able to reflect upon the meaning of the process, and the meaning of himself; and he is aware of certain concepts which have an absolute claim upon him; beauty, truth, goodness. If he does not respond to this claim wherever he is aware of it, he experiences shame or guilt. There is something Man is meant' to do and to be". Every phrase in that definition would have been heresy nearly a hundred years ago. In the 1870s Bishop Colenso was tried for heresy for being far less forward-looking in his statements than any of the sentences in that article.

I want every Church to have the opportunity to be able to express, in the terms current of the time, the faith which it holds and have complete freedom to attempt to persuade other people to join it. I cannot, therefore, find it in myself to recognise the validity of an arrangement which ties a Church for its expression of doctrine to the decisions of this House.

I think it was the hon. Member for Wokingham who said that not so many years ago only members of the Church of England could be Members of the House of Commons. One hundred years ago, unless people were prepared to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, they could not take a degree in either of the old universities. We live in an age which is so entirely different in this kind of thing from all the ages of the past that the living Church should have the opportunity to proclaim its message without having to come to a body like this for permission as to the way in which it shall do it.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) that the difficulty is that disestablishment cannot come through an Act of Parliament other than through the Act of Uniformity which established the Church, but this wider liberty to the living Church of today to proclaim the eternal message in language understood by the Church of the day will have to be given in some form.

I am not like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). He is a Free Churchman. I am not. I am a Nonconformist. No matter what my hon. Friend believes, including all the 49 sermons of John Wesley, I still claim the right to examine them before accepting them as a test of whether I am a Christian or not. As the Bishop of Sheffield wisely said a few years ago when the British Association met in Sheffield, the problem of language in this matter is becoming increasingly difficult. The hon. Member for Wokingham alluded to one of the things which one has to explain so carefully to boys in school. When we say in prayer, "Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings", we do not mean, "Please treat us like our mother does when she says to our older brother or sister, What is he doing? Tell him not to do it'". Even in so frequently used a phrase as that, very careful explanation has to be given before one can imagine that a child understands exactly what the prayer is asking for.

There have been great quarrels in the past on the matters we have been discussing today, and it is a cause for great hopefulness that we have been able to discuss them in the spirit which has been evinced, and that a speech like that of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) can be made amd, whether we agree with it or not, accepted as the sincerely held views of a man which are entitled to respect. In 1574, the Socinian founders of the Church to which I belong said, "Let every man express his own views. But let us also have the right Go express our views". I believe that that is the sound doctrine on which religious views should be expressed and advocated in any modern community. Let us give to everyone the right to proclaim his own views, but let us make it quite clear that we reserve our right to be heard also.

The failure of the 1662 Act was that it did not preserve that right. It not merely ostracised those who were not able to accept it and drove them out of the Church, but deprived them even of the legal right to be able to teach their views to the children of parents who washed them to receive such teaching. I believe that we have moved into a wiser and more generous age, and I hope that, as a result of what has been said today, we shall be able to move forward to that unity which is the reverse of uniformity but which is the only way in which in a free country religious views can be expressed with any hope that an impression will be made on other people.

2.0 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I speak today entirely in my capacity as Leader of the House, and it is wholly appropriate that I should follow the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who has had the honour of holding that position. In the same way, in the last discussion on Parliament on Christian unity, which was in another place, my noble Friend Lord Hailsham spoke briefly. I am not, therefore, the spokesman of the Government, for Governments do not tender advice on these matters. Nor, of course, am I a spokesman for the Church of England, although it is fair to say that I am a practising member of the Church of England and have an affectionate loyalty to it.

Let me first record the factual position of the relationship between Parliament and the Church of England. Under the 1919 Act, all Measures which are passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England are considered first by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which consists of 15 members of the House of Lords, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and 15 members of the House of Commons, appointed by Mr. Speaker.

The Committee has no power to amend the Measure. It makes a report on it which states its nature and its legal effect and the Committee's views as to its expediency. Then, when it has reported, the Report and the text of the Measure come before both Houses and the Resolution is moved in these terms: That the Measure, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. Therefore, it is not open to Parliament to amend the Measures, but it can, of course, reject them, as we have rejected Measures in 1926, 1927 and 1928.

I think that we should note that those great decisions were then taken, referring particularly to the Prayer Book Measure, 1927, in spite of the advice of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament which reported that the Measure dealt with doctrine and ceremonies, that Parliament should not interfere in such questions unless the proposals made were calculated to change the general character of the National Church as recognised in the Act of Settlement, that the Measure under consideration implied no change of doctrine which was of constitutional importance and that both the constitutional rights of the King's subjects and the Coronation Oath were unaffected by it. Looking back over a generation or so, the House may feel that that advice was perhaps a little dogmatic.

Despite the Report and the large majorities with which all three Houses of the Church Assembly passed the Measure, Parliament rejected it. It passed with a comfortable majority in the House of Lords, but it encountered substantial opposition in the Commons where voting was 238 to 205. The discussion was on non-party lines. No guidance was tendered by the Government of the day and the Prime Minister voted in support of the Measure while the Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, voted against. In the same way, when the matter came back in 1928, again no advice was tendered and again members of the Government voted for and against the proposal, which was defeated, this time by 266 votes to 220.

It is a fact that this Measure was favoured by a majority of Members of Parliament who represented constituencies in the two Provinces of Canterbury and York, but I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) and others that all Members of Parliament naturally have full and equal rights in this matter. No doubt, when we discuss these matters again, the position will be the same and advice will not be tendered by the Government to the House, as I do not tender it on this Motion today. The House will realise that that does not mean that I do not hold strong views on this matter.

One of the points which has been made in the debate is the question of the illegality of services held in the Church of England. This point is completely valid. Whatever solution we may think is right, nobody can say that this is a desirable state of affairs. Yet, to follow all rubrics of the Church of England would mean, for example, that on Sunday morning we should have to have full Morning Prayer with all the Psalms of the Day; we should have to have the Litany, the Communion Service with the Long Exhortation and on particular feasts we would have to have the Athanasian Creed.

All this lawlessness, if that is the right word, is no new thing, because from 1552 to 1662 there were no fewer than five official or unofficial revisions of the Prayer Book. I believe that there were only three periods in our history when general allegiance, by political compulsion, was given to the Prayer Book—in the early days of Queen Elizabeth I, in the time of Archbishop Laud, and immediately after the Restoration.

I think that the House has been wise not to discuss the merits of proposals which are not yet before us. I, too, will not discuss the Measures themselves. As I understand it, the position is that of the Measures, which we all know exist and to which some reference has been made, one of them, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure, which will reform the system of church courts, will probably come before us fairly early in the New Year. The rest are not yet fully and finally examined by the Assembly, and although one cannot be exact in prophecy today, it seems unlikely that these Measures will come before us this Session, so these debates are some way ahead. There are 19 Provinces in the Anglican Communion, apart from the large American Episcopal Church. Of those 19, 17 are unestablished and only the Provinces of Canterbury and York are established and so need approval by Her Majesty, acting on the advice of Parliament, for such possible changes as we know are in their minds.

I am sure that both Parliament and the Church of England would accept that this puts a special responsibility on them. This is the point which was made by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). Here at least I agree with and adopt the last sentence of a memorandum sent round by my noble Friend Lord Brentford, the son of the Home Secretary to whom I have referred and who made massive speeches in those historic debates of the 1920s. This is how the memorandum ends: We trust that if and when Parliament considers these matters its concern will still be, as in the past, to consult for the welfare of the whole Church in the context of the national interest. I am sure that it is in that way that we will approach these debates when they come.

I wish to speak for only a minute or two more, but before I close I will recall to the House some very noble words used about the Church of England which reflect some of the things which have been said today. They were used by Lord Randolph Churchill long ago and recalled to me very recently by his grandson. This is what he said, talking about the Church of England: … it is continually possessed by the ambition, not of excluding, but of including, all shades of religious thought, all sorts and conditions of men; and, standing out like a lighthouse over a stormy ocean, it marks the entrance to a port where the millions and the masses of those who are wearied times with the woes of the world, and troubled often by the trials of existence, may search for and may find that peace which passeth all understanding. Those are lovely words, and that is what those of us who belong to the Church of England would like to see the Church achieve.

I said a few moments ago that the last debate there really was in Parliament on Christian unity was in another place. It is strange, perhaps, and yet a wonderful thing that this debate has been turning more and more to precisely this theme. The right hon. Member for South Shields said that he felt considerable anxiety when he heard the announcement of this Motion. So, I am bound to say, did I, but I think we can all take great comfort from this debate, and perhaps as one Leader of the House to another I can say that we should perhaps have had more faith in the House of Commons.

Let me venture one last point, and here I follow the fine speech of the hon. Member for Islington, East. The same theme has been throbbing through the whole of this debate. The true division of faith is surely not between Church and Church, much less between those of the same Communion. The true division of faith today surely is between those who believe and those who do not, and, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said, I think it is true that there is a new atmosphere around today. I think it may be true also that the ordinary members, nearly all of us, to whatever Church we may belong, are perhaps in front of our leaders in the passionate longing which we have for Christian unity and which has found expression in this debate.

There is nothing narrow whatever about this. Many people who have no connection with the Anglican Communion would recognise that in a man like William Temple, for example, we see somebody who was touched with greatness. I think few people would dispute that they see a simple, kindly, gentleness in Pope John and would like to join in the wishes and prayers of those of his faith who are hoping for his complete recovery.

I said that I would tender no advice at all to the House on this matter. I do not think I am straying from that position if I thank very sincerely my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) for the way in which he has worded this Motion. I know what strong feelings he has on this. I know that it would have been very easy indeed to put down a provocative Motion which would have stirred so many of the old passions. I think that my hon. Friend has done a great service to the House by framing his Motion in a way which I am sure we can all accept.

Some time in the future, not so far ahead of us, we shall be engaged once more in great debates. In these debates different points of view are sure to be strongly expressed, but this debate, with its recurring theme of unity, can surely give us all great confidence that those debates will be conducted in the highest interest of the Church, of Parliament, and of our country.

Sir G. Nicholson

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, after that remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend, would you accept the Motion, That the Question be now put?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Not only could I not accept such a Motion, but I would not.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South, Ayrshire)

We have had a very interesting debate in which Members have earnestly and tolerantly expressed their deep religious and spiritual convictions, and the speech of the Leader of the House continued the tenor and spirit of toleration which has characterised the speeches so far. But I rather gather that although the Leader of the House was very earnest about this, as usual he was going to do nothing about it. There is no prospect of any legislation, and we have to remember that this debate is taking place not because the Leader of the House desired to give any time to it, but simply by the accident that the hon. Member for Armargh (Mr. Maginnis) managed to win a lucky dip in the Parliamentary sweepstake.

If, for example, the hon. Member for Armagh had introduced a Bill and persisted with it, and on Thursday had risen and rather disconcertingly asked the Leader of the House to find time for this Bill about the Church of England, the right hon. Gentleman would have said, "Oh, not this week", because this is a very difficult problem which no Government, and especially one facing a General Election, will touch with a barge-pole. The right hon. Gentleman must have known that the Whips had been very carefully looking after the phraseology of this Motion before it ultimately reached the Order Paper. We had a debate on this subject 38 years ago, and I believe it is unlikely that we shall have another debate of this kind for another 38 years, because that is when, according to the law of averages, the hon. Member for Armagh will win another lucky dip in the Ballot.

I have good reason to remember that debate, because it created tremendous consternation in Scotland. The hon. Member for Paisley at that time was an eloquent lawyer named Rosslyn Mitchell. He held strong views about the liturgy and ecclesiastical affairs. He was a great orator. His speech was a Parliamentary success. He spoke with great eloquence and fervour about matters which aroused tremendous passion. He spoke about the cassock and the stole, about ecclesiastical vestments, and about changes in the Prayer Book, and I am told that Members had tears running down their cheeks. When the Division was called, due to the eloquence of Mr. Rosslyn Mitchell the Bill was defeated. I am Mold that as Members left the House, still with tears on their cheeks, one Member who felt deeply about the Bill said, "We have lost this b— Bill as a result of that b— from Scotland".

No Government wants that situation repeated. They do not want the possibility of arousing all these passions once again, and so the Leader of the House made a diplomatic speech which cannot possibly satisfy people that the House of Commons is really serious about giving any time or opportunity to those who rightly desire to make some change in the constitution of the Church of England.

We have had an interesting debate which could have occurred only in the British Parliament. I remember discussing England recently with a distinguished Russian man of letters, Mr. Samuel Marshak, who translated Shakespeare's Sonnets into Russian. He said, "I love England". I asked him why. He replied, "Because in England every fourth person you meet is an eccentric". Of course, if he had gone to Ireland he would have found the ratio rather less.

The proceedings of the House of Commons are opened according to the tradition of the Church of England. I devoutly attended the Church of England service which preceded the deliberations of this House today. It was not very well attended. There was a certain amount of apathy. There were twelve of us here carrying out loyally the tradi- tion of the twelve Apostles. I do not recall seeing the Leader of the House with us. One feature of the apathy towards the Church of England certainly extends to the services that take place in this House.

Today, many of us have listened to three religious exhortations. I listened early this morning to "Lift up Your Hearts". I was waiting, I must confess, to hear the weather forecast and the news bulletin. Then we all lifted up our hearts again at the news in the bulletin that the Prime Minister was off to America to discuss the atom bomb. Then, when we came to the House, we listened once again to the liturgy and praise of the Church of England.

I do not understand why, if this House is a house of all creeds, the Church of England's services should always be used. I do not understand why, if this House is composed of members of different sects, the Church of England should have a monopoly of the prayers of the House of Commons. I do not see why the Methodists of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), or the Unitarians of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), should not have a say.

The time has come when we have to recognise, as has been explained in this debate, that there is a growing feeling that the time has come for a measure of disestablishment. It will not be next week, but I do not expect great objection now to disestablishment. It might, indeed, come through a Private Member's Bill because someone has been lucky in the Ballot. I do not suppose there would be much objection to a one-Clause Bill disestablishing the Church of England. But there would be terrible trouble over the Money Resolution, concerning compensation to be paid.

I believe that it was that very non-Christian person the late Karl Marx who said that the Church of England would prefer to give up the Thirty-nine Articles than do away with one thirty-ninth of its endowments. This is not only a religious question but a financial question, and if the Leader of the House really intends to do anything by way of legislation he will have a very difficult problem. Since the last discussion took place as long ago as 1928, I prophesy that no Government are likely to treat this problem very seriously. They may pay lip-service to it but they will not bring legislation forward, because of the inevitable difficulties and controversies that would undoubtedly arise.

I am in favour of disestablishment because I do not see what right bishops of the Church of England have to sit in the House of Lords. As a result of history, they are still there, but if the religious elements in our community are to be represented in the House of Lords I do not see any logical reason why Roman Catholics or Nonconformists or the leaders of the Salvation Army should not be there as well. I believe, indeed, that if the general staff of the Salvation Army were there they would be able to contribute as much knowledge and experience of the ordinary day-to-day life of the poorest people of the country as the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London.

I deplore the reference to the Bishop of Southwark. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Why? I shall explain why. To me, he is one of the best of the Christian bishops and one of the best bishops in London. I have a very great deal of respect for him not because he addressed an anti-bomb meeting in Trafalgar Square but because he opened his cathedral not very long ago to the homeless people of London, and held a special service in order to call attention to the fact that there are so many homeless in London. That I believe to be an essential part of the Christian religion.

After all, Jesus Christ was not a theologian. He was not apathetic to the miseries of his age. He was a great personality talking about the need to bring religion right into the forefront of the controversy of his time. After all, it was He who drove the money-changers out of the Temple—and we still have with us the problem of driving them out.

The suggestion was made that because the Bishop of Southwark allows, or encourages, or vets—I do not know exactly what—certain ecclesiastical incidents, the delivering of certain masses in his churches, he was acting illegally. The hon and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was immediately asked the pertinent and relevant question of what he was going to do about it. After all, it is no use raising the question of illegality unless one is prepared to do something about it.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

The particular church referred to in this connection is in my constituency. The point my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was making was not a criticism. He was pointing out the legal position.

Mr. Hughes

If that matter is to be cleared up in Southwark, and if the bishop is acting illegally, there is a question of whether the legal authorities are to take any action about it. What could they do to the bishop? I should imagine that if the Government decided to prosecute the Bishop of Southwark this would be another very difficult question, because he is a man of very strong and determined character. When the policeman came along to arrest him for a breach of the law he might say very definitely, "Well, it is quite true that I may have broken the law and I am prepared to go to gaol about it."

Dr. Glyn

Perhaps I did not make the point quite clear. My hon. and gallant Friend was not talking about prosecutions but was merely using this particular case as an illustration for the theme which he was developing about the difficulties which exist at present. It was no criticism either of the Minister or of the Bishop of Southwark. It was merely an illustration. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not quite understand the way in which it was expressed.

Mr. Hughes

I followed the argument with very close attention. Surely it was that the Bishop of Southwark was in some way guilty of abetting breaches in the law. That was the only meaning in the argument. Supposing that the police had gone to the Bishop of Southwark and he had taken a certain line. After all, he is a member of the House of Lords and he could have pleaded privilege as another member of the House of Lords did in a recent case. Therefore, what could they ultimately have done about the Bishop of Southwark? I object to what I can only regard as an attack on a very eminent dignitary of the Church of England in London.

I pay my tribute also to the Canon of Southwark. We know that Canon Stanley Evans, now the Chancellor, is a very distinguished churchman, and I have a very great respect for him. In fact, I have been on pilgrimages with him. When Canon Stanley Evans decided to lead the crusade, the march from Edinburgh to London, he took his place at the head of the procession. He is not a young man. When he marched in all sorts of weather from Edinburgh to London in order to protest against nuclear warfare he was carrying on a great Christian tradition, which, I am glad to say, still lives in the Church of England.

The Church of England has many eminent people in its ranks in Landon for whom, I am sure, there is a great deal of general respect. There is, for example, Canon Collins, of St. Paul's, who takes up a line in matters of current controversy which can hardly be popular among a very large section of his congregation. I have also had the honour of taking part in pilgrimages with Canon Collins. I have walked between Canon Collins and the Chancellor of Southwark Cathedral from Aldermaston to London. I say, and I hope that I am not offending the susceptibilities and feelings of hon. Members opposite, that in doing that in that crusade we were expressing the real Christianity and the real point of view of the people of this country.

I do not wish to end on any note which might cause any deep-seated feelings among members of the Church of England opposite, but I hope that the Church of England, instead of being an established Church and instead of being regarded as the Church of the Establishment, will come to be regarded as the Church of the people. I believe that when it does this it will earn even greater respect from the masses of people in this country who believe in Christianity.

2.35 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

I came to the House today carrying a number of the sincere and anxious letters which, I suppose, all of us have been receiving on this subject and being very uncertain whether to speak at all, or whether to speak about the contents of the letters or on behalf of those who up to now have had very few spokesmen in the House, that is, those who have been described as the "inarticulate laity".

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) gave us a rather rough ride, I thought, and I should like to make, first of all, the point that many among the inarticulate laity may be inarticulate for different reasons from those suggested by my hon. Friend. They may feel that they do not wish to throw themselves into a controversy of a bitter kind, of which there have been far too many in the history of the Church. But one thing of which I should like to assure my hon. Friend is that though they might be inarticulate they are not illiterate. Although it is possible to say to them, "You keep out of this, it is not your Church", one cannot say to them, "This is not your culture." The most important thing to be borne in mind today is that, whatever views people may take on theological issues or on issues of vestment or forms of prayer, and so on, no one can escape the Christian culture of which this country is an integral part. We are what has happened to us.

Mr. Driberg

I think that my hon. Friend is very slightly misrepresenting me. I was trying to expose what I regarded as the myth of the inarticulate laity, and I was saving, because I believe them to be in the main literate, that they could if they wished, and should, become articulate.

Mr. Parkin

Yes, I appreciate that, but surely a number of them feel that against the background of the main issues that divide the world today some of these subjects of dispute are best left to those who feel very deeply about them.

Mr. Driberg


Mr. Parkin

One should not rush in and presume to be an expert. As a very old-fashioned person, speaking against this cultural background, I want to express the view that the old forms of words are best left alone. I know this is illogical and that those who drew up the Prayer Book, the Articles and the translations of the Bible thought that they were being extremely modern, but those forms of words have been the Latin of the working class culture in this country for centuries ever since. They are forms of words in which one does not have to commit oneself to a precise theological view in a changing and evolving world and in a changing and evolving theology.

My hon. Friend referred somewhat derisively to people who get their children baptised or who fill up an Army form "C. of E.". Many of us have been in that position, either in the Army or in a hospital. One does not want to start an argument so one says "C. of E.". And when the chaplain comes round again one does not want to start an argument. One wants to be polite to him. He is there to do his job and one tries to get the subject under discussion switched to social welfare instead of having to agree with something in which one does not believe. I am prepared to fall back on the old formula. If my hon. Friend complains about the use of baptism he should remember that that used to be followed up by the Catechism. I see no harm in that. Indeed, I could recite parts of the Catechism now, and I would not want to quarrel with it in the general terms of what I call the archaic equivalent of Latin to those who like those forms of words.

I am expressing this rather clumsily, but I think that a large part of the inarticulate laity must be very disturbed about the change brought about by the 1944 Education Act, the change in religious instruction in schools. I think that a lot of it has gone wrong. There is an amateurishness and a sloppiness and a sort of off-the-cuff interpretation going on which is far worse than what happened in the days when either there was the straight teaching of a specific Church, or nothing at all.

The parent of today is in a difficulty when his child comes home and says, Teacher says this about the way God hated the people and destroyed them in the Flood "—or something of the kind. How can a parent cope with that sort of thing in the home, as he must, unless, as I think quite rightly, he turns to the Authorised Version of the Bible? If he has to cope with what has been said by a bored, ignorant or primitive-minded teacher, who has given some crude and sometimes cruel version of a Bible story, he will not go far wrong if he reads the first chapter of Genesis or the story of the Flood in the words which have been sufficient for generations. I plead with those who think that they are so terribly up to date in making certain amending reforms and ask them to think a couple of times about it before forcing such reforms upon the country, and thereby eliminating that cultural contact.

I would not detain the House just to say this much, from a very personal point of view, because I know all the scoldings which my hon. Friends, who are active practising members of Churches, will have in reserve for me, and all the answers to what I have just been saying. But I wish to go on to this point. It seems to me that the most tremendous issue before the world at present is not whether Canterbury should reunite with Rome, but whether Rome should reunite with Byzantium in the fullest and profoundest theological sense of the term. To me it does not seem to make much difference to the world crises whether a few earnest individuals are happier in a reformed Church of England or whether they would like to move over and take instruction and enter the Church of Rome. It does not seem to me that reuniting Canterbury with Rome would add much to the great conscious or unconscious drive expressed in the Ecumenical Movement, and expressed in many other parts of the world, to arrive at human unity and a common acceptance of human history and dignity which, if I might use a form of verbal shorthand, I would call the reuniting of Rome with Byzantium.

It may be that if we escape the worst, if mankind finds a way not to destroy itself, in two or three hundred years' time historians will be looking at this time of crisis as part of the great schism in the Judao-Christian tradition, which geographically expresses itself in Roman-Byzantium, but actually is present in the minds and hearts of individuals in so many countries of the world as a conflict of duty between Church and State; a conflict of duty between the organised community and individual conscience and individual freedom.

Is not it true that the two halves of the world at present are each striving to find out the secret of the success of the other? Is not it true that one half is trying to find out how to plan and organise its economy and social life—without giving it the name which I will not give it now, which has become a dirty theological word? And is it not true that the other half of the world which has been preoccupied in economic planning, is now seeking to find greater means for expressing greater individual freedom? Is it not true that the whole world is finding an equality of human dignity in looking back into its own culture? Is not the secret of the elimination of supposed racial differences and group hatreds the fact that they look back into their own culture and origins and find that they have by some accident been deprived for a brief period of their full share in the world of mankind, but that the further back they go the more they are united?

That is the big issue. If, as we all think, in the next 100 years or so the world will move towards world government and unity, is not it right that we should preserve the greatest possibility of cultural autonomy, and that we should take our whole heritage into the common pool? It may be fashionable to say a few disrespectful things about the Church of England, which does not exactly fill its parish churches at every service and which dodges a few issues and so on. But after all, is not it perhaps the only State Church which has made a success of being a State Church without keeping alive the most intense hatreds against other faiths in the community? Broadly speaking, it has worked. There must be few countries where there is such tolerance and understanding in the community.

I shall be very sorry if, against that centuries-old background, we now move into a period where the people who think they know it all are given the right to impose their present views. Surely the most detestable person in theological matters is the person who is so anxious to buttonhole one and to tell one exactly what God thought and intended at any given moment. It is very much better, it seems to me, to stay under the umbrella of the old forms of words inside which one can trace the evolution.

Is not it obviously true that in the course of history so many of the great massacres, torturings and conquerings have sprung from the fear of the realisation of what started off quite innocently when some dedicated individuals, had a political or theological ideal which they hoped the whole world would share? Is not it true, as a matter of ritual exercise, that everybody in every part of the world some time or other says, "The time is coming, brothers," —or "comrades" or Whatever it may be— "when the whole world will accept it and feel as we do"? But is not it also true that they are so wrong, because even their own children are not accepting it; because in the evolution from generation to generation of each one of these faiths the idea is changing all the time?

It has already been said this afternoon that we can remember—certainly I can remember—the day when ordinary parish priests of the Church of England would have been appalled by some of the things which have been said by hon. Members opposite today, by most active and dedicated members of the Church of England. They would have been appalled, but they would have been appalled at the change of views of the political parties on both sides of this House. Someone said that they did not accept the view that the people of this country accepted or were attached to Christianity. But they cannot escape it.

Is it really true that this country is less Christian? It may be true from the point of view adopted by the statisticians, the people who count up attendances at church services. But in our view of society is it possible to say, even with all its mistakes and unsolved problems, that we are less advanced now than in the 19th century, that period of crude materialism? Surely we have gone a long way towards accepting the restoration of the notion of stewardship in relation to property and the notion of responsibility to one's neighbours and dependants and the understanding of compassion towards the criminal or the mentally sick, and the other duties towards one's neighbour? Inadequate as, speaking from this side of the House I am bound to regard our achievements, that has begun. There has been a gigantic step forward, and this is part of an underground feeling of emotion more than a process of logic.

Reverting to my remark about "working class Latin," this country has been fortunate in getting a disciplined working class which marched to church regularly to hear, in plain English, a series of prayers, psalms and extracts from the Bible which were almost universally anti-Establishment and kept alive a constant feeling of rebellion against the authorities and tyranny and wickedness in high places.

This is the background from which political and social thinking springs. Therefore, I should be very sorry if during the process of understandable discussion among the people most concerned about the way in which they were to conduct their services and the organisation of their churches they did anything which would stand in the way of a British cultural contribution to a reuniting of the whole human race, which is within reach. It is difficult to make these speeches without talking about one's personal background. I think, however, of the damage done by bad translations of decent sentiments. I think of the nonsense of pretending that there is a difference between the points of view.

I expect that a lot of people would be offended if one took a most sacred thing like the Lord's Prayer and analysed it and said, "Here is a political programme," It is the acceptance of the most important things in order, then going down to the basic material necessities of life with a certain sense of humility. I remember some of my education which took place in what had been a Methodist chapel. Right across a beam there I remember a text from the Prophet Micah: What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? In a lecture on Marxist materialism the equivalent phrase is "the conscious alignment of the will with dialectical necessity." Surely they both mean the same thing. What is the sense in splitting the world about them? "Walking humbly with thy God" means exactly that, and it is much older and has a good emotional appeal.

If I were to wind up with the most powerful argument I could muster it would take too long, because I should be very tempted to refer to that most moving and important book The Phenomenon of Man by the late Jesuit Father Teilhard, who set out to reinterpret the scientific view of the development and evolution of mankind in theological terms. He believed that what distinguishes mankind from the rest of life on this planet is its capacity to be constantly splitting and diversify- ing, and at the same reuniting. The struggle to reunite is as persistent as the struggle to split apart. Whereas the other species in the course of evolution have disappeared down culs-de-sac and become unchangeable, man still remains capable of reuniting, inter-breeding and evolving from stage to stage in a higher understanding of his purpose.

That brings us back to this problem unsolved. I do not think it wrong at any time to say that the biggest problem is the one which we cannot solve in our generation, but which we try to solve. It is the problem inside the consciousness of every individual of what is his duty, from his own point of view, to humanity. That is the biological problem of mankind, to try to live as a peaceful community without becoming like a community of insects and at the same time preserving an individuality which has a higher loyalty and will not destroy nor threaten the life of the community as a whole.

In the light of that, I should have thought that our little island history, our traditions and the Christian background of the Middle Ages of which our State Church is a descendant, has to be considered. Incidentally, the Church of Scotland is also a theme one could develop—the great problem it faced in producing an educated laity, and the new kind of ministry to work out what was called "diffused authority".

This problem of authority is related to an interjection made by the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) in a debate the other day. When someone was speaking rather unkindly about Dr. Banda being greeted as a "messiah", the hon. Member made an intervention. We use a word and immediately there is an emotional reaction of horror. The hon. Member intervened to say, in effect, "Take it easy. Please understand that this is an African conception of authority. After the discussions have taken place there is the notion that the leadership is the Lord's annointed and should be adopted as such".

All these are parts of the jigsaw which have to be fitted together; they have to be fitted together very quickly in view of the dangers which threaten the world. I hope that my country and the State Church and its offshoots will all contribute to this and not risk nullifying themselves by getting lost in comparatively unimportant doctrinal matters and questions of vestments, forms and so on. Unexpected as the trend of this debate may have been, if it helps in that direction it will have been very fortunate for the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) who had the good luck to introduce it.

2.58 p.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

I must admit that I found it most difficult to follow some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). Perhaps when his speech has been published in HANSARD we shall be able together to go through what he has said and he will be able to give me a reasonable interpretation.

I was very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) raised this subject, and particularly pleased to hear his opening remarks when he made reference to the Bible. In Queen Victoria's days this country was referred to as the Country of the Book—the Bible. If we can get back to the Word of God we shall not go very far wrong. In his excellent and admirable speech, I was glad to hear that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) got in a quick word about the small proportion of Evangelicals who today are receiving high preferment. Let us hope that that will be rectified in due course.

We have had a very interesting and profitable debate so far, moderately presented in every respect. I trust that, although I have served in this House for only three years, I shall worthily continue the aspect or attitude of moderation.

We all know that ancient Gaul was divided into three parts, and in the Church of England today there are three historic parties—the high, the low and the broad; some people describe it as the high, low and the flat. But I must acknowledge that my own sympathy is with the Evangelicals, in whose interests I have served as a member of the Church Assembly, and I now have some active interest in the Church of England newspaper. Like thousands of others I attend my parish church Sunday by Sunday.

I believe that this is a time of serious disquiet within the national Church and a time when the nation needs every possible spiritual reinforcement. Repeatedly in the House, especially of late, our attention has been drawn to the moral weaknesses and behaviour problems of the country. Therefore, anything which we can do to strengthen the spiritual effectiveness of the Church of England is bound to strengthen national life at many levels. I hope that this debate will prove both constructive and helpful for the cause of true religion.

Towards the end of the war it was my privilege as an officer serving in the Royal Air Force to be a member of the Archbishop's Commission on Evangelism. Our report entitled, Towards the Conversion of England, appeared in 1945 and quickly became a best seller, both here and overseas. The Report looked forward to the post-war era of opportunity and called for many special efforts to carry the Gospel more effectively to our own people. I must say that I deplore the fact that many of its more important recommendations still remain unfulfilled—the training of the laity, for instance, for evangelism, the widespread co-operation with other communions in evangelism, the encouragement of the local parish fellowship in study and training, and the training of the clergy in effective preaching. Even at this date there is still no council for evangelism.

We may well ask why these important proposals have not been implemented. The simple answer is that in 1947 the Church Assembly and the Convocations turned their attention to another report, that of revision of Canon Law. Since that time a great deal of the energies of the bishops and Church leaders have been taken up with question of Canon Law revision. In a short while this House will have some of these Measures before it, and I cannot help feeling that the proposals are more the will of the clergy and the bishops than of the people. In particular, there are proposals to legalise vestments hitherto illegal, although commonly worn, and two Measures designed to permit wide variations in the public worship of the Church, these to be reinforced before long by an ecclesiastical courts measure which will put teeth into the proposals and make them enforceable in the parishes.

The Prayer Book Measures will permit the whole of the rejected 1928 Prayer Book to be used without further appeal to Parliament, to say nothing of many other forms of service as yet unpublished. The principle of uniformity in the national Church will then be lost once and for all.

My impression is that many, many lay people would be happy to see the Prayer Book translated into modern terms, but the divided state of the Church of England does not permit this as a practical possibility. Judging by the number of letters which I have received and which I know have been received by other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh, there is widespread concern among the laity. Perhaps as laymen the thing which we most dislike is the way in which the clergy sometimes monkey about with the service of Holy Communion. Not only are we subject—and I say this with respect—to "bells and smells and bobs and nods", as they are vulgarly described, but there are times when it is virtually impossible to follow the service in the Prayer Book or even in some specially compiled manual. This is a long way from Common Prayer, with people in every parish using the same prayers, and frequently the innovations involve or imply doctrines which the Church of England repudiated four centuries ago. It is difficult to set these things alongside the simplicity of the Upper Room and the Last Supper.

Yet another proposal would oblige a clergyman to refuse Holy Communion to members of other Churches except under stringent regulations and would deny a privilege of sharing in the communion of other Churches to all Anglicans. The fact is that ever since the Reformation occasional conformity and occasional communion have been encouraged without episcopal permission, and this practice continues today. Repeatedly, the proposals call for reference to the bishop and for obedience to his decision. I think that we can all well imagine that sometimes these decisions will depend upon the state of the episcopal nerves or digestion. For a long time past, most of these questions have been left to the parochial clergy, it being understood that there was always opportunity to appeal to the rural dean, archdeacon or even to the bishop in the case of hot dispute. The focusing of all these problems upon the bishop cannot, in my view, make for smoother working of the Church as a whole.

I have dealt with only a few of the serious objections to the proposals on which Church leaders have spent so much time. I am far more concerned that the Church of England will serve the people of England. Bishops and clergy alike should give themselves to making known the good news of God's salvation to every last parishioner.

This week, in New York City, I spent several hours in the company of a great man whose life is devoted to preaching and teaching the Gospel. The religious life of England today, in my judgment; owes far more to this man. Dr. Billy Graham, than to many a bishop on the bench. It is time, surely, for the Church of England to devote itself to the primary task of preaching the good news, and that men capable of doing this work should be promoted to high office. I can think of some able men serving now overseas and, indeed, at home, some of whom we have heard mentioned of today, who could do this work with great effectiveness.

With our authority in Holy Writ, with our lasting loyalty and devotion to our Protestant heritage, and, most of all, with our Lord's continuing command to preach the Gospel to every creature, ought the Church of England to bother itself for so long in matters of Canon Law revision when it should be winning men and women to Christ?

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)

I intend to enter this debate only briefly because of the number of people whom I know wish to speak. I should like art the beginning to echo some of the words of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). He said that particularly among the younger generation there was great impatience with the concentration upon the divisions in the Church and among Christians. I believe him to be profoundly right, and I think that this debate, if it has done nothing else, has echoed over and over again the great desire of hon. Members in all parts of the House and of all denominations for a greater degree of unity.

This is also the biblical test by which Christians should be known. Our Lord in His farewell discourses gave two marks whereby the Christian should be known. The first was love and the second was unity. If this debate has been of any service, it has been because it has concentrated upon those two facts. The contrast between this debate in 1962 and the debates around the years that I was born has been in this respect most marked. For this we should congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) on bringing the subject forward.

My intervention is brief because very much of what I would have liked to have said has been said, and said very much better than I could have said it. I want to emphasise one aspect which I think has not been stressed very much in the debate. This has been a debate about Establishment or disestablishment. Too little has been said during the debate about the value to the State of its connection with the Church. Many hon. Members have talked about the advantages which the Church receives from its connection. There has been general agreement that there is a benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) suggested that on balance perhaps as things stand the present system of Establishment is to the disadvantage of the Church. He may well be right, but I do not think that he or anybody else has stated that there is not value in Establishment for the Church.

It is on the benefit which the State receives that I want to say something. In this material age it is of very great value that the State, by accepting an Established Church, says in effect by this acceptance that there are other things outside the sphere of the State which matter, that religion matters. In the wonderful words of Cecil Spring Rice: And there's another country, I've heard of long ago, Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know. The fact of Establishment means that the State accepts the existence of "another country." In a pagan world this acceptance is of great value, because it means among other things that the State accepts that there are things which it cannot do. This is of value because with every year that passes the pressure grows for the State to try to do everything. With the growing divorce rate, with greater juvenile delinquency and all these types of moral problems, the instinct of modern democracy is to say to the State, "What are you going to do about these things?" Yet these are things which fall within the province of the Church and in a free society must fall within the province of the Church. If the State were to turn to this type of matter and attempt to exert its atithority, from that moment onwards we should cease to be in a free society. We should come to a society in which the Government and the State were attempting to serve both material and spiritual needs.

In Establishment there is a vital principle not only for the Church but also for the State by asserting by its very existence that there are things which the State cannot and should not do. Therefore, whatever is the result of the debate on the question of Establishment, it is my great hope that a form will be found which will be acceptable, retaining Establishment for the great benefits that it gives, not only to the Church but also to the State.

The remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend about the Scottish solution may well prove to be of value. We must not allow ourselves to get into the position of thinking that the present relationship is the only possible one. It is perfectly possible that some solution on the lines of the Scottish solution can be found which would be more satisfactory than the present situation.

I know that it would be out of order to speak of appointments in the Church and I do not intend to do so, but on a large range of issues the present situation goes on all right because of a certain tolerance and understanding. I am a great advocate of Establishment. That does not mean necessarily Establishment as at present on the present terms, but it would be a great loss to the Church and the State if Establishment were to end.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

I hesitate to enter a debate such as this, coming, as I do, from Scotland, having listened to such excellent speeches from both sides of the House. The speeches today have been both excellent and knowledgeable but, to some extent, they have often by-passed the fundamental question in the Motion, which is whether or not the Church of England should be the Established Church or should, more or less, be disestablished.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), in trying to make his case—which he presented in an excellent manner—attempted to prove that from time immemorial churches had been established. He drew from the historical past of the Jews in an effort to prove that the first conception or revelation of God the Spirit brought about the unity of purpose between the Church and the State. That, as he tried to indicate, showed that the Establishment existed in those times.

It is probably true that those who have studied that part of history should come to the conclusion that beliefs in God and the Temples of the Jews were closely associated with the political ideologies of the times. But I believe that even when Isaiah was propounding his prophecies of the unity of man under one God there were—and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South failed to mention this—throughout the world other great believers thinking much the same thoughts.

One finds that while Isaiah was prophesying his beliefs in one part of the world. Buddha was prophesying his beliefs in another. Their thoughts were not unrelated but were, in fact, very much the same. Buddha sought to teach man that suffering was due to the greedy desires of the individual. Not only was Buddha speaking in India but, not a long distance away, Confucius was speaking in China, telling the people that he was concerned with the need to make them spiritually united to bring about a better world. Thus, in all pants of the world, the great thoughts of great men were trying to purify man by illustrating the need for man's example himself.

It is true to say that the Jews, who conceived, by some revelation, that there was a God of the Spirit and that their religion was compatible with their political ideologies, took great exception when the greatest of men came on earth. They took great exception to the preachings of Christ because when Christ came on earth He to some extent undermined their belief that they should have too close a contact or belief in the greatness of their own race. This is an important thing to remember today.

Christ tried to show them that they were not the Chosen people and that all men, from whatever part of the world they came, were the children of God By virtue of His preachings and actions He to some degree undermined the beliefs of the Jews in certain aspects of the Established Church Which they then knew. In fact, He showed the Jews that national beliefs were not the important things, but that the Jews and all mankind should look upon the people of all the known world as being brothers one of another.

He not only upset the Jews in that belief, but in another that we in this House hold near and dear—the importance of the family and of family life. The Jews were a very good and great nation who believed very much in the importance of family life, but we are told in Matthew 12–46–50 that when He was told that His mother and brethren waited for Him, He replied rather to the following effect: "Who is my mother? Who are my brethren? You are all my mother, you are all my brethren, if only you believe." He therefore went to a broader basis, and did not believe that there should be an Established Church connected with any particular race or creed.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, spoke of the Protestant revolution—the Reformation. That was not only a reformation of a spiritual kind but was also a revolt against the feudalism and reactionary attitudes of the Church during and before that period. At that time, more than one-third of the land in the Christian world belonged to the Church, and the Church was the symbol of the feudal system. When we read history, we even find that a woman who wanted to get married first had to get the permission of the Church to do so. We have seen where the Church stood in relation to the great movements for the betterment of humanity. The Chartist movement of not so many years ago demanded very simple reforms, but the Established Church was generally "anti" such movements for the improvement of the working classes.

It is true that the Established Church has to some extent survived those days, but how it has survived is one of the great miracles of our time because, for almost all its history, it was never on the side of the oppressed and the downtrodden, but always supported the Establishment. That is one of the great calamities of the Established Church, and one of the important aspects of our discussion is whether or not it is a good thing for any church to be so closely associated with the State that it is almost bound to reflect the opinion of the Establishment.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) has rightly said that it is out-with the ambit of this debate to discuss Church appointments, but we all know that those appointments are made, and that they are not made by the Church. No seeker of justice and fairness can say that that is a healthy position in the Church and, without professing to be an expert in these matters, I think that the Government would be well advised to consider the Church of Scotland, and its relationship to the State as well as its relationship to the ordinary man in the street as a pattern for the Church of England.

My great worry at this time is that when we discuss the great problems, we discuss problems which are not of so much importance when we look at the great vista of the problems confronting the human race. I worry because the Church, be it one church or another, cannot call out to men of faith and goodwill in India, China, Russia—all over the world—to seek a fundamental faith and belief, which some of us believe was the basic belief of Christ Himself.

There is great upset about a little child who is born completely deformed because of the effects of a certain drug and the mother takes the child's life. A whole country shouts in anguish and concern when this happens. On the other hand, when mankind is devising and working as hard as possible to perfect instruments of destruction that would destroy not only that poor child, the least amongst us, but destroy the human race, there is not a united call to the people for sanity and sensibility not only by our Government, but by the Governments of the world.

The important aspect of the question before us is that if the Church was not so tied to a Government that it could express its own religious belief, a religious belief that would have an echo in all the religious believers all over the world, whether Buddhists, Moslems or believers in other faiths, people would react to a church of the calibre of the Church of England if it gave a call to sanity in this most insane world.

I do not wish to trespass upon the time of the House. I have thoroughly enjoyed the interesting contributions which have been made with dignity and sincerity. I counsel each and all of us, however, to remember the basic faith of the Lord who is the leader of all Christianity. Let us try in our own small way to remember His words, His actions and His deeds. He did not ask for popularity. At a moment's notice, He could have saved Himself. He did not seek to do so. Let us not just seek to save ourselves. Let us try our best by our actions to save this tormented world.

3.27 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis), who moved the Motion, is to be warmly congratulated on giving rise to such a wide and interesting debate. We have had not only the narrow issue contained in the Motion, but we have had suggestions for possible unity between Rome and Byzantium and interesting contributions, such as that made by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter), on Jewish theology, its effect on the national Church, and so on.

I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh in moving the Motion say that he was in favour of reform, although I was not quite certain what he meant when he went on to say that he was also in favour of reformation. Many of us think that we cannot again have a reformation of the same type as that we had in the 1530s. The whole movement of the world is towards unity.

My thoughts on the Church are, perhaps, coloured by two events which took place in my youth. The first was the rejection by Parliament in 1927 and 1928 of the quite reasonable, as I thought, requests of the Church of England for reform of the Prayer Book. It always seemed to me very wrong that Scotsmen, Welshmen, Nonconformists and even atheists who had no interest in the Church of England should, as they did, throw out the proposals of the Establishment at that time. That made a very great impression upon me. I cannot help feeling that many of the troubles in the Church of England, its loss of power and loss of prestige in the past 30 years, have been contributed to by the fact that it was not able to reform itself in the thirties as it might have done, and it has therefore laid itself open in recent years to charges of insincerity, of being ridiculous, and so on.

My mind was affected in the thirties also because I spent a good deal of my time in East Anglia and found that such was the nature of the archaic law of the Church that the Rector of Stiffkey could not be brought to book in under about six years. Everyone knew that he was a wicked man, but so antique was the Canon Law and the ecclesiastical law that he could not promptly be imprisoned or defrocked as people were trying to do at the time.

In Parliament, we must all sympathise with any effort the Church may make to bring itself up to date, or, rather, to make itself legal. I think that that is the first step—to make itself legal. Every Sunday, tens of thousands of clergymen break the law of the land because they do not use the matins as laid down by the Act of Uniformity of 1662, which, of course, was based on the Prayer Book of 1549 brought in by Edward VI. Incidentally, I can here claim a constituency interest because Edward VI was born at Hampton Court.

As I said in an intervention, Henry VIII, although he made the Church break away from the Church of Rome, which was a great political act of policy and nationalism at that time, was very careful to try to keep our Prayer Book more or less in line with the current European Prayer Book of the day. In many ways it was based on that.

The fact that the Act of Uniformity is still on the Statute Book, although it was amended in the last century, requiring that in all cathedrals, churches, chapels and colleges, Eton, Winchester and the rest, only the one Prayer Book may be used and only one matins, the law being broken if it is not complied with, makes the Church look ridiculous. As the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) said, there is no place for a sermon in matins. Only in the service of Holy Communion is there a place for a sermon. Every Christmas day, Easter day, Whit Sunday and Trinity Sunday, we ought to have the Athanasian Creed. Every Sunday, we ought to have the Litany. The very fact that we are so lawless in this way makes it difficult for the bishops and Archbishops to bring to book those lawless clergymen who are going far outside the scope and spirit of the Church of England today.

The language of the Prayer Book is becoming archaic in many ways. There is the prayer for the Church militant, but many clergymen do not like to use the word "militant." We pray for all bishops and curates, when we ought to be praying for all bishops and clergy. We speak of the "true and lively Word" when we mean the true and living Word. So I could go on. The lectionary is very archaic. It has been said that the working classes think that the Church is an enigma, an insignificant enigma, and I think that one of the reasons is the constant reading of those really impossible pants of the Old Testament in the first lesson.

The other day, at a civic service, I had to read Numbers chapter 24, verses 1 to 19, which is a rather long-winded discussion between Balaam and Balak talking of murder and sudden death. I am certain that I did not understand it, and I am sure that not a fraction of my congregation understood what was being read. Yet it is laid down in the lectionary that we have to bring out same of these archaic passages before our congregations. Practically everyone married in the last 10 or 20 years has been married according to an illegal service. Certainly that applies to those who have been baptised.

I therefore think that the Church needs a new Enabling Act to revise its services into modern forms. But I am a little distressed that this reasonable request should be met with opposition in letters such as the one which has been mentioned from the vicar of Holy Trinity at Islington. He brings into the argument things which most Members of Parliament do not know anything about —I confess that I know nothing about them—things like allowing the use of immovable stone communion tables in services as opposed to wooden ones. This is the sort of thing which should be decided by the Church, not by Parliament and the bishops.

Captain On

That begs the question of what is the Church.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I think that the Church is a body of people trying to carry out the Christian religion. Tiny details such as those which I have just mentioned are matters for the Church. The present Canon Law goes to great lengths in laying the details of behaviour for the clergy. It lays down what sort of nightshirt they should wear and says whether they should wear a nightcap, and so on. All this is based on a monastic tradition that is not really part of our life today. Should not the Church be allowed to alter these details on its own? I make a plea that we should consider the efforts of the bishops and Archbishops with a generous and understanding spirit.

As has been said today, the great challenge before Christianity is a challenge of the whole of the rest of the world, about three-quarters of which is non-Christian, against the Christian world. In the face of this challenge, surely we should practise peaceful coexistence among the sects of the Christian Church. Whenever I go abroad and talk to foreigners who have come into contact with Christian Churches in places like Japan and South America, I am always met with the criticism, "Which of these many sects do you belong to? There are 20 Christian sects in our country. We do not know which is the right one. Is it not time that there was one universal Church for the whole of Christianity?" I do not think that a universal Church is practical. I think that we should treat in a generous and kindly spirit the efforts of all Churches in the different ways in which they worship Christ.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)

I should like to start by saying that I speak not as a Church Commissioner but purely and simply in my private capacity. I have no special standing to speak in the debate, but I hope that some of the things that I say may have general acceptance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) is to be congratulated first, on having bean lucky in the Ballot, and secondly, on the use that he has made of his good fortune. When I first saw the Motion I shared the misgivings of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I wondered, once this potential Pandora's Box had been opened, what would come out of It and which way the squibs would jump. But the times have changed, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House reminded us. The striking thing which has emerged from the debate is that the rank and file, not only of the Church of England but also of other Christian Members of this House who have spoken, are in front of our leaders in a longing for Christian unity.

The way in which the debate has gone will have been helpful to future thinking in the Church of England. It has been an extremely useful debate. Different opinions have been expressed, as was natural, and we members of the Church of England can say that we have had a most useful contribution, not only from OUT own members, but from people who are not members of the Church of England, the Congregationalists, the right hon. Member for South Shields, for example, the Free Churches, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and Members from Scotland.

The Church of England is the last body to resent criticism, and the helpful way in which the suggestions made have been voiced will ensure the most careful consideration by churchmen and others. One of the true greatnesses of the Church of England is the width of the field which it embraces and its tolerance of and good humour at differing views. This feature has been notable in this debate.

I should also say a word about the background with which I approach the various problems which we have been discussing today. I was baptised a Presbyterian in the Church of Scotland, and it was only on confirmation that I became a member of the Church of England. If I have any leanings, therefore, my background has made them mare towards Presbyterianism and Nonconformity rather than towards Anglo-Catholicism. Having said that, none the less closer ties and affiliations with the Church of Rome would be welcome to me as would closer associations with the Nonconformist and Presbyterian Churches. I was glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West was at one with those members of the Church of England who expressed the same view.

It has been the view of the House generally that it is a tragedy that the Christian Church, which started as one, should have been fragmented by man and that splendid people should spend so much time concentrating on their differences rather than on the causes which unite them. The tone of the debate this afternoon has shown that these are changing bath in the House and in the country.

Today's debate has ranged widely and I should at this stage mention the letter of the two Archbishops. My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh himself said that he felt that the time had come when another reformation was due. That is what the letter of the two Archbishops foreshadows, but not a reformation in the sense that has been tried before over the Prayer Book and which has caused so much trouble. Since that letter was written, it has been much maligned, misquoted and misunderstood, but its spirit was with us in the House today.

What the Archbishops said, in effect, was that the Church, like any other body, could not stand still and must keep abreast of the times; that to attempt to freeze the Church and confine it to the words and practices of the Act of Uniformity, 1662, since when the general law has changed, for example, making some of the canons obsolete, would hamper the Church's effectiveness. Any alteration in the general law would have to be passed by Parliament.

The Church Assembly's suggestions will be brought before Parliament in due course for the revision of Canon Law. I must admit that I share some of the misgivings which have been expressed on this subject. We must beware that we do not try to specify too rigidly, because so long as Canon Law is broadly based and is not too specific everyone can put his own interpretation on it. But if we dot the "is" and cross the "t's" too meticulously this can lead to differences between people which can and should, in my view, be avoided. I have seen some of the suggestions that are likely to be put before Parliament, and on the whole they are broadening and not of a restrictive nature, and in that they will be an improvement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) suggested that the Church was spending too much time on Canon Law and not sufficient on Evangelism. I agree with him, and I think that most members of the Church of England would agree with him, too. What really happened was that in 1947 the Church embarked on the task of looking at its Canon Law without fully realising what a stupendous labour it was undertaking and how many problems would arise in the process. But now most of the work has been done, and I would have thought that it would be well to proceed and to get Canon Law revision out of the way so as to free ourselves for the task which I am sure we all regard as being the one that really matters, the task of spreading the Christian faith throughout the country and throughout the world.

Before leaving the topic of Canon Law, I would remind the House that no one would think of sending a parson to prison these days because his dress was not correct, or a local squire to prison for reading the lessons on Sundays in church. A law which is out of sympathy with current opinion and practice falls into disrepute, and we must modify Church laws just as we modified the betting and licensing laws when they had fallen behind current public opinion. It is no bad thing that we should now be looking at our laws to bring them up to date and make sure that they are in line with what public opinion generally thinks is right and proper.

The Archbishops in their letter do not propose any sweeping changes or a new Prayer Book. What they suggest is that we should have an experimental period. I noticed that my hon. Friend the Member far Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) objects to the term "experimental", but I would not quarrel with him in the suggestion he makes that it should be called a "limited" period. What the Archbishops are suggesting is that we should have an experimental or limited period of up to seven years, followed if desired by another period of up to seven years, during which various alternatives might be tried out.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham thought that the House of that day was right when it rejected the Prayer Book in 1928. It may well be so. I would not argue about that, but certainly the Church will not try to bring before Parliament a new Prayer Book quite on the lines of last time. It must be well tried out before anything as definite as that is suggested.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch was not correct, I suggest, in saying that if the proposals in the Archbishops' letter were accepted it would give authority for the 1928 Prayer Book. The proposals in the Archbishops' letter provide for real and effective safeguards. They provide that any experimental variation would have to receive two-thirds majorities in both Convocations, and in the House of Laity. They would then be authorised for use in each church only with the agreement of the parochial church council, and in this way Parliament would be assured that only experiments for which there was a widespread demand in the Church would be authorised. Nothing would be done without the agreement of each parochial church council. I have heard it represented—I think that one hon. Gentleman suggested it today—that this is a lurch towards Rome. That is quite untrue. It would be equally possible for an experiment in the opposite direction to be tried.

What the Archbishops are anxious to ensure is that nothing becomes permanent until thoroughly tried out experimentally and unless the result of the trials shows that there is real demand for it.

A number of hon. Members have made mention of the part played by the laity in the Church of England, and it has also been suggested that the laity are not a representative body. That may be true in a certain sense, but those who elect the members of the House of Laity are themselves chosen by the laity of the parishes. In this way, in effect, the laity of the parishes do have control at one remove over the laity elected to the Church Asembly.

Captain Orr

Only the laity on the electoral roll.

Mr. Arbuthnot

That is true. They are elected by the laity who take the trouble to have themselves put on the electoral roll and who are keen Church members. It has been suggested that the laity ought to be playing a greater part in the affairs of the Church of England. The Archbishops' letter emphasises that much attention is being given to the question of full participation of the laity in synodical government, that is to say, in the Convocations of the Church.

As things are, Canon Law revision is referred, canon by canon, to the House of Laity, which goes through it line by line and amends it as it thinks fit. The laity are playing an active part, and no one would be happier than the bishops and clergy, in my view, if their participation is further enhanced.

Sir G. Nicholson

Does not my hon. Friend realise that one of the great difficulties is the amount of time demanded by Church affairs? More expedition would be a great help.

Mr. Arbuthnot

My hon. Friend has anticipated my next. point. One of the great difficulties is to find enough young and active laymen—including women—to serve in the House of Laity. So many of the people we badly need cannot give up the time from their daily work. The result is that there is a preponderance of retired people in the House of Laity. This is a pity but it is not the fault either of the bishops, the clergy or the electors of the House of Laity.

One suggestion I would put forward is that it might be useful if the age of a candidate for election to the House of Laity were given in the particulars sent out with the ballot papers. I commend this to the authorities for consideration.

But it is not only in the Church Assembly that laymen play an active part. The most active part, indeed, is played in Parliament, where one does not even have to be a member of the Church of England to say how the Church should be governed. The biggest increase in activity among the laity is in the parishes. Very many parishes, like my own in Deal, have launched "Christian Stewardship" campaigns and have enjoyed a surge—perhaps that is the wrong word because the process is continuous and not temporary—in activity among laymen. Not only have we encountered new enthusiasm where we never thought it existed, but the team spirit that the stewardship campaign engendered has knit together the Church in a way it has never before experienced. Our congregations have improved considerably, our financial worries are at an end and our clergy have been freed to visit and evangelise rather than sit on the church steps with a begging bowl wondering whether the church roof could be repaired.

I do not believe that a true bill has been made out either that the laity is slack or that the Church is unduly in the hands of the bishops or the clergy, but, even if that were the case, the remedy would be in the hands of the laity and no one would be more thankful than the clergy to see them exercise it.

We have had a few speeches on the subject of disestablishment. I was particularly impressed by the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) when he recommended that we should have some change in the basis of establishment and bade us have a look at the Scottish solution. I personally see no objection to the Scottish solution, provided we could make some arrangement over the appointment of bishops and over the question of whether bishops should sit in another place. I think that it would be a great loss to Parliament if we did not have the participation of the bishops in another place.

Of course, a plausible case can be put forward for disestablishment. We can look at the United States, for example, where the various Churches are vigorous and well supported and excite the enthusiasm and loyalty to an extent which appears to be wanting here. The reason for this vigour is that the Churches in the United States have to be vigorous and lively in order to survive at all. This, therefore, gives a vitality which our rather sleepy, Established Church may lack. It seems to me that although the Church of England might have a tonic injected into it by disestablishment, the drawbacks would be infinitely greater and deplorable. However untrue it might be, and it would be untrue, the fact of the Church asking for and being granted disestablishment would, I believe, be interpreted abroad as Britain of her own choice ceasing to be a Christian nation, and that to my mind would be a disaster far outweighing any advantages which there might be.

It is comforting to know that both great political parties in the country have stated clearly that they will not initiate a movement for disestablishment. Therefore, it can only come about if the Church of England asked Parliament for it. I hope that the Church will never do that though we may consider the Scottish solution of a change in the basis of establishment mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend.

The fact that we have avoided too much talk about the Church spectrum and have concentrated on unity speaks for the good sense of those churchmen who have taken part in the debate. It is so easy to criticise someone else's path to Heaven, if it does not coincide with one's own. It is all so petty and unimportant really. In Chapter 21, verse 12, of Revelations we are told that Heaven has twelve gates. That is figuratively speaking. I am sure that it has many more. A diamond has many facets, and the fact that one facet happens to attract me does not necessarily mean that it will attract everybody. I believe that we have to get away from the approach of some people to these problems who assume that only their approach can be the right one and that all the others are inferior.

I happen not to like incense and I am not keen on vestments, which I regard as theatrical dressing up. I find them irritating and distracting. But, at the same time, I recognise that other people find incense symbolic of prayer rising to Heaven and like vestments because they feel that by the use of vestments the importance of the personality of the parson becomes less and that of the service more.

Captain Orr rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House is mindful of the fact that the majority of the people of this country adhere to the Christian religion and that the Church of England is by law established; and is concerned that the relationship between Parliament and Church shall, in the interests of both, be effectively maintained

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