HC Deb 07 April 1964 vol 692 cc948-65

Resolved, That the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure, 1964, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.—[Sir J. Arbuthnot.]

11.0 p.m.

Sir John Arbuthnot (Dover)

I beg to move, That the Holy Table Measure 1964, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. This Measure arises out of the revision of the Canons. It seeks to bring the law into line with existing practice. Judgments of the Privy Council have held that the main altar of the church must be made of wood and be movable, although altars in side chapels can be of stone. In many cathedrals and parish churches there are pre-Reformation altars made of stone. There are also some in modern churches of stone or concrete. The object of the Measure, therefore, is to permit the use of stone or other suitable material and thus to regularise the position both now and in the future.

The Measure met with some opposition in the House of Laity, but on final approval it was carried by a total of 389 votes to 36. I suggest to the House that there is no question about the legality of stone tables in a church, other than the main table. Therefore, it would seem to follow from that that there cannot be any doctrinal objection to stone tables as such. Although I do not know of any stone table in Methodist churches, I understand that there would be no difficulty about the installation of one should anybody be so minded.

So far as the Church of Scotland is concerned, the Rev. George Macleod, an ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland, has installed a marble table at Iona, and there are a number of Communion tables in Scotland. St. John the Baptist, Perth, and Whitekirk have pre-Reformation tables, while Hyndland and Aberlady have post-Reformation stone tables. Virtually, therefore, what the Church of England is asking for in this Measure is only the same liberty as is enjoyed by the Free Churches and by the Established Church of Scotland.

The Ecclesiastical Committee reported on this Measure that it was expedient and ought to proceed.

11.3 p.m.

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

I begin by lodging something of a complaint that we should be debating a Measure of this importance—and I hope that when I have finished my very few remarks it will be seen that this is a very important matter—at this time of night at the end of a very long day.

It may seem to those who are not Christians, or those who are as indifferent as many people are to Christianity nowadays, that it is a very trivial matter whether the Holy Table in a Church of England church should be constructed of stone or wood or should be movable or immovable, but when this question is taken with a great many others, with the order of the service, with the dress of the clergy taking part in the service and with the actions and words that are used, it becomes an extremely important matter indeed. With many other questions, it concerns what we regard as the very central act of Christianity. It concerns the service of Holy Communion, which is sacred to all Christians and is one of the only two services or acts of wor- ship that were specifically prescribed by the Founder of Christianity Himself.

To those who are Christians the meaning and nature of the sacrament are of prime and supreme importance. This may not seem a very important matter to those who look on at the Christian religion, but to those who take part it is of vital importance. It should be made clear that there has always been two main divergencies of view between Christians about the nature of the Holy Communion.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

indicated dissent.

Captain Orr

I am not certain why the hon. Member should shake his head.

Mr. Fletcher

I was objecting to the word "always".

Captain Orr

For many centuries, then, if the hon. Member would like me to be exact. However, I am not at all sure that I could not defend the use of the word "always" if I wanted to. But let us say that for many centuries there have been divergencies of view, sincerely held on all sides, as to the meaning of the Holy Communion.

I think I am right in saying—I am not misrepresenting anyone—that the Roman Catholic, or medieval pre-Reformation view of the Church of England, was that the Holy Communion is essentially a sacrifice in which the priest offers Christ for the living and the dead. The other view is that of the Reformers—one which I and my hon. Friends hold to be the true view of the Scriptures—that the Holy Communion is a gathering of the people of Christ around a table to have, through the ceremonial eating of bread and drinking of wine, communion with each other and with Christ.

It is the latter view which is the view of the Church of England and which, at the time of the Reformation, was declared to be the view of the Church of England and which is deliberately pointed in the whole of the ceremonies of the Church of England to be the right view of the Holy Communion.

In the 39 Articles it is clearly defined: … Wherefore 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. Every clergyman of the Church of England gives his assent to that Article on ordination. Consequently the view of the Mass as a sacrifice, sincerely held by many people, is still a view which is illegal in the Church of England.

When one begins to consider the question of whether or not the Holy Communion is an act of sacrifice one immediately sees the significance of the action of the Reformers at the time of the Reformation in removing from almost all the churches the stone altars which existed. It was held by them and, I think, rightly held, that such altars were dangerous and that they led to superstition and to their being regarded as alters of sacrifice instead of, as the Reformers held, as the Holy Table around which people gathered to partake of the Holy Communion.

It has always been held—although perhaps I should withdraw the word "always" in case the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) takes me up on it—by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that, since the Reformation, the use of altars that were immovable and of stone was illegal, and such altars in the Church of England are still illegal. It is true, of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) pointed out, that similar structures inside chapels are not. If that anomaly exists, as I admit it does, one would have thought that the right way to put it right would be to make sure that the same law applied to side chapels and the tables in side chapels as applied to the main table.

However, it is very important to understand that this is the first of a great number of Measures. If it were on its own, if it were an isolated Measure, as it were, to legalise what already existed, then one might look at it slightly differently; but this Measure in itself not only goes further than that, not only permits the introduction of more and more stone altars instead of wooden tables, but is the forerunner of a great number of Measures which will be coming before us in the course of the revision of Canon Law.

Obviously, it would be our of order to go into the subject matter of all those other Measures at this stage, but it is relevant to whether we pass this Measure to consider what sort of Measures are likely to follow it. There are many which do not concern the Holy Communion service, but there are many dealing with Holy Communion at present in the course of revision of the Canon Law which has not been reformed since 1604. An example is the Vesture of Ministers Measure.

Sir Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)

On a point of order. Surely this Measure consists of three Clauses, one operative and two which do not affect the main question of the Measure, and is in no way concerned with the matter of vestments or any other provisions connected with the revision of Canon Law.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) is for the moment in order in pointing out the perils which might attach, on the view he is presenting, to the introduction of post-Reformation stone altars accompanied by changes of vestments, but obviously the matter is strictly limited and I am listening with attention.

Captain Orr: I did not intend to debate

the merits of vestments, for clearly that would be out of order. I am merely saying that when considering revisions of Canon Law of which this is a part—and introducing the Measure in another place the Bishop of Chester made it perfectly clear that this was the first of a number of Measures—it is right to see what other Measures are coming along, without debating their merits in any way.

For example, there are the Vesture of Ministers Measures, Canon B XII which deals with those who administer the sacrament, Canon B XV which deals with those who may receive the sacrament and which would exclude all other denominations from taking the traditional occasion of conformity and hospitality which has been practised in the land for centuries. There is Canon B XVII which would permit the use of wafers for reservation. There is this Measure which would allow the table to be made of stone, and there are others dealing with vestments and other things used in the Holy Communion service.

The view that one would take of this Measure in isolation might be different from the view that one would take of it if it were the first of a whole series of Measures dealing with the service of Holy Communion. Instead of dealing with this Measure in isolation, and dealing one by one with the others which are to come forward, surely it would be better if my hon. Friend were to take this Measure back to the Church Assembly and ask that body to put all the Measures dealing with Holy Communion into one comprehensive Measure which could then be debated in this House? This is a subject which all Christians regard as vital, and the House should debate the whole matter to decide whether power should be granted to the Church. Assembly to bring in ideas which are at present illegal in the Church of England.

I do not think that anyone would deny that if all the proposed Measures were passed by this House the result would be to legalise the use of the sacrifice of the mass in churches in this land. Many people sincerely believe that that is right, and no one would deny them the right to hold that belief, but surely we in this House have the right to say whether the doctrines, the views, and the practices of the Church of England should be changed? Surely that decision should be taken by Parliament as a whole, and not by a handful of individuals late at night?

I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should take this Measure back to those responsible for putting it forward and put that view to them. There are many reasons for so doing. For example, we cannot amend the Measure. It is one of the vices of the Enabling Act that we must either approve it or throw it out. One does not wish to divide the House on a matter of this sort if one can possibly avoid it, and I appeal to my hon. Friend to withdraw this Measure and see whether there is a better way of dealing with it.

This Measure would give power to introduce stone altars. There is nothing in it to say that their introduction must be approved by the parish councils. Are they to be invited to express an opinion about this, or will an incumbent be able to install one on his own authority?

For all those reasons, I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should take this Measure back to the Church Assembly and see whether we can debate all the Measures which it is proposed to introduce at a better time and in a better way, after the country has had time to understand what is going on in the churches and what Parliament is being asked to approve.

11.20 p.m

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

No one would doubt the sincerity of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), or the truth of his first observation, that what we are dealing with this evening is not a trivial matter. There are two ways of looking at the proposal. One—which I prefer and which is the simpler and perhaps more rational one—is to say that since the Enabling Act was passed it is the primary function of Parliament to consider what the Church of England wants and that therefore the most relevant observation is that this Measure was passed in the Church Assembly by substantial majorities in each House. In the House, of Bishops there were no dissentients; in the House of Clergy it was passed by 175 votes to 16 votes, and in the House of Laity by 187 votes to 20 votes.

It is therefore a Measure which, after considerable debate, commands the overwhelming support of the Church Assembly.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

In the Appendix it says that the Amendment to prohibit the erection of new stone altars or the changing of existing movable or wooden ones to stone was defeated only by a majority of one in the House of Laity. As an absolute ingènue, I should like to ask the hon. Member to explain to the House why the final Motion, which seems to contradict that which was defeated by only one vote, was passed by a vast majority. This is what is worrying me and others like me.

Mr. Fletcher

My recollection is that during what is the Parliamentary Committee stage in the Church Assembly various Amendments were discussed, including the one to which the hon. Member has referred, and votes were taken on those, as reported in the Appendix. Then, after the Amendments had been disposed of in the Committee stage, the Measure as a whole was submitted to the plenary session of the Church Assembly, where the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity voted separately by houses. Therefore, it is significant that what is the equivalent of the Third Reading in Parliament the Church Assembly approved the Measure by overwhelming majorities in each House.

My view on matters of this kind is that this House should be primarily concerned—unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary—to sanction what appears to be the evident desire of the Church itself, because it was for that purpose that the Enabling Act was passed.

Captain Orr

The hon. Member is using the expression "the Church itself" as though the Church Assembly and the Church were the same thing.

Mr. Fletcher

That was the object of Parliament in delegating these powers to the Church Assembly. Be that as it may, the hon. and gallant Member is within his rights in asking Parliament to reconsider the matter as res integra on doctrinal grounds. I am not sure, however, that he is equally right to ask the House to consider this Measure in relation to many other Measures to which he referred, which may or may not come before this House later. I would think that all that we are concerned with is any doctrinal questions that anybody thinks are involved in the specific proposals in the Measure, which is a very short one, and which proposes to change the law by providing that in future the Holy Table may be either movable or immovable, and may be made of wood, stone or other material.

I concede at once that this was a matter of some moment at the time of the Reformation. There is no doubt that the whole question whether the central object of Christian worship in a church should be called the altar or the Holy Table was considered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to be a matter of very great significance. It is noteworthy that the Book of Common Prayer does not refer to the word "altar" at all; it is always referred to as "the Holy Table". The only service in the Church of England today in which there is any reference to the altar is the Coronation Service.

I objected to the use by the hon. and gallant Member of the word "always", because I do not think it reasonable to assume that we should always live in this country in the context of the Reformation. There has been a growing tendency in recent years to consider what was the earlier practice of the Church. Therefore, although the hon. and gallant Member said the doctrine was always this or always that, it is right to remind the House that the circumstances of the Reformation, which were a protest against extreme abuses of the then Roman Catholic faith which had grown up, are not necessarily an expression of doctrinal differences for all time.

In the days of the early Church there was no doctrinal difference between a stone altar or a wooden table. If one reads the patristic writers, one finds that the Early Fathers used the terms "table" and "altar" indiscriminately. One finds in the early Fathers the words "mensa", "altari" and "ara" used without any doctrinal significance at all. One finds throughout Christendom, whether eastern or western, that there were altars of stone and altars of wood. It was only at the Reformation that it was thought that some doctrinal difference depended upon whether an altar or table should be of stone or wood or should be movable or immovable.

Although the law was changed—and I think rightly changed—at the Reformation, everyone knows that although it may have been technically illegal, a certain number of churches continue to retain stone altars—or, if one prefers, stone tables—and still continue to do so. Some have been built subsequently with faculty permission from the chancellors of the dioceses concerned. Experience has shown that although some people, I think a minority, still think there is some doctrinal significance attached to it, the majority of those worshipping in Church of England churches today attach very little concern to whether the altar or Holy Table is movable or immovable. Personally I regret that it is at the east end of the church instead of in the middle of the church as the rubric in the Book of Common Prayer suggests that it should be.

These matters grow up; customs change over the years, and experience has shown that there is this view in the Church today, and in the spirit of greater toleration which exists in the Church of England and throughout all Christian Churches there is a dominant feeling that if in certain places certain people prefer that the Holy Table should be of stone and movable or immovable it is most unfortunate if they should not have the same freedom as those who prefer that it should be of wood. This Measure, like various other Measures coming forward, is inspired chiefly by the desire not of making any change in doctrine but of giving the maximum of satisfaction, within the permissive boundaries of latitude which are reasonable, to the varying preferences of the different parts of the Church of England. I hope that the House will feel it reasonable to ratify what seem to be the overwhelming wishes of the Church Assembly.

11.32 p.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

I do not intend to delay the House long, but I am in complete agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr).

I wonder whether the House realises that the Measure comes before us for the first time; we have had no time to consider properly the questions involved, although there is no doubt of the importance of the matter to the ordinary church-going parishioners. The Measure invites us to approve a complete reversal of the law relating to the Holy Table over 400 years past. During the last century or so many attempts have been made to introduce stone altars into parish churches. They were all refused by the church courts until the beginning of this century, when chancellors began to grant faculties for stone slabs to be used as table tops, although this was contrary to the existing Church law. In this way, it seems, diocesan chancellors have been building up a case law wholly contrary to the Reformation Church Law of England.

I am told that there are more than 70 such altars in parish churches and that a number of these have been put into position without any semblance of legal authority or without even the consent of the Parish church council. To achieve this end, in many cases some lovely old communion tables have been put to other uses within the church, some ever relegated to the belfry or the vestry. The House is being asked to legalise the illegality of some 70 or more parishes out of more than 15,000. Whatever is the House doing to let its valuable time to be taken up with such a matter?

With great respect, I smell a rat. As a consequence I object to any further steps being taken to undo the Reformation. This Measure is the first of a series to come to us from the Church Assembly. Very shortly we shall be invited to approve other Measures designed to carry this process even further. This Measure comes as a little bit of ecclesistical kite-flying designed to discover how far the House is prepared to allow the national Church to de-Protestantise herself. It seems to me that if the House allows the Measure to go forward it will make it possible for every wooden communion table in every parish church to be replaced with a stone altar and so undo something which was deliberately carried through in the early days of the first Queen Elizabeth, who had these offending stone allays turned out of the churches on Scriptural grounds, a change then made in order to emphasise the communion of the people with God at a family meal around a Holy Table, instead of being a mere witness of a sacrifice being offered on their behalf upon a stone altar.

In saying these things and in speaking of this important matter, I am not seeking to call into question the beliefs of those who think otherwise, but I am reasserting the historic attitude and doctrine of the Church of England. Since there is so much involved in what appears at first sight to be a small matter, I am sure that many hon. Members will understand why there should be considerably more time given for a full debate on this and related Church Measures. Unless we can see this Measure as a part of a whole process of revision of Church law, we shall be inveigled into the hasty approval of piecemeal legislation without realising the total effect of what called upon to do. I feel, I must strongly oppose as it stands.

11.36 p.m.

Sir Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)

If I differ slightly from my hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle), I hope that they will believe me when I say that I in no way question the sincerity with which they expressed their views. I hope that they will not question mine.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch complained that the House had had insufficient time in which to consider the Measure. I would remind him that it was made available on 20th February—and today is 7th April. I should have thought that that was a reasonable period in which to consider the matter. I also thought that my hon. Friend went a little too far in appearing to impute motives to the Church Assembly—motives of kite flying, and so on—apparently for some further Measures which might come along later. I hardly think that that was fair, and I regret that my hon. Friend made those comments.

Both my hon. Friends implied that steps had been taken in certain places to introduce stone tables by an incumbent without anybody else knowing about it. I would remind them that in the vast majority of cases faculties had to be obtained before anything could be done. It was, therefore, not fair to suggest that there had been some sort of a hole-in-a-corner infringement which had struck a wedge into the door and had led to the introduction of other practices.

Captain Orr

Surely my hon. Friend will agree that the faculties were illegal?

Sir H. Oakshott

Yes. Strictly speaking I suppose they were, but I urge my hon. Friend to remember that this is a thing, and there are others in the Church of England, which has been recognised as an infringement for a long time indeed.

This leads me to the remarks of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). I urge hon. Members to have a spirit of tolerance in this matter. After all, if we are to get real unity in the Christian Church, which I hope and believe we all want, we must try to exercise a sense of tolerance. I hope that the House will try to accept that.

I wish to be brief, because I had not intended to intervene in the debate. I would not have done so but that I felt the necessity to add a few words to the appeal that has been made. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South referred to the Founder of Christianity and asked about the meaning of Holy Communion. I would humbly suggest that he should re-read the Sixth Chapter of Saint John, and that will tell him. I cannot believe that the Founder of whom he speaks really cares about the texture of the table, so long as people come to it.

Captain Orr

Before my hon. Friend sits down, perhaps I might be allowed to take him up on that remark. Does he imagine that the Founder would care what people wore, or would insist on their wearing a surplice? Would it not be thought that if tolerance is to be extended in one direction it ought to be extended in all directions?

Sir H. Oakshott

I am not wise enough to say what the Founder might have decided in a situation such as this, but I cannot imagine that the form meant as much to Him as did the spirit.

11.40 p.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

I assure the House that I bear no animosity at all towards my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle), in whose sincerity I absolutely believe, but, with the greatest possible respect, I believe that they are doing an enormous disservice to the Christian religion in this debate.

I dare say that I am as good a Christian or as bad a Christian as either, but I do not care two hoots whether the table is of wood or stone or whether it is movable or immovable—and I do not care very much about surplices. Of course, I cannot say whether the Founder of the Christian religion would have done so—I would not presume to do so—but I believe that, at this moment of time when the Christian religion is the subject of such attack from all quarters, my hon. Friends' arguments are just as irrelevant as were those of the early Christian Fathers who argued about how many angels could stand on the point of a pin. I therefore beg the House—and I am sorry to see that there are only two Opposition Members in their places—to pass this Measure.

11.41 p.m.

Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)

I find myself very much in sympathy with the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). I certainly do not support either the spirit or the terms of this Measure. It has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) that this Measure is but one of a series likely to come before the House over a period of weeks, months or even longer, and it strikes me as being somewhat unfortunate that Measures of this importance should appear in what, with great respect, I would suggest to be a most insidious form. Why cannot all these Measures be put quite clearly and bluntly before the House as a whole, for hon. Members to judge them as a composite whole, and not as a series of isolated fragments?

I am old-fashioned enough to believe in the principles of the Reformation, and for some time now it has been a cause of considerable anxiety to me to see the principles of that Reformation being the subject of quiet erosion—a phrase which, I fear, I must apply to this present Measure. I shall not engage in the doctrinal arguments that may or may not be involved in the question of a wooden Holy Table or a stone altar, but I must admit that, listening to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), I could not help thinking of the Oxford Movement of a century or so ago, and particularly of the semantic quibbling of Cardinal Newman in, I think, Tract 90. I felt that this was being very much manifested again in the hon. Gentleman's thought processes.

We hear a lot of talk these days about liberalising the Church of England; if this is a measure of liberalisation, I obviously completely misunderstand the meaning of the word. To me, this is a reactionary gesture, putting the clock back—perhaps several centuries—and that is not in accordance with my understanding of liberalisation. Surely, the present trends are more akin to sacerdotalism rather than to liberalism.

The construction of the Holy Table, or its conversion into a stone structure is, in a sense, symptomatic of the recreation of the priestly caste. My hon. and gallant Friend dealt with the question of the stone altar, and the sacrificial connotation it may have, and I do not intend to repeat what he said. But is it not a sad reflection on the present course of ecclesiastical thinking that the time of the House should be occupied in resurrecting matters which one felt had been dispatched some four centuries ago?

One point has troubled me very much in my reading of the Measure. Who is to decide whether the altar be stone or wood, whether it be movable or immovable? Is it a decision for the bishop of the diocese, the vicar of the parish, or the parochial church council? I presume that it is the parochial church council but I should be glad to have some elucidation of the point.

11.46 p.m.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

It is perhaps significant that of the hon. Members who have spoken in the debate against the Measure two come from an island which is represented in the House and where, very understandably, those hon. Members find themselves almost defensively adopting an attitude which is as opposite as they can possibly make it to that branch of the spiritual Christian Communion which is not the Anglican Communion. They live in an island or represent part of an island where the great majority are Roman Catholics.

Captain Orr

Both of us happen to be Anglicans.

Sir P. Agnew

I appreciate that both my hon. Friends are themselves Anglicans, but nevertheless they live in and represent part of an island where the great majority of the inhabitants do not belong to the Anglican Communion. I sympathise with them. I understand and appreciate that defensively their attitude must inevitably swing as opposite to the idea of the Roman Catholic concept as it is possible for them to go. That is in the background of this debate.

This rigorous attitude which was debated at the time of the Reformation and before it resulted in the first instance in people being burned alive because of their religious views and, secondly, when they were not burned alive resulted in the passing of the most rigorous Acts of Parliament which prevented people taking up public positions in the life of the country. I believe that those days have gone. The spirit of the age is against rigourism, and I believe that what has been refuted as being liberalisation is precisely a liberalisation which is now taking place among Christian people everywhere. Now His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury visits the Pope in Rome. Now the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England accept invitations to preach in Methodist chapels. These are all signs of a new spirit. We should be going utterly against that spirit if we rejected this Measure tonight.

11.50 p.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

I must answer one or two points which the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) has just made. I, like my other colleagues from Northern Ireland, belong to the Anglican Communion. Although, as the hon. Member rightly said, the majority of the inhabitants of part of the country are Roman Catholic, that does not in any way embitter us against them. This debate is not on whether we should go back to the Roman Catholic Church. We are merely debating the Motion that is before the House. As I see it, in my own humble way, the altar was part of the Old Testament; and when Our Lord died on the Cross, an event which we have just commemorated, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and there is now no more need for sacrifice, because the sacrifice on the Cross was sufficient for the sins of the whole world.

Therefore, I appeal to my hon. Friend, whose sincerity I do not doubt in any way, to take this Measure back again,

and to consider it in the light of the Gospel and of our faith. If he were to do that, I am sure we would all support him in doing it.

11.51 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

When I came into the House tonight I had no intention of intervening in this debate, but in recent years I have had the privilege of going to Jerusalem and standing and living in the atmosphere in which our Christian faith was born. I was surprised when I went there to find on investigation that most of the Holy Places were in fact decreed by the wife of the Emperor Constantine 300 years after Jesus Christ had been crucified on the Cross. Therefore, in fact, so much of the ideology, the faith, we hold was produced much later than the events originally happened.

Dealing with the subject of the format of what we do in our churches and so on, it seems to me that today we are out of touch with the human aspirations of the public and of the people who, desirous of being Christian, are not desirous of being hidebound by ideology and wish to be Christian in the spirit rather than in the format. Therefore, when the argument arises as to whether the table for the Holy Communion should be of wood or of stone, it does seem to me that we are out of touch with modern ideology and out of touch, if I may say so, with the burning theme of the Founder of the Christian religion.

For these reasons, it does seem to me that so many of the arguments I have listened to since I came into the House tonight are in fact old-fashioned, out of touch, and I do support my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott). I do not set myself up as a theologian in any way or form, but I think that the spirit behind the Christian religion is far more important than the format, and therefore I support the Motion which has been moved.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 55, Noes 6.

Division No. 58.] AYES [11.54 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Corfield, F. V. Fletcher, Eric
Arbuthnot, Sir John Dalkeith, Earl of Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Gibson-Walt, David
Barter, John Eden, Sir John Glover, Sir Douglas
Batsford, Brian Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Green, Alan
Bourne-Arton, A. Farr, John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Braine, Bernard Finlay, Graeme Hendry, Forbes
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Studholme, Sir Henry
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin More, Jasper (Ludlow) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Holland, Philip Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hughes-Young, Michael Peel, John Walker, Peter
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Pitt, Dame Edith Webster, David
Longden, Gilbert Prior, J. M. L. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Pym, Francis Woodnutt, Mark
MacArthur, Ian Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Worsley, Marcus
McLaren, Martin Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon) Roots, William Sir Hendrie Oakshott and
Mawby, Ray Scott-Hopkins, James Mr. van Straubenzee.
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Shaw, M.
Currie, C. B. H. Page, John (Harrow, West) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gammons, Lady Pounder, Rafton Captain Orr and Mr. Cordle.
Maginnis, John E. Stainton, Keith