§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Terry Walker (Kingswood)
I beg to move,That the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure, 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.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I have it in command by Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure, has consented to place her prerogative and interests so far as they are affected by the measure at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the measure.
§ Mr. Terry Walker
This is the most important Church measure that has been presented to Parliament for a good many years. It passed the Church's General Synod in February of this year. The general purpose of the measure is to give the Church of England, through the General Synod, permanent powers to authorise forms of service which fully protect the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and also to prescribe the forms by which bishops, clergy and lay officers are required to assent to the doctrine of the Church.
There are, of course, many theological reasons for this measure. The Church should have the right to order its own worship. The Archbishop of Canterbury, when speaking in another place on 14th November, said:Ought a Christian Church, through its own chief pastors, ministers and laity, to have the ordering of its own forms of worship? I do not believe that there is a single Church in Christendom which would not answer, 'Yes, a Christian Church ought to have the ordering of its own forms of worship'. Certainly the Church of Scotland, established as it is, would say this. Certainly every province of the world-wide Anglican Communion would say this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, I4th November 1974; Vol. 354, c. 868–9.]The Church of England discovered in its long negotiations with the Methodist Church that control by Parliament of 1568 worship was something that would have to be done away with before there could be complete and final unity. Now that the Church of England is entering fresh negotiations on a multilateral basis with all the main Churches, including the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches, this question of worship is bound to recur.
Freedom to order its own worship is not incompatible with the continuance of establishment, as the experience of the Church of Scotland shows. Indeed, control of worship of the Church of England by Parliament is almost an historical accident. In 1906 the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline reported that the law of public worship was too narrowly drawn, even in those days, for the needs of the time, and called for liturgical reform.
It is the experience of all parts of the Christian Church in these days that at least for some people there is a need for methods of worship in modern language. Some people regret that there should ever have been a desire to use modern forms in preference to the Prayer Book of 1662 and the Authorised Version, but many people share the view, and our experience, that there is a proven need for modern language services, especially in new communities such as new housing areas, universities and colleges. No one, if he were wise, would do away with the old forms of worship. They must be cherished. But there must be new forms included, for it is a matter of how best we are able to make an impact on ordinary folk. In new housing areas, with the rolling miles of bricks and mortar, it has been proven that the new forms of service are very well received and have had an impact.
Parliament has encouraged the Church of England to think that it does not feel itself to be the appropriate body in these days to settle matters of doctrine, forms of service, what clergymen wear, etc. One of the measures in which Parliament encouraged this view was the Prayer Book (Alternative and other Services) Measure 1965, which gave the Church of England temporary powers to experiment with forms of service alternative to those in the Prayer Book of 1662. Over the last eight years there have been vigorous experiments. There has been Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3. But the Church 1569 is now coming to the end of this experimental phase and to a period of liturgical stability. There will not be Series 4, 5 or 6. Instead, the Church of England will over the next 10 to 15 years have three main components in its public worship.
First, there will be the services of the 1662 Prayer Book, known and loved by many of us from our childhood. We also have the new services in traditional language—in other words, Series 2—and there will also be the range of new services for modern language known as Series 3.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) said there would not be Series 4, 5 and 6. Since he has been so specific, what guarantee can he give on that score?
§ Hon. Members: He cannot.
§ Mr. Walker
Possibly in the next 10 years or so, since language and understandings change, someone will want to draw up a Series 4, but this is, of course——
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) the interdiction on reading speeches in the House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
The House normally shows a great deal of understanding. The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) is taking a major part in our discussions for the first time.
§ Mr. Walker
Such is the importance of this measure that I want hon. Members to be absolutely clear about what is being said, and in order that they may do that I am reading most of my speech.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Kingswood has admitted that he is reading his speech, and you 1570 will be aware that it is contrary to the Standing Orders of the House that he should do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member is quite right in saying that reading speeches is out of order. He also knows that the House is not a legalistic chamber, and that there is understanding here. I understood, and no doubt the hon. Member for Kingswood will tell me, that he is merely making copious use of his notes.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be appropriate to regard the Second Church Commissioner as being in this debate in the same position as a Member of the Government at the Dispatch Box and entitled thereby to the same conventions?
§ Mr. Walker
I, too, am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. May I say that Series 2 has enabled us in the Church of England to achieve something of a break through between those who were formerly called high Church and those who were formerly called low Church. We have found that to be one of the strengths of Series 2. I believe it has also brought greater understanding between those who value the archaic and mysterious part of our worship under the 1662 Prayer Book and those who feel the pressure of more conventional ways of worship and more contemporary ways in the sense of the new services that are proposed.
The proposals now before us in the measure originate in the work of the commission appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on which hon. Members have sat and have played their part. Their recommendations were that the Church should have permanent powers to order its worship. The Church has to plan in the situation in which these differing forms of services are available for their development, side by side, on a long-term basis. Most important, we need satisfactory agreements and arrangements for choosing which of the various services are to be used in each particular parish.
I come therefore to the recommendations of the measure itself and to its 1571 salient points. Clause 1(1) gives the General Synod permanent power to authorise alternative services, but ensures that the Prayer Book of 1662 is to remain available. Perhaps I could describe it as being a permanent option. If the Synod should ever wish to alter this so that the 1662 book, or some services in it, were to be abolished, the Church would have to come to Parliament with another measure and thus, the Book of Common Prayer is given a secure place in the future of our worship.
Clause 1(3) settles the question of who is to choose which service is to be used. The decision has to be made by the parish priest and the parochial church council jointly. If they disagree, the parochial church council will be able to insist upon use of the 1662 services or upon the use of some authorised alternative which will have been in use in the parish regularly for at least two of the last four years. That means that if a parish has recently switched from the Series 2 Holy Communion service to the Series 3 service the parochial church council could choose either to come back to the service of 1662 or to the Series 2 service.
§ Mr. Bowden
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, and I apologise for not having previously congratulated him on the part he is taking in the debate. Will he explain something to me? I am genuinely trying to be helpful. I am concerned about the future of the Book of Common Prayer. I am worried that the situation might arise in which an incumbent with a strong personality and determination persuaded a majority, but only just a majority, of his parochial church council that the Common Prayer Book should not be used in future services in his church. I am concerned that this might well be against the wishes of a substantial minority of the PCC and, indeed, perhaps a majority of the "men in the pew", if I may use that term. What further safeguard is there for the average member of the congregation of that incumbent's church who has not fully appreciated what is going on?
§ Mr. Walker
I hope that I may reassure the hon. Member on this point when I reach it. I shall certainly go into it in depth. I believe that the deci- 1572 sion making under this measure is being taken to as near the grass roots as is humanly possible. Anyone who does not like the form of service being used in his parish church will have the obvious remedy of going to the annual general meeting and getting himself elected to the parochial church council, there to try to persuade his colleagues to come round to his point of view. The proposals in this measure involve the full participation of the laity in the decision about the future of worship. It is a strong point of the measure that the power is in the hands of the laity of the parochial church council.
In the past it was the prerogative of the incumbent, and if he insisted there was little one could do. There are occasions within my recollection when the bishop has been involved in these matters. But now the measure makes it clear that the parochial church council can insist on the parish's reverting to the form of service used in the past two years of the previous form or reverting to the service of 1662.
§ Mr. John Loveridge (Upminster)
Is there not a difficulty about transferring power from this House to the General Synod, even though the transference of powers is limited in the measures proposed? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is an adequate electoral base to represent the majority of Church members, who are not usually able to be present at the annual parochial meetings at which local elections take place, and which form the base for the next stage of elections on up to the General Synod? We would not accept that as a democratic basis for election to this House. Should we transfer powers away from here in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I suggest to the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Loveridge) and to the House that such points can be made in the debate, and that it will be much wiser if we allow the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) to complete his speech.
§ Mr. Walker
I shall try to meet the needs of the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Loveridge) when I come to the relevant part of my speech.
I turn to Clause 2, which is one of the main planks of the measure. Clergymen and some authorised lay ministers must 1573 take an oath or make a declaration of assent to the doctrine and formalities of the Church of England before they can be appointed to certain offices or to exercise functions such as taking services. At present it is for Parliament to settle the forms of these declarations. The measure transfers that task to the General Synod. The Synod has shown the Ecclesiastical Committee, by submitting to it the draft canon that it proposes to make, what use it will make of the power. Briefly, the aim is that when in future a clergyman assents to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the other formularies, he will do so in terms which place them in their historical context and in relation to the general body of doctrine of the Church of England.
One of the fears that have often been expressed about the new services is that they will in some way change the doctrine of the Church of England. I think that everyone would agree that the way a church worships is a guide to what it believes. Clause 4(1) makes it clear that any new services must be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential. The doctrine of the Church is given statutory definition in Clause 5.
Other critics of the measure object because it will be for the General Synod to decide whether there has been a departure from the traditional doctrine in any particular case. They would prefer to see the decision handed over to a doctrine panel or the courts. What the measure proposes is in practice a much more difficult hurdle than either of those. No service can be introduced into the Synod without the approval of the House of Bishops in the first instance. After it has gone through full scrutiny in full Synod, in an upstairs committee and again in full Synod, it returns to the bishops before it is given final approval. At that stage it is open to the Convocation or the House of Laity to call for the matter to be referred to them for separate discussions. The matter cannot proceed further unless all four Houses of Convocation, plus the House of Laity separately, agree that it should.
Moreover, when the matter is presented for final approval in the General Synod there must be a majority of two-thirds of those present and voting in the 1574 House of Synod in favour of it. This is a stiff hurdle, and one which prevents any rash action by the Synod. It also means that no alternative service is authorised unless there is a substantial majority in favour of it. Therefore, as I hope I have proved, there are many safeguards written into the measure.
I come to the point about the position of the Synod raised by the hon. Member for Upminster. Parliament created the Church Assembly, and subsequently allowed the delegated powers that it gave to the Assembly to be handed on to the General Synod. The Synod is not an interested party, as some critics of the measure have called it. It is the constitutional machinery that Parliament has called into being to legislate for the Church of England. It is right that the Synod should act deliberately and responsibly in these matters. The fact that special majorities are required by its constitution and by this new measure helps to ensure that there will be no snap decisions or narrow-margin votes.
Behind the General Synod is a process of consultation reaching through to the diocesan synods in the deaneries and parishes the length and breadth of the land. What Act of Parliament would be discussed, as the measure has been discussed, in 43 regional councils? That is what the diocesan synods are. Not every deanery and not every parochial church council will have discussed the measure, but mine and those with which I have contact have done so. There may be hon. Members who can mention one where such discussion has not taken place, but at least there has been the opportunity to discuss the measure. This process has taken four years almost to the day, since the Church and State Report, on which the measure is based, was presented.
The Synod is criticised because the Honse of Laity is elected by a constituency of only 36,000. But that electorate is twice as large as that which elected the Church Assembly, its predecessor, and it is made up of lay people who are directly elected by the parishes. The Church could go closer to the grass roots in its electoral process only if it could afford costs approaching those of a parliamentary General Election, which clearly it cannot. Within the constitutional 1575 framework of the General Synod, elections to it are based upon proportional representation, with multi-member constituencies, to ensure that in a comprehensive Church there is representation of the widest possible range of views.
§ Mr. Loveridge
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving that limited reassurance. Does he not feel that, whatever is decided here today, it would be wise to look ahead to a wider electoral base to go with the broader powers?
§ Mr. Walker
One would like to be able to consult more people, but in view of the shortage of money, and the money that would be wasted in running something like a parliamentary General Election to canvass these views, that is out of the question. I am sure that such a procedure could not be countenanced in the present economic climate.
This measure is brought before the House in the light of that background. If the House of Commons rejected this measure, which was given final approval by the General Synod by 340 votes to 10, it would, in effect, be calling into question a system of self-government for the Church, which Parliament had itself largely created. It would be rejecting——
§ Mr. Alan Clark
I am mindful of the caution you delivered earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but could the hon. Gentleman just say, from the figures he quoted, how many abstentions there were from the voting?
§ Mr. Walker
I am not able to find that information for the hon. Gentleman. It was not recorded. The voting 340 votes to 10, was overwhelming. Another hon. Member was fulfilling my present duties at the time.
As I was saying, the rejection of this measure would call into question this system of self-government which the Church has had and which was largely created by Parliament. It would be rejecting the process of consultation which has been in operation for the last four years.
We are not today discussing a measure for disestablishing the Church of England. It is not a step in separating the Church of England from the Crown. When 1576 Parliament gave the Church Assembly delegated legislative powers it did so to enable the Church to update itself and to legislate on matters for which Parliament had no time or perhaps no inclination. In 1919 Parliament made it possible for the partnership of Church and State, which we call the establishment, to continue to the mutual benefit of both sides. What is proposed today is the logical development of that process. It is as necessary as the step that was taken in 1919 if the partnership is to continue. If the House failed to endorse this measure it would not be defending the establishment of the Church of England, but would be triggering off the process of disestablishment, because it would have dealt a mortal blow to the mutual confidence of Church and State upon which the relationship of establishment depends.
Hardly anyone wants disestablishment. The Church does not want it, nor do those who have written to the Commissioners. This measure is a useful step designed to make possible the continuance of the partnership of Church and State which for so many centuries has been a distinguishing feature of our national life. For many centuries the Church has played its part during great ceremonial occasions and in connection with great issues as well as in the daily lives of ordinary folk.
Here is a transfer of responsibilities from Parliament to the General Synod. That is accepted. But it is also a transfer from the centre to the circumference, since the parishes will, within the limits set by the services authorised by the Synod, choose what form of service they want to use. Can we not trust them to choose wisely for themselves and for those who have elected them to these offices?
This measure offers a right balance between the role of the Church and the role of the State in a continuing partnership. Its rejection would be very damaging. It would be damaging to the leadership of the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican community. It would be damaging to the cause of Church unity, for which many of us have worked over many years in the hope of a reconciliation with the Free Churches and with the United Church.
Nowhere do we know this story better than in the Kingswood constituency, where the overwhelming majority of 1577 churchgoers are Methodists. The rôle of the Church has been to join with them, through the United Council of Churches, on the great occasions of the Church at Easter and Christmas. Within the Church of England there is a spirit abroad of vitality and renewal. The rejection of this measure would deeply discourage many of us who want to see the Church more able to give the kind of leadership on all sorts of issues that it should give.
This measure will stimulate the united forces of Christianity in this country, for which many of us have been working for a very long time.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
We should all like to thank the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) for moving the motion in the way he has, and I should like to congratulate him on the office he holds.
I was relieved that, for the sake of greater accuracy, he made copious use of notes. I intend with your leave, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), also to make fairly copious use of them.
The ground we are treading this afternoon was comprehensively covered in another place three weeks ago. It might be thought that there is very little left to add, but I do not think that is likely to prevent a number of us, including myself, from making our own additions and claiming that those additions are essential to the debate. I hope my own additions will be reasonably short.
I have no intention of delving into the relevance of the great controversy over the 1928 Prayer Book, nor to discuss the new forms of worship, particularly of Series 2 or Series 3, although both the old controversy and the new forms of worship interest me very much. But I do not think that either of them stand at the centre of our debate this afternoon. As I understand it, we are riot discussing how the Church should worship or what is its doctrine. We are discussing the kind of authority which should order that worship and define that doctrine.
I know of the doubts which are widely expressed about the claims of the General Synod to exercise that authority. I share some of them myself.
1578 The Synod is said to be unrepresentative because the House of Laity is elected by a tiny proportion of the laymen on the parish electoral rolls. Many of us have found that our constituents most concerned with these matters tend to appeal to us rather than to their representatives on the General Synod. If I walked the streets of Bridlington and asked the first one hundred Anglicans. I met, "Who represents you in the House of Laity?", I should probably receive few more coherent replies from them than I could give them in return. This suggests to me that the alleged imperfect representation is less the fault of the present system of elections to the General Synod than of the small amount of active interest most of us take in these matters. As one noble Lord said in the recent debate,… very few of us have the Church Times propped against the marmalade at breakfast." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 354, c. 881.]I have no personal experience of synodical government. I hope that it has made, and is making, great strides over the old machinery of the Church Assembly. I remember my own feelings of pride and self-satisfaction when as a young man I was elected to the Church Assembly, and my subsequent utter deflation when my father said, "If I were you, I would not be too proud about that. They have only put you on to keep someone else off."
To this kind of scepticism about the representative nature of the Church's governing body can be added a widely held suspicion that the Synod, if it were given full authority over the Church's worship, would be more interested than Parliament would ever be in change for the sake of change.
Even if, as I have, we have become accustomed to a number of the new forms of worship and are completely happy with them, I think that a great many of us are disturbed by the prospect of yet further changes in our worship—what I think Mr. C. S. Lewis described as the "liturgical fidget". I discern this anxiety on the benches behind me today.
We cannot have any guarantee against proposals being made of Series 4, 5 and 6, but I was very much assured by the words of the Right Reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham in the recent debate and the prospect which he held out that the Church of England 1579… is heading for a period of relative calm". —[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974;Vol 354, c. 896.]Nor do I think that any guarantee can be given that each individual member of the Church of England will get exactly what he or she wants. I do not think that he or she gets that now. But this measure carries some guarantee that, collectively, parishes will be able to get what they want in the way of forms of worship. In any event, when I consider the future relationship of Church and Parliament, any doubts that I have on these scores are but dust in the balance compared with the greater incongruity of continuing to involve a large number of hon. Members in this House and no doubt certain noble Lords in another place in decisions on matters of worship in which they happen to have no belief and probably very little interest.
If, for some strange reason in those circumstances, Parliament were still determined to take those decisions itself and to withhold authority from the General Synod by rejecting this measure, I believe that there are a great many churchmen, as the hon. Member for Kingswood hinted, who would feel that their only honourable course was to ask for disestablishment. I believe that disestablishment would have been a great loss in the 1920s, and that it would still be a great loss in the 1970s, to both Church and State.
Both looking back and looking forward, I am enormously encouraged by the decisive change in the climate of opinion about the need for Christian unity. I was greatly disappointed by the failure, for the time being, of the discussions between the Methodists and the Anglicans. But I do not think that that failure and the inability to make the kind of progress in other directions that we should like can frustrate indefinitely the urge towards greater unity in a world where the historical divisions of Christianity make ever-diminishing sense.
In this context more than in any other, the authority of the Church to order its own worship and doctrine will be of supreme importance. Therefore, it is for this reason, above all others, that I hope that Parliament, without a Division, 1580 will agree to present the measure for the Royal Assent.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
On a measure of this importance, I am sure that it is the wish of the House that I should say a word from the Government Front Bench about it. Before doing so, however, let me add my congratulations to those of the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) not only on becoming the Second Church Commissioner but also on his excellent speech today.
The measure now before the House fulfils the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Church and State that the Church should have freedom to determine its own doctrine and order its own worship. I do not propose to comment on the content of the measure in detail, but I should like to draw attention to three aspects of it.
First, the broad purpose of the measure is to give the Synod power, subject to certain safeguards, to introduce new forms of service alternative to those in the Book of Common Prayer, and to determine doctrine, without coming to this House for approval. I am sure that my hon. Friends will be interested to know that Clause 4 is about the safeguarding of doctrine. While it does that, it also guarantees the identity of the Church by preserving for ever, or until Parliament ordains otherwise—and Parliament can always do that—the forms of service contained in the Book of Common Prayer for use in the Church and the position of that book as one of the formularies—that is to say, the standards of doctrine—of the Church. So, although some hon. Members may feel that there is a loss on the one hand, there is a clear gain on the other.
Secondly, I should say a word about Clause 6. I am sure that it is puzzling a great many hon. Members to know how it is that an order of this kind can repeal a number of Acts of Parliament, in particular the Act of Uniformity. The Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 specifically provides that measures may repeal Acts. But the list of proposed repeals in this measure is of unusual interest.
1581 All hon. Members who went to church as children will remember sitting down in the bottom of a pew, looking at the Prayer Book, thumbing through the early pages, looking at the prohibited degrees, calculating when Easter would come in the year 2050, and looking at the small print in the Act of Uniformity. This measure would repeal the whole of the Act of Uniformity except Sections 10 and 15.
A great many hon. Members feel—and I understand their feelings—that this, in effect, removes the corner stone of the Church. But these provisions of the Act really do no more than provide a basis for the Book of Common Prayer, and they could hardly survive if the Synod's proposals are to prevail. For much the same reason, it is necessary to enact that Section 3 of the Submission of the Clergy Act 1533 should not apply to any rule of ecclesiastical law relating to any matter for which provision may be made by Canon in pursuance of this measure. This again is a consequential of the earlier proposals.
I mention a third point, because I understand that this has been a matter of controversy in the Synod. The measure now before us lays it down that decisions as to the forms of service used in a particular church are to be made jointly by the incumbent and the parochial church council, and it provides certain safeguards for the use of the Book of Common Prayer in the event of their disagreement. As hon. Members will have heard, the measure has been approved by overwhelming majorities in each House of the Synod.
In one sense this measure undoubtedly represents an important change in the character of the relationship between Church and State in England. It gives the Church for the first time since the Reformation full authority to determine its doctrine and to order its worship. In another sense, however, the measure represents the logical development of earlier processes which have been undertaken with the co-operation of the State. First, there has been a series of Measures which have given the Church greater freedom to order its own affairs through its own representative bodies. Those measures include the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 and the 1582 Synodical Government Measure 1969. Second, the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure 1965 gave the Church power to introduce, on an experimental basis and for a limited period, forms of service alternative, or in some cases supplementary, to those in the Book of Common Prayer. It is part of a logical process which has gone on for some time.
This measure deals with the worship and doctrine of the Church of England. It has been most carefully considered by the representative body of the Church and has the support of the overwhelming majorities in each House of the Synod. I do not think it can be said that there is anything in the measure which raises constitutional issues or which calls for modification or rejection by the House. The measure does not in any way sever the long relationship between Church and State in England but inaugurates a somewhat different relationship between them in these matters. The identity of the Church is guaranteed by the continuing role in doctrine and, whenever desired in use, of the Book of Common Prayer, which means so much to so many people.
The Prayer Book (Alternative Services) Measure was passed by Parliament in 1965 without dissent. That in itself, it seems, is an indication that most people nowadays would accept that it is for the Church itself to take the initiative in ordering its forms of worship and determining its doctrine. If so, there is no apparent reason for Parliament, still less the Government, objecting to this Measure.
Finally, I say hesitantly—as a member of the Church myself—that in ending the role of Parliament in this matter we are placing a new responsibility on the Church to ensure that the feelings and the wishes of ordinary churchgoers are reflected in the decisions of the Synod —namely, decisions concerning worship and doctrine. If Parliament is to withdraw its surveillance and custodianship over the established Church's worship and doctrine, the eminent and articulate theologians in the Synod must listen to the rather quieter voice of the majority in the Church. I know that this responsibility is one to which the Church attaches great importance. I am sure that Parliament can safely leave this matter in the hands of the Church.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)
I speak as an elected member of the General Synod of the Church of England. As such, I must tell the House —and I hope, at the same time reassure it—of the tremendous amount of time, deliberation and consultation which took place within the Church before the measure was finally approved. Before I say anything else, I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on his appointment and on his speech today.
This measure is based on the report of the Commission on Church and State which was presided over by Dr. Owen Chadwick, Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. The measure was considered at numerous stages. The General Synod's procedure demanded first a debate on the principles, then a revision stage and then a further session to study the findings of the Revision Committee. There was then another debate. The Church of England does nothing in haste.
This measure was also referred to the dioceses for them to consider in their diocesan synods. There are 43 diocesan synods. The result was that 42 of the synods approved the measure and one synod wanted it to go further. When the measure was finally before the General Synod for approval 340 members voted in favour of it and there were about 10 against.
I now turn to the question that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) when he referred to abstentions. In my experience in the General Synod there are usually about 400 members present for most of the sessions. That would mean that there were about 50 or 60 abstentions on this measure. It must be clear to the House that the wish of the Church in this matter could hardly be more clearly expressed.
The suggestion has been made in some quarters that the General Synod and the 43 diocesan synods are not representative of the man in the Clapham Church pew— in other words, the ordinary worshipper. The House will allow me to draw on my own experience in dealing with that point. I was warden of my local church for many years. When synodical government 1584 was introduced I and one other person from our parochial church council were elected to represent our church on the local deanery synod. Four people, of whom I was one, were in turn chosen from among the members of the deanery synod to represent our deanery at the diocesan synod. The election to the General Synod was for eight members from the diocesan synod to be elected by the members of the deanery synods— namely, the lowest level. That produced the figure which has been already mentioned of 36,000. They are responsible for electing the members of the General Synod.
It must be appreciated that those people are drawn from every parish in the land. In the case of the people on my own PCC and in my own congregation, there were two people among them who could take soundings and express comments and opinions about the candidates coming up for election.
It has been suggested as a further last resort by those who would seek to fly in the face of the voting figures that it is easier for a constituent to raise a matter of doctrine which worries him with his Member rather than with one of his General Synod members whom he does not know. That is advanced as an argument for Parliament keeping control of Church doctrine.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
My hon. Friend speaks of 36,000 people who took part in the election process of the General Synod. What about the 36 million English men and women who acknowledge themselves to be members of the Church of England?
§ Mr. Pattie
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that intervention. I did not know whether he would oblige me by saying that. What we must consider are not simply the people who enter C of E on their forms but the people in the churches. We shall only get more people involved in our religion if we can relate to them in language that they can understand.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I shall probably with the greatest reluctance find myself in the same Lobby as my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie). However, it is an outrageous statement to say 1585 that the Church should not consider the 36 million. I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw that statement.
§ Mr. Pattie
I thought that I had made it clear in answer to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) that it was precisely because I wished to consider the requirements of the 36 million that I did not want to see them coming into church and experiencing an archaic and totally unmeaning form of words. It is for the initiated a beautiful service but it means nothing to the uninitiated.
Perhaps I shall now be allowed to resume my text. Anyone who is involved enough in Church matters to wish to raise a matter of doctrine with his Member of Parliament will know that every diocese in the country is run on an administrative basis from a diocesan office. He will know that he will be able to find the telephone number of the office. He will know that a telephone call will produce a list of the members of the General Synod. I have found that those who wish to make known their views to me have had no difficulty in discovering my telephone number or where I live. To suggest that the easiest way is for people to get in touch with their Member of Parliament— in some instances their MPs will not be well versed in matters of this sort—rather than a member of the General Synod does not stand up.
Ever since the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure 1965 the Church has had the power to sanction forms of service alternative to the 1662 Prayer Book for set periods. There has been a lot of discussion about new forms of service, and new services have been introduced. For the Communion Service I am a Series 2 man. I find Series 3 a little hard to take in certain respects. For example, I prefer to say "Lead us not into temptation "rather than" Bring us not to the time of trial".
Although we have had our differences of opinion over certain forms, I know that the ecumenical movement within our own Church has been much assisted by the drawing together through the use of common language. This has facilitated co-operation between the main two wings of the Church of England. We have also assisted a large number of people to 1586 join in our services without experiencing that degree of immediate alienation that so often people find when they hear some rather remote language being used—remote in the sense that it may be beautiful but it does not relate to language which they can understand. This has been a great help in bringing in lots of new people to the Church. The Church's mission is to the uninitiated, and the need is urgent.
During these past nine years I cannot believe that Parliament has felt itself to be genuinely competent to pass judgment on various proposed Church measures. The attitude must surely have been, "If this is what the Church wants and its normal slow procedures have been followed, it shall have it." I seriously question the competence of Parliament on many occasions to sit in judgment on Church of England measures when I estimate that a maximum of only about 20 per cent. of hon. Members are what I consider to be active, committed Christians. These are matters of deep faith and theological significance, quite unlike defence cuts, motorways, pensions and so on.
The main criticism of this measure is that it would jeopardise the use of the 1662 Prayer Book. Not to mince words, that criticism is a travesty of the truth. The future safeguards for the use of the Prayer Book are stronger than they are under the existing measure. They have been progressively strengthened at every stage of consideration. The Book of Common Prayer is re-affirmed in the measure as one of the Church's standards of doctrine. The Prayer Book remains a legal alternative until a further measure, as the Lord President said, requiring an affirmative resolution of both Houses, has caused it to cease to be so.
If any parish wants to use the Prayer Book and there is a dispute in the parish, the parish must return to the pattern of services that obtained within two of the four previous years, or the congregation can insist on a return to the Prayer Book of 1662. This is a great improvement on the present privileged position of the parish priest. I hope, therefore, that the House will be very clear that the position of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 will be more secure if the measure is passed.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
On the basis of my hon. Friend's experience, can he say whether there is now apparent, or likely to become so, a movement to bring forward a measure of the kind which he described, and to which the Lord President referred, which would end the special position of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer?
§ Mr. Pattie
The short answer to that question, in the tradition of the parliamentary Question, must be "No, Sir." One is very reassured to learn from the remarks made by the Bishop of Durham in the debate in the other place that there is no sign at all of any Series 4, 5 or 6, and that in his belief, and the belief of many others qualified to speak on these matters, the Church of England is now entering a period of liturgical calm.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
My hon. Friend mentioned the 1965 measure. Perhaps I should have intervened at that point. What I do not quite understand is this. If in the circumstances he has just been describing the Church has until 1980 to confirm whether it wishes to go on to a further series, why should it find it necessary to bring forward this measure when given another three or four years the Church as a whole might be able to take a different view on it?
§ Mr. Pattie
The Church has until 1980 with this measure simply because these measures, under the old procedures, are on a fixed time scale. What the Church is asking for now is to be able to make these changes in the future to its doctrine but that there should be no set limited period.
I do not accept for a moment that approval of this measure is a step towards disestablishment; rather, it is a realistic adjustment to the existing harmonious working relationship. There need not be any fears that the Synod will use these powers to undermine doctrine. I shall not bore the House by describing the complex procedures for evaluating every measure which have to be undertaken, which are also very slow, but they will ensure that nothing slips by.
The new services of recent years have not only increased the relevance of our services without losing reverence but have assisted in producing a greater sense of 1588 maturity and involvement by more people in the running of their Church.
This measure passed through the other place on the 70th birthday of the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, who was such an inspiration to us all. How nice it would be it we could mark this day, which has seen the confirmation of the election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury at St. Paul's Cathedral, by giving our wholehearted approval to the measure.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank R. White (Bury and Radcliffe)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) is urging the House to support the measure. My hon. Friend made a detailed and factual presentation which covered all aspects of the measure. Its content and the obviously sincere manner of delivery should command respect and support. I cannot add constructively or detract destructively from the comments made by my hon. Friend, but I should like to cover one or two points which particularly concern my constituency.
Following the debate in the House of Lords recently, I wrote to all the Anglican clergy in my constituency requesting their guidance and views on this matter. Twenty churches were contacted. I received only one critical reply. The basis of that reverend gentleman's criticism was fear that the Book of Common Prayer would be set aside. We have heard today hon. Members stating the contrary. Clause 1(1) of the measure clarifies the issue completely, stating clearly that should the Church Synod desire to take action on the Book of Common Prayer, it would have to come to Parliament with another measure; hence that is a protecting clause. Clause 1(3) settles the question of the form of service to be used by giving parish priests and parochial church councils joint responsibility for the decision. In the event of dispute, it also lays down a procedure to follow which gives the PCC, the grass roots of the Church, the responsibility and the right to insist upon the form of worship it desires.
With the one exception, the clergy in my constituency have indicated their majority support for the measure. Indeed, a few indicated specifically that the matter had been quite well debated and discussed at their parochial church 1589 council meetings. Again, from the laity of the Church came a clear support for the measure. This confirms the overwhelming support for the measure as indicated by the voting figures in the Church Synod, and, together with the prior consultation processes throughout the diocesan synods, deaneries and parishes, it positively destroys the destructive argument which has been circularised among many hon. Members that the measure is at the request of a self-interested few.
That leads me to my other point. I have been approached by and have consulted hon. Members of differing religious beliefs and of no religious belief. They have expressed to me some embarrassment at being called upon to vote on a Church of England issue. They have indicated that they do not want to be involved. They have said, "It is none of my business." Unfortunately, it is their business, because previous Acts of Parliament have placed this responsibility on them. But here is an opportunity for them to remove this unwanted responsibility and to place it in the hands of the correct body.
In attempting to explain my position to them and to get the message over, I drew an industrial analogy. I quoted the situation at the firm of C of E Limited, where the managing director desired a change in the working practice. Therefore, being well up on his industrial relations and on his public relations, he initiated joint consultative procedures involving senior management, middle management and church floor operatives, and held separate and joint consultations on the proposals.
The proposals in essence give a greater degree of national control to the parent body, thereby reducing the multinational conglomerate hold on policy decisions. They establish greater grass roots participation. In some quarters that would be held to be greater progress towards worker control. The joint consultative procedures have been followed to the letter. Over 43 regional meetings have taken place and the whole exercise of participation has taken four years—a better test of feeling, some may say, than is obtained in many General Elections.
The overwhelming decision of the separate and joint groups is to recommend to the multinational control group which 1590 should agree to the measures stated. The president of the company, who is permanently resident in another place, cannot be consulted on the matter, but it is the belief of the majority of the members of the group that acceptance of such measures could lead to beneficial mergers and that in turn could result only in better business prospects, which no doubt the president would support, and, I sincerely hope, the House would support.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
Most hon. Members of the House have been subject to a certain amount of influence by their bishops on how they should vote on this important measure this afternoon. I heard from the bishop of the diocese in which my constituency lies. I hope, however, that all hon. Members present this afternoon will listen to the debate and will in particular take note of the views of those of us, of whom I am one, who are opposed to this measure.
I am both sad and suspicious about the measure because I do not believe that the General Synod as at present constituted really represents the man in the pew. I believe that the gap is larger between him and the Synod than it is between us and our constituents. Very few people know who are their representatives on the Synod. I certainly do not. For all I know my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) is the first member of the Synod that I have seen in the flesh. Admirable though my hon. Friend obviously is, the Synod may have other people in it who are what I call ecclesiastical activists but not necessarily the people who represent the ordinary worshippers, of whom I claim to be one.
I believe, following what was said earlier, that if England were to be fairly polled today not 1 per cent. of the population would be aware that this debate is taking place.
If the measure is passed there is no appeal, as I understand it, to any court of law, nor is there any chance of future amendments. The General Synod will, in fact, become infallible. The powers given to the General Synod are wide and comprehensive, and the only limitation, as far as I can see, is that no service should be contrary to or depart from the doctrine 1591 of the Church of England "in any essential matter". That seems to be an extremely vague phrase in a legal document. But what worries me is that it is not the same thing as giving priority, as I wish to give priority, to the Book of Common Prayer. I speak as a regular churchgoer but I doubt very much whether the new measure has been much debated at parochial church council level. I have never been asked officially to give my view on this matter until now—and I do so in another capacity, as a Member of Parliament. But I believe, having spoken to many friends and colleagues, that the views that I and many of my hon. Friends in the House hold represent a very large body of opinion in the Church of England which is not necessarily represented in the Synod.
My main concern is for the place of the Book of Common Prayer in the life of the Church as a result of the measure being passed. It is true that its continued existence is still safeguarded but there seems to be no provision for its regular use, and that worries me. What used to be a right is now to be done only by request. I hope that those who support the measure can give an answer on this vital question.
I was born in a country rectory, and brought up by Church people, and I have always believed that the three great pillars upholding English society were the Monarchy, the Church and Parliament. To me the Church of England is the Book of Common Prayer. It is, and has been, a unifying factor between all sections of opinion from extreme Evangelical to extreme Anglo-Catholic. I realise why the new versions of the Prayer Book were attempted but I believe that they have all failed, particularly Series 3, and they have not slowed down the fall in the size of congregations. There are many drawbacks to the new series, as most hon. Members will know, and it is impossible to keep language contemporary for more than a few decades. If this new series becomes part of the permanent worship of the Church it will surely need continual revision, just as we are continually revising constituency boundaries.
I find in the new versions that the grammar is faulty, the construction jerky and the prose poor, and, compared with what 1592 I call this weak stuff, the Prayer Book's measured rhythms of prose are memorable and have been woven into the fabric of our lives in England. I will not embarrass the House by making odious comparisons between the old and new versions of the Prayer Book. Many of the comparisons become nothing but a bad joke. It is true that there are some words in the old Prayer Book which need amending, which have become out of date, but they are not many, and these few words can easily be revised without altering the whole book.
Some of us feel that religion might as well have its own language, just as any trade or craft has its own language, and as we do here, and people should be taught to understand it. Those of us who have been brought up on Cranmer's English, on The Collects, on the Authorised Version of the Book of Common Prayer feel that there is no need always to be over-familiar with the Almighty The well-known cadences of the Book of Common Prayer have supported countless generations of Christians in times of trouble in this kingdom. I know that in times of danger in the war I found myself subconsciously quoting from them. I cannot believe that many people will find themselves doing that from Series 1, 2 or 3. The language of everyday life is all very well, but I think that many people would prefer to have their language uplifted in an act of worship.
But, apart from the disadvantages in the new versions and in their language, there is a danger threatening the continued use of the Book of Common Prayer. In the words of a recent correspondent in The Times, if this measure were passed, the Prayer Book would seldom if ever be used again but would be relegatedto a dusty shelf in the church vestry.That is my fear.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that parts of the 1662 Prayer Book are used not only in the Church of England but by hitherto dissenting Churches? Is he saying that priests of the Church of England would generally ignore what is universally regarded as one of our greatest treasures?
§ Mr. Stokes
Alas, they would. They have expressed the fears which I am trying to express. I fear that the trendy groups in the Church today will gain control as a result of the passing of this measure and that the views of the ordinary man in the pew will be disregarded.
There is a mania in the country today for change for change's sake. It seems to have affected the General Synod. Bodies of this kind often tend to be more "progressive and liberal" than the ordinary people whom they are supposed to represent. I recommend that some members of the General Synod should read the preface to the Book of Common Prayer, which politeness makes me refrain from quoting.
The Church of England is not to be disestablished by this measure, thank God, but I believe that it opens a yawning gap between the Church and State. That is a fundamental change in the long history of this island. Meantime, while the Church of England is still a national Church, everyone has the right to go to its services and to call for succour from its parish priests. The occasional churchgoer, far from being put off by the old language, will expect to hear the forms of service which he has known and loved since childhood rather than some of the new forms, which, in my view, without being impolite, barely rise above a sort of gibberish.
§ Mr. Pattie
Does my hon. Friend accept that he is arguing against a measure which will safeguard and protect the Prayer Book for which he is speaking?
§ Mr. Stokes
The safeguards are not nearly enough. I want the measure to be rejected so that the Synod will reconsider it and present it again with proper safeguards. The present safeguards are not adequate. If this measure is passed, the Book of Common Prayer will hardly be used in five years and it will have virtually disappeared in 10 years.
§ Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
Will my hon. Friend assist us by outlining what further safeguards he would wish to see in an amended Prayer Book?
§ Mr. Stokes
I would wish the Book of Common Prayer to be used, as of right, 1594 in parish churches, say, twice a month. I do not ask for a great deal. If this measure is passed it may never be used. I had to leave my parish church five years ago and go to a nearby village church where I could still attend Communion service under the old Book of Common Prayer. More and more people like myself will be driven from their churches if this measure is passed.
Returning to the question of language, the 1662 book is very similar to the 1552 book and was written at a time when the English language was at its most glorious. The new services are as likely to unsettle people as to claim new adherents. Above all, we in this historic House should revere what has been handed down to us and be very careful about any changes we make. The measure should be rejected so that further safeguards can be inserted to ensure the right regularly, if not very frequently, to use the book in parish churches. I speak—dare I say this, Mr. Deputy Speaker—not only out of personal and passionate conviction but proudly as a member of a party which owes its very existence to defending Church and Monarch. I fear that this measure, if passed, may utterly change the character and worship of the Church of England.
I believe that the Book of Common Prayer is one of the most precious possessions not only of the Church of England but of England itself and that it should not be done away with by a handful of Members voting in conformity with the restless spirit of the times.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
I should like to take up the two major matters which the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) has highlighted—the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and the relationship between Church and State, which lies behind much of our debate.
However, first I wish to add my congratulations to those expressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on the skilful and clear way in which he introduced the debate, despite interruptions which were not in the best traditions of the House, let alone in the best traditions of Christian charity.
We have heard arguments about whether the position of the Book of 1595 Common Prayer is protected in this measure. I do not wish to enter into that detailed and technical discussion. I want to question the attitude not of those who wish to preserve the use of the Book of Common Prayer but of those who regard the Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 form in a way which verges on bibliolatry.
I am very attached to the Book of Common Prayer. Like other Members I love its language. I also like the confessions in it, which are far more theologically sound than the namby-pamby confessions in subsequent series. But why 1662? Why not 1552 or, better still, 1549, presuming that we would delete that clause in the litany in the 1549 book which asks the Almighty to deliver us from the Bishop of Rome and all his enormities. I presume that in this ecumenical age we should have to delete such a clause.
I wonder whether the defenders of the 1662 book would agree with all its contents, whether of word or of rubric. For example, the opening of the marriage service tells us in words similar to those used by St. Paul that it is better to marry than to burn. The words are not quite the same, but the message comes over loud and clear. Again, in the same service there is a rubric which tells us that the best man should put on the Book at the appropriate time not only the ring but the fee as well. I wonder if that practice is continued in the church which the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stour-bridge regularly attends. Hon. Members may laugh, but in a church in which I served as a curate this rubric was observed and the fee was put on the Book at that point in the service, albeit discreetly enclosed in an envelope.
In the 1662 form of the Catechism we find these words:To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters".The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge spoke of well-known cadences. Those are also some of the well-known cadences of the 1662 version——
§ Mr. Clemitson
Even the most ardent advocates of the 1662 version pick and 1596 choose, and quite rightly so. Why should they not pick and choose?
We have all, presumably, been written to by our respective bishops. I will quote from a letter which the Lord Bishop of St. Albans wrote to me, with the sentiments of which I entirely agree. The letter reads as follows:I should myself be sorry if the use of the Book of Common Prayer were discontinued. I believe that its language has great beauty and a kind of epic character. It has long proved itself as a means by which men's hearts may be caught up in worship. On the other hand, I believe that many people today require greater freedom in their approach to God, and there is no doubt that the Book of Common Prayer was in some of its doctrinal emphases just such a creature of its time as our experimental liturgies.That sums up admirably my position on the Book of Common Prayer.
I turn to the relationship between Church and State, which stands behind our discussion today. We have been assured that the measure is not a move towards disestablishment. I have even heard it argued that it is a preventive measure to stop that happening. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said earlier that it represented a changed relationship between Church and State but not necessarily, in any shape or form, a move towards disestablishment. One reason for my support of the measure is that I hope that it is a step towards disestablishment. It clearly represents a moving apart of Church and State, certainly of Church and Parliament as representative of the State.
I understand that from now on the Church through its representative institutions is to have self-government to a large extent in determining the forms of service and forms of worship it will use. Implicit in that are the doctrinal assumptions in the forms of service.
If I may address myself to the question of establishment or disestablishment, as with the Common Market there is an unholy alliance of opposites in opposition to disestablishment. On the one hand, there are those who see establishment as a way of giving some spiritual imprimatur to the status quo. On the other hand, there are those who fear that disestablishment will turn the Church of England into another sect which will turn its back on concern for and involvement in the whole gamut of human, social, political, economic and industrial life with 1597 which the Church and its individual members should be rightly concerned.
I should not be sitting on the Labour benches rather than the Conservative benches if I agreed with the first school of thought. The Christian faith is about changing, not about defending the indefensible. I find myself in some sympathy with the second school of thought, which is right in thinking that Christianity is concerned with the whole range of human activity, individual and social. That school of thought is right in wanting to change not only individuals but society and the structure of societies. It is right to oppose a narrow sectarian view of the Church. I believe that establishment in itself has not prevented the Church of England—with certain honourable exceptions in every age—from becoming prey to the same inward-looking disease with which all Churches are afflicted. That disease is exemplified by concern with the institution in itself rather than with what the institution is for; concern with the spiritual as if it were totally other than and disconnected from material things and false dichotomies between soul and body, spiritual and material. The Church of England has been just as guilty in that as has any other Church.
I do not believe that not being established has prevented other Churches from being concerned with and involved in social, political and economic affairs. The Methodist Church is an obvious example. I speak as an Anglican, but there are many Methodists who have figured prominently in the history of the Labour movement in this country. The Society of Friends is concerned especially with peace and refugees. Not being established has not prevented those Churches and groups from being concerned with and involved in the political, economic and social affairs of the world.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The hon. Gentleman has been very helpful in the way he has developed his argument about disestablishment. Will he now address himself to one specific issue involved? The Church of England traditionally assumes that it has a responsibility for all the souls in a parish, all of whom have the right to avail themselves of its services. That puts it in a different position from the Methodist Church, to which I belong, and many 1598 other Churches. Therefore, Parliament must look carefully before surrendering its power to have some influence over those services.
§ Mr. Clemitson
That is a valid argument. To refer back to my experience as an ordained minister of the Church of England, when I served my time in a parish in Sheffield we did not look down the visitors' book to see whether hospital inmates were Anglicans, Methodists, Sikhs, Buddhists or whatever. We visited them all. I hope that the Church, whether established or disestablished, would continue that practice. I should dearly love, as I hope would the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), to see the day when the distinctions between his Church and my Church and other Churches are eliminated. It may be that establishment is something of a bar to that reunion and reuniting of the various parts of the Christian Church which I hope we all dearly desire.
I believe that, whether we like it or not, establishment appears to people to give approval to the status quo. Establishment, whether we like it or not, imposes limitations, often subtle and difficult to detect, on criticism of the status quo within the Church. The Church does not have to be established to be involved, neither does establishment guarantee a meaningful and critical involvement. It is at best a crutch and at worst a downright impediment to the Church getting on with its real task.
I wish to see a Church—Church in the singular—which is alive, not as measured by those stupid measurements of the numbers of people populating the pews, but alive to its real object, aim and purpose, which is the promotion of the kingdom of God on earth in every part of individual and social life.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
I welcome this opportunity of speaking on this important measure, but, first, I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Kings wood (Mr. Walker) on the way that he introduced it and on his appointment. I wish him every success.
I should declare my interest at this stage. I was a member of the old House of Laity and of the Synod and, therefore, had something to do with this measure 1599 in the early days. I am also a diocesan lay reader and a church warden. Therefore, I am intimately connected with the present problems of the Church of England. I welcome this measure and believe that it will be of benefit to the Church. Therefore, I commend it to the House.
I have discussed the measure, but I have not had a great number of letters. The two letters that I have had, which are significant, are from very elderly priests—one of eighty and one of ninety. I can well understand their fears and the position that they take.
I had some misgivings to start with in 1965 when permission was given by this House—underline that permission was given by this House—for alternative services. But, as the years have gone by, this power which has been given to the Church has been used carefully and with responsibility. Even though I accept Series 1 and 2—I am not happy about Series 3—I love the old 1662 Prayer Book, in particular the Collects. I have not lost my first love, but I believe that these other types of service are important today. I will elaborate that point later.
Some clerics have been unwise and jumped from one type of service to the other, therefore upsetting their congregations and causing some confusion. This must be regretted. I do not think that the liquorice-all-sorts type of service is right for, and gimmicks are not the best way to encourage people to come back to, the Church of England.
These new forms of service have contributed to the worship in our churches. Certainly they have made people discuss the services and the Prayer Book. More discussion has taken place in my church amongst young married couples and younger people than ever before because of the introduction of these alternative services. One wonders whether this would have taken place if there had not been these alternative services. They have certainly helped many younger people in their worship and made sense to many people of the difficult words of the older versions of the Prayer Book. As a father, I doubt whether my teenage children would be in the Church today but for the alternative services. I can speak only from my experience.
1600 One of my hon. Friends saw that I had the order for Holy Communion here and wondered whether I was going to sing to the House. I assure him that I am not. However, I should like to read the sort of prayer which helps me in my worship. Take the breaking of bread:The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing of the Blood of Christ?Here in simple terms, but full of meaning, is the very essence of that Communion service.
At the end of the Communion service, all together, the prayer reads:Almighty God,we offer thee our souls and bodies,to be a living sacrifice …Send us out into the worldin the power of thy Spirit,to live and work.Younger people understand that sort of prayer. I, though rather an old Conservative, have benefited from that type of prayer.
To those who say that these alternative services have caused people to leave the Church, to drift away, I would say that the loss could have been much greater if those outside the Church had not been attracted in by those modern services and words that they understand.
This leads me to one of the main points that I should like to make. I believe that the Church of England—the Church of God—if it is to survive, must go forward. It must evangelise. It is to extend God's Kingdom that is vital these days. I believe that this measure helps to do just that.
The rôle of a church—some people may not like me for saying this, but I try to say it sincerely and humbly—is not as an occasional club to be used just when and where we want it—perhaps three times in our lives: baptism, marriage and burial. It is not that. It means that we must be active in bringing those outside in to take part and to belong. They have the right to be there, but they need to be brought in. I sincerely believe that these new forms of service help people to do just that.
The Church of England should be a living Church, though in some churches it seems to be dead. It should move with the peculiar power of the Holy Spirit as He changes men's attitudes in the days in which we live. The Church is a living Church and should change.
1601 I believe that safeguards are there for those who still wish to use the 1662 Prayer Book. There is a danger here, but I hope that parochial church councils will use their powers and rights if the parishes want the 1662 Prayer Book to continue. We should not be overruled by parish priests. Let us have active and strong church councils which are prepared to take an interest in this matter, to represent the parishes, and to get what they want.
Does this safeguard the doctrine of the Church of England? The answer to that question is "Yes". This is found in Clause 4. This is a matter of crucial importance. The form of worship may vary, the words may be brought up to date and put into modern form, but it is essential that the basic doctrine of our faith is maintained. There must be no departure from this doctrine. In a confused world, a world that is full of doubts, and has lost its way spiritually, it is important that the essential faith of the 1662 Prayer Book remains. I believe that this is still embodied in the new services that we have today.
It is essential also that the Church never forgets that we need to have that rock, faith, that rock, belief, and the one who said,I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.I believe that these things are found in Series 2, and this is something that we can recommend to many who are not interested in these things.
All our services, whatever the number or the date, should be based on Holy Scripture. We move away from that at our peril. Scripture, I believe, is able to make us wise unto salvation, is given to us for reproof and instruction. Therefore, these services must be based on scriptural doctrines. This measure assures us of that. It is clearly set out in Clause 5, "Interpretation":'The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures'".This is essential. I believe that these modern alternative services measure up to what I have said.
I too am slightly worried by the fact that there may be more services. That would be wrong. Let us have a period of stability. We are assured of this, but I hope that the Synod, of which I am not a member now, will take note of the 1602 fears expressed today. We do not need any more alternative services, and I hope that we shall have a period of stability. That being said, we can and should support this measure.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments, because many hon. Members still wish to speak. He will see I agree with much that he said.
I had thought that this measure might have gone through in half an hour, almost on the nod, but it is a matter of pride to me that so many Members have attended the debate. The House has shown a real interest in this measure, and I am proud of that concern.
Hon. Members who have spoken so far have expressed various points of view within the Church of England, some of them critical, all sincere, some profound. I join those who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on his selection for the office he now holds and on his presentation. To balance the critics of this measure within his own Church, I offer the support of a Methodist Member—not the first time that Methodists have come to the aid of the Church of England, and I hope not the last.
In this debate we are all to a degree "Defenders of the Faith" regardless of the fact that such title was given to a different monarch for defending a different faith and that we are members of different faiths and creeds. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), in a more charitable mood some years ago, recognised that when we accept the responsibilities of office as Members of Parliament we also accept a degree of responsibility for judgment and decisions on other matters, including now the affairs of the Church of England.
No one in my constituency—bishop, priest or laky—asked for my support for thus measure. I did have letters from the BCP Action Group, signed by Mr. Trefusis, and from the Anglican Association. I then consulted members of the Anglican Church in my constituency. My concern was not only that the measure should not be railroaded through but that the minority view should also be expressed. As it has turned out, my concern was 1603 groundless. From my consultations in Liverpool, West Derby, I found that not only the clergy but the laity were overwhelmingly in favour of the measure. Not for the first time in 10 years in this place, I believe myself tonight to be their representative, their delegate, expressing the view of my constituents. It so happens that I agree with them, but in this regard their wish has been expressed.
This measure comes at an appropriate time, as the "Synodian", the hon. Member for Devon, West, said—a time of change for all Churches, with an older archbishop retiring and crowning his endeavours with this measure, with York going to Canterbury and Liverpool going to York.
Some of the words of the measure are as far away as can be from the Prayer Book, the Act of Uniformity and the New Testament itself. I doubt whether Jesus Christ would understand the words:The enactments specified in Schedule 1 to this Measure shall have effect subject to the amendments set out in that Schedule, being amendments consequential upon the preceding provisions of this Measure.Yet it is not the words but their purpose which is important.
In paragraph 7 the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee says:The Commission were specifically required by their terms of reference 'to take account of current and future steps to provide greater unity between the Churches'".This measure makes some move towards that end. It deserves the support of the House, and it will certainly have mine.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cope (Gloucestershire, South)
I congratulate my constituency neighbour, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, on his appointment and on his appearance to move this measure. In view of the speeches that we usually hear from him, it was pleasant to hear him speaking in favour of a measure which has at least an element of denationalisation of the Church of England.
It is a typical British anomaly that we should be debating the doctrine and forms of service of the Church of England. Whatever we are elected for, it is not our piety, our theological or liturgical knowledge, the regularity of our attendance of church, or even our membership 1604 of the Church of England. But there are odder things in Christendom than that. I understand that the keys of the door to the most sacred church in Christendom, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, are held by a Moslem Arab family because the various Christian sects could not agree who should hold them. That is an odd thing in Christendom, if ever there was one.
Our debate today is part of the curious system by which the Church of England is governed, along with the unusual method of appointing bishops. In the circumstances of today, I believe that the House of Commons must respect the authority of the bishops and the Synod. They have the responsibility and must in the end answer for the state of the Church. We should therefore be very cautious before rejecting this measure.
We have constitutional rights and duties de jure but I believe that, de facto, we are not quite in the position we seem to be in. Our rights de facto are like the rights of the sovereign, as Bagehot described them—the right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn.
The King may say to his Minister, said Bagehot:The responsibility of these measures is upon you. Whatever you think best shall be done. … But you will observe that for this reason and that reason what you propose to do is bad. …It is not my duty to oppose but observe that I warn.If the King is right, said Bagehot, he may not always change the Minister's course but he will always trouble his mind.
I want to spend a few minutes warning the Church. I recognise that there is a difference and that the analogy with Bagehot is not quite the same, if only because the King can go on warning whereas we are asked today to vote away most of our rights to be consulted. I am very unhappy about this measure. I dislike what I think its results will be on the services of the Church.
In spite of the safeguards referred to by a number of hon. Members I believe that it will make permanent the decline, to put it no stronger, of the Book of Common Prayer. I further believe that it will make permanent the rise of the sort of experimental services which have not 1605 been a great success, to put it no stronger. If I thought that it was the end of the 1662 Prayer Book I would certainly vote against the measure. As it is I cannot vote for it. At the same time, I shall not vote against it. Many of my constituents, clerical and lay, dislike this measure, too. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) said that he had not had many representations—two, I think he said. I have had a good many representations, and the balance of them has been against this measure. Two parochial church councils have taken the trouble to pass resolutions and send them to me. Both were against the measure.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
If, as my hon. Friend says, he is troubled and will not vote for the measure, but will not vote against it, how can he say that Parliament is discharging its duty?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I apologise for interrupting again, but the matter is before Parliament. Parliament must decide today. The question whether, in future, we may or may not have any responsibility is beside the point.
§ Mr. Cope
I accept what my hon. Friend says. I shall listen to the debate. At the same time, I should be misleading the House if I said anything to suggest that my present opinion is other than that I shall not vote in the Division. My hon. Friend states the de facto position correctly. De facto, we should be most unwise to take this responsibility away from the leaders of the Church.
I appreciate that some people feel that the language of the 1662 Prayer Book is not clear—that the meaning is not always at once apparent. But forms of worship are not designed primarily for quick appreciation, as are, for example, instructions on a fire extinguisher. Forms of service must be able to be used weekly or daily for a lifetime and still retain the power to make one reflect on the words used. What we seek in a service, in religion, is a feeling that we are in 1606 touch, at least for a few minutes, with something of the wisdom of the ages.
I do not subscribe to the view, expressed earlier in a slightly different form, that the man in the street is put off if he looks into a church and finds that the parson or lay reader is speaking in seventeenth century language. The man in the street is probably more put off by the sermon which is in modern English, just as so many people are put off political meetings by the speeches. People today do not believe that the vicar has the entire answer, or that he has some great proof or inspiration which he can produce, renewed, every week. It would be unreasonable of them to expect this.
When I go to church I want to be in touch with some of the great truths that have been handed down to us from our ancestors. Sometimes the 1662 language has an unconscious meaning. In my constituency, as in that of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, many people work in the commercial aircraft division of BAC. We accept literally the description of the Almighty as not only the "author of peace" but also "the lover of concord". I do not find that such unconscious meanings detract from an appreciation of the truth behind the words. On the contrary, they help to keep the phrases alive and the listeners alert.
To recite modern English with a clear meaning week after week reduces it to drivel. To try to rewrite it every week or every year or two is a mistake. In too many aspects of our lives we have become mesmerised by the latest thing—the trendy and the new. We tend to think that it is the same with religion. It is easy to slip into the idea that all that is needed to get through to as many people as quickly as possible is the latest thought from Lambeth or somewhere else on the South Bank. That is an illusion.
The faster and more confusing the world is the more people want to feel in their religion that they are being brought back to the tried and tested truths. I do not know whether it is good theology, but I believe that words become sacred with use. I believe the same applies to buildings. Another reason why I am unlikely to vote against this measure is that it would be a mistake to 1607 attempt to make too rigid—which would be one of the results of discarding this measure—every word of all our services, making them follow the formula settled in 1662. That would be to follow "the letter which killeth" rather thanthe spirit which giveth life.I worry considerably that if this measure were to be defeated we might find that some Church of England priests, if not all, prayed to rubric, and that might have some unfortunate consequences. Among others things, it would mean that we would have the Litany every Sunday. That is not something I would welcome.
§ Mr. Cope
Perhaps my hon. Friend already has the Litany every Sunday, in which case he is welcome to it. If not, he must read it to himself. One of the great virtues and strengths of the English Church has always been supposed to be its lack of rigidity. This is something which we should allow the Church to keep. We have been assured that there will not be a Series 4, 5 or 6. I hope that these reassurances prove to be correct, although I am not terribly hopeful about the long term. They may be correct in the next few years, but I believe that Series 4, 5 and 6 will follow in 10, 20 or 30 years, and the present series are unlikely to last for as long as the 1662 Prayer Book has lasted in its form.
I welcome the assurances that have been given on this point this afternoon and in a debate in another place. The greatest loss resulting from altering the service in the way in which it has been altered in the last few years is the certainty and the assurance that people need and feel when they go to church. Let us at least keep one part of the week when we can reflect on this ancient language and on the ways in which our ancestors have worshipped.
The safeguards in the 1662 Prayer Book are as strong as can reasonably be expected in the circumstances, but I hope that the men in the pew who have been referred to this afternoon, if they hold some of the views which have been expressed on this side of the House, will have the courage to stand out against the will of the vicar, as it were—it may take courage, sometimes—and insist that 1608 the 1662 Prayer Book continues alive. If this were lost—if this were allowed to fall into total disuse—it would be a great loss to the English Church and the English nation.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
I am pleased to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on introducing this Motion. It is singularly appropriate because I understand that his constituency is the stronghold of Methodism, for all sorts of historic reasons, and perhaps that is a sign of the times.
We are having two debates this afternoon, but so far none of my hon. Friends has distinguished them. We are having a debate about the language of the Christian faith and a debate about authority in the Church of England. With the repeal of the Act of 1662 the final authority in the Church of England, if the measure is passed, will pass from this place. There are people here who are doubtful that there are sufficient safeguards in the alternative structure incorporated in the measure. In particular, the case of the Prayer Book has been mentioned. In the future there may be other matters of difference and fears concerning other features of the Church's life.
It is appropriate to quote from the records of the House. I have with me Parliamentary History, Vol. 13, Charles II, 1661, and I wish to quote from col. 240 as follows:… the Bill was no sooner read there"—that is, in this House—than every man according to his passion thought of adding somewhat to it, that might make it more grievous to somebody whom he did not love, which made the discourses tedious and vehement and full of animosity.I am glad that we have not had that sort of debate this afternoon. My own interest as a convinced Congregationalist —my denomination was founded because 300 Church of England parsons walked out on St. Bartholomew's day—gives me a vested interest in the repeal of this Act.
I can understand the difficulties of honourable and Christian gentlemen opposite when they see the alternative to this authority. As the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said, the debate is really about authority inside 1609 the Church of England. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) wanted a form of authority which would impose the Prayer Book perhaps twice a month. On reflection, I hope he would not wish to use this type of authority inside the growing Christian denomination.
We are surely placed in the dilemma of a hierarchy in decline. The hierarchy of bishops, which was very clear in 1662, is now, by wish of the bishops themselves, in decline. The Archbishop in another place welcomed the increasing role of the laity. If the laity are to have assent to what the bishops in that House finally decide they will demand more and more discussion.
I noticed the remark of the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) that young people of his acquaintance were stirred to discussion by the new forms of worship. They are now, in 1974, in the position of my predecessors in 1662. The freedom of discussion which that year of British history brought about made the Act of Uniformity necessary, it was thought. What they are going to say in their discussions and what they are going to tell their lay representatives to the Church Assembly, or the House of Laity, or whatever it is, will be of considerable interest when observing the way in which the Church manages to change from a hierarchy, as it was constitutionally until a few years ago, to something approaching a democracy and something approaching the historic Congregational tradition.
This is not only a matter of the Church. Time and again in this House—indeed, many hon. Members opposite and in particular the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge—we talk about the assumption of authority, where we find it, how we give it, and when we have got it how we handle it. In the coming discussions I would think that the Church of England will have to face this problem. It is the same problem whether it be of Church or State, whether Spiritual or secular and temporal.
The characteristics here have many things in common. If there is to be authority it is accountable. If there are procedures in authority, those procedures must be transparent. If people are given authority or privilege they must dis- 1610 charge it with a sense of trusteeship, and they must use any privilege that they have in the better discharge of their obligations and for nothing else. That is surely part of the historical tradition of episcopacy itself, which is now in the stage of default.
Unless those conditions are followed, the man in the pew and the young people of tomorrow will not accept that authority. That is the situation concerning the authority of any law that we pass in this place, particularly those laws which are more controversial than others. It is not a matter of passing a law by a majority in this House, however large. It is a question of gaining the acceptance and assent of those to whom the law must apply.
That is the truth and the tradition of the Church from which I come, which has, perhaps, changed in the last few years because through an Act of this House the historic claim of the Congregational Church to be independent to itself was overturned in the twinkling of an eye, for now the power is with the Assembly of the United Reformed Church, other than those dissenting Congregationalists who remain of that faith and order. Therefore, as a convinced Congregationalist and an Independent I cannot but rejoice at the end of the Act of Uniformity.
I look forward with interest to the discussions which must take place inside the Church of England in replacing an ancient hierarchy with a new, and new form of, democratic government inside the Church.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Eric S. Heffer)
Does my hon. Friend intend to vote at the end of the debate?
§ Mr. Spearing
I hoped I made it clear that I support this measure, although I understand the reactions of some people who feel that in passing on authority from this place to another there is insufficient protection for the minority.
That is why I think that historic traditions of this place and the sort of factors which I have tried to present in terms of authority, whether secular or religious, should be entrenched in whatever procedures the Church of England now devises in order to use authority within itself.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
As a student you will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is fairly clear from St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians that he did not return to Corinth because the Church there was in such confusion. I speak with some temerity as a Roman Catholic, but I think we have to face the fact that the Churches are in considerable confusion today. Labour Members who are Congregationalists and of other Churches have seen this point extremely clearly.
There are two major points I should like to touch upon. The first is the relationship of the House to the Church of England. If we pass this measure tonight it will be the last time the House will debate matters of Church as opposed to matters of State. That is a very serious matter.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am sure that St. Paul would not have returned to Corinth, and he would not have returned to this House either. This is an extremely serious matter and I agree with the hon. Member who said how fine it was to see so many hon. Members assembled here and not prepared to let this important measure go through on the nod.
It is difficult to say whether it is good or bad. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has talked of the populist need of the Church to be a living and vibrant organisation through the appeal or temporary advantages which may be achieved by the pursuit of political or other objectives.
Before I return to the question of where the power should be I must refer to some of the problems which have faced the Church of Rome. To my mind the Church is essentially a framework in which a man or woman can worship; even a framework, whether it be the building, the rubric, the hymn, the Mass, the Psalms or whatever, in which a person can find some communion with God.
I have a great fear, and I have seen this in the Roman Catholic Church, that 1612 there could be innovations moved by persons who, as St. Paul found, talk in incomprehensible tongues. In that Second Epistle St. Paul has to deal with the brethren who are speaking in languages which cannot be understood. He said that what was needed was an interpreter, that these were not necessarily the voices of holy spirits but of lunatics, and we have certainly heard the voices of many lunatics amongst the clergy in the last few years. [Interruption.] I do not want to challenge the hon. Member's knowledge of the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, but let him look up the point about those who were speaking in tongues incomprehensible.
There is a great danger that the innovators speak in tongues which are incomprehensible, and those people are, I believe, a positive danger to the ordinary person. In Christianity we are a fairly orderly people and we are not all great theologians. I hope we say our prayers at night, and I am sure that my hon. Friends say them more than I do, but in church we want to be sure that we can do something we know about and that we know the form and set of the procedure. I must say to my Church of England colleagues how lucky they are to have the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and what a great misfortune it would be for this country if that were to disappear.
So there is the problem which has been a problem for religions throughout the ages, and which, I think, used to be called by the classical theologians the problem of "enthusiasm"—the problem of those who want to carry out changes just for the sake of change without altering the chances of the ordinary person before God. I think that the Roman Catholic Church has suffered in this way from too many innovations.
I return to the central point which is surely the question of the relationship of this House to the Established Church. I think that there is a great danger that the measure will try to change everything without giving the necessary precondition. It is asking the House to retain the status of the Established Church while taking away from this House the power and the responsibility for its existence. There is, I believe, a direct and deep dichotomy in this argument which one does not need 1613 to be a theologian to see. It is extraordinary that such a measure should have been put forward without the recognition of this fact. We are being asked, to all intents and purposes, to disestablish the Church of England and yet retain it as the official Established Church, and this is the problem.
I apologise for having intervened in the debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]— Very well, I rejoice in having intervened. I think it important that someone who is not of the faith of the Established Church of England should express a view. I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, South that we have repealed the odious Act to which he referred and as a Roman Catholic I rejoice at that, but the House is being put in a false dilemma by this measure and I find it very difficult to support it.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
My intervention will be very brief. It is somewhat significant that I should speak after a Roman Catholic who spoke after a Congregationalist, because I am outside the perimeter of the Church of England, being, as I am, a Methodist. I make no apology for that. I must confess that back in May, June and July I was placed in something of a dilemma by the number of letters I was receiving from constituents and from people in other parts of the country urging complete opposition to these measures. I made it my business to gather certain information on the matter. I asked a number of the laity and of the clergy, and I went as far as to ask some of the bishops what the position was.
I am all for change, and realise that one cannot live in the past, but I have the impression that the old act of worship will still exist if parishioners desire to use it. I believe that that is a fact of life. If that is so, I cannot see what all the fuss is about. I cannot understand why we are getting hot under the collar.
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) quoted St. Paul and his various letters. I believe that there is a higher authority than St. Paul—Jesus, the Master himself. His ministry and mission were to teach people the way to live by loving one another. I only wish that mankind would accept that teaching in a greater measure than it does today.
1614 That brings me to my final point— that I believe in the ecumenical movement. The quicker the Churches can get together, the better it will be for mankind as a whole. I was very disappointed when, a few years ago, the union was thrown out by only a small majority. I believe that there is a feeling inside Churches of all denominations today that the closer we can come together the better it will be.
I have already been told, despite all the correspondence I have received, that the old is still there if the people wish to use it for worship. Therefore, as a Methodist, I shall support the measure.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
Respecting and revering the Book of Common Prayer as I do, I have the greatest sympathy with those hon. Members who see the measure as an assault upon it, led by that all too familiar ecclesiastical figure of our time, the "Rev. Trendy" or sometimes the "Right Rev. Trendy". I sympathise with them, because I share their love for the consummate beauty of the language of Cranmer's Prayer Book. I also share the alarm of those hon. Members at some of the excesses of the wilder of the Church's radicals.
But to oppose the measure merely because one loves the Prayer Book and dislikes, for example, the works of Bishop John Robinson, merely because one may wish to see the one read universally and the other read not at all, would be a bad mistake. For it would not be possible for the Church today to impose the universal use of the Prayer Book once again, even if Parliament or the General Synod wished to do so.
Even in the nineteenth century, when uniformity was sought to be enforced by resort to the courts of law, clergymen were prepared to go to prison, and did, for their dissenting beliefs in this regard. It took the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure to get them and the Church and the courts off that hook.
We have been reminded by the Second Church Estates Commissioner of the opinion of the Royal Commission in 1906 that the forms of worship were too closely ordered even in those days. Since 1965, and for many years before, there has been in use a wide selection of variant 1615 and alternative services to those of the Prayer Book.
This aspect of the Act of Uniformity has for long, in truth, been dead. Our failure to give it a Christian burial has been something of a scandal.
I deeply respect and sympathise with the views of my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Cope) and Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), who fear that to pass the measure would be in some way to confirm the decline of the Book of Common Prayer. But one must not shut one's eyes to the fact that in a wide geographical area of the Church of England in this country the Book of Common Prayer has gone into desuetude. I personally regret that, but I cannot close my mind to the deeply and widely held opinion among those who are active in the Church in the new housing estates, for example, that they will not get the residents of those estates to come to church so long as, when they come for the first or second time, they are confronted by services in the language of 1662. I cannot believe that that opinion, so widely held, is wrong. I feel it right that provision should be made to cater for that opinion, not by banning the Prayer Book of 1662—the measure does not do that; I should never vote for it if it did—but by providing that alternative services with the mandate of the General Synod should be available.
Therefore, the question tonight is not whether there should be provision for change in the authorised services of the Church. We have had change de facto for many years. The question is how such change should come about.
I believe that no other Church in Christendom lacks the authority to order its own forms of worship. What special inadequacy do we discern in our own Church of England, which is still the leader of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, that should drive us to deny to it the same degree of autonomy? There are perhaps those who say that it lies in the fact that it is an established Church. I do not agree with the views so eloquently expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that to pass the measure would be incom- 1616 patible with retaining Establishment. We do not have to look further than the Church of Scotland to see an example of an established Church that has the right to order its own forms of worship. The Archbishop dealt with the matter convincingly in another place on 14th November.
Is it because we do not trust the bishops that we are unwilling to confer the degree of autonomy that the Church apparently wants? If that is the answer, it would scarcely be a logical reason for voting for the measure, because it is not the Church that appoints the bishops.
Is it that we do not trust the clergy? [Interruption.] It may be, but the current measure of 1965 confers upon the clergy a right of veto when a suggestion is made for an alternative service such as those services authorised under Series 1, 2 or 3. The present measure takes away that right of veto.
I fear that the truth is—I respect and understand it—that what really inspires those who feel obliged to oppose the measure is that they do not trust the fidelity with which the laity are represented in the General Synod. But the House set up the General Synod and the whole synodical structure for the government of the Church. It may well be imperfect. I expect that it is, but I believe that its electoral system is the best that practical considerations will permit in the Church today.
There is nothing that the Synod may do which is contrary to the wishes of the Church as a whole that cannot be reversed at the next elections. When I compare the system, with all its evident imperfections, with the present system whereby this House has the final say in matters of worship and doctrine, I cannot feel confident that the House of Commons or Parliament as a whole is a more representative forum.
We should not forget that church services are instructional as well as devotional. Euclid's Elements of Geometry were first translated into English in 1570, between the issue of the first Prayer Book and that of Cranmer's Prayer Book. But we do not today teach those elements in the language of that translation. We should not insist that the teaching of the Church be conducted in the language, beautiful though it is, of 300 years ago.
1617 This measure does not "do away with" the Prayer Book. On the contrary, it entrenches it as a source of the doctrine of the church. It requires its services to be used where priest and people in a parish disagree on an alternative service.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
My hon. Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) said that this House set up the synodical form of government. That was not done by means of a Bill passed by this House. It was a measure drawn up outside this House which, like this measure, we can only accept or reject. We cannot amend it. It is not relevant to say that this House set up the form of synodical government.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I gratefully accept that correction of my inaccuracy. The House authorised or approved synodical government.
This measure does not put the Church at the mercy of some transient whim, fashion, or storm of opinion, because the legislative safeguards are cumbrous in the extreme. It satisfies a demand overwhelmingly expressed in the dioceses and in the General Synod that in matters of worship and doctrine the Church of England should at last be given this qualified independence—it is only qualified— of Parliament.
It would be idle to deny that we face a danger from unsoundly based progressiveness in the Church. We also face a danger from unsoundly based reaction. In my belief we face less risk of the first if we approve this measure than of the second if we defeat it.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth)
This is the first occasion since my election to this House that I have had the privilege of addressing it. I understand that in making a maiden speech there are certain conventions which ought to be followed. I have been told that I must speak about my predecessor, my constituency, and the measure before the House, and that under no circumstances should I be controversial.
I am grateful for having been allowed to speak in this debate, which is as important a debate as has been held in this Parliament, despite the many burning issues that have so far been debated.
The interest shown in the measure before the House focuses the interest of 1618 the country on this very important measure. While recognising the serious misgivings of those who oppose the measure, I strongly support it, the crux of the matter being that the Church is given powers, subject to substantial safeguards, to regulate its own affairs.
Reverting to the conventional matters I must allude to, I mention first my predecessor. He was the Member of Parliament for the Blyth constituency for 14 years, from 1960 until the autumn of this year. I understand that he was an extremely conscientious and hard-working Member. I understand that he earned the respect of all with whom he came into contact in this House. I pay a sincere tribute to him.
The Blyth constituency, which is situated in the north-east of England, has a coalmining background, although over the years a number of pits have unfortunately been closed. The people in my constituency form the backbone of this country. Many of our best regiments do most of their recruiting in Northumberland. There is now a battalion, serving in Londonderry, made up of men principally from my constituency. The service performed by my constituents to the country, both in a military and a civilian capacity, is second to none.
The importance of the mining community needs only to be stated to be understood. Many people do not appreciate the hardships undergone by miners working in my constituency. When talks are proceeding concerning wage negotiations or industrial difficulties in the mining industry, I do not think it is appreciated how arduous, dangerous and difficult the work is. Men in my constituency, on whichever shift they work, arrive at the pit during the hours of darkness. They work all day, or all night. They have a 20-minutes break for lunch—and no more than 20 minutes—underground. When their work is finished, if they have been on the day shift, it is still dark. If they have been working on the night shift they arrive home in time for breakfast. They never see the sky throughout their working days.
In other respects also the mining industry is the backbone of this country. One of the problems faced by the people living in my constituency is that when pit closures have occurred there has been 1619 insubstantial investment in the North-East to compensate those areas which have suffered from closures. Representing a constituency in the North-East, I see it as my job to fight very hard for regional aid in that area. It is all very well for Scotland and Wales to obtain a great deal of regional aid by being militant. The people in the North-East have behaved very responsibly in that sense. We urgently want Government aid to replace and help expand industrially those areas which have been neglected for years by successive Governments. The position in the North-East is very serious and urgent.
The rate of unemployment in my constituency is almost twice the national average. The level of wages there is between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. less than the national average. There are fewer job opportunities. There are fewer social and educational opportunities, despite very hard work and far sighted proposals made by the local and county authorities. Those are the sort of constituency issues for which I shall fight.
I apologise for making my maiden speech rather late in the day, because I understand that I am the last Government supporter to do so. Soon after the General Election, I was a passenger in a motor car that was involved in an accident, and I was in hospital for some time. As a result, I arrived somewhat late at the beginning of this Session. One of the first letters I found when I arrived was from an organisation of which I am a member, wishing me a speedy recovery. It was signed by the secretary, and it said that it had beendecided to send me a message for my speedy recovery, which had been passed by 11 votes to 8 with 5 abstentions.In those circumstances, I have taken my time before addressing the House. I am indebted to Mr. Deputy Speaker for allowing me to do so today.
I have been sounding out a number of bishops whom I know personally, about this measure. I had the pleasure some years ago of dining with a bishop. He invited me to a club. I think that it was called the Athenaeum. While waiting for my host, I was thumbing through the members' suggestions book and I came 1620 across the following, which may interest hon. Members:Last night a Socialist peer dined here. Can't anything be done about this?From talking to bishops, who are far more versed in these matters than I could ever be, my judgment, for what it is worth, is that if this measure is not passed the door will be open for a very strong campaign for Disestablishment.
What is this measure about, in essence? Basically, it empowers the General Synod, subject to certain very strong safeguards, to prepare, approve and introduce new forms of worship other than those contained in the Book of Common Prayer without recourse to Parliament. The two safeguards are very sensible and strong ones. The first is that the Book of Common Prayer remains available for use in all churches. The second is that any new form of service has to be approved in the General Synod by very substantial majorities in each of the three Houses. About as near as it can be done, those constitute solid safeguards.
I am a little worried about some of the phraseology in the measure, a good deal of which is totally incomprehensible. I refer specifically to Clause 1(4), and it may be that before the debate ends we shall have some enlightenment about its meaning. It is a thoroughly ambiguous and confusing subsection. It reminds me of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which describes a short lease as a lease which is not a long lease.
The language of the subsection is thoroughly confusing. The latter part of it reads:but that if any of the persons concerned objects beforehand to the use of the service selected by the minister and he and the minister cannot agree as to which form is to be used, the matter shall be referred to the bishop of the diocese for his decision.At first sight, there is no clear interpretation available of what constitutes "persons concerned". There is no clear and available definition of what constitutes "beforehand". There is no guidance in the definition clause or anywhere else in the Bill as to what period of time it is envisaged will elapse by way of appeal to the bishop of the diocese.
1621 Those points are not clear in a measure to which otherwise I give my wholehearted support. In the circumstances, I beg to support the measure, bearing in mind that I am making my maiden speech and that, as I see it, my principal job here is to represent the people in my constituency as strongly as possible and to give them the help that they need so desperately.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
It is always a pleasure to be called immediately after a maiden speaker. I want to welcome the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Ryman), but to suggest to him that he did not go quite far enough in paying tribute to his predecessor. Among those of us who worked with him for so long in this House he had an extremely good reputation. I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and I thought that he gave a very good description of the sturdy qualities of his constituents. He avoided saying much about the beauty of his constituency, for reasons which we all know. The hon. Gentleman has shown his ability and versatility. We look forward to hearing him speak again. For a maiden speaker to range from the Athenaeum Club to a coal mine is a pretty good effort.
We also know the hon. Gentleman's profession. He often prosecutes the Inland Revenue. In view of his calling, clearly he understands the details of this measure very well. In discussing it, it was to be expected that he would pick out certain technical details. As I say, I hope that we shall have an opportunity of hearing him again, and I am sure that I shall not be misunderstood if I say that I also hope that he is is the last Socialist maiden speaker, we shall hear for a great many years.
Those of us who are familiar with the workings of this House know that at 6.45 p.m. on a Wednesday a number of Committees are sitting upstairs and will be as surprised as I am to see so many hon. Members in the Chamber. Their pre sence indicates the great interest that hon. Members have in this issue. It occurs to me that there are more hon. Members present for this debate on the Church of England than there were in St. Margaret's, Westminster, for the service to celebrate 1622 the opening of the new Parliament. It suggests that the measures of Parliament are more interesting to their constituents than their own holy good.
The speeches in this debate have been thoughtful and have ranged over a number of different aspects, representing different churches in the realm. The speeches have, on the whole, shown a cross-section of opinion, as this Chamber is supposed to reflect the views of the nation.
My attention was first brought to this measure not by my bishop but by an incumbent in my constituency who wrote asking me whether, because of the printing strike, I could give him some particulars about how this measure had come to the House. He wrote to me at the end of July. We had just started the Summer Recess and, as a result, I was able to give the matter a great deal of attention. Two days later, I began receiving letters from other constituents, members of the same parish church, who wanted to see me privately, without the vicar's knowledge. As I know what a highly respected individual he is, I was fascinated by these approaches.
Today's speeches rather bear out the feeling of the public and of congregations that they trust their vicars but that they wish that they knew more of what was going on in the Church. There is a great deal in this. In common with non-churchgoing constituents, members of congregations only write to their Members of Parliament about matters affecting them, or something about which they have read. This situation shows a serious defect in the organisation of the Church of England.
As an hon. Member pointed out earlier, if this measure were amendable, an amendment would be tabled very quickly and, if I judge the feeling of the House correctly, it would say "Go this far and no farther." I believe that a number of hon. Members would be prepared to support the measure if it were the end. That is the impression that I have gained from my own constituents.
I have been approached by some elderly people who love the old Prayer Book and the old service. Because they live in a town containing and surrounded by a number of churches they were prepared to go to the church that gave them the service that gave them the greatest 1623 spiritual joy. With that in mind they wrote to the bishop to ask him which church they should go to, so that they could enjoy the 1662 service. To my utter surprise, they received a letter which told them that no one in the diocese knew which church offered such a service.
Surely that must be wrong. Surely those who wish to worship in the way that suits them best should be able to obtain the relevant information. Surely they should not have to go round all the churches in the hope that they will arrive at the right time for the right service. Those who have charge of the services and the interests of a church must do something to ensure that a greater degree of publicity is given to the type of service that the church offers.
On balance we should accept this measure. As Members of Parliament we do our duty in representing our constituents, but we as Members do not have the same knowledge of the Church as those who sat in this Chamber 100 years ago. It must be wrong that the Church of England is one of the few bodies which does not have control of its own affairs. Why should an assembly consisting of Catholics, Jews, Methodists, Congregationalists and others—let them be named and we have them—have a say in the affairs of the Church of England? Why should the Church not be able to control its own affairs?
As the Church of England is the Established Church it has an obligation to the State. We in this Chamber should not act in the day-to-day running of the Church, but we should be able to act as a long stop. I want to know what will happen if this measure is passed and the Church goes trendy. There is a danger that it will go trendy. Those who have studied the history of the Roman Catholic Church know that some Popes have gone wrong. We know that not every bishop is an angel. We know that not every bishop understands the views of his parishioners. This measure is for all time. We have very good bishops now but we may not have good bishops for all time. There must be some final way in which we or our successors can have final control of the Church of England.
I must be short as I must not preach a sermon. My final decision on this 1624 measure will be made when I hear the winding-up. I shall be influenced by what is said about the ultimate control, if any, that this House will hold over the Church of England.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
The supporters of this measure are making a great mistake in supposing that the malady of the Church is largely due to its ancient liturgy and that changes of form in a changing world will help to restore its fortunes. The malady is at least partly caused by the preoccupation of all too many clergy with politics rather than religion, with men's bodies rather than their souls, and with outward forms of language rather than the spirit.
Recent leaders of the Church must bear a large part of the blame for the current weakness of the Church. It is at least partly their fault that it now drifts rudderless over a sea of doubt. In 1965 we gave Church leaders authority to experiment with other forms of service. They now say, not that the experiments that have been made have proved so successful that the decline in membership has been halted, but that the results have not been quite satisfactory and that they want us to give them the right not to refer to us if they want to make future changes. That is quite a different matter. That is the dichotomy to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) has referred.
We are therefore faced with an unacceptable proposition. The real purpose of this measure is for the Church to cut itself off from outside control. Indeed, some of the protagonists of the measure do not hide that that is their intention. If we agree to this measure, how soon after will the Church demand the right to appoint its own bishops? I understand that that proposition is already on the way. It will soon reach us if this measure is passed. Once the Church can do that there will be no argument left against Disestablishment. The Church would then no longer be entitled to claim a privileged position in our constitution.
In form, this measure is concerned with experimental forms of service. I understand the comments of some hon. Members who are in favour of the measure when they say that they see no danger in the Book of Common Prayer being 1625 revised or arrangements made whereby it might still be used when a congregation so wishes. But how does one move from that argument to the argument that the ultimate control of Church doctrine, the sanction and authority under the British constitution, should be transferred from Parliament—the representatives of the English people—to a small knot of professional and committed churchmen?
If the Church could devise revised forms of service with a language which even began to approach the sheer beauty of that which it wishes to replace, the argument in favour of changes in the liturgy would be stronger. What has been produced so far is very poor stuff indeed. It is uninspiring and sometimes as meaningless as the original. The Prayer Book should not be cast aside and relegated to the class of "also available" with such little thought.
In another place the Bishop of Durham rather betrayed the argument by saying,Nothing can surpass the Book of Common Prayer as the classic statement of what the Church of England is, but it belongs to its time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 354, c. 897.]That is quite untrue, because it belongs to all time. It is inspired language. It is not the sort of language that belongs only to its own day. The very fact that it has lasted for so long is testimony to that.
There is no evidence that the retention of the Book of Common Prayer has helped to bring about the decline in the size of congregations. On the contrary, in my experience and in my opinion, the effect of the changes and the experimental forms of worship has been to drive away from the Church the very people whose attachment to it in the past may not have been very strong but whose loyalty the Church must recapture if it is to reverse the current decline. In a turbulent, dangerous and changing world, what folly it is for the Church to ally itself with the desire for change. What a time for innovation in matters of this kind.
What bothers me most is that no reasons—no good reasons, anyway—have been given for this proposal, which aims fundamentally to alter the relations between Church and State. One is entitled to ask in what way the Church has suffered from its alliance with Crown and 1626 Parliament. When and where has Parliament interfered with the just claims of the Church? What has Parliament done to justify the abrogation of its sovereignty? We have not heard— certainly not in this debate.
During the debate in another place it was suggested that the rejection of this measure would lead to pressure for Disestablishment which it would be impossible to resist. I do not like the implication of that argument. No reasons have been given to justify the breaking of a centuries-old feature of our constitution. There is merely the threat that if we do not agree to self-government the Church will make a UDI. That is the language of blackmail, which is certainly inappropriate for a Church founded upon the Christian religion.
Moreover, the constitutional position has not been sufficiently considered. The implication of the measure has not been well thought out by its supporters. It has certainly not been considered by the supporters of the measure in the debate. Consider, for example, the fact that Her Majesty the Queen is the Head of the Church, or the supreme governor. At her Coronation she took an oath tomaintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.In that solemn moment, she was asked:Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline and government thereof, as by law established in England?Her Majesty replied:All this I promise to do.How can we now transfer from ourselves—as the Queen in Parliament—the power ultimately to determine the doctrine, worship and government of the Church without causing Her Majesty to break the spirit, if not the substance, of that Oath? Is this a matter of no consequence for the supporters of the measure? Is the Coronation Oath so lightly to be set aside?
My basic objection to the measure is that the Church of England is not a piece of property which can be handed over to any one group of people. It is a part of our history. It is an important feature of our constitution, a part of every Englishman's inherited sense of tradition. It is the heritage of the 1627 common people. It does not belong to the clergy and the participating laity of any particular age. Its role in English national life is too strongly entrenched for us to make over the vital power over doctrine to a small group of activists, many of whom cannot easily escape—I say this with great respect—the charge of self-interest. The Church, under God, belongs to at least 36 million of us English, not solely to the mere 36,000 who are supposed to be directly represented on the General Synod.
One of the weakest parts of the case for the measure rests upon the argument that the General Synod has a democratic right to claim the transfer of power to itself. Indeed, some of us have received letters from our bishops, as I have, in that sense. But nothing could be further from the truth, because whom do these 500-odd people of the General Synod represent? A few thousand, in this country of over 40 million. The electoral system as arranged for the General Synod does not extend even to the 2 million who may be described as churchgoers. It certainly does not extend to the millions upon millions of English men and women who may not go to church regularly but who identify themselves with it in the last resort. If one asks an Englishman what his religion is, nine times out of 10 he will say, "C of E". That is a matter of great significance. I ask the people behind the measure to ponder upon it long before they break the association between the Church of England and the ordinary English people.
§ Mr. Pattie
Would my hon. Friend care to speculate on the size of turn-out at an election in which the entire population of England was involved on this basis?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
That is an interesting aspect of the argument on behalf of the measure. The turn-out at General Elections, at least in my part of the country, is 80 per cent. of the electorate. What my hon. Friend is suggesting, presumably, is that this does not justify our retaining the power over the Established Church which we have always had as part of the law of this country. To suggest that 36,000 people are a sufficient sector of the Church to have all power 1628 concentrated in their hands for the purpose of doctrine is just a nonsense.
The Church was not established for its own sake, and certainly not for the sake of its clergy. It was established for the sake of all the people, the whole English people. That is why it was endowed with privileges such as were granted to no other Church. No other Church, with the possible exception of the Church of Scotland, possesses its powers and privileges in relation to the State. With the passage of history, it has become a condition of its Establishment and of its State privileges that Parliament should have ultimate control.
Let those trendy clerics who seek to control the Church of England go out and form their own church. Let them have their own liturgy. Let them devise as many alternative forms of service as they wish. Let there be no external control. Then let us see whether their parishioners prefer their version to the Church which they have already, in which Parliament is sovereign.
The bond between the Church and the nation as represented by parliamentary sovereignty has lasted for centuries. It has been fruitful to both sides. What arrogance it is, what presumption, for some 500-odd people to say, "We are the Church. We are entitled to run it and to determine these fundamental matters in the way that we like, because we say so. Forget the common people. Forget those whose membership is confined to attending at baptisms, weddings and funerals. We are concerned and we care only for the active weekly churchgoers." That is the antithesis of a spiritual approach to the problem, and it ignores the interests of the nation as a whole.
Parliament, and Parliament alone, represents the English people. Parliament, with the Queen, is sovereign over the Church. Let us therefore say to the professionals and to those who want to take over our Church: "We are the people It is our Church. You shall not have it."
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his eloquent and effective speech.
I say at the start that I am not in the least surprised that there has been a 1629 greater attendance in the Chamber to debate this measure than there is on many other occasions. Of all the subjects that attract correspondence from my constituents, matters appertaining to the Church certainly hold the record for volume of correspondence. Indeed, on the question of capital punishment, a matter of some public moment, I can count the letters in hundreds. But some years ago when the measure on clergy's vestments was introduced I counted the letters in thousands. At that time I did, through the good offices of local churchmen, stage something close to a fancy dress parade to enable the clergy to put on their chasubles and cloaks so that I could see and understand what it was I was voting on.
Tonight I also feel a sense of occasion. If the measure is passed no debate similar to this one will take place in this House again. No doubt we may later consider questions of disestablishment, but on this matter of Parliament's control or otherwise of the doctrines of the Church, this debate could well prove to be the last.
It is important to realise that if we pass the measure tonight we have made an irrevocable decision about something fundamental to the constitution of our country——
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
Is it not true that if there were to be a matter with a strong doctrinal content but which involved perhaps, other matters there would have to be a reference to this House? To that limited sense what my hon. Friend has said is not—though I accept it was unintentional—strictly accurate.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I accept anything my hon. Friend says on the matter. But I am looking at the practicality. If we pass the measure tonight, whatever the details, we shall not again have a debate of this kind.
I approached this matter with an open mind. I almost took it for granted that on any measure to which the bishops, the Synod and the clergy had given such depth of thought and careful consideration I should almost prima facie support them. Therefore, I looked at the measure favourably. But my examination of the measure and its likely consequences has led me to be very doubtful about the wisdom of passing it tonight.
1630 I have judged it in three respects. I put them simply: is it good for the Church; is it good for Parliament; and, beyond that, is it likely to be good for our nation?
On the first question—is it good for the Church?—I assert straight away that it is within the right of Parliament to decide that matter. It cannot be said that what is good for the Church shall be wholly and exclusively decided by Church men themselves. We have an established Church, and, therefore, it is proper for Parliament to determine whether this measure is good for the Church—Parliament in consultation with the Church and clergy, but neverthless Parliament.
The Synod tells us that it is good for the Church, and the bishops say so, too, and we must give the greatest respect and weight to their views. But for my part I frequently disagree with the bishops, and I have disagreed from time to time with the Synod. Therefore, I do not take the point that because the Synod and the bishops say that it is right, ergo—it must be right. We must make our own decision, here, in this place.
The arguments that the measure is good for the Church are arguments, first of expediency and, secondly, of principle. One of the arguments of expediency is that the old-fashioned language of the existing Prayer Book drives young people away. I believe that summarises the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), whose views on this subject I respect, used the word "alienation". He said that the present language alienates the young, and possibly he may be right. The corollary is that a new form of words would bring them back. I simply do not believe it.
There are many reasons why our young people—indeed, our people as a whole— have turned away from the Church. This is not the occasion to go into all these reasons or the secular changes in our society that have led to a falling away in church attendances. But the bishops are a little naive if they suppose that the major reason for the turning away from church is simply that the language is not right. That is an insufficient argument in favour of the measure.
I know of no evidence that the revised language that has been introduced in respect of the Bible and other usages of 1631 the Church, has brought people back to the Church. On the contrary, my experience has been that the revised language being used in many churches has done nothing to stem the movement of the young away from the Church, but has led to the retreat of many old people from the Church. Therefore, on the argument of language the expediency case does not stand up.
There is, however, the other argument of expediency, namely, that if we do not pass the measure tonight there will be a hard-to-resist push for disestablishment. I say, both to supporters and to opponents of the measure, that this kind of—dare I say—blackmail of the House of Commons does not come well from the Synod of the Church of England. There can be no threat to this House that in the event that we made a decision not to pass the measure we should then be sorry because the Church would push for disestablishment. On the contrary. There may indeed be a case for disestablishment. But I would have respected the Synod much more if it had come to us with a straightforward case for disestablishment which involved what the Synod calls freedom—but freedom not only in doctrine but to give up what, I hope it will forgive me, I call the perks of establishment. It should ask not to remain established as far as the secular advantages of establishment are concerned, but to become disestablished as far as ritual and doctrine is concerned. I am not persuaded on the arguments of expediency.
There is, however, the argument of principle. The Church wants to be free. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know, "freedom" in relation to religion is a big word and can mean different things to different people. Two questions come to my mind as I examine this claim. First, freedom from what? What is it that the Church wants to be free from? The only conclusion that I can make is that it wants to be free from Parliament. No one can be entirely free from Parliament. Parliament has its limits, but it is the only source of lawful authority in this country, and the argument that the Church wishes to be free of Parliament is simply a non-argument. No one is free from Parliament. Indeed, in my view, Parliament guarantees freedom.
1632 Secondly, freedom to do what? To put it in the vernacular, the Church wants to be free to run its own ship. But it is a ship which, to a great extent, Parliament pays for and provisions, and it cannot be right to say that it should be free to run its ship but at the same time to pay no respect to the fact that Parliament provisions it.
Mr. John Weils (Maidstone)
I am listening closely and sympathetically to my hon. Friend's argument. Will he expand on his statement that Parliament largely pays for the ship? That does not seem to me strictly accurate.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was aware as I used the phrase that I might be asked that question.
One advantage which arises from establishment is the right of the bishops to sit in another place. That is a significant advantage, giving the Church secular power over the citizen. The Church, by definition, is also a charity and, therefore, is relieved of taxation on much of its activity. [An HON. MEMBER: "All charities are."] But the status of the Church as a charity derives not from a decision of this place but from the assumption that because it is the Church —any Church—it is therefore automatically a charity. It is in that sense that Parliament to some extent provisions the ship.
I must confess that, having considered the evidence, I am not clear in my mind whether the measure is good for the Church. The bishops say that it is. I am not so sure. I leave the matter open.
But is the measure good for Parliament? It can seldom be good for Parliament to abandon responsibilities, to a great extent irrevocably, for any of the major institutions of this country. We live in a time when most kinds of authority are at risk, when our institutions are under test, the law defied and the courts resisted. I am not sure that in the next 10 years we shall not see changes in the way in which our country is governed which will make it very different from what it is. Against that background, I doubt whether it can be wise for Parliament to abandon a large 1633 measure of responsibility for one of our major institutions.
But it has been said eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) and others that matters of doctrine are not the business of Parliament—to put it simply, that Parliament, which consists of people from many Churches and from no Church, simply does not know enough about it. Now I often feel a sense of personal inadequacy about the measures we undertake in this House. Very few of us are doctors, but that has not prevented us from dealing with health matters. Very few of us are farmers, but we do not hesitate to take our stand on agriculture. It may be maintained by some of my hon. Friends that this is a different matter, that this is a matter of morality and that morality is different from the many other matters with which Parliament feels entitled to deal, although it does not have the necessary background knowledge.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
We do not tell the surgeon how to perform his operations or the farmer what to do on his farm, Are the examples which the hon. Gentleman has given analogous to this debate?
§ Mr. Griffiths
One of the matters which divide right hon. and hon. Members opposite from the Opposition is the view held on the benches opposite that Parliament should not only create the context within which farmers, doctors and others operate but should presume, frequently without knowledge, to state in intimate detail precisely how they should do it.
It is argued by my hon. Friends that Parliament should remove itself from consideration of Church matters as opposed to matters of agriculture, industry and health because they take us into the difficult, delicate world of morality. But again and again this House deals with, for example, the propriety or otherwise of homosexuality between consenting adults, the pill and the age to which parents should have responsibility for their children. We are rarely inhibited by questions of morality from taking our stand on major issues.
I therefore cannot accept the notion that Parliament should remove itself from consideration of the doctrine and worship of the Church of England 1634 because it is a matter of morals. Either Parliament is omnicompetent or it is not, and as presently constituted it had better remain that way.
§ Mr. Pattie
I was speaking not of morals but of faith and deep theological beliefs. That is a different matter.
§ Mr. Griffiths
On many occasions when we have dealt in the House with questions affecting sexual practices and parenthood, many of us, including, I am sure, my hon. Friend, have been touched deeply by questions of morality and faith. Indeed, these matters are inseparable. I hope that as a churchman himself my hon. Friend will not maintain that there is a divide between the judgment of a man on expediency and on morality. These matters are inextricably intertwined.
When I ask myself whether this measure is good for the nation, I come to one simple conclusion—that there is an inextricable connection between Church and State, between Church and Parliament in England. Perhaps it were better not so, but it is so in law, in fact, by tradition and in the character of our nation. This inextricable interconnection between Church and State is to be seen in the Monarchy, in the courts and the practice of law, in our Oath of Office and in our everyday conduct as citizens of this country.
At the risk of offending those who have most carefully, deeply and, I do not doubt, prayerfully considered this measure in Synod, I cannot escape the feeling that here is an example of the leaders of the Church wanting to eat their cake and at the same time have it. They seek to remove from Parliament the control of their doctrine, to disestablish themselves in practice with regard to the Prayer Book, but nevertheless to retain all the secular advantages which establishment confers on them. For this reason more than any other, the discrepancy between their wish to seek freedom, as they put it, in doctrine and their wish to retain the advantages of establishment in practice, I shall join my hon. Friends who will vote reluctantly to deny this measure to the Church.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
One point has been made clear to me, and that is that should I eventually, by 1635 the grace of God, arrive in the Kingdom of Heaven, I shall find a large number of my colleagues sitting well to the front of me.
Like Winston Churchill, I can claim only to be a flying buttress of the Church. But even in that humble capacity, and as a Member of Parliament, I should like to give my support to this measure.
In moving the measure in another place, the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury said that it wasa chance for a partnership between the Church and the State in which the rôle of each will be better expressed and more effective."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 354, c. 874.]I am convinced that that is the object of the measure and that it can be achieved. It is the chance to set up a partnership rather than to have a sudden jerk towards disestablishment, as has been suggested, mainly outside the House.
Unfortunately, this Church measure, which is the most important for many years, has had alarmist constructions put upon it. I suggest that the Book of Common Prayer Action Group is misinformed and has misrepresented the measure. For example, we are told that the Church has not been consulted. In my diocese the whole question has been discussed at deanery and parish levels. The Rochester Diocesan Synod voted in favour of the measure, as proposed in the Chadwick Report on Church and State, by 138 to nil. The Rochester Synod also voted by 109 votes to 18 in favour of the more radical proposal to give the General Synod permanent powers to order forms of worship of the Church of England without further reference to Parliament. I remind my colleagues that we are debating the least radical of the proposals placed before the Synod. The measure gives the Church of England the freedom it wants, and the desire for it has been expressed constitutionally and democratically. The mind of the Church of England has been expressed clearly, and the minority has been treated generously.
In recent months there has been a striking increase in the number of young men entering the Church. The rejection of the measure which was called for by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. 1636 Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) would be deeply disturbing to many young people who are closely connected with the Church of England.
I shall not go into details and arguments about the Prayer Book, but I should like briefly to quote from a letter sent to me by a constituent who is a leading churchman in the area. He writes:Whereas a number of people, including myself, love and treasure the language of the 1662 Prayer Book and wish it to remain the standard of doctrine for the Church, we must not close our eyes to the fact that a more modern and contemporary form of worship must be available to the congregations throughout the country. I am sure that Parliament does not wish to be concerned with the minute details of every new service that comes before the General Synod.I support those sentiments. It is right that Parliament should not be concerned with the minute details, it is right that the Church should have greater freedom to organise its affairs, it is right that all services in the Church of England should not be identical and, above all, it is right that the spirit of Christian unity in our islands should be advanced by the measure.
§ Mr. Crawshaw rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
This is the third occasion on which I have not called the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), and I am sorry. This is non-party business. I shall be calling the hon. Gentleman if he is patient.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
I take part in the debate not as regular a churchgoer as I should be but as one who throughout his life has been a member of the Church of England. I have in the past been secretary and treasurer of my parochial church council, and I am frequently disturbed by many things that happen in the church. I cannot express my feelings better than did Lord Waldegrave in a remarkable debate in the other place. He said:I doubt whether all the experts and the clergy always realise how great is the distress and sense of shock suffered by members of congregations when they are faced by some of the more extreme innovations of form and language in the services. My Lords, it is difficult in the parochial church council, in the Deanery Synod or in the Diocesan Synod for 1637 the laymen, chaperoned as they always are by their own incumbents, to say how greatly they dislike some of these changes. For them there is a great temptation to vote with their feet and keep away, not only from the PCC and the Synods, but from the Church itself."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 352, c. 880.]The noble Lord went on to ask some questions. I shall paraphrase one or two of them and ask one of my own.
First, is there an adequate safeguard for the Book of Common Prayer and the general doctrine of our faith? Secondly, does the average churchgoer truly understand what is happening this evening? Thirdly, and perhaps most important, should we be debating the matter at all, or should we be dealing with the much more fundamental issue of disestablishment?
Many hon. Members said how much they liked the 1662 service, but I do not think that I have ever heard the full 1662 service in a parish church. Its sheer length would deter many people. What we have had is an amalgam of the 1662 service, innovations from the 1928 service and a few passages that do not appear in any approved service. How many hon. Members can say that they have heard the Ten Commandments recited in full during a Communion service in their parish church in the last few years? That is a requirement of the 1662 service, yet few incumbents ever read out the most simple and easily understood instructions ever written.
A church service requires to be dramatic, traditional and, as far as possible, unchanging, so that those who subscribe to the faith can look upon the liturgy as an anchor in their lives in times of greatly increasing tumult. We should not tonight be debating the merits of the new service. The measure merely entitles the Synod, with the safeguards of which we are aware, to make alterations. Perhaps Parliament would prefer the Synod to have brought the new service to us for approval, as occurred in 1928. That is the logical answer to those who say that Series 3 will be the last and there will be no more changes for some time. On the question of timing, I am not sure that we are dealing with the measure from the right point of view.
The Bible does not enter into this. It is dealt with in a separate measure which 1638 has already been passed by the House. Authority to read different versions of the Bible has already been given to the Church. I find it off-putting that a Bible that was designed only for interpretation and private study should be read aloud in church. It can be said in favour of the new services that considerable thought has been given to the fact that they should be dramatic, that they should be heard aloud and should have feeling. I am sorry that, despite criticism to the contrary, no Church authority thought fit to place a copy of Series 3 in the Library of the House. Unfortunately, as I do not have a copy, I have been unable to study it.
The measure will allow the Synod to make further alterations. There are gigantic safeguards and most of us who have dealt with political problems will accept, I am sure, that the democratic process that will have to be gone through before further alterations are made will deter even the most ardent reformer. Nevertheless, there will be pressure, whether in five, 10, 15 or 20 years, to make further changes. I do not believe that those who are in favour of this measure can say that this is a freezing situation and that no further changes will be made. If people say that, I must return to the question of timing.
The 1965 measure allowed experimental services until 1980. I do not see why we should have to consider this matter in 1974. Why not in 1978 or 1979? There can be no harm in carrying on with the experiment if that is what people wish. If that is not what people wish —and we are told that the Synod does not wish it—surely they can manage for the next four years and give the average churchgoer greater time to consider the form of service that he or she wants.
A famous American politician said that he knew he would win the election with which he was concerned when his enemies turned their backs on their supporters and tried to buy votes from the floating undecided people. Surely it is a problem that many of us experience within our own political parties. It is vital to keep our basic supporters happy. That is something that the Church has ignored at its extreme peril. Empty churches are not of themselves due to the language that is used in the services, 1639 but more to the length of the sermons and the views contained in them. If the Church alienates its traditional supporters on the ground of wishing to be "with it", I do not think that it can then turn to us and say, "We need this measure because without it we shall not be able to survive and to gather in people from the new housing estates, and so on." I do not believe that in those housing estates and in the ministry of the Church in modern society it is the form of service that does or does not fill the churches.
My second question related to the understanding of the average churchgoer to this matter. Despite the explanations of how the Synod is elected, I, too, find it a distant body. It is perhaps preferable to its predecessor, the Diocesan Conference, but I suspect that had I been a Member of this House when the previous measure came before it I would have been critical of the way that synodical government was set up.
I accept that it is possible to debate within a parish the kind of service that should be used. Perhaps I have been unfortunate. In every parochial church council on which I have sat the vicar has chosen to take the chair. In that position he wields great power, particularly over many of his parishioners who perhaps are not so intellectually wellequipped and theologically prepared to argue for religious changes in the church service.
I have a letter from a constituent, a consultant physician, who writes:The measure would remove Parliament's final veto on changes in the doctrine and worship, and with it would go the only remaining check on the bizarre and wearisome determination of Synod to alter the whole nature of the Church of England without reference to the people.At present all Parliament can do is to say to the Church, 'Be reasonable, think again.' Is this really such an intolerable yoke on the neck of the Church? The people gave Parliament this veto. We earnestly hope you will not surrender it. Please oppose the measure.That I propose to do.
That the Synod voted by a large majority seems scarcely surprising. If a body is asked the question, "Should we have greater power", the chances are that it will vote in favour by a handsome majority. Therefore, I do not take much 1640 note of the arguments either way, except, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said, "Laymen will take notice of the views of both the bishops and the Synod, but equally we have the right to disagree with them."
I hope that we may have more time to consider this extremely difficult matter. Is a period of two or three years such a long time in the history of the Prayer Book and our liturgy? It seems but a passing moment.
On disestablishment and whether we should be debating this matter, I entirely support my hon. Friends who made it clear that they see this measure as a step towards disestablishment. Indeed, far from the Synod threatening this House, surely it is gradually trying to take to itself powers which at the moment Parliament holds and at the same time to keep the advantages of establishment, small as they may be, in a somewhat underhand manner. I should like the Church of England to remain as the established Church of this country. If, however, in a modern context it does not wish to be established, it should say so, and allow us to debate the merits or otherwise. I am sure that in the more free-thinking atmosphere of today there would be a majority for disestablishment in this House were the Synod and the bishops to ask for it. However, it seems that they are having it both ways on this occasion.
I am sorry that it was necessary to debate this matter in the other place on what must have been an emotive day for that Chamber. It was for that reason that those who did not agree with the measure were reluctant to put it to a vote.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on his maiden speech in his capacity as Second Church Commissioner, but I hope that we shall not be nervous about expressing our views tonight and questioning him on this measure. The view that a successful vote against this measure will harm Church-Parliament relations does not deter me from voting against it. I wish to strengthen relations between Parliament and churchgoers.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
First, I should like to apologise for not having been present for the whole of this debate. I was required elsewhere. 1641 I plead in mitigation that I indicated that I did not wish to be called before the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin), who had been waiting to speak in the debate. I think that was the reason why you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not call me earlier.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Ryman), who made his maiden speech a short time ago. Although he is not present, I should like to say that if we could introduce a little more of the humour that he displayed today into our church services, the churches would not be so empty today.
I have always been interested in Church matters. I do not put myself forward as a great Christian, but I do attend church. In the humble capacity of sidesman I think that I am associated with my local church to a fair extent. I also bask in the reflected glory that my wife has been a church warden for many years.
I appreciate that this subject arouses deep emotions. I hope that hon. Members will accept that I do not wish to criticise any views contrary to my own. I realise that they are deeply held, and I respect them.
I was a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee that dealt with this measure in another place. I supported it there and I intend to support it here.
There has been a lot of cross-talking about this measure which does not get down to the root of the problem. The suggestion by some is that they go for disestablishment by a thin end of the wedge. Yet others who oppose this measure say that the clergy are being two-faced, that they cannot have it both ways, indicating that they want to stay established and yet have this measure. Let us get it right. The Church is either trying for disestablishment or it is not. You cannot have the argument both ways.
I was surprised that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) felt that the Church was involving itself too much in politics. As an ex-theological student, I have long felt that the reason for the empty churches was that the Church was not sufficiently involved in community affairs, to the extent that people felt it had no connection with conditions under which they lived. The more involved the Church is the more chance there is that congregations will increase.
1642 I support the measure, but as one who misses the language of the old Prayer Book. But I and some others are getting a little long in the tooth and the Church will have to be carried on by others in the near future.
I believe that new forms of service will assist. Since Parliament defeated the 1928 Prayer Book, how many vicars have complied with the law about church services? Very few. They have had forms of service and prayer for which there is no legal justification. Do we want to have the Church stagnate, to be incapable of providing services to suit various occasions? This is only a small measure, but an important one.
The criticism has been made that the three Houses which passed this measure are not representative. Many of us may not be representative of some of those whom we are supposed to represent. But how else to decide? Is it suggested that the Church selects these people in an undemocratic way? I bemoan the fact that the average person is apathetic, but if people do not wish to take part, they have only themselves to blame if decisions are taken of which they do not approve. Apathy is a feature of many of our affairs, including trade union affairs. But why should we assume that we are democratically elected to take national decisions while the Church assemblies instituted for these purposes are not? I believe they are.
I have a vested interest in an established Church since I should like to feel that the State has associations with the Church.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I mean an established Church under the constitution as it is at the moment, under which the Church has to come forward——
§ Mr. Crawshaw
It is a step in the direction of disestablishment, I agree. It must be so, if more power is given to a certain body.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I qualified that by saying that I should like to feel that this State is associated with the Church and is a Christian State. But one cannot assume that today. Ultimately, the Church will become disestablished. Whether that will be better or worse for the Church, I do not know. But it is not enough simply to say that the clergy are not honest in proposing this measure, that it is a step towards disestablishment, and in the next breath say that they cannot have it both ways. I should like to feel that the Church means something to this House.
What perks is the Church supposed to get from establishment? The Queen is the Head of the Church, but we hear a lot about financial support, and that does not exist. I believe that the opposition is not based on the feeling that these requirements are not necessary: it is a dog-in-the-manger attitude. That attitude was certainly shown by some hon. Members who opposed it on the Committee. They wanted to provide that the vicar should have laid-down services, with no latitude. Is that the sort of Church we want, with every word written down? Hon. Members may smile, but from 1928 until the previous measure was allowed the Church was acting unlawfully in many respects. Do we want it to be in that position?
This is not necessarily a step towards disestablishment. It might stop that movement. I intend to vote for the measure. Nothing in it bears out what has been said, that we shall be forbidden to use the Prayer Book, for instance. I have said that I prefer the former service, but we are dealing with a new generation. Changing the forms of service, however, will not fill the churches. It is the attitude that the Church takes to things outside which will do that, and not the doctrine.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)
I follow with great pleasure the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), who is well-known as a churchman but always manages to reveal something fresh and intriguing about his personal background. His walking exploits are well known to us, and we have learned this evening that he 1644 is an ex-theological student. That adds to the lustre of his reputation.
I found particularly sympathetic the note that the hon. Member struck about establishment. I noted the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) about what establishment is. I should be content to give a legalistic and at the same time intuitive definition. The legalistic definition would be that contained in the Church and State Commission's Report on these matters:For us, establishment means the laws which apply to the Church of England and not to other Churches.That is a useful summary, which I would carry further. To me, establishment is the link between the Church community in the country and the civil community, which has been such a vital part historically in defending and upholding the integrity of the Christian gospel. This, after all, is the root of what we are concerned with—the integrity of the Christian gospel in the sense that we in the Church of England, Protestant and Reformed, understand that Christian gospel to be.
It was only because of the existence of the civil princes, in the case of Luther— who had recourse to their shelter and protection—and the civil princes in this country following the Reformation that the integrity of the Christian gospel, so vital and precious to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and all of us who profess and call ourselves Christians, that the integrity of this gospel has been maintained.
I start with an enormous presumption in favour of the notion that if possible there should be laws which apply to the Church of England and not to other churches—to give a legal connotation of disestablishment—and, more broadly, that we should somehow maintain a real effective link between the civil authorities and the Protestant Church of England in this country following the pattern of the Reformation and of Luther. One thing which I have noted with some concern—this is why I will support the measure—is that there has been a noticeable secular trend in the direction of loosening the ties between the civil power and the Christian Church, particularly the Church of England.
1645 This is first because the vital political power relationship between the Church of England doctrine and the civil authorities which was a feature of the clash between the civil power in this country and the Papacy has now evaporated as a factor which concerns the civil power. To that extent the civil power has progressively become less and less interested in the doctrine and beliefs of the Christian Church at large and the Church of England in particular.
Increasingly down the centuries, up to the present time, the civil authorities, specifically this House, have become less and less interested in what the doctrine of the Church of England is. It was vital at the time of the Reformation and the clash with the Papacy. It is increasingly irrelevant to the interests of the civil powers and to most people in this country concerned with civil and secular matters today.
That is a drift from the notion of establishment on the civil side. But the drift from attaching importance to a link between the civil authorities and the Church has also come on the Church side. The Church of England has felt an impulse to drift away from strong links with the civil powers for reasons concerned, for example, today, with its great preoccupation, meritorious and laudable, with the idea of Christian unity. This is very much a proper and Christian preoccupation in the 20th century, with the diminishing body of Christians in the world at large and the need to present a unified testimony.
The more we move in the direction of unity, so many Anglicans have found, the more the civil link has been an inhibition. The trend away from attaching importance to the civil-Church link has thus been a common feature of the civil body and the Church of England simultaneously. The proof of the pudding is the fiasco of 1928 when, because the civil authority did not move in the direction the Anglican Church wanted, in effect, rightly or wrongly, the Anglican Church took the law into its own hands and a great many of its members behaved as they thought they conscientiously should in matters of worship and doctrine as deployed and reflected in the Book of 1928.
1646 The significant factor is that Parliament did nothing about it. It was not interested. It entirely accepted and took an appeasing attitude towards this de facto breach in the link between the civil body and the Anglican Church in a fundamental matter of worship and doctrine. It was a specific example of this drift away from attaching importance to the civil-Anglican link which I have described. I believe that, paradoxically, this measure is a reversal of this trend. In a paradoxical way it represents an under-pinning, a reassertion, of the significance and importance of the link between the civil authorities and the Anglican Church.
On the basis of what the Church of England was able to get away with from 1928 to 1965 it might have been thought that a far more radical measure of independence and self-determination would have been brought forward. It might have been thought that the Church would have sought to achieve recognition de jure of an almost completely acceptable de facto freedom to do what it wants, which is what happened following 1928. It has done the opposite. It has come to this House with a measure which in a sense pins it down to something much more akin to the veto that the civil authorities imposed upon Church doctrine in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries than was ever the case between 1928 and 1965.
Consider, in this context, above all the entrenchment provisions for the 1662 Prayer Book and the implied entrenchment provisions for the doctrine of the Church of England, Protestant and Reformed, as manifested, above all, in the 39 Articles in the entrenched Prayer Book. To have made itself legally bound to recognise and maintain these fundamental formularies is an immensely significant act of recognition and commitment to the oversight of the civil authorities in a fundamental matter of faith and worship. This is a genuine strengthening of the notion of the relevance and right of the civil powers to take a profound interest and concern in what the Church of England does.
A further indication of the sensitivity of the Synod to the need to recognise and upgrade and magnify the right 1647 of the civil power—this House—to show concern in, have authority in, and exert some leverage in, the Anglican Church, is the fact that the Synod thought that it was wrong to bring forward in the context of this measure, perhaps in any form at all, anything in the nature of a reform in the practice of civil appointment of bishops.
The Synod looked at the possibility of this in the light of the "Church and State" report and decided, rightly and wisely, that it should not bring such a proposal before the House—that it was far too fundamental a breach of the principle of establishment. I am immensely encouraged in my belief that the Synod wants to sustain and recognise the power of the civil authorities over the Church of England in that it has not brought forward a measure which in any way tries to usurp the function of the civil power to appoint bishops, obviously in consultation.
Reference has been made in the context of what the Church is seeking to do in this limited area to the use of language, modern forms of words and so on. I find it profoundly paradoxical and ironic that one of the first and greatest blessings of the Reformation, of the power Luther achieved through the use of civil support, was the arrival for the ordinary people of the Scriptures and prayers in what at that time was called the vulgar tongue.
It is ironic that today the very people who most profess to be championing the inheritance of the Reformation should at the same time be so anxious to maintain what a wit once called, referring to the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, "the Latin of Protestantism"— which is this archaic language, beautiful, beguiling, but, alas, blurred and in some way imprecise in its impact and meaning. It was not so blurred and unclear when it was the vulgar tongue of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
It is right that a modern generation of people, claiming to be in the tradition of Luther and the Reformation, should seek to place before the common people today the Scriptures and the Prayer Book in the vulgar tongue of today—the common, easily understood, immediately discernible language of our contemporaries. 1648 The fact that we maintain 1662 absolutely entrenched is a safeguard, and shows a proper respect for tradition. An attempt to present these ideas in forms which can be understood and appreciated by our contemporaries is in the proper tradition of the Reformation and springs from those changes which were occasioned by Luther's use of protection by the civil power.
This House has already made a number of radical moves in the direction in which this measure is moving. I remind the House of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 which accepted the view of the Church authorities that the final court of appeal on questions of doctrine and worship should be changed from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to which some churchmen objected as being a State court, to a new final court decided upon by the Church authorities. So much for the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) about the usurping of matters of doctrine. This has already been usurped, if that is the right word, nearly nine years ago and I submit with no really ill effect.
A number of other steps have been taken, not least the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure, 1965 which was accepted without a Division, and the Synodical Government Measure, 1969. None of these is dangerous from the point of view of the maintenance of a vital link between the Church and the civil power, but they are a precedent for a continuation of the trend.
I believe that if we accept this measure we shall not damage the vital relationship—the vital power relationship—be tween the civil authority and the Church of England, but that in an age when the drift is away from that link, paradoxically we shall underpin and support it. For that reason, I support the measure.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
It is with a feeling of considerable humility, as an imperfect member of the Church of England, that I intervene in this debate. My wife is a member of a parochial church council and we are fairly regular attenders of the church, though not so regular as we ought to be. I had the advantage of being educated at one of the great Church schools of our country, 1649 part of the Woodard Foundation. This obviously made a very great impact on my early life.
I regret that this measure, because of past decisions, will have no Committee or Report stages. It is, indeed, a great shame that the General Synod will not have the advantage of our views and opinions before finalising the measure. However, we have to face the fact that tonight we have to make a straight decision whether to vote for or against this measure. I shall not in any circumstances vote for it. I am not sure at this point whether I shall vote against it. I want to listen carefully to the speeches which have yet to be made.
Without doubt, I have some very serious misgivings about the measure. These have not in any way been stilled by the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. In paragraph 13, page 5, of the report, the Committee uses the following words:In the opinion of the Committee the Measure is expedient.I regard that as a most unfortunate phrase in the context of what we are being asked to do. It does not lead me to believe that sufficient thought and consideration have been given by the entire membership of the Church to this measure.
§ Mr. Cormack
I do not wish to detract from my hon. Friend's argument, but, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I would say that that is the traditional form of words.
§ Mr. Bowden
I accept my hon. Friend's correction. I would only say that I believe the time has come to change that form of words, because it can be very misleading to those who approach the subject on the basis of being imperfect members of the Church.
What worries me is that the General Synod and the general organisation of the Church are out of touch with the man in the pew. I regard myself as a reasonably typical man in the pew. I was not aware of the point which my hon. Friend has just made—I am now—but how many other men in the pew have any idea of the implications of that phrase?
I turn to the part of the measure dealing with the Book of Common Prayer. Without doubt, in one sense it is pro- 1650 tected in a way in which it has not been protected in the past. What worries me is that the terms of this measure could lead to the almost total disuse of the Book of Common Prayer.
We had an effective speech from the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson), who is not now with us, who, I understand, was a curate. I am not sure whether he had a parish. I believe he did. Here is a man of very strong views, eloquent and fluent, but I suggest that for the highest possible motives he would dominate his PCC. It would be a very brave man on his PCC who would dare to stand up against him and challenge any views expressed by him. This must, therefore, mean that over a period of time, where the incumbent in any parish is a man of strong views and feelings, it would be difficult for the members of his PCC to resist his views, and if he does not want to use the Book of Common Prayer it will not be used in his church. It is in this area that I have my first major misgiving.
I turn now to the comments made by the Second Church Estates Commissioner. I congratulate him on the way in which he presented the case to the House, and on his appointment. I am sure that he would be the first to concede that he did not have an easy task. Clearly, he had to prepare himself at relatively short notice. He made a number of points and I made two interventions when he was good enough to give way. In one of those interventions he made the firm statement that there would be no question of a Series 4, 5 and 6. I asked him what guarantee this House had that there would be no such series, and he was unable to give me a satisfactory answer.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to what he called the historical accident in the sense of the Church being established. It may be historical, but it was certainly no accident. Historically there were many people in this country who for years fought for and obtained the full and complete establishment of the Church of England within our realm. Even when we talk about the rule of Parliament, we should not forget that we are not Parliament. There are two other very important parts of Parliament—their Lordships in another place and Her Majesty the Queen, the Defender of the Faith. We 1651 must think long and hard about the long-term effects of this measure upon that position.
I turn to the present form of synodical government. As I understand it— although I would accept correction—the church congregation elects the parochial church council, the PCC then elects the members of the deanery synod who in their turn elect the members of the diocesan synod who then elect the General Synod.
§ Mr. Van Straubenzee
If I may correct my hon. Friend? It is the deanery synod who elect on up to the General Synod.
§ Mr. Bowden
I put in one synod too many, for which I apologise.
The fact remains, however, that the elected representatives of the General Synod are a long way away from the original catchment area. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) made great play about the election process and said that we were not fully elected. Surely that is not true. We come direct from our constituents and the members of the General Synod do not. They do not have constituents who can make direct representation to them and they need not listen carefully to what is said because there is the barrier of two other groups before them in the election process. Therefore I submit that it must be difficult for the General Synod as a group to have a clear understanding of what the average member of the Church is thinking and feeling.
I cannot support the measure. It must give great power to the General Synod, the members of which are too often out of touch with the ordinary members of the Church. Secondly, it will, in my view, endanger the future use of the Book of Common Prayer. Thirdly, I have no doubt that it must inevitably weaken the links between Church and State.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I shall intervene only briefly. When we come to consider the form and words of the service we must ensure that those words are unmistakably clear, and during the present experimental phase we are not getting that clarity. Even when this experimental phase ends we may not achieve it. My 1652 right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) referred to the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthiaris. Another quotation he might pay heed to is:if the trumpet give an uncertain sound".Those words cannot be found in the new Bible because the point is covered there in a completely unrecognisable form.
I think people go to church because they like continuity and, as someone else said, because they like the certainties of the church service. It is very important to keep a certain mystery in these words. We do not want the service to be in Civil Service language, and I do not think the beauties which have been created by the 1662 book can be recreated by us. When people go to church they believe that in repeating the old words they have a link not only with past generations but with future generations who will also be repeating them in their turn.
One most important aspect of this whole question of the Church and its possible disestablishment or its control of worship and doctrine is that this country now needs moral leadership from the Church and that is what we are not getting. In this permissive, violent and Godless age that is one thing we expect the Church to give us, and in that context the measure we are discussing tonight is irrelevant.
Nothing will be lost if we wait until towards the end of the experimental period, which finishes in 1980, and reconsider the measure again in, say, 1978 or 1979, when the congregations will have had more time to appreciate what the change may mean for the future. Once a step of this kind is taken none of us here tonight can clearly say where it will lead. I shall, therefore, need some convincing tonight if I am to vote for the measure.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
My preference—and it is as much emotional as anything else—is for the 1662 Prayer Book. There is, however, an interesting paradox. At the end of the 1662 Prayer Book appear the Articles of Religion. Article XXIV says unambiguouslyIt is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, 1653 or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.If it is an accepted proposition that language changes with the efflux of time, Article XXIV to me quite clearly means that if it is to be complied with the actual words employed in the ministration of the Sacraments and public prayer must alter, too. Not to do that is to ignore Article XXIV of the Articles of Religion enshrined in the 1662 Prayer Book.
My principal complaint of the measure——
§ Mr. Powell
Clearly, that article was designed to draw a distinction not between more and less recent English, between middle English and old English even, but between the use of Latin and the vulgar or English tongue. It was not directed, as it would appear in isolation to be, to the intelligibility of individual English words and phrases.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has for once misdirected himself on a point of interesting and relevant fact. The heading of Article XXIV is:Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The whole import of the heading and the article is that public prayer and the ministration of the Sacraments should not be carried out so that the people, who are the congregation, do not understand their import. That is the whole purpose. People may not understand their import because, for instance, they are in a different language or in archaic language. If Chaucerian English were used today in our religious services, many people would not understand it, although it is undeniably English.
The Cornish were defeated in the battle of Fenny Bridges. They rose against the 1552 Prayer Book because they did not understand it. They understood Latin and Cornish. What they did not understand, and some might say they still do not understand, was English.
The criterion is this: do the congregation understand the words used? If the reason they do not understand is that the words are several hundred years archaic, that is just as relevant a ground 1654 as their being in a different language, in the sense of Cornish being different from English, or Latin being different from English.
That in no way deflects me from my enjoyment of the 1662 Prayer Book. But I recognise that if I am to impose my preferences on others who neither share them nor understand that to "administer justice indifferently" does not mean that it should be administered without care, which is what many people today would take it to mean, that is to negate the provisions of Article XXIV.
What I take particular exception to is the fact that two totally dissimilar purposes have been combined in one measure. The whole debate, which has lasted for some time, has been about the provisions of Clause 1. Clause 4 has been touched on, but there has been no debate about the provisions of Clause 2. As Parliament cannot amend Church measures but can only accept or reject them, it would have been much better if we had had two measures laid before us, one embodying the provisions of Clause 1 and the other embodying the provisions of Clause 2. Such subsequent clauses as are relevant could then be attached to them. It would have been better to proceed in that way, because the arguments for and against them are totally different.
As far as I am aware, the Church of England is the only Protestant Church in England whose congregations have no say in the selection of their minister, nor can they interdict his acceptance. In that regard, it is unlike the established Church of Scotland. It is not just a theoretical matter. It often happens that congregations would like a say in selection.
We are asked to transfer immense powers from Parliament to the Synod without the Church of England's having reformed the system of patronage whereby people, some of whom are not even residents in the British Isles, can appoint the incumbent to a living and the parishioners can do nothing about it. This nettle should have been grasped before the ecclesiastical bodies asked Parliament to transfer these immense powers.
The congregations have lost the tiny protection against abuse of that power that they had in the requirement of public assent to the official doctrine of the Church 1655 of England. There has always been that tiny protection. Clause 2 provides that that protection can now be swept away effectively without Parliament having any right to deny it.
§ Mr. Spearing
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has been the first to dwell on the question of the machinery of democracy inside the Church. Is he suggesting that we should delay this measure unless and until the reforms that he has suggested have been made and are working? If he is not saying that, how does he suggest that the House can impose those reforms which he seeks to make?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I say exactly that, for the additional reason that it would expedite those reforms were we to refuse our assent tonight. I am not sure that if we assent to this measure those reforms will be brought about in the foreseeable future.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The hon. Gentleman says "For the Church". The parishioners now have a degree of protection which we are asked today to take away from them. Under Clause 2 we are being asked to take away such protection as they have. This is not just a theoretical consideration. I have spoken to a church warden of a parish about this matter. The entire parochial church council went to see the bishop about the appointment of the next rector of their parish. They were not even invited to sit down. The bishop told them it was no concern of theirs who he appointed to be their priest.
At least they have this tiny protection in law. If the person appointed to the cure of their parish refused to give publicly the assent required by law, they could terminate his cure. That tiny protection yet exists, but it will be effectively swept away.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
The hon. Gentleman made a point concerning a case in his own area. Will he not agree that the case he mentioned is more the exception than the rule?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I am entirely confident that it is more the exception 1656 than the rule. Unfortunately, the practice of not consulting the parishioners is more widespread than hon. Members may realise, so that the parishioners have wished upon them an incumbent they do not want. There is nothing they can do about it. That has been, and remains, one of the factors which tend to empty churches.
This measure should be rejected. Those who promote Church measures could offer the House this measure substantially split into its two component parts. The first substantial part is contained in Clause 1 and all that goes with it. The second is contained in Clause 2 and all that goes with that. Some hon. Members may find Clause 1 and that which goes with it acceptable, and Clause 2 unacceptable. They could accept one measure, and reject the other.
I have often found myself at a great disadvantage from what is, in effect, the statutory instrument procedure where we cannot amend the words of anything of this kind: we can only accept it in toto, or reject it in toto. It is, therefore, particularly incumbent on those who send measures up to Parliament not to include within them dissimilar provisions of this kind. Individual parishes are entitled to maintain their tiny protection, which is substantially cut in Clause 2, until the system of patronage is reformed. That is why I shall vote against this Church measure.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) that it is most unfortunate we cannot amend this measure, and that we have to accept it in its entirety or reject it. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) agrees with me in that. I am not sure how long this element of cross-party agreement will last.
I think that at least my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) will agree that if politicians should not be preachers today they have debated matters of religious significance with a feeling and perception quite remarkable and which would make it most unfortunate if this House were never to have the opportunity to have similar debates in the future.
1657 I find myself deeply troubled about this one. I speak not only as a churchwarden, who has certain responsibilities to a specific parish, but as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which has very little power to do anything other than to recognise and to deem expedient. I speak also, however, as the father of young children and who wants to see them brought up in a Church of England which still has as its essential basic liturgy the Book of Common Prayer.
I came to the House today having told my former bishop, who is now retired, that I felt inclined to support this measure. Having sat through the debate I am not at all sure that I shall do that when the vote is cast. It is right that hon. Members should listen to the arguments which are advanced, and there have been some formidable arguments advanced. I waver considerably after what I have heard.
My inclination to vote for the measure was simply because I wanted to avoid creating in our country another dimension of uncertainty and confusion, which is what would be created if the disestablishmant issue were brought to a head. I am a fundamental believer in the Establishment because it seems to me that a Christian country—and we are still officially a Christian country—ceases even to have that title if it has no established Church.
The arguments here have been formidable. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Eraser) put it in a most eloquent and persuasive speech, any move to have the privilege without the responsibility should not be condoned in this House.
My other inclination to vote for the measure was based upon what I call a sense of reality. Most hon. Members did a little research before coming to this debate. With the aid of the Library I looked out the article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph in 1962 when the Prayer Book was celebrating its third centenary. I quote briefly from that article:But where stands lawful authority? Common necessity has largely usurped it, so that there is no parish or cathedral church in England in which the letter of law on public worship is strictly observed, and scarcely a clergyman who does not contribute some element of individuality to the situation.That we all know to be the case, whether it be the 1928 Book, which occasionally 1658 is brought into play, or whether it be the incumbent who enjoys saying Compline, which I find extremely appealing.
The article went on:None the less, the Book of Common Prayer is most truly held in honour not only in England where it has, in theory, the force of law behind it, but also throughout the world-wide Anglican communion comprising churchmen of every race and colour. It has moulded Christian thought and devotion for three centuries, to say nothing of the influence of its literary cadences on our language.That is where the first of my misgivings sets in about supporting the measure.
One of the most moving speeches that I have heard in this House today was delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). He spoke from the heart and with tremendous feeling. I think that he spoke for millions of people, although he was much more articulate than they and much more able to translate into the moving phrase. Nevertheless, he spoke as millions feel. He was speaking as hundreds feel in my own parish—people who will be crowding into our parish church for midnight Communion three weeks from now.
This first of my misgivings is becoming stronger as the debate continues. It is a misgiving based on a deep feeling about the needs of the age in an official Christian country. We do so desperately need stability and continuity. We desperately need both the anchor and the beacon that the Book of Common Prayer provides.
There was a time when any Roman Catholic going into any Roman church almost anywhere—my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone reminded us of this—felt at home. That no longer is the case. It is not for me to pronounce upon the various liturgical experiments of the Roman Church, but it is depressing when I go to churches throughout the country to find that I no longer feel at home. We are confronted with a paper-backed liturgy that is often couched in the language of the bus queue and the supermarket, and people feel deeply about these matters.
When the New English Bible was first published there was a most brilliant criticism by T. S. Elliot. He referred to it as vulgar, trivial and pedantic. I believe that. It is a version of the Bible that can enrich our private study, but it 1659 has little to contribute to public worship. If anyone has the misfortune to listen to the Gospel for Christmas Day read from the New English Bible rather than from the Authorised Version he will know what I mean. It is only necessary to quote the glorious phrase:Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.said the Preacher. In the New English Bible that becomes:Emptiness, emptiness, all is empty says the Speaker.It has a capital S.
The same approach is found in Series 3. One of the heartening features of this debate is that although support for this measure has been expressed, hon. Members have not spoken up for Series 3. The Series 3 Thanksgiving begins as follows:The President says 'The Lord is here'.I think of Blackpool and the party conferences. There is a dinginess which takes over from majesty and a clumsiness which takes over from mystery.
I believe that there is a real place for a special language for our religion. I believe that people often wish to lose themselves when they go into a church; that they wish to worship in a different environment and that they do not necessarily wish to speak to their Maker and to take part in an act of corporate worship using the same sort of language that they use in the bus queue or in the supermarket. We should be sacrificing something of inestimable worth if we allowed the Common Prayer Book and all that it stands for to be pushed into the background. There are very few Cranmers, and certainly this generation has not produced one.
If some of my hon. Friends suggest that the current vulgar tongue—how vulgar it can sometimes be—is responsible for arresting the decline in dwindling congregations, I would need greater evidence than they have produced before I could be sure that that is the case. One of the reasons for dwindling congregations is that so many of our churches have forsaken the traditional Matins and Evensong. One of the reasons for increasing congregations is that the incumbent has laid a stress on the family Communion. The congregation may well increase not because he is using Series 3 or series anything but because he is trying to bring 1660 the family together. Some of the best attended family Communions that I have been privileged to go to have used the 1662 Book, or Series 2, which, for all its faults, still preserves a majesty of language which Series 3 does not even begin to approach.
All this talk of giving people what they want speaks to me of a sort of sloppy Christianity, a sort of second Welfare State of the realm. I thought that this was what came through in the very moving speech of a man who is uniquely qualified to make such a speech—the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemiston) —I am sorry that he is not present—who has been a clergyman. He gave what was to me an almost alien interpretation of the rôle of the Church in present society.
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. Gentleman must be aware of the fact that many hon. Members of the House who are of the Church of England are traditionalists who feel as deeply as he feels in relation to the traditions but cannot see any reason why this measure should not be supported. People will be supporting it on the same basis and with the same depth of feeling that the hon. Gentleman has expressed in relation to his attitude to the Church and to the Book of Common Prayer, and so on.
§ Mr. Cormack
I much respect the hon. Gentleman's point of view. We have often talked privately of these things, and I know that he holds the Book of Common Prayer in just as high regard as I do and feels just as deeply, but the fundamental difference between us arises from the fact that he does not believe in the established Church. I think I am right in saying that. Therefore, other things which mean much to me and to some of my hon. Friends do not mean much to him, as they do not to the hon. Member for Luton, East. The cry for disestablishment rang clear and true throughout his speech, and he made no bones about it.
As I recollect what has been said in the debate and as I look at the measure and what it would possibly bring to pass, I have doubts provoked about giving a total freedom to determine to the General Synod. It has been said that it is representative of the Church of England. I hesitate to criticise, but I do not think that many of the people who attend my church have the remotest idea of who 1661 their synodical representative is. Further, I do not think that most of them have the remotest idea that this debate is taking place today or that these changes are being suggested.
I believe, therefore, that the most sensible outcome of today's deep and searching debate would be a postponement of ultimate decision. I would with reluctance go into the Lobby against the advice of my own former bishop, for whom I have the highest regard. I would with reluctance go into the Lobby against a measure that has been supported so overwhelmingly by the bishops. On the other hand, the Church is more than the bishops, more than the clergy, and more than the General Synod of the Church of England.
Bearing in mind that the experimental period is far from over it seems to me that little can be lost by saying, "Hold. Enough for the moment. Let us reflect. Let your Lordships consider what we in this place have said. Let the General Synod deliberate afresh about it just to see whether the safeguards are sufficient, and ponder a moment to see whether you have really taken true account of the feelings of the flock throughout the country".
I also say to them this. Do not be motivated by what I would call the stockade mentality. It was suggested as one of the reasons why we should support this measure that it was held to promote Church unity. There are many views about that. I happen to believe that one can have a unity of spirit without an organic unity. I believe that very strongly. What the Church needs today more than it has ever needed in the past, is a missionary mentality—to go out and to preach the Gospel. Whether it be a Methodist, an Anglican, a Congregationalist or a Roman Catholic preaching the Gospel, the Gospel is there to be preached for converts to be won and do not let us be diverted by what are essentially specious arguments. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Bowden) made a good point when he was questioning the Second Commissioner about the safeguards, the PPC and a powerful overbearing or a merely extremely personable, incumbent. All these things should be looked at anew in the light of the debate. I do not want to deprive the bishops or the 1662 General Synod of their legitimate and proper rôle in determining these things.
I do not wish to be one of those who goes into the Lobby tonight to strike a note of discord in the relations between Church and State at a time when it is so important that those of us with these things at heart should march together. But let us pause and ponder. There has often been great virtue in that. I hope that after the debate there will not be forced a definitive vote and that there will be an opportunity for reflection and reconsideration.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I cannot emulate the flamboyant and colourful eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack). It is not my intention to preach the gospel tonight. But I have strong feelings about this measure and I intend to express them in the debate.
In my opinion the Book of Common Prayer is a bastion of the established Church. I am a strong supporter of the established Church. The point may have been mentioned a number of times in the debate already, but perhaps the Book of Common Prayer is a spiritual birthright to which all people in this country are entitled. I believe it is. That is what it is to me.
We have heard a great deal about trendiness. It has had its way for far too long. I want to see a reaction—that is not a dirty word—and I believe that in the debate we have seen a reaction to the erosion of tradition and stability which is embodied in the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is now under threat of gradual extinction, or at least under threat of being banished to some dusty bookshelf. The certainty of the form of service and the certainty of the words used in a service are vital, in my opinion and in the opinion of many of my constituents who have written to me about this measure. I have received representations both personally and through the post not only from ordinary church-going constituents— men and women—but from members of parochial church councils, as well as from a number of vicars, who are deeply concerned about what will stem from this very radical spiritual and constitutional 1663 change which we have been asked to approve this evening.
I find it extraordinary that the General Synod did not consult people in the parishes about this fundamental matter. I also find it extraordinary that the measure was not referred to all deanery synods and parochial church councils as a matter of form. I do not believe that the present system is really democratic within the Church. This point was reflected by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). He wants to see a more democratic system within the Church, to allow people at the grass roots to express views on such important matters as the measure now before us.
There has been a serious breakdown in communication between the General Synod and the average church worshipper. I hope that this measure will not be passed and that those responsible for drawing it up will have second thoughts and will bring it back amended to this place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) talked about the serious situation facing the world—in particular, this country—the lack of morality and perhaps the lack of leadership in politics and in the Church. The established Church should set as its target the provision of moral and spiritual leadership to this nation, which is wandering aimlessly in a wild and stormy sea. When it has provided that moral and spiritual leadership, it can perhaps present a measure such as this to the House. However, the colour, the mystery, the emotion, and the words of the 1662 Prayer Book are very dear to me and I do not wish them to be removed. Therefore, I intend to vote against the measure.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I am confused. I have some sympathy with those who argue that the Church should have more power over its own affairs. I have a lot of sympathy with those who say that its message needs to be preached in more modern idiom and that it is likely to make a bigger impact if that is done. However, we should separate the evangelistic needs from the strongest elements of the practice of worship which have held good for so long.
The need to be able to translate the message in modern language is clear. I 1664 should expect to hear that increasingly from the pulpit and from similar places, which plainly need not be restricted to churches. This is where modern language and modern interpretation of ancient truths and long-established doctrine need to be practised perhaps to much greater effect than has been achieved. I therefore separate the desire for modernising from the impact which that should have on the position in our worship of the Book of Common Prayer.
It has been said that the Book of Common Prayer will remain one of the standards of doctrine of the Church of England and, for this reason, those who are concerned lest it lose its special place in our worship can vote for this measure with a clear conscience. We are assured that it will remain a legal alternative. But it will so remain only until, by measure, it shall not be so.
§ Sir J. Eden
This is the point which causes me anxiety. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that such a measure would require the affirmative support of Parliament. Therefore, I hope that we shall preserve the close relationship between Church and State which enables us to take part in discussions on such measures.
The Bishop of Durham said:Nothing can surpass the Book of Common Prayer as the classic statement of what the Church of England is, but it belongs to its time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 854, c. 897.]Its time surely is still with us, and I cannot feel that events during the past 20 or 30 years or so require us now to discard what has remained with us for so much longer than that. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who have argued that at a time when there is so much that is subject to change we should hold on to a form of worship which has so effectively stood the test of time.
In a leading article on 9th November The Times put it in words that struck a chord of sympathy with me. In fairness, unlike me, The Times leading article was arguing in favour of supporting the measure. It read as follows:The zeal of liturgical reformers has to be admired, and deplored. They over-value the 1665 place of contemporary idiom, plain statement, and relevance to secular concerns in the language and ceremonies of the liturgy; and they undervalue familiarity, consistency, antiquity, and the 'pious resonance' of traditional forms. They also set aside too lightly the devotion with which many who are habituated to the traditional liturgy of their church cherish what has been handed down to them. Not just for the sake of its authenticity, but as a sign that the things of the spirit outlast the hectic changes of the world.As Lord Elton said in the debate:In the middle of the storm it is not to the green sapling that we cling, but to seasoned timber."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th November 1974; Vol. 354, c. 936.]That summarises my approach and my feelings on the measure.
I know that many of those who support the measure feel equally strongly about the Book of Common Prayer and its special and unique place in Church of England practice and worship. But I fear that by voting for the measure we may be taking a step which would deliberately relegate its significance to a place lower in the practice of the Church than I would wish it to be.
I do not know the views of my constituents on the measure. I do not even know the views of my parochial church council. That is bad; I should know. It may be entirely my fault that I do not know, but it causes me to question how it is that a measure which has been the subject of debate in the Synod over such a long period and which has caused such controversy amongst those who were privileged to attend the various Houses of the Church Assembly should have escaped the attention of practising worshippers in the Church of England.
I regret that we have not had the opportunity, so often afforded to us in the House on matters of major significance, of a debate on a Green Paper or a White Paper or its equivalent before having to confront the measure itself. That would have been of value even to those in the Synod who have been considering these matters for so long. Naturally, I respect their views, but I do not accept that, in so far as they have been put in the debates, they have been fully representative of the feeling of the body of church worshippers.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
How many letters on this measure has my right hon. Friend received from his constituents?
§ Sir J. Eden
I am not aware that I have received any. That is the point that I am making. I have received letters, but I am not sure that I have had letters from constituents on this subject. Obviously I should have done. I should have made a point of finding out what Church leaders in my constituency thought about it. I am ashamed that I have not done so. I deeply regret having to stand here today and to bring myself to the point of having to vote one way or the other without having taken adequate soundings on a matter which deeply concerns many thousands of people in my constituency and elsewhere.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West. I hope that if this measure is to be passed tonight, at the very least those who have responsibility and the power of decision in these matters will endeavour to build safeguards into their procedures to ensure that in future proper soundings are taken amongst practising worshippers in the Church so that the voice of the people is truly heard.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
This is a difficult debate in which to take part. In almost all our debates, as we urge the arguments for our own points of view we are tolerably careless of any injury that we may inflict upon the feelings of hon. Members who take the opposite opinion. Indeed, we could sometimes be suspected of positively revelling in hurting one another's feelings. This is not one of those occasions.
Every hon. Member who contributes to this debate does so under the inhibition that he knows that the success and force of the arguments that he puts forward will to some extent injure aspirations and beliefs as strongly held by some of those whom he is addressing. Therefore, I seek the maximum common ground before the inevitable difference is approached.
The first common ground must be the decisive importance of this measure. After all, as the Leader of the House observed during business questions last 1667 week, a measure which repeals the Acts of Uniformity can hardly be regarded as one Church measure amongst others that have come forward since the 1919 Act. It is a revolution in the constitution of the Church of England and, in so far as the Church of England is part of the history and constitution of our country, it is a political revolution in its own right which is represented by this measure.
It comes before us in circumstances of special difficulty. I believe that the experiment—it started as an experiment— of Church measures in 1919 has, on the whole, proved successful. It has made it possible to reconcile the necessity for modifications in the law of the Church of England with the retention of control over that law by Parliament and this House. Some measures have been relatively unimportant; others have been substantial. But never before in a single measure which has to be voted upon—at least, probably has to be voted upon— after a single sitting, a measure which decides the matter once and for all so far as Parliament is concerned, have we been asked to resolve so profound a question and make so decisive a change in the relationship between the Church of England and the State as represented by Parliament.
There are two questions which should be got out of the way at the outset. One relates to the proposition that this House is somehow committed by what has gone before to accept this measure. The other relates to the competence of this House generally in the subject matter of this measure.
On the first—as to whether this House is committed—perhaps I may trouble the House with two or three sentences from a letter which I received today from the right hon. prelate the Bishop of London, who is my own ordinary. I know that he would not mind my quoting it, because it puts forward a point of view which he clearly wished to be known not to me personally but as widely as possible.Essentially".said he,the Measure makes permanent the experimental powers granted in the Alternative and Other Services Measure. These come to an end in 1980, and it is unthinkable that we could then go back to the pre-1965 situation, -with the liturgical chaos which existed at that 1668 time and has, as a result of the 1965 Measure, been largely eliminated.I wish to make two comments on that. First, this House was not told in 1965, when that measure was presented, "Beware—understand what it is that you are doing. If you accept this experimental measure you have morally committed yourselves, should the experiment prove successful, to relinquish powers in future over the liturgy and the doctrine of the Church of England."
It is quite unacceptable that this House, because it has permitted a deliberately delimited experiment to be conducted, should be told that thereby its judgment is pre-empted as to what is to happen thereafter and, incidentally, as has several times been observed, pre-empted long before the span of the experimental period which it permitted.
But the second point which emerges from the bishop's sentences is even more striking. There is no question of needing to go back to what is described as the pre-1965 situation and liturgical chaos. If the experiment has been a success, if it has resulted in forms of worship and formularies being evolved which, as a result of experiment, have shown themselves acceptable to the Church of England, the case is simple. All that is necessary is to present a measure to this House, to say to this House, "With the powers which you gave the Church, the experiment has been carried out and now we wish you to authorise the result of that experiment permanently by a measure which will give the force of law to the innovations thus examined, thus experimented with."
When the Bishop of Durham, as I understand, says that the Church of England is moving into a period of liturgical stability, still less is there any reason why that stability should not receive the authority which all the institutions of the Church of England have received and from the same source, namely, from this House. So we are uncommitted by what we have done and we do not, by rejecting this measure, refuse to confer upon the Church of England, the advantages which it anticipated from the measure of 1965.
As to our competence, that question always comes up in debates on Church measures. Though it has come up much less today than I think I 1669 ever remember. It is often heard out-of-doors, particularly by those who think little about these matters, that it is absurd that this assembly should legislate upon the form of worship and the articles of belief of a Church—that an assembly of which probably not the majority, for all I know, are members of the Anglican Church, which comprises all faiths and none, should sit solemnly considering a matter of the belief and practice of a particular Church. This is a misconception. The House is not debating the form of worship in the Church of England. It is not debating the Articles of Faith and the formulae of assent of the Church of England. It would be absurd if we were attempting to do that in such a debate as this. Indeed, it was to prevent the necessity of that that the 1919 Act, which I believe has worked successfully, was placed on the statute book.
The question being debated today is very different. It is whether the worship and the faith of the Church of England should continue in future, as heretofore, to be regulated by the law of Parliament. That is the question before the House, whether the Church of England, its worship and its doctrine, should no longer be given the force of law by that which gives the force of law to the rest of the laws of this country—the action of this House as part of Parliament.
That is a question which concerns every hon. Member. He may or may not be a member of the Church of England. He may be a Roman Catholic—one of the most important contributions to this debate was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser)—he may be a Jew, a dissenter, an atheist. All Members alike have a responsibility for that which is decreed by the law of Parliament and for taking a decision on what should be within the sphere of the law of Parliament and what should not. They are all equally concerned if a great change is to be made in the boundaries of that sphere, especially when that change concerns what is on any view one of the most characteristic institutions of this country.
When I say "of this country" I do not mean only of England, although the Church of England is what it says: it is only "by law established" in England. As 1670 long as we are one kingdom and as long as this is the Parliament of a united kingdom, the law of the Church of England and whether it ought to be part of the law of Parliament is a question which concerns all parts of the realm and not only England.
§ Mr. Alison
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that Clause 4 of this measure and interpretation Clause 5 entrench as the law of the land—if the House passes this measure—a definition of the doctrine and formularies of the Church of England?
§ Mr. Powell
There is an important difference between this House delegating or transferring as far as may be irrecoverably, its legislative power and exercising it itself. We have, after all, lived through that debate, and are still living through it, in our discussions upon legislation by the European Community under the authority of a section of an Act of Parliament. Similarly, the effect of this Bill would be to secure that it was by canon and not the action of Parliament that future changes were made in the worship and formulae of the Church of England.
Of course limitations are placed by this measure. My hon. Friend is right. It is not a complete transfer of power. But, within the wide scope in which there is transfer, it substitutes legislation by canon for legislation by decision of this House.
§ Mr. Alison
I must press my right hon. Friend on this point because it is the crucial nub of the argument and he does not seem to have taken my point. Parliament will be legislating, if we pass this measure, to see thatThe doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.
§ Mr. Powell
I apologise to the House for being drawn rather earlier than I had intended into consideration of Clause 4. Clause 4 vests the judgment of what is or is not conformable to that doctrine in the Synod itself, and says that it will be assumed that such-and-such a change is conformable if the Synod makes it. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the House is not being invited to make an 1671 unlimited transfer of legislative competence. It is placing some limitations— though they are frail indeed—upon legislation by canon, but in the central matters of worship and doctrine it is substituting legislation by canon—that is to say, non-parliamentary legislation—for legislation directly resolved upon by this House.
Having sought to clear the ground by establishing both the competence of this House and the fact that our decision is in no way prejudged by anything that has gone before, let me come to the question whether or not the law of the doctrine and worship of the Church of England—the subject which we are debating—ought to be part of the law of Parliament.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury —he has just ceased to be Archbishop— is quoted as having said in this context, "The Church should have the right to order its own worship". That statement seems to be treated as though it were a self-evident verity. It certainly is not so, historically. The history of the Christian Church does not bear out any such assertion. Such an assertion may be made as a claim, but it cannot be made as self-evident and confirmed by history and the nature of the Church.
The very formulae by which all Western Christianity is bound together, the liturgy and the belief of the Catholic Church in the ancient world, was not resolved upon by that Church in isolation from the secular power. It was the secular power which made that decree. The Nicene Creed, the central definition of our belief, was given its authority by imperial edict. It was by the emperor, and in a crucial case by an emperor who was not yet a Christian, that the force of law was given—and this continued to be so down the centuries until the end of the Roman Empire—to the resolutions of the councils of the Church, where the emperors presided in person, or were represented by their commissions, where they paid the expenses of those who attended, where they regulated the agenda and authorised the conclusions.
I assure the House that I do not put this argument as a half-serious one; I make it as a deeply-felt argument. The very catholicity of the Christian Church is the stamp which was placed upon it 1672 by the imperial authority of ancient Rome in the fourth century. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, we can debate these matters. I have already had an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison); and I am going to pray in aid an expression which fell from him during his very interesting speech, where he recognised that the fruits of the Reformation itself, the rediscovery of pre-Constantine Christianity by Luther and the Reformation, have themselves been given an institutional form by the secular power—here, under the Tudors, and, as I think he also had in mind, in Germany. So it is nothing outlandish or unique to England, it is nothing strange to the whole history of Christianity that the law of the Church should be made by secular power.
§ Mr. Heffer
The right hon. Gentleman is advancing what I think is a remarkably intelligent argument. He is historically correct, except—I hope he will agree with me—that the founders of the Christian religion founded it in opposition to the establishment of the day and that the founder actually died on the cross, put there by the established.
§ Mr. Powell
Of course, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is perfectly right that in its source and in its essence the faith is anti-establishment. In the end it rejects the State and all the works of the State. It rejects everything that is worldly. But we live with it in this world and we worship together in this world, and in so far as the Church of England is our Church, either nationally or as individuals, that Church has been given its characteristic stamp and quality by the fact that it is "by law established".
Here I offer my definition to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) following the earlier exchange between us. A Church, I submit, "by law established" is not a Church which is just referred to in the law and thus finds a place on the statute book, but of which, after that, no definition is given. The concept of such a Church can not be an empty one. In order for a Church to be established by law it must be a specific Church, with a specific belief, and specific forms of worship which correspond to that belief. Indisputably, to this day the Church of England has been such. It is the character of the Church 1673 of England, probably unique in the world today, that it is such a Church. We are tonight deliberating whether on balance it is wise that it should continue for a space to remain so.
Those who formed the Prayer Books of 1549—with all its imperfections—and of 1552, and that of 1662, which was carefully and lovingly formed upon the basis of those Edwardian Prayer Books, aimed at what they called comprehension. They aimed at bringing together as far as possible within one formula and one liturgy men of as wide a range as possible of religious feeling and religious instinct. And they succeeded almost beyond belief. It was only a minority which on one side or the other failed to find some sort of a home within that embracing comprehensive formula. In sentence after sentence of the Elizabethan book, which is essentially the 1662 book, one can see how the formulation was designed to accommodate alternative interpretations of those aspects of our religion of which there can be no final interpretation or formulation.
So it succeeded in its initial purpose of being comprehensive. But this comprehensive nature of the Church of England did not desert it through the centuries. It was because the liturgy and the articles of religion, being part of the law of the land, were so difficult to alter, were so near as possible to being permanancies, that in age after age successive waves of thought and religious feeling were nevertheless able to find a place within the Church of England and within its unity. It could accommodate the deism and the philosophy of the eighteenth century. It could accommodate the piety of a Samuel Johnson. Within a few years after Dr. Johnson's death, it was discovered that the 1662 Prayer Book could accommodate both Simeon and Pusey, that with its aid the Church of England could discover that it had not lost the best heritage of the Catholic Church, and that it could at the same time be a Church of evangelism.
The Church was able to do this because all, in their respective endeavours, were bound within the law-made comprehensive formula. The necessity for that has not diminished. The trends and the forces which shook the Church in the last century have not become less violent in the present time, though of course, the sources of doubt, the causes of division, the pos- 1674 sible variations of interpretation, are different. Anthropology, sociology, criticism, history, all the rest, like the theory of evolution a hundred years ago, have fed new stresses into the Church and into its faith. And still, because it has this deliberately rigid framework, men and women who, if their inmost hearts could be examined, would be found to have almost incompatibly diverse conceptions, can act and pray and worship and praise together within the Church of England.
The Church owes this, its comprehensive character, to the very fact that its formulae and its liturgy, being established by the law of Parliament, are peculiarly rigid and difficult of change. And now we are asked, deliberately, specifically to remove that rigidity and to substitute the utmost flexibility.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Is it not, therefore, a matter for consolation that the measure will, if it is passed, enshrine in the law the proposition that the doctrine of the Church of England is to be found in future, as it has been in the past, in the Prayer Book?
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, but it is in the Prayer Book as understood by the General Synod, which is given the power to make canons which it regards in its conclusive judgment—"conclusively" is the word in Clause 4—as in conformity with the doctrine of the Church of England.
There is no dispute as to the purpose of the measure. It is to permit innovation to which no limits other than those in the measure are assigned. It is the nature of innovation that it will not stop. Hon. Members have asked in the debate, "We have Series 2, and Series 3. Why should there not be Series 4, 5 and 6?" The Bishop of Durham says that he cannot foresee them for the next few years. But if there have been Series 2 and Series 3 already, the body which could pass Series 3, for which there has not been a friend almost throughout the debate, will almost surely pass Series 4, 5 and 6, and will pass them all the faster now that it is positively invited to do so by the House passing a measure which removes the constraint of having to go specifically to Parliament for authority.
If it were only Series 2 and 3 for which the Church sought, side by side with the Prayer Book, the legality of the law of Parliament, there would be no problem. 1675 This measure is before us because more, to an extent undefined, is desired and is intended.
It is of the nature of theological innovation that it is specially the prisoner of fashion. Great fashions sweep over the theological scene like storms across the sea. Fashion dominates what bishops say from their benches. Fashion dominates what preachers preach from their pulpits. Only so far, because it was entrenched by law, has fashion not been able to shake the permanence of our liturgy and the articles of our faith. It is the nature of theological fashion, like all fashion, to be an exclusive fashion: if one does not like it one can do the other thing; if one does not like it, if one will not conform with it, one becomes literally a nonconformist, and the comprehensiveness of the Church of England is sacrificed through the removal of what was the safeguard of its comprehensiveness.
Let no one say that we find somewhere within the interstices of this measure a reference to the 1662 Prayer Book. I ask hon. Members seriously to envisage the Church of England freed from the constraints of having to come back to this House for anything more than this measure. I ask them to consider how rare and even rarer would become the practical use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer unless perchance that should be the theological, episcopal and clerical fashion in some year to come.
It will be fashion which will dominate the General Synod. I mean no disrespect to the General Synod. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) asked one of the key questions in this debate. The figures have been quoted of the overwhelming majority— overwhelming even by Northern Ireland standards—for this measure in the General Synod. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare pricked that balloon. He pointed out that the Synod had before it a measure to give it a lot more power and to diminish control over it. What body, presented with a proposal that it should be given more powers, that its wisdom should be trusted more implicitly, will not vote for it overwhelmingly? There is no significance at all in those votes.
That is no complaint against the General Synod. In a sense the General 1676 Synod is representative. The Church of England has done its best, with the materials with which it could work in this context, sincerely and genuinely to make a representative assembly. But in the end they failed—they failed because of the nature of the Church of England. If the Church of England were not what it is —the national Church by law established —they could have made a very good job of it. If it were a congregational church, if it were a church which had split off so as to represent a specific point of view, the General Synod would be a very representative body and it would be right to say of it, "If that is what they want, that is as near an approximation to what the Church wants as it is possible to get."
That is not the Church of England. The Church of England knows nothing of the Synod, but it is still the Church of England. There are still to be considered those millions of men and women to whom it belongs—albeit occasionally —and there are still those in generations yet to come for whom the comprehensiveness of the Church of England will give a religious home, a home in the Church, which otherwise they would not find. The only representatives of that Church of England are those who created the Church of England by establishing it by law, namely, this House.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, because I am a Welsh Presbyterian and the Church of Wales is disestablished. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to be arguing more for the law than for the spirit. Is he aware that the Church in Wales, which is allied to the Church of England, has a revised Prayer Book and that the Church in Wales has been strengthened and enlivened by that revised Prayer Book?
§ Mr. Powell
I am aware to some extent of the way in which both in the Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales the experiments and innovations in the Anglican Church in England have been followed, and I have no reason to doubt that in so far as they have advantages —I think that they have some—those advantages have been reaped elsewhere as well as in the Church of England. However, the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) was right much earlier in the debate when he drew attention to the fact that it is what this House 1677 does in regard to the Church of England which, in practice, very largely governs the fate, the future and the possibility of other parts of the Anglican Communion such as those which the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) mentioned.
This is one of the greatest possible decisions on which we have been asked to embark—whether we are to remove that rigidity and that stability which its establishment by law has given to the Church of England and to replace them by the freedom of unlimited innovation in the future which this measure portends.
When the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker)—whom I also congratulate —introduced the measure, he mentioned Church reunion and said that this measure would be helpful towards it. Alas, the hon. Gentleman understated the case. Much more than the obstacle of the 1662 Prayer Book stands, for the Anglican Church, in the way of complete union either with the Free Churches or with Rome. It must cease to be an established Church altogether, and the Queen must cease to be the supreme governor on earth of the Church of England, if the Church of England and the Church of Rome are to be one.
Today we have been debating no less a question than the establishment of the Church of England itself—to be, or not to be. I say—and I hope that in doing so I speak for many who would be inclined to favour this measure as well as for those who are resolutely opposed to it—that it is wrong that we should part with it in this way in one debate. I hope that we shall not.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
In, a historic debate of this kind, it is a great pleasure to be called immediately after the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has spoken. I cannot hope to match his historic and dogmatic sweep. However, he said that there are fashions in synods. So there are on parliamentary occasions. Perhaps I might also say that it is a great pleasure to hear the voice of high Anglicanism, if not of high Toryism, transplanted from Wolverhampton, South-West to Down, South and to note that it speaks with all the eloquence and force that it always had.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) on the lucidity and moderation with which he moved the 1678 motion. His speech will match and be recorded with that of Sir Boyd Merriman in 1928.
Tonight's is a historic debate, and it is one of the recurrent fascinations of this House that from generation to generation we return to themes which have agitated this House in the past. Of course, it is not curious that in an Erastian country we should at least once in a generation consider the relationship between Church and State. To some it is indefensible that Parliament, which is largely but not entirely secular in tone and composition, should debate these matters. I think we can say without presumption that possibly in our diversity and frailties we represent the laity perhaps more exactly than the Synod itself. In the eloquent words of the right hon. Member for Down, South we represent perhaps more exactly those to whom the Church of England occasionally belongs.
The Synod, as my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) observed in a perceptive and moving speech, is composed of activists. We may admire activists for their commitment, their energy and enthusiasm. We have occasion to observe those qualities in other areas but we may also observe that activities are occasionally tempted to take up extreme positions.
This measure has been projected to the House as modest. If it is not distasteful for me to recall the matter, so in a sense was the abortion Act. It enacted a small change in the law, but in so doing it altered the climate and the attitudes of those who were disposed to take advantage of facilities that had already been on offer. I doubt whether this is a modest measure. I believe it will alter the climate of opinion in these matters. I believe that it is profound and fundamental. We are being asked to surrender our control over worship and doctrine. If it is not a measure of total disestablishment, it is at least a measure of partial disestablishment. No one can define establishment with absolute precision, but in part it depends on the ultimate control of this House of various aspects of Church life.
There were pressures for disestablishment in 1928. Those of us who have taken the trouble to read the debates of 1928 will have heard strong echoes 1679 tonight. I believe that the pressures will grow. I find them unattractive, and I would not be disposed to yield to them. If they would go so far as to dispossess Her Majesty the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day, of the right to appoint bishops I would have no part in such a matter of disestablishment.
It may be that my only qualification for intervening is that I am a member of an established and a disestablished Church of the Anglican Communion. When I am in Wales I am a member of the Church in Wales. When in England and representing an English constituency I am a member of the Church of England. Perhaps I have seen at first hand some of the disadvantages of disestablishment. With profound respect to those who grace the bench of the Church in Wales, I am not Persuaded that they are people of greater quality than their brethren of the Church of England although they are elected by the Church in Wales.
Despite its imperfections, I believe that the present system produces a bench of higher quality than any other system which we could devise. I believe that establishment is both good for our public institutions and for the Church itself.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
Will the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) care to concede that his grandfather, a Baptist Minister in Anglesey, would have taken a contrary view to the one that he is expressing?
§ Mr. Rees
All of us have many diverse strains in our ancestry. I would not say that we have to accept the views which our ancestors might have held in quite different situations. I must form my judgment of this matter in the circumstances in which I find myself. What any of my paternal or maternal grandparents might have decided is of no consequence to me, profoundly though I may respect their particular views.
However, I pass on to my theme. I have had occasion in my lifetime to observe disestablishment in the Principality from which I hail. I cannot say that it has been an unqualified success. I do not believe that the Church in Wales shows the same vitality as it did before 1680 Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor piloted a measure through the House for its disestablishment. I am sorry to take issue with the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). I know that he feels very strongly about his own antecedents—and the connections he may have with the Lloyd-George family, for all I know.
§ Mr. Rees
I doubt that whether the right hon. Gentleman and I would agree or disagree with that very distinguished parliamentarian has much significance in this debate.
I do not believe that disestablishment would advantage either the Church or the State. I believe that our public institutions have benefited from establishment, as has the Church itself. If we were to accelerate the trend towards disestablishment, our public institutions would drift further towards triviality and formlessness, and the Church itself would drift further towards introversion. Because of that, my position may appear paradoxical. I shall not vote against the measure, because I believe that if we do vote against it we shall increase the internal pressures in the Church of England towards disestablishment. Therefore, on that pragmatic basis—some hon. Members may think it almost dishonourable—I shall abstain tonight. I hope, however, that in the future when legislating on these matters, if it is capable of doing so, the Synod will recall this. There are many members of the Anglican Communion who perhaps do not follow Church affairs very closely, who do not appreciate liturgical and dogmatic niceties, who are not enthusiastic about Series 1, 2 or 3, who feel a deep, if unformulated affection and respect for the forms which they and their ancestors have observed and who want to be able to go to any church in the Anglican Communion and recognise and warm to uniform forms of worship and to prayers which are part of the literary inheritance of our race.
It is on their behalf that I hope that I may, without presumption, voice a disquiet on the passage of this measure, a disquiet of which I hope the Synod will take account if and when it is emancipated from the control of Parliament.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mudd (Falmouth and Camborne)
It is always difficult to speak immediately after my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees), but I would not seek to quarrel in any great degree with the substance of his argument. However, I would quarrel with his decision not to oppose the measure.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) observed that this was a difficult debate in which to take part. I would only add that it is a difficult task to follow his contribution. However, one of the important things which came out of his very valuable contribution to the debate was his feeling and, indeed, his warning that the "no commitment" experiment over the indefinite period tends to become a defined decision in the short term.
Looking back over the points raised in this lengthy and important debate, I am reminded of a matter raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). He referred to himself as being a delegate on behalf of the people of his constituency. I have similarly consulted the people of my constituency-those of all faiths and those of no faith. I am in the position not so much of a delegate of my constituents but of a representative of their collective conscience. If the argument is to be professed that the modern conscience is such that modern Christian teaching and philosophy and the modern Church of England Prayer Book should be updated, I say that this is surely seeking the soft option, the easy way out.
Surely no practising Methodist can deny, particularly if he is a Methodist local preacher, that if he is ever stuck for a text at that dreadful moment at five minutes to ten on a Sunday morning he turns instinctively either to the writings of St. Paul or John Wesley and accepts without question and without doubt the actual form of words and usage laid down either 1,200 years ago in the case of St. Paul or 200 years ago in the case of John Wesley.
Therefore, the excuse that is it necessary to update the Prayer Book and the philosophy is, I believe, a totally unjusti- 1682 fied and unwarranted one on the part of anybody who endeavours to lead people in worship.
I was impressed by the sincere argument put forward by the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) to whom I owe an apology in that in attempting to identify him I jotted him down as the "bearded ex-curate from Sheffield". I am now delighted to have identified him properly. I followed him argument by argument and among his points was a seeming argument in favour of updating the 1662 Prayer Book, because concealed in it, lurking in the pages of the marriage service was the point that somehow, surreptitiously, an envelope had to be laid on the Prayer Book containing the fee for the service. When I contrast that with the philosophy of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) and accept that, indeed, perhaps the downfall of Christian standards these days is related to the surreptitious handing of an envelope from the health service store or from the chemist shop to the errant bridegroom-to-be I would rather have the envelope that is implicit in the 1662 Prayer Book than the envelope that is implicit in 1974 morality——
§ Mr. Clemitson
I was not arguing against the use of the 1662 Prayer Book or its preservation. I was merely pointing out the dangers of too great an attachment to a particular book and that if we are not careful this can become a form of idolatry, and that those who are the greatest proponents of the 1662 Prayer Book in practice-I admit I chose somewhat trivial examples-will pick and choose their way through the book, and why not.
§ Mr. Mudd
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for correcting me. His slow action replay missed a telling point in his original utterance. This time he referred to idolatry, whereas the first time round it was bibliolatry. I accept his qualification.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), of whose devoutness nobody with any knowledge of him could be in any doubt, implied that many young people turn to the Church these days purely in the hope of finding some modernity of approach. In my case it was because I found the established 1683 Church becoming over-modernised that at the age of 26 I turned away from the Church, which I found to be going too far off beam, too quickly in the wrong direction, to pick up the Methodist faith and become eventually a Methodist local preacher. True evangelism suffers from the occasional lack of being able to find the easy way rather than benefit from the ease with which one can conjure with modern phrases, techniques and beliefs. I do not believe that modernity is an obvious or an immediate way to practical evangelism.
I believe that a Christian will always be a Christian and that a Christian is no less a Christian if he has to fight and conjure with age-old words, beliefs, traditions and forms than if he glibly and easily accepts the superficial worship put increasingly and encouragingly in his path.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) made many strong points. However, he did not make one point which I feel he should have made, namely, that if we support and pass this measure we are in danger of condemning the beautiful mystery of words of the traditional Book of Common Prayer to the optional choice of modern worshippers. If we take this soft option, we are in danger of destroying ourselves and the beauty of the established Christian worship, to be replaced by the sterile, bureaucratic words of modern usage.
Many right hon. and hon. Members have argued that this debate is concerned with the question whether the Church of England wishes to become disestablished. It is not up to me to define the wishes of the Church of England, but if it is its wish to become disestablished—and many of us would support in in that wish —let it have the courage to say so openly. If it seeks religious and practical democracy, if it is prepared, with the co-operation of Parliament, to throw open representation in Parliament to members of the Church of England through democratic elections of this House rather than automatic appointment to another place, we shall support it.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I wish to make a brief 1684 intervention. It may seem inappropriate that an Episcopalian who represents a Scottish constituency should interfere in the affairs of the established Church of England. Nevertheless, the Scottish Prayer Book—which in many ways is a preferable document—relies on the existence of the English Prayer Book. I shall not speak on the question of the establishment or disestablishment of the Church of England, but it seems to me a major constitutional change to be taken in so light a measure.
I have experience of Series 2 and Series 3, and I am appalled by their English and form. The alleged option which is left in this measure for the protection of the Prayer Book is false and unrealistic. I am impressed by the falsity of the necessity for altering the language. From beginning to end of the Prayer Book there is almost no phrase which would be incomprehensible to anybody of any education. I am sure that the phraseology of any sermon interspersed in such a service in modern language would be equally incomprehensible. The language of the Psalms as translated by Edward VI is much more meaningful and comprehensible than the language of the Psalms as translated by James I and contained in the Authorised Version.
The magnificence and, in the word of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), catholicity of the language, which is entirely comprehensible, derives from the fact that it was written at a time when the capacity to express in language was a paramount capability, and that is not a characteristic of the present generation. It is a form which is recognisable and constant, and that is important in religion, which is about an eternal matter.
I am most distressed by the concept that if we make it optional it will remain. If we want to destroy anything, we make it optional. If we want people to dress for dinner we say "black tie"; if we want people not to dress for dinner we say "dress optional".
If the Prayer Book eventually ceases to be used in any parish it will never be brought back. It has a language which is eternal and it expresses standards which are eternal. We are concerned with matters which are eternal and, in the words of the right hon. Member for Down, South, important. It is absurd to 1685 imagine that by being fashionable we are being right. Nothing could be worse than a persistent change of organisation and form of worship which are essentially everlasting.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-on-Tweed)
It is right for me to say, after I have sat through most of the debate, that the House has given careful, thorough and sympathetic attention to the measure before it. It has done so in a manner which is well worthy of the subject under discussion. I think that, whatever our views, we all agree about that—and I am glad to see the Second Church Estates Commissioner indicating his assent.
I speak as a Methodist, and do not apologise for doing so. There have been several contributions to the debate made by hon. Members of denominations other than the Church of England. All denominations are affected by the character of the Church of England as an established national Church within England which throws its aura and responsibilities wider than its immediate active membership. Whatever judgment we make about the measure, we must admit that the Church of England receives allegiance, support, sympathy and understanding far beyond that immediate active membership.
Like many hon. Members of other denominations and many people who claim to be "Church of England", I find myself from time to time attending its services. I have seen the process of change and experiment that has occurred in the last few years, and I share some of the feelings of concern, unfamiliarity and confusion which ordinary churchgoers have faced during that period.
The measure asks us to give to the authorities which have been established by Parliament the opportunity in future to make the decisions about the ordering of worship and doctrine which have hitherto been made ultimately under the authority of the House. Over a period the Church of England has established a democratic machinery. It is a young democratic machinery, but full credit must be given to those who have attempted to graft on to the Church that democraic machinery. It has reached a state of some maturity but there has been a fairly dramatic change. That makes difficult 1686 any comparison between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, in which matters of faith and order are entirely decided by the body of the Church and not by Parliament. That Church has a long-established democratic tradition of Church government.
At the beginning of the debate, having taken fairly extensive soundings among my constituents, I felt that I should support the measure and see that this degree of authority is given to bodies that the Church has developed and nurtured for this and other purposes, and that is still my feeling.
It is unfortunate that in this instance, as in Northern Ireland matters, for example, we have no opportunity to amend the measure. We can only "Take it or leave it." We are in a much more limited situation, but we must recognise that the machinery has been developed and we must give that machinery opportunities.
The Leader of the House struck an important note, which should go on record and be seen as important when the report of the debate is read, as I hope it will be, by people within the Church. He said that the entrusting of this responsibility to the authorities of the Church calls for an understanding by them of the position of the ordinary churchgoer who may not be an activist and may not be directly involved in the chain of bodies that leads ultimately to the General Synod. The views of ordinary church-goers have been represented to me, and they are views which the Leader of the House referred to appropriately in his suggestion that the Church authorities should take particular account of the position of those who come to the Church of England regularly but not frequently, regard it as their spiritual home, and expect to find some degree of consistency and familiarity in it.
I hope that the chain of experiments started by the setting up of the General Synod will prove successful. I look eventually to closer links between my Church and the Church of England. However, I should not like this measure and the necessity for passing it erected as a key issue of Church unity. It was not this question which put an end to the Anglican-Methodist negotiations. Indeed, it was scarcely raised in those negotiations. The measure must be seen by 1687 itself as a measure and not thrown into the argument about the more general question of Church unity.
I hope that when the seriousness with which the debate has been conducted is seen by Church authorities, if the measure is passed, as I believe it should be, they will recognise and understand the views of millions of people to whom the Church of England remains of great importance whether they are its more distant and less frequent members or belong to other Churches but frequently attend services of the Church of England. I believe that those considerations will be recognised, but that it was necessary to indicate them plainly.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Before calling the next speaker I should indicate to right hon. and hon. Members that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) will be closing the debate this evening. Mr. van Straubenzee.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee (Wokingham) rose——
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You gave only a momentary pause before calling my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) to wind up the debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I did not see any other hon. Member rise. The debate can go on until 11.30. Mr. John Wells.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I do not rise in any spirit of awkwardness but merely to state one or two short and simple facts.
I am a churchwarden in a small country parish. Our parish priest has quietly and ruthlessly stuffed Series 3 down the throats of his parishioners at certain services, despite the wishes of the parochial church council and of myself and my fellow churchwardens. If this is typical of the conduct of the Church when it gets its own government, it would be deplorable for this measure to be passed, because, despite assurances that the 1662 Prayer Book will be left alongside as a parallel book, it will disappear. As was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbaim), there is 1688 nothing like saying that something is optional to kill it.
I believe that this House is seeking greater status for its Members at every turn. We build car parks for ourselves, we put up our pay, and we give our secretaries more money. Altogether, we improve our own lot. Yet, month by month, year by year, we give away such rights as we have for governing this country. We set up milk marketing boards, water authorities, the British Airports Authority—every kind of body. These new bodies come into being day by day, month by month, outside parliamentary control. The Church of England is one of our oldest allies working with us. If we give up this vital matter we will show ourselves to the country as overpaid and useless people.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
I sense that the warmth of my welcome is less to myself than the hopes of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite that the debate may be drawing to a close.
I hope that I may at least have a certain amount of sympathy from both sides of the House, for I doubt that there could be any more difficult debate to attempt to wind up than this one. It cannot often have been the experience of hon. Members that a debate of such consistently high standard and with such generosity by one expression of view to another, however strongly the differences of view may be held, has taken place. I obviously cannot hope to match that in the brief words that I shall say before we come to what all have agreed is a momentous decision.
I must declare my personal interest. It is not in any sense a pecuniary interest, but I was one of the two hon. Members who served upon the commission appointed by the then Archbishops of Canterbury and of York from which, after many years' discussion and debate, this measure comes. The other was a man to whom I should like to make a special reference, a man whom some hon. Members who were here before 1970 will remember with affection—Denis Coe, then Member for Middleton and Prest-wich, one of the best-liked and most conscientious Members of the House, who is now doing splendid work in education as Deputy Director of Middlesex Polytechnic.
1689 If I am reminded, frequently and rightly, of the importance of this debate to the House of Commons—I trust that, as a Member of it, I would not be unaware of it—I hope that I may also remind hon. Members of what an enormously important debate this is to the Church of England, too, and how many people there are outside who are genuinely and most anxiously awaiting the outcome, both ways, of our discussion. Certainly it is a matter of enormous importance to the Church.
We all recall that the present powers under which the Church is working—if one likes, the leasehold—were granted for a period which expires in 1980. It is wise of the Church of England, is it not, to take the mind of Parliament as to what Parliament will wish the position to be after that period? There are a number of reasons for that, the second of which I will delay for a moment, but the second of which is very practical indeed.
The Church has the problem of charting its right course, directly consequent upon the decision of the House. The Church needs to know in good time what services will be authorised after 1980. The Church needs it not only to order itself and its disciplines and its formularies but for practical, simple reasons that this House will understand.
We need to know it for such ordinary reasons as the printing of the appropriate services that this House will then have said are lawful—I hope in book form. I am getting tired of the little pamphlet form with which we have in this temporary period to work. Parishes and printers, organisers and administrators, are perhaps not unwise in coming in ample time to this House to know what its will will be.
Of course it is an important matter. No one could possibly pretend otherwise. But this will not necessarily be the last time, if the House were to assent to this measure, that it would be asked to deal with matters that concern doctrine. There will be other matters, I have no doubt, with strong doctrinal content in them, for which, as an established Church, quite rightly, the Church of England will have to come to this House.
One which touches desperately difficult problems and which, needless to say, 1690 I shall not open up tonight is what the Church is in future to do about the ordination or not of women. Are there not deep doctrinal questions in that decision, which would have to come before the House even if this measure were agreed? I can think of a few more difficult matters which have to be settled in this House.
It is understandable that so much of the discussion has centred on that incomparable and beautiful English of the 1662 Prayer Book and all that it stands for. I hope that I do not have to say that there is no one who appreciates its exquisite beauty of language more than I do. I am, after all, one of the old fogies who actually had a classical education and can, therefore, follow some of the wording of it, which is, perhaps, not quite as clear to all today as it used to be. Incidentally, day by day in the particular educational establishment I attended I prayed in Latin. I therefore look with some sadness at the passing, in every sense, of Latin in the great Roman Catholic Church.
I hope I need make no apology for the assertion of my interest and concern for the 1662 Prayer Book. I find it extraordinarily difficult to recognise in many of those I know who work devotedly in the General Synod the people said to be so anxious to do away with that Prayer Book. I beg the House to look and look again at the entrenched provisions by which in future that book, as I believe, is strengthened and not weakened.
Think, for instance, of what would have happened had this measure been law at the time when my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stour-bridge (Mr. Stokes) was experiencing—his speech moved the House greatly—being driven from the church in which he was accustomed to worshipping. Consider what would have happened if this measure had been law. If, as I have no doubt, my hon. Friend could have persuaded a majority of his parochial church council, that book would have remained entrenched in the services of the Church. This is the legal position. The significance of it is that in those cases, and there are some, when the vicar or rector is a powerful character and seeks to override others he no longer would have the power so to override them if 1691 the House were to assent to this measure. I believe in all conscience, as one who would regard it as retrograde beyond measure if this book disappeared from the services of the Church, that those like me would have a power to our elbow which the law does not currently provide if the measure were passed.
At the same time is it not a common thread running throughout the debate that there is also room for some alternative service? So many hon. Members, including those who are proposing to vote against this measure, have said that they think so. I know that I am not alone in observing the increasing use of Series 2 in the family service, which in any parish is the means by which entire families are brought into the life of the Church, thus renewing it.
This is, incidentally, quite contrary to the dismal trend which I have so often heard from the House. Can there not be many other hon. Members who have seen the Church at work in, for example, a college or university—in an unorthodox background where the modern language is of assistance to the Church in interpreting its work and doctrine particularly to the young? It is true that in many parishes most careful discussions have taken place, and continue to take place, about the use of these alternative series in a way which has brought back a life and a vigour to the services which, frankly, was not there before. None of this is an argument against the 1662 book. None of it is an argument for its abolition. It is an argument, however, for saying that it is reasonable to say, as a result of where we have got to so far at any rate, that there has been advantage in this diversity, and, paradoxical as it may seem, some uniformity in this diversity which makes it possible to say that we are moving towards the end of the immediate experimental period. When we come to 1980, only 1662—or whatever deviation from it this House may concede—will be the authorised book. This House will decide in individual and detailed cases.
I say what I next have to say with delicacy on a day when, as I gratefully concede, the Government have made time at the very beginning of the parliamen- 1692 tary day for a debate of great significance. But I think that since I was first here 15 years ago I have been concerned directly or indirectly with nearly all the measures of the Church of England which have come before the House. It is true that all Governments are short of time, and measures of the Church of England have to find their place usually very late at night and in conditions of considerable difficulty.
Many is the time that I have argued for time from Governments of all colours who are naturally pressed. I remember, on a lighter note, an agreeable time when a certain Leader of the House, whom I would not dream of naming, found me in difficulties over a certain measure because of an unexpected vote and not enough Members were in the House. He was heard going round the corridors saying "Do get in there and vote for him. He is a good gunner." There are various good reasons for voting for Church measures, but I am bound to say that that is not one which would immediately have come to my mind.
It was precisely because of this difficulty, and the difficulty which the House felt that it was looking into matters of too great detail, that it decided for a period until 1980 that it would give this licence to the Church of England to order these detailed matters for itself. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is right beyond a peradventure. By so granting that leasehold they did not say that in due course they would grant the freehold. That is not an assertion that I would make. But I think our predecessors of that time entered into these arrangements for very sound reasons, some of which are just as sound today.
Furthermore, since then there have been changes in the government of the Church of England as authorised by this House. I accept without question that it would be even better if there could be direct elections from parish to national Synod. I have no doubt that what has been said in this House will be listened to with close attention. I do not want to appear to be dealing with a detail when I say that all of us who are directly elected know only too well the cost of that operation, and this is only one of the considerations which must weigh in a change of this kind.
1693 Now we have a General Synod, with equal status in the Houses, of bishops, clergy and laity. I am saddened by those hon. Members who are critical of what they call activists in this body. All of us owe our places in this House to a comparatively small number of activists. All of us were selected as candidates for our respective parties by, in terms of our electorates and our constituencies, quite a small number of activists. I find it sad that people who are prepared to spend time and trouble on the work of the Church should somehow be labelled in a slightly uncomplimentary way for their public spirit in doing so.
§ Mr. Cormack
We at least come here with the votes of our constituents even though we may have been selected initially by a smaller group. In view of what my hon. Friend said about the Synod being more broadly representative, does he not think that if we reject the measure tonight it might give the opportunity for the Synod to be reorganised in that way?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
In that case we should have to do so before 1980, and it would have to be completed before 1980. There are very elaborate procedures in the General Synod for changes of this kind and they have been outlined earlier in the debate. There would be uncertainty as to what the final decision of the House would be in relation to services alternative to those laid down in 1662.
§ Mr. Powell
There would surely be nothing in the meantime to prevent a measure whereby alternative services now experimented with would be authorised being presented to this House.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
That would not be necessary because as the law stands at present they would so remain. I was making the point that in a perfect society direct elections would be desirable. I was, however, on the point of making an additional comment, that the Synod is a very much more broadly based national Synod than ever it was before and very much closer to the man in the pew than has always been generously conceded in the debate.
I accept entirely that as parliamentarians we must disregard threats. I do not go along with the hint that I have heard that if we do not assent to this 1694 measure there will be widspread illegality once 1980 comes to be. Parliamentarians on both sides have to say that the Church in this matter must render unto Ceasar, and if that be the law of the land it is our duty as parliamentarians, even if we, as I do, dislike that law, firmly to uphold that law and give a lead to others to do precisely the same.
Nor am I impressed by the argument that we might have presented to us some kind of pistol on the basis of disestablishment. That said, let no hon. Member underestimate the rebuff which this House will have administered, if that be its decision, by not giving its assent to this measure today.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I do not think that is is duress, but I say, having quite clearly stated by argument on the pistol-pointing argument, that on the other side there will be devoted Church men, priestly and learned, who will feel a deep sense of rebuff. Of course, it would be a perfectly proper decision for the House to make, and I do not complain of it or of those who might take part in it, whatever their beliefs.
One of the things which impressed me as I listened to the evidence in the Church Estates Commission—and this is the other reason for moving forward—was that when the other Churches in this country came to give testimony to our commission there was a striking change historically from a very few years before. Then our friends in the Roman Catholic and Free Churches would have been glad to see the Church of England disestablished.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
This is historical fact. A short while ago it was, sadly, a matter of deep division. The establishment of the Church of England was a highly controversial matter. But the evidence we took from all the Churches today was that they would see the disestablishment of the Church of England as a set-back to them all. This is the new element in the situation. But that is no reason for clinging precisely to the present form of the establishment.
§ Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, 1695 because I am anxious that he should not end his speech without covering a point of great moment. The House does not have an opportunity to amend the measure. Therefore, it must take it or reject it as it stands. Why does the Church feel it right in those circumstances to ask us to take an irrevocable decision to transfer the powers in question, rather than simply to ask for the endorsement of the changes it wishes to make, and return subsequently with further changes that it feels would be appropriate?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
That is precisely the point I was reaching. I was seeking to show, I am sure very inadequately, that there was a new element in the whole of the dialogue between the Churches in this country. I was suggesting that, contrary to the historical situation up to a fairly short number of years ago, the establishment of the Church of England was no longer the barrier that some people thought it was, but that, if we were imaginative enough both in the Churches and in the House, there might well be a new form of establishment which more accurately reflected the facts of the present situation.
Those facts are that when the State seeks advice from, or consultation with, a religious body, it no longer goes solely to the Church of England. It goes for it to the amalgam of the Christian Churches
§ in this country. If it seeks advice on education, for example, it does not go to one Church alone.
§ If we are sufficiently imaginative we can have a form of establishment that will accurately reflect the facts as they are rather than what they used historically to be. But a prerequisite of that coming together is that the Church of England shall not be the one Church which is not to be master in its own house with regard to the ordering of its worship and doctrine.
§ This consideration partially explains the timetable and answers some of the points made in the debate. It partially injects into the debate a new element, which is a concept which I very much hope may commend itself to the House in the new spirit that animates Christians in all Churches, and which should be brought to the attention of the House before it comes to a decision.
§ Slowly and painstakingly, the measure has been debated and sieved through the organs of the Church, and a decision has been reached. It is significant that another place gave its approval. We should complete the work, understanding that we have safeguarded the interests of the State in the further mission of the Church.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 145, Noes 45.1697
|Division No. 22.]||AYES||[10.45 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael||Dempsey, James||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hicks, Robert|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Dormand, Jack||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hunter, Adam|
|Bean, Robert E.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hurd, Douglas|
|Beith, A. J.||Dunn, James A.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Benyon, W. R.||Durant, Tony||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Biffen, John||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Janner, Greville|
|Bishop, Edward||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick (Redbr.)|
|Blaker, Peter||Evans, John (Newton)||Jessel, Toby|
|Booth, Albert||Eyre, Reginald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betry||Flannery, Martin||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Brotherton, Michael||George, Bruce||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Lamond, James|
|Buck, Anton||Goodhew, Victor||Lane, David|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Graham, Ted||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Lowis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Clemitson, I. M.||Grist, Ian||Loyden, Eddie|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Grocott, Bruce||Luce, Richard|
|Coleman, Donald||Grylls, Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||MacCormick, lain|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Crouch, David||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hampson, Dr Keith||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hannam, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Harper, Joseph||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Deakins, Eric||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hayhoe, Barney||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)||Trotter, Neville|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Sainsbury, Tim||van Slraubenzee, W. R.|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Scott-Hopkins, James||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Shepherd, Colin||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Murray, Ronald King||Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Neave, Airey||Silvester, Fred||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Newens, Stanley||Sinclair, Sir George||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Noble, Mike||Skinner, Dennis||Ward, Michael|
|Ovenden, John||Snape, Peter||Watkins, David|
|Palmer, Arthur||Spearing, Nigel||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Spence, John||Weetch, Ken|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stallard, A. W.||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Penhallgon, David||Stanley, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Perry, Ernest||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)|
|Roberts, Michael (Cardiff N.W.)||Stradling Thomas, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Mr. Peter Mills and|
|Rodgers, William (Teesside)||Tinn, James||Mr. Frank R. White.|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Loveridge, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Branoon|
|Bowden, Andrew (Brighton)||McCrindle, Robert||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||McCusker, Harold||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Macfarlane, Neil||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Clegg, Walter||Mates, Michael||Stainlon, Keith|
|Cormack, Patrick||Mather, Carol||Stokes, John|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Molyneaux, James||Viggers, P. J.|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Monro, Hector||Wells, John|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wiggin, Jerry (Weston-s-Mare)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mudd, David||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St.)||Nott, John||Younger, Hon George|
|Gow, I. (Eastbourne)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Paisley, Rev Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. Ivor Stanbrook and|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Renton, Rt Hn Sir D. (Hunts.)||Mr. Alan Clark.|
|Kelletl-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure, passed by the National1698
§ 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.