HL Deb 23 June 1846 vol 87 cc869-71

presented a petition from the Rev. James Shore, a Protestant Dissenting minister of Bridgetown, Devonshire, formerly a minister of the Established Church, praying the House to consider the Toleration Act, with a view to its Amendment. The petitioner stated, that he had been regularly ordained a minister of the Established Church, and had been in orders ten years—that he had been appointed to a chapel in the diocese of the Bishop of Exeter, where he had for some time officiated under the incumbent. This chapel had been in the gift of the Duke of Somerset. This appointment he had held under two successive incumbents; but upon a third rector taking possession of the living, he had refused to continue the nomination of Mr. Shore, and the bishop in consequence withdrew his license. The rev. petitioner had then left the Established Church, and had become a Protestant Dissenter. The chapel in which he had been in the habit of officiating had then been endowed, and licensed as a dissenting chapel, by his Grace the Duke of Somerset; and, by the Act of Toleration, Mr. Shore considered himself entitled to officiate as a preacher and teacher therein. A few days ago, however, he had been cited by the registrar of the diocese of Exeter to appear before the Arches Court to answer for having publicly read prayers, preached, administered the sacrament, and performed ecclesiastical duties and divine offices according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, in an unlicensed chapel, without any authority for so doing. He (Lord Brougham) understood it had been argued, that Mr. Shore having been regularly ordained as a minister of the Church, he could not of his own power secede from it, or release himself from his orders as a clergyman. The result was, that a decision was given against him in the Ecclesiastical Court; and, as there was no remedy in law, the highest court in the kingdom (the Court of Chancery) having decided against him, he prayed their Lordships to take his case into consideration, and grant him such relief as they should think fit.


, before addressing a few observations to their Lordships, should make his acknowledgments to the noble and learned Lord, opposite for the courtesy he had shown in communicating to him a copy of the petition, and apprising him of his intention to present it. He should wish to have been excused from entering into the circumstances of the present case, but his noble and learned Friend had stated several matters which could not be left unanswered. It was certainly true, the noble Duke alluded to had built the chapel in question, in Bridgetown; and some years ago the noble Duke had applied to him (the Bishop of Exeter) to consecrate it. Several communications had passed between himself and the noble Duke; and, finally, he had consented to license the chapel, the Duke undertaking to endow it in order to its being consecrated, and that meanwhile it should only be used for purposes connected with the ministry of the Protestant Established Church; both of which engagements, he regretted to state, had been violated by the noble Duke, for reasons which doubtless were satisfactory to his own mind, though he (the Bishop of Exeter) could not even guess what they were. The incumbent of the parish in 1832 had given Mr. Shore, the petitioner, his nomination to this chapel, and he (the Bishop of Exeter) had accordingly licensed him. Another incumbent, however, had subsequently succeeded, who had refused to give his nomination to Mr. Shore, as he had a right to refuse if he chose; and he (the Bishop of Exeter) had, as he was bound to do, withdrawn the license. In some communications which had thereupon ensued between himself (the Bishop of Exeter) and Mr. Shore, the latter had said that he would officiate in spite of him, and that he did not recognise the discipline of the Church. He wished that the Rev. Mr. Shore had been the only party implicated in this matter; but he regretted to say that his Grace the Duke of Somerset had also become a party in it. His Grace had made an offer to carry out his engagement as to the endowment by consenting to the vicar's assigning to this chapel that portion of the tithes of the vicar which accrued within the limits of Bridgetown, provided the nomination were vested in the Duke himself. This proposition he (the Bishop of Exeter) had declined; for he thought that in that case the patronage ought to be in the vicar, as the endowment would be made by him, not by the Duke. Now, it was because he (the Bishop of Exeter) did not wish to have the authority and the discipline of the Church thus disregarded, and did not wish to lend himself to a discreditable proposition, that the Duke of Somerset, or his agent, had registered the chapel as a dissenting house of worship, in the very teeth of that most solemn engagement which he had made, that this chapel should never be used for other purposes than those of divine worship according to the tenets of the Church of England. He hoped, therefore, their Lordships would not endeavour, in accordance with the prayer of the petitioner, to set aside the known ecclesiastical law of this country, but that they would consider the real position in which the case stood. In fact, they were called on to do no less than to give relief to a petitioner who could not be relieved unless they, with the concurrence of the House of Commons and consent of the Crown, chose to pass an Act of Parliament to set aside a sentence of the Court of Queen's Bench, and to invalidate a solemn decision pronounced in the Arches Court.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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