HL Deb 07 May 1867 vol 187 cc78-88

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that when a few years ago he introduced a measure on the same subject, of a more general character, he took occasion to state that he had not proceeded in the matter on his own mere motion. On that occasion he was furnished with representations from very respectable quarters in favour of his proposal, and he was happy to be able to state that he now stood in even a better position. The most rev. Primate permitted him to say that he brought forward the Bill at his request, and that he spoke not only for himself, but for his right rev. Brethren on the episcopal Bench; of whose approval, looking at them in their corporate capacity, he could speak, for he had on his side the unanimous vote of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, at whose head the most rev. Prelate was, so that he might with peculiar fitness have himself introduced the measure. From the second paragraph of the preamble they would find that a Commission issued in the year 1847 dealt with the question, and dealt with it in a remarkable way, for the Commission was not one for the general extension of the Episcopate, but its terms referred to the intention declared by the Crown of submitting to Parliament a measure for continuing Bangor and St. Asaph as separate bishoprics, and for the establishment forthwith of a bishopric of Manchester; and also, as soon as conveniently might be, of three other additional bishoprics, which were not specifically named. But in their final Report the Com- missioners, while making recommendations on the subject of the bishoprics named in the body of the Commission, omitted any reference to the three dioceses mentioned, but not specifically named in it. Owing to the feeling in the other House of Parliament, the question was not proceeded with. A further Commission was alluded to in the preamble of the Bill; and its third and final Report was presented in May, 1855. That Commission adverted again to the question of a specific increase in the number of bishoprics—that was to say, while giving an opinion in favour of a general increase in the Episcopate, it also stated that particular places fit for the erection of new sees were four, two of which were the same as those contained in the Bill which he had the honour to propose. Next, he found in the report of the proceedings of the Convocation of Canterbury that on the 4th of May last year both Houses agreed to an address praying that the Government would introduce into Parliament a permissive Bill authorizing the formation of one or all of the three new dioceses specified in the present Bill. He proposed by the 1st clause in his Bill— That the Diocese of Exeter should be relieved by the Severance from it of the County of Cornwall, and that a Bishopric should be erected for that County; and also that the Dioceses of Lincoln and Lichfield should be relieved by the Erection of a Bishopric at Southwell in the County of Nottingham; and also that the Archdiocese of Canterbury and the Diocese of London should be relieved by the Erection of a Bishopric at St. Alban's in the County of Herts, and by the Restoration of the Diocese of Rochester as far as may be convenient, to its former Limits, with certain Additions from the Archdiocese of Canterbury. The Bill avoided, as far as possible, all details, leaving its provisions to be given effect to by the Queen in Council, after investigation and Report by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and it also left for future consideration the completion of the new sees by the erection of capitular bodies. The 7th clause provided that the number of Bishops sitting in Parliament should not be increased, and that the Bishop of any new see should succeed to a seat in that House in the order prescribed by the Act of 10 & 11 Vict., establishing the bishopric of Manchester. The 10th clause provided that no part of the Common Fund in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be applied to any of the purposes of that Act. He must himself say he disapproved that clause. Nothing he thought could be more fair or proper than that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in dealing with the funds of the Church, much of which were derived from the existing bishoprics, should be allowed to include, at their discretion, and with the approval of Parliament, the erection of new sees among the objects to which those funds were devoted. But that was not a principle vital to the measure; and for the sake of expediency, and in order to have a better hope of passing the Bill, he had consented to the insertion of that clause. There was also a clause in the Bill relating to the difficult subject of Suffragan Bishops, which he proposed to omit in Committee, as it might more properly be dealt with in a separate measure. The Bill was a voluntary and permissive one. It said in effect that if in the districts to which it referred there should be persons who thought there was such a thing as a due proportion between the episcopal function and the number of people to whom that function related, and if they were willing at their own proper costs and charges to furnish the means of carrying their view into effect, Parliament would not prevent them from doing so. The arguments often used against an increase of the episcopate would equally apply if the population of this country were 50,000,000, and if the clergy were threefold their present numbers. He understood that the Rev. Mr. Claughton, the day after he learnt that the see of Rochester would be conferred upon him, received a letter from the Bishop of London congratulating him on his appointment, and stating that he handed over to him a population of 300,000 including the clergy, who on the death of the late Bishop of Rochester were to be transferred from the diocese of London to Rochester. And at the same time a memorial was forwarded to the noble Earl at the head of the Government, signed by many of the clergy and laity of the county of Hertford, representing the urgent necessity for a division, of the diocese of Rochester, and complaining of their remoteness from the cathedral city. There were persons who admitted that an increase in the number of Bishops was in itself reasonable, but who alleged that the funds proposed to be devoted for this purpose would be better laid out in increasing the numbers of the clergy, and in the better payment of those who existed. This was, however, a fallacy, as nothing tended more to those very objects than a proper number of Bishops. It was sometimes said that the functions of a Bishop were purely administrative. But, in his opinion, nothing could be more erroneous. The position of a Bishop might be illustrated by reference to that of a Lord Lieutenant, which it somewhat resembled. He spoke with some experience on this subject, since, with the exception of the noble Lord the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, he had held this post longer than any Member of their Lordships' House, There were some Lord Lieutenants who, no doubt for good reasons, did not reside in their counties; but there was not one of these cases in which the magistrates and the inhabitants did not regret the absence of the Lord Lieutenant. In the same way the absence of a Bishop from his clergy was always a source of great grief to them, not that in either case the formal and legal duties were the most important, but that the general and social influence was very great. A Bishop had, no doubt, considerable legal duties to discharge; but his position was also one of great moral influence, even as the Lord Lieutenant was looked upon as at the head of the county. Another argument which had been adduced was that railways, penny postage, and other facilities of communication had obviated the necessity for an increase of the episcopate; but the fact was that these things had increased the extent of episcopal work far more than they had accelerated its execution, and it was obvious that they could not diminish the mental pressure and anxiety which Bishops experienced. With regard to Cornwall, it had been said that the people did not wish that county to be severed from the see of Exeter; but if so, it only showed that they had been so long virtually without a Bishop that they had become callous as to the want being supplied. The fact was that those who objected to any extension of the episcopate really objected to episcopacy altogether. What they would desire was a Church of independent congregationalists, and their ideal of a clergyman was a man subject to no control or supervision, and answering to the description which had been given, as "a man with £300 a year and a pony carriage, administering spiritual consolation." On a previous occasion a noble Lord (Lord Houghton) had expressed an apprehension that if a number of new Bishops were appointed without giving them seats in that House, the connection between the Church and State would become impaired. This argument he really did not understand. He was glad to find that the principle of the Bill met with the approval of a Prelate of great ability and acuteness, and one who was naturally rather indisposed to accede to new proposals of this kind. He was referring to the Bishop of St. David's, who in Convocation seconded the motion for the creation of these three new sees; and who, in doing so, said he believed the measure was a moderate one, and that he could see no valid objection to its adoption. With these observations he (Lord Lyttelton) begged leave to move the second reading of the Bill, which, if amid the tumult of party politics, it should receive the sanction of Parliament, would, he believed, be found to be one of the most useful measures of the Session.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Lyttelton.)


said, he had to offer his most cordial thanks to the noble Lord on his able and exhaustive treatment of the subject. He had heard an objection taken to the Bill on the ground that it dealt with two subjects—the subdivision of dioceses and the introduction of suffragan Bishops. But though the one question was no doubt distinct from the other, yet they were in truth closely connected, the object of the one being to relieve overworked Prelates, and that of the other to relieve Prelates disabled by age or infirmity; and he hoped the noble Lord would not consent to abandon the latter portion of the measure. It was, he thought, manifest that great spiritual advantage must be derived from the presence of a Bishop in any particular district, and it was a very remarkable circumstance that only one new bishopric had been created in this country since the days of Henry VIII. and of Archbishop Cranmer, notwithstanding the vast increase which had since taken place in our population. The establishment of additional bishoprics in our Colonies and in the United States of America had been attended with a corresponding augmentation in the number of clergymen, and it might fairly be inferred in the general extension of religious influences in those countries. In New Zealand a bishopric was founded in 1841, when there were 12 clergymen, whereas in 1860 there were 54; in Tasmania there had been an increase between 1842 and 1860 from 19 to 57; in Colombo, from 22 to 42; and in Fredericton the number was 30 in 1845, and 53 in 1860. Between 1847 and 1860 the number had increased in Cape Town and its three subdivisions from 14 to 100; in Melbourne from 3 to 67; in Adelaide from 4 to 30; and in Montreal, since 1850, from 45 to 62. In fact, in 18 new dioceses founded between 1841 and 1860, the total number of clergy had increased from 274 to 673. Again, in the United States the Protestant Episcopal Church had seen its Bishops increased since the period of the War of Independence, eighty years ago, from 1 to 44, and its clergy from 14 to more than 3,000. The arithmetical argument for the extension of the Episcopate was, in his opinion, unanswerable, for if the number of sees fixed by Archbishop Cranmer were no more than adequate for the population of that time, the present number must be utterly inadequate now. He believed that had there been more Bishops the present ritualistic innovations would not have assumed their present magnitude, for they would have been checked by a more complete supervision of the dioceses. The late Dr. Arnold, who was not a man of an especially ecclesiastical turn of mind, had expressed the following emphatic opinion on the subject:— In order to any efficient and comprehensive Church system, the first thing necessary is to divide the actual dioceses. Every large town should necessarily be the seat of a Bishop. The addition of such an element to the society of a commercial or manufacturing place would be a very great advantage. He had received by post a day or two since an extract from a charge, which still so precisely expressed his sentiments and opinions that he might be allowed to read it. It was as follows:— If, indeed, the Church expects her Bishops to act merely as censors and correctors of their clergy, and to discharge a certain round of prescribed official duties, which may be measured by the public eye and are patent to universal observation, it might, perhaps, be questioned whether their numbers were not commensurate with their functions; and yet in the matter of confirmations alone-it were much to be desired (according to my own impression, at least) that they could be more frequent, and that the numbers assembled, which have been already lessened by the divisions of districts, might be still more reduced by further subdivision, were not this incompatible with the pressure of our other obligations. But if the episcopate is to be regarded by our people generally, not merely as a name, but as a living reality, a vital energizing principle—if our Bishops are to identify themselves with their clergy and their people, to throw their hearts and minds into their dioceses, to be known among their flock as St. Paul was among his—to be the friends, the fathers, and the counsellors of their clergy, advising them in their difficulties, arbitrating in differences, peace-makers where their influence can avail, resolving cases of conscience where propounded, forwarding by their counsel every good work and labour of love—if they are to be able to judge with their own eyes as to the practical working of each clergyman in his parish, to strengthen their hands in the hours of trial and perplexity, to encourage the timid and arouse the lukewarm, to let each congregation hear from time to time from their own lips the words of eternal truth, and the poor parents of every parish see that, besides their own appointed minister, there is a chief pastor of the diocese who cares for the souls of their children, and is furthering plans for their spiritual benefit—if, I say, these weighty charges really press upon a Bishop, I know not who can be sufficient for these things, according to the present constitution of our dioceses. In the opinions thus expressed he entirely concurred, and all the more so because they were taken from a charge which he himself had delivered almost twenty years ago, and which would have altogether passed from his recollection had it not been sent to him by a correspondent. If their Lordships believed that the Church of England was a blessing to the country, and that the episcopal authority and office were a necessary part of that Church, then he hoped that they would assent to this most moderate Bill, which was merely permissive, and only allowed the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, after the necessary conditions had been fulfilled, to create one or more sees—not exceeding three in all.


wished to say one word with regard to the intimation which the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) had given of withdrawing the 11th clause. He hoped that would not be done, for in his opinion this matter of suffragan Bishops was as pressing as any other. He would also urge that the noble Lord should reconsider by the time the Bill came before a Committee what he had said with respect to the 10th clause. A great deal had been said as to the importance of increasing the number of Bishops. But, if the matter was so important, then it would be necessary to go a little further than was proposed by this Bill, and not to leave it to individual benevolence to found the sees that might be required. There were public funds under the control of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which might not improperly be applied to this purpose; but the 10th clause made it impossible that the funds now in hand, or any that might in future be ac- quired, should be so applied. He would mention how the case stood with regard to the see over which he presided. Their Lordships would remember that of late the plan of granting a renewal of leases with fines had been discontinued, and when the time came that the leases at present existing should have expired a very large sum must accrue to the Commissioners in respect of the see of London. Now, it appeared to him wrong that it should be made impossible that those funds, however much they might increase in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, should be applied to episcopal purposes. What was true of the see of London was true also of Canterbury and other sees; and therefore if the Bill should go into Committee he would venture to move a separate clause that the funds arising from episcopal estates might be applied to the creation of new sees.


dissented from the Bill. He saw no reason why if in any particular diocese the Bishop was overworked a suffragan Bishop might not be appointed to assist him. One of his great objections to this Bill was that it limited to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the right to take the initiative and to determine whether there should be additional Bishops or not. He objected to any measure for additional Bishops which was not framed upon the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown and which did not go through both Houses of Parliament before it could come into effect. In this Bill there was no provision whatever for obtaining the assent of Parliament to the creation of the new Bishops which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might think necessary.


said, that he had stated that he had no objection to introduce a clause making the creation of any new see dependent on the approval of Parliament; but he should object to the appointment of suffragan Bishops unless they were permanently attached to the dioceses where their services were required.


was not aware that there was any great necessity for such a measure as that proposed. There was no doubt a greater amount of labour required for confirmations now than formerly; but other means might be taken to give relief in that respect without resorting to an increase of the episcopate. He therefore objected to the Bill.


said, that it was quite impossible that any man not endowed with supernatural powers could adequately discharge all the duties which such a diocese as London, and others similarly constituted, imposed upon the Bishop. And yet there were difficulties and inconveniences in any subdivision that might be attempted—though those difficulties might, perhaps, be obviated by the creation of suffragan Bishops. If the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London had two or three suffragan Bishops to aid him in the discharge of some of his duties, such as confirmations, his labours would be greatly lightened. He could not agree, however, with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley of Alderley) who thought that the appointment of suffragan Bishops would altogether supersede the necessity for the creation of additional Bishops. He did not think that the objection raised by his noble Friend to the form of the Bill was a very strong one. The Bill did point out three distinct funds that ought to be dealt with. He considered that their Lordships were greatly indebted to his noble Friend both for the measure itself and the manner in which it had been introduced.


wished to say a few words on this subject. He had himself, when formerly in office, advised the Crown to issue a Commission with reference to the expediency of an increase of the episcopate. He thought the question of the creation of a new see should not be left to the discretion of the Ecclesiastical Commission, even with the subsequent sanction of Parliament. The proper course would be that the Commissioners should make a representation of the necessity of such new see to the Crown, and the Ministers should then present a measure to Parliament on their responsibility.


said, he did not understand the Bill to provide that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should propose the creation of a new see to Parliament. He had on several occasions voted in favour of a similar Bill to that of the noble Baron (Lord Lyttelton), and he felt it was impossible to deny the amount of spiritual destitution which rendered an increase of the episcopate to the extent limited by this Bill highly desirable. He believed that there was in certain districts so large an amount of work that the Bishops could not perform it to their satisfaction, and that therefore it would be necessary to give them some assistance. It was worthy of the consideration of his noble Friend whether he had properly worded the recital in the 1st clause of the Bill, which spoke of relieving the dioceses of London and Winchester, and the Archbishopric of Canterbury, but made no mention of the existing sees. With regard to suffragan Bishops, he was certainly of opinion that, though in some cases of Bishops being disabled by age or infirmity the assistance of suffragans was very desirable, yet he could not think their appointment could by any means be considered an efficient substitute for Bishops. The noble Baron suggested that the Bishop of London should have the power of employing three or four suffragan Bishops under him; but what would be their position? They would be to the Bishop what a curate was to the rector, and of course removable at the termination of each incumbency. They could not therefore have the same hold, control, or authority as a Bishop regularly constituted, with the cure of a regular diocese. But the noble Baron did not propose that these suffragan Bishops should be permanently attached to the diocese of London. If they were, a new Bishop might find suffragans in his diocese entirely at variance with his views. If appointed, they must be so, not with reference to any particular diocese or locality, but for the purpose of assisting this or that particular Bishop who might be disabled. In that case, suffragan Bishops might be exceedingly useful; but, he repeated, they could not be considered substitutes for what he believed to be essential, the daily growing want of an increase in the episcopate. With regard to the case of Rochester, nothing certainly could be more inconvenient than the extent and configuration of that diocese. The Bishop was placed at the extreme corner of it, removed from its more populous portions, and 300,000 souls were added to the cure of a diocese already too extensive. He would only add with reference to what had been said by the noble Earl opposite, that he was very glad to find he entertained the same views with regard to the increase of the episcopate which he did in 1847, and certainly the necessity for that increase was not less now than in that year. He could only say that while the details of this arrangement would properly be left to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, yet there were cases in which they should not be taken as a mere question of form; but it would be the duty of the Minister of the Crown, previous to submitting it to the Queen in Council, to satisfy himself that the arrangement was such as he could justify.


hoped his noble Friend would adhere to his resolution of not including the appointment of suffragan Bishops within the provisions of the Bill. It would be a serious thing to introduce a new course of legislation in this very difficult question. The question of suffragan Bishops was perfectly distinct from the question of increasing the episcopate, and he should be quite unable to support that part of the Bill which dealt with the suffragan Bishops. There was no foundation for such appointments. There could not, properly speaking, be any Bishop without a see to which he was consecrated, and consecrating a Bishop without a see would be a great anomaly, and very analogous to the existence of a man in this world without a body. He thought his noble Friend was quite right in not including the See of Winchester in his proposition, for he believed that all the Church people in Surrey would be exceedingly dissatisfied if Southwark were taken from that diocese.


admitted the great difficulty of legislating on the subject of suffragan Bishops; and, while feeling bound to move in Committee that the clause relating thereto should be omitted, he would be ready to retain it in the Bill if the House should think that the provision ought to be adopted.

On Question, agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.