§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to a Bill to enable the Church of England to do its work properly. I believe the work of the National Church to be of incalculable importance to the nation's life, and I ask you to help us to do it better than we at present can. That is the real gist and purport of this Bill. It is a Bill of real importance affecting; our system and our organisation, removing or diminishing, as we hope, hindrances which, by a kind of accident and not by anybody's fault, have been at present constantly across our way.
The character and range of our proposal, as your Lordships all know, have been widely discussed and criticised, and I think somewhat strangely misunderstood, during 975 the last few months. Its opponents—and there may be some of them in this House—decry in it perils which I think are either quite imaginary or are no greater than those which attend all brave and adventurous legislation. Those fears I altogether repudiate. As to its friends, I find a little difficulty in making my own all the hopes and ambitions which have found eloquent expression in the fine body of men and women who have advocated it. We owe them a real debt of gratitude for their public-spirited work in keeping the question constantly to the fore.
I am going to try this afternoon, with such brevity as I can, to explain the origin and character of the Bill, to remove such misconceptions as are apparent, and to urge its appropriateness and usefulness at the present time. I think I can do this best by reminding your Lordships, in the first instance, of some familiar historical facts. Familiar as they are, their relevance, I think, as to what we are now doing, is often overlooked. May I say at once, in order to clear the ground, that we are not dealing at all with deeper spiritual things. Doctrines of our faith, the duties of the Christian ministry, the help we can render publicly or privately to the souls of men—these are spiritual fundamental things, the very essence of our work, and with them we are not dealing directly, or I think hardly even indirectly, in this Bill in any way. We are speaking here of the framework, the outer secular rules, within which our work has to be done. Such framework is needed by every law-abiding Christian community, whatever its character, but the Church of England framework has a distinctive and a peculiar relation to the State and to the national life.
The Church of England framework has at once the advantage and the drawback of being old. Much of it comes down from far-off days—days of our Saxon ancestry before there were Parliaments or Statutes; such things as the division of our provinces, our old dioceses, our original parishes, the tithe question, and a score of other things including a good deal of our internal judicature and its rules. There are other parts of our system and organisation which, though not so old, date back for several centuries, and, so far as they have statutory authority—they were fashioned largely in Post-Reformation days—were fashioned in times when for practical purposes Parliament consisted of the Church of England, 976 and the Church of England only. It is not too much to say that by far the greater part of the laws which we Bishops and others have at present to administer, and under which we work in Church matters, have their origin in periods when the House of Commons could be regarded as voicing the lay opinion not of the English people only but of the English Church as well. For a good many centuries that worked reasonably well. Convocation, in a large part of that period, was in full life, and the Bishops had a far larger proportionate voice in Parliament in a smaller House of Lords than they have to-day; and the House of Commons, for practical purposes, consisted entirely of Churchmen. Therefore the whole legislative system in Church matters was very much simpler and easier than it is to-day. Not only were the modern Church activities and organisations upon which so much depends not there, but they were not needed, and for a very simple reason, which is constantly forgotten when we are dealing with Church questions.
I have reminded your Lordships that our whole system—dioceses, parishes, and all the Church machinery—comes down from very early times and runs through the whole period from the beginning until now. But for hundreds of years (not the most distant centuries) that system had to be applied to a far smaller population than is the case to-day. I wonder if we realise how much smaller. Our parishes, roughly speaking, were what they are to-day, not perhaps exactly the same, but roughly speaking they were then as they are now; and yet their machinery was applicable to a comparatively small number of people. Do we realise that in Queen Anne's time the population of England and Wales corresponded roughly to the population of Greater London to-day, and that the whole of that great organisation had to be applied in a simple way to that far smaller number of people. I find that in the year 1700 there were just over 5,000,000 of people in England and Wales; fifty years later there were 6,500,000; fifty years later—namely 1800—less than 9,000,000; in 1850 less than 18,000,000; and now we have to apply the same machinery, roughly speaking, as was applied in the old days, to 36,000,000 of people, and infinite complications and difficulties have arisen largely from that cause. That is a far more relevant fact to this argument than people commonly remember. Not unnaturally things went smoothly enough in those older 977 days. In the eighteenth century there was plenty of religious thought, though not very much religious activity within the Church and as a portion of the Church's organisation. Indeed, some of the best religious activity was not very welcome in the Church's organisation.
Then we come to the nineteenth century, when industrial activities began to stir, when the inadequacy of the old Church system became apparent, when new inquiries had to be set on foot as to how the old machinery could be adapted to modern needs, and new legislation followed those inquiries. Remember that even then Parliament consisted practically of Churchmen. It was that fact, it seems to me—I do not know that I have ever seen it stated, but it seems to me true—that Parliament at that time consisted mainly of Churchmen which gave rise to the idea, or gave currency to the idea, of the nation and Church being still coterminous and identical, when as a matter of fact they were not. Very few non-Churchmen were elected to Parliament, and public action of the State and. of the Church was practically taken by the same people. Churchmen of those days—I am speaking now of the first part of the nineteenth century—were ready and anxious to give to all those inquiries and schemes and legislative arrangements the fullest possible attention and the amplest time.
If your Lordships have never done it, I invite you to turn over a volume or two of Hansard between 1835 and 1845, and see the amount of time which was un-grudgingly given to the Church and its affairs, and also a volume with which, no doubt, the noble Viscount is well acquainted, namely, Stephens' Ecclesiastical Statutes, the second volume of which contains 1,106 pages and is devoted exclusively to the annotated Statutes from 1828 to 1844, so numerous and elaborate were they. The Pluralities Act, the great Act which may want amending hut which we have to act upon to-day, is one of 133 sections, and the foolscap edition covers fifty-four pages. Imagine attempting today to get an Ecclesiastical Bill of that size through Parliament. Then the men who gave time and energy to the inquiries I have spoken of, and who served on the Parliamentary Committers and Royal Commissions and the rest, were all the leading statesmen of the day. The Prime Minister or ex-Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, 978 sat more than once. The Lord Chancellor or ex-Lord Chancellor, and almost all the leading statesmen of the Front Benches took their place on those inquiries, out of which grew the Ecclesiastical Commission and all the rest in the 'thirties and 'forties of the last century. Such were the facts then.
But a complete change has come over the whole scene in recent years. The conditions are entirely different, and that not from any hostility to the Church and its life, for there is far less hostility now than there was in 1832—not from any fault on the part of the Church, but simply because of the altered conditions of English public life. With an enlarged—and successively enlarged—franchise there came to be, quite rightly and most wholesomely, far greater variety in Parliamentary representation. New veins for membership of Parliament were tapped, and were auriferous in their character. The nation gained enormously from them, but one result was that many more were elected than ever before who were non-Churchmen. They came there with keen new plans and all kinds of efforts which they deemed to be for the welfare of the nation, and all were keen to secure Parliamentary time. Hence it became very quickly far more difficult to get a hearing for Church matters, which very many members of Parliament, though in no sense unfriendly, felt to be matters which to them were quite uncongenial, quite uninteresting, and perhaps even distasteful.
I can go back over forty years of my own experience. Questions used to be constantly arising, as they do up to this day, as to whether we could get governmental aid for particular plans which the Church would desire, and again and again the answer has come, with perfect friendliness but with frankness, "We think your plan most excellent, and we should be glad to see it adopted; but look at Parliamentary conditions and see what we have before us, and imagine how we are to find the time that is required. You do not tell us that the thing would be absolutely unopposed. There will always be a few people who will oppose, and the moment they opposed our difficulties would begin, and we should be simply misleading you if we told you we had time for doing those things." There lies the secret of our difficulties, and it is a mist serious thing for the Church of England and for the people 979 of England, if the Church is to continue to do its work, for we must look at the time when we are thus suffering.
The time which finds us subject to these disabilities is the very time when new hopes and schemes and efforts are daily astir for bringing fresh life into the Church's work, and for bringing it into closer relation with the people of the land, and adapting, if we can, our old rules and systems and plans to the facts of the life of the twentieth century. Just when we need that larger elasticity, and less cumbrous procedure for doing all these things—less cumbrous than sufficed quite well in the time of Queen Anne or of George III or even of Queen Victoria—we are met by the difficulties of which I have spoken, and it is simply impossible to get things through Parliament. The new spirit and new effort is not in the Church's life alone but in all our social life, to our immense gain. All the new questions of civil life—health, sanitation, housing, educational work, all the various things that are astir in what is called the social life of England to-day—are constantly before Parliament and rightly call for legislation, for wholesome legislation, and for the adaptation of old laws to the new facts. Imagine the Local Government Board or the Education Office or the Home Office being told, "I am sorry, but there is not time in Parliament for your affairs; Parliament cannot do it."
I hope that your Lordships will not misunderstand me. I am very far from thinking or regarding the Church of England as a branch of the Civil Service. I have heard this phrase used, and it is a most misleading one. Nevertheless the analogy holds good, because we are face to face to-day with abundant new problems, with all kinds of new activities, all kinds of aims and plans. I am myself having them every day in my life, and they correspond in their degree, or in their own way, to those kind of things in our civil life, and it is not unfair to say that we are put in the same sort of difficulty as a Government Office would be put in if it were told, "We cannot find Parliamentary time for doing the things everybody desires to see done." We want to be able to rise to our opportunities with our new populations, and we are asking your Lordships now to help us to do so.
Possibly some one may think that I am rather imagining or exaggerating the difficulties, and that what really stands in 980 the way is not the conditions that I have described but the stupidity, or the laziness, or the obscurantism, or the red tape which characterises ecclesiastics, especially Bishops, and prevents them from doing perfectly well what they might do with the existing laws. I have heard that said; but, my Lords, it is absurdly untrue. And about this I hope that I shall not be regarded as egotistic if I say that I make no apology for claiming to speak with firsthand knowledge. It so happens, long before I held the office which I have now held for more than sixteen years, that I had to do with the central work of the Church of England, and it is now more than forty years since I first began to be behind the scenes, so to speak, and had to be in touch with the central forces that were day by day at work. I was in a humble capacity at first, still I had thorough knowledge and was completely abreast of what was taking place. Therefore I speak with real inside knowledge when I say that the difficulties to which I have referred have been steadily increasing and multiplying on our hands. Just as our attempted activities have multiplied, so the old hampering conditions have been constantly increasing. It is literally true that in our system of administration, which now-a-days is very varied and very far-reaching, and which grows more wide and more exacting every year, I am brought up not every week but every day against the difficulties which hamper our power to serve the nation as thoroughly as we would. That is why I come to your Lordships to-day.
I do not want to exaggerate. We can go on as we are. We shall not perish in the doing of our work. I would rather go on as we are than diminish in any practical or real way the national character or comprehensive activity of the Church of England. We can go on as we are, but we can go on only lamely and hampered and crippled in our work. I apologise for using a figure which I have used more than once, but it seems to me exactly to represent the position. We are like a man called upon to do some important work who has got a broken finger. He is not going to give up his work, but be will not be able to do it so completely or so perfectly as if he had not a broken finger. That is the position in which we find ourselves, and I venture to say that this is the time to help to relieve us of the difficulty. We are bidden to carry 981 a heavy responsibility. We know, or we think we know, how the burden can be lightened with infinite gain to the common life as a whole. We feel that we have a right to claim this aid to carry out what everybody agrees to be our proper work.
I am not going to weary your Lordships with a long string of instances of these difficulties. Some of them are very technical. Some, if I were to quote them, would look mere trifles to those unfamiliar with our work. I have, however, abundant examples in my daily experience. But I want to take the larger things. Take the system of our Ecclesiastical Courts—a most difficult and complicated matter. It was in the year 1881—nearly forty years ago—that a Royal Commission was appointed on Ecclesiastical Courts. I was not a member of it in the technical sense, but I knew all about it and had daily to do with it. It was under the chairmanship, to begin with, of Archbishop Tait, who certainly was not a fanatical ecclesiastical bigot in the sense of trying to run things in what would be called the purely ecclesiastical way. There also sat on the Commission Dr. Stubbs (afterwards Bishop of Oxford), Dr. Westcott (afterwards of Durham), Lord Coleridge (the Lord Chief Justice), Sir Francis Jeune, Lord Penzance, and a great many more leading men. That Commission drew up a scheme for the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts. Within two years of the presenting of the Report—in 1883—attempts were made to legislate about it, but we were told on all sides, "It is impossible; you cannot get it done. It would be a most contentious matter, and the time for it is not to be got." Those attempts did not go forward.
After twenty years there was another Royal Commission. This was a Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline. I was myself a member of it. Lord St. Aldwyn was our chairman. Lord Alverstone, the Lord Chief Justice, was a member, and Sir Edward Clarke was a very prominent member. Other members were Sir L. Dibdin and the then Bishop of Oxford and the present Bishop of Gloucester. There were other members of that Commission. It modified but it renewed the recommendations of the Commission of 1883, and the desire was repeated that we should attempt to get legislative aid for carying out the recommendations. I need not ask your Lordships whether it would be worth while attempting now to get a 982 Bill dealing with the Ecclesiastical Courts readily through the House of Commons. That is one large matter which needs attention most intensely for the right doing of our work.
Take another matter—patronage and the tenure of benefices. There have been evils in that department of our Church's life admitted for very many years. In 1886 Archbishop Benson introduced a Bill upon that subject which was discussed here. It failed to get through the House of Commons, and during ten years seven or eight attempts were made to get that Bill passed. Archbishop Benson died ten years afterwards with the object still unaccomplished. In 1898—two years after his death—the Bill was at last passed through Parliament. We want that Bill amended and improved now. It is twenty years since it passed. Public opinion is with us in asking that it should be amended and improved. There is a higher standard in the whole community as to what patronage is. It is regarded as a trust rather than a property—a higher standard on the part of those who hold out benefices, a greater idea on the part of the public of how men ought to be able to terminate their tenure of the benefice when they are no longer able to do its duties properly. All of these things we want to amend. We want to make the law stronger and better, and every one of your Lordships would be the gainers as citizens of England. But it is almost vain to hope to do it, as things stand.
I am taking one or two examples to show that I am not generalising without knowing my facts. Take the question of ecclesiastical discipline for moral offences. That, again, is a subject which Archbishop Benson tackled with great courage, and in 1886 he introduced a Bill. He went on year after year, and it was not till 1892 that that Bill became law. It was more than twenty years ago, and we want to get it amended now, but the difficulty of amending it is not small, and its proved defects would have to be explained in detail. I wonder what prospect there would be of the House of Commons giving the time for it—or of its even being fairly expected to give the time for it, because a large number of Members of the House of Commons have not the interest in those details of the internal organisation belonging to the Church which, I will not say would justify them, but would make them keen at any 983 rate to give up a great deal of Parliamentary time for it.
There are many other similar matters. There is not one of your Lordships probably who is not aware now in your own neighbourhoods of the poverty which is pressing upon the parish clergy. It is pressing on them for many reasons—the condition of money, and so on. It presses upon them with extraordinary gravity just now because of the problem that surrounds what we call dilapidations, at a time when you cannot build and yet have got to pay, and do all kinds of things. There is no subject on which we more definitely want to get some new legislative provision made, and we are trying to deal with it. Queen Anne's Bounty has the whole thing in hand, and we are trying at present to throw on Queen Anne's Bounty larger responsibilities. But the present Dilapidations Act consists of seventy-three clauses, and we have to amend all that bit by bit if we want to carry the reform through. It needs careful legislation, but what chance have we of that as things stand?
Take another case, quite different—I purposely take them as wide apart as I can—the number of Colonial clergy who are working in England, a kind of subject that does not naturally come before you as one of our difficulties but it comes before me every day. It is an extremely complicated and difficult matter. These are men who are ordained in other circumstances and conditions from our conditions here. I see, looking through the lists, that I am issuing about 170 licences every year to men who are ordained in the Colonies. The number of them in England is enormous. It has to be dealt with, and we have to deal with it under an Act which was passed when these men were a mew handful, and all the conditions laid down belong to a time entirely different from today. The matter needs carefully handling and amending.
On all sides we hear the complaint constantly "Why does not the Church do this? Why does not the Church go ahead? How wooden these ecclesiastics are." It is not true. We are equipped with eager men, lay as well as clerical, who want to help us in all these matters. We have young men ready, to a degree that I have never known before during these many years, to aid us; we have what is called the Cavendish Club, which has already done much to give help 984 in this kind of thing; we have officers coining home from the war hotly keen, many of them, about these things, saying, "What can we do? How can we help? We want this, that, and the other, in which we are ready to take our part, and new rules under which to do it." We have our returned chaplains, simply fretting every day at the thought of the restrictions which they find hampering them in bringing to bear upon the life of England as it is the experience which they have gained abroad. All these things are happening, and we are pulled up by difficulties that I have spoken of.
Then people say, "Why don't you do those things without caring about the exact law; no one is going to stop you; you had better do it, though the law does not allow it." That is a most dangerous piece of counsel to give to those who are bearing charge and responsibility. It is bad in itself. It recoils upon those who have to exercise discipline in other wave if the retort can be made to them. "Are you obeying the law when you ask me to obey it?" and it is a baneful example for other fields than those of the Church's life that we should take the law of the land and encourage people by our example to feel that it does not matter, and that, provided nobody is going to object, we can act without regard to law.
I have stated some of the facts and described some of the conditions. I now come to the question, What do we propose? I do not think, after all the attention that has been called to it, it can be necessary for me to go in detail over the proposals which this Bill embodies, but I may put the story quite shortly. We have for some years—I am saying what is very familiar to many of your Lordships, but not perhaps to all—we have had since the year I became Archbishop (1903) what we call the Representative Church Council, consisting of 712 men—41 Bishops, 279 clergy, and 392 laity. That is to say, it includes the two Houses of Convocation, the Bishops and clergy of North and South who sit in Convocation, and 392 elected laymen. That is the best representative body that we can fashion, and we have it at present at work. That Committee passed in 1913, the year before the war, a resolution stating that—There is in principle no inconsistency between a national recognition of religion and the spiritual independence of the Church, and this Council requests the Archbishops of Canterbury and York 985 to consider the advisability of appointing a Committee to inquire what changes are advisable in order to secure in the relations of Church and State a fuller expression of the spiritual independence of the Church, as well as of the national recognition of religion.That request we complied with, and some months later, after a great deal of care, an exceedingly strong Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of the noble Earl opposite, Lord Selborne, with Mr. Arthur Balfour, Sir William Anson (who died in the course of the proceedings, to our great loss, but who had given much attention to the matter); the present Bishops of Oxford and Liverpool (no one took more anxious care about the matter than the Bishop of Liverpool); Sir Lewis Dibdin, the Master of Balliol, Lord Hugh Cecil, Sir Robert Williams and many other men, including two working men, Mr. Mansbridge and Mr. Kemp. I think it would be difficult to find a Committee more representative of the Church in all its varieties of thought and experience than that Committee was.
I mention this now because it has sometimes been said that these things ought to be looked into by a Royal Commission, and I want to point out how careful that body was. It sat for a very long time. It was appointed in 1914, and it did not report till July; 1916, and the reason is evident. They had taken enormous pains to go into this matter thoroughly, and the Report which they published is a volume of 300 pages, which was signed unanimously, though there were some reservations on points of detail. That has formed the basis of the action which we are now taking. The proposals they made included something like what we are now doing. Their Report has been endorsed since then quite continuously and in all kinds of varied assemblies. People have said, "Here is the very thing we want; let us go forward and get that into line." The final plan which has emerged after these various tests is the outcome of this Representative Church Council which at present has no statutory authority. It considered the plan most carefully, and appointed a grand committee of its own of about sixty in number, I think, to go into the matter, to modify the scheme, and to bring it back to the Council. The Council sat day after day considering the whole thing in detail, and came to a practically unanimous recommendation in favour of what we now propose. It is impossible to imagine under 986 our existing system anything more completely representative than the endorsement we have obtained for that proposal. The proposal is embodied in the Bill, and in the White Paper which has been circulated to your Lordships and which describes in detail what is proposed.
I am not going into the details of the working out of that plan. The idea, of course, is a reconstituted Representative Church Council, rather more lay than before, because the clerical element may be changed somewhat in Convocation. Of that body there will be a Legislative Committee, consisting of its best men—lay probably preponderating—to consider any proposals for legislation, and it is intended that they themselves shall, when they have the proposal before them, not deal with it officially but bring it before the notice of a body which this Bill proposes to constitute—that is to say, an Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council; not a handful of experts but a large body, and not solely a Church body. I. should hope to see the noble and learned Viscount (Lord Haldane), who is going to follow me in this debate, an active member of it. That Committee would consider any legislative proposal which the Representative Church Council desired, and discuss and consider whether or no it seemed to them something which ought to be allowed to go forward. Then it will be for them to make a recommendation about it, and to have it—if the prescribed course is followed—laid before Parliament, either House having the right to veto the proposal. The Church would say what it wants, the Privy Council Committee would consider it, Parliament would have it before it to veto if it desired, and would not have to go through it in the kind of detail which I have shown your Lordships to be practically impossible for the things we want to-day. Surely a Privy Council Committee appointed in that way and with that force may be trusted to watch carefully the issues which depend upon our action as to the matters, which will thus be presented to it. We should have our hands free to do what the Church, and, I believe, the people behind the Church, want us to do.
It has been sometimes said that this proposal has been scrambled through jus now—I notice that it was said the other day by some one important—partly because our soldiers were out of England; 987 that had they been in England it would not have been done. Let me assure your Lordships that there is no set of men who bombard me more constantly to see these things put forward than our soldiers. It was my privilege to visit the five Armies in the field and to have conferences not with the chaplains only but with our leading officers, and if there was one subject which was again and again pressed upon me it was to get a Bill like this through, to get the thing done somehow. When it is said that this is being done because our soldiers are out of England, I would put it the other wav, and say that had these men been in England we should have been able to do it before now. Anyhow, that is our scheme.
May I call your Lordships' attention to the fact that Parliamentary power, without the intervention at all of this Bill, remains exactly what it Was? We are not taking away from Parliament any power which it at present possesses. By all means let Parliament use that power if it will and if it can. But if you will not let us have this alternative mode of doing it, you must tell us why. I shall want to understand why, and to see what are the difficulties which seem to render it undesirable or impossible. The Bill, of course creates new procedure where the present procedure is in theory there but is in practice unobtainable or unworkable. Let us be frank about it. The new scheme admits that matters of internal Church organisation should be, or might be, dealt with by a different process in some way from other legislation. But that is not a new thought. That has always been so. I invite your Lordships to look into the matter and you will see the lucid memorandum by Sir Lewis Dibdin on the whole of legislation in England on Church matters, and you will notice how he says that it has always been substantially recognised, notiwthstanding many inconsistent exceptions, that in questions of this sort the voice of the Church itself must be heard, and that no form of Establishment can without positive absurdity leave the State to arrange liturgies and articles of faith for the spiritual society. You will find the passage in the Report of the Committee to which I have referred.
I do not know whether your Lordships remember what happened when our Prayer Book took its final form. It was at the time of the Restoration, in 1662, when Parliament met to consider suggestions 988 about the Prayer Book as it virtually stands to-day. When the matter came before the House of Commons, after Convocation had considered it and made its recommendation—it was a House of Commons with an immense Puritan membership, although they belonged to the Church in a sense—what did the House do? They said they declined to discuss these things in detail although they asserted their right to do so. Here is their Resolution—The House voted that debate should not be admitted to the Amendments made by the Convocation in the Book of Common Prayer and sent down by the Lords to this House, at the same time voting unanimously that these Amendments might by order of the House have been debated if they so desired.That is precisely the action which it seems to me we want to take to-day. Parliament retains its right not only in theroy but in practice. But it is admitted that there are groups of subjects on which Churchmen as such must have a voice and do the thing in their way if it is to be done properly.
Objections to what we propose have been raised from a good many quarters. I can group them, or at least I will try to do so. There is, first, the body of non-Churchmen who say, "We object to an Established Church. We will disestablish you if you like, but we will not have anything to do with a plan like this." Yet, if I see the matter truly, what we want is a means of doing practically what in present conditions we can do theoretically. In theory Parliament can give its time to ecclesiastical legislation, but practically we cannot get even the most necessary things done. I do not believe that there is any strong body of my Nonconformist friends—men whom I honour and respect and work with and welcome in a thousand ways and over a thousand matters, spiritual and religious as well as civic and social—who really mean to say to us with respect to matters of this kind, "If you retain the Establishment we intend that you shall retain it in as burdensome and as difficult a form as we can." I do not believe they will say that at all when it is so put to them.
Your Lordships may remember a discussion many years ago in connection with one of the Bills to which I have referred, a Clergy Discipline Bill, in the House of Commons, when Mr. Gladstone poured forth the wealth of his eloquence against the attitude that could be taken by 989 Nonconformists as regards hampering in any way the power of the Church to mend its own internal arrangements. He said—Broadly, I must join issue with my hon. friend upon the question whether, because I approve of Disestablishment, I am therefore to be justified in saying that I will absolutely refuse to cure any defect or to remove any scandal in a Church which I think ought, to be disestablished.That is not a position which I believe for a moment will be taken up, or is taken up, by those friends to whom one refers. Yet sometimes their words or their actions would seem to imply that it was so. There is another group composed of some of our most prominent Nonconformists who have taken exactly the opposite line. Let me read these words which appeared in the Free Church Chronicle a little while ago—I invite for this proposal generous and sympathetic consideration of Free Churchmen. The last attitude that we should take up would be to adopt a dog-in-the-manger policy. Our historic fidelity to the principle of spiritual independence should make us welcome the desire of the Established Church to secure it, provided that the interests and responsibilities of the nation are fully secured through Parliament.These are the words of Dr. Scott Lidgett, one of the most prominent of English Nonconformists to-day. He uses words which go further than anything we propose in the Bill. He speaks of "spiritual independence." Although there is an increased power of doing our work better, I am by no means anxious to suggest that it is freeing us from State control in its proper place. It does not do so.
There is another group of objectors belonging to what I may call the opposite side. These, in their keenness for the idea of a National Church, are afraid that our proposal may deprive the Church of that character and make it what they call a "mere sect." My sympathies are all with that idea as to the national side of our Church's life. My whole life and work has been for the assertion of that principle in order to emphasise the comprehensive character and the large inclusiveness of the Church in its life. But when we have said all that, we must be practical, and, I was going to say, not pedantic. We do ask that those who, in our internal Church matters, are to elect representative members on the Church body as such shall declare their membership in the body for which they are to chose representatives. To contend that that body, or those appointing the representatives on it, should include those who protest 990 against our whole constitution and the whole character of the system is surely, to use a phrase I have ventured to employ, rather pedantic.
But I want to be quite clear. We do not deprive any Nonconformist of any right of an obvious sort that he has at present. A Non conformist can still be elected churchwarden when the Bill becomes law. He will be fully eligible as Member of Parliament, Nonconformist though he is. He will have all the rights that a Member of Parliament has to-day, with the exception that there is an alternative plan of getting our legislation. We welcome the influence of our Nonconformist friends in every way on the State side of things—that is to say, in any Privy Council body that is spoken of, in Parliament and elsewhere. The noble Viscount who is going to move a Resolution has couched it in these words—That this House is unwilling, especially in the absence of independent inquiry, to assent to legislation which would exclude the greater part of the people of England front effective influence in the affairs of the National Church as established by the Constitution.What is the influence of which we deprive them? And how? I maintain that the influence will go on exactly as it, is now. If it is said you are making it difficult to get legislation on Church questions handled in Parliament on their motion, they cannot do it even now for the reasons to which I have referred. Parliament's time is taken up. The subject does not come up. They are not being deprived of anything they can do now unless it be the power to block, and even that I am not prepared to say they are deprived of altogether by this Bill. I do not agree that "the greater part of the people of England" is deprived of effective influence. Of what are they deprived? What is taken from them? The exclusion would be from something which, so far as I can see, they eat not at present do. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will deal with that matter when he addresses your Lordships.
There is another group—those who say that this proposal is not really supported by the Church as a whole; that it is the fad of an ecclesiastical clique, of men who belong to one school, men of an extreme sort, who are trying to run our religious life on particular Church lines, and who are in short what the critic would probably call faddists. I would ask those who say this to read again the list 991 of men who are supporting this measure and of those who initiated it. One of the most prominent is my right rev. brother—I do not see him here now—the Bishop of Liverpool, whom we regard as foremost in all that concerns the Church's life. He is one of its most eloquent advocates and helpful workers and an unswerving upholder of the Protestant side of the Church of England and its life. Who is the most cogent among the lay spokesmen? Sir Edward Clarke. He is again one of the leaders of all that is anti-High Church, and on the positive side of all that is Protestant in the Church of England in the most marked way. The Bishop of Chelmsford and the Bishop of Peterborough are among the younger and the more recently appointed Bishops who are keen on the matter.
When we turn to those who are promoting this Bill in Parliament, we look at the House of Commons and find that the Chairman is Sir Robert Williams, the Treasurer of the Church Missionary Society. Is it not really unreasonable and almost trifling to say that this is the work of a set of ecclesiastical faddists under the domination of a particular school? I do not wish to be personal, but I find it rather odd and unwonted myself to be supposed to be the spokesman or the catspaw of a set of men who belong to a particular school of that narrow type. If you look at the facts I think that that objection passes away. If it be said that there is no support outside, what would you look for? Where would you expect to find it? Turn to any-representative assembly, big or little, and yon will find, if they have voted on it at all, they have voted for the measure. The representative bodies, diocesan or local, have done the same. Of course there have been little groups, parish vestries and the like, who have passed resolutions of no central importance, but I am taking the representative bodies. I have no doubt that my right rev. brothers will be able to tell us of dioceses that have passed almost unanimous recommendations in favour of the Bill. All four Convocation bodies have done so, and the Representative Church Council has again and again. We have no body of collective Church opinion in this country that has not given an enthusiastic endorsement to the Bill.
There is one more point of objection—that more inquiry is wanted first. Inquiry into what? Are the facts not patent? 992 Are there really matters which require investigation now? I find it difficult to understand on what investigation is wanted. Inquiry by whom? Shall we get better men to inquire into it than we have had? These men had Nonconformist aid; they got Non conformist counsel and opinion, and some of the proposals they are making in their Report itself contains statements which emanate not from Churchmen. May I add one word? Last week it was my high privilege to spend in Edinburgh. I was there at the great debates of the Established Church and the United Free Church, when the great questions were considered of their national union and their declaration as to the relations between Church and State. I know and emphasise the fact that the history, the conditions, and the characteristics, of my native country and England are different. Their story is different, the facts are different; but no one can read what took place in Scotland last week without feeling its bearing on what we are doing here today, and find out how thoughtful men of the best type see the absolute need, if a Church is to be strong and vigorous, for the Church, qua Church, to be able to say what it can do as a church.
You have our plan. If you cannot or are unwilling to help us, we must go on and do our part. The attempt is worth making. We desire to serve the nation much better than we serve it at this moment. We shall not do it better by being disestablished; of that I am absolutely convinced. I believe the loss to the nation would be immeasurable; we should not be able to do our work and in years to come our children would rise up and say, "What were you about to sever a link which was of such incomparable value to the nation, and which mattered so much to the well-being of the people?" I would rather go on as we are if disestablishment was the only alternative; not so much from the Church's point of view, but for the nation's sake.
I do not believe we shall be driven to that issue. I believe that your Lordships will help us, and that the House of Commons will help us. I have said my say. I am afraid I have been rather long, but it is difficult to speak quite freely on these matters because behind and below what one says here as a Bishop is the sense of a higher sanction, a more sacred character belonging to our trust as ecclesiastics and 993 as Churchmen. That subject is not for discussion here, and I must not be led into topics for which other places would be the proper quarter. What we want to do is to help the lives, the homes, the needs, the sorrows of the English people in the best and deepest way. That is a matter quite literally of life and death to us to do. And so I end as I began, by asking you to help us to do that work better, and I venture to hope and believe that you will.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move to resolve—
§ "That this House is unwilling, especially in the absence of independent inquiry, to assent to legislation which would exclude the greater part of the people of England from effective influence in the affairs of the National Church as established by the Constitution, and which is so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws that may wholly change its character without adequate supervision by Parliament."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it is with regret that is unfeigned that I rise to offer an opposition, which so far as I am concerned must be uncompromising, to the proposals which have been put forward by the most rev. Primate. That regret is greater because I have the honour and privilege of possessing his friendship. I have known him intimately now for several years, and each year has brought more and more admiration for the sincerity of his character and the integrity of his purpose. The very moderation of his speech to-day adds to my regret, and the solemn words with which he concluded his speech impose on me a great sense of responsibility.
§ The most rev. Primate has appealed to us to deliver the Church from its difficulties—difficulties in the way of its administration of its domestic concerns. If that were all, the most rev. Primate would find few outside the Church of England more ready to give every help in his power than I myself. If this Bill had asked for legitimate facilities for passing through legislative proposals—facilities from Parliament which may have enabled them to be passed quickly and easier—I should have been here not to 994 oppose it but to support it. The Bill does not ask for that. It could not ask for that, for it is based upon the theory and doctrine, of which there were some traces even in the speech of the most rev. Primate, that it was no title of Parliament, and wrong on the part of Parliament, to interfere in the slightest fashion with the affairs of the Church. Even this Bill for which of course the Church must come to Parliament, is merely a makeshift Bill to enable the Church to get clear of Parliament.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I do not think the noble Viscount will find I said that. On the contrary, I tried to make it clear—I am afraid I must have failed—that practically every right which Parliament possesses now it would possess afterwards.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Possibly I was led too far by a passage in the Report of the Archbishop's Committee, which I will quote presently. What I had in my mind was a sentence or two just before the end of his speech in which he spoke of its being for the Church and not for Parliament to make the domestic legislative changes to which he alluded. I may have been wrong, and if so I am sorry that I have misinterpreted the most rev. Primate. But when I come to quote from the Report of the Archbishop's Committee, and from the provisions of the Bill, I think I shall be able to demonstrate point by point and step by step that I have not exaggerated by a single sentence.
The most rev. Primate has put this forward as a Bill asking for deliverance from domestic difficulties; one which would give the Church greater power of regulating its own affairs. That is a principle to which I have no objection, and I will show him later on how it might have been done, but that it has not been done by this Bill. I cannot help thinking that in putting forward something very much wider than what I have described the most rev. Primate has been giving the rein to a party in the Church who want something very much larger than the view which he has presented in connection with this Bill, a view which falls short of what the Bill itself contains, because I think before I am done I shall be able to show that this Bill goes far beyond what the most rev. Primate has contended.
The most rev. Primate has been associated with a body of idealists in this 995 matter. For idealism I have every respect—it is the very breath of life in our times, and to its energies have been due most of the great movements of this period and of all periods in the past—but idealism has always to be watched, because the very enthusiasm of its advocates has a tendency to make them pass easily to imposing their own ideals upon other people contrary to those other people's wishes, and so to imposing restrictions upon spiritual liberties. There is no man of the laity who has shown greater earnestness and devotion to this cause of rendering the Church service and putting the Church in a better position than the noble Earl (Lord Selborne) who sits near me, and with whose name I might couple that of his brilliant son. They have worked with a devotion which should receive all praise and honour at our hands, hut they have put forward their proposition in a fashion which goes much beyond what seems to some of us to be admissible. The attempt which the Bill of the Committee over which the noble Earl presided recommends is in effect to get that freedom which is claimed for the Church with a magnitude of sweep and to an extent for which a price must necessarily be paid, and vet the Report of the Committee does not indicate that the Committee is willing to pay that price.
If the most rev. Primate were dealing only with what I call the minor alternative of domestic reform within the Church itself, I should think he was right in suggesting that no question of Disestablishment arises, but before I sit down I shall show that this Bill, and the doctrines with which the noble Earl has particularly associated himself, are doctrines which lead directly towards Disestablishment, for they seek to narrow the basis on which the National Church of to-day rests and to withdraw from the power and authority of the Episcopacy—I lay great stress upon this word—the restraint which Parliament has for centuries imposed upon them. When I come to the matter, I will deal with the safeguards to which the most rev. Primate has alluded. I do not think they are real safeguards. If this Bill were passed the government of the Church would pass from a democratic to an aristocratic basis, only the aristocracy would be an Episcopal aristocracy; and there is claimed for it in this Bill powers such as I think your Lordships have not yet realised and could not have realised from the speech of the most rev. Primate.
996 The most rev. Primate spoke of the better days of the past, the days in which Parliament and the Church were more nearly at one, because nearly all the members of Parliament were Churchmen. He spoke of the good old times before the Victorian Era, and of the long list of Ecclesiastical Statutes which passed so easily through Parliament at that time. But what were those Church's Statutes, such as the grace and favour of Lord Eldon chose to allow to pass? They were Statutes which represented the time when no doubt there was very little controversy in the Church, only because the Church was turgid and sluggish. With the Victorian Era there came an era when you could not pass legislation with the same ease, because the Church was riven by this Tractarian movement from top to bottom and split into three sections, broad, high, and low, which could not agree upon measures which were to be got through Parliament. If there has been delay in passing Church measures through Parliament no doubt it is due to some extent to the block of Parliamentary business, but mainly and primarily it is due to dissensions within the Church itself, which have arisen from the fact that the Church came into a period of life and controversy which was not that of the days to which the most rev. Primate has alluded as the fruitful days of its history.
The question which is the most serious one for us is what attitude we are to adopt towards this Bill, and that is a question which cannot be answered until the character of the Bill has been made plain. I have received many letters from different parts of the country, and numbers of them ask me why I, who am not even a Churchman, should concern myself about Church affairs, and why I should not leave Churchmen to manage their own affairs. I will answer that question. It is because I am a member of Parliament with a duty to guard vigilantly the liberties of others, and it is because I think that those liberties are seriously menaced by this Bill, that I interfere. I approach this question not as a theologian—I am not a theologian competent to cross swords with the right rev. Prelates opposite—but as one whose duty it has been for forty years past and more to be immersed in the laws of the country, and it is as a constitutional lawyer that I have to make my criticism of the arguments put forward by the head of the Church.
Let us consider what it is that we are attempting. We are endeavouring to put 997 into another shape an ancient fabric. It is very dangerous to deal with ancient fabrics, particularly if you are going to tamper with their foundations, and it is with the foundations of that fabric that this Bill deals, because I think I can show that, little as he desires it, if the most rev. Primate had his way and this Bill became law with his name inscribed on the back of it, he would have signed the death warrant of the principle of Establishment in this country. I have spent a considerable amount of time in considering what this Bill really does, and I have put down in two or three sentences what it amounts to—not what the most rev. Primate argued that it amounted to, but what it amounts to in my eves as a constitutional lawyer. Its effect is to take the effective control of the Church of the nation out of the hands of the nation at large.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I will prove that before I sit down. Of course, I am not asking the noble Marquess to admit it, but before I have done the noble Marquess will have plenty of points to deal with in that connection. With control in the hands of an assembly that believes in the superiority of the prelatical government of the Church to its government by the people at large, the result of the Bill will be to render that Church no longer the Church of the entire English nation but the Church of a denomination of earnest-minded believers in their own creed, to whom are to be handed over the titles and authority of the Church as to-day established by law. I trust that I am not narrow-minded. I always admire the fervour of conviction. I admire it when it leads men, as it led the great pioneers of religious liberty in the past, to take up staff and wallet and go forth into the wilderness for their faith. But I admire that energy and conviction much less when it leads to the more comfortable resolution to stay at home, to occupy the whole of the building, and to bid others go forth of the building because they cannot remain there consistently with the views which they conscientiously hold.
I will pass to the reasons for which I say that is so, but before I do so I wish to say again that I am far from wanting in sympathy with what I call the minor purpose which might have been, as distinguished from the greater purpose which is—the minor purpose of redressing the 998 evils that there are within the Church. I speak not without practical experience of this matter, because for nearly three years I occupied the Woolsack, and while holding the Great Seal I had to dispose of an enormous mass of patronage, consisting in the main of small livings which had to be filled all over the country. I felt the task a great responsibility, but it gave me the keenest interest, and there were many things that I learned in the course of those duties. One was the immense value in a parish of a really highminded and spiritually-minded incumbent—if you have a man who is ready to be open-mindedly the leader of the people among whom he lives, to guide them and help them with spiritual counsel, to minister to them, yes, and also to look after their affairs, to work for social reform and to stimulate them to all that is good; especially if he has with him a good wife to aid him, he is the most important person in the parish. But I encountered a very great difficulty in filling these livings. Many of them were miserably poor. I think in the majority of them the living wage—the stipend—to be paid to the incumbent was less than is to-day demanded by his parish schoolmaster. That I regard as a great evil and a great scandal.
But that was not all. There were evils in the occupation of those livings in parishes where there was sometimes no other forms of worship, because the village was perhaps too small and too poor to maintain a Nonconformist chapel. There were those who were unworthy cumberers of the soil, men who, entrenched in the freehold of those benefices, could not be moved from them. I saw and had frequent conference with the Bishops who were doing all in their power to render that state of things better, but were armed with powers altogether insufficient for the purpose. The overwork in consequence put upon the Bishops was immense, and yet it was difficult as the law stood to make such arrangements as would give any relief. But matters did not stop there. There was vet mere in the evidence of an unhallowed traffic in livings. Simony, when it was not committed, was approached. I have even known rival organisations of the High and Low Church parties sailing together in competition close to the law in order to buy in advance the right of presentation to a living. They did it, and naturally the laity did it. The result was that there, again, we have a branch of the law which has to be con 999 sidered carefully and to be dealt with. That certainly is a matter which needs looking into, and I would face the question of looking into that and remedying it and giving a means of quick dealing with it. But is that what the Bill aims at?
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
It aims at that by the way, but it aims at something very much more. It aims at taking an ell when we are willing to give it an inch. I hold here in my hand a very valuable document. It is a book containing the report of the Archbishop's Committee—the Report on Church and State, of which I thick Lord Selbourne was Chairman, It is a very valuable Report. It is very well written. It is full of learning, and the only criticism that I have upon it is that it begins by assuming the premises and ends by drawing a conclusion which is perfectly logical granted those premises, but not logical otherwise.
If those of your Lordships who have the book will turn to it you will see how very different is the task to which the Committee set itself from the task of which we have heard so much to-day—what I have called the minor reforms which the Church wants. If your Lordships will look first at page 7 of the Report you will find a reference to the Committee set out. It is defined in these terms—That there is in principle no inconsistency between a national recognition of religion and the spiritual independence of the Church, and this Council requests the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to consider the advisability of appointing a committee to inquire what changes are advisable in order to secure in the relations of Church and State a fuller expression of the spiritual independence of the Church as well as of the national recognition of religion.That is quite consistent with what was told us by the most rev. Primate. If your Lordships will turn to page 39, the next instructive page of the Report, you will find that when the Committee, which consisted of a number of able and distinguished men, had set to work doubts arose; indeed, some members of the Committee said that they thought Disestablishment would prove to be the only way of securing spiritual independence to the Church. "Others," says the Report, "attach great value to the principle of Establishment, and have never believed that the conditions to be derived from the provisions of a Disestablishment Act would in fact prove an 1000 adequate compensation for the severance of the historic connection between the Church and State. "We have the names of the distinguished men who sat on that Committee. But we do not know what the distinguished minority was, or what was the number or the eminence of those who dissented; yet we do know that when this very able Committee set to work there was a division of opinion, and that racy had to record that some of their members thought the remedy proposed by this Bill was not one which could be attained except on the footing of Disestablishment. I would point out that there were some reasons for the entertaining of that doubt.
The next reference that I want to make is on page 62. Here we have the conclusion to which the Committee came. I ask the most rev. Primate's attention to the words that I am going to read as hearing very closely on what he said. About the preservation of the supremacy of Parliament they said, of course, that there should be a Bill to give effect to the Constitution. There is no other way. "But Parliament," they go on, "would not constitute the body directly or indirectly." That is the new Constitution of the Church and the new Assembly of the Church. "It would only recognise it when constituted. This seems to us both in principle and practically the proper attitude for Parliament to adopt towards the Church Council. The State has the fullest right to give or not to give its recognition and approval to the institutions that the Church may set up. But it has not the right to impose a government upon the Church, nor even to share with the Church the task of building up such a government, and, as we have pointed out, the interference of the State beyond its proper sphere is not only theoretically objectionable but practically inconvenient both to Church and. State "That is high doctrine. That is not the doctrine of the most rev. Primate, as I understood his speech, but it is the doctrine of the Bill—and the Bill expressed in language which to a lawyer is unmistakable.
Before I turn to the Bill itself, in order to make these points good I wish to allude for a very brief period to the nature of the Church. The most rev. Primate spoke of the Church, and he said that he could not admit that Church and State were conterminous, were one organisation. By that I understood him to suggest that the Church of England was something different from 1001 the State in England, and in one sense, of course, I entirely agree with him. I have never permitted myself to hold the view that there has not been continuity in the life of the Church. I have never likened the Church in my mind to a statutory corporation exclusively created by Act of Parliament which had set it up. That would be an altogether wrong and inadequate and improper view of the Church of England. But this is true, and your Lordships will see in a moment why it is true.
It is very difficult to define the Church until you resort to the historical method. But what does the historical method tell you when you apply it to the Church of England? Originally State and Church were very different. In the time of Marcus Aurelius the Christians were a small minority. They certainly were not the State. In the time of the Byzantine Empire, Church and State in that Eastern Empire had become so closely interwoven that they were practically one. Then nations began to develop, and among them there evolved itself the English nation. And in the case of the English nation for a time all went smoothly, but as the principle of nationality became stronger and stronger, as the Sovereigns began to find their feet, they claimed to rule over their own nations. And at once—although it is quite true, as the most rev. Primate has said, that laymen and Churchmen were not divided, that the members of the Great Council those days were Churchmen—it also became true that a sharp conflict arose between Church and Stale in the shape of the Bishop of Rome and his rivals the Kings of England. That controversy became so acute that at last the Church became a national institution as distinguished from a fragment of the Great Catholic Church, and a national institution which, although it derived its existence from the larger organisation of Rome, presently was put under the statutory restrictions of the laws of England, which prevented the Church from exercising jurisdiction in any way which should be inconsistent with the absolute rule of Sovereigns. That view was not a view taken merely by the King. It was a view taken, and taken very strongly by Parliament itself.
I will not trouble your Lordships by going into this in detail, but there are just two doctrines that I should like to refer to. The first is the Statute of Provisors, 1002 which was passed in 1351, in the twenty-third year of Edward III, its purpose being to restrain interference on the part of the Pope of Rome as head, or claiming to be head, of the Church. And this was what the Earls and Barons of those days said in the Preamble to the Statute of Provisors—Whereas the Holy Church of England was founded in the estate of Prelacy within the Realm of England by Edward I and his progenitors, and the Earls, Barons, and other nobles of his said Realm and their ancestors, to inform them and the people of the law of God, and to make hospitalities, alms, and other works of charity in the places where the churches were founded, for the souls of the founders, their heirs, and all Christians—And so it goes on; I have given the material words. Two centuries after, that doctrine—a doctrine, you see, that the real ruler was not the Bishop of Rome, who was wholly excluded, nor any other spiritual head, but the King in Parliament—was repeated in the thirty-nine Articles themselves. They begin, as your Lordships know, by recognition of the King as the Supreme Governor of the Church, to conserve it in the bonds of peace and to avoid unnecessary disputatious, and to prevent them from being raised; and then comes the most important Article, Article 37, the one which deals with Church government. The substance of it is—The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, unto whom the chief government of all Estates of the Realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all cases doth appertain.The Sovereign then claims, with the assent of the Church—the prerogative given always to all godly princes in Holy Scripture by God Himself that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal.A more distinct affirmation of the relation of Church and State it would be difficult to find. They are conterminous, the rule is conterminous. The rule of Sovereign, the rule of Parliament, extend as far as the rule of the Church. They are not to be distinguished or differentiated, and that was the condition under which the ecclesiastical power was transmitted within the Church of England.
The Church of England in that way was, what it was intended to be, a Church in which the entire nation might be embraced. Comprehensiveness was the breath of its nostrils. Unless a man were an evil liver, or 1003 unless he was one of the class of heretics who were struck at by Statute, he was free to pursue religion in his own fashion, and the clergy were left extremely free. And when a departure was made from that, as afterward became the case, what were the results of the Act of Uniformity in 1662? That was an Act which sought to enforce the jurisdiction of the Episcopacy. It laid stress on their having the sole power over Orders. In other words, it struck at the liberty to which the people within the Church of England, clergy and laity alike, had been accustomed. What was the consequence? A revolution. From 800 to 2,000 incumbents left their benefices (the number has never been exactly ascertained), and the direct consequence, after two centuries of that legislation, was that the Church in Wales, as soon as Parliament, a long time later, was sufficiently reformed to let itself freely express itself, freely tore itself away from the Church of England and pronounced for Disestabilshment. That ought to be a warning to us.
In the parishes the same principle obtained. In every parish the State assumed the cure of souls, the patronage was in the hands of laymen, the power of the Bishops to interfere was strictly regulated. It was not that Parliament, as it would do in the case of a joint stock company, declared the entire constitution of the Church. It did not do that. It. said, "The Episcopacy is to govern, but to govern within carefully defined limits and subject to the supervision of Parliament." That applied to the canon law as well as to the other law, and the Court of the land had jurisdiction to prohibit the Church Courts if they overstepped the limits which the State had permitted. The father of the noble Earl who sits there, one of the most distinguished lawyers who ever occupied the Woolsack, presided at the great judgment of this House in 1881 in Maconochie against Lord Penzance, in which it was laid down in the learned judgment that the canon law was part of the law of the land administered by a Court which was the King's Court, and consequently the King's Bench had jurisdiction to prohibit the Church Courts if they exceeded the functions which the State permitted to them. These things are of vital importance in understanding what is the subject-matter with which we are asked to deal in altering the constitution of the Established Church.
I must say a word, particularly as the most rev. Primate has alluded to it, about 1004 the position of the Church Courts. There has been nothing to which more violent exception has been taken by High Churchmen than the work of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as the ultimate Court of Appeal set up by the State, in revising the judgments of the Ecclesiastical Courts. The objection is not to the Judicial Committee really, but to the State exercising any control at all over the doctrine of the Bishops. It is an objection taken to any restraint being imposed by Statute upon the powers of an Episcopacy. I venture to say to your Lordships that it has been very fortunate for the Church of England that the Judicial Committee has existed and exercised that jurisdiction. I speak not with any particular attachment of it, as is my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor, and I think that both of us hope we shall never be called upon to sit and decide any ecclesiastical case.
Where would the Church of England have been but for the Judicial Committee? Some years ago Mr. Gorham would have been turned out because the Bishop of Exeter held a very stringent High Church view of Baptismal regeneration which he would not receive. The High Court upheld the Bishop, but the Judicial Committee reversed that judgment, saying that to hold the strict technical view of Baptismal regeneration on which the Bishop was insisting was a thing not enjoined by the Church of England nor permitted by the law. But for that judgment the Evangelicals would have been turned out of the Church. I have spoken of the Evangelicals. What came next? In Williams v. The Marquis of Salisbury it was laid down that it was not contrary to the law pre[...] cribed by the State that there might be hope of sinners escaping eternal punishment. That was decided, and there was a great outcry. But what was saved? You would have driven out men like Stanley and Jowett and the broad Churchmen of that day from the Church if you had allowed the narrow view which was sought to be established to prevail. In that way the broad Church was saved.
I come now to the High Church. In a succession of judgments of which Sheppard v. Bennett is typical, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council laid down for the benefit of High Churchmen what they might do and what they might not do in the shape of vestments and gestures, and 1005 thereby prescribed for the High Church party the limits within which they might move. If that decision had not saved the situation, the High Church party would have been forced out of the Church in large numbers. There you have it. The Courts of the State saved each great party in the Church in succession and made it possible for people to live under the broad roof, which was so defined, in peace and amity. I am aware that if you broaden your roof all sorts of people come under it. It is one of the drawbacks of an Establishment that you cannot have any very fervid doctrine prevailing exclusively within it; you must make room for people of all opinions; and it is of the essence of the constitution of the Church of England that it should consist of people of large latitude of opinion. In the parishes the clergyman ministers to every one who is not an evil, liver, who claims his ministrations. He baptises them, he marries them, and he buries them; they have the right to go to the church to the services and to be in the vestry. All these things will cease to be a certainty if this Bill passes; there is not one of these rights which it does not threaten.
That is not all. The Church of England and the Christian Church generally owes much to a type of mind which has risen up and fought alongside of it, and at times even within its ranks. In the mid-Victorian period those who know what the character of the thought of that time was are aware that there was a great wave of materialism, amongst other things. Who fought that? Not the Church. The Church was not qualified to fight it, though it did its best. The hero of the combat was, perhaps, more than any other a son of Oxford—one of the most spiritually-minded and powerfully-minded sons of Oxford since the days of John Henry Newman—I mean Professor Thomas Green. Green was a man of exceedingly sensitive conscience. It was difficult for him to remain in the Church. You have only to turn to his two great sermons, one on Faith and the other on the Witness of God, to understand what I say. But he did remain, because of the largeness of the Church and of the way in which the constitution given to it by the State kept it open for all. He was prepared to look reverently at the symbols held out, although they could not be taken by his intellect as adequate representations of supreme truth. Green would have been 1006 driven forth if he had belonged to a Church more narrow.
I will quote another name, this time of one whom all your Lordships knew—the late Lord Courtney of Penwith. He wrote a book called "The Diary of a Churchgoer," which remained anonymous for years, but which after his death was republished with a preface by the preacher whose ministrations he loved—the present Dean of Exeter, who was then the preacher at Lincoln's Inn. In that book Lord Courtney recalls the way in which, by balance of conviction, he came to think that it was legitimate for him to remain within the Church of England as constituted by law to-day, and that he could do so without betraying any trust. Lord Courtney is one of those men who, as I shall show in a moment, if this Bill had passed could not have felt it legitimate to remain within walls which had been narrowed and which imposed a view of things which he could not conscientiously hold.
After all, one has to look at this Bill closely and carefully to see what it does. The first thing that will be observed is that it is a very remarkable Bill indeed. It is not like any other Bill I have seen. At first I did not understand the reason for it, but I do now. It is not a Bill which says that Parliament proposes to set up a new constitution for the Church with a National Assembly for the Church. On the contrary, what it says is this. Take the wording of the Bill itself in a matter of so much importance. It is—An Act to confer powers on the National Assembly of the Church of England constituted in accordance with the constitution attached as an Appendix to the Addresses presented to His Majesty by the Convocations of Canterbury and York on the 10th day of May, 1919.We would expect to see, when Parliament was going to enact that constitution, that it would be set out in an Appendix to the Bill. But nothing of the kind. It is not there, and you are referred to a Paper laid on the Table of Parliament containing the Report of Convocation and the constitution set out in it. Why is that? It is done of set purpose. It is done as the outcome of doctrine.
I again turn to this most interesting Report of the Archbishop's Committee—this most able and unflinching document, a document which I hope all your Lordships will look at between now and the Division 1007 on the Second Reading of the Bill. They admit that in any case the Bill must enact the machinery for which the consent of the State is to be given to Church legislation. On page 61 it says—It (the Bill) might also contain in a schedule the constitution of the Church Council and its legislative procedure—"might" contain—But this would be objectionable both on theoretical and on practical grounds. For it would mean that the constitution of the Church would be fixed by Parliament; and though Parliament might use its opportunity of framing a Church constitution very sparingly, or might even acquiesce silently in whatever scheme was propounded by the authorities of the Church, it might on the other hand make important modifications in the constitution which could only be rejected by the Church at the price of wrecking the whole scheme, and might under this pressure be accepted by the Church. But such acceptance would be a sacrifice of spiritual independence indefensible and offensive to the sentiments of Churchmen.I have described what the Church of England is under the law and Constitution, and I ask your Lordships whether these words are not rank treason to the doctrine of that Constitution. Of course, you may alter it and amend it, but to withdraw it from the cognisance of Parliament on the ground that it is wrong that Parliament should have that cognisance is not a doctrine consistent with our history or with the standard which I think obtains in the minds of the great majority of people to-day.
I pass to the next point. The National Assembly consists of three Houses. There is the House of Bishops, who are to be the Bishops who sit in the two Convocations; the, House of the Clergy of the Convocation, and the House of the laity. We have heard a great deal of the democratic character of the Bill. A remarkable laity is to be the guardian of the liberties of the people of England. First of all, see from what it is shut out. This is the body we are asked to trust with our doctrine, our spiritual liberty and freedom. Just see where the powers of dealing with that doctrine are delegated by this constitution. There is a remarkable. Article, No. 15, in the constitution which puzzled me because I could not find it in the Report of the Archbishop's Committee. I found afterwards that it had been put into the Convocation Report in a final and strengthened form in order to give emphasis to a principle. I will tell your Lordships what that principle is. Observe the im 1008 pression that the public has had that this National Assembly is to be Church of England and is to declare doctrine and keep people in safety, because of its democratic character, from things being laid down which will interfere with spiritual liberty.
What does Article 15 prescribe which we are asked to sanction by statute?—Nothing in this constitution shall be deemed to diminish or derogate from any of the powers belonging to the Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York or of any House thereof; nor shall the Assembly exercise any power or perform any function distinctively belonging to the Bishops in right of their episcopal office.This has to be taken with two subsections of Section 14 immediately preceding—Provided that it does not belong to the functions of the Assembly to issue any statement purporting to define the doctrine of the Church of England on any question of theology, and no such statement shall be issued by the assembly.But it can be issued authoritatively by the Bench of Bishops. And again—Provided that any measure touching doctrinal formulæ or the services or ceremonies of the Church of England or the administration of the Sacraments or sacred rites thereof shall be debated and voted upon by each of the three Houses sitting separately, and shall then be either accepted or rejected by the Assembly in the terms in which it is finally proposed by the House of Bishops.In other words, this unfortunate Assembly is to have no chance of interfering in matters of doctrine. There will be no Privy Council in these days, no guardianship. There will be a Church vested with the powers to which I have now come, and we have to trust to the wisdom of the distinguished men who occupy the positions of right rev. Prelates of the Church who, I am sure, will do their best for all of us. But I have a strong dislike to putting my neck into a running noose and then handing the rope to somebody else. I would not mind handing it to the most rev. Primate, because I am sure he would hold it in a kindly way, and I think I might trust the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London but I am not sure about that. I should feel a little nervous. But there have been Bishops to whom I would not have entrusted it. There was the Bishop who tried to drive Dr. Gorham out of the Church for his views on baptismal regeneration, and there was the Bishop of Peterborough who was assailed in 1822 by Sydney Smith in a slashing article called "The Persecutions of a Bishop," in which he 1009 showed how this Bishop had attempted to search the consciences of his clergy in the diocese and to drive them out of the Church.
In the matter of spiritual liberty I am not prepared to take risks of this kind. If such a constitution is to be given to the Church, by all means let the Church have it. It is the right of any body of earnest-minded men to get themselves together to secure complete spiritual liberty within their own Church, but they must not ask for the powers of the State, much less for a monopoly of them. If they do that, the price to pay is Disestablishment, and what I have read to your Lordships is something that cannot be constitutionally yielded except at that price of Disestablishment. I do not wonder that there was a minority of the Archbishop's Committee Which entertained grave doubts as to whether the objects recommended could be obtained without Disestablishment being faced.
I am not done with this Bill. The last part that I have dealt with seems to have been framed in a spirit which was a very fine spirit in Clays gone by, the spirit of the martyr Bishop St. Cyprian who held Ecclesia est in Episcopo as a maxim. If ever there was a Bill which accepted that doctrine handsomely and gave handsome effect to it, it is this Bill. See what it does. It sets up a Legislative Committee which has to prepare measures. We have some indication of what the measures are to be—to get rid oil vestries and to set up parochial Church Councils, which will be manned by baptised and confirmed Churchmen who declare they are not in communion with any other body. It is the first set of electors who are to be baptised but need not be confirmed, but whenever you sit on a Church Parochial Council, a Diocesan Council, or in the National Assembly of the Church, you have to show that you are confirmed, and declare that you are not in communion with any other denomination. I have shown your Lordships that at the present time the Church of England extends its doors to all who choose to come who are not "evil livers." Nonconformists, if there are any in the parish and have nowhere else to go, can come to its ministrations and claim its privileges; but under this Bill, what will be their position?
It does not stop there. The Legislative Committee recommends Bills; and what 1010 happens? These Bills go to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council, on which the most rev. Primate generously offered me a seat. I have a constitutional conscience whatever my theological conscience may be. I understand the position in which a Committee representing the majority in the House of Commons, and known as the Cabinet, tenders advice to the Sovereign. It is necessary that it should be so, for according to the maxim of our country, "the King can do no wrong," and the reason is that there is always a Minister responsible for Iris action. He cannot do the smallest thing except on the advice of a Minister who is responsible to Parliament. That is the essence of democracy and of our Constitution. But this precious Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council—twenty-five men—who are they, and how are they to be chosen? There is not a word in the Bill about it. I presume it is to be a judicial selection of just-minded men—I feel it an honour that the most rev. Primate should name myself—but I think these just-minded men will find themselves a little hampered by a sense of their constitutional responsibility. They are to tender advice to the Sovereign; and the Sovereign is to act upon it. Where do we stand to-day? Where is the doctrine that "the King can do no wrong"? It is a doctrine which relies on the King acting on the advice of Ministers responsible to Parliament, but here he is to be called upon to act on the advice of Ministers who are not responsible to Parliament—responsible to whom we know not.
What happens next? The words are really so very delightful that they are worth quoting. After the Ecclesiastical Committee has fully considered and consulted with the Legislative Council, the—Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to His Majesty advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given to it, and stating the reasons for such advice.That is a new body in the constitution advising the Crown. It is radicalism in excelsis so far as tearing out the roots of the Constitution is concerned. When the Ecclesiastical Committee is fully seised of the matter, it is then in the position of a Cabinet Minister and advises the Sovereign to give or withhold his Royal Assent. When it has advised that he should do so, what is the Sovereign to do? He always must act on advice—and here on the advice 1011 of this Committee. They have recommended him, in the words of the Bill, to give or withhold his Royal Assent, and they have stated the reasons. When that happens—I come now to Clause 4—When the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have reported to His Majesty on any measure presented by the Legislative Committee, the report, together with the text of such measure, shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within fourteen days, if Parliament be then sitting, or, if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of ParliamentObserve, it is to be laid on the Table. It is not that some Minister is to take the responsibility of laying it on the Table. It comes on the Table with no Minister responsible for it; not even the Lord President of the Council who generally deals with Orders in Council. When it is laid on the Table what happens?—If the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have advised His Majesty to give his Royal Assent to the measure, then, unless within forty days either House of Parliament shall direct to the contrary, such measure shall be presented to His Majesty, and shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto.I sat for twenty-five years in the House of Commons, and for five of those years I was jointly responsible for a good deal of the work of distributing its business. Let me tell your Lordships this. From the first day of the session, say in the beginning of February, the House of Commons is so busy with the Debate on the Address, with the Supplementary Estimates, and with the necessary finance, which must be got through before March 31 (the beginning of the new financial year) that it has not time for anything. The whole of its time must be given to its business. All private Members' rights are suspended by Resolution, which is always passed. That is not the only period of the year when the House of Commons is pressed. There are other periods when the difficulties are almost as great.
And see what an opportunity this presents. The Ecclesiastical Committee transmits a Bill so that it shall come on the Table of the House of Commons in the beginning of its session, about the end of January or the beginning of February. Forty days elapse during which the House of Commons cannot give time to debate any measure which will take the least time. What happens? The Government would feel that a pistol was being put to their head—"Your time or your life." If 1012 they cannot give the time, then the Bill goes unchallenged. If they do give the time, the whole of their business gets into confusion. This precious Ecclesiastical Committee which the Bill proposes to set up gets indirectly control over the time of Parliament, and the situation is that it will be almost intolerable for the Government of the day to try and carry out its business, unless this proves less of a reality than one would imagine of the elaborate constitution which the Bill seeks to set up.
Last, and not least; and measures have slipped through in this way—unless there has been an Address from this House—perhaps this House may be led by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, at the head of a Government, and he could so arrange that the House of Commons would not have a chance, and the measure would become law—what may the measure do? You will find that set out in Clause 3, subsection (6)—A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England, and may extend to the amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament, including this Act.Good Heavens! The Toleration Acts may be swept away; the Burial Act, the Deceased Wife's Sister Act—very likely that will be swept away. Your Lordships may see appointments to the Bishoprics taken out of the hands of the Crown and vested in—no one knows where. Appointments of the clergy may be made under altogether different conditions, and your Lordships yourselves, who live in your parishes, may be barred the right of entering the church, being married there, or getting your children baptised there, unless you have proved yourselves devout Churchmen. All these things are within the limits of the words which I have just read, and I venture to say that no more astounding legislative proposal has been put before Parliament for many years past. There were complaints as to the constitutionality of the Home Rule Bills, but no Home Rule Bill was ever like this Bill or so drastic in its proposals.
I have detained your Lordships longer than I had intended, but there are one or two words which I would add. It is not to be wondered at that there should be this desire to leap over the head of Parliament. It is characteristic of the movement all over the world. I agree with the most rev. Primate that this is a time of great activity, 1013 but where that activity has been most apparent, and where things like this are most significant, has been in connection with labour questions. The noble Earl is interested in the Referendum. I do not know whether he is equally interested in the Initiative. The two are very different things. The Initiative means that quite a small percentage may petition Parliament, or the Government, or whoever it may be, and may have a measure set out in the Schedule to their petition passed by the vote of the electors without going near Parliament at all. That is in operation in two or three States of America, and in Winnipeg, in Manitoba. It has, I believe, been talked of in Australia, and was done in Switzerland, and is very familiar in Russia at present. It shakes all reliance upon the State, because it is the denial that Parliament, which is elected to represent the State, is the ultimate authority. The Parliament of the State represents not only the producer but the consumer, and that is the objection to it. They want a producer's Parliament. I cannot help thinking that it is a producer's National Assembly which is sought to be set up here.
It has been suggested that this Bill has something to do with Scotland—that there is some analogy to what is going on there. There is not the slightest analogy between the proposals of this Bill and what has been done in Scotland. This Bill proposes to set up an Episcopacy as the dominant factor, with very slight Parliamentary control. In Scotland what has been done is to set up a purely democratic assembly. Lord Balfour of Burleigh has as proud a title as any Elder of the Church of Scotland can have. What would be say if this Bill were introduced into Scotland? I remember that he was alarmed at the proposals of the Government with regard to fiscal matters, and that he said he would withdraw to the woods. If this Bill were applied to Scotland I imagine he would withdraw still further. In Scotland people are entirely agreed because they themselves rule. The laity are equal with the clergy, and there is no controversy and no differences. It is because the Church of Scotland remains and is made more than ever in essence the Church of the people at large, governed by and through them, that this movement for union, is acceptable.
I ask your Lordships whether, in the circumstances that we have here, this Bill is a Bill which it is possible to look upon 1014 with a favourable eye. I quite agree that there is room and great room for the reform of certain evils from which the Church is suffering, but they require careful distinction, and nothing but an impartial Royal Commission can be relied upon to determine what are the matters in which subordinate jurisdiction can be entrusted to the Church. Then how is that to be done? We have been adopting in this House the Ministry of Health Bill. There is a clause in this Bill which is not wholly new, because it was used in the Army (Annual) Bill, under which Orders in Council which are to transfer powers from one Department to another are to be laid upon the Table of both Houses, and do not become law unless and until a Resolution has been passed by both Houses. That makes sure that the assent of Parliament is given to an Order in Council.
Why does not the most rev. Primate take that method? Why take the method of leaving the measure to lie upon the Table of the House to become law unless the unfortunate House of Commons finds time to have a debate and reject it. The reason is obvious. The reason lies in the passages of the Report of the Committee that I have read—in order to remove from the power of Parliament and from the supervision of the representatives of the nation what is going to go on in that Church in the future. The most rev. Primate spoke of the change that has taken place and said that there were many people in Parliament who are not Churchmen. That is true, but it is by Parliament that the Church must have its limit of power over others prescribed.
This Bill seeks to give vast rights to the Church, and it, is not proper that those powers should be unrestrained. It is only under the supervision of Parliament that anybody can be allowed to have such powers, and if this Bill were passed it would convert the Church from being an organisation representative of the nation at large into a denomination, and substitute the influence of the Episcopacy for public opinion. Liberty, with the powers which the Bill proposes to give, would be in danger. I cannot bring myself to believe that people even in England desire such a change, or that the people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales will wish their representatives to vote for a Bill which seeks to make far-reaching changes in the national constitution—changes which 1015 would place at the mercy of the few the title of the many. For such a Bill I cannot vote.
That this House is unwilling, especially in the absence of independent inquiry, to assent to legislation which would exclude the greater part of the people of England from effective influence in the affairs of the National Church as established by the Constitution, and which is so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws that may wholly change its character without adequate supervision by Parliament."—(Viscount Haldane.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, the noble Viscount has indicted the proposal which was brought forward by the most rev. Primate, and I think has not exaggerated his position when he said that he intended to apply to the Bill what he called an uncompromising opposition. It appears to me, in considering the arguments he has put forward, that he has overlooked two matters. In the first place he seems to think, as I understand his argument, that the liberties which now exist in our Church Establishment and our Church Constitution are to be modified, altered, and lessened under the terms of the proposed Bill. The first thing I should like to say in reference to this is that it is in my opinion a complete error regarding the purpose and construction of the proposed Bill. So far as existing liberties are concerned, and so far as the position of hymen is concerned, those liberties and that position are wholly unaltered. I will by-and-by elaborate that in order that there may be no misapprehension. In the next place, the noble Viscount seemed to think that this Bill is in some way a proposal to constitute a prelatical body. I doubt whether he will have much support in that view from those who have studied either the Bill itself or the discussions which took place before it was initiated.
The one object of this Bill—I am speaking now as a layman and as Chairman of the House of Laymen of the Province of Canterbury—which was brought forward and initiated by laymen and lay interests, is not to enhance or increase the prelatical power of the Church—indeed we desire to leave it exactly where it is—but to introduce a new factor, and a factor which in my opinion is necessary, which will enable the Church to accomplish its true purpose and exercise its due influence. That new factor will give greater power and variety to the lay members of the Church. There is 1016 another matter in regard to which I am somewhat astounded at what was said by the noble Viscount. He spoke of this Bill as though it were a Bill to throttle the Church both as regards its liberty and its life. I suppose he has not followed what is called the life and liberty movement within the Church itself.
§ LORD PARMOOR
If the noble Viscount has followed that movement, he will at least admit that those who are responsible for the framework of this Bill—those who really brought it forward and have been earnest in advocating its revision—are not men who desire that the Church work should be throttled or the Church made more prelatical, but they are men who, in the deepest sense of the term, desire that the fetters should be relaxed, and that there should be greater life and liberty in our religious movements in this country.
Let me give an illustration. I shall, I am afraid, have to go through a good many points raised by the noble Viscount. Take the first point that he mentioned in the way of criticism. I quite agree that any criticism from the noble Viscount on constitutional grounds ought to be carefully considered, and I have some hope—I trust I am not too optimistic—that when he really understands what the underlying purpose of this Bill is we may have him as a supporter rather than as an opponent. He said that this Bill was framed on the idea of getting rid of Parliamentary control. Without speaking egotistically I may say that the resolution on which all these subsequent matters turn was proposed by myself as Chairman and representative of the House of Laymen, and it was seconded by Lord Wolmer. What were the terms of that resolution to which your Lordships' attention has been directed more than once? They were these—That there is in principle no inconsistency between the national recognition of religion and the spiritual independence of the Church.What we have striven for throughout is to combine those two ideas. We have not desired to make the control of Parliament less effective but more effective by putting it into a form in which it can be exercised as a reality. On the other hand, in matters purely spiritual—matters not of organisation but of the spirit and faith of the Church—we have claimed, and we 1017 do claim, both as an historical fact and as an incident in this Bill, that the Church in spiritual matters ought as far as possible to be an independent body. Apart from matters of constitutional principle, I think the noble Viscount would agree with me. He belongs to a country—I think he is a member of the Presbyterian Church—in which a Church has almost complete spiritual independence—namely, Scotland. I think it has been an enormous advantage to the Scottish Church that it has had throughout what is practically complete spiritual independence. Why should the noble Viscount grudge the Church of England a small measure of spiritual independence?—small compared with the complete independence which the Scottish Church has at the present time. I should have thought that he would have been the last person to complain of a scheme for giving greater spiritual independence and freedom to the Church in this country.
I will show by-and-by that no constitutional principle is treated with disregard in the claim that we make, but I want to go deeper than mere words. I want to go beyond phrases and I want to ask the House, "Will it not, in the interest of religion itself, in the interests of religion as a force in our national conscience, in the interests of the Church doing all it can in order to spiritualise the life of the people, assent to the proposal of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and allow that measure of spiritual freedom without which the Church cannot do in an effective manner the great work Which is set before it?" That is a claim which I make irrespective of words and phrases, but net irrespective of what is called constitutional principle. But I will show—and I think I can show conclusively—that the fears expressed by the noble Viscount under this head have no real foundation when we come to the proposals which are made.
The second objection which the noble Viscount made also appeared to me to be a somewhat curious one. That objection was that the Church constitution was being perverted from a democratic to a prelatical basis. The first answer that I make to that is this. One of the great objects of this Bill is to place the Church on a democratic basis. I do not say that I am opposed to the prelatical spirit, because that is part of the constitution of the Church to which I belong, but one of the main objects of this Bill is to introduce on 1018 a democratic basis the lay element which is entitled to full representation in our Church constitution and in our Church assemblies. If I wore asked the main purpose of this Bill, speaking as a. layman I should say that it is, apart from mere phrases or words, to give a due power and influence to the laymen of the Church to which historically and in every other way they are entitled.
Let me pass for a moment to show how that is done. At the present time there is no corporate body which represents the Church of England. There is a number of small corporate bodies in parishes and else-were, but there is no one corporate body which in truth and reality represents the Church of England at the present time. One of the main objects of the Bill—and I consider it an essential factor in Church reform—is to create such a body, and in creating that body we as Church laymen have done all we can, and we intend to press the point and to have our interests fully and duly represented in the democratic sense.
There never was a greater misunderstanding of the purport of this Bill than that which was expressed by the noble Viscount (Lord Haldane) when he seemed to think it was exclusive or prelatical. Not only is the exact contrary the case but I will give another illustration which goes really to the whole purpose of the Bill. Not only do we introduce for the first time in a practical and democratic form the lay interest in Church organisation at headquarters, but we introduce it into every parish. Your Lordships are perfectly well aware from your own knowledge that it has been objected more than once that the incumbent has too great and autocratic a power, and that he has an autocratic power in this sense, that he may change, perchance, all the services at a particular parish in opposition to all the churchgoers and parishioners of that parish. What do we do, and what is the proposal in this Bill? It is to have in every parish a Church Council in order that the Church laymen may have due authority and influence. What is there in that in favour of the clerical interests? What is there in that in favour of what is called clerical prelacy?
I speak with all reverence of the right rev. Prelate but I speak as a layman; and as a layman I claim my rights in the Church to-day in its central organisation and in the parish in which I live. And why that is 1019 called anti-democratic, or why it is called the epithets which the noble Viscount passed upon it I admit passes my comprehension. But I may say this. I have, for, I think, twenty-five years now, been a member of the House of Laymen of the Province of Canterbury; for nearly ten years now I have had the privilege of being chairman of that body, and if there is one point upon which laymen are all agreed, and for which we have striven together, it is to have our rights and influence in Church Government and Church matters duly acknowledged and duly represented. And now, when we come for the first time under a Bill of this kind to obtain that recognition, we are told it is a prelatical Bill and not founded on the democratic basis.
What is the next point to which the noble Viscount referred? The noble Viscount said that we were attacking the foundations of the fabric of the Church and steering for disestablishment. Let me deal with those two points. No one has a greater veneration for the foundations of the fabric of our national Church than I have. But I feel this, and I think every Churchman who has worked in Church questions will feel this, that the foundations of our fabric want readjusting, re-forming, re-strengthening in order that we may carry out our work to the utmost of our power. It is not that we are sapping the foundations: the desire is to strengthen in order that it may go on to new work and under better conditions.
And as to disestablishment—I should almost call it the disestablishment bogy raised by the noble Viscount—I desire to say this. Disestablishment as a term does not frighten me. I believe very strongly that disestablishment would be a fatal mistake as regards the State and civic life in this country. It is of the utmost importance that the State and civic life in this country should be associated with religious thought and religious feeling, but, as a Churchman, I have no fear of disestablishment. Disestablishment would not in any way affect the spiritual unity or the spiritual continuity of our Church life. It would relieve us of certain burdens which we are willing to undertake—burdens which are not undertaken by any other religious community in this country. We are willing and desirous of bringing within the reach of every man in the most remote parish the rites of spiritual minis 1020 tration. We are not seeking to avoid any of the great obligations which are imposed upon us. But on the other hand we should perhaps have greater spiritual liberty, we might have even greater spiritual opportunities, but—and it is on this point that I differ front the noble Viscount—we do not want those advantages at the expense of the State and civic life in this country. We have the burdens, and we are willing to carry them, but we ask the State, at any rate, to put us in a position to carry those burdens in the easiest manner and to carry on our work under the most effective conditions.
The next point to which the noble Viscount refers will be found on page 62 of the Report. He read out these words—Parliament would not constitute the body directly or indirectly; it would only recognise it when constituted.Now, let me put this to the noble Viscount. Is not that exactly the condition of the Established Church at the present moment? It is not a body constituted directly or indirectly by Parliament. It was recognised when constituted and, as so recognised, has done its work as the Established Church. So far as this statement is concerned to which the noble Viscount referred it is in confirmation of the whole constitutional position or the national Church at the present moment. It is the very foundation on which we stand. I am bound to say that when I have read through this passage again I realise that it was not intended to be a statement of any new principle but a statement of a principle which has existed throughout the whole life of our national Church, and which is the foundation of the relations between our national Church and Parliament itself.
Then the noble Viscount went to another matter. He went into the question of the control and position of the King. What is there in this Bill which suggests for one moment that the control or position of the King will be altered? Of course we have the control and the position of the King as regards ecclesiastical matters in this country exercised through the methods of the Executive Government. Is there one word in this Bill which would alter this constitutional principle? Is there one word in this Bill which affects that constitutional principle as it exists at the present moment? I should like to say this to the noble Viscount, that if in the 1021 Committee stage at which I sincerely hope this Bill will arrive, he can show any word or syllable in it which in his view (and, of course, he must convince me, too) affects the right of control of the King as regards ecclesiastical matters I would be the first to support him and the first to help him in an amendment of that character.
Then he says, and says quite truly, that restrictions on liberty in Church matters in this country—in fact I may put it more broadly, that freedom and liberty as regards all religious and conscientious matters in this country—come from our Common Law, and we have to look to Statutes to see if they have been restricted. He is perfectly right. But what is there in this Bill which would in any way interfere with the principles of liberty as they are known to our Common Law in this country? So far from that being the case, I believe—and I will quote an authority in a moment—that this Bill and this proposal have been most carefully framed in order to ensure that there shall be no encroachment upon our liberty of conscience and our liberty of religious life. Let me upon this point refer to what was said by Sir Edward Clarke. I quote him because he is a great authority in matters of this kind, and because what he said is really an answer to the argument brought forward by the noble and learned Viscount. After reading the most admirable historical account of the relations between Church and State formulated and drawn up by Sir Lewis Dibdin and the Master of Balliol—two men who look at these questions from different points of view but who together propagated an admirable account of the relations of Church and State—Sir Edward Clarke says—Now these legal relations, which are there somewhat carefully stated, will remain absolutely unaffected by the adoption of this scheme.I will ask the noble and learned Viscount's attention to this—The King will still have the government of the Church. The Archbishops and Bishops will be appointed in the same way; the Judicial Committee will still be the supreme Tribunal in Ecclesiastical cases; and the law as it has been declared by the Judicial Committee will remain as it is, the law that binds both Clergy and laity, and in no one of these respects is there any change made by the proposals of this book.That is the proposal which the Committee made and on which the Bill is framed. Sir Edward Clarke goes on—That is not to say that the proposals contained here are at an unimportant; it will be seen. I think, that they are extremely important.1022 Then he says later, speaking to the House of Laymen—But what I want the House of Laymen clearly to understand is that this is not an alteration in the relations between Church and State. It is simply a proposed Amendment to ask Parliament to amend its own procedure so as to allow things in which the Church is interested, which Parliament is practically incapable of discussing, to be passed in that way instead of through the First, Second, and Third Reading and all the stages of an ordinary BillWhen I come presently to deal with the actual proposals contained in the Bill, your Lordships will find that Sir Edward Clarke is absolutely accurate in what he says; that, on the one hand, there is no interference with the existing relations between Church and State, and that, on the other hand, the main object of the Bill is to allow Parliament to deal with questions which it cannot deal with adequately under existing conditions.
I come now to the next point to which the noble and learned Viscount referred. He said that the canon law was part of the common law of this country. That is perfectly true. Is there going to be any alteration in that? What alteration is proposed? Does my noble and learned friend suggest that if this Bill is passed the canon law will cease to be part of the common law of this country? Because unless he makes that proposal, or unless he is prepared to support a proposition of that kind, there is really, if I may say so with great respect, no relevance in his reference to what, of course, is admitted by all lawyers to be an established fact—namely, that the canon law is part of the common law of this country. Why was reference made to it? I understood the noble and learned Viscount to suggest in making the reference that, after this Bill was passed, by its unconstitutional underlying ideas the canon law would not longer be a part of the common law of this country.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I see that the noble and learned Viscount shakes his head, therefore I do not wish to proceed further with a suggestion of this kind; but if I may say so I think he will have to shake his, head as regards a large number of his suggested difficulties if he would only come to close quarters and see what the Bill really proposes, and if he would realise in his mind that as regards the existing 1023 relations between Church and State no alteration is made. My noble and learned friend next referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That Committee will exist after this Bill is passed under exactly the same conditions as it exists at the present moment. There is no interference with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. If unfortunately litigation should arise in Ecclesiastical matters—which I sincerely hope will not be the case—it may fall to the lot of my noble and learned friend, as it did to some of his great predecessors, to give a judgment from his Ecclesiastical as well as from his legal acquirements on some great question affecting the doctrines or the rights of the Church of England. Where is the alteration? There is no alteration. As a matter of fact, the constitutional principle will be in the future exactly where it is at the present time.
Then I come to a further point, in connection with which I could not understand what he meant. My noble and learned friend spoke about the loss of rights in the vestry. What loss of rights will there be? As a vestry meets at the present time in Easter week so it will meet in the future if this Bill is passed. The Bill is carefully framed so that as regards matters of this kind there should be no breach of continuity between the constitution of the future and the constitution as it has existed from time immemorial. The Bill in itself is a far more limited Bill than the noble and learned Viscount seems to conceive. It is a Bill not altering the constitution of the Church but giving, as I think, adequate assistance to Parliament in order that it may have effective and proper control over certain Church measures. I do not wish to follow my noble and learned friend into his views on "The Diary of a Churchgoer," but I am in a position to assure him that he is wrong in thinking that Lord Courtney would have been likely to be an opponent of a Bill of this character.
I am sure the noble and learned Viscount is completely in error in regard to another matter, and the error is this. He seems to regard the Committee of the Privy Council which would be constituted under this Bill as an Ecclesiastical body. That is exactly what the framers of this Bill and of this Report did not intend. What they intended was, and what I think the Committee would be is, that it would not in 1024 any sense be an Ecclesiastical body but a representative of the State in order that the State side might be fully considered with regard to any proposed legislation by the Established Church; and the whole object is not to introduce an Ecclesiastical body but to have a State body set up for State purposes.
Let me now deal with what I think is a very crucial point in connection with the Bill, as I think this is a convenient time to do it. Part of the objections raised in the Amendment of the noble and learned Viscount is that the people of England would lose effective influence in the affairs of the National Church, and that matters might be so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws which may wholly change its character without adequate provision by Parliament. I am going to make the statement that in my view the effective control of Parliament will be enormously enhanced if this Bill is passed as regards matters which conic within its purview. I say that for this reason. We must at the present time consider what, are the conditions of Parliamentary Government, and there is a great tendency for Parliamentary Government to lose its control, because it is over-burdened with a mass of work which seems to threaten its very existence. There are only two directions in which Parliament is to be relieved and yet to retain some form of effective control. On the one hand you may have an increase of bureaucratic action. Personally I am very much opposed to that principle, because I think bureaucratic action is, in its essence, inconsistent with true Parliamentary government and true Parliamentary life.
But there is another way and that is the way which is pointed out in this Bill. It is not a novel way, much less is it an unconstitutional way. The other way is to proceed by the method of what is known as Provisional Orders, and I will show how this Bill, in my opinion, conforms to that principle. What do you mean by Provisional Orders and how is Parliament assisted as regards its work and control? In the first place the Provisional Order is initiated by the party who want the legislatin. It is true of course as regards our methods of local government in nearly every direction, and in my opinion it is right that the initiative in legislation in reference to Church matters should come from the Church Assembly. I do not mean 1025 by that that it is to come from the Bishops in Convocation. It is to come from the whole Assembly. It is to come from the laymen who are there in their representative capacity and, as I think, on a democratic basis.
When a matter in the nature of a Provisional Order has been initiated, what is the next step? In order to aid the Government and make Parliamentary control really possible you send the Provisional Order to one of the official expert bodies with special knowledge of the particular subject matter. You send it to the Board of Trade for certain purposes and to the Local Government Board for other purposes. Why do you do that? It is in order that Parliament may have the advantage of the advice which those bodies give. It is because Parliament, owing to its volume of business, is totally unable to go into a crude Bill brought before it in order to consider great masses of detail. The Provisional Order system, in my view, is the true direction in which Parliament may extend its real control on the one hand and yet have time to deal with its work on the other. What is the proposal here? Is there anything unconstitutional? There is no expert official body in existence which can adequately deal with these questions of Church Government and Church organisation. What do we propose to do? We propose to create one—a body not representing the Church but representing the State, a body which can give the State advice from the State point of view on matters of Church organisation and legislation which are brought before it. Where are you to find a body of that kind? Where have we sought to find it? We have sought to find it in the Committee of the Privy Council, and I say again to the noble Viscount that if he can suggest any other body which is a better body before which to bring matters of this kind in order that they may be sifted and examined for the help and assistance of Parliament—that is what it comes to—by all means let him make a proposal in Committee and it will be sympathetically considered.
To talk about unconstitutional practice is really to forget what has been the modern development in matters of this kind. It is to forget that Parliament, if it is really to be effective, if it is not to proceed on clumsy and inaccurate information, does demand and require that measures dealing with questions of this 1026 character should be sifted and considered before they come forward for acceptance or rejection. I feel very strongly myself what was urged so often when we were considering this matter in committee. Put on one side if you like the constitution of Parliament, put on one side the fact that it consists of a very large number of people who are not Churchmen, let me assume that Parliament desires and intends to examine Church questions with particularity and knowledge. How can Parliament do it? First of all, the proposed measure goes before the expert body and Parliament has the advice which that expert body can give. When that is done what do we propose?
The noble Viscount has suggested that the control of Parliament will be inadequately safeguarded. I think there is something in what he says on that point. When this matter was before the Committee it was discussed at great length twice over—I think I sat on the Committee altogether for nearly one hundred days—and the question was, "How can we ensure that these Church matters will have adequate discussion when they come before the House of Commons?" In this House no doubt there is less difficulty. Perhaps I may express the view which I stated then. I said that it is not possible for a committee of this character to say what safeguards ought to be introduced in matters of this kind into the Standing Orders of Parliament, and we put upon the face of our Report—and I think this is an important matter that if further safeguards were required in order to make sure that you should have proper discussion of questions of this kind, we hoped the Standing Orders would be so framed that adequate discussion would be ensured. What more can anybody do than that, and what other way is there in which we can ensure the due recognition of what, I call constitutional principles?
After all, we have provided for this—we have provided for the initiative in a representative body. We have provided, as far as we can, that the measures initiated by the Church will Fe thoroughly considered on behalf of the State. We then said, "These Provisional Orders are dealt with in the two Houses; so let these matters be dealt with, and, although it is outside our cognisance and outside our authority, we put on record that if a further safeguard is required in order that there may be 1027 mature discussion, we hope that the Standing Orders of Parliament may be reformed in that respect." I think I have dealt with a large number of the objections that were raised by the noble Viscount. I noticed that he used a very strong term when he talked do hit our proposal being treason to Parliament. Strong language does not always make good argument, and I will pass that by. Then he pointed out, what was quite true, that the internal organisation of the Church—that is, the relationship between the various orders of the Church—is not altered or affected by the Bill, but surely it would be madness in a Bill of this kind to suggest such an organic change. How can it be done?
We are not on questions of internal organisation, but we are on questions of legislation. What we ace here is not an alteration as between the various orders of the Church. It is that the Church as a whole, as one corporate body, seeking expression in its religious life, should have the opportunity which it does not have now as regards legislative machinery and legislative advantages. I think I have dealt with all the matters of detail as regards the Amendment, but I want to say a word or two on the general framework of the Bill. The first matter which the noble Viscount deals with in his Amendment is, "that this House is unwilling, especially in the absence of an independent inquiry, to assent to the legislation." and so on; but he did not say anything in his speech about the necessity for an independent inquiry. Of course, if an independent inquiry is necessary I admit it is a question of rejection of the Bill on Second Reading. The other matters to which he deterred are not really matters for rejection on Second Reading, as they, can be dealt with later.
Let me say one or two words on this question of an independent inquiry. This matter has been inquired into from top to bottom, not by people who are members of the Representative Councils but by a Representative Committee, on which there were five members of your Lordships' House, six members of the House of Commons, and a considerable majority of laymen. To show what I may call the catholic character of that committee it is sufficient to say that not only was Sir William Anson upon it—the greatest constitutional authority of his day—but that we had upon it men of such different trend 1028 of thought as the Dean of Christ Church, the Master of Balliol, and Sir Lewis Dibden. If you are going to have an inquiry in order to ascertain facts, I say that every fact has been ascertained by that committee which is necessary for our discussions and decision. I do not suspect that the noble Viscount suggests an independent inquiry merely for the sake of shelving any legislation as far as the Greek Kalends. But can be suggest any fact which ought to be ascertained which has not been ascertained by the inquiries already made. On the one side he has everything the Church can tell him; and on the other side the constitutional questions which he has raised in his speech. You may have an inquiry but you will get no nearer than we are at the present moment on certain points, and there will always be room for difference of opinion.
The second proposition is this, and I am bound to deal with it because it is a matter of great importance. The noble Viscount says that you would exclude the greater part of the people of England from effective influence in the affairs of the National Church. The reason why I started this inquiry, and why I support the Reports of the two Committees, was on the very ground that a larger part of the people of England would have an effective influence in the affairs of the National Church than they can possibly have at the present time. That was the very basis on which I supported the Reports of the two Committees. Let me establish that proposition. If this Bill is passed, for the first time the laity of the Church will have a recognised and substantive position in the corporate expression of church life. From the very commencement the laity have been part of the Church of this country, but as was, pointed out during the course of the inquiry although they have been a part of the corporate body of the Church from the very beginning yet from a variety of circumstances they are not in a position to exercise an effective influence at the present moment.
This is a passage from the Report of the Committee, and I think it is wholly true—While we seek to retain for the clergy their spiritual functions in the administration of the Words and Sacraments, we desire to restore to the whole body of Church members its original potion of authority.The very object of the Bill is to give an effective part to a large number of Church 1029 men, earnest and eager to do their best for the Church and who cannot have an effective influence at the present time. That is why I, as a layman, have laboured for this Bill. We have discussed it in the House of Laymen again and again, and I think on every occasion we have came to the unanimous conclusion that we must have some outlet of this kind if we are to have true and effective work from laymen in the Church of England. You cannot go on expecting Church laymen to work merely as members of a voluntary body. You cannot expect them to make the best output in religious life unless they have an authorised position, and if there is one reason why I support this Bill more than another it is, not only in opposition to the view of the noble Viscount but because I firmly believe it would bring in a large number of the people of England into an effective influence in the affairs of our National Church who are, for all practical purposes, excluded under existing conditions.
One other point upon this. There is no exclusion in this Bill at all. I think the noble Viscount has made a mistake in his interpretation of the Bill on that point. Every right of a nonconformist, every right of a ratepayer, and of an atheist, as regards the Church of England he will have as fully in the future as at the present moment. Not one single right is taken awn; not, one single person is disfranchised. My answer to him is that there is no exclusion in the Bill but, on the contrary, that there is a method and a proved method by which a large number of laymen will be able to take that effective share in the government of the Church which they ardently desire and cannot do under present conditions.
The next point is that of changing its character without adequate supervision by Parliament. What does the noble Viscount mean by "adequate supervision of Parliament" at the present time? You cannot have adequate supervision unless you propose a method under which Parliament can effect this control, and under some such system which we propose in the Bill. How are you to have adequate control without having the Provisional Order system, and if you have a Bill before Parliament on which a great number of its members are utterly uninformed as to its meaning and intent. It is a great misunderstanding of the whole basis of Par 1030 liamentary government to think that with the press of modern conditions and modern questions Parliamentary control can be effected without you provide some expert body to help and assist them in the decision they have to give. That is the purport and meaning of the present Bill.
No doubt the question of Parliamentary procedure looms largely in the Bill. I agree, if I may say so without arrogance, with all that the most rev. Primate said as regards the necessity of perfect freedom in order to deal with the vast number of church questions. Why should not that be given? Is there any noble Lord who thinks the Church should not be put into the position of being able to exercise its influence under the most effective conditions. That is the main purpose for which we plead. I do not want the deeper intuitions of the Bill to be lost sight of. It is not only a matter of machinery, but it is to me a matter of much deeper importance. I can speak with authority when I say that, a large number of laymen in this country are deeply concerned with our religious life and our religious prospects, and it is to us not only a matter of mechanism but a vital question, that we should reconstruct and recreate the religious life of the country upon the best possible basis; and we firmly believe that in this work Church laymen must have a recognised position. We feel that in the evolution of religious life and of religious communities if you divorce the laymen from the life of the Church you can never bring to bear the full influence that you ought to bring to bear with regard to our religious life and purpose. It is from that point of view that we are in great earnest, end we rejoice that again and again the Church has shown itself in its various bodies and councils almost unanimous in favour of this present proposal.
I have noticed some very extravagant statements made in some of the letters, published in some of our leading papers. I suppose we still have regard to letters which are published under those conditions. Just let me refer to one or two of the extravagant statements which have been made, obviously under a. misunderstanding of the whole purpose and intent of the Bill. I saw it stated somewhere or other that half or more of the Church were against the Bill. I should hardly like within the courtesy of Parliamentary debate to say what I really think of a statement of that 1031 kind. When the Representative Church Council met—and it was a very large meeting—it ended by voting in favour of the Bill, with either one or three dissentients. In the four Houses of Convocation there were only twelve votes against the Bill, and, take any test you like—it is not a question of one party in the Church or of another party, but Churchmen from every point of view, and more particularly the moderate Churchmen, who desire the reform of the Church—beyond all question of sect or party you will find practically unanimous opinion in favour of the Bill.
Then another curious statement which I saw made in a letter the other day was that it was said in derogation of this Bill that we were not asking enough. You always find criticism on two sides. One says we ask too much and the other that we ask too little. The criticism was that spiritual freedom was not asked for, and that although we had held up the Scottish Example as an example to be followed the Committee had not had the courage of its opinions. The Committee had the courage of its opinions and felt, and I think truly, that it was too much to ask and too much to hope that in the constitution of the Church of England we should have the full spiritual independence always enjoyed by the Church in Scotland. If I might appeal to the noble Viscount I would ask him to confirm me in this. Has it not been one of the great causes of the magnificent Church influence of the Presbyterians in Scotland that they have enjoyed this great spiritual liberty?
§ LORD PARMOOR
So they should if their spiritual development is to be found in the Presbyterian direction. So we on the other hand, whether in favour of prelacy or not, should have the free right of spiritual development in order that by the free expression of our religious views we may have full advantage from our Church organisation. I think it is a magnificent result of the freedom of spiritual life that I believe no people and no nation are more attached to their Church than, at present, are the Scottish people to the Presbyterian form. I see too this statement was made, that someone had suggested that the construction of the Committee of the Privy Council made it a broker or purveyor of the Church's pleasure. Surely that is 1032 a perversion of language. Looking for one moment to the future surely we may hope that this Bill will have a Second Reading. Surely the plea of the most rev. Primate that it is necessary for the development of the Church's organisation ought not to go unregarded, and I do myself as a Church layman, and as one who has taken great interest in these matters, urge your Lordships not to accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount but to allow this Bill to go on for Second Reading. On the Committee stage we shall either hope to show the noble Viscount that he is wrong or else in other matters to meet any objection which he may establish.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Crewe, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.