§ THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER rose to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Bishopric of Shrewsbury Measure, 1925, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, it falls to me to move this Motion because I happened to be chairman of the New Sees Committee of the Church Assembly by which the Measures for dividing dioceses that seemed over large were prepared and submitted to the Assembly. This is the last of a series of such Measures and that committee has now been discharged as having done its work at least for the time being. Of the others that came forward most were entirely non-controversial and no argument against their passage was advanced. There was one in which there were serious considerations to be weighed, and I wish to begin now by freely admitting that this is also one in which there are serious considerations upon the other side to be weighed. It is not one of the quite clear and non-controversial issues. So far as my personal part in the matter is concerned, I should like to say that it was with some hesitation that I came to the conclusion that this was the wisest course to recommend to the Assembly and now to this House, and I have a good deal of sympathy for the arguments that are raised from the diocese—or, to speak more correctly I think, from the County—of Hereford. But I did come to that conclusion on the Committee and everything I have seen argued with reference to this Measure since then has confirmed that opinion.432
§ The New Sees Committee, which was charged to survey the diocesan areas of the country, was confronted with the fact that in Lichfield there are 472 parishes with 455 beneficed clergy, some of the parishes being united, and a population of practically one and a quarter millions. Not only so, but this population is not gathered together in any one centre, which makes it possible to conduct the administration of a thickly populated diocese with ease, hut is scattered in two main directions and also projects over an area which may be called an appendix to the main body. That area is Shropshire. After a survey of the whole problem the New Sees Committee came to the conclusion that the best way of dealing with the problem presented was that embodied in the Measure before your Lordships. This proposal was accordingly made to the Assembly. Opposition was expressed from representatives of the diocese of Hereford, but, as I have said, subsequent study of the matter shows that the bulk of that opposition—not quite the whole of it, as the name of the noble Lord who is to move the rejection shows—comes from only one part of the diocese of Hereford—enamely, the County of Hereford.
§ In view of the strength of the feeling which existed the Assembly referred the consideration of the problem to a fresh committee. I wish to emphasise that it was a fresh committee and not the old committee reviewing its own work. An entirely new committee was appointed and it was welcomed by one of the leading representatives of the opposition in Hereford as being powerful and well-balanced. That committee considered no fewer than five alternative ways of affording relief to the diocese of Lichfield and it found that to every one of them there was greater objection than to the particular proposal embodied in the Measure. They had been specially asked to report to the Assembly on alternative methods of dealing with the problem and they reported that all the available alternatives were inferior to that which was proposed. The Assembly then went forward with the detailed consideration of the Measure and passed it by a large majority. The proposal, briefly, is to make three dioceses out of two, and it must be judged, I would submit, by its effect both upon the whole of the area 433 concerned and upon the general wellbeing of the Church. If it is carried we shall have three dioceses composed as follows:—Lichfield will have 331 benefices, a population of 1,226,000 and an area of 1,100 odd square miles; Hereford will have 205 benefices, a population of 116,900 and an area of 923 square miles; Shrewsbury will have 296 benefices, a population of 246,000 odd and an area of 1,300 square miles.
§ One criticism which occurs to anyone on hearing these figures is that, in fact, the relief afforded to Lichfield is so small as hardly to be worth making, but that disappears when the actual conditions of the Lichfield diocese as it will be are carefully examined. In the first place, it will be a county diocese, consisting of the County of Stafford, its see town will be in the centre of it and, on the whole, perhaps its best railway centre as well as its geographical centre. It will have two great blocks of population, one in the north and one in the south, but each of them within easy reach of the Bishop from the see town, and also the see town will be within easy reach of the rest of the diocese for the purpose of diocesan gatherings. It will therefore, in fact, become a very workable diocese in its general nature, whereas the present appendix, as I have called it, which consists of North Shropshire is peculiarly difficult to manage, as I think the Bishop of Lichfield will tell us, both from the point of view of being easily reached from his own centre and from that of bringing into that centre those who should represent the interest of the Church in that region at diocesan gatherings. This Measure, therefore, simplifies the problem of the diocese of Lichfield by removing an excrescence it makes a county diocese for Staffordshire and it leaves the see city in the middle. The diocese of Shrewsbury will I think by general consent be a quite admirable diocese. It again will consist of a county, its centre will be the obvious centre for that county and easily accessible to the inhabitants of every part of it. I do not think that any doubt has been raised about the excellence of the diocese of Shrewsbury, that is, the County of Shropshire, regarded in itself.
§ At this point I would like to say a word or two about the principle of county dioceses. Of course that principle cannot be erected into a binding rule. 434 There are some counties much too large to be comprised within a single diocese—for example, Yorkshire—and there are some where the population makes it undesirable—fer example, Lancashire. But there is a great advantage none the lees in making the boundaries of a diocese co-terminous with those of a. county where it can reasonably be done in the light of other considerations, because the people of that area are already, through the development of local government, used to acting together and to meeting in the centre of the county for the transaction of bushiest. It is a great advantage when the two areas can coincide. Certainly it cannot be made a binding rule, but it is a consideration of very real weight, more especially if we are concerned not only with the mechanical efficiency of administration regarded from the Bishop's site, but with the great stimulation to the general life of the Church that, as I believe, already comes, and will I am sure come in still greater measure, from the development of organs of self-government within the Church through parochial councils and through the representation at the diocesan conferences.
§ That is a matter of the very first importance and one of the first facts that strikes anybody who studies the present situation. North Shropshire has very great difficulty in taking full part in the affairs of the diocese of Lichfield, and it would find equal difficulty in taking part in the affairs of the diocese of Hereford if it were united to the existing diocese of Hereford, as has been proposed. I would urge most earnestly that this aspect of the matter may be considered quite as fully as the ease with which the Bishop may move about from parish to parish. It is quite as important that the people should be able to reach the diocesan centre as that the Bishop personally should be able to reach the people.
§ From the point of view of the County of Hereford there is, no doubt, a real objection. It is true that if there had been no problem concerning the diocese of Lichfield and the archdeaconry of Salop—North Shropshire—no one, I imagine, would have proposed to touch the existing diocese of Hereford. The question that has to be considered is whether the advantages to the Church in 435 the whole area, and indeed in its whole life, to be derived from this Measure do not outweigh such loss as there may be in the reduction of the diocese of Hereford to a smaller size than I imagine most people would have desired if that were the only question at issue. But even apart from the gain to the Church in the other two areas, there is great advantage in there being some small dioceses. I do not at all advocate the general reduction of dioceses to a small size, but the Church of England is now very much more than a national body; it is a world-wide Communion with world-wide responsibilities, and the various departments of its life make a great claim upon its leadership.
§ There are various ways in which that claim can be met. The present method is to select a Bishop who has a diocese too large for his present attention and to ask him also to take charge of some vast department of the Church's work as well. That seems to me to be a method which no one is likely seriously to defend. Another is the method followed in the Roman Catholic Church of setting up a congregation and having heads of congregations who have no direct spiritual responsibility in the form of any cure of souls. Some of us have thought that one of the great advantages of the whole tradition of the Church of England is that it has refused to divorce administrative responsibility from direct spiritual concern with the cure of souls, and that this has kept us, on the whole, in more living touch with one another throughout the whole Communion and has made the discipline of the Church less mechanical and more spiritual.
§ But, if neither of those methods is to be adopted, the only other method in an Episcopal Church is that there should be some dioceses which do not claim the whole time and attention of their heads so that these may be enabled to take a larger share in the central affairs of the Church. And once that principle was understood the diocese in question would tend to gain, because it would be sure of the appointment of a man of first-rate ability to supervise its life—on the ground, partly, of the other responsibility which he was also to discharge. We have most urgent need for posts in which there can be diocesan Bishops sharing in the consultation of the Bishops who are able 436 to maintain genuine scholarship. I know that when such a belief is mentioned the diocese is likely to reply: "You mean us to be subjected to a whole succession of dry-as-dusts." That is the conception of scholarship which our national system of education has succeeded in implanting in the minds of most Englishmen, but not to speak of any who are now living. I have never heard that the diocese of Durham complained of having to submit to the rule of Lightfoot and Westcott, or that London found that Creighton's scholarship was a drawback. Those Bishops to whom the Church has had most reason to be grateful for their learning have been most eminently successful in diocesan administration.
§ There is one small mistake which is made very commonly and which it would be perhaps well to remove: that is the mistake of supposing, though I cannot imagine that any member of your Lordships' House would suppose, that the cathedral of Hereford is a financial burden upon the diocese. The cathedral is maintained from its own revenues and no penny of diocesan funds goes to the support of it.
§ The opposition to this proposal comes not from the diocese of Hereford, but from the County of Hereford. At one time it was proposed to exclude from the operation of the Measure fifteen parishes in the southern part of Shropshire. These were to be left in Hereford, but when asked for their opinion fourteen of them asked to be transferred to Shrewsbury. Therefore, whether we think of the Bishop's spiritual care of the diocese or of that great possibility of added vitality in the Church which is surely coming from the fuller participation of the people in the councils of the Church, parochial, diocesan and national, it seems to me that the balance is strongly in favour of the Measure, although I do not deny that there are real objections to it.
§ The case, it seems to me, may be summarised in this way. If passed it will bring great gain to the Church in Staffordshire and great gain to the Church in Shropshire; there will be some loss, though I believe it will be small, to the Church in Herefordshire, but even apart from the fact that this loss will be outweighed by the gain in the other two great areas, it seems to me that it will be more than compensated for by the 437 advantage to the Church of having such posts that a Bishop can occupy while maintaining the great traditions of scholarship or administering some great department of the Church's life. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Bishopric of Shrewsbury Measure, 195, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Bishop of Manchester.)
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
My Lords, although I believe a seconder is not necessary in this House, I should like with your permission to say a word or two in support of the proposal which we have just heard. There are three Counties mainly interested in this particular scheme: Staffordshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire. I am speaking as a layman of Staffordshire in the diocese of Lichfield and as such I should like to support this proposal as strongly as I possibly can. It will be argued, and perfectly fairly argued, that we in Staffordshire are very well off; that we retain our cathedral, which we look upon as one of the beauty spots of the diocese; that we retain our Bishop, and what is more retain him relieved of much of the old work that he has had to do and in a position to perform the duties of his high office with greater benefit to the diocese and greater satisfaction to himself. In addition to all this, we retain our history, and the history of the diocese of Lichfield is a very interesting one. The immortal Samuel Pepys tells us that on one famous occasion the Bishop of Lichfield, in the cathedral of Lichfield, in his own presence, was excommunicated by his Dean. I think that is a matter of Church history which is almost unique, and I think if it were possible nowadays the rather sombre life of the Cathedral Close would be considerably brightened. But those days are past. We do not excommunicate our Bishops. Some of us at least realise their value and appreciate the work they do, and when opportunity comes to relieve them of a portion of their over-work, we endeavour so to relieve them, as we are doing by this Measure.
I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with figures. We have had a good many issued on both sides, and I 438 do not doubt that when you received the notice from the Hereford side and read it through by itself you at once said: "This is unanswerable." When, however, you got the statement made by the other side, and read it by itself, you must equally have said that that was unanswerable. As it appears that there is a little difference of opinion as to how the respective figures have been drawn up, it is obvious that some explanation should be given. Now we have heard front the right rev. Prelate the advantages that will accrue to Staffordshire in the first place and to Shropshire in the second, and I think there is little or no doubt that both those Counties will be much benefited by the Measure.
I have read with great interest the debate that took place in another place recently, and to one statement that was made I must take exception at the earliest possible moment. It was said by the Member for Hereford thatThe people in the Staffordshire diocese had no interest in the matter except to get some relief for their Bishop, and it was merely a secondary thought to bring in Shropshire, which was suggested by the Bishop of Lichfield in order to put up a sort of smoke screen.I resent a statement of that kind. My father for many years was one of the most consistent supporters of the Church in the diocese of Lichfield, and from the earliest days it has always been a question of the desirability—it was no more in those days than "desirability"—of relieving Lichfield of some of its work by the creation of a Bishopric of Shropshire. Therefore even in those days it was the accepted solution of a difficult problem.
Those who are opposed to this proposal here and in another place contend that Hereford will, from their point of view, be left too small, but they also add that there will be no relief to Lichfield. I think that the right rev. Prelate who moved the Motion in the first instance has shown very clearly that there will be considerable relief to Lichfield. The figures show that in the present. diocese there are 438 benefices, and in the new diocese there will be 330; therefore there will be a relief of 138 benefices. Now, the whole contention of the other side seems to be that relief depends entirely upon the population that will be withdrawn Nothing of the kind. Population 439 is, of course, important, but, as has been pointed out, accessibility to the centre of the diocese is also very important, and surely the number of benefices contained within it is also an important matter, which ought to be considered.
With regard to population, Staffordshire is a very thickly populated district, with two great centres of industry, one in the north in the Potteries, the unique possession of the County of Staffordshire, and the other in the Black Country, with Wolverhampton as its centre, where there is a very large population. Obviously if you were to scatter all that population in a country diocese, it would be a very difficult matter for the Diocesan to reach them all, but, as they are concentrated in large centres, the difficulty disappears. I have no doubt that my right rev. friend the Bishop of Lichfield will tell us what is the point of view of a Bishop with regard to the relief that he is going to get. I do not think that a layman can really say in what that relief consists.
During the debate in the House of Commons it appears that it was thought that, as it happened that by the present scheme the boundaries of three counties would be coterminous with their dioceses, there was a general idea of making that a principle. That is not so. As the right rev. Prelate has pointed out, there is a great deal of advantage in having your county boundary coterminous with your diocesan boundary for many reasons which will be perfectly obvious, and I own, myself, that the idea has a great attraction. It seems to me to be a good survival of the old feudal days of Church and State; we should see the Bishop of the diocese supported by his Suffragans at the head of the Church militant on the one hand, and the Lord-Lieutenant supported by his deputies at the head of the State pacific on the other. As I say, the idea has a great attraction, and I am sure it will be found to be of very great advantage in the working of the diocese.
I should like to refer to the question of the Church Assembly. In another place the hon. Member for Hereford made a rather extraordinary statement. He said he had been a member of the Church Assembly for five years, and that he was a member of the Sees Committee when 440 the question of the Shrewsbury diocese first came up. He said:—I was a member of the committee, and I found myself in a minority of one, and I think I remained in a minority of one the whole time. The whole way through the influence and weight of the committee appointed by the Assembly carried the Bill through stage by stage. Whenever it was referred back to another committee we found that to a great extent the influencing personnel were the same. I felt the whole time that the dice were loaded against me, if I may say so without meaning any offence, and there was no chance of obtaining a reversal of the decision originally come to.I have had no experience of loading dice, but I have always understood that dice were loaded by unscrupulous minorities in order to endeavour to get round the objects of the majority. It seems to me to be rather a waste of time to load dice merely for the suppression of a minority of one. And I think really the case of the Member for Hereford was very much like that of the Scottish juryman, who complained that it was impossible to come to an agreement because all the other eleven jurymen were so obstinate.
I am not a member of the Church Assembly, but I am perfectly confident that the Church Assembly in considering these matters would never allow any personal sentiment or personal prejudice to interfere with any decision they might come to, which, we feel perfectly sure, would be in the best interests of the Church as a whole. I remember very well that when I first got into Parliament, which is now nearly fifty years ago, measures dealing with the Church had no chance of passing. They were in the same position as Private Members' Bills, and they had to go through the ordeal of the ordinary Private Members' Bills, with all the snags and quicksands which those have to encounter. Therefore, although many, if not most, of those measures were designed for the removal of blemishes on the constitution of the Church and, one would have thought, would have been generally supported, there were a good many members of Parliament at that day who were keenly interested in disestablishment and—realising I suppose that disestablishment would have a much better chance the more blemishes there were on the Church—there was very little prospect of getting any measure dealing with the Church through Parliament at all. Then came the Enabling Bill, and the Church 441 Assembly, whose duty it is to take over the preliminary stages of these measures, Parliament retaining its power in the long run of rejecting or accepting any proposal that is made.
I would suggest to your Lordships, as we have been told that all the possible alternatives have been considered over and over again by the Church Assembly, that every possible argument against this proposal has been heard, and that in the end they have come to the conclusion that the Measure that they have submitted to you for your approval is really the best in the widest interests of the Church. It is always difficult for the ordinary speaker to convey the impression he desires, but the impression I wish to convey to your Lordships to-day is this: We in Staffordshire rejoice at seeing the relief for which we have looked for so many years almost within our grasp; we are grateful to the Church Assembly for having brought it so close, and I do hope that the cup will not be dashed from our lips at the last moment by the rejection of this proposal. One fly in the ointment is the fact that, while we admittedly benefit, there is another diocese for which we have affection and respect which considers itself very hardly used. But let me express the hope that it will be found in the working that this prejudice is not so great as they fear and that the proposal which is now before your Lordships will prove to be really the best in the truest interests and welfare of the Church as a whole.
§ LORD FORESTER, who had given Notice that on the Motion that the Bishopric of Shrewsbury Measure, 1925, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent, he would move, That the Measure be not so presented, said: My Lords, it is on behalf of the diocese of Hereford that I make this proposal, and before proceeding to place my arguments before your Lordships I should like to say, in view of what happened this day week in another place, that I have been assured by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that this Measure is an entirely non-Government Measure. Your Lordships are absolutely at liberty to vote how you like.
§ I speak as a Salopian. People call us "proud Salopians," and I am proud of being a Salopian, but I do not allow my pride in my county to permit me to do an 442 injury to anybody else. Proud as I am to be a Salopian, I am every whit as proud to have the honour of belonging to the ancient and historic diocese of Hereford. I am sorry that the protest against this Measure has not fallen to one more worthy than a humble back bench member of your Lordships' House; but having been boon and bred in the diocese of Hereford and having lived there all my life, I hope to be able to convince your Lordships that there is in that diocese the most genuine, the most wholehearted and the most uncompromising opposition to this Measure.
§ The diocese of Hereford consists of the County of Hereford and the southern portion of the County of Shropshire. It is a well-defined diocese. It is practically defined by two arms of the river Severn, one arm of the river Wye and, on the other side, it lies next to the Principality of Wales. The diocese has existed for 1,250 years in what is practically its present form and if this Measure is not passed through your Lordships' House we are hoping in May next to celebrate in a fitting mariner the 1,250th anniversary. I submit to your Lordships that before such an ancient and historic diocese as that of Hereford is forcibly and ruthlessly broken up some definite and cogent reasons should be given as to why it should be done. The only reason I have been able to discover is that it would be for the relief of the diocese of Lichfield. Yet the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, whom I am very glad to see in his place Liter his illness, said this at the summer session of the Church Assembly—that the purpose they had in view in the Measure was not the relief of any diocese or any Bishop, but the more efficient doing of the Church's work, and it was only because the relief of the diocese of Lichfield was a means towards that end that they cared about it at all. I venture most respectfully to disagree with the right rev. Prelate on both those points. Not only do I submit to your Lordships that he is in need of relief and that he urgently wants relief; but I also submit to your Lordships that it is not for the general good of the Church that he should obtain that relief by doing injury to any other portion of the Church, no matter how small it may be.
§ May I tell your Lordships that I speak as a Churchman, as a member of my 443 parochial church council, as a member of my ruri-decanal council, as a member of the diocesan conference of Hereford and as having been elected to the Church Assembly at the last election? I must say one word about that election. The diocese of Hereford sends six representatives to the Church Assembly. There were thirteen candidates for those six seats at that election. All the candidates put forward their views and five of the six who were elected to the Church Assembly were elected solely because of their opposition to this Measure. They not only showed their opposition openly to the electors of the diocese, but the Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire sent round a circular asking the electors of the diocese to vote for them. That shows, I think, the direction in which the local opinion of the diocese of Hereford leans.
§ The scheme for the formation of a Shropshire Bishopric first saw the light in 1888 when Bishop Percival was Bishop of Hereford. Conditions in those days were entirely different from conditions to-day. The Church of Wales had not been disestablished and Bishop Percival was hoping to develop to the west and south. But I am sure that in those days Bishop Percival would never have given his sanction to such a Measure as this. But the Measure wan brought, forward after the New Sees Committee had been appointed by the Church Assembly. Unfortunately for us in Hereford two or three members of that committee were very great protagonists for this Shropshire Bishopric scheme, and I have no doubt they were able to persuade the New Sees Committee, which in those clays consisted of men who were very keen on small dioceses, that the creation of this Shropshire Bishopric was a right and proper way of relieving the diocese of Lichfield.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, has mentioned the hon. Member for Hereford and has told your Lordships that he was in a minority of one on that New Sees Committee. He was in a minority of one on. that committee, and when he ventured to protest against this forcible expropriation of the diocese of Hereford, he was told: "It is no good your protesting at all; there is no opposition at all in Hereford. The Bishop of Hereford is in favour of the Measure." The Bishop of Hereford is their trump card, and I think 444 it was very well put in another place the other day when the same hon. Member for Hereford suggested that the Bishop of Hereford had been got at when he was a young and innocent Bishop. We of his flock, although we entirely exonerate him from any endeavour to sell his birthright for a "mess of pottage," cannot overlook the fact that he has offered to give half that birthright away, and to throw in a "mess of pottage," consisting of £400, which your Lordships, if you have studied this Bill, will see in Clause 3; and, being a man of honour, he cannot go back on what he has once given his word to. The Bishop of Hereford will no doubt speak, and tell your Lordships his views himself. He has told us already in Hereford that, although from a broad-minded point of view he will support this Measure, he will feel he has lost one of his hands if he does so. But I will leave him to tell your Lordships about that himself.
§ The proposed division of the diocese of Hereford was not really brought to our notice in the diocese of Hereford as a practical proposition until the Hereford diocesan conference in October, 1921. It was brought forward then, and the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, who was still in his innocence, allowed one of the other side, one of the North Shropshire people—in fact, the secretary of this Bishopric Committee—to address that meeting on the favourable aspects of the Shropshire Bishopric. The result was that the meeting rejected almost unanimously the scheme offered of a Shropshire Bishopric, but they were so eager not to discountenance any idea of relieving Lichfield that they carried an amendment, with only nine dissentients, asking the New Sees Committee to take up the reconsideration of the scheme, with a view to relieving Lichfield without reducing the ancient see of Hereford to the limits of one of its arch-deaconries. In the Winchester case, when the noble Lord, Lord Daryngton—I do not know whether he is in his place to-night—was able to move that Measure, he told your Lordships that one of his principal arguments was that the Winchester diocesan conference had passed a scheme almost unanimously, with only six dissentients. Look at the difference. Winchester diocesan conference passes the scheme with only six dissentients; 445 Hereford diocesan conference rejects the scheme almost unanimously, with only eight assentors.
§ There were various meetings after that, but as the right rev. [...] the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Earl Lord Dartmouth, have alluded to them, I will pass on to another Hereford diocesan meeting took place in 1924. The Church Assembly had then given the Measure their general approval, and so great was the resentment of the people of Hereford against that approval that at their diocesan conference I was asked to move, and did move, a resolution regretting the action of the Assembly in giving general approval to the Measure, at the same time adding a rider that with a view to the speedy relief of the diocese of Lichfield the conference reeommenchel that the archdeaconry of Salop should be temporarily transferred to the diocese of Hereford. That was carried by 191 votes to 67. Those are the only two occasions on which this Measure has been before the Hereford diocesan conference, and it was rejected by those enormous majorities. A week afterwards, on October 22, 1924, a great mass meeting was held at Hereford, convened by the Lord-Lieutenant and attended by the Mayor and nearly all the clergy in the diocese of Hereford. That meeting passed a resolution with only one dissentient against the proposed reduction of the diocese.
§ The Church Assembly saw there was this local opposition, and they thought it better to obtain more local opinion. They decided to obtain this local opinion by a plebiscite of the incumbents and of the parochial church councils on two alternatives—namely, A, the Measure as it is -now before your Lordships; and, B, the proposal to add the archdeaconry of Salop to the Hereford diocese. The most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York and the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham pleaded to that Assembly, and pleaded in vain, that if they were going to submit alternatives (and there was more than one alternative) they should place all the alternatives before all those who were going to vote upon them. But the Assembly thought differently. One might also have thought that in common fairness they would have asked for this plebiscite from the diocese of Hereford alone, as being the diocese chiefly 446 affected by this proposal to dismember it. The voting on the plebiscite then took place and, as was generally expected, the vote in the diocese of Lichfield was pretty unanimous for the Measure which is before your Lordships.
But I would point out that before that vote took place the diocesan conference held at Lichfield forestalled any parochial discussion that there might have been by deciding that no plan would conduce to the efficiency of the Church which would create a greater number of parishes than the Lichfield diocese contained. That eliminated altogether Scheme B, and only left Scheme A, or this Measure, upon which to vote. I will now give the figures of the vote in the diocese of Hereford The voting was 105 for the Shrewsbury Bishopric, and 207 for the amalgamation of the two counties, a majority of two to one against the Bishopric. Then the Measure was postponed for revision in the Church Assembly, till eventually it was passed in the summer session of 1925. After having been passed by the Church Assembly it went to the Ecclesiastical Committee, and I wish to point out that in the Committee's Report, which was in favour of the new Bishopric, it is stated: —
The Measure does not prejudicially affect the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects and the Committee consider that it is expedient, that it should become law.
We wore quite ready in the diocese of Hereford to send up a petition to this Ecclesiastical Committee, but we did not know when it was going to sit. I submit to your Lordships that the Measures does prejudicially affect the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects in the diocese of Hereford. We were not even given a chance to lodge any protest whatsoever.
§ After that it went up to another place. The debate in noel her place occurred after eleven o'clock in the evening and there was not much chance for the Measure to be discussed at all. I attended the debate, because I wanted to hear what points were made for or against it, and I fortunately found my right rev. friend the Bishop of Hereford there. We sat together and listened to the debate. I had to wait some time before I could get up to the gallery, because there was a Division going on in the House of Commons and one has to wait until the 447 Lobbies are cleared. I saw two or three hon. Members whom I knew and could not help hearing remarks from others. Apparently, in the other place there were only two alternatives—one was: "Shall I go home to bed?" and the other "Shall I vote for Bridgeman's Bishop?" We all know that the First Lord of the Admiralty is a popular man, and deservedly popular. He is a great friend of mine. In fact, I have the honour to acknowledge that he is a connection of mine, and I hope that the fact of our not seeing eye to eye on this Measure will not prejudice our friendship. But I submit to your Lordships that this is not a question which should be solved on the popularity or not of an individual, however famous that individual may be.
§ The noble Earl has told you something about the debate, during which the hon. Member for Hereford, as he has said, moved the rejection of this Measure. I thought he moved it in a very moderate manner. He was supported by the non. Member for Oxford University (Sir Charles Oman) and several others, but there was a galaxy of talent in opposition. Not only the First Lord of the Admiralty but the ex-SolicitorGeneral, and last but not least the noble Lord, Lord Hugh Cecil, to whom we all look up in the Church Assembly. It was rather too late to use arguments at that time of night, but one argument of the First Lord of the Admiralty was that if the Bishopric of Shrewsbury was created the poor people of Shropshire would have a diocesan centre to which they could get. If the First Lord of the Admiralty's constituents are not too proud to come to us in Hereford they can have that diocesan centre to-morrow, whereas if this Measure is passed they will have to wait for several years. The ex-Solicitor-General, in a rather long legal argument, tried to put before us that Parliament should practically abrogate its authority over Church matters, a rather curious argument, I thought, to come from those Benches.
The noble Lord, Lord Hugh Cecil, put one of the strongest arguments that I have heard, if you reverse the argument, against this Measure. In fact, he threw what I should describe as a boomerang. He said, and I think it is worth while quoting what he said:
Do you really think you could shift the diocese against their will? If you take the
people from one bishopric and transfer them to the jurisdiction of another, it will create the same sort[...] enthusiasm as was felt in the case of "Germany and Alsace-Loraine.
I submit to you that we do not want to force North Shropshire to come into Hereford if North Shorpshire does not want to do it, but you want to force South Shropshire out of the diocese of Hereford and to join her to this Bishopric of Shrewsbury. If you do that you will create exactly the feeling that the noble Lord described in the other place a week ago to-day.
§ I should like to refer briefly to a serious question which will arise in the Hereford diocese as regards finance if this Measure becomes law. The figures I have obtained from the secretary of the Hereford Board of Finance show that administrative expenses in the last financial year were £898—say £900—and income £7,900—say £8,000. Thus the expense ration is about 11 per cent. But if the diocese of Hereford is reduced to the County of Hereford its income will not exceed £5,000 and with the expenses as they are now the ratio would be 18 per cent., which is ridiculous for a small diocese such as Hereford would become. How do our opponents, the promoters of this scheme, propose that we should make up for the loss? There is a peculiar feature about the diocese of Hereford, together with those of Worcester and Gloucester. There is a very celebrated musical festival held triennially in each of these places, called the Three Choirs Festival, from which a grant is made annually to the widows and orphans of the clergy of the diocese. A member of the Assembly, in the summer session of 1925, proposed that we should take what we get from that festival—from £120 to £180—to make up the loss that the Hereford diocese would suffer from the taking away of South Shropshire. I do not wish to suggest for a moment that he was trying to rob the widows and orphans of South Shropshire. I am sure that he did it in ignorance, but I am quite certain that Hereford, even if it could, would not consent to this for one moment, and I do not think that the widows and orphans of the clergy in South Shropshire would appreciate it.
§ The further argument was used in the Assembly that it was necessary to put the Measure on the Statute Book, even if they could not raise the funds for a period of years, because the controversy 449 ought to be terminated. We also, in the diocese of Hereford, desire that the controversy should be terminated. We ask your Lordships to terminate it by voting against; this Measure, so that we can live and worship God in peace and so that our Bishop, instead of losing one of his hands, may even have that hand made stronger and that in this coming May he may be able to invite the most rev. Primate, as I believe is his intention, and our late rev. Father in God, the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham, if they will honour us with their presence on that occasion, not to give us funeral orations but to give us addresses of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the deliverance of our ancient and historic diocese from the hands of the would-be despoilers. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name upon the Paper.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Motion of which the noble Lord has given notice is not an Amendment but a direct negative. The right course for the noble Lord to adopt would be to vote against the Motion before the House.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, the right rev. Prelate who moved this Resolution made a speech of great ability and of great moderation. I ask your Lordships' permission to intervene for a few moments as one who for some short time had the honour of presiding over the Bishopric of Hereford. Such was the kindness and loyalty that I received from that diocese that I cannot regard without emotion any proposal which affects its future and its interests so deeply as does the Resolution which is now before your Lordships' House. It was admitted frankly enough by the right rev. Prelate that this Motion is in certain respects unique. This is the only occasion on which Parliament has been approached with a proposal to break up an ancient see without any pretence that the interests of that see will be advanced and in the teeth of the most determined and persistent opposition in the see itself. That circumstance alone is a matter of so much gravity that I think it alone might fitly determine the vote which your Lordships will give on this Resolution. I will at least advance this proposition in respect of it, that in the teeth of those unique circumstances the 450 reasons to justify breaking up the ancient diocese ought to be exceptionally strong.
May I interpose two remarks on the Bishopric of Hereford? It is at this moment, in point of population, absolutely the smallest diocese in England—Sodor and Man is, of course, smaller, but it may very fairly be left out of account. There is another circumstance concerning Hereford which is not perhaps so often borne in mind. Hereford has the distinction of having the very largest number of communicants in proportion to population of any diocese in England. I ask your Lordships to notice, therefore, that the proposal is not only to break up a very small diocese but to break up against its will a very efficient diocese. I am grateful to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, that he at least abstained from adopting a tone which has too often been observable in the discussion of this proposal. He at least did not suggest that those who are opposing the Resolution that he moved are any less than himself actuated by a desire to promote the spiritual interests of the Church. If, indeed, the considerations to which we have to call attention are comparatively pedestrian and humble, questions of finance, of area and the like, this does not for one moment affect the broad view that we are throughout following as our principal consideration—namely, the spiritual well-being of the diocese and of the Church. But there is no clear voice from on high to determine these practical issues as to what is best for the Church, whether a policy of large dioceses or of small ones. We have to creep our way towards a conclusion with such lights as we have and the conclusion that we finally reach as to the spiritual benefit will be a conclusion dictated by a great many contributory considerations which converge to a single end.
The reasons for this Measure are two, as the right rev. Prelate has indicated. There is the relief of the large diocese of Lichfield, and there is further—a point upon which he dilated—the desirability for many reasons of multiplying Bishops in the Church of England. With regard to the first point, I will not long detain your Lordships. There are at least four ways in which Lichfield can be relieved. You can add one or two Suffragans. I cannot for the life of me understand why it is that this proposal to add Assistant or Suffragan Bishops, as we call them, 451 should be summarily put aside as if it were not worthy of consideration. The method of Suffragans is not only a convenient and economical method but it has been the historic method, both before the Reformation and since, of administering the larger dioceses. Sixteen out of the thirty-eight dioceses of England, if my reckoning be right, and I think it is, have the assistance of Suffragans already. It is a most admirable system, as I can personally testify, having myself the advantage of a most excellent Suffragan. Then, again, you may add Northern Shropshire to the already small diocese of Hereford, and thereby, your Lordships will note, precisely the same extent of relief is given to the diocese of Lichfield as would be given if this proposed scheme were adopted. Again, you may make some other division of the diocese of Lichfield which would not leave it so extremely large and as it would be left if this proposal were adopted. Finally, there is the proposal before your Lordships' House, contained in this present Measure.
The proposal, I say, to enlarge Hereford by adding the rest of Shropshire would give precisely the same extent of relief to Lichfield as is now proposed. What is alleged against it? We are told that there is the county feeling of Shropshire and the distance of North Shropshire from Hereford. I am glad to observe that very little emphasis on the whole is being laid in this debate upon the county sentiment, for, indeed, it is an irrelevant consideration. The diocesan boundaries of England antedate by many centuries the county boundaries. The dioceses in England of which the limits are coterminous with county limits are very few—if my recollection be right, there are eight or nine, all of modern creation, in which the diocesan and county boundaries coincide. The general rule of the Church of England is that the diocesan boundaries do not coincide with the county boundaries. I put that consideration aside as of little value when properly looked at.
Then we are told that the distance from Hereford will be prohibitive. Distance is a waning argument. The means of communication, not merely for Bishops but for the humblest people in His Majesty's Dominions, are becoming so much greater every year that distance is an argument of relatively very slight value. As was pointed out by Lord 452 Forester just now, there is no reason why, by a simple practical expedient, diocesan gatherings should not be held in Shrewsbury as well as in Hereford. Then we are told, and this is the gravamen of the whole argument, that the Church Assembly Committee has considered the whole thing and that the Church Assembly itself has come to its decision—that all other schemes are rejected and we must accept the only scheme that is left. Here, I think, with great justice, the Hereford diocese feels that it is not being fairly treated. The committee did come to its task with a prejudiced mind already made up on the main question of multiplied dioceses. Undoubtedly the Church Assembly is in favour of multiplied dioceses and this is an appeal from the Church Assembly to Parliament.
Is that appeal legitimate? What is the meaning of our discussion if it is not? Why then should anybody object to an appeal of the aggrieved diocese of Hereford to the wisdom of Parliament to remedy what they feel to be a grave hardship? Some of the opponents of the Measure have been at no pains to conceal their views. I take the case of Lord Hugh Cecil. Nobody feels greater admiration than L feel for his distinguished character, his high devotion to principle and the great part which he has played in the ecclesiastical life of the country, but he is a man of strong conviction, and like most men of strong convictions he desires those convictions to prevail. He is a centraliser. He wants to have the Church of England governed, no doubt in the light of his wisdom, from the centre. I can imagine the noble Lord, as he contemplates that, muttering to himself an adage of ancient statecraft "Divide et impera."
Here I admit, quite frankly, that the fashion at present is to multiply Bishops, but I am old enough to have seen fashions in the ecclesiastical world rush like a Scottish river in spate and then a change has come. Not very long since it was the fashion to break up the larger parishes. Now the wisdom of Parliament is engaged in uniting parishes and I believe the time is not far distant when there will be a reaction against this multiplication of small Bishoprics. This policy of small Bishoprics is a survival of the policy of 453 the past. Archbishop Usher, in the seventeenth century, in an endeavour to propitiate the Puritans of that time proposed that the rural deanery should be the diocesan unit, and I think that the partisans of small Bishoprics, without knowing it, are harking back to that Puritan plan. The truth is that they are not quite certain what are to be the functions of a Bishop, whether he is to oversee or whether in the literal sense of the word he is to be a pastor.
I see that fantastic calculations are being made as to how long it will take a Bishop to visit and preach in every parish of his diocese. Those calculations leave me absolutely unmoved. This House is rich in men who have had great experience in administration, and I put it to them, whether it is not sound administration that a superior officer must not do the work of his inferiors but that there must be reasonable devolution of tasks in which each man must attend to his proper task. That is the only way in which efficiency can be secured. If a Bishop is himself to visit and preach in, every parish in his diocese then his under-officials are superfluous. The Bishop of Manchester advocated the multiplication of small dioceses on the general ground of the prospective needs of the Anglican Communion, and he pointed, with something like envy, I thought., to the Roman method of congregations, but I think he was mistaken as to the Roman principle which he had in mind. The Roman precedent which is being followed is that of creating Bishops in partibus Those considerations, I submit to your Lordships, are irrelevant to the present position. We are concerned with the Church of England, and with what is best for the Church of England, and these great questions must be solved independently.
Then I want to ask your Lordships to look at the question of finance, although I almost do so with diffidence. I should have thought that it must be apparent to everybody that economy, not only in the State but in the Church, is in the present circumstances so necessary as to be almost of cardinal importance. If so, what is to be said of a proposal which, whatever other merits it has, is open at least to this objection, that it is a most costly and most extravagant method of dealing with the particular subject? I 454 should have thought that the Bishop of Lichfield would have been the last, person to be not concerned with that consideration. I have reports from newspapers of his Lordship speaking in this way. I gather from the Guardian that the Bishop of Lichfield writes in his diocesan magazine that:There is serious and pressing danger of our work being crippled for lack of means. Last year only 60 per cent. of the parochial quotas were paid"—and the Bishop's appeal apparently brought in something like half what it was commonly expected to yield. And does he propose to alleviate this distressing financial position by superimposing a fresh demand of 850,000 on the diocese?
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
Yes, he says. Well, I can only congratulate the country that he is not Chancellor of the Exchequer. But let us pass away from that financial digression. There are other needs far more urgent than the multiplication of Bishops which ought to claim the consideration of the Church of England. There are two in particular. The poverty of the clergy, in spite of all our efforts, is the worst handicap of the spiritual work of the, Church of England to-day, and to pour out money upon creating new Bishoprics when the poverty of the clergy is as cruel as it is, is to my mind a wholly indefensible proposition. Then again, the Church of England is suffering desperately from the poverty of the intellectual equipment of its clergy, and we are compelled to recruit for ordination from sections of the people who have very poor educational opportunities, so that the task of equipping those men for the work to which they are devoted becomes more, urgent and more costly. If I had to choose between those three great spiritual objects—the creation of a new Bishopric, or the due payment of the working clergy, or the duo education of ordination candidates—I should without hesitation say that both the two latter have superior claims.
But it is said—and I have no doubt his Lordship in due course, when he intervenes, will say it—"Oh, but to create a new Bishopric is to open new streams of Anglican liberality and to 455 raise more money than could in any case be obtained without the new Bishop." I believe that expectation is built upon a double fallacy. First of all, it carries over from certain notable examples of the past a precedent which is probably not applicable to this case. Where there is a great city you have a sentiment—shall I call it municipal pride, municipal self-respect, or what you will?—and if you can yoke that sentiment to a project of episcopal expansion you do, no doubt, have access to an amount of money which mere considerations of spiritual benefit or duty would not influence. But in this case you have not in Shropshire any such great city. You have a County—from what I know of the County of Hereford I expect it is much the same in the County of Shropshire—which is financially very hard hit, and is not at all in the, position of being able to raise large sums for any new object.
And the other reason is this—and I say it with regret and pain. There has been a great change in the attitude of the English people towards the Church of England. Thirty years ago, when great Bishoprics like Liverpool, Newcastle, and Birmingham were created, the Church of England was still, and was proud to be, the Church of England, the great national Church. To-day it is increasingly denominational, increasingly it is thinking of itself and for itself, and, though I do not question the sincerity and the zeal which this narrower loyalty inspires, I do say that it is a great weakening and shrivelling of the Church's influence. I do not believe that the appeals put forward to-day from the Church Assembly—which has with due modesty changed its name, and no longer affects to call itself the National Assembly, but the Church Assembly—will have the same effect as those of former times. This proposal comes forwards at a singularly unfortunate time. The number of working clergy in the Church of England is falling dramatically. This year it will have fallen by something like 300 or 400 clergymen, and that process shows as yet no sign of ceasing. Is this the time, then, when the rank and file of the clergy are rapidly diminishing in numbers, to multiply superior officers? Surely the proposal is in itself most untimely, even if in itself it be wise.
456 The opposition of Hereford is, as far as I can judge, as nearly a unanimous opposition of the whole community as you could imagine. Now the strength of the Church of England in the past has been its local attachments and loyalties. There is as we are often reminded, no corporation of the Church of England known to the law, but a congeries of corporations—corporations parochial, corporations diocesan, and so on, which together make up the Church of England. As I look back over the years of the ministry which I have had the honour to fulfil In the Church of England—and if I live to next year that ministry will have lasted for forty years—as I look over those forty years there is no circumstance which afflicts me with more sorrow and consternation than the widening of the breach between the Church of England and the people. Is this the way to do something to bridge that chasm, when the whole population are really concerned and moved over an ecclesiastical proposal? Is this the way to remedy that deplorable tendency? Surely the case of Hereford, when you look at it, is irresistible. And so I ask your Lordships on all these grounds, financial grounds, local grounds, sentimental grounds, all converging to the supreme issue of spiritual influence, to reject this measure.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, it is not a very easy matter to follow my brother, the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and I shall not attempt the splendid rhetorical flights to which he has treated us, but shall deal in a plain and simple manner with some of the immediate facts that we have to face with regard to this proposed Measure. First of all, I want to say that this is not a question between big Bishops and little Bishops, or big dioceses and dioceses in the abstract. It is simply a question of one particular case. And I think it is universally agreed by those who know the facts—the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, has stated it pretty plainly—that the diocese of Lichfield ought to be much smaller than it is. I avoid the expression that it needs relief, because I do not want to come pleading to your Lordships in forma pauperis that I am a much over-worked man and want to be relieved of part of my job. I do not regard it in that way at all. As long as I have to try and administer an impossibly big diocese I shall do it to the best of my ability.
457 But the point is this, that in the interests of the efficiency of the work of the Church things are not being properly done in the diocese of Lichfield, and I am grateful to the Bishop of Durham for having pointed out the financial position of the diocese at this present moment. It is perfectly true that I pointed out in the diocesan magazine that the financial position is deplorable, and I put down that financial failure in very large degree to the unwieldy character of the diocese. I believe that if and when Staffordshire has a Bishop to itself and Shropshire has a Bishop to itself the work of the dioceses will progress so favourably, and the interest in religious matters generally and in the work of the Church in particular will so greatly increase, that our financial difficulties will be removed.
On this point I should like to deal with what was said by the right rev. Prelate on the subject of finance. I am rather surprised that he should have done so, but he seemed to assume that the amount available for religious purposes in general, and for the purposes of the Church of England in particular, is a fixed quantity, and that if you give so much more for the endowment of a Bishopric you have so much less for helping the poor clergy or for the training of candidates for the ministry. I should have thought that no one would have known more surely than the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Durham, that there is no such fixed amount, and that everything depends upon what people are interested in. If people are interested in football they will spend £5,000 in gate money at one big match. I am not blaming them a bit; they do it because they are interested in it, and when people's interest in and their care for the Church and what it stands for is increased and intensified the money will be forthcoming. That has been proved to the hilt by experience.
I notice that the Lord Bishop of Durham deprecates allusion to previous new Bishoprics. He says that Liverpool and Birmingham were founded a long time ago when the whole attitude of people to these matters was different. How about the diocese of Sheffield, which was founded only twelve years ago? I cannot think that the attitude of English people in general towards the Church has so changed during the past twelve years as 458 to make the Sheffield precedent irrelevant. Any one who knows that diocese—I worked in the diocese of York for some time—will know that money for Church purposes, including the poor clergy, has been forthcoming in far greater abundance since the new diocese of Sheffield was established. Then the right rev. Prelate says that in that case there is the pride of some municipality to back it up. What about the pride of the county? I do not know anything greater than the pride of the Salopian in his County and I think that the people of Staffordshire have the same pride in their County. I believe that is quite as strong a motive as municipal pride and I have lived in Liverpool and I know something of what municipal pride can be. Therefore I think that the financial argument breaks down. If it could be proved that by raising money for a new Bishopric you were lessening the amount of money available for the improvement of clerical stipends, I should think for some time before recommending such a Measure as this. But I am convinced that the greater the interest we can arouse the more readily will money be forthcoming for the objects.
The right rev. Prelate who moved the Motion pointed out that it is not only a question of the Bishop being able to get round his diocese—and in spite of the Lord Bishop of Durham, I think it is rather a good thing for a Bishop to get round his diocese. I can get round my diocese pretty well. I will not say exactly how long it takes me to travel the forty-three miles from Lichfield to Shrewsbury because might get my chauffeur and myself into trouble; but I can get to Shrewsbury very easily in my motor-car. But what is the position of Shrewsbury people who have to get to our diocesan centre for diocesan business? Your Lordships must realise that the last ten years have seen an enormous increase in the interest of members of our Church in the administration of the Church. The parochial church councils have done a great deal in that direction. It is people of the poorest class who in many ways are the most interested and I am thankful to say that they occupy a place—I wish it was a larger one—on our parochial church councils and diocesan conferences. It is all very well to talk of travelling from Oswestry to Stafford by motor-car, but everyone has 459 not a, motor-car, and in spite of what his Lordship of Durham said our railways and motor omnibuses are not improving to such an enormous extent as to render it easy for poor people to make the journey. I may point out that the journey from Oswestry to Stafford is an expensive one for a poor man. I want, therefore, to make it clear that in pleading for the creation of this new diocese we are thinking not simply of helping the Bishop to do his work better, though that is important, but of enabling the representatives of the diocese to take their proper and constitutional share in the work of the diocese.
I pass now to what is, of course, the great difficulty in this matter—the position of the diocese of Hereford. I speak with all possible respect for and sympathy with my neighbours in that diocese. If it were proved that real substantial injury and not merely injury of a sentimental kind were being done to that ancient diocese, I should hesitate very much in pressing for this Measure. We have heard a great deal about the injury that will be inflicted in Hereford by reducing its size. I cannot quite understand what the injury is supposed to be. It may be said that the Bishop will not have enough to do, and I think that my brother of Manchester has given a perfectly good answer to that. But I wonder whether it has occurred to noble Lords why people from more or less distant dioceses are hardly ever in their places in this House. It is not because we do not take an interest in the business of the House. It is simply because the work we have to do in our big dioceses makes it absolutely impossible for us to be here. As the right rev. Prelate has said, if it is worth while to have a few Bishoprics where scholars can perform their scholarly work and men can do work of special interest for the Church, it is worth while also to have a few dioceses the Bishops of w1hich can attend to their duties in your Lord-ships' House. I wish I had a diocese with 200 parishes in it because I could really get something done.
That brings me to another very crucial point. When we are talking about the size of dioceses and the difficulties of administering them, a great deal is said about the population. I am not saying that the population is not an important 460 item, but I say with some experience as a diocesan Bishop and as a Suffragan that what makes a Bishop's work difficult is not the number of heads in the population of a diocese, but the number of parishes and especially the number of clergy in it. A small country parish can give a Bishop as much trouble and occupy as much of his time as a big centre of population. Your Lordships will pardon me a personal word or two. All my experience as a parish priest was in big towns and I certainly look at these things from the point of view of the big towns. But my thirteen years at Lichfield have taught me not to despise the country parish. I believe that the strength of the Church of England lies very largely in our country parishes and it is as important for the Bishop to attend to them as it is for him to attend to the towns. There is very little more work in confirming 200 candidates in a big church in a town in the Potteries than in confirming 20 in a small church in a country village. As I have already said it is not the population of the towns that makes the difference to a Bishop, but the number of parishes and clergy. And it is the area of a diocese which affects its administration and renders it easy or difficult for representatives to get to and from the centre. The area of Herefordshire is considerable—very nearly a thousand square miles.
If the Bishop does not suffer harm from having a small diocese, where does the harm come in financially? The noble Lord, Lord Forester, mentioned that the administrative expenses would be very much the same. I do not think they would be. In some respects I think they would be lessened. I should like to correct what I think is a misapprehension with regard to what some advocates of the Measure said in respect of that £200 from the Three Choirs Festival. I do not think they have for a moment suggested that this £200 should be taken away from the widows and orphans. What they said was this, that hitherto £200 had been given from the proceeds of that festival to the Shropshire part of the Hereford diocese, and that if Shropshire becomes a new diocese this £200 will come back to Hereford. That will mean that the Hereford part of the diocese will not have to give so much as it has hitherto given to that particular purpose if the £200 were available from the Three Choirs 461 Festival. The money the diocese has given for that same purpose will not be wanted in the same way. That is what was meant. But if there is a financial loss it will not be more than £300 at the outside apparently, and that does not seem a very serious matter
I recognise what the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham says with regard to the excellence and efficiency of the Hereford diocese. Their record with regard to their communicants and the work of the parishes is an excellent record, but I cannot see that that record will in the least suffer, or the efficiency of the work in any way diminish, if South Shropshire goes with North Shropshire to form a new diocese. I do not think the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham was quite right when he said that there was virtually a unanimous opinion from the Hereford diocese in the plebiscite, to which I will allude in a moment. Fifty-four per cent. of the parishes in the Ludlow archdeaconry of the Hereford diocese voted in favour of the Shropshire Bishopric—a clear majority—and even twenty per cent. in Herefordshire were on the same side. It was not unanimous. I can quite recognise the very strong sentimental objection that there is, and I think we have to weigh that natural sentiment as against the real efficient working of the Church in that big Midland area.
Now I wine to the alternatives. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham suggested that there were plenty of alternatives, and asked why did not we adopt one of them. First, with regard to Suffragan Bishops. I have one advantage over my brother the Bishop of Durham. He never was a Suffragan Bishop, I have been one. I think I spent three of the happiest years of my life as Suffragan Bishop to the Archbishop of York. I learned a great deal about a Bishop's job. It was a happy time. I had lots of pleasant things to do, and whenever anything unpleasant had to be done I had to push it on to the broad shoulders of my Bishop. He dealt with it. A Suffragan cannot deal with matters of discipline and so on. They have to go on to the shoulders of the diocesan Bishop. I hope I relieved my Diocesan of a certain amount of his work, but I did not relieve him of a great deal of his responsibility. Now I 462 have the happiness of having a brother, who is in every way a brother, the Bishop of Stafford, as my most excellent Suffragan. I do not know what I should do without him. But having a Suffragan like that simply means that there is more work being done. It does not mean a great relief to the Bishop of the diocese. And this is the important thing, however many Suffragans you have you do not with these overgrown dioceses get rid of the difficulty of getting your representative laity from the different parts of the diocese to the centre. That is the real difficulty that we have to deal with.
There is the alternative of putting the whole of Shropshire and Herefordshire together and forming one enormous diocese. What does that mean? You talk about relieving the Bishop of Lichfield. You want to save the Bishop of Lichfield's life, but perhaps it is not much good saving the Bishop of Lichfield's life in order that you may kill the Bishop of Hereford. I know that my brother of Hereford very likely will say that he is equal to managing such an enormous area. He is a young and a vigorous man, and I know he would do the best he could, but wait till he gets as old as his brother of Lichfield. He may then think differently about it. In all seriousness, five hundred parishes are too many for one diocese, and you are only removing one anomaly to create an anomaly even greater. As for the area to be covered, if you do have your second diocesan centre at Shrewsbury, and it succeeds, it seems to me it will only show how very much better it would be to have had a separate diocese as well.
I think your Lordships know that there was a plebiscite of the whole of the two dioceses concerned. With regard to this proposed alternative the figures were very clear. They were: for the Shrewsbury Bishopric, 499; for the alternative of the united new diocese, 238; majority for the Shrewsbury Bishopric, 261. In Shropshire the figures were: 196 in favour of a Shropshire Bishopric and 69 against. In Hereford the figures were: for the Shropshire Bishopric, 34; for the new joint diocese, 46. As for the meeting that dealt with the question of alternatives, it had for its chairman a former member of this House whose death we all lament, the late Bishop of Southwell, one of the best you 463 could find. Seven of the representatives came from Lichfield, twelve from Hereford, and seventeen from outside. I am quite certain that that committee had the greatest possible desire to deal with the whole matter fairly, and they decided that this alternative scheme was really a hopeless scheme.
The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham says that there are other ways out. It is very easy to say that, but those who are on the spot, and have gone into it, pretty carefully, cannot see any other way out. I think your Lordships will see this. If you throw out this Measure—I hope you will not—then you may possibly have this alternative scheme put before you. You will then hear something about forcible expropriation. You will forcibly expropriate 144 parishes of North Shropshire, taking them from a diocese to which they do now belong and putting them into another diocese to which they do not want to belong. I do not think that would he a method which would commend itself to your Lordships. I have spoken perhaps at unnecessary length after the excellent speeches that we have had. I hope your Lordships will pass this Measure, not simply that you may relieve the diocese of Lichfield, but that you may enable the work of the Church of God to be more efficiently done in this great and important. area of the Midlands, so that we may do our part there, as we want to do it, not simply for the good of the community there but also for the good of all people to whom the Church of Christ appeals.
My Lords, I will only keep your Lordships three minutes, but I must take this opportunity of speaking on behalf of the laity of Hereford. Herefordshire is badly represented in your Lordships' House. Had it been better represented I can assure you that nothing would have induced me to take part in a debate which has not only interested us but kept many of your Lordships in their places. The fact remains that the laity of the County of Hereford have the greatest sympathy with Lichfield. There is no doubt whatever that it needs relief. There is also no doubt that the Bishopric of Shrewsbury would be a very ideal, if somewhat costly, addition to the episcopacy of this country. But, on the other hand, it has been thought to be curious that part of the present diocese 464 of Hereford, that part in the County of Hereford, should be against this Measure, and that the part in Shropshire should be for it, or not totally against it. It is perfectly clear that that little portion of Shropshire, it is really half the County, which now belongs to Hereford, is happy in either case. It is happy in the present diocese. It is not going to be left alone in any other diocese that may be formed.
But, on the other hand, the County of Hereford is going to be left very much on its own. Is it curious that it should want to protest as forcibly as possible againt the taking away of its brother in South Shropshire? I have not the ability to talk in detail about the various considerations so ably put before you by the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Durham and the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield and by the mover of the Measure. I only wish to tell you that the laity of Hereford are dead against this Measure. They form a very large part of this diocese and it will be totally and absolutely against their will if this Measure is passed.
TEE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I find myself in a difficult position. If I spoke according to my personal liking I should be one of the opponents of the Measure. If I were to voice the opinion of the greater part of the diocese I should take the same course. I do not think I need elaborate that point. Opinion in the County of Hereford is almost unanimous. Opinion in the south part of Shropshire is about evenly divided. There is one point to which I should like to call the attention of the House. It is this, that in the removal of South Shropshire from the diocese of Hereford to the new diocese of Shrewsbury a very large proportion of those removed would be removed with their consent. At least between 50 and 60 per cent. of the population has signified its approval through the Church Council. I think the inclusion of Staffordshire in the plebiscite gave a somewhat wrong view of the whole situation. Church people in the County of Hereford are in this position. They felt that if this Measure is passed they would either have an overpaid and underworked Prelate, or they would see too much of him, and they voted very largely against the division, I think, on that account.
465 The diocese will be very much on the small side, and I do think that that ought to be taken into account in the consideration of the matter by your Lordships, but I am bound to say that viewing the position as a whole I am prepared to vote for this Measure. It has been said that I was caught young and that I was caught when I was ignorant of the situation, but I would ask your Lordships whether it is not better to form an opinion on a dispassionate view before controversy is raised. I had the opportunity of looking the matter before controversy was raised, and no new facts have been brought to light. I therefore appealed to the diocese of Hereford to suffer gladly for the good of the Church as a whole, and I ask that that interpretation should be put upon my action. I cannot follow the example of the right rev. Prelate, my predecessor in the see, in his opposition. I believe it is not altogether improper to quote Latin in your Lordships' House, and therefore I would say that. I think of him as saying:Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo, which I think may be interpreted as: "If I cannot get my way in the Church Assembly I will try my chances in another place."
I want to make it perfectly plain that the Church Assembly did take very great pains over this Measure. It considered it more often and at greater length than any other Measure and after that painstaking consideration I think I am amply justified in my position. Taking the area as a whole, I think the Measure provides for an improvement on the present situation. You have at present an unwieldy diocese. In that diocese you have in North Shropshire a geographical excrescence. By this Measure you remove that excrescence and reduce its field to a workable area. The Measure creates an almost ideal diocese in the County of Shropshire, with the county town as a centre. It does reduce Hereford to a size which I believe, in comparison with the other dioceses, to be one which will raise very serious difficulties, but it will not make the diocese unworkable. Against the present arrangement with an unwieldy diocese you will get two easily workable dioceses and one which, though small, is not unworkable. On that ground think this Measure is 466 worthy the support of your Lordships' House.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
My Lords, I should like to begin the few remarks I have to address to you by commenting on the words that fell from the noble Earl who laid stress upon the fact that the Ecclesiastical Committee have found no fault with this Measure in sending it to Parliament. So far as the work of the Ecclesiastical Committee goes, my impression is that its duty is to prepare the matter for Parliament and in no case to replace the decision of Parliament. Therefore the matter conies before your Lordships to-day as an open and undecided matter so far as you are concerned.
I must take this opportunity of correcting a little misapprehension which was expressed on the part of the most rev. Primate, when the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure was under discussion. The most rev. Primate made these remarks about a speech that I had made on a previous occasion. He said:The Bishop of Norwich, the other night, quoted Archbishop Benson's advocacy of large dioceses as an argument against this proposal, as though he had ever said or thought that the argument in favour of large dioceses as against small ones was an argument against all division. Any one who would refer to the words as quoted by the Bishop of Norwich the other day will see how carefully guarded they are.The words that I quoted made it perfectly evident to any one who had heard or read them that I was following the lead of the great Archbishop, and he spoke—I will quote the words in a moment—in the sense that, though divisions might be desirable, yet one, must not go too far.
These are Archbishop Benson's words:—I continued to press the Church to keep it diocesan centres very strong, not comminuting their resources, not reducing the size of the dioceses so that the strong influence of each ceases to radiate through all.Then, referring to the contrary policy, he added:—Vigour and character were not in hand for so many posts of leaders. The old policy of England must be nowhere forgotten, that sub-division should cease"—of course, that does not say that subdivision should never begin—before dioceses became too small for the influence of each to radiate through all, 467 before the administration anywhere becomes so narrow as to represent only local patriotism.I think your Lordships will agree that the proposal before us is to reduce the diocese of Hereford below the water-line marked by Archbishop Benson, and I am glad to have the opportunity to-day of reminding your Lordships of his exact words as they stand regarding sub-division—and the inadvisability of the proposed division.
I think very little good comes of using peremptory language against those who favour the old English system of large dioceses. It is often said that Bishops of large dioceses prefer to act upon their prestige, as being important men in the Church, in contrast with the humility of the Bishops in smaller dioceses, but I do not think for a moment that in practice this consideration really carries any weight. Perhaps it is the bigness of the men that matters more than the bigness of the diocese. Bishop John Wordsworth of Salisbury, by whom I was ordained Deacon and Priest and consecrated Bishop, was against the division of his diocese, saying—and this is a point that has not yet been raised in these debates—that it was equally important that the Bishops should know one another as brothers as that they should know the clergy. By this, no doubt, he meant that if we are to have unity and coherence in the Church of England it will be largely promoted by common counsels among the Bishops, and this becomes impossible when the number of Bishops is so great that they represent rather a board than a brotherhood. And yet I can remember hearing the noble sermon that was preached by the most rev. Primate in Salisbury Cathedral when he mentioned that this great Bishop was able to give as accurate an account of any matter concerning his diocese as any Bishop of whom he ever made inquiries. So well did the Bishop of this large diocese know every detail, that he was a pattern of efficiency, and we are all aware of the splendid work that he did for scholarship in this very large diocese. I think that we may set this against the hopes and the prophecies of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Manchester.
I do not believe for a moment that the foot rule of the number of candidates for 468 confirmation, and so on, proves that active spiritual life is greater in small dioceses than in large ones. If in large dioceses you have two confirmation centres in every rural deanery, that surely must be fully adequate to the convenience of the candidates. I have been Bishop of an undivided diocese and of a divided diocese. In both I came to think that the true vigour of the Church comes through spiritual and devoted clergymen and not from the multiplication of church officers and committees which more numerous dioceses necessarily involve. It is the self-sacrificing lives of the clergy themselves that count for most, and there are many ways of cheering them on in their work, open to Bishops of large dioceses or of small dioceses, and they are helped more by such encouragement than by constant interference as if they were not able and efficient to stand by themselves.
I am delighted that my right rev. brother, the Bishop of Durham, alluded to the fact that in large dioceses, as is so frequently forgotten, it is much easier to keep the Bishop in the background when he ought to be kept in the background. Constantly when I am quite at leisure and have plenty of time I ask the advice of the wise Rural Dean of the district as to whether a particular complaint is such that it ought to come to my notice. I know that if it is brought to my notice this will make a big thing of it, and perhaps start a party and a rift in the parish, whereas if a few friendly words spoken by the Rural Dean can deal with the situation no quarrel arises. But in a tiny diocese, as the diocese of Hereford will become, being simply the same size as the archdeanery of Hereford, one really does not see how there is room for devolution and people will say to the Archdeacon of Hereford that they must have the personal opinion of the Bishop in such a small diocese.
The one thing that has emerged in the years since we took to this rapid division of dioceses is this. The proposal has been put forward that the smaller dioceses should pool their finances and that the Bishops of them should pool their patronage. This is a. kind of contradiction of the very idea of the formation of small dioceses. If they cannot pool together in this way, we shall be soon he out for a Measure for the union of Bishoprics. For a Bishop to know in- 469 timately every member of the lay flock of his diocese is obviously quite impossible. For this to be the case you must divide every diocese by twenty, thirty or fifty. It is a matter of degree, and, if one presses Bishops who defend small dioceses by asking if they really mean that they get to know every layman in their diocese, of course they admit at once that it is an impossibility.
More generally I believe that whether a Bishop knows his clergy well in their churches and their homes depends less upon their number than upon his own power of observation, his memory, his breadth of heart and his paramount determination in spite of central engagements, to stick close to his diocese. I believe very strongly in the personal touch, and no Bishop of a large or small diocese will be content if he is not constantly visiting different churches and flocks. Simplicity—not prelacy—and sympathy will carry the day, and thanks to the means of getting about, to which the Bishop of Durham alluded, we are getting closer to one another every day. I fully believe in the human touch of fellowship, and I believe that this depends far less upon the area to be covered than on the personality and habits of the Bishop; for in the advancement of the Kingdom of God, the erection of new machinery for new and smaller Bishoprics will not go nearly so far as having a Bishop with a big heart. We are in a real danger, not so much of petty dioceses but of a petty spirit of exclusive diocesanism, and the increasing number of Bishoprics has already made the Church of England less coherent in its aims and outlook.
New dioceses, of course, there must be. I took pains to be present to speak against the division of the Bishopric of Winchester, but I supported the case of the Bishopric of Derby. This is a different case to all others. Here we are compelling a Bishopric to divide itself. No one who listened to my brother of Hereford just now could think that he was very enthusiastic over the proposal, and it has already been pointed out to your Lordships that precisely the same relief could be given to the Bishop of Lichfield if the Bishop of Hereford took the northern as well as the southern part of Shropshire. We should get the Bishop of Lichfield relieved in that way to precisely the same extent. We need not 470 break up the diocese of Hereford, and we should not add one more see to the Church of England. I venture to put these remarks briefly before your Lordships, and I should be extremely sorry if you supposed that the Bishop of Durham was the only Bishop who still supported the ancient practice of the Church of England. I am heart and soul with him in the belief in these large dioceses, which have great capacities of their own denied to the little Bishoprics.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I have no personal inclination to take part in this discussion to-night, after all that has been said, but I find it is expected, and perhaps reasonably expected, that I should say something upon a matter upon which there is so marked and wide a difference of opinion. Happily, the statistical and geographical details have been already handled by those closely and competently conversant with them all, and I need not touch upon those matters in their detail. Your Lordships who have listened carefully to the discussion, and who have read the papers which have been circulated, probably have had no difficulty in owning to a judgment as to where the balance falls in regard to these details, geographical, financial or statistical. You will admit that opportunities have certainly been given for having the facts properly marshalled to-night. Nobody who has listened to the speeches, or read the papers, can have any doubt that the two sides to the proposal have been placed before us, and that strong and weighty arguments can be used upon either side. We have had those strong and weighty arguments put before us to-night by men peculiarly qualified and peculiarly entitled to put them before us.
To take the episcopal speeches only, the Bishop of Manchester holds the position of Chairman of what is called the New Sees Committee in the National Church Assembly, and in that capacity he speaks with unique weight and authority upon a subject of this sort. On the other hand we have had from my brother, the Bishop of Durham, a speech of characteristic force, eloquence and cogency, which he is peculiarly entitled as well as qualified to give from the fact that he was Bishop of Hereford for several years. I have listened to the 471 speeches with great care, although I was already fairly familiar with the subject. I appreciate the weight of the arguments brought forward by the Bishop of Durham, and with some of them I think I entirely agree, though by no means all of them, because I think he went off upon some generalities, upon which I should rejoice to have an opportunity of combating what he said.
To my mind his arguments fail to outweigh the facts adequately put before us by the Chairman of the New Sees Committee, who reminded us of the care with which the matter again and again has been discussed in the Assembly, which has sent up to us for our consideration—not necessarily adoption—a report as to the conclusion which the Assembly reached. I do not remember, in the course of the Assembly's life in its present, form, any subject which has been more thoroughly debated and re-debated, referred back and discussed afresh, than this particular subject, and it is impossible to forget the amount of attention that was given to it by those qualified to do so before the Assembly came to vote.
It is upon the vote of the Assembly and its bearing upon what we are doing to-night that I desire to say a few words. When, seven years ago, it was my privilege to stand here and propose the Second Reading of what was called the Enabling Bill, upon which the whole procedure now being followed is based, I ventured to stress the point that in bringing about this new legislation we were not taking away the power of Parliament to decide things for themselves. Not only is the power of Parliament left unimpaired, but we made it as clear as possible that in the actual procedure to be followed Parliament has the final word. I had hoped that that was quite clear when I was introducing the Bill, but it was challenged at the time by Lord Haldane and Lord Birkenhead, and I therefore accepted an Amendment, moved on their behalf, that the clause should take the form in which it now appears—namely, that there should be a Resolution by each House of Parliament before a Measure could become law. Therefore let no one say we are asking Parliament to give up its right and power of considering properly for itself any one of these proposals which come before us.
I stressed that at the time the Bill was introduced. I adhere absolutely to what 472 I then said, and I fail entirely to follow my brother of Durham, who appeared to me to say that we were being asked to-night to waive the power of Parliament, and to make submission to the Assembly without the right of thinking for ourselves. No one, so far as I know, has ever challenged our right to think this matter out, to vote for it, and to speak for it in this House, but obviously the degree of information which we possess entitling us to judge for ourselves on the particular vote that we are to give on these ecclesiastical matters will considerably vary according to the nature of the subjects which come before us and the amount of consideration that has been given to them. We have passed through Parliament in all during these years—and this is rather a surprising feat, considering what was prophesied at the time seventeen different Measures, and while I venture to say that every one of them is now accepted by almost everybody as right, hardly any one would have passed if we had not had the Act which gave us that power.
It has worked extremely well, but this is to be noted about it. The Measures are to be divided into two categories. There are those which deal with large general questions concerning the Church's life as a whole and concerning parish life, urban or rural, as a whole. These are subjects upon which every member of your Lordships' House or of the other House of Parliament is perfectly competent to make up his own mind from the general knowledge he has of our social and ecclesiastical surroundings, and to vote according to the conclusions to which he naturally has been led. There are such matters as the formation of parochial church councils and the powers they are to have, or the manner in which the laity are to be represented in diocesan gatherings and the like, and the way in which they are to be elected and the procedure that is to be followed. Or, again, the union of benefices. Is it, or is it not, a good thing to unite benefices together? Ought a general Measure to be passed for promoting that end? There are many more such questions—even dilapidations, though it sounds a dull subject, is one which concerns a great many other people besides the clergy, and one upon which any member of either House of Parliament is absolutely, not only entitled, but 473 probably qualified to have an opinion, and to give his vote accordingly. On those subjects I should regret extremely were this House or the other House to fall into the mistake of supposing that, because a matter has come, up from the Assembly, recommended by the Assembly or its Legislative Committee, they were therefore bound to vote for it. I do not think so at all. En this debate I think that, every member of this House is entitled to have his opinion.
But I have stated that the Measures fall into two categories. Those of a general kind are undoubtedly matters upon which we are all entitled and competent to form an opinion for ourselves, and I welcome the discussion of such questions in the House. The more they are discussed the better. I think it is a remarkable fact that we have had almost entire unanimity in passing hitherto the various Measures which have conic up. That has not been because they have not been explained and considered, but because they have conic up after reasonable discussion and are presented here in a. reasonable way.
Then there is another class of Measure, which deals with ecclesiastical, or geographical, or statistical details of some kind, of which it is almost impossible for any one, unless he will give full time and attention to the subject, realty to understand the ins and outs sufficiently well to be able to judge for himself and independently whether this proposal or that is the better one. There are a large number of such Measures. Take the re-arrangement of the lectionary—a matter which concerns everybody, indeed, but extremely technical, and requiring an amount of detailed study to which few ordinary members of the House would be able to give the time. Or take the question of the exact power and rights of the Ecclesiastical Commission as to the disposal of the money placed in its hands as a trust, or the exact mode of constituting diocesan boards of finance—all of these are Measures that we have passed— how should such a board he constituted, what exactly should be its powers in its diocese in local and central things? These are mast difficult and most technical matters, and yet extremely important.
Above all, there is the group of Measures—not a few—which are 474 concerned with the re-adjustment of boundaries, including sometimes the question of forming new dioceses. If any member of your Lordships' House had given detailed attention to these subjects—and we have heard to-night from the speeches, not from Bishops only but from laymen as well, what detailed attention has been given—then I should hope that every such member of the House would feel in no way influenced, except as a portion of the argument which he is weighing, by the fact that this has passed through the Assembly or through the Ecclesiastical Committee, but would vote independently on the subject. But I cannot suppose that that is common to most of us. The details of the portions of Shropshire and Hereford which are dealt with in this Measure, the way in which the parishes would be affected by this change—.all those are extremely difficult questions, and from the very arguments we have heard to-night we have seen how easy it is for competent men to take quite different opinions on the subject.
When it comes to technical things of that kind it does seem to me that most members of your Lordships' House will do wisely if they look to the recent history of the consideration of the subject. And if any one will follow in detail the amount of care that was given to this subject, first, in committee, then in the Assembly, then hack again to a great committee specially formed to consider it, then hack to the Assembly as a whole, and how each one of the various propositions possible was weighed, he must feel that he is rather a brave man if he thinks he can judge better than those who so weighed it, and that he can form without having deeply studied the subject, an independent judgment of his own. Therefore I venture to suggest that, unless noble Lords have given such detailed study to the subject, they will judge rightly if they fall back upon the guidance given by the Assembly which considered the matter so carefully—not because your Lordships are bound to do it, but because, by that means, you are best assured of dealing with what has been weightily and wisely considered. For that reason I hope you will feel it right to give a vote in favour of the Resolution.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?—
§ [From Minutes of March 3.]