HL Deb 10 May 1961 vol 231 cc230-336

2.23 p.m.

THE EARL, OF ARRAN rose to move to resolve, That this House welcomes the recent consultation between leaders of the Christian Churches and trusts that this will lead to a greater unity of Christian spirit. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name. I think I should make it clear that at the end of the debate, the purpose having been served, I shall withdraw it in the same way as one withdraws a Motion for Papers. I hope that this procedure will have your Lordships' approval.

I speak this afternoon with humility. The matter that we are to discuss is a great matter, perhaps one of the greatest of all matters, and what we say to-day can be of deep consequence. Our debate can, I believe, do good, or I would not have suggested it; it can also do harm; and it has been borne in on me that I may have done wrong in bringing before your Lordships this most difficult and controversial of matters. My reason for doing it is that I believe I am one of many simple Christians, not only in this country but all over the world, who are perplexed, indeed actively hindered, in their Christian faith by the disputes and divisions between the Churches. I am not going to emphasise or dwell upon these disputes or their causes. They are there; we all know about them, and they must inevitably hang over us as we speak. But I would suggest that the less we talk about them, the better it will be. I hope that we may rather consider the things which bind us together: our belief in the Christian God our acceptance of the Gospels and our common judgment of good and evil.

My Lords, it is rather a dreadful thing that 1,900 years and more after the birth of Our Lord, we Christians are still not united, even in spirit. The late Bishop of Guildford called it, "the sin of division"; and I think he was right. Surely we are offending against a fundamental Christian principle when we allow ourselves to think, speak and act without charity of those who worship the same God, but in ways which we do not fully understand. I would ask your Lordships to consider this. Is it not true that for most of us our forms of Christianity are inherited? I am a devout member of the Church of England, but I have no doubt that if I had been born a Roman Catholic I should have been an equally fervent member of the Roman Church. If it is not heresy to say this, our forms of Christian belief are in almost every case an accident. Of course, there are exceptions. There are those who have thought things out for themselves and who have decided that some other form of Christian belief is more rewarding and nearer to the complete faith as laid down by its Founder. I have the greatest respect for such people. But most of us remain what we are, what we were born and what our fathers brought us up to be. Perhaps we are guilty of spiritual sloth in not going more closely into these things, but who shall say that we are wrong?

I have said that I am not going to speak of the causes of the divisions which separate the Christian Churches, but I must speak about the consequences of these divisions. They are there for all to see, and they strike deep into the lives of millions. Fortunately, the days of religious persecution are over, or almost over. People do not have to die for their faith these days. And, on paper at least, there is no such thing in the Christian countries as official discrimination on religious grounds. But, as we all know, the old suspicions are there, the old hates remain, and homes and families are still rendered miserable by disputes not so much over matters of belief as over the label which attaches to some particular denomination. I have a friend who has told his son that if he marries a Catholic he will drive him out of his life, for no good reason except that he has been brought up to mistrust Catholics. That is sinful, and I do not believe he would do it if the thing were to happen. But it is an example, by no means exceptional, of what bigotry can bring about.

If such hates and prejudices persist at home, it is—or has been—infinitely worse in the mission field. As your Lordships know, I do not believe in speaking of something one has not personally experienced. There are others who will no doubt tell us from first hand this afternoon about the difficulties and frustrations. They have been well summarised, I think, by Mr. Kenneth Slack, the General Secretary of the British Council of Churches. He describes a potential African or Asian convert to Christianity as saying to the missionary: There is another lot of followers over the hill, or across the river. You do not seem to belong together. How can you claim all this for the reconciling power of your Christ? It does not seem to work in the different parts of what you call His Body. Mr. Slack goes on to comment: To that there is finally no answer save confession of sin. You can say that there are factors which brought about these divisions. Not all of them were in themselves unworthy. You can explain it, but you cannot really justify it, in the face of that kind of challenge. Even your explanations are worthless unless they are accompanied by evidence of your resolve to bring about a change.

What sort of a change? Our Resolution speaks of "unity of spirit". These words have not been chosen at random; they were suggested by a good Christian, a Member of your Lordships' House. I do not myself believe that we can aim higher than this, or that we need to. I do not believe (although your Lordships may regard this as defeatist) that we can ever hope for unity of doctrine, nor even that it is necessarily a desirable object. When it comes to matters of faith, I do not believe in compromise formulas. What we hold, we hold dear; and many of us do not want to surrender any part of it.

I am going on to suggest that these divisions of doctrine are small in relation to the ultimate truth. I know that hundreds of thousands care deeply and sincerely about them; and they are right to care. But for hundreds of millions they are the shadow, not the substance. And I would dare to say that the Christian message is not so much for the naturally religious-minded—they have their faith—but for those who long for faith but cannot find it, who grope around for something—they know not quite what—timidly, hopefully, all too often cynically. For these people dogma is a minor concern. Frankly, they do not care two pins for theology, and the squabbles over it among the Churches are to them irritating and irrelevant, and they are put off by it. Indeed, how can any man be expected to put his own house in order when the new and splendid mansion in which he is thinking of going to live is itself in a state of permanent confusion over the housekeeping?

I fear, my Lords, that we may not get very far on doctrinal matters. There is too much heat, too much history. But to me this seems no reason to despair. Because one road is overgrown with thorns, should we not look more eagerly for a broader and clearer way? And such a way does exist, I am sure. It lies in the words, "unity of spirit". Should we not concentrate on that? Is there not there a possibility of solid agreement? It it too much to ask that all the Christian Churches will openly and unitedly testify to these simple things; that each and all of them worship the same God and are members of the same Church, the Church of Christ; that each respects the other for its attempts to bring God's Kingdom upon earth, however devious the ways and means; that there is nothing bad, and much that is infinitely good, in being a Christian of whatever denomination; that there are many paths to God, and that, though some of them may be nearer to His Will than others, because they have the same end all are blessed?

These things are simple; they are true and they are obvious. What Christian can deny them? And yet they have never been said by all the Christian Churches in unison. Think of the effects that such a declaration would have, especially if it were preceded by a meeting of all the heads of the Christian Churches in one place. Think of the comfort it would bring to millions, and of the bitterness it would resolve. Would not all things be made automatically easier for those who strive for practical co-operation?

Your Lordships may think this rather naive. I know that no catch-penny formula is going to turn the night of centuries into day. I know that the road from Edinburgh, 1910, the date of the great World Missionary Conference, to the triumphant journeyings of the Archbishop last autumn has been a long and painful one. I know of the great work of the World Council of Churches and the Oecumenical Movement as a whole, though I doubt whether one in twenty persons in this country has ever heard of either of them. I know that we are slowly moving forward, but may I he forgiven if I express the impatience of very many Christians over the time we are taking to achieve real unity. And may I suggest again that if all the Christian Churches were to join together now in an open and official affirmation of their common belief and of their common purpose, they would hasten those things which we so passionately desire?

Lastly, if it is not inappropriate, I should like to strike a patriotic note. I should very much like to see the lead in these affairs given from this country—this, at heart, still most truly Christian country. If we can to-day in this House forget our differences and speak simply as Christians, we shall, I believe, have helped to point the way. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House welcomes the recent consultation between leaders of the Christian Churches and trusts that this will lead to a greater unity of Christian spirit.—(The Earl of Arran.)

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, may I first of all be allowed to thank the noble Earl for introducing his Resolution this afternoon on what must surely be a unique occasion in your Lordships' House? To us on this Bench it is a great encouragement that this debate should have been arranged. But I hesitated a long time about speaking in it. It seemed to me that the whole point of it might fail if it were, so to speak, hogged by ecclesiastics. On the other hand, it might seem churlish and ungrateful if the Bishops took no part at all.

I expected to come on very humbly, right at the end, probably several hours later than the most reverend Primate, and just to add a few practical considerations. But although I find myself thus alarmingly promoted, I shall not presume to attempt what might be called a Front Bench speech. The most reverend Primate will speak later on, with his own authority, enhanced by that courageous initiative which is the primary cause of this debate, and which has caught the imagination of the world. But the House of Lords is not Convocation or any other ecclesiastical assembly: your Lordships' House is a very lay body, and I have always tried to respect it as such. What matters most now about the cause of Christian unity is not so much what experts say about it—though I should never claim to be an expert—but what the Christian laity do about it. And a great deal needs doing, and very urgently.

We look out into a world to-day, and we see it torn into pieces by fears and antagonisms, nationalisms and ideological conflicts which threaten to bring mankind to destruction. In the midst of it there is the Christian Church, which ought to be the source of healing and the focus of unity, drawing people across their various frontiers of colour, race and political allegiance, into one community of the spirit. But it cannot—or it cannot do it properly—because the Church is divided against itself. It cannot ever be in the full sense a reconciling society until it becomes itself a reconciled society. That is why things go on as they are. We are betraying the Christian name before the world, and it is an intolerable situation. How much longer are the Christian laity going to tolerate it?

We all inherit to-day a situation which has been handed to us by history—a situation which we did not create and for which we are not responsible, any more than we are responsible for our own heredity or our constitution. It is just the material that life hands to us. We have inherited a certain religious situation handed down to us by history, which we cannot ignore, which we cannot by-pass. We talk, as though it were a normal and natural thing, about "the Churches": or, still more oddly, about "the denominations". Of course, if we look at the Scriptures, both are abnormalities and aberrations. The New Testament says nothing about either. The New Testament talks about "the Church", and in the nature of things there can be only one Church because there is one only God. Pantheism can have 1,000 Churches; it has an infinite Pantheon of little gods, each with its own circle of devotees: Christianity cannot; the Lord our God is one Lord.

There is one sole Church which the New Testament knows; and of it all of us who bear the Christian name are in a real sense members. But as I say, for various reasons, geographical, historical, linguistic, political, social, partly, also, genuinely religious, involving fundamental Christian principle, that Church has been fissured and fragmented into what we know to-day—that is, a number of divided Churches, self-contained and self-justifying, each within its own frontier, whose members have for a long time past been engaged in unchurching one another. We inherit that situation. We are not responsible for its being there. But we are, I think, responsible for trying to change it. That can never be done by any easy short cut and, perhaps, only on very deep and costly levels of mutual forgiveness and charity.

But I want to remind your Lordships once again that to-day the whole atmosphere is changing fast. The Archbishop has done a great deal in his own person to change it, but he has been, if I may say so, the interpreter of movements that have for long been stirring in the depths. The word "œcumenical" is the new blessed word to-day. When I was a boy in a Norfolk village, church and chapel were hardly on speaking terms, and the rector and the Methodist minister, if they ever met at all—which was highly improbable—did so with the utmost hostility and suspicion, regarding one another as rivals; and both exercised their vigilance mainly to prevent the sheep from straying into the wrong fold. Today, however, most of the sheep are outside any fold. The impetus towards Christian unity came to the Western Churches, as your Lordships know, primarily from the mission field and most urgently from South India. Where Christians are in a tiny majority a divided Christian work has ceased to make sense. This is so to-day in our own land, and the discipline of that recognition has given us a great deal to think about.

The day is long past when divided Churches, separate Churches, could hope to do their work in isolation, independently of one another, moving along parallel lines and never meeting, ignoring one another's existence, and waging ineffective guerilla warfare against the all-pervading forces of secularism. That is out. We know now that we need one another as fellow-workers in a common cause, and fellow-campaigners in a common mission. To-day the clergy and ministers are learning to value and respect one another as colleagues. Theological work in any one Church is the common possession of all the Churches and, of course, Christian co-operation in work among refugees, through inter-Church aid, has been one of the minor epics of Christian history. The climate is changing, indeed, as your Lordships will know, a great deal has already happened, in the British Churches and overseas.

A number of Union Churches already exist. I have no doubt that other Bishops speaking this afternoon will refer to them, and I will not anticipate their remarks. If I may be allowed to say so, very delicately, on the Continent new creative movements have been stirring in the great Roman Communion—movements largely unknown to the man in the pew of this country—which have at last made it possible for His Holiness and the Archbishop to touch hands and to take the first steps towards healing the most sensitive and dangerous wound in Christendom. In this country the fact that this debate is being held; the fact that conversations have taken place between Scots and English, Anglicans and Methodists, on the basis of perfect friendship, trust and understanding—all that marks the change in the situation.

The noble Lord's Resolution expresses the hope for a new unity of spirit. I think that the spirit is there all right. The question is: how we are going to give it a body? Archbishop William Temple once remarked, "What is purely spiritual is negligible". It cannot do anything in particular. We have to ask how our hopes and prayers are to be embodied. So far as the Churches of this country are concerned, my own belief is that we are not going to get much further by official pronouncements and reports. The growth that is needed now, in my view, is at the grass roots. At what I might call the Bishop and Moderator level, we can probably move faster fairly soon, but leadership in religion, as in politics, cannot go very much further ahead than its public is prepared to follow. The work that has to be done now, in my belief, is much more at the 'level of the parish, the circuit, the presbytery, and by and among the rank and file of the membership of the Churches.

The most important step, at this present moment, may be that congregations and individuals should start really trying to be friends with Christians of other affiliations, with their differences of idiom and emphasis and their different forms of Christian spirituality; trying to understand and to appreciate why they say and do what they say and do and to what positive Christian values the varying traditions bear witness. The less ecclesiastical apartheid, the better for us and the better for the world. Above all, I would venture to say that what is most necessary now is that the lay members of the Churches should feel acutely that our present divisions are not merely wasteful and frustrating, but morally wrong—a scandal to our conscience and a reproach to our Christian profession. I believe that that is the first and primary contribution of the layman—and it is a crucial contribution. All I have ventured to offer to the House this afternoon has been extremely elementary. That was deliberate and on purpose, because my belief is that at this present moment what most needs looking after is just the brass tacks.

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I have come down to this Bench to speak this afternoon because it is essential that by anything that I contribute to this debate I ought not in any way to compromise or apparently settle in advance the views of any other members of my Party. Therefore I speak from this position of somewhat political neutrality. But I do not speak from any position of neutrality with regard to what is the real basis of this debate. Let me say at once that I think I can take the noble Earl who moved the Motion to witness and the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to witness that the one thing I have wanted to avoid was the launching of a controversial debate of this kind at this time in your Lordships' House. I think the noble Earl who moved the Motion will agree with that; I think the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will agree with it, too.

This Motion, which to-day ends upon an absolutely right note about the spirit of unity, is one which I myself have for a long time sought to introduce into relations between the Churches, but on the ground, first, that I must not give way on the principle which I hold dear: namely, that everything that one does in regard to doctrine, church organisation and preaching must be based upon the word of God and the word of God alone. If you look at the fifth chapter of John's Gospel, verse 39, you find that the Master says: Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life. There is no other place to search for eternal life but there. Jesus never said "What saith the Sanhedrim, or the high priests, or the archbishops or bishops, or the Pope", but What saith the Scriptures. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life. This Resolution in the name of the noble Earl is in its third form. First of all, it was to resolve, That the need for greater understanding and co-operation between the Christian churches is of urgent importance. It appeared last autumn, and then there was a particularly important announcement made. As the result of that announcement there transpired the visit of the most reverend Primate the Lord Arch bishop of Canterbury. On February 1 the Resolution in its original form was taken out and there was substituted a Resolution in this form: To move to resolve, That this House welcomes the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in visiting Rome, Jerusalem and Istanbul; and trusts that this gesture will lead to the increase of Christian unity. In that form the Motion remained on the Paper until March 27.

Therefore, when you look at the Resolution which the noble Earl has moved in such appropriate and unoffending terms this afternoon (I thank him very much for the spirit in which he has moved the Resolution) and when you come to look at what is behind it, in the light of his two previous drafts you cannot escape from the idea that there was a desire greatly to strengthen public opinion already created with regard to, and in support of, the action taken by the most reverend Primate. On that those of us who desire Christian unity in spirit as much as anybody have certain things to say, In the first place, the United Kingdom Council of Protestant Churches, of which I happen to be honorary President, felt most concerned about the announcement at the time of the Archbishop's journey. We resolved to take a deputation to him, and we had as one of the first points in our mind that the announcement had been extremely well stage-managed. I think the announcement was made on November 1—I am not quite sure about the date, but it was just about that time—and on the same evening a broadcast was arranged to take place immediately after the 10 o'clock "News" in the "Background to the News" on the B.B.C. sound radio. That very night, immediately afterwards there was a so-called discussion—


My Lords, might I just intervene to ask one question?—I am not going to argue on any point. Who "stage-managed"? It was nothing to do with me.


My Lords, I think that if I might make my speech in my own way the most reverend Primate will learn in due course. I have not interrupted any speaker.


I am sorry, but I really—


I am quite accustomed to the way in which the most reverend Primate does interrupt. I remember this from our interview.


I withdraw.


My Lords, I was saying that our first view that it was well stage-managed. I am going to demonstrate that, if the most reverend Primate will be patient. That is one of the virtues. As I said, that evening a discussion was arranged on sound radio between Canon Carpenter of Westminster and Mr. Tom Driberg, M.P., the well-known Anglo-Catholic. All the time, as I listened in, I felt a little sorrow for the Canon, because he was being rather pressed by Mr. Driberg to go further than he apparently wanted to go as to how far the coming visit of the Archbishop was in any way a step towards union with Rome. The Canon resisted until, right at the end of his comments, he indicated that the great struggles of the period of the Reformation were no longer relevant.

I communicated at once with the editor of that particular programme. I said that I had listened in and asked when it was proposed to hear the Protestant view on this matter. The answer was that no arrangement could be made; and in fact we have never had any opportunity on the sound radio to put that view—never. Within a few days of that, in spite of the general tenor of the Press, which had been so well stagemanaged—a stage-management for which I think the most reverend Primate gave great thanks to his public relations officer when he was addressing his own Communion—the next step was that there were protest meetings going on in the country which were hardly ever reported.

Bishop Thompson, the chairman of the British branch of the International Council of Christian Churches, had been making a speech of protest in Norfolk, and he was asked that night, by the East Anglia channel of Independent Television, whether he would care to speak two or three days afterwards with a Roman Catholic priest, who had already agreed to do so; and he said that certainly he would. There was to be an exchange of views on the television. The next day, the confirmation not having come, a telephone message was put through to see whether the date was to be confirmed; and they said they were sorry, it was all off. Why was it all off? It had been turned down in London by the "Big Three". And so that debate was never heard. And yet, believe me!there is a very strong Protestant view in this country; and I think myself that if you were to take an analysis upon the basis of whether people call themselves either Roman Catholics or Anglo-Catholics—whatever the differences may be, and they may be quite serious—you would find that the ordinary common man would be very strongly Protestant. For they never have wholly forgotten the basis on which the Protestant decisions were made at the Diet of Spires, not the least of these to be free in their religion, free in their thought and in their liberty from King or civil magistrate.

My friends, to-day is May 10—a great day in our English history of modern times. It was the day on which Winston Churchill took over, for the first time in his life, the Prime Ministership of this country—a fateful day. It may well be that the debate we have to-day has a certain amount of fatefulness about it as well. The position of our worship in this country is hardly encouraging to any of the denominations. I entirely agree with the noble Earl as to the divisions, unrighteous divisions, which can have effect in checking the whole progress of the Christian Church. That is quite true. I am bound to say this: that it is not only the divisions in the Church which are causing lack of progress; but it is the fact that, with the heavy decline of parental responsibility in religious matters, there is no longer a knowledge of the Book with the words of life in it that there used to be. It is now very often argued, when the State is asked to contribute very large sums indeed—hundred of millions at a time—for denominational education in our schools, instead of the old agreed religious syllabus in provided schools that if this is not done there is a danger that our young people will be brought up in a near-pagan condition. I do not wholly accept the argument, especially as a justification for such large expenditure of public money, on particular aspects of religious teaching. But I am bound to say that there are a good many facts to support it.

When we come to the divisions themselves, surely before the most reverend Primate of Great Britain, the United Kingdom or the English Church (or whatever you like to denominate it) goes to Rome to seek a bridge apparently in Christian unity—which can hardly exclude, in the end, a bridge on doctrine, if it is a bridge which is going to stand up against storm, time and stress—what is it that prevents him from first of all getting unity in his own Church and in his own practice? I will say this: I read with very great interest the article by Bishop Bayne, from the United States, on the value of the Prayer Book as a unifying force in the Church, which appeared in the Church Times just a fortnight ago. But, unfortunately, he said, there are so many Prayer Books—though we in Parliament use only one. We hear blessed words from it every day that we happen to be present to listen to the reading by a high cleric of the Church. Wonderful words from the old Prayer Book!

Bishop Bayne seems to think that within the Church of England there are two religions. Unity of spirit can hardly be obtained or maintained by denying what are the basic truths in the Prayer Book established not only by the Church, originally, but by law, and in which there are serious things to be considered. Incidentally, the Archbishop, in one of his latest speeches at Dublin, seemed to think that the only differences between the Christian Churches at large were theological. That is not so. They are political as well, social, and wide-spreading. If we had only theology to discuss, and if every man were free to follow his own theology, we could immediately have a wonderful spirit of Christian unity. But that is not so. Those who were the authors of the Prayer Book wrote one of the most wonderful books I have ever come across in my life. I was brought up in the Church of England and was in it until the age of 22—indeed, I should have been in it now, largely on the lines suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, because it was my family's religion, if I had not discovered a bigger and wider truth. That is: that you cannot live on family, traditional religion. If you want salvation, you need to be born again. You have to go to the lifegiving Word of God: the Word made flesh.

If I might turn to one or two of the points in the Prayer Book which have to be considered in connection with what I have said, let me say first of all that I know these Articles exceedingly well, but I am glad to come back to the actual wording. Let me say that in 1906 the division in the Church of England had grown so serious that a Royal Commission, which had been set up, I think, the year before, reported on the position and said in the course of their Report that for clergymen to go on deliberately disobeying the law created a public scandal. Of course they also said that reconsideration ought to be given to some parts of the Prayer Book.

But on the basic question of whether the Church of England is to remain a Protestant Church or not, there is no doubt at all what the Prayer Book says and what the law requires—and that is what most reverend Primates, right reverend Prelates and Priests of the Church of England have the duty to maintain. Says the question of the Archbishop to a Bishop at his Consecration: Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to do the same? My Lords, do you think that, if that had been carried through by our hierarchy of Bishops (if I may call them such) faithfully, we should have the amount of division in the Church that we have to-day? Should we not be sticking closely to the Protestant faith?

Let us take the idea as to whether we do or do not agree in general with the doctrine and the Sacraments of the Church of Rome. I am not quarrelling with any ordinary member of the Church of Rome who believes in it and, in this freest of all countries, enjoys his freedom to worship. I have no quarrel with that. But before we are allowed to go on to what are the other bases of belief for man's salvation, what are the words of Article XI of the Church of England? We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification". Is that not one of the great points on which you differ from the Romish hierarchy's doctrine? They do not think justification by faith is sufficient. They believe in faith, but many more things are required also. The Protestant adds nothing to it.

I now turn to Article XXXI of the Prayer Book. I know that this may amuse some of the Bishops: I see their smiles. I know that it may amuse some of them, but it is Truth, from their Prayer Book. It is the Truth which they are supposed to administer, and, if necessary, enforce. Article XXXI says: The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits. That is the Church of England Prayer Book. That is the faith which is administered to the Bishops and the Priests for them to accept—and which they accept—in their vows and have to enforce in their practice. Where do we stand on that when we speak of Christian unity?

I must say that it disturbs me a great deal if I read that an Archbishop goes to, for example, the Anglo-Catholic Conference, say, at the Albert Hall, to preach at High Mass. Who justifies that? I agree that it is not new, for the late Lord Halifax—whom those of us in this House of the current generation respected so much—had a great father, who was a great personality; and he, in 1927, just before the conversations at Malines, displayed his views in no uncertain terms. He said, "Of course, the primacy of Rome is far and away above the Privy Council here". His tribute was to Rome. The decisions of the Privy Council under the law, following the adoption of this book by Parliament, as well as by the Church, was not preferred by him. And we know that that goes on. It is not that the Nonconformists in the country have anything to be very proud of in their lack of unity in actual doctrinal practice, but they certainly have a far greater unity of spirit with regard to the main Sacraments of the Church—a far greater unity of spirit.

If you take that part of the Prayer Book on which the Church obviously differs so much, in theory, from Rome, you need to check up on your own beautiful, wonderful Communion Service. There you find, I think, one of the classics in the preparation of a Sacramental Service. I do not know anything better in the English language than the Service of Holy Communion in this Prayer Book. At the end, just to make sure that neither superstition nor wrong practice is brought into that Service, there is the rider (I will not stop to quote the whole of it) that you are to use sound wheat and bread: no wafers, but sound wheat and bread. Then, are we to reserve the Sacrament, because it has been consecrated? No; you are specifically instructed that it must all be eaten by the priests and people after the service is over. There is to be no reservation of the Sacrament.

Do the Bishops take all this into account in the exercise of their duties? No; and I must say that they have an exceedingly difficult task as they go into office each time now, in view of what has been built up in the past. For no one can deny, in doctrine and in practice, the steady drift to Rome of the Church of England in this country during the last four or five decades.

What, therefore, is the great objective of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in his journey to Rome? I noted that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said it was a triumphant journey. The Archbishop knows that we stated our case to him when we met him before he went, and he knows that he assured us of two things, which we gladly accepted. The first was that he was going only on a visit of courtesy. The second thing we gladly accepted was that he was a Protestant, had always been a Protestant, and had defended Protestantism. These were his words to us in the course of our discussions at Lambeth Palace.


My Lords, may I intervene to say that, while that is the truth, it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


I have not finished.


If I was at, let us say, Covent Garden, I might have said that I was a Catholic, that I have always been a Catholic, and never meant to be anything else. I happen to be both a Catholic and a Protestant.


It all depends on what you mean by a Catholic, does it not? But if you are first a Protestant, it should be a Protestant view of a Catholic, should it not?


I am sorry, but that is my view.


The Catholic Church can be the proper Church universally of those who consider by their faith and their practice that they are members of the Body of Christ. That is one view of a universal Catholic Church, but that is not the view which was taken, by any means, by those who have established the faith of Rome.

If the public relations officer who was so much to be praised for his arrangement of the Archbishop's visit to Rome was as good as it is stated, I think he must surely have drawn the Archbishop's attention to the fact that only 12 weeks before there had been a great Roman Catholic Eucharistic Congress in Munich, partly to help build up what the Pope desires—a great European Catholic Federation. In the course of it many things were done. There was Masses in the streets, a great demonstration of Roman Catholic practice and worship, and on the last day a speech specially recorded by the Pope was put over the loudspeakers to those who were assembled, and this is what he said. It was in accordance with his apostolic duty to speak to the good and generous people of Germany, and he wished to promote all he could of Christian unity. Oh, how he would that the people would return to the faith of the good St. Bonifatius and thus return to the one and only true Church!

Naturally, I went to my best English authority on these things, who is a great member of the Church of England, now in Australia, T. C. Hammond, who used to lead the great Gospel preaching of the Irish Church Mission; and any Bishop who has not (I hope they all have) studied his book The One Hundred Texts on correcting Roman error had better obtain it and read it. What he says is that—this refers to the Bull of Pope Boniface VIII, Unam SanctumWe declare, affirm, define and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. That is extracted by T. C. Hammond from the Book of Vatican Decrees, by Cardinal Manning, and I must say it is convincing as to where the Pope really stands.

I can understand not only many of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many laymen of the Roman Catholic Church, who have had grave doubts about what is going to come from the visit of the Archbishop to their Church. If the Archbishop would lead the campaign out here and say openly that what he is bent upon is the reform of Rome—


My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again, but what I am out for is the reform of every Church, including Rome.


Yes, I know; I wish I could be equally clever in such verbal replies as that.


But that is my profound belief for which I pray and work all my time.


All I have to say on that is this: that this was the Pope's view, expressed openly to that great 500,000 strong Congress in Munich only last August, and I am quite sure that he believes it to-day.

Then I go still further into why I think that you have to be exceedingly careful in trying for unity on the basis suggested. I believe that you can find salvation for man only through the Word of Life, and what it says in the Bible—I take you to the way of salvation. The Bible portrays, in the words of Jesus himself, the words you will find in that extraordinary chapter of John's Gospel, I think Chapter 14: I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me". If you look at that and at what have been the expressions of doctrine from the Roman side in the past, then I, for one, must remain on the side of the Protestant.

I quote now Pope Pius IX, who was responsible for more than one addition to the list of Roman doctrines in the nineteenth century. This is what he said: I, alone, despite my unworthiness, am the successor of the Apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. I alone have the mission to guide and direct the barque of Peter. I am the way, the truth, and the life…Let men well understand this, that they be not deceived or led astray by soi-disant Catholics who desire and teach something quite different from what the Head of the Church teaches. I am quoting from the Guardian, April 11, 1866, the statement of Pope Pius IX in a reply to an address made to him that year; there is not the slightest doubt about that.

My difficulty in these matters is how to get all I want to say to your Lordships over in reasonable time, and I must apologise for the time I have taken already. But I want to add this, if I may: that when the most reverend Primate said in Dublin that the differences were only theological, then I think he had not studied modern history perhaps in quite the way I would study it, of the Roman Church in politics, in political action; or perhaps he had not calculated to the fullest possible extent what his move in this direction would involve in political and other connections later on—I do not know. But what I do know is that, for the last fifty years, the working out of the claim at the Coronation of every Pope who is exalted on his Papal Throne as he takes his tiara, that he is the Father of Kings and Princes, Ruler of the World and Vicar of Christ, exercises a power throughout the world which is extraordinary in its diversity and in the breadth of its ultimate influence.

That can be easily traced, not merely in the days of the great wars about religion but also in the past fifty years. Does anybody doubt the attitude of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, though certainly not of Roman Catholics as a whole, to Mussolini? Does anybody doubt what had to be given in principle by the Vatican before it got the Lateran Treaty of 1929. Before the old claim of the Papacy for the Papal States was abolished, the Vatican received £7 million in gold and £14 million in State bonds as compensation; but with this commitment that they had to support the expansionist policy of Mussolini. So the troops that went to Ethiopia were blessed with the Vatican's blessing.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount? All he is saying is going to cause great distress and great strife and is going to do great harm to the cause of Christian unity. I speak with deep respect of someone who is much older than I, but I would ask him whether he would perhaps leave out the political side.


My Lords, I would be quite willing to leave it out, if the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury had not said that there was no difference on that matter.


My Lords, I would prefer to make my own speech later on.


Certainly, my Lords, everybody is free to do that. But I am bound to say what my experience has been. If we go a little farther to the Abyssinian War—that dreadful disaster which was so much deplored by Winston Churchill in another place when I was a Member—at a Press conference almost immediately after the first armistice the Pope said that he thanked God and the generous people of Italy for the generous peace which had been granted, and hoped that it might be the basis of a similar increase of peace in the world at large afterwards. Well, that really did upset me. And there are many other cases of the kind. It is not often that I speak on this subject in your Lordships' House, but on June 15, 1955, I warned your Lordships of the dangers, of the possibly growing dangers, of the secret societies connected with the Roman Catholic Church. When I saw the article in the Catholic Times within the last few days, attacking their own Roman Catholic President Kennedy about his attitude to matters in Cuba, I thought once again of what I had said. It seemed to link up pretty well with what I had endeavoured to warn your Lordships about on June 15, 1955.

May I say a personal word in conclusion? I have felt bound to speak my mind upon matters connected with this debate and I must give my personal view about the Christian spirit of unity which is necessary. I think that the Nonconformist Churches have done their best to contribute to this. Those of us in Nonconformist Churches, who have very heavy burdens to bear, try to do what we can within our limits. I am always very happy when the local vicar asks me to help him in his work or to speak in his church. I love the basic faith of the Church of England, although I am a professed Baptist, because the basic faith of the Church of England is Protestant. It is based on the word of God. If it is not Protestant, why then does the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury have to administer the Oath at the Coronation Service in the particular language which is set down in the form of service?


My Lords, it is really very important that people should not be misled on this matter. The faith of the Church of England is Protestant but it is also Catholic. The word "Catholic" happens to appear in the Creed we recite every time we celebrate Holy Communion. It is very wrong to try to obliterate one word and insert only the other.


My Lords, I have brought a lot of documents with me but I have not referred to them very much. Perhaps I may refresh my memory. I have never forgotten, because I listened to it in this House, that when Her Gracious Majesty our present Monarch opened her first. Parliament, this is what She said: I do solemnly and in the presence of God profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant and that I will according to the true interests of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my power according to law. There is no qualification about that. I listened to those words myself in this House.


My Lords, I do not want to intervene, but there are qualifications of a hundred kinds, which I am not going to mention now, but which are there.


My Lords, the qualifications are not to be found in Her Majesty's Oath, to which I carefully listened and which I noted at the time, and She is the Head of the Church of England.


My Lords, it is very difficult to refrain from answering a statement like that. There is an answer, but I do not think that it is suitable to argue the answer in this House.


Then, my Lords, I think that the House of Lords must judge for itself. I have stated the actual fact and leave it at that. I was going on to say, in regard to the spirit of unity, that I find no difficulty at all with a large proportion of the priests of the Church of England in joining with them, meeting them, and speaking for them. Some have asked me to come and speak on such a subject as, "Why I am a Protestant". I hope very much that on this basis we can move to a greater spirit of unity. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, found a date suited to him to move this Motion, but, having moved it, I think that he was bound to expect that I should have something to say on it.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I am one of those who thank the noble Earl for having moved this Motion and I support its terms, though I would agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that the wording of the original Motion put down carried with it the sense of urgency which the Motion before your Lordships' House today does not carry. I say so not in any spirit of detracting from, to me, the great value of the recent visits of the most reverend Primate, but because the Motion as it now stands is such that one might say, as someone in Scotland said to me, "Surely there is nothing to debate about that". Nor is there, if we confine ourselves within the four corners of the Motion; but I feel sure that nearly everybody up and down the land has welcomed the most reverend Primate's expeditions and, above all, the recent meeting between him and His Holiness the Pope. Everybody, other than the outriders of anti-Christ, trusts that it will lead to a greater unity of Christian spirit. But as the speech just made by the noble Viscount opposite clearly demonstrates, we cannot just leave the Resolution there and go home, content that there the matter ends.

At this juncture it is necessary for me to make a disclaimer as to my position in relation to the Church of Scotland, for which I do not claim to speak. As noble Lords well know, the General Assembly of the Church alone can propound the views of the Church of Scotland and, therefore, it is only in my ordinary capacity as a ruling elder, and with great humility and some trepidation, that I repeat my wholehearted support of the Resolution; and I look forward to the contribution of the most reverend Primate at the end of the debate. But, bold as he has been, I believe that His Holiness The Pope has been even bolder.

However, we must face the fact that there are many factors in our life to-day which retard, rather than advance, that unity of Christian spirit for which all right-thinking people yearn with such passionate longing. I am no expert on matters of doctrine, but it does not call for any expertise in matters of doctrine to know how rotten some of the fabric of the nations' way of life has become; to know how earnestly many ordinary folk, not all of them churchgoers or even confessed Christians, look for a lead from the Churches. I know how earnestly thinking folk realise the need for the Churches to stand shoulder to shoulder against the powers of darkness. It is for this reason that I feel that one must gaze courageously at the chasm which yawns between the Christian Churches, and strive to close it or to fill it. There is no way round. I do not believe that it is narrow enough for us to throw, as it were, a bridge across it. Indeed, the width of that chasm has been made only too clear to us by the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. It will take time—years, generations and perhaps centuries; but some day the chasm will close and will be filled. Else our faith is useless and our belief is false.

No purpose is to be served by shrinking from the edge of the crevasse which split wide open with the Reformation only 400 years ago. To draw back is the easy way. It will take long for us in Scotland to forget that the Episcopal Churches—Churches of the Reformation—so shrank from the edge last year when we celebrated the Quatercentenary of the Reformation: and many of us in the Church of Scotland have been sorely disappointed by the temporary (let us hope) interruption of discussion between us and the Church of England, and must, incidentally, accept our share of the blame. Is it possible that a greater measure of the influence of laymen in episcopal affairs might have given those authorities more heart? In this respect, however, I heard the right reverend Prelate who spoke earlier, and I do not share his belief that laymen have the greatest part to play in all Churches in guiding the peoples towards unity. I feel that the priesthood and the ministry cannot throw off their responsibility in any such way.

It will be recalled that the Quatercentenary of the Reformation was celebrated in Edinburgh by a Special Session of the General Assembly, a most memorable occasion which was, as it were, prefaced by a gracious visit from Her Majesty the Queen, the first visit of a reigning Monarch since James VI and James I. After Her Majesty had left us to our business, to me the next most striking feature came from the floor. It was the generous, almost thunderous, applause which greeted the speech of Sir Thomas Taylor, the Principal of Aberdeen University, from whose speech, with your Lordships permission, I will quote some sentences. He said: …we repudiate the Mass and reject Mariolatry whether in their Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic or Scoto-Catholic forms. He went on to give his reasons in strong terms, which I will not quote. He then said: But this being said—and it must be said—we recognise that Catholics like ourselves worship the same Lord and follow the same Christian way. Because of this, we have far more in common with them than with all those who reject the Lordship of Christ, whether they call themselves atheists, materialists, agnostics, scientific humanists or whatever it may be. We ought, therefore, so far as we can, without compromise of truth, to draw closer to Roman Catholics in Christian charity, seeking, wherever we may, to find ways of co-operation with them in Christian service to our fellow-men. And let us note with interest and sympathy the growing emphasis which the Roman Church is placing on the study of the Bible, particularly in France. Now the Bible is an explosive book when it gets into men's hands and is taken seriously. Look at what happened at the Reformation all over Europe! I say, therefore, watch with interest and sympathy this new Roman Catholic interest in the Scriptures: it could be fraught with consequences of the greatest moment. Three features of this dictum stand out in my mind. First, having made his declaration about the Mass, he said: and it must be said". Let us remember that only 300 years ago Scotland was going through the "killing times". As I went to the station on Monday evening I saw silhouetted against the sunset sky the granite obelisk which stands to the memory of the Minister of Covington, a little village, who was hanged in the Grassmarket for his refusal to abjure the Covenant. A shepherd has told me that his father remembered the days when there were no peewits, green plovers, on our lowland moors: they were shot on sight and ruthlessly exterminated because of their capacity to betray a hunted man hiding in the heather. Some such measure of time, after all, applies to what is perhaps the latest removal of the disabilities under which Roman Catholics labour in this country. Little wonder that progress must be slow! But we must face the facts. Be that as it may, the ordinary man, whatever his denomination, longs for the day when our divisions can be healed.

The second feature in the dictum which I have quoted from the proceedings at our Special Session that I would emphasise is the reference to charity—charity, love, translate it as you will. But let us face the fact that bigotry is the enemy of charity. I like the story of the elder who was talking to a neighbour, a notorious atheist who had been holding forth in strangely specific and one-sided terms about church matters: "Willie", he said, "I thought you were an atheist." "Aye", was the reply, "I may be an atheist, but I am a Presbyterian atheist."

The third feature in my quotation to which I would draw your Lordships' attention is the reference to the growing interest in Holy Scripture. One can criticise the minutiae of "The New English Bible"; but, in charity, let us accept that it has stirred the minds of ordinary people in a most remarkable way. By this means is The Book again to become the rallying point against so much that is rotten in our national life to-day?

As for the Roman Catholic attitude, as I see it, I feel constrained to quote from a speech made by Archbishop Gray of St. Andrew's in Edinburgh the other day. Referring to the celebrations of the Fourth Centenary of the Reformation, he said: Did we not look forward, with dread and misgiving, to the celebrations which were to mark the fourth centenary of that event? Many feared that it might be an occasion for a fresh outburst of anti-Catholicism. The result was, in fact, a simple and very humble acknowledgement that things were not what they should be. Men did not look back in hatred and rancour; they looked forward in charity to a means of unity. Unofficial meetings have taken place recently between members of the two Churches which could never have been contemplated a generation ago. Perhaps I am excessively tolerant through having spent so many years in Asia associating with non-Christian peoples. I feel that the influence of the many religious dis- cussions one has with such people inclines one to tolerance.

The Report, just published, of the Church of Scotland's Foreign Mission Committee, and of the Inter-church Relations Committee makes reference to the rising demand, particularly among young people and in young communities, for greater understanding and closer contacts between the Churches. At the risk of lowering the level of the debate—or perhaps relieving some of the tension—I feel that it would not be out of place if I yielded to the temptation to turn to the practical business-like side of things. Could the Churches at this moment of time try to fix the date of Easter? The necessary legislation has been on our Statute Book for over thirty years, and His Holiness the Pope is, I believe, about to call an (Ecumenical Council for the first time for nearly a century.

My Lords, however wide the crevasse, it is indisputable that it is narrower now and not so deep as it was a hundred years ago, and narrower still than it was two hundred years ago. We note with thankfulness that a marked change has taken place and continues in the climate of ecclesiastical opinion in that controversial country of Scotland. As the Dean of the Thistle, the very Reverend Dr. Warr, wrote in a letter, published in Time and Tide: The barriers remain, but they have already been lowered sufficiently for us 'to look across them into a brother's eye and to reach forth to grasp the brother's hand'. Let us support this Resolution and press forward firm in our faith. Let us continue to seek, each in his own way, be it great or small, a greater unity of Christian spirit for He promised that if we seek, we shall surely find.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, my noble Leader decided that, in order to make it perfectly plain that he was not speaking for this Party, he would speak from below the gangway. Personally, I see no reason for doing that, but I would repeat that I speak for myself and myself alone on this issue.

I rise to take part in this debate after reading and re-reading this Resolution dozens of times. I came to the conclusion that there were four reasons for its presence on the Order Paper. The first, I find, is dissatisfaction with the part the Christian Churches are paying in human affairs; the second, a belief that the Churches can make a more worthy contribution; the third, that what is required is a greater unity of Christian spirit, and the fourth, that a debate in this House might help to create that spirit. The noble Lord must have had that in mind when he decided to put his Motion on the Order Paper—that a debate in this House on this Motion would help to create a spirit of unity throughout the Churches.

We have had speeches from two noble Lords on behalf of the Anglican Church; a powerful, passionate plea on behalf of the Baptist Church by my noble Leader, and now the Church of Scotland has also had its position made plain. As regards the first reason, I am not at all surprised that there is dissatisfaction throughout your Lordships' House on this question of the contribution being made by the Christian Churches. But I do not see any reason for getting depressed and down-hearted. When I think of my boyhood days, and contrast the difference between what I saw in those days and what. I see now, I see cause for some encouragement. We associate more together now, although we belong to different religious organisations. That does help.

I am not quite sure—and nobody has yet explained to my satisfaction—what is meant by the opening words of the Resolution: To move to resolve"— I wonder what that could mean— That this House welcomes the recent consultation … Why confine it to the recent consultations? We have been consulting as separate denominational bodies for years on this very issue. Why say "this recent consultation" should be the basis for this Motion? I go on and I read: …and trusts that this will lead to a greater unity of Christian spirit". What do we mean? That we be nice to each other, comradely to each other, without any regard to our faith, our principles? Is that what we mean? Surely, we mean more than that? What earthly good is woolly sentimentality on an issue of this kind?


I think the noble Lord will agree that there has not been much woolly sentimentality of any sort between the Churches up to now. Surely that is better than the hatred which has dominated religious lives before. It may not be much, but at least it is something.


I want to suggest that these words have not been analysed by the Mover of the Resolution. He kept clear, if he does not mind my saying so—there was a lot of woolliness in his keeping clear, too. What is the use of pretending with some nice attitude towards each other: be friendly, comradely. Certainly it helps, but we need far more than that. To be of any value it must mean that we hold our own opinions firmly and with enthusiasm hut, at the same time, with tolerance, broadmindedness and magnanimity to those who disagree with it. That, to me, is a spirit of goodwill.


That is exactly what I tried to say in my speech. I am sorry if I failed.


You did your best to say it, but you did not say it. To be quite clear, what one wants is to see what it means, and to see how far we can help it along. I have given my definition, and the Mover now agrees with me—namely, that what he wants is that we stand firmly on our own principles, to whichever Church we belong, and at the same time act with tolerance, broadmindedness and magnaminity towards those who do not agree with us. To me that is a sure sign of bigness: to be enthusiastic for your own principles and tolerant towards those from whom you differ.

I have some very good friends among the Roman Catholics. One good friend will follow me in this debate. We shall never agree on many questions. I thought that one Member of your Lordships' House put it rather strongly. He is a Lancashire Peer, and that, I expect, would give him directness. In referring to our attitude towards each other he said: Roman Catholic dogma is as foreign to me as any other sort, and more foreign to me than some. But I must pay homage to a Christian leader who is evidently Christian; whose Christianity is as much a part of him as his Italian and peasant blood. The theories about Christ which he accepts and promotes will never be mine, but a lovable character is more potent than any tract; and Pope John is a lovable character. Those are the words of Lord Altrincham in the Guardian last Thursday. I agree. Creating an atmosphere of friendliness would help us in our problems. My best friend in this world, the man I trusted furthest, was a Roman Catholic; therefore one gets this kind of feeling that it is necessary. When you have a good friend in the Roman Catholic Church you are able, to some extent, to see inside their Church. My friend has now passed on, but I remember how we exchanged views: I can see us, during a walk through Hyde Park, standing, facing each other like gladiators on these very issues; the spirit referred to operated between us.

My Church, the Congregational Church, at its annual meeting next week will have before it a motion on this subject. Let me just read it. My noble Leader may not like this Motion, but this is what will be put on Monday next at the Annual Council; the headline is "Relations with the Roman Catholic Church", and it says: The Committee welcomes the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in paying a courtesy visit to the Pope. The full union of Christians must include the Roman Catholic Church, and while the Committee thinks that difference in conviction and Practice between other Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should not be minimised, it also believes that they should not be exacerbated by ignorance or lack of personal contact and discussion. That is the motion being submitted to the Annual Conference of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. We are showing that spirit. The trouble is that the Roman Catholic Church is not responding in the way that I should like. Nonconformist churches in this country have always been friendlily disposed to every religious body. My noble Leader was right. We have never withheld our willingness to co-operate with any religious body. At the same time there are limits. If the Roman Catholic Church take up the stand that they have the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and therefore cannot compromise and cannot discuss change, then I do not think this Christian spirit is going to help us very much.

I noticed in a book which I came across some months ago, a book well worth reading, a passage showing not only how the Congregational Church views, I would say, in a friendly manner the effort being made by the Archbishop, but also the feeling that we could support the World Council of Churches. Here is the book, written by a former fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Stephen Neill, who worked for eighteen years in India, latterly as Bishop, after service as Assistant General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. He is now the editor of World Christian Books, and he can speak with authority. He says: Rome believes that it already has all the truth, and need not seek it elsewhere…The World Council of Churches has always desired to hold the doors wide open for contacts, official and unofficial, with the church of Rome. This does not mean, as some enemies have tried to make out, that the World Council is in some way a crypto-papist organisation; it simply means that the World Council recognises the duty of developing whatever measure of fellowship is possible with all who in any way whatever call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in accordance with this principle that the Provisional Committee of the World Council…authorised the Presidents and the General Secretary to invite a small number of individual Roman Catholics to be present at the Assembly as unofficial advisers."— That was not asking very much, my Lords— The Vatican soon made it clear that no Roman Catholic would be permitted to be present at the Assembly without its own special permission; ere long it had become quite clear that in no case whatever would such special permission be given. All I want to say is this: the Nonconformist Churches of the World Council of Churches have done their best to co-operate with the Roman Catholic Church, but it has refused. No amount of spirit is going to get over that difficulty, until the Roman Catholic Church is prepared to discuss the position with the rest of the Christian Churches.

Having said that, let me add this. I prefer to come nearer home. My noble Leader emphasised in his own direct manner that things are not too well here; that there are divisions here in the Anglican Church; there are divisions in Nonconformist Churches. We have been told that my noble Leader was once a member of the Anglican Church. Strange to say, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who is to follow me, was also at one time a mem- ber of the Anglican Church. What accounts for one being a Baptist and one being a Roman Catholic now I do not know, but that is the position. I am a Congregationalist, but my childhood was spent in a non-denominational church, a united church.

We were there, a Welsh colony in Lancashire, a few thousand. My parents decided that it would be best to have one non-denominational church, rather than try to build a number of separate churches to meet all denominations' requirements. We were Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Congregationalists, all together, and things were going very well. We had a children's choir, a mixed choir, a male voice choir—for do not forget we were Welsh. But as hundreds came in from Wales into the same locality, we had this position. The Calvinistic Methodists thought they were the strongest body; they had a formal government of their own and insisted on its becoming the government of this non-denominational church. The Congregationalists could not agree: they wanted their own service. Again that was not agreeable, with the result that there were splits and divisions. What had been one church became three separate churches—the Congregational, the Methodist and the Wesleyan Methodist. There were three churches; two are now closed and the other is on the point of closing. Why? Because this spirit referred to in the Motion was lacking there, and we allowed what I would call minor, insignificant, paltry considerations to divide us. That is happening fairly regularly. I wrote to the General Secretary of the Welsh section of the Congregational Union to ask him if he could give me the latest information as to how things were going, and I received the most pathetic letter in return. He told me: "We have lots of organisations, but I am afraid we are not doing much good…" He said that a meeting called under the combined organisation would seldom be as well attended as a meeting called by any single denomination.

The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Southwell, referred to the importance of the laity doing their duty. I agree. To me this is more a question for the laity than for the leaders. We Nonconformists have no leaders here representing us, in the way that the Bishops represent the Anglicans. It is left to my noble Leader and myself, and others, to put our case on behalf of our different denominational bodies. What happens? Throughout Wales to-day we have a very difficult position indeed. In what? In capturing the younger section of society. In all our congregations, the Church of Wales included, what do we find? Grey-headed, bald-headed, elderly people, and very few young people. That is our problem; how to capture the rising generation. The future depends entirely on our getting hold of the rising generation, and that is not going to be easy.

Let me refer here to the question mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, referring to the fact that we find in certain places uncertainty as to exactly what we mean by being a Christian: What is a Christian—the type of person described as a Christian? I tried to find some definition, and I found one that suited me down to the ground. I hope that it suits the most reverend Primate, because it is by the present Bishop of Southwark, Dr. Mervyn Stockwood, Mervyn Stockwood is a man who has been always Left in his leanings, but he gives a definition of a "Christian" which I would accept, and I feel certain that if only all denominational Churches, including the Anglican Church, would accept this definition of a Christian we should be one step forward. Let me read it: The Church must have the courage to prove that it is the natural champion of social justice, During the past century it has, chiefly because of a false appreciation of its theology, tended towards neutrality. In the tremendous struggles between exploiter and exploited it has too often remained silent, and become, in popular estimation, identified with the oppressive forces. Without accepting the whole Marxist analysis, the fact remains that the masses have been denied their proper place within the community, and the Church should have led the people by insisting upon their just demands being met. It would have made many enemies, it would certainly have ceased to be, what it largely is to-day, a middle-class institution, but it would have been the leaven in the body politic, helping to create a more wholesome ordering of society. It is no excuse to say that its concern is only with the individual soul, preparing it for the life to come; individuals cannot be isolated from their environment, nor can the next world be divorced from this, and the Kingdom of God impinges upon both…A good churchman, for instance, is to be judged not by his adherence to rules and order, still less by the method whereby he carries out his ecclesiastical duties, but by the honest endeavour to devote his life to the transformation of society. I would accept that as the correct definition for the individual Christian and for the Church; and I am quite certain that if that could be made known publicly, if the most reverend Primate were to let it go out that he stands by that as a definition for a Christian and for the Church, we should make headway much faster than we are. The rate of progress depends largely on the individual. Our danger is that we are anxious to Christianise the whole world, but not always so anxious as we might be to Christianise our individual selves. The finest contribution any man can make to the Christianisation of this world is to do all he can to Christianise himself. That is the beginning, and that needs to be brought home as quickly as possible to every member of the Christian churches.

I cannot conclude my few remarks, my Lords, without referring to one whose name has been mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwell, and who perhaps did more than any individual ever did in world history for unity inside the Christian church—I refer to the late Archbishop William Temple. I feel sure that there will be general agreement that his is one name that ought to be mentioned in this connection in your Lordships' House. In the course of a sermon in Edinburgh, at the opening ceremony of the Second World Conference on Faith and Order, he said: Our Churches sent us here to confer about our differences, with a view to overcoming them. As representatives of those Churches each of us must be as ready to learn from others where his own tradition is erroneous or defective as to show to others its truth and strength. We meet as fellow pupils in a school of mutual discipleship. The Churches desire through us to learn from one another…Our discussion of our differences is a necessary preliminary, but it is a preliminary and no more.


Before the noble Lord resumes his seat, may I repeat the disclaimer which I made at the beginning of my speech, that I do not speak for the Church of Scotland?


Quite right.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, it is a privilege to follow a series of speakers, including my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who have spoken from so much conviction, and in particular to begin my own remarks with a quotation from that wonderful man and friend of so many here, the late Archbishop Temple. At this moment many sayings of his are beginning to run through my mind, but there is one which I think will be common ground for many of us. I remember his winding up a speech at the Oxford Union on one occasion with the words Only religious faith can keep the world safe for freedom; only religious faith can keep freedom safe for the world. I think of so many things that he said, to me and to many others, that I could be easily distracted from my theme.

The noble Earl, Lord Arran told us at the beginning that he wondered whether he was doing a service to Christianity in raising this debate in the House. I am aware that there are members of all denominations who probably have been sharing that view, but I am satisfied that a debate, initiated as he has initiated it and proceeding on the lines that it has taken, can do much good. Some of your Lordships may remember an account by the late much-esteemed Lord Norwich of how he attempted—I suppose a good many years ago—to become a candidate for Parliament for Stroud. One of the three questions asked him (the others related to health and finance) was, what was his religion. By that they wanted to know whether he was a Roman Catholic or not. To quote what Lord Norwich said in his book: The majority of people in England think that there are only two religions, the Roman Catholic religion, which is wrong, and the rest, which do not count. That was the view which the late Lord Norwich offered. But I think that if he had been here to-day taking his part as a representative of the country, he would feel that we have moved on.

Before we leave that side of it I must say that I believe that we in fact overdo this talk about the decline of religion. I would say that this is a more religious country to-day than it was when I was growing up. That is certainly true of the universities, and it is beginning to be true of the country as a whole. I therefore think that Lord Norwich rather underestimated the religious interests of the nation.

We have heard speeches of great power from leaders of the Free Churches and other Churches. My noble Leader (he represents me not perhaps in this particular sphere, but in every other sphere with which your Lordships are concerned) will not expect me—at least, I hope he will not expect me—to follow him along a political and social line. I have not come down to the House to discuss those matters. I would only remind him that I have found it no way difficult to follow him for many years in social and political matters, and that the great majority of my co-religionists are always supposed to support him and other colleagues in the Labour Party; so that the thought of some great social and political gulf yawning between my co-religionists and other citizens of this country is, to me, bunkum. I hope that the noble Viscount will allow me to put it as plainly as that. But I do express gratitude to him for restraining any extreme outbursts which would have caused real pain to my co-religionists. I am not speaking sarcastically. I believe that if he had said exactly what was in his mind, and without prayer and mortification, the afternoon might have become almost intolerable for some of us. But I do salute him as a great Christian individual and in so many other ways—


I did not call yours "bunkum".


My Lords, if the noble Lord will supply a more polite word than "bunkum" which amounts to the same thing, I will gladly accept it. But it would seem necessary for those who read this debate for me to put it clearly and firmly on record that he is deeply misguided on the whole character and history of my Church. Having said that, I think I have done as much as your Lordships would wish me to do.

I feel, my Lords, that the House will be expecting to hear from one or two Catholics, or, if the term is preferred, Roman Catholics. We have had some argument on terminology and I am in the hands of the House on this matter, but if anyone wants me to call myself a Roman or Papist, that I will also do to oblige. But I will proceed, unless otherwise instructed, to talk of myself and my Communion as Catholic. But I think, bearing in mind that my Church contains in the whole world something like 500 million people, a good many more than all the other Christian Churches put together, although only one-tenth of the population of this country, it would be natural to have one or two speeches from individual Catholics. Contrary to what some of the less well-informed Members of the House may expect, I have not been instructed how to speak. I have come down here, as I have done a good many times on other occasions in the last fifteen years, having made up my own remarks, for what they are worth. I hope and believe that what I am going to say—and I think the same would be true of other individual Catholics who may follow me—will not be repugnant to the views of my Church, but my remarks lack the authority of pronouncements that will come from the representatives of other Communions. There is no one in this House who could commit my Church or speak for it officially in any way.

Let me begin my main remarks by paying a heartfelt tribute to the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. I should like to congratulate him most sincerely on his famous journey and, particularly so far as Catholics are concerned, on his visit to the Pope. I say without hesitation that that was a most magnificent gesture of friendship—I repeat, a magnificent gesture of friendship—and I hope that the most reverend Primate will know that I have used those words after careful thought. I can think of no initiative taken in recent years which has filled me personally, and many others, with more enthusiasm and hopefulness. If the most reverend Primate had done nothing else in his whole life—and, of course, his life has been one of many varied distinctions—I believe he would always be remembered for what he did on that journey, and for what he tried to do.

The journey came at a most appropriate time, when the Catholic Church, under Pope John, is preparing for the Second (Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. The Secretariat for the Re-Union of Christendom, established under the Chairmanship of Cardinal Bea, is specifically related to the General Council. The visit of the Archbishop to Cardinal Bea when he was in Rome was a matter for further satisfaction. And that is true also of the appointment of Canon Pawley to Rome by the Anglican Communion; so machinery exists by which Anglican views can be made known to the Secretariat.

Unless I am much mistaken—and, as I have said, I conic here simply as an individual Catholic without any special message from anywhere—His Holiness the Pope is urging us, the Catholic Communion, to fix our gaze with new eagerness on the holy goal of Christian unity in a world where there is still so much hostility and indifference. He is urging us, it seems to me, in search of that goal to try to find as many points of common agreement as possible. But that does not mean that he wishes us to underestimate the difficulties. We are all at one here in agreeing (the Archbishop has made it plain on more than one occasion, of course, that he agrees with this) that those difficulties must be fairly and squarely faced. It is no service to ultimate unity if we lose sight at this stage of the profound differences of doctrine.

I should like to touch on three topics which were mentioned in the short but finely conceived speech of the noble Earl, Lord Arran. The ideal of unity is the first topic; secondly, practical co-operation in the meanwhile; and thirdly, mutual charity. The first, the full unity, raises, we must admit, large difficulties, as the noble Earl was the first to appreciate. The second—that is, on the question of co-operation in the meanwhile—raises difficulties, though much smaller ones. The third problem, the problem of mutual charity, it seems to me, should raise few, if any, difficulties, if we claim that we are genuine Christians.

I hope that no one is unaware that we Catholics all desire unity; that is if we have any claim to be called Catholics at all. His Eminence, Cardinal Godfrey, is at this moment at Lourdes leading a national pilgrimage of which unity is one of the primary objectives. The official title of the present Pope's first Encyclical issued in 1959 is "Truth, Unity and Peace". As many are aware, for eight days during January, and again between Ascension and Pentecost, Catholics all over the world are officially recommended to pray for the re-union of Christians into one Church. In these prayers of the Octave Catholics—the Roman Catholics and other Catholics—and Protestants and all the Christians, surely, are engaged in the common task of trying to give effect to the original Prayer of Our Lord Himself: that we may be made perfect in One.

Surely, as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and others have said, a very strong basis of unity already exists. Lord Arran called for a unity of spirit. Surely, it seems that there already exists a large measure of unity of spirit among all the people who believe in Christ and are pledged to Christ. But when I refer to the ideal of unity, this goal of unity, what kind of unity have Catholics or Roman Catholics in mind? My Lords, we believe that our Lord founded one Church, guaranteed that it would persist to the end of time; and we believe that that Church has, in fact, remained one for 2,000 years. Perhaps I may quote something, which I think is well understood, said by the President of the Federation of Protestant Churches of France, a man devoted to the œcumenical cause, a few years ago: …a growing number of Catholic priests, religious and faithful, associate themselves by prayer and study with the great work which for almost half a century has been seeking to remove the scandal of the divisions of the Church. But she inexorably maintains against other Christian confessions that she is the only true Church of Christ. Hence, it is in her alone that Christian unity can be restored. The reason I quote from the words of this great Protestant leader is to show that this fundamental tenet of my Church is well understood by leading Protestants working for unity.

Between us Roman Catholics and others outside our Communion there is bound to be this fundamental difference. Most, I think, look upon the Church as divided, and consequently regard the reunion of Christendom as the healing of disastrous divisions within the Church. That was clearly the way the noble Earl, Lord Arran, saw it. But we look upon this process of re-union as the gathering one more of the separated parts into the never-failing unity of the mystical Body of Christ, which has its earthly Head and divinely appointed centre in the Holy See. I shall not seek to justify that view this afternoon. I may perhaps be forgiven for saying that I did not adopt that standpoint lightly or easily. It was completely contrary to the point of view in which I was brought up, although I was enormously fortunate in having a strong Christian education. When I became a Roman Catholic, it was contrary to the view held by all my relatives and nearly all my friends. So it is not a view I arrived at lightly or easily.

The position, of course, is well understood by the leaders outside our Communion. They are well aware that it will not, in essentials, be altered. How far unity on these terms will be possible in the foreseeable future is a matter upon which various opinions can reasonably be held. No one can doubt that much benefit will come from discussions by competent and representative theologians. Such discussions, as we know, are taking place, and I hope they are proving successful. But obviously it is best that they should take place away from public discussion: and that, I feel sure, is very much in the mind of the Archbishop. If I submit the opinion that prayer and faith can find us the way to real unity, a way not visible to most of us now, the House can rate my opinion as high or as low as it chooses; but what we can surely all agree on is that to be a Christian at all is to be an apostle of unity, and anything which discourages unity is a hindrance to the spreading and communication of Christ. Surely, too—I think this has come out, on the whole, in the speeches we have heard—there is to-day a better climate for the promotion of a real unity than we have seen at any time during the last 400 years.

Clearly the achievement of full unity, barring a miracle—that must not be ruled out—is not going to arrive to-day or to-morrow. What about our relations in the meanwhile? I must speak briefly here, because once one becomes involved in details there will be no end to my observations. Even here there are pitfalls, I am afraid. I am well aware that our non-Roman Catholic friends think us unnecessarily "sticky" in regard to quite a number of matters, particularly common prayer and, on a more trivial plane, the appearance of Catholic mayors at public functions—but that is to take a rather trivial example. I am afraid that we have found more difficulties in the matter of common prayer than our Protestant friends are aware of. The desirability of common prayer is clearly real: it must be according to the wishes of Our Lord; and yet the dangers of misunderstanding have, in practice, been found large. On the whole, what has been found in my Church is that the best way to allow people to pray together is to encourage them to pray together in silence according to their consciences. I do not wish to appear dogmatic in this area. It is a field of great delicacy, where problems of faith and morals are intertwined with those of prudence and good taste; where the principles to be applied may be permanent but the actual application may vary from time to time or from place to place.

In the social field, again, there are sometimes differences regarding the interpretation of the moral law. There are not, as I see it, a great many such instances, but clearly contraception does raise a difficulty, and there it has been found convenient by everybody concerned to have both the National Marriage Guidance Council and the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. Those two bodies, I understand, work very well together, and each appreciates the rôle of the other. In many other matters, of course, the special difficulty of a varying interpretation of the moral law does not arise. There can sometimes be a completely common approach—for example, the Public Morality Council. In cases where the Churches (rightly, as I should think) do not wish to become too deeply involved in matters that border on active politics, they often join in lending their patronage, or make sure that they are represented through individuals.

Almost all noble Lords will know of examples, but I would give just one or two instances from my own experience. For example, both the National Society for the Mentally Handicapped and the Anglo-German Association (of which I was chairman for ten years until I turned that position over to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, the other day) have leaders of all the main religious groups as patrons. Then, I am one of the two surviving patrons of Christian Action, of which Canon Collins is a director, and which may fairly be called all-denominational. At the moment, I happen also to be chairman of a large committee concerned with some of the moral and religious problems involved in creating an International Police Force, and a number of divines from various denominations—all denominations, I think—are included among our members. Noble Lords could multiply countless examples from their own social work, but I do record the opinion that there is a lot more scope for practical co-operation, and I believe that it will come when mutual understanding and esteem are improved, quite apart from any doctrinal developments.

My Lords, this brings me finally to the heading of what I call mutual charity—or, more widely still, the psychological and moral attitudes of the different Churches towards one another. The history of many hundreds of years and the whole culture of the contemporary world could be imported on the various sides of that argument, but perhaps I may be allowed to consider it, as did the noble Earl, Lord Arran, as it arises on our doorstep. The Catholics in Britain are accepted as part of the community, as indeed, very rightly, are the Jews and the agnostics. We are, of course, proud of our position as British citizens, and are proud of our own patriotic contribution. The actual relations between the religious bodies are probably better than they have ever been. It is true that if you visit the Protestant Truth Society Bookshop in Fleet Street you will be confronted by some virulent anti-Catholic propaganda, or what I would call anti-Catholic propaganda—such titles as Freedom's FoeThe Vatican, and so on. But when one reads that propaganda one seems to be stepping into a different age. I do not think it is in any way typical of the attitude of Britain, or of the British Protestants. It certainly was not corroborated in any way by the attitude of the noble Viscount in his remarks to-day. One really does not know whether to laugh or cry.

So, as I see it, the relationship between the Churches of this country is probably better at the moment than at any time since the Reformation: and while I should like to salute all those who have played their part in this, naturally the most reverend Primate comes once again first into mind. But surely this relationship could be better still. The question arises: What could we, on the Catholic side, do about it? I suppose that what is most annoying (and that may be an understatement) to our Protestant or non-Roman Catholic friends is our claim to uniqueness, although other Churches also claim to be unique in their own way. The Church of England claims to be unique in this country, I suppose, as the one Established Church. The trouble is, I suppose, that our friends outside our Church feel that our particular claims disparage theirs. That is how I analyse the psychological difficulty to myself. It is their understanding of our attitude in this regard which seems to me to be responsible for a certain tension, even where good will is present, and it often prevents good will from arising. Can I, as I close, say anything on that subject which will heal rather than exacerbate?

I do not suppose that many Members of your Lordships' House are still under the impression that we Catholics believe that all non-Catholics—including, of course, most of your Lordships—will go to Hell. In my own case, that would mean my father and mother and all my brothers and sisters. There is a story which may be known to your Lordships but which I heard only a day or two ago. It is that a visitor was being shown around Heaven. He passed through groups of Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists and Presbyterians, as well, who were mingling happily together. They came to a high wall. The guide pointed to a ladder, and said: "Go up and have a look over that wall, but, for Heaven's sake! be quiet about it. The Roman Catholics are over there, and they are under the impression that there is no one else about". That is what is thought to be the point of view of some of us, but I can only ask the House to believe that, in 1961, we are a little more broad-minded than that.

I shall be reminded of the Catholic statement that outside the Church there is no salvation. Well, as I understand it, that means that if I, or any individual, encounter the Church and, understanding her fully, deliberately reject her, then I am in effect rejecting God and rejecting the hope of salvation. That does not of course, apply to the vast majority of people. It may not apply to anybody, for all I know, Who is outside the Church; but at any rate it is a more restrictive rule than would appear at first sight. It applies to many fewer people titan would appear at first sight, and leaves, of course, tremendous openings.

Your Lordships will be aware, although the phrase may not appeal to you, that invincible ignorance is accepted as a sufficient excuse. Translated into more happier language than I hope to understand, that in fact means that every Member of this House will have a better chance of salvation than I have; and certainly it means that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has, because he has worked much harder for Christianity than I have yet had time to work for it. At any rate, the idea that we suppose that salvation is a little corner reserved for ourselves, in which our relative obscurity in this life will be amply compensated for later, is totally unrelated to the Catholic belief. But this escape clause (if I might call it that) which lets out not only non-Catholics, Protestants, but humanists, Communists and active persecutors of the Church as well—or it can let them out—is therefore of small satisfaction to vast numbers of non-Catholic Christians to whom their Christian faith is dearer than life, and to many whose lives in fact centre round the altar.

How can one ever convince Christians of our profound respect for them as fellow members of the Christian body? Flow can one ever show one's profound respect for the collective witness of their Churches as a whole? I can hardly do better, perhaps, than quote the present Pope in his Encyclical, which I mentioned earlier—"Truth, Unity and Peace". He said, speaking to those outside the Catholic Church: We address you as brothers even though you are separated from us, for, as St. Augustine said, 'Whether they like it or not, they are our brothers. They will only cease to be our brothers when they cease to say, Our Father'"; and, of course, we know they will not give up saying that.

I think myself of the immense contribution of all Christian Churches to the understanding of religious truth, to human welfare generally, and to the service of Christ; and I think of so many wonderful Christians, without number, outside my own Communion. I think of Archbishop Temple. I think of my old headmaster, from whom the noble Viscount benefited so much in the same way as I did, Dr. Alington. I think of the clergymen of the Church of England who prepared and baptised my own wife as an Anglican, although I had already become a Catholic and although it was obviously a transitional stage on her path to the Catholic Church. When the time came for her to be received also into my Church, the Bishop who had confirmed her as an Anglican wrote to her—and I am quoting something which I have not quoted elsewhere, with his permission. He has now passed on. He said: I rejoice that you are both to walk along the same path, with, I hope, the children too. I say that even though it is not the same as mine, and I know that nothing will make you think unkindly of the Church through which you first came into touch with sacramental He. I shall remember you all at Holy Communion as occasion offers, and can assure you of my prayers. Certainly my family and I owe to the Church of England a debt we shall never be able to repay.

I should like, in conclusion, to hope that our friends in other Churches are aware that the leaders of my own Church are capable of a like generosity. I always remember what Cardinal Hinsley said to me about Anglicans and Free Churchmen, when I consulted him not only after I had been received into the Catholic Church, not long before he died, and when my wife and children were still outside my Church. I said: "How now do you look upon this, that we are not Roman Catholics?", and I always remember the answer of that great Christian and Englishman. He said: "We must always remember that the devotion of many of them to Our Lord puts many of us to shame".

My Lords, when every warning has been issued, every technical position safeguarded, I seem to see the beginning of a great breaking down of barriers and suspicions between Christian men and women and Christian bodies. The way is being cleared at last for positive charity. Who can doubt that the process must bring joy to the Father we worship in common, and who is so faint-hearted in your Lordships' House, or elsewhere, who will not believe in the possibility of ultimate success? The Lord Bishop of Southwell put it very much better than I can when he said: "We as Christians cannot really begin to reconcile society until we are reconciled ourselves". But when we are reconciled, what then? Who can set a limit to what a united Christendom could achieve towards the rescuing of a stricken and bewildered humanity, in which all of us, Christians, Jews, members of other religions, humanists, and other nonbelievers, are all children of the one God.


My Lords, could I ask a question of the noble Lord before he resumes his seat? He congratulated the Archbishop on his visit to the Pope. Would it not be possible for His Holiness to pay a return visit to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, because I think that would do more good for unity than anything else? it would be some reaction from the Catholic side.


My Lords, I think I can only do what is always done by members of the Front Bench on these occasions: will place the suggestion of the noble Lord before my Leader.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to some most interesting speeches this afternoon. The average has been about 36 minutes. Your Lordships will be glad to know that I shall speak for only about ten minutes, because I timed it before I started. I should not have ventured to speak at all, with so many noble Lords and Prelates better able to do so than I, but for the fact that I have had practical experience for over 30 years of working with a wide variety of Churches. During the whole of the period I have been either President or Chairman of the World Council of Christian Education, formerly known as the World Sunday School Association. Another Member of your Lordships' House who has all along been closely associated with this work is the noble Lord, Lord Rank. This Association is international, inter-denominational, and inter-racial. It combines the Sunday school organisations of 53 countries, with more than 62 million scholars and 3 million teachers. We work with, and through, the young people's departments of almost every protestant Church in the world, and also with such ancient Churches as the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian and the Coptic Churches, as well as all the so-called younger Churches; and, of course, we are in close association with the World Council of Churches.

The World Sunday School Association was formed over 70 years ago and was, therefore, one of the very first œcumenical bodies, long before that awkward word came into common parlance. In 1925 I was President of the National Sunday School Union of England and Wales, and during my year of office I represented that body at the World Sunday School Convention in Glasgow. I went to that Conference a nationalist, as it were, in Sunday school affairs, but I returned an internationalist in outlook. And, in 1928, I was made President of the World Sunday School Association, a position I still occupy. It has involved visits to many countries as far apart as Norway and Brazil, Canada and Japan. In all this time and in all this work we have never found any difficulty in putting into practice the spirit of Christian unity in working together for a common cause. It is only when we try to get organic unity, as we have heard so often this afternoon, that the difficulties begin.

What is wanted, first and foremost, is a brotherhood between the leaders of the Christian Churches in working for a common cause. In that way the unity of the spirit comes naturally. We hope that in time this may lead to organic unity between some of the Churches. I doubt if it will ever lead to one united Church, even among the Protestants, but never is a long time. Human nature, especially in a free society, is very diverse, and perhaps Christianity is better served by a variety of Churches to suit the different needs and temperaments of the people. The great thing is that they should be one in spirit and in Christian charity one to the other.

In my work for the World Sunday School Association, I have worked with men and women of many countries and many Churches, without knowing, or needing to know, to what particular denomination they belonged. I have just been looking at the Annual Report of the Association and at the names of my colleagues, with whom I have worked for many years all round the world, and in most cases I could not recollect to what Church they belonged. The man I have worked with the longest and most closely is Dr. Luther Weigle. I know that he was for many years Dean of the Divinity School at Yale and is Chairman of the American Committee which produced the revised standard version of the Bible; but I have forgotten, if I ever knew, to what denomination he belongs. Does it matter? We are one in the unity of the Christian spirit. All that we ask is that our colleagues and co-workers shall be concerned with the Christian education of young people everywhere. After all, the Sunday school scholars and young people of to-day will be the Church members and leaders of to-morrow.

The difference between most of the Protestant Churches is not so much the difference in creed or beliefs, as the difference in their internal politics, if I may so class them—the difference in the organisation and government of the Churches more than in their theological differences—for instance, the difference in emphasis placed on the respective authority of the ministry and the laity. Some like it this way and some like it the other. But it really has nothing to do with the unity of the spirit which we are discussing to-day.

Besides referring to my experience on the Sunday School side of the Churches, I should like to say a word or two from the standpoint of a Methodist. I am not its official spokesman to-day, but I am proud to hold several important offices in the Methodist Church. We and the Church of England are perhaps the closest to organic unity, for historically the Methodist Church was a break-away from the Church of England. John Wesley never intended to start a new Church, but only to revitalise his own Church, and I believe that it is true to say that during his lifetime Wesley considered the members of his society, called Methodists, to be still members of the Church of England and they were required to attend there for Communion. In the closing words of a well-known Life of Wesley, we read: The Catholic-minded Wesley, who had dreamed of a new world in which men might adventure in the spirit without clash of Creed or Order, was dead. And Robert Southey's more famous Life of Wesley concludes with the words: Nor is it beyond the bounds of reasonable hope that conforming itself to the original intention of its founder it— the Methodist Church— may again draw towards the establishment from which it has seceded. That was in 1820. Wesley himself, speaking at a conference of his followers in 1770, was asked, among other questions: who of us is now accepted of God? to which he replied: He that now believes in Christ with a loving obedient heart And he was asked another question: What have we then been disputing about for these 30 years? to which he replied: I am afraid, about words". Speaking personally, my Lords, I am equally at home in a Church of England service, so long as it is not too high, as I am in my own Methodist chapel. With regard to the Roman Catholic Church, I see many difficulties in any sort of organic union. But I hope and pray that, as the years go by, that greater unity of the Christian spirit which we are considering to-day will grow rapidly between all the Churches. In any case, we Protestants have a big enough job in hand—let us go to it.

Once a year the Members of both Houses of Parliament who are Methodists gather for dinner in the House of Commons Dining Room to honour the President and Secretary of the Methodist Conference. This year's dinner took place last night, and we had with us not only the President of the Conference, the Reverend Edward Rogers, and the Secretary, Dr. Baker, but also the Vice-President for the year, Mr. George Thomas, Member of Parliament. This gathering asked me to say to your Lordships to-day how grateful they are to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for introducing this debate on the spirit of Christian unity and to assure your Lordships of their hopes and prayers that not only will this debate to-day quicken that spirit of Christian unity which we all desire but that the pace of unity between the Churches themselves will be quickened, too. In my lifetime I have seen at least six Methodist Churches unite to form the one Methodist Church of England, their former differences and difficulties forgotten. I hope that my children will live to see other and wider unions between the Churches of this our land. I beg to support the Motion.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, all my predecessors in speaking in this debate are members of one or other of the Christian Churches and most of them have emphasised that connection in what they have said. For reasons which I have published in one of my books, and which I therefore need not repeat here, I do not belong to any of the Christian Churches whose coming together this Motion recommends. I do not belong to any Church or to any religious body. Nevertheless, I hope to be allowed to support this Motion and to add my welcome to any coming together of the Christian Churches.

I do so for three distinct reasons. First, because from my earlier years of manhood I had highly valued friends in high positions in the Church of England. The most famous of them, and the longest and most helpful friend of them all, was the Archbishop whose name your Lordships have already heard in this debate—William Temple. Another friend, somewhat less completely and purely ecclesiastic, was Canon Hannay, otherwise known as George A. Birmingham. Both of them helped me in every way possible in anything I was trying to do, for society or otherwise, as I helped them in anything that they were doing. Neither of them is now with us, but I am quite certain that if William Temple had been here to-day, he would have welcomed what I am saying now.

My second reason is that a night or two ago I happened to be talking to another distinguished member of the Church of England, who is in a position of great activity and responsibility. He is a newer friend of mine. He was very critical of this debate and thought it was an interference by the Lords in a matter which was not their business. I told him that welcome of the present action, if the Churches were coming together, was no reflection on anything that they might be thought to have done wrong in the past in not coming together before. I want to urge that to- day. This debate cannot be regarded as anything but a sign of good will to all our Christian Churches in this country.

My third reason is that welcome to such a movement as this by an outsider has one great technical advantage. No one can suppose that I am seeking as a member of one of the Churches concerned to persuade the other Churches to change either their beliefs or their practices and come nearer to my own form of religion, because I have no admitted religion. I have some strong beliefs, which I shall urge upon your Lordships in a moment. Why do I, as a member of no Church, desire to add my welcome to the coming together of the Christian Churches? I need hardly remind your Lordships that in the past there were wars between different Churches; there were religious wars and religious persecutions. Now all Christian Churches have an overwhelming call to stand together, because now they have a common enemy. They need to stand, and they do, in fact, stand, for humanity against war. They need to stand, and most of them do, against racial discrimination. Nearly all of them stand for the brotherhood of man. They are facing in this way a real threat to their existence and happiness. I need hardly mention the Communist tyranny which might conceivably spread over all the world—though I am sure it will not do so. But I want to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, who spoke of the chasm between the Churches, that a chasm is facing all Churches alike.

With that reference to one earlier speech, may I lead to the end of what I have to say by referring to two of the other earlier speeches—namely, that of the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Southwell, and that of my old friend the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough? The right reverend Prelate pointed out, quite rightly, that Christians cannot reconcile others until they are reconciled themselves. My old friend the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough (he remained no less a friend by having moved from the Front Bench to another place to speak; if he would only move to this Bench, it would be better still, and I hope he may) urged with great emphasis as, his fundamental belief that everything we do must be based on the Word of God alone. My answer to that doctrine is to return to the words of Jesus Christ and the unifying, reconciling spirit that breathes through nearly every word that He has spoken. I need hardly remind your Lordships of what one of our Victorian writers, Matthew Arnold, said when he emphasised the "sweet reasonableness of Jesus". That is what our Churches want to spread over the whole world.

Let me remind your Lordships, in ending my speech, of only a few words that have been used of Jesus in the Bible; and I give you four only. In the Epistle to the Hebrews he appears as "Merciful"; in the Epistle to the Romans he is the "Deliverer"; in the Gospel according to St. Matthew he is the "Physician"; and in the Revelation he is the "Bright Morning Star". Let us fix our eyes on that Morning Star, and with the light of it make a new and happy Christian world, even if it does not admit me to it.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I think it a good thing, when you start to speak in a religious debate like this, to say exactly what your religion is, and it was interesting to hear my noble friend Lord Beveridge say that he has not one: but that still makes him a very worthy citizen. My noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough did not start by saying to what denomination he belonged, but from his observations I gathered that he was not a Roman Catholic. I belong to the Church of England, and I am a British Israelite. I was brought up with the sole idea relative to Roman Catholicism that their chief desire was to revive the Fires of Smithfield. I have got over that. One of the troubles in all this is that your religion is so settled for you by your birth; and it is a cynical thought that if Charles Mantel had not won his great Battle of Tours in 732 against the Saracens and the Moors we should all be Mohammedans to-day. That would be a terrible thing, and it was a great victory.

But in this project of unification I think we ought to start right. There is no doubt whatever that the biggest Church is the Roman Catholic Church. But, on the other hand, the British Church is senior to all, and for that season I think that any effort along these lines could well be taken by our Church. It is interesting to note that the West of England was a Christian country a hundred years before Rome became Christian. May I quote some words by St. Augustine (and the right St. Augustine this time, not Hippo). He wrote a letter to Pope Gregory in which he used these remarkable words: In the western confines of Britain there is a certain royal island of large extent, surrounded by water, abounding in all the beauties of nature and necessaries of life. In it the first neophytes of Catholic law, God beforehand acquainting them, found a church constructed by no human art, but by the Lands of Christ himself, for the salvation of His people. The Almighty has made it manifest by many miracles and mysterious visitations that he continues to watch over it as sacred to himself, and to Mary, the mother of God. You must remember that the Druids very quickly became Christians, because their faith was very similar to Christianity. They looked forward to a Messiah and they had an impersonal God, and so their religion merged very quickly into Christianity.

At one time in history there was a dispute between France and Spain as to which had the senior Church. There were four councils, a council at Pisa in 1409, a council at Constance in 1417, one in Siena in 1424, and another one in Basle in 1434. They were to settle this dispute as to seniority of Church. They all laid it down that the seniority in Churches was British, that Joseph of Arimathæa brought the religion of Christ to that land immediately after the Passion of Christ. The first Christian Church of the world was the wattle church of Glastonbury.

Another thing to show the existence of the English Church long before Rome is again tied up with St. Augustine, who was endeavouring to get the British Church to join Rome. This is what the Bishops—mark you, the Bishops—of the English church said to St. Augustine: Be known and declared that we, all, individually and collectively, are in all humility prepared to defer to the Church of God and to the Bishop of Rome, and to every sincere and godly Christian, so far as to love everyone according to his degree, in perfect charity, and to assist them all by word and in deed in becoming the children of God. But as for any other obedience, we know of none that he, whom you term the Pope or Bishop of Bishops can demand. The deference we have mentioned we are ready to pay to him as to every other Christian, but in all other respects our obedience due to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Caerleon St. David's, that is— who is alone under God our ruler to keep us right in the way of salvation. They are interesting words in the early days. Later, when Queen Mary made the British Church amalgamate with Rome, Cardinal Pole came to this country for the celebration, and before all the nobility in Westminster Abbey, before Philip and Mary, speaking about the reconciliation, he used these words: God hath given a special token of his favour to this realm, for, as this nation in the time of the primitive church was the first to be called out of the darkness of heathendom, so now they were the first to whom God had given grace to repent of their schism. That is quite a late confession of the early prominence and priority of the British Church. That is why, if any of these things about which we are speaking to-day take place (and I hope they will) the leadership of them should rest fairly and squarely on the Lord Archbishop and the British Church.

There are one or two further things I should like to say. The curse of Christianity, right from the beginning, has been that of dogma, and it is being added to every day. I was in Ireland when the Bull was issued from Rome Ne temere, in which it was said that the Virgin Mary had ascended to Heaven. The dear Irish, of whom, of course, the majority are Roman Catholics, found this hard to believe. But they accepted it as good Catholics, and I should like here and now to pay tribute to the toleration that Catholics have shown towards the Protestants in Southern Ireland. It has been an example to the whole world.


As a Southern Irishman, may I say how profoundly that tribute will be appreciated in Southern Ireland?


I did not say it to be appreciated; it just happens to be the truth. I appreciate it as a Protestant, although you, perhaps, as a Catholic do not. Heaven is one of those curious things. You do not find it on a map, nor does it take part in astronomy. Heaven is one of these spiritual things which, if we understood the fourth dimension, might be very real. It is something we just do not understand.

What we have to remember is that the early Christians held their dogmas and their faith with an enthusiasm and ferocity which is quite extraordinary, and is something we really do not understand. I cannot help quoting the historical fact of the fall of Constantinople. Here was a city which resisted the infidels for a thousand years. They were a Christian community—a small one. They received those Christians who were on a Crusade as fellow Christians; they welcomed them into their town. No sooner had they got in there than they quarrelled. And what did they quarrel about? It seems almost impossible to-day, but they quarrelled on this point: whether God the Father was greater than God the Son. On that ferocious point they practically exterminated each other, and it was due to that that Constantinople fell.

In our time, we have seen (I believe it was about ten years ago; I remember it well in another place when we were disputing the questions of the Sacrament) passions which one had thought were dormant for ever roused again, and spirited and terrible feelings of past bigotry were also raised. I am not saying for one moment that this sad history of brutality among Christian Churches is of one denomination. They are all stained with the blood of persecution, cruelty, ignorance and intolerance. I say. quite frankly, that if this effort is going to be one in which you are going to try to reconcile dogma, you will never get anywhere at all. It is, I believe, fundamentally impossible.

First of all, we have a lot of curious things pushed down our throats, although we try to believe them. We are, we have to remember, still anthropomorphic in our beliefs relative to God. In other words, we think of Him as a person, and I do not see how, being human beings, we can think of Him in any other way. But when you speak of God the Father you speak of somebody whose voice was heard, certainly in the Old Testament, although He was never seen. When you speak of God the Son, we know Him as a man in history. But the Holy Ghost is far and away the most mystical, because no personality is attached to Him whatever. We poor human beings, bound Prometheus-like to our finite knowledge, want so much to plead to a person, and in the Roman Catholic Church you can plead also to the Virgin Mary, but you notice no one pleads to the Holy Ghost, because we do not understand a God without a personality; that is due to our finite knowledge.

If anything is to happen in this most desirable project, we must first of all, as I say, eliminate dogma, or we shall never get agreement at all. And I go so far as to say let anybody believe or disbelieve whatever he likes. If you like to believe in eternal life—and most people do, although they cannot decide on what to do during the afternoon—let them believe in it. If you like to think Jesus was divine, believe in it; if you do not, do not believe in it. What is wrong in letting everybody believe what he likes? But let us look at Christianity, I say, in an entirely new way, as a code of conduct with nothing at all to do with dogma. I am convinced that the teaching of Jesus, in all its simplicity and its sweetness and humanity, transcends everything else, and I say that in this troubled world it should be our aim to try to show that that ideology is superior to all others; and we have to remember that we are attacked on a broad front by other ideologies. Thinking along such lines could really bring about, I believe, an advance that would be for the benefit of a sorely stricken world and lead to the encouragement of a way of life in which, although we do not always practise it, we earnestly believe.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not attempt to reply to the many debating and debatable points in the speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. To attempt to reply to them would not, I think, help to foster the spirit of unity which it is the purpose of this Motion to promote.

I want to say how glad I am that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has moved this Resolution. I have warmly welcomed, in company with many other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, the imaginative journey made by the most reverend Primate to Jerusalem, Istanbul and Rome. As Chairman of our Council on Inter-Church Relations, I have ample evidence that this journey has achieved much in the whole sphere of inter-Church relations in Christendom to-day. It has helped to foster a spirit of unity among separate Christian Communions, which, despite the difficulties that divide them, are aware of a common Christian heritage which unites them in the one world-wide family of God. I know, too, how much the Archbishop's friendly gesture has helped to strengthen the bond of friendship between the Church of England and the great Orthodox Church of the East, and how it has help to foster the spirit of unity between the Church of England and our brethren of the Roman Catholic Church. I would add also that this journey and this friendly gesture have done much to encourage certain Christian Communions, who, in their history, have suffered long periods of persecution and have felt, with some reason, a real sense of isolation. I refer, for example, to the Armenian Church, the Assyrian Church and other Eastern churches.

This journey recently made by the Archbishop can be seen in its true proportions only within the context of the whole (Ecumenical Movement as that movement has developed with such rapidity during the last 50 years. Last August I attended a very memorable service at St. Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh, at which Christian leaders representing many separate Christian Churches from all over the world gathered together to thank God for a certain conference held in Edinburgh in 1910, at which Christian leaders from all over the world considered the Churches' common missionary task. It is that Edinburgh conference that is usually regarded as marking the beginning of this (Ecumenical Movement as we have known it during the last 50 years, the movement which led to the inauguration in 1948 of the World Council of Churches.

To this World Council of Churches nearly 180 Churches of Christendom, from over 50 countries, have now been admitted as members, and I shall have the privilege next November of attending the Assembly of this Council as delegate from this country. In fairness to our brethren of the Roman Catholic Church, in view of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, earlier in the debate, I think I should say that on this occasion there will be present at the World Council Assembly officially two observers from the Roman Catholic Church. That is, I think, important to remember.

Parallel with the World Council of Churches there have been developing in recent years, during these last 50 years, regional and national councils, such as the British Council of Churches. Within the fellowship of the British Council of Churches all the leading Churches of Great Britain, other than the Roman Catholic Church, together with the Society of Friends and the Salvation Army, meet together. They have an opportunity of talking together about common Christian attitudes to some of the great social and political problems which confront our nation and the world to-day. Within these Councils, including also local councils of Churches growing up in many of the great towns of this country, we are learning to talk over with one another our different traditions; we are learning to understand one another and respect one another. We are learning to do things together. This very week is being observed in many parts of this country as Christian Aid Week, when Christians of separate Christian communities have the great joy of working together in complete partnership in meeting the needs of a hungry world.

We are learning also to pray together. Only last week I had the great joy of spending an evening with a certain Roman Catholic priest, Père Michelin, from the South of France who, in succession to the apostle of unity, the Abbè Paul Couturier, year by year publishes a little leaflet to guide Christians in their prayers for unity during the week of prayer for Christian Unity in January. This leaflet is translated into many languages, and in this country it was distributed last year by the British Council of Churches to the extent of 170,000 copies, going out to Christians of many communions, helping them to pray together for that unity which we believe to be Christ's will for His Church.

We are also learning to worship together. The story is told how a few years ago on a platform at a public meeting the leaders of two great Christian communions found themselves sitting side by side, and one said to the other, "We may as well talk to one another, for, after all, we worship the same God", to which the other replied, "Yes, you in your way, we in God's." We can thankfully recognise that this question would not be asked to-day, and that, if it were asked, that reply would not be given. That is a sign of the change of relationship that is taking place between the divided Churches of Christendom, and in that we rejoice.

I would add my own personal experience in this way of worship. It was a great joy to me (and I trust the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, will note this) last summer, when staying in a Perthshire village, to worship at the Church of Scotland in their Presbyterian Kirk in the morning and with my brethren of the Episcopalian Church in the evening. It was the most natural thing to share in both those acts of worship. When, a year before the Archbishop's visit to Istanbul, I stayed with the (Ecumenical Patriarch, it was an equal joy to share in the rich liturgy of the Orthodox Church. I have also had the joy of worshipping in Notre Dame, Paris. When I share in the worship of other Christian communions it gives me great joy. I am enriched, and I know that I am partaking in the worship of the one God and Father of us all, with those who are members with me of the same great family of God.

When we draw closer together through this sort of fellowship in action and prayer we become increasingly aware of the sin of our disunity, and we realise that we must not rest content just with co-operation; we realise that God is with us to make every endeavour in our day and generation to help the Church recover its visible unity. In that task, think I can say with fairness, the Church of England (which I am not representing officially this afternoon, but of which I happen to be one of the Bishops) has taken a not inconspicuous share. We have been, and are, engaged in conversations with our brethren of the Methodist Church, with the desire of finding a way of growing closer together. We are looking forward hopefully Ito, and are preparing the way for, a resumption of our conversations with our brethren in the Church of Scotland and our Presbyterian brethren in this country. The very fact that the most reverend Primate has recently visited the Pope is an indication that we are not looking in one direction only. We are looking for closer relations with all the great communions of Christendom.

This leads me to say this—and it is the point that I want to stress as I draw to my conclusion. So far, the (Ecumenical Movement has made its main impact upon leaders of the Christian Churches. So far, I submit that the (Ecumenical Movement has made singularly little impact upon ordinary Church members at the local level in the 'towns and villages of our country, and I believe that we shall not make any further progress in levels of leadership until ordinary Church members in the ordinary areas of our country have learned to know one another as friends, to do things together, to trust one another, and to understand one another and to live with one another. It is only then that there will be born—


Would it not help us if the Church could give the general public, in everyday language, an accurate exposition of "(Ecumenical"?


My Lords, at the beginning of my speech I nearly apologised for the use of the word "œcumenical". It is a word that I regret, as all your Lordships will regret it, but it seems to have come to stay for lack of any alternative. As I understand it, the (Ecumenical Movement means the movement towards Christian unity in the world to-day—a movement towards the recovery of unity, so that we may indeed be a whole Church of Christ, of one world-wide Christian fellowship.

In 1952 I was present at an œcumenical conference at Lund, and there the leaders of Christian Churches all over the world felt called upon in their report to urge the separated Churches of the world to do together all that can be done together, and to do separately only that which must be done separately. I fear that in many of our towns and villages in this country to-day the reverse is true: we do together only that which must be done together, and we do separately all that can be done separately.

The importance of this movement towards Christian unity is that ordinary men and women belonging to the divided Churches of our land may meet together in their own parishes, circuits, districts and presbyteries, may talk together, may do things together, and may pray together. I warmly welcome this Motion. Several noble Lords who have spoken have referred to the Churches' reconciling mission. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred to the fact that, among other things, Jesus Christ was a physician. The Church has been trusted with a message of reconciliation for a world that desperately needs this message to-day; but so long as we remain divided, the world can turn back to the Church and say, "Physician, heal thyself." So it is my hope, in 'welcoming this Motion, that it will lead to a great increase in the spirit of Christian unity in our country and, as a result, may lead to a deeper concern on the part of all Christians for the recovery of that visible unity of the one Church of God which we believe to be God's will for His Church.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to express thanks to my noble friend Lord Arran, for introducing this debate. Even though he may have felt a certain amount of temerity in doing so, I think that so far the debate has been carried on in the spirit of Christian unity, and I hope it may continue so—it is about the half-time mark now. I was glad to hear from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that he felt there was now a better climate of unity than ever before. Coming from him, I thought that was good; it was one of the many helpful things that he said in his speech.

It is perfectly true that we look to our Church leaders for a lead in this matter above all others, and I think it may be said that in the direction of the visit of the most reverend Primate to the Pope we have that leadership in good measure. But it comes down to us, the laity, to assist in the progress, and I am sure we have a duty so to do. I should like to pay my tribute to the most reverend Primate for what he has done for the Church and for Church unity throughout his term in his great office. But since a tribute came from Lord Longford, I think that is perhaps worth more than any tribute I could pay.

The right reverend Prelate, We Lord Bishop of Southwell, said that he thought the Church had a part to play. I entirely agree. I am afraid I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Ferrier, who said that this was throwing off the responsibility. I do not think so at all. After all, whichever Church we may be talking about, it is made up of its leaders and its laity; the laity are in the majority, and it is together that we have to tackle these great problems. I was glad to hear the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwell, who spoke of unity right down to the parishes. That, of course, is something which no doubt many of your Lordships have experienced, as I have. But we also need leadership down there. It is no good trying to do this, as it were, in vacuity.

Coming to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, who spoke before me, I was glad to hear of the work of unity which is at present proceeding in many parts of the world. Wherever a task needs to be done in the common field of Christian effort it is acknowledged to be better to make a joint assault, backed by the resources of all denominations, and we have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, of many instances of this. In fact, has it not already been the case with such a cause as World Refugee Year, in which quite successful campaigns were carried out with the Churches playing their part in a common enterprise? And why? Because it was a thoroughly Christian endeavour. And I think it surprised the promoters what remarkable spontaneity of response came from millions of people who saw in it a really worthwhile job in an unhappy world. It is this cause, and others like it in smaller degree, which brings out something from unconscious Christians or, putting it in another way, a sense of rightness from those who bear no allegiance to any religious organisation, but which springs from an innate spirit of humanity, call it what you will, which in too many of us is undeveloped or lies dormant until a great moment presents itself.

The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, gave us a quotation in which he used the words: The natural champion of humanity. I hope I have it right. Perhaps it is an age in which the best in us comes out in action rather than words. And the reverse is probably also true, the worst coming out in thoughtless action from minds and souls unwilling to be trained in the eternal truths.

Consider for one moment the work of missionary societies and Bible societies at home and overseas. These are evidence of work done by many representative Churches, and I suggest that greater success and progress might result through closer Church unity. The work that they are doing is vital, and every unit has its part to play. There could hardly be any overlapping, as there is so much work to be done; but for new, potential Christians a clearcut case and message from a united Church would surely carry more weight. It is not without its point that the new translation of the Bible must surely have its effect on younger members of the community, who find the language of the Authorised Version difficult.

I have experience in another sphere, that of the United Bible Societies, which is an organisation which combines and develops on a common basis all that is useful and effective in each member society, into which they pool their experience and take action together, though taking nothing away from the autonomy of each component Bible Society in nearly every country in the world.

In the present state of world disunity, the supporters of Christendom have a special part to play in an endeavour to tip the balance in favour of what we believe to be the night way for the world. There is a strong case for a closer liaison between denominations, by emphasising and giving as much weight as possible to points of agreement in the Christian faith, and playing down or trying to forget all that divides us. Unity of purpose among the Churches has, I think, always been present, while it is technique, or whatever the word may be, that has divided them. I think that further unity need not mean a sacrifice of principles, for it is common purpose and common action which matter in face of common work to be done. If a greater effort were made among all sections of the Church universal to tolerate and show sympathy for the methods of others, and a conscious effort to wear down prejudices, we might well see our way to a brighter future.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am rather proud to have the opportunity of making a short contribution in this great debate—because I believe it is a great debate; and conducted in a manner which could not possibly have happened in any other assembly in the world. I would say that for that purpose alone this debate has been a very good thing and has served a great purpose, and I would express my thanks to my noble friend the Earl of Arran for having introduced it.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who, if I interpreted him correctly, felt some doubt about the wisdom of our debating this subject, that if we cannot in this House, by open discussion, consider matters such as we are debating to-day in a manner which is helpful and which does good towards the objective we are seeking to achieve—each one of us in his own way—then, my Lords, I believe that we should stop it all and try to start afresh. I myself am convinced that a debate such as this, in the spirit in which it has been carried out, cannot but do good and seek to promote the spirit of Christian unity, not only throughout this country but through the various Churches, whose representatives have personally spoken in this Chamber today, in many other countries beyond those which are directly influenced by what is said in the ordinary way in this House.

My Lords, you will have gathered from what I have said that I am convinced that meetings in such a spirit between Christian leaders of different denominations must do good. May I make it clear that I am myself the President of the Church Society, which is an organisation definitely and fundamentally devoted to the task of seeking to ensure that our Anglican Church retains and adheres to the Protestant faith upon which it was founded. I should therefore particularly like to express my gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, for what he said in this Chamber this afternoon. Certainly, I believe the passages of his speech expressing the Protestant point of view, as it is held in many parts of this country by a very great many people in this country, were great passages indeed. I believe that one of the things which is greatly regretted by many people in this country is that, so far as I am aware (though I hope sincerely that I am wrong) at the present time there is no Bishop upon our Bench of Bishops who would find himself able to express the Protestant point of view in the same way as it was expressed by the noble Viscount this afternoon.

My Lords, I am well aware, as I know that my noble friend the most reverend Primate was also aware, that there were many people in this country who doubted his wisdom in deciding to pay a personal visit to the Pope. May I say that I would pay my tribute to him for his leadership in that, being aware of those doubts, he nevertheless, being convinced that it was the proper thing to do, proceeded to do it. I believe that the courage which he showed set a great example, one which many of us in this country would do well to follow. But, more than doubts, there were, and perhaps still are, many people—though I am certainly not one of them—who considered that the most reverend Primate's visit was, in fact, a betrayal of the Protestant faith. I mention that, as your Lordships will be aware, not in any criticism of the visit but as a fact which I believe that we have to recognise. There is such a strength and depth of feeling in this country among those who believe that they sincerely hold and represent the Protestant faith, as it was introduced into this country, that they regard any such personal approach to His Holiness The Pope as a betrayal of their faith by a leader of it in the Church.

My Lords, I cannot possibly accept any such attitude. One thing that has always seemed to me more out of phase than anything else I could imagine is that there could be a situation in which, for three or four hundred years, two leaders of Christian communities in this world have been unable to speak personally to one another. To me, that is the very antithesis of Christianity. Surely, whatsoever differences there may be between two men, whatsoever different outlooks there may be, the fundamental Christian spirit is at least to be able to meet personally and to discuss. Therefore, for my own part, while I regret intensely, and am sorry for his sake, that the Pope is inhibited from moving about himself so that he can come here and discuss matters with our leaders in London, I nevertheless consider that it has been not only an historic but an important and hopeful step forward in order to create the existence of a personal relationship.

Surely, my Lords, no person who has any thought of these subjects could have expected any dramatic change of faith. I cannot conceive that anyone would imagine that even His Grace's visit to the Pope would convince the Pope that he ought to become a Protestant or vice versa. But if the mere fact of creating a personal relationship and being able to discuss things together has made matters any easier in any other part of the world, has made a relationship between the two Churches any easier—if, for instance, it may, as obviously it cannot yet have done, in the course of time influence circumstances which will lead to a greater Christian tolerance in countries like Malta and in some of the South American countries—that alone would be amply sufficient to justify a mission such as His Grace set out upon. After all, when Mr. Khrushchev visited New York and met ex-President Eisenhower nobody expected that either of them would change the fundamental political faiths which he held, or that it would influence the fundamental political faiths of their respective countries. Why, then, should it in matters of religion? But having said this, and having expressed the very sincere hope that it may conceivably influence the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and ourselves in a way which is favourable, and in a spirit of Christian unity, I would add that I feel we ought at the same time to make quite certain that we in the Anglican community have no beam in our own eye.

I was delighted to hear what the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford said to us just now about the steps which had been taken forward in the (Ecumenical Movement in the last 50 years; and it is with no disrespect to him that I perhaps make some disparaging criticism about it. I have known of the work for quite a long time and of the tremendous, inspired and self-sacrificing effort which my own great friend the late Dr. Bell, followed by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, have been making in that way. But when he tells us, as he truthfully told us, that it is 50 years since that work began, and we realise the very limited progress which has been achieved in that time, one wonders how long it is going to take to achieve anything in the nature of Christian unity throughout the world.

Nevertheless, in our own community I wonder whether there is not a need for a greater spirit of Christian unity in the dealings of the Anglican Church with, for instance, the Church of South Africa. One cannot help but feel that if only, perhaps, we had been able to see their point of view—and I know that the most reverend Primate has considered this matter in the most sympathetic and Christian spirit possible—


My Lords, may I interrupt? The noble Viscount does not mean the Church of South Africa; he means the separate little body that calls itself the Church of England in South Africa. It is a question of title.


My Lords, I accept the correction with willingness. But, apart from the name, it is a Christian Church; and my point is whether we could not have done something more to help the Christians in that Church than we have been able to achieve.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount excuse me? Is it not a fact that the little body which the Archbishop speaks about is a section of the Church of England in South Africa which adheres to the original Protestant Prayer Book such as we use in your Lordships' House? And a Bishop, Bishop Morris, who has been a great servant of the Church of England as a missionary in South Africa, was refused recognition by the noble Metropolitan Primate here, a fact which is still resented in that young—or, not young, but small and hardworking Gospel-preaching Church of South Africa. I am ashamed of our attitude towards them.


My Lords, I have several times felt that it is a great pity if particular things are mentioned which cannot be argued out. The noble Viscount is ashamed of what has happened. I do not think he knows what I have done, the labours, the toil that I have been through to try to win that particular Church to a settled agreement. Some of the Churches there are already perfectly happy and outside the Church of England in South Africa. It is really not possible to go into a complicated ecclesiastical relationship in a casual debate like this.


Why have a debate?


My Lords, I am wondering whether we should not perhaps be better to stick to the terms of the Motion.


My Lords, I am willing to be interrupted by my noble friends for any remarks they may wish to make. While I do, of course, agree with the description which the noble Viscount gave, I was not proposing to go into any detail in the matter, but merely to quote this particular instance as one I saw, as I said. Nevertheless, despite the efforts of my noble friend the most reverend Primate. I felt that here was a case in which a greater spirit of Christian unity would have achieved a greater happiness for a greater number of Christians. In view of the suggestion made by my noble friend the Leader of the House, I will not proceed further upon those lines.

I want particularly, however, to mention one case (again, I will not go into any detail) because it has caused me personally very great anxiety. I refer to the case of the Church of, or in, Southern India—and I hope I have the title correct this time; but I shall be glad to be corrected if I have it wrong. There, my Lords, I cannot but feel that the attitude which we are adopting towards the members of the Free Churches in that Church is somewhat analogous (I do not put it any closer than that) to the attitude, which we criticise, adopted towards the Anglican Churches by the Roman Catholic Church itself. That, to my mind, is a cause for some anxiety.

But all this, my Lords, leads us, as I believe, merely into the depths of the problems and difficulties of establishing Christian unity. How that will be worked out, according to God's will, is a matter none of us can say: still less when it will be worked out. As the noble Earl, Lord Longford, indicated, it may well come, sooner or later, by way of a miracle. It may, quite conceivably, come by some united opposition by the Churches to the materialism of Communism. But howsoever it may come, it can but come by the individual and united perseverance, work and prayer of each one of us. I submit, my Lords, that, if for nothing else, there has been an infinite value in this debate, in that it has reminded each one of us—and, I believe, through us, many people in a very much wider circle who will know of this debate—that the first and foremost duty which falls upon all, in order to achieve a spirit of Christian unity, is to look into themselves and see whether they themselves are practising (and I emphasise "practising") the spirit of true Christianity.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure it is right on these occasions that those of us with little knowledge of doctrinal or theological matters, or of the administration of the Church, should confine themselves merely to impressions—the impressions, shall we say, of the congregation; and it would be a great impertinence if somebody such as myself were to attempt to lay down firm views on some of the very important issues which have been raised. For myself as a layman—and it is as a layman that I welcome this debate—I would agree so much with the noble Lord who has just sat down that in passing we might note that this debate is of a nature which could have been staged only inside this House. Those who these days rather loosely start to doubt the value of a Second Chamber might do well to note the proceedings this afternoon, and ask themselves whether there is not value in a forum which can discuss matters which may not be directly related to the daily political round but which most certainly are concerned with the life of the nation as a whole.

I think we had all naturally anticipated that a theme which would emerge from the debate would be the gap between the Church of Rome and the Protestants—the Protestants who, one would not say are of lesser faith, but perhaps are less prominent in the projection of their faith. I hope that anything I may say will not be interpreted in any way as stepping up tension as between the two Churches. I merely put certain aspects of this division in some sense of bewilderment, trying to find guidance. The first time I became aware of this gap was many years ago when, as a family, we shared my father's experience. My father was then Commander-in-Chief in India, and he had been hoping to encourage the acceptance of a common service to be used on occasions when a great many troops were on parade together, and when it was obvious that many denominations would be represented in the ranks. There was need for a single form of service and, in fact, one was worked out and was accepted. It was used with the co-operation of all except the Roman Catholic Church.

My own personal experience was many years later—and again I am giving it only because I feel it would be dishonest to avoid giving it in this debate; and it is the last time, so far as I am concerned, speaking for only a few minutes, that I shall be looking back at all. In November, 1956, I found myself with the task of organising a great meeting in the Albert Hall under the title "Britain stands by Hungary". It was clear that much of the success of that meeting would depend upon the ability to bring the most reverend Primate and His Grace the Roman Catholic Archbishop, who was then at Liverpool, on to the platform together. Hungary being very largely a Roman Catholic country, it was quite unthinkable that the highest representative of the Church of Rome should not be present. Equally was it certain that a meeting which would reflect the feeling of the people of this country about a crime that had been committed inside Hungary demanded the presence of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. I will not go into any details, but would say only that the day before the meeting I was in utter despair as to the difficulties which had arisen in the attempt to present the two leaders of the two great Churches together on the platform. At moments it seemed to me that the fate of Hungary was a very long way off as compared with the problem of interests which seemed to me narrow at the time.


My Lords, perhaps it might be fair if I said that no difficulty of any sort arose on my side. I think I ought, in self-defence, to make that completely cear.


I am very grateful to His Grace the Archbishop for making it clear. I did not want to say it personally, but there was, I will confirm, no difficulty whatsoever on his part. I would say only that, for me, it seemed to make a mockery of the Christian religion in its concern for a suffering and persecuted Christian people. But, having said that, I would agree entirely that there is a new spirit abroad; and it was with a sense of hope in the future and tolerance in a unity of purpose that laymen such as myself welcomed the recent visit of our Lord Archbishop to His Holiness Pope John. The paradox and tragedy of this division of Christianity has been reflected in the past in the situation whereby the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Holy Land have resided with Moslems owing to the jealousies of the various Churches involved—and, indeed, so far as I know, they may still so reside, though I do not know.

But in this search for unity I think we are quite right to distinguish, as I think the most reverend Primate did distinguish in Campula the other day (on April 13, I think), between unity and union. The latter suggests the terms of a formal agreement, documented and signed. It seems to be about to be achieved in Ceylon, where the numbers involved are very small—that is to say, the numbers outside the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, surely we should doubt the value of a written agreement. For a particular occasion, yes for a national or ceremonial occasion we might hope that perhaps unity could be expressed in some formal kind of way; but enough has been said this afternoon to convince me that it is really a unity of spiritual fellowship that we seek.

As a member of the laity, I feel that in this matter of seeking unity freedom of choice must be allowed to the individual in the way he worships. Religion, as it seems to me, in contrast to ideology—and here I would disagree, I am afraid, with the definition of unity of the Christian Church, which apparently was given by the Bishop of Southwark and quoted, I think, by Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor—is surely a matter of very personal relationship between the individual and his Maker. The psychological make-up of Smith may demand a very different setting from the psychological make-up of Brown for his communion with the God of his belief. I think it is only right that there should be different forms and emphasis as between one church and another.

Indeed, within the Church of England, within the Church of Scotland, and within the great Nonconformist fold, there should also be differences which would enable a man or a woman to find that environment which for him or her offers the greatest measure of spiritual comfort. I hope I shall not be considered flippant if I say that personally I find it extremely difficult to place myself in the right receptive mood of humility if a choir is singing out of tune. Conversely, I have to confess that the nearest I have felt to giving myself to the Church of Rome is when I have heard that great proclamation of Peter, as "the rock on which I will build my Church", as it is conveyed to one about halfway through the Oratorio of Elgar, The Apostles.

The point I try to make is simply that the manifestation of the Christian Church here on earth must take many forms, and that lack of unity is not in itself a sign of any decadence. In a world that could develop only according to differences of race and colour, I think we could be well content to see Christianity guided ahead according to a multi-denominational pattern, subject perhaps to an empirical and natural emergence of an increasing tolerance as between the Church of 'Rome and the rest of the Christian world. But I submit that the times demand far greater urgency to be applied to this concept of unity. I hope we might have an opportunity to go into this very aspect again when a Motion in my name is down for future debate and comes before your Lordships' House. Here I would only suggest that if an ideology which is based on atheistic materialism is to be answered and overcome, then the Christian Church must reflect that same unity of purpose that, alas ! the political state still has to find in terms of social and political problems. To put it another way, if the Christian Church is to play its pre-eminent part in this battle for the minds of men, it has first to find its own unity, and perhaps, in doing so, look outwards to the rest of the world, through such a movement as the World Congress of Faith, for a more positive understanding with all who, through their religion, accept ultimately a spiritual and a divine interpretation of the universe.

In this search for unity, I think it is up to a member of the laity to draw attention to some features of life in the Anglican Church, not in criticism (which I am not entitled to make), but again in some puzzlement, seeking an answer. I refer 'to the seeming penetration of the Church, not widespread but prominent in thought and preaching, of a spirit which appears sometimes to be far more political than religious. If I were asked for an exact example, I would quote the case of a vicar who, at Christmas, in the traditional nativity play, dressed up three youths as Nazis in order to protest against the alleged revival of Nazism in Germany. That is an exact example. But in a more general sense, it sometimes seems to me that we are condemned from the pulpit, with all the rhetoric and technique of Hyde Park, merely for talking measures to protect our treasured freedom, measures which in the past have proved effective and therefore we believe will still be effective in the future. At the same time we look in vain for any attempt to analyse the great issues of ethical content which lie behind all armament. Still less do we discover any condemnation of those who first set the armament spiral in motion and drove us to such measures. Our motives are ignored and our actions condemned, while the actions and motives of the potential enemy are left to go in tacit assent.

It may be asked: what has all this to do with the unity of the Church? My view is that it has a lot to do with it, because if such a prominent minority is for ever to be involved in highly contentious polemics, instead of being concerned with the spiritual needs of the people, how can that Church speak with conviction when it comes to seeking unity with others? One may regard this as no more than an unhealthy growth. Nevertheless, to those such as myself who would like to see its surgical removal, it seems one can formally unfrock a vicar for immorality, but one can do nothing about the same man's simple neglect of his duty through the exploitation of his position, to further interests which, whether or not they may have a Christian connotation, are to the average intelligence demonstrably of a political nature.

I felt that this much should be said because these occasional obstacles to unity are brakes on the Christian Church's onward march in the service of mankind. As to that service, one reflects on the influence which could be exerted (shall we say?) on such a phenomenon as apartheid, if and when the Dutch Reformed Church could effectively be brought into a unity through the World Council of Churches or any other organism. Perhaps one day, too, we might look for a closer understanding with the Russian Orthodox Church, through which we could, in some way apparent not to me at the moment, hope for some encouragement in breaking down the barrier between the world of freedom, with all its faults and penalties, and the world of dialectical materialism.

These seem to me to be the milestones ahead, and they certainly present a challenge. But for the millions who have no inner knowledge of these things, we feel that a course at last has been charted. We are also aware now that there is an impulse to this ship of unity, and I think that impulse in no small measure derives from the devotion to this particular cause of the most reverend Primate who is soon to leave us. I, for one, shall always be grateful to him for this alone, and for much else which Back Benchers recall of his work in this House. My Lords, it is perhaps an appropriate moment to close a rather incomplete contribution, and in doing so I hope I have made it quite clear that I fully support the noble Earl's most timely Resolution.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first of all, to add my measure of thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for bringing this very important topic to your Lordships' notice to-day. I should also like to pay my small tribute to the most reverend Primate for his action in going to see His Holiness the Pope. I cannot think that anything other than good will come from that. I would apologise now because I am afraid I shall not be able to stay to hear the most reverend Primate make his speech, or to hear that of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. Although I speak as a Catholic, I hope that I shall not be thought to be doing so from any sectarian standpoint. As the hour is getting late and several important speeches are to come, I would detain your Lordships for only a few minutes.

I think we all agree that this debate has shown that there is a widespread desire among Christians for unity; that there is a growing awareness that the very words "Christianity" and "unity" should be synonymous. For too long have they been, or have they appeared to be, almost a contradiction in terms. I am thinking, for instance, of the past century in Africa, of what might almost be called the race to bring Christianity to that continent. We have seen missionaries of different denominations competing against each other for converts, and, as a result, their sincere and well-meant intentions and attempts to bring a knowledge of Christ and of his teachings to Africa so often resulting in confusion and uncertainty.

Again, here at home I am certain that there are literally millions of Christians who still hold fast to a difficult discipline, which struggles against modern social problems, such as divorce; but equally I am certain that there are a great many who do not, and that in itself is a sad and tragic situation. Therefore, I welcome whole-heartedly the attempts now being made by different Christian denominations to bring about a better understanding of each other's problems and viewpoints, for I cannot think this can be achieved other than by personal contact and conversations.

I would agree also that there is a growing realisation that Christians cannot go on living in their own particular denominational ghettoes. I think this is a new element in the situation—a dissatisfaction with disunity, with the situation as it is; whereas before perhaps we were all a little too complacent about it. At the same time, and without wanting to be thought pessimistic, I think that we must be prepared to admit that we should delude ourselves if we thought that unity was just round the corner. The problem is too big, too vast, it has too many different levels of doctrine and dogma, behaviour and belief, to be solved at a moment's notice. Also, none of us can deny that there are very genuine and deep divergencies on what constitutes Christian truth.

Therefore, it is not to be expected that genuinely and sincerely held beliefs, which may be rooted in long tradition, can or will be discarded or even modified very quickly, either by reasoned argument or by plain emotional goodwill. We all know how long it takes to achieve national or international unity on a purely secular level. Years of patience and sacrifice are required. In the same way, Christian unity will be achieved by patience and sacrifice and, I may add, prayer.

To conclude, I do not believe for a moment that Christian people nowadays are interested in raking over the old criticisms and in bringing up lengthy post-mortems about who was right and who was wrong. Therefore, I feel that the will for unity is now present, and that it is growing. Surely, therefore, all Christians can take heart and be encouraged by this fact to renew their efforts to achieve this goal.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, I have been relieved, for the sake of my noble friend Lord Arran, that so many noble Lords have brought themselves to the point of thanking him for raising this Motion. We have heard very different matters discussed by the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal during the months of gestation that have preceded what we have heard to-day. I think that it would be worth just a few minutes, if only by way of relaxation, to ask ourselves what questions are raised when a Motion of this type is debated in your Lordships' House.

If we cast our minds back over history for a short time, we shall remember that through the Enabling Act, 1919, most of the ecclesiastical business was excluded from the machinery of Parliament and sent to be dealt with in the decent, comparative privacy of the Church Assembly. The result of that has been that religious subjects as such have not frequently been debated in either of the Houses of Parliament, although one cannot forget the stormy debates of 1927 and 1928. There has come a relief to Parliament in the matter of time, and perhaps also in the matter of embarrassment, and there has come a relief to the Church, too, in that most of its affairs can be debated in a slightly less public and (shall we say?) secular Assembly than either of the Houses of Parliament.

But every action of this sort has its reverse side, and it may be that we have also lost something in building up such a thick insulation between Parliament and religion. Perhaps we can thank the noble Earl, Lord Arran, if not for the Motion that he has presented to us, at least for making us face this question and face it now, not only in theory but with a certain amount of experience behind us about what happens in your Lordships' House when a Motion of this sort is put before it.

It seems to me that there are certain aspects of religion and the life of religion in this country that spread out beyond the walls of the Churches and religious communities as such and play their part in the whole social life of the community. I personally can see no immediate objection to your Lordships' House embarking on discussions of those more general aspects of religious life. We may compare it to medicine and the law. There has been a long tradition in our country of thinking of Medicine, the Church and the Law as in some way parallel. We frequently have debates touching on medical matters and debates touching on legal matters, and no embarrassment is felt. I think that there we distinguish between the technical and expert knowledge of certain Members of our House and those general community concerns on which all of us may feel we have an opinion.

I am far from suggesting that your Lordships should give to the Lords Spiritual that same kind of pre-eminence in these matters as we afford to certain qualified Members of our House on other matters, but I believe that one secret of the successful debating of matters such as we have been discussing this afternoon is for us all to realise that certain aspects are matters of technical and expert knowledge, which may be spread far beyond the Episcopal Benches, and certain matters are of general concern and interest to all thoughtful men of good will. I think that if we keep that distinction in our minds it enables us to approach these matters more competently and with less embarrassment; and it perhaps acts as a little brake if we are inclined at times to attach too much importance to our individual experiences.

Without any disrespect, I would say that in one or two of the speeches—and it is only natural that it should happen—individual experiences have been built up into a rather more serious and general importance than would normally attach to them. I cannot, for instance, believe that the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has been unlucky in getting such a heavy dose of a particular political doctrine from an Anglican pulpit as he described. It is a very small proportion of clergy in any of our main Christian denominations who would commit themselves hurriedly to the political judgments that have been referred to by the noble Lord.

Having said that, I want to say just a word or two on the specific Resolution. I should like to remind your Lordships that the contribution of the most reverend Primate goes back far beyond the recent tour about which so much has been said. I like to think that the sermon he preached in the University Church at my own University of Cambridge has itself set streams of thought and discussion in motion that are still far from exhausted. The discussions going on between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England, and between the Methodists and the Church of England, are themselves the result of that sermon preached in 1947. This has continued until the tour about which we have heard.

I had a personal opportunity of appreciating one aspect of that tour. It so happened that I took a party of people from my diocese to the Holy Land a few weeks after; and wherever I went, and whatever community I touched, both Christian and non-Christian, I was always told of the amazing effect of stimulus and friendship that the Archbishop's visit had brought. I had one rather unfortunate experience. I visited a particular community—not a Christian community, but a very ancient religious sect who were telling my party that they badly needed money for a certain object. They said: "When Archbishop Fisher was here he gave a great sum for this collection, and now that we have the Bishop of Leicester, we are sure that he will give a great sum, too". I tried to make a quick estimate of what the most reverend Primate might have given: I divided it by half, but still came out a poorer man than I expected. It seems to me that we just have to go on and develop the spirit of courtesy. We have gone a long way on that line as between our communities. We have to look forward to charity; we have to go further still into co-operation. It seems that it may be a long time before we can get beyond that into the consummation of our unity, but we must always hold it before us.

My last word is this. Even while this desired unity seems so far from us, there is a unity which can be felt and does have expression. I have often myself felt it in this House when certain speeches have been made. I have felt it often when the noble Earl, Lord Long-ford, has been speaking; I have felt it when the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has been speaking (perhaps in rather less bellicose mood than he spoke to-day) of his simple faith and the power of religion in the homes of the people. And, lest there should be any political innuendo, I would say that I have often felt it, too, when listening to and reading the words of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. There is a time when deep answers unto deep, and that is the earnest of the union for which we all so long.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, this has been indeed a memorable debate, and although I do not feel that we can get complete understanding with all our denominations and Churches, because of the beliefs within our Churches, I am certain that there can be a complete unity in all the Churches about one aspect of religion which I am going to put before your Lordships. It may at first appear from what I am going to say that I am ranging rather wide in the debate, but as I get to the centre of my speech I think, your Lordships will see what my object is; and I assure you that my remarks will be quite short. Very shortly, but with great conviction, I am going to plead the cause of the mentally handicapped children—in fact, that of all the mentally handicapped. Unfortunately, there are many who cannot understand religion; but, on the other hand, there are many who can receive great comfort from the knowledge, however dim, of Someone who loves them, although unseen, apart from their families and those who have earthly contact with them.

We must bear in mind that in many cases it would not be right to bring these children to the usual services, as they might cause a disturbance which would interfere with the concentration of the congregation. My wife and I are blessed in the fact that we are able to do this, and that our daughter behaves beautifully and thoroughly enjoys the service. I am firmly convinced that a spiritual upbringing is of infinite value to those who are not too severely handicapped, and also to their parents, who in many cases would be unable to attend their church services owing to the need to look after their children. The mentally handicapped child learns to a great degree by understanding the environment of a room or a chapel. It is here that I address myself to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who is to reply to the Resolution. I would ask him, would he pass on to his right honourable friends, the Ministers of Health and Education, that they should bear in mind the great need, in any planning of schools, occupation centres and hospitals for the mentally handicapped, that there should be a chapel or a quiet room set aside for the purpose of religion.

Here, my Lords, I come to my chief theme. Could not this chapel be devised and built so that it could be used by all our Churches—maybe with a little alteration according to the particular denomination by which it was being used? If this were done it would lead to a unity that would be really worth while. Although daily prayers and hymns in schools are of great value, they are not enough; and a chapel or quiet room for the purposes of religion only is far more likely to penetrate the small brain of the child than the dining hall or assembly room. In that context, it is amusing that sometimes in the early hours of the morning, about 4 o'clock, my small daughter sings "Now the day is over" in her own peculiar language. I know that it is acceptable to God, but maybe it is not quite so acceptable to her parents.


My Lords, may I put: one point to the noble Lord? I think he will agree that the B.B.C. has done most valuable work with its religious services, which can be listened to by the youth who are mentally handicapped in the way he has described.


I fully agree, but one must remember that many of these children have to do it by assimilation. So many of them are deaf, and there is something about a room which brings out one special factor in their lives. Would it not be possible—I turn to the most reverend Primate—to have some services in our churches for the mentally handicapped alone? I remember that they had one such service when my small daughter was at school in Enfield. There was a great attendance. It was done in conjunction with the Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, and, although one must admit that it was a bit of a shambles, the service, which was short, was exceedingly valuable, not only to the children but also to the parents. Finally, could we not set aside one Sunday in the year when we could devote our prayers in all our churches in England to those children who are in any way afflicted? Our prayers could then be concentrated on those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to enjoy the full pleasures of this life. May I leave these thoughts with you, my Lords, in the hope that something not only can but will be done in the future?

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to make a brief intervention in this debate, I may say that I should not have had the temerity to rush in where angels, and even Bishops, fear to tread, were it not for the fact that the noble Earl whose Motion we are discussing specifically asked me to take part in it, in view of the wide diversity which my life has had.

In regard to the first part of the Motion, I imagine that the welcome will be universal. Recent consultations between leaders of the Christian Churches, initiated by the most reverend Primate, have shed a friendly light over the Christian scene. In Jerusalem, in Constantinople and in Rome the atmosphere seems to have been friendly and co-operative There is no doubt, too, I suppose, that the Vatican visit was an encouragement and a stimulus to the special Secretariat there whose job it is to deal with the promotion of Christian unity. The channel has been opened for direct transmission of views between Rome and Lambeth, and surely that must, from any point of view, be a good thing.

No doubt the object of the most reverend Primate's visit was to create an atmosphere, and not in any sense to make proposals. The wind of fellowship is blowing through the Christian Churches, but in this debate I seem to detect—and perhaps it comes inevitably from the wording of the Motion—a certain amount of confusion between unification of the Churches and unity of the Christian spirit. There is a vast difference between them, obviously. But essentially in relation to Rome there are familiar formidable barriers in doctrine and practice, not only in Papal primacy and infallibility, but over wide sections of the theological field. In religion, surely, unity must mean unity of fundamental belief—something more than a code of conduct, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, referred. It is something which inspires that code of conduct, which is a very much more vital thing. With respect, there seems to me little prospect of that in the foreseeable future. Centuries of separation have developed different traditions which separate the Churches and are hard to abandon. As has been said, for the Roman Catholic Church unity is not a goal, it is a magnificent reality, and unity is to be restored by re-union and re-integration of other Churches in this existing unity.

The Motion before the House speaks of the unity of Christian spirit. The British Council of Churches stands on record for peace and world order, avoidance of war, mutual aid, human rights and racial equality and international friendship. That is a series of aims and objects to which I suppose nobody would offer any objection. The World Council of Churches records its aims as: To promote follow mutual understanding between local Churches; to enable those Churches to take united counsel and action where their common interests and responsibilities are involved, and to give such expression to their common faith and devotion as may from time to time be found desirable, having due regard to their different usages and traditions. There again, those sentiments are unquestionable. They are very fine words, and they give evidence of a unity of Christian spirit. But, with due respect, surely what matters above all else is individual Christian practice. As we have been told in the Scriptures, By their works ye shall know them". Collective Christianity is relatively easy and frequently stops at noble sentiments which have not the same practical relation to the surrounding facts of human life and character. The World Council of Churches has had many conferences and has done much good work in organised charity; but as for unity in practice, I doubt (and I do not suppose the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, if he were here, would disagree with me) whether Protestantism and all that it implies, certainly to him, in its claims to freedom of opinion and faith, is not irreparably fissiparous in practice; nor do I regard that as necessarily a bad thing.

If I may speak as an ordinary, ignorant layman, and with the deepest respect, I would say that if Christian spirit could flower widely into Christian practice there would be no need to worry about varieties of administrative channels and trappings. In my wanderings around the world I have found a great deal of Christian spirit, not only in Christian Churches. I have seen immensely valuable work being done, social, medical, educational and religious, by many different Churches. The Christian contribution to progress and enlightenment throughout the world has been indubitably immense; but I have also seen it disfigured by bigoted jealousy and "envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness", so that at times one was driven to echo the words of Hood, Alas! for the rarity of Christian charity under the Sun". In many parts of Africa we have seen in this generation the dangerous spiritual vacuum which can arise, and frequently does arise, when tribal sanctions and customary disciplines and social restraints break down before the impact of the Western economic system, with its emphasis on material values. There is an ample field here for unfettered Christian activity, and it will have the greater effect, I suggest, if it is not hampered by unseemly rivalry amongst Churches. But if that field is left vacant there is an open field for the Communist philosophy of life.

In considering the question of Christian unity and its mission in the world one cannot ignore, too—and it has some relevance to the present Motion—the existence of certain other religions whose basic principles are not lacking in the nobility which transfigures Christian principles; for instance, the Moslem and the Buddhist, whose lives are permeated with the principles of their religion. would not admit that Christianity has a monopoly of virtue. In many parts of the world where British protectorates comprised the rule over a population composed of adherents to these faiths it was often a delicate problem whether one should or should not discourage, or even prohibit, Christian, activities in those territories. The point was—and this is how it is related to this question of Christian spirit—that there are different ways in which Christianity can make its impact in those countries. One—and the only one which is not likely to create disorder among such a population as I am envisaging—is to avoid aggressive proselytising, and to rely upon (which surely Christian Churches should be able to rely upon) the influence of conduct. There never was objection to Christian Churches' ministering to the people of their own faith, but if they wished to have an impact on others in those countries they Should confine themselves—and to the best of my ability I did confine them—to activities which might spring from the influence of an observance of the conduct of the Christian. But I do not wish to divert attention from the limited question of internal unity of Christian spirit in the Christian churches.

If I may conclude with an instance of what I mean about such unity being marred by ignoble jealousies, I should like to quote one extreme instance of exactly what I mean—and it is the sort of thing that still needs to be dealt with in many places that I know throughout the world. In one country to which I went, and of whose affairs I was temporarily in charge I found a leper home which was a disgrace to society. It was ill-kept, neglected, and the condition of its inmates was appalling. It was the worse in that respect because it was in a country where there was not a lot of leprosy and where a proper and regular attack on the disease could have eliminated it in a generation. I realised that to deal with a thing like that we could not rely on public-spirited individuals such as Toe H might provide: we had to go to one of the Churches and ask them to devote the activities of one of their organisations to that work.

I went to various Churches, from the Anglican church to the Salvation Army, and I was unable to get any of them to undertake it. I am not decrying them exactly for that, because possibly they had not the organisation. Last of all, because I knew of the prejudice that existed, I went to the Catholic church, and I was immediately told by the Bishop that he would give me no immediate promise but would inquire whether one of their Sisterhoods, the Marist Sisters, whom I have known well in other places, were able to undertake it. He said that he never gave promises which he did not mean to fulfil. To cut the story short, in the end the Marist Sisters came to this place, and that noble Sisterhood did, and are still doing, marvellous work.

But what happened? It was necessary in the Council of that country for me to put a financial vote before the members in order to get the new and better buildings, and all the various things which the Marist Sisters wanted, paid for. There was an organised influence brought to bear by all the other Churches, who combined to influence the members of the Council to try to get them to throw out that financial vote. It is an incredible story, but that is one of the things which does happen. When we talk of the unity of Christian spirit (and I have paid tribute to it throughout the world), we must remember that at times the radiance of the Christian record is disfigured by such isolated instances.

In conclusion, I can only hope that the greater unity of Christian spirit envisaged by this Motion will in practice increase the rarity of such incidents that I have mentioned, and that the unity of Christian spirit will, in time, achieve increasing co-operation in all spheres of life.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think that from the point of view of my co-religionists there will be any difficulty in getting an interdenominational chapel in a home for mentally handicapped children. Of course, the matter will need tactful handling, and I shall be glad to talk to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on the subject; but I can see no especial reason why difficulties should arise. I want to say one thing on which I speak for myself alone and to which I commit none else—something that is a private conviction on my part that I do not ask other people to share. I do not think that we should ever talk about Christian unity, or ever pray for Christian unity, without also mentioning and also praying that unity may come between us and our elder separated brethren, God's chosen people, the people over whose city Christ wept. Though I can say absolutely nothing constructive about that, I should like to say "Shalom, Israel"!

This debate has revealed much less disunity among Christians than I had expected; but it did reveal disunity in one matter between myself and the noble Earl, Lord Arran. It is a strong disunity. The noble Earl began his speech by using a phrase which I believe to be utterly unjust. He spoke of the "squabbles of theologians". If there is one set of people in this world who do not squabble, it is theologians.


My Lords, with deep respect to the noble Earl, I did not speak of squabbles between theologians, but of squabbles between Churches. I said that I did not think that to the number of potential Christians theology meant very much, but I thought probably theologians got on very well.


Obviously, I am mistaken in what thought the noble Earl said. But that decrying of theology is commonly heard. Many people speak of theological squabbles, heat, and so on, and I must bear witness that that is not my experience. I would not call myself a theologian, but I take in a monthly journal devoted to various aspects of Christian theology; and I wholeheartedly agreed with the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Southwell, when he said that theological work in any one Church is the common possession of all Churches. For I know that in the review pages of that journal of mine, which is, of course, a Roman Catholic journal, the most courteous treatment and the fullest sympathy is accorded to all theological works published by any denomination in the world. The articles in that journal not infrequently deal with such subjects as Hindu mysticism, Mohammedan mysticism, and, still more of course, the mysticism of the Orthodox Church, and of our separated brethren of the West. For my part, I agreed with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough, when he said that any bridge between Churches must ultimately be a bridge of doctrine, otherwise—I have not remembered his exact words; I think he said that it would be swept away by the winds and the currents.


I said, if it was to stand up to time and stress, and so on.


That is a sentiment with which I would respectfully express my agreement. Unlike to other noble Lords, it seems to me vital that we should seek for unity on a theological plane. Meetings between Church leaders, if they are held under proper conditions, if they do not give rise to misunderstandings, can do nothing but good. I am much more interested in meetings that I believe do take place privately between competent theologians of the different faiths, and I am not unhopeful that they may produce some results.

It has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, and by others, that this is a useless approach. Allusion has been made to the unalterable character of the doctrine of the Roman Church. That is true. Doctrines do not change—an oak tree does not become an ash: but an oak tree grows and doctrine develops. In my Church, and in other denominations, theologians are to-day paying great attention to the doctrine of the Church as the mystical body of Jesus Christ. I think every theologian would agree that we are only beginning to understand the full implications of that high doctrine, that there has never been any finer definition of the Church by the Church. I believe—here I speak for myself, but I know that I speak for many others who agree with me—that as our knowledge of the Church deepens and grows more spiritual, that will have its effect upon our œcumenical problems. If I may sound, as other speakers have sounded, a patriotic note, I would recall that the doctrine of developments is a British contribution; it is particularly associated with the name of John Henry, Cardinal Newman.

We do not know the times and the seasons. I do not think we should be unduly concerned with the question as to whether unity will come soon. I think we ought merely to work for such an attitude towards each other, to reach such a degree of co-operation and unity of spirit, that we shall be ready for an Act of God which is entirely beyond the reasonable expectation of any man.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, as other noble Lords have done, to welcome this Motion, and particularly to welcome the terms in which it is worded. Perhaps I may also briefly refer to one or two matters in which I have been concerned. The Motion has been put down, if I may say so, at a very appropriate moment. There is a growing sense in Europe of a common heritage. This, no doubt, is due chiefly to current political thinking, but this political thinking has focused attention upon the division which came to Europe with the Reformation. Had it been possible then to preserve an overall spiritual unity, the exaggerated nationalism which has been the bane of Europe might never have developed so strongly. Now that nationalism in its more extreme forms, at any rate, is, dare we say, dying down, it is not surprising that there should be evidence of a new emphasis on the common roots of European civilisation. It is rather a sad reflection upon our way of life to-day, I think, when we recall that there was, in spite of the greater physical difficulties, a more ready interchange of ideas, at any rate person to person, prior to the Reformation than has yet been achieved since the religious division in Europe and subsequent political exploitation of national sovereignties.

During the last war there was in this country much real and valuable co-operation between Christian communities, under the wise lead given by the late Cardinal Hinsley, to whom the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred. Then Anglicans and Catholics worked together in movements such as the Sword and Spirit Movement, I remember, for the sake of many young people who were puzzled by the divisions which existed among Christians—many of them quite ignorant of the causes of division—trying to secure in those war years a common statement from the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nonconformist communities in England. I succeeded in getting what I looked upon as a first step, a short paper signed by the late Cardinal Hinsley, the late Archbishop Temple, and the Moderator of the Free Church Council at the time. But after the war, this measure of co-operation which had developed, at any rate in public, came to an end. There was, it is true, a visit of the late Archbishop Garbett to the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, and I believe it was agreed that there were no obstacles in the way of intercommunion between members of the Russian Orthodox and Anglican Churches. If I remember rightly that this was agreed, it had no great practical significance or impact upon the ordinary churchgoer.

The coming of His Holiness, Pope John, appears to have initiated a change of emphasis at the Vatican and a new impetus towards unity. Throughout Europe a simple prayer for unity among Christians is being said in ever-widening circles. Some two years or more ago some French friends, with whom I had been in the habit of discussing political and economic problems, said they would like to talk about unity between French Catholics and Anglicans. They told me that this was the wish of the new Pope, and they added that they understood the difficulties which had proved intractable at Malines would no longer be a barrier. This was, in my view, a rather interesting suggestion. I do not know whether the most reverend Primate gained this impression on his recent visit to His Holiness. After these discussions some exchanges took place on the level of a French parish and an English parish. No difficulties were put in the way of this attempt the better to understand each other by the Anglican Bishop, who wished the experiment well, but I regret it did not get very far.

Personally, I find that members of the Roman Catholic Church in England are inclined to be less co-operative, than in other European countries, Catholics are to their non-Catholic neighbours. This may be understandable, as the Roman Catholic Church in this country is winning adherents and co-operation might slow down this trend. All the same, I think the attitude is regrettable and not in the spirit of the Motion before your Lordships. The fact is, I think, that co-operation at the top is much easier than at the lower ranks, where ingrained prejudice and rivalry is still very strong.

This, my Lords, is not to minimise the deep doctrinal difficulties which have developed, even between Catholic and Catholic Reformed Churches, of which I consider the Anglican Church is one. But these, and the constitutional difficulties in the way of formal unity, could be discussed in a more hopeful atmosphere if, at the level of the school, of the parish priest and of the local convent, more Christian charity could be shown. It would be interesting at some time to hear the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor on the constitutional position, and it would be very interesting to hear what the most reverend Primate has to say on these subjects. In view of the clearness of manner in which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, stated the Roman Catholic position, it seems that formal progress will only be made, as I think was indicated by the noble Earl who has just sat down, after a prolonged study of the theological differences and of the constitutional difficulties which exist between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

I think we must in smaller matters be realistic if the improvement desired by the noble Earl who put down this Motion is to take place. So I should like to refer to one particular case mentioned in a letter to me which I received only yesterday from two institutions which concern themselves with the care of our sailors, our merchant service, all the world over. The non-Roman Catholic institutions have agreed, I understand, to work together for the spiritual and material needs of these men and wish to establish a united front for Christian missionary welfare. But the Roman Catholic Apostleship of the Sea apparently do not feel able to co-operate. I was asked in the letter to use my influence with my Roman Catholic friends to secure their co-operation. Here is one practical way in which Roman Catholics might help to work together with Anglican societies to extend the spirit of Christian co-operation, without sacrificing any religious principles upon which they feel vital emphasis must be placed.


My Lords, no notice was given to me or, I think, to any of my co-religionists that these topics were going to be discussed. Had the noble Lord given me any notice that he proposed to raise the subject of the lack of co-operation of which my Church may be guilty in these matters, I should most happily have found out the facts and attempted to give him an explanation. I would rather that the noble Lord would not see fit to pursue the line of argument which he is pursuing at present.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl if he thinks there is any discourtesy. But I was really trying to mention a particular instance where co-operation could be a little closer and help to clear the way for the major difficulties with which we are faced. But I will not say more about this matter.

I do not want to go into the great fundamental differences which have developed in Christendom and which it may be very difficult and take time to overcome. But I believe that quite a lot could be done if we all tried to remove some unnecessary misunderstandings as a preliminary to the deep discussions which one day may be possible; and for this reason I very much welcome this Motion and the discussion which has taken place upon it.

7.25 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is very late but, even so, unless you stop me, I propose to speak for something like half an hour, simply because if I speak at all I must take that amount of time. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough, moved his position in order that he should not seem to be speaking from the Opposition Benches. I believe that I have a right, as a Privy Counsellor, to speak from the Dispatch Box here. I was seriously moved to do it.


Which one? On the Opposition side?


Or the Government side. But I should have had to choose between the two, and that would have been embarrassing. More than that, if I moved to the Government Dispatch Box it would give strength to the accusation constantly levelled at me that, because I am a Bishop of the Established Church, I can say only what the Government tell me to say. I am bound to say that the Government do not believe in that.


My Lords, it the public believe that, they will believe anything.


My Lords, I assure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that I constantly have to tell people, especially outside this country, that I am a free agent and can say what I like.

When I first heard that there might be a Motion of this sort I did my best to prevent it—not because I think it is in any way improper for your Lordships to discuss such a topic, but because I thought that a debate on a Motion in the form in which it was then presented might do very great damage. The first Proposal was, in fact, to exhort the Churches to get on faster; and I should have regarded such a Motion as unwarranted advice—not pertinent, and perhaps impertinent. But this Motion is quite different. It is designed to encourage and is linked to a particular stage of development of which it takes favourable notice. I thought that such a Motion should not do harm; nor, in my judgment, has it done any harm.

It has been said that in no other Legislative Assembly in the world could a debate such as this have taken place; and I think that that is a very notable fact. There is also this thought: that generally religion, or the Christian attitude to things, is mentioned in ordinary debates here with a slightly apologetic note, as an aside, as though it were not quite respectable to refer to it. To-day, however, we have had a solid debate on Christianity and nothing else at all; and that, I am perfectly sure, is good for us all.

I found myself in a difficulty, I confess, in speaking at the end of this debate, which has been most interesting and very informative. Much of it has been helpful, except, I think, that there has been rather too great a tendency to produce personal views and personal reminiscences. Because they, however interesting, are almost always likely to be limited in their application and to invite criticism either as lacking some information or as not fully working the matter out. There have been a good number of occasions during this debate when I itched to get up to supply relevant information which had not been mentioned, or to put a slightly different colour on it. But I do not mean to do that. I do not mean to cover more than necessary the ground already covered.

Perhaps I ought to begin, in view of the fact that so many people have done the same, by saying that I am a member of the Church of England. Not only that, but I am a loyal and discreet and, on the whole, a sensible member of the Church of England. My Lords, I do not want to enter into argument, since argument on this subject so easily comes to resemble a disarmament conference. And, if I may tell the truth, if I were entering a Christian disarmament conference I should not want particularly to take the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in with me, because it might hold matters up for quite a long time before we got started. But I 'want in what I have to say to be as colourless as clear water, leaving out, so far as possible, all the colouring matter, the speculations, the metaphors, the paradoxes, and so on, in which have been moving all the time I have dealt with this subject. Again I have been prompted to produce some of my best metaphors and most confusing paradoxes as my contribution to the subject. But I do not want to do that: I want to be, as I say, as clear and colourless in this matter as I can be.

Some things have been said about myself for which I am very grateful. Any gifts I have ever had have been devoted to helping the Christian family to be a true family—and that is the one object I have had—by removing obstacles and barriers and letting good will and common sense prevail. It has been my good fortune to live at a time when many people in many Churches have had exactly the same idea; and that accounts for anything that I have been able to do. In fact, in my lifetime quite astonishing progress has been made. One noble Lord said that the World Council of Churches has existed for 50 years and asked: what is there to show for it? My Lords, I could keep you for a long time to show you the immense results of that. Not least, if I may say so, as has been mentioned, is that the Roman Catholic Church is going to send official observers to the next meeting of the World Council of Churches. If it has taken 50 years to get that right, it is, after all, healing a situation which is 400 years old; and I do not think anybody ought to say that things are not getting on. The advance has been notable all over the world.

I wish to begin with a general statement. All recognised Churches (and it is of them only that I speak) now realise, in a manner they certainly did not do 50 years ago, that they all start from the same principles, or from some of the same principles. They can be quite easily stated, and I state them thus: any particular Church, to be part of the Universal Church, must profess, and does process, an honest use of the Holy Scripture; an honest use of the Catholic Creeds; an honest use of the two Dominical Sacraments; and an honest use of a constitutional government or ministry which it sincerely believes to be agreeable to the Will of Jesus Christ for His Church. That, I should say, in the form in which I have put it, is accepted by all the recognised Churches, the operative word being "honest". To that I would gladly add (I hope that the noble Viscount will appreciate that I mean this) that all recognised Churches honestly believe that everything must be based on the Word of God, and on that alone. They would only add (I think probably all of them would add) that the Word was spoken before it was ever written, and that the Word of God is spoken through the incarnate life of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, both speaking with one voice. Now out of that might follow many other discussions, but I would assure the noble Viscount that when he says "the Word of God" in the sense I have described it, it is the basis of every Church and of all our endeavours.

In the past, the Churches have regarded one another as thievish and untrustworthy, if not by malice aforethought then through such a degree of pride and stupidity as amounted to malice. I said that the word was "honest". We all still recognise in each other, and react to them in one way or another, thievish propensities and knavish tricks: but the basis of all our relationships to-day throughout Christendom is an agreement that there are these common principles, and that each Church tries honestly to preserve them. Is there any evidence of this? I can give it most shortly out of my recent experience.

Recently, I visited Jerusalem. In that city I was received by all the historic Christian Churches in the Holy City—Greek, Latin, Aethiopian, Armenian and Coptic—with an enthusiasm, a trust and, I would add, an affection such as can exist only between men who respect each other and respect each other's Churches as honest and honourable members of the same family. I then visited Istanbul, and renewed an old friendship between the Œcumenical Patriarch and myself, and so emphasised the close fellowship which exists between all the Churches of the Orthodox world and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. One or two of your Lordships spoke of our relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia as if it were something that happened a long time ago, in Archbishop Garbett's time, and had since then dropped out. My Lords, it is constant; it has never stopped. Our Bishops and some of the heads of our communities have visited Russia, and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have visited us. There is a constant to and fro flow of friendship and free discussion.

Then I visited Rome, and I am happy to believe that by my visit to the Pope I helped to create a new friendship between him and myself, and one widely welcomed as inviting far-reaching and fruitful expansion. My visit asked no questions and begged no questions. It was a visit of courtesy, having no purpose but to show forth and to extend those courtesies which properly belong to the Kingdom of God. In that spirit I went: in that spirit I was received and welcomed. As the Pope himself has said, and as the world has said, by that visit, in that simple way, many tensions were relieved; many barriers have been lowered and the way has been opened for a new relation of understanding fellowship—and, I would say, open discussion—between the Roman Catholic Church and my own Church and other non-Roman Churches. My Lords, I underline the words "open discussion". There have for a long time past been what I could call furtive discussions between Anglican theologians and Roman Catholic theologians. Nobody was allowed to know: it might be dangerous if anybody heard. That has now gone, and we are perfectly ready to let the world know that we have had, and want to continue having, that kind of discussion at all levels.

I think that all that is referred to in the Motion as "the recent consultation" —although why in the singular I am not quite sure, because consultations have been going on for so long. I wish just to remind your Lordships that these consultations have been in many other directions, as well as those which I have touched upon concerning my recent tour. The World Council of Churches and the British Council of Churches have already been referred to. I would mention a domestic but, to me, most moving demonstration of this new relationship. Last week the Free Church Federal Council gave a dinner in my honour, and some hundred of them gathered together to entertain Mrs. Fisher and myself. Much was said that was kindly, sincere and affectionate; but the astonishing thing is that such a dinner could be held at all. If one remembers the days—and they have been in my mind once or twice to-day—of the 1902 Education Bill, one would have said that such a thing never could happen in this country. But it has happened, and it bears its bit of witness to the changed relationships which exist between us all.

My Lords, this prevailing climate of thought, of honest regard for one another, is new in our day. It is new in Christendom and full of promise; but, of course, there are many formidable obstacles—and the debate to-day has shown how formidable some of them are—to hinder or obstruct further progress. I wish, if I may, to mention three of them. First, doctrinal barriers. When I visited Rome, people at both ends of the ecclesiastical spectrum, and a good many in between, cried out "betrayal"—and the word "betrayal" has been recalled here this afternoon. From both ends came statements, often passionate and very sincere statements, that the dogmatic differences were as deep, divisive and unbridgeable as ever. As deep, yes; as divisive, yes; but no longer for ever seen to be unbridgeable.

Three of your Lordships this evening have said that they are unbridgeable. That has been accepted as a major premise. But, my Lords, they are not: honest differences never are. That is the whole basis of our Parliamentary system of Government: that whatever thing you touch begins with unbridgeable differences, such as, for instance, how to solve political problems in various parts of Africa, but you know all the time that, in the end, some bridge is going to be found. In this doctrinal relationship, honest differences can be bridged, if by no other means than by the swaying rope bridge of patience and friendship. For some time past, between almost all the Churches, formally or informally, theologians have been discussing doctrinal questions, and most difficult doctrinal questions, together, no longer to win victory for one view over the other but to learn from each other and to teach each other.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, used the word "true"; that, in defence of the Roman Church, they were the only true Church. I am bound just to comment upon that. True, yes. But the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—that is quite a different problem. It is when you get into the ramifications of the word "true" that the trouble arises, because it must be recognised that other Churches think that they are true also. But they do not claim to be the whole truth, or nothing but the truth. If I might make a personal observation, I would never belong to a Church which said it was exclusively the true Church. It is like the exclusive political Party. By one's general knowledge, if it is exclusively true, it must be wrong, if you see what I mean, because of the law of ordinary human error and probability.

But it is this word "true" that I want to focus upon. Half the battle—and I have been engaged in it a long time—rests on the analysis of words. As I indicated to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, you have to do a lot of analysis of the word "Protestant" and of the word "Catholic" before really you understand, forgetting past history, what the words really convey, or ought to convey. The same is true of the word "true". That is just the kind of thing which is now being discussed, fully, frankly and openly between all the Churches. Notable results are to be seen in the general return to Biblical theology in every Church to find at least something which could put it on a more agreeable tract of thought. It can be seen in the liturgical movement, and it would be very difficult to say that the events of the liturgical movement have no doctrinal significance at all. They really must have, and this is seen in constant reports of conferences and discussions.

A notable sign of this same movement of open discussion is to be seen in the fact that the Pope has created a new Secretariat under Cardinal Bea, whose sole task is to interpret to the Vatican what non-Roman theologians are thinking, and vice versa. It is the first time since the Reformation that free correspondence is possible between Lambeth and the Vatican, knowing that it is a correspondence in order to exchange views and to discover them. So, my Lords, on this head I want to say that doctrine has never been static, and it cannot be static. The universal principles of the Christian faith are unchanging, and each generation, whether it likes it or not, has to examine anew how they are formulated and expressed, and how they are applied to all Church life. I do not know for what other purpose Bishops and theologians exist, except to do just that precise work. So, my Lords, we are moving to a period not of doctrinal fission, but of slow, cautious and promising doctrinal integration.

Then there are the inherited barriers of conflicting power. The history of Christendom has been largely written in terms of rival political and cultural powers: of faith, order and Church government being imposed, and of that imposition being resisted or rejected. That is specially true in the West. In the East, the conditions are utterly different, and the East has not the same mentality in these matters. But in the West, the wars of religion to achieve a national, cultural and spiritual power, power to dominate, and power to obliterate, were fought out in the bitterness of oppression, persecution and martydom. Wherever now between the Christian Churches relics of this kind of imperialism, of struggle for cultural or political dominance, still continue or try to assert themselves—and, my Lords, they are not yet dead—they create, and must create, the bitterness of fear, of suspicion and hostility. And I can add to that, where to that kind of power is added the power of money, or how money is to be used, there, again, the same fears begin to arise and operate.

Here in my lifetime, this kind of fear of dominance has almost gone between the Church of England and the Free Churches. May I give one single example? In my youth the one cry of the Free Church was to disestablish the Church of England. The Free Churches appointed a few years ago a committee to consider this question and they said that, in principle, establishment is altogether wrong, but that in practice they hoped it would not be disturbed because they believed it did, on the whole, strengthen and fortify the Christian witness of this nation.


My Lords, as a lifelong Free Churchman since the age of 22, may I say that the general spirit of what the most reverend Primate has just said is quite true. But what many people are saying, and have said for 50 years, is that since we used to talk about disestablishment, things have happened, and that we should long to go on paying our tithes so long as the Church of England remains Protestant.


That is perfectly right, and I hope the Church of England will remain Protestant—in the sense in which I use the word.

May I give another example? Next year the Congregationalists will be celebrating the great ejectment in 1662 of the independent Ministers, who were then possessed of their living under the Commonwealth but were turned out, with words of which anyone would now be ashamed, to penury and obscurity. Why? Because they would not use the Book of Common Prayer, tile issue of which in the same year, 1662, will also be celebrated next year. I rejoice to know—and I think it is significant—that the Church of England will have an open share in the Congregationalists' celebration of their event, and they in the celebration of ours. We shall both come together. And we shall both thank God that out of that past have come benefits to all concerned, and now that problem is solved. How I wish that if the English martyrs of the previous century are to be honoured, we, the Roman Church and ourselves, could honour them all together—the whole lot of them, because they all, in conscience, faced martyrdom and death in the same cause, as we now realise, though then it seemed to be that they were on opposite sides.

Still these relics of strife for power—national, political and cultural power and predominance—continue. Wherever rival Churches still think in terms of being in a minority or in a majority, of trying to get something, these evils flourish among them. But I do say that increasingly and everywhere Church leaders are ceasing to think at all in terms of dominance or of majority or minority. I can say, as leader of the Established Church, that, by nature, I have never thought about such things, any more than I have any colour sense. I do not mind in the least whether I talk to an African or a European; it simply does not affect me. So this feeling of dominance or of wanting power has never been in my mind. We really are painfully and slowly getting back to the godly disorder of the Kingdom of God, in which the first is last, and does not mind, and the last is first and does not mind either, and the only greatness is in ministering to others.

I come to the third and last barrier. From the official side, the third barrier can be described as the requirements of different Church disciplines. From the side of the ordinary people in a mixed community, it can be described as the conflicts of manners or of social behaviour and belief. Here, in fact, is the most potent of all the barriers among ordinary people. It is by difference in manners, even in mannerisms, in the use of religious rites and obedience to religious requirements, by differences in ceremony and in outward ceremonies, that religious harmony is disturbed and discord perpetuated, and offences are given which rankle and fester. They come, of course, to be hound up with pretensions of power. They are used as a means of propaganda. They claim to be evidence of Church loyalty, of correct discipline or simply of separateness, but in fact most of them are no more than irritating and not really defensible causes of social and religious embarrassment.

A good Roman Catholic, a good Free Churchman, a good Anglican—in fact, a good Christian and a good man—learns how to avoid causing this kind of embarrassment or feeling embarrassed by what I shall call such graceless things. I could give many illustrations. I itch to give them. They would excite interest. They would make people sit up and take notice. They would all be difficult. They would all be controversial. And they would all offend some, or even many, people. They are really matters, I suppose, of religious taste or of social taste and—de gustibus non est disputandum—about matters of taste wise men do not enter into an argument.

I would give one example. But first, I would repeat what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that this matter of common chapels is solved pretty well. There are many cases of joint chapels used by all denominations, where any particular requirement of any one denomination is met, so that when its members use the chapel they feel at home; and that is true of every denomination using it. This is a common feature in hospitals and elsewhere, not only here but overseas as well. I suppose the example I want to give is not uncontroversial, but I give it in a purely constructive spirit. There are many strangely difficult questions relating to praying in public. Our Lord, as you will see if you read the Gospels, obviously foresaw that public prayer would raise a good many difficulties and misunderstandings. All Christians accept the duty of praying for one another. Some Christians seem able to pray against other Christians. I have never been able to understand the philosophy of that. But there are difficulties not yet resolved over praying with one another in one place with one accord—and I mean here prayer in the simplest and most elementary and universal forms, such as are exhibited to us in the Lord's Prayer itself.

Here I want simply to state what the present position is. Anglicans and Free Churchmen have fought this battle. At the beginning they did not pray together, but they fought their battle about this, and, as I think, by the grace of God they have come to find that such praying together is possible once the trivialities of differences of phrase and of mental image are overcome. They have come to find that to pray together is easy, and not only easy, but also in the truest sense enjoyable. They could not now do without it, and they are certain that it has played an essential part in the removal of barriers and embarrassments between them, without prejudicing anything of their respective doctrinal truth or spiritual integrity.

Many Roman Catholics have found precisely the same thing, here and on the Continent, and in other parts of the world. Without fear or embarrassment, they pray with us in this elementary manner on suitable occasions, and we with them; and friendship and fellowship and true charity are thereby increased. It happened in Jerusalem in so open and euthusiastic a way that some in the West were surprised—and some were alarmed and shocked—that such a thing could be done. There they did it without thinking twice about it; and so far as I can see, nobody is a penny the worse for its having happened.

This kind of friendship in simple prayer happens. It is happening increasingly. Should it increase or diminish? Should it be encouraged or frowned upon? There are some in every Church who dislike it and who would be glad to disallow it, if they could. The only argument I have ever heard against it is that it encourages people to devalue their own Church for a vague, undifferentiated, indifferent Christianity without commitments. Our own experience is exactly the opposite. Those who learn to pray with other Churches learn at the same time to value more truly and at their true worth the distinctiveness of their own Church. That is just what one would expect. Unreal differences disappear in the atmosphere of prayer, but the differences which are true and honest and of good report stand out, and are illuminated and purified by such fellowship in prayer.

In the British Council of Churches, we pray easily together. We have united services that are not unreal, not hypocritical, not make-believe. They do not teach us that we are all as good as one another, or as bad as one another. Far from it. They sharpen the sword of the spirit. They deepen the realities of the things that separate us, which is just what honest prayer together should do. Thus, when I am received, as I am, as a familiar guest in prayer by other Churches, Orthodox, Reformed or Roman Catholic, I rejoice. This is not the absorption of one Church by another or the attempt by one Church to steal a march on another. It is honest friendship between honest and self-respecting Churchmen learning how to forget cultural, political, social, ceremonial embarrassments from the past; learning how to endure patiently and to talk humbly about those doctrinal differences which spring from our joint homage to Truth and the Word made flesh; and learning, finally, how to enjoy one another's like-mindedness in Christian fellowship. All these barriers which are there are not unbridgeable and are visibly, in this our day, being bridged. It has been going on all my lifetime. It is gathering speed; and unless faith fails us, nothing can stop it.

8.1 p.m


My Lords, of course my colleagues and I on the Government Bench were a little disappointed that after all his travels, which made the missionary journeys of St. Paul almost pale into insignificance, but which were most happily not accompanied by shipwreck or persecution, the most reverend Primate did not pay a call on us at the Government Dispatch Box. I can assure him that it would have been treated purely as a courtesy visit and without doctrinal significance of any kind. But I comfort myself with the reflection that his predecessors on the Throne of St. Augustine have in fact addressed your Lordships' House for 700 years from the Bench immediately on the right of the Throne, and I can only express the hope that. when he shortly ceases in your Lordships' House to be most reverend, or even reverend at all, and becomes only noble like the rest of us, he will change his mind and find it possible to utilise his undoubted rights as a Privy Counsellor.

I will not conceal from your Lordships the fact that I have been the recipient of different kinds of advice about this debate and about the part which it would be appropriate for me to play in it. I must humbly crave your Lordships' forgiveness if the part I have determined to play in the debate is not thought to be an appropriate one; for I, and I alone, am responsible for it. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a little lacking in courtesy to the House if a senior member of the Government did not sit on the Government Benches throughout the discussion and did not close the debate with one or two reflections. I also thought that it would be wrong, speaking as a member of the Government, to embark, especially at this late stage, on any discussion of the merits of the Motion itself. Speaking personally, I should, I think, have found it difficult to do so, in any event. For, although I have thought it my duty from time to time to accept, with difficulty and embarrassment, but still unequivocally, my duty to acknowledge my Christian faith, I have always found it equally impossible to disclose those parts of it which might lead me into religious controversy with anybody.

I feel that in this life one has to choose the rôle one has to play. If one desires to embark, as for good or ill it has been my lot to embark, upon political controversy, I think it is as well to leave religious controversy alone. Therefore, perhaps it is as well that I am cast in the debate for the rôle of Gallio only. I would say, by way of self-defence, that if I betray no opinions about these things, it would not be true to say that I care. for none of them. Quite the reverse. I think, however, that we ought to consider before we part, the actual thing that we have done to-day, and I feel that it would perhaps be right if, as Leader of the House, I said something, without perhaps coming to any positive conclusions about the matter.

I confess that when I first saw that the noble Earl had put his Motion on the Order Paper I had considerable doubts about the matter, and doubts were expressed to me by Members of your Lordships' House of more political persuasions than one. But I soon came to the conclusion that, whatever the desirability, or otherwise, of discussing a matter of this kind in Parliament, it was certainly not a question upon which I ought to intervene as Leader by seeking to discourage the discussion of a Motion of this kind. The Motion, to begin with, and on the most pedantic level, is cer- tainly not out of Order: Parliament can discuss what it wishes or what its Members consider of sufficient interest to merit public discussion. This is particularly true, I think, in your Lordships' House, where it is a matter of pride and tradition that any Member may put down a Motion and, if time can be found, secure its debate.

I think that those who have spoken in the debate have not only shown sincerity, but have made a number of extremely moving speeches. Nevertheless, the question remains whether, and to what extent, this is a good precedent or a bad one, and on this issue I realise that there can be more opinions than one. Primarily speaking, in modern times the function of Parliament has been to control the Executive—that is, the Government—and this is a matter in which ex hypothesi it would be wrong for the Government to have an established position or even, as such, to offer useful advice. It is not that, individually, Ministers may not have strong views, or even that the Government collectively can, in the long run, be indifferent in a Christian country to Christian piety or to natural morality, which has always been rightly considered to have a strong connection with any religion worthy of the name. It is simply that the affairs of the Church, or the Churches, are not matters for which in modern times Governments have been held responsible to Parliament. I think this is a healthy convention, and one, on the whole, conducive to religious freedom. There are, I feel, manifest objections to holding debates in Parliament on subjects for which the Government do not acknowledge responsibility. But I think there is no absolute rule to this effect, and it is a matter upon which the House can be trusted to show its customary and traditional discretion.

Of the two Houses of Parliament, I would agree with noble Lords and right reverend Prelates who have said that ours is the one better suited to conduct a discussion of this kind. It is true that, from one point of view, both Roman Catholics and Free Churchmen are at the disadvantage that neither has the advantage (if it is one—and as a loyal member of the Church of England I must say that it is) of being represented here by their hierarchy. On the other hand, we speak here only as individuals, and I think it would embarrass Members of another place—it certainly would have embarrassed me when I was there, where I had, as we all had, constituents of all faiths and of none—to give possible grounds for offence by voicing opinions which might give cause for religious antagonism.

At the same time, I must say that I think this debate has served a useful purpose. If debates of this kind—between Roman Catholics, members of the Church of England and Free Churchmen—cannot be held in Parliament, the truth is that they cannot be held anywhere at all; they simply would not take place. When matters arouse as much interest and discussion as the most reverend Primate's visit to Rome and to the Churches in the Near East undoubtedly has done, I think it is perhaps a pity that there should be no forum in Great Britain for public discussion at which the pros and cons can be threshed out between members of different religious communions.

Finally, my Lords, there is a special reason why I welcome the opportunity of speaking to-day. This may be the last occasion on which the most reverend Primate has the opportunity of speaking to your Lordships in his official position. The debate gives me the opportunity of wishing him well on behalf of your Lordships on his retirement from what on any view has been a long and notable Archiepiscopate. It is, of course, gratifying to know that, following recent practice, the House will not be deprived of his services, and I hope that this new nobility and his loss of reverence will not sit too heavily upon him. We shall look forward to hearing him often in his purely secular capacity.

I conclude with only one reflection, which I trust will not be in any way considered a departure from my good resolution. I share the view of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches that this particular Motion cannot be seen in the context of the Christian religion alone. The true terms of the polarity are man and God; man, with that strange mixture of body and spirit, who alone of all creatures seems to have the power r)f generating his own misfortunes and who, among all the squalor that he has made, never quite forgets that only Heaven is his home; and God, to whom his soul naturally turns, as the child to its mother, as the flower to the sun, finding, if that relationship of love is finally cut off, that his whole life has withered and become meaningless.

My Lords, I cannot but remember a passage, I think in one of Marlowe's plays, when the Devil is made to stand upon the stage, and one of the characters says to him: "Why are you not in Hell?", and the Devil replies, "Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it." The ultimate problem is the reconciliation of man—not simply of Christian men, but of man and God. If we are preoccupied, as we often are in secular affairs, with the reconciliation of men with one another—and that is, after all, one of the prime purposes for which Parliaments are assembled—I think it is perhaps as well to remember from time to time that such reconciliation may well be found if we find in the end that our faces are turned towards the Divine Light.

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, in proposing this Resolution, I said that our debate may do harm. I should have known better. It should have been clear to me that, in this most responsible of Assemblies, all that would be said would be aimed to help. I think we have had a good debate, perhaps a great debate, and I have been moved by hearing noble Lords of all denominations speaking to one another with such frankness and such charity. I said that I hoped we might give a lead from this country in these affairs. I believe that your Lordships have done so to-day. With your Lordships' permission, I beg leave to withdraw my Resolution.

Resolution, by leave, withdrawn.