HL Deb 14 November 1974 vol 354 cc874-945

3.43 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, the House is today considering a Measure of considerable importance to the Church of England and one which the most reverend Primate has explained with his customary precision. It is not unusual, when Church of England Measures are being taken in Parliament, for the Government of the day to remain silent and to express no views. Two factors lead me to rise this afternoon in order to make a brief intervention. The first concerns the Government's attitude to the Measure. As I have already said, it is not unusual for the Government of the day to remain silent, but I am aware of the opinions that have been expressed outside this House—and maybe they will be expressed here this afternoon—about the significance of this Measure. I think that I ought to make it clear that the Government's position is one of benevolent neutrality and, on behalf of the Government, I do not propose to raise any objection to the Measure. My second point concerns not the Measure but the most reverend Primate. He retires from being the one hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury—a position which he has held since 1961—on his seventieth birthday. He is seventy to-day and we all offer him our very best wishes on this happy day. So it is also the last day of his Primacy and he retires to-night.

My Lords, while I should not like to distract attention from the Worship and Doctrine Measure, I hope the House will allow me to say a few words about the most reverend Primate. He has led the Anglican Communion with all the zeal and skill of his predecessors and, while the Church has gone through a period of theological unrest, such as is shown by the publication of Honest to God, he has remained an unshaken Man of God. He has been highly valued in the Church for his humility and has been warmly welcomed in this House for his integrity and strength of purpose.

The magnificent progress of his maturity—Professor of Divinity at Durham, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. Bishop of Durham, Archbishop of York and now Archbishop of Canterbury—first began earlier than is generally realised. He had a premature excursion on to the Bishops' Bench in 1926 which is recorded in a Cambridge rag programme. It had been arranged that 24 Bishops should open Joanna Southcott's Box and figuring among these dignitaries was "the Bishop of Harum Scarum, A. M. Ramsey, Magdalene".

If "Scarum" seems to suggest a slightly ramshackle approach to organisation and dress, I suppose that there may be a degree of truth in that: The most reverend Primate looks splendid in his rochet and chimere or in his cope and mitre, but I wonder whether they are always on straight. But "Harum"—if that has anything to do with being hare-brained—could not possibly be the truth. He has a wisdom which I envy and is a great teacher of the religion which he practises. His concern for Human Rights is well known and has been forcefully expressed on visits to South Africa and Chile, for example. He has made close contact with the other Churches of the West and during his Primacy the Canterbury cap has been found in conference with religous heads in Rome and Istanbul. His efforts to promote Christian unity have assisted the agreements reached by the permanent Anglo/Roman Catholic Commission and he was keenly disappointed, as he has himself said to-day, at the frustration of plans for Anglican/Methodist unity, which he sought to promote.

As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he was President of the Union and showed early promise of becoming a liberal politician. At Canterbury, however, his strength has been religious rather than political and social.

Finally, I should like to underline his kindness and simplicity. In spite of the pomp of his position, he has remained simple in speech, manner and way of life and is quite capable of stepping out of a magnificent procession to greet an old friend In the congregation. His hope. I believe, is to retire to Oxfordshire and to live the quiet life of priest and scholar, away from great events. My hope, and I am sure that of the whole House, is that we shall be able to welcome him back here on many future occasions with the new title of a life peerage but also as an old, familiar character and a friend.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, T must commence with an apology that I am not able to stay to the end of this debate. I have a longstanding engagement to try to persuade the Oxford Union—as I have so often tried to persuade your Lordships—of the virtues of proportional representation. I hope I shall be rather more successful with them. In such a situation, I should normally not have spoken in this debate, but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for speaking for two reasons; first of all, I cannot possibly miss the opportunity of paying tribute to the most reverend Primate, under whom and, to a very slight extent, with whom I have worked for a number of years and who has always shown me the greatest kindness, tolerance and friendship, for which I am most truly grateful. Secondly, this Measure fulfils a small part of what I myself, in a small way, have worked for for some years in different fields. I am particularly sorry that I may not be able to stay to hear the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Durham, whose connection with my own theological college is so strong. I should have liked to hear him.

This is an appropriate occasion when we can spend a few moments, as the noble Lord the Leader of the House has so ably clone, in paying tribute to the most reverend Primate, because this is a Measure which he himself has said embodies a lot of the work he has done during his Primacy. He has always held the affection and respect of your Lordships' House—even sometimes when he has stirred rather deeply the passions of some of your Lordships. This is not the occasion for an historical perspective, but I cannot resist saying that I have the personal conviction that the most reverend Primate will go down in history as one of the greatest Archbishops of our Church. But whatever verdict history gives him, one thing is sure: he has given a decisive answer to the dictum of Bishop Charles Gore who said: It is barely possible to combine the activities of being a good Christian and a good Bishop. It is very good to know that we may still have his services in your Lordships' House.

That tribute, my Lords, is my pleasure. My duty is to give a very quick comment from these Benches on the Measure. Of course, this is not a Party matter, except possibly for the new mass "Party" we see opposite us, but I have taken soundings among my colleagues. Two of them are down to speak later to-day and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has asked me to express his regret that he is not able to be here to speak. I have found one thing in common with my colleagues, in so far as I have been able to consult them; namely, that they approve of giving the Church of England the freedoms that it has constitutionally and democratically decided it wants to have, and that they do not think Parliament should continue to hold detailed control over the Church's life and worship. After that, of course, we would differ. Some of us are disestablishmentarians and some of us are for the Establishment, and the division by no means goes with our membership of any particular Church. The alternative is that the Church of England comes back here and to another place every five years to decide whether, in the words of Dr. Owen Chadwick: … a clergyman should wear a surplice in the pulpit, or how many times the Athanasian Creed should be recited. There is one major point in the opposition to this Measure that those who oppose it cannot expect any Liberal to take very seriously. As we have heard from the most reverend Primate, the Church of England has gone to very considerable lengths to build up a democratic system of government. Admittedly, it is a two-tier system but, to make up for that, it does have proportional representation and it is a system which has been very carefully built up, with its own checks and balances—so much so indeed that, as I think the most reverend Primate hinted, it is a wonder that anything gets through it at all. There is no lack of democratic control, and to suggest to your Lordships that your Lordships' House (composed as it is of those of us who have been appointed for life and those of us who are the sons of our fathers and are here for that reason) or that another place—and here I insist that I speak from the Liberal point of view—which is elected by a ridiculous and totally unfair system, are better judges of what the Church of England wants and of what the laity of the Church of England want than this very carefully created instrument, the Synod of the Church of England, is asking us to believe something which is totally absurd.

It has been my case very briefly this afternoon to suggest that it is right that the Church should govern its own affairs and it is not right that Parliament should maintain control over details or over worship and doctrine. Therefore I should be destroying my own case if I were to deploy the Church's own arguments and the theological arguments. But I cannot resist closing on a personal note. To me, the whole doctrine of the Church is instinct, with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. All Churches are living Churches. Our Church is a living Church, a changing Church, a Church semper reformans et reformanda, and this demands the freedom to govern itself. This Measure represents one small step on that path, and I commend it to your Lordships.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to add my congratulations to the most reverend Primate on his seventieth birthday, and to congratulate him also that on this day, his last day in Office as Archbishop, he is moving a Motion which asks your Lordships to approve a Measure which, though it does not, as he has said, disestablish the Church of of England, does significantly extend its autonomy. It brings it nearer to the position occupied by other Anglican Churches, notably the other established Church in the United Kingdom, the Church of Scotland. This increase of autonomy must be right and should represent a source of rejoicing by all Church people as well as a source of congratulation to the most reverend Primate who has done so much to bring it about.

I speak as a layman, the man in the pew; I am not now even a member of my parochial church council. But I should be less than honest if I did not say that many laymen in my position—and perhaps more clergy than would like to say so to their superiors—have their rejoicings slightly clouded by sadness and tinged with some doubts: sadness that the very reason why Churchmen do not want Parliament to continue to control their affairs any longer is that it can no longer be denied that Parliament to-day represents a predominantly secular nation, the majority of whom are certainly not members of the Church of England, if indeed they are religious at all; and doubts as to whether the changes in this particular Measure will help towards the unity for which there is such a widespread desire or, on the contrary, may revive old divisions or create new ones, so that in the words of the popular hymn the Church may still be "by schisms rent asunder". It would indeed be sad if, while we seek unity with other Churches we create divisions in our own.

Perhaps I may be permitted to pose the major doubts about this Measure in the form of four questions. First: is the Book of Common Prayer adequately safeguarded, or is it on the way out? Secondly: will this Measure lead to disestablishment? Thirdly: do the men in the pew really understand what is involved? Have they had adequate opportunities of forming and offering a view, and if so, are we sure that we know what that view is? And, fourthly: does this new form of Synodical government give too much scope to the restless zeal of the reforming experts and does it pay too little regard to the fact that the things of the spirit do not have to change in competition with, and at the same pace as, the hectic changes of the material world?

My Lords, may I with great humility offer a few personal observations and attempt to give the answers to this examination paper which I have set myself and make some suggestions which I hope will be judged constructive? May I take the last question first? I am afraid that the Synod does have a case to answer. There are said to be two kinds of inflation: there is cost-push and demand-pull. I think it is undeniable that most of the changes and experiments that have come about recently in the Church have been in response to pressure from within (may I call it Synod push?) rather than demand from without (may I call it congregational pull?).

This brings me to my third question—if I may take them all backwards—which is really the old question of communication. This is serious, and I must dwell on it for a moment. There are real difficulties here. In the Church of England we do not have questions after the sermon, and I doubt whether all the experts and the clergy always realise how great is the distress and sense of shock suffered by members of congregations when they are faced by some of the more extreme innovations of form and language in the services. My Lords, it is difficult in the parochial church council, in the Deanery Synod or in the Diocesan Synod for the laymen, chaperoned as they always are by their own incumbents, to say how greatly they dislike some of these changes. For them there is a great temptation to vote with their feet and keep away, not only from the PCC and the Synods, but from the Church itself.

Theoretically, the laymen are adequately represented from the PCC upwards. But only about half the clergy are on the Diocesan Synods—all of them used to be members of the Diocesan Conference. The most reverend Primate has referred to this point and he has explained how the lay representation of the Synod is made up. I am afraid I am not convinced that in practice this Synodical constitution really gives adequate and sufficient representation to lay views. It is true that although there are about 2 million laymen on the Parish Electoral Rolls, only about 36,000 of them (3 per cent.) are electors to the General Synod's House of Laity and the argument that they represent everybody else is getting suspiciously like the dangers we have with the block vote. The proceedings of the General Synod receive very little publicity. I do not know whether they publish anything equivalent to Hansard, but I know that the Press, television and radio give them very small coverage. The trouble is that very few of us have the Church Times propped against the marmalade at breakfast. May I say here what a debt I think we all owe to The Times newspaper which in the last few days has not only opened its correspondence columns to a series of most valuable letters from distinguished correspondents, but on November 9 published an important first leader which gave a balanced view and which has been most helpful. But I regret to say that the media as a whole has not given this Measure and this subject much publicity.

It is very important that somehow or other the General Synod should in future arrange for better communication. This, my Lords, I wish to put forward as my first constructive suggestion. Parliament can give only very limited help. When a Measure reaches Parliament, as this one does to-day, it cannot be given the same treatment that we are accustomed to give to a Bill. There is no First, Second and Third Reading; there are no Committee and Report stages. Parliament is asked either, as to-day, to accept a Measure unamended, in toto, as it stands, after one debate, or to totally reject it. What help does Parliament have to come to its decision?

Although there is no White Paper—let alone a Green Paper—Parliament has the advantage; of the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee which I have here in my hand. In this case, the Report (HL 104, HC 256, July 15, 1974) sets out in a form somewhat similar to the Memorandum on the front of a Bill a summary of what the Measure is about, and then paragraph 13, on page 5, contains just this one sentence: In the opinion of the Committee the Measure is expedient. In the Report the Committee does not argue the case but it adds, as an annex, nine pages of comment and explanations which the General Synod (that is to say, the body promoting the Measure) has supplied to the Committee. We are not told in this Report whether anyone challenged the Measure; we are not told whether the Committee heard any other evidence or received any representations. My second suggestion, which I hope may be thought constructive, is that I believe that this procedure could perhaps be improved upon.

I now turn to the second question on my examination paper: disestablishment. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who wrote to the Press the other day, has said that if we do not pass this Motion we shall take one step closer towards disestablishment, and I am inclined to agree with him. I do not think disestablishment is what most of us want, and that is one of the reasons I for one shall vote for this Motion which the most reverend Primate has put before the House. Disestablishment would be dangerous because it would remove the safeguard against a too radical alteration in what kind of Church we are to have in England. Before any fundamental change in the kind of Church comes about there must be a full national discussion, and that, in practice, means that such a proposed change must be debated in Parliament. That right would go if the Church was disestablished. I know that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury agrees with this. I propose to quote what he said when this Measure was under consideration in the General Synod in November, 1972. In the Church Times of November 10, 1972, he stated: If we are asking to end the partnership with the State, let us say so and be ready for all the consequences. But, if we are not asking to end it, then it should in fairness be a partnership which lets the State know the identity of the Church with which the partnership continues. Further, he said: 'What sort of Church? The least we can say is … that it continues to be an Anglican Church. It is quite impossible to expect a State to have an exclusive partnership with a Church which might turn itself into any sort of Church at will, say Calvinist or Lutheran or Papalist". I do not think that any of us could put it more cogently than that.

It is because of establishment that the Canons (the Church's Regulations, not the Cathedral Clergy) have to be submitted to the Queen. The Sovereign is still head of the Church—though, oddly enough, these Canons are submitted through the Home Secretary and not Parliament. It is because of establishment that Measures, which are roughly equivalent to Civil Acts of Parliament, have to be submitted to both Houses of Parliament for a procedure which is near enough to what we with civil law call the Affirmative Resolution Procedure. But the control that either the Home Secretary, Parliament, or the Queen Herself can exercise is, in practice, very slight. There can be no fear of Erastianism here. There is slight control but certainly no subordination.

If I may now turn to the first question I posed—the doubts or fears of some about the Prayer Book. We have been told that the Prayer Book is safe. Although we have no Committee stage, I think we must turn to the Measure itself. In Clause 1 it states not that the Prayer Book shall be made available, but something rather different: … that the forms of service contained in the Book of Common Prayer continue to be available for use in the Church of England. This is perhaps a Committee point but then we have not got a Committee stage, and I should have liked to hear noble and learned Lords on the construction of this clause. Indeed, there are many other such points and perhaps some of them are of even greater importance. If I may mention two such points; Clause 5(1) defines the basis of the doctrine of the Church of England. Clause 5(2) defines the meaning of the Book of Common Prayer. At the same time, Clause 4(1) states: … every Form of service or amendment thereof approved by the General Synod … shall be such as in the opinion of the General Synod is neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter. I do not know what deliberations have taken place in the General Synod, nor in the body which preceded it, to give guidance let alone rulings on what are essential matters of doctrine. Is there not a possibility of endless controversy and division on such an abstract theological point? But I so greatly fear that if we do not take extreme care we shall find that the Prayer Book is on the way out. Will it really be possible, in practice, to run these alternative forms of service, which differ so widely, in double harness, as it were, in the same parish? I do not think it will be practical to say: First and third Sundays, Series 3; Second and fourth Sundays, 1662. I think we shall have to make up our minds which we want to use and we shall not be unanimous. When it comes to this point of disagreement to which the most reverend Primate referred, he said the laity would have the last word. May I refer to Clause 1 where it is spelled out: in the case of disagreement so long as disagreement continues, the forms of service be used in that Church shall be those contained in the Book of Common Prayer unless"— and then we have the difficult words— other forms of service so approved were in regular use therein during at least two of the four years immediately preceding …". We have all had these Services in some of the two years immediately preceding because we have been asked to experiment with them. So it is not a simple matter. If there are differences, and one parish does one thing and another parish does something else, the pressure will mount from the centre that we should settle on some final form of the Series with which we are now experimenting, and then I fear the old versions of the Book of Common Prayer will be relegated to the vestry cupboard, if some busybody does not actually send them away for pulp.

But if that happens we shall be in a perpetual state of modernising and introducing a new Series number, for nothing goes out of date so quickly as contemporary speech. We are lucky enough to have a Prayer Book now which has been used and understood for over 300 years, because it was much the same as the 1552 Prayer Book written in the incomparable language of the reign of Elizabeth I. I firmly believe that Cranmer and Shakespeare (who was contemporary with him) both wrote under inspiration. If Shakespeare's Sonnets have an equal, it is in Cranmer's Collects. The English-speaking world would be immeasurably poorer without both being retained and used.

I wonder whether there could be a simple solution here. This is my third and, I hope, constructive suggestion. By all means let alternative forms of service be tried out experimentally from time to time. But when we have decided which alternative form should be legalised for the next period of time ahead, let it be issued and published as an appendix to the Book of Common Prayer and bound into the same volume. To add enriches; to take away impoverishes. The Book of Common Prayer contains so much more than individual services. It contains the Psalter; as I have said it contains the Collects, the Ordinal and indeed, in so far as any one book can be, it is the repository of the basic doctrine and discipline of the Church of England. It is not a small book. It must be a very expensive book to produce, and in these days of high costs, it would be a terrible thing if it became available only at a prohibitive cost, because it was so slightly used, or even went out of print. In that case, the position of the Privilege Printers would be a difficult one. I do not know how far this has been considered.

So, my plea to the most reverend Primate and to the Synod, while supporting this Measure as a generality, is two-fold. First of all, my plea is that they should so order things in future that the general body of church-goers can be better informed and perhaps even have more say in what is going on at the Synod; and secondly, that the Book of Common Prayer should be available for at least another 400 years in fact as well as in theory.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, we have all listened with great respect to the speech of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, who has given us his views frankly and courageously although in so doing he was criticising the leadership of the Church to which he belongs. I can speak for myself alone as a very ordinary and undoubtedly unworthy member of the Church of England. If there are those among your Lordships who may imagine that I come originally from a rigidly conservative background in these matters, it is only right to mention that I am a grandson of Stopford Brooke, that distinguished clergyman and preacher who openly seceded from the Church of England on grounds of doctrine in the last century.

All kinds of motives determine your Lordships' votes in this House. In that sense it is a much more complex place than the House of Commons. I venture to suggest that it would not be a good thing if the motive of anybody in casting his vote at the end of this debate, should it end in a Division, were influenced by the desire to be nice to the most reverend Primate on his birthday. We are deeply grateful to him for coming here and making the speech he has made to-day. All of us who have held positions of any authority are probably a little envious of his opportunity to leave office in circumstances such as these, carrying through Parliament a cause to which he has devoted so much of his great energies. I share with everybody here the desire that this shall not be the end of his services to your Lordships' House.

I will speak shortly, and not venture to seek to rebut the more technical points that my noble friend Lord Waldegrave has made. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London is winding up this debate, and other learned Bishops will be speaking between now and then, and such matters will be better dealt with by them. I have never been a member of the General Synod; I have never listened to its deliberations. But after a long period in public life I find it difficult to join with my noble friend Lord Waldegrave in blaming the General Synod for not getting sufficient publicity for itself. The media are generally disposed to give publicity to matters which they think will widely interest their readers or viewers or listeners. All of us have at one time or other been concerned with some cause which we thought deserved the earnest attention of everybody in the land. We may have made great efforts to obtain full publicity for the issues at stake, but have failed. It does not prove that a subject is unimportant or a policy misconstrued if the Press and telecommunications authorities decide not to give a great deal of publicity to what is being said or done about it.

I would say to my noble friend Lord Waldegrave that I, like I am sure a number of your Lordships, at the church which we ordinarily attend on Sundays when we are at home, am fully accustomed to the arrangement of using the Book of Common Prayer on certain days and, let us say, Series III on other Sundays. It seems to cause no confusion or anxiety; it seems a perfectly simple arrangement, and no doubt the mere fact of the use of more than one service from time to time in the same church will help the people who are anxious to make comparisons to decide where their real feelings lie. Frankly, I do not think that that is a valid objection to this Measure.

The one main point I want to establish to-day is this. If your Lordships' House were to seek to defeat this Measure—and I greatly hope this debate will not end in a Division—it would be the worst declaration of no confidence in the General Synod that there could be. The General Synod exists now with the authority of Parliament, one may fairly say with the will of Parliament. The Synodical Measure which set up the present machinery for administering the affairs of the Church of England was approved by both Houses of Parliament. If your Lordships will look at the Annex to the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, you will see that at the stage of final approval of this Measure in the General Synod, the voting of the three Houses together was 344 for, and 10 against. All the criticisms of the make-up of the General Synod, and of its lack of communication, and so on, which my noble friend has just uttered cannot explain away the overwhelming nature of that vote. If there had been within the Church such grave anxiety as he expresses about the representative character of the General Synod, I cannot conceive that the voting would have been so nearly unanimous.

No, my Lords, we in your Lordships' House and Members of Parliament in another place have assented to the setting up by the Church of this machinery, and we must accept it. We must either accept it, or, if we reject its recommendations when they come to us in a Measure like this, we must be fully conscious that we are also rejecting the General Synod machinery as a whole. To my mind, it would be a matter of disgrace if, after a Measure has been carried almost nemine contradicente in the General Synod, either House of Parliament were then to presume to defeat it and not allow the will of the overwhelming majorities in the General Synod to prevail.

I know it may be argued that the will of the General Synod is not the will of the Church of England. But nobody can prove that. It is a difficult task to under- take, to seek to argue that some other people, not members of the General Synod or successful in influencing its deliberations, are the real Church of England. I cannot accept that the existing constitution of the General Synod is so profoundly unsatisfactory as that. From all I have heard from friends of mine who are members of the General Synod, there is great scope for self-improvement over the years. But, as I have said, we in Parliament set up this machinery, we assented to it, and we believe in democracy. We cannot therefore ignore the compelling strength of the majorities in all three Houses of the General Synod. I trust that, whatever criticisms are raised, the most reverend Primate will gain material satisfaction from the outcome of this debate. I would close by thanking him once again for his presence among us, and venturing to say in front of him that he is one of those who have taught us that it is possible to combine with superb intellectual excellence, simplicity and goodness of person.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, as the views I am going to offer to your Lord-ships this afternoon are my own I am speaking from a Back Bench, but I should like to begin by moving forward two Benches, if only in spirit, so that I may associate my colleagues with everything that has been said about the most reverend Primate this afternoon. My Lords, other noble Lords have given him their congratulations and best wishes, and this we do, too. But I think we also owe him our thanks for the fact that he has chosen your Lordships' House as the platform for his last important pronouncements as Primate of All England. We are looking forward very much, too, to hearing the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. May I also say how refreshing it is to see such a full House on the Bishops' Benches opposite. It almost makes up to us for the fact that the Labour Benches are so sparsely attended.

Like other noble Lords, I have some reservations about this Measure. I am quite prepared to be convinced that the Measure itself, and its content, is necessary and even desirable but I am very much more concerned about how its provisions will be used in practice. My doubts on this occasion stem from the experience of the effects of other ecclesiastical Measures, admirable in themselves, which have been passed by your Lordships' House, notably the Redundancy of Churches Measure. We were led to believe that the purpose of that Measure was to discontinue the use of churches whose upkeep was expensive and which were no longer needed, owing to shifts of population or owing to communities in urban areas growing bigger and finding themselves hampered with possessing two churches where they would be happier with one.

It has been used, and is being used, not so much for that purpose as to deprive villages of their centuries-old right to worship in their own church, at the instigation of some remote diocesan committee which cannot know anything about local needs and does not appear to care very much about them, either. This is bedevilling any negotiations which are now going on over the very necessary realignment and regrouping of benefices and parishes. Village parochial church councils in this position, and my own is one, fear that any steps they may take towards amalgamation may untimately lead to the eventual closure of their own church. It is also causing bitterness and division between clergy and laity, and even among laity, at a time when unity of purpose is needed in the Church as never before.

My Lords, I am afraid that a somewhat similar bitterness and division might spring from this Measure which we are discussing this afternoon, if its provisions are wrongly applied. The excellent leading article on this Measure in The Times newspaper last Saturday included this paragraph: They"— that is, the liturgical reformers— also set aside too lightly the devotion with which many who are habituated to the traditional liturgy of their church cherish what has been handed down to them. Not just for the sake of its authenticity, but as a sign that the things of the spirit outlast the hectic changes of the world". My Lords, we were asked to abandon, although not totally, the 1662 Communion service in favour of Series II. No sooner had we got used to that than Series III was introduced. Are we to expect from this Measure, should it pass your Lordships' House and another place (and I personally hope that it will), more and more alterations ahead—Series IV, Series V, Series VI and so on? In my experience, changes in the form of service do not bring new people into the churches. They are just inclined to unsettle those who are there already. May I please beg the right reverend Prelates opposite not to make changes too often.

It is true, and I welcome it, that this Measure gives a parochial church council the right, should they wish, to insist upon the 1662 Prayer Book; but a young, go-ahead vicar will usually favour any innovation that the General Synod may wish to introduce. He will probably carry with him some of the younger members of his parochial church council. Many of the other members, particularly the older ones, will want to stick to known and loved forms. Whether the vicar carries the day or whether the parochial church councils insist upon their rights, this will cause, either way, bitterness and dissension, which is very unfortunate. As my noble friend said, the right to insist upon the 1662 Prayer Book does not seem to be absolute. The bit I am worried about is Clause 1(5)(b) which allows a minister to make minor changes in any church service, be it one of the new forms or be it the 1662 one.

I should like to ask the most reverend Primate or the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, when he replies; if a parochial church council uses its right to insist upon the use of the 1662 Prayer Book, can the minister still insist upon making certain minor changes in that service? Can he, for example, insist upon substituting the new English Bible for the authorised version when reading the Epistles and Gospels? Personally, I have no real objection to Series II, which is used in my parish, although I resent what I consider to be the three quite unnecessary changes in the Lord's Prayer. But, I do object, and I object passionately, to the New English Bible. Forsaking the lovely old English of the King James version, and using instead the rather bad or not very modern English of the New English Bible is, I feel, the equivalent of locking away all the church plate and using plastic candlesticks instead. Can the parochial church council under this Measure still insist upon the Authorised Version being used in their church?

My Lords, there is one final point which I should like to make in support of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave about the General Synod. The General Synod will now be all powerful in matters of worship and doctrine, but I feel that its members are far too remote from the rank and file of church members. The congregation elect the parochial church council, who in their turn elect members to the deanery Synod, who in their turn elect members to the diocesan Synod, who in their turn elect lay members to the General Synod. Under this present system, the system we have got before this Measure goes through, the ordinary churchgoer knows who his MP is and can write and express his views about any change that is proposed, and will come before Parliament; and, as an ultimate sanction, if his views are ignored, can withhold his vote at the next General Election. Under the new system, with Parliament out of it, I suppose that one could write to one's own representative on the General Synod if one could find out who he was. But as his election is at so many removes from oneself, what attention would he pay to it? The only thing which an ordinary churchgoer could do by way of protest would be to contest the re-election of his own parochial church council, and as they might well agree with him that would be rather an unfair thing to do. As the General Synod have so much more power, would it not be right now to consider whether it is possible to devise a more direct form of election for the lay members?

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, may I follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, in apologising for my inability to be here later this evening, owing to a very long-standing; engagement. I hope that I may be for- given. I do not agree always with leading articles in The Guardian, but I agree with the leading article in to-day's paper which describes the most reverend I Primate as a man of extraordinary intellectual and spiritual gifts. Personally, I should like to offer him my birthday wishes, as everyone else has done, and to; thank him for his kindness to me and my family in the past.

I understand the view that, in the present state of religious development, particularly in the sphere of negotiations and intentions regarding Church unity, no religious body wants to be too much shackled by legislation. My concern, therefore, is not so much with the admission of a principle, but with the methods employed and with the evidence which has been so far adduced. I am apprehensive on several points. First, there is the general relationship of the Church of England to the nation as a whole. Although the present Synodical government of the Church gives the impression of a Parliamentary democracy, I am afraid I take the view that the facts are quite different and I cannot follow the view which the most reverend Primate holds about the General Synod. For 20 years I was a member of the Church Assembly, so I do know about it. Although the present government gives that impression, the facts are different.

We have been told that 36,000 voters elect 550 members, and that is true. But I very much doubt whether, if you were to ask every man you met in the street, out of the first hundred even one of them could tell you the name of his Synodical representatives whereas quite a number of them would know the name of their Member of Parliament. There is a clear division of opinion between many people who would like to identify themselves with the Church in the last resort, in however tenuous a way, and those who speak of a society where the enumerated Church of England remnant is just one band of committed people competing and/or working with other religious denominations and indeed intellectual groups. I believe that millions of people in this nation share my view of this matter, and I believe that Hooker would have shared it if he had been here to-day. We desire to know that our ways of worship and doctrine will continue to be safeguarded in principle by the Parliament of this Realm; and we further require to be assured that this is of right and not just some crumb of comfort given to us grudgingly.

I come now to the method employed and to the evidence which has been adduced. It is said by some that the cause of unity would be damaged irretrievably unless the Church qua Church had complete charge over its appointments and Liturgy. Some people say that. This seems to me to be a curiously misplaced argument. So far as I know, there is no evidence in the great Roman Catholic Church that its laity have much authority in these matters. On the other hand, those Churches which might loosely be described as non-conformist have not been especially notable either for their Liturgical contribution to Christian worship, or indeed for their agreements in Catholic doctrine. Even the renowned Church of Scotland cannot be adduced as evidence for this argument because of its traditional rejection of episcopacy.

Enormous pains have been taken by those who have produced the various new series of services but, unfortunately, great confusion has been caused. I quote from a letter which is one of many I have received, and I think I may have received them because I was a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee. The letter says: The Measure will create such a division between the generations which I think is so sad. Our grandchildren already are so confused. I have felt like a Catholic recusant for quite a long time, being forced to go to a service which I do not like which seems to be changed at the whim of the officiating clergyman. The new Communion services are, as is fashionable to-day, very permissive. We continually see that the priest or minister or even the president "may" do this or that. One of them even says that the minister "may" say the Commandments! Even the Lord's Prayer has been altered, as has already been said. All this has caused immense distress to many people, and many of them are unwilling to express that distress to their clergymen. Such evidence as has been available over the past 10 years of the attempt of the former Church Assembly, and now the Synod, to produce new forms of worship and ventures in new doctrine have not been universally accepted. We have had three attempts at a new form of Holy Communion service and I understand that a fourth is on the way. These services, plus those for morning and evening prayer, baptism, confirmation and, burial, plus new lectionaries, come forth with a bewildering frequency. I believe that there is no general agreed evidence as to how these new services are appreciated or used in the Church, and I emphasise the need for great care in making general assumptions concerning the whole I Church.

How many parochial church councils in England have ever discussed this Measure, and, indeed, how many deanery Synods? I know that in a number of areas in the North of England, morning service, including Matins and Holy Communion from the 1662 Book, are still the order of the day; I know that Series II and Series III have been rejected in many after trial, and in some cases they have not been tried at all; and that where real discussion and decision occurs at parochial church council and parish meetings there is evidence of great concern at the rapidity and nature of the experiments undertaken. And a very good point was made just now that if you have committed yourself to a certain Series for two years, you have got it.

On the other hand, I am told, and I am willing to believe, that there is evidence of the value of the modern liturgies in some of the new housing areas. It would therefore seem to me that, while approving the principle of reasonable freedom for the Church of England in its forms of worship, we should ask for a greater care to be exercised by the General Synod for those millions of Church members who are basically inarticulate in these matters, but whose consciences and souls arc just as much our care as are those of the professional churchmen, clergy or laity.

We are not really considering to-day a single Measure concerning the Church. We are considering two much more important questions; Is the Church of England the Established Church of the Realm whose services and doors are open to all through the parochial system; or, is the Church of England a small sect of committed Christians, professional and lay? I subscribe to the former point of view and believe that this Measure is very divisive, and to me, at any rate, it is a source of sorrow.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I recognise a certain presumptuousness in making my maiden speech in your Lordships' House on so historic an occasion, yet I feel it might be of interest to your Lordships to hear the views of one of the younger Bishops. Though this Measure owes everything to those (and especially to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury) who, through the last decade, have led the Church of England into a new awareness of itself and a new confidence in its future, nevertheless, it is the younger generation which will have to decide how the Measure, if passed, will be implemented. Nowadays, when people are classified as belonging to an older generation, they having passed the age of 30, no Bishop can claim to be young. However, if I am spared, and if it is accepted, I may see some 20 years of the working of this Measure. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will bear with me as I try to look ahead, and perhaps in doing so, I may relieve some of the anxieties of my noble friend Lord Denham.

Undoubtedly in recent years the Church of England has been through a period of very rapid change. I believe the loosening of many ancient restrictions has led to an increase in the quality of church life, and above all, to a growth in integrity. There have been stupidities; there are still banalities, for instance in the revised form of worship, but the enormous gain has been that Church members have found a new sense of responsibility in being able to make decisions about matters which most deeply affect them. It is this gain which the Measure before us seeks to consolidate.

Having said this about rapid change, I should like to record my impression that within the Church the internal pressures for change are beginning to slacken. It may be that external pressures, particularly economic ones, will bring about changes in all our institutions which none of us can foresee. But internally I suspect that the pattern of change within the Church of England will fall to a normal development curve which, as your Lord-ships will know, is S-shaped. A period of rapid change in such a curve is followed by a much longer period of relative stability, during which the changes are assimilated and excesses are corrected. If this is what is happening in the Church and if, as T believe, the curve of change is beginning to flatten out, then wild charges that the General Synod is hell-bent on a programme of thoughtless reform are very wide of the mark. In fact, the evidence points the other way.

In order to substantiate what I say, let me cite two examples, one relating to worship and the other to doctrine. Earlier this year, the General Synod set up a Working Party, of which I was asked to be Chairman, to look into practical questions concerning the publication of alternative services in a more permanent form. This is not to be a new prayer book. It is certainly not intended as something which would replace the Book of Common Prayer. Rather, the suggestion is that it might be a sort of supplement to the prayer book, of the kind that the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, has been asking for. As Chairman of this Committee, I was most grateful for the suggestion of the noble Earl, which will certainly be considered in the appropriate place. But this would bring together within a single set of covers the best and most widely used forms of service. I mention this in your Lordships' House because it seems to me that the request from the Synod that this suggestion should be considered, witnesses precisely to the desire for a phase of consolidation to which I have previously referred. The age of little blue and green and pink pamphlets in church cannot go on forever. Nor can revision, in our generation, go very much further than it has done already. My noble and mathematically-minded friend Lord Denham, suggested that Series I, II and III must automatically lead to Series IV, V and VI, but this is not so. I hasten to assure him that the Series IV is not on the production line, nor on the drawing board; nor is it even envisaged.

My Lords, liturgically, therefore, I believe the Church of England is heading for a period of relative calm, a time for minor improvements of detail rather than radical changes of form. So the passing of this Measure would not unleash new reforming zeal, but would enable the Church of England to know its worship was its own, freely chosen by its leaders and elected representatives. Surely that is the only way in which people of integrity can worship. Incidentally, perhaps I may at this point reassure the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, who asked about debates in the General Synod, by telling him that these are published verbatim, so there is at least that check on what goes on in the house which has been so variously referred to.

The second example I want to cite concerns doctrine. It is common knowledge that a great deal of rethinking is taking place in Christian circles concerning the nature and content of the Christian faith. This is not a new phenomenon. It has happened in every Christian century, but always seems more radical in one's own generation than in previous generations, because one lacks the benefit of hindsight. But this continual development and reformation of doctrine poses a problem to any Church whose formularies were fixed in a particular historic period. So we may well ask now, in what senses do we to-day believe in the doctrines as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, or more particularly in the 39 Articles?

When my distinguished predecessor at Durham was asked many years ago to consider whether a revision of the 39 Articles was possible, the advice of the Doctrine Commission under his chairmanship was "to leave the Articles as they are, but to change the Church's way of relating to them"—in other words, the Church should not disown its doctrinal past. It cannot abandon these ancient formularies, but it can learn to see them in historical perspective as key points on the map of Christian doctrine, rather than as final expressions of Christian truth. Those who fear that the Church of England might abuse this freedom to decide its own doctrine fail to understand the way in which Christian thinking actually develops. The legal safeguards in the present Measure which give a unique doctrinal status to the Book of Common Prayer, simply reflect what has already been happening and will go on happening. Nothing can surpass the Book of Common Prayer as the classic statement of what the Church of England is, but it belongs to its time. I say we must inevitably relate to it in a way which is different from that of our forefathers, and that is what the Measure allows us.

I am confident that your Lordships will not be misled by those who put alarmist constructions on this Measure. It is, in my view, a sober and constructive attempt to enable the Church of England to retain its integrity and hence its viability as the Church of the nation.

5 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot say how much I appreciated the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham; I agreed with almost every- thing he said. Though I cannot promise to come up to Durham to hear him preach further sermons, I will listen to him in this House with the greatest of pleasure. I hope he will make a point of coming down here, as his predecessor, whom we greatly respected, used to do.

I will spare the blushes of the most reverend Primate; he has had to endure too many already to-day. I merely wish him many happy returns of the day. I hope he has a good array of rather special birthday presents, as I did on my 70th birthday; and I can tell him, if he does not know already, that before very long the State is about to send him a cheque for £10 and beef coupons. May I say that I agreed with most of the points made by my noble friend Lord Clitheroe, and I hope that those who are what you might call the Establishment in the General Synod will read those remarks and take note of them, because I think he represents a very large body of the Church of England, particularly of the older people, who are some of the staunchest supporters.

The arguments for the Measure have been deployed with skill and clarity, and the most pressing one to me is the fact that at the moment the Church of England is the only member of the Anglican Communion that has not got complete control over its own worship and doctrine; I feel for that reason that we could not possibly turn down this Measure. Against that I do have reservations. I do not believe it was necessary to bring this Measure along at this stage. The Church of England is in process of producing numerous alternative services, and I should have preferred the Synod to come along when they had chosen what they regarded as their ultimate choice for an alternative Prayer Book.

I think the haste has been due to two factors. First of all, it was hoped that there would be a union with the Methodists and the Methodists would definitely have wanted some loosening up between Church and State, as this Measure represents. But twice the Synod prayed for guidance to the Holy Spirit and twice the Holy Spirit turned the thing down, and therefore there seems to be no valid reason on that score for any haste. The other reason, I think, is that many members of the Synod, both clergy and lay, have a pathological fear that Parliament is their enemy in some way and is likely to turn down at any time their requests for liturgical change.

They also feel that Parliament, which may have a non-Christian majority, is no place in which matters concerning a Christian denomination, a Christian Church, can be judged. Parliament does not have to be expert in everything it is called upon to judge. It legislates upon agriculture, and how many of its Members have ever worked on a farm? It legislates on crime, and I do not know how many have experience of crime themselves. It legislates upon herrings, and I do not know how many of them ever caught anything except a red herring. Parliament is a dispassionate judge; it makes up its mind as to whether there is a substantial body of opinion in the country which has been overruled by a majority, and that it can only learn from its constituencies and from its postbag.

But it is the losing of this ultimate safeguard which most worries me. The General Synod is a religious body and its members tend to have very strong views on all religious matters. Most of them are members of religious groups or parties. I may say that I am one of the few who do not belong to any such group or party. Feelings can run very high. I acquit the Bishops, but I would not trust the clergy and laity never to lose their judgment. After all, all history supports me; more terrible things have been done in the name of religion than of anything else in this world.

I should explain, as has been explained before, that there is a system whereby each of the three houses, bishops, clergy and laity, have a veto on important matters, and one can only hope that the three elements in the Synod will not all go off the deep end at any one time. So on balance I am prepared to vote for the Measure, but I hope it will not be immediately followed by a Measure to alter the method of appointment of Bishops, for I would not like to sec the tribal warfare that would inevitably result in General Synod if that were done.

One final word to people who dislike the new services, as many of them do. They should either lobby their PCC or turn up at the annual meeting and vote the PCC down. But they should remember, if they manage to supplant the PCC, they should not demand the monopoly for any form of services satisfactory to themselves. If you do not want to be downtrodden yourself you must not tread down other people.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I take it that I am the first speaker in this debate who is not a member of the Church of England. You will not expect me to apologise for that omission, but it gives me the privilege, which I eagerly accept, of being the first Nonconformist to wish many happy returns of the day to the most reverend Primate of All England. And I say it in an ecumenical fashion; not that I am always able to speak for everybody else in the Church to which I belong, but in this regard I know I speak Catholic truth accepted and rejoiced in by my fellow Methodists, the United Reformed Church and other separated brethren.

I have been a little alarmed at the encomia that have been poured down upon the head of the most reverend Primate, because among many laudatory comments there has seemed to me to be an attitude that this young man will soon depart from us and that we are really engaged in an obituary exercise. It is nothing of the sort, and if it were then let me comfort the most reverend Primate by saying this. I have just written a couple of obituaries for two learned Churchmen; I wrote them some time ago and they have been highly successful in postponing the publication of these documents. We hope that, in the terminal condition in this House as to his Primacy, he will continue to serve his day and generation in the name of his God and Lord in the various avocations to which he will commit himself. That is a sincere and heartfelt commendation on the part of myself speaking on behalf of so many of my fellow Methodists and fellow Nonconformists.

Let me make a brief reference, if I may, in congratulation for the felicitous maiden speech of the Bishop of Durham. Let me take the opportunity of thanking him for the education that he has provided for certain Methodist students and the evidence, to which I give testimony, of the excellent results of his tuition, and not least for his counsel of wisdom, and the internal evidence which would support the proposition to which he has given himself that we are in no danger, in this exercise, of radical and reckless judgments on the part of the Church of England. It would be impudent of me to go any further in that matter, because I do not know of their internal affairs except by looking through the window.

As to this Measure, if it were being debated in a loud and large place where I frequently make my presence felt, or go to listen to the very extensive liturgy, I think that most of those gathered in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon would say that if a number of people wished to make pious noises in particular places then it is nobody's business but their own; it is an entire piece of impudence to suggest that any other body should prescribe how those noises should be made, and what they should contain. However, I think that this is not entirely a matter that is exclusive to the concern that every decent-minded person would take as the right of a religious organisation to order its own prayers and say its own hymns.

I have perhaps a special reason for thinking that I can take a nearer part in these matters. Your Lordships will have noticed that since I have had the privilege of entering this House, I have taken the opportunity of sitting as near as is proper to my ecclesiastical friends. Indeed on some occasions like to-day, I am nearly embedded among them. This is in the hope that I have cherished that one day there may be a place for a Methodist Metropolitan alongside an Anglican diocesan on these Benches. That is a hope that is at present deferred, but not, I think, abandoned. I take the attitude to the Church of England that all pious people take to the harp: I am not so much involved in it now, but I hope to be involved much more in it later on. This is a sensible view to take of a Church which is moving towards more ecumenical gestures in a wider sense of unity.

I find it impossible to be disturbed by the fears that this enterprise that is now to be continued—not initiated—is something which will imperil the sanctity, or the propriety, of the Book of Common Prayer. I was much interested in the reference of the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, to Shakespeare's sonnets. I join with him in believing that there is incomparable beauty in these sonnets, as there is incomparable beauty in the Cranmer words and cadences of the Book of Common Prayer. Would it be impertinent of me to remind him of the opening lines of one of those sonnets; Oh how much more doth beauty seem, by that sweet ornament which truth doth give. It is a fairly dangerous occupation to bask in the beauty of language when it is imperative to pierce more deeply and find, aperçu, new attitudes to truth which I would think as a Nonconformist, must surely be acceptable to all who read the 1662 Prayer Book in relation to the Burial Service. I am not attracted to the difference between saying "thou" and "you". I wish in a way we had a verb like the French tutoyer to express this "thouing" and "youing". I am sufficient of a "square" to think that it is possibly better to use the more remote "thou" in speaking to God, and not what can so easily become the more hail and hearty "you", but that is possibly my age and has nothing to do with the capacities and desires for worship of the younger generation.

I think that the safeguards for the Book of Common Prayer are adequate. It appears to me that some are energised by the fear that when one travels in London to-day one sees expressed those brown lines with the particular textual addition to them, "Do not enter the box unless your exit is clear". That is something very often used as a text for a memorial service! But whatever may be its acceptance in that field, I think that none of your Lordships would dispute the fact that there is no real threat to those traditional forms of worship which can be happily, if I may say so to the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, combined. We Methodists have found that it is perfectly possible to find refreshment of spirit and new attitudes of mind, and new suggestions of piety, by combining various forms of worship. If I may say so, I do not think much of Series III, but I am much enamoured of Series II, and I find it an enrichment of devotional life. Therefore I heartily support this Measure.

May I delay your Lordships a little to wander out into a rather wider field. I have the strong feeling—I deplore it and I wish it were not so—that whatever may be our encouraging noises and our hopes, we are still, as a religious community, declining. That decline has various respects in which it becomes more accelerated, though there are advances, and one of them is the increased number of those who seek to become priests in the Church of England. I welcome that, and there is a comparable movement within the Methodist Church. But it is surely beyond any question that unless the Churches come together in some radical relationship, then they will certainly, if they do not hang together, tend to hang separately.

I do not think that this is any longer a question. It is undoubtedly a problem. Whatever may finally be the attitude to the establishment, I believe that there must be a radical relationship between the State and the Church. I hope that we shall learn from Gallicanism and from Ultra-montanism, as well as from Febronianism. How dangerous are the attitudes of conflict when absolutes collide or tend to collide. I do not believe that this will imperil a true relationship between the Church and the community, but I believe that it will facilitate the coming together of Churches which hitherto have been prohibited from radical association because of the present conditions of establishment. In other words, I believe that in this case, as in any others, statutory controls must give may to free bargaining. I do not mean horse-trading in theological matters, but I believe that there is an increased opportunity now for Churches, which themselves are weak, to gain their strength in not merely a utilitarian sense but to gain a sense of impact and significance by pooling resources which are desperately needed in the contemporary situation.

Further, there is one point about this Measure in its implications which is of immense importance, and it is that there is alongside the cherished belief in, and love for, the traditional forms of worship, a continuing sense that a great deal of what is said, however beautifully said, is difficult to understand, and that one of the Measures, which I believe this Measure will facilitate, is the attempt to make the truths of the Christian faith understandable in language which is contemporary. However bad that language may be, it is better to tell the truth in an understandable form, even if you split your infinitives, than to tell the truth in a form that is so beset by antique and antiquated phraseology, as to be incomprehensible anyhow.

Mind you, I ought to counter that by reminding myself of Mark Twain who, in one of his more perceptive moments, said, when he was confronted with this problem of the unintelligibility of the Christian doctrine, that what really bothered him were the things he could understand. I suggest that that ought to be borne in mind also. Nothing can be lost by an attempt to create a larger and greater measure of intelligibility in the very matters that belong to our peace.

Before I sit down, may I make one other comment, and it has to do with the whole state of the society in which we live. I am sure that my ecclesiastical friends and colleagues in the Church of England believe that this Measure will conduce to a better presentation of the Faith which they cherish, and a greater response to the Gospel which they offer. This is so in a day when more and more people are conscious of the need for a social contract. Only as we pull together in a common effort are we likely to survive our present difficulties. We should remember that a social contract ultimately depends, as we believe, upon a divine covenant, but unless the contract we make is already made, so to speak, in Heaven, unless it is our Father's good pleasure to give us that Kingdom, there is not much point in our collaborating, however favourably and however generously, in order to secure it.

In other words, the brotherhood of man is a contingency doctrine which depends upon the Fatherhood of God. That is not an entirely simplistic way of putting it. I believe that whatever may be the framework of words in which we express our spiritual realities it is on those spiritualities that we shall ultimately find the basis of a social contract that will work, a community of people who will work together because they believe that overshadowing their efforts is the divine approbation and encouragement. It is for that reason that I most heartily support this Measure in the hope that it will fulfil the desires and ambitions, not only of the Church of England, but will help to make possible the day when all Christians work together as one in the Family of God.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I have been a Member of this House for over three years now, but this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to address your Lordships, for I do not think that what we Law Lords say to one another at Judiciary Sittings on Wednesday mornings really count as speeches. My excuse is, of course, in part that the claims of judicial work make it difficult for a Law Lord to attend debates. To my very great regret those claims prevented me this afternoon from hearing the speech of the most reverend Primate when he introduced the Motion. But apart from that, it is not often that an occasion arises when a Law Lord thinks that he can both properly and usefully make any contribution to the discussion. It so happened, however—I know not why—that I was asked to become a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, and before this Measure was submitted to it I never had any occasion to concern myself with such matters. So I had to study it with an entirely fresh mind and without any Party creed for or against it. It seemed to me that it might be of some interest to your Lordships to hear how the Measure struck someone who was coming more from outside than most of the speakers who have preceded me. I can assure your Lordships that I will be brief as I see that there are many other speakers on the list.

My Lords, the important part of the Measure is obviously that which empowers the General Synod, subject to safeguards, to prepare, approve and introduce new forms of worship other than those contained in the Book of Common Prayer without having recourse to Parliament. Its safeguards are, of course, first, that the Book of Common Prayer remains available for use in church in any parish which desires to use it; and, secondly, that any new form of service has to be approved in the General Synod by very substantial majorities in each of the three Houses. From the literature with which members of the Ecclesiastical Committee were deluged, I gather that what was said against the Measure by its opponents was that, although technically available, the Book of Common Prayer will inevitably tend to fall into desuetude when this Measure is implemented and in its place will be a great variety of different forms of service in different parishes. Speaking for myself as an outsider, I can fully understand that fear. On the other hand, there are weighty considerations on the other side.

At the Reformation, English replaced Latin as the language of the services of the national Church because the reformers thought that the services of the Church should be intelligible to the ordinary man and woman who heard them. I suppose it is undoubtedly true to say that to the ordinary man and woman to-day the language of the 1662 Prayer Book is nearly as unintelligible in many places as Latin must have been to the ordinary man and woman in the 16th and 17th centuries. In that connection, it is interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church has in recent years introduced the Mass in English in place of Latin. My wife, who is a Roman Catholic, tells me that it is difficult in England nowadays to hear Mass in Latin.

Though one sees the very great force of the arguments in favour of the Measure, I cannot also help feeling—echoing what some noble Lords who preceded me have said—that in the field of Church services there is some virtue in a certain stateliness of langauge, slightly remote at all events from the language of everyday life. I feel that a wholesale injection of the vernacular, of the ordinary language of everyday life, into the services of the Church would in the long run do much more harm than good. But as I saw it, and as I see it to-day, the question that we must ask ourselves is not whether personally we much care for Series II, or whether we are nervous about what Series IV may produce in future; or whether we, if we had been members of the Synod, would have voted for or against the Measure. As I see it, the question is whether there can be any possible justification for our refusing to assent to a Measure which has been passed by such vast majorities in the Synod?

The only possible reason for our doing so would be if we were satisfied that the Lay House of the General Synod did not represent the feelings of the churchgoers in this country, and there is no ground whatever to think that. Of course, there are undoubtedly people who go not infrequently to church who are not on the electoral roll and that, no doubt, is to be regretted. But we must take matters as we find them and the Lay House of the Synod is undoubtedly representative of those on the electoral roll. For those reasons, I trust that your Lord-ships will assent to this Motion without a Division.

In conclusion, I would only add that I fully agree with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said in his letter to The Times, that if by any chance the Motion was rejected the consequences would be utterly disastrous, because it would lead to a pressure for disestablishment which it would be impossible to resist. That is all I have to say and I thank your Lord-ships for listening to me so courteously.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to my lot and gives me great pleasure and great honour to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, for his splendid maiden speech. I think it is splendid to have one of the legal profession to guide us on these matters, to give us the legal point of view. I am sure that we all very much appreciate his speech. I hope that we shall hear from him more often and that his legal duties will not prevent his attendance to provide his legal counsel and advice.

My Lords, I notice that I am the only woman speaking in this debate to-day, and I am very much one of the humblest members of the Church of England—the real grass roots. I have to confess that I do not altogether welcome this Measure with great enthusiasm. I do not think it is advisable to seek entirely to detach the Church of England from Parliamentary control. This Measure does not seek to sever the Church entirely at present, but it looks as though it is the thin end of the wedge of total detachment in the future. Parliament's power needs strengthening, especially now, in this lawless age, and should not be whittled away. Even if Members of the other House are themselves not of the Christian faith, many of their constituents are and they represent their constituents' views. The Church of England, governed by the Sovereign and linked to Parliament, has been for over 300 years the State Church, catholic, historical and traditional. It has certainly played its part in history. Is this the time to weaken the links between Church and State? Will not this very act be misunderstood by many? And what will those in Europe and other countries abroad think—that England is abandoning the Christian faith? By demoting it they might well think that it is, and that it was putting it in the background. The Church would become just the Church in England and no longer the supreme Church of England, enabled to counsel and advise on Christian ethics and to give a lead to the nation in moral affairs. This is so sorely needed now. I leave it to other noble Lords to put the constitutional side of this Measure, for they are far better qualified than I am to do so.

So I turn to the subject of the Prayer Book of 1662, which I believe most Christians in this country greatly cherish. I stand foursquare with those who wish to retain the Prayer Book of 1662. I am deeply thankful to know that there are safeguards in this Measure to keep it in use, and I express the hope that these are sufficient to make the Prayer Book safe for posterity, for the loss of it would be nothing short of a tragedy for the whole Church and for all the people of this country. While saying this, I realise that some of the Occasional Services, as I think they are called, may need revision and alteration. Of course, deviations have been in practice for many years in some churches, such as substituting the Kyries instead of the Commandments in the Eucharist, to mention but one instance; and certainly the Catechism would have to be revised, for no child these days would agree—and I quote; To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters"— hardly democracy, I think, my Lords. So I welcome the clause in this Measure that permits alterations in certain services and the compiling of new services for occasions at present unforeseen.

Very many people are puzzled by the emphasis that is now put on making the Eucharist the central and only service on Sundays. I know that it is the only service that the Bible tells us to continue with, and for which we have this supreme direction. I do not find this difficult to accept, as I was brought up as what the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has described as "High Church". So I have been used to that service since my childhood. But there is a large body of Christians who have not had such teaching. In every parish there is probably a small band of those who are trained in Church matters and a few faithful ones besides the PCC members. These attend services regularly; but by far the largest number of Christians are those who certainly try to live Christian lives, who are very often kind, generous and good neighbours, who do voluntary work, et cetera, and who make their Communion at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun, according to the Prayer Book rubrics, but who do not feel the need to make their Communion at other times though they wish to attend church services from time to time. So I ask the right reverend Prelates not to banish Matins, as this large body of persons would probably be lost altogether to the Church, which would be very sad.

This may not apply to all the churches (I do not know anything very much about how the services go in the city churches) but it certainly applies to those in the country. To illustrate this I will briefly mention a parish that I know well but which must remain anonymous. The rector retired a couple of years or so ago. He had not got on very well with his flock, and the church attendances had consequently fallen. No new rector was appointed, but the rector of the next parish was made the priest in charge to come and take the services. The attendance was still rather bad because the task was rather too much for one person, though he did his best. A rumour circulated in the village that the church might be closed. Naturally, this upset everyone in the parish, so the churchwardens decided to call a village meeting, which was extremely well attended. This rumour was entirely quashed; there was no truth in it. However, the wardens mentioned the fact that the church attendances were very low, and asked what could be done about it. After a long discussion it was decided that on the first Sunday in the month there should be a special service which everybody was asked to attend. It was to be their choice; Matins with a shortened service of Communion afterwards. The various village organisations were to take part in this service, and were to be responsible for reading the Lessons and taking the collections. This was started, and attendance has been extraordinarily good; but I have noticed that very few people stay on for the second service. Had it not been Matins, I very much doubt whether there would be anything like the congregations that now attend.

Many people are very upset and completely bewildered at the changes in the Church, and the changes also in the aspects of its teaching. They ask, "Why are the changes necessary? What is the ultimate object?" So far no convincing answer has been forthcoming to calm their fears. Here I echo my noble friend Lord Waldegrave: I think the Synod really ought to try to get over to the general public more answers to these questions. In these days of stress and violence, with life changing all around with such rapidity, Christians need a stable Church to cling to amid the tumult of storm and strain of modern life, not a Church which appears to be set on a course of change for change's sake alone.

My Lords, I think that, although Christian unity is extremely desirable, the price might be too high if the Synod should seek to alter the doctrine of the Church or any of its traditional services and customs. Christian unity can probably be best served by each Church which desires unity with another, while keeping its own tenets, traditions and customs, throwing bridges across the river which divides them by holding joint services from time to time, as is done now—I attended one in St. Margaret's, Westminster, yesterday—and trying to discuss matters; not seeking to rush into complete unity, but sowing the seed and remembering that the sowers of seed cannot always expect to reap the harvest in their own time. The Synod is a new body, and so, I should have thought, has hardly had time to find its feet. I feel it should pause and reflect before making any more changes. My Lords, while I think this Measure is very good in parts, unless it is amended in some way, if there should be a Division I shall vote against it. I think that the powers for which the Synod asks are far too wide for the preservation of the Church of England as we have always known it.

My Lords, before I sit down I should like to express my best wishes to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I wish him very many happy returns of this day, and I hope he will have a happy and a peaceful retirement.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, first of all may I add my congratulations to those expressed to the most reverend Primate, and my thanks for all he has done during his term of office, especially for his many journeyings abroad, which have brought so much pleasure to so many people in many lands. As a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee which examines all Measures as to their expediency prior to their being brought before Parliament, I feel that I should say a very few words on this subject. Many of your Lordships will have received letters requesting that we should reject this Measure. The chief fear seems to be that the General Synod will be given the power—and, indeed, according to many of the letters, would undoubtedly take the power—to discontinue the use of the 1662 Prayer Book. I find no substance in this charge, and on studying the Measure it is clear that there are ample safeguards to ensure that the people of this country, represented by the parochial church councils of our parishes, have the power to ensure that, if it is their wish, the Prayer Book should be used in their services.

This Measure only allows the Church the freedom democratically to determine its own forms of service, with the safeguards that I have mentioned. For example, the Parish Church of Christ Church, Forest Hill, where I worship, uses on the first Sunday in the month the service in Series II at 10.30 in the morning. This is normally a parade service for the Scouts and Guides and the families of the congregation. On the other Sundays in the month we have returned for an experimental period to the 1662 Prayer Book Services, which I must admit I find very refreshing. We shall continue like this until Christmas and at that time a decision will be made by common agreement as to the future. We are not enamoured of Series III, so we do not use it. Evensong is always from the 1662 Prayer Book. We have full agreement with our vicar and, even if this is not so in other parishes, my point is that whatever the circumstances the will of those who attend the church is paramount. This Measure does not alter that position at all. I believe that we should give the freedom to the Church to devise and, within the safeguards, to experiment with services which we who attend the Church can use or reject as is our democratic right.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I will begin by paying tribute to the ever-youthful zeal of the most reverend Primate, to the work that he has done and to the enthusiasm for change shown by the General Synod. It is sad that these factors have not sparked off a greater response from the Church membership and brought it alive as a force in our society. The Measure now before your Lordships' House is concerned with rules and with services. It seems to me that somewhere in Church House there has been lost the vision that the most reverend Primate showed in Rome, when he met Pope Paul and reflected upon the results of the initiative of Pope John. There, following the work of the Council, a new sense of duty and opportunity was born which reached out to the world. This awakening produced the new Mass and the new Catechism.

Here, in 1965, the most reverend Primate linked current and future steps to promote greater unity in the Churches with the consideration of constitutional changes such as are contained in the Measure before this House. The vision of greater unity has, I fear, gone and we are left with the words. We are seeking freedom for framing the words but not for the appointment of those whose role it is to advise on the framing of the words. Surely this is illogical and unsatisfactory and is seeking a responsibility which is not a real responsibility at all?

Does this Measure help, I would ask, to prepare the way for greater unity in the Church? My Lords, the answer is, No, if we accept the clear conclusions of the 1965/1970 Commission. After consultations with representatives of other Church organisations, the Commissioners unanimously found that the prerequisites for progress towards greater unity was for the Church of England to find an acceptable way of appointing its own leaders, for others were unable to accept the present system. The possibility of progress towards greater unity is the one subject in this field which seems to interest our younger members, and this interest seems to me to be waning. A young group put a very cynical view to me a few days ago when we were discussing this question. I was told that there are many who derive satisfaction from discussions when they know that nothing can come out of them—for then, responsibility for a decision can be dodged.

My Lords, I have to-day to pass on to the right reverend Prelates in your Lordships' House the charge that some of them are satisfied to go on talking about greater unity, but will not seek the decisions which are necessary to make the talks realistic. What is significant is that it is not on matters of doctrine that the difficulty has been most evident, but; on matters of administration. In my view this is tragic, for only if Christians get together and speak together will their message be seriously heeded. We have an incomplete and illogical request before us in this Measure. May we ask the right reverend Prelates, particularly, to think again and to come to Parliament with further proposals which will inspire confidence in their leadership, for no institution can flourish unless it believes in itself and is prepared to exercise its duties in full responsibility.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Grenfell as I am a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee and as Hansard is now occasionally read perhaps I should explain why I voted for this Measure, or rather it might be more appropriate to explain why I did not oppose it. It seemed to me that the main argument was, as we have heard this afternoon, that the Synod did not really represent the great body of Anglicans. That may be true. What I could not understand was the implication that Parliament could represent the great body of Anglicans any better.

My memory goes back to a debate in 1967 initiated in your Lordships House by my noble friend Lord Aberdare concerning religious education in schools. Afterwards, I noticed from Hansard that a good third of those who took part in this debate said that they were not Christians, but Humanists, Agnostics, and so on. That was all right in a debate on the subject of religious education; but in a matter of this kind, if one does not believe in the Christian religion, it is difficult to see why Humanists, Agnostics, professing Jews or any non-Anglicans should wish to become involved in a discussion on the ritual of a form of worship in which they do not believe. I suppose it is possible that Members of Parliament may feel like that. It is true, of course, that they represent constituents who are religious. I am aware also that there are a large number of sincere Anglicans in another place, as there are here, and it may be asserted that they represent the main body of Anglican opinion better than the Synod—though I do not see how that can possibly be proved.

It was said that one of the main reasons; why this Measure appealed to Parliament was that the Church wanted to preserve the 1662 Prayer Book and they thought it was in danger. This is not the first occasion when this liberty has been given in the matter of experimental services. I myself am a keen, and almost fanatical, advocate of the Authorised Version and of the Book of Common Prayer. I do read the Lessons in my church but I refuse to use anything other than the Authorised Version. There is the argument, for example, such as we have heard this afternoon, that the 16th century or 17th century language is not understood by a great number of people. Is that not also the case with Shakespeare? I wonder whether "Hamlet" would be a better box-office draw if it were re-written in contemporary, trendy and colloquial English? I doubt it. Be that as it may, I again find myself wondering whether Parliament is a body which would stand up for that 17th-century language. There are perfectly good safeguards for the use of the Prayer Book and I should have thought that the present Parliament was more concerned to secure democracy rather than to oppose any form of dogma.

I confess that when I first considered this matter I felt a little nervous about the Prayer Book and was particularly apprehensive about one alternative form rather amusingly described by one Bishop as "an exercise in persistent, prosaic, purblind pedantry". But I was impressed with the care with which this Report was prepared by those responsible and I saw no difficulty in voting for it. Of course it is true that abuses may creep in, but, as I understand it, this is an exercise in liberty and one of the main criteria of liberty is that you should give people the power to make mistakes. I was impressed with the arguments and, having considered them very carefully, I voted for the Measure, as I hope your Lordships will do.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know whether it is appropriate, on an occasion like this, to declare an interest but I do in fact have the giving of 1½ livings. Youth has been used as an attraction for the new Orders of Service. I am one of the younger people speaking in this debate this evening, and I am afraid that I am not attracted to the new Orders of Service. It is extremely difficult to argue with a man as saintly as the most reverend Primate. One of the ironies of history is, I believe, that he is a "twin" to Cary Grant!

I shall try to show your Lordships why I am unhappy about this Measure. First, it seems to me that in spite of what the most reverend Primate said in his opening remarks, this is disestablishment by the back door. Of course, the General Synod will vote to give itself more power—what Chamber would not? How many of your Lordships would vote against giving yourselves more power? I am querying two facts. First, there is the premise that the position of the 1662 Prayer Book is made more secure. My Lords, it was made much more secure by the Acts of Uniformity. Secondly—and I am the first to admit that this is a totally subjective judgment—in my view the Church of England, with the help of Parliament, has allowed to be used in Services Series III of the New English Bible. Again this is a subjective judgment, but the King James' Version was written by men of unshakeable faith, who wrote the best English that has ever been written. The New English Bible was written by men whose English was certainly not as good—it would be grossly impertinent of me to comment on their faith.

Let me take just two or three examples. Quoting from Genesis Chapter I, verse 1 of the Authorised Version of the Bible, it says; In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. In the New English Bible we have; In the beginning of Creation, when God made heaven and earth … My Lords, I submit that represents more words, is no clearer and is worse English.

I should now like to read to your Lordships David's lament over Saul and Jonathan, which I think is possibly the most beautiful passage. It may not be the most Christian or the most Godly version of the Old Testament, but I think it is fabulous. In the New English Bible it reads like this; O prince of Israel, laid low in death! How are the men of war fallen! Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the Philistine women rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult. Hills of Gilboa, let no dew or rain fall upon you, no showers on the uplands! For there the shield of the warriers lie tarnished, and the shield of Saul, no longer bright with oil. And the last verse; Fallen, fallen are the men of war; and their armour left on the field. Now I am going to read from the Authorised Version, which I submit to your Lordships is so much better, though I regret to say the print in this House of Lords copy is very small; The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. This is the verse which is so much better; Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been. annointed with oil. And the last verse reads like this; How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished! My Lords, in my humble opinion there is no possible comparison between those two versions. The most reverend Primate indicates assent, and I sincerely hope that he may vote against his own Measure.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves this part of his speech, may I remind him that this Measure has nothing whatsoever to do with the versions of the Bible that are read in Church. They are controlled by the Versions of the Bible Measure, a quite separate Measure which was passed by this House some years ago.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he understands all the letters of St. Paul as written in the Authorised Version?


My Lords, I know that this particular aspect of the Bible and the Prayer Book is not the subject of the Measure and I am coming on to try to deal with this. I am going to quote one more passage, possibly because I love it so much, which in the Authorised Version of the Bible is so fabulous, so wonderful, that it is worth quoting again. This is the first beatitude. In the New English Bible it reads: How blest are those who know that they are poor; the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. The Authorised Version reads: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. As I said, my Lords, this is shorter and clearer. It would be possible to go on like this all the afternoon and all the evening.

In the Book of Common Prayer, the Niscene Creed is again incomparably more majestic than the version in Series III. Series III, I would point out to your Lordships, is available neither in your Lordships' Library nor in the Library of the House of Commons. What lesson that tells I am not quite sure, but it tells quite a lot. What worries me is that in the days before compulsory' education, children of ploughmen learned the Prayer Book and the Bible at their mother's knee and they understood it. Now, with vastly increased education, the Church says, "We cannot understand the old and hallowed Order of Service, "and with Parliament's consent allow these new Orders to be used.

This is the point to which I was coming when I was interrupted so politely by the right reverend Prelate. If Parliament has allowed and helped the Church to use not particularly good Orders of Service—and again I say it is a subjective judgment—what is the Church going to do when it does not even have the erratic advice of Parliament? The noble Lord. Lord Soper, spoke, as he always has done, brilliantly on this Measure, but I should like the Church of England to go on having his advice even in spite of his not wanting to give it. I think I would even accept Series III if it was read by the noble Lord, Lord Soper. But most parish priests do not have the powers of delivery of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. My Lords, I am not a particularly good Christian, but I have been brought up to love the old English liturgy. Please, please, let us conserve it; let us go on using it. After all, it is totally inspired.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, as a Member of the Ecclesiastical Committee which considered the Measure which is before us to-day, I have heard most of the arguments both for and against. Of course, as that Committee has approved of the Measure, I shall not dream of opposing it. I think in the main it is very right, but I must voice a few misgivings which I have and I hope that your Lordships will realise that they are my personal misgivings and are in no way the voice of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I have been very much afraid that this Measure would open the door of change a little too wide, although I must confess that my fears were greatly stilled by the very excellent maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham.

However, there is none the less a general tendency to-day to look upon change as being always for the better. One sees this in various walks of life. For example, one with which we are all familiar; whenever anything goes wrong we have a Cabinet reshuffle, whichever Government are to be in power. A new name in dealing with an old problem does not necessarily solve it. One sees it, too, in the industrial world. An old article sold with perhaps a new name or a new coloured packaging or something like that persuades the public that it is something entirely new. Of course it is not. Change is not necessarily always for the better. It is very often for the worse. For instance, what was the point in Series II of changing the position of the two Canticles, the Te Deum and the Benedictus, and reversing their positions? I cannot think that a change like that will make either of them very much more intelligible to anybody either singing them or listening to them. Changes like that are unnecessary, although I am by no means setting my face against all change.

The Report of the Standing Committee of the General Synod refers to reform by experiment so far as the Liturgy is concerned. It is my experience that experiments along these lines tend to become permanent. Paragraph 24 of this Report reads; The language of the Authorised Version and the 1662 Prayer Book can be a barrier to contemporary understanding. I find that a little difficult to accept. I should like to know just what evidence there is to prove that. I cannot believe that anyone who has ever been to Church or has even read the Bible will find a great deal of difficulty, except in certain odd places, and then he can always consult his Vicar. I should also like to make a point about the New English Bible, although I know that this is not affected by this Measure. It is read in my own parish church constantly. I think for reading to oneself it is an extremely valuable book. I have been reading a little of it every night and have found that it cleared up many matters which had been difficult to understand before. But read in Church it takes away all the magic and the dignity of the Authorised Version, and is it not right that in our worship we should try to raise ourselves to heavenly standards rather than try to bring heavenly standards down to earth, and contemporary earth at that?

There is one other point in this Measure that I should like to touch upon which has already been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave. That is Section 4(3) which reads: Where provision is made by Canon by virtue of Section 1(5) of this Measure, the Canon shall provide for requiring the forms of service and variations approved, made or used thereunder, to be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter". What is the departure from, or being contrary to, the doctrine of the Church of Engand in an inessential matter? I should like to know what it is. I think it would be very much better if those last four words had been omitted. Apart from a few misgivings like that, I am generally in favour of this Measure and I am sure it will be passed by your Lordships.

My Lords, before I sit down, may I be allowed to echo all the tributes which have been paid to the most reverend Primate. If anybody has worked hard in the cause of Christianity, it is he and, on this his seventieth birthday, I should like to wish him many happy returns not only of the day but to this House.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London will have an opportunity at the end of this debate of commenting further on the speeches, perhaps I might come to the aid, in a small way, of my noble friend Lord Onslow. Although the direct point that he made may not be immediately relevant to this debate, what he was trying to say was very relevant indeed in view of the claims which have been made earlier on by those who have spoken from the Bishops' Bench. They seemed to indicate to me that they thought there was a division in this matter between the older generation and the younger generation.

From such personal experience as I have, I find that younger people are more conservative in their attitude to the Prayer Book and to the Bible than some of us who are older. I know that this applies to my own family, and to a much wider field also. I believe that there is something reassuring in the familiar cadences of the Authorised Version which appeals to young people, and if, by any chance, the words used in the Authorised Version or in the 1662 Prayer Book are difficult to understand—and they sometimes are—surely the whole object of the teaching from the pulpit of the sermon is to bring those of us who are better educated than our predecessors were—or so we suppose—into a better understanding of the meaning in the context of the times in which we are living.

I intervene only briefly in this debate, very conscious of the fact that I have very little right to do so, because I command only a limited experience of the organisation and inner controversies of the Church of England. I am not, so to speak, a professional layman. My knowledge, beyond a characteristic ignorance of doctrine of an ordinary member, is derived from being the Chairman of the Bishop of Chelmsford's Commission into the Reorganisation of the Deanery of Colchester. The impact which our Report made is, I am afraid, not such as to give me any confidence in the capacity of any individual or group to make any substantial change in the present ordering of the Church's affairs, even on a limited local level. Yet I felt I should like to comment on this Measure which has been put to us by the most reverend Primate. He said it would have most far-reaching effects. The comments I offer are with deference to better knowledge and experience than I have.

This Measure, if passed, will not affect the establishment of the Church, but it will mean that the Church ceases to be a national Church. This, in the present circumstances, may be right. If so, it ceases, from an organisational point of view, to be logical for it to continue to be based on the territorial parish. If the decision of the parochial church council is to determine the form of service to be used, even if this is decided under the influence of the incumbent, and even if the variations are superficially confined to forms of service approved by the General Synod, the differences of the Anglican services as between Churches will be so great that their congregations will become gathered congregations and not parish congregations. This may be right because one knows, even under the present circumstances, of the use of Series I, II and III. This process is already in train.

I foresee another problem. If the General Synod were to fall under the influence of one section of the Church, the forms of service approved might mirror only one approach to worship and, depending on where the emphasis lay, force those who prefer something different to leave the parish church for some other denomination. The Church of England would cease to be what I believe it is to-day for the vast majority of people in this country—an all-embracing religious community.

The role of Parliament so far has been to conserve an element of uniformity in the Church of England derived from the experiences and wisdom of the 16th and 17th centuries. It seems to me essential that it should be continued if the Church of England is to continue as a national Church. The effect of this Measure will be further to diffuse authority within the Church through Synods at various levels to a multitude of parochial and guild church councils, the members of which have little to guide them in matters of doctrine and churchmanship, except the wisdom of the incumbent, and except, in addition, their own customs and prejudice. I am sure that this will lead to an increasing sectarianism in the Church and, what is to me more serious, will lead to fragmentation.

This leads me to a conclusion to which my experience of the attempt to reorganise the Church in my part of Essex has led me. There is confusion to-day between the proper roles of the clergy and laity in the organisation and activities of the Church. With respect, I do not think that the clergy use the lay resources properly. There are many lay people who tend to think that they make far better priests than their vicar or Bishop. This attitude tends to weaken the impact of the Church, however human they might sometimes be. I am so desperately conscious of the vulnerability of the episcopacy and clergy generally to sectional pressures, and sometimes to wrongheaded and mischievous prejudices, that I know they get blamed for the failure to tackle complex problems of administration and finance for which in some cases they do not necessarily have the taste, and in others the experience to tackle.

I remember—and perhaps this is not very relevant, but it made great impact on me at the time—an occasion when we were celebrating in Essex the 1,300th anniversary of the arrival of the missionary Bishop St. Cedd on his mission to Essex. I remember on that occasion we had a visit from the then Primate. It was carried out in the traditional manner. As he came through our county, as he reached the boundary of each parish, the church bells were rung in order to welcome him. We all gathered at the cathedral and were all much interested, fascinated and inspired by the fact that this was the remembrance of a great missionary occasion 1,300 years before. The sermon was exclusively devoted to the intricate finances of the Church, and took a form which would have done credit to the annual general meeting of any great company.

There was this conflict in the mind of somebody who had great administrative responsibilities between those responsibilities and the spiritual mission that we expect and, indeed, receive from our spiritual leaders in the clergy at the present time. I think the clergy are sometimes too reluctant to hand over the temporal responsibilities of the Church to qualified laymen; and I think the laity are often too keen to usurp the doctrinal and spiritual leadership of the clergy. I see no reason why a parish church council, or indeed the House of Laity of the General Synod, should have a decisive say in ordering the Church's service of worship. This seems to me to be a matter for those who are properly trained and experienced in this matter; that is, for the leaders of the Church both at episcopal level and in the parishes themselves.

This, my Lords, brings me to the main point of my argument. If the Bishops and clergy are prepared to fragment their authority in this way, it is not something that I will oppose on this occasion or wish that any other of your Lordships should do so. But I think it is a very dangerous thing for them to do. I do not believe that the Church or any organisation can really be effective unless it has a central body of authority and, in the case of an Episcopal Church such as ours, that must rest in the hands of the Bishops. I want to see the Church strengthened so far as the spiritual resources of the clergy are concerned, and I want to see the clergy relieved of duties in the temporal sphere which place undue and sometimes intolerable burdens on their spiritual and emotional resources. I want to see the Church of England supported by a lay organisation which is responsible for making the best uses of the resources of the Church, and to fortify its administration and organisation in the diocese.

One of those who spoke before me from the Bishops' Bench—I think it was the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, to whom I should like to add, as I have already done personally, my congratulations on his maiden speech—said that there are economic and financial factors ahead of us which might have a great impact on the fabric of the Church of England, and indeed, perhaps, on the whole of the Christian communities in this country. My Lords, this is true. And this is something which, in my view, is far more important than this transfer, historic, symbolic as it may be of powers which to all intents and purposes already exist within the Church at the present time, and this attempt to change on a narrow issue the relations between the Church and Parliament.

I do not want to see, and I am sure none of your Lordships do, sectarianism grow in the Church of England. But I do want to see the priesthood given a material standard of living which enables them to carry out their duties properly. I am not sure that this Measure will achieve any of these things; in fact, I am pretty sure that it will not. By all means, as I have said, let it be passed. But let us hope—and this I say with every emphasis I can—that it will not be long, if indeed it is our proper responsibility (and here I display my ignorance again), before we are asked to consider a Measure which comes to grips with the real problems which the Christian Church as a whole and the Church of England, in particular, in this country face at the present time.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for speaking this evening, and I hope briefly, on a subject about Which I probably know less—I will not say "than anyone I know", because that would be untrue, but less than any noble Lord who has spoken or is likely to be speaking in this debate. I am particularly apprehensive because, speaking from these Benches, which I should like to claim temporarily as the Liberal Benches, I am—I will not say frightened, but very impressed by the formidable array of Prelates on the Benches opposite. We claim either two or three Benches as one Party; they, I think, are one Bench of Bishops, of all the Parties that there may be. I do not know how many that is, but that one Bench has a good turnout to-night. I will mention that later on.

The reason I am delighted to speak, as opposed to apologising, is that it gives me an opportunity of echoing, silently because it would be tedious to do it aloud, some of the things—all of the things—that have been said about the most reverend Primate in his public life. It would be impertinent to mention any of the great things he has done, but of the small things he has done I know the immense courtesy and comfort and assurance, on occasions he will forget, that he has given to me personally. I should like to thank him for that. Also, I should not like to miss the opportunity of congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham on what I thought was an excellent maiden speech which said so much better than I could so many of the things I would have said, so that he has saved me some time. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, I cannot promise to come to Durham to hear his next sermon, although that would be an inducement. But if I do I shall have the additional excuse of going to visit a family tomb. He may or may not have had time to see that the cathedral is slightly cluttered up with relics of a former Prince Bishop who happened to have two names—one under which I am allowed to speak and the other under which I sit in this House. So I should like to give him a very personal vote of thanks for giving me confidence to speak; also for being, I think, the only person in this debate who has so far made what seems to be an important distinction between the two points, doctrine and worship, both of which occur in the services of the Church.

Shortly, I should like to give my own views as to why, although I was impressed by some of the arguments that have been put up (though less impressed by others, which seemed to be irrelevant), I want to support this Measure. To take the point of doctrine first. Doctrine is clearly a very difficult matter, but one thing we must remember is that doctrine is not the same as dogma. Under correction, I think that "doctrine" is a Latin word meaning "what is taught", which is not always the same as what is learnt. Like me many of your Lord-ships have been taught things they did not learn and have learnt things which they were not taught. But it is not the same thing as "dogma", which I believe is a Greek word meaning "what we are all agreed on". So it is not surprising that doctrine should be a subject of disagreement in places. Nobody could be more in favour of dogma in its right place than I am. The dictum, "Love me, love my dogma" seems to be an excellent one. But doctrine has to be taught by somebody. And the criticism that has been put up I think by those who have—I will not say criticised but expressed doubts about this Measure, is that the Synod were not the right people to teach it, using the words "in our opinion". Anything taught has to be taught according to somebody's opinion. The noble Viscount, Lord Gage, put it extremely clearly when he asked: if it is not to be in the opinion of the Synod, would it be more certainly the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, if it came from Parliament?

It may be said that the Synod are not representative. But I noticed—and I think it is the first time I have ever seen this—that when the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, was making his speech the number of persons on the Benches away from the Throne on the Spiritual side was one, who was sitting on the Front Bench, and the number of those on the Spiritual Benches was nine. So they had a majority of nine to one. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, was absent at tea so he did not count. That suggests that Parliamentary interest in this question is not as acute as some people would tend to believe. But I would leave this point by saying that if the Synod—the three Houses, elected in the way they have been elected—does not give some sort of a guarantee that what is taught has been at least carefully thought out, and that they care about it, as opposed to something being taught by people who do not care about it, then I do not know what would.

To come on to worship, this is a subject that most people, I think many church-going people, although they do not realise it, feel more strongly about than doctrine. Worship is much more difficult to define. It is not a Latin word; it is an Anglo-Saxon word, and I understand that it is something to do with honour. When you say "Your Worship" in court, or talk about the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, you mean that they are to be honoured, though perhaps not all as highly as St. Peter, who was anyhow a fisherman. But in any church, whatever the religion, one wants to do the greatest honour to whatever or whoever it is that one wants to honour most. Nobody is more convinced than I am that the better the language (provided that what it says is true), the greater and more successful the honour shown. Equally, nobody is more convinced than I am that the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, is absolutely right in believing that it would be very difficult to improve upon the language of the Common Prayer Book, just as it would be difficult to improve upon the language of the Bible, about which we are not now talking or, indeed, upon the language of Shakespeare.

My Lords, where I venture to differ from the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, is in his assumption that in spite of the safeguards which, so far as I can see, are of the widest and the strongest that could be put in a Measure of this sort, although the Common Prayer Book will be available indefinitely and can be used by those who want to use it it will not in fact be used because, if we have these new alternative Series—I, II, III and IV, pink, green and blue books—everybody will throw it away and it will finally be pulverised. That is rather like saying that because a number of theatres in London are producing no doubt entertaining plays like Oh! Calcutta! or plays by classical authors like Ibsen, or plays by somebody of whom nobody has ever heard, and in which nobody has had a part given to him, that means that Shakespeare's plays will never be performed. In fact, in my lifetime, the number of theatres in which Shakespearian plays have been performed has increased enormously; and enormous numbers of young people go to them.

I believe that one of the results of the present movement is to show people how very much better many of these prayers in the old Common Prayer Book are, and how much better they say exactly what is said by modern prayers in bad language. By "bad language" I mean the ineffective language of most new prayers, if I may improvise one. We would all agree with the idea that a prayer is; "Guide us, O Lord, to the solution of our social problems, with particular reference to housing, drainage, chronic depression and all other adversities". That may be wider than some reference in the Old Prayer Book to, "for all who are desolate and oppressed". I do not think that it is wider, but certainly it is not so deep, and as a public prayer it is not so good. However, I understand that there is no question of foisting new prayers on the public or of removing the old ones.

It is very difficult to describe the ideal form of worship because everybody has their own idea of the ideal form. Mine, I thought, was very well described in some lines which I heard broadcast this morning. They are by John Milton set to music by Parry, though they do not need to be set to music. After talking about, Where the bright seraphims in burning row Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow, he went on to hope; That we on earth with undiscordant voice May rightly answer that melodious noise As once we did till disproportioned sin Jarred against nature's chime, and with harsh din, Broke the sweet music, and so on.

Certain Members of your Lordships' House seem to wish to amend that one line to: As once we did till disproportioned Synods Jarred against nature's chimes. That would be unfair, because it is not the idea of a Synod taking more power that has brought discordance in our worship. There has always been disagreement. I believe that disagreement will be lessened in the future by putting this matter into the hands of what may not be the perfect organisation but is the best organisation that we have for Anglican Christian opinion.

My Lords, I have spoken too long, and, as a complete layman who knows nothing about these things, I apologise for putting my views rather incoherently.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am opposed to this Measure, first of all, on the particular ground that before Parliament gives further sanction to the imposition of alternative services more information should be acquired about whether they are wanted by the men in the pew. It is perfectly true that legal machinery exists whereby in theory the men in the pew can get what they want, but it is quite another matter whether, in point of fact, this works out in practice. Very often legal machinery exists whereby expression is given to the wishes of the people, but whether this works out is quite another matter. For example, on the issue of capital punishment, what is thought best by the man in the street is quite different from what is thought best by his representatives in Parliament. As to whether the new services are to be preferred to the old, may I urge Her Majesty's Government that more research ought to be conducted before the Measure is accepted. I am assured that the Measure might at least be delayed on these grounds.

My Lords, I should like to put on Record in Hansard information which I have collected from the Book of Common Prayer Action Group about the unpopularity of the modern services in various parishes. Mr. Ball, of the Book of Common Prayer Action Group in the diocese of Southwark and Guildford, tells me that at St. Anne's, Kew, support for Series 3 has come almost exclusively from elderly people who went on a retreat to Lee Abbey and were there indoctrinated by avant garde clergy. At parishes in Greenwich, Woolwich and Lewisham opposition to the setting aside of the Book of Common Prayer has been raised during parish discussions, principally by the young.

In this area, Series 3 is almost universal on Sunday morning, so those who dislike it have to travel 15 miles into Kent. In the Archdeaconry of Southwark, Series 3 is almost universal as the only form of Sunday worship. Therefore in Battersea, Wandsworth, Balham, Surbiton, Kingston and Wimbledon those who dislike the modern services have taken to performing the old services privately in their own homes. In the Deaneries of Sutton, Caterham, Godstone and Reigate, Christ Church has become a centre for malcontents who dislike the avant garde, and support for this Church comes from such parts of Guildford as Ewell. At St. Michael's, South Beddington, Series 3 was imposed one and a half years ago, to the great annoyance of most parishioners. Then Mrs. Appleton-Collins, representative of the Book of Common Prayer Action Group in Twickenham, tells me that in the case of Kew Parish Church the Parish Church Council rejected Series 3 in May, 1972, but that in March, 1974, a new Parish Church Council was elected which voted in favour of Series 3. Nevertheless, the vicar received letters from young people protesting against the modern service.

At All Saints, Edmonton, members of the congregation have had to go to the neighbouring church of St. Anselm for Holy Communion at eight o'clock on Sunday morning, because at All Saints, Edmonton, Series 3 has been imposed. At St. Philip and St. James Barn Church, after the altar had been moved down the aisle and Series 3 imposed, members of the congregation went to Kew and Richmond parish churches. Then Mr. Samuel, of the Book of Common Prayer Action Group in the diocese of Lincoln, tells me that in the parish of Waltham, near Grimsby, after the incumbent had experimented for some time with Series 3 the vote was put to the Parish Church Council, and this parish has now reverted to the old form of service. St. Andrew's, Kurton-in-Lindsey, has likewise reverted from Series 3 to the old service, and so has the parish of Morecambe outside Lancaster. So much, my Lords, by way of a very dry and bald catalogue, which might be greatly extended if more research were conducted on the extent to which the modern services are very unpopular.

The second ground on which I should like to object to the Measure is of a long-term and general character and concerns the insight which history gives to what is involved in this Measure, as alongside details about the imposition of alternative services are certain profound matters of principle to do with the ancient role of religion in the State. The arguments which I shall put forward are evolved out of a reading of the celebrated book, Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, and as I apply a reading of this book to the case in hand I will add to the gist of it one or two thoughts of my own.

The first argument which I should like to put forward concerns the divorce of the Church from Parliament, which is to say the State, to the extent envisaged under the Measure. I am aware that nowadays many people are saying that the Church should keep out of politics. Enoch Powell, as an old-fashioned Whig, is often saying this. So it is therefore proposed in the Measure, as Mr. Head declared in the Synod last February, that Canons should over-ride Statutes and that decisions of the Synod on matters of worship and doctrine should merely be underwritten by Parliament. Yet such a divorce of the Church from the Government is out of keeping with the oldest elements of our historical tradition, departure from which has been the source of our undoing.

In the Middle Ages there were many ecclesiastics in the Government, and the Church supervised the most essential of all fields in government—the economy. Under the Reformation, Henry VIII firmly united the Church to the Government. Thereafter Archbishop Laud declared: If any man be so addicted to his private, that he neglected the common state, he is void of the sense of piety … for whoever he be, he must be in the body of the Commonwealth and in the body of the Church. In the eighteenth century, however, political philosophers came to assume otherwise; that in its act of government the State was not endowed with any religious sanction, but had been formed by some sort of mythical contract subscribed to from motives of financial convenience and self-interest. No such contract ever was formed, though from a reading of Locke one might suppose that this philosopher thought that it really had been, and from the idea that it ever was has flowed much of our political thinking and many of our political troubles.

From the eighteenth century liberal, Lockian idea of the State as nothing more than a joint-stock enterprise has flowed our materialism and likewise the notion, deprecated not merely by ecclesiastics but now by an eminent politician, Sir Keith Joseph, of a permissive society—not permissive in the sense that the State, as the regulator of the joint-stock enterprise, can tell us what we are to do with our money, but in the sense that it has opted out altogether of telling us what we are to do with our morals. This distinction makes our society compared with other societies the world over into an odd and eccentric one, and as such it was recognised by Sir Keith Joseph in his much-publicised speech on October 19, in which he declared that if English society is to hold together we must abandon the eighteenth century economics only approach to politics, and take up the placard of morality. Although he did not mention this the need, if we are so to revive morality, to resuscitate our national religion is very evident. William Wilberforce, in his Practical View of the Prevailing System Amongst Professed Christians Contrasted with Real Christianity, said that any mere system of ethics is not enough, it must be backed up by religion, and on the same account in his political treatise, the Ancien Régime, de Tocqueville said that no State would hold together at all without religion.

The second argument I should like to adduce against the Measure is that the hierarchy of the Church of England has seen fit to introduce it partly in order to promote Christian unity. The report of the Archbishop's Commission in 1970 entitled Church and State, from which the present Measure might be said to stem, declares that other Churches would not unite with a Church of England in relation to which Parliament would exercise the right of veto over the forms of service used. Moreover, such a marriage of the Church of England and the other Churches would be much easier to effect if, as envisaged under the Measure, doctrine was not fixed but could be altered by the Synod without recourse to Parliament. In such a movement towards Christian unity, however, it is not easy to envisage that the Church of Rome would take much part. Theologians of the Anglican Church and the Roman Church may have reached substantial agreement on the Eucharist, but the crucial topic of Authority remains yet to be resolved. It is therefore with the Puritan Churches that the Church of England would be most likely to compromise itself and be united, and yet, according to my reading of Tawney, the secular conception of the State which I have criticised arose as much from a burgeoning of the Puritan forms of Christianity as through the rational thought of 18th century enlightenment. For whereas under the Roman Catholic religion men receive the sacraments and accept the doctrine on which the validity of the sacraments depends, in obedience to a hierarchy which is above themselves, under the extreme branches of Protestantism religion is an entirely personal affair in which, as individuals, men may receive grace within their own hearts. A secular form of government comes to be justified accordingly as one in which men's moral and religious life remains entirely their own private affair.

So much, it seems to me, may be deduced from a reading of Tawney's celebrated book, and I shall conclude with a general observation of the feeling that the Measure should be carried because the effect of any resistance to it would be to put the clock back. Can the proponents of the Measure justify the mystical conviction that in this way the present is intrinsically superior to the past? Recently I exchanged letters with an old general about the uncertain future of our country and whether through our existing institutions we should be able to surmount our difficulties. This old general said: Yes, he thought we could, owing to the power of resistance which the British people possess to a marked degree on account of their sense of inherited tradition. The old and fixed doctrine of our national Church and the traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer are no small part of that tradition, and we should tamper with these things to our loss.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, and as he has devoted the earlier part of his speech to attacking my diocese in detail, may I say that had he observed the normal conventions of this House and informed me beforehand that he was going to criticise Southwark—and I am sorry that the noble Lord has not followed the usual conventions of good manners—I would have been able to give him some information which might have been helpful. I might indeed have saved him from the gaffe of talking about people who live in Twickenham, which is in the diocese of London, and complaining about what goes on in the diocese of Southwark. But my main point is that the noble Lord was talking about services being imposed on parishes in my diocese. I have watched these matters very carefully, and it so happens that I am not a supporter of either Series II or III. Nevertheless, where they occur I am told, and I have every reason to believe, that it was as a result of a democratic majority decision of the parochial church council. I know not of a single church in my diocese in which any service has been imposed on any congregation against the democratic will of the parochial church council.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, on their admirable embarkation upon the waters of this House, and may I go on to make it quite clear that I am a fervant supporter of the passage of this Measure but that I wish to attach to it a message which will be read when it arrives at the other end.

Before I do that I should like to say, arising from what the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, has said, that I feel that if the Church of England cannot govern itself no other body can and that for his first body of argument which says that the Measure promotes unpopular services, this battle is fought in the wrong place. It should be fought inside the Church and not inside Parliament. When he goes on to adduce various arguments from Tawney I believe that he is seeking the wrong means to achieve the right end; that is to say, the establishment of the Church is better preserved by the passage of this Measure, than, as the most reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has said, by opposing it. On his points about unity, T can deduce nothing except that there seemed to be a distaste on his part for unity with the Protestant wing of the Christian Churches, in which I cannot altogether follow him. Finally, I would not wish to pursue the question of the Church of England providing a sort of catacomb religion following an invasion by hostile powers.

I shall curtail my message, because it is a late hour—not only is it a late hour in this debate, but it is also a late hour in the history of the Church; this Measure should have been passed, I dare say, some years ago—but there are one or two things I want to say. In the first place, we recognise there is a place in the Church and in religion both for stability and change. God our Father does not change; our understanding of Him does. Theology and doctrine therefore change, faith does not. Theology and doctrine have to be explained, and explanation is only of use if it is understood. It should be done with a simplicity, amounting to colloquialism if need be, from the pulpit, as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, so admirably practises it—and I have heard him on a rainy day or two without his knowledge. But the faith does not change and, therefore, there is a place for the modern and colloquial in the Church and that is the pulpit, and arguably, but not certainly, the lectern. There is a place for tradition and continuity, and that is the remainder of the service.

The ritual of the Church of England—and within that ritual I include the language in which it is conducted—was formalised a long time ago. That has not changed, except experimentally, but sermons have changed. The services have a familiarity which, for those accustomed to them, breed not contempt but a sense of security, of family and home-coming, and the continuity which that represents is of value not only to those who, like many of your Lordships, have been brought up and lived in that measured and musical liturgy, or those whose interests lie in the past or in things unmaterial only.

May I quote some sentences spoken on television last night by someone whom I believe to be most up-to-date and scientific, Sir Bernard Lovell: In the broadest sense the Church over the centuries has been the great stabilising influence in the world. In spite of the contemporary difficulties its teachings provide a sure guide to civilised behaviour; the power of its ritual is immense. It has been and remains the inspiration of great universal art. The advance of theological thought is a fundamental source of knowledge about the great conceptual difficulties of the universe and our place in it. There you have a pronouncement by one of the great leaders of scientific thought of to-day, and embedded in it is the phrase, "the power of its ritual is immense", and it is one of the immense assets of the Church. Let us not suppose, therefore, that we are going to alienate the scientific and advanced if we protect the use of the Prayer Book of 1662—not exclusively, but if we protect its use, as is supplied in this Measure.

This brings me briefly to my second point: there are many in the Church of England who believe that to the young, its liturgy, its order of service and its language must seem hopelessly archaic, and that only by producing something crisp, modern, functional, up-to-date and brief can we hope to hold their attention. This is diametrically the opposite of what the young to-day actually believe, as I am sure people will see when they come to look at it more closely. At the present time, when codes of social conduct are changing annually, when standards of acceptable moral behaviour are diluted almost continually, when confidence in both the political and the economic structure of our country is being badly shaken, and when our society is almost daily under actual physical assault from extremist organisations of one sort and another, some visible entity and some corporate activity should stand unaltered, loved and obeyed. That entity is the Church, and that activity is its worship. In the middle of the storm it is not to the green sapling that we cling, but to seasoned timber.

But the very language itself is a strength; where people try to demonstrate it is a weakness. There is a greater need among the young for the numinous and the mystical than there has been for some generations—and not only for the young. The clear white light of scientific knowledge and the prying and ubiquitous eye of the media have reduced so much that was personal to public triviality, so much that was mysterious to universal banality that there is a hunger among us, a need, in the words of the Psalm read in this Chamber on Tuesday, to "Be still and know that I am God". The use of ancient language which needs an actual, if simple, mental effort to understand lends a difference and a dignity to the act of worship. Prevent us, oh Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour …". Those of your Lordships who trouble to come to Prayers and who pray in mental unison with the reverend Prelate of the day will each be given pause to recollect that the word "prevent" means to go before, and not to hinder. That is a commonplace to those who think of it. That is not an obstacle to understanding; it is an aid to concentration.

If the laity are properly taught—and here is the nub of the question—the meaning of the language and the liturgy of the Church, they cannot but profit therefrom. Only if pastoral care and instruction are slipshod need this be an obstacle. For explanation, for evangelism, for argument, for persuasion, let us be as colloquial, as different, as slipshod, as up-to-date, as modern, as with-it as we can; but when it comes to ritual and worship and the glorification of our Creator, let us not serve up the latest plastic-wrapped system. Perhaps I am intemperate. I rather regret using that phrase because I do not wish to impugn the various experimental services put before us, although I personally find them wanting in dignity.

Finally, we have all of us, however noble your Lordships may be, however reverent, however cheerful and robust, at some time passed through a period of loneliness and stress. At such times it is a reassurance and a strength to return to the familiar and dignified form of an order of service that has outlived the troubles of more generations than I care to count and to do so in a hallowed and ancient building where such things have gone on for generations. Twice, at such times, I have found myself deprived of this comfort as a member of the Church of England, once because the doors of the first three churches I visited were locked against thieves—and that is not relevant to this debate—and once, over a much longer period, because I never knew from one Sunday to the next what order of service I could expect to encounter. The endless experimental variations within the experimental orders of service were yet one more burden to bear. To make a Communion that is not merely perfunctory is difficult enough, even when one is familiar with the pattern of the language of the service. To find one's way through the variations was a distraction and, above all, I never felt myself properly at home in the service, which seemed to me to be regrettably prosaic in its language. I support all that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, said about the new English Bible. The ground has been covered before. My father was a passionate protagonist of the inaccuracy of its translation. I have a tape recording of him on the subject if any of your Lord-ships would like to listen to it on another occasion.

I have made three points at length. I have said that change and colloquialism are proper to the explanatory and the evangelical functions of the Church, but not to the worshipping function. I have said that there is a need for permanence in an age of frighteningly rapid change, and I have said that there is a need for the mystical and the numinous in the young and the old, as there is in all of us. All this amounts to an impassioned plea to the Church of England to retain and make use of the old Prayer Book and the old Bible when we give them the power to dispense with them even under our supervision. I pray them passionately not to destroy so much that is of so great value to so many. But that is not to oppose this Motion. The Church must govern its own destiny.

I turn now to the most reverend Primate who has assisted and guided us for so long. This is his birthday and the last day of his office. With regard to the former, may I wish him very many happy returns, and with regard to the latter, with due thankfulness and I hope not too much presumption, may I conclude by saying, God bless him.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, although it is presumptuous on my part to enter into this debate, I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a minute or two while I express, on behalf of the Jewish community and my own, felicitations to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop and tell him how grateful we are to him, who has been President of the Council of Christians and Jews over many years and who has rendered invaluable services to the good relationships between the two communities. For my part, having been a member of the Executive of that body, during the whole period when he has been President he has done remarkable work and is continuing to do remarkable work in respect of those relationships. I pray, and I am sure other members of the Jewish community will pray, that he will be spared for very many years to continue to help in that direction. May I offer him my congratulations on the occasion of his 70th birthday, and may I hope that he will have many years in happiness and in health to continue not only that good work, but his noble service to the community as a whole.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to add to the length of this debate, but I should like to say two things. First of all, there has been a certain amount of Binding-in-the-Marsh today, and I should like to say a word on behalf of the many people who I think will warmly welcome this Measure. We have suffered very severely in the Church of England since 1928 and at last the most reverend Primate has found the means of burying that great dispute and producing some sort of standing freedom for the Church to organise its affairs. I believe this is greatly to be welcomed and this is a chance in no circumstances to be missed. We are most grateful to the most reverend Primate for what he has done and I hope we shall all approve this Measure.

I should like to say one or two things from my own experience. I do not share the view which some noble Lords have expressed that all services in the Church of England ought to be identical. I have found in my experience in many lands—and as one travels through life one goes through all sorts of experiences—that there are times when one needs one sort of service and finds it most helpful, and other times when one needs a quite different sort of service. I do not think we have any sort of uniformity in the Church of England now. If I compare the Anglo-Catholic service with those in a parish which is by tradition extremely evangelical, they have, of course, something in common, but the way in which they conduct that common part of their affairs and use the Prayer Book is so very different that one cannot say that it is exact uniformity. I believe that is a very good thing, because some people want the one and some the other. I hope that the Church of England will long provide what people need and what they find most helpful spiritually. I believe the Church has a great role to play in this matter and I should be sorry if there was any idea of imposing uniformity on it.

I go along with a great deal that has been said about the merits of our traditional service. I was amused at what the noble Lord said about the word "prevent". I have wondered for years what that word meant and nobody has ever been able to explain it. Why cannot we say "go before" instead of "prevent"? It makes much more sense. It is not a good word. It may be derived from Latin or French; I do not know where it comes from. I am in favour of modernising the wording. I like the New English Bible. I find that in our parish at home we often choose the new text for the second Lesson if it is taken from any of St. Paul's Epistles. In the new version St. Paul comes out as one of the greatest intellectuals of the Christian era. He is fascinating and extremely instructive; he has everything to offer. In the traditional version of our Bible I find him extremely hard to understand. I think we should move with the times. When we have a text like this which is helpful, do not let us impose uniformity on the Church to do something which is less helpful. Therefore, I stand for this Measure. I believe it is a good thing. I hope we shall pass it without a Division, and I congratulate the most reverend Primate on having produced it.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, am I right in thinking that "prevent" means; not "go before" but "come before", which is not necessarily the same thing?


My Lords, I do not quite know what it means. That is what I complain of.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, all those who care for the well-being of the Church of England must be profoundly grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. It is certainly one of the most remarkable debates I have ever listened to, and surely this is the only legislative assembly in the world in which such a debate could take place. Many points have been raised in the course of the debate, and I think many have been answered by subsequent speakers. There are one or two matters; of detail which perhaps I may first of all comment upon. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, asked whether a clergyman can impose the use of the New English Bible on a congregation. The situation is that first of all he can use only such versions of the Bible as are permitted by the Prayer Book (Versions of the Bible) Measure 1965, and the New English Bible is one of those that has gained permission. In effect, that version of the Bible can be used in any service at the discretion of the minister with the agreement of the parochial church council.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, raised one or two points of rather special concern. He asked why the Benedictus and the Te Deum had been placed in different positions. The reason, I am told, is that the service is regarded as a spiritual progression. The Benedictus is a link between the old and the new Covenant, and the Te Deum is the full Christian Song of Praise at the end of the service.

The noble Lord also raised the question of the use of these words, "in any essential matter". These words were greatly debated in the General Synod and they were put in in order to preserve that traditional flexibility of thought which is a part of our Anglican tradition. They were there so that there might be a proper degree of flexibility, and new insights into doctrine compatible with the general Anglican approach could be reflected in new forms of worship and decisions by the Synod.

Those of us who sit on these Benches, and many other noble Lords, are very proud that this debate has given an opportunity of expressing on so many sides gratitude to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. We are very happy that your Lordships have said these good things about one who has meant so much to us during the years of his Primacy and who has led us with such courage, such imagination and such learning. We are also very glad that this debate has given the opportunity for two most notable maiden speeches, those of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea.

I think we shall also remember this debate for the many speeches that have been made by noble Lords who so clearly love the Church of England and love the 1662 Prayer Book and its ancient liturgy. I have the greatest possible sympathy with them, because I was brought up in a clerical family; I was a choirboy at St. George's Windsor, for five years, and the Book of Common Prayer is a part of my very fibre. But as I listened to noble Lords, I wondered whether they have not in fact at some time been the victims of some pastoral insensitivity, because I think what they have been saying to us is that there are cases where the clergy have not understood as they ought to have done the desires and spiritual needs of some of those who have been speaking. T think that I can speak on behalf of those who sit on these Benches when I say that we shall do our best to see in our dioceses that where there are people who love and want the use of the 1662 Prayer Book, then every effort will be made to provide for them.

At the same time, I hope your Lord-ships will not think that I am being discourteous if, as I listened to these speeches, I wondered whether we are really talking about the real world. Those of us who have clergy working, for instance, in great new housing estates, know that for them it is not a question of whether it is the 1662, or Series II, but it is a question of being able to get through at all to the people to whom they believe they are sent. For these clergy the use of some of these new services is not something that is gimmicky, but is something that is rising from a spiritual surge, a desire to express in liturgy in the worship of the common people some of the new needs that are arising in the hearts and souls of people.

There is no doubt whatsoever that on a very large scale the new services have been welcomed, have enriched the worship of the Church, and have helped a great many people to an understanding of God which they otherwise would never have reached. Therefore, the need for these new services is indisputable, and very few people would want to challenge it. If, therefore, you allow that there shall be new services, then you have to provide means whereby it shall be decided what services shall be used. Under the existing powers of the Alternative and Other Services Measure, the parish priest is in a privileged position. He alone can take the initiative, and if he wants to use a new service all he has to do is to get the permission of his parochial church council. If his people want the use of one of the new services and he sticks his toes in and says, "No", then his people have no power to demand or require that one of the new services should be used.

Under the powers given in this Measure, the prime principle is that there must be agreement between the parish priest and his people. If they agree that the particular service shall be used, then everything goes smoothly. But what do you do if there is disagreement between the parish priest and between his people? This was the element in the Measure most hotly debated in the General Synod because, in the first version of the Measure, we laid it down that where there was disagreement then the Bishop should be brought in to adjudicate, and there were many Members of the General Synod, especially of the laity, who felt there was a real possibility that the Bishop might gang up with one or other of the parties, and that therefore justice would not be done.

In order to meet this particular point, we took the unusual step in the General Synod of suspending the Standing Orders, of having a revision stage, and we produced what is now in the Measure. It provides that if there is disagreement between the parish priest and his parochial church council, then one of two things can happen: either they have to go back to the pattern of services which were normally being used during, say, two years in the last four years, or the people can insist that they shall have the Book of Common Prayer, 1662. It is as straightforward as that.

Therefore the Book of Common Prayer is protected, first of all, because it is written into the Measure that it remains one of the standards of the doctrine of the Church of England; secondly, because it remains a legal alternative until, by Measure, it shall not be so. "By Measure" means that it has to come to Parliament and receive an Afirmative Resolution in both Houses. Thirdly, any parochial church council that wants the 1662 Prayer Book can have it. Therefore, if there are aggrieved people, then it is their duty to persuade members of their parochial church council, join their parochial church council, and try to use their democratic powers to obtain what they want.

If the Church is to ask Parliament to give it freedom in this important area of its life, a freedom which it has been exercising since 1965 and which we are now asking should become permanent. Parliament is entitled to expect that there shall be safeguards that the doctrine of the Church of England will not be changed. Who is now to decide in the particular case what is, or is not, the doctrine of the Church of England? Should Parliament decide? I hardly think in these days that Parliament would regard itself as a fit body to decide some intricate point of doctrine. Should the civil courts decide? The Church of England has been hagridden by the decisions of the civil courts in the last century, and it was a matter of profound gratitude when, in the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure, we were released from that bondage; a bondage which, for instance, sent clergymen in the middle of the 19th century to prison because, by wearing a stole, they were guilty of disobeying the rules or the orders of a civil judge. I think that no one would want to go back to an appeal I to the civil courts.

Where else can one then find somebody to whom one can appeal? To the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved? There are three, or two, Bishops on that who would already be committed. After very careful thought the General Synod believed that the right body to decide what is the doctrine of the Church of England should be the General Synod, but that it should be subject to very careful safeguards. Thus, for instance, a Measure which contains a doctrinal issue must pass, first of all, through a stage of general approval and revision. Before it can come to final approval it has to be submitted to the House of Bishops, who can decide in what shape the Measure shall be finally presented for approval. Moreover, if any of the members of the Synod require, then this Measure can be submitted to the two ancient Convocations and the House of Laity, where it will be debated separately and has to be passed by all of them. Only after all these safeguards have been fulfilled can the Measure come for final approval.

Moreover, if it is a Measure which concerns the Holy Communion service, the Baptismal service, or relationships with other Communions, then it becomes what is known as Article 8 business. It has to be sent to every diocese, and it has to be approved by a majority of the diocesan Synods. These are all the safeguards written into the Measure whereby we can be sure that a Measure which has a doctrinal significance and content will indeed be true to the doctrine of the Church of England. I believe, therefore, that the misgivings that have been expressed, both about the use of the Book of Common Prayer or about the preservation of the doctrine of the Church of England, are not well-founded, because there are many safeguards which are written into this Measure.

This Measure is of the greatest importance to the Church of England. It will give to it a freedom which is of vital importance to its life. I believe that it will be used responsibly, as these powers have been used by the Church Assembly and the General Synod in the past. I believe that if they are used sensitively they will be of great help to all of us in bringing many to acknowledge and to worship the God who is our Lord and Master.

7.20 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage I do not want to add to the reply to the debate just made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London who has dealt with the chief points of difficulty in a very lucid, sensitive and sympathetic way. But do let me thank those noble Lords who in the course of the day have made such generous remarks about myself. I am truly grateful and deeply appreciative.

If this Measure goes forward—I believe it will—it is because of a considerable change in religious climate that has come about in the last 40 years. I began my ministry in the Church in the year 1928. when the Church and the country was saddened by the conflict about the Prayer Book. The sad thing was that intemperate debates in Parliament happened because they were a reflection of the conflict within the Church itself. The position is now very different, because we have been having not only an ecumenical movement between Christian Churches, but also what we may fairly call an ecumenical movement within the Church of England itself, which is, after all, a very wide and complex body, notorious for the tensions, different points of view and so on. This time, just because there is a far greater inner spiritual unity within the Church of England itself that tempers not only its own discussions, but the discussions in Parliament, also, as evidenced to-night, the position is so very different. That fact is to me of the utmost encouragement. My Lords, I believe that the passing of this Measure will both reflect good things that are happening in the life of the Church of England and the churches generally, and also be of some service to the united forces of Christianity in this land.

On Question, Motion agreed to.