§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In revising this Bill of 1981 I should like to begin by mentioning that several noble Lords have written to me very much regretting that they cannot be present this evening; but at the same time they are very much behind my intention in the Bill. They are the noble Lords, Lord Dacre and Lord Vaizey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox.
At the outset I should also like to thank the most reverend Primate the Archbiship of Canterbury for being present this evening. I also wish to thank the Archbishop most warmly for his public statement on the Prayer Book in the Daily Telegraph on 23rd February. The statement has been described as generous and personal. It says that the Prayer Book should be properly taught in theological colleges, and it seek to help over the position of the Prayer Book at parish level.
Hitherto, it has been difficult for the laity to disagree with the incumbent who prefers the new services. Knowing this, the Archbishop has written that it is the responsibility of all Church people—clergy, as well as laity—who love the Prayer Book to show boldness with fervent zeal. The Archbishop has done his very best to see that the wishes of the laity who prefer the Prayer Book at parish level should be untrammelled. I should also like to thank the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of York for their recent commitments towards the Prayer Book. The Bishop of London's commitment was clear in his review of a book of essays on the present state of the Church of England entitled When will Ye be Wise? in the Daily Telegraph earlier this year. In his new book Church and Nation in a Secular Age, the Archbishop of York has given some of his reasons for his attachment to the old rites. The Archbishop of York has declared that the Alternative Service Book is full of mistakes, banalities and imperfections. The Archbishop of York has said that the new language of the Lord's Prayer is damagingly divisive as well as linguistically inept. The Archbishop said that much good would be done if this failure was to be publicly admitted and churches encouraged to revert to the exclusive use of the traditional version.
With these signals of goodwill from the highest level in the Church and especially from the Archbishop of 3Canterbury, why should I be seeking to revive the Bill 1209 of 1981 this evening? I think possibly that the assistance of Parliament is necessary to secure a better place for the Prayer Book in the Church of England because there is the question of what the Archbishop of Canterbury and his episcopate together can do to secure a better deal for the Prayer Book from the Synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury was largely responsible for the debate in the Synod at the end of February when the House of Bishops appealed for the re-authorisation of Series 1, couched in Prayer Book language and form. But the Synod then only agreed to further discussion of this issue and the vote in the House of Laity was less than the two-thirds that would be required if the re-authorisation is to be agreed to in its final form.
There is secondly the question of what the bishops as a whole have been unwilling to do. In consequence of the success of this Bill in 1981 the bishops passed a series of resolutions to improve the status of the Prayer Book in the Church of England stating in particular that it should be further taught and used in theological colleges and that the adequate use of the Prayer Book at parish level should be discussed at bishops' councils. I am afraid, however, that the bishops have hardly troubled to implement their own recommendations.
To consider first the theological colleges, which many would regard as the key to the whole issue, letters went out to their principals from the president of the Prayer Book Society, Sir John Colville, and the replies show that the position has hardly changed since the bishops passed their resolutions. Out of a total of about 14 theological colleges, it is true that three or four use the Prayer Book for worship for about a third of the time, but these are the same group as did so before the bishops made their resolutions. Rite B in the Alternative Service Book, which can be relatively traditional in language largely along the lines of Series 2, is almost completely neglected and in some colleges a total monopoly has been established for the more modern Rite A. I have circulated my supporters in the House with the exact details of one theological college after another but rather than weary the House with that information, I thought that I would refer to the point of view that lies behind the statistics.
Is investigation required of whether candidates seeking ordination are turned down because they prefer the Prayer Book? This may be suggested when some colleges justify their present practice on the grounds that ordinands do not want services other than the modern Rite A. Two colleges regard the Prayer Book as out of date. Another college declared that the highly structured service of the Prayer Book in old English with little participation was difficult to get used to. Another college said that if the young clergy preferred the new service, the college itself was not to blame. Consideration had to be given to the services that the ordinands knew before their training and would find after their training in the parishes that they served. According to the circulated comments on the liturgy of a further theological college, the parliamentary supporters of the Bill in 1981 showed little learning, knowledge or good sense and theological colleges should not for a moment permit themselves to be made into the whipping boy for the troubles of parliamentarians.
1210 To come next to the discussion of the adequate use of the Prayer Book at parish level, letters from Sir John Colville to the bishops and the replies were analysed by Dr. Derek Brewer, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. To put the matter into a few sentences, about five of the replies were helpful. As to the other replies, they showed that the bishops were not going to implement their own recommendations. About half of the bishops did not reply to Sir John Colville's letter, and as for the rest, the replies were defensive or evasive and some said that no action should be taken.
Let me describe this in more detail. First, as to the five bishops who were favourable, three had good suggestions. One bishop said that a short manual should be produced for guidance on how the Prayer Book should be used in conformity with modern practice and in conformity with the law. Another bishop said that pressure should be put on the Secretary of State for Education to include study of the Prayer Book in the syllabus of religious education. Another bishop said that at his council it was accepted that the clergy may have no idea how to celebrate a Prayer Book service of Holy Communion. This bishop added that at a meeting of junior clergy and training incumbents he would express the hope that recently ordained clergy would have the opportunity to celebrate a Prayer Book service of Holy Communion from time to time.
I come now to the majority of the bishops' replies and summarise their chief points. According to the minutes of a debate of one bishop's council, it was said that use of the Prayer Book in theological colleges would not necessarily do the students any good. One bishop said that to use the Prayer Book for early service or in the week was not to marginalise it. Five bishops said that the Alternative Service Book was not imposed by clergy who were handling the problem with tact. Two bishops said that no action should be taken. Two bishops said that the Prayer Book was out of date, one saying it was wrong to think of the Prayer Book as a prime source of spirituality to a large section of the Church and the other that the Church had no responsibility for sincerely religious people who felt edged out by the changing pattern of Christian life. Finally, two bishops said that the Prayer Book was theologically inadequate, one saying that the Alterna-tive Service Book had important theological differences and the other that the Prayer Book failed entirely to celebrate the Resurrection.
Much necessary work is needed to improve the teaching and use of the Prayer Book in theological colleges and to enable the laity who so wish to have the Prayer Book at parish level. I urge that what the bishops have not done in these directions might be assisted by a Select Committee that can compel the production of documents and the presence of witnesses, and the proceedings of which would be published. Such a Select Committee would go far to bring out into the open both the position of the theological colleges and how at parish level—I shall be speaking further on this theme later—the new services have been foisted on a reluctant laity.
Such a Select Committee could examine the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1974 over what were his intentions with regard to the Prayer Book when the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1211 was accepted that year by Parliament. The then Archbishop of Canterbury assured the House that the Prayer Book would continue to hold a secure place in the Church of England. It was, I think, because that asssurance was broken that this Bill succeeded in 1981. The area covered by many Select Committees may roughly be described as science and technology and business in Brussels. A Select Committee on the Prayer Book would be most unusual and I suspect that the Government may say that a Select Committee would be inappropriate both because of the heavy demands already made by Select Committees on the time of the parliamentary clerks and also because of the constitutional impropriety—I shall be touching further upon this later—of initiating the Bill in Parliament when all legislation on Church matters should come from the Synod. But according to my understanding of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Public Bill Office, the test of whether there will be a Select Committee is the strength of feeling in the House.
So far, I have not touched on the third of the resolutions made by the Bishops in consequence of the success of the Bill in 1981, that a new addition of the pamphlet, Worship and Doctrine—A Guide for Parishes, giving guidelines to the laity over the forms of service which should be used, ought to be more widely distributed than previous editions.
In his correspondance with the Secretary-General of the Synod, a Member of another place called attention to how the new edition is biased against the Prayer Book, and hopefully a side result of this debate will be yet a further edition in which the phrasing of the pamphlet will be fairer. The present new edition states that, while legally decisions about options are for the incumbent, he may wish to take account of the view of the parochial church council or the congregation. Why here is there no mention of the right of the laity on the parochial church council to insist on the Prayer Book, and why is there no mention in the new pamphlet of consultation between the incumbent and the parochial church council about the options to be used within any given rite. As it is, the incumbent may agree to use Rite B with options which bear little or no resemblance to the Prayer Book, while the congregation may not even know about the options which exist in the style of the Prayer Book itself.
The revision of the pamphlet on the lines that I have suggested and its fuller distribution might have some impact, and yet the same end could be achieved in other ways. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury fell silent when I suggested to him that he should accede to the suggestion of the chairman of the House of Laity in the Synod that the adequate use of the Prayer Book at parish level might be restored if bishops were to lean on their clergy. Then, if nothing were to come of this recommendation, could use not now be made of a pastoral letter? Given that it was a pastoral letter which propagated the new services, could not a further pastoral letter be read out from pulpits throughout the land setting out exactly what the rights of the laity are over the Prayer Book if they join their parochial church council?
Here, as so often in politics, issues previously discussed repeat themselves and, in anticipation of 1212 familiar arguments. I shall try here and there to provide familiar replies with a touch of difference. In 1918 there was adumbrated by the Government the argument about the constitutional impropriety of initiating the battle of the Bill in Parliament instead of allowing the Bill to come to Parliament from the Synod. A wedge was driven through that argument through the acceptance of this Bill in 1981 by both Houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, I am fairly sure that the argument will appear all over again today.
I believe that I can take some of the weight out of that argument if I stress that it is not the object of this Bill to appear on the statute book. We all know that that could never happen. In setting up a Select Committee, the aim of the Bill is merely to collect a valuable body of evidence about the Church. Furthermore—and I think that this point needs to be hammered a little—as at present constituted, the House of Laity in the Synod, which is probably unlikely to accept Series 1. is not a proper democratic body for the voice of the laity in the Church of England, owing to the indirect basis of its electoral representation.
The parish sends a representative to the Deanery Synod; it is only the Deanery Synod which sends a representative to the General Synod. So the man in the pew seldom knows who his representative is in the General Synod. Possibly this is what the new right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham had in mind when he declared recently on the BBC programme "Sunday" that the Synod was highly unrepresentative. Certainly in his new book, Church and Nation in a Secular Age, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York was very critical of the present electoral basis of the House of Laity in the Synod.
The point is also likely to be made in this debate that further legislation is not the recipe for the folly of the laity preferring the Prayer Book, who already have the machinery they need in the form of their rights on parochial church councils. Certainly it is an object of this debate to alert the laity to their rights and encourage their exercise. Yet any failure here of the laity so far is not the full explanation of the disappearance of the Prayer Book over large tracts of the land when Professor David Martin's Gallup Poll has shown that most of the laity would prefer to have it. An examination is needed by a Select Committee as to why and how the existing machinery has gone wrong.
Parochial church councils were brought into being and have worked better to cope with administrative problems than to contend with the vicar over questions of liturgy. The correspondence in the Daily Telegraph following the Archbishop's statement shows how the clergy have taken advantage of that weakness. One letter says that there are parishes which have welcomed the freshness of the Alternative Service Book services only to be surprised and distressed to find that the incumbent was subsequently determined to deny them the 1662 rite. In one case this happened despite two resolutions by the parochial church council asking for the occasional use of the 1662 rite.
Then a further letter from the chairman of the Prayer Book Society drew attention to the vicar's notes in a parish magazine which stated that it was the 1213 bishop's wish that all churches in his diocese should use the Alternative Service Book. The chairman of the Prayer Book Society said that if this was not a three-line Whip on parochial church councils to adopt the Alternative Service Book, then he did not know what a three-line Whip was.
Parochial church councils may not function as they should because they can consist of the packed men of the vicar. On this let me quote a complaint from overseas. At an AGM in 1983 there was a clear vote that one of the two services held on Sunday mornings should be according to the Prayer Book. Yet the parochial church council overrode the decision that was made by the AGM, and the parish magazine massaged the minutes of the AGM, stating that the Prayer Book was only wanted by a vociferous minority. On a visit the bishop asked that the parishoners should abide by a majority decision to have the new services.
Lastly, the threat may be uttered in this debate that a parliamentary Select Committee on the Prayer Book would put at risk the independence of the Church, which ought to disestablish itself. On this matter let me observe that the independence of the Church is one thing; its immunity from inquiry and debate must be quite another. Furthermore, on previous showings it is difficult to see that the threat of disestablishment in the face of parliamentary activity over the Prayer Book is anything more than a smokescreen. The Secretary-General of the Synod set up the smokescreen when I intimated to him in 1978 my intention to bring before the House my Prayer Book (Ballot of Laity) Bill. Despite my introduction into the House of the Prayer Book (Ballot of Laity) Bill 1978 and the success of the Bill in 1981, the Church is still not disestablished.
In conclusion, let me observe that speeches in favour of the Prayer Book are not unlikely to criticise the language and theology of the new services, and I have made a few notes on this. The disappearance of the poetry of the old language means that the liturgy must lose much of its potency as a living oral tradition. It also means the disappearance of poetic imagery from our worship, with the theological suggestion that Christianity can be rationalised.
Nor is this the only way in which the change of language may introduce a theological shift of meaning, it has been pointed out how, by changing "thou" into "you" in the new services, we slide into giving God orders when we say to God "You take away the sins of the world", or we slide into giving God information about himself when, in the Te Deum, we say to God, "You are God".
As an instance of where, independently of the question of language, the new services tend towards error, we say not that Christ was born incarnate of the Virgin Mary, but that he did so by the power of the Holy Spirit, which allows the believer to suppose that Joseph, fortified by the Holy Spirit, had a part in the fatherhood of Christ. There are no new heresies. They are all old ones, and the tendency complained of here is towards the Arian heresy, which threatened to secularise Christianity in the ancient world as Marxists would secularise it in the world today.
I cannot move this Bill to a Second Reading unless the feeling of the House justifies that. Therefore, may 1214 I say that I will keep an open mind during the course of the debate in order to try to gain the feeling of the House, and only on that will I make a judgment as to whether to move that the Bill be read a second time. I beg to move.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Sudeley.)
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, I should like first to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for the manner and generosity of his speech, not least in the references he has made to recent writings and statements of those of us who sit on this Bench. In responding to the speech of the noble Lord, I want to emphasise four points. First, I want to make it clear that I understand the reasons which have prompted the noble Lord to bring forward this Bill and the genuine anxieties behind it. Secondly. I want to set out what the intentions of the Church of England were in introducing the Alternative Service Book in 1980, and what they were not.
Thirdly, 1 want to explain the steps which the Church has taken since the last debate in this House two years ago to assist the carrying out of these intentions. And, fourthly, I want to state my strong view that to pass this Bill is not the right way forward and could, indeed, damage seriously the delicate fabricate of Church/State relations which I believe that the great majority of those in this House deeply value and wish to see preserved. Indeed, I believe that the passage of the Bill could have the reverse effect to that which the promoters have in mind. Therefore, at the end of my speech, I shall appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, having heard our case, to withdraw his Motion.
First, the reasons behind the Bill. I want to pay the noble Lord the compliment of taking what he says extremely seriously. I am well aware of the deep affection which Cranmer's incomparable language— in the Collects, in the prayers in the communion service, in the offices of morning and evening prayer, to take just some examples—holds for so many of us who were brought up on the Book of Common Prayer.
I know, too, for I use them often for my own devotions, of the majesty of Coverdale's Psalter and the Epistles and Gospels in the Authorised Version which are contained in that book. Some of your Lordships may have read the recent article in the Daily Telegraph in which I said:The vigour, the rhythm and even the strangeness of Prayer Book language makes it memorable, and what a person remembers shapes his personality. In today's world, unless we are steeped in the language and the perspectives of faith, then we shall all too easily become assimilated to the assumptions of a passing age whose talk and thought assigns no central place to God. 1 believe that there is no substitute for knowing sacred texts and prayers by heart, and the Prayer Book, and perhaps particularly its Psalter, is a treasury of memorable texts. 'Treasured words', as Iris Murdoch has observed of the Prayer Book, 'encourage, console and save',".When I said in that article,I will do everything in my power to see that the Prayer Book continues to be, in the words of the Pastoral Letter issued by my brother Archbishop and me in 1980. 'a living element in the tradition of the Church' ".I meant what I stated. It was no idle or passing commitment. Nor does it represent any sort of change 1215 of mind or improvement. Naturally, I always hope for improvement in myself, but this is an opinion to which I have adhered throughout all this debate.
Why then did the Church of England decide that it needed also an alternative book couched in more contemporary language, and with its passages of Scripture taken from modern translations? I would ask those who dislike the new book to appreciate the situation in which the Church finds itself today—in an increasingly secularised society, ministering to many who have not inherited the practice of Church worship in the way in which so many of us were privileged to do. Many of these are "new Christians"; they include many young people from homes where they have not been fed with the regular diet of prayer and Bible reading which may have nourished us, living on housing estates, in down-town areas of inner cities, or in new suburban sprawls. If the Church was to do its task in this new situation, there was a demand that the word of God should be heard in modern translations and for alternative services to be available in more contemporary language.
This was in no way peculiar to the Church of England: in almost every part of the Anglican Communion, rapidly growing in its totality as one of the most widely distributed Christian families in the world, this process has been going on, and in other Churches too. Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, all have been engaged in similar enterprises and for the same reasons. Most of us have found new insights through the use of modern translations of the Scriptures, and are grateful for many things in the Church of England's new book—most notably for the emphasis on some of the central themes of our faith which have been restored, such as the activity of the Holy Spirit and the joy of the Resurrection.
The intention was not to displace the Book of Common Prayer but to provide an alternative to it. The intention was, as our statements made clear at the time, that both books should continue to be used. Together they provide. I believe, a richness in our Anglican worship. It is this total inheritance which I want to commend and see preserved. I sometimes wonder whether some of those whose vigour in defending the Book of Common Prayer has been so marked could not be a little readier to acknowledge that the Alternative Service Book also has merits—-and already for many new Christians, treasured words and prayers.
Two years ago, when the noble Lord. Lord Sudeley, introduced a Bill rather similar to this (which was given a Second Reading by 28 votes to 17 in the early hours of the morning) the Alternative Service Book was barely a year old. It is hardly surprising that its introduction had engendered a certain euphoria. The General Synod had spent many, many hours debating and revising it, and there was an understandable pride that, after years of worshipping out of pamphlets, the Church of England had this new book available for use both in Church and in the home.
My impression is that in the intervening two years the situation has to some extent been modified. Sales of the Book of Common Prayer continue, and in many parishes there has been some movement back towards 1216 its use. This is certainly so with morning and evening prayer, where the new services have only partly caught on, and many prefer to sing the Canticles in their traditional form. The old book holds its place strongly in cathedral worship. The older style marriage service (which is the 1928 revision—virtually no one follows the 1662 form of that service) is still much used, as it was by the Prince of Wales and his bride three years ago.
It is with the communion service that the new book has won most acceptance, and this is partly because of the current practice for parish or family communion as the main Sunday service in so many places. Here, the new rite, with its variety and opportunities for more participation by the congregation than is possible with the Book of Common Prayer service, has won genuine popularity, because it seems to answer many people's needs as well as being close to the original shape of the liturgy and the practice of other Churches.
After the debate in this House in 1981, the House of Bishops took stock of the position. After a serious discussion they carried some motions which showed an awareness of the feeling in this House. The first motion—having received reports of the deliberations in both Houses of Parliament on the use of the Book of Common Prayer and having given serious attention to the issues raised—resolved to deal with them as matters of pastoral concern and to discuss liturgical developments and the use of the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Book with the Bishops' Councils in their respect dioceses. I believe that has been honoured.
The second motion asks the Standing Committee of the General Synod to prepare a fresh edition of the leaflet Worship and Doctrine: A Guide for Parishes and asks that it be given a much wider distribution. I believe that has been honoured. The third motion notes the information given to the General Synod in February 1981 regarding the use of the Book of Common Prayer in theological colleges, and asks that governing bodies and principals pay attention to this matter with a view to securing the use of both the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Book in teaching and in worship.
In the winter of 1982–83, the House of Bishops asked its members to submit any surveys or other reports prepared since their 1981 debates which could illustrate the position reached. About the same time, Sir John Colville—as president of the Prayer Book Society—wrote to all diocesan bishops and to the principals of theological colleges to elicit similar information. Some replied to his letters: others I understand, feeling that this was a somewhat peremptory demand, did not.
It is difficult to analyse the results which the House of Bishops gathered in any systematic way. The bishops who will speak later in this debate will mention the position in their own dioceses. I believe that the fact that this exercise took place in itself helped to bring home to parishes the intentions of the Church in this matter, which I have referred to. It has greatly helped to ensure that the question of which forms of service should be used has continued—and will continue—to be put on the Church's current agenda.
1217 On the guide, I must stress that we are dealing here with local decisions. Bishops and the General Synod can advise but they cannot dictate. The rules setting out how decisions on these matters should be taken in each parish are set out very clearly in the guide. The position of the parochial church council is fully safeguarded. Here are two extracts:In taking their decision, the incumbent and the parochial church council need to remember that they have to bear in mind the interests and the needs of the parish as a whole. They should give particular attention to the views and needs of those who come to church regularly, and if there are differences of view they should seek wherever possible to find a solution that meets the widest range of needs which is possible and practicable. They should also bear in mind those who come to church occasionally, e.g. at major festivals.There is a need for sympathetic understanding and generosity in the taking of decisions. If there is a minority of any size within a parish the attempt should be made to cater for it. There is special need for generosity in respect of Sunday worship. This may mean the adoption of a mixed pattern of services. It may mean more gradual change than some would like, or some change where the majority would prefer none. Where the incumbent and parochial church council are aware of unhappiness amongst some parishioners in respect of the pattern of worship which is being adopted it will generally be found to be helpful to set a term to any agreement which they make, so that there can be the assurance of review and further discussion.Where, unhappily, an incumbent and his church council cannot reach agreement on this matter, the guide sets out clearly that the 1662 forms of service must be used, subject to the proviso that, if in the past four years another form has been used for at least two years, then the church council may require that that form should be used. The rights of the laity are well enshrined in these procedures.
On the question of the theological colleges, the bishops have gone further than their resolution stated. Through their inspectors they now require that the Book of Common Prayer should remain in use both in teaching and in worship. I believe it is right, however, that in preparing a man for the ministry he must be trained in the use of all forms of service for which congregations have the right to ask. We are responsible for the inspections of theological colleges.
There has been one other recent development to which the noble Lord referred. One of the difficulties in discussion on the use of the Prayer Book is to establish whether it is the 1662 text which some people want or the form of that text—with certain additions and omissions—that has been frequently used since 1928. When people ask for the Prayer Book communion service it is often this service that they want in the traditional language. It is technically known in Church circles by the uninspiring title: Series 1.
This service was authorised until 1980 when, with the introduction of the Alternative Service Book, the authority to use it was withdrawn. With my encouragement the bishops recently decided to ask the General Synod to re-authorise this service, and the Series 1 baptism service too. The matter was debated in February, when it was agreed that the necessary legislation should be introduced. It will require a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the Synod and, rather exceptionally perhaps, the House of Laity passed the motion in February by rather less than this. I hope, however, that the necessary 1218 legislation will in due course be passed. I mention this matter because it shows the concern of the bishops that the Prayer Book communion service, as it was in general use, shall once more be properly available to the Church.
Finally, let me say a word about the situation which could be precipitated if Lord Sudeley's Bill became law. I believe that the overriding objection to this Bill is constitutional. I do not want to go into this in detail, and of course I accept that Parliament is sovereign and can, if it thinks fit, still legislate for the Church of England. But the fact is that, since the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 (the last occasion on which Parliament legislated for the Church without the Church's consent) the tradition has been maintained that it does not do so. In 1919 this position was formalised by the Church Assembly (Powers) Act, and in 1974 the process was completed by the passing of the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure. This has been a happy development in Church/State relations and that is a state of affairs which I profoundly hope will continue. I fear gravely for the results on the delicate balance of Church/State relations if this Bill were to be passed.
As your Lordships know, there are some in the Church who would like disturbed the arrangements which Parliament has seen fit to pass, which enable the Church of England to operate what is really a form of delegated legislation. They would like to see the ties between Church and State sundered. They are aware that, if the clock seemed to be turning back in the Church of England, they would have much support from the Anglican Communion engaged in international conversations with the Roman Catholic and Reformed Churches. I believe, however, that the majority within the Church of England wants to preserve these ties. And this, interestingly, appears to be the view of the leaders of the other Churches of this land. It is a view to which in the present situation I hold very firmly.
I have therefore to say, with all the persuasion that I can command, that this Bill is not the way to deal with these matters. I earnestly ask this House not to go down that road. I am prepared to give the House my assurance that it is the intention of the bishops to keep before the Church the fact that the Alternative Service Book is, as its name indicates, an alternative service book. The proper place in which these matters should be resolved is parish by parish by the elected representatives of the lay people and their incumbent. The safeguards against enthusiasm—and this can be on the part of the clergy or the laity, and can militate on behalf of either book—exist. It is for the laity to use them, not for Parliament to legislate in the way in which this Bill proposes.
I hope very much therefore that, having heard what I have said and what other bishops will say later in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, will feel that he should withdraw his Motion. This will enable this question to be further discussed in the places where it is appropriate for this to happen, where it must happen and where the interest generated in recent times will ensure that it does happen; that is, in the General, Diocesan and Deanery synods, and above all in the parish church councils up and down this land.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, some of us who speak from party Front Benches on this Bill can find ourselves in a rather difficult situation reduced, as I certainly am, to speaking about why we should not be speaking. My party historically varies in its attitude to the establishment of the Church of England from the cool to the frigid and it is for this reason among others that, on the whole, we have over a period of time very much welcomed the taking over by the Church of the regulation of its own affairs with the minimum recourse to Parliament. There are of course a number of Liberals who resent the continuation of what they see as the advantages of the establishment with outside control. The ability of the Church of England to have its cake and eat it has long been the wonder, if not necessarily the admiration, of all.
But our welcoming of the Church's self-government means that my party as a whole is not a supporter of this Bill as it stands. There are members of my party who would like to see the approach that it represents brought into effect; but the party as a whole feels that the course which Parliament and the Church have taken over the past few years is the right one. Again, normally, we are very much in favour of giving Private Members' Bills second readings and amending them in Committee, if necessary. I will come to that if I may at the end of my short speech. In this case, the Bill has been exceedingly well drafted and we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for bringing before us a better Bill than we had to consider last time. This is one of the reasons, I must say, that I cannot see much point in a Committee stage; because I think either one accepts this Bill as it stands or rejects it. I am far from sure—as I gather has been said by other people behind the scenes—that we should devote the scarce resources of this House to a Select Committee.
Having said that on behalf of my party, perhaps I may move for a moment or two to a personal point of view. One of the most important duties of a parish priest, or a parish priest-in-council, if I may coin a phrase—rather like the Queen in Parliament; and I think that in these days one should not think except in terms of the parish priest-in-council—is to provide Sunday by Sunday a framework of worship in which the layman can feel at home. I do not mean by that dreary uniformity but I think it does mean a stable framework within which freedom to experiment can thrive.
In my experience, both as a parish priest and as a layman, this framework is not best achieved by the device of different services on different Sundays. Of course, that consideration catches the desire of some parishoners to cleave to that which they know; but it is not wrong to move on sensitively using the utmost pastoral care. And we must remember that the old order changeth giving place to new and God fulfils himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world. It is very often the good and the beautiful which we may have to sacrifice for the best. We all lament some of the losses which have happened in the Church services. There have been plenty of gains, too, theologically, and, perhaps, also sometimes in language. "Delight my soul in the greatness of the Lord" is a wonderful new sentence in the vocabulary 1220 and, I hope, now in the memories of the British Churches.
This Bill it seems to me is not the way forward. I was rather shocked when the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, stated that the object of the exercise was not to achieve a Bill but to set up a Select Committee. I cast no aspersions at all on his motives, which I know to be of the best and of the most sincere; but I wonder whether this is not an abuse of the processes of this House to put forward a Bill for this particular purpose. There would have been other powers that we could have taken. In any case, although I cannot from my Front Bench give any guidance to members of my party, I suggest that to grant a commitment at this stage for this purpose, given the resources of the House, would not be the right way forward.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am speaking in this debate entirely as a private Member of your Lordships' House. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will be setting out the Government's view both of this Bill and of how it should be handled. The views I express are entirely my own, and I hope that your Lordships will not attach undue weight to them because of the position at which I am now standing.
I speak with some diffidence because your Lordships can say, I think, with every justification that you have heard enough of my voice on other subjects already. That I entirely understand and I shall be very brief. My only claim to your Lordships' attention—apart from the fact that I have been a worshipping member of the Church of England for half a century or so—is that I have in my time also been a member of two parochial church councils, a warden of two churches, and I am at present a member of a third parochial church council and a warden of a third church. I am, therefore, familiar with the various orders of service available for use in the Church of England and I have, after all, used the Book of Common Prayer since I was old enough to read. I entirely understand the deep affection in which the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, holds the Book of Common Prayer. I share it. I was greatly heartened, therefore, by the recognition of its value and the commitment to its continuation given by the most reverend Primate at the beginning of his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley.
I see with equal clarity—because I have also been teacher and a politican for many years—the tremendous advantages offered by orders of service written in words where the meaning springs immediately to the eyes, ears, and, indeed, the hearts of the new arrivals and new members that our Church so desperately needs. I was equally reassured by what was said by the most reverend Primate about that as well. I assure you, my Lords, that I am not here to argue the merits of any order of service; that is not, to my mind, what this debate is about.
As a member of a parochial church council and as a church warden, I also have experience of the way in which those orders of service are in practice chosen, and that is, to my mind, what this debate is about. The way in which this choice is to be made is out in the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974, which was introduced by the most reverend 1221 Primate the then Archbiship of Canterbury on his 70th birthday and in the very last hours of his office. He explained both the working of his Measure and the considerable safeguards incorporated in it most clearly, and your Lordships can find them explained with equal clarity, though with rather less eloquence, in the pamphlet from which the most reverend Primate has quoted, "Worship and Doctrine—A Guide for Parishes" fourth edition, 1982, widely available for the cost of only 10 pence. So, the pamphlet is generally available and the issues we are discussing are therefore widely known and, I believe, pretty well understood.
I well remember how, in 1974, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, and other noble Lords felt that the views of the laity were disregarded both in the General Synod, which generated the measure, and in the parishes where it would be implemented. That unease is as essential to his argument today as it was in 1974. The General Synod they then felt, and still feel, was elected by a means so indirect as to make it unrepresentative. On that point it is not necessary for us to argue, whatever its merits.
Your Lordships can well and properly feel that directness of election is what gives most authority to the views of a representative body. There does need to be an immediacy of contact between an electorate and its representative: that is clearly recognised in our parliamentary constitution, and I accept it. It would be difficult for a Member of either House not to do so.
If immediacy is important, then so, clearly, is size. The larger the electorate, the less immediate will the relationship be between the representative and those represented. The smaller the unit, therefore, the stronger the link and the more authentic the representative voice. In so small and intimate a community as a parish church it really is possible for elected members to speak with a real knowledge of the views and feelings of those whom they represent. All this must weigh with your Lordships when you reflect that the worship and doctrine Measure, which this Bill seeks in part to unpick, actually entrenches the advice and direction of the parochial church council as an inviolable right, superior in this matter even to those of the incumbent. The parochial church council is made up only of parishioners and regular worshippers in the parish church; not even all parishioners, but only those on the electoral roll of the parish church and, of course, the parish clergy. If immediacy means authority, then parochial church councils must be among the most authoritative bodies in the country. The 1974 Measure very properly provides that every effort shall be made for the choice of orders of service to be made by agreement between the incumbent and the parochial church council. But a central feature of that Measure is that where there is no such agreement, as the most reverend Primate has said, either the 1662 form of service shall be used or the parochial church council may require another authorised form of service which has been in use in that parish for at least two years.
Their decision on what order of service to adopt is a decision which the incumbent must respect, which he must implement and from which he has no appeal either to his bishop, to the Synod or to anyone else. I 1222 shall be happy to be corrected on that, if necessary, but that is as I read the rubric and the law. Your Lordships might think from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, that this was not in the leaflet to which I referred but I am sure that was not his intention, because as the most reverend Primate made clear, that is clearly spelled out in paragraph 14 on page 4.
These bodies, entrusted with this authority, are made up of an overwhelming lay majority. They are the effective and authoritative voice of the congregation. To suggest, as was suggested in yesterday's Times, that—following the 1974 Act—for the first time in its history the Church of England was free to ingore completely the wishes",of that congregation, is to ignore absolutely the way in which this structure works. On the question of what orders of service to follow, the 1974 Measure does not silence the congregation—it makes it supreme. It did not empower the clergy to ignore the congregation; it empowered the congregation to ignore the clergy, though I hope very much that that never comes to pass. The body truly representative of that congregation—the parochial church council—is free to adopt either an order of service that has been in use for two years or, by default, the 1662 service. The wishes of the democratically elected majority are therefore paramount in this matter. Indeed, when the measure was being developed the anxieties about the preservation of the 1662 order were foreseen and catered for. The scales were actually weighted in its favour, as we have seen. The wishes of the majority are therefore really catered for.
But what of the minority? What of the two or three, or the two dozen of three dozen who wish to gather together and follow a rite different from that favoured by the majority, and about whom I think the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is properly exercised? Ought not their needs to be catered for? I do not doubt that they should be. The most reverend Primate has set out how they should be catered for, and it is set out in the pamphlet. In that I am on common ground with the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, as is, indeed, the Church. The deep affection which I expressed for the forms of service set out in the Book of Common Prayer in our debate on the Measure in 1974 is no weaker now than it was when I spoke of it then—when I may have been almost too passionate. I want access to those forms as he wants access to them. On that issue also we are on common ground. Where I differ from him sharply and decisively, and where I hope your Lordships will differ from him also, is the means by which we secure it.
Let us acknowledge that there are difficulties to be overcome. Let us acknowledge that a Church is infinitely more than its ritual and that the Christian life consists equally of infinitely more than formal worship. But that worship is an essential focus of the Christian community and an indispensible means of drawing that community together. One difficulty, therefore, is that the practice of two different forms of worship in one parish may result in the de facto creation of two separate congregations and communities within it. That may arise under present arrangements where the rights of the minority are not entrenched in law, but depend upon the compassion and understanding of one section of the Christian community for another. It can and does already 1223 happen that different services attract different congregations. But that need not happen, and if it does happen and happens through discussion, understanding and consent, it need not be divisive.
But if you give to minorities—as this Bill would give to them—an entrenched right to establish their own practice in a particular service once a month, then you are actually inviting them to assert that right with no need to discuss, with no need to persuade, with no need to engage the sympathy and understanding of the rest of the Christian Community, and on those grounds alone I would resist this measure even if it were proposed in the proper forum. There are enough divisions in the body of Christ already without our encouraging more by legislation.
But I do not think this measure is being proposed in the proper forum. I believe now, as I believed in 1974, that the proper body to govern the worship of the Church of England is the Church of England itself. It has an elaborate democratic system of its own in which every member of every congregation in every parish in every diocese is entitled to enrol and to vote. The rights of that electorate are, as I have already shown, firmly entrenched at the very lowest and most effectual level, and no decision of the General Synod purports to set them aside. In an age of increasing secularism it really is not for the representatives of the secular state to dictate the forms of worship to be followed by the Church. The proper place for this debate is not, I believe, in your Lordships' House or in another place at all. It is within the Church, and noble Lords like the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, could be of far more effect and command even greater respect if they were to exert themselves within the Church and not within a separate and secular body.
I do not deny that the airing of this question outside the Church may be valuable. It does at least give a very public platform to people of whom it may perhaps appear, from what we have heard already on the subject, the Church has taken a little less care than it might have done. As a churchman, I accept the criticism that that implies. But of one thing I am in no doubt: it would be a very great pity indeed if Parliament were to take back to itself the right to determine the forms of worship observed in the Church. Still less ought we to try to interfere in other aspects of the life of the Church or to arrogate to Parliament an authority in things of the spirit that may exist on paper, but for which it is manifestly unsuited in practice.
If this Bill were to reach the statute book it would amount to a statement of secular and temporal authority over religious and spiritual matters that I think would be regrettable. That will not be immediately in prospect, even if your Lordships give it a Second Reading. None the less, I very much regret that the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, should think it necessary and proper to deal with this matter from outside the Church of which he is himself a member.
While I regret the Bill, I deplore the second Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley. If that were to be passed—I say this in the most friendly manner—then the immediate prospect would be that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House of Parliament would be set up with inquisitorial 1224 powers to probe and question the affairs of the Church as well as the affairs of Parliament. That indeed is the aim which the noble Lord has said he has in mind. That I find repugnant. That is not a proper function of this House. I say that with no disrespect and no disloyalty. I am a member both of the Church of England and of this House of Parliament. I am loyal to both, and those loyalties are not in conflict. The Church ministers to the spiritual needs of the nation: Parliament looks after its temporal needs. Each has its proper sphere of control. The sphere of control is, and needs to be, a good deal narrower than the sphere of comment. Both Church and Parliament can properly comment on the other's affairs.
The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, and others have commented very tellingly on the Church this evening. It is proper that they should and I hope that what they have said will be well noted in the proper quarter, because it is a product of a need that is very real and very keenly felt. To that I can testify. But comment is one thing: control is another. And a Select Committee with the power to summon witnesses and formulate legislation—legislation aimed directly and specifically at intervening in decisions democratically taken by means specifically approved by Parliament—would amount to an assertion of an authority which this House of Parliament helped to transfer to the Church a decade ago. That would be a long step backwards in history and I hope that your Lordships will have no part of it.
I have the greatest respect for, and sympathy with, the noble Lord, who moved his Motion in eloquent terms, testified to an honourable feeling and gave witness to the feelings of others. I hope he understands that I have every feeling of friendship and respect for him, but I hope that he will not proceed further down this path.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, near the city of Teheran there is a very beautiful garden and in the middle of that garden there is a tomb of a famous Persian poet. Lying on the top of the tomb is a book; and it is said that anyone with a problem opening the book at random and putting his finger on the page will find words of solace, comfort and guidance.
I believe that in this county we have two such books. The first is the Book of Common Prayer and the second is the Authorised Version of the Bible. We are in danger of losing both by neglect in our parish churches—in the parish churches of the Church established by law. I emphasise that because we have heard already, and we are going to hear a great deal more, about the so-called constitutional issue. There is no constitutional issue. We are told that because of convention and the Worship and Doctrine Measure, we now have no constitutional right to discuss the noble Lord's Bill. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop did not go so far as that, but that has been said and will be said.
Last time, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that the Bill raised grave questions of constitutional propriety. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop has said, the British Parliament is sovereign. The British Parliament can 1225 discuss anything it likes and the British Parliament can legislate on anything it likes. If these two propositions do not commend themselves to your Lordships, there is an ample basis for this debate. No one can possibly deny that this Parliament can legislate about a body which has been created by law. If we can legislate about the unions (as we are doing) which are not created by law and about how they run their affairs, we can most certainly legislate about how the Church of England, created by law, should run its affairs.
In the last debate on this matter the Lord Bishop of Durham (who is now the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, and we are delighted to see him here this evening) said that the key issue was whether the legislation under which the Church of England regulates its worship was adequate to protect the interests of those who want to worship according to the Book of Comon Prayer. I suggest that it is not. We have now had 10 years of so-called alternative services and, in my view, that decade has shown beyond any doubt that the synodical government of the Church of England does not or cannot defend this priceless part of our heritage. Therefore, it being a Church established by law, Parliament has the right, and in my view the duty, to do so.
It is often said that there was an understanding in 1974 that Parliament would never again intervene. I was the Minister concerned with this at that time. There was no understanding. There was an understanding of a different kind, certainly on the part of the Government; and the other understanding was that if we commended the Worship and Doctrine Measure to Parliament the Church itself would improve its own democracy, so that the views of all its members could be brought to bear on its decisions. That understanding, certainly on the part of the Government, has been quietly ignored.
Of course the machinery is there, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said—deanery, diocese and General Synod—but the good people who go there represent themselves and are coming to see themselves as the voice of the Church. How often is a parish meeting held of all the laity of the parish, not just the few who are on the parochial church council, to collect the views of the ordinary churchgoer on the forms of service, on women priests, on remarriage in church or any of the other great issues—or a deanery meeting? There is well-documented evidence that parishioners who try to have their views on the Alternative Service Book and the Book of Common Prayer taken into account at parochial church council meetings are meeting considerable pressure from the clergy to "lay off", and in some cases they meet outright hostility. That, as I see it, is as far removed from Christian charity as it is possible to get.
So here we are for the third time, and we are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for allowing us to make once more our gesture of disquiet, for that is what it is.
We had the Gallup Poll, which showed an overwhelming support for the Book of Common Prayer, and that drew from the Secretary-General of the General Synod the comment that by the ballot the critics of the Alternative Service Book had shot their bolt and that he would be sceptical about any results 1226 with which Professor Martin was associated. Anybody who knows Professor Martin would take great exception to that. Then we had the petition of the 600 representing many facets of our national life. That was received with stony silence in the Synod, although the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York explained in our last debate that that was because of a procedural difficulty. Then, in 1981, both Houses of Parliament voted in favour of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley.
After all that, there is no real improvement in the position of the Book of Common Prayer in our parish churches. So I ask the Bench of Bishops—and we are so grateful to see so many of them here this evening—tell us, please, how do we ordinary churchgoers reach the ears, the minds and the hearts of the clergy, particularly the younger ones who are just coming out of the theological colleges knowing hardly anything about the Book of Common Prayer? Alternative services have been going for 10 years now and, in many cases, the younger clergy have been brought up with them. There is no doubt whatever that the colleges are instilling or leaving in their students the idea that the Book of Common Prayer is, if I may use the Archbishop's term, a dignified fossil. The theological colleges are, I believe, the nub of this problem and it is a nub with which the bishops themselves can deal. They can do something about it.
The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York said in our last debate:I fully admit that there is legitimate cause for concern"; [Official Report, 8/4/81; col. 622.]that is, about the colleges. How do we reach the ears, the minds and the hearts of such people as the gentleman referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, the liturgist at Cranmer Hall in Durham, of all places, who said about the debate on his last Bill:The Bill's supporters showed little knowledge, learning or good sense and the colleges should not for a moment let themselves be made the whipping boy for the troubles of Parliament".I have no idea what he meant by those words, but how do we reach a mind like that? One wonders whether a gentleman like that is really in the same Church as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has written in the clearest, most unambiguous terms and has spoken this even in clear terms about the place of the Book of Common Prayer in ordination training.
How do we reach people like the Dean of Lincoln who, at a morning Eucharist service, said those those who opposed the new services were like the trolls who die at sunrise? I do not feel like a troll—I may look like one, but I do not feel like one, and I am certainly not going to die at sunrise—or I hope not! Or how do we reach the Canon Colin Buchanans of this world who accuse us of outright deception? We are extremely grateful to the bishops for the action which they took in 1982 after our last debate, and for their three recommendations in their subsequent statement. But we have looked for results on the ground and have done so in some depth, but, quite frankly, the position of the Book of Common Prayer in our parish churches is worse then it was two years ago.
The last thing that I wish to do is to doubt the good faith of the bishops. Some, as I shall mention in a 1227 moment, have been extremely helpful and are just as concerned as we are. But when I hear of one of them telling a theological college that the bishops' statement need not be taken too seriously, I just wonder whether some of them saw it as buying time until everybody gets used to the Alternative Service Book and all the hullabaloo about the Book of Common Prayer dies away. It is not going to go away. I and the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, and many thousands of churchgoers throughout the country, will continue as the Archbishop has urged us to do, to be vocal in our support for the Book of Common Prayer and to,show boldness and fervent zeal to ensure that it is heard.Another development is causing great concern. I referred earlier to the Synod's regarding itself as the "voice of the Church". This has manifested itself since the passing of the Worship and Doctrine Measure in a growing tendency in the Church to regard those of us who want to preserve the Book of Common Prayer as outsiders. The Church is becoming polarised, with insiders who support the ASB and outsiders who support the Book of Common Prayer. I am a politician who disagrees with the neglect of the Book of Common Prayer, and I am an outsider and am told that I have little knowledge, little learning or little good sense.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has put his finger exactly on this point and I am so grateful to him. I quote what he has written:This sense of frustration is made more acute by unceasing pressure for active membership of the Church of England to be judged by enthusiasm for a range of contemporary fashions. As a result, many people feel unchurched by the one Church in this land which is given pastoral responsibility for everyone.The word "unchurched" is exactly right.
I was christened in the Church of England, I was confirmed in the same Church, I went to a Church of England school and I went to a Church of England college. I have attended church all my life. In a book about my boyhood last year, I described in great detail the effect of the church services on my life. I have now passed the three score years and 10 and now I feel for the first time among the unchurched. The Church of England is not an exclusive club owned by the Synods, by the church bureaucracy or by the clergy. I always thought that it was the Body of Christ in which we all have a place and a part. So what, I ask the Bishops, of those of us who feel unchurched by this struggle to retain our heritage? Certainly, a little more Christian charity from the Church's ministers towards those of us who disagree would not come amiss.
Having said all that, I should be churlish and, indeed, dishonest if I did not express my great gratitude—and "gratitude" is a very small word—to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his quite splendid article. I think that he chose an extraordinary vehicle for it, because the trendy clergy—and they are the main problem—read The Guardian; they do not read the Daily Telegraph. But I hope very much that it will be circulated to every incumbent in England and read from every pulpit. Surely Church House can rise to that. I just question him when he says that the Book of Common Prayer is widely used. My personal knowledge, and our in depth monitoring in the Prayer Book Society, indicate that that is not so.
1228 Secondly, I must express my gratitude to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York—I am so glad that he has not interrupted me tonight; he did so many times in the last debate—for his comments in his book. Church and Nation in a Secular Age. He said that the Alternative Service Book is:Full of mistakes, banalities and imperfections".Of the Lord's Prayer, he said it was so awful that we should use the old form of words. May I tell him that I always say the old words, no matter what the people around me are saying. I hope that at least that message can go out from the House of Lords tonight.
§ The Lord Archbishop of York
My Lords, since I have been twice quoted from my book on the subject, may I ask the noble Lord whether he has read some of the other things I have said about both the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Book in the chapter from which he quoted?
§ Lord Glenamara
Yes. my Lords, and the right reverend Prelate and I appeared together recently on "Any Questions", so I know his views on a great many other matters, too. Thirdly, I should like to express my gratitude to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for his perceptive, sensitive remarks, from which I have already quoted. These three key figures—we are most grateful that they are all here tonight—have given us real hope.
I have not mentioned the linguistic argument, though I am sure that there is an argument to be made. I am quite sure that the most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have made it much more succinctly than I could. Nor have I mentioned the doctrinal argument. Perhaps we make too much of it. However, 1 believe that our doctrine has been tilted a little in the Alternative Service Book.
The only points I make are. first, that those of us who want to retain the Book of Common Prayer (and we are almost certainly the majority) should have our wishes treated with a little more charity and generosity than at present by the clergy and the Church bureaucracy; and, secondly, that the theological colleges should ensure that nobody leaves college without a sound knowledge of the Book of Common Prayer and without having used it in worship. I believe the Bishops could ensure that that comes about. The Church of England has lost most of its teacher training colleges, which produced generations of Christian teachers. It is losing a great many of its schools, in which generations of children learned about the Anglican faith and its services and memorised considerable parts of them. I can still say the whole of the Church Catechism. It is, then, all the more important to preserve this precious part of our Christian heritage, not as a museum exhibit but as part of the living worship of the Church.
Finally, I am a democratic Socialist. Therefore I am committed to widespread change in society. Why, then, should I wish to preserve Cranmer's Prayer Book and King James's Bible? The answer is very simple. I want to change many things in society in order to make them accord more closely with the things which do not change, and the most memorable expression of these unchanging things is to be found in the Bible and the Prayer Book. That is why I, a Socialist, am very 1229 proud and pleased to give warm support this evening to Lord Sudeley's Bill.
§ 8.23 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, I should like to join those who have expressed their gratitude to my noble friend Lord Sudeley for the thoughful manner in which he has moved the Second Reading of his Bill. I confess that when, in the past, the fur has begun to fly on liturgical matters my instinct has been to take cover. I am not ashamed of that reaction. In history, so much damage has been done by dogma, and doctrine has been responsible for so much human misery, that it is high time for tolerance. Above all, I wish reason and common sense to prevail in my own Church and in all the Churches, and in particular between the state and the Church. In this particular case, when we are discussing the use of the Prayer Book of 1662, I see no reason for conflict. That opinion is reinforced by the speech of the most reverend Primate which we have had the privilege of listening to tonight, in which, authoritatively and with definition, he has given guidance to the clergy about the use of the Prayer Book.
I am firmly in favour of the regular use in worship of the Prayer Book. In the words of the most reverend Primate, I want it to be a living element in the services of the Church. The reverence of it has inspired generations of Christians. It exemplifies scholarship and poetry. It gives us, in the simplest yet in the most expressive prose, perhaps the best passages in the English language. Also, I doubt very much whether, in order to recruit to the Christian faith, it is necessary to resort to the Dictionery of Modern English. Certainly that has not been proved. I hope, then, that with leadership from the bishops a Prayer Book of proved excellence will not be allowed to die of neglect, but will remain, above all (I would emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara) a part of the curriculum and of the worship of the theological colleges. That is fundamental for the future. Now that the most reverend Primate has spoken in particular on that issue, I hope that many of the anxieties of my noble friend will have been removed—as, I must confess, mine have been.
Nevertheless, whatever I may feel about the Prayer Book—and other noble Lords have expressed their strong views—our society is changing so quickly that the clergy must be allowed to experiment with various kinds of services in order to see whether they may, particularly among the young, strike a spark of recognition that Christianity has something to say to them in these modern days. Parliament has agreed that the bishops and the clergy should be given that chance, and I believe that they are taking it. Fifty years ago I should have been shocked if I had been asked to sing "I danced till the morning." Now I do so, not only with pleasure but with reverence. There is, therefore, a case for change so that the young may easily be attracted by new language, carefully and reverently used. Therefore my plea is that the old and the new should be encouraged to reinforce each other. That, I take it, was the emphasis laid this evening in his speech by the most reverend Primate.
1230 I must tell my noble friend Lord Sudeley that while, as I hope he can see, I have sympathy with many of the points he has made, I trust that he will not divide the House this evening. If he were to do so, we might have to proceed with his second proposal for a Select Committee of this House. I shall leave the constitutional propriety of such a course to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, was, of course, right—Parliament can do anything. The question is whether Parliament in a particular case should or should not do something. In my opinion, it would be a very questionable use of the procedures of this House to set up a Select Committee, which would in effect be a continuing monitor of the Bench of Bishops.
I suggest that we cannot treat these matters, which involve principle, conscience and emotion, as we might treat agricultural regulations emanating from the European Community in Brussels. If at any time we are to have a renewed dispute between Parliament and Church, at least let us have it on the Floor of both Houses of Parliament; let us not send it upstairs in a hole-and-corner way. I hope it will not come to that.
I said at the start of my speech that there is a basis here for a reasonable, commonsense compromise— using that word in the best sense. I trust therefore that having ventured those views today, and having preserved his right of course to act again, as he feels right, in the future, my noble friend Lord Sudeley will not ask us to vote this evening.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
My Lords, I yield to no one in my respect and regard for the Prayer Book as one of our chief standards of doctrine and in my affection for its language as a vehicle of worship. As required by the canons, I read matins and evensong every day—and I choose to do so from the Book of Common Prayer, usually with a lesson from the Authorised Version of the Bible. But it is the merits of a Bill and not the merits of a book with which we are concerned this evening. I will ask for your Lordships' patience if I begin with a brief survey of attempts to control public worship by parliamentary legislation since the middle of the last century, when a combina-tion of social change and theological renewal began to make the pattern of worship which had prevailed in the two previous centuries increasingly unsatisfactory.
A Royal Commission was set up in 1867 to inquire into the new rubrics, orders and directions for regulating the course and conduct of public worship. Over the next four years it published four reports in four folio volumes—three of them very thick. All except one were accompanied by notes of discontent from various members dissenting. The small legislative result was the lectionary of 1870 and a permission to shorten certain of the services on particular occasions.
Following this came the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874, which was an attempt to restrict or abolish certain new ceremonies and forms of worship. This resulted eventually in four clergymen being sent to prison, to the great embarrassment of the authorities. After that, the Act became a dead letter. That led to a second Royal Commission—this time on the ecclesiastical courts, and which again produced a 1231 report in four thick folio volumes with little practical result.
In 1904 a third Royal Commission on eccesiastical discipline was set up. Two years later, it produced four fat folio volumes which arrived at two main conclusions. The first was, that the law on public worship in the Church was too narrow for the religious life of the present generation. The second was, that the machinery for discipline had broken down. It was that which led to the issue of letters of business to the two convocations to revise the Prayer Book and eventually to the revised Prayer Book, which was twice rejected by the House of Commons in 1927 and 1928.
Following those rejections, a large part of the revised Prayer Book came into general use. What many people mean today when they speak of "the Prayer Book" is in fact the 1928 form. Some of us are old enough to remember all the excitement and controversy which attended the 1927 and 1928 debates; the arguments in the House of Commons about the doctrine of the holy communion and the reservation of the sacrament for the communion of the sick, and about how the book was rejected largely by the votes there of those who were not members of the Church of England.
There was a widespread feeling that that was all very unsuitable and that if liturgical revision was to be taken up again, as surely it must, because the law had remained (as the 1906 commission had said) too narrow to be enforced, then some other way must be found; a way which would enable revised services to be tested by use and again revised before final authorisation—and a way that would not again involve Parliament in detailed discussion on points of doctrine. Such feeling, I believe, came to be shared as much inside as outside Parliament. It was a recognition of the difficulties which arise when it is attempted to control public worship by statute. After some initial trials, a better way was found in the Worship and Doctrine Measure.
I hope that we shall not overlook that history of statutes and Royal Commissions tonight, and that, by the passing of this Bill and the setting up of a Select Committee, we shall not open up a fresh era of conflict—which history suggests can only end in futility. We must all surely have been greatly moved by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, but I was astounded and shocked to hear him say that the Church of England was created by law. Whenever we institute a person to an incumbency or licence him to an office—whenever a bishop is consecrated—there is a statement which has to be read and to which that person has to give assent. It begins with the words,The Church of England is part of the one, holy. Catholic and Apostolic Church".It is a Church which I have always understood derives from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and not from English law.
The most reverend Primate has expressed the hope that the bishops will speak of what is happening in their own dioceses and of what we are trying to do. I should now like to do that. As much has been said of them, let me begin with our theological college, because we have one at Chichester. In March 1982 it was clear that the Prayer Book was not being used in 1232 that college. Now there is a Prayer Book service once a day on most days of the week throughout the term there. In 1980 I wrote to all the clergy of the diocese of Chichester giving some advice about how to use the new services and also enclosing the official leaflet on worship and doctrine to which reference has alrady been made. I asked them and their parochial church councils to give sympathetic consideration to those who wished the Prayer Book services to be used.
A year later I issued a questionnaire to discover what services were being used. Of the forms sent out, 333—that is, more than 90 per cent.—were returned. They showed that 120 parishes in the diocese were using the Prayer Book communion service as a mid-morning Sunday service and that 219 of them were using Prayer Book matins as a mid-morning Sunday service. We have a number of churches in which there are two main mid-morning Sunday matins followed by communion. In the survey, 250 parishes were using Prayer Book evensong as against 46 using the ASB evensong. That suggests to me that the Prayer Book services are much more widely available than is often alleged. No doubt there have been mistakes and there has been rashness on the part of some of the clergy. There have been excesses of enthusiasm, but from my own experience may I ask your Lordships to be cautious about accepting unreservedly the statements made concerning these matters.
One of the two secretaries, for example, of the Prayer Book Society has stated in print, and repeated at a public meeting, that I forbade the circulation of the third edition of the worship and doctrine leaflet. I did no such thing. He has also stated in a report that on a winter Sunday in Worthing it is not possible to make one's Prayer Book communion in the hours of daylight. On reading that I telephoned three churches in Worthing and found that each of them has a mid-morning Prayer Book communion service on one or more Sundays in the month.
Only last August the chairman of the Prayer Book Society wrote to me to say that the situation in the Seaford area for those who wished to worship according to the Book of Common Prayer is an unhappy one. The Seaford area includes Seaford proper where there is sung matins according to the Prayer Book at 11.15 every Sunday and a Prayer Book communion service at 12.15 on the first Sunday in the month. At St. Luke's there is 8 a.m. communion each Sunday according to the Prayer Book. At Bishopstone all services are according to the Prayer Book, and there is a notice in the porch saying that the parish supports the Prayer Book Society. The chairman apologised that he had been misinformed, but I am afraid that the local branch secretary who had supplied the misinformation continues to assert that she was correct.
May I add to that a letter which I received from a lady complaining that in her parochial church council the new forms of services had been imposed on the council by the incumbent, who said that I wished them to be used. It so happens that a member of that parochial church council is a very senior and distinguished lay member of our bishop's council. I therefore asked him. He had been on that parochial council for a number of years under two successive incumbents, during the time when the new services 1233 were being introduced. He said that what this lady had written was entirely untrue, and that there had been complete, full and free discussion without any attempt on the part of either of the two successive incumbents to impose their will.
Trying to deal with such complaints and trying to ascertain what are the real facts in each case is complicated by the question: what is a Prayer Book service? The most reverend Primate has already touched on this. In the questionnaire which I sent out in 1981 I asked the clergy to say what variations they made from the Prayer Book communion service. As was to be expected, many used the shortened commandments and omitted the three long exhortations. When my staff analysed the returns they found that there were 40 different variations recorded.
In a letter to the bishops in 1981 the president of the Prayer Book Society appears to want a 1662 Holy Communion service as it stands. One of the vice-presidents, Mr. Field, in a letter to The Times, pleads for Series I—that is, roughly the Prayer Book prayers in the ASB order. All these add to the difficulty of ensuring that the wishes of parishioners are properly met and that minorities are adequately cared for. I hope that they are not matters which your Lordships would wish to see pursued in a Select Committee of this House.
I hope I have said enough to show that the bishops do care about these matters and spend a good deal of time in trying to deal with individual problems as well as attempting to guide clergy and parishes generally in the right way. I fear that if this Bill becomes law it will add to our problems and will stir up conflict rather than bring reconciliation.
The main period of liturgical revision which began over 20 years ago has only recently ended with the publication of the Alternative Services Book. It was inevitable that during that time mistakes would be made. What we need now is a substantial period of time to reflect upon that experience, to heal injuries and to sort out the right way of using what we now have. Care and sensitivity are needed. In all this the bishops have a special responsibility and a leading role to play. I hope that your Lordships will trust that in this we do try to act from a high sense of duty and that you will not make our task more difficult by passing this Bill.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, whatever else my noble friend, Lord Sudeley, may have achieved he has managed to muster more bishops than I have ever seen before in this Chamber since I have had the privilege of being in this House. To be slightly serious, we ought to be deeply grateful to them because we all know what tremendous commitments they have in their dioceses and it is splendid that they have all been able to attend. I add my thanks to the most reverend Primate for his introductory speech and in making the position so clear.
However, I welcome this Bill as a courageous attempt—and I mean courageous—by my noble friend Lord Sudeley to ensure that the Book of Common Prayer should retain its proper place in the 1234 worship of the Church of England. I supported my noble friend when he introduced his earlier Bills, and I am deeply concerned that, notwithstanding the actions by the bishops in 1982 and at other times, as we have heard, in many places lip service only seems to have been paid to the views both of the Houses of Parliament, where the matter has been debated, as well as to those of a host of lay, sincere, Anglican Christians; not to mention more recently the letter to the Daily Telegraph by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I hasten to add that this stricture does not apply now to the parishes in which I worship. We have three amalgamated parishes with five churches and the balance between old and new forms of worship is nearly satisfactory. I do not suppose it ever will be wholly satisfactory, particularly when making allowance for the rector's need to get around all his churches. I am not sure that my wife, who until recently has sat on the parochial church council, would say that that is satisfactory, but that is not the subject of this Bill.
My concern is threefold. Many of these points have been made and I shall make them briefly. First, there are some failings of the ASB itself. Secondly, there is clear evidence that a large number of parishes have not listened, and apparently do not intend to listen, to the arguments for an even balance between old and new forms of worship. Thirdly, there is evidence that the theological colleges are among the leaders in apparently seeking to phase out the Book of Common Prayer altogether. I accept absolutely that that is not the wish of any of the most reverend or right reverend Prelates who have spoken tonight or probably of any other bishops, but that is the way it looks.
With regard to the ASB, the wording of individual prayers has been unnecessarily and excessively modernised. Many of the splendid old phrases could have been retained without upsetting the balance of the new formats. A second criticism is that there are far too many alternatives. I can see the problem, but in practical terms there are far too many alternatives. Both these failings, in particular, are irritating and a positive hindrance to reverent prayer for many who make up the hard core of the Church (the middle-aged and the elderly) without—and this is an important factor—being an attraction to the young. My knowledge is that young people are perfectly capable of appreciating the fine phrases of the old Prayer Book and the old Bible and resent the thought that they are being spoonfed. For this reason I find it hard to understand why so many clergy seem to be rigorously antipathetic to the Book of Common Prayer and King James's Bible and why, indeed, on many occasions they manipulate affairs within their parishes so that the voice of those parishioners who wish to retain a balance between old and new is positively suppressed. Like the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, I can only imagine that it is because of the blinkered attitude of the theological colleges, of which there is much evidence. This was highlighted in some detail by my noble friend Lord Sudeley.
My rector told me last Sunday, when I was telling him about this debate, that when he was trained for the priesthood 13 years ago his college was one of only two, among 14, that included any teaching of the 1662 1235 Prayer Book in its courses. He feared that such teaching might be even less now.
Of course it is important to attract the young into the Church but it is questionable whether Rite A will help that much. It must also be appreciated by clergy that they must retain the older members. This is more especially necessary because, as we get nearer to the grave, we need the sympathetic support of the Church more and so far as is possible in the language which helps us to pray. On this point I would sympathise greatly with the thought of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that people can feel unchurched by the impact of the modern phraseology.
For all those reasons, I believe that my noble friend's Bill is of great importance. From what has been said, I suppose that this is too much to hope for, but I would have hoped that the General Synod would see that this intervention by Parliament was complementary to its work and not an attempt to reverse the decentralising gift by Parliament in 1974 and in earlier years. Accordingly, I shall support my noble friend's Motion for a Second Reading and, if he moves it, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee, if it is his decision so to do.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Lord Howard of Henderskelfe
My Lords, contrary to the usual practice, I believe that I should start by declaring that I do not have an interest in the subject of this Bill, inasmuch as it cannot affect the methods and the kind of worship which takes place in the chapel which replaced the original parish church where I reside. There is no parochial church council to hold forth about it, because we are—and this may well be news to the mot reverend Primate of England, in whose diocese I reside—an Archbishop's peculiar.
However, I shall not delay your Lordships with diversions on that theme because I am chiefly concerned with the impact of this Bill, and the Select Committee with which it is proposed to follow it up, on the relationship between Church and state. We all know—we have had plenty of discussion about this—about Parliament being unable to bind its successors. What it has given with one hand it can take away at a later date with another. These matters are governed by well-understood conventions as well as by constitutional law. We sat up until a pretty late hour on Monday night discussing the constitutional position of the conventions which obtain between central Government and the local authorities. I think that where we have, as we do have, an unwritten constitution, the conventions which govern the way in which we operate are of greater importance than they are in a country in which there is a written constitution, a Supreme Court to interpret it, and so on.
The Church of England has not had its liturgy legislated for for 110 years. Your Lordships have been told that that particular operation resulted in four clergymen going to prison, which was not thought to be a very good idea. The Church of England in fact has been more or less autonomous for the whole of my lifetime. In the past 10 years it has extended that autonomy to governance of matters of doctrine and worship.
1236 The measures which your Lordships are asked under the present system to approve by affirmative resolution may not be entirely palatable, but nevertheless no one could suggest that they were taken by the General Synod in other than the most serious and solemn manner, after having sought divine guidance. It seems to me that to introduce a Bill into this House which at any rate appears to ignore a procedure which has reached maturity over a period of some 65 years, since the 1919 enabling Act, is, to say the least, hardly in accordance with the conventions which have prevailed and developed over that time. What matters, I believe, are not the actual, strictly laid down conventions of the law but how they are interpreted and perceived in their intent and effect as much as in their actual content.
I believe that there is a considerable amount of confusion, which has been referred to earlier, about what kind of liturgy we are discussing. I do not want to go into that in any detail at all, but I do not believe that all the Members of your Lordships' House who refer to the 1662 Prayer Book realise precisely what that Prayer Book contains. I wonder whether any Member of your Lordships' House has in fact ever heard the Commination Service with its inclusion of the words:Cursed is the man that maketh any carved or molten image; Cursed is he that curseth his father or mother: Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's landmark"—I am sure that that will appeal to some of the landowners in your Lordships' House—Cursed is he that maketh the blind go out of his way",and so on, including lying with your neighbour's wife. That is particularly cursed. I think the parish in which that was last delivered must have been extremely similar to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Nor do I believe that many of your Lordships will have heard in the Holy Communion service itself—the central service of our Church—either of the two long exhortations. I certainly have not and I have been unable to discover in my brief researches with the Bishops who are here tonight that they have ever heard them either. There are many other similar examples. As has been suggested, what is probably being asked for is a variation on the 1662 book which is not all that different to the 1928 book. There are numerous other difficulties in the Bill. I shall not go into the details. The definition of the principal morning service is one which, if we did ever quite get as far as the Committee stage, might cause us considerable problems.
Every Church of which I have any knowledge has been giving deep thought to its doctrine and its acts of worship during the past 30 years. The Church of England can hardly be expected to be an exception to this general rule. We may not as individuals agree with what the Church is doing. In that respect, the more we talk about what the General Synod does, the more I believe that it is a very great pity that there is not one Member of your Lordships' House who is a member of the General Synod where these matters are discussed in great detail.
May I be allowed to remind your Lordships who take a particular interest in these matters that there will be an opportunity next year for this to be rectified, when the new General Synod is to be elected? It is perfectly open for any Member of your Lordships' House who happens to be on the electoral roll and is 1237 a member of the Church of England to stand for the General Synod, where no doubt he will be listened to with close attention. There are four Members of the other House, two of whom I believe are co-opted and two who are there in another way.
I may be one of the newest comers to this House, though I have spent many years wearing other hats, listening to your Lordships' debates and admiring the civilised way in which they were conducted. I sometimes think that the way we are described as a revising House is a somewhat derogatory description, as anyone who sits through the Committee stages of our Bills, where we consider every clause, line and word very carefully, will agree. Anything which could harm the value and reputation of this House, or disturb its relationships with other organisms of the body politic is to be deprecated, and I greatly fear that the introduction of a Bill such as this, at not infrequent intervals, will not enhance our relationships with other bodies.
Furthermore—and I believe that this is a very real danger indeed—it may well strengthen the mood, which is stronger than many of your Lordships may realise, of encouragement towards disestablishment and the complete separation of Church and state. It may be thought that I am exaggerating the effect of what some of your Lordships may believe to be a harmless little Bill designed to secure a limited objective. Anything which might lead towards a move to disestablishment within the Church itself can only be described as fissiparous, though, by contrast, any move from outside to disestablish the Church could unite it, as Bishop Hemsley Henson so wisely remarked many years ago. I do not think I need to list the considerable constitutional problems which would arise and which would surround the position of Her Majesty the Queen as supreme governor of the Church of England—she is not, incidentally, the head of the Church as she was referred to in the last debate, a position which was assumed by Henry VIII and, curiously, enough, maintained by Bloody Mary. It would also have repercussions upon the position of the Bench of Bishops and right the way through to the body of the Church down to parish level. Curiously enough, any such move could do nothing but harm to relationships with other Churches in this country which have increasingly, in the last half-century come to value the connection between the Church of England and the state as at least a formal statement of the state's Christian foundation.
This House has many very useful and time-consuming functions to perform, and I am afraid that I can only regard the introduction of a measure such as this and its further pursuance—after the opportunity which is given to air the views which have been expressed with such eloquence and such courtesy this evening—as a gross waste of your Lordships' time. I trust—and may I endorse indeed the request of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel—that the noble Lord whose name it bears will agree to withdraw this Bill.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, why is it that some of us are still prepared to speak for the Prayer Book, and even for the 1928 Service which, as all noble Lords 1238 know, one can use for a liturgy? The reason is that the guarantees and safeguards, as promised by certain measures such as the Worship and Doctrine Measure, seem to have been set aside without the intention—for example, from the pamphlet entitled: Where Stands the Prayer Book Now?
The voices of many who are quite happy with the Prayer Book are regarded as shortsighted. For instance, this is brought out from the Backgrounder:Priests are mostly trained in atmospheres where the Prayer Book is ignored, even despised, and it is not surprising that many go out into parishes to convert the benighted… There is the growing tendency to see the Church of England in terms of outsiders and insiders and the insiders insist that those who disagree with them are outsiders, casual hangers-on or just 'tribal Christians'. The 'outsiders' whose voices arouse most resentment are the press which has kept up a steady barrage of criticism in favour of traditional worship, and Christian intellectuals, especially writers, and concerned politicians".I should like to quote from the book by Doctor John Habgood, the Lord Archbishop of York. This has already been mentioned. May I also say how nice it is to see so many bishops here with us tonight. On page 142 of Church and Nation in a Secular Age the most reverend Primate says:revision has proved to be damagingly divisive as well as linguis-tically inept. I believe it would do much good if the failure were to be publicly admitted, and if Churches were to be encouraged to revert to the exclusive use of the traditional version".This statement came from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, reviewing a book by Anthony Kilmister entitled When will Ye be wise?:They articulate a sense of frustration, sometimes approaching despair, which is felt by many who cannot articulate it for themselves.We are not saying that the people who like the new services should not have them. We are only asking that the Prayer Book services be available at a decent frequency and time. People of all ages who love the Prayer Book are still as committed to a true understanding of worship and faith as those who appreciate the new services. But in some cases their God-given nature has a quieter way of responding; yet it is still as warm and loving. The Church needs both outlooks rather than having just the one kind. The supporters of the new services can, without the realisation of the fact, put the others outside as the hinderers and blockers of true Christian worship.
The study of the 1662 Prayer Book, especially the liturgy, is something that could be more profitably done at theological colleges than is apparent, and it could also be used more fully at college services. It was heartening to hear the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who has just spoken. The fact that this is not being done is evident from reliable research work referred to in the bunch of papers that I have here.
A liturgy needs to encourage and lead one on to a sense of awe as well as encouraging and challenging thoughts. We are in a climate where there will be the need for a variety of forms of worship and liturgy, rather than just one.
I wish to quote from the Church Times of 6th April. It is a letter from Professor David Martin, the last paragraph of which reads:One thing is certain. The atmosphere has been enormously improved by the Archbishop's article and by your leader. If means 1239 can be found to remedy the outstanding injustices, then I believe that those of us who have campaigned for many years in the universities, in the senior Press, and in Parliament would wish for nothing better than to fold our tents".I should like to say how heartening it was to hear the speech of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to feel that maybe his Grace and the other noble Prelates are perhaps more understanding and have more feeling towards us than we might have realised.
In many people's eyes, Series 2 was preferable to Series 3. The prayer of intercession for the Church militant is far better in Series 2 because it is precise and definite. Series 3 tends to be long, rather than precise, and is not really challenging. The short and precise are more challenging and they tend to help develop a sense of awe and thoughtfulness.
Worship is for people to be led to express their thoughts—not just easy thoughts without having to exert the mind. The new liturgy is long-winded, with perhaps the thought in relation to God being rather misty. That is of course how some of us feel about it, though, in all honesty, we have tried to grow to like it, love it—or whatever the right term may be.
What I have said this evening confirms what were my thoughts in the debate on Wednesday, 8th April 1981. I wish to quote from col. 655 of the Official Report:The way religious experience is expressed varies with people, and it is not right that any one view should imply that others are practising worship with inadequate appreciation or understanding. … The souls of many need this book as an equal partner to the new services".We do well to remember some words of the late Dr. Eric Abbott, Dean of Westminster. He used to use the phrase.The givenness of things in relation to the gifts God has given us".It seems to me that there is a special givenness about the Prayer Book in the sense that it was given to our Church in a particular way by the inspiration of its authors; and for centuries such a gift has played a unique part in both the corporate life of our nation and the personal lives of individual Christians. This should not be neglected or lightly set aside.
As a parish priest I can truthfully say that in my parishes I have done my best to try to meet the needs of all people, whatever their feelings towards liturgy and services. I can honestly say that there is the Series 3 as well as the Prayer Book. But I can also honestly say that on the whole the new liturgy, the new services, have not really clicked, though, when Series 2 and 3 came out, I had meetings of the PCC to go through them first of all.
In spirit and feeling I give my support to my noble friend Lord Sudeley. Yet somehow I feel that, if our hopes could really be met, one would wish the matter not to have to go as far as he might like. I should also like to say to the noble Prelates, "Do go on giving us hope as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has implied tonight". Do go on giving us hope; help us to appreciate those who like the new services and help those who like the new services to appreciate us. So, in spirit and feeling, I give my wholehearted support to my noble friend, Lord Sudeley, and may God bless the Prayer Book.
§ 9.15 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford
My Lords, in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford, when it is being used a a cathedral and not as a college chapel, the Prayer Book, and the Prayer Book only, is used at the principal services. Almost the sole exception to this is the ordination service, and, having used both the old and the new ordinals now for over 14 years, I can say without hesitation that the new one makes much clearer to a congregation in a form that they can assimilate what is the office and work of a priest. The general diet of daily worship in the cathedral, however, is that of the Book of Common Prayer. I am glad to say that a sizeable congregation is common.
Just across the road, there are a number of parish churches where the predominant form of worship—predominant but not exclusive—is according to the Alternative Service Book. Here, too, contrary to some impressions given in the media, the congregations are extremely flourishing. On many Sunday mornings, the total congregations of those six churches will amount to around 2,000 people. You thus have in the centre of Oxford a remarkable microcosm of the Church of England in its comprehensiveness. I submit that that traditional virtue should be one of the major points for consideration in our debate.
It is true that the Church of England has proved less comprehensive vis-à-vis other denominations during the past few years than it could or should have done. That is no particular matter of pride to us. Nevertheless, it is still true, as it was before the ASB came into being, whether we recognise it or not, that within her borders, the Church contains a pretty wide variety of rites, not to mention a variety of ways in which the same rite is presented. Surely, this is, within reasonable limits, a healthy state of affairs. For the function of the Church is to help her members to pray as they can and not as they cannot. And, since the membership of the national Church should, by definition, be wide, we should expect a wide variety of religious approach as, indeed, from his point of view, the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has argued. We should not in these latter days seek to contain it within too rigid a uniformity.
I should like to give a little more data about the theological colleges. My very recent inquiries of the three in or near Oxford which represent roughly three different kinds of churchmanship within the Church of England, have shown the following results. All three use the Prayer Book at matins and/or evensong for at least one term regularly in every year, and two of them more often than that. One college does not use the Prayer Book for Holy Communion at all. One uses it exclusively every other term, and the third uses it once a week throughout the term. That shows true Anglican diversity.
In all the three colleges, there is instruction in the Prayer Book in the course of teaching about the liturgy of the Church and in one specifically in doctrine also. That is a situation that needs monitoring but I do not think that it is one to induce despair. I do not know that it deserves some of the strictures made in this debate.
1241 It has always been a welcome feature of your Lordships' House that it has been willing to listen to the voice of those who have first-hand experience of any matter under debate, not that such voices are necessarily infallible, but they do bring news from the front line across a wide sector. We have had a number of such voices this evening from different points of view within the Church. I only hope that you will be willing to include the bishops. They do not, as sometimes represented, sit at home all the time opening mail from the Prayer Book Society. Nor do they, thank goodness, sit all the time in Church House attending meetings of the General Synod. They go about their dioceses as practitioners, not just as administrators, and they join in the worship of a large number of parishes, colleges, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Among these, there are places where the Prayer Book—and only the Prayer Book—seems fitting and proper. Those whose piety was formed by the Prayer Book, as mine was, may rejoice to find it. But there are also places—and not a few either—where the modern-language liturgies seem much more appropriate and where they have obviously become a real and living vehicle for the worship of those congregations. To call these services "trendy", to use a rather overworked word in some circles, is, I submit, a misjudgment of their quality.
The argument which was put forward yesterday in The Times, that it is only the bishops and clergy who, for some obscure reason, and right across the country, wish to foist new services upon unwilling congregations thereby stirring up no end of trouble for themselves, seems prima facie to be implausible, and in fact I find it unsupported by the evidence in my own diocese.
The ASB has established itself with surprising rapidity in the affections of a good many Anglicans, not all of them belonging to the younger generation either, and therefore not all of them discarding the Book of Common Prayer. I am well aware that to some of your Lordships this does not apply, to put it mildly; nor indeed is it compulsory that it should. But there may be a case for:laying aside all private interests, prejudices and partial affections",in the words of that mighty prayer with which we begin each Session of this House, in order to respect in a proper Anglican spirit the prayer that has become congenial to others.
It is an interesting paradox that the Book of 1242 Common Prayer which on the whole, has the theology which lays great stress upon our state as miserable sinners who are unable of themselves to help themselves, should have made such an appeal to English people of a rather different temper. It may be that there is some law of spiritual compensation at work here. But one cannot help observing that some of the more ardent champions of the Prayer Book at the moment do seem very obviously formed by this kind of theology. The combination of Augustinian doctrine and state power may have seemed possible in the 16th century, but I believe that the mismatch is a good deal plainer in our own day.
I am afraid that if this Bill were to pass, it would actually do harm to those who love the Prayer Book and who wish to maintain its use in the eyes of their fellow worshippers in the Church of England who are of a different mind. For it will seem to them like a form of coercion by what could, in some parishes at any rate, be quite a small minority, and I submit that that would be contrary to natural justice, which it is the proper aim of Parliament to uphold.
I am aware that in this place it is a temptation to discuss the content of this Bill as if it were partly a constitutional question and partly a cultural one. I trust that noble Lords would not think well of the Lords Spiritual if they were to regard it primarily as either of those rather than as a religious question. To us, and I am sure also to many of your Lordships, it is a question of enabling a large variety of people —nowadays many with little in the way of biblical culture or family religious background—to worship within the national Church.
We may regret—I do regret—that the days are past when the young had to learn the Prayer Book Collects or the answers in the Catechism off by heart—at least, we may regret it safely now that we ourselves no longer have to do it. But if we were to think that we could legislate for such practices to be incorporated into the educational system that we now have, we should surely be making a great mistake and inviting disappointment. By the same token, I do not believe that in 1984 the cause of the Book of Common Prayer will be assisted by fresh legislation. It will be assisted only by trying to commend its treasures to those who have hitherto been ignorant of them, and in that process—and I speak as one who has corresponded at length, and I hope fruitfully, with Sir John Colville —we could and should be willing to co-operate.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, we have heard a formidable case against this Bill from the Bench of Bishops. I am bound to say that I found myself wondering what a difference there would have been had those right reverend Prelates and the most reverend Primate joined us in, say, the Matrimonial Provisions Bill. Had they then have attended in such force, had they then given the same sort of lead, had they then employed the same debating skill, how much more chance we would have had against the skill of the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack.
I rise with more than a little diffidence to support the Second Reading of this Bill, and I have to say that I have no great theological learning and I am not a member of any society within the Anglican Church. I speak before an imposing Bench of the Archbishop and the Bishops—I must say that I agree so much with my noble friend Lord Glenamara when he says it is a delight to see them—as a very humble rank and file member of our Church. I imagine I probably kneel for communion as regularly as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I have served as a member of a parochial church council; but I am bound to say to him that I just have not seen the lively democracy with which he said that this subject had been discussed in the parishes. I did not recognise what he was describing as being within his experience.
I humbly say to the most reverend Primate that all the provisions and all the protections about which he spoke as to the use of the Common Prayer Book just do not seem to have operated in many of the parishes. Of course I listened to what was said by the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Oxford, and we have to take account of what they say. They speak of two areas, but there are other areas in the country, and the experience there I think is somewhat different.
My dear wife occasionally says to me with great kindness that my grasp of doctrinal principle is not too deeply rooted, and I am sure she is right; but I would claim to have a love for, and a feeling for, the English language, and I would claim to have some knowledge and experience of judging when a message—in this case a Christian message—is getting over. On the first point, that of language, I ask to be forgiven if, in the interest of brevity, I say starkly what I feel about the language style of these alternative services.
Frankly, I am amazed at the sheer conceit of those who sat down to improve upon the language of the Book of Common Prayer. Amendment, adjustment, elimination of some repetition, yes. But to rewrite —for the sake of rewriting apparently—I just cannot understand. What they eventually produced seemed to me to have all the beauty and all the appeal of a circular from the Department of the Environment.
I have tried to understand the reasoning about this rewriting. It would seem that there was an honest and understandable desire to widen the appeal of the established Christian Church, and that would be a desire that I wholeheartedly share. But having decided the objective, the reasoning seems to have followed 1244 that of the BBC if they see a dwindling audience, or certain editors if they face a reducing readership. That reasoning is to popularise or, in other words, to cheapen the appeal, and that appears to be certainly the recipe of the BBC and the tabloid press. The quality of today's British tabloid press is sad enough, but infinitely more serious would be a cheapening of the Christian appeal. I have yet to learn of one new worshipper at the church which I attend who has been persuaded to join the congregation because of the use of this do-it-yourself language. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, was absolutely right when he said he could see no reason for this new kind of language as a medium of recruiting into the Church of England. I should be delighted if some evidence could be given to me of people who had come into the congregation because of this use of the new service.
I make one last point. The most reverend Primate spoke of the delicate fabric of the relationship between Church and State. Much has been said about the implications of this Bill and that if it were carried through it would mean Parliament impinging upon the authority of the Church. In this country and in this age I see no danger whatsoever of Parliament wishing to usurp the authority or the responsibilities of the work of the Church: far from it.
I would venture to point to a more real and a more serious danger. If Parliament and the people who elect it choose to ignore our Church of England indeed that would mean decline of influence and ultimately complete impotence. I should like to emphasise this: it gives me pleasure to see so many from the Church of England hierarchy in the Chamber this evening. How great it would be if this was a common occurrence, instead of a special occasion, to try to dampen down the interests and enthusiasm of Members of a House of Parliament.
The value of the Church in our national life is not simply the celebration of the Eucharist or the preaching to a limited congregation. I want to widen the influence of the Anglican Church. I am sure we all take pride and satisfaction in the fact that if we have a national or a personal tragedy it is so often to the Church to whom people turn for comfort. I should like to feel that this reliance upon the Church by the nation, by individuals, not necessarily regular communicants, could be increased.
The most reverend Primate said that Parliament and Church were not in conflict. But as I see it, it is not a question of conflict that we are talking about here: it is a question of complement. How can we bring both Parliament and the Church closer together? Far from impinging upon the activities of the Anglican Church, this proposed Select Committee to study the Bill seems to me to be an example of how we could stimulate interest, how we could bring people together to consider how best things could be put over. If there are noble Lords here—the noble Lord, Lord Elton, seemed to be one of them—who think that this work could be best confined to the parochial church councils or to the higher committees, they are entitled to think it; but I see no great evidence that at the present time that they are making great headway.
1245 This Bill and the action of the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, in introducing it, would have been justified if only because it provides the opportunity and the incentive to the most reverend Primate to come to make the speech that he made. The speeches of the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Chichester and Oxford I am sure will be studied very carefully. However, I still feel how wonderful it would be if they could agree with us that there was some merit in having this Bill and the implications of it considered honestlv by Members of the House of Parliament.
§ 9.35 p.m.
My Lords, following the example of my noble friend Lord Elton, I should explain that I, too, have been a church warden, possibly for longer than I should have been but not for such a variety of parishes as has my peripatetic and noble friend who sits on the Front Bench. Also, I happen to have held the office of High Steward of Norwich Cathedral and in that respect I am not elevated, as is the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, through an archbishop peculiar or any other type of archbishop. The views which 1 express this evening are entirely my own and in no way reiterate those of anyone connected with Norwich Cathedral. Indeed, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich does not even know what I propose to say. and I hope that I shall not embarrass him by what I may say.
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Sudeley on the intellectual content of his speech, which was considerable. I do not think that his Bill has found many friends but it brought a goodly posse of bishops. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was slightly unfair to the bishops' Benches. If such a turnout of bishops as we have seen this evening were to be a regular occurrence then they would not be doing the duty that they have to do. They are regular attenders and regular supporters of your Lordships' House, are greatly welcome when they appear and it is quite right that they should come in force this evening to defend their own patch, as it were.
My Lords, I believe that it would be wrong to give this Bill a Second Reading. Whether we like it or not, the Church of England has its own procedures set up by Parliament under which it can conduct itself and its services; and I think that it would be wrong for Parliament to interfere in that respect. If the parishes wish for certain services then they can have them and there is a procedure for that. But, of course, the Church of England is the Established Church and my noble friend Lord Elton let light into my noble friend Lord Sudeley for bringing in this Bill in the first place. I thought that that was slightly unfair because, as it is the Established Church, Parliament has certain rights and certain responsibilities in connection with it. The mere fact that this Bill has been presented and discussed this evening gives weight to that.
Having said that I do not think that we ought to give the Bill a Second Reading, I have a sneaking sympathy for my noble friend Lord Sudeley. The Church of England has undergone great changes, changes which it has brought largely upon itself. We have had in the 1246 variety of services, Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, the Alternative Series, Rite A and Rite B, and they are both very different things. The Book of Common Prayer, for all its formality and legality, seems to have become relegated. As soon as one gets used to one type of service, one finds that one is moved on to another. I suppose that this is done because one must have variety and cater for all tastes. We now have a kaleidoscope of services which can be used.
The most reverend Primate quite rightly said that there should be a generosity of approach towards services. Of course, the most reverend Primate is right. But the trouble is that if one has five or six different services one tends to like one over and above the other five. So that the mathematical statistics are that there is a five-to-one chance that one will be attending a service which one would prefer not to have had. I sometimes wonder whether this is a contributory factor to the churches not being as full as they might be. As my noble friend Lord Mottistone said, in an effort to draw in the non-attenders, we may unwittingly have turned away the regulars.
Instead of unity this variety of services has sometimes created disharmony, and there is certainly no evidence that the young people themselves automatically prefer the newer version. I sometimes think it might be another example of what modesty once compelled me to call "Ferrers law"—which says that everything has the reverse effect of that intended. Even the Lord's Prayer and the Creed are no longer constant in their use. I am bound to say I find this greatly disturbing. Many find it an irritant that at the most solemn part of the service there is commonality neither of use nor of diction, and that you have to concentrate and read where previously the response was automatic and natural.
I admire the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, who is not now in his seat, says he sticks to the original; so do I, but in my obstinacy to do so I find I have to remember which is the original and therefore the concentration goes. The distinctions between "on earth" and "in earth"; "who are in Heaven" and "which art in Heaven"; "I believe" and "We believe"; "thou" and "you"; and the fact that the president leads the service and not the priest or minister, I find greatly disturbing. This is tinkering with words, which improve little but destroy much. In an endeavour to provide something for everyone one wonders whether the purists and reformers have not squeezed out simplicity, tradition and beauty—and sometimes possibly reverence.
The most reverend Primate reminded us that the Church of England has not been alone in this great change. Indeed, it has not. The Roman Catholics, too, have been subjected to even more reforming zeal. One monseigneur said to me once, "When the Roman Catholics changed from Latin to vernacular, we had to move to the modern language; we did not have anything different. But you in the Church of England have had this magnificent language and yet you have dispensed with it"—and what a pity that is.
I well remember on one occasion having tea in your Lordships' House with a noble Lord and the right reverend Prelate the late Bishop of Leicester, Dr. Ronald Williams. We were talking about the 1247 vernacular and the Catholic service. The noble Lord who was with me said he always went to a Church of England service when he went abroad, and if he could not find one he used to go to the nearest Catholic church. He said, "I always knew where I was, the service was the same in every single country. Last year I went to Portugal, I did not understand a word except 'Ho Senor', to which the right reverend Prelate said, twinkling his eye as he always did, 'And that was the most important part of the service'."
I hope that this Bill will not get a Second Reading; I do not believe it is the right thing for us to do. But if the Church complains at this Bill, it is at least partly responsible for it. In their endeavour to try to find something for everyone, many feel that they have lost what they knew and have not got what they want. Maybe that is a reactionary view, but I fear it is one that some hold, and if the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, has used the vehicle of a parliamentary Bill to make his bleat, or, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said in that most moving speech, a "gesture of disquiet", then I for one do not blame him.
§ 9.44 p.m.
My Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I hope that this Bill will not get a Second Reading, but I am still extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for introducing it, because it gives an opportunity to some of us who know and love the Books of Common Prayer of 1662 and 1928 to say what we think. I am a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church where we have the lovely 1929 Prayer Book, which derives from the 1662 Church of England Prayer Book. So, why am I bothering? I am bothering because what happens in the Church of England one year happens in the Scottish Episcopal Church the next year. It is infectious, like the 'flu.
I am also extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his splendid speech and for what he said about lowering standards to attract a larger audience. I would suggest that the Church of England should try to put over the glories of its traditional services a bit harder, and that those who do not want those glories can join some other church which does not have them.
I think the average member of a church belongs to that church for one of two reasons. The first is that he was brought up to be a member of it by parents or guardians who were members too. The second is that he became a member of it by choice, preferring it either to another church or faith, or to no church or faith at all. Now the average church member is often a not very religious chap and he does not give a brass farthing for dogma of any kind. What he minds about is having the kind of service he likes and through which he feels he can make direct personal contact with the Almighty. To many, the alternative forms are downright offensive, and irritate them to the point where they can no longer worship in church.
To the average church member of middle age or older the Prayer Book is the Church of England. It is what distinguishes it from every other denomination. Apart from the sheer beauty of the words, there is, I think, another consideration. In a world of very rapid change, people can feel very lost and disorientated; 1248 and a church which is always the same, with the same ceremonies and the same words, can be like an anchor in a stormy sea, and the only thing they have left to cling to. Perhaps this applies more to older people, but it applies; and surely they, who are still the backbone of many congregations, do matter a little. To deny them the services they have grown up with and loved is just sheer intolerant, arrogant folly; but it is being done in the name of Christianity, just as people have in the past been tortured and massacred in the name of Christianity.
We are not asking very much. We are not trying to deny the alternative services to those who prefer them. All we ask is to have a small proportion of the available Church services according to the Book of Common Prayer and at times when older people who want them can reasonably attend—not early in the morning or late at night or on a weekday when their employment may make attendance difficult or impossible. I do not think it is a great deal to ask, and it is something that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has told us we are supposed to have. But we are not always getting it.
No one can be prosecuted for not attending church, not nowadays, and if your average churchgoer does not get what he wants he will just stay away, and so will what he puts in the plate stay away, and there will not be very much that anyone can do about it.
§ 9.48 p.m.
My Lords, I too, should like to follow the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and say that I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Sudeley for having brought this matter before your Lordships again this evening, although I might perhaps have wished that it could have been brought before us in some other form. It has enabled us to state the views that have been stated so cogently by very many speakers tonight and we have had the very great honour and advantage of hearing from the most reverend Primate a really generous and really important speech which has been most helpful and for which the whole Church I think must be most grateful that that speech will be on record.
I do not want to be uncharitable, but I am afraid that we have in these past 10 years—the Worship and Doctrine Measure was passed in 1974 and I made an inordinately long speech then so that I promise I will not make anything like so long a speech tonight—had very great assurances in high places, but I have not always been quite sure that lower down the line the promises and assurances have been carried out in quite the same way as we could have wished.
There is great sadness among so many of us that, despite these assurances, we so seldom hear those comfortable words. Perhaps we must put up with the change of words, the trivial words of the new language. But one sometimes wonders whether, through this trivial fiddling with language, comes the outward and audible sound—if I may parody these words from the catechism—of a far from trivial inward and spiritual change. That feeling that some of us have had is not wholly assuaged.
Of course, it is not only the Prayer Book but the Authorised Version of the Bible. We find in very few 1249 churches now the Authorised Version of the Bible on the lecterns—at any rate, in the village churches which I often visit. I know of at least one diocese where they were brought to the centre; I do not know whether voluntarily or by ordinance, and I shall not specify where the centre is or what the diocese is. But I know that after they got there most of them went to pulp, because there was not room on the small village lectern for both Bibles. I suppose that some incumbents asked, "What are we supposed to do with these?" so they went to pulp.
But I cannot go quite all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The democracy is there all right, and it is a splendid set-up; but it is sometimes rather overwhelmed by that other word which is often confused with democracy—that is, bureaucracy.
A really large and apparently growing bureaucracy is one of the weaknesses and not one of the strengths of the present Church of England. There they sit on some of the prime sites, as the land surveyors would say, in Westminster and in the centres of other cities and it must be an extremely expensive bureaucracy. One only hopes that the very large copyright royalties for the many volumes of the ASB—I heard that 2 million volumes have been sold and that the royalty is in the region of 40p—will help to pay for the bureaucracy. But I would prefer that the royalties were used to reduce the sometimes very heavy quotas that we have to pay in the parishes.
It is rather unfair when we are sometimes told, "If you want 1662. you have got to have 1662 hook, line and sinker. You have got to have the exhortations. You have got to have the Commination." The noble Lord, Lord Howard, raised that point. No, my Lords, we do not have to have that. My father was a priest. He was born in 1854 and died in 1936. He told me towards the end of his life that he had never heard read in a church, and had never read himself, one of the exhortations. That is quite a long time ago. When these new measures were being introduced we were told that if there was a division we could be compelled to have what we had had two years previously. This meant that if one had had Series 2 for two years, one would have to stick to Series 2 if there was a division. But what we had had for 150 years, not for two years, was something very much like the 1928 Prayer Book. When we tried to put the 1928 Prayer Book into law, we all knew how wrong this was. But nobody thought that we were doing anything illegal when we used in effect the 1928 Prayer Book.
§ Lord Howard of Henderskelfe
My Lords, I did not suggest that one had to have 1662 and nothing but 1662. I said that I was not sure that all those who talked about 1662 really appreciated what they were talking about.
My Lords, I know that that is what the noble Lord said, but I believe the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester mentioned that 1662 was not what we had been using—that we had been using 1928. I remember the surprise I felt when. 10 or 15 years ago, I was in the choir stalls of Westminster Abbey and saw there the 1928 Prayer Book. To make the legalistic point, as some parish 1250 clergy have done, that if you are asking for 1662 you are jolly well going to have it, is not quite "playing cricket". The Book of Common Prayer evolved without bureaucracy or Acts of Parliament. The exhortations were dropped and were not used. This was a very much more inexpensive way of modernising the Prayer Book than having all these Synods.
This is just what we were told the other day to do on a quite different subject. When we were discussing the Rates Bill we were told that an evolution, a convention, had grown up that local government did not go against central Government. Only if those conventional powers were exceeded did legislation have to be introduced to stop it. It is interesting to note—this must be a record—that while I am speaking here my son is at this moment speaking in another place. That is why I make the point that evolution applies just as much to this question as to civil politics. There will always be far too many variations. Clergymen like to use their own extempore prayers. It is trivial to say that they are illegal. We must not use blunt instruments.
My second point is that when the pamphlet of guidance which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, described to us is properly used, and we have the chance sometimes to hear the Prayer Book, it may be that the elderly will welcome it. I was born in 1905 but I still manage to go to church every Sunday at 8 o'clock, because the Prayer Book is then used. There used to be a very sensible service for elderly people: matins and communion. After matins, elderly people stayed behind if they had been unable to get to the 8 o'clock service. It would be charitable and kind if that arrangement could still be in existence, although I very much doubt whether there are many churches in which that still goes on.
What is the way forward from here? I agree with what has been said by most of the speakers tonight —that it would be unwise for us to vote a Second Reading to this Bill. Yet there is a paradox here; it is not wrong and it is not unwise, because the Queen is still the head of the Church—
Yes. my Lords, the Protector of the Church—but she is the Defender of the Faith, on my coins anyway. I want to suggest that there may be a precedent and a convention or custom which we might use here. This very day (and this is a coincidence that may have some significance) we have heard two short debates. They have not been Unstarred Questions which a Minister must answer, and they have not been Bills. These short debates might be the way in which we could deal with such matters from time to time, without infringing any constitutional rules and without getting mixed up in trying to legislate about worship or doctrine in the Church—which has, rightly and properly, been by Act of Parliament delegated to the synod and signed, sealed and delivered in the Worship and Doctrine Measure.
Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, would consider that if he were not to take this debate to its logical conclusion and demand a vote on a Second 1251 Reading, or to set up a Select Committee (which I really do feel would be rather a horror and should not be done), he could withdraw his Bill now and consider some other proper parliamentary form by which we can discuss these matters from time to time, if enough people think that it is worth doing.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Derby
My Lords, several references have been made to the fact that there is a large attendance of bishops this evening. There are six people in this House who were in days past principals of theological colleges. Five of them are on these Benches, and one is on the Cross-Benches in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Blanch. All of us ceased to be principals of theological colleges long before the current debate began, so we cannot produce out of our heads the kind of evidence that would answer some of the criticisms which have been made. I would ask your Lordships to remember that the principals of theological colleges are a bit like Saint Sebastian; arrows are shot at them from all directions. I ask you to treat them and those who work with them with the justice that is characteristic of this nation; that you listen to both sides of the evidence and take little account of only one side—which can so often be distorted.
My purpose is to speak first of my own present experience. Over the past two years in the diocese of Derby the suffragan bishop and I and the two archdeacons have visited every parish of the diocese to discuss with the people there a wide range of questions about their work. These have been parish meetings and not simply meetings with parochial church councils. We did not raise directly (because we have raised this question before) matters of the forms of service in use. At only one of the 78 meetings which I have attended has the issue which we are discussing this evening been brought forward in any contentious fashion.
The last rural deanery that I completed—one of our most country ones—has 16 parishes in it and in only one of the 16 is the Alternative Service Book used at all. There is one parish in the patronage of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, where Series 2 is used for the communion, but in his other parish it is the Prayer Book and the Prayer Book only which is the religion of the Protestants there, or whoever they may happen to be.
Only yesterday morning I received representations from one parochial church council about the needs and the traditions of the parish in connection with the appointment of the new incumbent. One sentence in the representations reads:Both rites A and B and the Book of Common Prayer have been in regular use".Later on in the morning the incumbent of another parish came to see me and said that they have abandoned the Alternative Service Book for evensong and gone back to the Prayer Book. Although this is not a communion service following matins they have on certain Sunday evenings of the month a full Prayer Book communion service following evensong.
It is very easy to produce criticisms of the services in the Alternative Service Book. It is also easy to produce 1252 criticisms of some of the language in the Book of Common Prayer, but the exercise of detailed and often trifling criticism is not edifying in the very least. There has been singularly little effort, in my judgment, to understand the purpose of the production of the Alternative Service Book and the various services included in it. Only yesterday there was an article in The Times which criticised the Alternative Service Book for leaving out parts of the Prayer Book which have not been in use in the Church of England—like the long exhortation in the communion—since 1928. This kind of ignorant criticism has been frequently produced. If there is to be a proper assessment of our forms of service all the facts need to be looked at together.
Part of the reason for the lack of replies from bishops to the inquiry which was sent to us by the Prayer Book Society was the offensiveness of a great deal of the attack, both on us personally and on the Alternative Service Book. The offensiveness appeared even in the polished propaganda of the 600. In the glossy document of essays which was sent out I have found what I think is the only place where I have been described in writing as being a "hornet". The other hornets who were supposed to be put in a bottle with me were credited with opinions which I do not possess. I was there partly because I served on the Church of England Liturgical Commission for the first 20 years of its life, and after that on various revision committees of the General Synod, including the one which revised the Series 3 communion service. I can only say out of my experience that what we were trying to do was totally different from what is alleged. We were not engaged, and never thought of ourselves as being engaged, in any destructive work, and nor did we see ourselves engaged in any new effort of recruitment.
I think that there are parishes where some people have been drawn partly into the life and worship of the Church through the new services, but what is incontrovertible is that many people in past (fairly recent) generations were repelled by the Prayer Book services. That is why, during the 1930s in particular, great efforts were made to liven up the Prayer Book services—to decorate them in various ways, to provide themes, and so on. It is partly in reaction to this rejection of the Prayer Book services that the Alternative Service Book was produced.
As with anything new, we always have to grow into it. I had great hesitation in the beginning over making the change from the use of "thou" language to "you" language. But through actual experience, I have come to find it deeply reverent. But I also find myself capable of going round the diocese and joining without any difficulty at all in the Prayer Book service, or what is alleged to be the Prayer Book service, modified by evolution, the vicar's whim, or whatever it may be. We always have to grow into any new world of thought. People had to make a great change from medieval thinking to Renaissance and the Reformation. There have been changes of thought of great importance since then.
When there are changes of thought of these kinds, these have to be expressed in liturgy. But this is not a mere Church of England activity. Throughout the Anglican Communion and throughout Christendom the liturgical movement has been leading to changes in 1253 public worship. I can only testify to the benefits that I have had as a result of this movement and to my own experience of the value of the Alternative Service Book. Lord Glenamara spoke movingly. Like him, I have found solace and comfort in the Prayer Book and its services. For 18 years I taught it, not simply as something dry as dust, but as something which was part of a much wider teaching of worship. But I also find solace and comfort in the Alternative Service Book, which is full of the Bible. This is one great thing about it. By its new selection of readings, it provides a great body of teaching, devotion and meditation.
We need to remember that, while some young people respond warmly to the Prayer Book when they are introduced to it, others find its world of discourse almost impossible to enter into. But the spirit of any service can be spoiled by the way in which it is conducted. In my experience, this happens both over Prayer Book services now and in the past and over the new services. Sensitiveness is always required in the leading of public worship. As I see the situation, much of the criticism of the modern services is due to their accompaniments rather than to the structure and wording of the services themselves. I hope that your Lordships here and people elsewhere will distinguish between the actual services and the way in which they are presented, because they can be presented very differently indeed.
It is practice which is so often disturbing. But there is vitality both in the old and in the new. Last Sunday morning I took part in a celebration of the Holy Communion according to Rite A of the Alternative Service Book. It was a down-town church where the electoral roll is comprised pretty well of the regular members of the congregation and that congregation only. It is the kind of parish which is largely alienated from Christian faith. That service was vital. In the evening I was preaching at a Prayer Book evensong. After the third collect there was a wider selection of prayers. Is that Prayer Book, or is it not, for the purpose of this debate? But the service again was a vital one.
It is important to see the possibilities in the different sorts of service. There are unwise clergymen, just as there are unwise politicians. There are pig-headed clergymen, just as there are pig-headed politicians. I greatly regret some of the misguided retorts which have been made by various people to those who have argued the case for keeping the Prayer Book as a live form of worship within the Church. But there are also wise and reasonable, as well as knowledgeable and understanding, clergymen, and I know a very large number of them.
Our major need at the present time in the worship of the Church of England seems to me to be that we should defer to one another and take note of one another's views. But in this process, decisions in accordance with the law as it now stands must be made by the parochial church council. The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, said that it is "difficult"—I think that was his word—or "impossible", for lay people to disagree with the vicar. Believe me, it is nothing of the kind! It may be difficult in a few situations. It is easy to disagree with the chairman of the parochial church council, just as it is easy to disagree with the president of the 1254 diocesan synod, and disagreement often shows itself. Those who find themselves up against difficulties over parochial decisions have their own remedy.
The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, quoted the guide for parishes about the worship and doctrine Measure, and he said that,the incumbent is entirely free to make the decisions about the options within the alternative services.That depends on the attitude of the parochial church council; and paragraph 12 admits this, but goes on to say,In some parishes, however, there is a period of discussion and experiment leading up to the production of a parish edition of whichever form of service is preferred. Such editions customarily include those options which the parish intends to use and exclude the rest".But the document then goes on to advise that the decisions made at any time about the forms of service or about the options within them should come up for review after a certain period of time. The parochial church council must make the decisions. If they discharge their responsibilities rightly, they are bound to consider the views of the different groups of people represented in the parish. Twenty per cent. of the membership of the electoral roll need only consider themselves, and that seems to me to be a grave limitation in the Bill which is before us.
The parochial church council must show consideration first for minorities, and particularly for those who live and move and have their being in the Book of Common Prayer. Secondly, they must give consideration to those on the fringe of life of the Church who regard themselves as loyal members but seldom attend church services, perhaps only coming at Christmas or Easter and possibly contributing to the urgent repairs of the church building. They must be considered.
Thirdly, the parochial church council should give consideration to those who are not yet members. It is not sufficient to be inward looking, and in all our own debates about what we prefer and find most helpful these people who are outside the fellowship need to be given very careful concern. Some may well be attracted, coming into a Prayer Book service, and saying, as people said in St. Paul's time,Truly God is among you indeed".But very few people nowadays make their way into faith in Christ and the fellowship of the Church through sharing in public worship—at any rate, at the beginning.
Then, fourthly, the parochial church council must consider those who are most regular in their attendance, who administer the life of the church to which they belong: clean the building; do the flowers; run the organisations: give £1 in every £20 of their take-home pay and support their giving or other giving by deed of covenant. They are always bearing the burden and heat of the day.
If the desires of that group of people can be completely over-ruled by those who do none of those things, and who perhaps support only the summer fete or the Christmas bazaar, they may well feel resentment. It would, of course, be wrong if they did, because they ought to have concern for those others. But they have a commitment, while there is no 1255 commitment at all involved in signing the electoral roll, unless a person is resident outside the parish, when there must be regular church attendance for six months. But residence qualifying with baptism for being on the roll is no mark of commitment at all.
We do not want a situation (as has already been suggested this evening) in which different groups of church members are joined in battle with one another. We must keep open the possibility of open-minded discussion and joint decision. I believe that the passing of this Bill would prevent this kind of discussion, because people would be ranged on competitive sides. If the Bill is passed and goes on through further stages, what sanctions do your Lordships believe can be applied? When the law has been applied to public worship in the past, men, including clergymen, have gone to prison. Is it the intention that that sanction should be applied in the future?
The electoral roll is an electoral roll. It gives the authority to elect. Its membership does not exist for itself. Through the electoral roll elections are made to the parochial church council, Deanery Synod, Diocesan Synod, and General Synod. Why do those who so much want the Prayer Book not share in this synodical system? Very few seem to do so. Invitations have been extended to them this evening, and I hope that some will be accepted.
All these different grades of representative bodies were involved in the making of the Alternative Service Book, and as it went through its different stages I was myself involved in a wide range of informal consultations in many parishes and deaneries in our own diocese. It is vital that those who are concerned should be involved in any decision to keep the Prayer Book as a live option.
The position in the Church of England now is very different from what it was when the first English Prayer Book was authorised in 1549. There was no possibility of dissent from if, the old could not be used. That is not now the situation. The freedom still exists for the Prayer Book to be used, and my evidence is that it is widely used; and where it is not and there is bitter feeling, there is a remedy.
It has been suggested that bishops have great powers. Well, we have no power to order around parishes or clergymen. If we were to attempt to do so in most areas of the Church's life, we should again be up against severe criticism. We can simply teach and persuade, and do this individually and corporately. Despite the small collection of disturbing remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, I hope that your Lordships will be reassured by the knowledge that we do attempt to teach and give guidance and seek to have fairness of decision in the life of the parishes in our dioceses.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Lord Bishopston
My Lords, I feel that we have tonight had an extremely good and wide-ranging debate, covering a variety of subjects, and I believe that every speech we have heard has been of great importance. We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for the opportunity that he has given us to look at this matter. We have had his contribution and 1256 that of my noble friend Lord Glenamara. They have both struck a nostalgic note, to which I am sure all of us respond. There has been the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Home, who referred to a variety of things that go on in church, including the fact that Sidney Carter's delightful folk music is not always out of place. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who has the great virtue of having his own chapel where one can, if one wishes, have the Book of Common Prayer all the time. The noble Lord also expressed concern for other churches.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, referred to a collection of bishops. I think that he called them a posse. Maybe, the word a "surplus" of bishops would be more appropriate. I am not saying that any of them are unwelcome and that we have too many of them tonight. It is a tribute to the noble Lord. Lord Sudeley, that so many of our Church leaders have come to listen and also to indicate their concern over what may be done to deal with the situation. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, mentioned—rightly I think—that this was an opportunity for us to say what we think. That may be long overdue. The noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, referred to the important speech of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Some of the remarks that I wish to make were best summed up by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby when he referred to those who are alienated from the Christian faith and put in a plea for the minorities and those on the fringes of the Church. During my time as a Church Commissioner, I have dealt with pastoral measures. It has not been uncommon to find churches that have services that are best described by the words Calvinistic Sovereign Grace. There is therefore the variety that the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Derby, seeks.
I suppose that it would not be inappropriate to say that although the noble Lord. Lord Sudeley, wants a Select Committee to look at all these aspects, many would agree that we have had very much the effect of a Select Committee this evening; so many views have been expressed with great sincerity and passion.
In speaking from the Opposition Dispatch Box, I must make clear that on this Private Member's Bill I speak only for myself. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has made the same point. I also speak as a Member of your Lordships' House who is a regular worshipper Sunday by Sunday and week by week and who therefore has what might be called a working and worshipping knowledge of the finer details of the matters now before the House. That knowledge and experience has been gained not only as a person in the pew over a lifetime but also as a former Second Church Estates Commissioner in another place and still a Church Commissioner but not a member of the General Synod, although I have stood for election.
When claims are made that some people do not speak with any knowledge of what goes on. it is important to recognise that in synodical government, the man in the pew has a say at the local level, the deanery level and the diocesan level, and in the General Synod, which is answerable to those who elect it. When my noble friend Lord Glenamara rightly queries the so-called democracy of synodical government, most of us in all parties should like to 1257 think that our parties have that same kind of answerability, accountability and the ability to listen, as I believe, is true in many parts of our Church. But of course the answer to all these problems is for the man in the pew and for the elector in local government, in national Government or in the Church, to know what are his rights and to take his place in expressing his opinion.
In considering whether to give the Bill a Second Reading, noble Lords will bear in mind not only the constitutional aspects but also the consequences of reversing what has been called long-established and accepted procedure. Surely, those who want to stand fast in favour of tradition in Church matters will not seek changes without full consultation between Church and state even at this stage. Most of us would I think admit that the initiative should come from the General Synod itself.
Concern has been expressed about the role and the usage of the Book of Common Prayer in the Church, with some very strong claims that the procedures to ensure its use have not been adequate or, if they have, that they have not been observed. Indeed, we are grateful for the presence of the right reverend Prelates, who tonight have afforded the House the benefit of a reply from the Church and, if I may say so, have shown clear evidence of their concern about the matters put forward by noble Lords; they have not only answered some of the allegations made but have also made suggestions whereby something may be done about it and changes brought about.
There are at least two aspects which need our attention. One is the important constitutional aspect, to which reference has been made, whereby the Second Reading and the passage of the Bill would— notwithstanding the supremacy of Parliament—be putting the long-established and accepted procedures regulating the relationship of Church and state into reverse. As the most reverend Primate reminded us, it was in fact 110 years ago in the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 that Parliament legislated for the Church without the Church's consent. We must ask ourselves tonight whether a Private Member's Bill is the occasion for us to go back to a situation of so long ago. I suggest that there could be problems if we did.
The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1975 came before Parliament at that time and the then Archbishop of Canterbury in this House asked:Ought a Christian Church, through its own chief pastors, ministers and laity, to have the ordering of its own forms of worship?He said:I do not believe that there is a single Church in Christendom which would not answer, 'Yes, a Christian Church ought to have the ordering of its own forms of worship'".He then went on to say:Certainly every province of the world-wide Anglican Communion would say this". [Official Report, 14/11/74; cols. 868–869.]I believe that these words have been echoed by the noble Lords here this evening. In the other place my successor as Second Church Estates Commissioner at that time introduced the Measure. The debate, in which my noble friend Lord Glenamara took part— then as Lord President of the Council and Leader of 1258 the House of Commons (it should be noted, under a Labour Government)—lasted seven hours. Therefore, one can be sure that all points of view, many of them expressed here tonight, were taken into account. In fairness to my noble friend, although he did not make the kind of speech which he has made tonight, one could read into it some of the concerns which he has expressed this evening. I know of his anxiety to ensure that the measure was carried out in the way in which we thought it should be.
The next question concerns the wording of the Measure and whether the Book of Common Prayer has been able to be used in the way intended. Allegations have been made by some noble Lords about the procedure in which the parson, the parochial church council and the person in the pew have a say in what forms of service are used. As I say, we need that kind of democracy in our political parties and, indeed, in our trade unions, the CBI and other organisations, with people taking part. It is no good people grumbling about the organisation or the procedures if they do not have their say and exercise their rights. We and the Church might concern ourselves with ways in which that can be done. I do not believe that the political parties can be of very much help there. Nevertheless, it is important.
The Church has been very forthcoming with information and literature about the rights of those who can have a say. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to the pamphlet on worship and doctrine, which 1 have here. It might be better if that pamphlet was summarised a little more, made shorter and made more available so that people can better understand it. It is rather a long document, but it ought to be more easily available.
However, there is hardly any excuse for not knowing that the Book of Common Prayer is still one of the two books of prayer for the Church, because in my ASB in the preface, right at the start so that people can know, it says:The Church of England has traditionally sought to maintain a balance between the old and the new. For the first time since the Act of Uniformity, this balance and its public worship is now officially expressed in two books, rather than in one"—not one book, but two books.The Alternative Service Book (1980), as its name implies, is intended to supplement the Book of Common Prayer, not supersede it.That is most important, and there is no reason for a congregation to say that we have no alternative because our Prayer Book says right at the start what our rights are. Later the preface says:Christians have become readier to accept that, even within a single church, unity need no longer be seen to entail strict uniformity of practice. The provision of alternative services is to be welcomed as an enrichment of the Church's life rather than as a threat to its integrity.There we have a summary of what has been said from the Benches this evening.
How does one sum up? In favour of the Bill is that it can be said that if passed through Second Reading and referred to a Select Committee the whole matter, the whole controversy about the role of the Book of Common Prayer, can be debated, no matter, incidentally, how limited the numbers of those concerned may be. We all know of course of clergy 1259 who, in order to satisfy what may be a minority wanting the BCP in the parish, have put on special services which have not been well attended and have had to be terminated. If this Bill went through, the Church would have to put on services whether or not they were attended. But the fact is that they can still be available.
Having heard the debate and the views of the Church's representatives, noble Lords may well be satisfied that the provisions do ensure that the ASB is only an alternative to the BCP, and the right reverend Prelates have referred to steps taken since the last debate, as indeed have the noble Lords, Lord Sudeley and Lord Glenamara. So their words have not been unheeded, and doubtless of course the views expressed tonight will be taken into account.
I believe that this debate should be seen as one concerned with the many millions who attend church—more, it seems, than attend football matches—and who have grown to know and to love all forms of service, including the Book of Common Prayer, of course. It has been claimed that some have been discouraged from church-going because of the changes in relation to the Book of Common Prayer. I know from experience that when special regard has been paid to some with that point of view and that need, the support has not always been forthcoming. But what about the younger people? What about the families and the young children who, I feel sure, we all welcome to our church and of whom it can be said, of course, that our delights far exceed their distraction? They have come to know and to love the ASB series, and they would not wish to be dictated to by Parliament or anyone else as to the form of services they use.
Many millions of younger people can also see beauty in the ASB. Indeed many of them know very little about the Book of Common Prayer if they are of the younger, newer generations. It is good to see people from all walks of life, of all colours and origins, streaming into our Anglican churches, and indeed into churches of all denominations, to experience the form of service which gives them an opportunity to worship, to share a fellowship, and to strengthen the bond between them and their families and their Creator, in a world which sorely needs what inspiration a strong faith can offer. I believe, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said a few moments ago, that membership of the Church is not only for church people; it has to minister to a wider world.
I want to end with a quotation which I think is important and which may well give us a perspective. I have been thinking as I have sat here, as I am sure have other noble Lords, about what the world outside, with all its problems, its concerns with defence, health, social security, unemployment and all the troubles of our time, may think of a Chamber debating the finer points, no matter how important they may be. I want to quote from a speech made by Sir Stafford Cripps in the other place on 23rd October 1947. I quote it because I have carried this with me for many years because Sir Stafford Cripps was my MP and led to my becoming a Christian Socialist. I quote his words:I wish that today our country could refresh its heart with a deep draught of that Christian Faith which has come down to us over 1260 2,000 years, and has, over those centuries, inspired the peoples of Europe to fresh efforts and new hopes. It is that spirit and not our own material hopes and difficulties that can be the most potent source of our inspiration, call it by what name you will; self sacrifice honour, love or comradeship: it is the strongest power in our lives, and at this moment of deep difficulty in our history, we need its supporting strength as never before.I believe that that gives the perspective that the Church has a worldwide role and that we have to make sure that our procedures, our liturgy, our worship and our doctrine respond to the needs of the time. Noble Lords may be grateful for the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, has afforded us tonight to debate this matter. They may well be grateful to those who brought the Bill to our attention and for the opportunity to express themselves with all their sincerity and forthrightness. Those who have the responsibility for conducting the affairs of the Church —that includes all of us, of course—can read what has been said and I think would do well to take heed. I believe that the remedy lies with the man in the pew, and it is our task to make him, and the world at large, see the relevance of the faith for which we stand.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Sudeley introduced the debate he said that he would be trying to assess at the end of it what the feeling of the House should be. When I heard him say that I assumed that he would try to take into account the feeling of the House as regards what would be done at the end of the debate by way of a Division or no Division.
I hope that I am not mistaking the feeling of those, some of whom sympathised with my noble friend and some of whom sympathised rather less, when I say that there is an almost overwhelming sense that I have received at the end of the debate that we would very much rather that there was no Division and that he did not press this matter to a Division.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I agreed enormously with what was said by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave who in many respects sympathised with my noble friends Lord Sudeley and Lord Home of the Hirsel; but the noble Earl pointed out that it would be very easy to have had this debate on a Motion. Even if the House wanted a Select Committee —which for various reasons I shall try to persuade the House it should not do—that could be done by a simple Motion.
However, we are faced with a Bill and it is a Bill that I very much hope will not be pressed. I say that to my noble friend. I would not have said it. It formed no part of my planned speech, but I respond in that way to what he said simply because of what he said at the beginning of his own speech.
The Church of England is by law established, and although my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and Lord Bishopston, said that they were speaking their own opinions, I too am speaking my own opinion in the sense that I shall say nothing which I do not sincerely 1261 believe. It has been thought right that a Government spokesman should conclude the debate before my noble friend replies. I speak in a real sense for the Government. That does not mean that I do not believe what I shall say, but it does mean that I am not going to say a great number of other things which I should very much have liked to have said if I had not been speaking for the Government.
I start by saying: what is the Church of England? I listened with some emotion to the passionate defence of the Authorised Version of the Prayer Book by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara; but both as a lawyer and as a member of the Church of England, I was almost horrified to hear him create the impression in the early part of his speech that the Church of England was created by law. It is established by law, and the Queen is not its head but its supreme governor; but it is not created by law. The Church of England is either part of the body of Christ or it is nothing. It is either part of Christ's holy catholic and apostolic church or it is nothing, and far better wound up. But the Prayer Book itself—and I know the noble Lady will forgive me quoting from Article 20—saysThe visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men"—which gives her rather a poor look out. But, at any rate, it is more than a creation of law.
The Church of England is the mother Church of a group of Churches circling the globe. That group of Churches retains the historic episcopate (as we call it) and at the same time proclaims some of the principal doctrines of catholic Christianity of the West and, at the same time, of the Protestant Reformation. It is in the same communion as the Episcopal Church in Scotland to which the noble Lady belongs, not the established Church of that part of the Kingdom. It is of the same group of churches as the Church of Ireland (disestablished more than a century ago) of the Church in Wales (disestablished in my lifetime) of the Protestant Episcopal Churches of America and Canada, of Churches in Australia and New Zealand, of the Church in South Africa and sister Churches in North and South India. For historic reasons, it retains a legal establishment in England; but, as has been repeatedly recalled (particularly from the Bishops' Bench) over the past 150 years Parliament has deliberately distanced itself from the internal management of its structures, doctrines and disciplines. It has done so continuously and it has done so cumulatively over the years from the resumption of the debates in the Convocations in the 19th Century to the last and most complete step taken by the Measure in 1974 when Parliament and the Church mutually agreed that doctrine and liturgy in the Church of England had best be left to the internal structures and organisms of the Church itself.
Of course, it is true—nor should we ever try to forget—that the Church of England is the trustee of some of the most valuable parts of our religious heritage. Some part of this consists in stone and mortar. St Paul's, Westminster Abbey, York Minster and Canterbury Cathedral are incomparable parish churches. With other episcopal Churches, and thus not alone, the Church of England is also the inheritor of one of the great liturgies of Christendom expressed in almost magical language, which exists as a norm but 1262 never as a bed of Procrustes, throughout the Anglican Communion in various forms: in Scotland, in parish churches in Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand—in most of which I have worshipped—in Ghana, where I have worshipped, and over the African continent.
It is always recognisable but the details of its worship—and here I am merely reiterating in a slightly different form what came from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and, I think, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester—vary almost indefinitely if one looks at the actual words of individual prayers. Yet, in all the forms in which it is found and also like all living things which are still evolving, the genius of Cranmer, Archbishop and martyr, can still be unmistakably discerned in them all.
It is into this extremely sensitive spiritual area, with all its nuances, with all its associations, with all its implications for Church, state and society, that this Bill has been introduced for Second Reading. I must say that I listened with great care, I think, to almost every word of this debate. Statistically speaking, the supporters of my noble friend Lord Sudeley devoted exactly 60 seconds to the contents of the Bill, and that was beginning with the 15th minute of my noble friend's speech. It is with the contents of the Bill that we must be concerned if this matter is to be pressed to a Division. This is not an academic debate, but a debate on the Second Reading of a Bill, with a Motion to follow.
I am bound to say that if one looks at the contents of the Bill one has seen why my noble friend has devoted just 60 seconds to it, and they were 60 very remarkable seconds in the 15th and 16th minutes of his speech. What he said—and I took down almost his exact words—was that it was not the object of this Bill to appear on the statute book, but to set up a Select Committee. Well, my Lords, I have never heard the Second Reading of a Bill proposed in language of that sort unless, of course, it was not proposed to press it to a Division.
But if it is to be taken seriously as a Bill, I have to say that for the reasons given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, it is anachronistic, it is constitutionally unsound, it is unworkable, it is unenforceable (indeed, without any machinery for enforcement as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said), and, in so far as democracy is, or ought to be, applicable to a Christian community, undemocratic.
Incidentally, it misuses the electoral roll for the purposes for which the electoral roll ought never to have been used. The electoral roll, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said, is intended to be used for the purpose of electing people to the parochial church council. I venture to suggest, with great respect to my noble friend Lord Sudeley, and those who are associated with him, that no other Christian community, established or disestablished, in this twentieth century could tolerate such treatment at the hands of a secular power after the Measure of 1974. If a similar attempt were made upon the internal affairs of the Kirk Assembly of the established Church of Scotland, let us say. to re-establish episcopacy 1263 —because Parliament is quite strong enough to do that (it is, after all. as my noble friend suggested, sovereign) —fiery crosses would be lit in the heather from John O'Groats to the Sol way Firth. If such an intrusion were to be made (for Parliament is sovereign) into the affairs of the Baptist Union, or the Methodist Conference, there would be riots in Wales, and Lord Soper would come down to this House—I am sorry he is not here now—and rend his cassock at the blasphemy.
There must, of course, be some kind of limit on the activities of established Churches merely because they are established, whether the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, or the Church of England, but the establishment of their very different forms of Church government is, I believe, of very great advantage to both countries, and a want of sensitivity to the integrity and self-respect of the clergy and laity of the Church of England such as would be displayed if this Bill were allowed to become law would, I think, be recognised as intolerable by any self-respecting Christian community.
I said this Bill is unworkable, because it depends (first look at Clause 3(1)) upon the opinion of the incumbent as to what is the principal service, and the incumbent is me whom ex hypothesi my noble friend does not trust. It has to be his opinion of the service which, but for the Bill, would be most frequently attended, when ex hypothesi after the Bill became law that service would no longer exist, or would not exist at the same time. I said it is unworkable because the service out of the Book of Common Prayer, which is to take its place, is neither defined nor designated: not denned—and how many variations on it we have already heard this evening—and not designated as to which service is meant. It could, for aught I know, be the churching of women or the commination service, for aught the Bill says it could.
I said it was unenforceable, and that point was touched on by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby: and both gave the same reason basically. The Bishop of Chichester took us through the history of the attempts to legislate from the mid-19th century onwards. It is not a very reassuring picture because every time Parliament has attempted to legislate it has either tried to put some poor old clergyman in prison for having some incense or something, or else it has been totally ignored, like the rejection by the House of Commons of the Prayer Book of 1928, which as several noble Lords have said is usually recognised as the Book of Common Prayer today. It is therefore unenforceable, and no attempt has been made in the draft to enforce it—quite rightly, too, because it cannot be done. There is no compulsion, incidentally, on that minority who are on the electoral roll but, as the right reverend Prelate says, have no commitment to the rest of the congregation, ever to attend a service. My noble friend might at least have put into his Bill a provision such as that which occurred in the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity, that if they did not go every Sunday they would be fined 400 marks.
I said it was undemocratic because it gives not a veto but a power of compulsion on a quite inconsiderable minority upon whom no kind of reciprocal duty or responsibility is imposed. When I compare this wild, 1264 slipshod arrangement with the very careful safeguards of the measure of 1974 which this Bill would override, I am overcome with the presumption of its proponents.
I note what has been said about theological colleges—I have never ventured into one myself—but my noble friend has nothing about theological colleges in his Bill. It deals solely with services in parochial life. He could have done that just as well in a Motion. I am told, of course, that the real object is to set up a Select Committee. But surely it must be obvious to your Lordships that if one thing were required to make the Measure even more objectionable than the Bill itself, it is the suggestion that it be referred to a Select Committee instead of the will of the House through its usual ordinary Committee procedures. I would have thought that, if nothing else could be agreed, it would have been considered obvious that a constitutional Bill of this importance and this degree of controversy would be taken in the ordinary way on the Floor of the House.
My Lords, I understand that no prior consultation of any kind took place through the usual channels, either upon the question whether and, if so, which Members of the House might be prepared to serve on such a committee, or, in a sense worse still, what effect the appointment of such a committee might be expected to have on the existing commitments of the staff of the House. I have made the necessary inquiries. The House does not really have resources to handle more than one ad hoc Select Committee at a time. There is already a Select Committee considering two Private Members' Bills relating to small charities—a typical example, one might think, of the proper function of a Select Committee. I am informed that that committee is not likely to report until June or July, and there are already plans for a further Select Committee in the pipeline which would take precedence over this one. Thus, even if there were not weightier arguments against it, my noble friend's proposal would disrupt the existing programme, and embarrass those who are responsible for deploying the staff.
There are, none the less, grave reasons why if the Bill were to be given a Second Reading, it should not go to a Select Committee and for that purpose I refer—and I think I need only to refer—to the leader in The Times newspaper this morning.In effect"—says The Times—it would be a committee of Parliament charged with chivvying and cajoling such bodies as theological colleges into altering their liturgical customs to favour the Book of Common Prayer, in place of their alleged present neglect of it. This is not really appropriate work for such a body: and inside the church—particularly in the theological colleges—it would be enormously resented. It would also make nonsense of the central principle of the 1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure, that the Church of England, within limits laid down by Parliament, should take control of its everyday affairs where liturgy and doctrine is concerned. That is in turn central to the looser relationship between church and state which has gradually evolved this last half century, which is fundamentally important for the church's well-being, and which must be allowed to evolve further at its own speed not accelerated or reversed for the advantage of specific causes, however worthwhile they may be.I said that I was giving the best attention that I could to the Bill on behalf of the Government. There are a very great number of other things that I should have 1265 liked to say on my own behalf, but which I refrain from saying at this hour, and also because of the position where I stand. I am not less an admirer of the Book of Common Prayer than anyone who has supported this Bill tonight. It has its weaknesses but it has its magic, and it is of its magic that I am most conscious when I pray in church. None the less, I would say to my noble friend: "You have had your day in court now for the second time in two years. I believe that the overwhelming sense of the House is that you should not take this further tonight, and that instead you should put down Motions from time to time, as and when you feel that the situation demands it. But do not try to impose shackles on the Church of England which, to the great advantage of Parliament as well as of the Church, have been forsworn by the Measure of 1974."
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, the hour is late, so possibly it is the feeling of the House that I should not sum up in detail. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor quoted from a leader in The Times. The leader in the Daily Telegraph expressed the hope that noble Lords would not be led astray by the forensic skill of the Lord Chancellor—
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will let me intervene for a moment. It did not say "led astray"; it said "bamboozled". And I ask myself what, in my public life, have I ever done to have such a gross charge made against my personal character? I do not bamboozle Parliament.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, I used an adjectival form of a softer vein. I thought it was more appropriate—
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will either disavow the charge contained at the end of that disgraceful leading article, or else that he will not repeat it or alternatively he will try to justify it. When in my public life, I ask my noble friend, have I ever attempted to bamboozle Parliament? If he cannot show an example, I hope that he will disavow the sentiment.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, the sentiment would be better if it had been expressed in a softer vein. I used the expression "led astray", not "bamboozled". I think it is the feeling of the House that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is perfectly correct, that the Bill would not be carried on Second Reading. But I should like to thank very much all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and also the right reverend Prelates. Chiefly, I should like to thank very much indeed the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. The reason I particularly want to thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is because the principal value and point of this debate has been the very clear terms in which he has expressed the need for training ordinands in theological colleges in the use of the Prayer Book. The position has not been satisfactory and it ought to be improved.
1266 The strength of feeling on the subject of the Prayer Book which has been expressed this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has been expressed throughout the country. There is a great gale of feeling throughout the country on this question, whatever may be the more neutral atmosphere in the House.
I conclude by saying that if necessary I shall preserve my right, as the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, suggested, to bring back the subject, but I very much hope that this will not be necessary and that the assurance which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury gave about theological colleges will be carried through. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Second Reading.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill, by leave, withdrawn.