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informed them (p. 240) that there were seven Bills then before Parliament, all affecting the Church, on which Parliament was legislating without even asking their opinion, or, as Archdeacon Denison said, caring two straws for it.
If we turn from the Lower House of Convocation to the Upper House, we expect there at least to find more practical experience; for most of the bishops have seats in Parliament, and can correct their theories by the doings and sayings of mankind. Yet such is the haze which envelopes clergymen when they are shut up by themselves, that the ideas of the Upper House are about as dream-like as those of the Lower. .
In 1868, to go back to a former year, we find the following topics engage their Lordships. From a notorious Romanizer the Bishop of Oxford presents a petition in favour of reserving the Eucharist. To be sure this proposal was in the teeth of our Articles, and a palpable violation of law. One would have thought that, even if a Bishop thought it right to introduce such a petition, his brethren would have at once dismissed it. A single sentence, a sharp rebuke, and the petitioner would have disappeared. Instead of which, we have a long desultory debate, with some extraordinary and most questionable remarks from several of the bishops.
On another day the Bishop of Oxford presents, with great commendation, a petition from a notorious body, the English Church Union, the great disturber of the Church, as the Bishop of St. David's has shown, and from its chairman, who soon after found his right place within the Church of Rome.
Then follows the presentation, by the same Bishop, of a feeble periodical, published in India, called the “ Powla,” the only characteristic of which is that it is ultra-Ritualist.
The rest of the debates of that year were in harmony with this beginning. They turned on Revision of the Canons, Additional Clergy in Convocation, Diocesan Synods; on all of which there was no agreement, no conclusion, and no practical suggestion; and after talk on Natal, which, like the hunted stag, comes ever and anon when a fresh topic is wanted, and an attack on a new offender, Mr. Voysey, with whom, happily, a practical bishop had to deal, this exhibition, grave but lamentable, was closed by a seasonable prorogation.
Now take the debates in the Upper House in 1869.
In February, the Bishop of Oxford presents a memorial from some of the Clergy, asking for powers for Convocation to settle the disputes in the Church. Convocation, which, when the subject of these Ritual innovations was committed to them two years before, had produced a Report so inept and preposterous, that, dissected by the logical acumen of the Bishop of St. David's, it was dismissed, amidst general laughter, to the tomb of oblivion. Vol. 68.–No. 381.
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On this notable memorial, the Bishop of Oxford makes some equally notable remarks. They were intended for the ears of the clergy, but, presented to living men in a real world, they read like irony.
All the divisions in the Church, he says, are trivial; “the discrepancy between the two opposite classes of opinion is far slighter than many are apt to represent it.” Yet the difference is one between Protestantism and Romanism—the views of our Reformed Church, and the idolatry of Rome.
Parliament, the same Bishop says, should not be suffered to legislate for the Church. Convocation should frame its Canons ; and “after that, if an Act of Parliament were required to enforce the Canon, let the Act be passed.” Above all things, says this prelate, “if the bishops had power to make rules, from time to time, upon such matters, no further difficulties would be experienced.
Bishop Selwyn says “that we (who?) should obtain power to make rules on matters of ceremonial.” Parliaments and courts of law he regards as nuisances. He says, “there is such an inherent uncertainty about the law, that great difficulties present themselves in thus dealing with the question ; and going to law would be simply multiplying uncertainties."
All that is wanted, he concludes, is that Parliament should consent to give to Convocation, with the sanction of the Crown, the power of making bye-laws: these bye-laws to affect the faith of the clergyman, and the fate of the people.
This is the utterance of this grave House, in one of the gravest crises of the Church's history; and with a talk on Assistant Bishops in which nothing is concluded, and an equally vague talk on pensions to disabled clergymen, one practical result alone is reached, by which the late Act was passed, which translates the Bishop of Oxford to Winchester, and opens to the Premier important patronage.
But summer comes, and, let us hope, more ripened counsels. We turn to the debates. In June, the Bishop of Gloucester rises to petition the Crown to add more clergy to the Lower House; and this motion leads to characteristic remarks. He tells us “that there is a growing confidence in Convocation; that the moderate and sedate tone of its deliberations commends it greatly to the country;" to which the Bishop of London adds, “that the Lower House of Convocation does collectively represent the feeling of the clergy as well as any House could do, and that it represents every phase of opinion in the Church in much the same proportion.” On which observations we would only remark, that, if Convocation does indeed fairly represent the English clergy, it will be a great security for the Church, that they should never again have the opportunity to divulge their opinions. For the effect of these
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debates on the country has been explained to us in a caustic sentence of Archdeacon Denison, made two or three months before in the Lower. House. “It is very hard,” says he, “ that questions should be sent down to us in the Lower House from the Upper House, that we might give our opinion upon them, yet that nobody should care two straws for our opinion.”*
The remainder of this Summer Session, when one branch of the Church was cut off, and enemies were walking through the land to observe where next to lay the axe, was consumed by their Lordships on the following questions.
First, receiving a memorial on the Athanasian Creed ; another memorial from the notorious Church Union, headed by its most heretical leaders; a talk about Bishop Jenner, thrust on New Zealand by Bishop Selwyn, but rejected and starved out by that independent community. Again a talk about adding more clergy to the Lower House of Convocation; and then comes a debate well worthy of note, as the memorial issues from the Bishop of Oxford's three archdeacons, and is evidently suggested by him. It refers to the rubric which has given the solitary plea to the Romanizing party for their illegal innovations. Does the Bishop of Oxford take the opportunity to rebuke the rebels? Does the Bishop denounce these Romish heresies ? Does he show that these men are repudiating the order and worship of their Church, and assimilating it to the dogmas and worship of Rome? The Bishop of Oxford seizes the occasion given him by his archdeacons to state his views. He excuses and protects the rebellious clergy. He speaks of their loyalty and zeal. He wants to get rid of the order of our Reformed Church, and to have the power to lay down new rules for the alteration of our ritual, so as to suit it to Romish practice.t For that purpose he makes this demand :-" The natural governors of the Church (i. e. the Bishops), with the previous assent obtained of the Crown, through the Minister of the Crown (i.e. Mr. Gladstone), would make the detailed alterations in the rubric. And as he anticipates that the courts of law may declare the vestments illegal, and the rebels may then by some fresh innovations break the law, he suggests that the bishops should be authorized to deal with these practices; “for the same principles may continue to work in the body of the Church, and we may require some paternal mode of dealing with them.” (p. 323.)
Then followed, by the same bishop, a sharp attack on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and a rebuke to those who support congregations in Scotland unconnected with the Scotch bishops.
* We take this from the Guardian : we don't find it, so far as we have looked, in the Chronicle.
† Speech, June 17, “ Chronicle," p. 317.
On these topics, and a hymnal, the bishops descanted; but when they came to the Report on Intemperance, the plaguespot of our day, a short motion politely dismissed it, and casting it, with all its difficulties, and without a single suggestion, on the Government, they dismiss this honest effort to grapple with a great social evil.
We have entered, more than may seem interesting, on the acts and words of these Houses of Convocation-first, to show how alien they are from the temper of our times, the necessities of our Church, and the principles of our Reformation; secondly, to intimate that no reform of Convocation can be of service. A clerical body in this century, as in the last, will bear the marks of a separate caste, and of sacerdotal pretensions irreconcilable with liberty and truth.
Therefore this scheme of Convocation, tried in the reign of Anne and then found intolerable, is less than ever suited to the temper of the English nation in this searching age.
Whatever else may be tried or done, Convocation must be treated as an anachronism. It ought not to be changed; it must be crushed. To this every carnest layman, every honest Protestant, should give his help. Not from such advisers can come any aid to our threatened Church.
If such is the failure of this much-vaunted organisation, what arrangement can be suggested fitted for such a Church as ours ? We must touch on the leading principles; we may not encumber the question with details.
First, let us dispose of schemes which are unsuitable. We take that which Bishop Selwyn established in New Zealand, and is endeavouring to plant in the diocese of Lichfield. It appears to invite the laity, but it destroys their influence.
(1.) By its scheme of voting in orders, and making the bishop a separate order, it makes the bishop a despot, able to veto any measure,
(.) By making the bishop chairman of the Conference, it gives him the power of manipulating the proceedings, restraining orcheckmating debate, selecting or rejecting speakers, suggesting topics and nominating committees, directing canons to be proposed, and passing them in haste, by a coup d'état, in a tumultuous assembly where every speaker against them is silenced. Such have been the facts already, and such will be the result hereafter.
The bishop, in fact, engrosses the position of power, and an arbitrary bishop will use his power to an extent fatal to discus. sion, deliberate judgment, and freedom of opinion.
(3.) By the device of every little parish having the same number of representatives as a large one, the clergy, who are powerful in small rural parishes, have a quadrupled influence over the laity. Mr. Mountfield has put this so well in his letter
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to the Times, which appeared on the 6th of September last, that we need add nothing to his conclusive argument.
Whatever, then, be the form of representation suggested for the Church of England, that adopted by Bishop Selwyn should be regarded as inadmissible.
It is difficult to ascertain what plans will finally result from the Conference held last August at Lincoln; but, with the sincerest respect for its bishop (Dr. Wordsworth), we are bound to say that a scheme sacerdotal and imperfect can alone spring from the resolutions then adopted.
All such schemes fail in this, that they do not meet the public demand—they do not gain popular confidence. They may please a few of the laity—the careless of the upper class, the formal, and the priest-ridden; but they will not gain that support from the masses, which must be had, if our Church is to stand. In order to do this, our Church must become the people's Church, and its representation must be a sound and popular representation. This is our first principle, and we rejoice to see it confirmed by the high authority of Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, who, at the late Gloucester Conference, pressed a true and full representation of the laity as the only foundation which would stand. The towns, the great centres of population-in counties, the small towns—must have their due weight. All idea of the parishes of Appledram or Colden Parva, with their twelve or fifty souls, being equivalent to Bradford, or Coventry, or Dover, must be set aside as absurd. All schemes of committees picked out by rural deans, or delegates named by archdeacons, or farmers chosen by a rural clergyman,—these must all be set aside as illusory, and sure to disgust. All this manipulation of lay representatives by the hands of dignitaries, in order to give the priestly element a preponderance, using the lay element as mere lacquer and gilding, is deceptious and unfair. These schemes will never gain the hearts of a watchful people. We have no time to expose devices so palpably absurd. Let us turn to illustrations from fact.
Take a Diocese. The Church in it needs to be strengthened. The Church must do as other institutions do; it must gain the people. The Bishop must not attempt to stand, like a pelican, on one leg, or sit in solitary dignity on his high tree. If he does, he will fail and fall. He is in an important position, but one that needs to be strengthened. He needs, as much as any of us—more than most laymen—to be encompassed and guided. For it is the result of his position that he is the last to learn the cravings of the public mind. He must go to those who know them-not to his archdeacons and rural deans, who will only mislead him. He must take the representatives of the laity in counties and boroughs, and leading men out of Par