Project Canterbury

Lord Halifax:

A Tribute

by Sidney Dark

[Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1934; 86 pp; hardbound]

Chapter Three

For fifty years Lord Halifax was primarily and insistently concerned with directing the policy of the English Church Union. He was elected its President in 1868, when he was a man of twenty-nine. He resigned the presidency in 1919 when he was eighty, to take over the responsibility again in 1928, finally to compel the union of Catholic societies, that had been so long necessary, a few months before his death.

For many years he was in effect the E.C.U., for with all his goodness and his gentleness, Lord Halifax was a born autocrat. He co-operation with the late H.W. Hill, the Union’s secretary, was perfect, and the understanding between the two men was as complete as it was strange – the one, spare, fastidious, restrained, dignified; the other, as I knew him in his later years, red-faced, insistent, brusque, and eminently efficient. But the one man was the complement of the other.

The history of the E.C.U. may be said to have begun nearly twenty-five years before Lord Halifax became its president. In the year 1844, a number of Churchmen in the West of England, alarmed by the Whig policy of secularizing education and fearful for the Church school, formed themselves into the Bristol Church Union of which Archdeacon Denison was one of the secretaries. In the beginning, the Union was entirely preoccupied with the school question, but it began to take a wider interest in Church affairs when Lord John Russell appointed Dr. Hampden to the see of Hereford. Dr. Hampden had been before chosen by Lord Melbourne to be Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and his Bampton Lectures had been denounced as heretical by both Catholics and Evangelicals.

Other similar Unions were formed in various parts of the country. The Metropolitan Union was chiefly concerned with the revival of Convocation, and the London Church Union held in 1850 great meetings of protest against the Gorham Judgement, which caused the secession of Manning to the Roman Church.

In 1854, Archdeacon Denison was prosecuted for teaching the doctrine of the Real Presence, and there followed the calculated attempt to suppress Catholic worship with the riots at S. George’s-in-the-East, by gangs of drunken hooligans, hired by the Protestants to break up Catholic services and assault Catholic priests. It was felt that Catholics must organize themselves for defence. The isolated Catholic Societies, in various parts of the country, were obviously impotent for any effective action and, largely owing to the patience and persistence of the Hon. Colin Lindsay, the President of the Metropolitan church Union, the various Unions were loosely amalgamated in the year 1859 into a society called the Church of England Protection Society, which changed its title in 1860 to the English Church Union. The objects of the Society were:

1. In general so to promote the interests of religion as to be by God’s help a lasting witness in the land for the advancement of His glory and the good of Hid Church.

2. To afford counsel and protection to all persons, lay or clerical, suffering under unjust aggressions or hindrance in spiritual matters.

3. To defend and maintain unimpaired the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.

Among the first members of the Union were Mr. Colin Lindsay, Sir Stephen Glynne, Gladstone’s brother-in-law, Archdeacon Denison, John Keble, and J.M. Neale. The first case with which the Union dealt was that of the Rev. Alfred Poole, who had been refused a licence by Tait, the Bishop of London, because he had heard confessions. It was also concerned with the troubles of S. George’s-in-the-East, and with opposition to divorce laws and the legalizing of marriage with a deceased wife’s sister. It is significant of the progress made during the last seventy years that in 1861 the Union censured the Bishop of Carlisle because at a Confirmation service he rebuked some young people who had bowed their heads at the mention of the Name of our Lord.

The growth of the Union in its early years was very rapid. In 1865, a Memorial was drawn up, protesting against alterations in the Book of Common Prayer which made certain ritual observances illegal, and this was signed by 3,097 clerks and 38,523 laymen. The Memorial had the support of Archdeacon Denison, Archdeacon Randall, the Dean of York, Dr. Pusey, the Duke of Newcastle, the earl of Dartmouth, the earl of Carnarvon, Lord Richard Cavendish, Sir Stephen Glynne, G. Gathorne-Hardy, and J.G. Hubbard. john Keble was a member of the Council of the Union when he died, on Maundy Thursday, 1866, and in the following June Dr. Pusey was elected a member.

IT has seemed worth while to stress the importance and authority of the Union in its early days, since it is thus made clear that Lord Halifax inherited a goodly heritage, and that the principles of the Union were determined before his presidency. Incidentally I note that the Catholic party, for all its progress in the parishes and among the comparatively undistinguished, had a far greater support from influential laymen than it has to-day.

Charles Wood joined the Union in 1865, and it is very interesting that it was he who, in 1867, proposed the resolution pledging the Union’s support to Father Mackonochie in his long struggle at S. Alban’s, Holborn. In 1868, the Hon. Colin Lindsay resigned the Presidency on account of ill health, and Charles Wood was unanimously chosen as his successor. As I have said, he was twenty-nine when he became President of the E.C.U. When he died at the age of ninety-five, he was still its President. He was no ornamental head of the society. He was its inspiration.

Lord Halifax’s life was al ink between to-day, yesterday, and the day before, between the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholic Congress. This is illustrated by the fact that at the annual meeting of the Union in 1874, at which he took the chair, the speakers included Dr. Pusey, Archdeacon Denison, and Dr. Liddon!

It is impossible in this brief memoir to re-tell the history of the Union, or to attempt a detailed record of the ceaseless activities of its President. At the funeral of Dr. Pusey, who died in September, 1882, at the age of eighty-two, Charles Wood was one of the pall-bearer with Mr. Gladstone, Dr. Talbot, then Warden of Keble, Dr. King, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, and Archdeacon Palmer.

It was characteristic of Lord Halifax’s wideness of mind that at Archbishop Tait’s death in 1882, he should have put on record:

‘Under circumstances when a man of less nobility of character might have been excused if he had resented the action taken by the Union he was able to appreciate the motives of those representing the Society and to treat them with a generosity and a forgetfulness of all personal considerations worthy of his high position.’

On the fifteenth anniversary of his election as President, Charles Wood received an address signed by the five Vice-Presidents and eight hundred local officers, which concluded: ‘We praise God for the memory of Edward Bouverie Pusey, for the life and labours of Charles Lindley Wood.’ It was an honour indeed to be named with Pusey, and an honour not undeserved.

In nothing did Lord Halifax better show his gifts of statesmanship than in the Lux Mundi controversy. In 1884, Pusey House was founded, and Charles Gore became its first Principal. Gore, with Edward Talbot, Henry Scott Holland, R.C. Moberly, and Aubrey Moore, represented a new development in Anglo-Catholic scholarship. From the beginning there were more of less definite Conservative and Liberal wings of the Tractarian Movement. Dean Church was something of a Liberal, inheriting the tradition of Newman. Liddon was a Conservative, the spiritual child of Pusey. But the publication, in 1889, of Lux Mundi edited by Gore accentuated differences and caused something like a split in the Movement. The Liberalism of Lux Mundi horrified Liddon and infuriated Denison, and the position of the President of the English Church Union became extremely difficult. On both sides he had intimate friends, and with the wisdom which always characterized him, he urged that the Union should be wary of taking any decisive action. A proposal to censure the writers of Lux Mundi came before the Council of the Union in 1892 and was rejected, the Council deciding that the question raised could not with advantage be discussed by the Union in public. In his address from the chair, Lord Halifax said:

‘If you are going to condemn writings and individuals, there are only two methods. It can be done authoritatively or by critical answer. As regards authority, this Union has no authority whatever to condemn writings or individuals; and if it should attempt to do so there would only be one possible result – it would make itself supremely ridiculous. And I will venture to add, too, if you are going to reply by criticism, who will say that the Union is a competent body to put out a critical reply to the very difficult questions now before the public?’

There is nothing in Lord Halifax’s writings or in his published speeches to determine whether or no he disagreed with Gore, or with the later writers of the Essay Catholic and Critical, but it is to be remembered that most of the continental Roman Catholic theologians and divines with whom he was intimate were definitely Liberal.

Certain events that loom large in the history of the Catholic Revival did not, at the time, appear to have seemed of great significance to Lord Halifax. One of them was Archbishop Benson’s judgement in the case of Bishop King of Lincoln, now regarded as one of the great victories of the Revival, giving, as it did, official authorization to important established and traditional Catholic practices. The Church Association had petitioned the Archbishop to cite the Bishop of Lincoln before him to answer certain charges as to alleged ritualistic practices made against him by two parishioners of Cleethorpes and two parishioners of S. Peter-at-Gowts in the City of Lincoln. The petitioners included a salesman, a foreman, and a gardener. The Archbishop doubted whether he had jurisdiction to hear the case, and the matter was referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, five Law Lords with Lord Chancellor Halsbury as their Chairman sitting with five episcopal assessors, Temple, Bishop of London; Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury; Alwyne Compton, Bishop of Ely; Moorshouse, Bishop of Manchester; and Bardsley, Bishop of Sodor and Man. The Judicial Committee decided that the Archbishop had jurisdiction and, accordingly, citation was issued to the Bishop of Lincoln.

Lord Halifax was indignant. He said at the meeting of the Union on January 3, 1889:

‘I ask myself how it was that the Metropolitan of All England did not indignantly refuse, whatever might be the consequences to himself, to listen to any charges brought by the such men against a Bishop of the Church, and such a Bishop as the Bishop of Lincoln?’

The Archbishop delivered his judgement in November, 1890, and it was subsequently confirmed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Dean Church was among those who realized the supreme importance of these decisions, but Lord Halifax was not enthusiastic.

The question of Lux Mundi cropped up again at a meeting of the Union in 1892, and Lord Halifax said in his presidential address:

‘The Council of the Union has certainly no authority to condemn, and however competent individual members of that body may be to discuss theology, neither the Council of the Union, nor the Union at large, are bodies adapted for the discussion of intricate and confessedly difficult questions of pure theology.’

This briefly was the history of the English Church Union, which means the story of the activities of Lord Halifax up to the years of the discussions in Rome concerning the validity of Anglican Orders. Writing of the work that had been accomplished, Lord Halifax said:

‘No one, I think, can contemplate what has been accomplished without feeling how entirely the progress of the whole Revival has been due to the overruling of God’s good providence, Who has blessed such small beginning with such mighty results, or without entertaining the hope, as he contemplates the past, that He Who has begun the work will continue, if only those are faithful to whom it has been entrusted, to prosper it to the end. May it please Him to accomplish that end in His own good time, and out of this great revival of Church life to develop such a yearning for the salvation of souls, such a zeal for religion, such a love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, on all sides, the divisions which keep Christians apart from one another may seem so great a scandal, so unbearable an outrage to that charity which should bind all the members of Christ’s Body in one, that in some way known to God, under the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, the barriers which keep men apart may melt way, and there may be once more one fold and one Shepherd.

‘The reunion of the whole of Christendom is the crown and completion of all true Church principles. May He Who keeps the good wine to the last pour out, upon all those whom He died to save, this His chiefest and best of gifts, the gift of peace, in the acknowledgement of, and submission to, the faith of the One Holy Undivided Church, which He has set up as a standard for the nations, and for the perpetuation of His abiding presence amongst the children of men.’

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