Project Canterbury

Lord Halifax:

A Tribute

by Sidney Dark

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

Chapter Five

Lord Halifax retained his Presidency of the E.C.U. during the War years, but in February, 1919, he wrote to the Council to say that, after fifty years of office, and in view of his failing sight and hearing, he felt it absolutely necessary to resign. A leading article which appeared in the Church Times on March 14, 1919, expresses what was the unanimous view of Anglo-Catholics in face of a resignation which, however much it were regretted, was obviously inevitable:

‘After a service of fifty years, Lord Halifax is definitely resigning the presidency of the English Church Union. The change is momentous. For half a century the union has been almost identified with its President, both by its members and by the general public, and this judgements is not far wrong; ha has directed its councils and controlled its activities. His rule has been almost a despotism, but a despotism based on confidence, and on nothing less than love. It is difficult to picture its future without him; those who value the Union and those who suspect it must alike be anxious about the developments that lie ahead. But no such personal relation can endure; in the course of nature it must sooner or later come to an end, and regret for its cessation is a call to wise and careful provision for what must take its place. It is for the leaders and members of the Union to do their part, but the matter is of so much public interest that we may be allowed to make some comment on the prospect.

‘A considerable part of the general public regards Lord Halifax as a firebrand. Those who have a closer knowledge of his activity smile at this judgement. Forty years ago, when he was proposed as a member of the Council of Keble College, and objection was taken to him on account of his connexion with so militant an organization, Pusey wrote to the Warden, the present Bishop of Winchester: "As to his being the President of the E.C.U., he is the sense and moderation of it." There may have been some exaggeration here, for there were more moderating influences in the Union, but the witness was true. The President has always been vehement in speech, uncompromising in the assertion of principle, but he has never been averse from moderation, or even from legitimate compromise in public action.

‘It is not for nothing that he was sprung from an old Whig family, and reared in its traditions. He knows when it is necessary to yield, and to achieve what is attainable even at the cost of what is more desirable. This knowledge, this political instinct, has been at the service of the Union, and has controlled the hot-heads or the die-hards of its rank and file. His caution has been abundantly justified as the intransigence which it curiously chequered. Those who opposed him, urging more violent courses and complaining that his action fell short of his language, have seldom failed to acknowledge in the long run the value of the prudence which they challenged. Those who suspect of fear the Union have ground for anxiety in respect of his successor.

‘In a sense he can have no successor No other man can wield the same authority. There will not be another reign of fifty years.’

Lord Halifax was succeeded by Lord Phillimore, whose fame as an ecclesiastical lawyer added to the Union’s prestige during what was destined to be a short term of office. Lord Phillimore was succeeded by Sir Robert Newman, now Lord Mamhead, a man of strong character, independent views, sincere convictions, and delightful modesty. I shall always think that it was the gravest misfortune that, owing to disagreement with the masterful H.W. Hill, Robert Newman resigned an office for which he was pre-eminently suited. His successor was the Earl of Shaftesbury. Lord Shaftesbury gave a great deal of time and spared himself no trouble in directing the Union’s affairs, but he is a man of many preoccupations, he never had the authority of Lord Halifax and Lord Phillimore among his fellow Churchmen, and it cannot be said that under his sway the Union gained in influence, or even retained the position that it had held in former years.

In 1922, the Rev. Arnold Pinchard succeeded Hill as the Union’s Secretary, the first clerk to hold the office. Lord Shaftesbury resigned the presidency in 1927, and the Council of the Union found itself in a sore dilemma. All sorts of names were suggested for the presidency, but they all with one accord made excuses. Lord Irwin would have been the ideal, but he was in India, and he had made it clear that, zealous Churchman as he is, he did not feel able to devote his life to ecclesiastical politics. There was a curious feeling, which I certainly did not share, that the office should be held by a member of the House of Lords, and this of itself limited the area of selection.

Finally, and almost in despair, the Council asked Lord Halifax, who was then over ninety, to assume again the responsibility which he had laid down ten years before, and he agreed. There could never again be the same grip of the Union’s direction and the same domination of its activities. Indeed, this second presidency was in the circumstances merely nominal.

In January, 1926, Lord Halifax was present at Cardinal Mercier’s deathbed. It was, he wrote, ‘most heartbreaking, and yet most consoling. I was at Mass in his room when he was given Communion at seven o’clock in the morning, and I shall never forget it.’ The Cardinal’s episcopal ring was bequeathed to him and he always wore it on a ribbon round his neck. Theirs was a very beautiful friendship. As an example of his vigour, it may be mentioned that Lord Halifax came back to England after the Cardinal’s death and returned two days afterwards for the funeral, at which he was accompanied by Dr. Kidd. His retention in so large a measure of both physical and mental vitality was almost miraculous. I heard him in 1925 deliver a speech at the Albert Hall which was remarkable for the clearness of the enunciation and still more remarkable as a feat of memory. I followed this speech with a typewritten copy of what Lord Halifax had written, and the accuracy of his memory was amazing.

Lord Halifax thoroughly disliked the Revised Prayer Book of 1927, and during the debate in the House of Lords he gave his reasons for being unable to vote for the Measure. He was, however, unwilling to vote against it, his point of view being that it would be a fatal policy for the Bill to be thrown out by the joint action of Catholics and extreme Protestants. His speech is of great interest, and I quote the Church Times report. Lord Halifax followed Lord Stanhope, a youthful Protestant opposed to the Measure:

‘When he sat down, Lord Parmoor rose from the front Opposition bench; but simultaneously, a spare, slim figure rose from the opposite side of the House, and loud cries of "Halifax" caused Lord Parmoor at once to give way. Peers hurried to their places, Privy Councillors filled the steps before the Throne, and the House of Commons galleries had no empty seat after Lord Halifax had been speaking for five minutes. He brought religion and reality into the House. He spoke as an expert in experience and knowledge. To him the Church is something more than an appendage of the State, and the affairs of the Church are not to be affected by considerations of policy or opportunism. Lord Halifax bears his eighty-eight years with a gallant grace. He is feeble of frame, but his voice was strong and his diction admirable. Indeed, I heard him better from by seat than almost any f the other speakers. He spoke without a note, and he was heard with something like rapt attention. I print his speech in full:

‘"I had not intended to attend the meeting of your lordships’ House on any of the three days on which the Prayer Book Measure was to be discussed, but after consideration I have come to the conclusion that it would be cowardly to shrink from the responsibility of expressing, and I will therefore ask your lordships’ indulgence for a few moments if I endeavour to put before your lordships some considerations which I think of importance.

‘"I am not going to discuss at any length the provisions of the Deposited Book. Such detail seem to me outside the scope of either this or the other House of Parliament, but I do wish to draw your lordships’ attention to some of the consequences which seem to be threatened by the Measure now before Parliament. We are told by those responsible for the Measure that its primary object is to enable such an enforcement of discipline as is not possible under existing circumstances to be taken in hand, and that there is every intention on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities, if the Deposited Prayer Book receives the Assent of Parliament, to make the enforcement of such discipline effective. The enforcement of discipline, in the abstract, is generally desirable, but the plea urged for the introduction of the present Measure is the best possible proof that such enforcement is not always either desirable or possible.

‘ "Will your lordships carry your minds back some fifty years? I am not quite sure of the date, but I think the Public Worship Regulation Act was carried through Parliament about 1877. The enforcement of discipline then as now was the plea alleged for the introduction of that Measure. The Queen, the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, most of the Bishops, both Houses of Parliament, were strongly in favour of the Measure. One priest in the suburbs of London refused to obey the Act when it became law, and was sent to gaol in consequence. The Archbishop of Canterbury will remember all the circumstances. Other clergy, if different parts of the country, some five, I think, followed his example. One if my memory serves me, was shut up for the best part of a year in Lancaster Castle. And what has been the result – the final result we see to-day – that the things for which those clergy were sent to prison are precisely the things which now, under this present Measure, are set down, not only as things to be legalised, but are asserted to be things entirely in accordance with the mind and teaching of the Church of England. Time certainly brings with it its revenges, but if we are well advised we shall also endeavour to profit by its lessons.

‘Whatever may be the fate of the Deposited Book in Parliament no one supposes that the clergy aimed at by the P.W.R.A., and who to-day decline to have anything to do with the Deposited Book, are likely to be attacked for any of the matter it is proposed to legalize by that Book, and declared to be entirely in accordance with the mind of the Church of England. What becomes of the assertions of the ecclesiastical authorities – that if the Book passes, it is intended to make the enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline an effective reality? No doubt it will be said, in the connection, that there are other matters besides those enumerated in the Deposited Book which have to be dealt with; and next, that no one is to be forced to use the Deposited Book if it obtains the Assent of Parliament. Is this quite true?

‘"Rubrics are altered and passed by the present Measure which are to apply to the present Prayer Book as well as to the new. Alternations of varying importance are made in the public services of the Church which all the clergy will have to use.

‘"But in any case, this hardly exhausts the question. Do your lordships think what, in view of past experience, is likely to be the attitude of those clergy who not only see grave difficulties in regard to the alterations proposed by the Deposited Book, but who are also troubled by the effect of the Deposited Book on the existing Book of Common Prayer, involved in the obligation impose on all the clergy to accept those rubrics and alterations whether they adhere to the old book or accept the new one? What is the attitude of such clergy likely to be if it is sought to impose upon them changes in what has now become a very general and usual manner of celebrating divine service?

‘"Let me mention other changes of the same sort. There is the change in the service for Holy Communion, which alters in practice what has been the use of the Church of England, in common with the whole Western Church, since the days of S. Augustine, and necessitates an alternation in nearly all the books of private devotion for Holy Communion.

‘"There is the tampering with the use of the Athanasian Creed, in regard to which both Dr. Pusey and Dr. Liddon, names illustrious in our annals, threatened to give up their preferment if not dissimilar changes were insisted on.

‘"There are omissions in the services for Holy Baptism, and in the Marriage Service, in regard to Noah and the Flood, one of which affects by implication words of our Lord, and the other which flatly contradicts a statement of S. Paul.

‘"Again, there are the new rubrics dealing with the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, both for the Communion of the Sick and for the use of those who, for whatever reason, are precluded from attending the public service in church. How will you deal with them? How will you meet the denial of any right possessed by a bishop to forbid the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for such purposes in any parish church? Do you think that those clergy, and there are many throughout the length and breadth of the country, who really believe, when they recite the Creed, in the Catholic Church and the Catholic heritage of the Church of England, and who have the support of a devoted band of laymen behind them, are likely to abstain from such adoration of our Blessed Lord in the Reserved Sacrament as they are accustomed to give Him in the celebration of Holy Communion? Do you imagine they will submit to the surrender of what has become their usual practice in celebrating divine service, and that not merely in England, but in South Africa and in the United States of America?

‘"Past experience encourages no great hopes of the success of any such efforts at coercion, and if not, what can be the result of any such attempt – except to aggravate our divisions, to discredit ecclesiastical authority, and to complicate the existing relations of Church and State?

‘"The divisions in the Church of England which are the reflection of the divisions of Christendom are our greatest trouble and the cause of our greatest danger. Will the Measure now before Parliament aggravate these divisions or help to heal them? That is the question it is most needful to consider. Those differences are largely due to misconceptions and ignorance of what is meant on both sides. Thy cannot be remedied, they can only be made worse by the interference of Parliament. I believe if Sir William Joynson Hicks and myself were shut up in a room together we could, without much difficulty, come to an understanding and agreement. The dangers involved in the present Measure, despite the advantages which it offers in regard to some important maters, are obvious. Ought we not to endeavour to see, without recourse to any Act of Parliament, what can be done to bring us all together? Let the Bishops encourage such conversations as those which have been held at Malines during the last five years between responsible members of the different parties in the in the English Church, and I believe, by God’s blessing, we should see a growth of goodwill and consequent peace which will effect what this Measure, however good its intention may be, will never succeed in bringing about.

‘ "I have never been able to understand why, instead of having recourse to Parliament and all the efforts which have been found necessary to produce the Measure now before Parliament, the Episcopate did not support the Archbishop of York’s proposal to agree in the case of those who desired it to the use of the Liturgy of 1549, which was the first edition of our present Book of Common Prayer. That Liturgy was the Liturgy used throughout nearly the whole of Edward VI’s reign. It was the Liturgy used by Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Ridley, Bishop Latimer, and the other Reformers. Bishop Gardiner had been willing to acquiesce in it. Those who rejoice in the name of Protestant could not have objected to it – people like myself would have rejoiced in it – and had the use of it been acquiesced in such use would not have prevented a further revision if such revision had been desired later on. It is the Liturgy which, with the acquiescence of two Archbishops of York, had been used in Yorkshire in the church with which I am connected for nearly twenty-five years with every one’s goodwill, and it would have helped the general cause of peace and reunion al round. The Archbishop of York will tell you no one supported his proposal, but, had he persevered in it, he would have found how little real weight can be attached to that silence. The highest authority of all ha told us that a house divided against itself falleth. It is in the interests of that unity and agreement amongst ourselves that I have ventured to detain your lordships this afternoon.

‘"One other word. I have too great a respect and regard, and may I say affection, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to make it possible for me to vote against the Deposited Book, but I cannot, in view of the definite efforts at coercion made in connection with the Deposited Book, take the responsibility of voting for it. I think attempts at coercion practically impossible, and altogether inadvisable under existing circumstances. I will oppose any such effort by all the means in my power." ’

This speech is, in effect, an eloquent profession of faith.

In his later years Lord Halifax spoke very rarely in the House of Lords, his last speech being delivered in opposition to Lord Buckmaster’s Matrimonial Causes Bill. He spoke hesitatingly, and obviously with difficulty, and the House listened to him with a sort of awed wonder. Suddenly and abruptly, he paused, and there a wait of some seconds. Then he begged forgiveness and explained that he had been ill and could speak no more. He concluded: ‘I shall probably never address this House again. The sands of my life are running out, but what I have said comes from my heart. I urge your lordships to consider the real welfare of the people of England in this matter.’ As has been well said, the scene recalled the great historic incident when the elder Pitt spoke his dying words in the same House.

Lord Halifax’s last public speech was at a meeting of the E.C.U. at the Church House, Westminster, in1931. His alertness was shown in his criticisms of the diversity in the manner of saying Mass, and he made a vigorous plea for Catholic unity and for that reunion for which he never ceased to pray. He referred to the reunion of Church and State in Italy. ‘Is it impossible,’ he asked, ‘that the still greater difficulties which for so long have separated England from the Roman See may be overcome and by the blessing of God it may be the privilege of each one of us to have a share in so glorious a work?’

One last service remained to be performed.

In 1920, thanks to the initiative of Canon Atlay, then the Vicar of S. Matthew’s Westminster, the first Anglo-Catholic Congress was held at the Albert Hall. The second Congress at which the late Bishop of Zanzibar was the great dominating figure, was held in 1923. The Congress movement attracted the enthusiasm and the interest of hundreds of the younger members of Anglo-Catholic churches throughout the country who had never joined the staid E.C.U. As a consequence of the 1923 Congress, a permanent organization was created with its offices at Westminster and with a secretariate with the Rev. Maurice Child at its head. It was never intended that the A.C.C. should be the rival of E.C.U. There was a sort of loose idea that the business of the new organization should be attack, the spreading of the Faith, while E.C.U. should go on with its old work of defence, preserving that which had already been won. But as the years went on it was obvious that the two organizations were inevitably to some extent in competition, while the fact that they each had local branches meant an unnecessary duplication of organization and a considerable waste of money.

Thanks, in the first place, to suggestions made in the columns of the Church Times, a Committee was appointed seven years ago to discuss the possibility of closer co-operation, with the ultimate amalgamation. I was a member of this first Committee. I was born with the smallest capacity for effective committee work and therefore I may have been hasty and mistaken in the decision that divergent interests could not be reconciled and that negotiations were a mere waste of time. The negotiations, however, proceeded, Mr. J.G. Lockhart being in later times closely concerned with them. The position was this. E.C.U. was old, it was missing its chances, it was becoming effete. A.C.C. was young. It made an enormous success of the celebrations of the Centenary of the Oxford Movement. But it was accused of being too fond of ‘stunts.’ Its leading members were charged with flippancy and extravagance, and even those of us who attached no great importance to these critcisms did feel that as E.C.U. would gain in vitality, so A.C.C. would gain in dignity and influence if the two bodies became one.

After the Oxford Movement Centenary celebrations, the Rev. Arnold Pinchard resigned the secretaryship of E.C.U., and the Council appointed as his successor a gentleman with an established journalistic reputation but with comparatively little knowledge of the intricate situation of the Catholic societies. This lack of experience caused him to print in the Church Union Gazette two articles which aroused widespread resentment. In one of them the leaders of A.C.C. were sharply criticized, in the other there was a bitter attack on the Roman Catholic Church in England. The articles aroused the wrath of the old lion at Hickleton. Lord Halifax at once wrote to the Secretary declaring that he could not remain President of the Union ‘under the present rÈgime.’ There has been a great deal of silly talk about this famous letter, and, among other people, I myself have been accused of having written it. As a matter of fact, even at ninety-four, Lord Halifax wrote at no man’s dictation. I knew nothing of the letter until I received a copy of it from Hickleton, and I believe that the only person consulted before it was written was Lord Halifax’s life-long friend, Mr. Athelstan Riley.

The letter completely changed the situation. It was felt that amalgamation, which had been before regarded by a considerable number of persons as an ultimate ideal, was now an immediate necessity. Thanks to the energy of Lord Justice Slesser, a constitution was drawn up and approved, and A.C.C. and E.C.U. are now combined in the Church Union of which Lord Halifax with Bishop Chandler was one of the first Presidents. ‘There could be no more striking evidence of Lord Halifax’s forceful character and personality than this master stroke,’ wrote the Church Times. ‘In the twinkling of an eye, as it were, the long and apparently fruitless discussions of the amalgamation of the A.C. organizations were broken off and the feat accomplished.’ This amalgamation of the Catholic forces was the last act of his long life, and it gave him intense satisfaction to feel that he had left behind an association probably destined to grow in effectiveness and to carry on with success the work to which he had devoted his long life.

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