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The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



AT the General Meeting on June 18, 1860, the following resolution, moved by the Rev. T. Helmore and seconded by Mr. Radcliffe, was adopted:--

St. George's-in-the-East.

That it is suggested by this Meeting that in the present state of affairs at St. George's-in-the-East, it is incumbent on the English Church Union to watch the progress of events with regard to the services in that church, and that such further steps should be taken by the Council as shall be deemed by them most effectual to the suppression of the riots which have disgraced that parish.

At the General Meeting on December 12, 1860, a Paper on the Increase of the Episcopate was read by the President, and it was resolved, on the motion of the Rev. the Hon. E. Liddell, seconded by the Rev. W. H. Lyall, as follows:--

Increase of the Episcopate.

Resolved--That, some of the greatest evils which now prevail to hinder the work of the Church of England being due to the insufficient number of Bishops in the country, The English Church Union shall impress this fact upon its members and Churchmen throughout the country, and be ready to assist in carrying out any well-devised plan for increasing the number of English Bishops.

On January 1, 1861, the first number of the Church Review appeared. This publication was established as a monthly paper to be a medium for circulating information of the proceedings of the Society, but without allowing it to be called the journal of the English Church Union, or to be taken necessarily to represent in all respects the opinions of its several members.

At the General Meeting on January 14, 1861, it was resolved, on the motion of the Rev. J. Skinner:--

Revision of the Prayer Book.

That the English Church Union, having considered many of the proposed changes in the Book of Common Prayer, and the direction in which they all tend, is bound to declare that the most holy doctrine of the Catholic Church of Christ, as hitherto preserved by God's Providence to the English Church, is thereby corrupted or put aside.

That the English Church Union hereby pledges itself to resist all such changes to the uttermost, and to maintain the said Book as, for nearly two centuries, it has stood, and by God's goodness still stands.

At an adjourned meeting on January 28, 1861, it was resolved:--

Church Rates.

Moved by Mr. E. Brett, and seconded by the Hon. Henry Walpole--

Considering that, from time immemorial, the parish churches in England have been maintained by the owners of property, and the poor have, by prescription, had the offices of religion provided for them gratuitously, and that the rich have held or acquired their property subject to this charge;

Considering that no practicable or satisfactory mode has been pointed out by which Dissenters from the Church can be exempted from this national payment, and that they themselves have repudiated any compromise;

Considering that the principle of a National Church is involved in the maintenance of the ancient law;

It is resolved that the English Church Union strongly urges that all possible means should be adopted to improve the machinery for its execution, but to resist any attempt to abolish the present law of Church Bates.

At the Ordinary Meeting on February 11,1861, it was resolved:--

Essays and Reviews.

Moved by the Rev. W. Gresley, and seconded by the Rev. James Skinner--

The English Church Union, having had under its consideration a book entitled "Essays and Reviews," feels called upon to express its extreme sorrow and surprise that sceptical opinions, which have long since been refuted and exploded, should be again brought forward, and that by clergymen of the Church of England holding prominent positions in our seats of education.

They consider that many positions maintained in the above volume, particularly the denial of the credibility of miracles and of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, are quite inconsistent with the offices and functions of ministers of the English Church.

The English Church, while it allows free scope for the expression of individual opinions within moderate bounds, does not sanction such a manifest departure from the true Christian Faith as appears to be contained in the above-mentioned volume.

If she did, she would lay herself open to the charge that she had no definite doctrine, and allowed those who taught with her authority to deny the essentials of the Christian Faith.

That, for these reasons, the English Church Union would respectfully call upon the Bishops who rule in the Church, and the authorities which govern in the Universities, to take such measures as may seem to them best for condemning such errors, and reclaiming their authors to the truth.

The following Petition on this subject, approved by high authority, was numerously signed and presented to Convocation:--

That your Petitioners have heard with dismay that there is no intention on the part of your Right Reverend House of pronouncing any synodical censure on a certain book, lately published by Mr. J. W. Parker, of London, and notoriously known by the title of "Essays and Reviews," on the ground that their lordships the Bishops of the Church have already examined and condemned the said book.

That your Petitioners would humbly represent to your Right Reverend House that the letter of the Most Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury, to which were appended the names of the Bight Reverend the Bishops of the Church of England, which was addressed to "The Reverend W. Freemantle," and dated "Lambeth, February 12," and published in the newspapers, contains only the private opinions of individual prelates, and cannot be considered by Churchmen as a formal synodical act of the Church of England. That your Petitioners humbly represent to your Right Reverend House that the only constitutional mode by which the Church of England can lawfully and canonically condemn works and their authors, is by a formal ecclesiastical enquiry, and, if need be, censure, pronounced in and by her provincial or national Councils or Synods.

That your Petitioners would humbly represent to your Right Reverend House that it has been publicly asserted that the authors of these "Essays and Reviews," or some of them, deny, or appear to deny--

The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures;

The genuineness of the Prophetic Books, as predictions of events then future;

The literal historical facts as narrated in the Book of Genesis; The reality of Miracles, which, as it appears to your Petitioners, necessarily implies a denial of the reality of

The Supernatural Conception and Birth of the Son of God as Very Man, of the Blessed Virgin His Mother; His Transfiguration on the Mount; The wonderful events connected with His Passion and Death;

His Resurrection from the Dead, and

His Visible Ascension as Man into Heaven;

All which events were supernatural, and therefore miraculous.

That your Petitioners would further represent to your Right Reverend House that the authors of the aforesaid "Essays and Reviews" have not as yet contradicted the fearful and blasphemous heresies imputed to them; but, on the contrary, they have, without any retractation, explanation, or apology, authorised several editions of their said work to be published.

That your Petitioners would represent to your Bight Reverend House that, unless these alleged heresies, involving as they do the whole foundation and superstruction of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, are solemnly investigated, and, on proof had, formally and synodically condemned, and their authors either reclaimed or excommunicated and deprived of their status in the Church, according to the universal custom of the Church in all ages, and of this Church in particular, a grievous wrong will be done to the weak brethren and poor of the Church, and to the little ones of Christ, who have hitherto been accustomed to look to their Bishops and Pastors as the accredited Teachers of the Truth and the lawful guardians of the Faith.

Your Petitioners would, therefore, in the Name of God, beseech your Right Reverend House to proceed to a synodical investigation of the said book of "Essays and Reviews," in order to the acquittal or condemnation, or, by God's mercy, to the reclaiming, of the authors of the said book.

At the General Meeting on March 11, 1861, it was resolved:--

Deceased Wife's Sister Bill.

Moved by the Rev. T. W. Perry, and seconded by the Rev. W. Gresley--

That the English Church Union views with great disapprobation the renewed attempt to alter the marriage law of England by a measure now before Parliament entitled "A Bill to Legalise Marriage-with a Deceased Wife's Sister."

Believing that such a change is forbidden by the Divine Law, is opposed to the general moral feeling of the country, and will lead to conflicts between the civil and ecclesiastical laws, and the laws of the State itself, the English Church Union hereby urges upon its members to do all in their power to counteract the endeavours now being made to change the marriage law of this country.

The President and Council materially contributed to the success of the public meeting, held on April 12, 1861, at Willis's Rooms, his Honour Vice-Chancellor Page Wood in the chair, to protest against Mr. Monkton Milne's Bill for legalizing such (so-called) marriages.

At the General Monthly Meeting on April 15, 1861, the following resolution was adopted:--

Present State of the Poor Laws, Moved by the Rev. J. Skinner--

(1) That the English Church Union, having considered the present Poor Law of England as a system of compulsory provision for the poor, is of opinion that, having disconnected itself with religion--the only spring and source of almsgiving whereon the poor may claim to depend--it has failed to relieve the poor according to their real necessities and wants. (2) That the Council be instructed to watch the proceedings of the Committee appointed by Parliament to review the law, and to use their utmost efforts for the introduction into its provisions of the needful improvements.

It was also resolved that a Petition to the Upper House of Convocation be adopted to the following effect:--

Alteration of the 29th Canon.

That while the English Church Union deprecates any alteration of the 29th Canon, it most particularly prays their lordships not to repeal that portion of it which presumes that sponsors shall be communicants.

At the General Meeting on May 13,1861, the following resolution was adopted:--

Increase of the Episcopate.

Moved by the President, and seconded by the Hon. Henry Walpole

That, while cordially approving of the object sought to be attained by Lord Lyttleton in his Bill now in the House of Lords "to subdivide dioceses and to erect additional sees in England and Wales," the English Church Union is nevertheless strongly of opinion that, in any newly-constituted sees, the Church should have a definite voice in the appointment of the Bishops thereof.

At the Annual Meeting held at 47, Leicester Square, on June 12, 1861, the business transacted was of a purely formal character, being mainly concerned with the new Rules.

During the year 231 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 436.

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