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The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



AT the Ordinary Meeting on July 15, 1861, the strange action of the Bishop of Carlisle (Waldegrave) was referred to. His lordship, during a Confirmation held at Lowther Church, had actually rebuked from the pulpit some young persons who observed the pious custom, enjoined by the 18th Canon of 1603, of bowing at the mention of the Name of the Lord Jesus.

Special attention was also drawn to Mr. Poole's case. Costs had been given against him in his efforts to appeal to the Queen in Council from the Archbishop's Court, and the Bishop of London's taxed costs amounted to £322. Mr. Poole had no means of paying such a sum, and when an attachment against the person of Mr. Poole was issued by the Bishop of London, a generous friend, Mr. C. F. Trower, went to London House, and paid down the money into the Bishop's hand. The Council at once called upon members of the Union, and Churchmen generally, to take steps to repay this debt. The Union resolved:--

Rev. A. Poole's Case.

That this meeting expresses its sympathy with the Rev. A. Poole in the recent decision of the Privy Council in his case, and at the same time fully appreciates the noble act of Charles F. Trower, Esq., in coming forward at a moment of great emergency to pay the Bishop of London his costs, by which act alone the Rev. A. Poole was saved from being cast into prison by the Bishop, who had caused the necessary process for that purpose to be issued; and, under these circumstances, this Union appeals to all its members and to Churchmen generally for subscriptions in aid of the fund collecting for the purpose of repaying Mr. Trower the money so opportunely advanced by him.

Attention was also called to a case at the House of Detention, Clerkenwell. A girl had been remanded on a charge of infanticide, and when the incumbent of St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, in which parish she was resident, called to administer spiritual consolation, the matron and warder refused to retire even a short distance, on the ground that none but a Roman Catholic priest might see a prisoner in private. It was thus impossible to converse with the girl, as any admission she might have made would have been given in evidence against her.

Another grievance occurred in the Hackney Union. In preparing the children for Confirmation and first Communion, the Chaplain had used "Bishop Ken's Manual of Prayers," and "Scudamore's Steps to the Altar." The majority of the Guardians being Dissenters, the latter book was formally condemned by the Board; both books were taken away from the children; and orders issued " that no books should in future be used but such as were sanctioned by" themselves. Steps were taken to bring the matter before the Poor Law Board.

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

Theatres in Holy Week.

Moved by Mr. T. E. Bennett, seconded by the Hon. H. Walpole--

That the proposal to open the theatres and other places of amusement in Holy Week is calculated to injure the progress of sound religious principles in the metropolis and throughout the country.

At the Ordinary Meeting on December 16, 1861, it was resolved:--

The Church Review.

Moved by the President, and seconded by Mr. A. D. Sprange--

That the Report now read be adopted, and that the President and Council be authorised to publish the Church Review weekly during the Session of Parliament, commencing with the new year, and that the price be threepence per number unstamped, and four-pence stamped.

The following Memorial to the Lord Chamberlain was adopted:--

Theatres in Holy Week.

That your Memorialists have heard with great regret that it is your lordship's intention to permit, for the future, the opening of the metropolitan theatres in the Holy Week preceding Easter, commonly called Passion Week.

That such permission (if granted) will be a violation of the solemn obligations under which the Crown, in the first instance, and subsequently the Lord Chamberlain, as deputy of the Crown, first obtained the control over the metropolitan theatres.

That prior to the Reformation the control over theatrical representations belonged exclusively to the Church.

That the right to interfere with such representations was first claimed by Queen Elizabeth, as governor of the Church, and not as head of the State.

That, from the time of Elizabeth to the reign of George II., licences were granted by the Lord Chamberlain, as the representative of the Crown, but in no instances were such licences granted for theatrical performances during the Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, or during any of the days of Passion Week.

That, by the 10th George II., c. 28, express power to license the metropolitan theatres was given to the Lord Chamberlain, in his individual capacity, and not as the delegate of the Crown; but such power was accompanied by a right to restrain performances at any time in his discretion, and your Memorialists believe that the Legislature intended this restraining power to be exercised in the same manner that his delegated power had been previously exercised.

That your Memorialists are confirmed in their belief by the fact that during the long and prosperous reign of George III. the metropolitan theatres were in no instance allowed to be open during the Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, or the several days of Passion Week.

That the present Act for regulating theatres, 6 and 7 Victoria, c. 68, gives a similar discretionary power to the Lord Chamberlain, and up to the present time successive Lord Chamberlains have invariably refused to allow any metropolitan theatre to be open in Passion Week.

Your Memorialists therefore humbly pray that the practice of your predecessors in this respect may be continued, and that regard may be had to the feelings of Churchmen, who view the change as a most serious innovation, and as one calculated to excite alarm in the minds of the religious public.

The Memorial was presented by the Bishop of London, but the reply was unfavourable. Subsequently, a most influential deputation of clergy and laity, including members of both Houses of Parliament, waited on the Lord Chamberlain at St. James's Palace. Although the obnoxious permission for the current year was not withdrawn, there was reason to hope that such permission would not again be granted; whilst a wholesome impression was generally made upon the public mind by the agitation.

At the Ordinary Meeting on January 13, 1862, the following resolution was adopted:--

New Education Minute.

Moved by the Rev. M. W. Mayow, and seconded by the Rev. W. Gresley--

That, in the opinion of this Meeting, it is desirable that a Petition be drawn up for the consideration of the English Church Union, with a view to its being adopted and presented to Parliament, which, without deprecating all change in the Code on Education hitherto in use, may pray for the withdrawal of the Revised Code lately issued from the Council Office.

The following Petition was subsequently adopted:--

That, having considered the change proposed to be made in the distribution of the Government grant for education under the minute known as the Revised Code;

That, being persuaded that the provisions of the existing code, if carried into effect, would materially throw back the education of the country, as well as inflict much hardship upon individual teachers and managers of schools;

Also, that the defects of the existing code are so much those of principle, and not of mere detail (as well as that they are spread broadcast throughout its provisions), as to make it impossible satisfactorily to amend the existing code by partial alterations;

Your Petitioners, whilst they are far from supposing the late code, or distribution of the Government grant, to be without defect, or admitting of no improvement, you would respectfully represent that any improvement which may hereafter be found desirable, if made with more evident deliberation, and after advice taken with such bodies or persons as have evinced great interest in the education of the poorer classes, and bestowed much time and thought upon the subject (as, for instance, the Committee of the National Society, her Majesty's Inspectors of schools, and other persons presumably well able to give assistance and advice), would probably be both in themselves much more advantageous to the education of the classes intended to receive aid from the Government grant, as well as insure in a much greater degree the confidence and support of all classes of the community.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Revised Code bearing date the 29th July, 1861, may be wholly withdrawn.

This was eventually done.

Consecration of Missionary Bishops.

A lengthy Memorial was presented to Convocation, urging the Bishops "to take such measures as may be deemed advisable for obtaining such alterations in the law as shall enable the Bishops of England to consecrate and send forth Missionary Bishops for the conversion of the heathen, without being compelled to sue for or obtain any Royal licence whatsoever."

This Memorial arose out of the late consecration of the Rev. T. N. Staley to Honolulu. The law officers of the Crown had advised that, under 26 Geo. III., c. 84, and 5 Vict., c. 6, a Royal licence must be obtained "authorising and empowering" the Archbishop of Canterbury to proceed to the consecration of a prelate for countries not subject to her Majesty's authority. It appeared that the Archbishop would not incur any penalties by proceeding to consecrate without licence, but his Grace thought it right to apply for a licence. The action of the E. C. U. was effective in securing a modification in the terms of the Royal licence; and it was subsequently resolved to address a Memorial to Convocation, inasmuch as the existing law was "a direct invasion of those sacred rights and prerogatives which belong exclusively to the spiritual rulers of the Catholic Church, which were bestowed upon them by our Lord God on the eve of His Ascension, and which no portion of that Church can lawfully cede to any earthly authority."

The following Petition against marriage with a wife's sister was presented to the House of Commons, signed by the President on behalf of the Union:--

Deceased Wife's Sister Bill.

Whereas a Bill has been introduced into your Honourable House entitled "A Bill to render legal certain marriages of affinity";

And whereas the object of the said Bill is to amend the law "as to marriage with a deceased wife's sister";

Therefore your Petitioners, on the ground that such marriages are forbidden by the law of God and of the Church, and out of reverence to the Divine Law are forbidden by the laws of the realm, would humbly pray your Honourable House that this said Bill do not pass.

A somewhat similar Petition was extensively signed and presented to the House of Lords, and the following Petition to both Houses of Parliament, signed by women only:--

Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister.

That your Petitioners have observed with great regret that a Bill has been introduced into your [Right] Honourable House for the purpose of legalising certain marriages of affinity.

That your Petitioners believe that marriage with a deceased wife's sister is prohibited by the laws of God and the Church.

That your Petitioners also believe that if such marriages are permitted, a grievous blow will be inflicted on the religion and morality of their fellow Christians, which cannot fail to deeply injure that innocent and affectionate intercourse which now so happily prevails between a husband and the sister of his wife.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your [Right] Honourable House that the said Bill may not pass into law.

The Union addressed a protest to the Bishop of Rochester (Wigram) in consequence of his attack upon St. Nicholas College, Hurstpierpoint, on the score mainly that "distinctions of food, and fasting, are more than borne with," and "that something like particular confession is distinctly encouraged." In his reply, his lordship stated that "it never was his intention to discourage the practices of fasting and confession at such times and under such circumstances as the English Church enjoins them," and appeared to admit that his information had, in some respects, been defective.

At the Ordinary Meeting on March 10, 1862, it was resolved:--

Qualification for Offices Bill.

Moved by Mr. T. B. Bennett, and seconded by Mr. Sprange--

That this meeting regrets to observe that a Bill, called the Qualification for Offices Bill, has been passed through the House of Commons, and is now before the Upper House of Parliament, having for its object the dispensing with certain declarations required to be made by the members and officers of corporate and other public bodies of England and Wales.

The following Petition to the House of Lords on the subject was adopted:--

1. That your Petitioners have observed with great regret that a Bill is now before your Right Honourable House, entitled "A Bill to render it unnecessary to make and subscribe certain declarations as a qualification for offices and employments," the object of which is to dispense with the necessity which now exists for the taking of certain declarations by members and officers of corporate bodies in England and Wales.

2. That the declarations sought to be abolished by the said Bill were first imposed on the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts of 1828; and that such repeal would not have been effected if the declarations had not been inserted in the Act of repeal as part of the terms on which that Act was obtained.

3. That your Petitioners regard the attempt to repeal such declarations as a breach of faith on the part of its promoters, and as one calculated to weaken public confidence in the solemn pledges given by the promoters of a measure in Parliament as to the intent and object of such measure.

4. That the declarations impose no restraint on the religious liberty of individuals, but merely restrain them from exercising any influence they may obtain, by virtue of any office to which they may be appointed, to weaken the Established Church or effect its legal rights and privileges.

5. That your Petitioners believe that the ulterior object of the Bill is to give increased power in the Municipal Corporations to the enemies of the Church, and enable them to injure that Church (which the Sovereign is bound by virtue of her Coronation oath to defend) by means of the public funds entrusted to them in their official capacity.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the said Bill may not pass into law.

Petitions against the Marriages of Affinity Bill and the Abolition of Church Rates were also drafted for signature.

At the Ordinary Meeting on April 7, 1862, the following resolutions were adopted as amended, the debate having been adjourned from the previous Ordinary Meeting:--

Church Discipline Legislation.

That the highest Court of Appeal should be the Upper House of Convocation, with the understanding that the Bishops exercise the power of calling to their assistance, as assessors, theologians and laymen learned in the law.

That the Archbishops and Bishops, in their respective provincial and diocesan courts, should either preside in person, with the aid of learned assessors, or else appoint (as they do at present) the ecclesiastical judges.

That, whilst facilitating the bringing to trial of priests for heresy and breaches of Church discipline and morality, there should be a mode of procedure laid down for dealing with Archbishops and Bishops if they should offend against the law.

That the unbeneficed clergy should have the same opportunities of obtaining justice as incumbents, by virtue of their freeholds, now possess.

That, previous to the introduction into the Legislature of any Bill for the amendment of ecclesiastical discipline, both the English and Irish Convocations ought to have the opportunity of fully discussing the scope and details, seeing that the priests of the-Church in England and Ireland are not represented in Parliament.'

Petitions were presented, as occasion arose, against the following Bills in Parliament:--The Clergy Belief Bill, Lord Ebury's Public Worship and Assent to Prayer Book Bills, Sir Morton Peto's Burial Bill, and the present Law of Divorce.

An address to foreigners, visiting the metropolis in connection with the International Exhibition, was prepared by the President and Council, in which the true character of the English Church was explained. The Address was translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Greek, and not only circulated in the metropolis, but large quantities were sent abroad for circulation on the Continent.

The Church Review became a weekly newspaper from the beginning of 1862, and a new Church Calendar--"The Kalendar of the English Church Union"--was put forth by the President and Council. A "Church Press" was also established in connection with the E. C. U.

At the Annual Meeting, held in the Hall of the Architectural Union, Conduit Street, Regent Street, on June 18, 1862, the following resolutions were adopted.

Church of England.

Moved by C. B. Skinner, Esq., and seconded by the Rev. M. W. Mayow--

That this meeting acknowledges with thankfulness to Almighty God the great mercies He has so manifestly shown to the Church of England in protecting her from the dangers that have, from time to time, surrounded her.

Need of Union in Defence of the Church.

Moved by the Rev. W. Gresley, and seconded by the Hon G. F. Boyle--

That the cultivation of unity and charity with one another is essential, under God, for promoting the complete success of the Church's cause; and, in the opinion of this meeting, all sound Churchmen and Churchwomen should, without delay, and regardless of private feeling or personal convenience, unite in furthering the objects of the Union as set forth in cap. iii. of the Rules.

Duty of Members to Promote the Increase of the Union.

Moved by E. Brett, Esq., and seconded by the Rev. James Skinner--

That, in the opinion of this meeting, every member and associate should aid and assist the President and the Council by making known the objects of the Union in their respective neighbourhoods, and inducing well-disposed Churchmen and Churchwomen to become members or associates.

Sir Morton Peto's Burial Bill.

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

That, in the opinion of this Union, the Burial Bill of Sir Morton Peto, as amended by the Select Committee of the House of Commons, involves a distinct violation of the constitutional relation of the Church of England to the State; threatens a serious invasion of the rights and liberties of the clergy and laity; furnishes a moat dangerous precedent for future Parliamentary legislation touching the Church; and, therefore, demands the most vigilant opposition on the part of the English Church Union.

During the year more than 400 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total on the Roll to 842, among whom were 54 Women-Associates. This was the first year in which Women had been elected into the Society, the first twelve being elected on June 25th, 1861. Seven local branches were formed in and around the metropolis, and eight in the provinces.

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