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The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



THE first business which was dealt with was the subject of the reform of Convocation, as to which the following resolution was adopted at the Ordinary Meeting on July 14:--

Reform of Convocation.

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

That this Union, feeling the great and admitted inadequacy of the representation of the clergy in the Lower House of Convocation, trusts that the present Convocation may not be dissolved without such a measure of reform being carried as will both enlarge the constitution and increase the number of proctors for the parochial clergy.

It had been hoped that, in view of the favourable reception accorded by the Lower House, in June, 1868, to the Memorial signed by the President and Vice-President, and by the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of eighty-three Branches--amounting to an almost unanimous approval, by Convocation, of the proposed reforms--a license to "frame and promulgate" a canon would have been issued before the dissolution of Convocation. The Minister of State, moreover, who was entrusted with negotiations between Convocation and the Government, was so favourably disposed, that great expectations of a favourable issue were not unreasonably excited. At the last moment, however, some legal difficulties were raised, which proved fatal to any steps being taken.

Three matters, which arose in the course of the year, applied a very severe test to the stability of the Union, and were the cause not only of diminished accessions, but of a certain number of withdrawals. These were--(1) The secession to the Eoman Communion of the late President; (2) the decision of the Privy Council in the case of Martin 11. Mackonochie; (3) the charge of political partiality. Of the first matter, it may be said, without fear of exaggeration, that such a misfortune, at an earlier period of its existence, would have been absolutely fatal to the future influence, if not to the continued existence, of the Union. The fact that the Union soon recovered from the effects of this blow was a remarkable testimony to the growing confidence in the principles of the Union, and in the honesty of its members. At the Ordinary Meeting on Dec. 15, 1868, the following resolution was adopted:--

Secession to Rome of the late President.

Moved by the Rev. T. A. Maberley, and seconded by the Rev. Malcolm MacColl--

That the Council of the E. C. U., retaining a lively sense of the services rendered to it for several years by the Hon. Colin Lindsay, have received with much pain and regret the announcement of his secession from the Church of England. While they are mindful of the trials to which, at a period of great perplexity, the faith of Churchmen is exposed, they can consent to see in these trials only an additional motive for loyalty and devotion to the English branch of the Church of Christ, whose real claims are not lessened, although her difficulties are seriously increased, by the desertion of those who have been foremost among her defenders.

In the course of the debate, the Rev. M. W. Mayow gaid that "it was due alike to Mr. Lindsay and to the Union to say that months ago he had ceased to be not only President, but even a member of the Society." No comment is needed here upon the deterrent effect produced in many quarters by the decision of the Privy Council; and the third difficulty may be briefly dismissed with the statement that, upon the withdrawal of certain members who had continually put forth inaccurate assertions on this subject, followed by a change in the proprietorship of the Church newspaper which had circulated these assertions, the difficulty was soon overcome.

Upon the ritual prosecutions the chief interest of the year naturally centred. The appeal in Flarnank v. Simpson was ultimately withdrawn, and Mr. Mackonochie, energetically supported by the Union, entered alone upon that prolonged period of conflict with the civil courts which forms one of the most memorable incidents in the history of the English Church. It was obvious, from the unseemly and precipitate haste which marked the proceedings of the Court--the case being argued on Nov. 19 and the three following days, and judgment delivered on Dec. 23--from the case being taken out of its turn, and from the peremptory refusal of the Lord Chancellor to allow a few days' delay, notwithstanding the inconvenience occasioned to counsel for the defence, to say nothing of the composition of the Court, and the disposition displayed throughout the hearing--that any defence was practically futile; but no one had for one moment expected such a monstrous decision as that Mr. Mackonochie "should pay to the appellant the costs in the Court below, and of this appeal." When it is remembered that "in the Court below" several other points had been decided in Mr. Mackonochie's favour, the injustice of this decision will be too manifest to need comment. But it ceases to excite surprise when the usual proceedings of the Privy Council in other cases are remembered. For instance, in an immorality case of a peculiarly atrocious character, the sentence of deprivation, passed by the Court of Arches, was confirmed upon appeal, but without costs. When the Committee reversed the judgment of the Court of Arches, adverse in all material points, in the case of Dr. Williams and Mr. Wilson (Broad Churchmen), costs were allowed to the accused. Mr. Gorham, also, absolutely condemned in the Arches Court, was allowed his costs, upon reversal of the judgment by the Privy Council. But, in the case of such men as Archdeacon Denison, Mr. Liddell, Mr. Purchas, and Mr. Mackonochie, the Committee deemed it to be incumbent upon them to inflict severe pecuniary fines, under not dissimilar circumstances. Mr. Head, a Low Churchman, however, who had unsuccessfully disputed the jurisdiction of the Court of Arches, was condemned by the Privy Council, "but without costs."

The case of Martin v. Mackonochie was argued before Lord Chancellor Cairns, the Archbishop of York (Thomson), Lords Westbury, Chelmsford, Sir W. Earl, and Sir J. Colville.

In the Court of Arches the arguments occupied twelve days--viz., from Dec. 4, 1867, to Jan. 18, 1868. The Dean of Arches (Sir Robert Phillimore) delivered his judgment on March 28, 1868, with the results previously stated. The two points which were appealed against were (1) kneeling or prostration during the Prayer of Consecration; (2) the use of two lights on the Altar during the celebration of the Holy Communion. The question of the promoter's costs, which had not been awarded by the Court below, was also raised.

The decision of the Privy Council was read by Lord Cairns, in the Council Chamber at Whitehall, on Dec. 23, 1868. That decision was adverse to Mr. Mackonochie upon all the points raised.

On Jan. 19, 1869, a monition was issued, which may fairly be termed the Apotheosis of Erastianism, in which a lay person, the Sovereign, claimed to usurp the office of a Bishop, and to direct a priest how to conduct himself in matters purely spiritual. This remarkable document deserves to be rescued from oblivion, and its salient features are, therefore, here recorded:--

VICTORIA, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith. To the Reverend Alexander Heriot Mackonochie, Clerk, the Incumbent and Perpetual Curate of the New Parish of Saint Alban's, Holborn, in our County of Middlesex, Diocese of London and Province of Canterbury, GREETING.

Then, after due recitation of the proceedings before the Judicial Committee and in the Privy Council, it concludes:--

WE DO THEREFORE hereby command you, the said Reverend Alexander Heriot Mackonochie to abstain for the future from the elevation of the Cup and Paten during the Administration of the Holy Communion, and from the use of Incense, and from the mixing Water with the Wine during the Administration of the said Holy Communion, and from kneeling or prostrating yourself before the Consecrated Elements during the Prayer of Consecration and also from using in the said Church Lighted Candles on the Communion Table during the Celebration of the Holy Communion at times when such Lighted Candles are not wanted for the purpose of giving light.--AND hereof fail not.

An elaborate Report by the President and Council was adopted by the Union at the Ordinary Meeting on Feb. 16, in which the whole history of the proceedings was set forth at length; points of agreement and disagreement between the decisions of the civil and ecclesiastical courts emphasized; and two resolutions suggested for acceptance. The first was moved by Dr. Pusey, at the close of a learned and elaborate paper on the claims of the Privy Council to decide spiritual causes, in the course of which he declared that the Committee had "shown itself incompetent for its office," and dwelt upon its "unecclesiastical character." The resolution, which was seconded by Mr. Brett, was carried by a large majority, after the rejection of an amendment by the Rev. Orby Shipley, to substitute for the words "the great principle upon which the Reformation of the English Church was based," the words "the great principle which the Church of England as a national Church has ever advocated." The meeting, in fact, endorsed the views of the Rev. T. W. Perry and Dr. Pusey, that, as a matter of fact, the Reformation in England was based upon an appeal to primitive and Catholic antiquity. The resolution was eventually adopted as it originally stood, viz:--

Reform of the Court of Final Appeal. That this meeting, having regard to the position of the Church of England in relation to the Court of Final Appeal, and to the principle which seems to run through its judgment in the case of Martin v. Mackonochie, as the foundation of its sentence, calls upon all Churchmen to unite in defending and maintaining the great principle on which the Reformation of the English Church was based--viz., the appeal to primitive and Catholic antiquity; and further recommends that a Memorial from the Union be addressed to the Convocations of both provinces, praying them to take measures for promoting the reform of the Court of Final Appeal.

The second resolution, proposed by the Rev. T. W. Perry, seconded by Mr. Barchard, and unanimously adopted, ran in these words:--

Future Action of the E. C. U.

That, having regard to the resolutions adopted by the Union on January 14th, 1867, and also to the Report of the President and Council now presented, the Union is of opinion--

First.--That, under present circumstances, the precise practices from which Mr. Mackonochie has been commanded to abstain, in the monition issued on January 19th, 1869, by Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in Causes Ecclesiastical, ought not to be defended by the Union in any future suit, unless the President and Council be satisfied that there are features in the case which make it important that it should be submitted to a proper tribunal.

Secondly.--That, as regards ornaments or usages not directly and specifically prohibited by the said monition, though indirectly and generally coming within the reasonings or principles of the Report of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Union is of opinion that the President and Council ought to exercise caution in dealing with any application which may be made to them to defend such ornaments or usages if made the subject of legal proceedings.

The resolutions of Jan. 14, 1867, referred to above were as follows:--

1. That, inasmuch as the opinions of the counsel consulted by the English Church Union are unanimously in favour of the legality of the ecclesiastical vestments, and that a majority have pronounced for the lawfulness of the two altar-lights and the wafer-bread; whilst, as to the mixed chalice, the majority are not adverse to it, but rather the contrary, the Union is bound to defend their use if it shall be questioned in the Ecclesiastical Courts.

2. That the opinions of counsel being unanimously adverse to the lawfulness of "censing persons and things in the course of the service," the Union cannot undertake to defend this practice, unless further information shall warrant counsel in advising that such practice is lawful. But that, inasmuch as the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury have reported to the Upper House not unfavourably of the burning of incense, "for the twofold purpose of sweet fumigation and of serving as an expressive symbol," the Union is prepared, if necessary, to defend such a mode of using it as may substantially agree with the Report of Convocation, especially as the majority of the legal opinions obtained by the Union do not conflict therewith.

3. That, having regard to the general custom of using very frequently and very variously, hymns, anthems, and the like, in connection with the different services of the Church, and considering the fact that Convocation has not objected to the custom, it Appears to the Union that attempts to deprive Churchmen of the liberty which this precedent affords ought to be resisted by the Union, if necessity should arise; though the Union must be understood to reserve to itself a discretion as to the mode and nature of the hymnody used before it could undertake their defence.

Immediately after the judgment, and before its provisions could obtain any legal effect, a numerous and influential assemblage of clergy and laity from all parts of the kingdom was promoted by the President and Council, with a view to suggest what line of action should be taken by those most nearly concerned. Archdeacon Denison presided, and a Memorial was drawn up and forwarded to the Bishops, the Royal Commissioners on Ritual, and Convocation.

This year the Colenso scandal came to an end, the Upper House of Convocation having accepted the validity of Dr. Coleiiso's deposition, and declared, one Bishop alone dissenting, that no canonical impediment to the consecration of his successor existed. Bishop Macrorie was subsequently consecrated, and thus the arduous labours of the Union in this matter were brought to a happy issue. The Voysey scandal entered upon its final phase when it was announced that the Archbishop of York, (Thomson) after prolonged efforts to induce Mr. Voysey to resign his preferment, intended to institute proceedings in his Court against him. As it was represented to the Council that these proceedings would probably lead to his Grace being involved in very considerable expenses, the Council decided to offer the sum of £500 to the Archbishop towards these expenses. The President also wrote to the Chairman of the Church Association, suggesting that the latter Society should raise a similar sum, and that the total thus subscribed should be collectively presented to his Grace. The President in his letter urged that such joint action would be "a token that whatever differences may unhappily have divided our two Societies, we recognise in them only an additional incentive for united action where it may be had, in the hope that such co-operation in defence of truths common to us both may tend to allay the strife and soften those differences which are so infinitely hurtful to the Church of Christ." The Church Association, however, declined "any association" with the E. C, U., on the ground that "the Church Union has been actively engaged in promoting the errors and perversions of our Reformed Church." The Archbishop of York, whilst thanking the Union for their "liberal proposal," went on to say: "But on calling to mind the proceedings of the Church Union Society, and of some of its members, who have appeared to represent it and have not been disowned, towards me in my difficult office for two or three years past, I find myself unable to accept, as an appropriate sequel to them, this large gift of money." The following memorandum, which appeared in the Church Union Gazette of June 1, 1891 (p. 177), signed by the Rev. T. Outram Marshall, Organizing Secretary of the E. C. U., clearly and succinctly states the facts of the case:--

In regard to this matter, which is continually being brought up against the E. C. U., as though it was in some way inconsistent with its profession and practice (which it most certainly is not), two points, which are commonly forgotten, should be remembered--(1) that the charge against Mr. Voysey was not on a question of Ceremonial, such as the use of the black gown or the chasuble; but was that he denied the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, as to which it may be hoped that no member either of the Church Association or of the E. C. U. would be indifferent, or would wish to shield an offender from being brought to trial by the Church; (2) that this £500 was not offered for the purpose of prosecuting Mr. Voysey before the Committee of the Privy Council, a Court which has no authority in matters of faith or ritual, and whose deprivation of Mr. Voysey is as utterly invalid as are its decrees against Mr. Mackonochie, Mr. Purchas, and Mr. Ridsdale; but for the purpose of helping the Archbishop to meet the expenses of defending himself if he took the proper spiritual proceedings in his Consistory Court against Mr. Voysey, and if Mr. Voysey, like Dr. Colenso, appealed to the Privy Council against these proceedings. In other words, the action of B. C. U. in offering £500 to the Archbishop of York, on the suggestion of two Bishops of the English Church, was exactly parallel to its action in raising a Bible Defence Fund in support of Bishop Gray, of Capetown, to enable him to defend his action when it was challenged by Dr. Colenso before the Privy Council.

Flushed with their success in the ritual prosecution, the Church Association proceeded to endeavour to secure the condemnation of the doctrine of the Real Presence.

The occasion was skilfully selected, for Mr. Bennett had unfortunately made use of two expressions which were theologically inexact and generally misleading. In order to avoid a decision, which would be generally understood, however erroneously, to be a condemnation of the Catholic Doctrine of the Eucharist, Dr. Pusey addressed a letter to the Church Association, in which he referred to a public statement of his own, and promised, if proceedings were taken against him, to meet them on the merits only, interposing no legal or technical hindrance. The Church Association declined the offer; but their preliminary proceedings against Mr. Bennett were not very successful, the Court of Queen's Bench declining to issue a mandamus to compel the then Bishop of London (Tait) to afford further facilities, and the Court of Arches also declining to accept the case without Letters of Request from the Bishop's Court.

The Bishop of London having intimated his impression that he was bound to enforce generally the judgment in Martin v. Mackonochie, the President and Council circulated an earnest appeal to his lordship, begging him not to allow his office to be promoted, but to exercise the discretion which recent judgments of the Court of Queen's Bench had decided to be possessed by Bishops under the Church Discipline Act.

In accordance with the resolution of the February Ordinary Meeting, a Memorial to Convocation, praying them to take steps for the reform of the Final Court of Appeal, was circulated for signature in the following terms:--

Reform of the Final Court of Appeal.

That your Memorialists are dissatisfied with the constitution of the present Court of Final Appeal for Ecclesiastical Causes, because (1) It has been appointed by Parliament to deal with questions of the doctrine and discipline of the Church without the sanction of the Representative Assemblies of the spiritualty asked and obtained.

(2) It comprises no adequate representation of the spiritualty (see 24 Hen. VIII., c. 12), or of persons versed in theological, liturgical, and ecclesiastical questions.

Your Memorialists would therefore pray your Right Honourable House to take such measures as may seem to them expedient for promoting the reform of the said Court.

Other matters dealt with in a very busy year included the Abolition of University Tests, Legalization of Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister, Church Rates, the Increase of the Episcopate, and the proposed Revision of the Liturgy. The Union was also very successful in several cases in preventing unwarrantable interference with the ritual and ornaments of the Church. A churchwarden of Atherstone, for instance, was condemned by the Arches Court to pay £100 for breaking into the church and removing certain legal ornaments; the legality of the altar-cross was maintained in the Barrow-in-Furness case, and other points defended by the Union were sustained; and the restoration of the altar candles at Batcombe, Dorset, which had been illegally removed by one of the churchwardens on the death of the rector, was promptly enforced.

After an interval of five years, the Rules of the E. C. U. were thoroughly revised, and various changes made--notably, in the direction of the reduction of the number of the Ordinary Meetings.

A new departure in the organization of the Union was taken by the appointment of three District Organizing Secretaries in the place of the late Organizing Secretary (the Rev. B. B. Bristow), who had accepted the Vicarage of St. Stephen's, Lewisham. On Feb. 1, 1869, the Rev. C. H. V. Pixell, Vicar of Skirwith, Penrith, was appointed for the north of England; and the Rev. T. Outram Marshall, who was then just leaving the Curacy of Batcombe, Dorchester, for that of St. Mary's, Prome, was appointed for the south; and on June 1, 1869, the Rev. W. S. Lach-Szyrma (now Vicar of Barkingside, Essex), of Truro, was appointed for the Western Counties.

At the Annual Meeting on June 15, 1869, the following resolutions were adopted; the first proposed by Dr. Pusey, seconded by the Earl of Devon; the second proposed by J. G. Talbot, Esq., M.P., seconded by Sir Charles Young, Bart.:--

Defence of Eucharistic Doctrine.

That this Union, having regard to endeavours now being made to procure the condemnation of those clergy who teach the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar, hereby expresses its conviction that (whatever differences may exist among its members and other Churchmen as to the expediency, under existing circumstances, of a more or less elaborate ritual) there is a widespread determination to resist at all hazards any attempt to prohibit the teaching of the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist which the Church of England has inherited from primitive antiquity.

The Court of Final Appeal.

That this Union, while fully recognising the unsatisfactory condition of the Ecclesiastical Courts, is of opinion that no reform in the said courts will be acceptable which leaves untouched the present Court of Final Appeal, or confers the right upon any three or any five householders to disturb the peace of parishes by prosecuting clergy for alleged ecclesiastical offences, wherever and whenever they are so inclined.

The accessions to the Society amounted to 1,513; whilst two District Unions, twenty-two Local Branches, and one Parochial Association were formed; bringing the total up to five District Unions, 122 Branches, and three Parochial Associations.

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