Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



THE Rev. T. Pelham Dale, of St. Vedast's, Foster Lane, having disregarded an order from Lord Penzance, under the P. W. R. Act, to refrain from certain ritualistic practices, the Judge proceeded to suspend him for three months ab officio, with the warning that if, within that time, Mr. Dale did not signify in writing his intention to obey the monition, the inhibition would be continued. Great dissatisfaction was expressed at Mr. Dale's submission to the Bishop, when his lordship assumed the spiritual care of the parish during the term of suspension. Proceedings were also taken against the Rev. Arthur Tooth, of St. James's, Hatcham. Mr. Tooth having ignored a monition, dated July 29, 1876, his lordship proceeded to inhibit him for the term of three monthin the Province of Canterbury, the exigencies of the statute were satisfied. The Court held that "although this is a matter of the purest technicality, it goes to the root of the jurisdiction"; that "this act is the foundation of a new jurisdiction"; that "it is not as Dean of Arches that Lord Penzance has this jurisdiction"; that "it invests a new authority and a new jurisdiction in" the Archbishop of Canterbury--"a new authority entirely, and a new jurisdiction"--"a new court altogether."

On Nov. 21, 1877, Mr. Tooth wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Tait), stating that, having fulfilled his duty to the Church by refusing to obey an alien jurisdiction, he now felt it his duty to relieve the congregation from their difficult position, and to resign the care of the parish, in the hope that it might thus be secured from future litigation. Mr. Tooth also referred to his "broken health."

On May 30, 1877, Mr. Pelham Dale applied to the Court of Queen's Bench for a prohibition to stay further proceedings on two grounds--(1) that the Bishop of London, being patron, was disqualified from acting; (2) that Lord Penzance had heard the case in a wrong place. On June 29 the Court, consisting of Justices Mellor and Lush, granted the prohibition on the first ground, adding that it was "unnecessary" for the Court "to decide" the case on "the second ground." Thus all previous proceedings were quashed.

The suit against the Rev. C. Bodington, of St. Andrew's, "Wolverhampton, came to a satisfactory end, the Archbishop (the Bishop being patron) having stated in writing and deposited in his Registry (in accordance with a provision of P. W. E. Act) his reasons for disallowing further proceedings. Mr. Bodington had undertaken, in compliance with the request of the Bishop of Lichfield (Selwyn), to provide a plain mid-day Celebration once a month.

In the Prestbury case the proceedings were intentionally deferred until after the delivery of the Ridsdale judgment. On July 18,1877. Lord Penzance gave judgment, in the Library of Lambeth Palace, against Mr. Edwards. The only points on which there was any controversy were the crucifix on the altar and the vestments. On the first point, the Judge said: "The proper mode of questioning the propriety of the crucifix is, I think, by application for a faculty to remove it." As to the vestments, defendant's counsel contended that no proof of the existence of the Advertisements, relied upon in the Ridsdale judgment, had been given; that the authenticity of the copy in Dr. Cardwell's "Documentary Annals" could not be admitted; and that thus the Ridsdale judgment was wanting in authority. The Judge rejected these arguments, but, upon application of the promoter, no monition was issued, whilst Mr. Edwards was ordered to file within one month a declaration of compliance with the judgment. Having failed to do this, and after some delays occasioned by a doubt whether the Palace of Westminster, in which Lord Penzance was sitting, was within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Judge, on March 9, pronounced a decree of suspension ab officio et beneficio for six months, subject to the filing of an affidavit that Mr. Edwards had not discontinued the practices in question. This affidavit not having been filed in time, a second decree to the same effect was made on March 23; and on May 11, upon the application of the promoter, Lord Penzance pronounced Mr. Edwards contumacious. This, he said, would be signified to the Court of Chancery, but the decree would not be drawn up until a supplemental affidavit had been filed, showing service of the notice of motion.

After the resumption, on August 8, 1875, of the Celebrations at S. Alban's, Holborn, which had been suspended from June 13 to August 8, no further complaint was made to the Court of Arches until March, 1878, when Lord Penzance issued another monition, remarking at the same time on the delay as constituting a difficulty in dealing with the case. On May 11 affidavits of disobedience were produced, and the Judge was asked to enforce his monition. Lord Penzance then decreed "that he [Mr. Mackonochie] be suspended ab officio et beneficio for a period of three years."

The following Petition, signed by 41,000 communicants in three weeks, was presented to her Majesty the Queen in July, 1877:--

Protection of Congregations from recent Decisions of the Privy Council.

To the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, &c.

The humble Petition of the undersigned clergy and lay communicants of the Church of England SHEWETH--

That we, the undersigned clergy and laity, who yield to none of your Majesty's subjects in loyalty and obedience to your Majesty's throne and person, humbly approach your Majesty under a sense of the very grievous wrong that has been done to the Church of England by recent decisions of your Majesty's Privy Council in Ecclesiastical Causes.

Your Petitioners humbly submit to your Majesty that the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, as settled by the Synods of Canterbury and York in 1662, and ratified by Parliament, when they refer to the second year of Edward VI., cannot, as is alleged by your Majesty's Privy Council, mean the ninth year of Elizabeth.

Your Petitioners further submit:

That such an interpretation amounts to an alteration of the written law of the Church by the sole authority of the Judicial Committee.

Your Petitioners represent that they cannot in conscience accept such an arbitrary reversal of the plain directions of the Prayer Book, any more than they can recognise in foro conscientiae the authority in spiritual matters of the Court from which the decisions proceed.

They therefore humbly pray your Majesty to take such steps as may protect congregations from being disturbed by any attempt to enforce these decisions, and for the future to provide that all such questions, according to the constitutional rights of the Church of England, may be settled, apart from all secular intervention, by the Convocations of the Church.

At the Ordinary Meeting on Dec. 13, 1877, it was resolved:--

The Court of Queen's Bench re Lord Penzance's Jurisdiction.

Moved by the Rev. P. N. Oxenham, and seconded by the Rev. Prebendary Irons, D.D.--

That this meeting of the E. C. U. observes with satisfaction that the recent judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, in the case of the Rev. Arthur Tooth (in which all the Judges were agreed) entirely confirms, from a legal point of view, the position taken by the E. C. U. in regard to the P. W. R. Act, and the Judge appointed under its provisions: as the Lord Chief Justice laid down, with 'the entire concurrence of the other Judges, that "The statute created a new jurisdiction; and that 'it is not as Dean of the Arches that the Judge exercises this jurisdiction,' but that 'his jurisdiction is the creation of the statute,' and that his office 'is an entirely new office; and one with which no former Dean of the Arches had anything to do'; and, further, in regard to the Bishops, that 'the former jurisdiction of the Bishop--i.e., as it existed before the Act--is taken away'; and that 'a new jurisdiction and authority is vested in the Archbishop of Canterbury.'

The following resolution was also adopted:--

Justification of the Action of the E. C. U. by the Court of Queen's Bench.

Moved by the Rev. George Greenwood, and seconded by the Rev. Dr. Littledale--

That inasmuch as the principles above stated, and thus affirmed by the Court of Queen's Bench, were the very principles on which the E. C. U. took its stand in regard to the Public Worship Regulation Act, and on which it has grounded its support of those clergymen and congregations who have felt it their duty to ignore all proceedings taken against them under the provisions of that Act, the recent judgment forms a strong justification of the course hitherto taken by the E. C. U., and strengthens the Union in continuing to maintain that course in the future.

The President and Council, during the year, took steps to amend or defeat the following Bills in Parliament relating to Church matters--viz., Bishoprics Bill; Clerical Disabilities Bill (dropped); Colonial Marriages Bill (dropped); Congé d'élire Bill; Divine Worship Facilities Bill; Queen Anne's Bounty Bill (withdrawn); Interments in Churchyards Bill (dropped); Marriage with Deceased Wife's Sister Bill (withdrawn); Ecclesiastical Buildings Fire Insurance Bill.

On Dec. 8, 1877, the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, upon the complaint of "three inhabitants of the parish in which the Sailors' Chapel is situated"--whose names were never revealed--required the Rev. A. H. Ward to discontinue the use of vestments, lights, mixed chalice, incense, genuflexion, elevation, and Sign of the Cross, and to remove the Stations of the Cross. On Mr. Ward expressing his inability to comply with these requirements the Bishop revoked his licence, and until 1893, when the Bishop instituted Mr. Ward as first Vicar, upon the assignment of a parish to the church, St. Raphael's, Bristol, was closed for all purposes of public worship.

At the Annual Meeting on June 18, 1878, the following resolutions were adopted:--

The right of the Church to interpret her own Formularies.

Moved by the Rev. Malcolm MacColl, and seconded by Viscount Kilcoursie--

That the peace and well-being of the Church imperatively demand the frank recognition on the part of the State of the Church's inherent right to interpret her own formularies in all matters touching the faith and the conduct of Divine Worship.

The Lambeth Conference.

Moved by the Rev. C. F. Lowder, and seconded by the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie--

That the approaching assemblage at Lambeth of so many prelates of the Anglican Communion is viewed by this Union with the deepest interest, in the hope that their united counsels may tend to the peace and well-being of the Church, the reunion of those separated from her fold at home, and the restoration of visible communion between the various Apostolic Churches of Eastern and Western Christendom.

At the Evening Meeting it was resolved:--

Vote of thanks to the Revs. A. H. Mackonochie, J. Edwards, and A. H. Ward.

Moved by Mr. John Shelly, and seconded by Col. Bagnall--

That the thanks of this Union be given to Mr. Mackonochie, Mr. Edwards, and Mr. Ward, and to their faithful people, (1) for their refusal, under circumstances of the greatest difficulty, to surrender the accessories of Divine Worship with which, since the foundation of the See of Canterbury, the Church of England, in common with the whole Western Church, out of respect for the dignity of the Holy Sacrament, has desired that the celebration of Holy Communion should be accompanied; and (2) for the protest which they have made by such refusal against the depravation of the Ornaments Rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, and against the claims, put forward of late years by the Privy Council, to adjudicate as a supreme ecclesiastical authority on matters affecting the spiritual interests of the Church of England.

Appeal for the Sustentation Fund.

Moved by Mr. F. Barchard, and seconded by Mr. Foster-Melliar--

That this Union calls upon all Churchmen to show their sense of the obligations they are under to those priests who suffer for the liberties of the Church by contributing largely to the E. C. U. Sustentation Fund, in order that, as far as possible, they may be prepared the further distress of pecuniary difficulties.

Upon the resignation, through failing health, after thirteen years' service, of the Treasurer of the Union, William Holland, Esq., the President and Council elected Benjamin Green Lake, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, to the vacant post.

During the year 2,150 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 17,423. Two new District Unions, 11 Branches, and 17 Parochial Associations were formed. Total--District Unions, 34; Branches, 232; Parochial Associations, 93.

The Tract Committee, founded in 1875, reported that during the three years they had been at work they had received by Grants from the Council £170, by donation from a Member of E. C. U. £210, and by sale of tracts at reduced prices £129 9s. 5d. They had purchased during this period 103,390 pamphlets and leaflets, and had had placed at their disposal upwards of 139,570 pamphlets, papers, and leaflets printed by the Council, or given by their respective authors. The number of pamphlets sold during the three years had been more than 230,000.

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