Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



IN the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury an attempt was made on July 1, 1879, to introduce further licence in respect to the disuse of the Athanasian Creed. The Bishop of London (Jackson) gave as a reason why the Creed should not be used on Christmas Day that Dissenters often come to our services on that day, and they might feel hurt by hearing it! Happily the House though it is true by only a small majority, decided that the use of the Creed should remain unaltered. As regards the Ornaments Rubric the Upper House proposed to abolish it altogether, but the Lower House, by 68 to 13 votes, refused to entertain the proposal. A conference ensued, and it was decided by 39 to 24 votes in. the Lower House, and unanimously in the Upper, (1) to leave the present rubric intact; (2) to add to it the words, "until further order be taken by lawful authority"; (3) to enforce as a minimum the surplice, stole, and hood, with the alternative of a black gown for preaching; (4) to allow a Bishop by a monition formally pronounced in his Court to restrict any priest in his diocese to the minimum use.

The President and Council upon this issued a Memorandum to the clerical members of the Union, with certain "Considerations on the legal effect" of the Ornaments Rubric in its proposed new form. In this document it "was pointed out that Convocation had accepted "neither the reasoning nor the authority of the Privy Council in the interpretations put upon that rubric by the Judicial Committee," and that the object of the proposed additions was "to determine in favour of the permissive instead of the obligatory force of the Rubric." The President and Council, however, strongly affirmed that "to touch the Prayer Book at all is most dangerous--to bring it before Parliament--and any alteration of the Prayer Book is a step, however remote, in that direction--is suicidal."

A Memorial, in the same terms as that which had been adopted for presentation to the Convocation of Canterbury, at the previous Annual Meeting of the Union, was at once presented to the Convocation of York, and on July 30, 1879, it was resolved, by 25 votes to 20, that no alteration should be made. This most important result was achieved mainly in consequence of the votes of the Proctors of the Parochial Clergy.

In connection with this subject two public meetings, convened by Archdeacon Denison, were held at Exeter Hall and St. James's Hall on Nov. 13, 1879, the Earl of Devon and Earl Nelson respectively in the Chair, to oppose any alteration in the Prayer Book. Though not originated by the E. C. U., these meetings owed much of their success to the efforts of the President and Council who made use of the organization of the Union to secure a, large and representative attendance. The resolutions passed were subsequently embodied in the following Declaration, addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was circulated amongst all the beneficed clergy in the E. C. U., and received more than 50,000 signatures.

Form of Declaration against any alteration in the Prayer Book.

We, the undersigned clergy and lay communicants of the Church of England, do hereby subscribe our names to the three following Resolutions, carried unanimously at two meetings of Churchmen, held at Exeter Hall and St. James's Hall, London, 'Thursday, Nor. 13, 1879, and ordered to be embodied in a Declaration to be circulated for signature by the clergy and lay communicants throughout the country--

I. That it is not expedient at the present time to alter the Prayer Book.

II. That if at any future time such alteration be contemplated, the Lower Houses of the Convocations of Canterbury and York require first to be made adequate representations of the clergy of the two Provinces.

III. That without pronouncing any opinion upon the Bill commonly known as "the Bishop of Carlisle's Bill," intituled "An Act to Provide Facilities for the Amendment from time to time of the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England"; yet, inasmuch as it contemplates legislation at this time upon concurrent advice of Convocations as now constituted, this meeting cannot approve of the said Bill.

On Oct. 6,1879, the evening before the commencement of the Church Congress, an E. C. U. conference was held at Swansea, the President in the chair, when it was resolved, on the Motion of Rev. F. W. Puller, Vicar of Roath:--

Proposed Alteration of the Prayer Book.

That all proposals for alteration in the Book of Common Prayer at the present time ought to be strenuously resisted on the following grounds:--

1. Because the Prayer Book as it stands constitutes one of the principal bonds of union amongst Churchmen.

2. Because the Convocations of the clergy of the Provinces of Canterbury and York do not at present represent properly the clergy of the Church of England.

3. Because it is morally certain that any attempt at alteration in the Prayer Book, however desirable in itself such proposed alteration may be, would be the cause of great mischief, by leading to an improper and dangerous interference on the part of the secular Parliament with the Prayer Book of the Church of England.

It was further resolved, on the motion of Rev. T. Outram Marshall, seconded by H. N. Miers, Esq., J.P., of Ynispenllwch:--

Mr. Blennerhasset's Marriage Law (Amendment) Bill.

That this meeting of the members of the English Church Union assembled at Swansea desires to draw the attention of the members of the Union generally to an important Bill of which Mr. Blenner-hasset, M.P., has given notice for the removal of some defects in the existing Marriage Laws of England and Ireland, and this meeting expresses a hope that all the branches of the Union will take up the question.

At the Ordinary Meeting on Feb. 19, 1880, Mr. J. Theodore Dodd, Barrister-at-Law, of Lincoln's Inn, explained at length the provisions of this Bill which he had drafted, and which was the outcome of a meeting held in his rooms, at which were present, amongst others, an Independent Minister, a member of the E. C. U., and a member of the Church Association. The Bill was based upon three resolutions which had been unanimously adopted at that meeting, viz:--

1. To relieve the clergy of the Church of England from the obligation of having anything whatever to do with the remarriage of divorced persons.

2. To enable Nonconformist ministers and Roman Catholic priests to solemnize marriages without the presence of the registrar.

3. To validate certain marriages which by reason of disobedience to some Act of Parliament are legally invalid.

After hearing Mr. Dodd's explanations it was resolved:--

Marriage Law (Amendment) Bill.

Moved by Mr. H. O. Wakeman, and seconded by Mr. H. C. Richards--

That this meeting of the English Church Union desires to convey the expression of its thanks to Mr. Blennerhasset for his endeavour by his "Marriage Law Amendment Bill" to relieve the clergy of the Church of England from the statutory obligation imposed upon them by the Divorce Act of 1857 in regard to the remarriage of divorced persons; and at the same time to record its opinion that the clause in the Bill by which marriages solemnized in the places of worship of all recognized religious bodies are placed on the same footing (so far as the presence of the registrar is concerned) as marriages solemnized by the clergy of the Church of England, deserves the cordial support of Churchmen.

The Bill was read a first time on Feb. 7, 1880, but Parliament was dissolved before it reached the second reading.

In July, 1879, a Petition, numerously signed, was presented to the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury with reference to the reform of Convocation:--

Reform of Convocation.

We, the undersigned clergy of the province of Canterbury, beg respectfully and earnestly to state to your Grace and lordships that we believe that it has now become very necessary that the number of proctors in Convocation for the parochial clergy in the province of Canterbury should be considerably increased. We would point out that, whereas in the province of York there are two proctors for each archdeaconry, in the province of Canterbury the proportion is much leas than one parochial proctor for each archdeaconry, and that the ex-officio members and the proctors for cathedral chapters very largely outnumber the parochial proctors. We hope that the parochial clergy of the province of Canterbury will, as soon as possible, receive a promise of a substantial increase in the number of their representatives in Convocation.

On Nov. 15, 1879, an application was made to Lord Penzance to direct the publication of the order of suspension made by him on June 1, 1878, in the Mackonochie case. The decision of the Appeal Court having quashed the prohibition issued by the Court of Queen's Bench, his lordship ordered the suspension to be published on November 23, and to take effect from that date. The Bishop of London (Jackson) thereupon deemed it his duty to make provision for the services at St. Alban's, and informed Mr. Mackonochie of his intention to send the Rev. W. M. Sinclair to officiate on Sunday, November 23. Mr. Mackonochie respectfully replied that he must decline the services of any one appointed under such circumstances; and, upon Mr. Sinclair presenting himself at the church, Mr. Mackonochie informed him that he purposed officiating himself. Mr. Sinclair then withdrew.

Matters remained in this state until January 16, 1880, when Mr. Mackonochie was cited to answer new Letters of Request, which the Bishop of London had issued with a view to a fresh suit (the third) commenced under the Clergy Discipline Act--the promoter of the former suit being unwilling to press for the penalty of imprisonment incurred by Mr. Mackonochie's disobedience to the suspension. On Jan. 16, then, application was made to his lordship to receive Letters of Request from the Bishop of London to institute a new suit against Mr. Mackonochie for continuing ritualistic practices after the monition issued against him to desist, and notwithstanding his suspension for three years. Mr. Jeune asked his lordship to issue a citation, and mentioned the charges in the Letters of Bequest, which were breaches of the ecclesiastical law, and violation of two monitions of the Court. Mr. Jeune having intimated that he would seek a decree of deprivation, Lord Penzance directed that the citation in the new suit should be issued. On June 5, his lordship gave judgment in the new suit, refusing to issue sentence of deprivation. He complained that in the new suit the sentence of suspension was passed by altogether, "just as if it had never existed"; and that "no attempt was made to enforce it at the time, and it is not the object or effect of the present suit to enforce it, or punish its infraction now." He did "not think it would he consistent with the due maintenance of its authority that this Court should pass a solemn sentence of correction, and while that sentence was still subsisting, but wholly disregarded, pass a second sentence, directed to the same end, without any allusion to the first, or attempt to punish its non-observance."

On June 14, Mr. Martin, in a letter to the Bishop of London, announced his intention of ceasing to appear as the prosecutor of Mr. Mackonochie.

On November 15, 1879, an intimation was received that Lord Penzance would be moved to pronounce the Rev. J. Baghot de la Bere (formerly Edwards) in contempt, and to issue a significavit with a view to his imprisonment. This step, however, was not taken, but on March 13 a fresh suit was commenced by Letters of Request being presented from the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol to Lord Penzance, charging disobedience to the monition in the former suit, and alleging subsequent offences. A motion was made for his lordship to accept the Letters of Bequest, to institute a fresh suit, and to grant a citation for deprivation. This was accordingly done.

On Dec. 12, 1879, Mr. Pelham Dale having disregarded Lord Penzance's monition (Feb. 8) in the new suit, and not having paid the costs in which he had been condemned, Lord Penzance pronounced him contumacious and in contempt, and made an order to that effect. On March 13 application was made to Lord Penzance to enforce the inhibition and monition which he had issued on Feb. 8, 1879. Lord Penzance at once granted the inhibition, which was, however, disregarded by the defendant.

In the Clewer Case, the hearing of the appeal to the House of Lords was deferred until March 4, 1879, owing, amongst other causes, to the death of Dr. Stephens. It was then heard at intervals until March 16, before the Lord Chancellor (Cairns), Lords Selborne, Blackburn, and Penzance. Owing to the elevation of Mr. C. Bowen, who had so very ably argued the Bishop of Oxford's case in the Appeal Court, it was agreed that, inasmuch as the cases of the Bishop and Canon Carter were practically identical, Mr. Arthur Charles, Q.C., who was one of Canon Carter's counsel, should be retained by the Bishop, with Mr. Mtur Mackenzie, and that Dr. Phillimore should conduct Canon Carter's case. On March 23 judgment was given, when their lordships unanimously sustained the decision of the Court below in favour of the discretion of the Bishop, and dismissed the appeal with costs. On the following day, Canon Carter wrote to the Bishop of Oxford resigning his benefice.

On August 9,1879, the Miles Platting case came again before Lord Penzance. Complaint was made that Mr. Green had disregarded the monition issued on June 12, and Lord Penzance accordingly inhibited him for three months and ordered him to pay the further costs. The Bishop of Manchester happily did not deem it to be his duty to act upon the inhibition by appointing a locum tenens, and thus one grave difficulty was averted. The bill of costs, sent to Mr. Green by the Proctors of the Church Association, contained some astonishing revelations, which were thought to be novel in the annals of English courts of justice. From this interesting and authentic document it appeared, that not only (1) had the lawyers for the prosecution private interviews with the Judge, with a view to correct certain failures in the preliminary steps, when the Judge kindly "advised that the proceedings should be commenced de novo"--not only (2) did the Judge write a letter to the lawyers of the prosecutors expressing his willingness to follow their suggestions, if they would take the risk--not only (3) had the Judge caused the prosecutors' lawyers to be informed as to what proof he should require in open Court of an essential part of their case against the defendant--but (4) in addition to all this, that Mr. Green, as his quota towards this "indifferent administration of justice," was to enjoy the luxurious privilege of paying the cost of these private interviews, undertaken with the express purpose of making quite sure that he should not, by any technical flaw, escape from the toils of his prosecutors. As this conduct did not appear to be in consonance with English ideas of judicial impartiality, the President and Council drew the attention of the Home Secretary to the circumstances.

In the proceedings against the Rev. E. W. Enraght, Incumbent of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, near Birmingham, by one of the churchwardens, Mr. John Perkins, the case came before Lord Penzance on August 9, 1879, the promoter having previously informed the Bishop of Worcester (Philpott), that he should persist in the suit, notwithstanding that Mr. Enraght had satisfied the Bishop by submitting to his judgment. Mr. Enraght was ordered to pay the costs and was further admonished.

On Feb. 28 Lord Penzance issued an inhibition on the ground that Mr. Enraght "had disobeyed the monition of the Court."

On August 31, 1879, Mr. Enraght denounced from the altar the conduct of a person who, on Feb. 9, had carried oft from the altar a Consecrated Wafer, obtained under the pretence of communicating, in order to file IT as an exhibit in the law courts as evidence of the use of wafer-bread. A feeling of intense horror and indignation was excited when the fact of this fearful sacrilege became known. It was difficult to credit the fact that a Consecrated Wafer, after having been sacrilegiously secreted by a pretended communicant, had actually been delivered to Mr. Churchwarden Perkins, the prosecutor, produced in Court as evidence, marked with pen and ink, and filed as an exhibit! Thanks to the efforts of some members of the Council of E. C. U., the Consecrated Wafer was obtained from the Court, and given over to the care of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who reverently consumed IT in his private chapel at Addington on Friday, Dec. 12, 1879. In the Annual Report the President and Council expressed "their thankfulness that some reparation, however tardy and inadequate, was made for the act of sacrilege." It may be added that the indignant parishioners at the next ensuing vestry rejected Mr. Perkins when nominated as, churchwarden.

At the Anniversary on June 9, 1880, a conference was held on "The Sale of Church Patronage." At the Evening Meeting the subject of "Ecclesiastical Courts and Church Discipline "was considered, and the following resolution adopted:--

Ecclesiastical Courts and Church Discipline.

Moved by the Rev. G. Greenwood, and seconded by Mr. Charles Browne--

That in order to relieve the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline from the difficulties which at present beset any attempt to vindicate the Church's spiritual authority, it is desirable--

(1) That the ecclesiastical courts should be reformed under the authority of the Church's synods;

(2) That the sentence of such courts should be relieved of any temporal consequences, in order to facilitate the exercise of such Spiritual discipline as shall exclude from the rites and offices of the Church those who have either openly left her communion or are notorious evil livers.

With reference to the Burials Bill, which was now for the first time introduced as a Government measure, it was resolved:--

Burials Bill.


Moved by the Rev. the Hon. A. G. Douglas (now Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney), seconded by the Rev. T. W. Perry--

That this Union, in reference to the Burials Bill now before Parliament, denies the existence of any civil right of interment in the churchyards which is not based upon real or supposed membership in the Church, and hereby records its protest against any alterations in the Burial Laws which appear to assume such a right, or tend to obscure the claims of the Church of England by permitting, as of right, services other than her own in such churchyards and in consecrated cemeteries.

During the year 1,180 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 17,736. Three new District Unions, seven Local Branches, and 39 Parochial Associations were formed. Total--District Unions, 41; Branches, 247: Parochial Associations, 138.

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