Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



ON May 22, 1882, the judgment of the House of Lords, on an appeal from the judgment of the Court of Appeal, January 15,1881, which had left Mr. Bnraght liable to recommitment to prison, was given. The appeal was dismissed with costs. In the matter of another appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council from Lord Penzance's decision, on November 16, 1881--viz., that he had no power to cause the names of the present churchwardens to be substituted in this case for that of Mr. Perkins, who had ceased to be either a churchwarden or a parishioner, judgment was given on July 4. The appeal was heard before Sir Barnes Peacock, Lord Bramwell, Sir Robert Collier, Sir Henry Keating, and Sir John Mellor, with the Bishops of London (Jackson), Durham (Lightfoot), and Liverpool (Ryle) as ecclesiastical assessors. Their lordships affirmed the decision of Lord Penzance, holding that whether or not the suit had abated by Mr. Perkins ceasing to be churchwarden, the new churchwardens had no locum standi in it. Under the P. W. R. A ct the benefice became legally vacant on August 28, 1882, and the Bishop of Worcester, on October 30, gave notice to the patrons of the voidance. The Rev. A. H. Watts was subsequently appointed to the benefice, at the time canonically full.

In the Prestbury case Mr. Justice Chitty, on July 13, 1882, refused to make absolute the rule nisi, granting a prohibition against further proceedings in deprivation, on the ground pleaded that Lord Penzance heard and decided the case in a place not authorised by the P. W. R. Act, viz., "Committee Room E" of the House of Lords, within the precincts of the Royal Peculiar of Westminster Palace, and, therefore, without his lordship's jurisdiction. His lordship laid down that royal palaces, which were not also royal residences, were not peculiars; and that by 6 and 7 Will. IV. c. 67 all peculiars were declared to be subject only to the Bishop of the diocese, notwithstanding statutes and grants to the contrary, with certain specified exceptions. An appeal to the Lords Justices of Appeal was heard before the Master of the Rolls (Jessel) and Lords Justices Cotton and Bowen on December 1, 1882, when their lordships dismissed the appeal with costs.

An application to deprive Mr. Mackonochie was made before Lord Penzance on August 26, 1882, in a committee room of the House of Lords; but, in consequence of a notice of appeal having been given from the decision of Mr. Justice Chitty in the Prestbury case on the question whether the room could be held to be within the jurisdiction of Lord Penzance, the hearing was deferred. Mr. De la Bere's appeal, which involved the validity of Lord Penzance's proceedings in Mr. Mackonochie's case as well as in his own, having failed, it was open to the promoters of the former suit, without fear of technical failure, to make application to Lord Penzance to "canonically punish" Mr. Mackonochie, in accordance with the decision of the Judicial Committee delivered on February 22, 1882. Application was accordingly made to Lord Penzance, in his dressing-room in the House of Lords, on April 12, 1883, for sentence of deprivation "of all his ecclesiastical promotions within the Province of Canterbury." His lordship said he would take time to consider his judgment, and on June 9 heard further arguments on behalf of the application.

Meanwhile, on November 10, 1882, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Tait), within one month of his death, had written to Mr. Mackonochie, asking him to minimise existing difficulties by resigning the benefice of St. Alban's, Holborn. On November 23 Mr. Mackonochie decided to comply with the Archbishop's wish; and on December 1 he wrote again to the Archbishop, informing him that he had that day "formally resigned" St. Alban's, and would probably be nominated to St. Peter's, London Docks, the Rev. E. A. J. Suckling, incumbent of St. Peter's, being appointed to St. Alban's. This arrangement was completed by the Bishop of London (Jackson) instituting Mr. Mackonochie and Mr. Suckling to their respective Benefices. The Archbishop's efforts to terminate the proceedings which for years had been carried on against Mr. Mackonochie, were, however, unhappily thwarted by the continued interference of the Church Association.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Bill for the release of Mr. Green was opposed by the Attorney-General (James) when it reached the House of Commons on August 19, 1882, and was lost owing to the House being counted out during the debate. On September 27 the Bishop of Manchester (Eraser) informed Sir Perceval Heywood, as patron of the benefice, that it had become vacant under the provisions of the P. W. R. Act, and, as no steps were taken by the promoters, notwithstanding a hint in the Bishop's letter, to obtain Mr. Green's release, the Bishop himself, on November 4, 1882, applied to Lord Penzance for that purpose. The promoters, whilst not actually opposing the application, evinced their unwillingness to concur in it; but Lord Penzance gave the necessary order, and Mr. Green was accordingly released, after having been imprisoned in Lancaster Gaol from March 18, 1881, until November 4, 1882--a period of nearly twenty months. Previously to his release he had resigned the benefice into the hands of the Bishop, and notified the patron to that effect.

To the benefice, thus vacant, the patron nominated the Rev. Harry Cowgill, who had been in charge of the parish during Mr. Green's imprisonment. The Bishop, however, refused to institute. Mr. Cowgill then, for the sake of peace, placed himself unreservedly in the patron's hands, who offered to make some other nomination if the Bishop would limit himself to the usual legal and canonical conditions required for institution. Upon the Bishop's refusal of these overtures, the patron instituted proceedings in defence of his rights.

Upon the whole, the self-sacrificing resignations of Mr. Mackonochie, Mr. Green, and Mr. Enraght, and subsequently of Mr. De la Bere, in order, so far as possible, to promote the peace of the Church, met with the approbation of the Union. Although it was felt in many quarters, and strongly expressed, that priests who were not canonically deprived ought to remain at their posts, it was maintained, on the other hand, that, under all the special circumstances of the present cases, the highest duty of these priests to God and the Church was, after having unflinchingly asserted the great principles at stake, and having gladly suffered for them, to yield up, not the principles, but their own individual rights, by the resignation of the cure of souls in each case to their respective Bishops, especially as insistence on those individual rights would involve at the least four Bishops and four priests (their nominees) in the sin of schism, and would cast a burden upon many souls perhaps too heavy for them to bear.

Dr. Pusey died on September 16, 1882, at Ascot Priory, in the eighty-third year of his age, and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral on September 21. The pall bearers were the President of the E. C. U. (the Hon. C. L. Wood), the Rev. the Hon. Canon C. L. Courtenay, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, Right Hon. the Earl of Glasgow, Dr. Acland, the Rev. the Warden of Keble (Dr. Talbot), Canon Bright, Canon King, the Sub-Dean of Christ Church (Canon Heurtley), and the Ven. Archdeacon Palmer. There was a solemn Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, at which the sermon was to have been preached by the Dean of St. Paul's (Church), at St. Mary Magdalene's, Munster Square, on December 12, 1882, in accordance with the following resolution passed by the President and Council on November 28:--

Death of Dr. Pusey.

That, in order to give expression to the feelings of the Union with regard to the death of its revered Vice-President, the Rev. Edward Bouverie Pusey, D.D., there be a solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist prior to the Ordinary Meeting of the Union on the 12th of December; and that the business of the meeting be confined to the consideration of his work, and of the proposed memorial in recognition of it.

At the meeting Archdeacon Denison proposed, and Mr. J. Johnstone Bevan seconded, the following resolution:--

Dr. Pusey and his work.

That, while the whole Church of England is bound to render praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the great gifts bestowed upon His servant Edward Bouverie Pusey, this Union is specially-called upon to record the life-long labours of its late revered Vice-President, in the revival among us of true faith and reverence, in his earnest maintenance of the unworldly character of the Kingdom of our Lord, and in his constant endeavour to promote the visible unity of all true worshippers of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He was prevented at the last moment by serious illness

Upon the motion of Mr. J. A. Shaw Stewart, seconded by the Earl of Limerick, it was resolved:--

Memorial to Dr. Pusey.

That this Meeting calls on the President and Council to devise means for gathering from among the Members and Associates of E. C. U. a thank-offering in aid of the proposed purchase of Dr. Pusey's library, and the erection and endowment of a suitable building for its preservation and enlargement, wherein future generations of students at the University, in which he laboured for so many years, may learn to tread in his footsteps and imitate his example.

Dr. Pusey did not join the E. C. U. during the first six years of its existence for reasons already recorded. It was not until April, 1866, when Mr. Robert Brett and others asked him "to fill Keble's place"--who had always been a member of the Council--that he consented to be elected.

Petitions to Parliament against the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill were signed at meetings in all parts of the country, in the following terms:--

Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill.

That a Bill has been introduced into your Right Honourable [or Honourable] House, intituled "An Act to Alter and Amend the Law as to Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister."

Your Petitioners, without entering into argument as to the origin of the law which has governed England for 1,500 years, or as to the Scriptural and religious reasons on which it is founded, desire to record their solemn conviction that the proposed change in that law will cause painful disturbance of existing family arrangements, will weaken the safeguards of domestic peace and purity, and will bring the State law of marriage into serious conflict with the religious convictions and usages of large numbers of the people of this country, and thus open the way to future disturbance, of which it is impossible to foresee the result.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Right Honourable [or Honourable] House to reject the said Bill.

Amongst various Bills which the President and Council had under their consideration, and to which they urged strenuous resistance, were:--City of London Union of Benefices Bill; the Cemeteries Bill (providing that all cemetery chapels, whether consecrated or otherwise, should be made available for Dissenting services); the Church Boards Bill (giving the ratepayers control over the services of the Church); Mr. Morgan Lloyd's Church Discipline Bill (intended to sharpen and facilitate the operation of the P. W. R. Act); and Mr. Reid's P. W. R. Act Amendment Bill (designed for the same purpose).

On Advent Sunday, December 3, 1882, the Most Rev. Archibald Campbell Tait, ninety-first Archbishop of Canterbury, and Primate of All England, died at Addington Park, Croydon. In the Annual Report the President and Council, after expressing their sorrow, went on to say:--

Under circumstances when a man of less nobility of character might have been excused if he had resented the action taken by the Union, he was able to appreciate the motives of those representing the Society, and to treat them with a generosity and a forgetfulness of all personal considerations worthy of his high position.

At the Annual Meeting on June 7, 1883, Archdeacon Denison read an Address to the President, signed by the five Vice-Presidents, and by upwards of 800 Officers of District Unions and Branches, and other prominent members. The Address, with the autographs, formed a thick handsome album in rich Russian leather binding, with the initials "C. L. W." impressed upon the cover.

The Address was in the following terms:--

To the Hon. Charles Lindley Wood, M.A., President of the English Church Union.

MR. PRESIDENT,--The English Church Union, founded in 1860, and designed to gather into one the efforts of Church Unions in many parts of England, has, among its multiplying cares, a special debt of love and duty to discharge--the debt of thankful testimony to you who have been now for fifteen years its loved and honoured President.

The present appears to be a fitting time for the due discharge of this debt on the part of those who may reasonably be taken to represent the collective body of the Union.

Resistance to a varied and persistent assault upon the Catholic teaching and ceremonial of the Church of England--an assault, moreover, which has referred to final and exclusive decision by the Civil Power questions belonging in their nature to the Spiritualty--has for many years occupied a chief portion of the energies and resources of the Union. But of late there has been vouchsafed some reasonable prospect of amendment in this particular: of some regard for the ancient law of this "Church and Realm."

The Union may therefore hope to be relieved of a great strain and heavy burden, and to be left free to apply itself to its own proper work: the promotion, with due consideration for antecedents, and in charity towards all men, of the teaching and exposition of all that is comprised within the true Catholic liberty of the Church of England, without being compelled to vindicate it before Courts of law.

In this comparative pause from strife, looking to the secondary causes out of which it has come in the goodness of God, we believe that we are representing the general sense and feeling of the Union when we number, as one such principal cause, the combined faithfulness, ability, energy, and devotion with which you have fulfilled the great charge committed to your care.

To say that no differences of judgment have been found worthy to interfere with our common and thankful recognition of the many and great services rendered to the Union, and through the Union to the Church, by you, its President of fifteen years, is to state a simple matter of fact.

On these grounds the undersigned members of the Union have united in presenting this Address of love and respect and heartiest thankfulness.

The Union has lost its great leader; but the spirit of his counsel abides in it; never persecuting, never retaliating--humbly and patiently thankful.

We praise God for the memory of Edward Bouverie Pusey, for the life and labours of Charles Lindley Wood.

After Mr. J. A. Shaw Stewart had seconded the Address, the President, who received an ovation, thanked the Union in feeling terms for "such an expression of friendship and affection."

The following resolutions were then adopted:--

The Church and School Boards.

Moved by Canon Temple, seconded by the Right Hon. J. G. Hubbard, M.P.--

That Board schools should supplement, not supplant, Denominational schools, and that any legislation or any administration of the law which ignores this principle is faulty, and ought to be amended.

The Cemeteries Bill.

Moved by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts, seconded by the Rev. E. Rhodes Bristow--

That this meeting desires to draw the attention of the members of the Union to the attempt which is being made in the Cemeteries Bill, recently introduced into Parliament by Mr. Richards, to throw open consecrated buildings to Nonconformist services, and to urge them to take effective steps before next session to oppose a measure so contrary to the principle of justice and the rights of the Church.

The Royal Commission.

Moved by Dr. Phillimore, seconded by Colonel Bagnall--That this Annual Meeting of the English Church Union welcomes the hope of returning peace held oat by the last efforts of the late Primate, and would fain trust that the report of the Royal Commission on ecclesiastical courts, by vindicating the right of the Church to determine questions affecting her own doctrine and ritual, may establish that peace on a lasting basis, and procure for those who are honestly endeavouring to act up to the requirements of the Prayer Book the freedom from molestation which is essential to the maintenance of harmonious relations between the Church and the State.

The President announced that, in consequence of the approaching division in', the House of Lords on the Wife's Sister Marriage Bill, the evening would be left free (all the business of the Anniversary having been finished at the afternoon meeting) for a meeting of opponents of the measure on a wider basis than that of the E. C. U. or of the Church of England. The chair would be taken by Lord Beauchamp, and amongst the speakers would be Lord Shaftesbury, the Lord Bishop of Emmaus (representing his Eminence Cardinal Manning), and Professor Milligan, late Moderator of the Established "Church" of Scotland. This meeting was densely crowded, and the resolution proposed, by which the meeting pledged itself to resist the Bill by every means in its power, was enthusiastically carried.

Acting upon the recommendation, unanimously adopted by the Conference of Northern Officers of E. C. U.--held at Leeds on October 10, 1882, which suggested the appointment of four clergymen as Assistant Organizing Secretaries, to develop and maintain the work of the Union in certain limited areas, under the supervision of the Organizing Secretary at the head office--the President and Council, in order to give the scheme a trial, appointed the Rev. C. J. Naters, Vicar of North Gosforth, Dudley, Northumberland, as Assistant Organizing Secretary for the two counties of Northumberland and Durham and announced their intention of further appointing similar officers for the districts of Leeds and Sheffield Liverpool and Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, as soon as suitable appointments could be made.

During the year 1,503 persons joined the Union bringing up the total to 21,164. Two new District Unions and ten local branches were formed. Total--District Unions, 48; Branches, 283.

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