Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



ON July 31, 1885, Lord Penzance decreed a monition directing Mr. Bell Cox to abstain from the use of vestments, lights, mixed chalice, &c., and condemned him in costs. On September 24 a Surrogate presided in Lord Penzance's absence, and promulgated some new rules for regulating procedure in the Provincial Court of York, authorizing, amongst other matters, a Surrogate to act in the Court from time to time under the Judge's directions, and in his absence, and to make such orders as might be required. On December 11 a Surrogate under these rules read Lord Penzance's Decree of Suspension of Mr. Bell Cox for six calendar months "from the discharge and execution of all the functions of his clerical office--that is to say, from preaching the Word of God, administering the Sacraments, and performing all other duties and offices in the said Church or Chapel of Saint Margaret, Toxteth Park, aforesaid, and elsewhere within the Province of York," to date from the time of publishing the Suspension on Sunday, January 3, 1886. The Decree of Suspension was affixed to the door of the church, under formal protest from the churchwardens and sidesmen, on the day named, but by some error a copy of the decree was personally served on Mr. Bell Cox on the previous day--viz., Saturday, January 2, 1886. A long correspondence ensued between the promoter and the Bishop of Liverpool, with the result that the Bishop formally licensed the Rev. A. H. Paine (the assistant-priest) to officiate in sole charge of St. Margaret's during the term of Suspension. Subsequently, however, the irregularity in serving the decree was discovered, and Lord Penzance by a further judgment, read by a Surrogate at York on April 8, 1886, issued a new decree of Suspension, in supersession of the old one, for six months from date of service, viz., June 13, Whit Sunday. His Lordship added--"If any further proceedings are taken against the respondent in the suit, it can only be by way of significavit with a view to his imprisonment."

At a Special Meeting on February 26, 1886, the following resolutions were adopted:--

Church Defence and Reform.


That it is the duty of the English Church Union to defend maintain the historical position of the Church of England with the endowments which she possesses, or may acquire; but that it is a still higher duty to resist all proposals conflicting with the Church's paramount obligation to uphold the Catholic Faith and the Apostolic Discipline which are her inalienable heritage.


That the claim of the Church of England to be the National Church does not depend on her reflecting popular religious opinion but on her Mission to the nation to bring it into the obedience of the Faith of which the Church is the Divinely-constituted guardian.


That, with regard to proposals for "Church Reform" now being made in various quarters, this Union insists that the needs of the Church cannot be met by any schemes which touch upon her Divinely-appointed order of government, and ignore the inherent distinction of office between clergy and laity; and further declares that all measures of "Church Reform" must be undertaken or sanctioned by the Church herself in her Convocations.

That the President and Council be requested to forward a Memorial to the Convocations of both Provinces, embodying the principles affirmed in the foregoing resolutions, and assuring them of the hearty support of the Union in all such measures as would conduce to the better administration of the Church, provided that those principles are duly respected; and especially requesting their attention to the following points as of primary importance:

(a) The right of the Church to decide finally for herself in all Spiritual causes;

(b) The better representation of the clergy in Convocation;

(c) The restoration of Diocesan Synods;

(d) The providing of a simpler and more expeditious method of dealing with morally criminous clerks;

(e) The necessity, if in any parish it be thought desirable that an organization of the laity for Church purposes should be formed, that such organization should be limited to Communicants;

(f) The necessity for the application of Church discipline to the laity as well as to the clergy;

(g) The adoption of measures for the better maintenance of the Church's law of marriage at present impaired by the Divorce Acts and threatened by the "Wife's Sister Bill";

(h) The removal of abuses incident to the present exercise of Church Patronage;

(i) The repeal of so much of the Act 25 Henry VIII., cap. 20, as subjects the Chapters and Bishops to the penalties of a Praemunire if they refuse to elect, confirm, or consecrate the nominee of the Crown.

The resolutions were proposed and seconded by the following speakers respectively, viz:--(1) Rev. B. Randall and Mr. J. Trevarthen; (2) Rev. Canon Furse and Mr. G-. A. Spottiswoode; (3) the Dean of Durham (Dr. Lake) and Mr. Stanley Leighton, M.P.; (4) Sir Walter Phillimore and Rev. Berdmore Compton,

The Memorial, in which the above resolutions were incorporated, was subsequently forwarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury for presentation to Convocation.

Six District Unions and fifty-two Branches sent replies to the questions submitted to them by the "Evangelization Committee." The answers received were summarised and considered, and in November, 1885, the Committee presented their first report in the form of eight recommendations based upon the various suggestions which had been laid before them. Copies of the Report were sent out in January, 1886, to every District Union and Branch, as well as to every subscriber to the Church Union Gazette, for their consideration.

No special action was taken during the year with reference to Bills before Parliament; but in the Annual Report, which was adopted by the Union, the President and Council wholly condemned Mr. Albert Grey's "Church Boards Bill," and expressed their grave doubts as to the expediency of any general recommendation for the creation of even Voluntary Parochial Councils. They also approved the proposal to abolish donatives, and registration bonds, and the sale of next Presentations, contained in Mr. Ryland's Church Patronage Bill; but they avowed the strongest objection to the proposal to compensate a patron out of the income of the benefice, and to vest patronage (practically) in the churchwardens of the parish.

A further grant of £8100 was made to the Marriage Law Defence Union to assist them in their opposition to the Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill.

It was announced that grants amounting to £2,818 had been made out of the Sustentation Fund since its creation to the following priests, viz.--Revs. J. Baghot De la Bere, T. P. Dale, Warwick Elwin, E. W. Enraght, S. P. Green, A. H. Mackonochie, A. Tooth, H. A. Walker, and to the St. Raphael's Sustentation Fund for the Rev. A. H. Ward.

In accordance with a suggestion from the Council, unanimously approved by the last Annual Meeting, a solemn Requiem was sung on the Eve of St. Andrew, 1885, at St. Mary Magdalene's, Munster Square, for all Members of the Union departed this life, and especially for those who had died during the last eighteen months. It was agreed that in future a Requiem should be annually sung.

At the Annual Meeting on May 27 at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, the following resolution on Church Patronage, proposed by the Right Hon. J. G. Hubbard, M.P., and seconded by the Rev. Dr. J. Charles Cox, was adopted:--

Church Patronage.

That this Union is ready to support any well-considered scheme for the prohibition of the sale of next presentations, and the gradual extinction of the traffic in livings, and desires, without committing itself to all the details of the Bill in reference to Church Patronage, to express its gratitude to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for the measure he has introduced in the House of Lords with the object of putting a stop to such sales and traffic.

At the Evening Meeting the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. Diocesan Synods.

Moved by the Rev. Berdmore Conapton, seconded by Mr. James Parker--
That this Union urges its members to take measures in their respective dioceses to press upon the Episcopate the great importance of the restoration of the ancient Diocesan Synods of the Church, in addition to the Conferences of clergy and laity which have been established in recent years.

II. Church Boards and Parochial Councils.

Moved by Mr. J. Shelly, seconded by Mr. Benjamin G. Lake--

That this Union, while welcoming any legitimate schemes by which the co-operation of the laity in Church work can be effectually encouraged, rejects all proposals for the creation of Church Boards with statutory authority, and insists, in the case of Voluntary Parochial Councils, on the necessity of such Councils being limited to communicants.

During the past eleven months--the Anniversary was held a month earlier than usual--1,614 persons joined the Union, a net gain of 600, bringing up the total to 21,470. One new District Union was formed, and fifteen Local Branches. Total: District Unions, 52; Branches 314.

It was reported that there were seventeen Bishops on the Roll, and, under the provisions of a new rule, their Lordships were invited to accept office as Vice-Presidents. A favourable reply had been received from nine Bishops, but, owing to distance, no reply had been received from the remaining eight in foreign parts.

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