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The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



IN the Bell Cox Case the appeal by Mr. Hakes against the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench (May 20, 1887) was heard by the Master of the Rolls (Esher) and Lord Justices Bowen and Fry, who, on Nov. 21, 1887, reversed the decision with costs. The Master of the Rolls, in delivering judgment, said--"Whether Mr. Bell Cox can be re-arrested under the writ de contumace capiendo must be determined by those who have to consider what course they will take in the future with regard to this case. I hope to hear that they have come to the conclusion that they had better leave Mr. Cox alone." An appeal from this decision was lodged by the President and Council on behalf of Mr. Bell Cox.

The faculty applied for by the Rev. E. F. Herring, Vicar of St. John the Baptist's, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, with the aid and advice of the President and Council, to give legal sanction to certain alterations made in the chancel, and other improvements, was granted by Chancellor Espin, substantially in the terms applied for, on November 29, 1887, in spite of the bitter opposition of a section of the parishioners.

The following Memorial on Voluntary Schools was presented in November, 1887, by the Council of the E. C. U. to the Royal Commission on the Elementary Education Acts then sitting;--

Voluntary Schools.

The Memorial of the Council of the English Church Union, representing a body which now includes seventeen Bishops, three thousand one hundred other clergymen, and nineteen thousand lay Communicants


1. That your Petitioners are deeply interested in the maintenance of Voluntary Schools; Churchmen having, with the approval of the National Legislature, accepted the responsibility of providing; and maintaining the greater portion of the Elementary Education of the country.

2. That many of the existing National Schools have been placed in circumstances of extreme difficulty owing to the increased demands of the Education Department, which demands, though reasonable in themselves, necessitate increased expenditure, and have not been sufficiently met by a compensating increase of grant.

3. That, with a view to lessen these and other increasing difficulties, your Petitioners earnestly pray that, in considering their Report, the Royal Commission will endeavour to provide for--

(a) An increase of the fixed grant under Article 109A of the New Code;

(b) The abolition of the 17s. 6d. limitation under Article 114;

(c) An increase and extension of the grants, made under Article 111, to schools for small populations;

(d) An amendment of the existing law so that the fees of indigent children attending Voluntary Schools may be remitted either by the School Board or the School Attendance Committee thereby avoiding the stigma felt to attach to an application to the guardians;

(e) A special grant to local associations for the purpose of maintaining and improving the National Schools of any given district.

On the night of Thursday, December 15, 1887, the Rev. Alexander Heriot Mackonochie lost his life in a snowstorm in the Kinloch Forest, N.B. Mr. Mackonochie had apparently lost his way, and wandered off the road, till he reached a wire fence, which he was evidently following, until he came to a heavy wreath of snow, which he could not surmount. Prom the position in which the body was found, it was thought that Mr. Mackonochie must have been kneeling in prayer before he lost consciousness. The Bishop of Argyll's two dogs, a deerhound and terrier, who had been Mr. Mackonochie's constant companions in his lonely walks on the hills, were caught sight of in the distance by a keen-sighted Gillie, after the search had been prosecuted in vain from Thursday night until Saturday morning--the deerhound sitting upright, as if keeping watch over some trust, the little terrier guarding the lifeless body. On the following Friday, after the Solemn Requiem at St. Alban's, Holborn, a procession of the Choir and upwards of one hundred Clergy in surplices, headed by the silver crucifix, and followed by hundreds of the laity on foot, passed from the Church to Waterloo station via Chancery Lane, Strand, and Waterloo Bridge. Thence a special train conveyed the funeral cortege to Woking Cemetery, where the interment took place in the St. Alban's ground.

The following resolution was adopted by the President and Council on January 17, 1888:--

Death of the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie.

The President and Council of the E. C. U. desire to express to the family of the Rev. Alexander Heriot Mackonochie their great sympathy with them in the death of one whose life was a nobly-sustained example of loyal and self-devoted service to the Church and her Divine Lord.

The Union sustained another great loss by the sudden death of Mr. John Walter Lea on February 29, 1888. His profound knowledge of all questions connected with Christian marriage, his grasp of the Divine constitution of the Church, his exact acquaintance (so rare in a layman) with Canon law, and his attainments as a theologian (not to mention that he was an accomplished historian and zoologist), found expression from time to time in short treatises or pamphlets of unusual value. A treatise on the Constitution of the Church, which he had wished to write, was never taken in hand, partly owing to precarious health and partly owing to continual interruptions.

At the First Ordinary Meeting, held in the schoolroom of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, on December 13, 1887, a paper was read by the Dean of Bangor (Evan Lewis) on "The Church in Wales: her Origin, Growth, Continuity, and Organic Union with the Church of England: her Present Condition, Work, and Prospects."

The following resolution was adopted:--

The Duty of Churchmen at the present time in regard to the Temporalities of the Church.

Moved by Admiral D. Robertson Macdonald, seconded by the Rev. H. Montagu Villiers--

That--inasmuch as the main object with which the E. C. U. was founded was to help in maintaining the Catholic Faith Eucharistic Worship, and seeing that the loss by the Church of England of her endowments and property would seriously hinder her work in teaching the Faith and maintaining the Worship of God--it is the duty of the E. C. U. at the present time to put forth all its strength to resist the efforts which are now being made to deprive the Church of her endowments.

The Second Ordinary Meeting was held at Oxford on January 30, 1888. A conference was held in the Pusey Lecture Boom, Keble College, in the afternoon, when the proposals likely to be made in the course of the year for the reconstitution of Church Courts were considered. The general feeling was that the Bishop's Court should represent the mind of the Bishop, and the Provincial Court that of the Archbishop and Provincial Synod. It was also thought advisable that a Memorial on the subject of the Maintenance of the Church's Marriage Law should be drawn up for presentation to the approaching Anglican Conference.

In the evening a public meeting was held in the Town Hall, when the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. The Claims of the E. C. U. on Churchmen.

Moved by Canon Knox-Little, seconded by the Rev. Gr. Noel Freeling, and supported by the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History (Bright), and the Rev. E. W. Randall--

That the English Church Union has special claims on the support of Churchmen as a Church Defence Society, because, while recognising fully the necessity of offering a vigorous resistance in all attacks oil the historic position and endowments of the Church of England, it has always given a ready support to useful measures of Church reform, such as the increase of the Episcopate, the revival Synodical action, and the better representation of the clergy in Convocation, and has never failed to keep in the forefront the duty of defending the Doctrine and Discipline, and all that concerns the Spiritual character of the Church of England.

II. Church Schools and Free Education.

Moved by the Rev. the Warden of Keble College (Talbot), seconded by the Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology (Paget)--

(l) That, in the opinion of this Meeting, it is the duty of every Churchman to defend and maintain the Voluntary Schools of the Church of England, in order to protect for the children of the poor the right to the definite teaching of the Church.

Moved by Father Benson, seconded by the Rev. E. Rhodes Bristow--

(2) That any legislation in the way of universal gratuitous education which relieves parents, who are well capable of discharging it, from the duty of paying for the education of their children, is to be deprecated, and that any scheme of free education, which should fail to provide for the education of children in definite religious principles, when desired by their parents, would be flagrantly unjust.

The third Ordinary Meeting was held at the Albion Hall, Dalston, on April 23, 1888, when the following resolution was adopted:--

The importance of increasing the numbers of the Union, and the best way of doing it.

Moved by the Hon. Mr. Justice Pinhey, seconded by the Rev. W. H. C. Luke--

That it is of great importance at the present time that Churchmen, lay and clerical, should unite in some large and effective organization, both for the purpose of resisting the revolutionary schemes of (so-called) Church reform, which are being proposed in various quarters, and also for the purpose of supporting such measures as the Church herself in her Convocation and other assemblies may judge to be desirable for the furtherance of her work, and the better administration of her Discipline;

And that the E. C. U., numbering as it does now 8,200 clergymen, and 19,400 lay communicants, offers the best basis for such organization.

On June 7, 1888, the announcement was made in the London papers that the Church Association had decided to commence proceedings against the Bishop of London (Temple) and the Bishop of Lincoln (King)--against the former for vetoing litigation with regard to the reredos in St. Paul's, and against the latter for alleged ritual offences.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson) introduced his Clergy Discipline Bill into the House of Lords on March 2, 1888. The Rev. E. a. Wood, Vicar of St. Clement's, Cambridge, at once attacked the Bill in a learned paper read before the Norwich Branch on June 7, 1888. His main objection was "that the introduction of such a measure into Parliament is an entirely wrong method of procedure, and one subversive of all true principles of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and of ecclesiastical judicial process." He contended that fresh laws, and variations of spiritual process in the Ecclesiastical Courts, must originate with the legislative assemblies of the Church; that the provisions of the Bill would lack spiritual authority; and that spiritual validity could not be bestowed by any subsequent action of, or acceptance by, Convocation. It should be added that ipso facto deprivation, by the sole authority of the civil power, was provided for in the Bill. The Norwich Branch at once passed a resolution condemnatory of legislation thus initiated by Parliament.

At the Annual Meeting held at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on June 14, 1888, it was resolved, upon the motion of the President, seconded by Dr. Marshall (Bristol), that an Address from the Members and Associates of the E. C. U. should be presented to the Bishops assembled in the Lambeth Conference.

The Address was in the following terms:--

His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, by Divine Providence Primate of All England and Metropolitan, and to the Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops assembled at Lambeth--Most Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God,--We, the members of the English Church Union, on the occasion of this third gathering of so many members of the Episcopate from all parts of the world round the ancient See of Canterbury, desire to assure your Grace and the Bishops assembled under your Grace's presidency, of our earnest prayers that the Blessing of God may rest upon your deliberations, and in all things direct and prosper them to the advancement of His Glory and the good estate of the Catholic Church.

Recognizing in your Grace and the Bishops now assembled at Lambeth the Divinely-appointed rulers of the flocks committed by the Providence of God to your charge, we welcome the present occasion as an opportunity for assuring your Grace, and the members of the Episcopate in visible communion with the See of Canterbury, of our dutiful respect for those set over us in the LORD, and of our earnest desire to submit ourselves in all things with a glad heart and mind to their godly rule and governance; and at the same time we desire to bring before your Grace and the united Episcopate, as the guardians of the rights and liberties of the Church, certain matters which, though more particularly affecting the Provinces of Canterbury and York, touch the whole Anglican Communion, and are a cause at the present time of grave scandal and distress to many of its members.

We refer especially to the fact that since the meeting of the last Lambeth Conference, not only have clergymen of the Church of England, men of blameless character, of singular holiness of life, and of entire devotion to their flocks, been imprisoned for refusing to acknowledge the authority of Secular Courts in spiritual matters, and for using the ancient Ceremonies and Ornaments proscribed by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer in the Celebration of Divine service; but that at the present moment a Priest, whose devotion and zeal are acknowledged by all, is threatened with re-imprisonment for his refusal to acknowledge in spiritual matters the jurisdiction of Courts incapable of exercising spiritual authority, and for using in the performance of Divine service those Ornaments and Ceremonies with which the Catholic Church has been accustomed from the earliest times to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

We earnestly entreat your Grace, and the Bishops now assembled at Lambeth, to take such steps as in your wisdom may seem most expedient to assert the integrity of the Church's spiritual jurisdiction, to vindicate the constitutional rights of the Church of England, and to protect the clergy beneficed within the Provinces of Canterbury and York from imprisonment and deprivation of their livings for fidelity to the sacred obligations imposed upon them by their ordination vows.

We would venture very humbly, in the second place, to draw your Grace's attention, and that of the united Episcopate, to the fact that in many parishes of the Anglican communion the Holy Eucharist is not celebrated every Sunday and Holy-day (an abuse unknown, as we believe, in any other portion of the Catholic Church, and contrary to the universal practice of primitive times). We earnestly pray that, by the intervention of the Episcopate in their respective dioceses, steps may be taken to remedy a state of things involving so much spiritual loss, both to individual souls and to the whole Church; and, further, that a more general sanction may be given, in harmony with primitive practice and the ancient Canons of the Church of England, to the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the use of the sick.

Thirdly, we make bold to bring before your Grace and the Bishops the disregard which so widely prevails, even among the clergy, of the obligations imposed by the Church as to fasting and days of abstinence, and to ask whether, in view of the ignorance and neglect which exists on this subject, the members of the Episcopate would consider the expediency of publishing more widely in their respective dioceses, at the beginning of each Lent, instructions as to the proper observance of that holy season.

Fourthly, we are constrained to call your Grace's attention, and that of the whole Episcopate now gathered together, to the increasing corruption of morals which is being caused by the fact of the Divorce Court professing to separate those whom God has made one, to the scandal occasioned by the conduct of those priests who venture to pronounce the Blessing of the Church upon unions not allowed by GOD and the law of the Church, and to the danger arising from the agitation for the legalisation of marriages within the Prohibited Degrees.

We entreat the Episcopate to take effectual steps to vindicate the sanctity of the law of Christian Marriage, to prevent in future such desecration of the Altars of GOD by those holding Christ's Commission, and to make impossible what may now be too often witnessed--the condonation of adultery by those who have been entrusted with the sacred ministry of the Church.

We very humbly crave your Grace's indulgence for venturing to address your Grace and the Bishops assembled at Lambeth with so much freedom, pleading as our excuse the gravity of the matters we have thought it right to bring before your Grace, and our anxiety respecting them.

We would conclude with our most earnest prayers that the counsels of this great gathering of the Episcopate round the chair of St. Augustine may be so guided and inspired by God the Holy Ghost, as to quicken the life of the Church of England throughout all its branches, to win back those who have separated themselves from its fold, and, above all, to prepare the way for the restoration of visible unity between the Anglican communion and the rest of the Western Church, and the Reunion of East and West, and to hasten the dawn of that blessed day of restored peace and goodwill among all Christian people when there shall be One Flock and One Shepherd.

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


The Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill. Moved by Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart., seconded by the Rev. T. P. Ring, and supported by the Most Rev. the Bishop of Capetown, Metropolitan of S. Africa--

(l) That the E. C. U. calls on Churchmen generally to aid in resisting by every means in their power the Bill to legalize marriage with a wife's sister, on the ground that it is contrary to the law of the Church from the beginning, violates the principle upon which the marriage law of England is based, opens the door to other unlawful unions, endangers the purity and happiness of families, and, if passed into law, cannot fail to bring about disastrous conflicts between conscience and the civil law of the land.

Moved by Mr. Stanley Leighton, M.P., seconded by Mr. F. C. Holiday--

(2) That this Meeting observes with satisfaction that the numbers opposing the Bill have increased from 169 in 1884 to 205 in 1888, while the numbers supporting it have decreased in the same period from 280 to 262, and sees in this fact clear evidence of the success of the efforts which have been made by the E. C. U. and other organizations of Churchmen to spread a knowledge of the principles at issue.

II. The Mackonochie Memorial.

Moved by the Rev. H. M. Villiers, seconded by the Duke of Newcastle--

That the members of the E. C. U. at their Annual Meeting desire to express their sense of the great loss which the Society, in common with the whole Church of England, has sustained during the past year in the death of the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie, and hereby promise their assistance to the St. Alban's Committee in the efforts they are making to raise £12,000 to build a chapel to his memory at St. Alban's, Holborn.

They also heartily approve of the proposal of the Council to vote a sum of £100 as a corporate offering from the E. C. U. to the Memorial Chapel.

On Wednesday, June 27, 1888, a Conversazione was held at Prince's Hall for the purpose of presenting an Address and offering a hearty welcome in the name of the whole Union to the Episcopal Vice-Presidents of the Society on the occasion of their gathering in England for the Third Lambeth Conference. Of the seventeen Bishops, the Bishops of Capetown and Zululand were kept away by illness or death in their families; the Bishop of Lincoln by diocesan engagements; the Bishop of Fredericton by a previous engagement, and Bishop Abraham by illness. The Bishops of Madagascar and Grafton and Armidale had not come to England, and the Bishop of New Westminster and the Coadjutor-Bishop of Fredericton were unexpectedly hindered at the last moment. The President of the Union was also absent, having been obliged to leave England for the Continent immediately after the Annual Meeting. The Address to the Right Reverends the Vice-Presidents was presented by the Earl of Glasgow, and replied to by the Bishop of Maritzburg on behalf of the Colonial Bishops. Amongst the speakers-were the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Bishop Smythie, the Bishop of Springfield, U.S.A., the Bishop of Bombay, the Bishop of Ontario (now Archbishop), and Earl Beauchamp

During the year 2,504 persons joined the Union. bringing up the total to 23,289.

During the year 10 new Local Branches were formed. Total, District Unions, 53; Branches, 326. It was also announced that the system of affiliating Guilds of Communicants was securing important results--there now being 15 affiliated Guilds (an addition of 10 during the year) representing nearly 1,600 Members and Associates added to the Union "without any of that multiplying of Local Organizations which is often so great a burden in a parish."

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