Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



ON June 2, 1888, a Petition was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson) by certain members of the Church Association, praying him to cause the Bishop of Lincoln to be cited before him to answer certain charges as to alleged Ritualistic practices. The Petitioners relied on an almost forgotten precedent, and one of more than questionable authority, viz., the case of Lucy v. Watson (Bishop of St. David's), in a case of Simony, in the year 1695. On June 26 the Archbishop's Secretary replied that--

Inasmuch as the precedent cited seemed to be "the one and only precedent of this procedure" since the Reformation, "and considering the political and other exceptional circumstances under which this particular case was decided, his Grace has failed to satisfy himself that the coercive jurisdiction which you desire him to exercise admits of substantial application to the case presented in your Petition. The Archbishop therefore finds himself unable to exercise such jurisdiction in this matter without some instruction being produced from a competent Court to the effect that the jurisdiction referred to is thus applicable."

Acting upon this suggestion the Petitioners appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, before whom the Appeal was heard on July 28, and again, by adjournment, on August 3. At the first sitting the Committee consisted only of lay lords, the Lord Chancellor (Halsbury), ex-Lord Chancellor Herschell, Lords Hob-house and Macnaghten, and Sir Barnes Peacock, who, after consideration, decided that they ought to have the assistance of Episcopal Assessors. Accordingly the Bishops of London (Temple), Salisbury (Wordsworth), Ely (Alwyne Compton), Manchester (Moorhouse), and Sodor and Man (Bardsley) attended on August 3.

The decision of the Judicial Committee was as follows:--

Their Lordships are of opinion that the Archbishop has jurisdiction in this case.

They are also of opinion that the abstaining by the Archbishop from entertaining the suit is a matter of appeal to her Majesty.

They desire to express no opinion whatever as to whether tin1 Archbishop has, or has not, a discretion whether he will issue a citation.

And they will humbly advise her Majesty to remit the case to the Archbishop to be dealt with according to law.

On January 4, 1889, his Grace issued a Citation to the Bishop of Lincoln to appear and answer to the charges made against him by two parishioners of Clcethorpe, in the diocese of Lincoln, and by two parishioners of St. Peter at Gowts, in the city of Lincoln, described respectively as a salesman, a solicitor, a foreman, and a gardener, but not as Communicants. It was very generally felt that the Archbishop had needlessly interpreted as an order a decision which merely empowered him to issue a citation; and indeed, Lord Halifax's words at the Second Ordinary Meeting on January 30, 1889, fairly expressed the general sentiment of Churchmen, viz.:--

I ask myself how it was that the Metropolitan of All England did not indignantly refuse, whatever might be the consequences to himself, to listen to any charges brought by such men against a Bishop of the Church, and such a Bishop as the Bishop of Lincoln?

No doubt the Citation was drawn according to precedent, but it sounded strangely in men's ears that such a man as the Bishop of Lincoln was cited "to answer truly to certain articles or interrogatories to be objected and administered to him touching and concerning his soul's health and the lawful correction and reformation of his manners and excesses," &c.

The President and Council, having regard to the gravity of the issues involved in the proceedings thus commenced, requested all the Clerical Members of the Union to endeavour to arrange for a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the day named in the Citation (Feb. 12), with the object of beseeching Almighty God to order all events to His own glory.

On February 12 the Court sat, when his Grace was attended by his Vicar-General and by four out of five of his Assessors--viz., the Bishops of London (Temple), Winchester (Browne), Oxford (Stubbs), and Salisbury (Wordsworth). The fifth, the Bishop of Rochester (Thorold), had not returned from the Continent. The Bishop of Lincoln appeared personally, and read a protest against the Jurisdiction of the Court, claiming to be tried "before the Metropolitan with the Comprovincial Bishops"--i.e., the Synod of the Province. This protest was fully drawn out in legal terms by the Bishop's Proctors (Messrs. Brooks and Jenkins) on February 19, and handed in to the Vicar-General. In it three principal points were insisted on--(1) That the Provincial Synod is the only Court before which a Bishop can be tried; (2) that the Court should be able "fully and freely to adjudicate upon such alleged offences on their merits"--i.e., that the Court should not be bound by former Privy Council judgments; (3) "that Bishops are not included among the 'ministers' to whom the provisions of the Act of Uniformity apply, and are not therefore limited by the exact provisions of the rubrics."

On March 12 the Archbishop, attended by his Vicar-General and the same Episcopal Assessors, heard the arguments of Counsel as to his sole jurisdiction, and the hearing was continued on March 13, 14, 20, 21, 26, and 27. On May 11 the Archbishop gave judgment in favour of his sole jurisdiction; but his Grace was careful to point out that the judgment about to be delivered "is not to be looked upon as other than my own judgment." This point was emphasized by the Bishop of Oxford, who said in an undertone to his Grace, "Put that very definitely." His Grace then slowly and emphatically repeated his words, adding, "I think I have put it as definitely as possible." Upon this decision, the Bishop of Lincoln decided to appear by Counsel before the Court, but under protest, as not acknowledging the jurisdiction claimed. The Union assured the Bishop of their sympathy and support at the Second Ordinary Meeting, which was held upon the invitation of the Bristol District Union at Clifton on January 30, 1889, when the following address to the Bishop of Lincoln was enthusiastically adopted:--

The Prosecution of the Bishop of Lincoln.

Moved by Mr. S. Frankland Hood, and seconded by Archdeacon Denison--

That the members of the E. C. U. (and other Churchmen present at this Meeting) desire to approach the Right Reverend Father in God Doctor Edward King, by Divine permission Lord Bishop of Lincoln, with an expression of their deep affection and their respectful sympathy under the trouble to which he is now subjected by the proceedings taken against him for the observance of the ancient customs of the Church in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in his Cathedral and in the parishes of his diocese.

And they further desire to assure his Lordship that they will not fail to offer their earnest prayers to Almighty God that this evil, like so many others, may be over-ruled to the greater Glory of God and the advancement of His Church.

The Union formally expressed their entire agreement with, and approbation of, his lordship's threefold protest, in the following resolution unanimously passed at the Fourth Ordinary Meeting held at Norwich on May 23, 1889, viz.--

The Trial of the Bishop of Lincoln.

Moved by the Rev. R. E. Sanderson, D.D., seconded by Mr. George Cowell (Delegate of the Suffolk District Union)--

That this Meeting of the E. C. U. has heard with much thankfulness the terms of the Protest made by the Bishop of Lincoln in the Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which Protest his Lordship--

(1) Raises the whole question of spiritual jurisdiction in regard to the trial of a Bishop.

(2) Claims his right, as a Bishop of the Church of God, to observe the ancient customs of the Church of England, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, wherever they have not been altered by the authority of the Church.

(3) Claims that, if the charges made against him are likely to be a proper matter for trial at all, they should be adjudicated upon fully and freely on their merits.

Finally, at the Annual Meeting on June 27, 1889, the following resolution was adopted:--

The Prosecution of the Bishop of Lincoln. Moved by Canon Lowe (Ely), and seconded by Mr. S. Frankland Hood (President of the Lincolnshire D.U.)--

That this Union desires to express its deepest gratitude to the Bishop of Lincoln for his maintenance of the ritual of the Church of England in accordance with ancient Canons and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, and for his defence of the Rights and Liberties of the Church of England by his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Judicial Committee in Spiritual matters.

St. Paul's Reredos and the Episcopal Veto.

The Bishop of London having exorcised his discretion, under section 9 of the Public Worship Regulation Act, decided "that proceedings should not be taken on the representation" to compel the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's to remove the reredos lately erected in St. Paul's by the Dean and Chapter. As required by the statute, his lordship proceeded to "state in writing the reason for his opinion." The promoters (Sir Christopher R. Lighten, Bart., Major-General C. J. Godby, Mr. Richard Nugent, J.P., and Mr. Robert Fleming) then raised the question in the Court of Queen's Bench on the point whether the requirements of section 9 had been satisfied by the "statement of reasons" deposited in the Registry of the diocese.

Judgment was given on June 1, 1889, when a Mandamus was ordered to issue commanding the Bishop to allow proceedings to be taken. There was, however, a difference of opinion among the judges, Baron Pollock holding that, though the Court could interfere if it were shown that the Bishop had based his opinion upon a portion only of the circumstances of the case to the exclusion of others which, were material, or upon considerations not within the scope of the Act, the Bishop's reply showed clearly that he-had not done so, and consequently the Court had no power to interfere with the Bishop's exercise of his discretion. The Lord Chief Justice (Coleridge) and Mr. Justice Manisty, on the contrary, held that the reasons given by the Bishop for his decision were not reasons contemplated by the Statute, or founded upon a consideration of "the whole circumstances of the case," and that, as he had failed to exercise his discretion within the statutory limitations, the Court could review his decision, and ought to issue the Mandamus. Notice of appeal was at once given.

The First Ordinary Meeting was held in St. Barnabas' Boys' School, Ebury Street, Pimlico, on December 11, 1888, when the following resolutions were adopted:--

The Death of the Earl of Devon.

Moved from the Chair by Archdeacon Denison, and seconded by the Rev. Alfred Gurney--

That this meeting of the English Church Union desires to put on record its sense of the great services which the Earl of Devon rendered to the Church at large during his long life, as well as its gratitude for the special help he gave to the English Church Union by his connection with it as one of its Vice-Presidents.

And this meeting further desires to express its deep sympathy with the President of the Union, Lord Halifax, and the other members of the family of the late Earl of Devon in the loss they have sustained by his death.

(I.) Moved by the Rev. E. C. Kirkpatrick, and seconded by Mr. John T. Taylor--

That, in face of the attacks made on Religious Education and the increasing difficulties with which Church schools have to contend, it is the duty of members of the E. C. U. to use all the power of their organization throughout the country to maintain the Voluntary schools of the Church of England, in order to protect for the children of the poor their right to the definite teaching of the Faith.

(II.) Moved by Mr. J. Trevarthen, and seconded by the Rev. Rowland T. Plummer--

That, with a view to lessening the difficulties with which Church schools have to contend, an united effort should be made to secure, at least the following points:--

(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.

Declaration on Ecclesiastical Prosecutions.

Moved by Admiral D. Robertson-Macdonald, and seconded by Major Johnstone Bevan--

That the English Church Union hereby pledges itself to give its utmost support to Archdeacon Denison's Declaration in regard to Church Discipline and ritual prosecutions, as put forth by the meeting of Churchmen held at Westminster Palace Hotel on November 13, 1888.

The Form of Declaration was as follows:--

We, the undersigned, priests, deacons, and lay members of the Church of England, being persuaded that, under the present condition of discipline in the Church, the promoting of a particular class-of proceedings at law directed against certain manner or manners of worship of God in the cathedrals, churches, and chapels thereof, is a scandal to Religion, an injury and hindrance to the growth of the spiritual life; and cannot promote Unity or even permit peace:

Do hereby, to and before the whole English people, make this our Declaration and Remonstrance against the promoting of such proceedings.

And we do this irrespectively of, and apart from any conclusions to which we may have come in connection with the subject matter of any one or more of such proceedings, past or present.

Among the signatures to this were those of the Duke of Newcastle; Marquis of Bath; Earls Nelson, Limerick, Strafford, Strathmore, Manvers, Yarborough, and Wharncliffe; Viscounts Halifax, Molesworth, and Melville; Lords Egerton of Tatton, Addington, Clinton, Sackville Cecil, Crewe, Lamington, and Northbourne.

With reference to the subject of Religious Education in Voluntary Schools, the President and Council urged upon the Union the importance of signing the following Petition to Parliament put forth by the Church Extension Association:--

Religious Education in Voluntary Schools.

That more than half of the total number of children receiving elementary education are attending Voluntary schools.

That Voluntary schools and Board schools are equally recognised as efficient, and are equally under the authority of the Education Department.

That Voluntary schools are at a serious disadvantage as compared with Board schools, which are able to draw upon the public rates to any extent that they may require.

That the extinction of Voluntary schools would be deplored by a large proportion of the population, and would greatly increase the public expenditure.

Your Petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House, fill be pleased to devise measures for the further relief and encouragement of Voluntary schools.

The Second Ordinary Meeting was held at Clifton on January 30, 1889, when, besides the resolution on the prosecution of the Bishop of Lincoln, already cited, the following resolutions were adopted:--

The Attack on the Reredos in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Proceedings against the Bishop of Lincoln.

Moved by Sir E. H. Elton, Bart., and seconded by the Rev. R. Rhodes Bristow--

That this Meeting of the E. C. U. desires to offer its respectful thanks to the Right Rev. and Right Hon. the Lord Bishop of London for the firm stand he has made in support of the Episcopal veto on ecclesiastical prosecutions, and against the attempt to banish Christian art from our Churches under the plea of idolatry.

Moved by Mr. G. A. Spottiswoode (Vice-Chairman of the House of Laymen of the Province of Canterbury), and seconded by Archdeacon Denison--

That the proceedings against the Bishop of Lincoln before the Privy Council and the Archbishop in respect of his observance of the ancient customs of the Church in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and the attempt to set aside the Episcopal veto in the case of the Bishop of London, with a view to the removal of the Reredos lately set up in St. Paul's Cathedral, have brought to a head the proceedings at law in spiritual cases of the last forty years, and demand from all Churchmen that they unite in a strenuous effort to obtain the re-establishment of true Church Courts, in which the Church can declare her own law as to matters of doctrine and discipline, and can commend and command a loyal obedience.

The E. C. U. and the Church's Spiritual Discipline. Moved by the Rev. E. Rhodes Bristow, and seconded by Mr. C. L. A. Skinner--

That the best way in which Churchmen generally can bring their influence to bear for the re-establishment of Church Courts is by joining and promoting the increase of the English Church Union, which numbers already over 23,600 clergy and communicants, and which has always made the recovery of spiritual discipline one of the principal objects of its organization.

The Duty of Joining the Union.

Moved (at the Evening Meeting) by the Rev. E. W. Randall, and seconded by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts--

That the attack now being made on the Bishop of London, with the view to the destruction of the Reredos lately erected in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the attack made on the Bishop of Lincoln in regard to the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Cathedral and parish churches of his diocese, show the necessity of some effective organization among Churchmen and Churchwomen in defence of the Church of England, and that the E. C. U., with its 23,600 members, offers the best basis for such organization.

At the Third Ordinary Meeting at the E. C. U. Office on April 30, 1889, only formal business was transacted.

The Fourth Ordinary Meeting was held at Norwich on May 23, 1889, when, in addition to the resolution respecting the trial of the Bishop of Lincoln and his Lordship's protest, already cited, the following resolution was adopted:--

The Increase in the Numbers of the E.C.U.

Moved by the Rev. E. W. Randall, and seconded by Mr. J. Trevarthen--

That this meeting observes with satisfaction the large increase that has taken place in the E. C. U. since the 1st of January, an increase amounting already to 4,000, and trusts that the attacks now being made on the Ritual of the Church in the case of the Bishop of Lincoln, and on the exercise of the Episcopal veto in the case of the Bishop of London, will convince Churchmen throughout the country of the necessity of some such organization as that of the E. C. U. to maintain the spiritual independence and true discipline of the Church.

The Annual Meeting was held on June 27, 1889, at the Freemasons' Tavern, when, besides the resolution respecting the prosecution of the Bishop of Lincoln, already cited, the following resolution was adopted:--

The Reredos in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Moved by the Dean of Durham (Lake), and seconded by the Rev. T. E. Willacy--

That this Union congratulates the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's upon the erection in St. Paul's Cathedral of a reredos, so well calculated to bring before the minds of those who worship within the walls of that church the great Evangelical doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement; and rejoices to think that it will long be a witness to the devotion of the Dean and Canons, by whose piety and munificence, aided by funds at the disposal of the Cathedral Decoration Committee, it has been erected, and who in this, as in so many other ways, have done so much for the glory of God and the cause of religion in England.

In commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the E. C. U., and the twenty-first year of office of Lord Halifax as President, a Conversazione was held at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on June 27, 1889.

During the year 5,870 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 27,164. Four new District Unions and eighteen Local Branches were formed. Total--District Unions, 55; Branches, 344.

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