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The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



THE Bishop of Lincoln having decided to appear by counsel, under protest, the Archbishop's Court sat on July 23, 1889. A letter was read from the Bishop, in which he stated the reasons which deterred him from making "an application to the Civil Court for a prohibition"; expressed his regret at the mode of procedure adopted; and concluded by maintaining his original protest in these terms:--"So grave do I consider these dangers to be that, while I submit with full loyalty and devotion to your Grace as my Metropolitan, I am constrained to add that I think it is my duty to reserve such rights as by the laws of the Church may belong to me in common with other Suffragans."

The third point raised in the protest of February 12 and 19, 1889, was argued on July 23 and 24--viz., that the word "minister" in the rubrics and in the Act of Uniformity does not, and never was intended to, include Bishops. The Archbishop delivered judgment on this point on July 24, 1889, in the following terms:--

The Court finds no reason to hold that when a Bishop ministers in any Office prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer he is not bound to observe the directions given to the minister in the Rubrics of such office.

The Bishop of Winchester was not present, his place being taken on this occasion and during the rest of the proceedings by the Bishop of Hereford (Atlay). The Bishop of Rochester (Thorold) was present for the first time.

The Court sat for the first time to hear the case on the merits on February 4, 1890. In the absence of the President from England, the Council requested the clerical members of the Union to arrange for a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist on that morning as a united act of intercession to Almighty God that He might; be pleased to overrule the trial and all its consequences, to His own greater glory and the good of His Church." This was done in a very large number of churches throughout the country.

In opening the case for the prosecution, Sir Horace Davy, Q.C., maintained that practically all the matters charged, except the taking of the Ablutions, had been decided to be illegal in former suits by the Queen in Council, on the advice of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and that the Archbishop was bound by these decisions.

The charges were eight in number, and affected the following points, viz., (1) The use of the Mixed Chalice; (2) mixture during the service; (3) the Ablutions; (4) the Eastward Position in the first part of the service; (5) the Eastward Position during the Prayer of Consecration; (6) the Agnus Dei; (7) Altar Lights; (8) the Sign of the Cross during the Absolution and Benediction.

The case was argued for the Bishop by Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart., Q.C., and Mr. Jeune, Q.C. The hearing extended over February 4, 5, 6, 7,20, 21, 22, and 25. On the last day, the arguments being concluded, the Archbishop reserved judgment.

In dealing with this case in the Annual Report, the President and Council stated--

Until the judgment is given, and the time arrives for claiming (if need be) the rights reserved by the Bishop on the 23rd of July, 1889, the President and Council recommend to the Union to maintain its attitude of absolute reserve, which, in deference to the course pursued by the Bishop, it has hitherto adopted with regard to the personal jurisdiction of the Archbishop apart from his Synod.

The appeal of the Bishop of London from the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench on June 1, 1889, in the case of the St. Paul's Reredos, was heard in the Appellate Court before the Master of the Rolls (Lord Esher) and Lords Justices Lindley and Lopes on December 12, 1889. On December 17, the Court unanimously reversed the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, and held that the Bishop had lawfully exercised his discretion in refusing to send the case for trial. From this decision the Church Association gave notice of appeal to the House of Lords. Meanwhile, another representation was made to the Bishop, under the provisions of the P. W. B. Act, on May 1,1890, by fresh promoters--viz., Sir Christopher E. Lighten, Bart., Major-General C. J. Grodby, Mr. Richard Nugent, J.P., and Mr. Robert Fleming. It was alleged that "the Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Child and the Crucifix at St. Paul's Cathedral tend, and each of them tends, to encourage ideas and devotions of an unauthorised, idolatrous, and superstitious kind, and are in danger of being abused; and that unauthorised, idolatrous, and superstitious regard and reverence are likely to be paid to the said two images, or sculptured subjects, and each of them; and that the said two images, and each of them, have in fact encouraged ideas and devotions of an unauthorised, idolatrous, and superstitious kind, and have in fact been abused; and that unauthorised, idolatrous, and superstitious regard and reverence have been in fact paid to the said two images; and that the promoters are prepared to establish this by evidence and otherwise." The Bishop of London, however, declined to allow proceedings to be taken, on the ground "that the questions raised in this case are in substance identical with those raised in the case of the representation of Allcroft and others versus the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's," which was now under appeal to the House of Lords

The appeal to the House of Lords in the Bell Cox case was heard from July 11 to 16, 1889, before the Lord Chancellor (Halsbury), and Lords Herschell, Fitzgerald, and Macnaghten. Before judgment was delivered Lord Fitzgerald died, and either for this, or for some other reason, their lordships required the case to be re-argued. The rehearing commenced on May 17, 1890, before the Lord Chancellor and Lords Herschell, Bramwell, Field, Macnaghten, Morris, and Watson. The hearing occupied four days, and judgment was reserved.

In every Bill hitherto introduced in order to legalise the (so-called) marriage of a man with the sister of his deceased wife, the proposal had been strictly limited to ceremonies at Dissenting chapels and Registrar's offices. This year, for the first time, a Bill was introduced with its scope enlarged so as to include within its area the consecrated buildings of the Church of England, and further to provide that if the parish priest refused to solemnize such marriages, he should allow the use of the church to any other clergyman who might be willing to perform the ceremony. The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on April 30, 1890, by 220 to 155 votes. A resolution on this new aspect of the case, to be presently mentioned, was adopted at the Annual Meeting.

At the First Ordinary Meeting held at the Westminster Palace Hotel on December 10, 1889, the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. The Deaths of Lord Addington and Mr. Charles B. Skinner, Vice-Presidents of the E. C. U.

Moved by the President, and seconded by Mr. J. Trevarthen--

That this Meeting desires to express its sense of the greatness of the loss sustained by the Union and the whole Church at large by the deaths of Lord Addington and Mr. Skinner, both Vice-Presidents of the Society, and at the same time to record its thankfulness for the examples of their lives so entirely devoted both by private effort and public utterance to the furtherance of the Church's cause, and to the defence of the truths entrusted to the Church's keeping.

II. The Dean of Peterborough's Eirenicon in regard to the Ornaments Rubric.

Moved by the Rev. Berdmore Compton, seconded by Mr. F. Lambert (President of the Surrey (East) D. U.)--

That, in regard to certain proposals for peace put forward by the Dean of Peterborough and others, this Union, while it distinctly disclaims, as it has always 'done, any desire for the enforcement in Ritual matters of a too rigid uniformity, which it believes, under existing circumstances, to be neither desirable nor possible, is unable to accept any proposals which do not preserve intact and unimpaired the existing Ornaments Rubric, and recognize the authoritative sanction given by that Rubric to the Ritual used under the first Prayer Book of Edward VI.

At the Second Ordinary Meeting held at Folkestone, on January 30, 1890, under the chairmanship of Archdeacon Denison (in the absence of the President at Madeira), the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. The Religious Education of the Upper and Middle Classes.

Moved by the Rev. C. E. Cooper (Headmaster of Hurstpierpoint College), and seconded by the Rev. Montagu Villiers--

That this Meeting, recognizing the importance of providing for the Upper and Middle Classes an Education based on the Faith and Discipline of the Church, urges all Members of the English Church Union to support to the utmost of their power such efforts as arc being made, in public schools or otherwise, to train the young as Members of the Church of Christ.

II. The English Church Union as a nucleus of Church Defence.

Moved by the Rev. M. Woodward (Vicar of Folkestone), and seconded by W. Layton Lowndes, Esq., J.P.:--

That both the past history and the present position of the English Church Union, and the fact that nearly 8,000 communicants have enrolled themselves in its ranks during the year just ended, point to this organization as the nucleus round which all should rally who desire to take their part in defending the spiritual authority and the rights and liberties of the Church of England.

III. The Continuity of the Church of England as bearing on questions of Ritual.

Moved by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts (President of the Gloucestershire (Central) D. U.) and seconded by the Rev. W. Crouch (Cambridge University Branch):--

That the historical and doctrinal continuity of the Church of England necessarily involves the continued lawfulness of all her ancient Ritual and Ceremonial which has not been forbidden by later Service Books, or by the action of the proper ecclesiastical authority, spiritually competent to deal with such matters.

IV. The Eirenicon of the E. C. U.

Moved by the Rev. Gilbert C. P. Moor (Vicar of St. Andrew's, Worthing), and seconded by the Rev. T. Outram Marshall, in the absence of Mr. J. Trevarthen:--

That peace can only be secured by a frank admission of this continued lawfulness of such ancient Ritual, coupled with the recognition of the old Canonical principle that custom long prevailing with the acquiescence of the ecclesiastical authorities, in regard to excess or defect, must be taken as modifying the obligatory character of ecclesiastical directions.

The Third Ordinary Meeting was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel on April 29, 1890, under the chairmanship of Canon Carter, in the continued absence from England of the President, when the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. The Death of the Earl of Glasgow, Vice-President and Trustee of the E. C. U.

Moved from the Chair--

That this Meeting desires to offer to Lady Glasgow and her family the expression of its sincere condolence on the death of the late Earl of Glasgow, Vice-President and Trustee of the English Church Union.

II. The Recent Extension of the Divorce Laws in the Colony of Victoria.

Moved by Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart., and seconded by the Rev. J. B. Sweet (Vicar of Otterton, S. Devon)--

That this Union views with grave regret the new Divorce Law adopted in and by the Colony of Victoria, and heartily deplores the fact than an English Colony should have so far departed from Christian principles, and should not have taken warning from the consequences of alike departure in several of the American States.

Moved from the Chair--

That a copy of the above resolution be sent to the Lord Bishop of Melbourne with an expression of thanks to his lordship for the efforts he made to prevent the passing of this Act, and with an expression of sympathy with his lordship and the Clergy of his diocese under the difficulties in which this Act will involve them in the maintenance of Church Discipline.

At the Annual Meeting held at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on June 19, 1890, Mr. J. A. Shaw-Stewart in the Chair, the Rev. H. E. Baker protested against the omission of any reference in the Report to the book entitled Lux Mundi, and read a strongly worded letter from Archdeacon Denison on the subject. The Rev. P. G. Benson, Vicar of Hoo, complained that there was no mention of the "Hoo Case" in the Report, and expressed regret at the line of action adopted by the Union, whilst he thanked them for paying his costs in the legal proceedings. The Rev. T. Outram Marshall explained that the Council acted as they did because they considered that Mr. Benson's action in repelling Mrs. Swayne from Holy Communion, on the ground that she had "taken seats in a Wesleyan Chapel," and further in failing to "give an account to the Ordinary" within fourteen days, was not warranted by the Rubrics or Canons. The Council had done the best they could under the circumstances; had paid the costs; and by this and other means had not only saved Mr. Benson from imprisonment, but had got the case back, so to speak, out of Lord Penzance's hands, into those of the Bishop of the diocese.

The following resolutions were then adopted:--

I. Voluntary Schools and Religious Education.

Moved by Mr. Stanley Leighton, M.P. (whose paper, introducing the motion was read by the Rev. T. Outram Marshall, Mr. Stanley Leighton being obliged to leave before the resolution, delayed by the length of time occupied in the discussion on the Report, came on), and seconded by the Rev. W. Allen Whitworth:--

That, having regard to questions now being raised concerning Voluntary schools, this Union declares:--

(1) That Churchmen have no motive for taxing themselves for the support of their schools apart from their desire to secure an adequate religious education therein.

(2) That such education can only be given by those who hold the Faith, which they have to teach, and that its character cannot be secured merely by the imposition of formularies.

(3) That it is, therefore, absolutely essential to the existence of Voluntary schools that the selection of the teachers remain as heretofore in the hands of managers representing the religious body to which each school belongs.

II. The Bishop of London on the true meaning of Christian Education.

Moved from the Chair--

That the English Church Union desires to record its thankfulness for the valuable utterance of the Lord Bishop of London on the true meaning of Christian education, and on the office and work of the Church in regard thereto, when he addressed the Conference of his diocese, and said:--

"Although the Bible was the great text-book of religious instruction for the world, the Lord did not first have the Bible written, and then send forth His Apostles to lecture on it. He sent forth His Church; He made the Church, He inspired His Church; and that part of the Bible which is most precious to its came afterwards. He sent forth men to do the work. The New Testament was the great instrument by which they were to do it; but the Church that He created was the agent to use that instrument; and it was to invert altogether the order of instruction which the Lord had given them if they supposed that the instrument was to do the work by itself."

Dr. Littledale, one of the earliest Members of the Council, died January 11, 1890. The Council adopted the following resolution in regard thereto on January 14:--

That the Council of the E. C. U. desire to express their deep sympathy with the family of the late Dr. Littledale in the loss which they have sustained, and also their sense of the great loss which the Society and the Church at large has suffered by his death.

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

I. The New Deceased Wife's Sister Bill.

Moved by the Rev. Berdmore Compton, and seconded by the Rev. T. P. Ring--

That it is important that the attention of Churchmen should be drawn to the fact that the promoters of the agitation in favour of legalizing marriage with a wife's sister--instead of merely seeking, as before, liberty to contract such marriages in the registrar's office, and in Nonconformist chapels--propose now, in the Bill which passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on April 30, that the clergy should be compelled to allow the churches committed to their trust to be used for the solemnization of such marriages, condemned though they are by the voice of the Church.


Moved by Mr. W. E. T. Sharpe, and seconded by the Rev. E. T. Plummer (Vicar of St. Paul's, Bow Common)--

That, inasmuch as organization can only be effectually met by organization, this meeting calls on Churchmen and Churchwomen throughout the country to rally round the E. C. U., in order to support the President and Council in their efforts to prevent any legalization of marriages forbidden by God in Holy Scripture, and above all, their solemnization in our churches, as proposed in the present Bill.

Upon the lamented death of Mr. James Stewart McBean on July 24, 1889, after twenty-four years of faithful service, the President and Council appointed the Rev. Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., of Balliol College, Oxford, as Assistant-Secretary, to help in the general organization of the Union throughout the country, as well as in the work at the head office.

During the year 5,388 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 30,861. Two new District Unions and twelve Local Branches were formed. Total--District Unions, 57; Branches, 356.

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