Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



THE judgment of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Lincoln case on November 21, 1890, reduced all other questions to comparative insignificance. On five out of the eight charges the Archbishop decided absolutely in favour of the Bishop, viz.:--(1) The use of the Mixed Chalice; (3) the Ablutions; (4) the Eastward Position in the first part of the Service; (6) the Agnus Dei; (7) Altar lights. As to one charge--viz., (5), the Eastward Position during the Prayer of Consecration--his Grace laid down that the Manual Acts should be visible to the communicants properly placed. As to the two remaining charges--viz., (2) Mixture during the service, and (8) the Sign of the Cross--the decision was against the Bishop.

It is noteworthy that, in dealing with the five charges which he decided in the Bishop's favour, his Grace based his decision on historical grounds, and after examination of the customs and usages of the Church of England, both before and after the Reformation. In deciding against mixture during the Service, his Grace practically based his conclusion upon the famous Privy Council dictum that "omission is prohibition"--an argument which, if consistently applied, would have been fatal to the use of the Agnus Dei, which his Grace allowed. His Grace stated that all the Assessors agreed with the decision, with the exception of one, who dissented on one point only. No Monition was issued, and the Court declined to make any order as to costs. The Bishop of Lincoln at once conformed his practice to the Judgment, and, in a letter to his Archdeacons and Rural Deans, stated:

While retaining the opinion that a trial of a Bishop in Synod would be more in accordance with ancient precedent, and more satisfactory to the Church at large, I am most thankful to have at, ones been able conscientiously to comply with his Grace's judgment, and to discontinue those actions of which lie disapproves.

In the Annual Report the President and Council stated that they "adhere to the principle enunciated in the resolution passed unanimously at the General Meeting at Norwich on May 23, 1890, protesting against the claim made by the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise jurisdiction apart from his Synod over his Provincials."

An Appeal to the Privy Council was speedily lodged by the Prosecutors.

Judgment in the Bell Cox case was delivered by the House of Lords on August 5,1890. Five Law Lords, the Lord Chancellor, Lords Bramwell, Herschell, Macnaghten,. and Watson holding that, as a matter of civil right, Mr. Bell Cox, having been released from prison by the Court of Queen's Bench under a writ of Habeas Corpus, could not be re-imprisoned, as no Appeal lay from a writ of Habeas Corpus. Lords Morris and Field dissented. Subsequently Dr. Hakes recommenced proceedings, and applied to Lord Penzance on April 9, 1890, for an enforcement of the old Monitions dating back to August 19, 1885.

Two vital flaws were apparent in the Archbishop of Canterbury's Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill, 1891--viz., (1) the provision in Clause 2 that Deprivation ab officio should automatically take place, by the sole authority of Parliament, upon the sentence of a Secular Court; (2) the provisions for the alteration of the procedure of the Ecclesiastical Courts, by which the Chancellor, or his Deputy, was empowered to suspend a Priest, or to deprive him of the Cure of Souls. This subject was dealt with at the Third Ordinary Meeting on April 28, 1891, when the following resolutions were adopted:--

I. Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill.

Moved by the Rev. W. Crouch, seconded by Mr. Chas. Browne, Barrister-at-Law--

That the English Church. Union--whilst anxious that facilities may be provided for the Deprivation of Criminous Clerks--calls upon the Council to take such action in reference to the "Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill" as may seem best calculated to ensure that sentence of deprivation may only be executed on canonical principles.

II. Moved by the President--

That the following Petition be presented to both Houses of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury:--

To the Most Reverend the Archbishop, the Eight Reverend the Bishops, and the Reverend the Clergy of the Province of Canterbury in Convocation assembled.


That, inasmuch as the deprivation of a priest from the cure of souls is a purely spiritual action, and belongs solely to the jurisdiction of the Episcopate,

Your Petitioners, whilst they welcome any attempt to improve existing1 machinery for the removal of criminous clerks, humbly submit--in reference to the Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill now before Parliament--that suspension from, or deprivation of, the cure of souls must proceed from that Episcopal authority which alone has the power to confer or withdraw it.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your House to take such steps as may be necessary to protect in the respect the spiritual rights of the Church and the authority of the Episcopate.

Signed, on behalf of the members of the English Church Union.

HALIFAX, President.

The Petition was presented to the Upper House by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Ellicott), who expressed his agreement with it, and to the Lower House by the Rev. Canon Charles Gray, Vicar of Blyth.

The President and Council continued their active opposition to the Wife's Sister's Bill, and made another grant of £100 to the Marriage Law Defence Union.

Dr. Henry Parry Liddon died on September 9, 1890.

The First Ordinary Meeting was held in the Temperance Hall, Derby, on November 27, 1890, Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart., in the chair.

The following resolutions were adopted:--

I. The Death of Dr. Liddon, and the Proposed Memorial of his Life and Work.

Moved by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts, and seconded by the Rev. J. M. Dolphin (Vicar of Long Eaton)--

That this meeting of the E. C. U. desires to record its gratitude for the life and work of the Rev. Henry Parry Liddon, D.D., Canon of St. Paul's, and to express its sense of the great loss which the Church has sustained by his death; and this meeting further heartily supports and recommends to the members of the Union the Memorial which it is proposed to establish in connection with Dr. Liddon's name for assisting the theological studies of those preparing for Holy Orders in the University of Oxford.

II. The Maintenance of Definite Religious Teaching.

Moved by Sir Percival Heywood, seconded by the Rev. Prebendary Meynell--

That, in view of the extreme importance of maintaining definite Religious Instruction in every parish in England, this meeting would urge upon all members of the Union the necessity at the present time of vigorous and united action throughout the country for the promotion of this object.

III. The English Church Union as a Rallying Point for Counsel and United Action.

Moved by the Rev. H. B. M. Holden (Vicar of St. Leonard's, Newark), and seconded by Mr. Howard Paget (President of the South Staffordshire D. U.)--

That the needs of the Church of England at the present time demand that Churchmen should organize themselves more closely for counsel and united action; and that the English Church Union, with its broad and definite basis and its widespread organization, affords the requisite nucleus and rallying point for those who would thus help to maintain spiritual authority and the rights and liberties of the English Church.

It was also resolved, on the motion of Mr. Arthur Cox, J.P. (President of the Derbyshire D. U.), seconded by Mr. Harry Wyles (Chairman of the Nottingham Branch)--

Vote of Sympathy with Lord Halifax.

That this meeting desires to express its deep sympathy with Viscount Halifax, the President of the E. C. U., in the bereavement he has sustained in the death of his eldest son, and in his anxiety at the present time on account of the serious illness of Lady Halifax, which has prevented him from taking the chair to-day.

The Second Ordinary Meeting was held at the Church House, Westminster, on March 3, 1891, when the following resolution was adopted:--

The Brotherhood of St. Paul.

Moved by Mr. F. C. Holiday, seconded by Mr. Gr. C. E. Malim--

That this meeting heartily welcomes the Brotherhood now being formed in London under the sanction of the Bishop, and trusts that by God's Blessing it may become a great power for good in this important diocese.

The Third Ordinary Meeting was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel on April 28, 1891. The resolution and Petition respecting the Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill adopted thereat have already been referred to.

In order to promote the study of Church principles, a committee was appointed by the President and Council on January 27, 1891, to draft a scheme for classes, lectures, and examinations.

The sphere of the Press Committee, which had been formed on February 25, 1891, was considerably enlarged, and its title altered to "The Press and Parliamentary Committee."

A Standing Committee on Canon Law was also appointed on November 25, 1890.

Various alterations in, and additions to, the Rules of the Union were approved by the Union at the Second Ordinary Meeting on March 3, 1891.

The Annual Meeting was held at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on June 9, 1891.

The Annual Report was presented on this occasion to be "received," instead of, as usual, to be "adopted," in order to avoid the delay which would have been caused had Archdeacon Denison moved--as otherwise he would have done--an amendment referring to the omission from the Report of any mention of the book Lux Mundi. As it was, a debate arose on an amendment--"To omit the words 'be received' in order to insert the words 'be ordered to lie on the table'"--proposed by the Rev. E. Gr. Wood, who wished to guard himself from acquiescence in many of the statements concerning the character and results of the Archbishop's judgment, and spoke strongly against the attempt of Parliament to legislate for the Church in the matter of the Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill. He objected to the action of the Council and of the Union in discussing and endeavouring to improve the Bill, and urged that they ought to have said that there should be no such measure in existence. The amendment was rejected by 71 to 48.

The following resolutions were then adopted:--

The Maintenance of the Position of Voluntary Schools.

Moved by Mr. P. C. Holiday (in the absence of the Rev. the Warden of Keble College), and seconded by the Rev. R. T. Plummer (President of the East London D. U., in the absence of Mr. J. T. Taylor, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the "Church Education and Voluntary Schools Defence Union")--

That, whatever changes may be made with regard to Elementary Education, no interference should be allowed with the present system of management of Voluntary schools, in so far as it secures the fulness and freedom of religious instruction therein in accordance with the Faith of the religious body to which the school belongs.

A rider, proposed by the Rev. H. R. Baker, was then added:--

And that no such compromise as that of admitting Nonconformists and others to give religious instruction in Church of England schools call be accepted by this Union.

The Rev. C. H. V. Pixell then proposed, and Archdeacon Denison seconded, the following motion, of which notice had been given under Rule 76:--

Free Education.

That this Union regrets the adoption of Free Education as calculated to weaken still further the sacred tie between parent and child, and to injure, if not to destroy, the position of Voluntary schools.

The "previous question," moved by Mr. John Trevarthen, and seconded by the Rev. Dr. Cox (Rector of Barton-le-Street, Yorkshire), was carried by a large majority.

Renewal of Proceedings against the Rev. J. Bell Cox.

Moved by the Archdeacon of Bombay, seconded by the Rev. Prebendary Grier--

That the members of this Union desire to express to the Rev. J. Bell Cox, and the congregation of St. Margaret's, Prince's Road, Liverpool, the great regret with which they have heard of the fresh attempt to interfere with the services at that Church;

And they further desire to assure Mr. Bell Cox and his congregation of the continued support of the whole Union in their efforts to vindicate the liberties of the Church and the plain meaning of the Ornaments Rubric.

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

The Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill.

Moved by the Rev. W. Crouch (Delegate of the Cambridge D. U.), and seconded by Mr. John Shelly (Delegate of the East Cornwall D. U.)--

That this Union, believing that marriage with a wife's sister is forbidden by the law of the Universal Church, and is destructive of the idea of family life as understood among us for centuries, rejoices in the steadily diminishing number of those who support the Wife's Sister Bill with their votes in Parliament, and calls on all Churchmen to be careful not to relax their efforts in opposition to any such measure so long as the agitation in favour of it is continued.

The Church and the Divorce Acts.

Moved by the Rev. Prebendary Grier, and seconded by the Dean of Hobart (Dundas)--

That this Union do promote action for the repeal of the law which professes to compel the clergy to allow the use of their Churches for the marriage, and in some cases to solemnize the marriage, of a divorced person (whose husband or wife is still living), in defiance of the Church's teaching; and that Petitions to parliament and Memorials to Convocation be prepared for this purpose.

During the year 4,032 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 32,975. Seven new District Unions and sixteen Local Branches were formed. Total--District Unions, 63; Branches, 368.

Project Canterbury