Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



ON August 2, 1893, the judgment of the Privy Council in the Lincoln case was delivered, affirming the Archbishop's decision in every particular.

In view of the approaching General Election the President and Council sent a letter to all members of the Union, in which, without suggesting that any support or opposition should be given to any political party as such, electors were urged to request all candidates to withhold their support from any proposals for (1) depriving the managers of schools belonging to any religious body of the control of such schools; (2) legalising marriage with a deceased wife's sister; (3) depriving the episcopate of their existing veto on proceedings under the Church Discipline and P. W. R. Acts; (4) depriving the Church of her property.

Arrangements were made for holding such an Examination as had been recommended by the Educational Work Committee, and the subject chosen was "The Royal Supremacy: what it is; and what it is not."

At the First Ordinary Meeting held at the Westminster Palace Hotel on January 17, 1893, the following resolutions were adopted:--

Religious Instruction in Board Schools.

Moved by Mr. C. L. A. Skinner (President of the North Wilts D. U.), and seconded by the Rev. G. W. Gent (Principal of St. Mark's College, Chelsea)--

(1) That the Council be requested to consider the working of the Cowper-Temple Clause, and the character of the religious teaching in Board schools.

(2) That it is desirable to obtain further information as to the manner in which religious education is provided for in Canada.

A letter was consequently sent by the President to all the officers of District Unions and Branches, pointing out how important it was that Churchmen should inform themselves as to the character of the religious instruction, if any, given in Board schools, which are maintained so largely at their cost, both because of the duty Churchmen owe to the children taught in those schools, and because the Voluntary schools, in which alone religious instruction can be fully given, are in many places in danger through lack of funds, particularly since the issue of the recent Circular of the Education Department (No. 321), of being superseded by Board schools. The Branches were therefore requested to report whether they considered it desirable

(1) That Churchmen should demand the repeal of the Cowper-Temple Clause in the Education Act of 1870, which forbids the use in a School Board of any "religious catechism or religions formulary which is distinctive of any religious denomination"; (2) that efforts should be made to obtain the alteration of the law, so-as to enable such parents as desired it to require that their children attending Board schools should be taught the Church Catechism by properly accredited Church teachers; (3) that Churchmen should be allowed to allocate their rates (or a portion of them) to Church, schools.

Information was also sought on the following points--.

(a) Do the rules of the Board (or Boards) in your district as to the selection of teachers prohibit (as those of the London School Board do) the consideration of the aptitude of such teachers forgiving religious instruction?

(b) Do the Board rules allow the Apostles' Creed to be taught in the schools? If so, is it taught?

(c) In dealing with passages in the Bible which refer to JESUS CHRIST or the Holy Spirit, are the teachers allowed to explain definitely, and do they generally so explain:--


2. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity?

A large number of Branches replied, and the replies were submitted to a Committee appointed to examine and report on the subject.

A Special Meeting was held at St. Augustine's Hall, Stepney, on March 2, 1893, for the purpose of bringing the work and the claims of the Union before Churchpeople in East London, when the following resolution was unanimously adopted at a crowded meeting:--

Moved by the President, and seconded by Mr. S. Frankland Hood (President of the Lincolnshire (North) D. U.), and supported, amongst others, by the Lord Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney (Douglas)--

The Work and Claims of the Union.

That the English Church Union--uniting as it does clergymen and lay communicants, irrespective of differences of politics, rank, or station, in defence of the doctrine and discipline of the Church, and the rights and liberties of her members--has a strong claim on the support of Churchmen by reason of its services in the past, its work at the present time, and the great need which there is for its continued existence.

The Second Ordinary Meeting was held at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on April 18, 1893, when the following resolution was adopted:--

The Proposal to deprive the Church Endowments in Wales of Its Endowments

Moved by Mr. H. C. Richards, Barrister-at-law, and seconded by the Rev. G. H. Ross-Lewin (Vicar of Benfieldside)--

That this meeting of the English Church Union denounces the proposal to deprive the Church in Wales of its endowments, as contemplated by the Suspensory Bill now before Parliament; and urges the members of the Society to do all in their power to defend a measure so unjust in itself, and so disastrous to the moral and spiritual welfare of the country.

In compliance with a request from the President, on behalf of the Council, many meetings were held through the instrumentality of the Branches in various localities to protest against the Suspensory Bill, and the following Petition to the House of Commons was extensively signed by members and others:--

That a Bill, entitled the Established Church (Wales) Bill, has been introduced into your Honourable House with the object of depriving all who shall hereafter be appointed to any bishopric, dignity, or benefice in public patronage of the English Church in Wales or Monmouthshire, of any vested interest in the emoluments thereof, pending the production of a complete measure of disestablishment and disendowment for that part of the Church.

That your Petitioners consider this proposal to deprive Churchmen in Wales of the endowments left them by their forefathers for the maintenance of public worship and the ministrations of the Church, as contemplated by the Suspensory Bill in question, most unjust in its principle, and certain to be injurious in its consequences to the moral and spiritual welfare of the country. They therefore humbly pray your Honourable House to reject the said Bill.

In the Annual Report the President and Council, in view of the widespread misapprehensions prevailing on the subject of Fasting Communion, as evidenced by recent correspondence in the public press, called attention to the following statement:--

Fasting Communion.

1. Those who insist most on the fast before Communion do not mean that there is in any sense any inherent, natural, spiritual, or even possible or contingent irreverence in the Holy Sacrament coming into contact with ordinary food previously taken. Such an idea would be repudiated by all instructed Christians as savouring of Manichaeism.

2. Neither is it meant that, considered per se and apart from any question of Church authority or ecclesiastical law, canon, or custom, there could possibly be any sin in communicating after taking ordinary food.

3. Neither is it meant that there is any Divine command in the matter.

4. But it is meant--

a. That to receive Holy Communion fasting is, as stated by the Bishops in their recent Report on the subject, the ancient Catholic rule, established by universal custom, and witnessed to by numerous Conciliar decrees.

b. That the Synods of the English Provinces (even if they had power to do so) have never abrogated this law, but rather have declared that they reject all changes "which secretly strike at some established doctrine or laudable practice of the whole Catholic Church of Christ" (Preface to the Book of Common Prayer); and, the said practice of fasting Communion being such "a laudable practice of the whole Catholic Church of Christ," it follows by implication that, far from the Church of England having at present no law on the subject, the English Synods in 1662 re-affirmed the obligation of that custom.

5. Lastly, it is not meant to condemn as guilty of disobedience those who are in ignorance of the law, or who conscientiously, though, as instructed members of the Church must believe, mistakenly, do not consider themselves bound by any law on the subject, as not believing in the existence of such law.

Two Members of the E. C. U. were amongst the six selected readers and speakers on Canon Law at the Folkestone Church Congress, viz., the Revs. C. J. Ridsdale and G. Bayfield Roberts.

At the Annual Meeting at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on June 15,1893, the following resolutions were adopted:--

The Welsh Suspensory Bill.

Moved by the Lord Bishop of St. Asaph (Edwards), and seconded by the Rev. Canon J. W. Knox-Little--

That this Meeting--in support of the resolutions adopted on May 16 by the Archbishops, Bishops, and clergy, and lay representatives from all the Archdeaconries in England and Wales--pledges itself to do everything in its power to resist the measure now before Parliament dealing with the position and endowments of the Church in Wales, or any other measure for the secularization of property once dedicated to the service of Almighty God.

A vote of respectful thanks to the Bishops of Gloucester and Bristol and Bath and Wells for their works on Old Testament criticism was moved by the Rev. H. R. Baker, and seconded by Major-General Barnett, but was withdrawn after the previous question had been moved by Canon Carter on behalf of the Council. The feeling of the Council was that the motion, for the approval of certain books, condemned others by implication, and so was inconsistent with the position which they had formally taken up upon the question of Biblical criticism.

At the Evening Meeting the following resolution was adopted:--

Religious Instruction in Elementary Schools.

Moved by the Rev. H. Montagu Villiers (Vicar of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge), and seconded by Mr. F. O. Holiday:--

That, inasmuch as it is of supreme importance that the children of Christian parents should receive definite religious instruction from Christian teachers in the elements of the Christian Faith, this meeting insists--

(1) That the maintenance of Voluntary schools in which the Christian Faith shall continue to be definitely taught is an imperative and increasing need at the present time.

(2) That, as the great majority of the scholars in the Board schools are the children of Christian, parents, who have a right to demand that proper provision should be made in those schools for instructing their children in the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, no settlement of the question of religious teaching in Board schools can be acquiesced in which does not--

(a) Guarantee to the children of members of the Church of England compelled to attend such schools the teaching, by members of that Church, of the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles' Creed, and of their duty to God and their neighbour, as summed up in the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments; and does not--

(b) Admit a similar provision for the religious instruction of the children of members of other religious bodies in all cases where their parents desire it.

During the year 3,082 persons joined the Union, bringing up the total to 34,761. Two new District Unions and 12 Local Branches were formed. Total--District Unions, 64; Local Branches, 377.

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