Project Canterbury

English Church Ways Described to Russian Friends
in Four Lectures Delivered at St. Petersburg, in March, 1914

by W.H. Frere, D.D.
of the Community of the Resurrection.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1914.

Lecture I. The Anglican Communion

IN these lectures my task is to give some account of life in the Anglican Communion, and particularly in the English Church to which I belong. I am very grateful to the Society and to its Most Reverend president, the Archbishop of Finland for the invitation and for the opportunity of coming to learn more about the Russian Church. This is a feeling which is shared by very many of us in England and America and Africa and elsewhere. My own Community to which I belong--the Community of the Resurrection which has its Mother-House at Mirfield--was very glad to send me for this work. Our Bishop--the Bishop of Wakefield who was in Petersburg with the English visitors two years ago--is also very much interested: and before I left home he not only gave me his blessing for the work, but he wrote also a number of introductions for me to Russian friends whose acquaintance he had made when he was here. Our Metropolitan of All England also--the Archbishop of Canterbury--has sent with me a letter of recommendation, and a private letter cordially wishing Godspeed. These are a few proofs of the great interest which is developing in England about all that concerns the Russian Church. There is nothing official in all this. I am sent here simply because you have asked some one to come and give these lectures: so I come most gladly again to Russia. Already in two short visits I have learnt to love your country, your services, and your Church. So I must do my best with a task to which I am very unequal, and I ask your prayers that I may not by my unworthiness spoil a good work.

The Church of England is my home, and its members are my brothers. It is not easy to describe one's home and family. Sometimes one sees its faults too plainly: sometimes one magnifies its merits. It is hard to see things fairly or to describe them in their right proportion. Pray, therefore, for me that I may speak the truth in love: for St. Paul tells us that it is by so doing that we can grow up unto Him in all things, who is the Head of all the members, even Jesus Christ Himself. (Eph. iv. 15).

A description of Life in the Anglican Church, if it is to be understood, must go closely together with the remembrance of its history. I have not the theological learning of Fr. Puller, who lectured here two years ago, and for many points, I am glad to be able to refer to his book, which is now published in Russian, as giving better information than I can give. But I have been attracted for many years now by the study of church history and of liturgical science; and I have given to these what time I could find free in the intervals of a busy practical life. So I shall hope in the course of the lectures to take much notice of history and causes as well as of the present condition of the English Church.

First we must call to mind how long and how widely the East and the West have developed separately. When Diocletian divided the Roman Empire he did far more harm to the Christian Church than when he persecuted it. For thenceforward the two parts of the Empire went their own way in religious as well as in secular matters. The West ceased to understand the East; and the East failed to understand the West. Differences of temperament were magnified by this; and thence came endless harm.

Consequently nothing is more necessary than that East and West should again understand one another: and few things are more difficult. The difficulty is specially great for us British people. We are at the extreme edge of the West in temperament, as well as in geography. We have developed much practical ability, but have sacrificed much in doing so: we have as a nation little artistic feeling, little sense of the unseen, little faculty for symbolism and mysticism, a zeal for practical morality but little gift for theology.

In Russia you have much of these very things that we lack. Often what we admire does not seem to you to be of value; and the ways of thought and life--particularly in religion--which are natural to you, are unfamiliar to us, and difficult for us to understand. And yet we are being led, in the providence of God, towards the happiness of getting to know one another better. God be with us! and we will do our best, remembering that in the Body of Christ the members are not all alike, and all have not the same office, but yet each has its own peculiar part to play in the life of the whole.

Already when that fateful division of the Empire was made, England had received its first Christian teaching. A little time ago there were found in a buried Roman city in the South of England the foundations of a Christian church, which probably go back to that time. No British bishops were at the First General Council of Nicaea in 325, but eleven years earlier three of them had been at the important local Council of Aries (314), probably one from London, one from York, and one from elsewhere. These two facts together are significant: for they seem to forecast how entirely British Christianity was to be, for many centuries, rooted in the Western Church, and without any touch with the Eastern.

In the days of Diocletian, too, the first known martyrdoms in our country took place. St. Alban, the protomartyr of England, then died for Christ, and his name stands at the head of a goodly list of saints, martyrs and confessors. The old city of those days, where he was martyred, still exists, and is now called by his name; the great church of the martyr still stands, although the abbey was destroyed and the shrine was devastated during the troubles of the sixteenth century. In recent years (1877) it has become the cathedral church of a diocese, and so has reached a distinction which it never had before. Also many churches built in recent times have been dedicated to the protomartyr of England.

Thus the traditions of the English Church were founded, and thus they continue to-day, in faith and worship and in self-sacrifice. Since then our nation has combined many different elements. When the Roman Imperial Army was withdrawn, the heathen Teutons came pouring in, Angles and Saxons and Jutes especially. All these had to be assimilated and christianized. A good deal later came the Danes, also as heathen; and there were more martyrs for the faith, including a king and an archbishop. That was the last of heathen invasions, but other peoples came as Christians to add to the diversity of the English race, especially the Norman conquerors, and in later days at various times the Flemish immigrants. All this has had a lasting effect on England and English religion. It has filled England with groups of men, differing in race and temper and outlook: but also it has taught Englishmen, in spite of their differences, to live together in peace. In our politics great differences of party exist, but patriotism unites them all the same. Similarly in religious matters there is great variety; but a common Christian fellowship. Even between the English Church and Nonconformists, though the points of separation are wide and deep, there is a great and growing brotherhood. Also within the one English Church there are different tendencies and even parties; but these do not make different bodies. All parties in the English Church belong to the One Church, and acknowledge the same Faith, Ministry and Discipline. They can afford to differ as they do, about the smaller things, because they are united upon all fundamental points.

It is necessary to insist upon this, because very often it is misunderstood by those who are not familiar with Anglican affairs. There is no such thing as a High Church or a Low Church. There is only one English Church, but in it there are some parties. Some are said to belong to a High Church party, some to a Low Church party, and some to other parties. But these are only nicknames. Often the people to whom they are applied would disown them: and most members belong to no party.

At the same time it is true, that differences of opinion about secondary matters are more tolerated among us than in either of the other branches of the Holy Catholic Church. I have explained this partly by the history of our mixed race: and this explanation must not be forgotten. But we have also a traditional policy of inclusiveness which we have inherited from at least twelve centuries. Archbishop Theodore, the Greek monk from Tarsus, whom God sent to distant England in 668 to be one of our greatest spiritual fathers, fee first taught us this policy of theological and ecclesiastical charity, and others have carried it on. I do not claim that we have all that time followed it wisely: sometimes we have been too narrow, and sometimes again too lax: the mean is hard to hit. But the English Church to-day is the inheritor of this tradition. This must explain the way in which differences of outlook are combined by us in the one ecclesiastical body, a thing which many people find it very difficult to understand.

And if you ask how it is that we hold together, I would answer in this way. We hold together because there are the great fundamental doctrines and practices about which all agree, and the differences that are tolerated are secondary. These fundamental doctrines and practices the English Church has persistently refused to surrender: and this refusal becomes especially clear if we recall the origin of the Dissenting bodies who are separated from the Church. There are many sects in England, because the Englishman is not happy without some form of religion. If he disagrees with what he finds, he thinks that he must start some new plan. It is sad, no doubt, that people should break away from the Apostolic Church: but, if they do, it is far better that they should not become unbelievers or anti-religious, but should remain believers in Christ. That is what has happened. Those who would not go on in the fundamental doctrine and discipline of the Holy Apostolic Church have felt obliged to leave it. The English Church did not say to them, "You may behave and believe as you like, and yet may remain with us." On the contrary, it said "There are fundamental things which you must accept. If you accept them we give you as much liberty as we can--especially if you are lay people--in secondary matters. But you must accept the fundamental matters. Indeed, until the end of the eighteenth century the Church, at the bidding of the State more than for its own reasons, did its best to compel people to conform. It was too coercive, rather than too lax. Now, for more than two hundred years, the State law has permitted the sects. This plan has proved healthier both for Church and State: and it is more likely to lead to a reunion of English Christianity than a policy of coercion would be.

This ideal of ecclesiastical charity, which the English Church has inherited and has tried to follow, has not been a popular one. There are always those who say on one side "You are too narrow"; while those on the other side say "You are too lax." But when we are blamed from each side, we think that we are most likely to be right.

I am trying to explain all this rather fully, because I fancy it is not familiar to many here, as it is to us at home; and it is necessary for anyone who would understand our church life. If it is a different way from that to which you are accustomed, yet it is the way in which God has led us. It is an ideal that has had a great past tradition; and we Anglicans believe that it still has a future before it, and especially a part to play in the future reunion of Christendom, for which we all pray.

Even if you were to say, "It is a peculiarity; we, who are Orthodox, do not sympathize with it, nor do the Roman Catholics"; then we should reply, "Perhaps for that very reason we must keep to it, and we must bring it as our contribution to the future reunion of all branches of the One Church."

We must now consider an influence which has made for unity in the English Church, namely, its place from the first in the Western organization. Its earliest evangelists probably came from Gaul; but at the second founding of the Church, after the Teutonic invasions had heathenized the greater part of the country, the new evangelists came from Rome, and from Gregory the Great the Pope himself. He planned the lines on which the English Church has ever since been organized. For example, the reason why we have two provinces and two archbishops is because St. Gregory planned it so. The sending from Rome of St. Augustine and his companions stirred up the British Christians in the West of England, in Ireland, and in the Scottish island of Iona to join in converting the heathen conquerors. While the British monks did the best part of the evangelization, the Roman missionaries and their successors provided the sound schemes of Catholic organisation, and kept the Church, in its infant days, in close touch with Rome--the centre of Western Christianity. Later, after an interval during which England with its Church was out of touch with the rest of the world, it was brought again by the Norman conquest into close connexion with Rome: and it was reorganised on the lines of the great revival of Church life which took place in the West in the eleventh century. The arrangements for dioceses and parishes, which then were made, form the basis of our present arrangements. The Church legal system of that epoch is what still in a modified form survives among us. Indeed, so far as organization goes there is no part of the West that retains so much of the mediaeval system as England does.

You will bear in mind, then, that just at the time when the division between the East and West was hardening into a formal breach of intercommunion, we in England were being reorganised on very characteristically Western lines. That reorganisation largely subsists as the basis of our present organisation. To you, then, we must seem very Roman in our ways: that is inevitable.

The basis of our theology is as conspicuously Western as the basis of our organization. Not only do we look back to St. Gregory as our spiritual father but behind him we look to St. Leo in the fifth century, St. Augustine in the fourth, and St. Cyprian in the third as shaping the inherited form of our theological thought. Again, in later mediaeval days we have had teachers of our own in England, who contributed a great deal to the theology of the West. Among them were two of our own Archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc (1089), the defender of Eucharistic doctrine against Berengar, and his successor, St. Anselm (1109), a leading teacher about the Nature of God and a leading exponent of the mystery of the Atonement. Then began the period of the scholastic doctors, and among them again some of our English divines were prominent.

Our theology, therefore, like our organisation, is inevitably Western in its basis. I am not saying that this is a good thing. It clearly is not; for it cannot be a good thing to be one-sided. I am merely stating the fact, as one that must be borne in mind by you in thinking of the English Church. And speaking about ourselves I may add that one of the reasons why now, and in earlier days, we have tried to know more of the Eastern Church, is because we wish to be free of one-sidedness: and to enter into a wider and fuller appreciation of that common catholic and orthodox faith, which we all alike hold, though we look at it from different angles according to our different history and capacity.

If we love God, we are bound also to love one another: and it is love of God and man which will bring back union to the Church of Christ. This loving desire for unity is moving very strongly among us, and, indeed, all through the world today. As is said in the Psalm, "The Lord, the most mighty God has spoken, and called the world from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same"; so God is now calling us to mutual knowledge, friendship and love, at the foot of His Throne.

But if we are so Western by tradition, and so closely bound up with Rome, why have we revolted? I must say a word or two about this question; and then I think I can draw the opening observations to a close and come to speak more in detail about our actual church life.

I need not say much, because the reasons, which have led us to revolt from the Roman obedience, are the same reasons which have always led you to refuse to accept the claims of Papal supremacy. Fundamentally we stand upon the same ground as you. We do not find those claims to be justified by Holy Scripture nor by the tradition of the Church as interpreted by the Great Councils and the Holy Fathers of the undivided Church. But the way in which the English Church has been brought to share this common ground with you needs a little explanation for those who are not familiar with the Church history of the West. The papacy has at times rendered immense service to the Church: but that fact does not at all, of necessity, justify the claims made on its behalf. After the period of the great papal development in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, came two centuries in which the West gravely questioned whether that development was justifiable. In its simplest form the matter resolved itself into the question whether the Pope was, or was not, superior to a General Council. The question was debated in a series of Western Councils: and so far as Councils were concerned, the Pope ultimately won the battle. But the victory was not a real one, as the sixteenth century showed. First one part and then another part of Western Europe revolted, partly against the theory of the papal supremacy, and partly against the practical abuses of that day which seemed to be inextricably bound up with the theory. England, which had long felt deeply about those practical abuses, seized an opportunity to revolt. The opportunity was given by a private and unsavory personal quarrel of a bad English king (Henry VIII.): but the causes lay deep down, while the movement had long been maturing under the surface. They were partly theological, partly practical, partly national. There was bad mixed with good in them: but they were effective: and except for a brief reaction of 5 years under Queen Mary, the revolt was lasting and permanent.

Consider, then, what was involved in our English Reformation. We had not, like the Eastern Church, a tradition of resistance to the papal claims. We had to break with our tradition. That involved a violent revolution of feeling; and changes followed that were hasty and too sweeping. To me the Reformation seems like a surgical operation. Ir was dangerous, but it was necessary: it involved the loss of much--even of life blood--but that was inevitable. It has won a new lease of life: but there was needed a long time in which to recover from the effects of the operation, and to get back to strength and a more vigorous health. God in His mercy has given us in these last four hundred years a steady though slow recovery. We have had our advances; and then we have had relapses again. But the church life of to-day as I shall try to describe it to you is, thank God, in the midst of a great spell of recovery that has lasted without much relapse for the last eighty years or more. May God prolong it to us that we may accomplish much more yet, for our own good and for His honour and glory.

But the English Reformation was more than a revolt against the claims of the papacy. It was also a revolt against some strong tendencies of the mediaeval Western system of doctrine and practice.

i. The doctrine had suffered from the intellectual movement called scholasticism, which depended overmuch upon philosophy and Aristotelian conceptions, and therefore came to misrepresent the Christian Faith. It was a fine attempt in its way, that attempt of the scholastics to try to bring all knowledge into order: but it was bound to fail. They were saying, like the men of Babel, "Let us build a tower, the top of which shall reach heaven." But God destroyed again the half-built tower: and ever since the West has been divided into varying theological tongues. Those men wanted to explain too much: to have no mysteries. So they laid down the law about everything; and when they did not know they guessed, and then tried to impose their guesses on the Church. Think, for example, of their scholastic attempts to explain the mystery of the Eucharist: or to map out exactly the world beyond the grave. Against this scholastic medievalism we rebelled in England. It was difficult to guide the rebellion, and we know now that we did not always discriminate well; but we tried to come back to the biblical and patristic forms of doctrine, rightly handling the word of Truth--as St. Paul says. And we still are being guided by the Holy Spirit, we believe, according to our Lord's promise--He shall guide you into all truth. 2. Let me give another brief instance of the nature of the revolt. It was also a rebellion against the legalism that had crept into Western church organisation. The spirit of law has always been strong in the Western Roman Empire. There was much that was fine in the Roman conception of law, but when it usurped a wrong place in the life of the church, much harm came of it. For as St. Paul says, "We are not under law, but under grace."

Think what became in the Middle Ages of the Doctrine of Merit. A system, almost a tariff, was built up, indicating the value or efficacy of this thing and that. Out of this system grew the misuse of prayers and masses for the dead: the formal allotting of the merits of saints and the traffic in indulgences. Less conspicuous than these, but very pervasive in many ways among the careless and halfhearted people was the subtle perversion of religion as a whole into a systematic way devised for the extorting of something from God. I do not say that this was universal: far from it. The mediaeval legalism, in its full form, as it was then, and also as it survives now (though in a far less degree) in the Roman Catholic system, was a parasite, growing on the true tree, rather than anything individual. It was an excrescence to be got rid of, not a disease infecting the boughs and the trunk. The vital power of grace went on; in the free life of grace holy souls lived fruitfully and died: and most conspicuously they do so still. But even so, the rebellion against legalism was needed. Roman Catholicism itself, by the Council of Trent, did much to bring about reform, and cut away the parasitic growths. But we in England felt that more drastic reform was needed: so we have sought to bring our branch to a healthier state, where the flow of divine grace to the soul of the believer is not exploited for the benefit of the ecclesiastical system: and the breath of the Holy Spirit is more recognized as blowing where He listeth.

In this revolt others took part beside the English Church. Because of their protest, all of them are sometimes classed together as "protestant." The Anglican Communion does not refuse the term "protestant," if it is properly understood--that is to say, if it is limited to its proper meaning as describing those who revolted from the papal allegiance. But the word is often misunderstood. It is taken to imply views, which may be held by Lutherans, Calvinists, and some bodies of protestants, but are certainly not those of Anglican catholics. For we Anglicans have remained catholics, though we ceased to be Roman catholics. Many English catholics, therefore, dislike the word protestant, because it is so much misunderstood.

At best this word does not make a valuable classification. It describes what is accidental, more than what is fundamental. For fundamentally we remain one with Roman Catholics and Orthodox in the Faith, the Church, the Ministry, and the Sacraments. We do not share in the peculiarities of the protestant sects; only in the fact that we, too, like them, have refused to continue to accept the papal claims, and some of the corruptions which have been intimately or persistently associated with them.

i. Consider, then, this peculiar and unique form of the revolt from Rome which is shown in the Anglican Church. When others were disowning the apostolic ministry, and establishing ministers, or pastors, or superintendents, instead of the orders of bishop, priest and deacon, the English Church clung through thick and thin to the apostolic ordinance. This was a difficult task, and brought with it much mockery and slander from both sides. But the event has justified the action. The four provinces and forty bishops who held out in two little islands in the sixteenth century are now represented by many organised provinces, besides many single missionary dioceses, and an episcopate of nearly 300 members distributed throughout the world; and still, thank God, the number and the spread increases.

2. When other bodies were overthrowing the conception and tradition of the Church, and trying to frame a new Christian faith by giving up the creeds and making arbitrary and novel deductions from the Bible, the English Church saw that there could not be fruit without branches, trunk and roots. It, therefore, sought to reform its doctrine by manuring the roots, by lopping off dead boughs, and by pruning the branches. In other words, it made its Reformation by the sifting out of the best church traditions; and by the renewed study and guidance of the Fathers it worked back to the inspired source of written revelation the Holy Scriptures themselves; and it refreshed itself from that fountain by a doctrine that has flowed down the Christian centuries along the clear channels of orthodox tradition.

3. When others, having overthrown the ministry, were also destroying the sacraments and the liturgical worship of the Church, our English Fathers preserved for us in our Prayer Book a purified and simplified liturgical tradition. The amount that was here sacrificed was very considerable. For the Latin mediaeval rites were very rich and elaborate: and these had to be much cut down to make them simple enough for all the faithful to understand and follow. But the sacrifices were for the most part justified; for they have provided us English people with rites which are the familiar property, not merely of the clergy or of the educated, but of the lay people of all ranks. They have been the solace and support of our English Christianity in many a dark day and in many an outlandish corner of the world. It is no small part of the recovery of these last eighty years that these services are now restored to a beauty and dignity which they had often previously lacked: and they are being supplemented and enriched in countless ways by a renewed enthusiasm for the beauty of holiness in divine worship.

4. When others were discarding altogether the principle of authority in religion, as a revulsion from the hard tyranny of the religious authority of the middle ages, the English Church, at the Reformation, set itself to recover a better ideal of spiritual authority, instead of discarding the principle. This again was a very difficult task. On the one side there were the papalists, saying that there could be no other source of such authority but the papacy. On the other hand the innovators were proclaiming the right and duty of every man to judge for himself solely in matters of religion, and to accept no direction from the Church or from its authorities. Both of these parties derided the English Church: and they continue to do so still. But in spite of this, we have found a way to maintain a principle of religious authority without destroying individual judgment and responsibility. We see a real authority inherent in the Body of the Church Universal, expressed in different degrees by its representatives, pre-eminently by the Great Fathers and Doctors, and finally by the General Councils. This authority is exterior to the individual, and is therefore able to be a real guide to his heart and mind and conscience: and yet it is not alien from him, for it is the whole society to which he belongs. It is a sort of greater self, than his own self, in which he lives as a member, in which he bears his share, and from which, as the Body of Christ, he draws his supply of grace and life. Such a strong, but gentle, principle of spiritual and ecclesiastical authority was well worth fighting for against the more attractive but less real plans of papal autocracy or individualistic anarchy. It has been hard to maintain this principle, and we have not always succeeded in doing so: but it is our principle.

I have tried to bring out specially clearly these four characteristics of the English separation from the rest of the Western Church and from the sects in the sixteenth century. First the Apostolic Ministry is maintained; secondly, the Creeds remain the standard of Faith; thirdly, the liturgical services are preserved but in a revised form; and fourthly, the principle of church authority is recovered in a non-papal shape. These are characteristics that have affected the life of the English Church ever since. They brought her into a strange isolation in the early days: and our Fathers since the Reformation shewed no little courage and faith in maintaining this course, alone. It is therefore a happy thing for us to-day (as it has been sometimes even in earlier days) to turn eastwards, and to be sure that you will sympathize with the efforts of the English Church to preserve such traditions and principles faithfully. There have been from time to time powerful groups in England, who have wished to make us discard them: and even sometimes there have been people of our own who have been ready to do so. But, thank God, they are preserved.

Sympathy upon such fundamental points will also make it easier for me to explain, and for you to understand, some of those differences of custom between us and you, which have come about through the difference in history and temperament of which I have already spoken. To some of these points of difference, we, with our Western tradition and temperament, naturally hold very fast. But there are many points of difference where that is much less the case: and some points in which the process of recovery after our "operation" is bringing us steadily nearer to your own position. Each of these three classes will be illustrated in the course of the description which I can now at last begin, of Life in the English Church.

The English Church is fundamentally episcopal. Each diocese is governed by its bishop. In the settled places such as England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, South Africa and so on, there is also the provincial organization under archbishops and metropolitans. In missionary fields this has not yet been established. Corresponding to the episcopal government there are councils or synods--diocesan and provincial.

Our Anglican bishops also, from all parts of the world, meet in conference at intervals. Their conferences are not councils. The bishops only meet thus to discuss and advise; they do not legislate, or pass canons as the synods do. They have no such authority. Of course any diocese or province has an authority of its own. It is everywhere a real unit with some powers of self-government. But the Anglican communion is not a unit: it does not act alone. It wishes only to act in union with the whole ecumenical church. Beyond its own limits, it looks to a General Council as the final authority of the Church. Therefore its own joint meetings, though important, are purely consultative.

The powers of self-government of the Church in England itself are much restricted, owing to its connexion with the State; in Scotland, Ireland and the Colonies and so forth the Church is much freer. This English connexion is a legacy of mediaeval days; many therefore are unwilling to break with it, and prefer to put up with the restrictions which it brings. In those days the connexion also brought some privileges with it: but very few of them survive now. Consequently the question of the right relation of our ancient Church, with the State, in its modern and much altered condition, is one that is now being much discussed among us.

The Church receives no revenues from the State: it has its own possessions which have come to it during the last thirteen hundred years. A considerable part of the income comes from tithes: there are also lands: and each parish as a rule has a house and some land belonging to it for the priest. Most of this is very old endowment; but some of it is of recent origin. These revenues have been diminished, and a good deal was taken away in the sixteenth century: but what remains is considerable, and to a certain extent it is redistributed to suit present needs of the Church. But more than half of its income every year comes not from old benefactions, but from present subscriptions and gifts.

It is now proposed to disestablish the four Welsh dioceses, and to take away the greater part of their income. The sects are strong in Wales: and it is quite possible that in the present parliament this plan will be accomplished. Then the Church will be obliged to depend still more upon the free-will offerings of the people. Meanwhile a strong resistance is being made by many, who wish to maintain the connexion of the Church with the State and by others who think the present proposals unjust.

I have thought it well to say a little about these financial and political questions because they are now very prominent. But the spiritual position of the Church stands independent of these temporal things: and it is that which interests us most. I shall therefore spend the greater part of the time on that in the succeeding lectures. In order, however, to clear the ground, we will end to-day with a brief survey of the general ecclesiastical organization of the Church, as it is in England at the present time.

There are two ecclesiastical provinces in England, and their metropolitans, as you know, are the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The number of dioceses has in recent years been considerably increased, in order to meet the great increase of population. Three new ones were formed a few weeks ago and this brings up the number to forty, twenty-nine in the province of Canterbury, and eleven in the province of York. This number is not sufficient. A bishop cannot be a real Father in God to three or four millions of souls, such as there are in some of the present dioceses. Other sub-divisions will probably soon be made: but the process has to go on rather slowly, since a large sum must first be raised in order to provide the income for the new bishop.

Meanwhile much of the diocesan organization is not so efficient as it ought to be; and the bishop is greatly overworked. In many dioceses the diocesan bishop has other bishops, called "suffragans," to help him. For London there are three diocesan bishops who are assisted by six or more suffragans. But this is not satisfactory as a permanent arrangement. The bishop must know his flock. He should know his own clergy intimately: he should come into contact with all his people singly at least once in their lives, when they come before him to be confirmed. He should be the fountain of all good works: every operation in the Church should profit by his prayers and his blessing. He should rule also as a personal ruler, representing the authority of Christ in doctrine and in discipline. At his consecration he has promised to drive away error, to punish wrong-doing, and to set forward quietness, love and peace among all men. These are some of the ideals of the bishops: and our Fathers in God labour faithfully and heroically at their task in spite of the overwhelming size of their charge.

Besides the suffragan bishops, who help them in the performance of the episcopal actions, there are many others subordinated to them. At the principal church of the diocese, called the "cathedral," because the bishop has his throne therein, there is grouped a body of councillors in the Dean, Archdeacons and Canons, who form the staff of the Church, in one or other way. This is the Mother Church of the diocese: it is meant to be a model for the rest, and a centre of diocesan life.

The archdeacons are in priest's orders and have a great position. Each of them is responsible for the oversight, under the bishop, of one section of the. diocese; and under them there is further organization, which unites the parishes into groups of a dozen or more, under the presidency of a rural dean. These are personal officials: and there are also bodies subsidiary to the bishop. He calls his clergy together in synod or conference, and summons lay representatives from the parishes as well: and the archdeacon does the same at intervals in his own district. Also it is through such an organization that the bishop officially holds a visitation of his diocese, normally every third year; thus he can assure himself either by enquiries, to which the clergy and lay officials return answers, or else by personal investigation, that all is in order, and that there is no neglect or scandal in the diocese.

As church life has grown in reality, and as dioceses have multiplied and become more workable, so all this has led to greater vigour--evangelistic, pastoral, and devotional.

As the dioceses have multiplied so have the parishes, ever since the Anglo-Saxon days (ninth or tenth century) when they first began to be formed. At present the biggest dioceses contain about 600 parishes: an ordinary small one contains two or three hundred. In population a parish may vary from one hundred to thirty (or even occasionally forty) thousand. We always count the whole population: because though some may belong to Roman Catholicism, or other forms of Dissent, we reckon ourselves really responsible for them, because we are the Church of the country.

This lecture is in many ways introductory to the rest. I have taken up most of it with some general observations which I hope may make it easier to understand all the rest. And at the end I have given some statistical account of the position in England itself, as regards dioceses and parishes. Next time I hope to begin with a description of parochial life, and to sketch the organization, worship and religion as it meets an ordinary parishioner in his parish.

Project Canterbury