Project Canterbury








Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013


RELIGIOUS unity ought to be recognised as having three sides, or as made of three elements. (1) It implies ultimately a unity among men—that is, amongst a number of individuals; but (2) it requires a unity among the systems by which individuals are grouped and divided; since (3) these systems are founded upon different principles.

To save description the main principles may be distinguished by the two controversial names of (i) Catholic, and (ii) Protestant, roughly represented by the Anglican and Free Church systems.

The representative effect of the systems is, however, confused or wholly lost in the multitude of cross divisions. Either set of principles may be found to be held, or may be found to be rejected, by individuals or by parties on either side; they may be held and carried out ardently, or they may be held nominally without any attempt to carry them out consistently, in every possible combination.

It is not unnatural that people in a hurry to get something done—and we are all in a hurry—turn impatiently from the confusion of principles. After all, the primary facts seem clear enough,—the Anglican and Free Church systems are no doubt superficially different, but both produce approximately the same result, and are equally effective. Apart from the few extremists on both sides, if we can only agree to this recognition, religious peace and unity lie plain before us.

The probable consequences of this course we may leave for the moment. The immediate and present objection is that its primary facts are not true. It is true that the [iii/iv] Anglican and Free Church systems can be, and often are, worked to a superficial resemblance. Even when that is the case, it passes the utmost bounds of comprehension how any one can look at the patent and obvious results of the two systems and not see the immense difference in the people they gather, in their effects upon character and outlook, in the external activities they produce. This easy phrase, "It's all the same," is it more than a hasty escape from the puzzle of differences which we all know are there but which we do not know how to explain?

Certainly each system has its own strength and its own effectiveness, but of very different kinds and lying in very different directions. They are the consequences of the fundamental truth of its own special principles. But each system has also its own weakness and its own failures, as the consequence of the absence of those principles which it rejects or ignores.

It is not even true, therefore, that either system does well enough. If I say both are doing badly enough, I am only repeating what is universally admitted of the weakness of Christianity everywhere to-day.

And the present weakness of Christianity is not due merely to religious strife. In England that might account for a great deal, but, in those countries in which one type or the other is so dominant that no practical sense of conflict exists, things are not really any better.

I could make this plain enough, if I could show explicitly what were the special powers and what were the special failings on each side. I have hinted at them below in general terms. It could be done, I believe it ought to be done, much more precisely, but it would only involve a storm of denials and of self-defence. The way of Reunion is not blocked by the opinions of a few extremists. It is blocked by the immense difficulty the mass of us finds in confessing our need of help and the insufficiency of our own position and opinions.

The position I have tried to set out sums itself up in this way: There are roughly two forms of Christianity. We may treat them in two ways. We may affirm that one is right and the other wrong. But history is against us, at [iv/v] least this far that in four centuries neither has been able to make good its position against the other. On the other hand, we may admit that each has hold of a part of the truth. It follows that Christianity is being taught in separate fragments. And again, the history and the consequences of four centuries show that neither fragment can do its work adequately in isolation from the other.

The whole object of this pamphlet is to set out the need and to consider the possibility of a reconciliation of principles—that is, of faith. A mere unification of systems without a reconciliation of faith will do nothing for the world, and even in England it will produce only a reassortment of parties, with an increased bitterness and new schisms. Ignoring extremists is a very popular policy. Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and a certain Newman, were all considered rather extreme men, but, as it happened, they believed something, and Christianity paid a heavy price for trying to ignore them. Are we all suffering so much just now from clearness and consistency of belief that we can afford to repeat the experiment?

June 1, 1920.




(i) THE external or organised Unity of the Church is more than a practical convenience, or a moral requirement. From the beginning God created men for mutual help that those who should be made one through the Blood of Christ might live in one through the operation of the Holy Spirit.

(ii) The gifts of the Spirit are given to men diversely but in trust for all, and no man may separate himself from the common fellowship in the enjoyment of his own gifts.

(iii) The right of free association within the Church for the exercise of special gifts is a necessity both of Christian freedom, and not less of the adequate development of what is given.

(iv) Without questioning God's leading in past days, such Associations or Denominations ought to exist within the organised unity of the Church, and not as separate Churches, for these special gifts are not separately sufficient for the life of the soul, but each has its place in relation to others.

(v) True unity can only be reached by a widening of faith through the inclusion or sharing of convictions, as each learns to see the value of what God has taught to others. It cannot be gained by narrowing our faith—that is, by exclusion, by asking men to surrender or even hold back what God has given them to see. Many things, which at one time we have felt forced to deny, may yet prove to have a necessary place in the whole scheme of God's dealings.

(vi) Unity by understanding and learning cannot be created by a scheme of agreements: it can only be attained as men are enabled to follow the illumination of the Spirit. But we have to fear lest in our necessary hesitation and [vii/viii] criticism we make the narrowness of our own judgment the measure of God's working.

(vii) Our first approach must be in opening the doors to the contemplation of at least the possibility of truths which are at present strange to us. This is especially necessary where a system of separation, at first intended as a safeguard, has by narrowing the opportunities of spiritual experience become in fact a system of exclusion and negation.

NOTE.—In a private letter Dr. Selbie remarks,—"I sometimes wonder if it will be possible to let the two types of ministry remain side by side without prejudice in the hope that further mutual knowledge and experience would lead to something better." I have asked leave to quote the passage as expressing the ideal I have tried to consider here.

I am also allowed to say that Dr. Selbie entirely accepts the above statement of the Principles of Reunion. I need not add that he is in no way responsible for the use or application I have made of them.



§ 1. Unity amongst believers is not a thing we can rush into upon a paper formula. It is something into which we can only grow, something we seek to "approach." At present there is an insufficiently clear understanding of what unity means or involves, and, unless we do understand, premature steps may only increase our difficulties and divisions. Our first and most vital necessity is to consider: first, what we mean by "the Church"; and, secondly, in what its unity consists. Only then can we ask usefully how its unity may be reached.

The use of the word "Church" is confused by ambiguities and the difficulties of definition. We may not agree in our opinions, but we must neither obscure our agreements nor hide our disagreements by differences in the use of words.

§ 2. There are two questions: (1) the question of the Church, and (2) the question of Unity. In regard to both the actual position is plain:

(1) The question of the Church.—Some, or most, Christians are joined in the membership of an outward, material, visible, institutional, or organised body. But some are not, and of those not in membership, (a) some long to join, but are deterred by various difficulties; (b) but others do not think membership to be necessary or even important.

What now do we mean by the "Church"? [1/2] If by the Church we mean an organised fellowship, then those who are not in membership are not in the Church in the full or effective sense, though they might be in a technical sense, as lapsed members. We might, however, include (a) those who were with the fellowship in spirit, just as men refused for service might be called "soldiers in spirit," though they were not actually soldiers; (b) those, however, who do not believe in any organised body could not easily be called members of the Church even in spirit.

On the other hand, there are some who apparently use the word "Church" as simply equivalent to "Christian," without any reference to institutional membership. All the above classes would then be included as equally "in the Church." Merely as a matter of wording, it is less confusing to use Christian for those who love and believe in Christ, and to restrict the word Church to the idea of an institution of some kind, and we may then distinguish between actual and spiritual membership.

(2) The question of Unity.—In the same way, there are some who believe that the Church is essentially one organised body, but (a) while some believe greatly in the necessity of unity, even though they do not see where to find it, (b) others accept the separation of bodies as a principle. So far as the Unity of the Church is concerned, we may draw the same distinction: (a) those who long for unity may be said to be already in the unity in spirit, even if they are conscious of being divided in fact; (b) but it is difficult to give a clear meaning to such a phrase, when used of those who would rather maintain the importance of separation.

The above is intended only to provide a rough general classification of the different positions held, in order that we may know where we stand, and what we are talking about. We need not discuss which opinion is theologically sound or reasonable.

§ 3. There is, however, [2/3] a certain position which some call the "Catholic" view:

(1) We hold that it is most important that Christian men should live not only in spiritual accord and spiritual brotherhood, but in actual, institutional or organised, fellowship with one another. (a) We recognise and welcome a spiritual membership, which is not actual, but we earnestly desire that it should realise itself in actual membership. (b) We do not agree with those who hold actual membership to be immaterial.

(2) So also, we hold that this fellowship should be one fellowship, organised as a unity, in which all should find a place. (a) We recognise and welcome a spiritual unity even where there is actual division, but we earnestly desire to see the spiritual unity fulfilled in actual unity, and (b) we do not agree with those who hold actual unity to be immaterial.

§ 4. I state the above almost under a party label, but in fact, so far, it is very widely held. Dr. Carnegie Simpson stated it at Mansfield with far more eloquence than I have attempted. It seems to be implied in all our efforts for Church Unity. I only urge that in view of the existing confusion implication is hardly sufficient. It will clear the situation if we begin with a clear affirmation that by a Church we mean an organised body, and by Church Unity we mean an organised unity. We do not disparage spiritual membership and spiritual unity, but we realise the importance of their going on into their actual and concrete expression. We shall have to consider in this paper what is involved in unity, the difficulties in its way, and some possibilities of its attainment.


§ 5. Clear statement is, however, not only called for by the present confused state of opinion: it is equally [3/4] called for in view of the actual religious system. In practical matters, Denominationalism is in possession of the ground, and the Denominational theory or principle, like all principles having an historic development, is not quite simple. On the Continent Denominations begin, I suppose, with the rivalries of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and other leaders; in England, with the opposition of Presbyterians and Independents. And Denominationalism is in the main an English, rather than a Continental, principle. It has spread from us into the world. Originally, some at least of the Denominations claimed to be the true Church of Christ in an exclusive sense, and those claims in certain cases are still in existence—not perhaps in a formal or official way, but among many of the members. I am not speaking here of Episcopalians. For the moment I leave them out of the picture. Generally speaking, among the "Free Churches," such claims belong only to past history. We may have to meet exclusive claims later on. Thus it is worth noting that in Canada the Baptists have not, so far, seen their way to join "the United Church of Canada." According to the view more generally accepted to-day, the Denominations represent different systems of organisation, mentality, temperament, outlook, and tradition. To use a very convenient modern term, they correspond to different "aspects of truth." Under the conditions of human limitation, they are necessary to the completeness of Catholic truth, for it would seem contrary to the idea of Catholicity that any one system should be able to possess or to represent the wholeness of its significance.


§ 6. To those of us who hold what I have called the "Catholic" position, the claims of Denominationalism in their modern form present no necessary difficulty. [4/5] What does seem to us difficult is that the Denominations claim to be severally "Churches." This is not a mere question of terms. Each acts as a Church. Each claims to make complete and sufficient provision for the souls of its own members, at least in all necessary things.

§ 7. It is not the existence, but the separateness of Denominational Churches which seems to us so serious. Pluralism in regard to Churches is nothing new. We admit the existence of Greek, French, German, Bulgarian, English Churches. Each of these may have its own mentality, outlook and tradition, its "aspect of truth," within the Catholic whole. But each belongs to its own people and its own place. There is an Italian Church in Hatton Garden, a French Church in London, and an English chaplaincy at Rome; but chaplaincies are only accidental separations, due to the needs of "foreigners." We regret very much the unhappy severance between Hatton Garden and St. Paul's, the English chaplaincy and St. Peter's, whereby foreigners are religiously isolated from those among whom they live.

In the same way, a certain parallel may be found in the religious communities of the Roman Church. The Jesuits, Benedictines, and Oratorians represent each a certain difference of "aspect," of theological outlook and tradition, and each may have its own churches with a very considerable independence, and is yet working in a very real unity with the Church around.

§ 8. None of these, however, in the least corresponds to our Denominational theory or practice. In the same city, in the same town, village, street, there are organisations offering their different systems for the use of identically the same people, actually used by different people out of adjoining houses, yet in no connection whatever with one another. On the old theory, there was nothing contrary to the principle of Catholic Unity. When a Denomination claimed to be itself the true [5/6] Church of Christ, a true Church of Christ was recognised, although with much disagreement as to which the true Church was. But on the modern theory, no such claim is made. Each professes only to be an "aspect," and it seems to us inconsistent with any true faith in the "Catholic" unity, that "aspects" should be organised wholly in separation.

I have admitted that the Anglican and Greek Churches do in fact represent aspects, and it is a deplorable and schismatical condition that they are not in complete unity, so that they cannot come together to share their several gifts. But if the higher or international unity is thus broken—to our great loss—the principle of unity is still maintained for men's daily life in the place where they mostly live. Thus, for example, in the English Church there are many men whose outlook or "aspect" is rather Greek or Latin than Anglican. Through human weakness, we may dislike them and do not give them an easy time. By the same weakness they may be restless and over-critical of their brethren. But in faith, in principle, in our higher self, so far as our foolish narrowness allows, we are glad of their help in correcting our narrowness. We do not admit, and they do not claim, a right to make institutions apart from us as the expression even of what they take to be their gift. Their gifts are gifts to the Church. The English Church, by the peculiarities of its Anglicanism, does represent an "aspect," but it is not organised on the principle of an aspect, still less of a separated aspect. We lament all these separations. We followed up the particular road by which God led us. We do not claim to be the Catholic Church. We only claim to belong to it, and, so far as we can, we try to keep to its principle that the Catholic Church, like Catholic Truth, includes all particularities.


§ 9. [7] At the very beginning of every effort towards Reunion we are met by the difficulties, which in war language might be called the two barbed wire lines of No Man's Land. On one side there is a claim to Recognition, as the necessary preliminary to further negotiations, and this claim is a counter to the more aggressive accusation of Schism made on the other side. Both claim and charge exist really for defence of the positions occupied, and they serve effectively to keep the two bodies apart—which is regrettable when the majority of England lives in No Man's Land.

Properly, I ought to begin with the charge of Schism, but that meets with so little sympathy, that, although it constitutes a real difficulty to be overcome, it hardly represents a practical policy. There is a large number of people most reluctant to give way on the point, but there is no formed body of authority which would put it forward as a primary factor.

§ 10. The claim of Recognition was formulated in the Mansfield Resolutions—"we recognise that these Denominations as corporate groups are equally within the one Church of Christ."

Now, it should be noted that this claim is made not for individuals, but for the groups or denominations as such, and in their present condition. We are then thrown back on our original question. In what sense is the word "Church" here used? Does it mean the spiritual fellowship, which may be called the soul of the Church, or the organised and institutional unity, which is the body of the Church?

(1) If I ask whether certain individuals are in the Church, it is a sufficiently difficult question. Technically, they are within it by baptism. A man is legally an Englishman by birth, parentage, or naturalisation. [7/8] If, however, he has settled in an alien country, he may have ceased to be effectively an Englishman, even though he has not legally renounced his nationality. If we mean "spiritually" within the Church, the judgment must be different in each case, and there can be no certainty about it. One feels a man is "one with us in heart," but no one can know how far it goes. Does the man himself know? So far, at least, that "the members of the Invisible Church are known only to God" is a sound saying, for only God knows the heart.

(2) But this claim is made on behalf of "corporate groups" as corporate. A very deep unity of spirit may exist generally amongst the members of two bodies which as corporations are quite separate. Certainly there is a spirit of unity among the different Denominations. Our efforts for unity bear witness to it, but no less does the effort bear witness to the plain fact that our Denominations are organised in division, and not in unity. If we are to work together for unity, we must begin by confessing, not by denying, our division. You cannot seek Reunion for what is already a Unity, except under a confusion of terms, used in the same sentence in two different meanings.

§ 11. Before we, on our side, and the "Free Churches" on their side, can start on the quest for unity, certainly there must be some common understanding. The mere fact of a quest implies, we ask for an open affirmation of, the necessity of corporate unity, a frank avowal that a pluralism of entirely separated religious organisations, acting as independent Churches, is not a right system. Whatever justification there may have been for it in the necessities of the past, God is now calling us to go on to a higher corporate unity.

The "Free Churches" also have something to ask. I could not say, I do not see how any one could say, that these corporate bodies are at present within any unity, [8/9] at least in the corporate sense with which we are concerned. But I think we Catholics (or Episcopalians) ought to say, with a similar openness, that there is no reason why the Denominations should not be in unity with us. I myself, for one, should like to see a united Church having denominations within herself. The dead uniformity of theoretical Anglicanism has not proved possible, and it does not seem to be even desirable.


§ 12. I imagine, however, that the claim for Recognition is primarily meant as a reply to the offensive charge of schism. The Nonconformist feeling is here very natural. Many of them have come to see that the position in which we are all standing is not satisfactory or right. Every thoughtful man can see the need for unity, at least in the absurdity, the practical waste and overlapping, of our present divisions. There are many who go beyond convenience, and recognise unity as a spiritual necessity lying in the purpose of God for men whom He has made and redeemed. At the same time, when they look back, they cannot admit that their history is wholly a record of perversity and error. Their forefathers meant to follow God's will; they believed they were led by Him. They look around, and they cannot admit that they are wholly in error now. They believe that they have a truth of their own, a contribution, something to give, even if there are things which they also lack. They ask that we should meet them on this basis. They cannot enter on negotiations based on the assumption that we, Episcopalians, are the Church, and that Nonconformists are outside and in schism.

For my part, I not only sympathise with this view as natural and honourable; I am forced to accept it as theologically sound. No one is bound to agree with all our predecessors thought or to approve of all they did, [9/10] any more than we are bound to approve or imitate in this day all the doings of the Old Testament patriarchs. We believe God chose men in the past and led them. We are bound to what He taught and the Covenant He gave them; but by our reverence for them and for God, we must be ready to go forward, and not stand fast in what He allowed in them.

§ 13. Personally, I have always protested that these questions of recognition and of schism are simply confusing. What is "the Church," and what is a state of being "in the Church"? It is largely a question of theological terminology. Among the different legal, spiritual, general, effective senses possible, we can spin controversies for ever. I cannot say that the Denominations are within the one Church, for that would imply that the Denominational system was a system of unity, and, as it stands, it seems to me on the face of things a system of division. Similarly, What do we mean by schism and schismatic? Here the meaning is quite clear. A schism is a separation, and a schismatic is any one who makes a schism, whether by going off himself or by driving others off. Which of us, then, was the schismatic? Why should we ask? Judgment belongs to God. Let the dead bury their dead, and let us follow Christ on the road of unity. We are in a schismatical state. God calls us to come out of it, and the way out begins with confession and humility: not with accusation on the one side, nor with even the most justifiable self-defense on the other.


§ 14. So far, therefore, as the immediate application of these questions is concerned, I would urge that the only Recognition we need is a Recognition of the need of unity, a Recognition that there is, or should be, one Church of Christ, and we long to find ourselves and our [10/11] brethren at peace within it. The charge of schism we need only bring against the whole condition of our disunion. We may be quite sure that in whatever schism a man may find himself involved, God at least will not count him a schismatic if he is earnestly trying to find a way out for himself and others.

Nevertheless, in this demand for Recognition there are certain implications which are not, I think, intended, and have perhaps not been noticed.

(1) We are seeking unity, but what sort of unity? If we should recognise that all Denominations are within the one Church, it may not be meant, but it will certainly seem and be taken to imply, that our present system provides all the unity necessary. There are people who think that Recognition would immediately lead to some practical measure of Co-operation or Federation. I do not believe this at all satisfies what most of us are hoping for. But to this I will return.

§ 15. (2) Again, the Mansfield Formula is quite explicit that Recognition must be extended to all Denominations alike. That is rather a grave matter. I quite agree that no useful purpose is served anywhere by question-begging charges of schism. Judgment belongs to God. But is there no such thing as schism? Is it simply impossible for a man to separate himself from his brethren? I am very reluctant to make statements about other bodies than my own; but it is a matter of common notoriety that in many denominations further divisions are constantly occurring, and new denominations are formed for all kinds of reasons. It is not my place to judge; but if I am asked to judge that all are yet within the one Church, it seems to me that I am asked to allow an absolutely free right of separation and association. Indeed, since the formula offers no numerical limit, there is no restriction on pure individualism. What is to prevent a man, if he sees fit, [11/12] making a denomination of himself? That is no imaginary occurrence. Numbers of people do it.

I do not suppose that the Mansfield Conference or others who demand this general "recognition," mean to assert the sufficiency of separated denominationalism, or of mere co-operation, least of all to assert the right of unlimited separation; but the formula seems to imply it, and will be taken to imply it.


§ 16. In the formula quoted, there is a little word, "equally," which has to my mind great significance. Personally, I have the strongest intellectual dislike to any kind of suggestion that things are "all the same," or that people are all "going the same way." Intelligent understanding begins from difference. I write as a Catholic, and to many of us, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, all seem much of a muchness. If I were to say that it would be resented Free Churchmen would reply: "That is your ignorance. The differences between us are both less vital and more vital than you as an outsider can realise." At least that is the answer that I should deserve.

In the preceding section, I pointed out some of the very grave consequences which are involved if we try to treat all Denominations as in the same position. The word "equally" obscures the difficulty involved in the extraordinary complexity of our present denominational position. I see very little equality—I imagine I see very broad differences—between the position of the Presbyterians towards the "one Church of Christ" and the position of the Plymouth Brethren, the Salvation Army, and the Society of Friends. I am not sure if it is fair to ask, but are the Unitarians and Christian Scientists to be included? Of course it is impossible for us to go into all these different positions and pass judgment on them by a different treatment. But seeing [12/13] their positions are so different, it seems equally impossible to pass a judgment that they are all the same. For this reason also I urge again that, while the charges of schism are altogether out of place, discussion of one another's position is premature and altogether needless.

§ 17. A claim, therefore, to recognition of equality seems to obscure material facts and difficulties which ought to be met and dealt with. But my chief objection is that it obscures a spiritual fact, in which our hope really lies. Our differences are not merely difficulties; being grounds of need, they are also grounds of help, and so of love, and thus of unity. Christianity itself and all religions rest upon a contradiction, the significance of which has been too little considered. It is the goodness, beauty, harmony, of the world and of life which have led men to the thought of God; but it is the evil of the world and of life which have kept men thinking, and turned the speculation into longing. We go on longing for God, because we are longing for Redemption. While our differences constitute the primary difficulty of unity, they are also its whole meaning and motive. There is little true unity in water or in the sea, because it is so nearly a homogeneous mass. There is a far higher unity in a landscape, because the cottage roofs, the church spire, the woods, the fields, the swell of the barren hills, are so different. In unity each not only preserves its own, but gives or contributes its own, and receives from others.


§ 18. We may approach the question of unity from two main motives. (1) There is the motive of material convenience and utility. Almost every one realises the evils of waste and overlapping. If that were all, some scheme of co-operation might meet all our requirements. (2) Beyond utility lies the far higher need of spiritual [13/14] unity, the unity of the Trinity, as St. John's Gospel puts it—that they may be one, as we are one—the necessary unity of Christ and of the redeemed in Christ, which will be a unity in faith and conviction. This basis of unity in the will of God is reflected in the need of unity in men. We were made in weakness and insufficiency, because we were made for help and love. That is what makes schism so terribly real. The selfishness which uses its own gifts for its own enjoyment is the parallel and the consequence of a pride which has no sense of need. Compared with this spiritual disunion, the material inconveniences of disunion are only the pain and annoyance which lead us to repentance.

§ 19. These two motives correspond also to two ideals of unity. The utility and convenience of unity belong to an ideal of mere organisation. But the will and purposes of God are primarily concerned with the things of the Spirit, and the needs of men are fundamentally spiritual needs. We must, too, recognise the full significance of spiritual need. It is not only that we need the external help of one another's spiritual capacities, as the farmer and the tailor need one another's material skill, or the historian, economist, naturalist, and philosopher borrow from one another's intellectual acquirements. We all need, not to borrow the results, but ourselves to share in one another's vision, in what God has given others to see. In other words, the true aim and foundation of unity must be a unity of faith in a reconciliation of convictions.

I am not in the least opposing unity of organisation to spiritual unity of faith. I contended at the beginning for a unity of organisation as our one real necessity, but I urged unity of organisation, because except by outward unity there can be no real sharing of inward convictions. So soon as any group organises itself separately on the basis of its own views or aspects, those views become [14/15] "foreign" to other groups. They can be and are an influence on others, shared by others in some degree, but with the greatest difficulty and very partially. Much more frequently, they lead to a growing antagonism.

It is for this reason that Recognition with its immediate consequent of Co-operation, seem to us so inadequate. Federation might remove some of the worst inconveniences of rivalry. It might even provide a really useful common system. It does nothing towards a sharing of convictions. On the contrary, it assumes the perpetuation of a system by which these convictions or views may remain boxed up in their several watertight compartments.

§ 20. Unity of conviction is unquestionably an ideal, but under the conditions of modern intellectual freedom it seems unattainable. Certainly, a few centuries of controversy have not furthered matters. Nevertheless, it is the one ideal worth attaining. Everything else is secondary. From the very nature of the ideal certain conditions are implied in its attainment.

It has been urged on us more than once that we shall never make progress in unity so long as we think and talk in terms of concessions, surrenders, or even compromises. In politics, in material things, that is always a possible road. In intellectual matters it is not possible. If I think this, I think it, and as an honest man I cannot pretend not to think it for the sake of any advantages. In Christian matters the road of surrender is the road of unbelief. In order to include some we love, we may agree to draw the line farther back, but any such line is purely artificial. At the present moment there is no line whatever, not even the line of Theism, which we are not being asked to waive for the sake of including some who plead that in good conscience they yet stand beyond it. The road of surrender is the wrong road. What we all need is a fuller understanding, not a less. We may [15/16] make progress if, secure in what we have and eager to give it, we turn our minds also to what we can learn and receive.

§ 21. This is sometimes described as the "Method of Contribution," and is generally welcomed as a sound principle. If it is to be more than an amiable way of talking, it must rest upon a distinction between affirmation and negation, which has sometimes been expressed as a law—"All bodies are right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny." Possibly the law may be a little too sweeping, but at least the principle is sound. Certainly, if affirmation and negation are to be treated as convictions in the same sense, no reconciliation is possible. Between "THIS is" and "THAT is," there is no necessary division. However different THIS and THAT may be, in the richness of life there may be place and room for both, if we can only find it. Between "it is" and "it isn't," there is no middle at all.

So in practice, it is one thing to be asked to admit that I do not see what I think I do see, or to admit that it is of small importance when it seems to me of very great importance; it is quite another thing to be asked to see what I have not seen. The first I hardly can do honestly. For the second I ought to be always ready and eager. God's world is so full of glory, it holds so many possibilities, and the best of us see so little. Yet it will take time, and you must be patient, for I am not going to say I see till I do. My soul is in God's hands. Inner vision and inner conviction can come only from Him, and in His time. You may think I am very obstinate, and it is in truth not only difficult to learn new ideas, it really is very difficult for me to admit that I need to learn, or that there is anything worth knowing which I do not know. But then I am your brother. If you throw hard words at me, about narrow-mindedness or heresy or schism, you will not help me to learn. You may tempt me into self-justification. We may yet [16/17] find a way through gentleness and humility. Pride, impatience, and self-satisfaction will block any road. They block the road of God's grace.


§ 22. If in a broad, general way we contrast the Catholic and Protestant views, there is a general agreement as to the nature of the difference, which appears in so many shapes. Theologically, Catholics are always pressing the divinity of the Logos, of the Word of God; Protestants lay great stress on the Holy Spirit. The Catholic talks of the common faith and of authority; the Protestant of what is individual, and of freedom. The Catholic lays almost an exclusive stress on ordination; the Protestant is greatly interested in a charismatic ministry. There is a difference of ideal between priest and prophet. In result, while one holds to uniformity, order, forms, necessities, solidity; the other holds to variety, spontaneity, and the glory of fulfilment, life, and expression.

I believe there is a growing feeling on both sides that the ineffectiveness of our Christianity arises from the separation of these principles, which are both necessary. The Catholic presentation is ineffective because of its formalism; that of the Free Churches seems to us to lack the solid ground-work of the necessary foundation. We are both in a schismatical position not merely because we are separated as individuals, but because the very principles of Christianity have been torn asunder and organised separately as alternatives.

§ 23. It is true that the differences given above seem only to be differences of emphasis, or of tendency. That they are more than superficial is evident from the fact that it is one difference throughout, appearing and reappearing in different shapes. That it appears to be only a tendency is due to our prevailing system. It is obvious [17/18] to every one that both sides of the antithesis are necessary. Each group, therefore, finding itself organised as a complete and separate Church, is virtually bound to believe that its system has made adequate provision for all sides, and that, if the weakness is still to be confessed, it can only be accidental, due to lack of emphasis, and that it can be sufficiently recovered by a change of emphasis.

Things, however, do not work in that way. The power of a body lies in what is native to it, growing from its own inner life and system. The very effort made to recover something suggests, almost proves, that there is a deficiency of inward principle. I take an Anglican example. All clergy are aware that Anglicans lack spontaneity. Clergy have often said to me, "I am constantly preaching on it to my people." Well, if it needs constant preaching, and persists in spite of preaching, the defect of spontaneity must be in the system itself.


§ 24. We have, then, two principles, on which I may at least hope we are agreed. We are seeking more than a convenience: we are seeking a spiritual unity in a unity or reconciliation of convictions. And we cannot come to this by surrender on either side; we can come to it, if at all, only by learning and receiving from one another. The ideal is simple and beautiful. The practical difficulties are still very great. What is a surrender? In the intellectual systems we make up, it is impossible to "accept" a new doctrine without modifications in the old which may be felt as a surrender. Always it will involve a surrender of our conception that the old system was complete and sufficient. That surrender I believe God is forcing upon us all.

If we can agree to these principles as principles, at least we shall know what it is that we want to do; but the practical difficulties will remain, and especially the difficulty created by the theory of Episcopacy. [18/19] The difficulties in the way of Free Church Reunion are real enough, but they are being overcome. Reunion between the "Free Churches" and the Episcopal Churches is a much more complex matter. Dr. Carnegie Simpson in a recent article asserts that the strict theory of Episcopacy—as stated by Bishop Gore—blocks the whole way of Reunion. Episcopacy might be a possible, it may be the best or even the only possible, form of government for a united Church, but it can never be accepted so long as it claims to be exclusive. I profoundly regret this charge of "exclusiveness," exactly as I regret the charge of "schism." Everybody ought, in my opinion, to recognise that there is a unity from which men should not depart, but there is also a right of free association. There are limits to both, but question-begging charges of schism only irritate, and they perplex our efforts to do justice to both principles. It is the same with "exclusiveness." You cannot hold that Christianity, or that the Catholic Church of Christ, means THIS—whatever you think THIS consists in—without excluding its opposite. Surely to use "exclusiveness" as in itself a term of condemnation is itself rather exclusive. You cannot exclude all exclusiveness if you are to remain a Christian at all.

§ 25. If we are to reconcile convictions, we must reconcile them as they are. Dr. Carnegie Simpson thinks the Anglican Church gives an undue emphasis to the question of the ministry and of episcopacy. Possibly he is right, but there are three questions:

(1) Is there anything in the ecclesiastical system which is appointed by Christ, or is everything a matter of development by the Spirit? In other words, Is anything in the system of necessity, or is everything free? On the Catholic side, we believe that some elements are of necessity. It is these which we put forward as our contribution. We, or some of us, [19/20] believe there is also a large freedom, which we possess, use, and understand far too little.

(2) Is episcopacy a necessity? We cannot discuss that without asking for what is it necessary? The question really turns, therefore, on what Dr. Carnegie Simpson calls the "High Church" view of sacraments, and especially of the Lord's Supper. For the "foundation," which, as I said, is our special contribution, is sacramentalism. There is no real issue over the validity of "ministry," but only over efficiency. The question of validity comes up in regard to "priesthood."

§ 26. (3) Is episcopacy, therefore, necessary to a valid Eucharist in the "High Church" (Catholic) meaning? I own there is some difference of opinion.

(a) Personally, I hold it is necessary. There is no question that the Catholic Churches have always in historic times acted on that supposition. It is congruous to the sacramental view as a whole. I am told the Plymouth Brethren hold a very advanced doctrine of the Lord's Supper without any ministerial belief. The Free Church Catholic Movement and some Presbyterians also hold the "High Church" view. Luther held it with extreme violence, but in most Lutheran Churches it has practically died out. In the general result, episcopal ordination, priesthood, and the "High Church" theory of the Eucharist, go together by an instinctive logic.

On this subject I cannot avoid drawing attention to the "Answer of the Archbishops of England to Pope Leo XIII." It was a peculiarly official document. It was composed by the official heads of the Church of England, neither of whom was in any sense a party man. In the popular memory they are identified with an "anti-Catholic" judgment, or "Opinion." The answer professes to set out the official position of the Church of England, with great caution, an anxious desire not to [20/21] move doubtful speculations, but to keep strictly to what was necessary to the matter in hand.

The "Answer" does not directly assert that Episcopal ordination is a necessity of "priesthood." That was not before them, and I doubt if they would have cared to assert it absolutely. The "Answer" is, however, built on the "Catholic" view of the unity of the sacramental system. It asserts in the most positive way possible that the Priesthood of the Anglican Church is a sacerdotium, and that to the Priest (sacerdos in the Latin version) is entrusted the dispensation of the Sacraments, and "especially the consecration of the Eucharist." (cc. xv.-xvii.).

(b) Some, however, maintain that the connection is doubtful, and that the Church could authorise a Presbyterian or any other method of ordination, if the Catholic Church should so decide, of course I should acquiesce; but I am quite sure the Church of England could not alter the immemorial practice of the Church by her own sole authority. If she were to recognise non-episcopal orders, she is deciding that episcopal ordination is not a necessity. Do the Free Churches really wish that the Church of England should commit herself in this way? If she did, I for one, could not accept her decision.


§ 27. The main lines of the problem are now clear. Catholics in general hold to an essentially sacramental system. The unity of the Church, episcopal ordination, the mystery of the sacramental gifts, are all one conception. Ecclesiastically, that conception provides for a somewhat rigid system of what we believe to be fundamental necessities. Ministerially, it turns on the idea of priesthood. Protestantism and the "Free Churches" are advocates of a free system, which turns ministerially on the idea of prophecy. So far, there is no necessary [21/22] contradiction. There might well be a rigid fundamental system of organised unity, which included free associations and recognised prophetic ministry.

But just because they are not in unity, the position has gravely complicated itself. Each side, left to its own principle, has made efforts to supply its own weakness in its own way, and, although somewhat conscious that it has not altogether succeeded, is most unwilling to admit formally that it has failed. Catholics worship rigidity so much that they suspect a free system, and, not understanding freedom, they will not admit that their own system is over-rigid. Protestants worship freedom so far as to dislike the idea of rigid necessities, and, not understanding priesthood, are unwilling to admit that there is any priesthood other than their own ministry. Further, our positions are complicated by our parties. In the Church of England, some claim to hold what is virtually the Protestant view. They deny priesthood and claim prophecy. In the "Free Churches," there are parties who hold the Catholic view, and claim priesthood.

§ 28. It seems impossible to make a unity without breaking up the whole existing systems. In result, each side goes its own way, trusting that the other will in time die out and be absorbed. This is the method of separation and of "individual conversions." As things stand, I cannot say that individuals are wrong in going over to systems they have honestly accepted; but our separations are now so firmly established that even very numerous individual secessions do little to shake them. I have no belief in bodies dying out, nor in the end am I very anxious for individuals to come over, leaving so much behind. I want a unity of convictions.


§ 29. Various roads have been urged or suggested as leading out of this difficulty.

(1) [22/23] Dr. Carnegie Simpson seems to insist that the Catholics must abandon their exclusiveness, and accept the Protestant ministries as equal to their own. Here is an instance of the practical difficulties of the principle of "no surrender, but only gifts." What seems to him merely the abandonment of a negation seems to us a surrender of positive conviction. If there is any truth in my analysis that we are holding by a divinely appointed order, and the Protestants by a developed order, we might recognise each had its place, but to admit that one is "equal" to the other is to surrender our own conviction that the Apostolic order has a special gift or quality of its own. There is no reconciliation of principles.

§ 30. Further, I could not make such an admission for intellectual reasons. I have urged above that the whole idea of equality obscures the complexity of the actual position.

(a) The Free Church ministries do not seem to be equal to one another. Thus, the Presbyterian ministry can, and does, claim to continue the Apostolic order. The same may be true of the Methodists. Certainly, it is so in America. If we accept Presbyterian ordination, can we equally accept Congregational appointment? What, then, of all the other bodies? If we are to admit every conceivable form of "ordination" to be equally valid, certainly we shall have to make a very large surrender of what we, and, I believe, the Presbyterians, have hitherto believed about ordination.

(b) Looking to the general position, the Free Church and the Episcopal ministries do not seem to me at all equal, they do not make the same claims. In general the Protestant ministry is thought of as a preaching ministry. It does administer the Lord's Supper, but in general it does not do so in our sense. It does not claim any power of "consecration"; it does not claim "priesthood." A Free Church friend of mine once used [23/24] Dr. Carnegie Simpson's argument to me, "I admit the validity of your ministry and you deny mine." I replied, "No. I admit yours in all you claim for it. You deny mine. You deny my priesthood." He confessed it was so.

(c) Of course this answer would be inadequate, if made to a Free Church Catholic or a High Church Presbyterian. To him I should reply, "In regard to its main principles the Catholic system is a whole, even if there are abuses in its application and may be interpolations in some details. I think all history shows that you will not be able to make your sacramental view effective as an isolated doctrine. In the end you will have to take up all its consequences in the whole system."

The whole position wants clearing up. I have confessed the confusion of the Anglican mind, seen perhaps in its tendency to say one thing to the Bishop of Rome when controversy calls for emphatic statement, and another thing to Protestants when friendliness calls for as much sympathetic agreement as possible. But the confusion is not on our side alone. In controversy with a stark Anglicanism, Dr. Carnegie Simpson and Dr. Cooper seem—if I understand them rightly—to claim an equal "priesthood" for Presbyterian orders through an equal place in an Apostolic ministry and succession. It is not for me to say if this claim is made by more than a section, whether large or small. It is for them to state the position. But is this claim also made by the Congregationalists, Baptists, and all other denominational ministries? I have supposed it was not, and even that it was positively rejected. If I am right, Dr. Carnegie Simpson's claim for the equality, or even "essential equality," of all ministries leaves me very puzzled. What exactly is the force of the Presbyterian claim?

§ 31. Here, then, I put forward three points for consideration:

(a) [24/25] If the "Free Churches" are willing that we should hold our Order and Faith for our own use as a Catholic or Episcopal Denomination, they are in fact asking us for a complete surrender. Let me quote an actual, not a hypothetical, parallel. As Christians, we have believed in the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of God for the redemption of mankind. That is our Gospel. The Indian and Japanese reply: "It is a most interesting Western religion. We have also Eastern beliefs to the same effect. But why do you send missions to preach your Gospel? Let us, retaining our separate ideas, unite in one common religion." Yet we are bound to preach. There is no true unity in divisive ideas; there is unity in what is for all. If our Gospel is true, if God did this amazing thing, He did it for all men. It is vital for all, or it is not true for the West.

In the same way, if God has by sacrament and priesthood—according to the "High Church" view—provided these tremendous means of grace, it is still possible to believe that they need the supplement of prophecy and direct access, but it is quite impossible to admit that they are true only for a denomination, and that to many other people they are wholly unnecessary. If the doctrine is true, it is very central for all men; if it is not central, it cannot be true in the form in which it is held. And what is central in the basis of unity? The offer only reverts to denominational separatism.

§ 32. (b) It is, however, quite commonly asserted that this High Church view of episcopacy, as put forward by Bishop Gore, is only held by a very small minority in the Church of England. So Leo XIII. asserted that the Catholic view of Orders were held among us only by a "small section formed in recent times." The Archbishops indignantly deny it, saying that he "speaks with great ignorance of the facts, we regret to say." It is a dangerous thing trying to summarise the position of [25/26] another body than one's own. I grant that we are a very confused people, especially when we want to be sympathetic. When it comes to practical action I do not think it will be found a small minority at all. If it is, will the Church of England throw the minority over?

But however that may be, what sort of unity are we seeking? Can we entirely ignore the fact that enormously the majority of Christians hold Bishop Gore's position. I am aware that this reference to Roman, Greek, Russian, Eastern Churches begets a considerable impatience. They are so impossible, so narrow, so ignorant. But impatience is never a very lovely thing.

Further, during and since the war, we have been deeply lamenting the errors of other people's nationalism. Italians, French, Poles, Rumanians—can see nothing but their own demands. And religious nationalism is the worst of all. It is very sad; but is there nothing sad in the complacency of our Anglo-Saxonism, in our very prevalent notion that we alone count, that we settle our problems in our own way, with nothing to learn from any, and the ignorant world, will, must, of course ought to, light its flickering torches from our splendid illumination? Some people have even imagined that Anglo-Saxonism, or perhaps Americanism, will be the world's next danger, now that Germanism is out.

§ 33. (c) There is, then, a certain Catholic principle, Faith and Order. It was held by the Church, and it held the Church together for very many centuries of her history. It is held now by vastly the larger number of Christians. The Church of England holds it nominally, though she presents it with very inadequate clearness. A new principle, we call Protestantism, has broken up the old unity. In the English-speaking countries, it has taken the new form of Protestant Denominationalism. I am not denying that it has a complementary [26/27] truth. I do ask—Is it the whole truth? Is all the rest pure error? When the "Free Churches" ask us to join in unity with them, do they want us to help them in finding a Reconciliation between Catholic and Protestant? Or do they really desire that we should unite with them by a rejection of the whole Catholic position? For that is what it comes to. We cannot say that all these various ministries are the same as the episcopal without saying that there is nothing special in episcopal ordination. To quote Mr. Rawlinson's example, I cannot say High Mass is the same as a Prayer Meeting, without denying all the Catholic belief about "the Mass." And, if we do thus gain Unity in Anglo-Saxondom, we have cut ourselves off from the great mass of Catholicism throughout the world. I believe a not inconsiderable number of Free Churchmen would profoundly regret any such action on our part.


§ 34. It is necessary to make some reference to the proposed "approach" by interchange of pulpits and intercommunion, since the questions are so constantly debated, though the principles have been discussed above.

I may be wrong—most Catholics think I am—but I never can feel strongly over an interchange of pulpits. If Free Church ministers will tell us what they think of us, it might do us good. I see no great objection. If they only want to tell us what we are in the habit of telling ourselves, I see no great profit.

Intercommunion is a very different matter. Communion is to our mind the highest act of the spiritual life, and inter-communion the highest act of Christian unity. For that reason I cannot bear the idea of putting it first as a mere concession to good feeling. To refuse communion is very painful, and often a cause of great inconvenience. We have no right to shirk the [27/28] inconvenience while we leave the sin of separation. I long for intercommunion a great deal too much to want to anticipate it casually and in scraps.

§ 35. It is, however, quite another matter if we are to declare that the Church of England gives her people solemn permission to communicate in non-episcopal churches. I can only repeat what I have said above. Is episcopal ordination a necessity of eucharistic consecration? Does it make any difference at all? I think it does, but we will admit it is doubtful. But such declaration involves a denial that there is any doubt. It affirms that Presbyterian orders are just as valid in this respect. It affirms that Congregational appointment is also as valid as Presbyterian or episcopal ordination. In some "corporate groups," who have no regularly ordained ministry, anybody who celebrates can also act as a priest. And in what sense is the Communion received?—our own sense, or the sense in which it is given?

I, for one, am not in the least ready to go so far, nor are any of us Catholics. I can hardly imagine any Church of England representative who would go so far. The Kikuyu resolutions left the point uncertain, but I believe the bishops concerned afterwards stated that they could not allow Episcopalians to communicate at non-episcopal altars.


§ 36. A conference held at Mansfield in 1919 recognised "the place which a reformed Episcopate must hold in the ultimate Constitution of the Reunited Church," while the same "Constitution must also fully conserve the values of the other types of Church polity—Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist." This marks a great step of progress, yet there are dangers of [28/29] misunderstanding. The words might be interpreted to mean only some kind of personal Superintendency. Even so, I think, it is a step forward, but it would not be sufficient basis for final reunion. Some scholars have actually argued, with some violence, that the Church is only bound to the fact of episcopacy, and not to any theories about it. I do not think one can separate faith and order so absolutely. The doctrine of "intention" may be used in quite impossible ways, but in its proper sense it implies a general intention "to do what the Church does."

(a) This seems mere common sense. "The fact without any theory" is very near a "fact without any meaning," and if there is a considerable difference of meaning, what would the fact be? We cannot define all that the Catholic Church means by a Bishop. We accept it and try to learn its significance. But a Bishop in the Catholic sense is not the same as a Superintendent, even if Superintendents are in some places called Bishops.

(b) For an Episcopalian the question of fact is guaranteed by the Apostolic Succession; but it would be a little strange to argue from it in favour of this proposal. Protestants have objected to the sacramental system as mechanical; but it is not, therefore, unspiritual. God has made matter, and given us material means, as the vehicle of His Spirit. To appeal to Tactual Succession, Apostolic Succession, Laying on of Hands, "apart from any theory," seems the merest mechanicalism. In plain fact, I think it irreverent.

(c) We are seeking an organised unity for the sake of a unity of faith. The spiritual grows from the material; but it will not grow from it if we begin by setting aside the spiritual faith under the name of "theory." An appeal is made to our present usage in regard to "High Church" and "Low Church" ordinations. I have already admitted that our party divisions have immensely increased our difficulties. It is almost impossible [29/30] to get a clear issue anywhere. In any case it is not a cheering parallel, and in substance it is not a parallel. A man is made Bishop or Priest "as this Church and Realm have received the same." We can only assume that a public action is done in good faith. The man has accepted something wider than his own theories and ideals, and, if these are inadequate, yet he is ready to learn more, in full assurance that Priesthood does mean more, not less, than his theories can tell him. I believe there is a great deal more episcopalianism among "Low Churchmen" than is commonly supposed, or than their language always suggests.

There is no need that we should begin by defining theories for acceptance; but if there is to be a unity of faith, even ultimately, we must be sure that the main principle is being accepted, and not only a word and an office.


§ 37. Our aims, our ideals, are then both clear and accepted. We want a real unity, not a mere co-operation of independent Denominations, for in the highest degree the very purpose of unity is the sharing of gifts—that is, of convictions. Such unity can be attained only by the mutual acceptance of "contributions," of what truth each can bring, not by a surrender of convictions, by a surrender at most only of negations.

Aims and ideals, however, while so obvious and so attractive in abstract statement, are very difficult to follow, even to recognise, in the concrete fact. In the proposals just considered, no surrender is intended, but vital surrenders are involved. We are to come out of denominational separation, but High Church Episcopacy may remain as the unshared conviction of an Episcopal denomination. As things stand, Is any unity of convictions possible? And that is to ask, Can men learn and receive from one another? The answer is obvious [30/31] enough—sometimes they can and sometimes they cannot; some can and some cannot. Some of us are too self-satisfied to learn, or even to believe that we have anything to learn. And even when we are capable of learning, sometimes we are too angry or too occupied with what we possess to look for anything else. But it is not always so.

That individuals can learn, individual conversions sufficiently testify; but if we are thinking of "corporate groups" it is quite another matter. Learning belongs, in the first place, to individuals, and new ideas permeate a mass very slowly indeed. Conservatism seems to be one with loyalty. Those most anxious for a new reconciliation are in a difficult position even if they remain. If they drop off by individual conversion, alienation is hardened by bitterness and desertion.

§ 38. We have to deal with the position as it actually is, and on analysis we shall find the same situation on both sides.

(1) Some Free Churchmen do realise the immense importance of the Catholic system, and some Catholics see the immense importance of free grouping and organisation. Some on both sides, therefore, long for unity which shall include both.

(2) A large number on both sides realise vaguely that the other side has capacities which they themselves lack without being at all clear or convinced as to any special cause for their defects.

(3) A large number remain, as formerly, bitterly opposed to "sacramentalism" or "schismatic independence," demanding a closer adherence to "pure spiritualism" or to "ecclesiastical authority."

(4) There are also many, especially in the Church of England, who are quite indifferent to the points at issue; some, indeed, who are so violently opposed to both, demanding strict establishmentarianism and "no High Church doctrine."

[32] Of the fourth class I have nothing to say. Indifference is a great practical force, especially in politics, but it is not a valid principle. If we can move on principle, I do not think it will be found to be even a practical force.

The third class demands more consideration. We are in God's hands, and our first duty is to those with us. To make a unity is a very difficult and slow business; it is an easy and swift matter to start schisms. If our approaches to unity involve new schisms, we are going faster than God means us to go. I can only express my entire accord with Canon Temple's most Christian avowal, "I would rather wait indefinitely than drive out, or outrage the consciences of, even the extremist members."


§ 39. The possibility of a movement towards unity will depend, therefore, on the strength and influence of the first two classes—those who think a reconciliation of convictions can, and ought to be made, and those who at least think that perhaps it could be made and ought to be attempted. An organised body is rarely as a whole affected by what is outside. It can only move to any serious extent by its own forces.

Father Murphy—a brother of mine—laid down a very profound principle which has not received sufficient consideration. "We always think of coming to unity by agreement, but in fact men only come to agreement by unity." In our present Denominationalism each principle is organised by itself in its own water-tight compartment. I know some people who boast that their own broad-minded superiority can see over all these walls. Perhaps they can, but they cannot see through them. At most, we contemplate others at a distance, through field-glasses, poised on our ladders. We can never really understand what they are doing [32/33] till we have taken part in their doings: not as casual spectators of a strange thing, but as a normal part of our own recognised life. The true powers of the sacramental life cannot be learnt only from books or occasional visits to a function in a great London Church. Nor can the power of Free Churchmen be understood by an occasional visit to the City Temple or an interdenominational prayer-meeting.


§ 40. If unity of principles cannot be established forthwith between separated bodies as a whole, can anything be done? If, in one denomination, there has grown up a sufficient sense of what might be gained by uniting the faith and principles of another denomination, would it be possible to allow those who felt the gain most strongly, to make the attempt at unity without requiring that they should cease to be members of their own denomination?

The suggestion has actually been made in America. Congregationalism, as a whole, is not prepared to accept episcopacy and the Catholic system, but certain leading Congregationalists believe that such an acceptance could be made and is worth making, and the denomination has consented to allow them to accept the orders and responsibilities of the episcopalian priesthood. The details are not yet settled, but a preliminary assent has been given to the main principles on both sides. The Episcopal Church accepts those who offer in full consciousness of their position in regard to their own people. They have declared their readiness to accept confirmation and ordination in the Episcopal Church "in the same sense in which it is given." As priests of the Episcopal Church, they accept the Catholic faith and will administer the sacraments, "in the sense in which the Catholic Church has received, maintained, and administered the same," and as priests, they are subject [33/34] to the authority of the Bishop, and to answer before him as to their faith and practice and for any charge brought against them in these respects.

§ 41. So far as the arrangement goes, this represents unity of the very type we have contemplated. So far as mere organisation goes, in all those matters which affect convenience of arrangement, prevention of waste and overlapping, nothing worth noting has been effected. In the really vital matter, in regard to unity of faith, Congregationalism and the whole system of episcopacy and Catholic sacramentalism are brought together. The two denominations are not united, but, at least within this fringe, their faith is. Thereby the whole difficulty takes a new aspect. Congregationalism is no longer looking on the episcopal sacramentalism of the Catholic system as something foreign to herself. It is now present and can be studied within her own borders, and of course it is the same for us. Neither "denomination" is committed further than that it has allowed this condition for the time being. Either body may presently forbid it, and those in an intermediate position will be required to draw back to one side or other of the re-established chasm. Our hope is that whatever either of us believe in will make good, and be increasingly accepted.

The hope is, in a certain sense, a test of our faith. There is no human weakness so very near the best of us as the anxious readiness to put our hand on the ark because the oxen shake it. We are nervously anxious to guard the faith; but, if it is a faith, it is guarding us. If we believe in God's truth, we must believe it will make its own way by its own inherent power. Our work is to give it "free course," to open the doors of prejudice.

§ 42. The principles I am giving here represent, of course, only one side of the business, but it is a very [34/35] important side; it is the finally decisive side, and the side which is the most often forgotten. I fully admit that there must be some agreement before we can even start on unity. There are only too many proposals which contemplate a mere unity of organisation, which profess to ignore the differences, but which in fact involve large surrenders as I have tried to show. Before actual steps can be taken towards a unity of convictions, there must be an agreement that the convictions of others, which we do not share, might be accepted at least tentatively. More than that cannot be expected of a whole body. In those who make the first steps, there must be some definite perception that those other convictions are needed and ought to be shared. Certainly we ought to be clear that, if agreement can only come by unity, to rush through a unity on the avowed basis of disagreement is fatal to all truth. Are we prepared to do that with Christianity itself, and to accept a religious unity on the ground that differences with Buddhists and Hindus, spirit-worship and Mohammedanism, are secondary? If that is a palpably false principle in great matters, it is a false principle with all questions of truth.


§ 43. On the other hand, we must not demand too much, or despise the day of small things. When a heathen comes to baptism, we take pains to make sure that he understands the main principles of Christianity; but no one should require or expect that any one coming into a new heritage should grasp from the beginning the whole meaning of what he accepts. I, for one, believe I could accept the Free Church principle, but it would be absurd for me to pretend I really understood it. There are some in the "Free Churches" who would gladly come into the Catholic system. They cannot know all that it means—neither do we who have lived in it. We must be sure that they are accepting something, [35/36] accepting it as a whole in its main principles, and that they are willing to learn more.

Probably only a few will at first make the attempt. The mass of the Free Churches will not altogether like it; we hope they will not refuse all consent. Probably the main body of Catholics will not be very enthusiastic over what the Free Churches can offer us. We cannot compromise Catholicity, nor can they compromise their freedom, but we do not necessarily compromise one principle because we gain another. While an amalgamation of organisations by a surrender of all differences might be rushed through the next session of parliament on a majority vote—or might not—a unity of faith and conviction can only grow by generations. It would be a wonderful thing if our generation could only show it as a possibility, a seed of unity. The rest lies with God.


§ 44. In this paper generally, I have used the words "Catholic" and "High Church" merely as descriptive terms in common use. "High Church" is employed in Dr. Carnegie Simpson's article. I do not like it, but label-terms may be read in a general (or trade) sense "without prejudice."

The word Catholic, however, has so much significance for our purpose that it will almost serve as an epitome of the case.

In itself it denotes simply the Whole, or the Universal—never, of course, a material universality, but a universality of principle; something applicable to all, not necessarily possessed by all. The "Catholic Faith" was that which all might and should possess.

(a) In the first use of the word, the Catholic Church was the whole throughout the world—so far as at any moment it had spread—in distinction from the local Church. This is a universality of place.

(b) The word was then applied to the faith in regard [36/37] to its historic or traditional character, as distinguished from what belonged to the fashion of the age. This sense finds perhaps an extreme statement in the Vincentian Canon, and the appeal to "the undivided Church." This is permanence or eternity in respect of time.

(c) Therefrom grows a somewhat sharper distinction. The dogmatic Faith and fixed Order of Catholicity stand a little apart from free thought and variety of usage.

(d) But the three are only various forms of a prior principle. Catholicity is that which is simply human, suited to every one, the common salvation, in which all are one, as distinguished from what is special to Greek and Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, English or Russian, Italian or German, scientist or philosopher, scholar or ordinary ignorant, special to the fourth century, or the thirteenth, or to the twentieth.

§ 45. In the Catholic ages, it never occurred to people that there was any opposition between these two principles. Specialism itself is human. After all, we do belong to our place, to our own age, and yet we are all men. There is only the Catholic Church in Corinth, and in Ephesus, Antioch, Jerusalem. We are all bound by the common Faith in dogma, and by the common Order, yet there is a vast variety in thinking and practice. The Catholic ages reconciled these things so easily in fact, that they never observed any difference in principle which called for reconciliation.

The Renaissance was much more scientific and saw the difference as clearly as we do. Wherefore, dogmatic faith and fixed order proceeded to crush the life out of freedom. It certainly crushed the life out of Monasticism long before Henry VIII. and the Reformation crushed out the forms. The Reformation revolted against the Renaissance, and crushed the life out of dogma and the fixed Order. Presently, it crushed the forms also. Finally, the two principles divided the field: on the one [37/38] side, rigid unity; on the other, unlimited freedom and division.

§ 46. Men on both sides, certainly we who have seen freedom, are getting very sceptical of this situation. We are acquiring a healthy and significant jealousy for the title of Catholic. What was once so obvious that it was hardly referred to is now insisted upon as of great importance. But the reconciliation of differences requires a painful effort, where the recognition of unity was a simple instinct. We may not have to go back on what we have learnt, but we shall have to go back to what we have forgotten or ignored.

It is easy to see what other people ignore; it is not so easy to see what we ourselves are ignoring, even in our own schemes for an inclusive unity.

(a) There is a universality of place and of peoples, yet the great "Continental" religions are ignored deliberately. It has never occurred to us to leave a place for them, nor that they had principles which we needed, which must be included in any final unity.

(b) There is a universality of time and age, yet we ignore the past. We study and criticise it by our modern judgment, as if "the spirit of this age" was one with the "Eternal Spirit." Our own "Catholicity" is inclusive only of those ideals, which we already have and approve.

§ 47. The other two points are for us much more difficult.

(c) When men lived and understood Catholicity—before it became a tyranny—they accepted the dogmatic Faith and fixed Order as the necessary basis, the obvious subject, of freedom in thought and worship. Are we now attempting more than to find an imaginary "equality" in freedom, which is properly the soul of variety, not of equality? Has it occurred to us to do more than allow fixity to co-exist as a special form of [38/39] freedom, somewhat as if we should confine unity to the branches, sternly excluding the root unless it also will be content to wave freely in the air?

(d) But the problem of the common man is the most complex. Luther only cared for the Church of the pietische: he acquiesced reluctantly in State Churches; Calvin sought a Church of the elect; Brown, a "gathered congregation" of the saints; Wesley, a "method" for the converted. We have got beyond these trenchant views; but have we reached more than a religion for the religious? Have we understood the "necessities" of the common man, by which the Catholic ages kept a hold on the common man which we, say what we like, have lost? Here is a test. Does our ideal unity include such necessities? It is more than the equalling of the religions accepted by religious folk.

And in this respect, it is somewhat significant that, while there has been lately among Protestants a most remarkable growth of sympathy and respect for Roman Catholicism, it is somewhat pointedly addressed to Catholic Mysticism, which belongs specifically to the Saints rather than to those parts of the system which belong to the common man.

§ 48. What sort of unity do we want? What is our ideal of Catholicity? We cannot accept Continental Religion, Latin or Eastern. What then? Are they to accept ours, or do we not care? We cannot accept the domination of the fourth century or the thirteenth. What then? Do we claim to dominate and judge them? If we ignore the majority of the Christian past, and most of the Christian souls living to-day, need we make all these efforts to get unity just amongst those who are at one?—and in what?

"We are at one in spirit" with all Christian souls. And we agreed that spiritual unity did not satisfy us. It does not mean more than that we are at one as far as we are. [39/40] "We are agreed in essentials." Hardly. We are agreed in what we count essential, though not in many things they so reckon. We have reconciled the unity of fixed and free elements in faith and order, because each accepts the necessity of those things he does so accept, but no one can possibly accept necessities from any one else, least of all from a traditional Catholicity, which has specialised in necessities, and has little else to offer.

§ 49. It is like the "peace" of Versailles. There are such a multitude of things on every side which "cannot possibly be accepted." Now this non possumus—we are not able to do it—may be a very humble answer. We are all very slow, and it is all so very difficult.

Perhaps a unity of Protestant bodies is all we can attempt just now. But non possumus has been used at times with an absolute finality which forestalled the very counsels of God. We may make the best unity we can at the moment, though it is not complete or inclusive, but is it intended to be deliberately exclusive? Does "inability to accept" mean a positive rejection? We must confess the limitations of our judgment and capacity, but, where in fact we are excluding so very much, can we assume that our narrowness marks the limits of God's purposes?

Can we believe that it has been given to us alone to measure and comprehend the Universal Spirit of God? E pur si muove. It is very difficult to understand Galileo. Need we cut him off so positively? God is not at the end of His tether. There are many broad pastures and fair, which we have never known, some we have long forgotten, into which He will yet lead us.


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