Project Canterbury

Is Our Draft Constitution Fundamentally Wrong?

By Edwin James Palmer

A Series of Articles by the Bishop of Bombay reprinted by the Bombay Diocesan Magazine.

Ahmednagar: Mission Press, [c. 1928]

This year has produced the most far reaching criticism which has yet been made of the Draft Constitution of the Church. It comes rather late. For four years we have had many criticisms of detail now we are told that the Constitution is seriously wrong in principle.

Let me say at once that all consideration of the Constitution is welcome. We want every diocese in India to feel that the Constitution has been fully considered by it, and has been adopted by it with very general consent, as something to which it has itself given care and trouble and made contributions. Nevertheless dioceses and individuals must be warned, that if they put oil the work of considering the Constitution any longer, they will be too late It is really not unreasonable, to say that seven years is long enough for the Church to spend on this work. Consequently the Provincial Council was quite justified in declaring that no amendments of substance could be received later than the session of February 1928 which will be the end of the fifth year. If such amendments are accepted then, they will need to be sent round the dioceses and brought up again for final acceptance two years hence, 1930, which will be the last meeting before the date of severance. As every one should know, we have got to have the Constitution ready by the date of severance.

Let me also say that I have found in my experience of drafting and revising the Constitution, that almost any serious criticism conduces to its improvement. It either shows a mistake which can be corrected, or an obscurity which can be removed, or a point which needs more emphasis. We want the proportions of truth to be represented in the proportions of our Constitution. Sometimes even the antagonistic insistence of partisans is permitted to be the means of getting true proportion into the teaching of the Church as a whole. A somewhat similar process may give our Constitution a proper balance.

The most important lines of the recent criticism of the Draft Constitution are these.

[2] 1. The authority of the Church is wrongly conceived in the Constitution, because that speaks of authority in matters of Faith and Order and of worship as belonging to the Bishops in virtue of their office, whereas all authority belongs to the Church as a whole, and the Church delegates to its officers such parts of its authority as it chooses.

2. In the Draft Constitution far too much is made of episcopacy which is an institution that has no authority except Church tradition or human acceptance, and could be given up by the Church at will without any loss of spiritual identity or continuity.

3. This insistence on episcopacy is harmful to the prospects of reunion with the Free Churches.

4. It ought to be left open to the Church by its Constitution to become Presbyterian if it likes, because the Church was Presbyterian before it was episcopal, and God manifestly approves of the Presbyterian Churches of our day.

5. The Constitution abandons the definition of the Church given in Article xix, and unchurches Churches which the Church of England has not unchurched,

6. The position assigned to the laity in the Constitution is far below their rights.

7. The Constitution does not sufficiently guard the uniqueness and supremacy of Holy Scripture as the sole foundation of doctrine.

Most of these criticisms are unfortunately based on wrong conceptions about the nature of the Church and of authority in the Church. It will need a somewhat lengthy discussion to show why those conceptions are wrong Before proceeding to this detailed discussion, I will give a brief summary of my answers to these seven criticisms, which will make it easier to see at a glance what I believe to be their general bearing and value.

1. Our Lord gave authority to the Church as a whole, and also to the Apostles as special organs of that authority. The Apostles directed the development of this authority, as the spreading Church needed more organs of authority than themselves. The Church is a body, which exercises its functions, like all bodies, through different organs. The [2/3] ministers are such organs, and given to it by God. The Church at no time delegated functions to its ministers. It learned by gradual experience that its God-given ministers were meant to exercise certain different functions.

2. The Constitution claims nothing for the episcopate which has not been allowed to belong to it from very early times. The history of the Church is continuous and must be so read and understood. The Holy Spirit guided its course.

The Church of England has been episcopal ever since its foundation. If we ceased to be episcopal, we should certainly break our spiritual continuity. The Constitution has aimed at making no alteration which is not justified by the gift of autonomy to the Church in India. Therefore the Constitution does not alter the conception of the ministry expressed in the preface to the Ordinal.

3. General reunion of Christendom is, so far as we can see, impossible apart from episcopacy. The negotiations between our Church and the Free Churches both in England and India admit this, and assume episcopacy as one element of reunion. So did the Conference at Lausanne.

4. It is not true that the Church was presbyterian before it was episcopal, because under the Apostles it was certainly not a presbyterian Church, and there is nothing to show that there was any interval when there was no authority in the Church superior to the presbyters.

God's blessing on the contemporary Presbyterian Churches does not prove that what is peculiarly presbyterian in them is pleasing to Him or the source of their success and strength.

5. The words in Article xix are a description of how the Church is visible, not a definition of the Church, and are so uncertain and difficult of interpretation, that it is better to define the Church as is done in the Constitution, by St. Paul's description, the Body of Christ. The one place in the Draft Constitution which may possibly be held to unchurch Churches which the Church of England has not unchurched could be be altered.

[4] 6. The powers assigned to the laity in our Constitution are greater than they have in England. The necessity of the laity to the life of the Church could and should be brought out more strongly, but not in such a manner as to give the impression that there is no difference between laity and clergy.

7. This is not true if the Constitution is rightly understood.

I now proceed to a detailed examination of the criticisms.

1. The authority of the Church. The Scriptural passages which are relevant show that authority was given by our Lord to the Church as a whole and also to the Apostles as the special organs of its exercise. This is precisely consistent with S. Paul's customary discription of the Church as a body.

Let us consider the key-passages. S. Matt. 18, 18. "What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. "This is the power of prohibiting or allowing things to be done: in other words the deciding of moral questions. The passage occurs in the middle of a section, (verses 15-20) all the rest of which is addressed to our Lord's followers in general, not to the Apostles in particular. But over against it must be set the saying addressed to S. Peter (Matt. 10, 19.) "What soever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. "Precisely the same power is given, but hero to one man, the leader of the Apostles. Then there must be considered the words of the Risen Lord as reported in S. John 20, 21, 22, and 23. "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you." "Receive the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven, whosoever sins ye retain they are retained." Dr. Westcott argued that the company to which these words were addressed were those mentioned in S.Luke 21, 28, "the eleven and they that were with them ", and that those who were with them were the same as are named in Acts 1, 14. I have never been greatly impressed by this quasi-mathematical argument, but supposing it to be accepted, yet once more we must sot the complementary passages over against it. "Ye did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit" etc. (S. John 15, 16.) was spoken only to the Apostles, unless [4/5] "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was not an Apostle. With regard to the forgiveness or retention of sins, S. Peter's action about Ananias and Sapphira does not indicate any need of cooperation by the assembled disciples, and S. Paul's word's about the incestuous man at Corinth (1 Cor. 4, 21, and 5, 3-8) as well as about the reconciliation of, probably, a different sinner there (2 Cor. 2, 5-11), show on the one hand his wish to have the, co-operation of the local Church in excommunication and reconcilation, but on the other hand quite as clearly his sense that he was exercising an independent authority.

The explanation of these contrasted passages is very simple. It is contained in the truth that the Church is the Lord's body, which S. Paul teaches (e. g. Rom. 12, 4 foil.) and applies especially to this matter of the ministry in 1 Cor. 12. This is an explanation which all can follow. God gives to a human being sight. The man sees, but his toes do not see, it is his eyes that see, and only his eyes. And yet in virtue of that God-given power of the eyes, the whole man has sight. God gives a human being the gift of locomotion. At first the baby rolls: then it crawls: then as it comes to a full understanding and control of its powers, it walks on its feet and only on its feet. God did not give sight to the body and then set it to delegate that power to which organ it might choose: nor did He give the power of locomotion and set the baby to decide with which limbs he should walk. In each case God designed and provided the proper organ for the exercise of the power, and sets the human being by a shorter or longer process to find out what that proper organ is and how to use it. This may be applied to the Church quite simply. Christ after His Ascension, as S. Paul tells us in Epbesians 4, gave certain gifts to men, and among these gifts were apostles and prophets and pastors and teachers. These were the organs through which for certain purposes the Church was to act and did act. It took the Church a little time to discover what were the exact functions exercised by the ministry of the apostolic age which were intended to lie permanent and which of the ministers would best txerciae those functions. But within 150 years of our Lord's Ascension that process of discovery (so far as it concerned Bishops and Presbyters and Deacons) was complete.

The notion that the Church as a whole delegated parts of its Godgiven authority to its officers cannot be supported by one scrap of valid evidence. [5/6] An attempt is made to prove it from the account of the appointment of the Seven in Acts 6, But it seems incredible that anyone reading that chapter should fail to see that the initiative was taken by the Apostles, and that it was they who delegated authority. It was they who wished to give over to others the serving of tables. It was they who called the multitude of the disciples to them and told them to look out seven men of good report full of the Spirit and wisdom, "whom we," they said, "may set over this business." The multitude approved and chose the Seven and set them before the Apostles. In spite of the fact that there is no change of pronoun, it is clear who is the subject, in the clause, "and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them." It can only be the Apostles, who thus carried out their previously declared intention to set chosen men over this business.

Another attempt to prove this point is made by saying "The Order of Presbyters was never formally established. It was taken over from the Jewish Church as the inevitable and normal organisation." No one can possibly claim to know that. Of the making of the presbyters at Jerusalem no account is given in the Acts. It is characteristic of S. Luke's historical method, that he indicates the origin of every institution by at least one narrative. We must ask then, is there nothing in his Gospel which serves to explain where the Jerusalem elders came from. The suggestion has been made that they were those of the seventy who resided at Jerusalem. That is, to say the least, as likely as any other guess. With regard to elders other than those at Jerusalem, the evidence that we have both direct and indirect is in favour of appointment and ordination by the Apostles. The only direct account of the making of presbyters in the New Testament is S Luke's remark (Acts 14, 23) tbat Paul and Barnabas, on the return half of the first missionary journey, "appointed for them" (their new converts)" elders in every Church." It is very well known that the word here translated "appointed" (cheirotonesantes) has in S. Luke's time lost all reference to election by show of hands as anyone can see for himself from Acts 10, 41, "Him God raised up the third day, and gave Him to be made manifest, not to all the people but to witnesses that were chosen before (prokecheiro-tonemenois) by God." If the congregations or the whole Church appointed or ordained elders, why were Timothy and Titus sent to [6/7] Ephesus and Crete with such elaborate instructions to do it? Why does Clement describe the presbyter-bishops who had been turned out of office at Corinth as appointed by Apostles and other notable men? Indeed Clement makes the categorical statement, "The Apostles made their firstfruits episcopoi and deacons."

The principle of the Church's ministry is sending. "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." The Apostles continued that sending. There is evidence, that, like sensible men, they consulted the Christians about the qualifications of persons. That was the part that the whole body could take and ought to take in the business. But there is no evidence that anyone thought that it lay with the Church as a whole to appoint or to ordain its ministers. That is only a delusion bred in the minds of some men of the nineteenth century, when democracy seemed to be successful. We who cannot be bewitched by the spell of democracy, can estimate the evidence with steadier eyes.

The last point that needs treatment here is the authority of the Apostles, and the succession of the Bishops to that authority.

It is one of the most astounding facts that it is possible for a great man like Dr. Hort to study the New Testament without recognizing that the Apostles had authority and unique authority. It was the authority of being "sent" by our Lord. St. Paul claimed that same sending, and his tone of authority is unmistakeable, and is connected with his notion of the apostleship. It is unreasonable to contrast him in this with the Apostles. He acted, as he acted, because he was an Apostle. The care of all the Churches rested on him daily. Surely he believed that a like care rested on S. Peter for the Churches of the circumcision to which they two had agreed that S. Peter should go. It was of course impossible that a later generation should be eye-witnesses of the acts and sufferings and resurrection of our Lord. The duty of giving testimony as an eye-witness could not be passed on. But the duty of supervision could be passed on, had to be passed on, and was passed on. I will state this point in the words which I used in my address at Lausanne about "apostolical succession."

"I know, "some of you have long since completely closed yours are against this theory, because you say that the transition from the Apostles to the Bishops cannot be proved. If it did happen, it happened in a time [7/8] when our evidence is confessedly fragmentary. But, even so, there is real evidence. St. Paul writes to Timothy to provide for a succession in teaching (2 Tim. 2, 2). Clement of Rome (ad Cor. 44) says that SS. Peter and Paul provided for a succession in the Episcopate (by which word he still means the same as the New Testament Writers do). The whole Christian world used the laying on of hands from the Apostles' times, and to a Jew that implied some kind of transmission (cp. Numb. 27, vv. 18 to 20), and it was Jews who started this custom. The whole Christian world at the end of the second century believed the Bishops of certain sees to be successors of Apostles in those places. It is true that these and other items which might be cited are only fragmentary pieces of evidence in favour of what tradition says. But no one can live on a mission-field, so long as I have, without seeing that tradition is right. The order of proceedings is universal. First the missionary itinerates, secondly he or his successor settles in a suitable headquarters, and from there superintends the Church in the surrounding district, thirdly, that duty of supervision passes into the hands of a local minister. That is the normal, natural, almost necessary development. That is exactly how the authority of the Apostles passed into that of the Bishops. Calvin made the most amazing mistake for an able man when he tried to reform the Church by reconstructing it after the pattern of the apostolic age minus the Apostles. The Spirit that had directed the history of the primitive Church was wiser than Calvin. Consequently, I feel no reason to doubt, but every reason to accept, the tradition that the Bishops succeeded the Apostles in everything that they could succeed to. "

The Church, as time went on--and very early indeed in the time was convinced that the. Bishops were the rightful ministers of ordination, as the Apostles had been: and that the Bishops had authority regarding discipline, i. e. about excommunication and reconcilation, and also superintendence and direction of public worship, and that they had certain duties as "custodes veritatis" (guardians of the truth) in regard to the definition of the faith of the Church. Christ had given the Apostles to the Church, and, as they died, the Bishops to be their successors in regard to their permanently necessary functions. The Church having thus received Apostles and Bishops from God, learned how to use them, its the baby learns how to use its legs. With that learning came the [8/9] definite differentiation of function. Nothing is claimed in the Constitution for the Bishops for which very ancient authority cannot be shown, except (of course) the chairmanship of a representative diocesan Council which is itself an invention of modern times.

Perhaps one observation should be added on the authority of the Bishops in matters of Faith and Order. In the oecumenical Councils, no one but Bishops (or their deputies) voted. They decreed definitions of the faith. But these only obtained final authority if time shewed that they were accepted by the whole Church. Our little Church of the Province of India, Burma and Ceylon can by no possibility be a final authority on matters of Faith and Order. It is subject to correction by the whole Church, if and when the whole Church regains a means of expressing a common mind. But when our Church makes such decisions on Faith and Order, as our own needs may urgently require, we shall have a procedure based on the principles of the undivided Church. The Bishops will have to define matters of Faith and Order. But if such definitions or decisions of the Bishops are to become incorporated in the laws of the Church, so that ministers or others are liable to penalties for disregarding them, then the whole General Council must so incorporate them. In so doing it will shew that a very general consent has been given to what the Bishops have defined.

I must point out in passing that this gives to the Laity a far greater share in decisions about faith and order than they have now in England, as I will explain at greater length in answer to point 6.

It is not however history alone which justifies us in ascribing such authority to the Bishops. There are practical reasons for doing so in India, which existed also in the early Church, and made the episcopal authority beneficial to it. In a Church where there will for a long time be multitudes of very ignorant members and in which a high standard of theological learning can hardly be expected in the majority of the clergy, there is (as there was in the early Church) abundant reason for throwing the responsibility for framing doctrinal statements on chosen men, who are qualified, and can continually make themselves better qualified, for the work. Similarly in the matter of worship, popular enthusiasm and personal oddity Deed always to be controlled by those whose duty it is to [9/10] guard the interests of the truth of religion. The Church of the primitive centuries found that in the Bishops God had provided just such chosen men for these great purposes. At that time the Bishops alone were voting members of Provincial Synods as well as of oecumenical. We do well to remember that such synods were the first representative legislative assemblies in history. In that sense the whole Church of the Province in question or of the world acted through them. In like manner, under our Constitution, the Episcopal Synod will be a representative body as all the Bishops will in time be elected. It is a great safeguard to any young and very largely ignorant Church to know clearly that its holiest and most difficult concerns are the special care of its highest order of ministry, which is composed of its chosen leaders, consecrated to their office and empowered for it by divine grace. This differentiation of function is as important in India to-day as ever it was in the Church.

Let me sum up now my answer on the first criticism. It is wholly untrue that our Lord gave all authority indiscriminately to the Church as an aggregate of equal persons. He gave authority to the Church as His body, and He gave it at the same time organs through which to exercise that authority. The ministries of supervision, of local pastoral care, and of succour to the weak, as well as that of prophecy which more and more came to be exercised together with one of the first named are original and have been continuous in the Church, in spite of changes in nomenclature. The Constitution represents these facts of history and truths of Providence with reasonable correctness. It does not need to be altered to make room for, still less to give sanction to, a theory of the delegation of all authority by the whole Church to the various ministries, since such a delegation never at any moment happened, and cannot rightly be made now.

2. In the Draft Constitution far too much is made of episcopacy, which is an institution which has no authority except Church tradition or Church acceptance and could be given up by the Church at will without any loss of spiritual identity or continuity. Such in general is the second criticism.

[11] The attempt to discredit episcopacy as it was understood in the second and all succeeding centuries, because it is not mentioned in the Holy Scripture, belongs to a range of ideas which I really thought we had got over and given up. It is not even the teaching of the English Reformers and the Prayer Book, for they regarded "Ancient authors" and "the primitive Church" as worthy of respect and adherence. But it still less compatible with the contemporary spirit of historical study without partiality or prepossessions. We are bound as historians to read Church history as a whole. In all history tradition is more highly rated now than it was when I was a boy, and the mere absence of early documentary evidence for a tradition is not held in itself to invalidate it. We are bound again as theologians to believe that the Holy Spirit's guidance was never withdrawn from the Church. We cannot draw the hard line that our fathers drew between His inspiration of the Scriptures and His inspiration of the Church and its institutions. It is true to say that Church tradition and Church acceptance constituted the Canon of the New Testament, and the ascription of the books to the authors whose names stand over them in our Bibles rests on Church tradition and Church acceptance in most cases. Why then should the supposed fact that episcopacy rests on Church tradition and Church acceptance shew that the Church can at will change its mind about episcopacy any more than it can change its mind about the Canon of Holy Scripture? The Church made up its mind about episcopacy earlier than it made up its mind about the limits of the Canon of Holy Scripture! I declare gladly that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament, and that the Church accepted those writings as inspired, and that its tradition affirmed that they were written by such and such persons and were authoritative. 1 also declare that the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to provide for the needs of the Church by the living ministries of men, that the Church accepted those ministries as God's gifts, and its tradition affirmed that they were continuous from the Apostles. If the New Testament is to be used to discredit the dealings of the Spirit after its books had been written, then I must be allowed to urge that our Lord Jesus wrote nothing and did not command anything to be written. He chose men, and He sent them out to build up His holy society for the salvation of men. That society is not founded on Holy Scripture, but [11/12] as Scripture itself says, is founded on the Apostles and Prophets with the Lord Jesus as the chief corner-stone into which all is bonded. It was the holy Apostles and Prophets who shaped the ministries of the Church, and I accept them from them, though the New Testament ha; pens not to contain the history of all the steps which led to the three-old ministry as we know it. But is it anywhere said or implied that the New Testament tells us all about the Church? I must appeal to Jesus Christ again. "I have many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He shall lead you into all the truth"--practical, I think, as well as intellectual. But an answer on a different plane must also be given.

One of the principles of the Constitution is that in it we have made no change unless it is necessitated or justified by the change in the status of the Church from dependence on the Church of England to autonomy Now the Preface to the English Ordinal says, "It is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed, in the Church of England; no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had formerly Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."

If we were in our Constitution to declare that Episcopacy or Episcopal Ordination is not necessary, we should be indeed introducing a momentous change into our Church which is in no way necessitated or justified by the grant to her of autonomy.

I submit that, if the Church of England abandoned episcopacy, it would "break its spiritual continuity with the past and destroy its [12/13] spiritual identity" as the fourth paragraph of the Preamble says. Never since her very foundation has she been anything but an episcopal Church, blessed with the inheritance of the apostolic succession. Whether any particular man thinks a great deal or very little of this blessing, it is a fact, and to renounce it would be to renounce something which is part of the Church of England itself through all its history. Similarly if we made that change we should no longer be the "Church of England in India", or spiritually continuous or identical with that Church. All this is obvious quite apart from the question whether episcopacy or any other form of ministry is a mark of the true Church.

3. The third criticism is that this insistence on episcopacy is harmful to the prospect of union with the Free Churches.

I believe this to be an unfounded apprehension.

a) The Joint Committee of English Free Churchmen and members of the Church of England which sat at Lambeth from 1921 to 1925 has agreed that episcopacy must be an element in any likely reunion of Christendom,

"For the allaying of doubts and scruples in the future, and for the more perfect realisation of the truth that the ministry is a ministry of the Church, and not merely of any part thereof, means should be provided for the United Church which we desire, whereby its ministry may be acknowledged by every part thereof as possessing the authority of the whole body,"

"In view of the fact that the Episcopate was from early times and for many centuries accepted, and by the greater part of Christendom is still accepted, as the means whereby this authority of the whole body is given, we agree that it ought to be accepted as such for the United Church of the future." (Bell and Robertson, "The Church of England and the Free Churches", p, 37.)

(b) The South India scheme is being negotiated on the basis (amongst other things) that the united Church will be episcopally governed. (Report of the Fifth Meeting of Joint Committee on Union. 17 February 1925.)

[14] "(5) A. That believing that the principle of the historic episcopate in a constitutional form is that which is more likely than any other to promote and preserve the unity of the Church, we accept it as a basis of unity without raising other questions about episcopacy.

B. That by a historic and constitutional episcopate we mean:--

a. that the bishops be elected by representatives of the diocese and approved by representatives of the province.

b. that the bishops shall perform their duties constitutionally in accordance with such customs of the Church as shall be defined in a written constitution; and

c. that continuity with the historic episcopate be effectively maintained, it being understood that no particular interpretation of the fact of the historic episcopate be demanded."

(c) The following resolution of one of the Sections of the Lausanne Conference (that on the Ministry) was commended to the consideration of all the Churches by the whole Conference. It should be noted that each Section consisted of over 100 members drawn from all the Churches and nations represented at Lausanne. The whole Conference had not time to work over the reports of the Sections line by line. But it considered them paragraph by paragraph, and anything which was challenged by any speaker was referred back to the Section for reconsideration. The Section then prepared a revised draft of their report. These revised drafts were in all cases but one "commended to the consideration of all the Churches." The sentence that I am about to quote represents as fully as any of its findings could the mind of the Conference at Lausanne.

"In view of (1) the place which the Episcopate, the Councils of Presbyters, and the Congregation of the faithful, respectively, had in the constitution of the early church, and (2) the fact that episcopal, presbyteral, and congregational systems of government are each today, and have been for centuries, accepted by great communions in Christendom, and (3) the fact the episcopal, presbyteral and congregational systems are each believed by many to be essential to the good order of the Church, we therefore recognise that these several elements must all, [14/15] under conditions which require further study, have an appropriate place in the order of life of a reunited Church, and that each separate communion, recalling the abundant blessing of God vouchsafed to its ministry in the past, should gladly bring to the common life of the united Church its own spiritual treasures."

I submit that all these three separate testimonies from very responsible Joint Committees or Conferences show that that there is no likelihood at all that the united Church of the future will be non-episcopal.

I would add that in India we are dealing with a country where episcopacy is congenial to the people and all their traditions. Indians are more likely than any nation on earth to adhere (if they are free to decide for themselves) to the historic episcopal system of the Church.

In one word, union with the Free Churches in India is practically sure to be under episcopacy; consequently our loyalty to the episcopacy which our Church has always possessed does not seem to be harmful to the prospects of such union.

4. It ought to be left open to the Church by its Constitution to become presbyterian if it likes, because the Church was presbyterian before it was episcopal and God manifestly approves of the Presbyterian Churches of today. Such is the fourth criticism.

This championship of the Presbyterian case is somewhat strange in anyone who is an ordained minister of the Church of England. As such, he must at one time have convinced himself that the episcopal order of Church government is right and the presbyterian wrong--or at least less right. What are these arguments which we are challenged to recognise as so important?

Presbyterianism means that there is no one higher in the government of the Church than the elders. Certainly the Church did not begin by being presbyterian in this sense. Certainly the Apostles were above the elders from the first. I do not believe that there was ever any moment in the history of the primitive Church when there was no one above the elders. Certainly the men of the middle and late second century believed that in the great sees there was no gap between the apostolic founder and the Bishop who took up his position of oversight. [15/16] Certainly Tertullian believed that episcopacy in the sense in which he knew it and we still know it, owed its origin to the action of the Apostle John. The first instances of concerted action between local Churches are synods of Bishops in Asia Minor to deal with the Montanist heresy. Church history in the age immediately following the Apostles is like a chain, some lengths of which is hidden in dark water. But we have clear sight of the chain both before and after this interval of obscuration. If a ministry of supervision exists in the form of the Apostles and their delegates before, and a ministry of supervision in the form of the later episcopate exists after that interval, it is a very curious inference to draw that in the interval the Church must have been guided and ruled on an entirely different principle. This is clear enough to able advocates of Presbyterianism, and consequently they attempt to deny that the beginning of the chain (the continuous life of the Church) was a period when the Apostles supervised. They would have us believe that the Apostles only witnessed to our Lord's death and resurrection. In fact the apostolic age had an organisation in which the Apostles counted for nothing. But the whole tone of the New Testament is clearly against this. And any attempt to reproduce the apostolic age without reproducing the oversight which the Apostles exercised is little better than absurd. That is where Presbyterianism is wrong. The Church never was a democracy. The elders were never its supreme governing body, nor, so far as we know, were they ever the highest rank of ministry in it.

To these arguments the advocates of Presbyterianism sometimes add that our Lord Himself gave His sanction to Presbyterianism by attending the synagogue, in which there were elders. Can such an argument be advanced seriously? Did not our Lord also often attend the Temple? and would not the same method of arguing compel us to admit that He approved of a High Priest being in charge of the Jewish religion and therefore of the Church which He was founding being under the authority of a single person? Indeed, one might go a step further and argue that He gave His sanction to the High Priest being appointed by the State (as happened in His day)--which shows how little there is in that argument.

There is no solid ground for saying that the Church was ever presbyterian. Some of the Reformers thought they were going to make it so, [16/17] but they failed. They failed, as we believe, because the apostolic oversight was intended by God to be a permanent element in the Church, and as a matter of fact it was continued in the Bishops.

When it is said that "God manifestly approves of the Presbyterian Churches of our day," it is very difficult to be sure what the facts are or what they prove. God has blessed many Presbyterians, both lay people and ministers, most abundantly. God has also obviously blessed their work as communities. But has the peculiar feature of their Church government been obviously blessed or productive of any part of their strength? Are they not strong precisely because of those parts of the Catholic Church's tradition to which they have adhered? They have believed steadily in objective truth, and not admitted the right of every man's personal views to be recognised as permissible doctrine. The Nicene Creed is affirmed by the Westminster Confession. They have held firmly to the rights of the Church over the individual, whether minister or layman. They have preserved and emphasized the Council of the presbyters and the important place of the lay people in the body of Christ--and both of these are principles of the Catholic Church. God has been able to bless them so greatly, because they have retained so much of the heritage that He meant for His universal or Catholic Church. I cannot see that they have gained anything from the abandonment of certain parts of that heritage.

It is therefore not necessary that the Constitution should leave it open to our Church to become presbyterian if it likes. Formally and legally this is possible as the Constitution is drafted. But it will be said truly that the alteration of the first Preliminary Declaration needs the consent of every Bishop, and it would be most unlikely that that consent would be given if the alteration was intended to enable the Church to become presbyterian. I suppose those who wish to make this change practically possible would remove the sentence about the Orders of the Ministry from the first to one of the later Declarations. Does history or sense justify such a distinction between the ancient historic ministry of the Church on the one hand and the canon of Holy Scripture and the ancient creeds on the other?

[18] 5. The Constitution abandons the definition of the Church given in Article XIX, and unchurches Churches which the Church of England has not unchurched. Such is the fifth criticism.

The decision of the Episcopal Synod with Assessors which has been accepted by the Provincial Council, that subscription to the XXXIX Articles should not be required of candidates for ordination and clergy about to be licensed, does not rest on objections to this or that passage in them, but on their inappropriateness as a whole for use in India. I believe that in no diocese are ordinands required to be taught the Articles in detail as they are in England. That fact establishes the general opinion of their unsuitableness to our conditions.

Ought then Article XIX in particular to have been revived in the Constitution?

The difficulty of interpreting this Article correctly is very great, and without recourse to history impossible. It does not say that any "congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same" is a "visible Church of Christ." This is what would be needed to bind us to call by the name Church any congregation of faithful men which fulfils those two conditions. "What the Article does say is something quite different. "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." Now this sentence is the product of a careful selection from and recasting of the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession which runs as follows. "Again it is acknowleged that the one holy Church will abide for ever. But the Church is a congregation of holy men, in which the Gospel is rightly taught, and the sacraments rightly administered, and for the true unity of the Church it is sufficient to agree about the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies instituted by men should be everywhere alike. As St. Paul says, there is one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, etc,"

[19] The Augsburg Article is about the unity of the Church: our Article about its visibility. The Augsburg Article inserted a clause to protest against the Romans "unchurching" reformed Churches, and to affirm against them that only right teaching of the Gospel and right administration of the sacraments are necessary to the unity of the Church, Our Reformers left this clause entirely out: so this Article cannot be quoted as showing the Reformers views on "unchurching." We can easily imagine the discussions of the two parties among the Bishops, for we have before us what is obviously the ineffective result of a compromise. The discussions produced at last the harmless statement that the Church of Christ makes itself visible by being a congregation (coetus) of men, "in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments duly ministered, etc." In the time of Queen Elizabeth just as clearly as in ours, there was no one company or congregation of faithful men on earth (where alone the Church can be visible) which secured these two things. So the statement did not represent then, any more than now, an existing observable fact, but an ideal or an aspiration. Further, it had to be reconciled with the clause of the Nicene Creed "I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

Considering all these difficulties of interpretation, I am still convinced that the draftsmen of our Constitution did well to let the statement; of Article XIX alone. Much more can be learned from the Scriptural expression--the body of Christ. What is good in the phrase used in the Article is preserved in the language of the Thanksgiving after communion where the whole Church which is partly visible and partly invisible is described as "the mystical body of Christ, which is the blessed company of all faithful people." There are more marks of the true Church than two, as the English Reformers indicated by leaving out the Augsburg sentence about the sufficiency of these two marks. While the Constitution cannot be accused of underrating the teaching of the gospel on the administration of the sacraments, it cannot reasonably be accused of altering the definition of the Church because it has made no use of the description of it contained in Article XIX.

There remains the criticism that the Constitution "unchurches" Churches which the Church of England has not unchurched. There is [19/20] only one passage of which this can fairly be complained. That is the opening of new Declaration 4 in the supplement: "the unwritten Constitution of the Holy Catholic Church may be discerned in those features of organisation or structural principles which it began to exhibit very early in its history and which every true part of it recognizes, retains and reproduces with such adaptations as the Holy Spirit suggests" etc. For my own part, I should be willing to see the sentence turned so that it does not bear the implication which has given offence. The statement was intended to mean that societies of Christian men which do not recognise or reproduce the structural features of the body (such as the historic ministry) may be lawful and useful voluntary associations but they are not parts of the Church considered as an organism. If their members are, as we hope, members of the Church, they are societies within the Church; but those societies are not parts of the organic structure of the Church. This is not well expressed by the words used in the draft Article, and I should be willing myself that it should not be expressed at all.

A rather strange objection has been taken to the words "unwritten Constitution". Is not the British Constitution an unwritten Constitution? When I was at school, I was taught that it was all the better for that. Is the constitution of any organism first written and then created? Surely it is very true that no council met and made the constitution of the Church. Nor did God give orders for it to be written down. Jesus Christ left behind Him a Church with Apostles at its head. He gave authority both to the Church and to His Apostles. Out of His will that that Company of living men should continue His work in the world as a body, grew the Constitution of the Church. Of course it was unwritten; and if so, why not say so?

6. The position assigned to the laity in this Constitution is far below their rights. This is the sixth criticism.

It should be pointed out first of all that it is a much more important position than the laity have in the Church of England.

The National Assembly of the Church of England corresponds to our General Council. That Assembly is the only central governing body in the Church on which laymen sit. The following extracts from its Constitution show the position there.

[21] 14. (1) "Any measure touching doctrinal formulae or the services or ceremonies of the Church of England or the administration of the sacraments or sacred rites thereof" is to be accepted or rejected in the terms in which it is finally proposed by the House of Bishops.

(2) "Provided that it does not belong to the functions of the Assembly to issue any statement purporting to define the doctrine of the Church of England on any question of theology, and no such statement shall be issued by the Assembly."

We have adopted the principle of 14 (1) in our Constitution. We have also adopted 14 (2) almost verbally (see Preliminary Declaration 12 in the supplement, last paragraph) but we have made the important addition which gives the whole Council the power of saying what part of any doctrinal determination of the Bishops is to be incorporated in a Canon, and thus to become a law of the Church to which obedience is due according to the oaths taken by the Ministers. This amounts to give the General Council the final authority in deciding what is to rank legally and formerly as a doctrine of the Church.

With regard to the position of the laity in general, the Constitution does not yet in any draft bring out the necessity of the laity to the clergy and of the clergy to the laity as it ought to do. Professor C.H. Turner has suggested that the section on the laity, (Preliminary Declaration 9 (iv) in the supplement, page 24) should begin with such words as these, "Bishops and other ordained ministers have their functions in and for the Church, and can no more exist apart from the people of God, the plebs fidelium, than the people can exist apart from them. All gifts are ultimately for the edification of the Body of Christ. The Church of this Province recognises fully that the lay people who are the vast majority of the members of the Body, have the rights as well as the duties of a priesthood of believers. They have their share ......... every place" (as printed 9 iv line 11 foll.) After this he would place the first ten lines of the printed paragraph.

Without saying that this is the best place in the Preliminary Declarations to insert Professor Turner's first sentence, I should be glad to see this said.

[22] It is of interest to read a typical view from the Eastern Orthodox Church, expressed by the Russian Arch-Priest, Professor Serge Boulgakoff, at Lausanne.

"The lay people have their place and their value in the Church just as much as the clergy. The estate of the laity cannot be defined negatively as that which does not possess any of the Orders of the Church--it is rather a special Order which is given to them in the Sacrament of Confirmation.........

This Order has its own special nature and its place in the Church, though that may be subordinate to the priesthood, but in a manner independent of it.

"It is the characteristic trait of Protestantism to understand and to emphasize this independence of the lay people in the body of the Church, although this doctrine may be an hypertrophy (or exaggeration) resulting from the opposite hypertrophy (or exaggeration) in Romanism, where the lay people can only obey the clergy passively, thereby losing their special value.

The priesthood only exists in the Church in an indissoluble relation to the lay people, and this relation is not only that of submission and direction, but also that of reciprocity and union within the mystic being of the Church. It is only with the laity that the priest can perform the holy sacraments, and the laity participate in worship and in the sacraments by their singing, their responses and their prayers. The laity in concurrence with the clergy take part also in the instruction given by the Church, in the Ministry of the Word; they can even be in a sense entrusted with a mission and preach under the direction and supervision of the Bishop. The laity have the right to an incontestable participation in the election of the clergy from the highest rank to the lowest, from that of patriarch to those of deacon and reader. The representatives of the diocese of Moscow, clergy and laity, took part in the election of the patriarch Tikhon, first to the rank of Metropolitan, and then to that of Patriarch of all the Russias. The laity are present at the Ordination of a priest, giving their approval by shouting "He is worthy," immediately the Bishop lays his hands upon him. Without this approval of the laity the [22/23] ordination could not be completed. In the same way in regard to ecclesiastical administration, the Bishop can only make it effective in concurrence with the representatives of the clergy and the laity organised in episcopal councils, of the dioceses or of the presbyters, or in special meetings like the local or oecumenical councils. And even in cases where the Bishops alone are present (as for example in the oecumenical councils and many local councils) the Bishop appears as the "angel" of his Church, expressing the concurrence of its opinions and its doctrine. The Bishop does not impose on his Church his personal opinion but expresses in an authoritative manner the voice of the whole Church. The Council of the Bishops does not express the sum-total of the personal opinions cf the Bishops assembled, which in that case would for the Church have the value of a common which must be obeyed, but the concurrence of the opinions of each of the local Churches,

"However, it would be false to define the character of these relations in terms of constitutional law, as for instance "a representative and constitutional episcopate"; such legalism would not correspond to the nature of the Church. On the contrary; the nature of the relations of the priesthood and the lay people is spiritual reciprocity, union in love, unanimity in thought, and, I repeat once more, the principle of organic life, not of organisation."

The position of the laity in the Church could hardly be better stated. This view of the Orthodox Church is one more example of the striking manner in which that Church has retained through all the centuries the teaching of the primitive Church.

7. The last criticism is that the Constitution does not sufficiently guard the uniqueness and supremacy of Holy Scripture as the sole foundation of doctrine.

This criticism is based entirely on a misreading of Chapter II Canon I.

It has been forgotten that this Canon must be interpreted so as to accord with Preliminary Declaration 1, where it is said, that our Church ,l accepts the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments which the whole Church accepts, and receives them as living oracles of God, and tests all statements of doctrine by them."

[24] We must bear carefully in mind what the English Reformers insisted on about Holy Scripture, and what they refused to affirm. They insisted that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." (Art VI.) This leaves room for many things being true and wise that cannot be proved by Holy Scripture. And these true and wise things may have been proved by experience to be very important to our life as individuals or as a Church, though not "necessary to salvation."

Again, the English Reformers refused the solicitations of some of their contemporaries that the Church should not decree or insist upon anything which is not contained in Holy Scripture. They would not take that step. It would have involved the absurdity that the Holy Scripture is a directory of all possible future action. Our Reformers would only say, "It is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written." (Art. XX.)

I submit that Preliminary Article 1 and Chapter II Canon I, taken together, are entirely consistent with these views of the English Reformers about the authority of Holy Scripture.

It is my wish and hope that these explanations may be useful to those who are very rightly considering the Constitution with minute care and may lead to our being able still to improve it, and finally accept it with unanimity as expressing the truth about the Church as we understand it at this date. We cannot do more. Our successors with God's help will, we hope, advance to a clearer understanding and a better life in the Church of God.


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