REPORT OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE.Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty
PRESENT BREACHES AND NEGLECTS OF THE LAW.
The same failure to achieve universal observance of the legal standard laid down in the Acts of Uniformity, and the same variety in the character and significance of deviations from that standard, which history reveals in the past, still exist with regard to the breaches and the neglect of the law relating to the conduct of Divine Service, as to the prevalence of which we now proceed to report. These may be conveniently divided into two groups: —
I. Illegal practices (whether acts or defaults) which do not appear to have any significance beyond that which directly belongs to them as showing a disregard of the exact requirements of the law. In this groups will be included certain deviations from the legal standard in the services, ceremonies, and ornaments used in public worship (a) which have been adopted on the ground of convenience; (b) which have resulted from negligence or inadvertence; (c) which have become common for reasons less easy to define.
II. Illegal practices which either from their nature, from historical association, or from some other cause, appear to have a significance beyond that which the practices in themselves posses.
The distinction which is constituted by the significance of some illegal practices and the non-significance of others is a real distinction, to which great regard should be had. But it must be recognised that it cannot be drawn with the precision which might belong to a merely formal division, resting on plain outward differences. There are practices in the ways of omission which in some instances are non-significant, but in others indicate disregard, whether conscious or unconscious, of certain principles of doctrines; and there are practices in the way of addition which in some instances are non-significant, but in others, where the conditions are different, clearly have significance. It is necessary, therefore, to recognise an area of uncertainty—a disputable zone—between the two groups, the significant and the non-significant. But the main components of these two groups, and the real contrast between them, are nevertheless clear and important.
There is, however one important breach of the law to which we refer separately, as we have been unable to place it in any of the classes which we have distinguished—the disregard in whole or in part of the rubric which directs that the Creed of St. Athanasius shall be sung or said on certain Feast-days at Morning Prayer instead of the Apostles’ Creed. In the case of Westminster Abbey the Dean stated that the Creed is not said in its proper place on the days appointed for its use, but that on those days a portion of it, omitting six verses, and altering the language of a seventh, is sung as an anthem. It will be seen from the replies of the bishops to the question addressed to them on the subject, that the omission of the Creed is not uncommon, though owing to frequent Episcopal insistence on obedience to the rubric in recent years, it is less common than formerly. Some of the reasons alleged for it have been put before us by the Bishop of Chester and the Dean of Westminster. We cannot enter into the questions of doctrine which may be involved in this irregularity, but we believe that, while some clergy consider, to use the words of the Dean of Westminster, that certain expressions in the Creed are “in their plain or apparent sense not only misleading but false,” many others deem those expressions liable to be misunderstood by an ordinary congregation, and hold that the Creed is therefore not suitable for use in the public service of the Church. The controversy, which is of long standing, as the to the retention of the Creed for public use in Divine Service has in recent years been revived. The Upper House of the Southern Convocation on May 10, 1905, passed resolutions as follows: —
“1. That, as recorded in the resolution of May 5, 1904, this House is resolved to maintain unimpaired the Catholic faith in the Holy Trinity and in the Incarnation as contained in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and in the Quicunque Vult, and regards the faith thus presented, both in statements of doctrine and in statements of facts, as the necessary basis on which the teaching of the Church reposes.
“2. That this House, while it recognises, as taught in Holy Scripture, the truth often overlooked, that every man is responsible before God for the faith which he holds, and while it believes that this Scriptural truth is what the minatory clauses of the Quicunque Vult were primarily intended to express, acknowledges, nevertheless, that, in their prima facie meaning and in the mind of many who hear them, those clauses convey a more unqualified statement than Scripture warrants, and one which is not consonant with the language of the greatest teachers of the Church.
“3. That, in view of the distress and alienation of mind which the public recitation of these minatory clauses causes to many serious Churchmen, this House desires without expressing or implying by this resolution a judgment on any further questions raised as to the form, position, or use of the Quicunque Vult, that each Diocesan Bishop should be authorised, upon application from an incumbent, with sufficient reason shown, to dispense with the public recitation of the Quicunque Vult, either on all or on some of the days when the rubric orders its recitation.
“4. That, having regard to the wide divergence of opinion in the Church with regard to the best permanent solution of the difficulties connected with the use of the Quicunque Vult, and to the expediency of the action finally taken representing as far as possible, the deliberate opinion of the Church, including those other portions of the Anglican Communion whose present use corresponds with our own, this House desires to defer its final judgments until after the Lambeth Conference of 1908.”
The Upper house of the Northern Convocation on May 5, 1904, passed a resolution as follows: —
“That this House, while recognising to the full the great value of the Athanasian Confession as an exposition of some of the chief verities of the Christian Faith, recognises also the grave difficulties which attend its recitation as a Creed by ordinary congregations, and desires that steps may be taken as soon as possible by the Convocations of both Provinces to restore it to its more ancient use s a document of instruction of the faithful in such manner as may fully safeguard the reverent treatment of the doctrines of the faith.”
We assume that this subject would be included in the consideration of the law relating to the conduct of divine Service, proposed by us in Recommendation 2.
The following are examples of illegal practices which belong to the first group as defined in paragraph 45. The list is by no means exhaustive.
(a) Practices adopted on the ground of convenience.
(1) The omissions of (i) an exhortation giving warning for the celebrations of Holy Communion, (ii) the exhortation at the time of the celebration of Holy Communion beginning “Dearly Beloved in the Lord.” Both these omission are very general.
(2) The publication by the minister during the time of divine Service of notices other than those prescribed in the Prayer Book or enjoined by the King or the Ordinary. This practice is common.
(3) The saying of the words of administration at the Holy Communion to a row of communicants kneeling to receive the Sacrament, instead of to each individual. It is a matter of general knowledge that this was a frequent practice in the middle of the nineteenth century, and, though less frequent now, we believe it is still not uncommon. One instance of this practice was reported to us. We have, however, been unable to ascertain the precise extent to which it prevails. It appears from Bishop Montagu’s Visitation Articles (1638) and from Bishop Juxon’s Visitation Articles (1640) that the practice was not unknown in the seventeenth century.
(4) The saying of the first part only of the words of administration to each communicant. This omission, though only mentioned to us in connexion with four churches, is, we believe, much more frequent than this number would indicate. The practice is a return to the use of the words of administration directed to be said in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1549). In the second Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1552), the words “Take and eat this in remembrance...” “Drink this in remembrance...” were substituted for them. In the Prayer Book of Elizabeth (1559), and in subsequent revisions, the two forms have been combined. Although the omission may, like the practice mentioned in the foregoing paragraph, rest on the ground of convenience, when there are very man communicants and few clergy, the history of the words gives to their omission a doctrinal aspect; and, where the communicants are only few, the ground of convenience cannot be alleged. It is also to be noted that in the Order of Holy Communion, as printed in at least one well-known manual, only the first part of the words of administration is given.
(5) Special services containing prayers not taken from the Prayer Book, or including special Collects, epistles, and gospels; e.g., services for harvest festivals, missionary gatherings, and dedication festivals. It appears from the evidence that such services are frequently authorised by the bishops. We return to this subject at paragraph 175.
(6) The introduction by the Bishop of addresses in the Confirmation Service. This practice is generally adopted.
(7) The reading by a deacon of those portions (other than the Absolution) of Morning and Evening Prayer which are directed by the rubric to be read by a priest. This practice is firmly established.
(8) The making of a collection during Morning or Evening Prayer, there being no provision for this in the rubrics. This practice is common.
(9) The giving of a benediction, or blessing, after the sermon at Evening Prayer. This practice is universal.
(10) The giving of a benediction or blessing at the end of the Ante-Communion Service, before the withdrawal of those who do not remain during the celebration which follows. There is no evidence before us as to the extent of prevalence of this irregularity. The practice is believed to be decreasing.
(b) Practices which have resulted from negligence of inadvertence.
(11) The omission of daily service as a practice, and not only when the curate is from home or “otherwise reasonably hindered.”
(12) The omission of service on Ascension Day.
(13) The omission of services on Holy-days (other than Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Ascension Day) appointed in the Prayer Book to be observed.
Almost the only evidence before us with reference to the prevalence, or otherwise, of these omissions is derived from certain manuscript returns annually prepared by the editors of the “Official Year Book of the Church of England” which have been placed at our disposal by the Bishops. From recent returns the following table has been complied. Some of the Bishops express doubts as to the accuracy and completeness of these returns; and it would appear from the evidence of the Bishops generally that these omissions are decreasing.
No. of churches
No daily service
No service on Ascension Day
No service on Holy-days
*For statistics of the Diocese of Norwich, see letter from the Bishop of Norwich, 10th April, 1905. Appendix A.
(14) Disregard of the rubric which requires the curate “to declare unto the people,” after the Nicene Creed, “what Holy-days or Fasting-days are in the week following to be observed.” this is decreasing, but is still not uncommon.
(15) The omission of the Prayer for the Church Militant when the Ante-Communion Service is said but there is no celebration. This omission was common, but it is steadily decreasing.
(16) Disregard of the rubric which declares that, except in case of necessity, “it is most convenient that Baptism should not be administered but upon Sundays, and other Holy-days, when the most number of people come together.” Disregard of the rubric is common.
(17) Disregard of the rubric which directs that “the Curate of every Parish shall diligently, upon Sundays and Holy-days, after the second Lesson, at Evening Prayer, openly in the Church instruct and examine so many Children of his Parish sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some part of this Catechism.” Disregard of this rubric is common.
(18) The rubric which requires that “so many as intent to be partakers of the Holy Communion shall signify their names to the Curate at least some time the day before” is almost universally disregarded; but the responsibility in this matter seems to rest primarily on the laity; and the disregard only bears indirectly on the conduct of Divine Service. Similarly the rubric which requires that “every one shall have a Godfather or a Godmother as a Witness of their Confirmation” is frequently neglected. If this rubric be construed as requiring the presence of a new Godparent at Confirmation, the disregard is almost universal.
(c) Other practices which have become common.
(19) The omission of the whole or part of the Ante-Communion Service.
One case was reported to us in which the whole of the Ante-Communion Service was omitted at a celebration of the Holy Communion; and from the evidence of the Bishops it appears that in the case of Evening Communions it is common in many dioceses to omit this part of the service altogether and to begin with the Prayer for the Church Militant, or even with the Invitation, thus depriving those present of the appointed passages of Scripture, and, in those cases where the Prayer for the Church Militant is omitted, even, of the special opportunity for oblation and intercession provided in the service. We have no evidence of the number of churches at this practice obtains, but it is evidently still widely spread, as in one diocese forty-six churches are mentioned in which it prevails, in another forty-nine, in another thirty-seven. The practice is decreasing in consequence of the Bishops’ directions that the whole service must be used.
It must also be stated that a widespread custom has grown up in some churches of omitting some part or parts of the Ante-Communion Service. According to the evidence before us, the most frequent irregularity in this respect is the omission of the Ten Commandments and the Prayer for the King (fifty-two cases). In five other instances the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for Purity were also omitted; and in two of these apparently no offertory sentence was read. In one other case it was stated that the Collect for Purity, the Commandments, and the Prayer for the King were omitted. It twenty-three cases the only omission reported was that of the Ten Commandments, and in seven that of the Prayer for the King. It is probably that, in many of these cases, the omissions were made with the object of shortening the service, the majority of them being at early celebrations. But it should be stated that in no fewer than twenty-five of them the service was a late choral celebration at which long and elaborate music was performed, so that the plea of necessity could not with any show of reasonableness be urged, although it was, as a matter of fact, put forward by one witness. In such cases the omission is clearly suggestive of a desire to assimilate the service to the ancient form prior to the Reformation.
(20) The repetition of the words (Thanks be to Thee, O Lord,” or similar words, after the Gospel. this has never been directed in the English Prayer Book, but is required in the Scottish Liturgy (1637). The practice has become exceedingly common.
(21) The placing of the Bread and Wine intended to be consecrated upon the Holy Table before the beginning of the Communion Service, in disregard of the rubric which directs that this is to be done immediately before the Prayer for the Church Militant. We have no evidence showing the extent to which this practice, formerly very common, now prevails.