REPORT OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE.
Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command
of His Majesty
transcribed by Mr Thomas J W Mason
We desire to state that those of our recommendations which will require legislation are framed as a complete scheme and must be considered mutually dependent.
We recommend that„
1. The practices to which we have referred in paragraphs 397 and 398 of our Report, as being plainly significant of teaching repugnant to the doctrine of the Church of England and certainly illegal, should be promptly made to cease by the exercise of the authority belonging to the Bishops and, if necessary, by proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Courts.
2. Letters of Business should be issued to the Convocations with instructions: (a) to consider the preparation of a new rubric regulating the ornaments (that is to say, the vesture) of the ministers of the Church, at the times of their ministrations, with a view to its enactment by Parliament; and (b) to frame, with a view to their enactment by Parliament, such modifications in the existing law relating to the conduct of Divine Service and to the ornaments and fittings of churches as may tend to secure the greater elasticity which a reasonable recognition of the comprehensiveness of the Church of England and of its present needs seems to demand.
It would be most desirable for the early dealing with these important subjects that the Convocations should sit together, and we assume that they would take counsel with the Houses of Laymen.
3. In regard to the sanction to be given for the use of additional and special services, collects, and hymns, the law should be so amended as to give wider scope for the exercise of a regulative authority.
This authority should be exercised within prescribed limits by the Archbishops and Bishops of both Provinces acting together for the sanction and regulation of additional and special services and collects in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, and for the forbidding of the use of hymns or anthems not in accordance with such teaching.
The administrative discretion of individual Bishops within the several dioceses should be used in conformity with such sanction and regulation.
4. Bishops should be invested with power to refuse the institution or admission of a presentee into a benefice who has not previously satisfied the Bishop of the diocese of his willingness to obey the law as to conduct of Divine Service and as to the ornaments and fittings of churches, and to submit to directions given by the Bishop in accordance with Recommendation 3.
5. The recommendations of the Ecclesiastical Court Commission in 1883 as to the constitution of the Diocesan and Provincial Courts and of the Court of Final Appeal should be carried into effect with one modification, namely to substitute for the recommendation* of the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission quoted in paragraph 368 of our report, the following:
Where, in an appeal before the Final Court which involves charges of heresy or breach of ritual, any question touching the doctrine or use of the Church of England shall be in controversy, which question is not in the opinion of the Court governed by the plain language of documents having the force of Acts of Parliament, and involves the doctrine or use of the Church of England proper to be applied to the facts found by the Court, such questions shall be referred to an assembly of the Archbishops and Bishops of both Provinces, who shall be entitled to call in such advice as they may think fit; and the opinion of the majority of such a assembly of the Archbishops and Bishops with regard to any question so submitted to them shall be binding on the Court for the purposes of the said appeal.
6. In all cases in which a sentence of an Ecclesiastical Court passed on an incumbent in a suit brought under the Church Discipline Act, 1840, is wilfully disobeyed, power should be given to the Court whose sentence is thus disobeyed, by an order made on a summary application, the Court being satisfied of such wilful disobedience, to declare the benefice of such incumbent vacant; and no such incumbent shall be eligible for appointment to any other benefice or to receive a license as a curate or preacher, until he has satisfied the Archbishop of the province that he will not offend in like manner in future.
7. The Episcopal veto in respect of any suit under the Church Discipline Act, 1840, should be abolished; but it should be open to the Court in which any such suit is brought to stay proceeding therein (subject to appeal) on the ground that the suit is frivolous or vexatious. It should also be in the power of the Court in its discretion, at any stage of the proceedings, to require security for costs to be given by the promoter of a suit.
The Public Worship Regulation Act, 1874, should be repealed.
8. A Bishop should have power at any time, by an order or monition made by himself or by his chancellor, after due opportunity to be heard on the matter has been given to the incumbent and churchwardens and any other persons whom the Bishop or his Chancellor (as the case may be) may direct, to order the removal of ornaments, objects of decoration, or fittings no faculty has been obtained, and to provide for the disposal of such ornaments, objects or fittings when removed. A Bishop should have a locus standi in his Consistory Court in all faculty cases affecting the ornaments, objects of decoration or fittings of churches in his diocese.
9. Episcopal and Archidiaconal visitations and Rural DeansÍ inspections of churches should be more effectively employed as the regular and official means of keeping the Bishop informed with regard to the conduct of Divine Service in, and the ornaments, objects of decoration, and fittings of, the churches in his diocese. Articles of inquiry in visitation should be framed with a view to elicit this information from the churchwardens. Greater strictness should be used in seeing that such articles are answered, and that any action is taken which the answers may require. Directions in accordance with the law given by a Bishop or Archdeacon in visitation as to the conduct of Divine Service and as to the ornaments, objects of decoration, and fittings of churches should be enforceable against incumbents and churchwardens by means of a summary application to the Consistory Court of the diocese. Any order thus made should be subject to appeal to the Provincial Court.
10. For the purposes of effective supervision and administration, it is desirable that many diocese should be subdivided; and that a general Act providing machinery for the creation of new dioceses by Order in Council should be passed so as to prevent the necessity of the enactment of a separate statute on the formation of each new diocese.
All which we humbly submit to your Majesty.
RANDALL CANTAUR, (l.s.)
F. OXON, (l.s.)
EDGAR C.S. GLOUCESTER, (l.s.)
ALVERSTONE C.J., (l.s.)
JOHN H. KENNAWAY, (l.s.)
JOHN G. TALBOT, (l.s.)
SAMUEL HOARE, (l.s.)
EDWARD CLARKE, (l.s.)
LEWIS T. DIBDIN, (l.s.)
T.W. DRURY, (l.s.)
G.W. PROTHERO, (l.s.)
GEORGE HARWOOD. (l.s.)
Royal Commissions House,
21st June, 1906.