LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
[To THE EDITOR 01 TEl " SPECTATOZ:9
Biz—The Church Congress has gone by, and its numerous papers and discussions are being duly embalmed in the official Reports. Perhaps the revelation of opinions and ideals made in the utterances of the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Birmingham was the most important event of the jubilee meeting. This, indeed, is so important that I shall venture to follow your own lead in directing to it the anxious attention, not only of "Churchmen," but of all considering Christian men.
Once more, as in their evidence before the Royal Com- mission six years ago, Archbishop Lane- (then Bishop of Stepney) and Bishop Gore stand together as exponents of sectarian Anglicanism,—i.e., Anglicanism which not merely repudiates the cardinal principles of the English Reformation, but also insists on organising the Church of England as an independent, exclusive, isolated sect. The combination in one policy of two such men holding such positions is an event of critical significance for the Church of England.
"Sectarian Anglicanism" is a phrase which requires justification, and receives it in full measure from the utterances of both prelates at the recent Congress.
Eighteen times in the course of his sermon the Archbishop used the word "corporate." Borrowing the great language in which St. Paul described the society of believers, and applying it without qualification to the Church of England, his Grace moved easily to conclusions which are not merely destructive of the National Church as such, but also, and this is even more serious, Papal in their arrogant exclusiveness. The crucial point, as you have truly said, is the meaning attached to the word "Church." If the Church be indeed still, as the Reformers held, the coetu4 fidelium, then every discussion of the " corporate " claims of the Church in England must take account of the whole body of Christians in this country. The circumstance that the ecclesiastical unity of these Christians has been -broken by the emergence of many denominations cannot clothe one of these, albeit the oldest, with the character of the whole. To assume the contrary would be to place the essentials of ecclesiastical life in external organisation. But this position was explicitly repudiated at the Reformation, when the external unity of the Church was deliberately sacrificed to other considerations. Nevertheless, it is the position which is now being adopted by those who, like the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Birmingham, have agreed to elevate episcopacy into the indispensable condition of religious union.
This insistence on episcopacy as an essential of Christianity creates a new situation for English Churchmen. On the one hand, it destroys their ecclesiastical raison d'être, for it is mere matter of fact that the Reformation of the English Church proceeded on another principle altogether. Had the position now claimed for the Episcopate been conceded in 1559, there would have been no breach with Rome, no Royal Supremacy, and no Book of Common Prayer. All these things were secured by the action of the State in the teeth of a hostile Episcopate. No one of these things can be main- tained if the necessity and divine right of Bishops be seriously admitted, for the majority of Christian Bishops has been, and is still, hostile to them all. On the other hand, it alienates from sympathy with -Anglicanism all who believe that the unity of the Christian Church must be based on common
faith and common worship, and is not necessarily incompatible with variety of ecclesiastical organisation.
The essence of sectarianism is to substitute a part of the Church for the whole, to magnify a non-essential into an essential of Christianity, and to exclude from Christian fellowship all who cannot accept the sectarian shibboleth. This is an exact description of that Anglicanism which found
forcible expression in the Archbishop's sermon at Cambridge. It treated the Church of England as constituting by itself the "Body of Christ" in this country, leaving wholly out of count the non-episcopal Churches, which together include half the practising Christians in the nation. It magnified the "episcopal polity into an essential of religion, and it excluded from religious fellowship all who do not accept it as such.
The Bishop of Birmingham was more sharply dogmatic, the Archbishop of York more eloquent and diplomatic. But they had the same message to bring to the Church of England; they threw the emphasis on the same matters; they adumbrated the same policy. It was the policy of sectarian Anglicanism. The older Bishop assured the Congress that any recognition of non-episcopal ministries would create a schism in the Anglican Communion, and threatened with
excommunication from the Anglican pale any Colonial Church which should federate with a non-episcopal Communion.
The younger Bishop, protesting against individual attempts to improve relations with non-episcopal Churches, pointed significantly to his own example of self-restraint in Scotland, where, "even when amongst those dear to him by the closest ties, he yet felt he was bound to refrain from doing by act or speech anything that might hinder the cause he had in view," and accordingly refused Christian fellowship with the Church of his baptism. Let me beg his Grace to consider whether it is quite so self-evident as he assumes that he would injure the cause of Christian unity if, instead of maintaining the Tractarian attitude of rigid intolerance towards non-episcopal Churches, he were to revert to the more generous attitude of those older Anglicans, who felt themselves bound in conscience to own their brethren in Christ in spite of differences of ecclesiastical system. This painful severity of ecclesiastical attitude is very modern. The great Anglicans of the past
never thought themselves held to it by their " corporate " duty. Low Churchmen like Ussher, and High Churchmen like Cosin and Granville, felt themselves in Christian duty bound to communicate with non-episcopal Churches :—
" When we are here abroad in their churches," wrote Granville. who, it is interesting to remember, is said to have been nominated by James IL to the archbishopric of York, "we ought to stand at the Sacrament and kneel at the Creed, because it is the custom of the Church so to do. And to break their customs must needs be a disturbance to them, and so a breach of charity and unity, much more lovely things in God's eyes than the most excellent external order and uniformity."
Is Hooker's teaching really to be cast aside as obsolete ?
When I was ordained twenty-three years ago, we were required to know the "Ecclesiastical Polity," and I remember walking round the gardens at Cuddesdon with the late Archdeacon Palmer talking over the abiding validity of Hooker's principles, obscured but not destroyed by those social and political changes which the Archbishop referred to. It is perhaps pardonable in a Scot not to appreciate fully the veneration with which English Churchmen regard that incomparable teacher, and the havoc in Anglican theory which the formal repudiation of his teaching must
Much was said at Cambridge about the risk of alienating finally the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches by any recognition of non-episcopal ministries. "Let nothing," said the Archbishop, "lead them to break away from what mast ultimately be the great predominant section of the Body of Christ." It is enough to answer, first, that truth and charity have claims of their own which no considerations of ecclesi- astical policy may rightly cancel ; and next, that before either the Roman or the Greek Church is in a position to negotiate a union with Protestants, it also will have to experience a drastic process of reformation, in which the notion of exclusive episcopacy will be but one of many ancient and cherished errors which will be cast aside.
One final word on the laity, to which some people look with confidence in the strange delusion that there will be found the corrective of sectarian Anglioanism. Modern sacerdotaliste make much of the laity, and with good reason, for a sacer- dotalised laity is the most potent of all instruments in clerical hands. We may see the proof of its potency in the Roman Church. Papal infallibility was secured by the laity as inspired and organised by the Jesuits. The grand discovery of modern clericalism is the manipulation of the democracy.
Iraticanism has its strength in the laity. At first view all this seems utterly paradoxical; but a little reflection discloses the reason. When once the Church has been made intoler- able to the independent, educated, and intelligent laity, only such laymen remain in its Communion as are dependent, uneducated, and unintelligent ; and these respond readily enough to the policies of superstition. The Archbishop of York points to the Houses of Laymen and the Church of England Men's Society as the instruments by which the " corporate " character of the Church is to be recovered. But can either of these be thought competent to play the great role for which they are cast in the drama of ecclesiastical life ? We have had perhaps sufficient experience of the Houses of Laymen to appreciate their value. We know that they are more clericalist than the clericals; and, if it were other- wise, they have been constituted as part of a projected reorganisation of the National Church which excludes the laity on principle from any concern with doctrine and discipline. The Church of England Men's Society is largely the creation of Archbishop Lang, and reflects the greatest credit on his enthusiasm, energy, and organising ability. We may hope and believe that the Society brings great moral and spiritual benefit to its members, but surely it argues no lack of sympathy or appreciation to point out that all this is compatible with the absence of the very qualifications which are necessary in an effective representation of the lay mind. The members are mostly very young, very inexperienced, very ignorant, and very enthusiastic. The Society is the creation of the clergy, leans on them for guidance, takes their leading, and reflects their point of view. It is not difficult to foresee the nature of the influence which this organisation will exercise in ecclesiastical politics. It will facilitate "agitation" of the conventional type, and enable the rapid suppression of individual opinions which are not agreeable to the Executive. And the Executive will be in fact, if not in name, clerical. We have an illustration of its working in the brisk agitation which the Society has been carrying on against the Divorce Commission.
Sir, I would not have put my hand to the thankless task of criticising the utterances and policies which have given critical importance to the recent Congress, if I did not feel very sure that they portend the gravest injuries to the Church of England,—injuries which neither the sincerity and great personal ability of their authors nor the fervour of their followers can ultimately avert. I would not have made so large a draft on your courtesy if I did not feel fully persuaded that you also regard with misgiving the tendencies which are narrowing the fellowship and lowering the ideal of the National Church.—I am, Sir, &c.,
Westminster Abbey. H. HENSLEY HENSON.
[We do feel most keenly the danger to that Church which has hitherto possessed, and we hope and believe will be enabled to continue to possess, the right to call herself
National. Happily the law of the land will not allow the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Birmingham, Lord Halifax, or any other adherent of the Pharisaical doctrine— we use the word "Pharisaical" in its essential sense, the sense of those who hold that there is no safety outside the narrow boundaries of their special ritual—to " unchurch" any man. They cannot drive us from the National Church, for our rights there are absolute. The Church of England com- prehends all baptised persons who profess and call themselves Christians, and who desire to be comprehended. Of that there can be no doubt. The Courts will not permit any party in the Church to test men with its special shibboleths. So long as that comprehension is maintained, the Church of England is a truly National Church, and not an Anglican sect. That it should be maintained ha, we are convinced, the desire of the majority of the English people.—En. Spectator.]