LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
THE CHURCH IN WALES.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOE."1 your article on " Disestablishment in Wales," in the Spectator of November 6th, you attribute" the popular dislike" of the Church to the "English character of the Establishment and to the taxation levied in its name." With regard to this latter point, I shall only observe that the opposition to the maintenance of the Church by tithe is not peculiar to Welsh Nonconformists ; it is shared by their English brethren. The only difference in their treatment of the question is that the Denbighshire farmers have placed it in the forefront of a general agrarian agitation ; conscientious scruples have nothing to do with the matter ; they object as much to payment by the landlords as to payment by the tenants—as much to payment to the State as to payment to the Church ; and they demand that by some mysterious method the land shall be relieved of the burden for the sole benefit of the occupier, whether be be land- lord or tenant. This, however, is a question on which I shall not dwell; what I ask for is a reconsideration of the remaining part of your statement, which virtually accounts for the pre- dominance of Dissent in Wales on the ground of "popular dislike to the English character of the Church." I should at once concede that the political leaders of Dissent entertain not simply dislike, but virulent hatred towards the Church, and that they have succeeded in inoculating a large section of their followers with the same sentiment. But Welsh Methodism certainly did not originate in dislike to the Church ; on the contrary, the Methodists clang to the Church with remarkable tenacity, the final separation not taking place until 1811, and then from the exigencies of their position rather than from deliberate choice. And there are not wanting indications at the present day that the preference for chapel does not necessarily imply dislike for church. In large areas, indeed, and particularly in the mineral basin of South Wales, where Nonconformity gains its great numerical strength, there has not been much room for choice, or consequently for a preference, inasmuch as the Church has been so inadequately represented. Whether through apathy or, as is more likely, through inelasticity and inaptitude, the Church failed to meet the emergency presented by the accumulation of masses of population in districts where no Church provision had previously existed. Es nihilo nihil fit might truly be urged by those locally responsible for the care of souls in these quarters; and the absence of all corporate action on the part of the Church as a whole left the clergy to struggle on as they best could under the difficulties of their position. In short, the field lay open to Nonconformity, and it availed itself of the opportunity with good effect. But I see in this no evidence of an original dislike of the Church, and still less a dislike to it on account of its English character.
I will now tarn to the districts where the English element (I substitute this expression for "English character ") has exercised an important influence on the position of the Church in Wales. It is, perhaps, difficult to explain to a stranger the sentiment of the average Welshman towards the English language, and of the Welsh Nonconformists towards the Church, as the religious body in which the English language has most play. I believe I am not far wrong in saying that while Welshmen love and cherish their own language, they are shrewdly alive to the social and material advantages which accompany a knowledge of the English language, and the presence of those who use it in their midst. The agricultural population live on terms of perfect amity with the English-speaking residents, whether here- ditary Welshmen or immigrants, and they would reject any proposal which would tend to detract from the charms of Wales as a residential country. The Nonconformists are well aware that the presence of this English element has formed the great difficulty of the Church in Wales. The English-speakers are for the most part staunch Churchmen ; and the Church has felt itself bound to make such provision for them as it can. But in proportion as it has done so, it has diminished its efficiency for the Welsh-speaking section ; and this betakes itself to the chapel as affording more numerous and more congenial services. The Church is of necessity bi-lingual; Nonconformity has enjoyed the immense advantage of being uni-lingual ; and herein lies very much the explanation of its success. If the Church were to establish (as you suggest) services of a more decidedly national kind, it might very possibly win back a large number of Non- conformists; but the change might involve a serious dislocation of the present social condition of the country, and this is not desired by the balk of the Welsh people. Preference for the chapel does not therefore imply dislike of the Church ; large numbers of quiet Nonconformists are fully aware of the difficulties of the Church's position, and are by no means anxious to complicate those difficulties by depriving her of her already scanty endowments. Though they may not avail them- selves of the public ministrations she has to offer, they recognise
the value of her services to the country generally, and to them- selves in other ways than Sunday ministrations. To those who live in Wales I might appeal for evidence in support of my view drawn from their own experience,—such as the interest shown by Nonconformists in any special effort for the advancement of the Church, the restoration, for instance, of the parish church ; in two -cases within mylimited knowledge, a clergyman, has been actively aided by the preacher in collecting funds for this purpose ; or, again, attendance at special services, such as a harvest festival, the preference of Church ministrations at the grave, and for matrimony ; the large number of children attending National schools (three-eighths of the whole number in elementary schools), and the growing popularity of the Church in many parts of the country. Those who live outside of Wales may form their own conclusion from the returns of the polling at the General Election in 1885. The Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was the point on which the voting turned as far as the Nonconformists were concerned, and the proportion of votes in the 29 contested seats was as two Conservatives to three Liberals, the four uncontested seats being situated in the South Wales mineral district. These returns present the alternative either that Churchmen are very much more numerous in Wales than is generally supposed, or else that large numbers of Noncon- formists are opposed to the Disestablisment of the Church. Much more might I say if space permitted.—I am, Sir, &c.,