Vestures of Ministers Measure
Mr John Arbuthnot (Dover)
I beg to move,
That the Vestures of Ministers Measure 1964, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
Invariably when we discuss Church matters, the standard of debate is high. Though views often differ, no one doubts the sincerity of those whose views differ from his own. I am sure that in this debate the differences of outlook which may be expressed will be recognised as being held with sincerity and that at the conclusion hon. Members will vote according to their consciences, guided solely by what they believe to be best for England and for the Church.
Before coming to what is in the Vestures Measure itself there are two related points with which I should like to deal. The first is that raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). He said on the Holy Table Measure—I have no doubt that he will say it again on this one—that Parliament is being presented with these Measures piecemeal. He suggested that those who are bringing the Measures forward in small sections, each in itself possibly acceptable, are doing so of malicious design. He went on to allege that when the Measures were put together to make up the whole pattern Parliament would find that it had unwittingly been a party to the undermining of the whole foundation of the Protestant faith and that by that time it would be too late to do anything about it.
This picture which my hon. and gallant Friend presents is, I suggest, quite false. Both Archbishops wrote a letter two years ago to each Member of Parliament setting out the picture of what the Church was trying to achieve in the revision of Canon Law, a picture in which each of these Measures as it comes forward has its rightful place. Were all the questions held up and eventually put before Parliament for adoption or rejection in one Measure, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brentford, in another place, many expedient things might be jeopardised because of one or two items to which objection was taken. Since Parliament, under the enabling Act, cannot amend—we can only accept or reject—it would seem to me that this House is being given fairer treatment and a much better opportunity for detailed decision by these matters being presented to it in small sections. It is better so, rather than that we be faced with acceptance or rejection as a whole of the reforms made necessary by the revision of the Canon Law. This is always provided that the overall picture has been clearly presented, as it has been by the letter from the two Archbishops.
The second introductory point that I would make is that of timing. Why, the argument runs, introduce this Measure at this stage at the fag end of a Parliament when everybody's nerves are apt to be edgy and election fever is in the air; why not leave it until after the election to a new Parliament to consider at leisure in a calmer atmosphere? I would advance two reasons. First, we do not any of us want this to become an election issue. Judging by the literature to which we have all been subjected, if the issue were not to be decided before the election, candidates might well be snowed under with questionnaires and might take up positions under election pressures which they might afterwards regret.
The second reason is inherent in the very terms of the enabling Act itself. The Church Assembly is charged with the duty of legislating, but Parliament has reserved to itself the right of approving or disapproving that legislation. Therefore, Parliament owes to the Church a duty to deal expeditiously with the Measures which the Church brings before it. Let me remind the House that the Church Assembly has given to these Measures many years of careful debate and consideration. This one has been many years in discussion in the Church Assembly. There is always a large volume of Church legislation in the pipeline waiting to come to Parliament. If considerations such as whether one party or another is in power or whether or not it is the fag end of a Parliament were to turn on and off like a tap, arbitrarily, the orderly way in which Parliament considers Church Measures, the position would become quite intolerable, and this certainly was not the intention of Parliament in framing the legislation.
I turn now to the Measure itself. It has been passed by large majorities in all three Houses of the Church Assembly. The Ecclesiastical Committee, with only two dissentients, neither of whom incidentally was a member of the Church of England, has reported upon it as expedient. The most unfortunate thing about the Measure is its name. Had it been called "The Parochial Church Councils (Extension of Powers) Measure"—that is a major part of what it does—it would have been accepted without demur. But, named as it is, it has aroused suspicion of a departure from Protestantism quite out of keeping with the contents of the Measure.
The Preamble, in which the Church firmly declares that it does not regard vestments as having any particular doctrinal significance, has aroused criticism. This represents no change in the attitude of the Church and merely states a fact. That this fact should be so clearly stated and should be accepted by the Church ought to be a reassurance to those who fear a connection between vestments and the doctrine of transsubstantiation, which the Church has always rejected and continues to reject.
References were made in another place and elsewhere to the views of some who attach significance to vestments. The Church through its proper organs having said that in the Church's view vestments have no particular doctrinal significance, I should have thought that no individual opinion could possibly have weight against that. The vestments which a clergyman may wear for the various services are determined by the Ornaments Rubric of the Prayer Book and by certain of the Canons of 1603. But the meaning of these and their interpretation is not clear. In 1877 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, after hearing historical arguments, took a view, a view which was disputed at the time, a view which was questioned by the 1906 Royal Commission and a view which is repudiated by modern historians such as Professor Norman Sykes.
There are two ways in which we can clear up this matter, either by seeking to have the judgment of 1877 reversed—and if we try to go about it this way the wearing of vestments will become compulsory for all clergymen, and that is why we do not pursue this course—or by legislation. By going about it in this way, it is possible to permit the variety of choice which is in keeping with the comprehensiveness of the Church of England. This is what the Measure is intended to do. It is in no sense an attempt to encourage doctrines contrary to those of the Church of England.
I want to stress with all the power that I have the loyalty to the Protestant faith of the many hundreds of clergy who welcome this Measure, and to repudiate the suggestion that they are attempting to undermine the fundamental beliefs of the Church. Any such suggestion is, in the words of the Archbishop,
either scandalous or silly and perhaps the latter is the more charitable adjective of the two".
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
Is my hon. Friend going to say anything about the third possible course, that of accepting the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which would give the clarity which he seeks?
Mr John Arbuthnot (Dover)
The hon. Gentleman asks "So what?" If the law is out of line with current practice and current feelings, surely it is bad law, and that is what we are seeking to put right. This Measure lays down what may be worn, with a number of permitted alternatives which conform to current practice.
What to my mind is the most important Clause in the Measure provides for what is, in effect, a built-in veto by parochial church councils against any unwelcome change in the form of vestments used in a church. The Measure provides that any clergyman who wishes to make a change in the vestments used in his church must consult his parochial church council, and in the event of disagreement the matter will be decided by the bishop.
This is not a Measure for change. It is a Measure to bring the law into line with established practice. It is not a mandatory Measure, it is, rather, a permissive one, and in commending it to the House for approval I would just add that one of the great strengths of the Church of England is its tolerance. If given the choice of attending a service where the vestments were simple, or where they were more ornate, I would prefer the simple service every time, but I do not feel that it is up to me, who prefer simplicity, to deny more colourful vestments to those who find them helpful in their worship.
Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
My hon. Friend described this Measure as permissive rather than mandatory, but the last words on page I provide that the bishop "shall give directions thereon." Surely the word "directions" is not permissive, but mandatory?
Mr John Arbuthnot (Dover)
This is on the question of disagreement between the parochial church council and the minister. If there were not to be a reference to the bishop, we would, in effect, be denying the right of appeal. We would be removing any form of appeal when a disagreement arose. It seems to me that any bishop in his senses would be likely to come down on the side of the parochial church council, because if he came down on the side of the parson against the parochial church council to use vestments which the council, presumably representing the rest of the parishioners, disliked, the effect would be to empty the church, and that is the last thing that any bishop would wish to see happen.
There are three specific cases which have been quoted, both in another place and in the Press, of men about to be ordained being compelled to wear a stole. It is now 12 years since the occurrence in one diocese of episodes which caused concern in this matter. The Archbishop dealt with it in his speech in another place and said that he believed that any such compulsion would be inconceivable, especially as there would be a desire to carry out the toleration embodied in the Measure in spirit as well as in the letter.
Yesterday the Archbishop wrote me a letter from which he invited me to quote. He said:
I wish it to be known that early in 1953 "—
that is immediately after these incidents—
the Diocesan Bishops passed a resolution for the private guidance of their own administration to the effect that in no Diocese of the Church of England will an ordinand, who has been offered a title, be denied ordination on the sole ground that he is conscientiously unwilling to wear a stole.
I hope that note will be taken of the fact that the incidents occurred 12 years ago. Steps were then taken to prevent any recurrence. In the light of the Archbishop's speech in another place, and the information given in his letter, I hope that we may be able to regard this question as closed. Incidentally, I would have thought that ordinands were outside the scope of the Measure, which is confined to the vesture of Ministers.
The Church Assembly as a whole believes that if the Measure becomes law it will enable the Church to maintain the spirit of toleration which it has increasingly achieved in recent years, and, by removing a possible cause of friction, will release the energies of the clergy and laity for their all-important work of evangelisation.
Mr Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)
Like, I suspect, a good many other hon. Members, I have been deeply exercised in mind trying to decide what it was right to do about this Measure. I wish that I could find it as easy as I know many people have.
It is no good us just saying that this is an unimportant Measure. It may be to some people. It may even be unimportant to the majority, but there is a large number of good sincere God-fearing people to whom it is very far from being that. I think that whether we agree with them or not, we should recognise this as a fact and try as best we can to understand their feelings, and it is here that my doubts about this Measure arose for I dislike intensely the thought of causing these people hurt.
I regret that. I regret, too—and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) that, whatever reason there may have been, and there must have been one, the 1877 decision of the Privy Council was never challenged. It seems to me that that was a decision, the validity of which has been widely questioned by a number of wise people, which, if it had been reversed, might have avoided a great deal of controversy which can be doing nothing but harm to the strength and unity of the Church.
Those are my doubts, but there is the other side of the story, so ably put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover. T say at once, after what I hope the House will believe has been long and anxious thought, that I shall support the Measure. I will briefly tell the House why.
There are the reasons given by my hon. Friend. The Measure is permissive and not mandatory. This is very important. Among the large number of letters that I have had—and I am sure other hon. Members have had them too—and among the very many people with whom I have talked about it, I have found a widespread fear that an incumbent might, in certain circumstances, be forced to adopt practices of which he disapproved and which caused him offence. I have done my best to assuage these fears and to show that nothing of the sort can happen; that no one can be forced to do anything against his will. But I hope that it will go out clearly and unmistakably from this House tonight that in respect of this particular apprehension about this Measure they can feel reassured.
Then there are the powers of the parochial church councils, to which my hon. Friend also referred. These are completely new, and they are very far reaching. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that they constitute an absolute veto, but they make it virtually impossible for a change to be brought about by an incumbent against the wishes of his parish. It seems to me that those two points in the Measure are very powerful safeguards.
There are two other reasons which have influenced me, both of which have some validity. There is the point of bringing the law and the practice of the Church into line. The desirability of doing this was pointed years ago by the Lloyd-Jacob Committee. It is important for the good name and good repute of the Church, and when we see a reasonable opportunity of doing this we should try to make the law and the practice of the Church conform.
My last reason lies in the proceedings and voting in the Church Assembly itself. Of course, Parliament is not here just to set the seal of approval on every Measure coming up from the Assembly, but we should pay due regard to what goes on there, and to the voting. As my hon. Friend has said, in this case the voting was very convincing, so much so that, although I would not want to make anything of it, it looks to me from the figures as though some people who were opposed to the Measure may have voted for it.
Those are my reasons for supporting the Measure. I had to make my mind up, as did other hon. Members. Having done so, I sincerely believe that my decision is the right one.
In the Church today there is a greater tolerance and wider understanding of the points of view of other people—and I hope, less bigotry—than there was in times past. One of the really great strengths of the Church, as a noble Lord said in another place, is that in it there is room for all of us. It embraces us all.
So, daringly, I admit, but in honesty and humility, I hope, I ask those who have doubts whether they cannot stretch their tolerance a little further tonight. I know that they can quite easily say to me, "Is it not about time that you showed to us some of that tolerance that you preach, and showed a wider understanding of our point of view for a change? Why should it always be we to whom appeals for tolerance are made?" I acknowledge the force of that charge. I can only say that I, too, have had doubts. I have been very torn in trying to make up my mind about this, and I have tried to understand their point of view.
In some ways this has been one of the most difficult of decisions to have to make. I suppose that in my doubts I could be accused of inconsistency, because I found no difficulty in supporting the Jurisdiction Measure a year ago, or in supporting the Holy Table Measure the other day. But in respect of this one I had real difficulty, largely for the reason that I gave at the outset, that I found to repugnant to do something which bruises the very deep feelings of many people, most of whom, God knows, are probably far better Christians than I am.
Nevertheless, I have come to the conclusion that this Measure does not contain in it the seeds of the growth and of that danger which people fear. I renew my appeal to them to look into their hearts again and try to see whether they cannot come with us on this matter tonight.
The other day I was reading a story of the great King Henry of Navarre. He was once showing to the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of France the new chapel which had been built at his splendid palace at Fontainebleau. The ambassador thought the chapel a poor thing in a setting of such magnificence, and said, "I find no one here so ill-lodged as God, Sire", and King Henry replied, "We Frenchmen keep God in our hearts, not within four walls." It may be that in this thought there is something for us to ponder, for, surely, the things that really matter are not our surroundings, nor the clothes that we wear. What really matters is the spirit in which we approach the Throne of Grace.
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
The House will agree that we have listened to two extremely able, moderate and sincere speeches from my hon. Friends who have supported the introduction of this Measure. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) started with two preliminary remarks. He suggested that I was about to show—as I did in respect of the Holy Table Measure—that this was one of a number of Measures which were a method of introducing, in a piecemeal way, a whole variety of things which amounted to something quite fundamental. I had not intended to do that, but perhaps I may come back to the point later, at my hon. Friend's invitation.
Perhaps he was a little unfair in putting into my mouth the words that something was being done with malicious design. I do not think that I used that phrase. I do not attribute malice to anyone. I hope that in my opposition to the Measure I shall answer the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott), whom I deeply respect, that in anything that we might say in this debate we shall remember that we are discussing the Christian Church, and shall try to say it, to the utmost of our ability, in charity and tolerance.
I want to say one word on my hon. Friend's preliminary point. He defended the timing of the debate. In spite of his argument, I adhere to the view that the last Order on the last day of a Parliament before the Adjournment is not the best time to discuss a Measure of this sort. We are open to the charge that we are not treating the Church of England with the respect that it deserves in so bringing this Measure at this time.
However, I understand that my hon. Friend himself has done his best to keep his word to us that he would see that there was adequate time for a debate. I appreciate that, and I appreciate all the difficulties, but I still think it a pity that this Measure should have to be discussed at this time and in this way.
May I make two preliminary points before I come to the actual substance of the Measure. The first is to answer two questions which have been put to me privately in many conversations. By what right does one who is not a member of the Church of England, or who might be a member of one of the free Churches, or a member of no Church, or a man who is an atheist or an agnostic enter into a debate of this sort? What right has a Member of Parliament in that position to pronounce upon Measures of this sort?
I think that the people who asked that question misunderstand the nature of Parliament. A man is elected to this House, and when he is so elected he owes his duty to his constituents, to their opinions and to their affairs. But when he comes here, he becomes a Member of Parliament responsible to the nation as a whole, and it is his right, and indeed, his duty, to concern himself with matters affecting the whole nation.
This is why there is no incongruity in a Scottish Member voting about the flooding of a Welsh valley in order to provide water for an English town. This is why there is no incongruity in a Welsh Member producing an argument about unemployment in Northern Ireland. This is why no one objected when English Members voted for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. I hope that it will be universally recognised in the House that every Member, whatever his constituency and personal and private beliefs, has, in this House of Commons, an absolute right to discuss anything that is properly brought before the House.
The other question that is asked is why should Parliament have any say at all in a Measure from the Church of England? One often hears the argument, why should not the Church be left to run its own affairs? This would be a valid argument if the Church of England were a free Church or a disestablished Church. Such Christian communities have an absolute right to order their own affairs as they wish, but the Church of England, since the days of the Saxon kings, has been the established Church of the land and, consequently, there is an intimate relationship, and always has been, between the Church of England and Parliament.
Being the established Church, the Church of England enjoys naturally great privileges. The Church of England has conferred upon the nation great benefits. The Church of England has been of enormous value to this nation in its long history; but the nation has conferred great privileges upon the Church of England. It has conferred upon it the privilege that its bishops sit in Parliament. They have the right of voting and legislating on all matters which come before another place. They have great privileges in the nation. They enjoy the great revenues which have been conferred by the nation on the Church of England for over 1,000 years of its history. They enjoy the use of the great cathedrals and the parish churches. One of my hon. Friends behind me was asking whether I was going to suggest that one should take that away. Under no circumstances—I am a believer in the Establishment of the Church of England and would wish to defend that Establishment. I think it right so to do.
Commander Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire South)
I want to comment on what my hon. Friend said about the nation. He gave the impression that the nation had conferred great wealth upon the Church of England, but of course that is not so. The endowments of the Church of England are the accumulated results of the gifts of pious men throughout the centuries, who have given freely of their substance, their land and otherwise, and now these are looked after by the Church Commissioners.
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
I should be getting far from this Measure if I were to debate with my hon. Friend the question of the revenues of the Church of England. I would simply remind him that there have been in the past such things as tithes.
By virtue of the Establishment, this House of Commons has always been presumed to be—and, I think, legally is—the voice of the laity of the Church of England. I was sent last week a copy of the most interesting sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Shirley, the senior canon residentiary of Canterbury, at a Commemoration of Magna Carta in Canterbury Cathedral in the presence of the Archbishop. There was a passage in that sermon which struck me greatly, because it puts better than I could put the point that I am trying to make. In the course of his sermon, he said:
For 400 years the Church's lay representation has been the House of Commons, as it legally is today. Forty years ago a House
of Laity (of some 350 members) was included in the Church Assembly. Is it now widely admitted that these lay folk (some with relations in the other two Houses) truly represent the two to three million Anglican communicants, still more many millions of other members? Loyal and eager Church people, they come from the leisured and cultured classes, unknown to the vast body of the so-called electorate, but possessing legislative powers over which the Church at large has no final supervisory control: Unlike the Scottish Kirk, whose Barrier Act carries the General Assembly's proposals into the local presbyteries where the voice of the common people is to be heard, true to ancient principle that what touches all should be approved by all.
But the new machinery of the English Church does not look thus democratic, but rather oligarchic; for, further, the Assembly's power is not balanced by a corresponding responsibility, because—unlike Parliament—it is neither answerable to its vague (and often unconscious) electorate, nor removable by adverse voting, nor is the general body of the Church informed beforehand of the legislative programmes to be proposed. But the laity is the Church in very real sense, even as it was in primitive days; and representations should go deep and reach wide, to include God's people among the less leisured and the less learned ".
I believe that to be a wise and proper statement, and it puts it, as I have said, better than I could put the matter myself.
This Measure comes from the Church Assembly. My hon. Friend who intro-duced the Measure and the Report of the Committee thereupon produced the voting figures in the Church Assembly. I hope that it will not be said that if there should be a disagreement between this House and the Church Assembly, it is necessarily therefore a disagreement between Church and State. I think it would be more proper to refer to it as a disagreement between the House of Commons, as representing the laity, and the Church Assembly.
I do not want to labour the point but in the House of Clergy there are 350 members, of whom 132 are ex officio members. There are representatives from each diocese. From each diocese but on; there are three ex officio members, of whom two are archdeacons appointed by the: bishops, and they, certainly on this Measure—I think, naturally—have always voted with the bishops who appointed them. I make that point simply to show that it is not necessarily true to say that the House of Clergy represents even a majority view of the clergy of the Church of England. It might, but it is not necessarily so—
Mr Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am listening to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) with great interest, and with much of his argument I am in broad sympathy, but shall we ever get to the Vestures of Ministers Measure if we are to discuss the constitution of the Church Assembly? Ought we not to confine ourselves more to this Measure? Otherwise, we shall be here during August.
Mr Robert Grimston (Westbury)
I was listening to the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), and I think that he is going a little wide. I do not think that it is right now to debate the constitution of the Church Assembly. He can bring it in, just by reference, as an argument for his case, but I do not think that we can debate the constitution of the Assembly on this Measure.
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have made the point I wanted to make, which is that one must not assume that the Church Assembly itself, by its constitution, necessarily is the Church of England. I take the view that Dr. Shirley took, which is that the laity primarily are the Church.
We have a duty in the House of Commons to try to discern, if we can, what may be the view of the laity of the Church of England. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover said that he did not wish the matter to become an election issue. I think that he was mistaken there, because I should have thought that members of the Church of England or of any other Church in the land, have a perfect right to cross-examine candidates at the time of an election to ascertain their views upon this matter. How else are the candidates to make their views known, and what would be wrong in the matter becoming an election issue so long as it did not become a party political issue? I do not see any particular objection to that.
I therefore believe that this House of Commons has a duty to examine this Measure very carefully and, coming now to the subject of vestments, I think it a sad reflection upon the state of the Church that, at a time when the whole Christian Church throughout the world is facing probably one of the most difficult times in all its history since the Roman persecutions, when it is facing a rising tide of materialism, and facing problems of indifference and of general collapse in moral standards, the Church of England should be concerning itself so much with matters of how its clergy should be dressed and questions of Canon Law.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington that the things of the spirit are more important. The Dean of St. Paul's, referring to the Church's preoccupation with the revision of Canon Law, described it as that of the householder who was rearranging his furniture when his house was on fire. It is a pity that we should have to discuss the vestures of ministers at this time.
Is the matter important at all? My hon. Friend answered that question when he said that the matter is important if only because so many decent, honest people think that it is important. Does the clothing of the clergy carry any doctrinal significance? Whether or not it does, many thousands of decent people think that it does, and I should have thought that to be one of the tests. If I were to go at too great length into the history of vestments I might again incur the wrath of my hon. Friend, but the Measure is concerned with vestments and perhaps I ought to say a brief word about it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Brief."]
If hon. Members wish to get a good and authoritative history of vestments, the best I have found is in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica", in the Library. I commend it to hon. Members who want to study the history of vestments, as no doubt many will after this debate is over—
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
I am delighted to see my hon. Friend here. He dogs my footsteps in these matters, and if we get things wrong we can always call upon him for the authoritative and authentic voice.
The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" points out in its article—and from the many researches I have made, I think that this is right—that during the first century of its existence the officers of the Primitive Church were content to officiate in the dress of civil life. Many of the vestments we are about to discuss were the ordinary civil garments of the Graeco-Roman civilisation that existed during the first few centuries of Christianity—
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
I am not at all sure that that would be in order to pursue that point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The point I was making was that, as far as one can gather, any references to the dress worn by ministers of the Church during the first few centuries were merely to require that it should be clean and decent, and of good quality, and nothing further.
It is not until somewhere between the fourth and the sixth centuries, when the Roman Empire itself was in decline, that there began to be seen a difference in the dress of the clergy and the laiety. Then, during the Middle Ages, as civil dress changed so many of the old-type garments were kept on, and were worn by the clergy. In the later centuries they became more ornate, more gorgeous, and more varied, and there were many more of them coming from different sources.
Until shortly prior to the Reformation we find that in the Church of England there were very great numbers of vestments, all very good and gorgeous, and they were associated in the minds of men, and certainly in the minds of the reformers, with many of the abuses of the Church which the reformers sought to do away with. Some of them were particularly associated with the doctrine of the Mass. The Holy Communion—
Mr Hugh Wilson (Truro)
Before my hon. and gallant Friend gets on to that, does he recollect the first sentence of the thirty-fourth of the Thirty-Nine Articles which says:
It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly like.
My point is that traditions were not the same everywhere.
Mr Hugh Wilson (Truro)
The point which my hon. and gallant Friend has made was that certain garments had certain significance, but I was pointing out that they were different in different places where different conditions were present.
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
What I said was that at the time of the Reformation the reformers definitely associated certain garments with abuses then in the Church and certain particular garments with the doctrine of the Mass. I did not think that anyone would deny that.
The Holy Communion service is the central and most solemn service in the Church about which all Christians feel deeply. Christians sincerely differ in their interpretation of the nature of the Holy Communion service. It is the deepest of all divisions between Christians. United as they are on many things, on the fundamentals of the faith, the nature of the Holy Communion service is the one thing which deeply divides Christian people.
Some hold that the Holy Communion service is a sacrifice, that the bread and wine when consecrated by the priest do in very fact, in a mystical way, become the body and the blood of Christ and are to be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. I think that the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) would agree that I have stated the views of his Church. Those who hold that the Holy Communion service is a ceremony of celebration commanded by Our Lord in commemoration of His death, believe that those who gather round the holy table commune with Christ and each other. This is a deep and fundamental division.
At the time of the Reformation certain garments were definitely associated with one view and the reformers, in the event, did away with them. After the Elizabethan Settlement, and for about a hundred years, the controversy within the Church of England was not whether or not all these Mass vestments should be brought back but whether or not the surplice and the square cap should be retained. Eventually it was the Calvinists and the Puritans who held the view that even the surplice and the square cap should be done away with.
After the secession of the Church in 1662 the controversy ceased and as far as I can discover nothing was heard of the vestments controversy in the Church until about a hundred years ago with the rise of the Oxford Movement. That was a doctrinal movement and it sought to bring back what it defined as ancient Catholic doctrine. Those who adhered to the Movement were deeply sincere and able men, but it is surely no coincidence that at the same time there began to come back a demand for the vestments associated with those doctrines.
The controversy has gone on and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as has been said, has pronounced upon the matter. There was a deep division between Christian people and between lawyers. To try to understand the tangle of argument that surrounds the Ornaments Rubric requires one to be, as someone has said, not only a lawyer and a historian but also a detective to discover what was the law.
When I read the article in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" to which I have referred I was very much struck by sentences at the end of the article which seemed to sum up my view of the matter. The article is an entirely fair and balanced one taking neither side in the controversy and it ends:
To attempt to enforce the law (whatever the law may be) would seriously wound the consciences of a large number of people who are quite unconscious of having broken it.
The author of the article was referring to people who over the last hundred years have become accustomed to services in which vestments were worn, and he continued:
Formally to legalise the minimum enjoined by the Rubrics of 1549 would on the other hand offend the Protestant section of the Church without reconciling those who would be content with nothing short of the Catholic maximum.
I believe that to be wise, and I believe that it would have been much wiser to have left well alone and not to have introduced this Measure. I believe that the Church Assembly in bringing forward this matter has been concerning itself to some extent with trivialities, but I think that these are dangerous in that they cause a division and crystallise and pinpoint divisions between people.
I do not want to weary the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have spoken for a very long time. I am sorry but it is an important subject and I am doing my best to outline the case against it.
Last Thursday I asked the Prime Minister whether or not he would appoint a Royal Commission on the subject of the Church of England. One of the things which I had in mind was that we ought to examine again the enabling Act under which this Measure is brought forward. It seems to me a great pity that we are faced with the problem of either rejecting the Measure or approving it and that there is not some form of give and take between this House and the Church Assembly and that we should not have the possibility, for instance, of amending the Measure, sending it back and having it brought back here. I believe that a great deal of difficulty would be avoided in that way. I believe that this Measure, unfortunate though I think it is, is capable of amendment, but of course we cannot amend it.
One of the things put to me by Evangelical churchmen is that there are certain safeguards lacking in this Measure. The first to which reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover, and I shall not labour the point, is the question of ordinands and the stole. They would have liked something in this Measure or in a related Measure which would have given absolute protection in the matter. We welcome what my hon. Friend the Member for Dover quoted from the letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but bishops and archbishops come and go and the people who feel in this way would like something in the legislation.
The important safeguard which is wanted concerns the laity and this was touched upon by my hon. Friend on the question of the parochial church council. It is thought that this Measure gives an absolute protection to a parish that something will not be introduced and that a clergyman will not start wearing clothing which upsets the people of the parish without the consent of the parish, but that is not what the Measure says. If a clergyman comes to a parish and wishes to adopt a form of dress which the parish dislikes he has a duty under the Measure to consult the parochial church council. The parochial church council may disagree with him. If it does, the matter goes to the bishop who has the final decision. From all the indications, there are many lay people who feel that they would not necessarily have confidence in the bishops to decide on their side.
Mr Anthony Bourne-Arton (Darlington)
Would my hon. and gallant Friend not agree that all that the bishop has the power to do and all that he is called upon to do is to discover what is acceptable to the council? He has no other discretion. The only thing on which there can be disagreement is what is acceptable to the council. What is found to be acceptable to the council is absolute.
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
I honestly do not read the Measure in that way. The final decision on this question would rest with the bishop as to whether or not the vestments would be worn. I am not a lawyer, but I read it in that way and the best advice that I can get is that this would be the effect.
What my lay friends say is this: "If this is so, it may be argued that no wise bishop in his senses would decide against the wishes of the parochial church council." But there are some bishops—perhaps there are none now, but it has been known in history and it possibly will be known in the future—who are not wise. There are some bishops who would not necessarily make a wise decision. They say that if it is generally accepted that no sensible bishop would decide against his parochial church council, why not write it into the Measure? In fact, why not make it an absolute veto?
Mr John Temple (City of Chester)
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend would not want to mislead the House. Under the present Church law as it stands, is it not the position that the parochial church council has no locus standi whatsoever, and that if this Measure were passed the parochial church council would have a say in the matter?
Mr Lawrence Orr (South Down)
Yes, I fully concede that. It gives more of a say to the parochial church council than it would have before. What I am saying is that it does not go so far as many of the supporters of the Measure suggest that it goes. It does not give the parochial church council a veto in the matter of vestments. I believe it ought to. I do not see why it should not.
I suppose we shall have to divide upon this Measure, aye or no. I think it is a pity because our vote is bound to be interpreted in different ways. If the House of Commons rejects the Measure, this is bound to be interpreted as Parliament against the Church. If, on the other hand, the House of Commons approves the Measure, this is bound to be interpreted by what someone called the great mass of inarticulate laity of the Church as their last protection gone. Either way, it is unfortunate.
I am going to make a suggestion to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover. Is it not possible, even at this late moment, to take the Measure back to the Church Assembly and ask whether or not there could be written into it the safeguards that I have mentioned? I would give him this assurance, that if that were so, if there were written into it the safeguards that I have suggested, certainly, I for one, if I happened to be fortunate and honoured to be in the next Parliament, would take a different attitude to the Measure. I would never wholeheartedly support it, but I might take a different attitude and it might be possible to have unity, at any rate, within the House of Commons upon it.
If my hon. Friend does not feel able to do that—and I know that it is late to make the suggestion—I feel that I, for one, would have no option whatever but to oppose this Measure. I do not know how many others would be with me, but [do not think there is any other course open to me. Like Martin Luther, I can do no other.
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) will no doubt, if he sees fit, reply to the closing démarche of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). If I were to attempt to answer every point that the hon. and gallant Gentleman made as well as deliver the speech that I have prepared, I should take twice as long as he has taken, and I am not anxious to take up too much of the time of the House, because I feel sure that all of us, whatever our view of this matter, feel that this debate should not continue all night, or into the small hours, but should come to a conclusion at a reasonable time when those who wish to vote can do so without great inconvenience.
The hon. and gallant Member made one or two points, however, on which I must comment. I do not share his view that what he calls "the great mass of the inarticulate laity" are seriously troubled about this matter. I believe that most of the representations and the pressure that hon. Members have received have come from what is really a very small, though perfectly sincere, number of people on one extreme wing of the Church of England.
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
That may be, but in that case the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not consulted them either. Neither he nor I have consulted them. We only give our own impressions, and I do not share his view.
I am always willing to give way to interruptions, but I rather hope that I shall not have to give way to too many, otherwise my speech will be prolonged intolerably. Very briefly, I feel the greatest possible diffidence and reluctance in—I will not say bandying words, but in discussing, in this place, with the hon. and gallant Member such matters as those which he raised about the nature of the Holy Communion. I would only say that when he put two contrasting definitions of that central act of worship, the first one—which, he seemed to imply, was that of the Roman Catholic Church—was very much nearer than the other one to the official definition in the Book of Common Prayer. I would refer him particularly to the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, where the most exact definition which we have in the Church of England is given.
Another point that he made he has made before, in other debates, in a slightly different form: that is, that the Church Assembly is not really representative of the laity of the Church of England. Indeed, he went so far as to say that the laity is the Church of England. I think that the laos, the holy people of God, is the whole Church-but it is a bit hard on the bishops and clergy to exclude them altogether from membership of the Church, which is almost what the hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to be doing.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that, by contrast with the Church Assembly, the Church's lay representation is the House of Commons. Now, imperfectly representative as the Church Assembly may be, I think that that view, at this time in history, is completely unrealistic and anachronistic. At least, the members of the Church Assembly, even if some of them have not been elected and even if some of them are not responsible to constituents, are, so far as one knows, all practising Anglicans. We know perfectly well—there is nothing to be ashamed of in it—that that is not true now of the Members of this House. There may have been some sense and some logic in regarding the House of Commons as the lay voice of the Church of England when all its Members were practising, or at least nominal, Anglican church-people. This is totally unrealistic nowadays. One would not, I think, expect the percentage of practising Anglicans in this House to be very much larger than the percentage in the nation at large, and we all know how small, unfortunately, that is.
We have among us many people of other faiths or of none. There are about 25 Roman Catholic Members on both sides of the House. There are a number of Free Churchmen, who make their distinctive contribution on these matters, and very welcome it is. There are some agnostics, humanists, and others who do not belong to any Church. It is utterly absurd to say that the House of Commons, in 1964, is the lay voice or the lay representation of the Church of England. It is just not so.
Nevertheless, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that, as things are, and establishment being what it is, every Member, whatever his own views may be, has a perfect constitutional right to speak and vote on these Measures. I cannot help feeling that it is regrettable that this should be so nowadays. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that it is a pity that the Church is, as it were, wasting its time on trivialities of this kind when there are so many much more important things to be done. I feel very much the same about Parliament. I rather sympathise with the letter in this morning's Daily Telegraph, the writer of which, a clergyman, says that at a moment when the world may be in danger of destruction, and when half the world's peoples are hungry, it is fantastic that the House of Commons should have to spend some hours discussing what sort of clothes clergymen ought to wear in church. This is one of the penalties of establishment. I do not myself regard total disestablishment as what is called practical politics in the foreseeable future, but, if we could approach something nearer what is called the Scottish solution, this would, I believe, lead to a very much happier situation for both Church and State.
My name is among the list of those sponsoring this Measure and I do therefore, of course, support it, but I am bound to say that I originally supported it with some reluctance, not only for the reason I have just given, which I feel very strongly, but also because I have increasingly felt in recent months that it is unfortunate that the able and learned lawyers who advise the Church Assembly should insist on pushing through to us so many of these detailed revisions of Canon Law on a number of matters which, in our pragmatical English way, we have allowed, as it were, to run.
Everyone knew what the situation was about vestments. Occasionally there was slight trouble in this or that parish, but, on the whole, illogical as it may have been, despite the obvious clash between the Privy Council decision and the Ornaments Rubric, things seemed to work fairly well. As I say, I think it rather a pity that these revisions have to come before us. It seems to me to be a kind of legalism, rather than respect for law, to insist that every jot and tittle must be in order and must be observed.
There are still on our Statute Book a number of laws which have fallen into disuse. Nobody says that it is a terrible strain on our consciences, or that we are notorious law-breakers, because we do not observe all the days of fasting prescribed in the Act of 1551 called An Acte for the keping of Hollie daies and Fastinge dayes." I do not believe that every hon. and right hon. Member observes all those days of fasting. I tear that I do not. That law has simply fallen into disuse because it is out of keeping with current practice and current feeling. This, I submit, could have been the case with this much disputed Privy Council decision of nearly a century ago.
This morning, I was showing a foreign visitor round St. Paul's Cathedral, and we happened to pause by the recumbent marble effigy of a great Victorian divine, Dean Milman, who was a notable historian, scholar, and theologian. We were just about to pass on when I noticed—I hope that this will not shock the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South too much—that the sculptor had portrayed Dean Millman—quite unmistakably, in the durable marble—wearing that illegal stole. The stole is the reductio ad absurdum of this argument about vestments, since it is worn, as we know, by more than 90 per cent. of the clergymen of the Church of England, although it is, if the Privy Council judgment is correct, technically just as illegal as the chasuble and the other vestments.
Incidentally, there was one small point on which, I thought, the hon. Member for Dover was not quite right. He said that archbishops and bishops were completely outside the ambit of this Measure. I do not think that they are. It refers to ministers and celebrants, and archbishops and bishops quite frequently visit parish churches and function—
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I misheard him.
The hon. Member for Dover dealt with the piecemeal argument, but I wish to make one point to reinforce what he said.
When the 1927 and 1928 revisions of the Book of Common Prayer came to Parliament, those who supported them were told, "If you had brought this to us not all as one book which we had to accept or reject, we would have agreed to quite a lot of it, because there was only one controversial part of it, the revised Communion service. We would probably have accepted the rest ". When the Church has taken that advice and is bringing it forward bit by bit, so that Parliament can approve or reject each part of the revised Canon Law, it seems a bit hard to be told that the Church should not have done it piecemeal, but should have done it all in one pattern.
Mr Roy Wise (Rugby)
Being an old man, and remembering the debates on the 1928 Prayer Book, the main difficulty, as far as I remember, was that one section of the Church was asked whether, if Parliament sanctioned this Book, it would observe it in full, and it said, "No". That was why Parliament threw it out.
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
I do not quite follow that intervention, with respect. Although I was not here, I remember those debates quite clearly. Perhaps not inside but certainly outside Parliament one of the complaints was that it should have been brought forward in chapters, as it were—in pieces, so that Parliament could accept or reject each piece. However, I have made the point. I may be wrong, but it seems to me a valid point.
One point which has not been noted in this debate, nor, so far as I remember, in the debate in the other place—where one noble Lord perpetrated what seemed to me to be the over-statement of the century, when he said that this Measure was the greatest act of appeasement since Munich—is that this Measure cuts both ways. All the argument so far has been about these detestable "customary vestments". But one can also imagine the case of a clergyman who has always been used conscientiously to wearing a surplice going to a new parish, being appointed its vicar, and coming up against a parochial church council which wanted him to wear the vestments. He would be in some difficulty about that.
It seems to me and to others who have been used to these things—which, I agree, are not of fundamental importance—that this Measure, for the first time, is legalising the wearing of the surplice at Holy Communion: we have been brought up to regard the Ornaments Rubric, as interpreted by many learned ecclesiologists and historians, as having greater weight—certainly greater moral weight—than a single, much disputed judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which, after all, in those years when it was involved in all those ritual disputes, did from time to time contradict its own judgments and decisions. It did not do so on this matter, but it did on others.
One argument which has not been advanced at length tonight—and I rather hope that it will not be—is contained in a great deal of the propaganda literature that has reached us from various bodies who are, of course, perfectly entitled to send us these postcards and printed letters. I refer to the allegation that this Measure represents part of a general drift to Rome. I know that this is felt sincerely by some hon. Members, too. I do not believe it to be the case, and I will give three or four reasons, very briefly, why I do not believe it to be the case.
In the first place, these vestments, or others very similar to them, are worn in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which were among the first churches to be in schism with the Roman See—a schism which has been long-lasting and profound. Secondly—and perhaps this is even more to the point—almost identical vestments, certainly the chasuble, are worn throughout the Lutheran churches, and nobody will say that those churches are dominated by Rome. The hon. and gallant Member said that "the reformers" decided to abolish these vestments. They did not all decide to abolish them; as I say, they are worn throughout the Lutheran churches. A lesser point, perhaps, is that they are worn in the Old Catholic Church, with which the Church of England is in full communion.
However, the most important of these arguments on whether this is or is not a symptom of a Romeward drift is this. It is stated in the Preamble to the Measure that no vesture is
to be understood as implying any doctrines other than those now contained in the formularies of the Church of England.
That is to say, there is no doctrinal significance in the customary vestments. I think that this is true. They may be significant in other ways. Some people attach a kind of mystical significance to them. Some find a certain aesthetic value in them; that is not an argument on which I would lay great stress. Other people, again—and this is much more important; it brings me to what I regard as the most important point in this part of my argument—find great historical significance in them.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South traced some of the history of these vestments. He was quite right in saying that originally no distinctive vestures of any kind were worn by the ministers of the Sacrament. These vestments are an extreme example of a certain conservatism—with a small "c"—within the Church. They proclaim the continuity of the modern Church with the Church of the earliest times, because these were, in effect—slightly adapted through the centuries—the clothes worn by the ordinary Roman citizen, probably his Sunday-best clothes. Logically, in my view, a celebrant could wear either these vestments or quite ordinary clothes: I do not see why a minister should not wear his ordinary best suit. But I cannot see any logic in the in-between, middle-of-the-road course of wearing a surplice and scarf.
But the main point is this: since these vestments remind us of the continuity of our Church with the primitive Christian Church they are in effect, if I may say so with all respect to my Roman Catholic friends and colleagues, part of our answer to the Roman Catholic claim to the exclusive possession of the Apostolic succession. As such, the permissive use of these vestments seems to me to be, if anything, an anti-Roman rather than a Rome-ward move.
Mr Roger Cooke (Twickenham)
Would the hon. Member go as far as to agree that basically these clothes might well have been worn by the ordinary citizen in Palestine 2,000 years ago? If so, one might say that they are traditionally, possibly, the descendants of those worn by Christ.
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
If that is historically true, it is a valid point. I do not know whether it is so. I think they are, roughly, the same as clothes worn by the citizens of Rome in early centuries. If they were worn also in Palestine, the point made by the hon. Member is a good one.
I should like to conclude by reading two brief letters which I have received within the last few days from two clergymen in my constituency. I will not give their names, because I have not obtained permission to do so, but I will willingly show these letters to any hon. Member who would like to see them. They are both clergymen of the Church of England. One writes:
May I say that I hope this Measure is passed so that the decision of the Church
Assembly can be implemented. I am not one who wears vestments himself except when celebrating at a church where they are habitually worn. I prefer not to wear them. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly indeed that the freedom of the Church in this matter should be insured. In my opinion it would be a ghastly setback if this measure were defeated by the Commons…
The other clergyman says:
I am an Evangelical and do not wear vestments myself, but I am strongly in favour of the Measure as a realistic legalisation of current Church practice, and as a vital attempt to promote toleration within our Church.
These two unsolicited letters are expressions of what I believe to be the view of the great mass of Evangelical clergy and churchpeople of the Church of England. I said at the beginning of this speech that I thought that all the pressure which we have been subjected to. perfectly legitimately, had come from a very small extremist group. The majority of Evangelical clergy and laity take the view which these two clergymen take I have heard it stated and not contradicted that the compromise formula which is embodied in the Measure and in its Preamble was devised by, among others, the late Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Chavasse, who was as staunch an Evangelical as any there have ever been.
If this Measure is rejected, I do not think that its rejection will have the slightest effect on current practice. I do not think that anybody nowadays suggests sending some thousands of clergymen to prison, as some clergymen were sent to prison only a century ago, or less, for this sort of thing. Fantastic! On the other hand, if this Measure is approved, there will, equally, not be the slightest change in current practice—with one exception, that there is this slight democratisation involved in the consultation with the parochial church council. That may not go so far as the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, would wish, but I am not sure that it would be altogether fair to the clergyman concerned to give an absolute veto to the parochial church council. I should have thought that there ought to be a reasonable balance between the parties if there is, unfortunately, a dispute, which, I think, would occur very rarely.
So on the whole, though originally I regretted, and still do in some ways, that it is necessary for the House to spend time on such a matter as this, I hope that the Measure will be carried.
Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)
As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, the history of the vestures of ministers and the law relating to them in the Church of England is an immensely complex and tangled subject, and anyone who tries to address his mind to it may soon exclaim, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life". It is, indeed, the spirit which underlies the legislation proposed to the House this evening which should be the basis, it seems to me, of the decision that we have to take one way or the other.
In forming an estimate of what that spirit is, I think that it is not without use to recall the only two previous occasions since the final break with Rome when Parliament has made law in relation to the vestures of ministers. The first such occasion was when Parliament had before it the Bill which became the Act of Uniformity of 1558. Parliament was deliberating at a time when the fires of Smithfield were barely out. It had before it two Protestant prayer books, the first Prayer Book of Edward VI and the second Prayer Book. Parliament decided to adopt the second Prayer Book, but it deliberately and expressly made an exception to that in the matter of the ornaments of the Church and its ministers.
It did this deliberately, and there cannot be any doubt that it did it with the alternatives clearly before it: the prescription in the second Prayer Book of Edward VI was that at all times of their ministration the clergy should wear the surplice only, whereas the prescription in the first Prayer Book, which prescription Parliament deliberately adopted, was that in the Holy Communion the dress should be—this was enjoined—the alb and the chasuble. Such was the deliberate decision of Parliament, legislating immediately after the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, though it left the way open for alteration subsequently.
The second occasion on which Parliament itself made law in this matter was at the Restoration Settlement, when passing the Act of Uniformity in 1662. Whatever might have been the effect of the Advertisements of 1566, whether they did, in fact, or did not comply with the conditions in the 1558 Act; whatever might be the status of the Canon of 1603, the fact is that Parliament in 1662, when it wrote into the law what is today our Book of Common Prayer, deliberately—for other changes were made in the earlier Prayer Book—decided to retain the Elizabethan rubric which, in effect, enjoined at Holy Communion the alb with the chasuble.
For over two centuries after that time anyone might conscientiously and reasonably believe that he was within the law in wearing those vestments. I put it no more strongly than that. Only in the 1870s did the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council assert that the only lawful vesture of ministers at any time of their ministration was the surplice. From that time onwards the practice of the Church of England in the overwhelmingly vast majority of parishes has been in conflict with the law as declared by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Church of England comes to us in the House this evening and asks us to remove this absurdity and stumbling block.
Those before us in this place who made the Reformation Settlement and the Restoration Settlement wrought even more wisely than they knew. Within the framework of those settlements, the Church of England has been, or has become, a church unique in its comprehensiveness and its tolerance, a church within which all sorts and conditions of men can find, and do find, their spiritual home. We look back today with astonishment and almost incredulity upon the fierce divisions and controversies which marked the nineteenth century—it is not without importance to remember that the decisions of the Privy Council were given at the very height of what is known as the ritualist controversy—but we cannot fail to recognise that the strands of tradition which it has been possible to accommodate together within the Church of England have today left it immensely stronger and immensely enriched.
It is entirely in accordance with that spirit of tolerance and comprehension that the Measure before us is framed. It does not seek to impose any one tradition upon all, neither the surplice only of the second Prayer Book of Edward VI nor the alb with chasuble of the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. What it does is to recognise the facts of the existing position in the Church of England, its living practice in the 1960s, and to clothe them in the most tolerant way with the forms of law. That is what the Measure before us does.
If I believed that this Measure in any way represented a breach of the Reformation settlement upon which the Church of England is founded, I would have no hesitation in voting against it. As it is, I believe that the Measure is profoundly in accord with the spirit of that settlement. It would be the greatest of tragedies if, when the Church of England asked this House that its law may be brought into accord with its practice, we were to refuse. I trust that we shall not.
Mr James Ede (South Shields)
This is a difficult and delicate matter which we have been discussing this evening and I think that it says something for the way in which the House has approached it that, so far, no violent language has been used on either side.
It is well known that I am a Nonconformist. My constituents knew it when they elected me and in the years that I have represented the parliamentary Borough of South Shields I do not think that they have ever been in any doubt about it. I have received a good deal of correspondence from my constituents and it is very one-sided. I have received only two printed postcards opposing this Measure. All the rest of my correspondence has been from its supporters, urging me to support the Measure on the grounds, first, that it gives more freedom to the Church of England, secondly, that it is desired by the representative body of the Church of England, and, thirdly, that it will promote a greater tolerance inside the practice of the Church of England.
Those are three arguments that appeal to me very strongly, and I have assured the correspondents who wrote to me on those lines that I accept the weight of opinion in my constituency and that I should support this Measure tonight I propose to do that because I think that the parochial church councils and the general administrative body of the Church of England, through the Church Assembly, have provided the laity of the Church with opportunities for making their views known. I think that it would be very wrong of us if, having obtained from the Church Assembly overwhelming support for this Measure, as it has, in fact, received, we ignored it and did not make the recommendation to Her Majesty which is the object of this debate.
I regret that the affairs of one Church have to be discussed from time to time in Parliament and I express my sympathy with devout members of that Church who find, when such matters come up in this House, that persons who are not in communion with them and, indeed, do not even agree that their Church should be the Established Church of the country, have to vote in the Division Lobbies on the way in which it is to be administered.
I do not think that it is necessary to say any more than that. I respect the views of those of my constituents who have written to me and the reasons they give for desiring that this Motion should be passed, and I sincerely hope that that will be the result of this debate.
Mr Norman Cole (Bedfordshire South)
I add my voice to those who have deplored the fact that we in this House, in 1964, are asked to decide upon events and affairs which are more properly within the governance of the Church itself. It is certainly not that I regard what we are discussing as trivial but nevertheless I am most concerned that we should be called upon to make this decision one way or the other.
On the other hand, while the law of the land requires Parliament to decide upon these things, I hold it sacred that every hon. Member has a right to voice his opinion and I am also emboldened by the fact that members of the Church of England, knowing of this Measure, have expressed satisfaction that the final decision has to be made by Parliament. I have heard it expressed that, in retrospect, members of the Church of England are pleased that Parliament, in its wisdom or otherwise, in 1928 did not fully approve the Prayer Book submitted to it.
I approach this matter with great concern from the point of view that it is fundamental to our beliefs that worshippers must be allowed freedom to fellow that form of worship most helpful to them. That is surely an integral part of the faith by which we live. It is a principle which, in the past, many great men sacrificed their lives and careers to defend and maintain. Today, we too are asked to make the same kind of decision again, although it will cause us in mind nothing like the distress which it caused our forebears in body to reach the decision for which they sacrificed themselves.
I make no apology for speaking as one who believes in this freedom and who has been privileged to participate. I have been an active member of the Methodist Church for 32 years. I am neither proud nor not proud of that, because religion is not a matter for pride. I am happy to feel that I have freedom of conscience and worship which is unkown in so many other countries.
I underline, in passing, what has not been mentioned since my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) drew attention to it. If an alternative method to this Measure were adopted, if some means were found of reversing the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council taken in 1877, the result would be that the wearing of vestments in the Church of England would be compulsory and not optional or permissive, as is the case under the Measure.
My difficulty is this. I want to ensure that those who want to wear vestments and those who worship in Churches where such is the practice do not expose themselves, however remotely, to a charge of illegality. That at the moment is the charge that could be made. Whether or not it was proceeded with is not relevant to our deliberations. On the other hand, it has been pointed out to me with equal sincerity—this is part of my difficulty and, I believe, part of the difficulty felt by many hon. Members—by those who dislike personally the wearing of vestments and by those who worship in those same churches that, if we pass the Measure, if, as it were, we bless the permission which it enshrines, we shall by that very act be giving impetus to that portion of the Church which likes the wearing of vestments. In short, those who do not wish to wear vestments and those who worship with them will be put in a position weaker than they now are and will therefore be open to all kinds of proselytisation from the other side.
I fully and immediately admit that this is not more than a fear and an anticipation, but we in the House spend much of our time dealing with the fears and anticipations of many people, at times even our own. That a thing is not a proven fact but is only a fear or an anticipation does not remove it from the ambit of our consideration. Further, it appears from what we have heard tonight that those of whom I am talking represent maybe a minority in the Church of England. Thus it is even more important that we have in mind those rights, because if there is anything sacred to the working of the House of Commons, it is the protection of the views and, above all, of the rights of minorities in various sectors of the community.
The Measure states that there is no doctrinal significance in these vestments. I believe that for the vast majority that is the truth. We must find the narrow passage between, on the one hand, what is the determined view of those people that no doctrinal significance attaches to this and, on the other hand, the apprehension of those who believe that this nevertheless may lead to something more than a mere matter of clothing. In sacred matters of religion, and in some ways in lesser matters of politics, one at one's risk and peril ignores the viewpoint and the sincerely held views of the vast number of people in one form or another who make up our nation.
I again underline that the alternatives to this Measure are that nothing should be brought before the House, or that the complicated process of amending the Acts of Uniformity should be undertaken, or—this is the last and perhaps the most pragmatic alternative—that something should be done about reversing the decision of the Judicial Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dover said, that would make the wearing of vestments compulsory. I reiterate this, because I do not think that it has been understood by many of the vast body of churchmen. It would then be compulsory to wear these vestments, irrespective of view. I think, on balance, that that might cause far more hurt than the passing of this Measure tonight.
It has been mentioned already, and I fully endorse what was said, that it is a pity that at this time, when the Christian Churches of the world are themselves striving against materialism and all those things which try to drag them down, and when we in this country, from our own national viewpoint, are working so hard and in such a dedicated manner to bring about Christian unity, that, with the best intentions in the world, there should be this schism, however minor, if it is minor, down the centre of those who belong to the Church of England.
The thought occurs to one, as a thinking person, that if we have had this kind of argument, this kind of thought for these many years in the Church, however well-intentioned it may have been, before this Measure was brought before this great and honourable House tonight, where we are spending hours deciding on something which is a part of the working of the Church, how long, O Lord, how long, shall we be before we really have Christian unity in this nation?
Mr Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
I want, first, to refer to the speech of the chief objector to the Measure, the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). I agree with the first two points that he made. The timing of the Measure is rather unfortunate. It is a great pity that the last thing that this Parliament is being asked to do is to pass a Measure which, as the hon. Members for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) and Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott) said, is of immense importance to many thousands of people.
The second point on which I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South is that it is right that persons who are not members of the Church of England should speak on this Measure. I still find it rather abnormal that I should be asked to take a decision about the internal affairs of a Church to which I do not belong, but that is how the law has it, and that, apparently, is how the Church of England wants it. If I am asked to vote, surely I am entitled also to express an opinion?
I do not agree with the third point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South. After all, I do not always agree with him. He said that he had no objection to making this an election issue. I think that most of us have, but I am not surprised that he has not, because in the part of the United Kingdom to which he belongs General Elections are usually fought on issues of this kind.
I speak on this matter with some diffidence and trepidation, for the reasons that I have given, but I am in favour of the Measure. First, because so far I have not heard one good argument against it. I have listened to all the speeches, with the exception of about ten minutes of the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), and I have read with care the report of the recent debate in the other place on this Measure.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), I was astonished to read that a noble Earl said that this was the greatest piece of appeasement since Munich. After all, one can think of several other events which have taken place in the world in the last 25 years, rather more catastrophic than the passing of a resolution by the Church Assembly asking for permission for pastors to continue to do what they have been doing for many years.
The same noble Earl in his objections to this Measure brought into question the Protestantism of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I mention this point to show, with due respect, that much of the opposition to this Measure seems to be so preposterous as to be slightly comical.
Among the other comic things about it is the argument mentioned again by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking that this indicates a drift towards Rome. Anyone who believes that knows very little about the Church of Rome. The difference between the Church of Rome and the Church of England has very little to do with chasubles and copes, albs and amices, and maniples and stoles. The differences between the Church of England and the Church of Rome are very profound and are to do with doctrine and theology, and not even so much moral theology as dogmatic theology, and these differences will not be solved by passing resolutions in the Church Assembly. They will not be solved by Parliament, because Parliament, thank God, although perhaps having to deal with Canon Law, or rubrics, or jurisdiction, has nothing to do with theology, and has no right to do so. To talk about this as being a drift towards Rome simply does not make sense.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there are other reasons. He mentioned other churches which are not in communion with Rome, but which use these vestments. One reason why I am in favour of the Measure is that there is nothing new about it. There is no innovation here—nothing revolutionary. What we are asked to do is to give permission to Anglican Ministers to do what most of them are already doing, and to make legal a practice which has been going on for many years in most English parishes, at least. In fact, we are putting these reverend gentlemen within the law.
Mr John Maginnis (County Armagh)
I appreciate the hon. Member's Irish exegesis, but if he wished to drive to the House of Commons every day on the wrong side of the road, would he ask a policeman to change the law for him?
Mr Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
What an extraordinary interruption! How it is relevant to the Vestures of Ministers Measure I do not know. I do not drive on either side of the road, because I do not drive a car. I was saying, before I was interrupted, that we are not asking Parliament to innovate something. We are asking it to recognise something which is already taking place.
The final reason why I think it proper to vote in favour of the Measure is that the Church Assembly is in favour of it. It has been said that the Church Assembly is not representative of the Church of England. I do not know about that. I imagine that it is rather more representative of the Church of England than this House is, to start with. If it is slightly or largely unrepresentative—and again, I do not know, and cannot speak with authority on this matter—it is the only assembly of the Church of England with whom we can talk. Its members are the only persons who can speak to Parliament about the Church of England. They are the only persons to whom we can listen, because they are the only persons who can speak for the Church.
The hon. Member for Bebington or the hon. Member for Dover said that the Church Assembly has given years of consideration to this matter. In that case, as a member of the Church of Rome, it is my humble duty to take notice of what the Church Assembly has said after deliberating the matter for years.
Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
If the debate on this Measure illustrates anything it surely illustrates the unsuitability of the present arrangements under which this House has to be the judge of matters on which it is not competent to judge. I cannot think of an assembly less suited to be a judge of matters of this kind than the House of Commons. As Members, we are being asked to undertake a task for which the great majority of us at any rate have no real competence.
What is the position of hon. Members in this matter? We have been receiving circulars and counter-circulars in our constituencies. We are told, on the one hand, by people who have the appearance of being competent churchmen, that if we pass this Measure we are voting in favour of a breach of the Reformation principle and a move towards Rome, and we receive communications, on the other hand, from apparently equally competent churchmen telling us that exactly the opposite is the truth.
We are being asked now to form a judgment on the Tightness or wrongness of these respective positions. If I have any understanding of the matter at all it is that the Reformation was concerned with issues very much more important than those with which this Measure seeks to deal.
I am not a theologian, and as far as I am aware that is the position of, at any rate, nearly all my colleagues in this House. I am therefore not competent to make a judgment on these matters from that standpoint, and all I can hope to do when a task is given to me that I am manifestly unqualified to perform is to try to do the best I can, and exercise the judgment of the ordinary man on what appear to me to be principles of ordinary common sense, and on that basis to decide what I should do if I am called upon to vote.
As I see the matter, I have on the one hand to try to assess what good, if any, will be done if this Measure is passed, and, on the other hand, what harm will be done if it is passed—because, like most Measures, this one, if passed, will probably do some good and some harm. I have to try to judge on which side the advantage lies.
The sponsors have pitched their case deliberately low. They have tried to commend the Measure to the House by representing it as something small and relatively unimportant. For instance, it has been suggested that no new doctrinal principle is enshrined in the Measure, that it contains no special theological significance. Above all, we are told that it involves no change in the faith of the Church of England. Again, these are matters on which I am singularly unqualified to form a judgment.
As a Member of the House of Commons, therefore, I have to consider on which side the balance of advantage lies, and it seems to me that inasmuch as it has been pointed out and has not been contradicted that whether or not this Measure is carried nothing is involved in the way of the practical day-to-day practice of the Church, because these vestments have for many years past been worn regularly in literally thousands of churches. We are merely being asked to legalise or regularise a situation that is at present, as I understand it, probably illegal and probably irregular; and therefore, as it were, to give a kind of aura of respectability to something that has been going on for many years, and to which, as far as I am aware, no very great objection has been taken. That is the sum total of the good that will be accomplished if the Measure is passed.
On the other side of the account, I believe that by passing this Measure there will be at least three very considerable losses against which the possible benefits count as little in the balance. First of all, as has already been said, the Measure, if passed, will be hurtful to the consciences of many humble and sincere Christian people in the Church of England and in other Churches.
This House has always been the upholder of conscientious principles and particularly conscientious principles held by minorities, and therefore it has a great duty on this occasion to consider whether we should take a step that is hurtful to the consciences of many of our fellow-Christians.
I know that some people who do not accept this argument will brush aside the objections of these people. They will say that the objectors are comparatively few, that they are a small body of unenlightened and reactionary people to whose views no particular attention should be paid. I am inclined to think that the numbers of these people are considerably greater than is generally recognised, and I am not inclined to brush away lightly the sincerity of purpose of these people and the contribution which they make to the churches and chapels of our land. It is right for us in the House to be very careful before we impose a Measure on the country which will not only be distasteful but hurtful to the consciences of many of our fellow-Christians.
It is perhaps significant that up to the moment, as far as I am aware, and I have heard nearly every speech, no appeal has been made to the teaching of the Bible in this matter, although I believe that the Bible has a conclusive word to say about the principle with which we are concerned. Students of the Scriptures will be familiar with what the Apostle Paul had to say in the 14th Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans about the consideration that should be extended to the weaker brother. The advice which he gave in that passage was advice that arose out of a particular controversy in the Church at Rome regarding the problem of whether it was right or wrong to eat meat in certain circumstances, but what he said had a general application which went very far beyond the particular limited controversy to which it related, and in my judgment it enshrined advice in this matter to which we should do well to pay regard.
I should like to read to the House just a few verses from that passage, from the Phillips translation in Modern English. In order that we may appreciate the applicability of it to the subject which we are considering this evening, I want to substitute the words "wearing of vestments" for "the eating of meat" and I think that the House will see then how entirely relevant this is. This is what the Apostle said. [AN HON. MEMBER: "As amended."] I ask hon. Members to pay serious regard to what I am quoting because this is not a passage dealing with one isolated controversial matter. It deals with the great general principle of what should be the treatment of the minority in the Church who disagree with the majority.
As amended, this is how the passage reads:
I am convinced, and I say this as in the presence of Christ Himself that nothing is intrinsically unholy. But nonetheless it is unholy to the man who thinks it is. If your habit of wearing vestments seriously upsets your brother, you are no longer living in love towards him. And surely you would'n't let vestments mean ruin to a man for whom Christ died. You mustn't let something that is all right for you look. like an evil practice to somebody else. After all, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of whether you wear vestments you like, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you put these things first in serving Christ you will please God and are not likely to offend men. So let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another's character. Surely we shouldn't wish to undo God's work for the sake of the wearing of a vestment.
I suggest that is a perfectly fair use and interpretation of that passage, and that it enshrines perhaps a great deal more wisdom in our approach to this matter than has been shown in some of the speeches this evening.
Mr Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
As my hon. Friend a few minutes ago agreed that if this Measure were to be refused consent by this House, the people who at present wear vestments would go on wearing them, will he not agree that the whole of his last passage, including the interpolation of words, is really a suggestion that the law should be enforced and that those who wear vestments should stop wearing them, rather than a suggestion that that which is illegal should be made legal?
Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
Certainly I accept most of what my hon. Friend says. I hold the view that, while the law of the land is at it is, it should be enforced and observed. There is nothing inconsistent with that belief in what I am saying this evening.
The first of the three points that I want to make, therefore, is that this is hurtful to the consciences of multitudes of weaker brethren who are none the less entitled to have their feelings in this matter taken into consideration by this House.
Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
Of course, this Measure does not oblige people to go to services, but is it not a pity that people should be kept away from services who might otherwise go, by reason of something of this kind which is largely irrelevant to the purpose of the Church? Let us try to promote unity and make it possible for people who wish to do so to go to church, rather than to impose by law conditions which are so distasteful to many people as to keep them away.
The second point that I want to make is that this Measure does nothing to promote the reunion of the churches, about which some of us are so anxious. We know that at present there have been long-drawn-out and fruitful discussions between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. We accept that the Church of England is sincere in its desire to see a reunion with Methodism, and the Church of England has made it quite clear that this reunion with Methodism is conceived on its side as a first step towards the reunion of the Church of England with the other Free Church bodies.
I happen to have been nurtured in Nonconformity, and I have spent most of my life in Nonconformity. I think I can claim to have some knowledge of the views and the beliefs of my fellow Nonconformists. Without exaggerating the position, I would certainly say—and I doubt whether anyone would deny it—that the passing of this Measure certainly does nothing to make easier the reunion between the Church of England and the Free Churches but it does, in fact, unquestionably put back the hands of the clock so far as the movement towards reunion is concerned.
I cannot think that at a time when the great prize of Christian reunion seems to be nearer to us than at any other time in the last 100 years, it is useful or wise to promote a Measure in this House that is quite clearly damaging to the cause of reunion.
Mr Joseph Hiley (Pudsey)
One of my Methodist friends tells me that his attitude as a Methodist is completely opposite to the one my hon. Friend is advancing—that Methodists would very much resent it if the Church of England were not master in its own house and would not, for that reason, be prepared to join.
Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
I am quite sure that, just as there are diverse views on this matter inside the Church of England, there are diverse views about it in Nonconformity. We have in the House an hon. Member who is a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference, and I think that, if he were later able to catch the eye of the Chair, he would probably confirm as correct my assessment of the reaction of the great body of Nonconformists in regard to this matter.
I come now to my third point. The introduction of this and other similar Measures is creating a false image of the Church in the minds and hearts of the great mass of ordinary people in this country, because they regard legislation of this kind as irrelevant to the present world situation which confronts the Church. We are living in a time when nine-tenths of the people of this country are not actively associated with any Church and, as far as we can judge, are singularly unconcerned in the work and ministry of the Church. Those nine people out of 10 who are outside the Church are not, for the most part, hostile towards it. On the whole, they are glad that the Church is there so that its ministrations can be called upon when necessary, but they regard the Church as an anachronism, as largely irrelevant to the world situation, as something which is confined to ecclesiastical buildings with stained glass windows, as an organisation which is very largely concerned with what one might call the things on the periphery of the Christian religion such as vestments and matters of that kind.
When the archbishops and the bishops and the higher government of the Church spend months and years of their time considering the promotion of legislation of this character, and when Members of this House are called upon to turn aside from the great problems with which they have to deal in order to act as judges in a matter for which they have no competence at all, we can understand the attitude of the man in the street if he feels that the Church has very little to say to him on the problems of the nation and the world because it is so much concerned with the minutiae of its own government and with problems which are in no way the concern of ordinary people.
If we pass this Measure tonight, will one sinner be turned from the error of his; ways? Will one more worshipper be present in our churches next Sunday, churches which, unfortunately, are half empty or worse in many cases? Will the flowing tide of lower moral standards in this country be stemmed as a result? Will one hungry person in the hungry third of the world be fed as a result of these vestments being legalised? These are the concerns to which the Church ought to be addressing itself. These an; the things on which the Church ought to be spending its time, thought, effort and resources. This Measure is not of the stuff of which Christianity is made.
I hope that, in the strength of my feeling on this subject, I have said nothing that has wounded any of my Christian friends who, I know, hold another view.
I have for years taken a very active part in the ecumenical movement and I rejoice in the greatly improved state of church relations in this country. It would have been much easier and more pleasant for me to absent myself tonight from this debate and to have left the matter to be decided by other people, because I hate to be in controversy with those whom I regard as Christian brethren and whom I hold in high esteem. But I came to the conclusion that to have taken that course would have been an act of moral cowardice on my part. Holding the views that I did, I felt constrained to come here and to state them tonight.
I have endeavoured to state the truth as I see it in love, and I feel that, with a church faced today by a largely hostile and certainly indifferent world, a church which has the whole world as its parish, as John Wesley declared so long ago, confronted with a task that is immense and a time that may be decisive in the whole Christian history of mankind, it is a pity that we have to spend our time on something that matters so little one way or the other.
Mr Reginald Sorensen (Leyton)
I am afraid that I cannot share entirely the approach apparently made to this subject by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). Although to people like myself who are non-Anglican churchmen this may seem to be a matter dealing with trivialities, I am sure that it is nothing of the kind. It is a matter of great concern to the Church of England, and, that being so, I think that we should treat it with much greater sympathy than the hon. Member did. Although he declared toward the end his desire to speak in love and charity, I submit to him that he was not altogether charitable in dealing with a matter of very great concern to another church than his own.
I appreciate that this matter has to Anglican churchmen a great importance. At the same time, I must confess that in speaking of it I have a feeling of almost indecent embarrassment, as if I were being involved in a domestic dissension in the house of my neighbour next door, and should not be here. That serves to underline the implicit plea which many have made tonight, that the sooner the Church of England can be perfectly free to discuss these important matters and to decide them for itself the better it will be for the Church and ourselves. I say that in no spirit of hostility, because I hope that I have already indicated that I do not believe that this is a trivial matter.
Mr John Page (Harrow West)
The last five speakers have not been from the Church of England, and it would be helpful to some members of the Church of England who wish to speak if those who felt embarrassed by being involved remained in their places and did not endeavour to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
Mr Reginald Sorensen (Leyton)
We have been told more than once tonight that we have an obligation to be here, whatever faith we may profess, and I am here because of that obligation. It is quite true that a large number of people, to use a somewhat fading colloquialism, "could not care less". I suppose that little more than 5 per cent. of my constituents are members of any of the Churches—Anglican, Free or Roman. Possibly a good number of hon. Members are in the same category. It may be that they have pleaded as an excuse for not being here that this is not a matter for them to decide. Be that as it may, those of us who are here are here because we are concerned about this Measure. I want to express why I am concerned and why I most certainly warmly support the Measure.
First, as a non-Anglican, I still have the obligation, as objectively as possible, to find out what is in the best interests of the Church of England. Whether we like it or not, it is at the moment a State Church. We are involved in it, even though we may not be individual members of it. From that standpoint, I honestly believe that the best service that one can render to this ancient and venerable church is to respect the fact that it claims to be a comprehensive Church. It is a Church which contains within it many schools of thought and many varieties of interpretation.
When the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) referred to St. Paul, he should know that it is possible to interpret St. Paul in a variety of ways. One must remember the well-known sentence in the "Merchant of Venice" to the effect that the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. That is constantly being done. I assure the hon. Member that I am not identifying him with that particular person.
This is surely the unique character of the Anglican Church. It ciaims that it contains within itself real catholicity of outlook, emphasis and interpretation. As one who has done some meagre and amateur reading of church history, I would say that there was not a complete break between the pre-Reformation Church when the Reformation took place. There were elements of the old Church that go back to the very beginning and continue past Reformation days and are even endorsed by those who now call themselves Evangelicals. I know that those who went to the furthermost extreme when they broke away from the Church of England, came to a position where they felt that they must eliminate all kinds of ritual, colour and symbolism, these being an affront, as they thought, to the full understanding of the divine presence.
The Quakers went most logically to the full extreme by eliminating everything and meeting simply in bareness, austerity and silence, although in course of time they developed a kind of negative ritualism. Short of that, we must appreciate that inside the Anglican Church and outside it in the Free Churches, there are today many practices that belong to pre-Reformation days. If a church has candles on the altar, to some that seems to be symbolic of wicked Babylon and all that goes with it. Others take this as being a legitimate means by which, symbolically, worship is enriched.
All I am trying to do hurriedly, because I am conscious that other hon. Members wish to speak, is to emphasise that certainly, as an outsider, I see in the Anglican Church both the Catholic and the Evangelical interpretation. Both have their case. Both can cite Scripture for their purpose. Both also cite history and appeal to the depths of human nature.
For my part, I believe that all the senses of man must be involved in acts of worship. That being so, colour, pageantry, drama, symbolism and ritual all have their place. If, however, there are people who are not of that view, one can understnad their viewpoint. I again say that it is surely one of the alleged glories of the Church of England that it can include within its orbit those on both extremes, the Evangelical, on the one hand, and the Anglo-Catholic, on the other hand.
That being so, what have I to do who want to deal charitably with this church to which I do not belong? Surely, the only thing I can do, and the only thing that hon. Members can do, is to say that there should, if possible, be opportunity for both schools of thought and for both interpretations. There is today, compared with former years, much greater tolerant charity within the Church of England and, indeed, between the Church of England and other Churches. There has been a certain easing of tension. There has been a diminution of rigidity, certainly in matters of doctrine. Tremendous changes have taken place. Nowadays, there are very few people who speak as they used to do about what, I think, is the hideous doctrine of eternal damnation. Nowadays, Church members can recite the Athanasian Creed and apparently not mean what the original authors meant it to mean. Few people now believe that if we do net believe unfeignedly, we shall perish everlastingly.
If there has been that liberalisation regarding doctrine, if there has been in other matters liberalisation in the Church of England since those days 50 years ago when Anglican bishops could condemn family planning, but now support and even extol it, surely we should support this Measure of liberalisation in vestments. I would urge hon. Members, especially those who are not members of the Church of Engiand, to be generous, and to see that in and through this Church, even though many of us do not belong to it, there are elements of great value and that so long as the precious spirit of free catholicity and charity is preserved her people should be free to choose their divergent forms of worship.
There are those who have written to some of us declaring that this Measure is a sign of a subtle drift towards Rome. They are those whom I would call, without offence, I hope, the ultra-Protestants, who see in this the beginning of the legalisation of something sinister that has been going on all the time. I do not believe that at all. It is that sort of people who, if they came lobbying us in the Central Lobby of the House of Commons, ought to be shocked when we look up to see the four Patron Saints beaming down upon us—though St. Patrick has not apparently done his full duty, because most of Ireland has been lost to us—
Mr John Maginnis (County Armagh)
The Patron Saint of Ireland has been mentioned by the hon. Member, who will recall that had it not been for the Patron Saint of Ireland very large areas of this country would not have been civilised.
Mr Reginald Sorensen (Leyton)
I am so sorry, but I cannot quite interpret what the hon. Member said. I should be most pleased to see him afterwards and discuss the matter with him. I am so sorry, I mean no offence, but I did not quite catch what he said.
I say again that it would be the ultra-Protestants who might object to seeing the four Patron Saints beaming down on us in the Central Lobby. No, on the contrary, we are a Protestant country, and we shall remain a Protestant country so long as we believe in the spirit of free thought and free expression. There are very complex difficulties not only in this respect, but in other contexts as well, on the one hand, the principles of authority, and, on the other, the principles of liberty. Authority can degenerate into tyranny and freedom into licence, but I believe that in and through the Church of England there may be built up a measure of order and a measure of liberty and, this being so, this Measure is, I believe, a step in the right direction.
It will help, I think, to make the Church of England a more honest Church, because before this there was a substantial section of the Church of England performing Anglo-Catholic rites and ceremonies—not necessarily Romanist at all. We have to admit the fact, and if we admit it surely this Measure helps the Church of England to be more honest.
Lastly, I would plead with members of the Church of England, on matter how strongly they may hold either their Evangelical convictions, or Anglo-Catholic convictions, to realise that they belong to one common fellowship. I am reminded, as I speak, of the words, which have come down through the years, of John Ball, the so-called mad priest of Kent. Said he, "Fellowship is life, the lack of fellowship is death." If, in the Church of England, there is true fellowship, with respect for diversity, there will also be abundant charity, and then that Church, by its example, will have much to contribute to our world.
Mr David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) spoke, quite rightly, about the tolerance which exists between the various Churches in our country today. Earlier, I saw the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) in the Chamber. She is not here now, but seeing her, I was reminded very much of her father whom I heard speak many times in Wales against the Welsh Church, against the Church of England in Wales, in those days, and I could not help feeling that if he were here tonight he would have echoed many of the sentiments which the hon. Gentleman has just uttered.
One speaks on this occasion very shortly and, I hope, very humbly. It is an interesting and reassuring fact that in this country today there are still a great number of thinking people who are more concerned about the arrangements of our spiritual affairs than of the more material affairs of State. This Measure has raised a great deal of interest in the country, and, indeed, a great deal in my constituency, which is a cathedral city. I have had more letters on this one subject than on any other subject since I have been in this House. I think, therefore, that before voting on this Measure it is natural to wish to set out one's reasons for voting in any particular way.
The first thing I want to say is that we cannot be in any doubt as to what the expressed feelings are of the Church Assembly. I echo the remarks and feelings of another hon. Member who said that, whatever our view of how the Church Assembly is made up, it is the only representative assembly of the Church of England which can give this House any advice whatsoever. I believe that to be a very strong point.
I say straight away that I have never accepted that vestments have any doctrinal significance whatsoever. Also, I do not believe that the passing of this Measure showed any tendency towards a drift towards Rome. If I thought that, I should not be voting for it tonight. We know that in more than 80 per cent. of the churches various vestments are worn and that these, although seldom objected to by parishioners, are being worn illegally. The Church Assembly has shown by considerable majorities that it is asking Parliament to make the wearing of these vestments legal. There has already been considerable debate in the Church Assembly itself, and. for that matter, in another place.
The major issue that we have to decide tonight is whether this House is to deny to the Church of England and the Church Assembly what they have asked us to legislate upon. Are we to be deaf to what they ask for? I would only say that the arguments tonight have, in my opinion, strengthened my views upon this. Certainly, there are many who have been anxious, and that has been clear to us from the number of people who have spoken and who have written to us in our constituencies. I do not think that anybody could vote for this Measure tonight unless he had given it deep thought, and I have done that. I will not keep the House any longer, except to thank it for allowing me to say these few words.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot), who adduced a number of reasons why the Measure should be brought in and laid before Parliament in this form and at this time, and I should like to deal with them.
First, my hon. Friend said that it would be wrong for the Church of England, which is, of course, the Established Church of this part of the United Kingdom, to submit to Parliament the various proposals which it has in mind all together because that might have led to the rejection of all because of objections to some. That is true, of course, in the sense that if they were put before us in one Church Measure and we disagreed with any part we should have had to reject the whole because we cannot amend a Church Measure.
It is not, of course, a valid reason when one bears in mind that there is no difficulty at all in presenting to Parliament a number of Church Measures, as. indeed, has been done in this present Session, because we are debating tonight one of two Measures which have been laid before Parliament in this way. We are, apparently, not to debate in this present Parliament the other one, which was published at the same time and, I think, laid before Parliament at the same time as this one.
It would have been much fairer to Parliament and more desirable in the public interest if all these proposals had been gathered together and laid before Parliament in a number of instruments—probably about six or perhaps fewer—so that we could see the whole picture of what is proposed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Those dealing with Holy Communion?"] Someone said those dealing with Holy Communion, but I do not want to particularise unduly.
We should see what the Church of England is putting before Parliament to approve. It is difficult for Parliament to judge the shape of things being undertaken when these things come before us seriatim and we are given smooth assurances as to the character of them. I object to the piecemeal approach. It puts us in a very difficult position. We have a responsibility in Parliament to consider these matters. We are not normally skilled theologians and the putting together of these individual things to get a clear picture is hard for us.
The second point is that my hon. Friend said it was right to put this Measure before the House now because otherwise it would become an election issue. I cannot think that when, in his own words, the bishops have been considering this matter for a number of years, it is right that this House tonight, on almost the last working day of this Parliament, should be asked to consider it in a few hours. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Hon. Members ask, why not? Why was it necessary for the bishops to consider it over a period of years if the matter can be fully considered and decided within a few hours?
This is a very big matter. I have been busy with other matters in the past week. I cannot think that hon. Members on either side of the House have not had other matters to claim their attention. I say frankly to the House that when a subject like this comes forward I have to read it up. I do not know all these things; they are not ready on my lips and familiar to my mind. One needs time to look them up, think about them, and discuss them with other people. We have not had that opportunity and we shall not have a very good opportunity for debate tonight. A great many hon. Members will have gone away for their holidays. It would not surprise me if, during the course of the debate, some hon. Members from either side of the House were, in fact, doing just that. This Measure is brought forward on virtually the last working day of this Parliament and we have to decide it.
I invite the House to consider the nature of this operation. This has not to be seen in isolation. This is a very long story. This battle over vestments has gone on intermittently for some hundreds of years. We all know what happened at the time of the Reformation. Many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church were abandoned in this country. These vestments were among those which were progressively abandoned during the sixteenth century. Everyone knows that to be true.
Commander Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire South)
That statement is open to grave doubt. In fact, the most authoritative body to pronounce on this matter was the last Royal Commission on the subject, the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline, which reported in 1906. It said, in paragraph 92 of the Report:
It is not open to question that the Eucharistic vestments were retained in the Church of England after the repudiation of the Roman doctrine and the substitution of the Prayer Book for the Roman service.
On the establishment of Queen Elizabeth's Prayer Book, in 1559, these vestments were by the Act of Uniformity, in clear terms, again directed to be worn.
The Royal Commission reported unanimously.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
My hon. Friend has rather encouraged me to feel that I shall give way to him a little more reluctantly in future if he proposes to make his speeches in the middle of mine. I do not mind interventions, but if he wants to refute my arguments he should wait until he can catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, if he has not now been deemed to have exhausted his right to speak. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend in his intervention and I will deal with it later. I will not avoid the issue if he thinks that my statement is open to doubt, but I will proceed now on the assumption that what I say is correct. I will justify it later.
Vestments went out progressively during the sixteenth century and were not used in England until the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century. When the Oxford Movement asserted itself, vestments became a highly controversial matter. Many petitions were addressed to both Houses of Parliament. The subject of the wearing of vestments in Anglican churches became a matter of
fierce controversy and Parliament appointed a Royal Commission in 1867 which considered the whole matter and reported as follows—and I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) to listen to this:
We find that whilst these Vestments"—
it was referring to the ones we are discussing—
are regarded by some witnesses as symbolical of Doctrine, and by others as a distinctive Vesture whereby they desire to do honour to the Holy Communion as the highest act of Christian Worship, they are by none regarded as essential, and they give grave offence to many.
We are of opinion that it is expedient to restrain in the public services of the United Church of England and Ireland all variations in respect of Vesture from that which has been the established usage of the said United Church, and we think that this may be best secured by providing aggrieved parishioners with an easy and effectual process for complaint and redress.
We are not yet prepared to recommend to Your Majesty the best mode of giving effect to these conclusions, with a view at once to secure the objects proposed and to promote the peace of the Church; but we have thought it our duty in a matter to which great interest is attached not to delay communication to Your Majesty of the results at which we have arrived.
Parliament passed into law the Public Worship (Regulation) Act, 1874, which made it an offence to wear these vestments and gave to aggrieved parishioners a remedy against the wearing of them.
It seems that some hon. Members of the High Church faction are at present having a private meeting of their own. I hope that I shall be listened to with as much attention as speakers with whom those hon. Members happen to agree. When that Act was passed, it seemed that the controversy of the vestments had been resolved for all time. What happened? In the Act the bishops were given the power to veto any prosecution, and after a very few years the bishops vetoed every prosecution.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
My hon. Friend is one of the supporters of the Measure. In considering the Measure, which leaves the final power of direction in the hands of the bishops, let us remember what the bishops did with the Public Worship (Regulation) Act, 1874. They turned it into a dead letter, because without their consent it could not be operated, and last year—I do not know whether the House knows this—that Act was repealed by an entry in a repeal Schedule to the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act. I rather doubt whether most hon. Members knew that they were repealing that Act. That is the way these things are managed. It is necessary to look carefully through the Schedules to see what happens.
That is the background to the controversy. Once the 1874 Act had been rendered nugatory by the bishops, the practices it was designed to suppress proliferated and became what they are today. This evening my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot) introduced the Measure as something to bring practice and law into conformity. There are two ways of bringing practice and law into conformity. One is to bring practice into conformity with the existing law. It is not necessary to change the law. Ever since the early nineteenth century the hierarchy of the Church of England has been seeking to reverse the effect of the Reformation in the matter of vestments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South challenged me on that just now. I refer my hon. Friend to the question of the alb, which is one of the vestments which the House is asked to approve tonight. This is what the Eleventh Edition—the last British edition—of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" says about the alb:
In England at the Reformation the alb went out of use with the other Mass vestments and remained out of use in the Church of England until the ritual revival of the nineteenth century. It is now worn in a considerable number of churches not only by the clergy but by acolytes and servers at the Communion.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South, who, after all, interrupted me on this point, will at least have the courtesy to listen to my answer.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
I am not a bit surprised. My hon. Friend who asked my hon. Friend that question is one who proposes to vote for the Measure. A good deal of that will go on tonight. Some hon. members do not know what some of
these things are. This is what the alb is:
Where the ritual as in most cases is a revival of pre-Reformation uses and not modelled on that of modern Rome, these albs are frequently apparent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South will know what that means, but in case the hon. Friend who asked him does not, may I say that an alb is a white garment. In the Roman Church the alb is reckoned as one of the vestments proper to the sacrifice of the Mass. The sacrifice of the Mass is the eucharistic celebration regarded as the propitiatory offering of the body and blood of Christ in memory of the sacrifice offered by him at his Crucifixion. It is a distinctly Roman doctrine, and one that is rejected by all members of the Church.
The alb is the vestment which is symbolic of the sacrifice and conception of the Eucharistic celebration. It is a white vesture, symbolic of purity, and the apparels on the alb represent the wounds of Christ. Hon. Members will remember that I read that in the churches which adopted the ritualistic revival of the 19th century the alb was universally worn with apparels. It is therefore impossible for anyone to say that the use of this vestment is devoid of doctrinal significance.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
I shall deal with my hon. Friend's question, but I think that it is better to make one's speech in order. I shall not leave out all these points. I am making the point that the alb is a doctrinal garment, and has always been so regarded.
I wonder whether many hon. Members really know the difference between a surplice and an alb. The alb up to now has been illegal. They are so similar that the inexpert would not detect the difference, and if that is so, why is there such insistence on the legalisation and wearing of the alb? It is only because of the doctrinal significance of the alb, which is wholly absent from the surplice.
There is the historical difference. The surplice, which to most laymen is not easily distinguishable from the alb, has no doctrinal significance. The alb has, and that is why permission to wear it is being sought in this Measure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) invited me to look at the Measure. The preamble says:
Whereas the Church of England does not attach any particular doctrinal significance to the diversities of vesture…
I pause there and ask what is the significance of the word, "particular" here? It can only be that the Church of England attaches doctrinal significance, but not particular significance—whatever that means—to the wearing of these vestments. It goes on to say:
And whereas a vesture worn by a Minister in accordance with the provisions of this Measure is not to be understood as implying any doctrines other than those now contained in the formularies of the Church of England ".
Then follows the body of the Measure.
I ask hon. Members to consider—[Interruption.]—it is extremely difficult, Mr. Speaker, to develop an argument if a hostile conversation continues all round me.
Sir Harry Hylton-Foster (Cities of London and Westminster)
The hon. Member shall have every protection, but at this range I cannot distinguish whether the conversation is benevolent or hostile.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
It is easier at short range, Mr. Speaker.
I ask the House to consider the terms of the Measure. The most effective of the arguments in favour of the Measure have been those based on the ground of tolerance. Hon. Members have said that there should be freedom for both sides. Some like it one way and some like it another. The hon. Member for Dover put it in rather more formal language; he described the Measure as being not mandatory but permissive. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) said that there were two wings in the Anglican Church, and that each should have its way. I ask the House to look at the Measure. It is not permissive; it is mandatory. Article 1(a) says:
At Morning and Evening Prayer the Minister shall "—
wear a cassock, a surplice and a scarf…".
It says that the minister "shall" wear it. It is mandatory. Paragraph (b) says:
At the Holy Communion the Celebrant, as also the Gospeller and the Epistoler, and at Public Baptism the Minister, shall wear with the cassock "—
not "may wear"—
either a surplice with scarf or stole, or a surplice or alb with stole…
and so on. He shall wear one or the other. The alternatives are mandatory.
Paragraph (a) is quite simple. It is a mandatory requirement that a cassock, a surlice and a scarf shall be worn for morning and evening prayer. Paragraph (b) is mandatory, with an alternative. Paragraphs (c) and (d) are optional, the first one providing that
A Minister may at his discretion wear a cope on any appropriate occasion
and the second providing that
When a scarf is worn the Minister, if so entitled, may also wear a hood.
It may be said that that is subject to the second Article, but the second Article says that the Minister shall not change the form of vesture in use in the church or chapel
unless he has ascertained by consultation with the Parochial Church Council of the parish that such a change will be acceptable to the Council.
The effect of that is that he cannot change the vesture without the consent of the parochial church council. Observe, however, that that change can be only in one direction, because of the mandatory effect of the first Article. All changes can be only towards the wearing of these new vestments. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes. In a church where the new vestments are already in use, there can be no change to not wearing them. That is the effect of the Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes.
Mr Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
I apologise for not having heard all my hon. Friend's speech, but I have heard the whole of the rest of the debate. I am in support of the Measure, although I am an Evangelical churchman. Many Evangelical clergy are coming out of the colleges at present, and it is possible that one of them may be appointed to a church which previously used these vestments. I appreciate that it can happen in reverse, and I accept it, but that Evangelical clergyman may persuade his parochial church council not to have the vestments, and to support him as an Evangelical clergyman who does not want these vestments. The Measure permits that.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
My hon. Friend has put the matter in a nutshell—this Measure does not permit it. Let us have that clear. If we start with the wearing of these vestments then, in Article 1, we cannot change to the not wearing of them, because the Measure says so—[Interruption.] Article I is mandatory. Article 2 says that notwithstanding Article I the Minister may not change without the consent of the parochial church council, but he cannot change in what I will call a downward direction—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because the Measure says that he cannot.
That being so, while I quite agree that the Measure protects the position of an existing Low Church parish for the time being, all movement will be towards the wearing of these vestments, because paragraphs (a) and (b) of Article I say that the Minister shall wear those vestments unless he can bring himself under Article 2. In Article 1, paragraphs (a) and (b) are mandatory and (c) and (d) are discretionary. That point must be kept clear in hon. Members' minds, because it is of the utmost importance.
If I am correct in that, it will be seen that this is not a tolerant Measure leaving free development to both sides of the Anglican Church, but one that makes the Evangelical section of the Church of England a constantly diminishing quantity—
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
No, I have given way a great deal. A contrary argument can always be developed in a speech following mine, but I think it more desirable that I should put my argument myself.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
This is a very important point and if it were wished to put forward something that gave equal rights and tolerance to both wings of the Anglican Church it would be perfectly easy to do so. All we have to do
is to legalise by a Measure the wearing of those vestments at present prohibited by law. In other words, we would make paragraph (a) read:
At Morning and Evening Prayer the Minister may wear
and we would make paragraph (b) read:
At the Holy Communion the Celebrant may wear… either a surplice with scarf or stole, or a surplice or alb with stole and cope…
We then make those paragraphs permissive. That would be a way of doing this that would be in consonance with the speeches made. But the word "may" is not used. The word used is "shall"—
Mr John Arbuthnot (Dover)
I think that I can help my hon. Friend. He will see that paragraph (b) says that the celebrant
…shall wear with the cassock either a surplice with scarf or stole, or a surplice or alb with stole and cope, or an alb with the customary vestments…
That is to say, there are three options available to him, so that if we start at a high level we can come down and, equally, if we start at a low level we can go up.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
My hon. Friend has entirely confirmed the interpretation which I am giving. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes. Article 1(a) is simple. There is one prescription and one only in it, but in 1(b) there are three prescriptions and a choice between any one of them, but the use of one of the three is compulsory. All the three are new. They do not involve the wearing of the present two only legal vestments which are the surplice and the cope. The three alternatives in (b) legalise new vestments.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
Yes, because the only two legal vestments under the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are the stole and the cope. The choice in (b) cannot apply to (a) where there is no choice at all. There is only one prescription.
Mr Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. Member is quite wrong. He has not read this correctly. One of the three alternatives, all of which he says are new versions, is precisely the one which he says is the only legal one, either a surplice with scarf or stole or a surplice or alb with stole and cope.
Sir Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire South)
Let us at least get this clear. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) is agreeing with my interpretation, but he is saying that under (b) it does not matter very much because he says that in one of the compulsory alternatives there is no change. If he will look carefully at this again he will see that that is wrong, because the stole at present is not an unaulhorised garment. All the attempts to avoid my interpretation are concentrated on Article 1(b) and nobody can argue that (a) is not exactly as I said, which after all refers to morning and evening prayer. If I am right about (a) I am right about (b).
This Measure is not an instrument of toleration, it is an instrument of victory and defeat. Let us get that clear. It would of course be slow and progressive defeat, but ultimate and unavoidable defeat, and the irregular practice which now exists—I do not know how widespread—will eventually become the conforming practice and anybody who departs from it will be in breach of the law. That is the position.
I am sure that hon. Members will agree with me that to have a proposal like this come forward at seven o'clock on the last working day of the House of Commons is just not good enough. If my interpretation of the Measure is right—and I would be interested to hear anybody saying that it is wrong on the wording of the document—this is a Measure which the House should not pass. On the surface, it is a compromise which leaves liberty to both sides, but when closely read it is the victory of the Church over the Evangelicals. The Evangelicals in ritual matters, in vestment matters, are doomed to extinction. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] If I am right this is a matter which the House will not wish to support at this time of the evening on this day of the Parliamentary Session.
I appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover to withdraw it and let us consider it in a new Parliament. If I am right, as I believe, let the Measure be brought forward then in permissive form. Nobody then can argue that both wings cannot go on as they wish, but if we put "shall" in Article 1(a) and (b) I do not see how one can argue the contrary. I am quite sincere about this and I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the Measure and not ask the House simply to pass it to get rid of it so that we all can go home and start our summer holidays.
Mr James MacColl (Widnes)
I agree with one thing that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, and that was that the Church of England has been the established Church from Anglo-Saxon times, and that really is the key to this problem. It is not correct that there has ever been one group of people who have had complete doctrinal unity in the Church. The truth of the matter, and the problem, is that there have always been in the Church of England very varied views about these problems. That is a fact that has to be recognised.
I was deeply moved tonight by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). My right hon. Friend has made his last speech in this House, in which for so many years his wisdom and guidance have been available to the House, and I felt that if my right hon. Friend had torn this Measure to shreds, as I have seen him tear other Church Measures to shreds in the past, I would have let him have his farewell exercise. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields tonight guided us in the direction of wisdom, tolerance and democracy, as one would expect him to do.
I was deeply grateful—it has not always been so; we have not often found ourselves in the same Lobby on these matters—that he did tonight give this direct advice to the House that we should accept the fact that this Measure is as near as one can get the proved will of the Church of England. One may say that there are facts about the representative machinery of the Church of England that one does not like and that it is not effective. One may say that one does not like Establishment. On balance, I am in favour of Establishment. I believe that what is to be obtained in the way of learning, wisdom, charity, living together and sharing a Christian life with people of widely different views, is something which the Church of England is offering the world and it is something which I would be prepared to—
Mr George Thomas (Cardiff West)
Is my hon. Friend saying that it is only the Church of England that provides all this opportunity? If that is the basis of his argument for Establishment, it is a very weak ground.
Mr James MacColl (Widnes)
I do not want to cross swords with my hon. Friend, but I would remind him that the last heresy trial was not in the Church of England. There would not at the moment be a place for me in the Methodist Church. There is a place for me in the Church of England. There is a place for the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South in the Church of Ireland, and when he is over here we welcome him in Communion.
The point is that part of the sacrifice of having an Established Church which is comprehensive is that these matters have got to be looked at, and rightly so, by a House which is often bored and unsympathetic; but I would ask my hon. Friends to remember that all representative bodies have their weaknesses. We are often told of our weaknesses in this House. We are often told that we are not representative of the people. Some of us hope that this House will be more representative next time it meets than it is at the moment, but that is something which must be left for the future. We know that, with all our weaknesses and defects, we are the best body that can be got together to come to decisions on matters affecting the country. In the same way, the representational machinery of the Church is the best that can be established so far to come to a decision.
It is a little unfortunate that the matters which come to this House are the ones which call for a change of law and, therefore, tend to be the fiddling little things about stone altars and vestures. The fact is that the Church Assembly has discussed hunger and passed resolutions about hunger. It has discussed housing and industrial peace. Convocation has discussed the question of capital punishment, and, if I were not anxious about losing votes tonight, I might say what its decision was about capital punishment. Although what the House has before it tonight is something which calls for a change of law, it is not true that the Church never considers anything but questions of ritual and forms. The main part of its work is directed to other matters.
We have been told about the inarticulate mass of laymen who suffer because they are unrepresented. My hon. Friends have heard this said before. They have heard about trade unionists who are not properly represented by their shop stewards. They have heard about district committees overruled by annual conferences which are out of touch with general feeling and opinion. But in a democracy one has to have representation, for better or for worse, and one has to make decisions
The question arises whether the parochial church council does its job efficiently. I have presided at meetings of a parochial church council and I have presided at meetings of ward committees of the Labour Party. They have a painful similarity in the way they work. Both are groups of ordinary men and women, not particularly or unusually endowed with wisdom or anything else, but trying to do their job according to their lights. This is true of the whole of the parochial system of the Church of England.
It is not true that the Church ignores the need for greater representation of the laity. For many years, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) and I wrestled on a commission to try to improve representation in synodical government and in order to ensure as far as possible that Measures did represent the feelings of the laity. Now, with the hon. Member for Dover (Sir J. Arbuthnot), I am engaged in a follow-up on another commission. The Church is making very real efforts to get more lay sensitiveness in the working of its machinery. But decisions must be made. We cannot say that, because we are not perfect, we cannot do anything. We have to act on these matters when they come up.
The House would be a little unrealistic if it were to hold up its hands in pious horror tonight about vestures. The hon. Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott) said that it is not our surroundings or the clothes we wear that matter but it is the spirit. I ask you to look at yourself in the mirror. Mr. Speaker. You are dressed by this House in a curious survival of clothing style. You are marched through the Palace of Westminster, and we bow to you as you go. All this might be regarded as ritualistic superstition, but, of course, we all have our views and interpretations of what it means. Your clothing and your formalities are a symbol of our democratic life in this assembly.
I want a positive approach to this Measure. I do not come on my knees begging the House to say that we ought to tolerate the wearing of vestments. If people want to wear vestments—and a great many priests and laymen find that the wearing of vestments is an expression of their religious life—why should the House stand in the way? This is a question of putting the Church in order, modernising its legislation, bringing its machinery up to date.
Many hon. Members regard the wearing of vestments as a sort of foppery, as though those who wear them are a kind of ecclesiastical "pansy" who likes to dress himself up in fancy clothes. I remind the House, and particularly my hon. Friends, that the men who have stood for this tradition in the Church of England are hardly the kind of people one could call ecclesiastical pansies. They have been men like Charles Gore and Bishop Huddleston who have been prepared to stand up and bear witness against anyone.
The tradition of the Church of England has been one which for years has stood for social justice, for bringing the Church of England up to date in its witness, bringing it into the modern world and making it effective. Why should this be hamstrung by the requirement that, every time the Church wants to do anything to make itself an efficient institution, everything must be subject to the kind of minute analysis that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) gave it?
The speech of the hon. Member for Buckingham, South was the greatest argument in favour of this Measure that we have heard. This is not a question of haggling over the precise significance of an alb and a cope and the rest of it. This is the Church of England, for better or for worse asking for freedom to legislate on matters of its own concern on which by an overwhelming majority bishops, priests and laymen have all in their representative Assembly come to a conclusion that this Measure should be carried out. Therefore, I urge the House to accept the Measure on those lines.
|Division No. 147.]||AYES||[10.42 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Allason, James||Green, Alan||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Gurden, Harold||Prentice, R. E.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pym, Francis|
|Barlow, Sir John||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Batsford, Brian||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hendry, Forbes||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bitten, John||Hiley, Joseph||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, w.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Rees-Davies W. R. (isle of Thanet)|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Rhodes, H.|
|Boston, T. G.||Hocking, Philip N.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bowles, Frank||Hornby, R. P.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Roots, William|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Braine, Bernard||Hughes-Young, Michael||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Brewis, John||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Sharples, Richard|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Shaw, M.|
|Bryan, Paul||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Snow, Julian|
|Buck, Antony||Kimball, Marcus||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Bullard, Denys||King, Dr. Horace||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Lambton, Viscount||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Leavey, J. A.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Cary, Sir Robert||instead, Sir Hugh||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Litchfield, Capt. John||Stodart, J. A.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Corfield, F. V.||Longbottom, Charles||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Costain, A. P.||Longden, Gilbert||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Coulson, Michael||Loveys, Walter H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Talbot, John E.|
|Craddock. Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taverne, D.|
|Curran, Charles||McLaren, Martin||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Temple, John M.|
|Dance, James||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Maddan, Martin||Thomas, Rt. Hon. Peter (Conway)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Maitland, Sir John||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Doughty, Charles||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Mapp, Charles||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Drayson, G. B.||Marsh, Richard||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Eden, Sir John||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)||Turner, Colin|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mawby, Ray||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Emery, Peter||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Finlay, Graeme||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wall, Patrick|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Webster, David|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mulley, Frederick||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Neave, Airey||Willey, Frederick|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Peel, John|
|Goodhart, Philip||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||Peyton, John||Mr. Bourne-Arton and|
|Barnett, Guy||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)|
|Benece, Cyril||Cordle, John||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Currie, G. B. H.||Hannan, William|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mclnnes, James||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Henderson, Sir John (Cathcart)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Jones, J, Idwal (Wrexham)||Magginis, John E.||Wigg, George|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Herby, Capt. Henry||Mills, Stratton|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Pounder, Rafton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Captain Orr and Mr. Ronald Bell.|
Mr. Magiums (seated and covered):
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As this is the first time that a Church Measure has been passed by the House on a Closure, will it be the law of the country?
|Division No. 148.]||AYES||[10.52 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Fletcher, Eric||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Allason, James||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (stafford&Stone)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||McLaren, Martin|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Freeth, Denzil||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Gibson-Watt, David||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Maddan, Martin|
|Barter, John||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Batsford, Brian||Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Goodhart, Philip||Mapp, Charles|
|Biffen, John||Goodhew, Victor||Marsh, Richard|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Boston, T. G.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Green, Alan||Mawby, Ray|
|Bowles, Frank||Gresham-Cooke, R.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Braine, Bernard||Gurden, Harold||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Morrison, Joan (salisbury)|
|Bromley-Davertport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mulley, Frederick|
|Bryan, Paul||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Neave, Airey|
|Back, Antony||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Bullard, Denys||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hendry, Forbes|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Hiley, Joseph||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hobson, Rt. Hon Sir John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hocking, Philip N.||Peel, John|
|Costain, A. P.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Percival, Ian|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hornby, R. P.||Peyton, John|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Curran, Charles||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Dance, James||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Diamond, John||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Doughty, Charles||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pym, Francis|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Driberg, Tom||Kimball, Marcus||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||King, Dr. Horace||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
|Eden, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Leavey, J. A.||Rhodes, H.|
|Elliott, R. W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Litchfield, Capt. John||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Roots, William|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longbottom, Charles||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fisher, Nigel||Longden, Gilbert||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Russell, Sir Ronald||Talbot, John E.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Tapsell, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Sharples, Richard||Taverne, D.||Webster, David|
|Shaw, M.||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Short, Edward||Temple, John M.||Wigg, George|
|Snow, Julian||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)||Willey, Frederick|
|Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Thomas, Rt. Hon. Peter (Conway)||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Thorpe, Jeremy||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Stodart, J. A.||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Turner, Colin||Worsley, Marcus|
|Stonehouse, John||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Storey, Sir Samuel||van Straubenzee, w. R.|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Vickers, Miss Joan||Mr. Bourne-Arton and Mr. MacColl|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Mills, Stratton|
|Blackburn, F.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.)||Jones J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cordle, John||Jones, T. W, (Merioneth)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lagden, Godfrey||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Evans, Albert||McMaster, Stanley R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Maginnis, John E.||Captain Orr and Mr. Ronald Bell.|
|Henderson, Sir John (Cathcart)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|