§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The new services of the Church of England have been the desire, not of the laity so much as of the clergy. Three years ago I introduced a Bill in your Lordships' House in an attempt to enable the laity, who have the new services foisted on them against their will, to enjoy the Prayer Book if they so wished in its place, through a ballot of all members of the Church electoral roll. It would be decided by the ballot whether they preferred to have the Book of Common Prayer at the three main services on Sundays.
The Bill created a debate which went on for some three hours and many noble Lords sympathised with the aims of the Bill and voiced the present grievances of the laity. Since then, much more weight has accumulated behind the cause of the Prayer Book, chiefly owing to the endeavours of David Martin, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics; and here I should like to give voice to the magnificent tribute which all lovers of the Prayer Book must owe to the professor for his endeavours, if I may list some 613 of them. First, the petition which he organised for presentation to the Synod on behalf of the Prayer Book, signed by most masters of cathedral music, a large proportion of Garter Knights, holders of the Order of Merit, Companions of Honour, most heads of houses at Oxford and Cambridge, heads of the armed forces and leaders of both political parties.
Professor Martin's petition coincided with his edition of Poetry Nation Review No. 13 containing articles by distinguished academics on the Prayer Book controversy, and two months after Poetry Nation Review No. 13 came out it received a second shot in the arm with Professor Brian Morris's Ritual Murder. Both Poetry Nation Review No. 13 and Ritual Murder have been published by the Carcanet Press in Manchester.
Then last summer Profesor Martin organised a Gallup Poll for the BBC programme "Everyman", which showed that more than half who claim adherence to the Church of England are unhappy about Series 3; about 70 per cent. want the traditional marriage service and nearly 80 per cent. would prefer to leave the Lord's Prayer alone. Then, as to the argument that the new services are needed for the unsophisticated men in the pew who do not understand the archaic language of the Prayer Book, the Gallup Poll showed that the working classes are slightly more traditional than the higher social categories.
Throughout these endeavours Professor Martin has handled the press with great skill so that there is now not a single national newspaper which does not favour the traditionalists' case over the Prayer Book. There have been leaders in all the leading newspapers and also generous correspondence columns and the editor of the Daily Telegraph has told me that on the issue of the Prayer Book he has received a larger post bag than on any other subject for many years.
Given the attention and the support which adherents of the Prayer Book have received from the newspapers, this would seem to be the optimum period for resurrecting the whole issue of the Prayer Book in your Lordships' House. And before going any further I thought I would say something about the Bill in which I have sought to resurrect the Prayer Book issue. I will not concentrate on such matters as are better suited to Committee—such as what is meant in the Bill by "parish" or "parish church" or whether to include any clause about the enforcement of its provisions by an archdeacon. I will merely mention that the Title of the Bill has been phrased in such a way as to wave the flag and the contents of the Bill leaves the decision of whether to have the Prayer Book on certain occasions to a given number of members of the Church electoral roll to present a petition to the incumbent, compared with the present position under the Worship and Doctrine measure where this decision is made for all except the occasional services by the parochial church council.
The reason for this is that, while the parochial church councils can override the vicar in the way that I have just described—and it is the principal object of this debate that they should be encouraged to do so even if the Bill fails to become law, that they should not feel at all shy about it—at the same time there is no doubt that as a rule parochial church councils do not act in this way.
614 Parochial church councils were innovated for administrative reasons. According to the Parochial Church Councils Powers Measure, which brought them into being, they were designed to co-operate with the incumbent. It was never envisaged that they would have thrust upon them the extra burden of contesting with the vicar over liturgy.
In the issue of Poetry Nation Review No. 13, which I have mentioned, and elsewhere, Dr. Roger Holman has explained exactly how parochial church councils fail on this account. While it should be the parochial church council which overrides the vicar, Dr. Holman has listed the ways in which it is most often the other way about.
The first method is that the clergy protest that their point of view belongs to a sacred domain in which the laity have no part. The second method is to invoke the will of the spirit to suit their own partisan case. The third method is that the parochial church council meeting is put in the context of the Eucharist and the laity are discouraged from liturgical controversy because the final prayer and benediction are postponed until the business meeting has been closed. The fourth method is that the vicar arranges the agenda of the parochial church council meeting in such a way that he allows members to wear themselves out in discussion of trivial matters and then rushes through the discussion of the liturgical question at the end under the heading of "any other business".
Having concentrated on the rather narrow aspect, with which the Bill is directly concerned, of what occurs between the clergy and the laity on the parochial church councils, I should like to consider the rather broader view of why the clergy are unlikely to relent and, if anything, go further the other way, and so the protection envisaged in this Bill becomes all the more necessary. There is always a suspicion of the undertow of a commercial influence which can corrupt religion like anything else. Points about money I suspect will always cut more ice in your Lordships' House than points about the imagery of prayer or religious doctrine, and one must ask what cash-conscious parish would buy the Book of Common Prayer if it gets a 20 per cent. discount on the purchase of the Alternative Service Book, or even some pamphlets which cost under £1 each.
Then, we know about the colossal sums to be obtained from the publication of religious texts through the massive sales of new versions of the Bible, and while the Prayer Book is not copyright the Alternative Service Book is and it attracts a copyright fee of 10 per cent.; that is to say, 35p or 40p a copy. So if 1 million copies are sold this means about £400,000 to the Church. In this connection, it is important to remember that the Alternative Services are still in process of experimentation and when you have a commodity—it can be a new liturgy or anything else—the more transient the commodity is the more money there is to be made out of it.
Then, the young clergy, in particular, promote the new services owing to their lack of exposure to the Prayer Book at theological colleges. For this reason, if the Bill passes its Second Reading I should like to table an amendment that the Prayer Book should be required for worship at theological colleges. Present evidence for the absence of the Prayer Book from 615 theological colleges is very disturbing. One bishop has questioned the priests ordained in his diocese since 1974 over what had gone on at the theological colleges where they received their training, and he found that, though the Prayer Book may have appeared as an item in various courses of worship and liturgy, there was no systematic instruction in it. And the position over worship was even worse. Among the diet of Series 2 and 3 use of the Prayer Book varied from occasional or optional to never at all.
More evidence has been adduced by Professor Martin in the latest issue of the Prayer Book Society's Journal, Faith and Worship, in which he says that wherever he has preached evensong at theological colleges he has never heard the Prayer Book, and Professor Martin adds that at Westcott House, which is perhaps the foremost theological college, they do not have the Prayer Book at all, or indeed have anything else except Series 3. It is very much to be hoped that Professor Martin can be persuaded to collate all the evidence he has collected on the absence of the Prayer Book from theological colleges in the form of a full printed report which can be presented to Parliament or Synod for debate.
Further argument for more protection for the Prayer Book now becomes clear, if we consider that if the present trend of liturgical manner continues, it will induce some ministers to forget or even to know the Prayer Book and so no choice will be left between the Prayer Book and the Alternative Services. The circumstances in which the Prayer Book may be forgotten are easy to envisage when whole areas of the country are becoming left with no proper provision between the Prayer Book and Alternative Services; and as to the Prayer Book becoming quite unknown to the younger generation, while under the Worship and Doctrine Measure the parochial church council can override the vicar for the three main services on Sunday, it is quite wrong that when it comes to the occasional services of baptism, confirmation and marriage and burial, the laity are left with no rights against the clergy whatsoever. How should the confirmants who have no need to be instructed in the Prayer Book have any idea what it is?
The cumulative drift towards the new services is not assisted by the failure of the BBC to observe the same impartiality in the broadcasting of services which they give in allocating time to the points of view of the two main political parties. Holy Communion and Matins according to the Prayer Book are hardly ever broadcast, and at Christmas all services were broadcast from the Alternative Book. Incidentally, in further illustration of the bias of the BBC, I might mention that on the Radio 4 programme on 5th April, entitled "Sunday", where this programme was concerned with this particular Bill, can I ask what innuendo was intended when the commentator did not say that the Prayer Book Society has shown that most of the laity preferred the Prayer Book; he said instead that the Prayer Book Society is said to have shown something of that kind. Furthermore, the wrong question was put in front of my first answer. I did not say that the Prayer Book was preferred by the intelligentsia as against the lower reaches of society. In this context I was referring not to the Prayer Book but to the 616 Alternative Services.
If more evidence still is required of the need to protect the Prayer Book, it may not be out of place for me to make a few quick notes pointing out the defects of the new services against the Prayer Book. It is always the wish of the House that a Peer will shorten his speech, so I will not comment at length on the well-worn theme of the inadequate language of the Alternative Services. Suffice it to say, that if you praise the Lord, it should not be in the anodyne language of a committee, that the zest and jubilation of our act of praise should be embedded in the very rhythm and texture of the language itself. No doubt other Peers will be concentrating more on the literary aspects and saying that if our liturgy is to be re-written it must be done by a poet like T. S. Eliot. It may just be worth adding that the answer to the argument that the Prayer Book is incomprehensible to the unsophisticated ordinary man in the pew, is not to modernise the liturgy; the answer is more religious education, and we know how woefully inadequate religious education has become and this is why it has had to be so intensively debated in Parliament.
Two other ways in which the new services are defective are ways on which I might concentrate in a little more detail. The first is that the new services are recommended as an archaeological improvement on the Prayer Book, because they are closer to practices of the very early Church. Yet it is important to submit that what we have here is a sham revival, a revival where the revisers of the liturgy have merely selected those practices of the early Church which are not inconsonant with modern liberal opinion; for example, because the early Eucharist was a corporate affair, there has been the move towards abolition of the Chancel Screen, which from the 4th century has separated the clergy from the laiety. The revisers of the liturgy have happily introduced the custom of the handshake and the kiss, which is extracted from Justin's First Apology. At the same time, they have left out much contained in those early Greek manuals which would be quite out of keeping with modern liberal opinion. For example, the separation of the sexes in church, the way in which the early Church imitated the spirit of the nonconformists of the latter day in their Puritan attitude towards women and so women were required not to wear any make-up in church. Then chief of all, there is the severe penitential discipline mentioned at considerable length in those early Greek manuals of which we hear nothing at all today.
The second aspect on which I should like to concentrate in which the new services are defective is their doctrinal irregularity. There is no doubt that the Synod is not entitled to commit these irregularities. On the last occasion when I introduced the Prayer Book (Ballot for Laity) Bill before your Lordships' House on 21st March 1978, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said that he may have misunderstood the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, but he thought the right reverend Prelate had said that the Synod has the right to determine the doctrine of the Church of England, and he would look the matter up. I was able to say in winding up in that debate that, under Clause 5(1) of the Worship and Doctrine 617 Measure, it is specified that the doctrine of the Church of England is derived not from the Synod at all but from the Prayer Book.
There does exist in this field some difficulty in assessing whether doctrinal irregularity has been committeed or not. Because in matters of religious doctrine, just as much as in matters of poetry, more sense can lie under the words rather than in them, and this can provide all the more licence to the Synod to act irregularly, particularly now that the Privy Council has lost its appellate jurisdiction. So the Synod can act as advocate, jury and judge all at the same time. There is no doubt, generally speaking, that the old emphasis on the atonement and the Cross has been side-stepped.
I can go further and give two particular examples where I do not think there is much doubt that doctrinal irregularity has been comitted. The first is the omission of Original Sin from the service of Baptism, no doubt in deference to the liberal thought of 18th century enlightenment; but this omission must throw into question the whole doctrine of the atonment which many would regard as the kernel of Christianity. The point involved here is surely the fundamental one, whether Christianity is to be preserved in its traditional form or secularised in the way so well described by Dr. Norman in his Reith Lectures.
The second example that I thought that I would choose is the marriage service. The old order of priorities in the objects of marriage given in the Prayer Book are the procreation of children; the avoidance or—to put it bluntly—the relief of fornication; and mutual society, help and comfort, but it is impossble to deny that some significant shift of meaning has been achieved where this order of priorities is simply reversed. Furthermore, a lighter accent is put on fornication as if to deny the aesthetic elements in Christianity which helped it to be officially recognised during the years of sexual fatigue in the late Roman Empire.
Let me conclude on the matter of whether this Bill should merely act as a vehicle for debate and so serve as a propaganda exercise in giving much needed moral support to members of church councils to stand up to their vicars, or whether, on the other hand, the Bill should be pressed to a Division on the slender chance that it might become law. I think that I can anticipate the sense of the debate. Speakers will sympathise with the aim of the Bill, but then quite a few of them will say that they would be reluctant to vote for it because to do so would interfere with the present autonomy of Church government and the custom, which has arisen in the Constitution, that all legislation on Church matters should be initiated in the Synod rather than in Parliament.
I have checked this ground out very carefully and I find that according to Halsbury's Laws of England, Fourth Edition, Volume 14, paragraph 350, it is clearly stated that parliamentary control over Church legislation remains unfettered and Parliament may still legislate for the Church without the intervention of the General Synod. But despite the clarity of that quotation from Halsbury which I have just made and its endorsement by the parliamentary agents who drafted the Bill and the opinion which I have in my hand from that most eminent ecclesiastical lawyer Chancellor Garth Moore, who is chairman of the Legal Advisory 618 Commission of the General Synod, I anticipate that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London will read out the sentence further on in the same paragraph of Halsbury saying that it is normally by Synod measures that legislation affecting the Church is now enacted.
So I must raise the question of the whole credibility of Church government. Whereas the electoral register of the secular Parliament has an 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. voting capacity, only a minute percentage of all who claim adherence to the Church of England are on the Church electoral roll or participate in any elections. Too much gearing is involved in those elections for them to be encouraged to take too much interest. The House of Laity in the Synod is not directly elected from the parishes. The parishes send representatives to the Deanery Synod and it is only the Deanery Synod which sends representatives to the House of Laity in the General Synod. So the men in the pews can seldom know who their representatives in the General Synod may be. There is no question that the Synod has not kept faith with Parliament over the Prayer Book.
In his excellent speech on the Worship and Doctrine Measure in 1974, the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, asked whether the Prayer Book was being properly safeguarded or whether it was on the way out. We know now what the answer is to that question. The answer is in direct contravention of Clause 1 of the Worship and Doctrine Measure saying that the powers of the Synod should be so exercised as to ensure that the forms of service contained in the Prayer Book should continue to be available for use in the Church of England. Furthermore, the present answer to the question of the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, was not anticipated by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London when the Worship and Doctrine Measure was going through the Synod.
If one examines the proceedings of the Synod for 7th November 1972 one finds that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that if the Worship and Doctrine Measure represented an attempt to abolish the Prayer Book things would be difficult, and reasonably so. The right reverend Prelate then continued that in view of the special relationship between Church and State, the State is entitled to guarantees that the General Synod will not depart from its traditional character in such a way as to disqualify the Church of England from its privileged position. I very much hope that many Peers will feel now that such powers as Parliament has given to the Synod on liturgical matters it can safely take away. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Sudeley.)
§ 9.13 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is, as we all know, indefatigable—
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, I am sorry, I ought to have put the Question and I was correctly called to order by somebody on my left—I think he is a Presbyterian! The Question is, That the Bill be now read a second time?
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I beg the pardon of the noble and learned Lord the Lord 619 Chancellor for anticipating him. As I was saying, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is well known as an indefatigable champion of the Prayer Book, but I should like to start by congratulating him on a characteristically forceful speech. I think that we all expected it of him. However, I should also like to begin with two regrets. One concerns the timing of this debate. I think that it is a pity that a debate of such wide interest should take place so late in the day and I think that it is also a pity that it should come before this House at such short notice, realising the interests that bishops have in a debate of this kind and the extreme difficulty which they have in managing their diaries, which are filled with so many other matters.
My second regret is that in some parts of his speech I felt that the noble Lord was maligning the good faith of clergy and parochial church councils in the caricature that he gave us of what goes on in church councils up and down this land. I very much hope that when he winds up this debate he will take the opportunity to withdraw what he said at that point, which will be deeply hurtful if it is known to others outside this House. Having said that, I want to assure the noble Lord that I am no less anxious than he is to ensure that the book of Common Prayer is retained and used as a rightful part of our heritage in the Church of England.
However, I want to try to specify what I see as the heart of this debate. I hope that we shall not be enticed down the road, which part of the noble Lord's speech was opening up for us, into a debate on the merits and demerits of the varous liturgies which the Church of England now possesses. I particularly hope that we shall not be drawn towards the doctrinal red herrings which he put before us. The fact is that we now have various liturgies and the key issue, as I see it, is the question: Is the legislation, under which the Church of England regulates its worship, adequate to protect the interests of those who want to worship according to the Book of Common Prayer? A subsidiary part of that question is: Is this legislation being observed in both letter and spirit? Then comes the question which is really the crunch of this particular debate: Are any injustices, to which noble Lords may draw attention, so grave and so evident that they can only be corrected by Parliament acting in defiance of the long-standing tradition that ecclesiastical legislation should originate only in the Synod and not in this House?
To some extent we had this debate before in 1978. At the end of that debate the noble Lord had the grace and the wisdom to withdraw his Bill. I very much hope that at the end of this debate he will do the same, because, in fact, very little has changed since that debate in 1978. The major factor was, of course, the publication of the Alternative Service Book in the autumn of last year. We have also had three more years' experience of the working of the Worship and Doctrine Measure.
I want to start at what is, as it were, the easy end for me, by submitting to this House that there is no room for doubt about the Church's officially expressed intention to preserve a fair balance between the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Services. With this in mind, I should like to read the opening few words of the preface to the Alternative Service Book. It reads as follows: 620The Church of England has traditionally sought to maintain a balance between the old and the new. For the first time since the Act of Uniformity this balance in its public worship is now officially expressed in two books rather than in one. The Alternative Service Book 1980, as its name implies, is intended to supplement the Book of Common Prayer, not to supersede it. The addition of a date to its title may serve as a reminder that revision and adaptation of the Church's worship are continuous processes, and that any liturgy, no matter how timeless its qualities, also belongs to a particular period and culture".Those words mean exactly what they say. I know because I wrote them. As the chairman of the committee which conceived the idea of the Alternative Service Book and brought it to fruition, I want to assure this House that all through that long process one of the dominant factors in the mind of that committee was how to ensure that the Book of Common Prayer was not irreparably damaged by the publication of the Alternative Service Book.
When the book was published the General Synod Office issued to all parishes an edition of the document, which has in fact been issued regularly, which sets out for parishes how the Worship and Doctrine Measure is to be applied. May I take the liberty of reading part of one paragraph from that document dated November 1980. It says:In taking their decisions the incumbent and the parochial church council need to remember that they have to bear in mind the interests and the needs of the parish as a whole. They should give particular attention to the views and needs of those who come to church regularly, and if there are differences of view they should seek, wherever possible, to find a solution that meets the widest range of needs which is possible and practicable. They should also bear in mind those who come to church occasionally; e.g. at major festivals".Then it goes on to give examples of the different kinds of combinations of services which might be used, the ways in which decisions are to be taken, and it spells out clearly the weighting in the process which the Book of Common Prayer must receive according to the Worship and Doctrine Measure.
Many dioceses, including my own, called special meetings of clergy and others at the time of the introduction of the Alternative Service Book to explain it. Certainly in my own diocese, and I suspect in many others as well, there was careful discussion of how parishes can maintain a proper balance between the different elements now within the Church's worship. That, I say, is the official policy, and it is beyond dispute. But, despite assurances, there are persistent accusations that bishops and others have not been honest in these matters, and that there is some sort of organised conspiracy against the Book of Common Prayer. May I quote a sentence from the leading article from yesterday's Daily Telegraph. It said:A concerted campaign has been conducted by a body of highly placed clerical enthusiasts to force new services on a largely unwilling laity".That is pernicious nonsense, and I choose my words very carefully.
May we now look at some of the evidence which is sometimes used to back up statements like this. The noble Lord in his opening speech referred to the petition brought to the General Synod by a very large number of distinguished people. At the time that it was brought there was some adverse press comment because the petition was received in silence by the Synod. The reason for this was that nobody knew 621 that the petition was being presented and the Synod has no procedure for receiving petitions. Therefore, silence was the inevitable response. At a slightly later stage in that session of the Synod there was an intemperate speech by a rather foolish young clergyman which attacked the petition, and this was applauded. His speech and the applause were widely reported.
At a later stage in the same session of the Synod I felt that as chairman of the Alternative Service Book Committee it was my duty to make some response to the petition, and let me read to you a sentence or two from what I said.It seems to me that a Christian gathering ought to listen very hard to those who speak to it out of great emotion, even if we believe that the emotion is misdirected. It ought to be especially concerned with those on the very fringe of the church's life, and not dismiss them as not being allowed to have a say in our affairs. I think there is something deeply important about the nature of the Church of England bound up in our response to this group of people representing so many facets of the nation's life".That was also applauded, but it was not reported in the newspapers because it did not fit, presumably, in the image of the General Synod as a wild body hellbent on destruction.
The noble Lord referred more than once in his speech to Professor Martin, who is of course a redoubtable protagonist of the Book of Common Prayer. Recently Professor Martin published a letter in the Church Times which contained a number of instances to which the noble Lord referred. They were instances of so-called unfairness in the promotion of the Alternative Service Book. I took the trouble to write to all the named persons in Professor Martin's letter to find out their version of what he said. I will not weary the House by taking noble Lords through the answers I received, but I will give a typical example. Professor Martin referred to a diocesan newsletter which contained a rather extravagent article suggesting that the word "alternative" should be dropped from the title of the Alternative Service Book because it was now really the only service book that mattered. It was quoting Professor Martin's letter as if it were a matter of diocesan policy. In fact, the article in the diocesan newsletter was a signed article by a clergyman in the diocese; it was quite clear that it was his opinion and I have a specific statement from the bishop that it was neither diocesan policy nor the bishop's own policy. If people cannot write signed articles in favour of the Alternative Service Book without its being picked out as an example of unfairness, where are we?
My Lords, if that was not a diocesan view—I have with me a copy of what was in that circular or diocesan news—may I ask whether it was ever controverted by the diocese or by any man senior to the man who wrote it? Or is it still standing, for anybody who reads Hansard today, as an opinion published on the front page of the Carlisle Diocesan News?
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I have no knowledge of what further things have been done within the diocese of Carlisle. My point is simply that a diocesan newsletter is a forum for different news and views and it is surely not necessary for every view 622 (which some members of a diocese may not agree with and the bishop may not agree with) to be controverted there and then. My point is simply that this particular thing was picked out unfairly, I believe put in a false context and used as evidence, and it is not evidence when one looks at it closely.
There is a claim by Professor Martin of unfair bias by the BBC in the choice of broadcast services. In spelling out that point, Professor Martin has to pursue a rather delicate and difficult argument in which he is saying, on the one hand, that there are plenty of parishes which could broadcast services from the Book of Common Prayer if the BBC were not biased. However, at the same time and in the same letter he has to maintain that services of the Book of Common Prayer are being unfairly suppressed and that there are not enough of them in parishes. That, as I say, is a difficult tightrope to walk, but he manages it—just.
I wrote to the Director of Religious Broadcasting, the one who was there at the time when Professor Martin claims the bias existed, and I have a letter from him; I will not weary the House by reading it but, again, it totally controverts the claim Professor Martin is making.
The noble Lord also referred in his speech to theological colleges and what is taught in them; and here I fully admit that there is legitimate cause for concern. What Professor Martin has not mentioned is that on two occasions in the last two years groups of about 20 bishops have met with all the principals of all the theological colleges and among other things have discussed this very issue with them in order to try to ensure that there is a proper balance of worship in our theological colleges. But as the principals very truly say, democracy has come even into theological colleges, and students nowadays have a choice in the pattern of worship which the college maintains. I am afraid that in many theological college settings it is difficult to get many students to attend on a massive scale services of the Book of Common Prayer.
I do not propose to bore your Lordships with more instances. All I am trying to say is that when one looks at the kind of evidence that is brought in support of what the noble Lord has been saying, it has a mysterious habit of disappearing when it is probed. Even this famous Gallup poll, which purported to show massive support for the Book of Common Prayer among the ordinary people of the land, I suspect is not quite as straightforward as it appears to be on the surface.
When one talks in the street to very occasional churchgoers, I think it is hardly surprising that when faced with the question about what forms of worship they prefer, they would say that they prefer the forms that they knew in their childhood. What I should have liked to ask is, how many of those questioned in the Gallup poll had in fact attended, certainly on any regular basis, services of various kinds, so that they were able to make an informed judgment.
Again very impressive-looking statistics can be produced about weddings and about how people prefer the old form of wedding. But how many weddings do ordinary people in fact attend during a lifetime? What chance do they have to compare different forms of wedding service? Of course people hark back to the weddings of their childhood.
623 I have some sympathy with the feelings expressed through the Gallup poll about the Lord's Prayer; and here let me frankly admit to your Lordships that I believe that the General Synod has made a bit of a mess of the Lord's Prayer, and that we now have something which combines the worst of all worlds. I feel that we shall have to have a long, hard look at this question when we come to the next revision of the Alternative Service Book.
What I am trying to say is that this massive minority of disaffected opinion is rather difficult to detect. And some figures speak for themselves. The noble Lord, in words which I hope also he will be prepared to withdraw, referred to the publication of the Alternative Service Book as a kind of money-making racket. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. The noble Lord must know very little about clergy and their PCCs if he imagines that enthusiastic clergy could persuade their PCCs to buy the Alternative Service Book on the massive scale on which it has in fact been bought. In the first three and a half months since publication sales have now surpassed half a million. But what is interesting is that during that period the sales of the Book of Common Prayer have continued at the same level as previously; and those figures suggest that a balance is being maintained.
Perhaps I can summarise the difficulties by recalling an anecdote. Last Sunday morning I was standing in the vestry of an ancient church in my diocese, confronted by six stalwart church wardens. The fact that the church has six church wardens is a sign that it is a traditional kind of parish that is not willing to let the past slip away. It is not the kind of parish to rationalise things. I asked them, "What is your pattern of worship?", and they spelled out a pattern of different sorts of worship with special slots for the Book of Common Prayer, and so forth. Then I said, "Why don't you have a Book of Common Prayer service at a main service on a Sunday morning?". They said, "The trouble is that there are a few people who might want this and they make a lot of noise, but when we actually hold those services they do not come". That is the heart of it—they do not come.
But suppose we were to take these arguments at their face value and were to pass this Bill. I submit to your Lordships that it would lead to the most extraordinary anomalies. I do not want to press the details too far, and I do not know what size of parish the noble Lord is used to dealing with, but in my diocese we have many electoral rolls of 200 or 300, some with 500, some even almost 900. In a group of 900 members on an electoral roll, is the noble Lord really suggesting that 20 people should determine what is done on one Sunday out of four? In a group of 900 people you can get 20 people to sign almost anything.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, would the right reverend Prelate give way? Is this not the same argument as that between God and Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah? Peradventure the Lord may save 99 just men.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I think the parallels with what the noble Earl has suggested are too perilous to pursue. I do not want to press on 624 the details of this, but it seems to me that even if amended, and even if radically amended, any Bill which relied on juggling with figures could lead to abuse, especially since a parish has a certain discretion in the way that it manages its electoral roll. I am wondering whether the noble Lord has really thought through the practical implications of this Bill. I wonder whether he has thought it through to the point of giving some attention to other minorities in parishes. I could point the noble Lord to parishes where the incumbent and quite a sizeable group of laity are longing for the introduction of alternative services, but where they are frustrated by a conservative majority. The existence of such parishes gives the lie to what the noble Lord was saying about overbearing incumbents being able to twist PCCs around their fingers. Your Lordships should see some of the PCCs in the diocese of Durham.
But if the aim of the Bill is justice to minorities, then I should like to ask the noble Lord: Would he favour an amendment to allow 20 people to sign a petition to have Series 3 on one Sunday out of four? If he would allow that, would he allow another 20 to sign a petition to have Series 2 on one Sunday out of four? I do not want to create imaginery difficulties and I do not want to pursue this point—time is passing very rapidly—but the point is that any legislation on these matters would create problems, and it is far better to deal with the differences by consultation within parishes and not by additional legislation.
Let me turn very briefly to the wider issues behind this Bill. First, there is the question which has been raised quite specifically: Is democracy in the Church of England seriously defective? All democratic systems have their defects. I am glad that the noble Lord corrected a persistent misunderstanding, which recurred in the 1978 debate, about the way in which the General Synod is elected. Its lay members are elected from deanery synods, and the deaneries of a diocese are constituencies of manageable size which are close to the life of the Church at local level. All members of deanery synods are, by and large, members of parochial church councils and are involved directly in Church affairs. Election from deanery synods to the General Synod is by proportional representation—and here the Church of England is in advance of some other legislative bodies which one might talk about. But it means that under this system minorities have the best possible chance of being represented.
What saddens many of us is, first of all, that those who love and support and want to see more of the Book of Common Prayer do not seem to stand for election or, if they do so, they do not seem to get elected. In the Church of England, we long for and invite those who feel strongly in this matter to express themselves in the Church's proper councils by getting themselves elected. I am constantly surprised that the noble Lord who is so deeply involved in Church affairs and so learned in theology apparently has not sought election to the General Synod where, if he was elected, he could pursue his interests to an audience which would be very ready to hear it.
Let me say a final word on the constitutional issue. We know that it would be a serious departure from established practice if Parliament were to break the tradition of over 60 years and try to impose legislation 625 on the Church of England, without consultation and against what I believe would be fierce opposition. There has been in the press and other places recently some sabre rattling on the subject of disestablishment. Let me declare myself. I am a firm believer in establishment. It would be a tragedy further to weaken the links between Church and State. I believe that it would be bad for the Church because it would strengthen the sectarian elements within the Church, and bad for the nation because now, of all times, we need in our nation some continuing corporate acknowledgments of religious beliefs and sanctions to give us direction. But I hope that noble Lords will understand that in these very difficult days the Church of England is struggling to find its vocation in a society which is, by and large, indifferent towards organised forms of religion.
Those of us who stand at the centre of it have the problem, first of all, of trying to maintain viable congregations of committed people in an age when commitment has to be strong and lively if it is to be of service at all; and generally it is those strong and lively people at the centre of Church life who get elected to its councils and, ultimately, to the Synod. But alongside that problem of maintaining lively communities we have, secondly, the problem of remaining faithful to the past in an age which is radically different from that in which the Church was originally shaped. Thirdly, we have the problem in the Church of England of trying to retain our links with the half-committed and the occasionally interested and the folk 626 religionists. And, fourthly, we have the problem of trying to reach out towards those for whom our cultural heritage means little or nothing. In trying to balance those four things we, as bishops, are well aware that we are constantly having to indulge in a very difficult juggling act because many of these goals conflict with one another.
I would assure the House that there are many at the centre of the Church's life who are fully aware of the issues at stake, who are anxious to do justice to all the different interests, but who do not want their hands weakened by ill-considered legislation which would inevitably by reaction strengthen the forces of sectarianism within the Church. That, I am afraid, is what would happen if by some mischance this Bill were to be passed. That is why I do not believe that the end desired by the noble Lord can be obtained by the means proposed. It is good that this issue should have an airing.
I must apologise to the House for speaking for so long at so late an hour. I notice that the number of bishops is growing and there are many noble Lords who feel deeply on the issue and who want to speak, and I felt it right at the beginning of this debate that I should try to set out all the issues at some length and as clearly as I could. It is good that we should have this debate. It is good that these issues should be publicised because they are matters of wide interest and importance. I hope that at the end of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, will have the good sense to withdraw his Bill.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I feel a certain degree of embarrassment in intruding into these high matters. Throughout my life (which has been beset by controversy in so many different fields) I have always been rather careful to steer clear of ecclesiastical politics. I do not now regret that I should have done so. But I have no doubt at all that my colleagues were right in imposing upon me the duty of speaking. In the ordinary course of Private Members' Bills, Her Majesty's Government adopt a neutral posture. Unhappily, in matters which raise grave questions of constitutional propriety and usage, this cannot be the case. In this case—at any rate in the view of Her Majesty's Government—such issues arise and it is my duty to tell the House without equivocation that on such grounds Her Majesty's Government cannot recommend to the House the passage of this Bill through Parliament.
I must first of all, in view of the course which the discussion has taken so far, remind the House, before I embark upon my task, what this Bill says and what it is about. It is nothing to do with the doctrine in the marriage service or in Evensong or in the service of confirmation or in the service of baptism. It is nothing whatever to do with the theological colleges. Its Long Title is to provide for parishioners—and parishioners, with great respect to my noble friend, have nothing whatever to do with theological colleges—of any parish to require certain forms of service to be used in the parish church.
My noble friend said that he was going to introduce an amendment in Committee about theological colleges. I wonder how he thinks he is going to do that in a Bill with a Long Title like this. The body of the Bill has nothing whatever to do with any of the services to which he refers. It is to do with the main service in the morning in the parish church; not the marriage service, not the confirmation service and not the baptismal service. Not with the doctrines; not with the bias of the BBC; and not with the jiggery-pokery which may or may not go on inside the parochial church council. The question with which we are faced is whether 20 persons, who happen to be on the electoral roll of the parish, are entitled to impose upon the rest of them once in a month what is called the Book of Common Prayer. Whether he means Matins, the Holy Communion or what was more common in my youth Matins and Ante-Communion, he does not say.
That is the problem with which we are confronted. I must first, I hope, establish that what my noble friend has said about the opinion of Chancellor Garth Moore (whom I have known for upwards of 50 years, since he was the Junior of the South Eastern Circuit) of which my noble friend was good enough to give me a copy, and what he says about the 14th volume of the fourth edition of Halsbury's Laws of England—on which I can possibly speak with greater authority because I happen to be the editor of it—is wholly misconceived. He does not understand its effect.
Of course Parliament in this country is sovereign. There can be no subject on which it is more clearly sovereign, and few on which it clearly has more often legislated than on the established Church of England and, to some extent, the established Church of Scotland. 628 Parliament can take away a man's life without a trial, and it has done so. Parliament can expropriate property without compensation, and it has done so. Parliament can pass retrospective legislation, and it has done so. Parliament can prolong its own life, and it has done that too, not so very long ago. But in all these cases its powers are not relevant to the question of constitutional wisdom or unwisdom, propriety or impropriety.
Here the question that arises has to do with the use of legislative sovereignty and not the existence of the sovereignty, which remains clear and beyond question. The question that arises is not whether, if the Bill were to receive the Royal Assent, would it become law. Of course it would become law. It is not whether my noble friend is within the rules of order in proposing its Second Reading in the House. Of course he is within the rules of order. The question is whether, having regard to the line of conduct pursued by successive Parliaments towards the Church of England, the passage of this Bill would be a retrograde step or a progressive step; and, what would be the constitutional implications if, in 1981, we pursued the course of action recommended by my noble friend.
First, let me deal with the question of doctrine and the doctrinal purity of the Alternative Book. It is as well that we should remember that Parliament itself is representative of the United Kingdom as a whole, and of its population as a whole. It represents Northern Ireland, where there is no established Church, and where the Church of Ireland, which uses the Book of Common Prayer to a large extent, is a minority even among the Protestant community, which is predominently Presbyterian. It represents Scotland, where there is an established Kirk which is not episcopal and which is absolutely free under the Kirk Assembly to prescribe its own forms of service and discipline. It represents Wales, where the Church in Wales was disestablished within my memory. It represents England where, although there is a Church established by law and represented in this House by the Bench of Bishops, there has been an increasing tendency, to which I shall make reference shortly, to leave matters of English Church discipline, doctrine and liturgy to specially constructed ecclesiastical assemblies with a specialised understanding of these things and perhaps more leisure than we possess to debate them in detail.
On the whole, and having spent the past 43 years of my life as a Member of one House or another, I would say without doubt that the increasing tendency of Parliament and the Church organisations to go their own ways has been of as much benefit to Parliament as it has been to the Church. I can well remember an occasion during my brief visit to the House of Commons in 1964 when I was compelled to listen to a 37 minute speech by the dreaded Sir Ronald Bell—himself, I believe, a Presbyterian—the main purpose of which was to show that the Scarf—which I am very pleased to see well in evidence this evening and which is the one specifically Anglican garment—was in fact an illegal Popish innovation. I mention that example to indicate that perhaps Parliament is not the best place in which to discuss the doctrine of the Atonement. Parliament, without in any way derogating 629 from its ultimate sovereignty, has progressively over the past 60 years and much longer, and in my opinion prudently, deliberately and to its enormous advantage, divested itself of any tendency to intrude on domestic English Church affairs, and has created specific ecclesiastical bodies expressly charged with the responsibility of making such intrusion unnecessary.
Of course I heard my noble friend in his peroration attack the credibility of Church government as a whole. If so, he is trifling with the subject by introducing this particular Bill. He had better think of revoking the powers of the Synod altogether. If the clergy are gerrymandering their agenda and if the parochial church councillors do not represent the worshippers, if the laity in the Synod are not representive of the laity, then this Bill is not a proper way of setting about remedying such a state of affairs. It has nothing whatever to do with the case.
The Church Assembly was created by Parliament in 1919. In 1969 we approved the Synodical Government Measure, which brought together the Church Assembly and the Convocations. In 1974, after very full debates in both Houses, we empowered the General Synod to legislate by canon for alternative services while retaining the Book of Common Prayer. It is under this umbrella that the Alternative Book has been published. The purpose was to enable the Church authorities to conduct their own affairs without Parliament becoming embroiled in any repetition of the undignified and wholly ineffectual attempts to prevent the general use, for instance, of the 1928 Prayer Book, or even of repeating the horrible fiasco of 1874, which some Church historians may remember. The Measure of 1974 was itself carefully calculated to avoid the renewal of these fiascos. It does, I believe, provide adequate safeguards for the laity if they would only use them.
There must be a two-thirds majority in the Synod, the laity and clergy of which are elected in the manner prescribed. The forms of the Book of Common Prayer must remain available. The choice lies with the incumbent and the parochial church council which is elective. If these do not agree with one another then the Common Prayer Service must be used unless, with the parochial church council's agreement, an alternative form has been regularly used for at least two years out of the last four. Although I express some preference for the Cranmer book myself, I have not noticed an angry crowd of worshippers banging at the doors when it is used, unable to get in because of the crowd inside.
It is in the light of this situation that my noble friend introduces his Bill. It provides that, notwithstanding any wish to the contrary on the part of the incumbent and the parochial church council, a minority of 20 is entitled to impose the form of service—it does not say, as I have remarked whether it be Holy Communion, Matins, or Matins and ante-Communion—once a month in the parish church at the principal morning service. It has no other provision.
I must say I could just understand a provision of this kind if my noble friend had gone the whole way and added a provision—following the tradition of the Act of Uniformity of Elizabeth I—that all 20 of these parishioners were compelled to attend the service they had imposed upon others under a penalty of a fine of 630 400 marks. It might, for instance, be a great pleasure to see my noble friend Lord Dacre, who I am glad to see is going to make his maiden speech, doing his penance in the pew at least once a month!
In the absence of such a provision, it seems to me that the Bill is a constitutional anomaly. Under its terms it does not matter if the church is empty or full; it does not matter if the majority of the worshippers like the service or if they do not; if 20 demand it, it must be done, even if none of the 20 goes. The absurdity of this seems to me to speak for itself and these empty churches will declare a new meaning to the old adage that there is room in the Church of England for everybody.
I cannot end this speech without a personal tribute to Cranmer's book. I do not call it the book of 1662. It is stamped on every page with the genius of Cranmer, from start to finish. He was a liturgiologist of the greatest genius, as, for instance, is recognised in the somewhat hostile criticism of him in the book on the shape of the liturgy by the late Dom Gregory Dix. His language was magical. His sense of dramatic structure was superb. To give only one example, the forms of the General Confession in the Communion Service are infinitely superior to those used in the Alternative Book.
As the right reverend Prelate has clearly admitted, he had the wisdom to keep the cadences of the 15th century language in the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. I once heard an episcopal service in Gaelic. I knew when the Lord's Prayer was being pronounced, because I knew its own cadences. It does not matter, because one knows the cadences, and it can be sung to the same music. Whether one says "Our Father which art in Heaven" or "Pater noster qui es in coelis" one knows that it is the Lord's Prayer, wherever it is said.
I am sorry that it has been found desirable to change it, and I was much encouraged by what the right reverend Prelate said about that. But it may also be true, for aught I know, that some of the supporters of the new book adopt somewhat superior attitudes to those who do not happen to agree with them. In particular, it may be that there has developed a new breed of ecclesiastical laymen; if so, I am not among them.
But these are no reasons, in my considered judgment, for Parliament to intervene in the manner proposed. The forms of service used in the Church of England must be canonically correct. I believe that the Alternative Book is; if not, it contravenes the law. I believe that it must be doctrinally sound, within acceptable bounds. I am bound to say that, contrary to what my noble friend says, I believe it to be so, although I do not myself claim to be doctrinally sound always. Above all, it must meet with the pastoral needs of the worshippers, which only the worshippers can decide for themselves. Even with petrol at £1.50 and more a gallon, many of us can find within reach a service of our own choosing, if we look for one.
It is not for Parliament to give small minorities a veto and, even if it did, the English language, magically embedded in Cranmer's book, could never be preserved by force of law. We are living in 1981 and not in 1681 or 1581 or 1481. We had better spend our time in 631 Parliament on the great needs of our present population—Anglican, Free Church, Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Moslem and our numerous fellow citizens who belong to no known religion—and not pass a Measure which is contrary to the whole spirit of our laws that have been enacted since 1919. As a result of the fiasco of 1928, we ought to have learned that lesson long ago. The Government invite the House not to accept this Bill.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, the fact that I am speaking from the Front Bench does not, in any way, imply that I am expressing a collective view on behalf of Labour Peers. This is a matter for the conscience of each noble Lord, and I hope, after listening to the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that that applies equally to the other side of the House. On his speech, I must say, with the greatest respect, that after 30 years in the two Houses I have never heard a more biased speech from a Government Minister on a Church Measure. On Church Measures, I believe that Government Ministers ought to be entirely neutral. If you read the speech which I made on the Worship and Doctrine Measure in 1974 you will find that it is in striking contrast to the speech which the noble and learned Lord has made today. From what noble Lords on my side of the House have told me, however, I think that what I have to say will be generally acceptable to a large number of them.
This is the second occasion on which the noble Lord has introduced a Bill to ensure the continued use in our parish churches of the Book of Common Prayer. I supported him on the last occasion although he did not press it to a Division, and I warmly support him on this occasion. I believe that the first question which we should ask ourselves is this: is there a real problem which makes the kind of arrangement which the noble Viscount is proposing necessary? I believe that there is a considerable problem. It is not a constitutional problem. It is not an administrative problem. It is an intensely human problem affecting tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen. It is a problem which is causing widespread disquiet throughout the country, and in many cases real anguish.
The Synod has launched an Alternative Services Book. I do not complain in any way about that. I have no objection to it. I noted what was said in the Synod when the book was introduced. Indeed, there are safeguards in the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974. But the problem to which the noble Lord's Bill is addressed is that the Book of Common Prayer is never used in a great many churches—I have made very careful inquiries about this—while in others it has been relegated to the status of an antiquity which is brought out, rather grudgingly, occasionally and used for the odd service at a very inconvenient time. I have experience of this myself. So the safeguards in the Worship and Doctrine Measure and the assurances at its launching are, to say the least, not working as we expected.
A generation of young people is growing up in this country to whom the Book of Common Prayer will be completely unfamiliar. I think that is a real tragedy. There is evidence, to which the Bishop of Durham has 632 referred—professionally assembled evidence—that what is happening is against the wishes of the majority of churchgoers. But the process of substitution—and I am afraid that that really is what is happening—goes on relentlessly throughout the country. I think "relentlessly" is the right word. I am told that the process is fuelled by the enthusiasm of the bishops, who twist the arms of the incumbents, as only bishops know how, and any incumbent who holds out is too often regarded as an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he has any direct evidence to support that serious allegation?
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, I am making my speech in my own way, and I am saying that I have been told by a number of incumbents that this is so. The right reverend Prelate has quoted the Carlisle diocesan newsletter. I live in the diocese of Carlisle. If he is telling me that incumbents do not take any notice of what is written in the diocesan newsletter, then I am afraid he does not know the facts of life about parishioners in our parishes. I do not know whether noble Lords have seen that newsletter and its contents. Let me tell the House what it says:But in her wisdom and with no lack of prayer and scholarship, the Church of England has counselled, surely under the guidance of the Spirit, that for our health's sake the blood must be changed. What matters now is that the operation should be swift and complete. It is time therefore to abandon political tactics and cover up titles which suggest that this is no more than an alternative and that 1662 stands unscathed. The new book must become the prayer book of the Church of England. If it does not do so quickly, several generations will be left in limbo".That appeared in my own diocesan newsletter.
I do not want to be unkind or unfair to the bishops, but the problem is that both they and the Synod appear to be impervious to the protests. I have read the temperate words and I have heard the temperate words which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said in reply to the petition of the 600. But I have also read the other speech to which he refers and I have here the Church Times report of it—not the report of the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mirror but the report of the Church Times:This gentleman drew loud applause when he said in the debate that many who signed were rarely seen in church, and added: 'For far too long we have been spiritually castrated by the arrogance of the cultural establishment'.".For sheer unChristian arrogance, those words, spoken in the Synod, would be very hard to beat. That was in reply to a petition from 600 eminent people throughout the country. So I think I am entitled to say that not all the bishops, but many of them do appear to be impervious to the feelings of people about this.
So far as I am aware, the public opinion poll drew no official response, except that so far as one could judge from the outside the steamroller was driven even faster. So there is a two-fold problem, as I see it—and I am speaking for myself—of the established Church introducing a major liturgical reform in such a way as to ignore the views of large numbers of its members. This is an age of conservation. Ratepayers and taxpayers throughout the country are digging deeply into their pockets to preserve the best in our physical heritage. We now have the National Heritage 633 Fund. Buildings are listed and protected; demolition is forbidden by law. But the Church of England has done the biggest demolition job of the lot in recent years. Maybe it was not exactly demolition, but they have erected a shiny, brassy new office block in front, so that only occasionally can one get a glimpse of the beautiful old building behind it.
I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for giving us a chance once more to discuss this matter. Of course the Bill's opponents, as always, regress, as last time, into constitutional arguments. Indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham prefaced his speech by asking us to keep off the merits of the alternative services—the doctrinal matters. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said this even more forcefully, as he always does, and then of course proceeded to discuss doctrinal matters.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord really means that? Can he mention one doctrine that I discussed, out of the Nicene creed or any of the other creeds?
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord will read his speech tomorrow—and I am sure he always reads his speeches—
§ The Lord Chancellor
No, my Lords. The noble Lord has made a charge against me. I ask him to substantiate it or withdraw it and not ask me to read my own speech.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will look at his speech tomorrow he will see that he said—and I quote, because I wrote it down—"I now come to doctrinal matters".
§ The Lord Chancellor
Yes, my Lords, and what I said was that Parliament was not the place to discuss them and that is within the recollection of the House. So I did not discuss them.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor tomorrow will read what he said. I have nothing to withdraw on that.
I believe that we should now apply ourselves to the real human problem. But of course the opponents of the Bill tell us that Parliament has surrendered its right to legislate on Church matters; not its legal constitutional right but its de facto right, if I may put it that way. I completely refute that view. The noble Lord quoted Halsbury's Laws of England. Of course, as the noble and learned Lord said, the Church-State relationship has changed a great deal. There have been a number of Measures to give the Church greater freedom in its own affairs, culminating in the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974. It is an evolving relationship but it is a simple, irrefutable fact that if the Church of England remains the established Church, Parliament retains the right to legislate. 634 It is not a case of imposing legislation, as the right reverend Prelate said. This is a sovereign Parliament and the Church of England is the national Church, established by law.
I do not like quoting the Daily Telegraph, but I think it got it right on Tuesday. It said:If Church establishment means anything it is Parliament's manifest duty to intervene now to protect the Church's tradition of worship, the right of the laity and a precious part of the English inheritance.If any right reverend Prelate contests that conclusion, then I am going to demand that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, reads the Prayers in your Lordships' Chamber. I am going to demand that Lord Janner, a distinguished ex-chairman of the Board of British Jews be given the opportunity occasionally to read the Prayers in this Chamber. When Lords reform comes to be discussed I am going to suggest either that the Anglican bishops are removed from this House or that all the others are brought in. And when a new Monarch comes to be crowned, if I am still around, I am going to demand that all denominations have a share in the coronation.
The Church cannot have it both ways. Either the Church of England retains the privileges of establishment and if so Parliament retains the right to intervene, or Parliament surrenders that right and the Church of England surrenders its privileges. In the past decade the Church of England has tried, I think, rather to have the best of both worlds. The Worship and Doctrine Measure was followed by the new procedure for the nomination of bishops. I am not sure that that is working; I had hoped that the Bishop of Durham would tell us, but there it is. These, I think, we saw, many of us—and I said this to the archbishop; I conducted the initial discussions between the Government and the Church on this—as two steps towards the disestablishment of the Church. But at the same time the Church holds up its hands in horror at any suggestion that this sovereign Parliament should still have the right to legislate on Church matters, except at the request of the Synod, and that was the gist of the learned Lord Chancellor's speech. Of course, the Government to which the learned Lord Chancellor belongs has not, for example, hesitated to legislate about the trade unions, but it advises us not to legislate about the Church.
In the face of the present problem which I have described, the intensely human problem, not only has Parliament the right but I believe it has the duty to intervene. So, one, there is a problem; two, Parliament has the right to deal with it. I now ask another question. What is the source of the disquiet and often the anguish? I believe there are three reasons for this, and I put them in ascending order of importance. First, there is the language question. I think that is probably the least important. We are told the language of the Book of Common Prayer is archaic and therefore it is an impediment to worship, especially in the case of young people. The Bishop of London in our last debate said:…many for whom the language of Cranmer is meaningless and without relevance".But, we are told, if this language is translated into the language of Oxford Street it is going to be more meaningful and more people will be attracted to church.
635 Everybody I have talked to about this takes exactly the opposite view, especially young people. I think a Gallup poll showed this with regard to young people. It is a mistaken view of the psychology of teenagers to believe that they want this changed; teenagers love the Cranmer Prayer Book language. Why should we not, when talking to God, use the English language at its very best. Why should we not retain the "thee" and "thou" as a mark of our reverence when we address the Almighty? When I go to a service where the word "you" is substituted for "thou" I never say it, I always say "thou", because I have a feeling that if I say the word "you" to the Almighty I am committing a great discourtesy. I am very pleased to hear what the Bishop of Durham said about the Lord's Prayer, but even when it is in the old form it is very often posited up by saying "who" for "which" and "those" for "them". But if the bishops insist, as the Bishop of Durham has done, that we must use the language of Oxford Street to speak to God, why not the dress of Oxford Street for his ministers?
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting again, but the noble Lord is making so many extraordinary statements that I would be grateful if he would point to the place in my speech where I told this House that we must use the language of Oxford Street.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, I do not think that the right reverend Prelate mentioned the words "Oxford Street", but I—
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, or anything equivalent? Would the noble Lord please do me the courtesy of reading my speech in Hansard tomorrow and noting very carefully whether I said anything which can be interpreted as anything approaching the way in which he has referred to my speech?
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate did not say that then, I of course withdraw. However. I fall back on what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said in the last debate, which I have already quoted, and on what many others have said. I was talking about dress. If we must have modern language why not modern dress for God's ministers? When the bishops go to their cathedrals on Sunday to hail the risen Lord will they be wearing corduroy trousers and pullovers?—of course not. They will wear their richest and most glorious vestments—cloth of gold and all the rest—and rightly so. They will be arrayed like Solomon in all his glory. Why then do they insist that when I go to church on Easter Sunday to hail the risen Lord I have to use the verbal equivalent of corduroy trousers and pullover—and very tatty ones at that?
An incumbent said to me some time ago, "How can I stand up before my Midlands congregation with probably a majority of immigrants and say:Dearly beloved Brethren, the scripture moveth as in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednesses. Wherefore I pray and beseech you as many as are here present to accompany me to the Throne of the heavenly Grace saying after meand so on?"
636 But why on earth not?—provided that he says it in a meaningful way.
Very recently I attended Matins in a small church in the new country of Vanuatu which used to be called the New Hebrides. The service was straight out of the Cranmer Prayer Book. The open-sided church was packed with men, women and children and they loved every minute of it. The Book of Common Prayer was written at the high watermark of the English language and I think that it is right and proper that we should retain it for our worship.
The second reason for disquiet is that people find the old language a tremendous comfort—and language can be a comfort. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer recognises the comfort that people can derive from language in the communion service when it says:Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ sayethand so on. I wonder whether it is sufficiently realised how much comfort people do derive from, for example, the beautiful, cool services of Matins and Evensong. So there is, I think, an acute sense of deprivation of comfort—and comfort is a basic human need.
The third reason for disquiet is that I believe that the new language weakens and makes much more diffuse the definition of Church doctrine. The noble Viscount made this point in some detail on the last occasion. I believe that this is the influence of radical theology in the Church which shies away from definition and calls it dogma; it is the theology that has diluted religious education in our schools to a point at which it has become almost meaningless.
However, I believe that in this age of waning belief and disintegrating standards the need surely is for clearer definition, not more diffuse definition. I often wonder whether the Church has lost confidence in its own faith to the extent that it, too, is unwilling to define doctrine with clarity. In the Book of Common Prayer there are dozens of memorable phrases which encapsulate the doctrine of the Church of England in the clearest and most unforgettable way. So I think that the reason for the disquiet which causes the problem that we face this evening is, first, a matter of language; secondly, the loss of comfort that the old words gave; and, thirdly, some weakening of doctrine.
Finally, it has been said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. I have always felt that that was nonsense; it is arithmetical nonsense anyhow. The Battle of Waterloo, as with countless other great endeavours in which our island race has been involved over the centuries, in my view was won in the musty pews of thousands of parish churches across the land, where our forbears learned the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Church Catechism. Their courage, their fortitude, their faith owed very much more to this little book than to any other single factor. They were nurtured on it in their youth; it sustained them in the heat of the day; it comforted them as they grew older. This innocuous looking little book has for three centuries—for 12 generations—been the cornerstone of English life, of English culture and of English morals. We in our generation must be mindful of this heritage, which is now endangered. If the Church, established by law, cannot protect it, the sovereign Parliament of this realm has the right and the duty to do so.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Lord Dacre of Glanton
My Lords, I ask your customary indulgence, which I am sure that I shall need, on addressing this House for the first time, and perhaps especially for addressing your Lordships on a subject which in the last few days has become one of public controversy. I can only hope that although the subject is controversial, I shall be able to handle it in an uncontroversial manner, merely remarking in this preliminary personal apologia that as a doctor of divinity and a regular worshipper in the chapel of which I have the honour to be the ordinary, I do not quite understand the personal remarks about my non-attendance at church made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.
§ Lord Dacre of Clanton
My Lords, in these few remarks I wish to make only a few, as I see it, cardinal points. First, it is of course said that the State, by previous enactments, has allowed the Church, in religious matters, a certain amount of autonomy and that the balance thus achieved should not now be disturbed. But autonomy is not independence. Parliament has not surrendered its sovereignty. The authority which grants autonomy grants it within limits, explicit or implied, and if those limits are transgressed, it can—perhaps must—intervene to regulate, redefine or even withdraw such autonomy.
If the Church Establishment wants independence, it wants disestablishment. Here I entirely agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. The Church cannot logically demand, as some of its leaders in their recent public pronouncement seem to demand, the absolute freedom of independence combined with all the advantages of establishment. In this particular case I submit that the Church authorities are seeking to break and have, in fact, already broken the express terms of the autonomy conditionally granted to them. They are seeking to change what has been called the lifeblood of the Church. Had they stated openly that this was their intention, would Parliament have granted them that autonomy? I do not think so. But they have adopted what is known as "salami tactics", and now it is they who are effectively disturbing the agreed balance between Church and State; and Parliament, I submit, has the duty in such cases to intervene to protect that balance.
Secondly, it is said that this is merely a question of language; that the language of Archbishop Cranmer is not intelligible today; that it is too archaic for common use; that we should put God at His ease by addressing Him in more familiar tones. My Lords, the language of the Prayer Book (as of the Authorised Version) is not unintelligible. Not only is it part of our literature—all our literature is impregnated with it, and will lose part of its resonance without it—it is merely a little more stately, more elevated, than our everyday language, and can very easily be learned. We all use different levels of language. We speak differently perhaps in this House and in our homes; and within this House we speak differently before the Throne and in the bar. Religion requires elevation in language in order to inspire depth of feeling. The 638 House of the Lord may deserve a little more profundity even than the House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor has said that the Prayer Book will not be preserved by legislation; but it will be preserved by use, and that is all that we ask for—continued, guaranteed use.
It will be said that this movement in the Church is not confined to the Church of England; that liturgical innovation is a general phenomenon of today: a response to the needs of the time, the demands of the young, the claims of the future. How are we to be sure that this demand for ritual innovation is not like so many other demands of the trendy 1960s? Those of us who live and teach in universities know how quickly such fashions change; but we also know how their former advocates—the unreconstructed trendsetters of yester-year—though increasingly isolated can, by mere survival in key positions, artificially prolong an increasingly obsolete fashion. It would be a tragedy if the inheritance of the Church were to be sacrificed, as it could be, by the mere artificial prolongation of a dated trend.
For who are the advocates of these innovations? Let us be clear on this. They are not the Church. The Church is the congregation of the faithful, clergy and lay alike, and it includes many who loyally adhere without pedantically subscribing. That is the difference between a Church and a sect. An established Church has a particular duty towards the laity: a duty of tolerance and comprehension. The laity is not to be dragged unwillingly forward along a particular road by a party of activists exploiting their customary loyalty and deference.
I would not venture to use this language on such an occasion merely on my own authority. I am echoing the views of a right reverend Prelate who has written to me and authorised me to quote the words which he says he would himself have used had he been here:I fear"—writes the Bishop of Peterborough—that members of congregations and parish councils are pusillanimous when it comes to standing up against the few who have a lust for perpetual innovation".I hope your Lordships will allow me, as a historian, to glance back over the history of the Church of England. Our Church obtained its distinctive character in the 16th century as the result of a revolt of the laity against a clergy which had lost contact with it. A century later, the same Church of England was in its turn overthrown; its hierarchy abolished, its liturgy suppressed, its property sold, even its cathedrals advertised for scrap. Why? Not because the laity repudiated it, but because even the most loyal of them had been temporarily alienated by the "innovations" precipitately imposed by a too radical clerical party within it. They stood aside in its hour of danger, and it fell.
How is it, we may ask, that it was, nevertheless, after nearly 20 years of intermission, restored? Because the same laity, during those long years when its outward organisation had been destroyed, kept it alive in the catacombs using, as the last and strongest symbol of its continuing life, the Prayer Book of Archbishop Cranmer. After victory, that liturgy, having proved its almost talismanic power, was reassembled in the 1662 Prayer Book, that very Prayer Book which our modern innovators are seeking quietly to destroy. I hope the laity, which as Cardinal Newman wrote 639 is the real measure of the Church—of any church—will once again prevent such destruction.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton, on his excellent maiden speech. I first became aware of his scholarship with his book The Last Days of Hitler, which I read with particular interest when it came out, partly because I knew he was a leading light of an earlier generation at my school and partly because I had been to Hitler's bunker before it was flooded. The noble Lord brings to this House a wealth of scholarship and a deep sense of history and I feel sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say we hope we may often have the benefit of those qualities in the future.
While I have a limited amount of sympathy for the basic proposal of the Bill, I deplore that it should come before your Lordships' House in the form of a Bill. I say straight away that I value both the Common Prayer Book, with its expression of Protestant reformed doctrine, and the modern services of the ASB. I use the former for private prayer, but I believe the new forms of worship have brought a freshness and relevance to our corporate worship. Because we no longer think and express ourselves as they did in Tudor and Stuart times and because many of the words and phrases have changed their meaning, it is only right that we should have forms of worship in contemporary English.
I do not want to lengthen my speech, but I feel should substantiate that. Not many people have difficulty with words which have obviously changed their meaning; for example, the word "prevent"—very few people think that word in the context means "stop us". But I came upon one example where a subtle change of meaning had misled certainly me for a long time, and that is in the Creed where it says, "Our Lord rose again according to the Scriptures", which I had always understood meant, "as reported by the Scriptures"—as one might say, "as reported by Reuters". But the new form of service has a different way of wording it—"In accordance with the Scriptures"—to show that Our Lord's resurrection was in fact foretold by the Old Testament and was a fulfilment of it.
However fine the old English sounds, to many people—and to many people whom I know—it is often simply not intelligible. Furthermore the new services have helped children to be brought into our corporate worship. Despite the occasional distraction that inevitably results from that, I believe that it can be only for the overall good. All the same, one has to recognise that there are some people—many people—who find it uncongenial, or worse, to worship in contemporary English. That is a factor that has to be taken into account, and we must recognise that we have to allow for their feelings.
I believe that it is right for the majority in a parish to choose the form of worship to be used, but sensitive consideration needs to be given to the minority views, whatever they are. This is especially the case in rural parishes where there may be only one service each week, or perhaps even less often than that. Even if the proposal in the Bill were to provide the basis of a 640 solution to the problem, it seems to me ludicrous that it could ever be considered appropriate for all kinds and sizes of parish. That is why I believe that this kind of problem is best dealt with at local level, by the parish, with the encouragement of the archdeacon or the bishop, rather than by the sledgehammer of an Act of Parliament.
There are two particular reasons why feel that the bringing forward of this Bill is inappropriate. The first reason is the obvious one that the passing of the Bill would certainly be seen in the Church, at any rate in widespread measure in the Church, as contrary at least to the spirit of the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974; and would cause much resentment. In my view it would have a retrograde and damaging effect on the relations between Church and State. My second reservation is perhaps less straightforward, but I believe no less important. This debate is bound to receive much publicity, but I do not believe that this publicity will be helpful to the Church, or indeed to the Christian cause in general. The impression is bound to be given that all that Christians, or at least Anglicans, care about is to wage an endless controversy about liturgy; and often, I am afraid to say, we are guilty of waging it without charity—in the 1662 sense of the word, at that. At the very worst we lay ourselves open to the charge of being concerned more with ecclesiastical politics than with the great spiritual, moral and social issues of our day.
In many parts of the world the Christian Church is growing at a rate not seen since the Acts of the Apostles. In North and South America, Asia and Africa, the growth can be described as "explosive". Let me give just one example. I believe that there are now more Christians in Kenya than there are in Britain, despite the fact that our population is four times as large. Despite some welcome signs, this growth is not taking place in our country. In the current economic jargon we can perhaps be said to have "bottomed out"—but not much more. Why are we not seeing Christian growth here? Is the fault with the Church? Does it lie with all of us? What is to be done?
If there is to be public discussion about Church affairs, as indeed there should be, those are the questions that have a vital relevance to our society. As for the matter of this Bill, it should quietly be resolved within the existing Church framework, and then laid to rest. All that is needed is an element of give and take on both sides. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, having achieved a debate that has attracted so much interest in your Lordships' House, and outside of it, will rest content and will not press the Bill to a Division.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ The Duke of Portland
My Lords, rising with trepidation to address your Lordships for the first time, I crave your indulgence. The Bill which is before your Lordships is, I understand, intended to ensure that the parishioners of any parish who so desire should be guaranteed the privilege of worshipping with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. When the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure came before your Lordships' House in 1974, the most reverend Primate the then Archbishop of Canterbury stated that the Measure was intended to give the Book of Common 641 Prayer a secure place which could only be altered by the action of Parliament itself. In winding up the debate on that Measure the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London said:I think that I can speak on behalf of those who sit on these Benches when I say that we shall do our best to see in our dioceses that where there are people who love and want the use of the 1662 Prayer Book, then every effort will be made to provide for them".—[Official Report, 14/11/74, col. 941.]Moreover, the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure of 1974 laid down that the powers of the General Synodshall be so exercised as to ensure that the forms of service contained in the Book of Common Prayer continue to be available for use in the Church of England".However, there is a somewhat widespread feeling that those who desire to attend services at which the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is used experience difficulty in doing so. I can well understand that an incumbent who does not appreciate the rich flavour of the language of Archbishop Cranmer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer may regard as retrograde, and even tiresome, those who apply for services at which that book will be used. I fear that some such incumbents, when requested to hold services with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, only arrange to hold such services at unwanted hours—for instance, 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and not at normal Sunday Matins—and cause those who make this request to feel that they are irritating oddities.
In his speech to your Lordships in the debate on 14th November 1974 the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, expressed a fear that the incumbents who do not appreciate the forceful beauty of the language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer would relegate this book to the vestry and perhaps eventually to the pulping machine. I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is part of our literary heritage, as much as the works of Shakespeare, and that to condemn to oblivion this work, which has been sanctified by centuries of devout use, could be regarded as a sacrilege.
This short Bill now before your Lordships is no more than an effort to give parishioners confidence that the undertakings given when the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure was passed are being and will be carried out. If the Bill now before your Lordships is thrown out and is not replaced by some Measure, be what it may, reaffirming the position of the Book of Common Prayer, I fear this will be regarded by the public as an indication that the leaders of the Church desire that the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer should definitely cease.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ Lord Hampton
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, on his distinguished maiden speech. He spoke with brevity and with great sincerity and skill, and I waited with interest to see how non-controversial he would be. The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is to be congratulated on getting so many Peers to put their names down to speak in this debate, including the two maiden speakers, better known still for their eminence under other names. We shall look forward to hearing both of them in further debates in your Lordships' House, when perhaps they will be (may I say it?) even less inhibited than they were today.
642 The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is to be congratulated on getting so many bishops to attend. Sitting where I do in the Chamber I am relieved that I am on the same side as they are and also not out of sympathy with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. What I am going to say is for myself and not for my party. Feelings are strong about this Bill. We already have had interesting speeches from all parts of the House. It is right the matter should be discussed. Having said that, I do not like it and do not think it should be taken further. I seek to be brief.
First, whatever one feels about the question we are discussing, I believe it would be wrong to override by an Act of Parliament such decisions as the General Synod may make. The Church of England is the established Church. I believe it is capable of keeping its own house in order and should be allowed to do so without compulsion. Secondly, and contrary to what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Sudeley and Lord Glenamara, and following the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham in his distinguished contribution, I, too, should like to refute the argument that the clergy are involved in some sinister plot to impose a new form of worship on an unwilling and resentful congregation. My experience from serving on a church council for 18 years is that we consider all points of view, although it is not possible to keep everybody happy all the time. Our rector is a man of intelligence and integrity and a good capacity for leadership; but if the council say, No, to any of his moves, there is no question but that he falls into line with its opinion.
While for the most part using the Alternative Service Book, we have regular services from the traditional Prayer Book and it is most unlikely, if a body of 20 sincerely frustrated parishioners raised any protest with the rector and wardens, that some compromise would not be sought. The right reverend Prelate said that 20 people was a small minority. But if 20 people raised a matter it would be seriously considered. This is a matter of human relations—and on this I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and that is about the only thing that I agree with him about—and not a question for the law. Thirdly, I like the Alternative Service Book, and increasingly so as I get to know it better. There are magnificent passages, no one doubts, in the old Prayer Book, whether you call it the Cranmer or the 1662 Prayer Book, which I cannot believe will fall completely into disuse. I think it is wrong to think that all inspiration ended several centuries ago and any change is trendy and bad.
I humbly submit my impression as a layman (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, said something of the same thing) that the Church today is moved by a vitality it has not known for years. My grandfather was very musical, but he condemned Tschaikovsky as being too modern for his taste. Habit makes it easier to appreciate what we are familiar with. We should not condemn because at first we do not know the work so well.
To summarise, this evening's debate makes plain that there is considerable concern about what is going on in our churches. That is all for the good. I accept that there is disagreement over what the order of service should be, not least when one tries to link 643 up as in my parish with the Catholics or Baptists. I like many of the changes that have been introduced in our worship and I accept that others will differ. I cannot see there is a need of justification for a Bill of this kind. I believe its purpose could best be fulfilled by discussion and perhaps compromise at parish level, if necessary by guidance rather than compulsion.
§ 10.55 p.m.
My Lords, I am honoured at being the first person to be able to speak from these Benches in congratulation of the two maiden speakers that we have heard tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton—as yet probably better known as Hugh Trevor-Roper to his enormous body of admirers outside and inside this House—has shown how greatly we are to be advantaged by his having come among us here. May he speak often and on that wide variety of subjects—including history—which he has at his command. To the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, may I say better—much much better—late than never! We welcome him also very much among us, the bearer of his great title. He brings with him a very great knowledge and experience of the new world of African affairs. May he also often speak in this House.
My Lords, I think that it is significant that two such distinguished and different men should have wished to make their maiden speeches in this House on the Bill that is now before us. It is also significant that a similar Bill has been introduced into another place this very afternoon under the 10 Minute Rule, and I actually listened to it from the Gallery of another place this afternoon. It was interesting, to say the least, to see that the other place was well attended and that the Bill was allowed to be introduced by 152 votes to 132.
As in your Lordships' House, the powers that be were perhaps not too keen in another place that that should have happened; but it did happen. The arguments there that I listened to were very much the arguments that we must hear and have already heard and will hear again tonight in this House. I think one can sum them up. They really are these. Those who are supporting these Bills say that we need them because provisos and assurances and undertakings that were given do not appear to be being wholly honoured. There is a need for a Bill to reinforce them. Assurances were given in the debate in 1974, which I must refer to again and which has been referred to already, when the Worship and Doctrine Measure of the Synod was put before this House. Assurances were given. Have they been kept in the manner that we and the whole House then anticipated? Of course change is necessary. It is always necessary. We need evolution; we need development. But we have perhaps had revolution instead of evolution.
It is agreed by all that there should be alternative services; but the whole point that was agreed and is agreed—and that nobody so far who has spoken denies—is that there should be alternatives and not substitutes. This is what this Bill and the Bill that is before the other place this afternoon give us an opportunity to examine.
The arguments against the Bill fall perhaps into two parts: the constitutional one that it would be very 644 undesirable to say now that we are going to take back powers we have given to the Synod and increasingly given to the Synod ever since the enabling Act, I think it was, of 1919, which culminated perhaps in that very all-embracing and fundamental Measure, the Worship and Doctrine Measure. That is what religion is about. It is the two things: doctrine and worship. We are told that to pass Acts now which in any way takes away from the Synod all that has been given would be upsetting and wrong.
I am not qualified to speak on those constitutional points, but I am tempted to try to make clear the point that the Church is not yet disestablished. As Our Lord once said, what does it say on the tribute money? As noble Lords will know, it bears the letters DG FD—By the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith—and it is the Sovereign's head which is on the tribute money. The Sovereign acts through her Ministers and through her Parliaments and is still head of the Church. I should have thought that there was room at least for doubt as to whether or not we can still legislate. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack said that of course we have the power to legislate on Church matters or on any matters; it is a question of expediency whether we should do so. I think it expedient, at any rate, to talk about it and to think about it.
Indeed, every measure that the Synod passes has to pass through your Lordships' House and then the other place before it becomes effective and legal. It is examined by an all-party committee of both Houses which sits in this House under the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, and on which I have the honour to sit. The Church sometimes seems to take the view, and likes to speak often, as if it was already disestablished. It is, in a way, already de facto disestablished, but it is certainly not disestablished de jure.
If we have doubts, and many people do have doubts, I believe we are entitled in Parliament to legislate so as to ensure that the Church does in fact do what it said it would do if we gave it certain powers. So I, for one, will vote for the Bill. I think we have all the evidence we need to come to a decision in this matter, by reference to two main documents. There are an enormous number of other documents to which we could refer if there were time. The debate in 1974 was a very full debate and it took place at a more humane time; it started at 3 p.m. and finished at 7.30 p.m., and there was no reason why there should be anything but a very full House on that occasion. Then there is the evidence of the ASB—the Alternative Service Book—itself.
Taking the 1974 debate first, I should like to quote some of the things that were actually said. For instance, the most reverend Primate Archbishop Ramsay commented at column 871:But in order to conserve both the Church's doctrinal identity and the place of the Book of Common Prayer, and the rights of the laity—all three of these needs, my Lords—there are important provisos built into the Measure and sometimes critics of the Measure have overlooked this".He then went on to say what the provisos were.In the Measure the Book of Common Prayer remains as one of the Church's standards of doctrine".He went on:I believe that this retention of the Prayer Book, both as a 645 standard of doctrine and as a set of forms available when the PCC desires them, is a right means of conserving … The place of the Prayer Book in the Church's standards and the availability of the Prayer Book in the parishes when desired will be alterable only if Parliament were to decide to alter it".This has been said over and over again ever since that day; but if you go further through that debate you will find at other points the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who was courteous enough to answer the speech I made on that occasion, spoke quite clearly about this. I see he is not in his place and I should have warned him that I would refer to something he said.
He said this at column 896:This is not to be a new prayer book. It is certainly not intended as something which would replace the Book of Common Prayer … The age of little blue and green and pink pamphlets in church cannot go on for ever. Nor can revision, in our generation, go very much further than it has done already".I am afraid that this is what is so worrying, because the age of little pink, green or blue pamphlets has not come to an end. We have now got the Alternative Service Book, the ASB, available. But this is not going to be like the Prayer Book was, in the pews. You cannot read this book. It is more like a motor manual and it is one of those manuals that covers all the different makes of cars. You have to read down one column to follow whether it is referring to the Allegro and not to the Metro. It is not a prayer book, like the other, and it is not very easily available in the churches. It costs £4.50 a time, with the Psalter in it, and when I finally bought my copy from the bookshop in Wells Cathedral—
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, my Lords, for telling me there is a cheaper model. But it is not a handy little book that you can use: it is a reference book which tells you all sorts of alternatives. It is a very difficult book to understand at first sight. Of course it has not been in print for very long and I have not had very much time to study it; but you really cannot get on unless you start reading how you are to use it. You need to read page 32, for instance, the general notes, which are called "distinctions in the text". It goes on:Distinctions in the Text sections of services with numbers in blue may be omitted. Where a number of options are included in a mandatory part of the service, the rubric governing the options is numbered in black, but the texts themselves are numbered in blue. Texts in bold type are to be said by the congregation".But I cannot find the carburettor! I do not want to be light-hearted, but it is complicated to follow.
It has a Psalter, and the lady who sold me this book told me, "Mind you, the mice have been at that, too". I had not realised that it would not be the Psalter that I knew, and that if I looked up Psalms 95 or 121 they would not be the same. This means that we shall not find the Book of Common Prayer bound up in this volume. If we are to have the Book of Common Prayer available and usable, there will have to be two books. That will surely mean the most tremendous confusion, because there are many changes of little words. It is these small changes of little words that are worrying the ordinary layman. Those of your Lord- 646 ships who have studied this will know that they are trivial alterations. For instance,O, come let us sing unto the Lord",is nowO come let us sing out to the Lord".It will not scan.
I said that the little pink pamphlets have not gone, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham hoped they would go. What is beginning to happen is that a certain section of an alternative service, with the optional words which the incumbent has chosen to use, will be "roneod" out on the village machine. We in our diocese shall then have to submit what we wish to use to someone in authority—probably at the diocesan office—to see whether we are using the options aright. What will be the result of this? No two churches in England will be having the same service in the same form, and every time the incumbent changes he will alter it. This has been going on for 15 years, while we have had Series 2 and Series 3. No two churches have celebrated Holy Communion with the same Series 2.
So I am afraid that I have to say, from my experience, that the Book of Common Prayer has disappeared and is not in most of the churches now—I am talking of the country churches—in a stack close to the door, or handy when you go in. You will be handed a little pamphlet and a hymn book, or perhaps two hymn books. But we are not going to have what I think so many of us hoped we should have, which is that after the experimentation with the Series 1, 2 and 3, the Synod and the Church, as a whole, would have made up its mind what it wanted to have as alternative services and it would have had them printed and published in one book. In answer to my speech in 1974, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, I recall, that my idea that the Book of Common Prayer and the two alternative services should be printed in the same volume was rather a good one. But we have not got that. A new incumbent was appointed quite recently, and there are three disparate churches, congregations and parochial church councils for the man to wrestle with. He is a young clergyman and he had never used the Book of Common Prayer in his theological college. He was unfamiliar with it. Many of us go from church to church to find that service at eight o'clock on Sunday mornings.
The assurance given was that the Book of Common Prayer was going to remain with us and always would be used. But it is not even taught in the theological colleges and it is not used very much. If one listens to the wireless one finds that the Book of Common Prayer is not used in the services which are normally broadcast by the BBC. I think that it should be, otherwise there will be endless permutations so that nobody will know where they are or what they are going to find next.
As for the already quoted Carlisle diocesan magazine, whether or not that was a personal letter I do not know, but the newsletter editor of that magazine could have checked its publication if he thought that it was unwise. But that was not done. If one were to use the language of Oxford Street for a moment, that letter said, "Let's stop messing about and get on with it. Let's say that we've finished with 1662. No one's using it, so let's say so". I think that let the cat out of the bag. 647 I pray, therefore, that it may not be too late. I know that we are still the established Church. When I know that and when I realise that the Sovereign still is the head of the Church of England I say with real reverence, and meaning what the words say, "Thank God".
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him to clarify one point. He spoke about endless combinations and permutations. Why would it make it better to have in the Bill a provision that there should be alternation between the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Books?
Because, my Lords, the assurance was that new forms of service for all the services—Holy Communion, Matins, Evensong, marriage and so on—would be agreed upon by the Synod and published in an Alternative Service Book but that the old service book would remain to be used on occasions when it was wanted.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, we have been privileged this evening to listen to two of the most impressive maiden speeches which I have heard in this House. After those speeches, I venture to take part in this debate with an increased recognition of my own inadequacy. I am not well versed in the theology or the inner politics of the established Church. I fear that I take out from church activities much more than I put in. But I care for the Christian religion. I sincerely believe that we shall not truly solve the economic and social problems which occupy so much of the time of this House until we see the principles of the Christian religion more widely accepted and applied. I want to see the influence of the Church extended and strengthened. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham put it, I want the Church to reach out. I would welcome changes in the form of service which genuinely strengthen the authority of the Church and which maintained, widened or deepened its contacts with the world outside: with the infrequent church-goer; with those, as the right reverend Prelate put it, on the fringe; with those who make up the nation at large, if not the congregation on the Sunday.
I give my opinion, for what it is worth, that the wording of Series 3 does not extend but tends to diminish the area of influence of our Church. The thinness of the language of this new form of service tends to chill and not to warm the relationship with a wider congregation. Some 12 or 13 years ago, when I had some responsibility for these matters, I recall that there was a suggestion from the Bishops' Benches that we should change the form of service with which we start the proceedings in this House. At the meeting that we had to discuss the matter I asked the most reverend Primate the then Archbishop of Canterbury, "What is the reason for wanting a change?" I ought not to purport to quote his reply after all these years but I remember very distinctly how I reacted. I said to him: "Why, you will be wanting to change the words in the Lord's Prayer next". I put it that way because I thought there was nothing less likely than a change in 648 the words of the prayer so widely known and loved. It seemed to me quite inconceivable that anyone—certainly not a member of the Church, and absolutely certainly no one who held a high position in the Church—would dream of changing the Lord's Prayer. But such was my innocence; even then, it now seems, there were those who thought they could improve on the words that had been recited over the centuries.
Such insensitivity baffles me. It implies an inability to understand that the sort of wording, the sound of the wording, has become ingrained in our national life and was often more helpful and more influential, indirectly and subtly, than thousands of sermons delivered to dwindling congregations. Many of us here must have warmed by the way those around us at a service on the parade ground or on the seashore or around the war memorial have joined in the recital of the words they knew, of the Lord's Prayer.
The right reverend Prelate said he was prepared to agree that the Synod had "made a mess" of the Lord's Prayer. I was appalled by the expression he used. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said he welcomed the statement. I was appalled by it. "They had made a mess of the Lord's Prayer"! What worries me now is that it is the same line of thought, the same attitude of mind, that made a mess of the Lord's Prayer that wants to substitute the more "with it" wording for the measured language of the 1662 Prayer Book.
I am told—and it has been said again today—that the spoken language has changed since 1662, and of course it has, although I remain unconvinced that the "bed-sit" idiom is superior to, or likely to last as long as, the language of Shakespeare or Cranmer. How often have we heard in everyday situations someone say, "I have left undone the things which I ought to have done". The wording in Series 3 confession is cleared. It has all the clarity of a railway timetable. But it will never be quoted outside the Church, as those 1662 words are occasionally. I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate would tell me if that man in the street to whom he referred would ever quote sentences or expressions out of the Series 3 form of service.
A friend of mine the other day called my attention to a prime example of superfluous wording. There is the line:My love is like a red red rose".One could very easily imagine the authors of Series 3 whipping out the blue pencil and cutting out one of the words in that line. The result would be crisper, more in keeping with modern usage, but the line would never be heard again. It is said apparently that all these matters are very interesting and may be very relevant, but they should not be discussed in Parliament. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor put that point of view rather more strongly than that. I claim no authority on the constitutional conventions involved, but if I am told—
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. I never said they should not be discussed. I said Parliament was not the correct vehicle for imposing a service inside the Church of England in the form proposed in this Bill.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord 649 expresses in his own legal language what I was trying to express in my language. I claim no authority on the constitutional conventions involved, but if I am told that the Enabling Act of 1919 opened the way to democratic processes within the Church, which should now be used, then I claim some experience of the workings of democracy. As the right reverend Prelate himself said, any given democratic process can be open to criticism, as the Members on the Liberal Benches so often tell us about our British voting system. The elections to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party are claimed to be democratic, but there is much dissent nowadays about the decisions of that committee being acceptable by the broad church of the party. Experience indicates that those who emerge to the decision-making summit can sometimes be out of touch with the broader basis of the organisation which they represent.
There seems to be some irritation, if not indignation, that Parliament should concern itself with these doctrinal questions. I understand that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London spoke of grave discourtesy, of the breach of faith if we pursued these matters. I would humbly suggest that the time for the officers of the Church of England really to get worried is when Parliament shrugs its shoulders and says, "Let the Church get on with it". The fact that there should be shown this interest in the forms of worship should be, I suggest, a matter of rejoicing. The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, should be thanked by all of us for maintaining and arousing this interest. I was glad to hear that the Bishop of Durham, as distinct from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, said he welcomed the discussion which it had aroused. I think it will do good. I hope the noble Lord will press his Bill.
§ 11.30 p.m.
My Lords, I shall be very brief because my views, such as they are, have been expressed much better than I could express them in the second leading article in The Times today, which I think should be widely read, particularly on the Bishops' Bench. I wish to make only two short additions. First, I understand on quite good authority that at the theological colleges today the students are indoctrinated with the idea of always choosing the alternative versions, and when the ordinands come out they are all set to use them. I do not know why there should be some sort of antipathy to the traditional. It is a curious idea that the traditional language in the Prayer Book is all right for the élite, but not for the masses because of its archaic language and therefore they should use the alternative versions which are being introduced. If that is true, and the archaic language of the Prayer Book is putting off the masses, then it would seem to follow that Shakespeare's plays, such as Hamlet, would have a much bigger box office draw if they, too, were put into modern language. I do not believe that that would be the effect.
My second point has not been made so far. Some years ago I attended a large church in New York, and the service was the American Episcopalian form of service. I was moved by it—it was very much what I was accustomed to in this country. It was rather wonderful. I understand that the Americans are also 650 producing a popular form of service but, of course, it would be quite different from the British form. I do not know whether it will be followed in Australia and other English-speaking countries, but if so I think that it will produce divisiveness instead of unity and that will be a great pity.
I do not propose to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill, partly because I always try to do what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor tells me to do, and partly because I think that if we are to have a Synod then it should decide on the form of services. Having said that, I hope that some notice will be taken of the very real feelings that exist—not only in this House, but in the country at large—about the danger that the Prayer Book of 1662 will disappear. I hope that notice will be taken of those feelings. If those concerned do not take notice of them and continue popularising services—some people might say "vulgarising" services—then what will happen is that there will be a slow and steady drift away to the orthodox Church. I am not at all sure that if things went that way I might not follow it myself. I hope that as a result of this debate—which has brought out some very interesting and important views—that will not happen.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, I should like to say how grateful I am personally to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for introducing this debate. I think that we are all very much in his debt. I am a lover of the 1662 Prayer Book, but I think that the problem we face is very well illustrated by the prayers that we have every day here in this House. I love the prayers here. I never miss them if I can possibly help it. I love their beautiful language and I love the biblical thoughts that they express. I always feel strengthened by them.
But should not we also direct some of our prayers to the special needs of our time? For example, should we not be praying for Ireland? Should we not be praying for the families of those where tragedies occur almost daily? Should we not be praying about the problems of poverty, both here and in the third world? Should we not be praying for those who are imprisoned? Should we not be praying for those who are sick? Perhaps it might be nice if we were to mention the names of any Members of this House who are known to be seriously ill.
However, surely the remedy is not in legislation but in the first case which I mentioned. If there are any other noble Lords who share my views, we ought to go along and perhaps see the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. As regards the beloved 1662 Prayer Book, we ought perhaps to speak up rather more vigorously in our PCCs, rather than attempting to legislate here.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Salisbury
My Lords, first, I should like to begin by offering my most sincere and hearty congratulations to the two maiden speakers who have addressed us for the first time tonight. We all very much enjoyed what they had to say; the robust common sense of the noble Duke and the historical information that was afforded us by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of 651 Glanton, have both been invaluable contributions to our considerations this evening.
Much has been said this evening, and I do not want to cover the same ground again if I can help it and will try to avoid doing so. Basically, I have two concerns. One is on the constitutional issues which have been so ably covered by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I am bound to say that I am still not entirely happy at his diagnosis of the situation. Surely the question of the relationship between Parliament and the Church of England is in the nature of a compromise, and almost a balancing act. The Church side has been given more and more authority. Each time this happens surely the parliamentary authority is thereby weakened. Surely, by omission on the part of Parliament in playing its correct part, this would amount gradually to opting out of what I would regard as its obligations in relation to the Church of England.
The noble and learned Lord also said that what happens in the theological colleges is really no concern of this Bill. I should like to suggest that in one respect that is not so. It is the question of intent within the Church; for if no training is given on the 1662 service, surely it means that its influence and the impact that it has made over the centuries will be gradually eroded. This—for those who have great affection for it and on which I hope to say more later—is a very serious matter indeed. I hope that one of the two right reverend Prelates who are to speak later will be able to say something about this problem.
The second problem was the one raised in the debate in 1974 by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, who voiced doubts that the safeguards provided in the 1974 Measure were adequate. For my part, I am bound to say that those doubts still remain. The noble Earl pointed out that there were massive loopholes, and it seems to me that those loopholes have been used—whether intentionally or not, I do not know—over the last seven years.
May I remind your Lordships of the course that that debate took because it has some bearing on the present issue. It was also, as it were, a farewell occasion for the then archbishop. Everyone was anxious to make civil remarks to him to show appreciation of his tenure of office. This was clearly not the moment to have massive criticism of that Bill. Furthermore, we were asked to work to a timetable because the most reverend Primate had to go off to a service. This severely limited our discussion on that occasion. I hope that this will be taken into account when reference is made to the discussion on that occasion.
Those doubts still remain in my mind. Nothing that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said did anything to alter that feeling. He also mentioned—and this again is a matter of concern—that it was wrong to think that a hectoring incumbent could direct his flock into doing what he wanted. I believe this to be very true, but there are very few incumbents who would adopt that attitude. Surely what happens is that he is treated with the proper respect of one having greater knowledge than most of his congregation, and he is listened to with great care. If he uses that authority carefully, it is only too easy for him to unduly influence his flock.
652 I should like to quote an example of which I know which confirms this view. My father was in the habit of having morning prayers. It was in his own chapel, and the rector of the time kindly used to come and take them. We used to have the litany service on Friday mornings. One day—I hope I have this correct—my father noticed that the versicle praying for the nobility was omitted. He thought there must be some mistake, so he listened with particular care the following Friday and noticed the same omission. So he took the rector to task for this and said that he thought that he needed praying for just as much as the other sections of the realm. The rector replied, "This is the new form of service, and I am bound to follow it". I gather something of an impasse occurred after that.
I should have thought that my father was in a particularly strong position, but even under those circumstances he was unable to influence the rector concerned. I should have thought it was all the more difficult in the case of a parochial church council, who would not be speaking as one voice, to influence the incumbent if he had determined views. Much has been said about the beauty of the language of the Prayer Book. I entirely concur with that.
One additional point I should like to mention arises in part from a remark made by the Bishop of Salisbury at a meeting I recently attended. I hope I am quoting him in substance correctly. He said that he had been much impressed by congregations who cared for the maintenance of their church and the impact which that had on their religious feelings and their determination to support the Church as a whole. He had come to the conclusion that that should be noted very carefully. I believe that was not just because they wished to support their Church. In most cases, particularly in the country, it was a building that had been built by their ancestors to the glory of God and it was a symbol of their belief and, as it were, a symbol of security.
The same applies to the Book of Common Prayer. It gives the same sense of security. Its beauty is entrenched in their minds, and although I know some people feel this is not important, I think the vast majority think the beauty of the service matters and helps them in their devotions. Much has been said about the beauty of the language, but little has been said about the feelings of the man who wrote it. I would not pretend to know what they were in great detail, but I was looking through the diary of my ancestor the other day and saw that he noted, under the year 1555, first that:"Dominus Ridley quondam Episcopus London et Dominus Latymer cremati sunt"and a little later:…Thomas Cranmer quondam Episcopus Cantuar combustus".I do not quite know the difference between "cremati" and "combustus", but the end result seems much the same.
The point is that in both those cases those reverend gentlemen felt so strongly about their beliefs that they were prepared to go to the stake for them, and I should have thought that they centred on the beautiful Book of Common Prayer that Archbishop Cranmer produced and left for us. I wonder whether the present Bench of Bishops would be prepared to go to the stake for their new Book? Would they think it was worth it? Perhaps they would be right if they did not think so. 653 At any rate, I conclude with a quotation from what Bishop Latymer said at the stake to Bishop Ridley:Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall light such a candle this day by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out".This, it seems to me, is the candle that their successors on the Episcopal Bench today are hellbent on extinguishing, and if for no other reason I believe the Bill should receive our support in this House tonight.
§ 11.48 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford
My Lords, at this hour I will be brief and simple. I believe it would be extremely unfortunate and misleading if the debate on the Bill were to appear as a prolonged tug-of-war between friends of the Book of Common Prayer (all laymen) and adversaries of the Prayer Book (all bishops) with the clergy hovering uncomfortably somewhere behind. To start with, it strikes me as an inherent improbability that the members of the Church should be neatly divided in that way, and an improbability also that pastors should be so lacking in pastoral sense, or indeed even in common sense, as to be as impervious as some noble Lords have suggested. Indeed, if the contents of my postbag at all resemble those of the editor of the Daily Telegraph, I should have to be very impervious indeed not to take notice of them, but I must say that they are quite different.
If I may speak for myself, I am one of those who came from another Church tradition and became an Anglican largely out of love for the Prayer Book, and a Church of England in which the Prayer Book had been forgotten would be one which I would hardly recognise in its impoverishment. For the record, I may say that after the petition had been presented to the Synod I soon sought to engage in conversation those Oxford members who had been among the signatories, and when I celebrate Holy Communion in my diocesan synod I am careful to alternate between the Book of Common Prayer and one of the modern liturgies.
At the same time I am perfectly convinced that to hold that God may be worshipped only in the language of the 16th and 17th centuries, and never in the vernacular of the age in which we live, tells us more about some of his worshippers than it does about God himself. The contention of some Prayer Book enthusiasts that all modern language services are of such unbearable banality that no thinking person can worship in them is simply refuted week by week by large congregations in a great many different parishes that I visit; and of course I make due allowance for the factor of special attendance when the bishop is coming.
The conclusion that I draw is that the Church will be wise to maintain (as was written into the Worship and Doctrine Measure) a coexistence of the old and the new, as indeed we have scriptural warrant for thinking to be wise. One may prize antique furniture to the disadvantage of what is modern, but one would think it as unreasonable for a householder to assert that no modern furniture can ever be seemly and serviceable, as for him to throw out of the house every stick that does not belong to the 20th century.
Now I do not think that it would be honest or helpful in this debate to deny that in the first flush of liturgical revision the use of the Prayer Book has suffered unduly in some parishes and theological colleges. But 654 there is to be recognised here a genuine problem, which I feel sure your Lordships will have the fairness to recognise. With new forms of service a congregation needs a certain amount of time in order to learn its part, as once it knew its part, at any rate in some churches, with the book of Common Prayer.
There is a further problem of how to instruct younger clergy, ordinands, and younger lay members of the Church in the new forms and at the same time to retain the Prayer Book for them, not just as a museum piece, but as a living vehicle of worship. This is a task to which bishops, incumbents, college principals and others have to continue to address themselves, and will have to do so for some time. But now that we have both the provisions of the Worship and Doctrine Measure and the publication of the Alternative Service Book, I do not think that we should despair so early of being able to find a decent equilibrium.
When the Prayer Book is presented to worshippers of all ages, its greatness will ensure that it finds younger people as well as older ones to love it, not necessarily in a fundamentalist or uncritical spirit, but with a discernment of the kind of riches that are seldom to be found in a modern liturgy. Pace today's Times leader, these riches of the Prayer Book are not timeless—no liturgy can be that—but the character of their age provides a complement to our own which greatly enlarges the possibilities of worship.
My own belief is that we do not require more legislation in this realm, whether by the General Synod or by Parliament. The attempt to regulate a people's religion by legislation is not unknown in our history, but so far as I can observe, it has never converted the British people. The most that we should require is a framework, and this is already adequately provided by the Worship and Doctrine Measure. Within that framework Christians need to be encouraged to look not only on their own things—that is, to judge causes by personal preference—but also on the things of others. That is a task that is proper to a Church—not because it is a clerically-dominated body, without any sense of responsibility to the nation as a whole, but because a Church is a free association of people who are called to live and worship in charity with one another. And that is true of a Church, whatever its constitutional position may happen to be.
While therefore I understand the motive of the noble Lord's Bill and do not at all wish to shrug off some of the evidence that has been offered in support of it this evening, I cannot really think that it would conduce to the end which many of us want to see in the Church, and I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, I rise in sympathetic support of my noble friend Lord Sudeley, and also to say how grateful we are for the two fine maiden speeches we have had on this subject. First of all, I should like to say that I appreciate the work and intention of those who have been responsible for giving us the the Alternative Service Book. The concern of those of us who feel that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still relevant for our present time comes from many deeply-felt convictions. These convictions are held in sincerity, as much as are the convictions of those who 655 are deeply convinced about the new forms of worship.
We are certain that the language of the 1662 Prayer Book is relevant for modern life and faith. We believe that this Prayer Book is not something just to be used purely as an academic study or as an archaic experience, but as a form of worship to be experienced and used in a practical way. Religion is not only a matter of theoretical practice, but a deeply emotional act of feeling of heart, mind, soul and body. This has its outward actions and ways of expression of that which is within us. The way religious experience is expressed varies with people, and it is not right that any one view should imply that others are practising worship with inadequate appreciation or understanding. The way of sensing beauty in religious actions and words, and being uplifted to the purity of God, will vary. Language will speak in different ways. This necessity to respect each other's need of language is the fact which has emerged so clearly in recent years, and this need of beautiful and yet familiar language is satisfied for many by the 1662 Prayer Book and, to a large extent, by the Revised Prayer Book of 1928. The need for some revision may be granted, but not the great alterations of the new services. Are we becoming too casual in addressing God? We may be doing a disservice to faith and belief through the great changes in language.
We accept the fact that some people are helped by the new services, but we ask that those defending the new outlook will, in their sensitivity, acknowledge that for many of all ages the style of the 1662 Prayer Book is satisfactory. One has learned that the young do not necessarily like the new services. For instance, within a group of 20 school confirmation candidates recently only one liked the new Holy Communion service. Some young people are just as bewildered by attempts to modernise the English as those of us who are older, especially if they feel that the English is poor. We must listen to their point of view, for many yearn for a sense of dignity and beauty in worship which they feel is not always present in the new services. We do not all feel that we want to give the kiss of peace, but that does not mean that we are not feeling loving and kind.
Have we found excellence in worship in our new services? For surely we wish for excellence in worship, both in words and in music. Is it not condescending to suppose that those who are not able to take to the new ways are missing the point of true worship? God created man with the ability to develop his gifts. This applies to the offering of worship in the best way of which we are capable. The Prayer Book of 1662 is the way for some, for whom it undeniably represents the highest expression of man's thoughts and aspirations.
My Lords, I am in sympathy with and in support of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Sudeley for the protection of the Book of Common Prayer, because this book should be in prominence alongside the new services found in the Alternative Service Book rather than in use as a second best. The souls of many need this book as an equal partner to the new services.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should like to congratu- 656 late the two maiden speakers for their splendid contributions. I hope that we shall hear them more often on other subjects. Also, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Sudeley for presenting this Bill to Parliament and raising this problem again. One point I have noticed which is somewhat unusual is that we have had more Members of another place listening to our debate on this subject than I can remember for many a long day.
I think it is a very difficult problem. I feel strongly that we are going astray. It is very difficult for people in the churches—certainly in the parish in which I have attempted to worship during the past few years—to have to deal with constant changes and constant new ways of putting things, changes of translation which do not mean very much to any but the most clever scholars and nothing to the ordinary person. Changes in well-known prayers do not seem to be necessary and are a positive hindrance to people who have got used to old ways. It does not seem to me that it is of any benefit to the youth, either. I think that the youth I have known and met and tried to know in all walks of life have not been impressed by this or that different change. What I think they would look for is a measure of stability.
What I think is new—and I am not particularly talking about the Alternative Service Prayer Book itself; for I will come to that in a minute—is that this great mood for constant change to try to improve is also working against stability. I should have thought that stability was one of the great strengths of the Church of England through the ages and one it should hold on to rather than try to lose.
As for the Prayer Book itself, like the curate's egg it is good in parts; and the parts that it is good in are those that are used the least. I find a certain pride—although pride is not an appropriate emotion in church—in being able to find my way through it now and am better able to relate it to Series 3 or Series 2. It will take a long time, I think, before we get to a ready way of using this particular new Prayer Book when it is used. These are early days; we have only just got the Prayer Book. As far as I know I am the only person in my parish, apart from the rector, who has a copy. One of the churchwardens is anxiously waiting for her husband to give her one.
But I have a fear that whatever may be said by the Synod about having to use the Book of Common Prayer, whatever might be said if this Bill gets a Second Reading and is enacted, it would not really make all that amount of difference. I have an awful fear that this new, rather large book, with all its variations, may find itself being the most useful easy one when everybody has a copy of it and when all the churches have copies, which will be some time yet.
People will not want to have two Prayer Books; they will eventually want to settle for one. It is quite clear that all sorts of steps have been taken—for the very best reasons, I have no doubt—to find something which is supplementary in the first place to the Book of Common Prayer; and I have fears that this new book, being a more composite one, will displace it and displace it totally. This will not happen in cathedrals where everything is well regulated and disciplined. This will not happen when the bishop comes to visit. If it is well known that he likes the Book of Common 657 Prayer, it will be "trotted out" for the occasion.
However, in the ordinary run of things, I think this will probably be yet one more move to displace it. So from that point of view, I like the thought behind this Bill. But I am not sure that I like the text. We debated this subject earlier on and it was difficult then and it is difficult now to find for a Bill a text which really makes sense and which, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, cannot be discredited in detail as to an Act of Parliament. So I am not sure about that, but I like the thought and, to that extent, I would certainly go with my noble friend, if he wished so to do, into the Lobby to support this Bill on Second Reading.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I am one of those who supported the petition organised by my old friend and colleague Professor Martin. I should like to say to the right reverend Prelate that I am quite certain that so honest a man and so good a scholar as David Martin would not deliberately distort or misinterpret his evidence. My reason for supporting the petition was my deep belief that religion shorn of its poetry is religion seriously diminished. For that reason, I believed it right to support a movement which was asking that the Common Prayer Book should continue to be used; not that no other service book should be introduced but the Common Prayer Book should remain in familiar use for the present generation and the generations to come.
Having said that, it should be said—and it has not I think been said sufficiently in this debate—that there are in the Alternative Book prayers of very great beauty and sentences of very great inspiration. It should not be seen as a choice between a Book of Common Prayer of superb beauty and an alternative book of great commonplace.
But although I am and remain a supporter of Professor Martin's approach, I cannot in any circumstances support this Bill, for two reasons. In the first place, it seems quite extraordinary to suggest that 20 parishioners out of what may be a very large parish should be able to dictate the form of service on one Sunday in four which is, after all, a thirteenth—is it not?—of all the services held in that parish church. This is a totally disproportionate influence to give to so small a group of parishioners.
My second reason—and this is of much greater substance, one which I imagine I share with other Members of the House, though no one else has said it in so many words—is that I am one of those who believe that sooner or later (and, for my part, I hope that it is sooner) the Church in England will establish complete independence from the state. If I believe that, and I do, then it would be totally illogical to say that when the Synod—rightly or wrongly—has made a decision on what must be regarded as a matter for the Church, a matter concerning the form of worship, the state should be asked to intervene and to alter a matter which should, in my view, be under the authority of the Church. I say that, hoping as I do that sooner or later Church affairs will be totally governed by the Church and the state will cease to have any part to play in the governance of the Church.
§ 12.11 a.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it is always a pleasure listening to great intellects talking well on subjects which they totally comprehend, and history dons on the Book of Common Prayer should fill this category. Lord Dacre of Glanton filled it with distinction. My old and noble friend Lord Portland was, as someone said, trenchant—and trenchant and accurate he was.
We must thank the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for introducing this Bill. We must also congratulate Viscount Cranbourne, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury's son, for his success in another place with an identical Bill which the House of Commons has given a First Reading. My Lords, I suggest it is unthinkable for your Lordships' House to reject on Second Reading a Bill which the House of Commons, within the past few hours, has been given leave to introduce.
§ Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, three main aspects of the Church of England are raised in this debate. In my view, they are: is the Church's new literature a worthy successor to Cranmer and Coverdale? Is Parliament the right place to discuss this change, and does it have any power to alter the decision made in 1974? Thirdly, has the Church of England fulfilled its undertaking, given in 1974? I am not a literary critic and I hold no degree; I make no claim to being an intellectual—but I am convinced that the English of the Alternative Service Book is, as one critic has put it, the English of a Treasury civil servant.
In his good and thought-provoking speech, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said that the Synod had made a hash of the Lord's Prayer. What a confession to make! The Lord's Prayer is central to the whole worship of the Church of England, and the Synod admits to making a hash of it. The right reverend Prelate went on to say, "When we have further revision …". From further revision may the Lord deliver us!
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, lost his place when searching for the Venite. I have chosen at random three sections for comparison and I chose the Venite first of all. In 1662, as most of your Lordships will know, the Venite started:O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation".Familiar, beautiful and, as the Lord Chancellor said, cadent. It has been changed to:O come let us sing unto the Lord. Let us shout in triumph to the rock of our salvation".I suggest that is less cadent, no more clear and is two words longer; in other words, it is quasi-poetical and arch.
Again, the Te Deum reads:We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord".Again, balanced, clear, poetical and with tons of style. The Alternative Service Book offers:You are God. We praise you. You are the Lord. We acclaim you".More words, less poetry, less style and, I suggest, a change for change's sake. Surely God knows that 659 He is God and we do not have to tell Him so? The New Creed says:I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth".Cranmer said "maker". Again, why change when there is no qualitative improvement and it is just change for change's sake?
The Second Collect in Evensong for 1662 starts:O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed…".Wonderful stuff! It is beautiful! In the Alternative Service Book it says:O God the source of all God's desires, all right judgments, all just works".This time there is one word less, but I suggest that "good desires" can be sinful, whereas "holy desires" cannot. A "good desire" could be that you wanted a very good dinner and possibly to eat too much of it.
Incidentally, the Book of Common Prayer makes it mandatory to pray for the Sovereign: the alternative Communion Rite A, Series 3, says only that the President may pray for the Sovereign. These contrasts really were taken at random, and if I were to continue we should be here all through the night. All the quotations I have used from 1662 are just as understandable, if not more so, on a London housing estate as the Alternative Service Book.
The second point is on the correctness of this Bill. In column 868 of the debate on the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure on 14th November 1974, the then Archbishop of Canterbury said (col. 868):It is not a measure for the disestablishment of the Church, nor a step towards separating the Church of England from the Crown".Therefore, as the Crown in Parliament is supreme in Great Britain, the archbishop was acknowledging the residual right of Parliament to discuss the worship and liturgy of the Church of England and to enact it if it so wishes. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor also admitted this. He said it was not a measure abolishing the Book of Common Prayer. He went on to say:It gives to the Book of Common Prayer a secure place which could be altered only by action of Parliament itself".That surely implies that the most reverend Primate was then acknowledging the right of Parliament in the long run to alter and enact Bills for the Church of England.
The third of my points has been dealt with by the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland. I have known him for a long time. I believe that his father in fact became engaged to his mother at the urging of my great grandmother, who broke her parasol across his father's hack to make sure he "popped the question" on time. We think it is dubious whether the undertakings given in the 1974 debate have been fulfilled. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London then said (col. 941):I think I can speak on behalf of those who sit on these Benches when I say we should do our best to see in our dioceses that where there are people who love and want to use the 1662 Prayer Book every effort will be made to provide for them".My Lords, has it? It has been shown by several speakers that in seminaries and theological colleges— 660 the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford agreed—the Book of Common Prayer has not been used properly. If we thought those undertakings had been carried out I do not think there would have been a need for this debate today. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, and I shall support him in the Division Lobby.
§ 12.18 a.m.
§ Lord Gainford
My Lords, it is now my turn to add my congratulations to my noble friends the Duke of Portland and Lord Dacre. I find little more to add to the praise that has been given to them, except to say that they have received so much encouragement, and will obviously receive even more, that they are both certain to come back and speak often in your Lordships' House.
It gives me great pleasure to support this Bill which my noble friend has introduced. It has already been given some prominence in the press, and the arguments put forward by noble Lords and right reverend Prelates have provided a valuable airing of views. In fact I have altered quite a lot of my notes to ensure that I am not too repetitive.
I have one suggestion to make to my noble friend as a possible amendment should this Bill manage to reach further stages. Clause 1(2) contains the words:…if there is more than one morning service, at the principal morning service at the parish church.Nowadays the principal morning service is a celebration of Holy Communion. It is often referred to on the notice board in such terms as "Parish Communion" or "Family Communion". Invariably it is a service of about one hour's length with music. Personally, I should be very happy to attend a full sung Communion, according to the Book of Common Prayer. I should like to have the Matins sung again with the Te Deum, with the lovely chants. But will the Te Deum be in the right place? However, a once a month switch, from whatever liturgy a parish church uses regularly, may raise problems for the choir and those in charge of the music. A Holy Communion celebration in the early morning at about 8 a.m. could be arranged without difficulty, and perhaps my noble friend could arrange an amendment on those lines at a later stage. I shall probably be talking to him about it later on.
As an example, I quote what has been happening at my own parish church, St. John's, Notting Hill, for the last year or so. As a result of a good majority of the PCC favouring it, the rector arranged that the 8 a.m. celebration of the Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month would be according to the Book of Common Prayer. At times, the variation known as Series 1 was used, but that provided us with the Collect, Epistle and Gospel, according to the Book of Common Prayer, and much of the Prayer Book liturgy that was familiar. The scheme has been a great success and has proved popular.
At present, this church is in the throes of an interregnum, because the rector has been promoted, most deservedly, to be Dean of Peterborough. But this very last Sunday, 5th April, the clergyman who celebrated at 8 a.m. gave us the full 1662 treatment. We had the Ten Commandments and the prayers for the 661 Royal Family. It was beautiful and the congregation, which at 8 a.m. on the first Sunday of each month is somewhat larger than on most other Sundays at that time, showed considerable appreciation.
I have merely quoted an example from personal experience, but I have good reason to know—and I certainly know from what I have heard this evening—that the Book of Common Prayer continues to be loved and its use is desired. It would be more than tragic if its use by the Church of England failed. If the 1928 version is preferred, then let it be used. It is a valuable alternative. But the 1662 Prayer Book, even if the language may seem strange, is a foundation to be preserved. We have already seen such changes in the Church of England liturgy in recent years, that for many people over the age of 40, some aspects are hardly recognisable. We have seen the coming of Series 1, 2 and 3, with new translations or interpretations of the Bible.
I looked at one today to make sure that I had not misheard it. There was the lovely parable of the prodigal son and the phrase, "He began to be in want" had been changed to "He began to feel the pinch". That made me wince. There is a feeling that all is change. Some feel that it is all geared to the young.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said that the young are being attracted by Cranmer's Prayer Book. I certainly hope that that is true. However, if they are being attracted to church by the other liturgies, then that is not to be despised, because the people who are young now will be the core of worshippers for future decades. But there is a danger of alienating those who were reared in the traditions of the 1662 Prayer Book, with the exquisite use of the language and the opportunities for quiet moments in the services, when the worshipper can indulge for a moment or two in a short, private prayer. Modern liturgy seems to me—and I hope that I shall be corrected if I am wrong—to provide almost restless activity. Must those who have been faithful worshippers in the past suffer by losing the liturgy that they know and love?
There is also the danger of losing the traditional names that we know. Take, for example, the Sunday that we know as Septuagesima. The alternative prayer book calls that the ninth Sunday before Easter. In the commentary to the alternative services it is explained that Septuagesima is not mathematically correct. That is perfectly true. But is it just a case of an estimate being slightly miscalculated, that Easter is nearly 70 days away? No. I say that the very word "Septuagesima" tells us that the cheerful and celebratory Christmas cycle is now finished and that the long and exciting Easter cycle is starting. But it also gives a warning that Lent is approaching and that we must make our preparations for it.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has made great praise of Cranmer. I know that it is difficult to find somebody or some persons of such similar genius, but if we can—and I do not think that it is absolutely impossible—it could be of inestimable value for centuries to come. Until we do find such people, let us keep and cherish that work which Cranmer began in the sixteenth century and which was perfected in the seventeenth. My noble friend the Duke of Portland in his maiden speech mentioned Shakespeare. I say that the prayer book equally is 662 part of our national heritage, as much as Magna Carta.
§ 12.27 a.m.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, together with other noble Lords I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Dacre of Glanton and the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, on important and helpful maiden speeches. I am sure they will speak frequently in your Lordships' House, and equally to our profit. I was convinced—that is to say, I agreed strongly with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. I was unconvinced and I disagreed profoundly with the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I happen to believe that the Church of England has been, and remains, the church of the people of England. It is not a sect. It happens to be the national Church. I would resist strongly any attempt to disestablish that Church. I believe history shows that from time to time God turns his face against his people, but history also shows that from time to time God turns his face back towards his people. I do not despair that the church once again might turn itself into the Church of all the people of England.
When I hear these liturgical discussions which have been going on now for practically the whole of my adult lifetime I cannot help feeling that those who engage in liturgical discussions are very similar to those who engaged in the discussions which must have taken place on the bridge of the "Titanic" as it sailed towards the iceberg. We have been told time and time again that if we adopted Series 1 or Series 2 or Series 3, the churches would once more be packed with young people. The simple answer is that they are not. All this liturgical experiment and liturgical reform has not for one moment turned the tide of atheism and agnosticism in favour of the Church of England.
What we have seen is that the state would not allow the Church of England to pull down some of its principal glories; namely, the cathedrals and parish churches of which it is privileged to be the guardian. But the state also said that the Church of England would not be allowed to tear up the Book of Common Prayer, of which it is also the guardian. The Book of Common Prayer is not something which is supposed to repose upon a shelf in a muniment room. As was said by one noble Lord, the Book of Common Prayer's value lies in its use. That was quite clearly expressed in the Concordat between church and state in 1974.
It is perfectly clear that that Concordat has in fact been torn up. I was the only layman present at a conference of clergy where a celebration of Holy Communion in the 1662 rite was conducted, because it happened to be in a Royal Chapel. We came back and the clergy jeered and sneered. I do not mean that they just condemned it; they fell about with most unholy laughter at what they said was this incredible old-fashioned rubbish that they had had to listen to. I speak literally of the way they were behaving.
The point is that the adoption of all this Civil Service English has not convinced the people on the housing estates that they should come back to church. The people on the housing estates are still staying away from church with all this new liturgy. There is no reason to suppose that the old liturgy would drive even more people away from the Church. The old liturgy itself has 663 been the faith and the language of a large proportion of the English people, and particularly of that large proportion of English people who do not very often go to church. But God is not only interested in those who go to church regularly, or the clergy; God is interested in those who do not go to church; who perhaps only go to church for baptism and for marriage and for burial. But that is what the Church in this country historically has been about and I should have thought that the time has come when we should say, and say openly, to the bishops that what they have been doing in the last 20 or 30 years in the name of the Church has done a great deal of damage to the cause of Christianity in this country and for that reason, with all its imperfections, I shall support the noble Lord in the Lobby tonight.
§ 12.32 a.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I do not expect that I am the only Member of this House speaking in this debate tonight who has a feeling that this is where he came in. But the one all-important difference for those of us who took part in a similar debate three years ago is, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has reminded us, the publication of the long-awaited Alternative Service book five months ago, and the opportunity which has given many parishes up and down the land to consider afresh the pattern of their worship in 1981. This is the really significant thing that is happening, as many clergy and laity would testify, without anguish or distress.
I, for one, am much encouraged by the care and the imagination with which many local congregations are undertaking the review of the pattern of their Sunday worship. The growing point in the worshipping life of the Church today in every sort of parish is what is called the family service, which in many places has the largest attendance of the week. Few of them have ever been based on the Book of Common Prayer, but quite a number are now being based on the Alternative Service book and I believe that slowly and gradually we are recovering that most precious thing in the life of England and of the Church of England—common prayer.
As a diocesan bishop who has had the oversight of 200 parishes for over 20 years, I can assure your Lordships that the recovery of common prayer, involving in many places a mixed diet of authorised services, old and new, is one of the reasons why the mood of the Church of England has been described recently as "strangely confident".
I wish the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and other noble Lords who have spoken could have been with me in a church, which I consecrated in 1966, on a housing estate on a recent evening when I baptised 10 adults and confirmed 75 others in a congregation where over 300 took their Communion and every member of the congregation had a copy of the Alternative Service book in his hands—no pamphlets for them.
Perhaps even at this late hour one workaday bishop, albeit the one who was once chaplain to the fifth Marquess of Salisbury, can be allowed to testify to your Lordships that the growing partnership of bishops, clergy and laity which we call synodical government has accomplished more in the realm of liturgical renewal, the revitalising of the ordered 664 worship of our parishes, than it has in almost any other sphere. Consistently and regularly over a 15-year period the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, after extensive consultation with the parishes, have voted by the requisite two-thirds majority in each house for the alternative services, and for them to co-exist with the services of the Book of Common Prayer.
In the 1978 debate I told your Lordships that in 251 places of worship in my diocese the 1662 Communion Service was used in 177 churches, while what we then knew as the Series 2 and 3 services were in use in 243 churches. I have no reason to think that those figures are very different today. But, in their visitations this May my three archdeacons are making a point of asking questions about it in every parish. It is too soon—it is only five months since it was published—to assess the use of the Alternative Services Book, but I hope to do that myself in a year or two. But in such ways I believe my colleagues and I are being true to the undertaking we gave in 1974.
I am quite sure the promoters of this Bill are concerned for the good of the Church of England and for the promotion of sincere and true worship in our parish churches. I cannot believe that their Bill will do other than cause division locally and disruption nationally. If 20 members of the Social Democratic Party in your Lordships' House were allowed to write to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and request that on one Wednesday afternoon a month their Lordships should depart from the programme arranged through the usual and proper channels to discuss what a small minority dictated, I am sure your Lordships would laugh it out of court.
This House works well and for the most part happily because it is based on a partnership of those who, despite their differences, work together for the good of the whole House. The partnership of bishops, clergy and laity in Synod, and of incumbent and lay people in a parish, are of equal importance for the good ordering of the life of our Church and of the worship of Almighty God. I hope your Lordships will do nothing to put that partnership in peril.
§ 12.39 a.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I take advantage of the beneficent custom of this House by which Members are allowed to jump in in the gap before the answer to the debate. First, let me tell the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester that that is exactly what we, the Social Democrat Members of this House, shall do, and I do not believe we shall be laughed out of court. But at the moment I do not speak for my Social Democrat colleagues, but, as all other noble Lords from the lay benches have spoken, for themselves alone.
Once upon a time in our schools English was taught and religion was taught, and they both had their roots in Cranmer. Now communications skills and comparative religious studies are taught, and they both have their roots in Cranmer. If you change the teaching in the schools, but if life and the reality of our language continue to be rooted in the same place, no very great harm is done. But if you change the teaching in our schools and you change also the roots of life and teaching in language and religion in the Church, it may be that more harm is done than anybody could conceive.
665 I think that this Bill is absurd. It is absurd for the reasons given by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. It is administratively absurd: 20 is a meaningless number. It is legislatively absurd to "plonk" down meaningless numbers affecting congregations which may range between 25 and 2,500. That is all wrong.
I do not expect this Bill in anything like its present form to come through into the law of the land. But this Bill represents a type of protest, a type of groundswell, a type of movement of feeling that things are going wrong and that the heart of our language and our culture, to say nothing of our faith, because we differ in that, is being attacked. Look at the Bar of the House. How often do we see the Bar of the House populated as it now is at twenty to one in the morning? In the House of Commons this evening an identical Bill was passed by 150 votes to 130 and I understand that 100 of the 130 in the minority were members of the Government. This does not happen every day.
Let me put one other point which is perhaps a personal one, although not so personal. All of us in this House and in the House of Commons live by speaking. Many of us live also by writing. I am a writer by trade. I know that every time I turn a good sentence, whether in print or speaking—and I suspect the same is true of most other writers and speakers—I get it by an echo either from the Authorised Version, or from Cranmer, or from Shakespeare, or occasionally from Alexander Pope, and sometimes from naval slang. If one takes away any one of these, then those who are using, continuing and making the English language are deprived of part of the rock out of which they hew the continuation of that language. All of the marble sculptures of the Italian Renaissance, from Michelangelo onwards and long before, were taken from certain mountain tops around Carrara.
I think that writers, speakers, actors, philosophers and anybody who uses language may feel that, if the authorised version and Cranmer go out of the common stock, it will be as if the top of the Carrara Mountains had been blown up with some kind of a social A-bomb. For that reason, ill-framed as I think this Bill is, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, will pursue his Bill and put it to the vote, and I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and pursue the matter in Committee.
§ 12.44 a.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, the list of speakers says the "Lord Chancellor (by leave)". I promise that if that leave be given I shall not abuse that leave. I should like to congratulate the two maiden speeches. The noble Duke—if I may begin with him—has been, if he will allow me to say so, a friend of mine on and off since 1940 when for a brief moment we worked together. I have long admired, both as a friend and as an observer, the varied intellect and immense intellectual versatility of the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, to whom I owe one apology. I had momentarily forgotten that he had migrated from my old university, where he was something more of a flying buttress than a pillar of the Church, to another place of learning where he has become the keystone of the corner inside the building. 666 To that extent I owe him an apology. However, on the other hand, I warmly endorse the welcome which has been given to both noble Lords, and I hope that we shall hear them on a number of various occasions again in the future.
I hope that the Bench of Bishops, whom I felt at times to be slightly isolated in this debate, will get one message absolutely plain, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, will get it from me too. No one in this House doubts the passionate attachment of the laity of the Church of England, and nor do I, personally, doubt that of the clergy or the episcopal bench to the Book of Common Prayer and to the genius of Cranmer. I would not have said, as did my noble friend Lord Salisbury, that he died for his own book; he died for the reformed religion, which is a rather wider concept.
None the less, I believe that the clear message from this House has been our passionate attachment, both to the language of the Book of Common Prayer and to its primacy of place inside the worship of the Church of England; although I would venture to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in his last remarks. We have not legislated about the Authorised Version for a long time, and we have not legislated about the various bits of the mountain or, indeed, about Shakespeare. If Shakespeare depended for his future upon legislation, I rather doubt whether he would last very long.
The question to which I have to address my mind—and I shall do so in very few words—is the question of the constitutional propriety, not of the Book of Common Prayer, which is entrenched in the Synodical Measure and which Parliament has seen to be entrenched, but of enacting this Bill about this subject. The Bill is a Bill which says that at the principal morning service in the Church of England a minority of 20 have the right once a month to impose their will upon the majority. This seems to me to take away from the Church of England precisely what Parliament chose to give it in 1974. When I say "seems to me", I would not be speaking at all if I had my own way, but I am speaking on behalf of the Government in order to express the Government's view.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said that I was biased. In a sense I am; I am a Member of the Government and I was ordered by my colleagues to be the person to convey the Government's view to the House. I hope that I did so without offence I certainly did so with complete conviction that I am right. I think that it would be a disaster if this Bill were passed, and I do not yield to anybody in my admiration for the Cranmer book. Having said that, I hope that I have not abused my trust—four minutes is about right.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, the hour is very late and what matters much more than any words from me are votes for the Prayer Book, which is perhaps a bigger issue than any of us in the Chamber. I should like to thank all those who have taken part in this debate, in particular the maiden speakers, the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, and the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton, of whom I am just as much an admirer now as I was at Oxford. Without any more ado, I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 12.50 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Bill shall now be read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 17.
|Adeane, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Airedale, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Monson, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Moyne, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Onslow, E.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Portland, D.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Robbins, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Romney, E.|
|Glenamara, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Greenway, L.||Sudeley, L.—[Teller.]|
|Henderson, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Waldegrave, E.—[Teller.]|
|Avon, E.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.—[Teller.]|
|Chichester, Bp.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Denham, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Durham, Bp.—[Teller.]||Sandys, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Seear, B.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Winstanley, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.