THE WAR AND UNITY
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
C. F. CLAY, MANAGER
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THE WAR AND UNITY
BEING LECTURES DELIVERED AT THE LOCAL LECTURES SUMMER MEETING OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, 1918
EDITED BY THE REV. D. H. S. CRANAGE, LITT.D. KING'S COLLEGE
CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1919
For some time past the Local Examinations and Lectures Syndicate have arranged a Summer Meeting in Cambridge every other year in connexion with the Local Lectures. The scheme of study has always included a number of theological lectures, and at the last two meetings an attempt has been made to deal with some of the religious and moral problems suggested by the War. In 1916 a course of lectures was delivered, and afterwards published by the University Press, on The Elements of Pain and Conflict in Human Life. In 1918 the Syndicate decided to arrange a course on Unity. It was at first suggested that the lectures should be confined to the subject of Christian Reunion, but it was finally arranged to deal not only with Unity between Christian Denominations, but with Unity between Classes, Unity in the Empire, and Unity between Nations.
Many of those who attended expressed a strong wish that the lectures should be published, and the Lecturers and the Syndicate have cordially agreed to their request. The central idea of the course is undeniably vital at the present time, and the book is now issued in the hope that it may be of some help in the period of "reconstruction."
D. H. S. CRANAGE, Secretary of the Cambridge University Local Lectures. November 1918.
UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS
I. A GENERAL VIEW PAGE 1
By the Reverend V. H. Stanton, D.D., Fellow of Trinity College, Regius Professor of Divinity.
II. THE CHURCH IN THE FURNACE 25
By the Reverend Eric Milner-White, M.A., D.S.O., Fellow and Dean of King's College, late Chaplain to the Forces.
III. THE PROBLEM OF THE ENGLISH FREE CHURCHES 51
By the Reverend W. B. Selbie, M.A. (Oxford and Cambridge), Hon. D.D. (Glasgow), Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford.
IV. THE SCOTTISH PROBLEM 72
By the Very Reverend James Cooper, D.D. (Aberdeen), Hon. Litt.D. (Dublin), Hon. D.C.L. (Durham), V.D., Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Glasgow, ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
UNITY BETWEEN CLASSES
I. By the Right Reverend F. T. Woods, D.D., Trinity College, Lord Bishop of Peterborough 89
II. By the Right Honourable J. R. Clynes, M.P., Minister of Food 115
UNITY IN THE EMPIRE
By F. J. Chamberlain, C.B.E., Assistant General Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association 137
UNITY BETWEEN NATIONS
By the Reverend J. H. B. Masterman, M.A., St John's College, Rector of St Mary-le-Bow Church, Canon of Coventry, late Professor of History in the University of Birmingham 151
UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS
I. A GENERAL VIEW
By the Rev. V. H. STANTON, D.D.
The governing idea of this early morning course, which at the present as at former Summer Meetings is devoted to a subject connected with religious belief, is this year the power that Christianity has, or is fitted to have, to unite Christian denominations with one another, and also to unite races and nations, and different portions of that commonwealth of nations which we call the British Empire, and different classes within our own nation. A moment's reflection will shew that the question of unity between denominations of Christians derives special significance from being placed in connexion with all those other cases in regard to which the promotion of unity is to be considered. If it belongs to the genius of Christianity to be a uniting power, it is above all in the sphere of professed and organised Christianity, where Christians are grouped together as Christians, that its influence in producing union should be shewn. If it fails in this here, what hope, it may well be asked, can there be that it should be effective, when its principles and motives cannot be applied with the same directness and force? In the very assumption, then, which underlies this whole course of lectures, that Christianity can unite men, we have a special reason for considering our relations to one another as members of Christian bodies, with regard to this matter of unity.
But we are also all of us aware that the divisions among Christians are often severely commented on by those who refuse to make any definite profession of the Christian Religion, and are given by them sometimes as a ground of their own position of aloofness. It is true that strictures passed on the Christian Religion and its professors for failures in this, as well as in other respects, frequently shew little discernment, and are more or less unjust. So far as they are made to reflect on Christianity itself, allowance is not made for the nature of the human material upon which and with which the Christian Faith and Divine Grace have to work. And when Christians of the present day are treated as if they were to blame for them, sufficient account is not taken of the long and complex history, and the working of motives, partly good as well as bad, through which Christendom has been brought to its present divided condition. Still we cannot afford to disregard the hindrance to the progress of the Christian Faith and Christian Life among men created by the existing divisions among Christians. Harm is caused by them in another way of which we may be, perhaps, less conscious. They bring loss to ourselves individually within the denominations to which we severally belong. We should gain incalculably from the strengthening of our faith through a wider fellowship with those who share it, the greater volume of evidence for the reality of spiritual things which would thus be brought before us; and from the enrichment of our spiritual knowledge and life through closer acquaintance with a variety of types of Christian character and experience; and not least from that moral training which is to be obtained through common action, in proportion to the effort that has to be made in order to understand the point of view of others, and the suppression of mere egoism that is involved.
These are strong reasons for aiming at Christian unity. But further there comes to all of us at this time a powerful incentive to reflection on the subject, and to such endeavours to further it as we can make, in the signs of a movement towards it, the greater prominence which the subject has assumed in the thought of Christians, the evidence of more fervent aspirations after it, the clearer recognition of the injury caused by divisions. I remember that some 40 or more years ago, one of the most eminent and justly esteemed preachers of the day defended the existence of many denominations among Christians on the ground that through their competition a larger amount of work for the advance of the kingdom of God is accomplished. We are not so much in love with competition and its effects in any sphere now. And it should always have been perceived that, whatever its rightful place in the economic sphere might be, it had none in the promotion of purely moral and spiritual ends. The preacher to whom I have alluded did not stand alone in his view, though perhaps it was not often so frankly expressed. But at least acquiescence in the existence of separated bodies of Christians, as a thing inevitable, was commoner than it is now.
In the new attitude to this question of the duty of unity that has appeared amongst us there lies an opportunity which we must beware of neglecting. It is a movement of the Spirit to which it behoves us to respond energetically, or it will subside. Shakespeare had no doubt a different kind of human enterprises mainly in view when he wrote:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
But this observation is broadly true of all human progress. An advance of some kind in the relations of men to one another, or the remedying of some abuse, begins to be urged here and there, and for a time those who urge it are but little listened to. Then almost suddenly (as it seems) the minds of many, one hardly knows why, become occupied with it. If in the generation when that happens desire leads to concentrated effort, the good of which men have been granted the vision in their minds and souls will be attained. Otherwise interest in it will pass away, and the hope of securing it, at least for a long time, will be lost.
Before we attempt to consider any of the problems presented by the actual state of Christendom in connexion with the subject now before us, let us go back in thought to the position of believers in Jesus Christ of the first generation, when His own brief earthly life had ended. They form a fellowship bound together by faith in their common Lord, by the confident hopes with which that faith has inspired them, and the new view of life and its duties which they have acquired. Soon indeed instances occur in which the bonds between different members of the body become strained, owing especially to differences of origin and character in the elements of which it was composed. We have an example at a very early point in the narrative of the book of Acts in the dissatisfaction felt by believers from among Hellenistic Jews, who were visiting, or had again taken up their abode at, Jerusalem, because a fair share of the alms was not assigned to their poor by the Palestinian believers, who had the advantage of being more permanently established in the city, and were probably the majority. But the chiefs among the brethren, the Apostles, take wise measures to remove the grievance and prevent a breach.
A few years later a far more serious difference arises. Jewish believers in Jesus had continued to observe the Mosaic Law. When converts from among the Gentiles began to come in the question presented itself, "Is observance of that Law to be required of them?" Only on condition that it was would many among the Jewish believers associate with them. In their eyes still all men who did not conform to the chief precepts of this Law were unclean. It is possible that there were Jews of liberal tendencies, men who had long lived among Gentiles, to whom this difficulty may have seemed capable of settlement by some compromise. But in the case of most Jews, not merely in Palestine, but probably also in the Jewish settlements scattered through the Graeco-Roman world, religious scruples, ingrained through the instruction they had received and the habits they had formed from child-hood, were deeply offended by the very notion of joining in common meals with Gentiles, unless they had fulfilled the same conditions as full proselytes to Judaism, the so-called "proselytes of righteousness." On behalf, however, of Gentiles who had adopted the Faith of Christ, it was felt that the demand for the fulfilment of this condition of fellowship must be resisted at once and to the uttermost. So St Paul held. To concede it would have caused intolerable interference with Gentile liberty, and hindrance to the progress of the preaching of the Gospel and its acceptance in the world. And further—upon this consideration St Paul insisted above all—the requirement that Gentiles should keep the Jewish Law might be taken to imply, and would certainly encourage, an entirely mistaken view of what was morally and spiritually of chief importance; it would put the emphasis wrongly in regard to that which was essential in order that man might be in a right relation to God and in the way of salvation.
But the point in the history of this early controversy to which I desire in connexion with our present subject to draw attention is the fact that it is not suggested from any side that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians should form two separate bodies that would exist side by side in the many cities where both classes were to be found, keeping to their respective spheres, endeavouring to behave amicably to one another, "agreeing to differ" as the saying is. This would have been the plan, we may (I think) suppose, which would have seemed the best to that worldly wisdom, which is so often seen to be folly when long and broad views of history are taken. And we can imagine that not a few of the ecclesiastical leaders of recent centuries might have proposed it, if they had been there to do so. For never, perhaps, have there been more natural reasons for separation than might have been found in those national and racial differences, and in those incompatibilities due to previous training and associations between Christians of Jewish and Gentile origin. Yet it is assumed all through that they must combine. And St Paul is not only sure himself that to this end Jewish prejudices must be overcome, but he is able to persuade the elder Apostles of this, as also James who presided over the believers at Jerusalem, though they had been slower than he to perceive what vital principles were at stake. Believers of both classes must join in the Christian Agapae, or love-feasts, and must partake of the same Eucharist, because the many are one loaf, one body. They must grasp, and give practical effect to, the principle that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus."
For that society, or organism, into which Jewish and Gentile believers were alike brought, a name was found; it was that of Ecclesia, translated Church. It will be worth our while to spend a few moments on the use of this name and its significance. We find mention in the New Testament of "the Church" and of "Churches." What is the relation between the singular term and the plural historically, and what did the distinction import? The sublime passages concerning the Church as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ occur in the Epp. to the Colossians and Ephesians, which are not among the early Pauline Epistles. Nevertheless in comparatively early Epistles, the authorship of which by St Paul himself is rarely disputed, there are expressions which seem plainly to shew that he thought of the Church as a single body to which all who had been baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ belonged. In the Epp. to the Galatians and 1 Corinthians he refers to the fact that he persecuted the "Church of God," and his persecution was not confined to believers in Jerusalem or even in Judaea, but extended to adjacent regions. He might have spoken of "the Churches of Syria," as he does elsewhere (using the plural) of those of Judaea, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia. But he prefers to speak of the Church, and he describes it as "the Church of God." The impiety of his action thus appeared in its true light. He had not merely attacked certain local associations, but that sacred body—"the Church of God." Again, it is evident that he is thinking of a society embracing believers everywhere when he writes to the Corinthians concerning different forms of ministry, "God placed some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily prophets" and so forth. Again, when he bids the Corinthians, "Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews or to Greeks, or to the Church of God," or asks them whether they "despise the Church of God," although it was their conduct to brethren among whom they lived that was especially in question, it is evident that, as in the case of his own action as a persecutor, the gravity of the fault can in his view only be truly measured when it is realised that each individual Church is a representative of the Church Universal. This representative character of local Churches also appears in the expression common in his Epistles, the "Church in" such and such a place.
The usage of St Paul's Epistles does not, therefore, encourage the idea that the application of the term ecclesia to particular associations preceded its application to the whole body, but the contrary, and plainly it expressed for him from the first a most sublime conception. I may add that there is no reason to suppose that the use of the term originated with him. We find it in the Gospel according to St Matthew, the Epistle of St James and the Apocalypse of St John, writings which shew no trace of his influence.
There is no passage of the New Testament from which it is possible to infer clearly the idea which underlay its application to believers in Jesus Christ. But when it is considered how full of the Old Testament the minds of the first generation of Christians were, it must appear to be in every way most probable that the word ecclesia suggested itself because it is the one most frequently employed in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) to render the Hebrew word k[macron a]h[macron a]l, the chief term used for the assembly of Israel in the presence of God, gathered together in such a manner and for such purposes as forced them to realise their distinctive existence as a people, and their peculiar relation to God. The believers in Jesus now formed the ecclesia of God, the true Israel, which in one sense was a continuation of the old and yet had taken its place. This was the view put forward by Dr Hort in his lectures on the Christian Ecclesia, and it is at the present time widely, I believe I may say generally, held. I may mention that the eminent German Church historians, A. Harnack and Sohm, give it without hesitation as the true one.
Among the Jews the thought of the people in its relation to God was associated with great assemblies in the courts and precincts of the temple at Jerusalem, which altogether overshadowed any expression of their covenant relation to God as a people which they could find in their synagogue-worship, however greatly they valued the bonds with one another which were strengthened, and the spiritual help which they obtained, through their synagogues. But Christians had no single, central meeting-place for their common worship at which their ideal unity was embodied. It was, therefore, all the more natural that the exalted name which described that unity should be transferred to the communities in different places which shared the life, the privileges, and the responsibilities of the whole, and in many ways stood to those who composed them severally for the whole. The divisions between these communities were local only. They arose from the limitations to intercourse and common action which distance imposed. Or, in cases where the Church in some Christian's house is referred to, they were due to the necessity, or the great convenience, of meeting in small numbers, owing to the want of buildings for Christian worship, or the hostility of the surrounding population. Moreover these local bodies were not suffered to forget the ties which bound them all together. Those in the Greek-speaking world were required to send alms to the Churches in Judaea. Again an individual Church was not free to disregard the judgment of the rest. After St Paul has reasoned with the Corinthians on the subject of a practice which he deemed inexpedient, he clinches the matter by declaring, "we have no such custom neither the Churches of God." Lastly, the Apostles, and preeminently St Paul, through their mission which, if not world-wide, at least extended over large districts, and the care of the Churches which they exercised, and the authority which they claimed in the name of Christ, and which was conceded to them, were a unifying power.
Thus the plural "the Churches" has in important respects a different connotation in the New Testament from that which it has in modern times. In the Apostolic Age the distinction between the Church and the Churches is connected only with the different degrees to which a common life could be realised according to geographical proximity. By a division of this nature the idea of One Universal Church was not compromised. The local body of Christians in point of fact rightly regarded itself as representative of the whole body. The Christians in that place were the Church so far as it extended there.
The preservation of unity within the Church of each place where it was imperilled by rivalries and jealousies and misunderstandings, such as are too apt to shew themselves when men are in close contact with one another, and of unity between the Churches of regions remote from one another, in which case the sense of it is likely to be weak through want of knowledge and consequently of sympathy—these appear as twin-aims severally pursued in the manner that each required. Not indeed that it is implied that everything is to be sacrificed to unity. But it is demanded that the most strenuous endeavours shall be made to maintain it, and it appears to be assumed that without any breach of it, loyalty to every other great principle, room for the rightful exercise of every individual gift, recognition of every aspect of Divine truth the perception of which may be granted to one or other member of the body, can be secured, if Christians cultivate right dispositions of mutual affection and respect.
There is one more point in regard to the idea of the Church in the New Testament as to which we must not suffer ourselves to be misled, or confused, by later conceptions and our modern habits of thought. We have become accustomed to a distinction between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible which makes of them two different entities. According to this, one man who is a member of the Church Visible may at the same time, if he is a truly spiritual person, even while here on earth belong to the Church Invisible; but another who has a place in the Church Visible has none and it may be never will have one in the Church Invisible. This conception, though it had appeared here and there before the 16th century, first obtained wide vogue then under the influence of the Protestant Reformation.
It arose through a very natural reaction from the mechanical view of membership in the Church, its conditions and privileges, which had grown up in the Middle Ages. But it does not correspond to the ideas of the Apostolic Age. According to these there is but one Church, the same as to its true being on earth as it is in heaven, one Body of Christ, composed of believers in Him who had been taken to their rest and of those still in this world. In the earlier part of the Apostolic Age the great majority were in fact still in this world. The Body was chiefly a Visible Body. It had many imperfections. Some of its members might even have no true part in it at all and require removal. But Christ Himself "sanctifies and cleanses it that He may present it"—that very same Church—"to Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish."
Now while one can understand the point of view from which in later times so deep a line of demarcation has been drawn between the Visible and the Invisible Church as to make of them two entirely separate things, and although to many it may still seem hard to do without this distinction, or in the existing condition of the nominally Christian world to employ that primitive conception of the Church even as, so to speak, a working hypothesis, I would ask whether the primitive conception is not a nobler and sounder one. Surely it places the ideal in its right relation to the actual. The full realisation of the ideal no doubt belongs only to another world; yet if we believe in it as an ideal we must seek to actualise it here. There is something unwholesome in acknowledging any ideal which we do not strive so far as we can to actualise. And plainly participation in the same grace, and the spiritual ties arising therefrom, ought to find expression in an outer life of fellowship, of intercourse and common action, and such common organisation as for human beings in this world these require. No doubt it is always too possible that the outward may hinder the perception of the inward. But if we can guard successfully against this danger, the inward and spiritual will become all the more potent by having the external form through which to work; while the outward, if it is too sharply dissevered in thought from the inward, loses its value and even becomes injurious.
Again, a view of the Church is more wholesome which does not encourage us to classify its members in a manner only possible to the Allseeing God; to draw a line between true believers and others, and to determine (it may be) on which side of the line different ones are by their having had spiritual experiences similar to our own, and having learned to use the same religious language that we do; but which on the contrary leads us to think of all as under the Heavenly Father's care, and subject to the influences of the Holy Spirit, and placed in that Body of Christ where, although the spiritual life in them is as yet of very various degrees of strength, and their knowledge of things Divine in many cases small, all may and are intended to advance to maturity in Christ.
It is necessary that the relation of the idea of the Church upon which I have been dwelling to her subsequent history for centuries should be clearly apprehended. Its hold on the minds of Christians preceded the very beginnings of organisation in the Christian communities, and it would probably be no exaggeration to say that it governed the whole evolution of that organisation for many centuries. Particular offices were doubtless instituted and men appointed to them with specific reference to needs which were making themselves felt. But all the while that idea of the Church's unity and of her holiness was present in their thoughts. And certainly as soon as it becomes necessary to insist upon the duty of loyalty to those who had been duly appointed to office, and directly or indirectly to defend the institutions themselves, appeal is made to the idea, as notably by the two chief Christians in the Sub-Apostolic Age, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.
It is in itself evidence of a common spirit and common tendencies that broadly speaking the same form of constitution in the local Christian communities, though not introduced everywhere with quite equal rapidity, was so nearly everywhere almost on the confines of the Apostolic Age, and that soon it was everywhere. Ere long, with this form of government as a basis, plans were adopted expressly for the purpose of uniting the local Churches on terms of equality among themselves, especially in combating error. And at length in the name still of the Church's unity there came, however much we may regret it, the centralisation of Western Christendom in the See of Rome.
All these measures of organisation, from the earliest to the latest of them, were means to an end; and we shall regard them differently. But we ought not any of us to regard means, however they may commend themselves to us, and however sacred and dear their associations may be, in the same way as we do the end. There must always be the question, which will present itself in a different light to different minds, whether particular means, even though men may have been led by the Holy Spirit to employ them, were intended for all time. Moreover there are points in regard to the earliest history of Church organisation which remain obscure, in spite of all the labour that has been expended in investigating them: for instance the exact relation of different ministries, of the functions of different officers, to one another, the exact moment when the orders of ministers which proved to be permanent appeared in this or that important Church, the part which any of the immediate disciples of Christ had in their establishment, the ideas which at first were held as to the dependence of the rites of the Church for their validity upon being performed by a lawful ministry. Upon these matters, or some of them, it is possible for honest and competent inquirers to hold different opinions. But no such doubt hangs over that End which was also the Beginning, of the Church's life, that conception of what she is, or ought to be, as the society of those who confess the Name of Jesus Christ, and who are His Body. I insist upon this because I think that amid discussions on the origin of the Christian Ministry, the significance of that more fundamental question, namely, the right conception of the Christian Church, is apt to be too much lost sight of. About this, though men still do not, they ought to be able to agree, and it should be our common inspiration, both impelling us and guiding us in seeking our goal.
We need it to impel us. The obstacles to the reunion of Christendom at the present day are such that a motive which can be found is required to induce and sustain action in seeking it, whenever and wherever the opportunity for doing so presents itself; such a motive is to be found in a deep conviction of the sacredness of this object, so that our eyes maybe kept fixed upon it even when there appears to be no opening through which an advance toward it can be made, and there is nothing to be done save to wait and watch and pray. But in order also that the result of any efforts that are made may be satisfactory, it is necessary that our minds should be under the guidance of a great and true idea, and that we should not simply be animated with the desire of meeting immediate needs. These are the reasons which I think justify me for having detained you so long over the consideration of the fundamental conception of the Church which is rooted in the Christian Faith itself as it first appeared and spread in the world.
I will now, however, before concluding make a few remarks on one part of the complicated problem of reunion facing us to-day. The part of it on which I desire to speak is the relations between the Church of England, and the Churches in communion with her in various parts of the British Empire and in the United States, on the one hand, and on the other English Nonconformists, the Presbyterians of Scotland, and all English-speaking Christians allied to or resembling these. It will, I think, be generally felt that this is a part of the subject which for more than one reason specially invites our attention. There are, indeed, some, both clergy and laity, of the Church of England, though they are but a very small number in comparison with its members as a whole, whose interest in the subject of the reunion of Christendom is mainly shewn in the desire to obtain recognition for the Church of England, as a portion of the Church Catholic, from the great Church of the West. But in view of the attitude maintained by that Church there appears to be no prospect of this and nothing to be gained by attempts at negotiation. Endeavours to establish intercommunion with the Churches of Eastern Christendom may be made with more hope of success. Indeed there is reason to think that in the years to come the Church of England may be in a specially favourable position for getting into touch with these Churches and assisting them to recover from the effects of the War, and to make progress; and Englishmen generally would, I am sure, rejoice that she should undertake such work. But the question of the duty to one another of all those bodies of English Christians which I have specified comes nearer home and should press upon our minds and hearts more strongly. It is a practical one in every English town and every country parish, and almost everywhere throughout the world where the English language is spoken. Moreover, even the most loyal members of the Church of England, in spite of the points of principle on which they are divided from those other English Christians, resemble them more closely in many respects in their modes of thought, even on religion, than they do the members of other portions of the ancient Catholic Church from which they have become separated. And in addition to the distinctly religious reasons for considering the possibility of drawing more closely together and even ultimately uniting in one communion these different denominations of British Christians, there is a patriotic motive for doing so. Fuller religious sympathy, more cooperation, between the members of these different denominations could not fail to strengthen greatly the bonds between different classes amongst us, and to increase the coherency of the whole nation and empire.
It would be unwise, if in proposing steps towards reunion, difficulties and dangers connected with them were ignored; and I believe it to be my duty frankly to refer to some which suggest themselves to one looking from a Churchman's point of view. There are two chief barriers to the union of members of the Church of England and English Nonconformists that must be mentioned.
(1) That which I will refer to first is the connexion of the Church of England with the State.
This connexion is not, I think, such a hindrance to religious sympathy as it was, but it would be untrue to say that it is none. And there is of course the danger that if disestablishment became a political question, and especially if it involved the deflection of endowments which have long been used, and on the whole well-used, for the maintenance and furtherance of religion to secular objects, feeling between the majority of Churchmen and those who in consequence of their views in the matter became opposed to them might be seriously embittered. Yet there is good ground for hoping that the question of the relations of Church and State and all matters connected therewith will in the years that are coming be faced in a calmer spirit, and with truer insight into important principles, than too often they have been in the past. It should certainly be easier for those who approach them from different sides to understand one another. Particular grievances connected with inequality of treatment by the State have been removed; while a broad principle for which Nonconformists stand in common has come to be more clearly asserted, through their attaching increasingly less significance to the grounds on which different bodies amongst them were formed, as indicated in the names by which they have been severally known, and banding themselves together as the "Free Churches." But in the Church of England also in recent years there has been a growing sense of the need of freedom. It is better realised than at one time that in no circumstances could the Church rightly be regarded as a mere department of the State, or even as the most important aspect of the life of the State. However complete the harmony between Church and State might be, the Church ought to have a corporate life of her own. She requires such independence as may enable her to be herself, to do her own work, to act according to the laws of her own being. This is necessary even that she may discharge adequately her own function in the nation.
It is not part of my duty now to inquire in what respects the Church of England lacks this freedom, or whether such readjustments in her connexion with the State can be expected as would secure it to her, implying as the making of them would that, although she does not now include among her members more than half the nation, she is still for an indefinitely long time to continue to be the official representative of religion in the nation. But I would urge that when these points are discussed the question should also be considered whether, in a nation the great majority in which profess to be Christian, the State ought not to make profession of the Christian religion, which involves its establishment in some form, and whether there are not substantial benefits especially of an educative kind to be derived therefrom for the nation at large; and if so how this can in existing circumstances be suitably done. It should be remembered that in many cases the forefathers of those who are now separated from the National Church did not hold that a connexion between Church and State under any form was wrong; but on the contrary their idea of a true and complete national life included one. I think it is well to recall the view in this matter of men of another time. It is desirable that we should make our consideration of the whole subject of Church and State as broad as we can, and that we should strive not to be carried away into accepting some solution which at the moment seems the easiest, when with a little patience some better and truer one might be found possible.
(2) The other barrier to which I have referred is the claim of the Church of England to a continuity of faith and life with the faith and life of the Church Universal from the beginning, maintained in the first place through a Ministry the members of which have in due succession received their commission by means of the Historic Episcopate, and, secondly, through the acknowledgment of certain early and widely accepted creeds. This continuity was reasserted when the Church of England started on her new career at the Reformation, though at the same time the necessity was then strongly insisted on of testing the purity and soundness of the Church's faith and forms of worship by Holy Scripture. These guarantees and means of continuity are valued in very different degrees by different sections of opinion in the Church of England, and some who attach comparatively little importance to matters of organisation would attach great importance to the formularies of belief. But there can be no doubt that any steps which appeared seriously to compromise the preservation of the great features of the Church of England in either of these respects would cause deep disturbance among her members. On the other hand, it will be readily understood by all who can appreciate the changes that in our own and recent generations have come in men's view of Nature and of Mind, and in the interpretation of historical evidence, that definitions of belief framed in the past may not in every point express accurately the beliefs of all who nevertheless with full conviction own Jesus Christ as Lord. It is obvious, I think, that, if the Christian Church is to endure, there must be on the part of her members essential loyalty to the faith out of which she sprang, and which has inspired her throughout the ages to this day. But it is an anxious problem for the Church of England at the present time—and it is likely to become so likewise, if it is not yet, for all portions of the Church in which ancient standards of belief, or those framed in the 16th century, or later, hold an authoritative place—to decide wherein essential loyalty to "the faith once delivered" consists.
It may seem at first sight that when the Church of England has serious questions to grapple with affecting her internal unity, and especially affecting that unity in variety which to some considerable degree she represents and which is the most valuable kind of unity, attempts to join with other Christians outside her borders in considering a basis of union with them are unwise at least at the moment, as tending to increase the complexity and the difficulties of the position within, and as therefore to be deprecated in the interests of unity itself. I do not think so, but believe that assistance may thus be obtained in reaching a satisfactory settlement even of internal difficulties.
For, in the first place, there has of late been among members of the Church of England a change of temper which should be a preparation for considering her relations with those separated from her in a wiser and more liberal spirit than has before been possible. Those Churchmen who would insist most strongly on the necessity of preserving the Church's ancient order do not usually maintain the attitude to dissent of the Anglican High and Dry School, which was still common in the middle of the 19th century. The work which Nonconformist bodies have done for the spiritual and moral life of England, and the immense debt which we all owe to them on that account, are thankfully admitted. No one indeed can do otherwise than admit it thankfully who has eyes to see, and the sense of justice and generosity of mind to acknowledge what he sees. And the inference must be that, although the belief may be held as firmly as ever that the Spirit of God inspired that Order which so early took shape in the Church, and that He worked through it and continues to do so, yet that also, when men have failed rightly to use the appointed means, He has found other ways of working. This view, when it has had its due influence upon thought, can hardly fail to affect profoundly the measures proposed for healing the divisions which have arisen.
Then, again, on the other side—the side of those separated from the Church of England—there is more appreciation of the point of view of Churchmen in respect to their links with the past and their idea of Catholicity. This is due partly to a broader interest in the life of the Church in former ages and the heroic and saintly characters which they produced than since the Reformation has been common among those English Christians, who are, in a special sense, children of the Reformation; partly, perhaps, to a growing doubt, as views of Christian truth have become larger, whether after all a single doctrine or opinion, or reverence for the teaching of one man, can make a satisfactory basis for the permanent grouping of Christians. At the same time in regard to fundamental Christian belief, the meaning which the revelation of God in Christ has for them, they are and are conscious of being at one with the Church.
Striking evidence of these new tendencies of thought on both sides is to be seen in the movement originated by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States for a World-Conference on Faith and Order, and in the manner in which the proposal for such a Conference has been received in England, and the steps already taken in preparation for it. A body of representatives of the Church of England and of the Free Churches has been appointed, and a Committee of this body has already published suggestions for a basis of union. These have still, I understand, to come before the general body of English representatives, and it is intended (I believe) that the proposals of the Committee, after being examined and possibly amended and supplemented by the larger body, should, with any proposals that may be made from similar joint-bodies in the United States and in the British Dominions, be considered by a body of representatives from the whole of this vast area. Any conclusions which are thus reached must then lie, so to speak, before all the denominations concerned. Opportunity must be given for their being widely studied and explained and reflected upon, and if need be criticized. For the Church of Christ is, or ought to be, in a true sense a democratic society, a society in which, subject to its governing principles, the spiritual consciousness of all the faithful should make itself felt.
For the end of such a process as this we must wait a considerable time. Meanwhile there are obvious ways in which the cause of unity may be promoted; viz. through seeking for a larger amount of intercourse with the members of other denominations than our own; for more joint study of religious questions and frank interchange of views, and more cooperation in various forms of moral and social endeavour. The way would thus be, we may hope, prepared for fuller intercommunion, and it may be for corporate reunion.
 1 Cor. x. 17, R.V. mg.
 Gal. iii. 28
 Col. i. 18, 24; Eph. i. 22, v. 23 ff.
 Gal. i. 13; 1 Cor. xv. 9.
 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 19; 2 Cor. viii. 1; Gal. i. 2, 22.
 1 Cor. xii. 28.
 1 Cor. x. 32.
 1 Cor. xi. 22.
 The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 3 ff.
 Die Mission u. Ausbreitung d. Christentums, p. 292.
 Kirchenrecht, 1. pp. 16 ff.
 1 Cor. xi. 16.
 Ephes. v. 26, 27.
UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS
II. THE CHURCH IN THE FURNACE
By the Rev. E. MILNER-WHITE, M.A., D.S.O.
At last we have begun to see the absolute necessity of Unity in Christ, of religious reunion, for the sake of both Christianity and the world.
For several years devout Christians in England have been growing more and more uneasy about their acquiescence in religious division. The reading of the Gospels, and especially the eighteenth chapter of St John, where He prays on the threshold of His agony that His disciples may be one, even as He and the Father are one, has become nothing less than a torment to those who have any real passion for the doing of God's will, or who are humbled by the tremendous love of our Lord Jesus Christ, for each and for all. Thus far have we gone from the clear mind of Christ; thus far have we ruined His plans for the health and happiness of the world; thus far have we failed to imitate or display the love, the humility, the self-sacrifice, that walked to Calvary: He bade us be one, and to love; we, the disciples, have chosen to hate and be many.
English Christianity alone is split into hundreds of denominations. The fact is its own grim condemnation. We had lost even the sense that division mattered. It is quite ridiculous to pretend that nothing is wrong with the religious ideas or state of a race, which produces hundreds of bodies, big and small, to worship Him who only asked that His worshippers should be ONE. Denomination itself has become a word of shame which we shall not be able to use much longer. It brings up at once the thought of something partial, little, far less than the Body for which Christ died; and a host of yet more horrid pictures of old squabbles and present rivalries, of contempt and bitterness and controversy. It does not suggest one Christian idea at all.
These uneasy thoughts even before the war were brought home by the practical results of disunion as worked out inevitably in the colonies and mission field. The language is not too strong that labels them monstrous. Here was the flower of our Christian devotion going forth to heathen wilds, meeting by God's grace with wide success; and establishing our little local denominations firmly in the nations, tribes, and islands of Asia, Africa, and Australasia; rendering it hard for a native Christian who moves from his home to get elsewhere the accustomed ministries and means of grace vital to his young faith; planting seeds of future quarrel at the very birth of new tribes into the Prince of Peace. In the Dominions, with their thin and widely scattered populations, other phenomena, equally deplorable, are manifest—five churches in places where one suffices, appalling waste of effort and money, and even ugly competition for adherents.
In England we hardly saw these things. The population was large enough and indifferent enough to God to provide room for the activities of all. The indifference indeed seemed to be growing. We did not stop to think whether disgust at continuous controversy had not done much to cause that indifference—how far our divisions simply manufactured scepticism as to there being any religious truth—whether the obvious lovelessness of such conditions was likely to recommend the religion of Love—whether this disparate chaos was likely to be a field in which the Lord, who designed and founded one brotherhood of believers, could work or give His grace to the uttermost. No, the Christianity of our Christians has tended to be a thin individual thing, with interests scarcely extended beyond its own local congregation, which is bad enough; or still worse, in our towns, content to wander from congregation to congregation, owning no discipline or loyalty at all.
And yet in the same breath as we say, "I believe in God," we also say, most of us, "I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church." It is a crowning mercy that we do say it; that we do bear witness so outright to the state of sin in which we dwell; the clause does keep the mind of Christ and our own duty before us, of establishing as the first, perhaps the only hope of this sin-stained, war-stained earth, the brotherhood of believers which shall be one.
Then came the war, and in many ways the war, which has in every direction cleared vision, and both deepened and simplified thought, has brought home to every Christian both the disaster of disunion, and the imperative need of attempting unity.
You will expect me to give some account of the reaction of the chaplains and the Church in France to this conviction. Perhaps I should make clear my own position. Folk probably term me an "advanced High Churchman." I should call myself "a Catholic"—an English Catholic, if you like—, at any rate, one who cannot fairly be accused of ignorance of the details and depths of our divisions; nor of underestimating their real importance.
The priests who went out as Chaplains to the Forces had an experience somewhat similar to that of colonial or missionary priests—they exercised their ministry under totally new conditions, and in a new atmosphere. So did the Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, and Presbyterians, but of course I do not speak for them in what follows. But all the Church of England padres—high, low, broad—tell exactly the same tale of their experience; between them there has been no division; they have worked together in perfect harmony and keenness, largely appropriating each other's methods. In a word, they have discovered how false and artificial is the partisan atmosphere of home religion; and when they return, will find it hard to tolerate any continuance of it.
The Church of England is as a matter of fact divided roughly into three sections, by no means corresponding to the "high, low, and broad," of the church journals. Most Church of England men scarcely know what these terms mean. No, it consists of a devoted inmost section, regular churchgoers and communicants—and you will pardon me for thinking them the best instructed, the freest, and the sturdiest Christians in the world. They are of course in a minority, but they are actually numerous enough to occupy the time and care of our whole ministry, which is far below reasonable strength. Then comes a large fringe, who come to Church occasionally, or even regularly, in the evening; who make little or no use of the Sacraments, or of the more intimate devotions and instructions provided: they are well disposed; but are not consciously prepared to make sacrifices for their faith; and indeed are somewhat ignorant of its contents and demands. Then thirdly, there is a yet vaster multitude, baptised, married, and buried, perhaps by the Church, and therefore counting themselves Church of England, but who come but rarely within the orbit of Church life and teaching; and who, not to mince words, are semi-pagan. Only semi-pagan because the ethics, morals and traditions of England are Christian; and these people, knowing little of Jesus Christ, and understanding less, and not consciously moved by Him, yet not infrequently rise to heights of love and sacrifice which would adorn the life of a saint.
The mass of our parishioners in France, then, was not made up of the inner circle—we were lucky if we found three or four in a unit—but of the ill-instructed fringe, and the totally ignorant multitudes. The horror and boredom of war, the personal insecurity, the difficulty of understanding the ways of God, made all friendly to the parson with whom hitherto they had never come into contact; and caused large numbers to think things out, and to hunger for an understanding of God. Religion became a common topic of discussion. The padres found themselves in a larger world, where old labels and divisions simply had no meaning; and where the first necessity and work was to preach Christ and teach the meaning of the Faith. They felt also, very quickly, that this interest in ultimate things did not mean that men became friendly to organised religion in any form. On the contrary, their hostility and distrust toward all religious bodies were marked. The chaplains had that common and dreadful experience of foreign missionaries, of feeling themselves alone, closed round by thick dark walls of unsympathy and worse. They longed for the help and support of any genuine friend of Christ, whatever body he belonged to. I was called upon to preach the National Mission in a peculiarly hostile and irresponsive camp of motor lorry drivers, who much resented the use of "their" Y.M.C.A. hut for such religious purposes. A Wesleyan minister had charge of it, and got far more of their blunt language than I the visitor did; but he worked undismayed and unreservedly for all he was worth, for the National Mission and for me. The alliance was natural, real, inevitable. He and I, and some five or six men of that camp, were clearly on one side, and the rest of it on the other, of an exceeding broad gulf. With this as a daily experience, a man's values changed rapidly; and it became quite obvious that, even to begin to fight the battle of Christianity in the modern world, Christians must be united.
This assurance was reinforced by the quite extraordinary scandal that the mere fact of religious disunion caused both to officers and men. It was the big, obvious "damper" on the very threshold of Christianity—"see how these Christians hate one another." Officers would throw the taunt up again and again in the Mess, and the men lying down to talk themselves to sleep in their comfortless barns would begin to talk about religion with at heart a wistful longing to understand it and know its help and power. At once, someone would bring up the picture of squabbling denominations, and the wistfulness and hope would be slain by scorn. Next day and every day, the glaring scandal would be laid before the chaplain; who had little enough to answer. Of course, it is quite false to suppose that the existence and continuance of division are due to the clergy. Our English schisms have been caused at least as much by over-eager laymen as by over-eager clergy; and I think if it were left to the clergy alone the process of reuniting would be very rapid. In our Division, for instance, the three Nonconformist Chaplains to the Forces and I used to talk over the whole question; one was an orthodox Wesleyan, another a Primitive, and the other a United Methodist; and they did not hesitate to say that Methodist reunion had taken place more than ten years ago if it had been left to the ministers alone. But the average Englishman naturally blames the official representatives of religion, their ministries, for the obvious and open disgrace of division in the religion of love; he is ignorant of the excuses that history, and the real importance of the matters in dispute, afford; he only sees the evil fact; and it is quite enough by itself to excuse his closer association with so harsh a contradiction of the first principle of Christ and Christianity.
Then again in France, one came up violently against the sheer nuisance and waste of division. Imagine upon a Friday every C.O. and adjutant (and adjutants are always over-worked) of every unit approached by three Chaplains—Church of England, Roman Catholic, and Nonconformist; and requested to make different arrangements at different times for different fractions of his command to attend divine service on the Sunday. This in the midst of modern war, where organisation for war purposes is complex and laborious enough. The mere typing and circulating of these arrangements at Brigade and Divisional H.Q. mean in sum total a vast expenditure of paper and labour. The chaplains, who, I hope, are at least gentlemen, feel considerable shame at being the guiltless authors of these confusions. And the effect is so deplorable. Just when the nation is one, just when each military unit seeks to promote, for mere military efficiency, the esprit de corps of its oneness, the religion of the one Christ enters as a thing which almost flaunts fissure. Or again, think of the mere waste of pastoral efficiency involved in this fact. Each infantry brigade consists roughly of four battalions, and three or four somewhat smaller units (R.A.M.C, M.G.C., etc.). For these there are four chaplains, normally two Church of England (who have 80 per cent. of the men under their care), one Roman Catholic and one Presbyterian or Nonconformist. The two latter have to do the best they can each to get round all these scattered units to provide for small handfuls of men in each. Each of the Church of England chaplains has to arrange for a whole half brigade. How much more efficiently and thoroughly, with how much less needless labour, had the work been done, if an one Church could have set one chaplain to live each with one battalion, and be responsible as well for one smaller unit. That had made it easy for a chaplain to know his flock intimately; now it is next to impossible.
But above and beyond these misfortunes, which after all are details, must be ranked the big thoughts and truths which have swum into the sight and experience of everybody. The first is this. Granted that the Church like the world was surprised by the sudden outbreak of war, and therefore could not stop it; yet that she should have no voice at all even to denounce the unrighteousness and barbarities into which the world plunges deeper every day does strike men as wrong. The Church cannot speak because she is not one; even suppose all England be actually one national Church, if it is only national, it will go the way of the nation, and certainly cannot speak to other nations. For the Church ever to acquire a world-voice in the cause of love and right means that reunion and our desires for it must not stop short at home reunion. Here the witness of Roman Catholicism to the necessity of international Christianity is vital to the ideal of a reunited Christendom. Men, far removed from his obedience, did look wistfully to the Pope, conceding that he alone could speak such a word to the world in the name of Christ; wide and deep has been the disappointment that it was not spoken. Here again it is not the Pope, nor Roman Catholicism, that is to blame, but the whole divided state of Christendom which paralyses the action of each communion, even the strongest and most widespread.
I will mention only one other of these big truths—there are many of them—that have come home to every man; where again Christian division is the first and fatal obstacle in the way. This time it affects all the looking forward to the end of the war, and the new world of peace. It is unthinkable but that the new world must be one of brotherhood, not of enmity; of love, not of hatred. Otherwise every drop of blood that has been shed, every tear that has fallen, every death that has been died, will be so much utter waste. That is the one most intolerably dark thought in the days of darkness. There is a new policy open to the world which it has never yet tried, to work toward the Dominance of Love. Every conceivable form of selfishness has in turn dominated the affairs of nations and men; never yet has love been seriously tried. But there will be no chance of International Friendship, Brotherhood, Love, if the Church, the fellowship of Christians, who are after all set in the world by their own confession, to live by love, to be the exemplars and hot centre of love, cannot conspicuously shew forth love. How can the nations be friends before Christians be brothers? We have only to act according to our creed; and our creed does not only believe in brotherhood, but in the continual help of God Himself in our efforts to realise it. The influence upon the world even of a persevering attempt to achieve a united Christendom would surely be decisive. Therefore the reunion of Christendom becomes now the imperious vocation of every Christian, the one preventive of our agony and loss going to waste, the one hope of a loveless world, the clear next objective of the Church of the living God.
Before returning to the idea of the Dominance of Love, and a consideration of first steps towards it, let us go back to France, and watch the relations of the various communions there one to another after four years of war.
It is new and rather hard to describe. The first few months, when the Chaplains to the Forces of the various denominations arrived with their inherited home suspicions one of another, presented many difficulties that might have increased ill-feeling. An army regulation which allows the Church of England chaplain only to minister to Church of England men, and the Roman Catholic to Roman Catholic men, etc., reduced the chances of such conflict; and at the same time, the vastness and urgency of the work the chaplains had to do swallowed up all other thoughts. As a writer in The Church in the Furnace said, "We have heard with mingled irritation and amusement that good folk at home have been exercised because an undue proportion of men of this party or that have been sent out; the question out here is not 'To what party does he belong?' but 'Is he capable by character and life of influencing men for good, and winning them for God and His Church?'" Again, the extremely free use of the Prayer Book and of any and every sort of devotion, at any and every hour of day and night, has broken up all prejudiced rigidity of use. Methods that did not help were dropped; methods that helped men were welcome, from whatever source they came.
So arose a great harmony, a harmony of energy and experiment; and although in religious matters the Roman Catholics retained their aloofness, the drawing together of other denominations, as represented by their clergy, has been constant and perfectly natural and unsuspicious. United services have not been common; each denomination has confined itself loyally to its own men; what the statements in the Lower House of Convocation meant to the effect that the amount of intercommunion going on at the Front would shock members of that house, no chaplain has any idea. But the new, fresh, and delightful thing is, the absolute lack of feeling between, say, the Catholic Anglican and the Congregationalist. There are numerous occasions on which they must or can work together; on which they must or can do jobs for one another; and it has been decisively proved that the existing demarcation and rivalry in England is a false and needless thing; and that working together can be a real, unselfconscious and wholly profitable matter. Our English airs are poisoned by past history and old social cleavage: in France, the past is forgotten, and social barriers do not exist. It is a matter of atmosphere, and there it is clear and bracing. Nobody sacrifices conviction or principle, but they love one another.
I do not say there may not be individual misunderstandings and frictions now and then, but they are miraculously few. The normal temper is shewn by the numerous meetings for conference and devotion by the various chaplains. These are more easy to effect at the bases than in the line; but they take place everywhere. Typical is the conduct of a small base on the sea, where the eight chaplains or so meet regularly for devotion, and each is entrusted with a section of the proceedings each time. For instance, the American Episcopalian takes the Thanksgiving, the Presbyterian the Confession, the Wesleyan the Intercession, each of the others has found from the same chapter of, say, St Mark's Gospel, some "seed-thought" upon which he is allowed to dilate for four minutes. There is no constraint or self-consciousness in this gathering. Each is perfectly happy, and so is the whole.
It is not surprising that out of such an atmosphere and among such practices a powerful passion for unity has arisen, based on something far stronger than sentiment, and having in it some of the fire of revelation. It has not been sought; it has come; it has grown: nobody expected it. It came, naturally and delightfully. The fifth year of war will assuredly see some definite policy or action towards greater unity proceeding from France. The quiet, unhasty, resolved manner in which the Chaplains to the Forces in France are moving is in striking contrast to the hasty proposals and hasty actions threatening on the less prepared soil at home. Indeed in this last sentence I have touched upon the two actual terrors which the Church in France feels. FIRST, that hasty and purely sectional action on unimaginative and traditional lines by the home-clergy will give the old party-feeling a new bitter lease of life, and by ruining unnecessarily the unity of the Church of England will destroy the hopes that are so fair of yet wider reunion. And SECOND, that the local outlook of the lay-folk—in our villages especially perhaps—and local lines of cleavage, not having been subjected to the experience and discipline of France, will have the opposite effect, prevent things moving as fast as they ought, and throw away the fairest chance of buying up opportunity that ever was given to the Church of Christ. To these opposite dangers, I shall recur.
The Dominance of Love in the world! Let us see and absorb that big vision first, and its pathetic urgency: its summons to each body of Christians, and to every individual member of Christ. Acknowledge its NECESSITY for the world, and therefore its immediate necessity for the Church of the God of Love.
And next, before considering practical steps, let us recall certain postulates and axioms, which in any attempt to realise so magnificent a vision must always be borne in mind, lest, in our human frailty and selfwill, we head straight for new misunderstandings and disasters.
1. The importance of unity is so great, and division has been found so calamitous, and the words of Christ are so definite on the subject, that I think all would admit now that Division is only to be prolonged for causes that are backed by divine command. The larger Christian bodies are separated by convictions of great importance; but a severe and honest self-examination will probably lessen the number of differences which can justify the responsibility of so disastrous a thing as separation, and then we can set afoot conferences to deal with what remain. Human temperament, upbringing, tradition, human haste and pride have much to do with the birth, stabilising and continuance of division. A rare self-abnegation in our ecclesiastical history was the partial suicide of the Non-juring schism, and it has never been repeated; there were many great saints among the Nonjurors. If they could not take the oath of allegiance to William III, and therefore could not remain in the Church of England, the best of them recognised that their individual difficulty would not excuse them if they perpetuated themselves as a Church. In any junction of existing divisions, differing customs and methods of worship and organisation can be and should be safeguarded. That would only make the more for the health of the one Body. But, division itself is only to be prolonged for causes that are, or seem to be by conscience, backed by divine command, and the first step in all work for reunion will be the isolating of these causes from lesser things, and their careful and prayerful reconsideration.
A grand example of such process, of course, has been the Conference of the leaders of our English denominations, at the inspiration of the American Committee of Faith and Order, which during 1917 faced the question of Episcopacy. The findings of its "second interim report" are nothing less than a landmark in Church History. You remember that roughly it was this: that any corporate reunion can only come in the acceptance of the historical Episcopate; but that the conception and use of Episcopacy in the Church has been a limited one: there are many ways of regarding and using bishops besides the monarchical or "prelatical" way exemplified by the Church of England. This is a first proof that when truths, keenly felt and seemingly rival, are discussed in Conference spirit, the angularities that offend disappear; and wider, bigger truth comes into the possession of all. It will be so more and more. By faith we can already see that the labour of understanding unto reunion is bound to be an immense creative period in the Church of God.
2. Our second axiom sounds discouraging. Just this—that unity is, humanly speaking, impossible. Reunion means great changes of heart in great communions of men, and we all know how hard it is to effect change of heart even in the individual. We must not think that no price will have to be paid for so good a result, both by whole communions, and by the members composing them; and that the whole force of inherited prejudice, past history, and present wilfulness, ignorance, and sincere conviction will not arise in opposition. The difficulty even of approaching Rome illustrates vividly our task. The Unity of Christendom is a meaningless expression without that vast international Church, without her rich stores of devotion and experience, without her unbending witness to the first things of faith, worship and self-sacrifice. Here the "impossibility" is open and honest, but I do not know that the difficulties will be greater than those, less obvious as yet, between other denominations. Yet with God all things are possible. This is only the MIRACLE which He has set the faith of modern Christians to perform.
3. Thirdly then, our rule must be, to hasten slowly. We are not dealing with matters susceptible of mere arrangement, but with convictions, which have deep roots in history, and cling passionately round the individual. Convictions can only be modified or changed gradually, by love and deeper spiritual learning. Bully or outrage a conviction, and you double its strength. That is why argument seldom does aught but harm. Argument is an attack upon another man's convictions, or semi-convictions, and inevitably fails to do anything but stiffen them. Inevitably therefore will hasty action by individuals or sections, for instance in the Church of England, for which other sections are not ready, throw these into suspicion and opposition. I speak of my own Communion and say deliberately, that if at the moment, either an individual, or a section—any section—of it goes galloping off, be its zeal and hope never so pure and splendid, on private roads, the whole desire for unity, and therefore the cause of unity, will be gravely damaged.
For the whole Church of England—I think that can be truly said—has now an unutterable desire for the joy of Unity; it is, further, convinced that action must be taken; but it is by no means convinced that certain actions—to take a concrete example, free interchange of pulpits with Nonconformists—are as yet either helpful or right. If one part adopt such a policy, hostilely and sectionally, it will simply throw others into convinced opposition and retard the whole desire for decades. Questions of deepest implication cannot be settled in haste. Before approaching at all, we must find the right methods of approach. Quite rightly, the American "World Conference for the consideration of questions touching Faith and Order," paid, from the start, the utmost, an uniquely scientific, attention to right method; their patience has been lightning-swift in result. It did not even go so far as to say, "We will confer, that is the right method"; it said, "We will learn how to confer." It was a new and by no means easy exercise, but it has been learned, and the English Conference mentioned above, "the landmark," arose by its inspiration and worked by its methods.
A wrong method of approach is equally well illustrated by the gathering of Evangelical clergy at Cheltenham early in the Spring. They discussed to some purpose, and at the end of a few days had drawn out a series of some dozen articles of principle and action. Some were unexceptionable, others went beyond what either the Bishops or other sections of the Church are yet ready to do. Such sectional action simply heads for disaster and vexation. And it is so foolish, so great and difficult an end being in view. Why should any sections of the Church meet or deal at all on this matter, except to put their views humbly at the disposal of their brethren in the Church? This matter concerns the whole Church; any action is futile which does not carry the whole Church with it, and the whole Church is keen and anxious enough over the problem to be able to agree upon methods and policies which combine depth, wisdom, patience, and order. We have seen how titanic the labour is; impatience will help nothing; here if anywhere is needed the love that is patient, and ready for the travail of waiting and praying.
The cry of generous souls of course is "Something must be done." Of course it must; but let anybody consider what sheer miracles of changed convictions on Unity have been "done" within ten, and even five years. Better than any such immediate action which would certainly cause division, is the enlarging of the scope and sphere of this miracle, so that the friendly conditions of France are naturally reproduced in England.
With these precautions, then, let us see what can be done with universal consent.
(a) The first thing is to turn the intellectual opinion that Christian division is wrong, and unity necessary, into a general passion. That is to say, we want to develop among us the motive of love. We all talk about love glibly, and about brotherhood and a new world, with very little sense of what these terms involve in the individual life. I am sure that we hardly know yet what love means nor what it exacts, nor guess into how many provinces of ordinary life it can and ought to operate; how many heritages of past history it must be allowed to wipe out, how many preconceived notions it must dissipate; into how many social, commercial, municipal, political relations it must begin to permeate. It was for this reason that an article which I wrote when in billets near Arras for the Church Quarterly Review suggested a new National Mission of Love in the Church of England. For the space of a month or more the one subject dealt with by preachers and teachers throughout the Communion would be Love, in all its bearings, and with special reference to religious differences and their healing. I believe that this would be a splendid way of making the passion for new love and wider brotherhood general, an act of pure religion of highest importance both to our Christianity and national life, and sure of blessing by God. It would assure our Nonconformist brothers that we mean business, and mean it deeply. Perhaps they would follow suit in their own congregations.
It is the more important, because there is a danger of the leaders and clergy of communions rushing ahead of the rank and file. Naturally they see the vast issues most clearly; the congregation sees more easily its own needs and habits of worship, and inclines to shut out of mind the needs and interests of the Church as a whole. A National Mission of Love, dealing with all history, the larger duties of the present, and future hopes, would help to correct this, and give a single mind to the whole body.
(b) Then, in order that the Church of England may go forward as one whole, without the risk of sectional exasperation, it does seem to me an urgent necessity that—I do hope it is not a presumptuous suggestion—the Archbishops appoint a Council of Unity; to thrash out the whole subject, and decide on definite steps of action, both within and without the Church.
My vision sees it thus. A small Council of, say, five Bishops, and a dozen other members. These dozen to be nominated, not elected, and to consist of the leading and trusted men of each "party" with at least two of our greatest scholars. It must be small, so that it may truly "confer"—not drop into controversy—and meet regularly. It should issue definite advice and suggestion, all of which would be unanimous, upon which the whole Church could act, and act immediately. I am sure that the amount of unanimity would be surprising, and the advice bold. Perhaps the Archbishops and Bishops in accepting and issuing such reports would require them to be read in every pulpit in the land, so that the whole Communion understand what is going on, and each congregation be spurred to do its part in its own locality.
The mere appointment of such a Council would be a notable step towards unity and place the whole matter on, so to speak, a scientific footing. The Church of England would then be wisely and consistently ordered to the one end, and be thinking and acting as itself an unity; the danger of sectional action would be reduced to a minimum, and the mutual confidence of the sections be assured. Indeed it would be a hard blow to the bad party licence too common hitherto amongst us. Further, the Nonconformist communions would have a definite organ to approach on all subjects making for friendliness, cooperation, and conference, and sufficient certainty that the Church of England desired the peace of Jerusalem very earnestly indeed.
(c) There are a number of issues on which all communions could begin at once to work together. There is a real chance of abolishing war, and establishing a more or less universal peace. The idea of the League of Nations gains ground. Bishop Gore is already summoning the support and labour of the Church to it. Here serious united effort of all Christian bodies, of Europe and America, is obviously fitting and might be decisive.
There are the hundred social problems confronting us. The very working together upon these would be as valuable as the large amount of work that so easily might be done.
Education! Word of lamentable memories. The present Bill, which all Christian bodies have urged on, left in despair the vital question of religious teaching until the Churches can agree upon it among themselves. With all the lessons of the war, both to the appalling need of such teaching, and of the necessity of bigger thinking, can they not do it now? Here is a critical field for cooperation and self-suppression. Only let the younger men be put to the task. The elder will be the first to admit that long controversy and deepening opposition have unfitted them for sincere agreement. The younger men are fresh, and start with an eagerness to find the way out.
(d) Cooperation in these great matters will not only promote unity, but display already the men of Christ as one before the world. But it is not enough. How about cooperation in directly religious work and worship? "The visible unity of the Body of Christ is not adequately expressed in the cooperation for moral influence and social service, though such cooperation might with advantage be carried much further than it is at present; it could only be fully realised through community of worship, faith and order, including common participation in the Lord's Supper."
Here let us once more and finally insist that the all-important thing is the development of the desire for Unity even in the most local, or uneducated, or out-of-the-way congregations. Most of the clergy now are revolutionaries for better, bigger things; but, frankly, we fear the lay people who hate change, and desire things to remain as they are—in church and out of it. That is why I should so like my imagined Council to set going my imagined National Mission of Love. But much can be done besides. Those who seek unity will be labouring fruitfully for it, if they simply devote themselves to developing social and Christian friendship between Churchmen and Nonconformists in town and village. There might well be an enormous growth of meetings, both of clergy and laity of different denominations, for conference, devotion, even retreat. We want more than one "Swanwick." Can we not go further, and draw together by experimenting with each other's devotions or organisations of proved value? For instance, I wonder if it is suggesting too much, to suggest that if Nonconformists appropriated with vigour our Christian year, they would be sharers with us of a devotional joy and help, which would certainly promote spiritual sympathy. In the same way, the Church of England has been crying out for some method of using the spiritual gifts of her laymen in church. Why not borrow notions from those who know how to do it?
These are but scrappy examples of ways by which right spirit can be developed within the single communion, or between separated bodies. The right spirit won, the whole battle is won.
Naturally there are many who desire already to go much further and faster. Intercommunion, our goal, is of course impossible at this stage owing to seriously differing convictions on faith and order; and the plain fact that it would cause more cleavage than it healed. But how about interchange of pulpits? The Evangelicals at Cheltenham demanded this as a regular practice. The rest of the Church feels strongly that the time for this has not arrived yet; that haphazard invitations by individual vicars to ministers of convictions widely different are undesirable. The time has come for conference, but not yet for any facile overpassing of the facts and reasons for historical separations. Nor do we want to run the risks of indiscipline and disorderliness resulting from such individual action. The Church of England can only be of help to the cause of unity where she acts as a whole. Matters such as interchange of pulpits should be tackled by our suggested Council of Unity. A suggestion in the Challenge of July 19 might well be favourably considered by it. There are Nonconformists of acknowledged eminence, learning, and inspiration, from whose books the Church of England already has received much. We should all be glad to receive likewise from their lips. If a selected number were officially invited by the Church to prophesy in our midst, an immense and religiously fruitful step would have been taken, in perfect order. The plan might well be reciprocal.
The same leading article proposed that ministers of other denominations should be asked by such congregations as wished, to come and explain to them frankly their standpoints of doctrine and order. I am sure that all communions might be, and now should be, more brave in explaining themselves to each other. The gain in preventing misunderstanding and destroying suspicion and unfriendliness would be great, and I can see no loss anywhere about such a proceeding.