« VorigeDoorgaan »
cent. for the whole Church in England and Wales. The proportion in the diocese of St David's was 8.68 per cent. and in that of St Asaph 8.64 per cent. The percentage of Church Sunday-school scholars for the same year to the total population in Wales was 8.33 per cent. as compared with 7.76 per cent. for the whole Church in England and Wales. The proportion in the diocese of St Asaph was 10 per cent. and in that of St David's 9.38 per cent. It will thus be seen that in these three important aspects of Church activity the Church in Wales stands slightly above the general average of the whole Church in England and Wales, while two of the four Welsh dioceses stand considerably above the general average of the whole Church. The Welsh part of the Church of England cannot therefore be singled out for the secularisation of religious endowments on account of its failure in work as compared with the Church of England as a whole.
The steady and striking progress of the work of the Church in Wales is a weighty fact in the consideration of the proposals of the Government for its disendowment. A comparison between the figures for 1906 laid before the Commission and the corresponding figures for 1831 shows very remarkable progress. The figures* show that, whereas the population of Wales increased by 91 per cent., the increase of churches and mission-rooms was 71 per cent., that of resident parochial clergy 111 per cent., of parsonages 122 per cent., and of Sunday services 176 per cent. The amount expended out of voluntary contributions in the four Welsh dioceses upon the restoration and building of churches between 1840 and 1906 was 3,332,3857., and shows steady progress, being on the average at an annual rate of 35,3357. between 1840 and 1874, 58,5901. between 1874 and 1892, and 79,4077. between 1892 and 1906.† The number of Easter communicants in the diocese of St Asaph increased from 7575 in 1871 to 24,938 in 1906, in that of Bangor (according to the Official Year Book) from 10,029 in 1885-6 to 16,760 in 1904-5, and in that of Llandaff from 33,453 in 1891-2 to 58,216 in 1904-5. The number of Sunday-school scholars similarly increased in the diocese of St Asaph from 15,008
* Report, vol. i, p. 130.
† Ib. p. 58.
+ Ib. p. 21.
in 1871 to 31,420 in 1907, and in that of Llandaff from 61,592 in 1896 to 75,819 in 1906. The figures for the diocese of St David's † show the following percentages of increase in the thirty years 1877-1906-as compared with an increase of 13.31 per cent. in the population of the diocese in the thirty years 1871-1901-viz., clergy 17.5, accommodation 23.6, Sunday services 54.0, three years' confirmations 82.7, Sunday-school scholars 91, communicants 139-6; while the triennial average of voluntary contributions increased by 47 per cent. between 1890-2 and 1903-5. The following analysis of the figures of progress in the case of communicants and Sunday scholars between 1880 and 1906 as compared with the increase of population between 1881 and 1901 in the diocese of St David's is given in the Report (vol. i, p. 20) :—
The most striking feature of this table is the progress of the Church in country parishes with a decreasing population, a feature which shows that it is not true to say that the progress of the Church in Wales is confined to towns and populous parishes. In Cardiganshire the population decreased from 70,270 in 1881 to 60,240 in 1901; but between 1880 and 1905 the Church communicants increased from 6008 to 9189, and Sunday-school scholars from 5340 to 6796. As Cardiganshire stands next to Merionethshire among the Welsh-speaking counties of Wales, these figures show that it is not true to say that the progress of the Church is confined to the Englishspeaking parts of Wales.
The progress of the Church in Wales has been maintained during the five years following the statistical year of the Commission. The figures for the four Welsh dioceses show progress in Easter communicants from
134,234 in 1906 to 152,654 in 1911, in Sunday-school scholars from 178,688 in 1906 to 197,129 in 1910, and in confirmations from 23,209 in the two years 1906-7 to 25,864 in 1910-11. The figures given fully confirm the statements made in the House of Commons by Mr Gladstone in 1891 and by Mr Asquith in 1909. Mr Gladstone, who lived in Wales, said, 'Undoubtedly the Established Church in Wales is an advancing Church, an active Church, a living Church, and I hope very distinctly a rising Church, from elevation to elevation.' Mr Asquith said, 'Everybody knows that during the last seventy years, at any rate, in the Church in England and Wales there has been opened a new chapter, a new beneficent and fruitful chapter, in their history. She has learnt, alas, too late, the lessons of the past. She now by every means which an enlightened ecclesiastical statesmanship, and a strong spiritual devotion to the best needs of the Welsh people could dictate, is overtaking, or endeavouring to overtake, the arrears of the past.' It cannot equitably be said that it is too late' to allow the Church in Wales to go on in peace with the good work it is admittedly doing in faithful discharge of the sacred trust attached to its endowments, when it is remembered that the greater part of the modern augmentation of its parochial endowments (which are even now insufficient) took place during the last seventy years through the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty. The poverty of the diocese of St David's at the beginning of the eighteenth century was deplorable. The Memorandum laid before the Commission by the late Archdeacon W. L. Bevan (vol. v., p. 222) shows that out of 308 livings in that diocese at the beginning of the eighteenth century the income of 110 was certified to Queen Anne's Bounty to average only 61. 2s. a year.
A comparison between Church and Nonconformist figures in Wales is unnecessary to prove the unrighteousness of the Government's proposals to secularise Welsh Church endowments. The sole question of equity is whether the Church in Wales is doing its work up to the average standard of activity for the whole Church in England and Wales, or not. Nonconformist figures in Wales have, however, a bearing upon the piecemeal disestablishment proposed by the Government. It is satisfactory to
find that the majority of the Commission in their Report say, 'We think from the evidence adduced before us that the people of Wales show a marked tendency to avail themselves of the provision made by the Churches of all denominations for their spiritual welfare.' This broad fact is an argument against singling out Wales, with the marked religious traditions of its long history, for priority in the abandonment of a national recognition of religion which ought to weigh with those earnest men who sorrowfully see in the growing indifference of the age the strongest reason for disestablishment. From this point of view the relative strength of Nonconformity in Wales as compared with the relative strength of indifference in England is no special argument for Welsh Disestablishment.
The case from a religious standpoint against separate Welsh Disestablishment is strengthened by the large area of Christian truth which is common ground to Churchmen and Nonconformists in Wales. Bishop Thirlwall in 1868 said that the difference between Church and Nonconformity in Wales as compared with the difference between the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholics is as a crevice caused by the summer heat to a chasm opened into the depths of a rock by an earthquake.'* His statement is even more true to-day. The summary of the evidence of Nonconformist witnesses before the Commission about the religious position of Nonconformists in Wales at the present time, given by Archdeacon Evans and Lord Hugh Cecil in their Memorandum (pp. 104-125), shows that Nonconformity in Wales is in a state of profound transition. The distinctive denominational characteristics of a former age have mostly disappeared, and the present position is broadly that known as undenominationalism. According to the Memorandum,
"Though the Nonconformist churches in Wales, in view of this growing indifference and unsettlement, may, on account of their departure from their original doctrinal standards and consequent indefiniteness of doctrine, be in some danger of drifting, as is illustrated by the history of the old Calvinistic Presbyterians of Wales, yet it is clear from the
* 'Guardian,' February 13, 1895.
evidence that, at the present time, the undenominationalism of the Nonconformist churches in Wales, if indefinite, is in substance in accord with the universal creeds of Christendom, which serve as the anchor of the doctrinal system of the Church of England.' *
The report of the Commission shows that it is untrue to say that the Welsh are a nation of Nonconformists. The number of Church adherents and Nonconformist adherents in Wales can only be ascertained by a parliamentary religious census. In Ireland a parliamentary religious census has been taken every decade since 1861; but in Wales the advocates of Welsh Disestablishment have persistently resisted the demand of Churchmen for a parliamentary religious census in Wales. The figures for Nonconformist adherents laid before the Royal Commission by the Welsh Nonconformist County Evidence Committee which are published in volume VI were found to be of little or no use for statistics.' No Welsh Nonconformist denomination except the Calvinistic Methodist gives official figures showing the number of adherents in the Year Books. Since the Calvinistic Methodists, however, annually give in their Year Book figures for adherents including all members and all children of all ages from the year 1867, and since, according to the evidence given before the Commission, the proportion between adherents and members is very much the same in all Welsh Nonconformist denominations, a computation of adherents in proportion to members of the other Nonconformist denominations may be made from the official figures of the Calvinistic Methodists. The total number of all the adherents of the four larger Welsh Nonconformist denominations in Wales was thus computed by Archdeacon Evans and Lord Hugh Cecil to be 1,032,254. A similar computation estimates the adherents of the smaller Nonconformist denominations in Wales at 55,437, bringing the total number of Nonconformist adherents in Wales in 1905 up to 1,087,691. The Calvinistic Methodist Year Book shows a decrease of 2947 in the number of adherents of this denomination in Wales between 1905 (the Commission's statistical year) and 1910. As the Baptists and Congregationalists show a larger
* Report, vol. i, p. 113, 114.