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PEACE OR A SWORD?
SOME REFLECTIONS OF AN EXTREMIST
Let me preface my remarks by a personal statement. I am not an extremist as I understand the word. I am only an extremist in that the Times, other newspapers, and their 'Settlement 'correspondents,
, holding very honestly a brief for the so-called Education Settlement Committee, have dubbed 'extremists' those who could not conscientiously agree to the terms of the proposed Compromise. This policy of ticketing is carried still further, and surely somewhat disingenuously as regards this question, by the Times, for instance, insisting on identifying the Representative Church Council and the National Society with the English Church Union ; and representing their action as partisan, and as if the Representative Church Council had no responsibility in this matter. As to the English Church Union it can take care of itself, but to represent those who conscientiously differ from the Compromise as practically the English Church Union is absurd. Nothing could be less exact. The National Society remained and
. remains true to its raison d'étre. It was never created to provide religious instruction to please Nonconformists; it existed and exists to strengthen and safeguard the Church of England's trusts for her children in teaching the Holy Scriptures, interpreted by the Creeds and her Catechism. The Representative Church Council owes its existence to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is at least elected by members of the Church of England who take an active and costly interest in her work, and have exerted themselves sufficiently to elect these their representatives. The Compromise was in direct opposition to the vote a year ago of the majority of this Representative Church Council, as also of the House of Laymen, for ' equality of treatment.' May we ask, with all deference, on what ground the Education Settlement Committee-a conglomeration of all kinds of religious opinions—was more fitted to discuss and influence than the Representative Church Council, where the most sacred trusts and vital interests of the Church of England were concerned ? The vote of the 3rd of December only confirmed the former decision of the Representative Church Council. The Compromise involved the wholesale disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England in all her single-area country parish
schools; the abolishing of all tests as to the fitness of teachers for the most important part of their duty (in the opinion of those opposed to purely secular education), and the limiting of even the permission to teach, as regards the right of entry, to assistant teachers. Can it be wondered that some of us did not join the Settlement Committee ? Modernist and extremist are convenient generalisations ; if examined it will be perceived that in this instance by “extremists' is really meant those who could not be a party to the Compromise, finding facts and fundamental principles as regards the duties, trusts and rights of the Church of England unchanged ; and 'equality of treatment' still the only possibility for a lasting peace, consistently with that security for Christian teaching to which the Church of England is pledged ; could not play follow-my-leader at a moment's notice, involving a right-about-face, although, as we said, facts and fundamental principles remained as before. To these extremists no right of entry could justify the surrender of Church schools for the deliberate establishment instead of Cowper-Temple teaching, and also thereby its establishment as the national religion, the religion of the schools of the nation. Such an establishment, if imposed from without, forced upon our confiscated Church schools, would be monstrous injustice ; if imposed from within by the representative ecclesiastical authorities, aided by lay members of the Church of England, it would be intolerable. A breaking faith with the Dead, and, worse, breaking faith with the Church of England ; and this the deed of a passing generation of Churchmen, would deal a blow at the Church of England infinitely more harmful than any injury from without, from those forces before which the Bishop of Southwark quails. The forces which attack from without make a solid rally in defence ; such action as was contemplated from within is disintegration, and is fatal. Though the facts and fundamental principles which should determine the action of the Church of England in this matter are unchanged since last year, doubtless a change of atmosphere and a change in certain features of the situation have greatly influenced the changed policy involved in the Compromise, and have also acquired an undue weight or value owing to the bogey of Secular Education. We are persuaded that a great majority of those on the side of the Compromise were so as the less of two evils, and that did they realise how impossible it would be to force secular education on the country, and that the experience of Australia is absolutely irrelevant, both as to secular education and as to the right of entry in New South Wales, a birthright would not have been bartered for a mess of pottage.
The principal new feature in the situation was the seriousness, charm and persevering amiability of the present Minister of Education, as contrasted with his somewhat jocular and aggressive predecessors, the despots of the Mythical Board of Education. Diplomatically
considered, this made a great difference, but a change of ambassadors does not mean a change in the trusts involved, in the interests at stake. Dr. Clifford, too, has changed: his curses have turned into blessings, and he no longer anathematises the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor likens him to the Scarlet Woman! And, seriously, we may hope that this change may be representative of much more, really solidly making for mutual respect between the Nonconformist leaders and those of the Church of England, and for real charity founded in truth, recognising frankly the facts of difference. The Pan-Anglican Congress quickened the sense of all that could be done, that cries aloud to be done, throughout the world, and more particularly at home and throughout the British Empire, for the Kingdom of God; and also quickened the realisation of the pitiful waste resulting from the divisions of Christendom. Inevitably the decision of Leo XIII against Anglican Orders has for a time limited the question of reunion, as regards the Church of England, to the Great Orthodox Church of the East and to the Presbyterian Churches, and the 283 or more Nonconformists sects now grouped under the name of United Free Churches; and, naturally, the education question has been much affected by this yearning for reunion. But just as surely as the British Empire will crumble and fall when its centre, the little islands we call Great Britain and Ireland, cease to be true in strength and freedom to their essential Constitution, 80 as inevitably will the Church of England at home strengthen or weaken the life of that Church throughout the world in proportion as it is staunchly true to the Creeds which are the embodiment and exposition of her teaching from the Holy Scriptures. If the Church of England loses its saltness, wherewith shall it be salted ? The leaven is the speck which makes the good bread,
Doubtless these new features, these atmospheric changes, have combined to make the Church of England more than ever long to try and solve the problem of how to reach the many thousands of her children in the Council schools ; and as, despite all efforts, the disproportion of Church and Council schools in towns is steadily increasing, gratitude and honour are due to the Archbishop of Canterbury in trying to find a remedy. We hope that he and his Settlement Committee may yet find it in “ Equality of treatment’; we pray they may for ever abandon the plan to which a French proverb might not inaptly be applied i.e. unroofing Peter to cover Paul : or, literally, proposing that the Church of England should drop all the children she knows to be hers, and for whom she has a very special provision and responsibility, in order to run after, arms wide open, all her possible children in the
"No really healthy peace is possible without absolute truth. Confusion is not charity. Mr. Hay Morgan lately summarised the situation in saying that the failure resulted from misunderstanding of our mutual points of view. He is right. We all desire peace, provided no sacrifice of principle is involved. The Nonconformists accept Cowper-Temple teaching as sufficient. The Church of England cannot.
Council schools. To the thousands and thousands of children in every country parish and in many urban schools she would be made to say, My dears, you may still come to me twice a week if you like, and if there is room, and if no difficulty is made, and if teachers can be found, for I am now like the old woman in the shoe, who had so many children she did not know what to do. I shall solve the difficulty as to caring for my children who are out in the world, in the whole of England, by turning you out too; then you shall share and share alike as far as what I can give and do is concerned ; and if you come off worse, and the others not much better, it's not my fault, it's circumstances and forces that are too strong against me.'
No, such can never be the solution of the problem. Are we extremists because we rallied to the eloquent, indignant protest of the Archbishop of Canterbury as to the Training Colleges ? Because we responded to the appeal of the Bishop of London in the Albert Hall, that appeal which produced a million from London for Church schools ? Within the last three months the Bishops of London, of Southwark, of Winchester (to name those whose printed words happen to be before me) have encouraged, praised, pleaded, urged the building, the rebuilding, improving and maintaining, at great cost, of Church schools in town and country. What did they mean? And added to the proposed wholesale confiscation of the single-area country parish schools, we now know what would have been the inevitable ultimate fate of the contracting out urban schools. Despite Mr. Runciman's fair words and flattering assumption that the generosity of the past would be continued in the future on behalf of Church schools (extreme Church of England schools he prefers to name them !), despite the valiant fight made by the Archbishop for just treatment financially, the last Education Bill of this present Government really miscarried because the Government would not grant sufficient aid to enable Church of England schools to contract out though prepared to contribute heavily for the purpose. The puzzling point is that the Archbishop fights for the fair grants, but agrees contracting out should not be encouraged. The Representative Church Council proved a providential excuse for the Prime Minister, that was all.
The hopes of the Nonconformists are certainly justified by all that has transpired, and their great generosity, so highly extolled by Canon Scott Holland, in yielding the right of entry, will be better appreciated after reading the following quotations from the Christian World. Let us be fair to Nonconformists. Having, all my life, had many friends among them, it has been my habit to consult the Christian World when I wished to enter into their point of view. So now, the 19th of November, we read :
The full public control of all schools will be the beginning of a national system of education. One thing goes some way to console us for the price we have to pay. If right of entry does not work it may be possible in the future to abolish it. In no circumstances would public control once granted be abolished [these italics are not in the Christian World].
The 26th of November 1908, we read that the Rev. F. B. Meyer writes to the Editor :
Let us accept the proposed compromise for what it is worth. In severa directions it gives us what we have been fighting for ; but I never supposed that we should be called upon to surrender the solid constructive work of the last few years in Council schools from which dogma is excluded. It is grievous to contemplate such a concession. But the suggested basis cannot be a permanent settlement. It is a truce and not the end of the war [these italics are in the Christian World). The question will have to be reopened ; first because certain Education authorities will resist the statutory right of entry ; and, secondly, because of the pressure which will be indirectly brought to bear on the teachers to volunteer. But probably it will be easier for our successors to fight out these issues, which will not be complicated and obscured by other matters with which the present concordat deals. It is another round in the spiral staircase, but not the top.
We also remember certain Education authorities,' and with the experience delicately expressed by Sir William Anson of the Board of Education as, although entrusted with judicial powers [it] did not always discharge its functions in a judicious spirit,'? and Mr. Runciman's reassuring letter to the Bishop of London (27th of November) that the right of entry was secure if it does not impair the efficiency of the schools ; this condition of administrative practicability is fully recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury’;-we feel the Rev. F. B. Meyer justified in his view, and that the consolation of the Christian World has a solid foundation : 'If right of entry does not work, it may be possible in the future to abolish it. In no circumstances would public control, once granted, be abolished.' The dead opposition of the National Union of Teachers (the great majority belong to Council schools) to the right of entry, largely on the grounds of administrative inconvenience, would enable any so disposed Minister of Education to say that 'the right of entry had been loyally tried, but as it impaired the efficiency of the schools it must, to his deep regret, be abolished, and he was sure that the Archbishop of Canterbury would be the first to recognise the necessity. However, the main point had been attained-one uniform system of popularly controlled State schools ; and one religion, Cowper-Temple teaching or “the Bible
“ only,” as distinct from any dogma whatever-read and taught as elevating literature (such portions as were suitable) by unbiassed teachers to whom dogma is abhorrent.'
? The Times, of the 19th, 21st, and 22nd of December, records the latest example of the Board of Education spirit under its present régime. Mr. Hamilton, K.C., appointed by the Minister of Education to examine and report on the Swansea Education Dispute, finding that the Swansea local education authority had failed in their statutory duty to maintain and keep efficient that school (Oxford Street, Church School); Mr. Runciman has overridden this judicial report and approves the action of the Swansea local education authority.