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WELSH DISESTABLISHMENT.

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WELSH DISESTABLISHMENT. Outstanding and agreeable features of the recent National Convention at Carnarvon were the presence of certain Welsh clergymen, and the tactful declaration of Mr. Lloyd-George that the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales, when it came, would probably be almost altogether by mutual consent. The bitterness of strife (he seemed to hope) was over, and the inevitable settlement might be accomplished with courtesy and good feeling. This view might be unduly optimistic, and resulting, perhaps, from the kindliness most proper at the commencement of a new year, and more especially from the high hopes and nobler feel- ings cherished by the expectation that we are entering on a better era of government and of national life. Even if these views should prove to have been too sanguine, it is yet well to have held and expressed them, as the fact must tend to soften controversy and promote charitable relations among men who are fellow-countrymen, though belonging to different religious bodies. Many of us feel that the imposition of the Anglican Church on Wales was not merely a bitter result of political oppression, but by placing over the Welsh people priests and bishops ignorant of their language, and thus out of sympathy and communion with them, it caused the people to lose the proper ministra- tions of religious life and ultimately to lapse into the degradation of sensuality. The Anglican Church in the Principality was from the first foreign, alien, hostile. In recent years we have seen a beneficient change. Not the least noble among the actions of the venerated Gladstone was to appoint Welsh Speaking Men to the Welsh episcopate, and thus at the very fountain-head to bring about closer and more sympathetic relations between the Church and the Welsh people. But this blessed change came too late to save the Church as a national establishment. Other great religious denomina- tions had by this time established themselves in the confidence and affection and national life of the Welsh people. The Anglican Church in Wales can never henceforth be more than one amongst a family of brothers; but it may become a brother of equal heritage and position beloved by the- others, and not a usurping and privileged brother set aloof from the rest, -in a place by himself, where isolation destroys fraternity and cripples usefulness. For these reasons, historic, racial and religious, the ministers of the Welsh branch of the English Church feel themselves in a false and unpleasant position. The Welsh clergy are the more conscious of their unhappy situation because of the very excellence of their patriotic character. If they were Anglified, they would take an evil pride in being a sort of English garrison in Wales. But in the mass the Welsh parsons are too good and true to their Welsh nationality to enjoy any such role. Some of them have excelled as bards; they have been devoted to the National Eisteddfod, and in a variety of ways they have shown that under the coat of a Welsh clergyman there pulses the blood of a thorough Welshman. This is due in large measure to the democratic origin of the Welsh clergy. They do not, as a rule, belong by birth to a ruling caste; on the contrary, they have sprung in the main from the peasantry and have in their veins the best democratic blood. All these conditions go to make the Welsh parson A Welsh Patriot often unrecognised under the uniform of an alien Church. What wonder then if he steals on to the platform of a Welsh National Con- vention as he did lately at Carnarvon; and can we not imagine that such a man would be glad to be rescued from his false position as minister of an Anglican Church in Wales ? In England the clergyman so frequently belongs by birth to the ruling classes that this alone alienates him from the democratic Nonconformists of the country. But in Wales it is different, as I have pointed out. The Welsh parson springs from the people; he is often the son of Noncon- formist parents; and we have known quite recently of the mother of a Welsh Bishop, pro- ceeding on Sunday from the Bishop's palace to worship in her Methodist Chapel. Therefore, the Welsh clergy, if liberated from the fetters of a State Church and its rigid discipline in such matters would find it easy--indeed delightful- to associate on equal terms with his Noncon- formist brethrei He probably foresees that his influence would be largely increased by coming off his Anglican pedestal, and mixing with his Welsh brethren in fraternal relations. For my own part, I sincerely believe that there is a great future before the Welsh Church when it has been freed from the trammels of the State. There is room in Wales for an Episcopal Church, just as there is for Presby- terian, Congregational, Baptist, and Wesleyan Churches. A free Episcopal Church in close touch and sympathy with the Welsh people would, in my humble judgment, quickly double and quadruple its adherents; and this, not by taking members from other communities-no good cause prospers in that manner-but by attaching to itself people who now hold aloof from the other denominations because they do not quite meet their views, and hold aloof from the Welsh Church because it is foreign in origin and alien in character. A free Welsh Episcopal Church would do a great service to the Welsh Nation by bringing into religious association many thousands of people who at present have none. These ideas of the basis and results of Welsh disestablishment are permeating all creeds and classes in Wales-the Episcopal clergy no less than ministers of other denomina- tions and this fact is the justification of Mr. Lloyd-George's belief that the change will shortly come by consent. It behoves Welsh Nonconformity to approach the question in a generous spirit. Let there be no niggardliness in regard to the terms on which the emancipated Church, so long accustomed to lean on State support, will be set free to go forth on her new mission. This great act of religious equality would be worth a high price. It would purify the atmosphere of the whole Principality, and stimulate every excellent cause. We have had progressively religious proscription, religious persecution, religious tolerance, religious liberty -it is full time that we now have, once for all, religious equality; and then the last dregs of bitterness will be removed from the cup of brotherhood. Best of all, the liberation of the Welsh Church would be a tt!nmph for Welsh Nation- ality. Instead of being simply for dioceses of the province of Canterbury-a mere appanage of an English See—it would become a Welsh National Church. Another great national in- stitution would be added to the Welsh patrimony. The Welsh Church would no longer be under an English Primate, but under a Welsh Primate. One can understand that the truest of the Welsh clergy should be ready for such a con- summation and indeed long for it. May its realisation come quickly PHILIP THOMAS.

MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH ON WELSH…

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