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ACTION -NOT ARGUMENT. DEFENCE of the Anglican Church Estab- lishment in Wales may continue to have a material existence, but as an argument ft is dead. Nothing could demonstrate this better than the remarkably unimpressive speeches with which leading local clerics and laymen assailed the Government's Dis- establishment Bill at the recent rurideconal conference in Newtown. Let us momentar- ily recall the chief arguments, which are best answered by giving them publicly before an intelligent community. What though for forty years Wales has consist- ently demanded Disestablishment, and that 0+ .nt sVia nfforc thp. nnirmp nolitical au PLvO'¡''¡' .I.'¡' 'J.I.L'4L.J -1. 1: spectacle of a nation whose every Parlia- mentary representative has a mandate for religious equality! The fact is, according to a clerical purview, that Disestablishment has never been demanded by the majority of the Welsh people, but only by a noisy, militant section of Nonconformists that the Church is improving her position year by year, numbering among her adherents far more than a proportionate share of the intelligence and education of the Princi- pality (riches, too, might have been added); that there is no real grievance or injustice caused to Nonconformists by the Establishment; that the bill is brought forward to injure a section of religion; that disestablishment would make immorality easier," and that disendowment would de- prive the Church of the means of doing her duty." Such are the protestations with which the drum ecclesiastic resounds. They can hardly be said to lend solidity and weight or conviction to the cause of an indefensible Establishment, and we ap- preciate the obvious considerateness which forbade any reference on the part of speak- ers at last week's Free CFhirch Convention to such transparently insincere argument. Of course, a sense of blended dignity and charity expressly ignored the blatant, mis- chievous nonsense of the Vicar of Mochdre. When we come to review the proceedings of the Free Church Convention from the standpoint of. the speeches delivered by the County Member and Mr Ellis Griffith, M.P., and the rousing expository letter of Lord Rendel, we find the subject of relig- ious equality treated as a moral force, and we are lifted out of the arena of denomina- tionalism engaged in a sordid fight for mere lucre. Mr David Davies argued from the conception of a Church stronger and more powerful for religious and social achieve- ment because freed from the fetters of State, more exalted because dissociated from the corrupting influence of political motives, and more robust because dependent not upon questionable bequests of a dead past, but rather upon real individual and collective enthusiasm and love for the old Church, which the sense of independence and self-sacrifice can alone inspire. Mr Ellis Griffith faithfully portrayed the < Church in relation to endowments in a passage that must prick the consciences of every sensitive Churchman, apart from those who are concerned for the retention of per- sonal privilege and authority: We are a living Church, but we cannot live without our property, and if you take that away we shall die at once, and Wales will return to a state of heathendom, against which our Church is the only bulwark." That passage sums up all the Robbery of God assertions which continue to be flaunted in the faces of Nonconformists for want of anything better. At any rate, no more blas- phemous fable was ever conceived, and it has rebounded upon the objects which it sought to accomplish. Throughout this dis- establishment controversy we have never been surprised by the extreme action and speech of the old clerical gladiators who have been so long accustomed to the en- joyment of exclusive privilege and parochial omnipotence. They have alway gloried to fight in the theological arena, whatever other people may think as to Christian graces thriving best in an atmosphere of peace. But what does surprise us is that intelli- gent laymen, who cannot fail to recognize the advantages and blessings of disestab- lishment, should deliberately endeavour to thwart its inevitable coming. There is again among Church people a wilful or ig- norant indifference to the fact that the whole area of Church work is undergoing a transformation. To thinking men it has long been a question when the Church would really waken up to appreciate her new responsibilities. What is the lesson taught by the present movement towards reunion of the Scottish Churches? At the general assemblies of the Established and Free Churches this month that movement received a splendid impetus, notwithstand- ing the obvious difficulties that lie in the way of what is sincerely desired by the leaders of both Churches. It is a move- ment which has been inspired by the irre- sistible trend of public feeling. The Scottish clergy know that the people do not feel so strong now on matters of doctrine as on the happier things that would accrue from re- conciliation. They have lost taste for the erstwhile popular pastime of doctrinal hair- splitting. Of course, the unconvincible clerics will tell us that they detect in such a change not a growth of Christian life, but a proof of religious indifference, not breadth of view, but shallowness, but a sign of lioalthier spiritual life, but a sure mark of degeneracy. Supposing that were a true outlook (which it is not), does it not repre- sent a happier condition than the rancour of rival sections and the personal bitter- ness which has ever been attendant upon denominational differences ? Another thing which must strike every thinking and ob- servant person is that a Church whose people have no voice in the choice of their clergy, and practically no authority in its government, which is traditionally autocratic, cannot possibly keep abreast the spirit and needs of the times. Because men see that the battle of human progress is being fought largely by other agencies without the Church, they are giving support to these in preference. Principles nowadays count for more than dogmas, and so it is that a I Church which has more regard for creed than active association with the causes of human betterment cannot grow in the strength of national favour. What a miserable pretence it is that the Church requires her State endowments—money which was never left to her-as the means of enabling her to discharge her duty. Real strength is in no need of patronage, and a Church which claims to be the na- tional Church of Wales, possessed of "far more than a proportionate share of the in- telligence and education (and riches) of the Principality," requires no concordat with the State to stamp it as national. But we close, as we began, with the observation that the defence of the Anglican Church in Wales as an argument is dead. It could not live on its utmost argument. What be- hoves a people, the overwhelming majority of whom are desirous of disestablishment for the sake of religious equality and the advancement of religious unity, is action. The question is now beyond the stage of argument, and the Government must be held to its pledge, for, as Lord Rendel truly remarks, Welsh Disestablishment is the assertion by Wales of its rights as a nation."



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