Monday, October 30, 2006

Thomas Gee: Welsh Disestablishment 5

The struggle over Welsh Disestablishment became intense after the 1880s, as a new generation of Welsh politicians entered the fray. Supporting these were radicalised political journalists. Most prominent among these was Thomas Gee (1815-1898), a Calvinistic Methodist Preacher and publisher, whose premises are illustrated opposite. His scheme for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, while never adopted, gives a good idea of what the pro-disestablishment nonconformists wanted. I have reproduced a some of the provisions of the scheme to give an impression:

  • The compensation of clergy should not be the same as the Irish scheme (which had been considered too generous).
  • Those who lost revenue should receive a part of this as salary, no more.
  • Rectories, deaneries and Bishops' palaces should remain the property of the church only so long as the incumbents remain in them, and should be sold afterwards, the proceeds to go to a general tithe fund for the county, not to the church.
  • Tithes were to be handed over to the county in which the parish was situated, with a portion going to the parish for education and development purposes.
  • All private rights to seats in churches to cease, subject to the approval of the congregation. All denominations were to be allowed to use the church buildings for funerals, provided this did not disturb services, and reasonable notice was given.
  • Burial grounds to pass to the control of parish councils.
  • Church congregations were to remain in charge of maintaining the church buildings, but if these were neglected, the council was to step in.
  • The people of the parish were to be allowed to take the church away in cases where: '... Doctrines are taught or ceremonies introduced which they consider inconsistent with the Protestant character of the Church."
  • If the cathedrals were unused or allowed to deteriorate, they were to be taken into the ownership of the County Councils.
  • Parish endowments, such as legacies or charities were to be handed over for the use of the entire parish.
  • All endowments and churches or parsonages erected by public subscription since 1820 should be considered the property of the disestablished church, as should all furniture and plate.
  • Parish records should be handed over to the county councils.
  • Religious equality in the appointment of chaplains to public institutions such as hospitals, workhouses and lunatic asylums.
  • The disestablished church was to be treated in exactly the same way as the nonconformist churches.

The defenders of the established church described this as '[...] a clear case of injustice [...].' Whatever the truth of their claims, it would have left the Church in Wales in a strange position. While Nonconformist chapels might change their doctrine (and, indeed were moving away from Calvinism already), the Church in Wales would have had her doctrines subject to external review, and would have held her buildings on sufferance. The late date given before which all endowments would be considered national property was another thorny subject. Indeed, it would become the issue as the disestablishment struggle came to an end.

But next time, God willing, we shall look at the arguments over the continuity of the Church in Wales.

Thomas Gee's scheme is summarised from the account given in J. H. Slater, The Established Church in Wales, being a short account of its Origin, its development, and its maturity (London, 1893).



Post a Comment

<< Home