Page images

allowed to give special courses of instruction in church ; no one need come to hear them unless they like, and no offence would be given to the regular attendants at church. Some urge that, if women are allowed to preach, we shall be overdone with sermons, but this is a matter that can be easily regulated. Some women indeed are possessed of a fatal fluency and excel as verbose enunciators of platitudes, but this is not a quality peculiar to them.

One of the last objections that has been urged in a well-known magazine is that a charming woman in the pulpit would have a fatal attraction for men who would crowd to hear ber. Does the writer not fear also the fatal attraction exercised by the charming curate on his female audience, and would he be prepared to be logical and

urge that only men should listen to men and women to women ? It would of course be necessary that the preaching of women, as of laymen, should be regulated by authority, and that only persons who had real knowledge or prophetic gifts should be allowed to teach or preach. They would probably not be many, but why silence those who have a message to give ?

One question, though but a minor one, remains : If a woman is to be allowed to preach, from what spot should she preach? Some would allow her to speak from the body of the church; some would go so far as to allow her to stand on the chancel step ; but most persons shrink from the thought of her entering the pulpit. It is not easy to see why the pulpit should be considered as a specially holy spot; it probably only exists to give the preacher a position from which he can easily be heard ; but it is certain that no one who believes that women have a message to give will mind where they stand to deliver it, and this matter will easily settle itself.

A special committee, appointed by both Houses of Convocation last spring to discuss the ministry of women, reported in February, and recommended that, under certain conditions to be fixed by the Bishop of the diocese, it should be permissible for duly qualified women to speak and pray in consecrated buildings at services other than the regular appointed services of the Church. The proposed conditions were all of a nature to ensure that the women so permitted should have the requisite knowledge and ability. But there was one strange recommendation-that no woman under the age of thirty should be permitted to address a mixed assembly in a consecrated building. One asks why, if she be duly qualified, her age should come into consideration. To determine the fitness of a person for a particular work by any hardand-fast limit of age at either end always seems a shortsighted proceeding. For many years before the war, women were accustomed to being told that for the majority of posts connected with social, educational, or administrative work, no woman over forty should apply. Now it is being proposed that no woman under thirty should speak to a mixed audience in a consecrated building. If these two limits are accepted, only a bare ten years are left in which women are considered fit for responsibility. It would seem wiser to determine their suitability by consideration of their character and capacity than by reckoning their age.

Those who are alarmed at the thought of a young woman speaking in church are only too glad to listen to her at a large missionary meeting. There her youth and the freshness of her experience are considered to be of special value. The one vital question in regard to a speaker, whether in a consecrated building or in a public hall, should be whether he or she has anything to say worth listening to. No one could object if a higher standard were applied to women than to men in this respect. We have enough bad speaking as it is, and a high standard for women might raise the standard for men.

When the Report of the Committee on the Ministry of Women was brought before the Lower House of Convocation, even its very gentle recommendations proved too disturbing for the majority of the venerable members of that House; the resolution of the Report, mild though it was, was defeated, but only by a majority of one. Once more all the old arguments from St Paul's Epistles were brought forward. On these there is certainly nothing new to be said on either side; but, as the well-known arguments are heard, it is impossible not to wonder what the great apostle of liberty would say if he could hear them. The immemorial custom of the Church is to many a convincing argument against any development of the ministry of women. Others, who go further and wish to find the principle which lies at the root of the relative position of men and women, find it in the story of the Creation, which in their opinion established once for all the domination of man. But this, they maintain, does not mean the spiritual inferiority of women; rather they affirm that to be subordinate, while being spiritually equal, is the glory of woman.

One member of Convocation at any rate found the whole matter beautifully simple, since he stated it had been settled long ago, as woman was the last to be created but the first to sin.

The method in which the question was treated by the majority in Convocation suggested a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church; it is, as was said by the Dean of Ely, to bind the living Church with the iron bands of the past. Such views take us much further than the particular matter under discussion, and suggest a conception of the Church which certainly is contrary to that held by many whose most passionate desire is to make the Church a living force in the life of the nation and of the world. The Dean of Canterbury expressed his opinion that Parliament and the Bar had only consented to admit women because it could not be helped, and because they wished to put a stop to violence; he had no fear that they would use violence to enforce their claim to a share in the ministry of the Church. There can indeed be no fear of violence, but there may be real fear of loss, and real fear of driving out of the Church those who would, if they were allowed, do it signal service. The glory of the Church of England is its inclusiveness ; it is to be hoped that wiser counsels may prevail, and that the new possibilities of selfgovernment granted to the Church may open out ways by which all can make their full contribution to its life and work.

It is much to be hoped that the whole matter will receive serious and unprejudiced consideration at the coming Lambeth Conference, and that some conclusions may be reached which will allay the present restlessness and discontent. As it is, in certain cases the clergy are taking the law in their own hands, and are allowing

[ocr errors]





practices which have not been authorised by their Bishops. In this way, changes have before now been introduced in the customs of the Anglican Church, but it may be questioned whether it is the most desirable way, even though it seems to suit the English nature. On the whole matter a little clear thinking is needed. We are not a logical people ; and the organising secretary who urges a woman to address a large mixed meeting, and the Bishop who presides at the meeting, may easily be men who would be horrified at the idea of her reading a chapter of the Bible in church. They may quote the authority of St Paul against her being allowed to speak in a consecrated building, forgetting that St Paul knew nothing of consecrated buildings, and that a parish

a barn would more closely represent the kind of place where the assemblies were held in which he did not think that the women of his day should speak. It is clear that experiments must be tried, and that we must proceed slowly. Acts of Uniformity have always been disastrous in the life of the Church ; and in this matter of the ministry of women we need free discussion as well as experiment, in order to reach sound conclusions as to the nature of the Christian liberty which Luy be allowed if we would not run the risk of quenching the Spirit. Irritation and impatience on the one side, however justifiable they may seem, a stiff and irreconcilable attitude on the other, even though it may spring from a sense of the necessity to guard a precious heritage, may alike imperil the united witness of the Church in a world which sorely needs the triumph of the spirit of love.




It is inevitable that there should be an awakening from the dream of unlimited prosperity to be obtained by the simple process of demanding higher and yet higher wages. When this awakening comes to pass the people of this country and their leaders will search for other means of attaining the end in view, the altogether legitimate one of bettering the status of the worker. There will be those who will clamour for revolution, who believe that the road to happiness and national prosperity lies in the direction of seizing and distributing the goods of others; there will be some, again, who, aware of the unparalleled riches which lie dormant in the British Empire, will demand that steps shall be taken to make that wealth available for the benefit of the community at large.

This demand must receive a reply. It is obvious that it has received no sufficient answer down to the present time. Are we to conclude that the problem is insoluble, and that all this vast wealth of which the existence is indisputable must for ever be beyond the reach of the people of this country?

If this be so, the British Empire, from this point of view, must be written down a failure. Great Britain has made unnumbered sacrifices to maintain and protect the Empire ; its sons have shed their blood as the price of admiralty on € Tery sea; it has sent out, and lost, the flower of the race, that distant regions might be colonised under the British flag-only to find that the gain is for others; that the Empire is not for the people of this land in any practical sense, and that they, for their part, must be contented with empty phrases. No wonder, if this be true, that the very words Empire and Imperial have fallen into disrepute. But is this necessarily so? Is there no path, divergent it may be from any we have followed hitherto, which may lead to other conclusions ?

National wealth is the product of two factors--work and land. It results from the application of the energies, mental and physical, of a capable and industrious race to a sufficiency of fertile and healthy land and all that ample territory represents. The wider the land, the

Vol. 233.–No. 463.

2 B

« PreviousContinue »