Can we ask effectively for a reform of national laws?

The Bishop of Oxford thought the church should take a hard look at its own failings before attacking the country.


The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the July Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked
For the maintenance of the spirit and unity of the nation in the great war…


I want to say something about the idea that the Mission is to prepare the Church to deliver a message to the nation in the autumn. I do not like this way of putting the matter. I am afraid the nation may turn round upon us and say, ‘Put your own house in order before you speak to us’. We are bidden, for instance, to address the nation about the necessity of paying better wages. But what a shocking spectacle is presented by the salaries paid to our own officers, the clergy. Do we pay all of these a ‘living wage’? How many parishes require ‘private means’, and those often rich parishes? Is there not a monstrous inequality of income?… Is it not just this sort of lottery which we are being instructed to condemn in commercial life – a few large portions and a great many inadequate pittances.

Can we speak to the nation, till we are zealous to reform ourselves? In the face of St James’ plain words, can we talk about “equal treatment” when the pew system still prevails? Can we ask effectively for a reform of national laws, when we in the church in the face of Christ’s plain intention have suffered ourselves to be deprived of almost all power of spiritual legislation and spiritual discipline?

Or again – can we claim of the nation that it should embark on a crusade against the vices which ruin our national life when we ourselves as a church, the organ and instrument of Christ, have been so acquiescent? Have lust and drunkenness and avarice felt the church to be in every village and every town a relentless foe, waging Christ’s war with fearless courage against everything which He hated – ‘riding’ forth as a terrible warrior against the forces of injustice and wrong?…


Do not forget the Missionary Festival at Banbury, on July 18th. It would indeed be a disaster if the national mission did not quicken our fervour for overseas work. The war is putting a terrible strain on mission work abroad, and we must show ourselves equal to the strain.


The third year of the terrible war will begin on August 4th. No fresh prayers will be put out. But I hope we shall make it in every church a day of faithful prayer.


Earley St Peter parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/7)

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