100 years ago: ‘Alien Church’ in Wales

14 April 2010

April 15th, 1910.

“LET us be quite frank,” said Mr Winston Churchill in the House on Tuesday. “We wish to make a national settlement with Ireland, we wish to free Wales from its alien Church,” and more to the same effect, for Mr Churchill’s wishes have no limit. But we, too, have wishes occasionally, and one is that Mr Churchill would cultivate a knowledge of history and the right use of words. For what is an alien Church? We should have thought that it was of foreign importation, teaching a religion that is not indigenous to the country accepting it. In this sense, Christianity in Wales is an alien faith, and con­sequently the Church there has never been anything but alien. But Mr Churchill was not thinking of this. He had in his mind the Welsh Church organized in the four dioceses of the Province of Canter­bury, a Church that is neither more nor less alien than is Christianity itself in every country save Judæa. And, in referring to the Welsh Church as alien, he, no doubt, intended his hearers to infer that the Societies of Welsh Dissent are not alien. Did he ever trouble to ask whence the doctrines of the Baptist sect are derived? How is it that the name of Calvin, which does not strike us as a Cymric patronymic, forms part of the style of the largest Welsh sect, the Calvinistic Metho­dists, and whence came that composite title? It is not without point to remark that some of the alien novelties that so many Welsh people affect are of very recent intro­duction into Wales as com­pared with their planting in Eng­land, and, alien or not, the Church had the sole place in the love and devotion of the Welsh people for a thousand years and more, before Calvin and Whitefield were heard of. Alien Church, indeed! If there is anything Welsh in Wales, it is the Old Mother.

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