100 Years Ago: Bishop and Prayer Book

15 September 2010

The Church Times, September 16th, 1910.

THE Bishop of Carlisle [J. W. Diggle] has the virtue of a rather disconcerting candour. Preaching last Sunday at St John’s, Carlisle, he is reported by the local Journal to have said that he would like to see the word “priest” eliminated from the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. His reason was that the word is rarely used of Christians, and never specifically of the Chris­tian Ministry, in the New Testa­ment. There are two notable things in this utterance. One is the frank abandonment of Hooker’s conten­tion, directed against the Puritans of his day, that the Church need not be res­tricted to the use of words and acts having Scriptural auth­ority; the other is the equally frank recog­nition of the fact that in the Prayer Book the word “priest” is something more than “presbyter” writ small. This ac­knowledge­ment, however, is awk­wardly crossed by another asser­tion that the Prayer Book never uses the word “in a sacerdotal sense”; it is used “clearly and un­deniably in the New Testament sense”. This seems to throw a sinister light on the Bishop’s desire to eliminate it. On the whole, we would venture to suggest that his lordship might with advantage study the advice sometimes given to others, who are counselled, if they are not content with the Prayer Book, to seek a religious environ­ment in which it is not used.

[Bishop Diggle, who held the see of Carlisle from 1905 to 1920, was the author of Godliness and Manliness, 1886, and the editor of a number of books, including Quiet Hours with the Ordinal, 1906.]

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