A LANDMARK in the relations between Church and State in England
has been reached with the safe passing through Parliament of the
Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure. Its smooth
passage in both Lords and Commons is in remarkable contrast to the
fury of the Prayer Book debates in 1927 and 1928. The change may be
due in part to the sad fact that public interest in religion is
less now than then. But it owes much to the welcome improvement in
the relations between High and Low Church interests during the past
forty years, and much also to the patient diplomacy shown by Church
leaders, especially the present Archbishop of Canterbury, in
dealing with the State.
The due enactment of this Measure should contribute to the
health and welfare of the Church of England. Hopes or fears of
sudden, drastic changes in the Church's public worship are likely
to be unfounded; too many safeguards have been built into the
Measure for that to happen. The most likely immediate result will
be the legalisation of many, if not all, of those liturgical
practices taken from the 1928 Revised Book which have long been
common all over the country, against the strict letter of the law.
Then, before long, should come the authorisation of experimental
new services proposed by the Liturgical Commission (if they are
approved by the Convocations), at first in selected parishes only
and then on a wider scale. In addition, the Measure should have the
beneficial result of fostering greater respect for lawful authority
in the Church, since it will remove any excuse from those who wish
to be a law unto themselves in matters liturgical.
Above all, the passing of the Measure is to be welcomed because
here, at last, is the official recognition by the State that the
Church is entitled to decide the form and practice of its own
living worship of the Living God.
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