Objects

As first proposed in The Church Gazette, 19 November 1898

The Churchmen's Union for the Advancement of Liberal Religious Thought
  1. To unite Churchmen who consider that dogma is capable of reinterpretation and restatement in accordance with the clearer perception of truth attained by discovery and research.
  2. To take such steps for the advancement of legislation in matters of doctrine, discipline, and dogma as may seem to conduce to the safety, welfare, and progress of the Church.
  3. The immediate action of the Union will he directed towards:
    1. Enforcing the rights of laymen to an adequate share in Church Government.
    2. Making the use of the Athanasian Creed optional.
    3. Patronage Reform.
    4. Mutual Defence.
  4. To promote a conciliatory attitude towards Nonconformists, with a view to making the Church inclusive and truly national.

1899 - in The Church Gazette, 14 October 1899

  1. To defend and maintain the teaching of the Church of England as the Historic Church of the country, and as being Apostolic and Reformed.
  2. To uphold the Historic Comprehensiveness and Corporate Life of the Church of England and her Christian Spirit of Tolerance in all things non-essential.
  3. To give all support in their power to those who are honestly and loyally endeavouring to vindicate the truths of Christianity by the light of scholarship and research, and, while paying regard to continuity, to work for such changes in the formularies and practices in the Church of England as from time to time are made necessary by the needs and knowledge of the day.
  4. To work for the restoration to the laity of an effective voice in all Church matters.
  5. To encourage friendly relations between the Church of England and all other Christian bodies.

1899 - in The Church Gazette, 4 November 1899

THE CHURCHMEN'S UNION

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

Its Aims and Objects:

  1. The Churchmen's Union is a society of members of the Church of England who are neither High Churchmen only, nor Low Churchmen only, nor Broad Churchmen only, but Catholics in the sense of endeavouring to combine all that is good and true in each of these three parties.
  2. As "Ritualists" have their organisations which give them self-expression and the means of propagating their distinctive principles, and as "Anti-Ritualists" are similarly organised, so the Churchmen's Union is an attempt to organise the great majority of members of the English Church who do not ally themselves with either of these extremes, that so it may be able to speak for all "sober, peaceable and truly conscientious sons of the Church of England."
  3. The Churchmen's Union, therefore, seeks to include in its organisation all those who, by an inexact but well-understood term, are known as "Moderate Churchmen," whether these are found among the historic High Church Party, or the so-called old-fashioned Evangelicals, as well as those who do not identify themselves with either of these two parties.
  4. It strives to set forth and maintain the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles, giving due weight, where necessary in their interpretation, to the historical circumstances which have produced and continued them.
  5. The Churchmen's Union accepts, therefore, the teaching of the present formularies of the Church of England as to the authority of the Episcopate and the place of the ministry in the Church's life, while at the same time insisting on the rights of the laity to an effective voice in all Church matters; rights which are involved in their very membership in the Body of Christ, and are witnessed to unmistakably by the practice of the Primitive Church.
  6. The Churchmen's Union endeavours in every loyal way to promote a better understanding between members of the Church of England and of the Free Churches in this country.
  7. It asserts an essential continuity of life and doctrine in the Church of England, and discourages all ill-considered attempts to sever the historic connection between Church and State.
  8. While recognising the fact that the Church of Christ is and cannot but be one, though planted in many lands, yet the Churchman's Union endeavours in every way to maintain that historical setting of the Christian religion which has been found, by the experience of many generations, to be adapted to the needs and genius of the English-speaking peoples.
  9. The Churchmen's Union insists on the duty of recognising any truths reached by the research and scholarship of to-day, mindful of the fact that the revelation of God in the past cannot be contradicted by His revelation in the present; but is often illustrated by it, and often, too, cleared of misconceptions which act as obstacles in the path of honest and earnest seekers after truth.
  10. The Churchmen's Union deprecates all attempts to lift matters of ceremonial into a position of primary importance; holding as it does that the laws of the Church, and the general feeling of the whole community, should be allowed to determine all disputes concerning them.
  11. It upholds the historical comprehensiveness of the English Church, and her spirit of tolerance in all things indifferent.
  12. It insists on the paramount importance of maintaining the ethical teaching of Jesus Christ as the rule of Christian living, and the standard to which the national life should be urged to conform.
  13. The Churchmen's Union, in short, adopts Bishop Ken's famous description of his faith as that of "the Holy Catholick and Apostolick Faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West"; and, moreover, it adopts from the same author its belief in the "COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan Innovations."

1900 - in The Church of England Pulpit and Ecclesiastical Review, 3 November 1900

The objects of the Churchmen's Union are:

  • to defend the Church of England;
  • to uphold her comprehensiveness;
  • to support all loyal and honest attempts to elucidate the truths of Christianity by the light of scholarship and research;
  • to assert the rights of the laity;
  • and to encourage friendly relations with other Christian bodies.

1902 - in Percy Gardner, The Translation of Christian Doctrine, paper read 23 April 1902

  1. To maintain the right and duty of the Church to restate her belief from time to time as required by the progressive revelation of the Holy Spirit.
  2. To uphold the historic comprehensiveness and corporate life of the Church of England, and her Christian spirit of tolerance in all things non-essential.
  3. To give all support in their power to those who are honestly and loyally endeavouring to vindicate the truths of Christianity by the light of scholarship and research; and while paying due regard to continuity, to work for such changes in the formularies and practices in the Church of England as from time to time are made necessary by the needs and knowledge of the day.
  4. To assert the rights and duties of the laity as constituent members of the Body of Christ.
  5. To encourage friendly relations between the Church of England and all other Christian bodies.

1919

  1. To affirm the continuous and progressive character of the revelation given by the Holy Spirit in the spheres of knowledge and of conduct.
  2. To maintain the right and duty of the Church of England to restate her doctrines from time to time in accordance with this revelation.
  3. To uphold the historic comprehensiveness of the Church of England.
  4. To defend the freedom of responsible students, clerical as well as lay, in their work of criticism and research.
  5. To promote the adaptation of the Church services to the needs and knowledge of the time.
  6. To assert the claim of the laity to a larger share in the government and responsible work of the Church.
  7. To foster co-operation and fellowship between the Church of England and other Christian Churches.
  8. To study the application of Christian principles and ideals to the whole of our social life.

1931 - in The Modern Churchman, November 1931

  1. To affirm the progressive character of God's self-revelation, and the certainty that no truth can lead away from Him.
  2. To proclaim Christ and His Gospel in the light of modern knowledge, endeavouring to give a clear meaning to all phrases which are open to ambiguous treatment.
  3. To maintain the right and duty of the Church of England to reject what is false and to restate what is true in her traditional dogmas.
  4. To defend the freedom of responsible students, clerical as well as lay, in their work of criticism and research.
  5. To promote the study of the Bible according to modern critical methods, and to interpret its message in the light of such study.
  6. To secure more regard for beauty and truth in Church Services and the use of language and customs in harmony with modern thought.
  7. To promote the application of Christian principles in public as well as in private life.
  8. To assert the right and duty of the laity to take a due share in the government and work of the Church.
  9. To maintain the historic comprehensiveness of the Church of England and to foster fellowship and co-operation with other Christian Societies.

1960s - in an undated pamplet:

The Modern Churchmen's Union is a society within the Church of England for the advancement of liberal Christian thought.

It was founded in 1898 as a group of scholars, students and clergy who were convinced that the findings of historical and critical study in their application to the Bible - particularly to the New Testament - were in conflict with some traditional presentations of Christian doctrine and that a new approach was necessary. Furthermore they considered that, if the Church of England was to remain distinguished by sound learning, it was urgent that people should be free within the Church to view orthodox tradition in this new light.

Their labours came to a head in the Modern Churchmen's Conference at Girton in 1921. Its theme was Christ and the Creeds. As a result of the keen discussion which followed, extending beyond academic and Church circles, a commission was set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the extent of existing doctrinal agreement within the Church of England. The commission issued its report in 1938. This revealed that all its authors acknowledged that the liberal view of Christian doctrine was held by a large number of distinguished and respected scholars within the Church, and that to hold such views was not inconsistent with loyalty to Christ and His Church. It seemed therefore to many as if the Modern Churchmen's Union had fulfilled its purpose.

This, however, has not proved to be the case. The Doctrinal Report was quietly shelved, and in many quarters in the Church the work of liberal scholars was disparaged or neglected. Moreover, in the wider life of the nation there had developed deep spiritual unsettlement and insecurity. Some people have taken refuge in various types of dogmatism, others have sought artificial reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and modern knowledge, others finding that no Church helps them have abandoned organised religion altogether. These last see the Churches as opponents of free creative endeavour and intellectual honesty, and regard their outlooks as irrelevant to their own experience in life.

The Modern Churchmen's Union accepts the challenge of this situation. It believes that all true knowledge leads to God. It upholds the progressive character of God's self-revelation to man. Hence it preaches the Christian Gospel in the light of the truths scientific and historical which we know today, and in terms consonant with the reason and conscience of thoughtful men. It strives to bring the insights of the New Testament to bear upon the whole range of human relationships. It stands for learning and critical study within the Church. In the service of Christ, it seeks to restate what is true in traditional doctrine, and to reject what has become outdated.

On particular issues, the Modern Churchmen's Union supports advances towards Christian unity, such as that manifested by the Oecumenical Movement. It believes that the historic comprehensiveness of the Church of England is a powerful factor in these advances.

It approaches discussions of Prayer Book revision in the same way. Revision of Services should aim at simplicity, and should blend modern knowledge and Biblical scholarship with the traditional symbolism and action.

In an age of rapidly shifting human relationships, it seeks to create possibilities for enlightenment and reconciliation, so that mankind may realise Christ's promise to have life and have it more abundantly.

It believes, therefore, in a comprehensive Church of England, true interpreter of the spiritual life of this country, the Church of the English people.

1977

  1. To affirm the progressive character of God's self-revelation, and the certainty that no truth can lead away from Him.
  2. To proclaim Christ and His Gospel in the light of modern knowledge, endeavouring to give clear meaning to all phrases which are open to ambiguous treatment.
  3. To maintain the right and duty of the Church of England to reject what is false and to restate what is true in her traditional dogmas.
  4. To defend the freedom of responsible students, clerical as well as lay, in their work of criticism and research.
  5. To promote the study of the Bible according to modern critical methods, and to interpret its message in the light of such study.
  6. To secure more regard for beauty and truth in Church Services and the use of language and customs in harmony with modern thought.
  7. To promote the application of Christian principles in public as well as private life.
  8. To assert the right and duty of the laity to take a due share in the government and work of the Church.
  9. To maintain the historic comprehensiveness of the Church of England and to foster fellowship and co-operation both in Word and Sacrament with other Christian Societies.