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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lincoln Judgment, The

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

LINCOLN JUDGMENT, THE. In this celebrated English ecclesiastical suit, the bishop of Lincoln (Edward King, q.v.) was cited before his metropolitan, the archbishop of Canterbury (Dr Benson), to answer charges of various ritual offences committed at the administration of Holy Communion in the church of St Peter at Gowts, in the diocese of Lincoln, on the 4th of December 1887, and in Lincoln cathedral on the 10th of December 1887. The promoters were Ernest de Lacy Read, William Brown, Felix Thomas Wilson and John Marshall, all inhabitants of the diocese of Lincoln, and the last two parishioners of St Peter at Gowts. The case has a permanent importance in two respects. First, certain disputed questions of ritual were legally decided. Secondly, the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Canterbury alone to try one of his suffragan bishops for alleged ecclesiastical offences was considered and judicially declared to be well founded both by the judicial committee of privy council and by the archbishop of Canterbury with the concurrence of his assessors. The proceedings were begun on the 2nd of June 1888 by a petition presented by the promoters to the archbishop, praying that a citation to the bishop of Lincoln might issue calling on him to answer certain ritual charges. On the 26th of June 1888 the archbishop, by letter, declined to issue citation, on the ground that until instructed by a competent court as to his jurisdiction, he was not clear that he had it. The promoters appealed to the judicial committee of the privy council, to which an appeal lies under 25 Henry VIII. c. 19 for “lack of justice” in the archbishop’s court. The matter was heard on the 20th of July 1888, and on the 8th of August 1888 the committee decided (i.) that an appeal lay from the refusal of the archbishop to the judicial committee, and (ii.) that the archbishop had jurisdiction to issue a citation to the bishop of Lincoln and to hear the promoters’ complaint, but they abstained from expressing an opinion as to whether the archbishop had a discretion to refuse citation—whether, in fact, he had any power of “veto” over the prosecution. The case being thus remitted to the archbishop, he decided to entertain it, and on the 4th of January 1889 issued a citation to the bishop of Lincoln.

On the 12th of February 1889 the archbishop of Canterbury sat in Lambeth Palace Library, accompanied by the bishops of London (Dr Temple), Winchester (Dr Harold Browne), Oxford (Dr Stubbs) and Salisbury (Dr Wordsworth), and the vicar-general (Sir J. Parker Deane) as assessors. The bishop of Lincoln appeared in person and read a “Protest” to the archbishop’s jurisdiction to try him except in a court composed of the archbishop and all the bishops of the province as judges. The court adjourned in order that the question of jurisdiction might be argued. On the 11th of May the archbishop gave judgment to the effect that whether sitting alone or with assessors he had jurisdiction to entertain the charge. On the 23rd and 24th of July 1889 a further preliminary objection raised by the bishop of Lincoln’s counsel was argued. The offences alleged against the bishop of Lincoln were largely breaches of various rubrics in the communion service of the Prayer Book which give directions to the “minister.” These rubrics are by the Acts of Uniformity (1 Elizabeth c. 2, and 13 & 14 Car. II. c. 4) made legally binding. But it was argued that a bishop is not a “minister” so as to be bound by the rubrics. The archbishop, however, held otherwise, and the assessors (except the bishop of Salisbury, who dissented) concurred in this decision. At this and subsequent hearings the bishop of Hereford (Dr Atlay) took the place of the bishop of Winchester as an assessor, and the bishop of Rochester (Dr Thorold), originally appointed an assessor, but absent from England at the outset, was present.

The case was heard on its merits in February 1890, before the archbishop and all the assessors, and the archbishop delivered his judgment on the 21st of November 1890. The alleged offences were eight in number. No facts were Charges and decisions. in dispute, but only the legality of the various matters complained of. I. The bishop was charged with having mixed water with wine in the chalice during the communion service, and II. with having administered the chalice so mixed to the communicants. It was decided that the mixing of the water with the wine during service was illegal, because an additional ceremony not enjoined in the Prayer Book, but that the administration of the mixed chalice, the mixing having been effected before service, was in accordance with primitive practice and not forbidden in the Church of England. III. The bishop was charged with the ceremonial washing of the vessels used for the holy communion, and with drinking the water used for these ablutions. It was decided that the bishop had committed no offence, and that what he had done was a reasonable compliance with the requirement of the rubric that any of the consecrated elements left over at the end of the celebration should be then and there consumed. IV. The bishop was charged with taking the eastward position (i.e. standing at the west side of the holy table with his face to the east and his back to the congregation) during the ante-communion service (i.e. the part of the communion service prior to the consecration prayer). The rubric requires the celebrant to stand at the north side of the table. A vast amount of research convinced the archbishop that this is an intentionally ambiguous phrase which may with equal accuracy be applied to the north end of the table as now arranged in churches, and to the long side of the table, which, in Edward VI.’s reign, was often placed lengthwise down the church, so that the long sides would face north and south. It was therefore decided (one of the assessors dissenting) that both positions are legal, and that the bishop had not offended in adopting the eastward position. V. The bishop was charged with so standing during the consecration prayer that the “Manual Acts” of consecration were invisible to the people gathered round. It should be stated that the courts (see Ridsdale v. Clifton, L.R. 1 P.D. 316; 2 P.D. 276) had already decided that the eastward position during the consecration prayer was legal, but that it must not be so used by the celebrant as to conceal the “Manual Acts.” The archbishop held that the bishop of Lincoln had transgressed the law in this particular. VI. The bishop was charged with having, during the celebration of holy communion, allowed two candles to be alight on a shelf or retable behind the altar when they were not necessary for giving light. The archbishop decided that the mere presence of two altar candles burning during the service, but lit before it began, was lawful under the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., and has never been made unlawful, and, therefore, that the bishop was justified in what he had done. VII. The bishop was charged with having permitted the hymn known as Agnus Dei to be sung immediately after the consecration of the elements at a celebration of the holy communion. The archbishop decided that the use of hymns in divine service was too firmly established to be legally questioned, and that there was nothing to differentiate the use of this particular hymn at this point of the service from the use of other hymns on other occasions in public worship. VIII. The bishop was charged with making the sign of the Cross in the air with his hand in the benediction and at other times during divine service. The archbishop held that these crossings were ceremonies not enjoined and, therefore, illegal. The judgment confined itself to the legal declarations here summarized, and pronounced no monition or other sentence on the bishop of Lincoln in respect of the matters in which he appeared to have committed breaches of the ecclesiastical law.

The promoters appealed to the judicial committee. The bishop did not appear on the appeal, which was therefore argued on the side of the promoters only. The appeal was heard in June and July 1891, before Lords Halsbury, Hobhouse, Esher, Herschell, Hannen and Shand and Sir Richard Couch, with the bishop of Chichester (Dr Durnford), the bishop of St Davids (Dr Basil Jones) and the bishop of Lichfield (Dr Maclagan) as episcopal assessors. The points appealed were those above numbered II., III., IV., VI., VII. Judgment was given on the 2nd of August 1892, and the appeal failed on all points. As to II., III., IV., and VII. the Committee agreed with the archbishop. As to VI. (altar lights) they held that, as it was not shown that the bishop was responsible for the presence of lighted candles, the charge could not be sustained against him, and so dismissed it without considering the general question of the lawfulness of altar lights. They also held that the archbishop was within his right in pronouncing no sentence against the bishop, who, it should be added, conformed his practice to the judgment from the date of its delivery. (L. T. D.)