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EDITED BY THE REV. W. J. SPARROW SIMPSON, D.D.



THE PLACE OF THE LAITY
IN THE CHURCH



V HANDBOOKS OF
CATHOLIC FAITH AND PRACTICE

Cloth, each 2s. fid. net.

INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF MORAL THEOLOGY.

By the Rev. F. G. Belton, B.A.
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Rev. Professor J. P. Whitney, D.D.
THE PLACE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH.
THE PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH.

LONDON : ROBERT SCOTT,
Roxbcrobe House, Paternoster Row, E.C.



THE

PLACE OF THE LAITY

IN THE CHURCH



By

W. J. SPARROW SIMPSON

G. BAYFIELD 'ROBERTS

GORDON CROSSE

N. P. WILLIAMS



LONDON : ROBERT SCOTT

ROXBURGHE HOUSE
PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

THE YOUNG CHURCHMAN CO.
MILWAUKEE, WIS.

M CM XVI I J

All rights reserved



PREFACE

IT is the purpose of this book to indicate some of
the fundamental principles by which any true
reform or development of the Councils of the Church
must be made. It is the belief of the writers that
nothing is more important at the present time than
to call attention to principles.

In a volume of independent Essays, where each
writer is responsible only for what he has written,
a certain amount of repetition is not altogether
undesirable, as it testifies to the fundamental agree-
ment which exists between them. The Editor's
chief regret is that the book was not issued sooner ;
he trusts that it may be of service in directing
public opinion on the relation which ought to exist
between the laity and the clergy of the Church.

It should be added that some of the following
Essays have appeared in part in the English Church
Review, and that the Chapter on Newman's Essay on
Consulting the Laity has been reprinted as a pamphlet
by the Church Self-Government Association.



CONTENTS



PAGE

I

The Apostolic Church of Jerusalem . . i

II
The Diocesan Synod ...... 14

III

Priests in Provincial Councils . . .27

IV

The Position of the Laity in the Early Churc . 35

V

The Councils of the Church and the Anglican

Tradition ....... 58

VI

Newman's Essay on Consulting the Laity . 69

VII

The Laity in the Church of Scotland . . 77

VIII

A National Church Council .... 88

vii



viii CONTENTS

PAGB
IX

The Place of the Laity in Church Councils . 101

X

The Relation between Clergy and Laity . in

XI

The Proposals of the Archbishops' Committee

on the Relations of Church and State . 133

Appendix : Expositors on the Council of

Jerusalem 187



THE PLACE OF THE LAITY
IN THE CHURCH

i

THE APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM
By the EDITOR

NOW that the question of the place of the laity
in the deliberations of the Church has come
into popular discussion, it is natural that fresh
study should be given to New Testament precedent.

Attention is, therefore, being directed to the
first deliberative assembly in the history of the
Christian Church; that which is commonly called'
the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem.

The Council of Jerusalem was brought about
by the requirements of the Church of Antioch.
The Church of Antioch, under the direction of
St. Paul, had developed Christian principles inde-
pendently of the distinctive observances of the
Jewish religion. This independent development
advanced harmoniously until it was disturbed by
the arrival of some Jewish Christians, who insisted
that the Jewish observances were an obligation upon
all Christian people. These teachers arrived from



2 PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

Judaea : ! They were members of the Church of
Jerusalem. 2 But what position they occupied
there is not known. What is certain is that their
mission to Antioch was unauthorized and self-
imposed. But it was influential. So influential,
indeed, that " the brethren appointed that Paul
and Barnabas and certain other of them should go
up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and elders about
this question." 3

It has been sometimes supposed that the Church
of Antioch was here consulting the Church of Jeru-
salem. And the incident has been described as a
daughter Church consulting the mother Church of
Christendom. Or sometimes as a friendly confer-
ence between two neighbour Churches, both of
which are assumed to have been independent and
self-contained.

But this is not what the narrative relates. It
is not said that the messengers from the Church of
Antioch were sent to the Church of Jerusalem.
On the contrary, they were sent " to the Apostles
and elders." That is to say the application was
not to the Church of Jerusalem, not to the entire
body of the clergy and the laity, but to the clergy
only, who are specified as consisting of the Apostles
and elders. It was neither a case of a friendly
conference between neighbouring communions nor
of a daughter consulting the mother Church. It was
a reference to Apostles and elders. If St. Peter,
St. James and St. John had at this time been resid-
ing in Antioch, we may be fairly certain that no

1 Acts xv. i. 8 Acts xv. 24.

3 Ver. 2.



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM 3

mission would have been sent to Jerusalem. It is
important to lay stress on this, because the real
motive of the mission of the delegates to Jerusalem
was an acknowledgment of Apostolic authority.
That the elders are mentioned as well as the Apostles
does not militate against this explanation. For the
elders were the Apostles' chosen assistants in the
ministry. Accordingly the reference from Antioch
is to the Apostolic ministry gathered at Jerusalem.
This fact, that the deputation from Antioch was
not sent to the Church of Jerusalem but to the
Apostles and elders, leads us to anticipate that the
Council at Jerusalem will consist of those people
to whom the deputation was sent, and of such
people only. In other words, since it is the Apostles
and elders who are to be consulted, it is they, and
they only, who will constitute the official assembly
and give the official reply.



The scene is now transferred to Jerusalem. Here
there was held a preliminary conference. 1

There was, first, a formal reception of the messen-
gers from Antioch. The delegates were officially
welcomed at a general meeting of the entire congre-
gation. " They were received of the Church and the
Apostles and the elders." This form of statement
shows how official the reception was. Every
element in the Church combines to honour them. .
Unless, indeed, the passage points to public and
private meetings. 2

1 Ver. 4. a Cf. Gal. ii. 2.



4 PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

Secondly, the delegates gave an account to the
meeting of their missionary labours. " They re-
hearsed all things that God had done with them."
This account of their successes at Antioch was
evidently designed to conciliate the Jewish Christian
conservatives, by proving that the Spirit of Christ
had blessed their labours.

But, thirdly, hereupon arose the adverse critics,
who are now described as converts from the Phari-
sees. They may have been the very men who had
disturbed the Church of Antioch. If not they were
men of the same opinions. Thus the element of
controversy was introduced.

So far is the preliminary conference.

II

The actual Council followed. " And the Apostles
and the elders were gathered together to consider
of this matter." *

It is quite possible that the laity were present. St.
Irenaeus believed that they were there. But the
sentence shows that this is a different meeting from
the preliminary conference. The two statements
should be carefully contrasted. The delegates were
" received by the Church and the Apostles and the
elders," on their arrival in Jerusalem. But now
" the Apostles and elders were gathered together to
consider of this matter." There is no mention
here of the Church or gathering of the laity. If
they were present they were not officially deliberat-
ing. The discussion is obviously the function of
i Ver. 6.



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM 5

the Apostles and elders : that is, of the ministry
as contrasted with the laity.

Hereupon the discussion opened. St Luke says
there was " much questioning." * Between whom ?
Apparently the dispute was conducted among the
elders of the conservative type, who demanded that
Jewish observances should form an essential element
of the Christian religion in perpetuity. It is clear
that the Apostles of Jerusalem did not oppose St.
Paul's progressive tendencies. St. Peter's speech
shows this conclusively.

Now, it is said that " all the multitude kept
silence." 2 What is meant by " the multitude " ?
It has been argued that this statement proves the
presence of the laity, " since it is inconceivable that
the body of elders should be called' the multitude.' "
But this is not so inconceivable after all ; for this
term, " the multitude," is used (in Acts xxiii. 7)
to describe a meeting of the Sanhedrim. Thus
" the multitude " may refer to the elders or to the
laity. It will not be easy to determine this point
either w r ay, from the sentence itself.

What is meant by their keeping " silence " ?
Does it mean that the previous objectors were now
reduced to silence by St. Peter's speech ? or that
special attention was paid to the explanations given
by St. Barnabas and St. Paul ? The words are
capable of either reference. Here, again, it is not
easy to determine either way from the sentence
itself.

But considering that St. Luke omits to mention
the laity among those who considered the matter;
1 Ver. 7. 2 Ver. 12.



6 PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

that he refers alone to the Apostles and the elders ;
he certainly implies not only that the chief responsi-
bility, but the real and final responsibility, rested
with those persons by whom, according to his
report, the Council was constituted.

No reasonable method of interpretation can take
the words, " and all the multitude kept silence,"
to prove that the laity had a share in the discussions.
Nor can those words be made to bring the laity in to
deliberate, when St. Luke expressly says that " the
Apostles and the elders were gathered together to
consider of this matter." If St. Luke had meant
that the entire Church, the whole body of the laity,
had equal deliberative rights in a Council, is it
conceivable that he would have expressed himself
as he has actually done ?

Then, again, how significant it is that no speeches
are reported at all, and no names of any persons
given, except those of the Apostles ! Even the
elders, whoever they were, held a very subordinate
position.

Nor is it only the fact that the Apostles alone are
reported. It has always been felt that there is
something in the tone of St. James's concluding
speech unmistakably deliberative and authorita-
tive : " Wherefore my judgment is." * St. James
threw the weight of his great authority on the same
side with the other Apostles.

Moreover, this Apostolic agreement was conclu-
sive. The opposition disappeared. No opposing
voice was raised after the Apostles had spoken.
Why was this ? W T as it because every one was
1 Acts xv. 19.



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM 7

convinced by their arguments, or silenced by their
authority ?

There is not a trace, so far, of lay influence or
lay authority in the whole course of this Apostolic
Council.

Ill

The decision of the Council was achieved. There
remained the practical business of circulating the
decrees, of making the decision known. And at
this point the function of the laity reappears.
" Then it seemed good to the Apostles and the
elders, with the whole Church, to choose men out
of their company." x Here, then, while it was only
" the Apostles and the elders " who had been offi-
cially " gathered together to consider of this matter," 2
the whole Church, that is, the laity, now began
to take an active part. It has been sometimes
thought that the somewhat peculiar construction
of the phrase, " the Apostles and the elders with
the Church," was deliberately meant to imply a
distinction of function between the clergy and laity.
For why did not St. Luke write, " the Apostles
and the elders and the whole Church " ? That
St. Luke intended a distinction of function is quite
possible. The Council had passed its decisions.
The laity are now called upon to co-operate with
the practical work of circulating the decrees. It is
not said that they are invited to endorse the decrees.
That appears to be taken for granted as the natural
result of the Apostolic authority. The laity of

1 Ver. 22. 2 Ver. 6.



8 PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

Jerusalem could certainly possess no right of veto
on the decisions of the Apostles. To suppose that
the laity could reject what the Apostles had deter-
mined is to rewrite the New Testament on principles
contrary to those which it contains.

What the laity do after the Council of Jerusalem
is (i) to agree that a letter should be sent conveying
the decisions ; (2) to unite in selecting the messengers
by whom the letter should be carried.

In these ways they were giving practical effect
to the Council's decision ; and they were certainly
implying their own adherence to the decrees.

Before considering the contents of the Council's
letter it is necessary to ascertain what is the original
text. According to the Authorized Version the
authors of that letter were " the Apostles and elders
and brethren." This version makes the Letter or
Decree of the Council emanate from three distinct
groups, the Apostles, the presbyters and the laity.
In that case the laity as well as the clergy are made
responsible for the Council's Decree : the document
being a joint product resting on their combined
authority. But the Revised Version translates the
passage : " The Apostles and the elder brethren."
This translation is based on the ancient text.
This was the text which existed as early as the
second century in the writings of St. Irenseus. 1
It is found in a very remarkably strong combination
of principal Greek MSS., the Sinai tic, the Alexan-
drine, the Vatican and Codex Bezse. 2 It is found
in the Vulgate, and in some oriental versions.

1 Iren., III. xii. 17.

2 Tischendorf, Ed. viii, 1872, p. 133.



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM 9

There can be, therefore, no question that the text
which is the base of the Revised Version is im-
measurably the better attested. So far as MS.
evidence goes the Revised Version is almost cer-
tainly the true reading. It has indeed been sug-
gested that, in spite of this overwhelming textual
authority against it, the reading of the Authorized
Version may still be true ; as it is possible that the
original text may have been altered for dogmatic
and ecclesiastical reasons. Those who advocated
the admissibility of laymen to membership in
Councils of the Church would quote the text
as it is in the Authorized Version ; those who
opposed such claims would quote the text as it
stands in the Revised. So it has been suggested.
The abstract possibility is difficult to deny. But
there is no historic trace of any such dispute on the
textual evidence. Indeed the idea is an anachron-
ism. It reads back into a primitive time a dispute
which does not seem to have then existed. The
German historian Neander, who certainly will not be
accused of sacerdotal tendencies, held that the read-
ing " the Apostles and elders, Christian brethren,"
cannot be ascribed to hierarchical influences. " Its
antiquity is too great : for we find it in Irenaeus."
A highly probable explanation of the origin of the
reading " the Apostles and elders and brethren "
was given long ago by Dr. Potter, Archbishop of
Canterbury, in the eighteenth century.

" It is not unlikely that the uncommonness of the phrase
elders-brethren might occasion some unskilful transcriber
to insert the particle and between them to make the sense,



io PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

as he might think, more clear or perfect ; and having
crept into the text, it is not to be wondered that it should
afterwards be recommended by the seeming easiness of the
expression to most of the transcribers who followed. But
it was not there in the time of Irenaeus."

It is not really doubtful that the text which the
Authorized Version translates is not the original.
It is the Revised Version which represents the true.

This is acknowledged by a whole series of modern
critics. It is the text accepted by Tischendorf,
Hort, Neander, Alford, Nosgen, Zockler, and many
others.

The Authorized Version is mistaken. It has
led many readers to suppose that laymen took part
in sanctioning the Apostolic decrees. But it is
worthy of notice that a considerable number of
theologians, who were not aware that the Authorized
Version represented an inferior text, have confessed
themselves quite unable to reconcile the place which
it assigned to the laity, with the distinct statement
which St. Luke had previously made, that it was
the Apostles and elders, and apparently they alone,
who came together officially to consider the subject.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor, for example, observes that
this place is urged to prove the right of the laity
to vote in Councils of the Church. The Bishop
did not know that the text was mistaken. But he
felt convinced that such a theory could not be
harmonized with what St. Luke had already told us.
Jeremy Taylor was, therefore, in perplexity. He
was certain, from the whole drift of the narrative,
that the laity neither decided the question nor
authorized the decree. He observed that such



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM it

a theory " is against the Catholic practice of the
Church," x which he maintained was " certainly
the best exposition of such places." He noted that
in Acts xvi. the decision is expressly called " decrees
judged by the Apostles and elders."

The text as now revised makes St. Luke's account
consistent throughout. %s "

There is a further sentence in the Council's letter
which ought to be noticed in this connexion. Re-
ferring to the Judaizers who had disturbed the
Church at Antioch, the letter says, " to whom we
gave no commandment." 2 Who are meant by
" we " ? It has been said that " we " represents
the Apostles and the elders and the whole Church.
But that is exactly what the revised superscription
of the letter does not admit. " We " must mean
the Apostles and the elders. It must mean what it
means all through the letter. Thus, when we read,
" It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to
lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary
things," 3 the pronoun " us " cannot refer to
the laity of Jerusalem. They had no authority
whatever over the laity of Antioch.

It is sometimes suggested that this Assembly
at Jerusalem ought not to be called a Council but
rather a friendly conference between the neighbour
Churches.

We certainly ought to be on our guard against
ascribing to an earlier age associations and ideas



1 Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Episcopacy Asserted, § 41
Works, v. 173, 174.

2 Acts xv. 24. 3 Ver. 28.



12 PLACE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

which strictly belong only to a later period. Un-
doubtedly everything has its beginnings. The
stereotyped regulations of the age of the Councils
cannot without gross anachronism be transferred to
the primitive assembly of the Apostolic days. There
were as yet no precedents. So far the reminder of
the necessity of caution is valuable. Nevertheless in
all essentials the meeting at Jerusalem was a Council
of the Church, and the precedent of all subsequent
ecclesiastical assemblies.

Moreover, to call it a friendly conference seems
entirely inaccurate. For there was in it an un-
questionable element of authority such as no meeting
of neighbours could justify. An assembly which
wrote those words, it seemed good to the Holy Ghost
and to us to lay upon you no other burden than
those necessary things, was certainly assuming a
much higher authority than belongs to a friendly
conference.

IV

The principles, therefore, to be gathered from the
Council of Jerusalem are : —

That a local Church in difficulties made applica-
tion, not to another local Church as such but to the
Apostles and the presbyters, and to them alone.

That the Council which assembled to consider
the application consisted of the clergy, and none
other, as its constituent elements and deliberative
members.

That the decree which was issued was issued
exclusively in the name of the Apostles and elders,



APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM 13

and is expressly spoken of afterwards as " ordained
by the Apostles and elders." x

That the laity took part in preliminary confer-
ences, were silent witnesses and hearers of the
Council, and co-operated in the practical dissemina-
tion of decisions which they did not make.

There is no ground whatever in the procedure
of the Council of Jerusalem to ascribe a deliberative
function to the laity in matters of Faith, or in the
passing of regulations and decrees in which the
substance of the Faith is involved.

1 Acts xvi. 4.



II

THE DIOCESAN SYNOD
By the EDITOR

SINCE the Church consists of Bishops, priests,
and laity, all these three elements will have their
distinct relationship to the Church's Councils or
assemblies for deliberation. Each, therefore, of
these three must be considered. But it is simpler
to consider first the place of Bishops and priests
in Councils, and to give a separate study to the
place of the laity in the same.

The assemblies of the Church for deliberation are
of two easily distinguished kinds : those in which a
single Bishop gathers his priests together ; and
those in which the Bishops themselves assemble.
The first are the Diocesan Synods ; the second are
the Councils. Whether such Councils are provincial,
national, or world-wide, makes no difference to this
classification.

The Diocesan Synod is an ecclesiastical assembly
for the purpose of deliberation, including the Bishop
of the diocese together with his priests. It is
the simplest and most obvious form of official
ecclesiastical conference.

i. It is that kind of consultation which seems
involved in the Ignatian ideal of the intimate
constitutional relationship between a Bishop and

14



THE DIOCESAN SYNOD 15

his priests. St. Ignatius taught that harmonious
union must exist between the Bishop and the other
clergy of the local Church. " The presbytery/'
in his conception, " is fitted to the Bishop as the
strings to a harp." x Mutual confidence and co-
operation between Bishop and priest is indispensable
to the Catholic idea. Neither acts without consulta-
tion with the other. There would be no room for
independent action of the priest or despotic action
of the Bishop, if the Ignatian ideal prevailed. They
are both indispensable elements in a Divine consti-
tution.

This conception of the Bishop and his presbyters
is evidently regarded by St. Ignatius as the normal
constitution of the Church. He views the structure
of the Church as being neither a government ex-
clusively by the one, nor yet by the few, still less
by the many. It is a college of clergy controlled
by a chief. And this order possesses a Divine
authority. Ignatius makes no mention of a Bishop
or chief when he writes to Rome. None the less,
he regards a Bishop as the normal head of the local
clergy.

And although the letter of the Roman Church
to that of Corinth mentions no Episcopal chief,
yet tradition has none the less uniformly ascribed
its authorship to Clement as Bishop.

2. In the " Apostolic Constitutions " of the
fourth century, the Ignatian principles are reiter-
ated and reinforced. The Bishop is described as
" the minister of the Word," " the keeper of know-


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