0/ HAVING failed to re O ceive an invitation to preach during the New Pentecost I am about to go off to Rome in a huff O to try my luck at St. Peter's, but I want just to say a few words about the significance of the experiment.
It has, in fact, opened the way for the development of the position of lay preachers in our Church. I receive many invitations to preach from Church of England pulpits and the lay preacher, although a non-Anglican position in origin, is now familiar to Anglican congregations.
In many cases the function of a lay preacher is to speak principally on his own expertise in a Christian setting, but lay preachers will in future be required to preach on doctrinal subjects. How is error to be avoided?
O A useful device has been developed by the Catholic Evidence Guild and might 0 well be applied to lay • preachers. Before a member O of the guild is allowed to ▪ speak in public on a theo • logical subject he has to O pass an examination and is issued with a certificate. As / the office of lay preacher 0 develops this model, which 9 has worked well, should be 0 followed.
• r HE other evening I appeared on a Brain's Trust at Friend's House 0 with Cliff Richard, Mr. / Quinton Hogg and Lord O Auckland. I was very im pressed by Mr. Richard's +,1 sincere and total commit ment to the person of Christ, but was conscious of ; the shortcomings for the 0. purpose of any public dis cussion of evangelical religion.
You cannot argue or debate about other people's declarations of faith unless they have a doctrinal content. One can accept that they believe what they say or reject it, but that is more or less the end of the in atter.
The contrast with Mr. Quintin Hogg, who is the Shadow Cabinet's only theologian, was marked. One of the lively points of discussion was on foreign aid. Mr. Hogg criticised our aid to other countries when we are ourselves in a bankrupt condition. Someone else declared that "charity begins at home."
This latter statement is certainly erroneous. We are told just the opposite in the New Testament, where charity is said to begin not merely with the stranger but with the enemy.
Mr. Hogg's point is harder to answer, but I find myself instinctively recoiling from the idea of cutting our aid to poverty-stricken countries and retreating further into a mood of selfish and obsessional economic introversion.
I think the gloss that needs to be put on Mr. Hogg's thought is that cutting overseas aid is not the only road to solvency; there are others, such as produc ing more or economising on military expenditure, and both of these seem preferable to me.
oNE reason which has prompted me to go to Rome apart from some hope of receiving the Holy Spirit is to recover from the sheer physical exhaustion of these last weeks in parliament.
The Westminster machine is just not made for the sort of load which has been placed upon it this month and frustration and indignation is shared by M.P.s of all parties. Certainly life could not be lived for any length of time under recent conditions.
There is, however, something more serious than the physical and mental breakdown of Members of Parliament and that is the threat posed to the democratic system itself.
The House of Commons has never set out to govern as such, but its function has been to check the executive and provide the principal forum of what Bagehot called government by discussion. It may be said that the discussion is useless if the Government has a majority which it can use to drive through its decisions, but this is an over-simplification.
Discussion in the House of Commons enables opinion to be crystallised both there and in the country: it provides a link between Government and people: it is both a barometer and a safety valve. I do not 'believe with Mr. Wedgwood Benn that England is in imminent danger of going the same way as France, but it certainly is much more likely to do so if Government by discussion continues to be eroded.