Disestablishment and Liberation by W. H. Mackintosh (Epworth £6.50) rr1HIS substantial volume is a
careful study, as much of the byways as of the highways of the movement for the separation of the Church of England from State control, and is concerned with the last century and a half.
One cannot deny that much of it now appears rather heavy going except for the specialist, and the book is so detailed that it is rather difficult to keep the thread. One begins, indeed. to ask whether there is a con tinuous thread to be discovered.
Dr. Mackintosh has orientated his researches very largely around the archives of the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control, but it cannot be said that their papers add very much to the controversy. Politically it was one frankly opportunist in its alliance, and the politicians were equally opportunist in theirs.
The context of it all is very much the world of Dickens, and it is a pity that this is really a study of 19th century ideas and is not brought up to date with a consideration of what has happened more recently. No mention is made of the Chadwick Report of 1970, or of the rumblings around the Establishment as a result of the Prayer Book controversy in the late twenties.
But we have reason to be grateful for this recollection of times past, of which it could be written that a General Election "was a triumph for the resolutions of the new Prime Minister and the cause of a reformed Church in England."
The restrictions under which Catholics and Free Churchmen laboured for so many years strike US as quite appalling; in the universities (who also, it should be remembered, for most of the century placed an equal disability upon the married) and parish; at times of wedding or of burial, penal restrictions were not only condoned, but positively upheld.
The chapter on Irish Church Disestablishment is not an edifying episode and does much to uncover some of the roots of the present discontents in Ulster. And it may be that the cause of Voluntaryism has been over-vindicated in the present day.
It is certainly unlikely that politicians, as such, will again be drawn into the sort of theological debates of which this volume is a record. I am not entirely certain that this is pure gain.
Canon Peter Moore