New sources at Lambeth Palace Library, 2014

Some twentieth century highlights from the latest Report of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library:

(i) a note on the cataloguing of the papers of John Stott, funded by Stott himself and his executors. There’s more on the LPL site, and on their blog when the cataloguing was finished.

(ii) newly catalogued files from the Council on Foreign Relations, including key dialogues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. These began before the Second Vatican Council; became the Joint Preparatory Commission (1967), and in turn the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). The papers touch on many of the most difficult issues of the time, including ‘mixed marriages’

(iii) amongst the papers of the archbishops, the series reaches 1983, and Robert Runcie’s view on nuclear weapons and his visit to China as part of a delegation of the British Council of Churches.

(iv) the papers of Joseph McCulloch, rector of St Mary-le-Bow (London) and instigator of the weekly public debates in the 1960 and 1970s known as the Bow Dialogues.

Badalia Herodsfoot and the Curate

Another post in my occasional series on clergy in British fiction; this time from a short story by Rudyard Kipling, ‘The record of Badalia Herodsfoot‘, first published in his Many Inventions in 1893. Both posts in the series so far, from H.G.Wells and George Orwell, have featured clerical characters working in prosperous and settled areas of England. Kipling’s character, by contrast, is an example of a recognisable type in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century: the ‘slum priest’.

The Reverend Eustace Hanna is curate of an unnamed parish in London’s East End (it is always the East End). He works amongst the poor of Gunnison Street, dispensing aid as best he can, both material and spiritual, but mostly material. He works alongside the Little Sisters of the Red Diamond, a house of Anglican religious, as well as Brother Victor, of the (Roman Catholic) Order of Little Ease. He must also stay in the good books of Mrs Jessel, of the Tea Cup Board, who ‘had money to dispense, but hated Rome.’

What this group of do-gooders, partly co-operative, partly competitive, come to recognise is that they need help. While the residents of Gunnison Street need material help, they are considerably less interested in any religious attachment that might go with it; although some are not above feigning a conversion for a bite to eat. Hanna and the others are interlopers; not despised as such, but tolerated at best; separated by an insuperable barrier of class and outlook.

And so Hanna enlists the help of Badalia Herodsfoot, a deserted wife of indeterminate age, childless, who shifts for herself by ‘a mangle, some tending of babies, and an occasional sale of flowers’. Once a week Mrs Jessel subvents a sum of money for the poor, which Badalia dispenses, and records the details in a book which Hanna must sign. Mrs Jessel is concerned about Badalia’s godlessness of speech, but all recognise that her local knowledge is too useful a means that they should question her conduct.

It is important that Hanna is a curate. The rector of the parish is more concerned with altar-cloths and a new brass eagle lectern for the church, and (we are to understand) would rather the curate did not spend his time pauperizing the poor by dispensing charity to them. But Hanna is young, and still tender of heart. And his heart is particularly tender towards Sister Eva, ‘youngest and most impressionable’ of the Little Sisters, alongside whom he works and whom he would rather be able to protect. All of them work themselves hard, with a faintly desperate determination, ‘since time is precious and lives hang in the balance of five minutes.’

Hanna is a more sympathetic character than either Wells’ curate, or Orwell’s rector, but there is still moral complication. It is as a direct result of Badalia’s involvement with Hanna that she is beaten to death by her degenerate husband Tom, returning to her after a desertion of two years. This is partly because she will not hand over the money for him to spend on drink. But Tom is disposed to believe the gossip that Badalia is the subject of more than just the charity of this ‘aristocratic parson’. But Hanna and Brother Victor are able to put aside their differences, and the denominational demarcation of death, to both be at Badalia’s deathbed as she succumbs to her injuries. Kipling’s curate is a good man at work with limited success in an alien environment.

Editing Michael Ramsey’s writings

The second half of this book on Archbishop Michael Ramsey consists of a selection of edited sources. As I now have a full first draft of these, I thought I’d publish the list here.

There may yet be some changes to this, with some of the sources listed making way for others. Comments on the selection are very welcome.

Apart from the speeches to the House of Lords, all of these are edited afresh from unpublished items in the Ramsey Papers at Lambeth Palace Library. I would be happy to supply readers with the full reference(s) on request.

Date Subject Type
1961 To Bishops’ Meeting on liturgical revision Memo
1961 Speech to a Congress on Public Morality Address
1962 Letter to parliamentarians on liturgical reform Letter
1962 On the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill Parliament
1963 At Lambeth Palace requiem for Pope John Address
1963 To Mervyn Stockwood on Honest to God Letter
1963 To the bishops on Honest to God Letter
1963 To Mervyn Stockwood on Honest to God Letter
1963 To a parish priest, on Honest to God Letter
1963 To Convocation on the Anglican Congress in Toronto Address
1964 Rapprochement of Orthodox & Anglican churches Sermon
1965 To the Prime Minister on the Church and State Commission Letter
1965 On abolition of the death penalty Parliament
1965 On the Sexual Offences Bill Parliament
1965 Magna Carta Service Sermon
1965 On Southern Rhodesia Parliament
1966 On the canonisation of the English RC martyrs Memo
1966 To Oliver Tomkins on Anglican-Roman Catholic relations Letter
1966 To E.L. Mascall on Rome Letter
1966 To Chad Varah on sex Letter
1967 On the meeting with Cardinal Suenens at Lambeth Memo
1967 On the commencement of Human Rights Year Sermon
1968 To Margaret Deanesly on Anglican-Methodist unity Letter
1968 On reform of the House of Lords Parliament
1968 On the admission of Kenyan Asians Parliament
1968 On the Race Relations Bill Parliament
1968 At the opening of the Lambeth Conference Sermon
1969 To David L. Edwards on Anglican-Methodist unity Letter
1969 To Eric Kemp on Anglican-Methodist unity Letter
1969 Foreword to pamphlet introducing the new General Synod Publication
1969 At a quincentenary commemoration of Guru Nanak Address
1971 On Northern Ireland Parliament
1972 Prayer for Ireland: Westminster Cathedral Sermon
1974 On the Worship and Doctrine Measure Parliament
1974 Farewell Sermon Sermon
1982 British Council of Churches: 40th Anniversary Service Sermon

New sources at Lambeth Palace Library

A recent arrival on the doormat was the annual review of Lambeth Palace Library. It includes as always a digest of recent accessions and completed cataloguing, and here are some of the highlights for historians of the period since 1945.

The rolling cataloguing of the papers of the archbishops continues, under the usual thirty-year rule, with those for Robert Runcie now available for 1982. These include papers relating to the famous sermon of July 1982 at the Falkland Island Service, and for the visit of Pope John Paul II. Also available are the collected speeches and sermons of George Carey, some thousand or more of them.

Particularly interesting in connection with Michael Ramsey are the papers of the Church of England’s diplomatic arm, the Council on Foreign Relations, as they relate to the Roman Catholic church. There is material here on Ramsey’s visit to Rome in 1966, the vexed issue of ‘mixed marriages’ and the canonisation by the Pope of forty English and Welsh martyrs of the Reformation period, which Ramsey thought an ecumenical disaster, and against which he pressed in public and in private.

Also available are the papers of the prominent member of the Church Assembly George Goyder, as well as those of Garth Moore, canonist, cleric and academic lawyer, who was prominent in many of the complex legal changes in relation to church and state and the ecumenical movement in Ramsey’s time at Lambeth.

Other highlights are the paper of Hugh Montefiore, bishop of Birmingham; and the records of Robert Runcie’s Commission on Urban Affairs, which produced the controversial and still significant report Faith in the City, which endeared the church to Mrs Thatcher about as much as the Falklands sermon did.

The archives and manuscripts catalogue is available here.

On Popes, archbishops and their predecessors

Those who follow such obscure things will be conscious that we have at the moment simultaneous periods of transition in the highest offices of both the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England (and thus the Anglican Communion.) As Pope Emeritus Benedict disappeared from view into the palace at Castel Gandolfo, speculation began as to what sort of neighbour he would be to his successor, since Popes have not often needed to reckon with the presence of a living predecessor. Would Benedict be a critic, or at the least a silent focus for the discontent of others ? Or a source of counsel and encouragement? I am not enough of a Vatican-watcher to speculate; but there are some interesting parallels in the relationships of some modern archbishops of Canterbury with their predecessors; and not always happy ones.

Outgoing archbishops have often been asked for their mind as to their successor. In 1961 Geoffrey Fisher advised Harold Macmillan against appointing Michael Ramsey to Canterbury. In 1974 Ramsey himself thought that Donald Coggan was not the best man to succeed him; not for any particular fault of Coggan’s, but because Ramsey thought that a figure from the worldwide Anglican Communion would be better.

So far, so predictable; indeed, one might hope that any such process would seek the views of the outgoing man, even if they were not decisive, as neither Fisher nor Ramsey were. But there have been two recent instances where an outgoing archbishop has not retired to monastic seclusion, never to be seen in public affairs again; and neither of them reflect well on the men concerned.

The most recent was the intervention of George Carey in 2008 in the media firestorm following Rowan Williams’ comments on the possibility of finding some limited spaces for sharia law within (and subject to) UK family law. Carey, in his regular column in the News of the World, argued that such change would be ‘disastrous for the nation [and] a direct challenge to the values of the Christian/Jewish ethic on which our laws have been constructed.’ Although much of the rest of the column was more supportive, the episode was one of the most difficult in Williams’ time, and it is hard to imagine that Carey’s intervention was experienced as anything other than unhelpful.

The other case, sustained over a longer period and probably more damaging, was Geoffrey Fisher’s campaign from retirement in rural Dorset against the Scheme to reunite the Anglican and Methodist churches; a scheme in which Ramsey had invested much. That the two men were poles apart temperamentally was noted at the time; Harold Macmillan’s quip about his appointment of Ramsey, that there had been ‘enough of Martha and it was time for some Mary’ caught something of the contrast. Fisher’s reputation has suffered unduly, but the picture of the brisk, efficient headmaster figure has persisted, and indeed Fisher had been head of Repton School when Ramsey was a pupil. Ramsey told Macmillan that ‘Fisher was my headmaster and he has known all my deficiencies for a long time.’ Macmillan replied ‘Well, he is not going to be my headmaster.’

Fisher yielded to no-one in his commitment to reunion between the two churches, being widely credited with the inception of the whole process in his so-called ‘Cambridge sermon’ of 1946. However, he came to reject the Scheme, thinking it a basic error to suppose that the ministries of the two churches could be reconciled before full communion was achieved. For Fisher the ambiguity necessary in the special Service of Reconciliation, created to circumvent the issue, was intolerable: ‘a pious subterfuge, pious and sincere but still a subterfuge and a tortuous one.’

Ramsey’s predecessor was loudly and consistently against the Scheme, in print, in letters to the Press, and in a constant private correspondence with Ramsey and other bishops. Ramsey came to dread the arrival of Fisher’s letters which eventually went unanswered, causing Fisher to lodge a formal complaint with the Church Assembly about his treatment at the hands of his successor. Ramsey certainly thought Fisher had been crucial in sinking the Scheme, many having been persuaded ‘that as Lord Fisher dislikes the proposals there must be something fishy about them.’

There was no hint of the episode in the address that Ramsey gave at Fisher’s funeral; but Fisher’s brooding presence had been nothing but a hindrance. None of the more recent (and sympathetic) students of Fisher have quite been able to excuse him on this count. I would doubt that either of the outgoing Pope or archbishop would wish to follow his example.