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PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD., Issue 10455, 27 October 1897
Second Day.—Tuesday. The sittings of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland were resumed jn the First Church last night, the Moderator (the Rev. W. TVili) presiding. moderator’s address. The Moderator delivered his address on * The Church in Relation to its Creed.’ The address will appear in extenso in our Saturday’s supplement, DEPUTIES FROM THE NORTHERN CHURCH. The Rev. Dr Erwin, of Christchurch, and the Rev. J. H. Mackenzie, of Nelson, deputies from the Northern Church, were welcomed and associated with the Synod. MEETINGS OF THE SYNOD. Mr A, 0. Begg submitted a report from the Accommodation Committee in connection with a proposal to hold the. future meetings of the Synod in the small hall of the Agricultural Buildings. The Committee had examined the hall and found it very suitable. It would scat about 400 people, and it was a hall in which it was easy to speak and to hear. The Committee thought at first of recommending the Synod to hold the succeeding meetings of the present session there, but they found that the electric light arrangements were not complete, and it was feared that the noise of the engine generating the electricity might cause some interruption. In consequence of that the Com-, inittee had decided to recommend that for the present Synod the meetings be continued in First Church, and that the Victoria Hall be availed of for next meeting of Synod. -- He moved that the report be adopted. Mr Christie seconded the motion. The Rev. J. Gibb questioned whether the Synod was prepared to come at once to a decision on the subject. He thought they might adopt the first portion of the report (committing the Synod to hold the present session in that church), and leave the other portion to a future sederunt. The Rev. 6. Lindsay moved as an amendment—“ That the report he received, and the meetings of Synod be continued as heretofore.” The Rev. J. Gibb seconded the amendment. On the question being put, the motion was c \rried by a large majority. BIBLE READING in schools.
The Committee on Bible-rcadiug in Schools presented a report obtaining - Ihe folowing clauses:— Shortly before the last General Election of Parliament circulars were sent to the candidates throughout the country, inquiring whether they were favorable to submit to a plebiscite of the electors a proposal to introduce into the public schools of the colony the daily reading of the .Scriptural Lesson Look of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, and whether (if elected) they would support a Bill to give immediate effect to the decision, if favorable. Replies in the affirmative were received from a largo number, which were duly published at the time, but the result of the election showed that in many electorates tins question was not regarded as the most important element in determining their votes, and some of those favorable to Bible-reading were not elected. • The necessity of the influence of Divine truth being brought to bear on the minds of the young is becoming every year more manifest and urgent. The frequent instances of depravity among the young who have attended our public schools, which have been brought before the Police Courts, and the more numerous cases within the knowledge of private persons in all parts of the country, have, roused the attention of Government, and a Bill has been introduced into Parliament to prevent boys and girls from loitering about the streets at untimeous hours, or fnTquenting pkc;s where they may fall into evi practices. (Such a measure iudiciously enforced may tend to check the evil which now aboundsbut it does not attempt to deal with the root of it. which in many cases is due to ignorance of the Divine law. While the Legislature is lavish in providing the means of instructing the young in purely secular subjects, the much more important clement of moral training, in auv eliicient manner, is by the present Education Act stringently forbidden within the regular school hours. The attempts which have been made in many parts of the country at various times to supply this want outside of the school hours have cither signally failed and been abandoned or have attained only a very limited amount of success. As the result of the pronibitiou of Scripture-reading in the schools, thousands of the young who have passed through the school curriculum are wofuliy ignorant of the Divine law of morality and the sanctions which support it, and the result is disastrous to the pupils and the community at large. The tolerance of such a system during nearly twenty years which have elapsed since it was introduced is due doubtless to the comparative indifference of the people. If they were united and earnest in demanding of the Legislature the necessaiy amendment of the Education Act it could not long be withheld. To the Christian churches of this land, therefore, wo must look to do all that lies in their power to louse the people to a true appreciation of the evils of the present system, and to earnest efforts to amend
The Committee therefore recommend the Synod to continue the Committee, with instructions to endeavor to get a Bill introduced in Parliament next session .to legalise the daily reading of the Scripture Lesson Book’ of the Commissioners of National Education _in Ireland within school hours, and with provision of a conscience clause and to take such steps as may seem expedient to secure the passing of the measure into law • fin ther. to instruct the presbyteries to arrange as they think best to bring the subject before each congregation, and to co-operate as far as practicable with other denominations in seeking to rouse greater interest in the subject amongst tho people throughout the various districts.
Dr Copland, convener of the Committee, in moving the adoption of the report, said that perhaps the first impression formed on many by first hearing the report might be that it was of a somewhat negative and hopeless character. He trusted that on reflection such would sec iu it an earnest appeal to greater zeal and effort in the endeavor to secure an amendment to our present secular system of education. The reason why the secular system had been allowed to continue so long was not because of any desire on the part of the people for if, but the reverse. When it was first introduced there was a feeling ou the part of many who had had no desire for the secular system that it might be well to give it a trial, and that feeling with most people had not passed away. When he looked back over the past history of the movement to amend the Act he thought there was some reason for feeling encouraged, although, i deed, the that had been made uad not yet succeeded, and although there was in several quarters a considerable amount of ir.differetc?, which, however, he attributed to the people looking at the previous nonsuccess of the movement and not to their bein°reconciled to the present evil system. Ineveiy .case—particularly in this case—they must not look at past failures, but they should rather set bsfore them the necessity and increasing urgency of accomplishing the end they desired, and he thought that every year showed a greater necessity and urgency for a change For many years the Synod had, practically with one heart, sought to have the secular system changed, but when they approached the Legislature time after time the difficulty they encountered was that there were differences of opinion among the different churches, and that was made the excuse for not acceding to their demand. Some demanded, as the Synod did, simple Bible-reading and others that there should be very full Bible instruction; some demanded that their own ministers should have the right to enter the public schools in school hours snl communicate to the children belonging to their churches their own peculiar and denominational religious teaching 5 and others demanded that the Legislature should give capitation grants for the children in their own denominational schools. Of late, however, there had been considerable unanimity among the different Protestant churches over the country as to the acceptance of the introduction into the public schools »f the iu t S ook »; ? ven Anglican churches outside of New Zealand had indicated by their officiate their acquiescence in and approval of such a measure. Notwithstanding that, there was unquestionably a very lamentable degree of callousness and indifference on the question. What behoved them as intelligent and earnest men was to keep before P „ a f oP i.l 0 Q th vf- . ur e en °y vast import- ! be ,? b 3 ect they sought, and to allow nothing to discourage them nntil they sueoeededm changing a system which he had no hesitation in-regarding as not only a serious injury to the rising generation, but as a disgrace to a professedly Christian country. (An. clause.) By the Education Act that was now In force all the instruction that was given in the schools must be exclusively secular. What did that mean . The teacher durst not speak of won or His authority ns the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and when he had occasion to challenge the pupils for any ; evil practice that prevailed he could only refer to it as being against the laws of the school, but ho durst not speak of it as being against the law of God to whom every soul was responsible and before whom each must give an account. Ho pointed out that the Sy nod did not discourage parents and Sunday school teachers-from doing their utmost as they found opportunity, but there were many children who had not parents to Instruct them in morality, or had parefifp'wlio did not show them an example fitted to encourage them in morality, and there were children who had not the opportunity to attend Sunday schools. . There were thousands in-this land who had grown to manhood and womanhood and who hail passed through our muchboasted public schools and yet were most lamentably ignorant of the law of morality and of the Divine sanction by which it was enforced It must, he contended,-be manifest that-the present system, of education missed the very highest purpose which it might and ought to achieve.—! Applause. ), The subject was becoming more urgently imperative, and that wai showing itself to the Legislature, which' had been attracted by the strange phenomena; in this wonderfully educated, highly civilised, and advanced country; df young people exhibiting
depravity. He trusted that members of the Synod would seek to induce the people to press on the legislators that this was a matter that they as Christians demanded should be attended to, and that this obnoxious feature of the Education Act be done away with. He moved —“ That the S> nod adopt the recommendation set forth in the end of the report.’’—(Applause.) Mr A. C. Begg seconded the motion, but thought that if the matter was taken out of the hands of the. politicians and Parliament altogether and put into the hands of the. people they would gain the object that was wished for.
The Rev. R. R. M. Sutherland: Local option. Mr Begg said they should got Parliament to sanction a plebiscite of the p ople in each educational district, or of the parents and guardians of the children at school in each district, and let the result of that plebiscite de.ide for each district whether the Bible should be read in' the schools or not. The speaker, strongly urged ihc rtintroduction of scriptural teaching into the public tohools. He said it was not race that had made the BiilLh people what they wore, but their proud position was the effect of early religious training. Mr E. B. Caegill complained that a great wrong was inflicted on them and their children in that the Bible was forbidden in the schools. He did not advocate the church making itself a political body, but he did say that in all questions affecting motality and Christianity the church .should be a potent influence and bring pressure to bear on parliamentarians which they would find‘it difficult to withstand.—(Applause.) He would sooner see the present education system break down than be carried on in a way so contrary to what they considered right, and he did not know why it should be worshipped. Suppose they did introduce denominationilism, and suppose they did give denominational giants to the people who set up schools, was there anything wicked or bad in that? Were we so much in advance of other parts of the world that we mast set up a thing for ourselves, and say it was the only thing worth talking about? He expressed surprise at Scotchmen objecting to dcnominatioualism, and asked if the old parish schools of Scotland, where the character of Scotchmen was foimsd, w,ro not denominational schools? Ho urged that they as Fresbyter'ans should do their duty, and invite other bodies of Christians to join them, and the thing no doubt woul i be carried out in obedience to their dunands.—(Applause.)
The Rev. Dr Waddell doubted if the recommendation of the Committee was the wisest thing to do He pointed out that they had missed the opportunity of getting pledges from members of Parliament, and said it was quite evident that Parliament would not agree to pass any Bill such as they desired, ami the ground would be that the country did not desire it. The wisest course for them to. pursue Would bo to ask Parliament for a measure to enable them to determine the wish of the country on the matter-that was, by the taking of a plebiscite. He moved as an amendment—- “ That a Bill be introduced into Parliament to provide for a plebiscite on the. subject of the introduction of Bible-reading in the schools.”
The Rev. R. R. M. Sutherland seconded the amendment. He was strongly of opinion that it the k-jHiod tiicd to bring in the measure suggested in the report nothing would oome of it.
Tho Rev. Dr Watt thought they all admired the enthusiasm which It Cop'and threw into his crusade-(hear, Inar)—and hoped to see the day when success should crown his efforts. He (Dr Watt) sympathised with the amendment, but felt very strongly that at present the country was not with them, the reason being that parents were afraid of the bogey of sec tarianism.—(Hear, hear.) The Rev. A. Cameron agreed with Dr Waddell, but held that they could do something in the meantime. A great deal was said about the people not being with them, but the question was 'Where were they themselves ? - (Hear, hear.) If ministers were as desirous to introduce religious instiuction into tho schools as they professed to be, the, could fiud a way of doing it without going to Parliament for a Bill which Parliament bad steadily refused to give -they cou'd fi d access to the children at convenient times under the present Act, which only p; escribed for four Lours’ secular instruction. New, they all knew that most schools we:e open for five hours each day, and if committees were approached and agked to fix a time tor religious instruction on one day in the week —say to commence the regular school w.-rk on that day at ten o'clock—in tho most oases this would bo agreed to and the ministers be enabled to give religious instiuction to the children during the regular school ?°" r . s -,. hul 'approached a committee iaWsd.Btnct > and lia t gofc ths necessary permission, an t about three-quarters of the children attending that school cime to him for religious i.-i-truction from 9.15 to 10 o’clock on one inorcicg in the week. He strongly urged that ministers anil elders should make us■- cf their opportunifes. and not go about the country 013 jug out for the Legislature to give them what in th ir hearts they know the Lcmslature was not likely to give them. c The Rev. P. B. Frassr corroborated what ; ’ ameron had said, ard likened the pcsiti m of their children to that of the horse starving wmle the grass was growing. If they were in earnest, as they professed to be, might not they, the ministers be doing what Mr Cameron had nuicated could he done. At the Synod the}’ passed an annual jeremiad—that was what the l.iole-in-sclioola report had come to be—and all the time they were doing practically nothing. When he was a teacher, ho always resented clerical interference in schools, and he believed that was the feeling of all teachers-they were afraid of the religious test being applied in future appointments, and he was sure the community would never consent to such a test being applied.—(Hear, hear ) He suggested th-.t tho Committee should be asked to obtain regularly reports from the various distr'ets as to what was being done in them by the ministers.
The Rev. J. M. MTCerhow endorsed all that air Cameron had and also something of what Mr Fraser had said with regard to the practicability of giving religious teaching in schools if ministers were io earnest about doing so. Ho had taught for ten years, and hadaivnn religious teaching in school hours, The'difficulty had always been to get any children after school hours.
D ' Bon,llE there were more difficulties in the way of religions teaching in schools than some of the speakers supposed Many of the committees would not look at the question, and it would have to be fought out with them at the elections. Then, while some ministers were no doubt born teachers, many others had not the knack of getting the children into the schools for religious instruction.
Mr W. H. Rose recommended the taking of a plebiscite for the introduction of the Irish Text Book into tho schools, and ths formation of a scheme by means of which all the evangelical churches would unite in instructing the people with regard to the question at isme before the plebiscite was taken. . Mr G. Reid thought -that religious instructurn should be in the hands of the teachers. If the matter was heft to ministers he was afraid it would be a very long time before the change they desired would be brought about. Phe Rev. A. H. Stobo advocated that ministers should take steps to arouse public sentiment In the matter of religious instruction moved as an addition to Dr Waddells amendment-* 1 That the Committee be recommended to take steps towards endeavoring to secure the formation of a tsationa' Scripture Instruction in Public i-cbools League.” The Rev. J. Chisholm seconded the amendment.
After further discussion the deliverance was agreed to in the following form:— 11 Adopt the report, recommend the Committee to take steps in conjunction with presbyteries and others interested in the subject of this report to secure the formation of a National Scripture Instructionin Public Schools League, and to secure a plebiscite on the question of having a Scripture lesson book introduced into the public schools ”
CODIFICATION OP CHURCH REGULATIONS. A committee was appointed to codify the regulations in connection' with the various operations of the church.
The Synod adjourned at 10.40 run. till 10 a-m. on Wednesday.
PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD., Issue 10455, 27 October 1897
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