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BIBLE IN SCHOOLS, Issue 15656, 21 November 1914
BIBLE IN SCHOOLS
KEEN DEBATE IN PRESBYTERIAN ASSEMBLY. Yesterday' afternoon the Presbyterian General Assembly took up the question of Bible in schools. The report of the committee on Bible in State Schools Australasian svstem was as follows:—"The work of the"nssemblv"s co .™ rm . tteo , tnis vear I)a 6 been light, as the Bible in State Schools League have borne tiic burden. The committee are pleased to note the progress of the movement, and congratulate the Hon. James Allen on having introduced the Referendum Bill in the House of Representatives. Owing to l m M ' the lca ß ue requested that this should be temporarily withdrawn. We look forward, however, to the reintroduction of the Bill in the near future. It is of the utaiost importance, therefore, that members of the incoming Parliament should be favorable to our platform. That this may be so, the members and adherent* of the ChdTch are urged to support at the election those candidates who will give th© people an opportunity of voting on the question on the lines suROBted by the Bible in State Schools League. Rev. G. H .Balfour, interim convener of the committee, said that he did not mtend to discuss fundamental principles, because they h a .d been fully discussed previously am! The attitude of the Church wM, « h ad V "* tl «» by its co-operation with other bodies. He moved—'- That tlie assembly, receive the report and reaffirm their approval of the system of Bible in State schools promoted by the Bible in ht*Us School League, and resolve to continue to co-operate with the league in the effort to get that system introduced into the State schools of the Dominion " Hon J. G. W. Aitkcn seconded the motion, and it was carried. Not many S S " hCard Cither Way ' aDd a fe *'
R«r. Mr Balfour farther moved-" That on Sunday, the 6th December, ministers be requested to hiing this matter before their congregations." Mr Aitken seconded this. Mr J R. Kj rk protested. Tt was against the best interests of the Church to introduce these controversial subjects into the pulpit. * h 'J?S- D ' (Southland) said it ■n-ae fitting that matters of this sort, of deep importance to the people, should be spoken of from the pulpit. He was not going to stop any minister from telling him of his fault*. Rev. A Cameron said that he was strongly jii favor of Scripture instruction m the schools, and had given it for 20 years, but he was opposed to the platform of the league. Cries of "Too late,'' and one or two voices raised poiiite of order. The Moderator ruled that Mr Cameron was quite in order. Rev. Mr Cameron said that he had been accused of keeping silent on this, question at a time when ho should have spoken. To that he answered t;hat when in tire moderator's chair he purposely refrained from speaking, so that the weight of the moderatorship might not be thrown into the scale.
Again eome delegate sang out that Mr Cameron should have cpoken on the previous motion. He was too late. Rev. Mr Cameron: Well, the motion before the assembly is that ministers preach on behalf of the league platform on the 6th December, and I here intimated that if I deal with the question on tho 6th December I will fpeak in opposition to it, because I am utterly opposed to the introduction of denomin'ationalism into the primary schools, and because, the league's proposals would bring about a religious test /or teachers. Mr W. S. Fitzgerald did not agree that the platform meant a vchgiom tout for teachers. He spoke from experience. Itev. I. Jolly (Auckland) said that MiCameron was putting Jiimself in opposition to the policy and traditions of l'resbyterianism throughout the world. Rev. Mr Cameron replied that he was not opposed to the teaching of the Bible in the schools. Ho was in favor of the Nelson system.
The> motion Avae carried, a few voting " No." Mr Balfour furl her moved—" That members and adherents of the Church bo urged to support at the coming elections those candidates who will give the people an opportunity of voting on thus question on tbe lines suggested by the league." The Hon. Mr Aitken, in seconding the motion, said that the Nelson system did not bring the Bible into school hours. The only way to get peace was to adopt the system prevailing where peace reigned—in the States of Australia.
Rev. J. H. MacKenio (Nelson) advocated the Nelson system. Rev. R. M. Eyburh (Tnverrargill) differed from Mr MacKenzie, and said that the Bible they wanted in the schools would not be brought in unless they got the system advocated by the league. Rev. R. H. Catherwood (Taibape) argued that the Dominion needed the Bible in schools to bring up the children properly. Mr John Edio (Lawrence) also supported the league.
Rev. A. Cameron said that it was not merely a question of introducing the Bible, but of allowing an Anglican ministor to come into a school and tell the children that the Presbyterian Church was no church. That wm being done.
A Voice i No! Jt is a shame for you to say so! Another Voice : It ia being done, under the Nelson system.
Rev. Mr Cameron enid that the motion practically asked members to vote for any man who wo'nld promise this thing, irrespective of his attitude on any other question, or whether he was a man of principle. The previous day they were asked to vote for anv man who would promise to support Prohibition. Dr Gibb submitted that Mr Cameron had changed his position three or four times, and become a sort of merry-go-round. This proposal was no new thing. The Assembly had on a previous occasion done what was now proposed. It was no fault of the Church that the question was now taken into the political arena, for Parliament had not only shut tho door in their faces, but slapped their faces, and it waa about time they sent into the House men who cared for the higher things. It was now or never. In speaking of men who did not care for the Bible he did not, of course, include Mr Cameron.
Rev. Mr Cameron : What about Mr Caughlev • Dr Gibb : I had rather not. say anything about Mr Caughley, or I may be tempted to utter things that I would afterwards regret. But I will say this : that it made me almost buret with indignation this afternoon to hear a membor of this Assembly say that he would treat a resolution of the Assembly with contempt.
Rev. Mr Cameron: Who said that? Dr Gibb : Y'ou s.aid that if you took the subject of Bible in schools on the first Sunday in December you would speak in opposition to it, Rev. A. Cair.ercn: I ask this, whether if I have strong convictions on a question I am bound to keep silent because I mri a minister and u member of the Assembly? Dr Gibb: If a man cannot agree with the Assembly he should have the grace to hold his tongue. I wa« ashamed of unchurch when before the Parliamentary Committee it was said that leaoing members of the Church bad petitioned Parliament against a resolution of this Assembly. Professor Hewiteon pointed out that U was the time to adjourn. The Moderator (Rev. A Grant): "Yes, time's up, but I- may--eay-tbaf I regret that Dr Gibb has thought it necessary to use such strong language. Dr Gibb (hotly): I utterly repudiate and disown the statement that I u*ed strong language. ..: - -■ - . ■'" •" ' ' ' A Member: Shame -to tpcak oL theModerator in that way. Dr Gibb: Yes, I am sorry. Dr Erwin said that he protested against Dr Gibb's statement w to now a man wns to be governed by the Assembly, and he added: "I am not bound on a matter of conscience bv a resolution nf the Assembly. Our Church" ha« always stood for liberty of thought and conscience—it has been so through all the ages—and to-day I see
brethren applauding the very opposite. (Applause.) And as to holding up Mr Cameron to ridicule and calling him a whirligig because it is said that he has changed his views, I would ask whether Dr GiKb himself has been consistent. I have heard him declare that he would oppose with all his power the right of entry, and he is now fighting for the right of entry. (Applause.) That is tbe_ price we are paying for uniting with the' Anglicans. If this Church wamts that kind of denominationalising. well, go ahead. In my judgment Mr Cameron's view is right. The proposal of the motion means that you have to subordinate everv consideration to the one of supporting the candidate who will stand for the league's platform." (Applause. ) Professor Dickie said that he was a strong supporter of the league's platform, and he thought the opposition to it was due to misunderstanding. But ho 6aid this: that he had no desire to be a minister of this Church or the teacher of systematic; theology if he thought that as a result the Assembly had the slightest right to tell him how "he should vote at anv parliamentary election. He was not there to make a speech on the general question. What he would say was that the General Assembly had legislative amd executive f met ions—that was to say, when the Assembly made a law it "insisted that it should he obeyed on pain of censure. With that exception, the Assembly was only .•« debating society. The laity of the Church were not fully represented by the elders who were delegates. When the Church assumed powers for which it had no special aptitude and no special ability, as by interfering with political questions, it lost in spiritual power. In regard to this particular matter the ministers had no greater qualifications than the laymen. He also thought it a great pity that the policy of thj Presbyterian Church should be dictated by an outside organisation. Voices: " No."'
Professor Dickie : I say " yes " I have a circular from an outside organisation, and I take it that Mr Balfour's motion is that circular watered down. (Applause.) Rev. Mr Jolly said that these arguments amazed him. Did not the leaders of tns TJ.P. Church make their case a political question? If they did not vote together new on the question of a referendum, they would be Bcornod to their faces by men who said " You sny you want the Referendum, but when it comes to the day you will vote Property." Rev. A. D. Kirkland spoke, and then
Rev. W. J. Cowie wished to move the adjournment. Rev. Mr Cameron protested. They should vole at once, otherwise one set of men would have, done the discussing and another set. would do the voting. Amid pome confusion it was eventually agreed to adjourn the debate till this morning.
The first business this morning was the resumption of the debate.
Rev. W. J. Comrie declared that he believed firmly in the Xclson system, and eaid that if half the work put into the present movement had been opstowed on improving the Nelson system it would have resulted "in satisfaction. A* th»iig6 were, lie supported tile league's platform. He held that the Assembly had a right to give a lead on such a question, but, having done 60, the Assembly had no right to bind the tongues or consciences of members. He protested strongly agwhtat censuring those who took the other side. It was cruel and urnjust to speak of opponents of the Leaguo as on ths level of German spies. It had been said that this reform would come now or never. If that were the position, he •would rather "never" than "now," for :f it were not down de-ep in the, hearts of tha people let it go by the board. Rev. W. Gray Dixon said that when his Church eeriousVy expressed its mind hj« was in duty bcvaid to obey. It was not a question of whether an individual ehowld change his mind, but whether, when the Church lias .spoken authoritatively, an individual should by opposition seek to frustrate that authority. He stood for hi* country against the wicked doctrines of jaw-breaking German?. He- also stood for his Church in her treaties and decrees. " 1 would like to put out every elder of this Church who will not stand, fcy us in tlii" matter." (Applause.) Rev. J. Kennedy Elliott (Wellington) believed in the Bible in schools as a cure for the neglect of parents, and he thought tha Referendum quite reasonable. That it cama upon the authoritv of the Church did not trouble, him. When a minister was ordained he took a vow to obey the courts of the Church. lie was astounded at Hi* venomous and vituperative manner in which the opponents of tho league conducted their case before the. Parliamentary Committee. Though he was one of the most uncompromising Protestant* in the Dominion, ha was bound to say. as a matter of justice, that the outstanding exception was Dr Clearv, whoee manner wa» that of a courteous gentleman. (Applause.) " Why should nobodies in Parliament stand l*3twe«n us and the. sovereign majesty of the people?" Rev. 11. M. G. M'Dowall (Kaitangata.) said that not ail the big guns in the Church would frighten him with threats of a penalty from exercising his vote at the ballot box as he ch<iss. Supixx-'e the Assembly were to tell him to instruct liis people how to vote, and lie did so, and some one (say hie own wilef refused ; was he to excommunicate her? (Cries of " Nonsense.") He urged the Assembly to bo careful. Professor Hewitson Mild that lie was oni of those who had been referred to in tho church organ as comparable with convicted German tpies, and whose action had been alluded to as equal to the perfidy of the German Chancellor. The cause? Because he iiad claimed to exercise the right that belonged to him as a British subject. As be was a minister and a teacher of the Church, he would try to make his position perfectly clear, and show that he was not a traitor. "I am opposed to this revolution because it tends to make the Churcn an electioneering agency, and if this goes on it will not be long before we shall have a Presbyterian ticket." The professor went on to say that he had never preached No-license, but he subscribed to the Alliance funds, and outside of the pulpit ho spoko for Xo-license He was going on to state his attitude on the Bible question, when
Rev. R. M. Ryburn asked if the professor had not exceeded hi* time.
Amid all torts of interruptions and questions the Moderator took a vote as to whether Professor Hewitfon be allowed to go on, and this was carried by 86 to 64.
Professor Hcwitson said : In view of tba efforts that are being made to force me. and to make it difficult for me to axercuo niv right, f have to say that I shall use my vote in the way I deom best against the league's platform. That means that if the Assembly think I am a disloyal member, flaunting my disloyalty, then the Assembly may deal with me. (Applause.) Rev. A. .Miller (Auckland) and Mr W. Maeandiev.- (Oamani) continued the dis- *, elusion.
Re.v. 1. K. Bertram (Auckland) moved, as an amendment —"The Assembly urge all our people to realise iho critical 6tage of th« movement, and recommend them wherever possible lo give the ifisue due prominence at the poll." Professor Dickie ascended the platform to second this.
Dr Gibb objected. Professor Dicki* had alreadv spoken Processor Dickie : Then let m« say oiw word of explanation. If Mr Kennedy Elliott's interpretation .of my ordination vow is corrert, my position as teacher of systematic theology is vacant from this day forih. Rev. W. J. Kvans seconded the amendment. .
Rev. J. Ki'patriclc moved fo proceed with the next business. This was lost on a clo.so vote.
Rev. Mr Balfour said he would accept Mt Bertram's amendment. llev. A. Whyte .iddressed tha Assembly, and th* Rev. Mjr Balfour replied. Mr Bfitram!* amendment having become the mot : on,--v.as carried by a great majority. Rev. "A. Mi'ler asked for the numbers. The Moderator said they were not counted.
Dr Gibb and others pressed, and th« vote was taken again for the purpose or being recorded, the declaration being 136 aves, 14 noes. . * Dr Ei-win and others recorded their dlf. feat.
BIBLE IN SCHOOLS, Issue 15656, 21 November 1914
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