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CHARGE OF HERESY, Issue 15658, 24 November 1914
CHARGE OF HERESY
AT PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGICAL
REV. P. B. FRASER TAKES ACTION,
AND IS CALLED ON TO SUBSTAN-
TIATE OR RETRACT.
Lively talk at the Presbyterian Assembly this morning. The discussion on the report of the Theological Committee had just ended in tho adoption of tho prepared deliverance, when Rev. P. B. Fraser (Westland) walked to tile stage and said: Moderator, fathers and brethren, I desiro leavo to mako a personal statement —an old-time protest . in a few sentences. Like other members of Assembly in another matter, I, too, claim liberty of conscience, not, I believe, to subvert the law, principles, or doctrines of this Church, but to stand by them. I desire the Assembly, without my reflecting on its members, whom I hold in tho highest esteem, and _ whose allegiance to the truth and doctrines of this Church I do not impugn, to relievo mo from responsibility ot serving on its committees or taking part in its proceedings until such time as the professor of theology (Professor Dickie) gives in writing in any way ho pleases, or as the Church may require, a frank and explicit declaration of his beliefs, convictions, and teachings on the fundamental doctrines of this Church. I have already raised a note .of interrogation in this Assembly, and have waited a year for some reply. I have reason to believe, and publicly affirm, that tho professor’s teaching and the theology ho recommends are subversive of the fundamental faith of this Church, and I take this method as the best available to me of renewing my protest and of clearing my conscience and vindicating my judgment from all complicity in his teaching. the true nature of which the Church large and the bulk of this Assembly have. I believe, no adequate and accurate knowledge. Dr Erwin rose at the back of the hall and said something that was not heard in front.
Rev. Jas. H. MacKenzio (clerk) : I move that tliis be not received. The doctrine of one of onr professors is challenged. There is a way by which this may be done. Mr Fraser knows very well what is the right order of procedure. It is for him to take tiro right order. The Assembly will bo acting rightly if it declines to receive this protest. (Applause.) Rev. R. M. Ryhurn seconded, for this reason : There had been a written dissent (o a motion that had been passed. It was, as the clerk had pointed out, a protest against the teaching of one of their professors. There was a proper way to proceed. Dr Gibb : I presume it is in order to move that it be not received? The Moderator (Rev. A. Grant): That is done. Rev. A. M. Finlay-on : Take no notice, of it. Go to the next business. It is altogether irrelevant. I move that. Rev. J. H. MacKenzio: I intended to move, if my first motion is carried, that no record bo made of it. Rev. Oscar Blundell seconded Mr Finlavson’s motion.
Rev. A. Whyte : It is for tho Moderator to rule whether Mr Fraser’s notice of motion is competent.
The Moderator; I consider that the course* indicated by the clerk is right—peifedly right, so far as my judgment geos, and Iris experience is far beyond mine in a court of this kind. It seems to mo quite reasonable, and if no one else wishes to speak to the motion or the amendment I [hall put tile question. Cries of “ Vote.” Dr Gibb: I want to say a word. Voices: “ Xo,” and confusion, a dozen members rising to speak. Rev. Mr Fraser; Permit me to say that I never anticipated or expected that any official notice would be taken of what I state. I am totally indifferent to what goes on the minutes. But remember, what is done is not confined to the reading of tho minutes. lam quite indifferent as to what yen may do. Rev. I. dolly : There is a motion to proceed to tho next business. That must he put at once. At this stage quite a number of members got up to ray what should bo done, and no voice rose above tho noise until
Dr ivvwin tool: the platform and said : Jb ie beneath the dignity of this Assembly to permit these statements to lie made from year to year and lake no notice of then l . If a member make.-, statements which he is not prepared to substantiate he is responsible to the discipline, of this Church. If a member attacks in this way either the personal character or the position of_ another member, he is damaging materially the man against whom he makes those charges, and if ho cannot substantiate hts charges tlie House has powers of discipline. We have come to the stage when that must be done.. Mr Fraser must either substantiate his charges or for ever hold lii- tongue. (Applause.) Cries of “Vote.”
The Moderator : From what, has passed I think the Gordian knot must bo cut hero and now.
Members did not seem to fully under' stand what tho Moderator meant.
Dr Gibb rose to speak, and the position was explained to him, but the explanation did not, owing to the confusion, roach the floor of fha House.
Dt Gibb was thru heard to say to the Moderator: “Do you viihch'aw it?”
The Moderator replied in the affirmative Dr Gibb : I think it a great pity.
Professor Dickie ; I claim the protection of this House. It is a shame and a scandal that any brother minister should treaty mens Mr "Fraser doer. I claim protection, and the House refuses me protection if it passes from the mutter in this way. Rev. A. Cameron : It would bo a very unseemly thing to pass from this, as Professor Dickie bar indicated. 1 think tho only thing remaining for us to do is to calf cn -Mr Fraser to substantiate tho charges he has made in public or withdraw thorn. Mr Fraser has appealed to the Head of the Church, and I am sure that the Head of the., Church has never approved of stabbing a man in the dark. Rev. Mr Fraser: I claim ordinary protection, Moderator, Is that a proper thing t,i nay, that 1 am stabbing a man in the darkf Rev. Mr Cameron: Well, 1 withdraw that.
Rev. Mr Fraser : It is very unlike stabbing in the dark, what I have done. Proceed with the motion and nia. Rev. Mr Cameron: I move that Mr Fraser be called on to substantiate or withdraw.
Dr Frwm : I second that. The _character of our members is in the keeping of (he Assembly. I have here a copy of the paper of which Mr Fraser is the editor —a. paper that is being disseminated through cur Church. I don’t take that paper myself, but a friend lias sent me a copy of the November number. In that paper there are two specific charges against Professor Dickie in the editorial notch. Ihe first is that his teaching is not in harmony with tho doctrines of the Church, and the ether is that Professor Dickie has been false to his ordination vows that he tcok when ho became a professor of this Church. la Mr Fraser right to disseminate charges like those against one of our teachers? Mr li aser is bound to substantiate them or erne apologise and withdraw them.
Rev. R. M. E-yburn thought they were getting into difficulties through, irregular procedure. Mr Fraser’s motion was irregular, hut that could hardly bo jalpeJ, because it was hard to say when he got up what he was going to do. He thought the beat way to proceed now was to refer the matter to the Judicial Committee and ask that committee to give at a future sederunt of tho Assembly guidance in this matter. --Vs things stood the Assembly should get direction how_ to proceed. But he thought the whole thing was irregular. Something must he done to prevent a waste of time.
Rev. Mr Jolly: Time is important. The character of our professor is of more importance. Tho charges should be substantiated or at once withdrawn. The Assembly owes it to Professor Dickie to give him full protection. Wc cannot a'iow charges of this kind U> be made and dropped..
Rev. Mr Balfour: Ab convener of the I committee I support the motion. It u cur absolute'duty to stand by oar pro*eesor. ; and specially to protect fiim from nf.i'.t | in an irregular way. As representing the Theological Committee, I am mu« they will stand by our men and look to the I Assembly to sec them righted. The Clerk read Mr Cameronf. motion, requiring Mr Fraser to substantiate or withdraw. Rev. W. Trotter asked what the motion exactly meant. The Clerk: It means that Mr Fraser is called on to libel Professor Dickie according to the laws of the Church, _or else withdraw his charge. It cannot be clone in the Assembly. It must be done ‘hrough the professor’s Presbytery, which is che Presbytery of Dunedin. If that Presbytery refuses to take action, we can oiler to take action. Rev. Mr Trotter said that if he were in Professor Dickie’s position he would claim a libel right away. Mr Fraser, if sincere, was bound to libel him. In this case it was not the man charged who was going to bo challenged, but the man who made the charge. Professor Dickie : I just want to say that had it not been that my regard for the honor of the Church is greater than my regard for ray own dignity I would have before this demanded a libel from Mr Fraser. I now make that demand(Applause.) Rev. 11. Clark said that Mr Fraser had put himself in an undesirable position. Professor Dickie was innocent until there was some attempt to prove him guilty. Mr Fraser knew the procedure. Why had ho not taken the proper stops ? Rev. Mr Fraser : Moderator, fathers, and brethren, I have always held that a man against whom a charge is made is innocent until he is proved guilty. I have heard that before. I have also hoard that a competent witness who makes a charge is held to be innocent until he is proved guilty. Have I been held innocent? I am as competent a witness as any. When I get a proper opportunity I will show the faith that is in me. Don’t think I am going to be hustled. I was condemned in the last Assembly infcrentially, as if I wore .going behind the professor to stab him. Why, I never opened my mouth about this matter until I gave notice to ask this question and to ask for an explanation ns to what he meant by stating certain theology t-o the youth ot this Church. As for what I shall do ultimately events will show. I believe that the Theological Committee is the only one that can libel a professor, not a private individual. But whatever the proper method may be I shall bo prepared at the proper time and place, and when pioperly guided, to take up my rightful and all the oratory hero to discredit a competent witness is nothing. I claim, as a competent witmte, that I shall not be prejudiced, as I have been attempted to ne, by friends of the prof<w,aor. At th’.c stage the point of order was raised by the Rev. Mr Clark that Mr Fraser was not a witncea at the present. The Moderator: Mr Prater is in perfect order. You s : t down.
Rev. Mr Fraser, continuing, said that lio hurl Jono nothing in a way that lie might, have taken hy add r ccsiirr the public through the P»w*. He had taken his own, which lie believed to have been th' proper coirtc, lie was now aga u prepared to take his own course, when he had time to consider. The Assembly could take its own courro. In the meantime, he claimed the right to bo treated as an innocent witness, and he asked members to believe that he had reasonable grounds for his action, and that, whether be had or had not followed infallble wisdom ho had at least followed his light honestly, and was entitled to be treated as an honest man.
Rev. Ik Hutson said that the discussion was altogether irregular, and he protested. was no way of dealing with a matter of this kinl except through Urn Presbyter- 1 . Dr 'Gibb: Whatever be tV law of the Church, you have I;ere a definite charge a gainst Prof 'swu- Rickie. and though thn, may be the, oi dinary law this A'cenUdy nm.st do sometime for tlie protection o, the professor, aud it rceins to me that the motion is a good motion —only, it is ncccnsaw to insist, that during the currency ot this Assembly Mr Fraser should take his definite -t-p.V to prove his care. It must not bo bung up. The motion that Mr Fraser substantiate or withdraw was then put and earned unanimously. Pcv. A. Cameron ; We must oe caretnl and not act hastily. T think that Mr Ryburn'a suceostion should now be adopted, and that we should ask our Advisory Committee to report .as to what the next p.tens idioidd h n . T move ihnt t.m Judicial Committee bo -asked to consider the position and report to the Assembly this afternoon.'’ A Voic n ; Mr Fraser is on that committee hime-'df. Dev. Mr Cameron ; Well, so much the better. , , , P.ev .T. Gibson Smith ; I ask the clerk Is Mr Fraser on that committee? The Clerk : Yes.
R-ev. Mr Smith : T think that the coinmitt ce should hr all the ni< mocrs except Mr Fraser. Rev. Mr Cameron : My nn uon is ail the committee. Dr Gihb seconded the motion,, and it was carried without dissent. It was understood that the committee would meet at 2 o’clock and report at 4 o'clock this afternoon.
CHARGE OF HERESY, Issue 15658, 24 November 1914
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