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Public Worship Regulation Act

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Title: Public Worship Regulation Act  
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Subject: Archibald Tait, William Thomson (bishop), Society of the Holy Cross, Bintree, Arthur Tooth, Charles Lowder, 1874 in the United Kingdom, Richard William Enraght
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Public Worship Regulation Act

Public Worship Regulation Act 1874
Long title An Act for the better administration of the Laws respecting the regulation of Public Worship.
Chapter 37 & 38 Vict. c.85
Introduced by Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Campbell Tait, 20 April 1874, private member's bill[1]
Territorial extent England, Channel Islands, Isle of Man[2]
Royal Assent 7 August 1874
Commencement 1 July 1875 (1875-07-01)[3]
Repeal date 1 March 1965
Other legislation
Related legislation
Repealing legislation Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measures of 1963 (No.1), art.87, Sch.5
Status: Repealed

The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 (37 & 38 Vict. c.85) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Campbell Tait, to limit what he perceived as the growing ritualism of Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.Template:Sfnp

Tait's bill

Tait's bill was controversial. It was given government backing by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who called it "a bill to put down ritualism". He referred to the practices of the Oxford Movement as "a mass in masquerade." Queen Victoria was supportive of the Act's Protestant intentions.Template:Sfnp Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone, a high church Anglican whose sympathies were for separation of church and state, felt disgusted that the liturgy was made, as he saw it, "a parliamentary football."Template:Sfnp

The Act

Before the Act, the Church of England regulated its worship practices through the Court of Arches with appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Act established a new court, presided over by former Divorce Court judge Lord Penzance. Many citizens were scandalised by parliamentary interference with worship and, moreover, by its proposed supervision by a secular court. The act gave bishops the discretionary power to order a stay of proceedings.Template:Sfnp

Section 8 of the Act allowed an archdeacon, church warden or three adult male parishioners of a parish to serve on the bishop a representation that in their opinion:Template:Sfnp

(1) That in such church any alteration in or addition to the fabric, ornaments, or furniture thereof has been made without lawful authority, or that any decoration forbidden by law has been introduced into such church; or,

(2) That the incumbent has within the preceding twelve months used or permitted to be used in such church or burial ground any unlawful ornament of the minister of the church, or neglected to use any prescribed ornament or vesture; or,

(3) That the incumbent has within the preceding twelve months failed to observe, or to cause to be observed, the directions contained in the Book of Common Prayer relating to the performance, in such church or burial ground, of the services, rites and ceremonies ordered by the said book, or has made or has permitted to be made any unlawful addition to, alteration of, or omission from such services, rites and ceremonies —

The bishop had the discretion to stay proceedings but, if he allowed them to proceed, the parties had the opportunity to submit to his direction with no right of appeal. The bishop was able to issue a monition, but if the parties did not agree to his jurisdiction, then the matter was to be sent for trial (section 9).Template:Sfnp

The Act provided a casus belli for the Anglo-Catholic English Church Union and the evangelical Church Association. Many clergy were brought to trial and five ultimately imprisoned for contempt of court.Template:Sfnp

List of clergy imprisoned

Prosecutions ended when a Royal Commission in 1906 recognised the legitimacy of pluralism in worship,[6] but the Act remained in force for 91 years until it was repealed on 1 March 1965 by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.[7]

Territorial extent

The Act purported to extend to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.[2] As these were Crown dependencies, there was a separate question as to the power of Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for them. It was a confused and controversial matter (see Crown dependencies: Relationship with the UK).

See also



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