Douglas in the Church Assembly. To the Editor of The New English Weekly
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210 ] Douglas in the Church Assembly To the Editor of The New English Weekly The New English Weekly, 6 (14 Feb 1935) 382-83 Sir, – While I feel, as I suppose do other readers of the New English Weekly, gratified that some members of the Commission appointed to report to the Church Assembly on the subject of Unemployment, were able to incorporate into the Recommendations such excellent and far-reaching suggestions ; and while I am gratified also that the Assembly has “accepted” (whatever that means) the Report, I cannot feel any happier after reading the report of the discussions of the Report in the Assembly.1 So far as the Church Assembly, or its vocal members, may be taken to speak for “The Church,” it would appear that the Church has not made up its mind how far, or in what way, it ought to be concerned with social and economic problems. And until the Church does make up its mind, I do not see that we have much reason either to rejoice that Credit Reform proposals should be debated, or to deplore that they have met with such vague approval. What is evident to a reader of the proceedings,2 is that each speaker spoke according to the warmth of his heart, and in the light of his individual reason. Those who, as individual subjects, believed that Reform was necessary, advocated it; those who individually believed that it was all nonsense, concluded that the Church ought not to meddle with economics at all: and many persons, both in and out of the Church Assembly, are probably deterred by the fear of letting the Church back the wrong horse. The more enlightened, such as the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Southwark, made it clear enough that they did not wish the Church to commit itself to any particular theory of reform, but that they would like to see the Church commit itself to the assertion that the present situation is intolerable and unreasonable, and that it devolved upon the temporal authorities to recognise the present situation for what it is and do something about it.3 That is a perfectly sensible position to take up; indeed it is, in my opinion, about as far as the Church (again, in so far as the Church Assembly can be said to represent the Church) can go. But the debate seems to have resolved itself into a conflict of individual opinions as to the merit of the “Douglas Plan.”4 It was perfectly clear that no one who took [ 211 Douglas in the Church Assembly part had thought out for himself what are the relations of Church and State: so how could they be qualified to discuss the Report? The one attempt, and a lamentable failure it seems to have been, to say what is and is not the Church’s business, came from the Bishop of Jarrow, who remarked neatly that “it was not the business of the Church to make society fit for men, but to make men fit for society.”5 To employ the Bishop’s own turn of speech, we may suggest that if we are respectful enough to believe that this statement has meaning, then it is heretical; and that if we are respectful enough not to question its orthodoxy, we must admit that it is meaningless. I suggest that we should be more likely to get somewhere if the representatives of the Church in the Church Assembly, instead of merely expounding their own economic beliefs or prejudices – and the opinion expressed against the Douglas Theory was merely a prejudice expressed in favour of the present system, not a demarcation of the limits to which the Church should go in favouring any temporal system – should give their time to considering the fundamental moral laws founded on Christian theology, and content themselves with proclaiming positively any violations of these laws which they observe (as Churchmen) in the present order. If the voice of the Church spoke with authority on that point, the result would be disturbing enough: more disturbing, and more hopeful, than anything that has been accomplished by the present Church Assembly. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. As reported in the 7 Feb issue of the NEW, the Church Assembly discussed the report of the Social and Industrial Commission on Unemployment at its two-day spring session (34748 ). But TSE draws primarily on the more detailed reports printed in the Times of 7 and 8 Feb...


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