Supriya Ghosh

Welsh Church Act 1914

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Citation  1914 c. 91
Royal assent  18 September 1914
Welsh Church Act 1914
Long title  An Act to terminate the establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire...
Territorial extent  Wales and Monmouthshire (de facto) United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (de jure)
Commencement  31 March 1920 (see Suspensory Act 1914)
Amended by  Welsh Church (Temporalities) Act 1919 Welsh Church (Amendment) Act 1938 Welsh Church (Burial Grounds) Act 1945

The Welsh Church Act 1914 is an Act under which the Church of England was separated and disestablished in Wales and Monmouthshire, leading to the creation of the Church in Wales. The act had long been demanded by the Nonconformist element in Wales, which comprised the majority of the population and which resented paying taxes to the Anglican Church of England. It was sponsored by the Liberal party (the stronghold of the Nonconformists) and opposed by the Conservative party (the stronghold of the Anglicans).

The Act, which took effect in 1920, was a controversial measure and was passed by the House of Commons under the provisions of the Parliament Act 1911, which minimized the ability of the House of Lords to block it. The main financial terms were that the Church no longer receive tithe money (a land tax), but kept all its churches, properties and glebes.

The Bill was politically and historically significant as one of the first pieces of legislation to apply solely to Wales (and Monmouthshire) as opposed to the wider legal entity of England and Wales.

In Wales the passing of the Bill was the culmination of a long campaign which had begun in the mid-nineteenth century, led largely by Welsh Nonconformists such as Calvinistic Methodists, Baptist, Unitarians, and other Protestants which objected to paying tithes to the Church of England. The campaign was later strongly supported by the patriotic Cymru Fydd movement.

English Catholic author G. K. Chesterton ridiculed the passion that was generated by the Bill in his poem Antichrist, or the Reunion of Christendom: An Ode, repeatedly addressing F. E. Smith, one of the chief opponents of the act.

Owing to the outbreak of the First World War in August, the Act was given Royal Assent on 18 September simultaneously with another controversial bill, the Government of Ireland Act 1914. In addition, Royal Assent was also given to the Suspensory Act 1914 which stated that the two other Acts would not come into force for the remainder of the war. On 31 March 1920 most of the Welsh part of the Church of England became the Church in Wales, an independent province of the Anglican Communion, with six dioceses led by the Archbishop of Wales. However, a small number of churches within Wales (but close to the Wales/England border) voted to remain within the Church of England.

The Welsh Church Act and the Government of Ireland Act were (together with Parliament Act 1949) the only acts enacted by invoking the Parliament Act 1911 until the War Crimes Act in 1991.

References

Welsh Church Act 1914 Wikipedia


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