Welsh Church Act 1914
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 composed 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).
|Long title||An Act to terminate the establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire, and to make provision in respect of the Temporalities thereof, and for other purposes in connection with the matters aforesaid.|
|Citation||1914 c. 91|
|Territorial extent||United Kingdom|
|Royal assent||18 September 1914|
|Commencement||31 March 1920|
(see Suspensory Act 1914)
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
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.
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, Baptists, Unitarians, and other Protestant groups 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, 19 out of 20 church parishes which spanned the Welsh/English border overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to remain within the Church of England. For example, St Stephen's Church, Old Radnor (Powys, Wales) is part of the diocese of Hereford, England.
An analysis published by Wales Humanists at an event in the Senedd in 2020, reflecting on 100 years of disestablishment in Wales, credited the Welsh Church Act 1914 as a critical component in the development of Wales' distinctively pluralistic and secular approaches to governance in the era of devolution.
- Glanmor Williams, The Welsh Church from Reformation to Disestablishment, 1603-1920 (U of Wales Press, 2007).
- Simon J. TAylor "Disestablished Establishment: High and Earthed Establishment in the Church in Wales." Journal of Contemporary Religion 18.2 (2003): 227-240.
- Jenkins, P. (1992) A History of Modern Wales 1536–1990.
- "Wales Humanists launches report on 100 years of disestablishment". Humanists UK. 7 December 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
- O’Leary, Paul. "Religion, Nationality and Politics: Disestablishment in Ireland and Wales 1868–1914." in Contrasts and Comparisons: Studies in Irish and Welsh Church History, edited by J.R. Guy and W.G. Neely (1999): 89-113.
- Taylor, Simon J. "Disestablished Establishment: High and Earthed Establishment in the Church in Wales." Journal of Contemporary Religion 18.2 (2003): 227-240.
- Watkin, T. G. "Disestablishment, Self-determination and the Constitutional Development of the Church in Wales." in Essays in Canon Law–A Study of the Church in Wales (U of Wales Press, 1992).
- Williams, Glanmor. The Welsh Church from Reformation to Disestablishment, 1603-1920 (U of Wales Press, 2007).