"LAMBETH AND CHURCH UNITY"
An Address by THE RIGHT REVEREND FREDERICK HUGH WILKINSON, M.A., D.D., Bishop of Toronto
Thursday, October 9, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. Bruce Legge.
LT.-COL. LEGGE: Our speaker, Bishop Wilkinson, is a scholar, a concert organist of note, a much decorated soldier and a beloved clergyman. It is not surprising that he studied for the Church because his father was Rector of St. Peter's in Toronto for many years, and his brother the Right Reverend Heber Wilkinson is the Bishop of Amritsar in India.
Bishop Wilkinson is the sort of clergyman of whom Victor Hugo must have been thinking a century ago when he wrote this wonderful comment on priests and soldiers. "Nothing will mix and amalgamate more than an old priest and an old soldier. In reality, they are the same kind of man. One has devoted himself to his country upon earth, the other to his country in heaven. There is no other difference".
Victor Hugo's general assertion may be too sweeping, but in the case of our speaker the soldier and the priest are not only the same kind of man, but the same man. Bishop Wilkinson had a gallant record as a soldier in the First World War. For his heroism he was recognized on three occasions and awarded the Military Medal and two Bars. Throughout his ecclesiastical life he has retained an interest in the army as the padre of several regiments, and he is now the Honorary Chaplain to the famous Queen's Own Rifles of Canada.
Our speaker came to Toronto as Rector of St. Paul's Church in succession to great preachers like the Hon. and Reverend Dr. H. J. Cody, and to Archbishop Renison. Bishop Wilkinson's tenure at St. Paul's was an illustrious one and he was installed Bishop of Toronto in 1955. In that role he has zealously led the campaign to extend the Church to the new areas which have developed since the war.
In choosing his subject, Bishop Wilkinson has demonstrated a nice bravery because he will speak on the subject `Lambeth and Church Unity'. That is about a subject that has evoked controversy in Christendom for centuries. Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to introduce the Right Reverend Frederick Hugh Wilkinson, M.A., D.D., the Lord Bishop of Toronto.
BISHOP WILKINSON: It was with some diffidence that I accepted the very kind invitation of the Empire Club to speak to you on "Lambeth and Church Unity". I have no desire to burden you with the domestic deliberations of the Anglican bishops, but as many of the matters which were under debate concerned the welfare of all people, or were of interest to most churches, and of special concern to some, I am glad to give you some interpretation of the Conference and its findings. The word 'conference' reminds me that when that distinguished Canadian, Mr. Leonard Brockington, Q.C., of famed eloquence and wit, addressed the Canadian Bar Association at its annual convention in Banff some years ago, he informed them that Gladstone once described the word `convention' as "a noun of multitude signifying many but not much". There is always the tendency to exaggerate the value of any international gathering, or on the other hand to write it off as of little consequence. When I was in Edinburgh, the International Conference of Mathematicians was in session. I did not read of any earth-shattering pronouncement emanating from this learned body, but I was intrigued by a whimsical editorial which appeared in "The Scotsman". Its theme was the inability of the ordinary man to understand the esoteric and fascinating world of mathematics. Said the writer, "The intelligent public would be grateful for any help the mathematicians gave it in understanding what was going on."
The Lambeth Conference was the ninth assembly of Anglican bishops from all parts of the world. It was presided over by the 99th Archbishop of Canterbury--a man of vigorous intellect, amazing physical stamina, a great leader and ecclesiastical statesman. The opening service was held in the ancient and historic Cathedral of Canterbury where we were received by the Archbishop sitting in the Chair of St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. The deliberations of the session, with some 320 bishops assembled, were held in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace, an historic group of buildings on the bank of the Thames where one views across the river the majestic Mother of Parliaments and the distant towers of Westminster Abbey. There were present some 90 bishops from the Episcopal Church of the United States, and bishops from Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan, Malagasy, Africa, Arabia, Australia, and from most areas of the world. Among them was a saintly looking man who had spent nearly forty years in Polynesia. Sitting in the sessions near me was a bishop who at one time had been Bishop of Singapore. During the war he was imprisoned and severely tortured, but he lived to baptize some of those who had tortured him. We were delighted by the presence of a Maori bishop, and another of Mexican ancestry. Of special interest to me was a bishop, a veteran of World War I, who was the son of a famous bishop of Liverpool and whose doctor brother had been awarded posthumously a bar to the Victoria Cross. The diversity of interests and activities of members of the Conference was indicated in the fact that one had been an Arctic explorer for several years, another, of great stature and benevolence, had been a prize wrestler at Yale; and yet another had just completed his 995th episcopal visit by air as Bishop of North-Western Australia. There were present many others whose names were known to me as noted church leaders and theologians.
I remember the Bishop of Kimberley, famous for its jewelled wealth, exclaiming as he was introduced to the Bishop of Niagara, "Ah, Niagara, lots of water but no diamonds."
The international and catholic character of the Conference was intensified by the large number of distinguished delegates who came to bear greetings from many of the great churches of Christendom. There were the representatives from the Scandinavian churches, the Right Reverend Dr. E. G. Gulin, Bishop of Tampere in Finland, whom I had met several times in the City of Toronto; the Right Reverend Dr. Otto Dibelius, Bishop of Berlin and Brandberg, a truly great apostle and leader of the church in Europe, he represented the large membership of the German Evangelical Church; The Right Reverend Dr. John A. Fraser, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; the representative of the Free Church Federal Councils of England, the Moderator, the Reverend Dr. Ernest A. Payne; the President of the Methodist Conference; the President of the Baptist Union; the representative of the Congregational Union of England and Wales; and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of England. Other distinguished visitors were the Archbishop of Utrecht bearing greetings from the Old Catholics; bishops and priests of the Orthodox churches representing a multitude of Christians in the world; of the Ecumenical Patriarchage of Constantinople, the Metropolitan Pitirim of Minsk; of the Church of Russia, the Metropolitan Justin of Moldavia; of the Church of Rumania, the Metropolitan of Varna and Preslav; of the Church of Bulgaria, Bishop Anthony of Sergievo; and of the Armenian Church, the Right Reverend Bessak Toumayan. It is the growing friendship between the churches of the world, as expressed in a Conference such as this, and through the World Council of Churches, that is one of the most hopeful signs of modern Christendom.
In a statesman-like sermon, delivered in Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke on the theme of the Conference, namely, "Reconciliation". I may say that the Lambeth Conference itself was an expression of, and experience of an ever-growing sense of unity and fellowship within our own communion; especially when one remembers that the idea of a Lambeth Conference, which was first suggested by Canadians in 1866, was received with considerable suspicion and opposition overseas. The essence of the Archbishop's address was that: "this distracted world desperately needs to discover how and at what price friendship, harmony and peace among men can be had. To tell the world the answer, and to live the answer among all people is the most urgent service demanded of the church. This work of reconciliation cannot be done by ourselves nor for ourselves alone. It is only in true fellowship with churches of other communions and in co-operation with them, and in the humility and generosity which friendship teaches us, that we can learn to tread together the narrow path along which our Lord is guiding us and them." Lambeth Palace, the traditional seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, dates from about 1190 and has become increasingly a centre of Christian world fellowship, though historians inform us that Archbishop Baldwin first established himself there in the 12th century in order to escape from the jealousy of the monks at Canterbury. The magnificent hammer-beam roof of the Great Hall in which we met in daily session was partially destroyed by bombs during the last war. It has been restored with that skill and workmanship for which the English craftsmen are famous. The chapel of the Palace was completely gutted by bombs but in its present beauty it seems to have been standing for centuries. The various aspects of the theme of 'Reconciliation' were considered by the five major committees into which the bishops were divided. The first dealt with "The Word of Reconciliation, the Holy Bible: Its authority and message"; the second, "The Reconciling of the Churches: Church Unity and the Church Universal"; the third, "The Communication of the Message of Reconciliation"; fourth, "The Reconciling of Conflicts between and within Nations"; and, fifthly, "Reconciliation in Families: The Family in Contemporary Society."
The destiny of men and nations depends ultimately upon their belief in an authority which is eternal, on values which are indestructible, and upon a divine purpose which is invincible. The Bible has been well described as being "not so much the record of inspired books but as the record of inspired men". During the past century and more, the books of the Bible have been subjected to the most criticism, literary, textual and historic. We realize more than ever how the writers of the Bible (written over a period of one thousand years) have made use of the parable, allegory, poetry and proverb as well as sober historical fact. "The mountains skipped like rams and the little hills like sheep" is a magnificent hyperbole of creation's joy. In stark contrast, however, could there be a more sober simple statement of historical fact than that of the crucifixion of our Lord in St. Luke's Gospel: "there they crucified Him". The poetry of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament and the accounts of the acts of God in the dramatic beginnings of the Christian Church and its history, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, have little relationship to one another. We give due respect to the statement of those who have some claim to authoritative judgment because of research and scholarship. In all humility I would claim that the statement of the bishops at Lambeth, because of the scholarship which they represent or reflect, deserves serious attention when they say "It is, however, our conviction that the Bible has come through this travail with its authority not damaged but enhanced". In confirmation of this statement one can also draw attention, on the one hand to the revolt among scholars of all Christian communions against a disbelief in the supernatural action of the living God and a purely naturalistic view of life and human society, and on the other, the rise of a new Biblical theology throughout the Christian Church. Resolution No. 1 reads: "The Conference affirms its belief that the Bible discloses the truths, about the relation of God and Man, which are the key to the world's predicament and is therefore deeply relevant to the modern world."
In its concern for the suffering, hungry, dispossessed people of the world the Conference calls upon Christians in more favoured lands to use their influence to encourage their governments in the task of relieving poverty by a generous sharing of their material and technical resources with those in need. I am in wholehearted agreement with the imperative words of a London journalist, Mr. William Clark, in a recent well-informed and well-stated despatch on this subject entitled "The West must join the world's crusade against poverty". He pointed out that the West's great problem is to avoid becoming a small wealthy minority isolated from and therefore threatened by the great revolution of our time, which Mr. Adlai Stevenson describes as "the revolution of rising expectations". He went on to say "If the Atlantic community is to become a partner of the underdeveloped countries in their struggle for existence, not patronage or charity but partnership must be regarded as the essential goal." Then he adds, "The second half of the twentieth century is going to be dominated by this problem of creating a world community able to deal with the enormous expansion in both population and expectations of the under-developed countries, and that this is a far more important problem than who reaches the moon first." In the statement on peace the Conference underlines this objective, "True peace means an order in which men are free to live under justice and according to righteousness; in which the resources of the world are developed and distributed for the benefit of all; in which the only war is against poverty, ignorance, disease, and depression; in which the results of man's knowledge and discovery are used not for destruction but for enlightenment and health." Following this geophysical year the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has made a proposal of the greatest importance. It is "that the United Nations organize an international year of War on Hunger". The Christian Church is no private religious club of the western world. It existed from the beginning and it now exists to seek, to save and to serve the whole of mankind. We cannot be little people or little Christians in the face of the whole of humanity's need. The parable of the Good Samaritan needs to be followed and demonstrated in every town and hamlet of the human race. This is a time for greatness.
The primary need for Reconciliation is among the Christian communions and the Christian people of the world. If the Christian churches cannot achieve a greater measure of Christian unity, and, by the grace of God, ultimately the true unity of the church, how can the nations of the world achieve unity and concord? This is clearly set forth in a statement from the message put out at Lambeth, "A divided Church cannot heal the wounds of a divided world." "Therefore, our most urgent concern has been with our own divisions. We thank God for the unmistakable evidence which has come before us that in Asia and Africa, as well as in Britain and America, Christian churches are actively moving towards a greater measure of unity." The first Lambeth Conference held in 1867, the request for which came from Canada and the New England States, and the holding of which at that time was viewed with both suspicion and opposition in some quarters in England, was the beginning of an increasing fellowship in the Anglican Communion throughout the world, of which the most recent Lambeth Conference was a notable expression. From the first, the Lambeth Conference have been concerned with the question of the great problem and duty of Christian unity. A basis for union between the Christian churches was laid down by the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888: The Lambeth Quadrilateral required as a necessary basis of re-union: (a) The Holy Scriptures as the rule of faith. (b) The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed as the statement of faith. (c) The two sacraments ordained by Christ Himself. (d) The historic episcopate locally adapted, in the methods of its administration, to varying needs. The requirements of this Quadrilateral have been confirmed by succeeding Lambeth Conferences. The Lambeth Conference of 1920 issued a statesman-like and moving appeal to all Christians. Here is the essence of it, "We believe that God wills fellowship. By God's own act this fellowship was made in and through Jesus Christ and its life is in His spirit. We believe that it is God's purpose to manifest this fellowship, so far as this world is concerned in an outward and united society, holding one faith, having its own recognized officers, using God-given means of grace, and inspiring all its members to the world-wide service of the Kingdom of God. This is what we mean by the Catholic Church. The causes of division lie deep in the past and are by no means simple or wholly blameworthy. The time calls us to a new outlook and new measures. This means an adventure of goodwill, and still more of faith, for nothing less is required than a new discovery of the creative resources of God. The spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church in days to come for which the world is manifestly waiting depends upon the readiness with which each group is prepared to make some sacrifices for the sake of a common fellowship, a common ministry and a common service to the world. We do not ask that any one communion should consent to be absorbed in another. We do ask that all should unite in a new and great endeavour to recover and to manifest to the world the unity of the Body of Christ for which he prayed."
It is under the authority and direction of this appeal that conversations between a number of Christian churches on both sides of the Atlantic have taken place, and that schemes for the re-union of negotiating churches have been prepared for discussion in Africa, India and elsewhere. Before referring to the schemes of re-union considered by the Conference, and conversations which have taken place between the Anglicans and various other church bodies, it is essential that I quote some of the important sentences from the Committee's statement on Christian unity: "The Conference expresses its ardent longing for the healing of the divisions of the church, and thanks God for the closer fellowship fostered by the World Council of Churches, and the steady growth in strength and unity of the Church of South India; and then stresses these fundamental facts. The nations and races of the world are divided by strife and fear. In such times the challenge to Christian people to demonstrate unity in Christ is all the more urgent. In obedience to this mission we must continually pray and work for the visible unity of all Christian believers of all races and nations in a living Christian fellowship of faith and sacrament, of love and prayer, witness and service." The Conference endorsed the report of the Committee on Unity expressing commendation of the development of that remarkable though controversial experiment in church unity of the Church of South India as to its structure, episcopal and pastoral ministry, its liturgy and witness. Increasing communications between the Church of South India and the provinces of the Anglican communion was recommended. This significant observation was made with regard to this first effort to unite Episcopal, Presbyterian and Congregational ministries: "It may well be that the church of the west may be able to learn from the polity of the Church of South India lessons which would restore to its exercise of episcopacy more of its primitive pastoral character as the office of Father in God."
The Conference was impressed by the proposed scheme for church union in Ceylon and with unanimous agreement informed the churches concerned that if this scheme went forward the Anglican communion would be willing to enter into full communion with the resulting Church of Lanks, as it will be called. The churches involved in this scheme are: The Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon; The Methodist Church in Ceylon; The Baptist Churches in Ceylon; The Presbyterian Churches in Ceylon; The Jaffna Diocese of The Church of South India. The beginning of this effort for church union goes back as far as the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. So one can see that the roots of the spirit of unity go deep into the soil. The second scheme to be considered was that of the plan of church union in North India and in Pakistan. The Conference was anxious that this scheme should be carried through so that the ministry of the united church should be fully accredited in the eyes of all its members, and so far as may be, of the church throughout the world. The churches involved in this proposed plan of re-union are: The Council of the Baptist Churches in Northern India; The Church of the Brethren in India; The Disciples of Christ; The Church of India, Pakistan and Ceylon; The Methodist Church (British and Australia Conferences); The Methodist Church in Southern Asia; The United Church of Northern India. The question with which the Conference was concerned was not one of faith or doctrine, for it entertained no doubts about the orthodoxy of the faith of the uniting churches, but that the integration of the ministry should be brought about in such a satisfactory way that the church, once it was inaugurated, could be in full communion with the Anglican communion. Certain recommendations to this effect were passed by the Committee. I may say that the Conference recommended the Ceylon scheme for church union as a model for future discussions between other groups of churches.
The Church of England is a comprehensive church. More than one of its Archbishops of Canterbury have come from north of the border. There is an eminent and distinguished churchman in a post of international fame in London who, as a Scot, proudly boasts that he has not one drop of English blood in his veins. It is only to be expected that in conversations regarding re-union, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian churches are bound to be beset by a number of major theological and ecclesiastical difficulties and the emotional reactions caused by racial pride and the old historical disagreements. The Christian church owes much to the great theologians of Scotland, who in my estimation often possess a real degree of mysticism as well as a large measure of intellect. You may have heard the story of the atheist who standing outside a classroom in a highland town overheard the children being given a lesson on religion. When they were dismissed he said to one small boy, "I will give you an orange if you will tell me where God is." And the boy promptly replied, "I'll give you two oranges if you tell me where he isn't."
While the question of re-union raises many problems of habit, outlook and custom in worship and practice the most difficult problem is that of integrating the Episcopal, Presbyteral and Congregational ministries. In an act of re-union no one communion should consent to be absorbed in another, nor should the honour and authority of the ministry of any church be diminished. The truly equitable approach to union, states the Lambeth Conference of 1920, is "by way of mutual deference to one another's consciences". The same Conference in offering episcopacy as the best instrument for maintaining the unity and continuity of church stated, "We can only say that we offer it in all sincerity as a token of our longing that all ministries of grace, theirs and ours, shall be available for the services of our Lord in a united church." The Anglican Church has always had a deep respect and friendship for the Church of Scotland and the Churches of the Presbyterian Communion. You will be interested to know that the report of the Committee considered, "that Anglicanism has something to learn from the Presbyterian practice, and further that we understand the historic suspicion by Presbyterians of any authoritarianism on the part of bishops, a suspicion which, in fact, is shared by many Anglicans." The blending of the episcopal system with that of elders might be one of the most valuable advances in efforts towards church unity. On the Presbyterian side there was a willingness to consider the functions of a bishop as they were recognized by the Anglican Communion so long as the office was duly integrated with the presbytery in the whole church. And on the Anglican side there was a corresponding willingness to consider the complementing and strengthening of the episcopate in Anglican churches by ensuring the corporate functions of episcope in the Presbyterian Orders. That these conversations are taking place I think is most heartening and significant.
Conversations which have taken place in the United States between representatives of the Protestant Episcopal Church and those of the Methodist Church, and recent conversations between the Methodist Church of England and representatives of the Church of England, have not been concerned with the objectives of organic union or corporate union involving constitutional schemes. These discussions have proceeded in the hope of exploring the possibility of intercommunion between churches in the same area on the basis of provision for parallel but mutually acceptable episcopates. These conversations and explorations were along the lines suggested in a sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Cambridge in 1946 when, discussing a step forward in church relations, he said, "The non-episcopal churches have accepted the principle that episcopacy must exist along with other elements in their united church. It may be that in a reunited church they could guard themselves in the constitution against abuses of episcopacy but they could do so far more effectively by taking it into their own system. The Church of England has not yet found the finally satisfying use of episcopacy in practice. If non-episcopal churches agree that it must come into the picture could they not take it and try it out on their own ground first. I should hope that in preparation for it along the lines of recent Canadian proposals each communion, episcopal and non-episcopal, should contribute the whole of its separate ministry to so many of the ministers of the other as were willing to receive it." In encouraging the continuance of the conversations, the Conference does so with a view to the making of concrete proposals as offering a possible first step on the way to re-union in the particular historic situations in which the churches are placed; but on the understanding that organic union is definitely accepted as the final goal, and that any plans for the interim stage of intercommunion are definitely linked with provisions for the steady growing together of the churches concerned.
How does all of this affect us in Canada as members of Christ's Holy Catholic Church? In the first place, I would say that the Report of the Conference, and all that it indicates by way of guidance and encouragement to the cause of church unity, should challenge us to foster a far deeper spirit of unity among all members of the churches in Canada. One of the first and ablest architects of the Ecumenical Movement was a Canadian, the late Bishop C. H. Brent, a graduate of Trinity College and a beloved Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York. The faith of the Christian Church, and the work of the World Council of Churches and the Canadian Council of Churches ought to become the intelligent pursuit of all Christian people. Christianity is as simple in its essence as the air we breathe and as profound in its nature as the universe in which we live. Anyone can divide, anyone can separate, anyone can live in isolation, anyone can make a primary principle out of a second or third-rate conviction, but it takes the true Christian spirit in home and in church to "speak the truth in love and grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." The Committee on Unity is desirous that the spirit of Christian unity will prevail among all Christian people while not minimizing acute difficulties with regard to doctrine and policy. "The logic of unity requires the re-union of all Christendom in God's time and in the way in which He shall dictate." One of the resolutions, No. 38 "welcomes the permission given by Roman Catholic authority for contacts, discussions, and cooperation between Roman Catholics and other Christians, as contained in the document, `Instruction to Local Ordinaries on the Oecumenical Movement', issued by the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in December 1949; and expresses the hope, that these permissions may be more widely and generously used and that they may be further extended in the interests of Christian understanding and fellowship." The World Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being increasingly participated in by Christians of every communion.
In the second place, I hope that the Lambeth Report and Resolutions will give direction and encouragement to the conversations between the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada. We ought not to be hasty, and we cannot be discouraged. Ten years of conversations is a small time in the life and history of the church. The road to Christian re-union is not an easy one; the road is not a short one. Unity will not be brought about merely by plans of re-union or by the enthusiasm of negotiators. Plans for re-union cannot take place on the basis of the lowest common denominator of Christian affability but on that of the highest common factor of the divine will, the divine nature of the church and the divine love. All Christian people believe in the power of prayer, but how many members of Christian churches pray today for Christian unity? I would imagine the number is very small. There will be no Christian unity without first of all a great and increasing crusade of prayer. God works miracles, not we ourselves. In the Book of Common Prayer there is a Prayer for Unity which is but seldom used. It was first placed in the Prayer Book at the time of the accession of the House of Hanover. It is a very realistic prayer: it prays that we may be delivered from our "prejudices and hatreds". Unity requires of all Christian people penitence, humility, sacrifice and the practice of love and charity with our Christian neighbours. It requires of us a deeper understanding of the nature of the church, of its ministry, its order and its work. It requires of all Christian people a deep concern for the disunity of the church, a willingness to forget past mistakes and start a great and new adventure; a greater measure of the love of God and the attainment by all Christians of a higher dimension of spiritual maturity.
In conclusion let me say then: Why should we seek the re-union of the Christian church? Because we believe it is the will of God; because a divided church cannot heal the wounds of a divided world; because a divided church cannot receive the full blessings of God; because the younger churches have no desire to perpetuate the differences and disunity of Western Christendom; because divisions among Christians are a scandal to those without the church; because the conscience of Christians in fellowship today impels them to seek unity; because the rise of the liturgical movement has deepened the desire for Christian unity in worship and fellowship; because the unity which we seek is not one of "compromise for the sake of peace but comprehension for the sake of truth"; because it is the natural expression of the supreme truth about God, that God is love. Finally, we need to remind ourselves of the prayer of the Divine Founder of the church that "they all might be one", remembering always that "there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Z. S. Phimister, Third Vice-President of the Club.