The Church Amid World Cultures
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Mar 1963, p. 252-262
Wilkinson, Right Rev. Frederick High, Speaker
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Item Type
The forthcoming Anglican Congress, under the title "The Church Amid World Cultures." The holding of world assemblies of churches: some background and current events and activities. Churchmen as citizens of their country and of their community, with the example of John Strachan and what he did in his community. The theme of the Anglican Congress: "The Church's Mission to the World," discussed under the following headings: "The Church on the Religious Frontier;" "The Church on the Political Frontier;" "The Church on the Cultural Frontier;" "The Challenge of the Frontiers—Training for Action;" "The Challenge of the Frontiers—Organizing for Action;" and "The Vocation of the Anglican Communion." A preview discussion of the Congress; subjects and specific speakers. The vision and the motivation which the Christian Church can generate amid the cultures of the world.
Date of Original
28 Mar 1963
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Full Text
An Address by RIGHT REV. FREDERICK HUGH WILKINSON, D.D., LL.D. Bishop of Toronto
Thursday, March 28, 1963
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Palmer Kent, Q.C.

MR. KENT: today one of our own distinguished members is to address us, and I am happy to present Right Rev. Frederick Hugh Wilkinson. D.D., LL.D., the Bishop of Toronto. Born at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Orientals at Wycliffe College, Toronto, in 1922 and his Master of Arts in 1924. For a time he was Professor of Old Testament History at Emmanuel College, Saskatoon. He also served as Rector at Anglican Churches in Calgary, Hamilton, Vancouver, Montreal and then at St. Paul's Church on Bloor Street in Toronto.

He was appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Toronto on January 6th, 1953, and then Bishop in 1955.

During the First Great War, he served with the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade Signals in the 4th Canadian Division on active service from 1916 to 1919. He was wounded at Bourlon Wood in 1918 and for exceptional courage in various battles was awarded the Military Medal and two bars to that medal.

He is still an Honorary Major and Honorary Chaplain to the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada.

To all with whom he has come in contact he has been a tower of strength and at the same time a most friendly person. As one of the great leaders in the religious life of our nation, he is constantly studying those world-wide issues that create conflicts between the cultures of the East and West. His subject for today is: "The Church Amid World Cultures."

BISHOP WILKINSON: It was with some diffidence that I accepted the very kind invitation of your President to fill the gap and speak to you in general terms of the forthcoming Anglican Congress, under the title, "The Church Amid World Cultures." In speaking to you on this subject, which might have a limited appeal to a diversified audience, I feel something of the timidity of the cleric who was once asked by an inquisitive Irishman if he were a clergyman, to which he replied, "Yes, but not in any offensive way." However, on the other hand, I have no intention of suffering censure as that directed by a witty Irishman against a certain Archbishop because he "breakfasted on negotiation; lunched on compromise; and dined on surrender." However, perhaps on this occasion I hope that you will not be regarded as compromising yourselves at lunch.

The holding of world assemblies of churches is now a regular occurrence, and as such is regarded as of great public interest. I have only to remind you of the Second World Vatican Council which His Holiness the Pope summoned in October of last year, the members of which will be recalled this year for further sessions. The final decrees of this Council may have far-reaching and heartening consequences not only for all Christendom, but for humanity at large. In 1962 there was held the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi. No one should underestimate this visible expression of the Ecumenical Movement, which despite the great problems which confront the Churches in their search for unity and greater co-operation, is expressive of a friendship between Church leaders and denominational bodies which never existed prior to the Second World War. That there is a new friendship between the churches of Europe and of Great Britain and of this continent, and now increasingly between the Roman Catholic Churches, the Orthodox Churches, and the Reformed Churches, and the Churches with reformed traditions, is a matter of historical importance. In the fifties, the first World Anglican Congress was held in Evanston, the World Assembly of the Lutheran Churches, with a member.ship of over sixty million, was held in Toronto. The World Presbyterian Alliance General Council Meeting will be held in Frankfurt, Germany, in August 1964, and the Lutheran World Federation in July and August, 1963, in Helsinki, Finland.

This year the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches will meet in Montreal in the month of July, and in August the World Congress of the Anglican Church will be convened in this city. But this modern experience of theological, spiritual and personal encounter between Churches of Christendom is not by any means confined to the Churches of Christendom. In a recent article entitled "Dialogue Opening Route to New Spiritual Frontier," Rabbi Gunther Plaut refers to one of the foremost spiritual personalities of modern times, namely, the eminent Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, now eighty-five years of age, who resides in Jerusalem. To him all communities of the Christian Church are indebted, as Rabbi Plant said, "He is the one who has taught us to recognize the Thou and find the other One. He has taught us the meaning of dialogue. It is a wondrous thing that he has lived to see the first flowering of ideas of which he spoke so quietly many years ago."

Within the world-wide Anglican Communion, there is also a pressing need for consultation and a greater understanding within a Christian Communion which is sometimes regarded as standing midway between the three major groups of Christendom-the Roman, the Orthodox, and the Protestant Churches. Without such meetings for fellowship and common study, we could hardly meet our responsibilities or live up to our opportunities.

This year, for the first time in the history of the Anglican Church and of this city and country, representatives from three hundred and forty dioceses of eighteen Provinces of the Anglican Communion, will meet in Toronto under the Chairmanship of the Primate of our Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Many of the Provincial Churches from which representatives will come, are within the British Commonwealth. One of the not unimportant by-products of this Congress will be the discovery of this city and country by many who have never before been within the boundaries of Canada.

I was asked for my autograph by a young scholar in one of the most ancient cities in England, and when I asked him where Toronto was, his reply astounded me. He said it was in Japan; the next young man identified it as being in the U.S.A., and the third located it in Australia. It is imperative that the citizens of the Old World meet those of the New World, and that Canadians become increasingly conscious of the emergence of the civilization and culture of the nations of Africa. Some of those who live amidst the prestige and culture of ancient historical surroundings, find it somewhat difficult to appreciate the brief history of a new country such as Canada. An English Cathedral dignitary asked a friend of mine, "How old is your Cathedral?" "Well," he replied, "the ground was set aside in 1797. There have been five buildings on this site and our present building is about one hundred years old." "Oh," replied his questioner with considerable superiority, "as recent as that." With that he turned and walked away.

It is not always remembered that Churchmen are also citizens of their country and of their community. The first Bishop of Toronto, John Strachan, who had been the rector of the first religious building established in this community, namely, St. James', played no unimportant part in the saving of muddy York at the time of the War of 1812. He converted his little church into a hospital, founded the present University of Toronto, and when his more rigorous views did not find acceptance, he founded another University, namely that of Trinity College. This is no mean achievement for a young Scottish immigrant who came to Upper Canada to teach school in the proposed Academy of Governor Simcoe. When the plans failed, his usual optimism deserted him, and to put it in his own words he said, "If I had had twenty pounds, I would have taken the first boat back to Scotland." "As a matter of fact," he said, "I did not have twenty shillings." Such is the compulsion of destiny.

The general Theme of the Anglican Congress is "The Church's Mission to the World," which will be considered under the sub-title of "The Church on the Frontiers" and which will be discussed under the following headings:1. "The Church on the Religious Frontier," 2. "The Church on the Political Frontier," 3. "The Church on the Cultural Frontier," 4. "The Challenge of the FrontiersTraining for Action," 5. "The Challenge of the FrontiersOrganizing for Action," and 6. "The Vocation of the Anglican Communion."

It may be news to people in the West to learn of the resurgence of the major non-Christian religions. Fifty years ago or thereabouts, when the study of comparative religions first appeared as a subject in Theological courses, it seemed as if Christianity could lay claim to be the one religion with a world programme and a world purpose. The Christian religion has made a considerable contribution to the development of Eastern civilization and its influence is not to be measured by the number of churches or converts.

Despite, however, the expansion of Christianity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the great majority of Easterners are adherents of their ancient religions which are now experiencing a resurgence of vitality and zeal. For instance, in the nation of Burma the vast majority of the people, namely, ninety per cent, remain resolutely Buddhist.

Recently, by an Act of Government, Buddhism was established as the state religion of Burma. Whereas half a century ago this action might have been deplored by missionary leaders, it brought forth the following statement from the present Bishop of Rangoon: "I do not believe that there is real cause for anxiety in any way. The Prime Minister and Government could not have done more to be fair to minorities. Behind it all lies the determination of the devout leaders of the country that Burma should not be a secular, materialistic state; and that is surely laudable." Christian leaders in the East are impressed by the revival of religious life, thought and purpose reflected in the vitality of ancient religions in many parts of Asia and Africa. They realize that the revival of the non-Christian religions has been provoked partly by materialistic philosophies of the West and the secularization of our Western way of life. These Old World religions which were supposed by many to be on the way out, are now, according to a competent observer, on the way in. Their adherents constitute no small percentage of the world's population of which there are 370 million resurgent Hindus, 400 million resurgent Buddhists, and perhaps 450 million resurgent or resilient Moslems, to say nothing of the adherents of other faiths-Jews, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains, Taoists, and Shintoists. This resurgence of ancient religions cannot, of course, be dis-associated from the trends of modern history, the rise of a new political vitality, the developments of social changes and the affirmations of Asian Nationalism.

From what competent observers state, the revival of these non-Christian faiths is due to the reaction of the people of the East to the more undesirable aspects of our so-called Western civilization: the ruthless competition of our modem economic life, the degrading influence of Western films and novels, and the loss of mysticism and the diminishing sense of reverence for the finer values of life.

Few deny the great contribution which modern science has made to our way of life, or fail to recognize the authority of the scientific method and the dimensions of the revolution which science has created in the world. The historian, Herbert Butterfield declares that "the scientific revolution outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and the Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements within the system of mediaeval Christianity." Living amidst the two cultures of science and the humanities, there are those who can relate scientific and mathematical studies to religion, as does Sir Alfred Noyes in this little poem:

What is all science then,
But pure religion, seeking everywhere
The true commandments, and through many forms The eternal Power, that binds all worlds in one? It is man's age-long struggle to draw near
His Maker, learn His thoughts, discern His lawA boundless task, in whose infinitude,
As in the unfolding light of law and love, Abides our life, and our eternal joy.
Those who try to use only the scientific method to analyse the imponderables of life find themselves succumbing to one or other current form of the secularist philosophies, whether it be that of scientific humanism which disclaims any belief in a God whose existence cannot be proved by the scientific method, scientific naturalism which finds no place whatever for the spiritual and moral values of human existence and regards man as being entirely subject to the reign of natural causes, or scientific materialism which is not limited by mere agnosticism and skepticism but advances further to proclaim the ultimate reality of matter and to champion an aggressive atheism. Provost D. R. G. Owen, who has brilliantly analysed these trends describes the first as the religion of T. S. Eliot's "hollow man, who believes in nothing, not even himself; the second as the expression of the faceless man, the blind pulse in the race of the blood stream; and the third where the human person is replaced by the mass man."

To again quote Dr. Owen, "It may be that in the future the great intellectual struggle will be waged between the Christian faith and the scientific world view. The opponents, of course, will not be science and technology in themselves, but the various philosophies nurtured by the modern climate of opinion and reinforced by the misuse of the fruits of technology."

It is necessary for the Church to recognize all that is good in the technological society and assimilate all that is valid in the scientific world view. Dr. Owen concludes that it is unlikely that a divided Christendom can speak effectively to the modern mind. "As Christians, scholarship knows no denominational barriers." It is imperative that the Christian Church speak with one voice to a world that seems intellectually far removed and deeply alienated from the Christian faith.

Other forms of cultural challenges confronting the Church are concerned with race relationships. We can rejoice that while humanity lives under the dark sky of the threat of nuclear war, the nations of the world are still able to meet one another in the council chambers of the United Nations. Similarly, within the Church the ability of people of all races and nations to meet in the unity of their faith to discuss problems of race relations, even though these problems may require decades for their solution, is a hopeful sign. The international character of the Christian Church may often be overlooked in debating those problems regarded as purely secular, but this capacity of men of all races to meet in peace and mutual brotherhood, inspired by a loyalty which supercedes that of dedication to nationalism, racialism or the classless society, can prove ultimately the reality of the divine beatitude, "The meek shall inherit the earth."

The subject of International Relationships will be discussed by the head of the Institute of Racial Relationships, London, England. The question of Racism will be in the hands of an African scholar, the Very Rev. T. O. Olufosoye, the Provost of Ondo Benin, Nigeria. The representation from the forty-six African Dioceses will be an impressive one. Technical assistance to underprivileged nations and refugees is a task which the Church endeavours to share more generously with the agencies of the United Nations.

The changing concept of man, modern man's image of himself and his world, and man in the industrial society, these are further subjects for discussion by theme speakers and groups.

One of the unique personalities at the Congress will be an eminent nuclear physicist, the Rev. Dr. W. G. Pollard, who is Head of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies in Tennessee, and at the same time is an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church. He will be responsible for the subjects of Organization Man, Urbanization and Automation. In a paper on the "Christian Idea of Education", Dr. Pollard claims that Western civilization both in its education and its character, "has become drastically one-sided," the reason for which is stated in these, his own words:

The great challenge of our age is far more radical and revolutionary than the majority of our people have any conception that it could be. For this challenge is nothing less than the rediscovery by Western civilization of its lost Judeo-Christian heritage and a reacquisition at a common public level of the lost capacity to respond freely and naturally to the values and deep understandings of this heritage. Thus that which we of the twentieth century face today is comparable in magnitude to the challenge which faced the West in the tenth century at the beginning of the Renaissance when it first began to recover its lost capacity to respond to the wealth of its Graeco-Roman heritage.

Among those who will lead discussions on racial problems are some who stand in the very front line of the Church on the Frontier, whether it be the Archbishop of Capetown, who has stood resolutely against the creation of apartheid in South Africa, the Bishop of Natal, or the Bishop of Arkansas with his knowledge of the problems of Little Rock as well as other Christian citizens who are deeply involved in the political, economic and social issues of the world.

This conference for many of us will be like the opening of doors upon the other continents of the world. It is not an insignificant fact that through the Peace Corps and the diplomatic corps, President Kennedy stated that there were nearly a million Americans who were involved in the life of other countries in the world. We can be grateful for the Canadian Overseas Volunteers, the young people of which have been adventuring in service in many practical capacities to the people of underprivileged countries. It was an inspiring thing to hear recently a distinguished Christian African Chief who represents his country of Nigeria at the United Nations, tell a large group of interested students of Trinity University, who had been responsible for arranging a Conference on Africa, "you have fallen in love with Africa." They had acquired not only a vision but a sense of vitality in their contact with their brethren of a distant continent. What once used to be called the White Man's Burden is now offered for all men to share.

The tragic consequences of human pride and love of power, both in nations and individuals, have left mankind with nothing but deplorable legacies of human suffering, and race and class hatreds. How differently the course of history might have been written if truth, justice, freedom and brotherhood had reigned wherever their opposites had worked their blighting tyranny on mankind. These are the great virtues with which the Christian Religion is concerned, as are those humanitarian agencies which seek a freer and fuller life for all men. The world of mankind cannot survive without faith, without hope and without charity, and with these we need a great measure of humility. There is one thing certain that we have to treat the world affirmatively and the challenges of our existence creatively and with a measure of vision that lifts us above blindness and despair. As the members of the various world religions approach one another with a new love for truth and in the spirit of charity and humility, they may come to realize the truth of these prophetic words of the eminent historian, Professor Toynbee: "If we believe that God is love; we shall also believe that the whole human race will eventually turn to whichever vision of God is the fullest vision and gives us the greatest means of grace."

There will be conferences before and after the Congress on Theological Education, Missionary Strategy and Cooperation, and The Church and the Christian Ministry.

The pathway to the unity of the Christian Churches is not an easy one to chart or to follow, but the grounds for encouragement are considerable. There is a growing desire for Christian unity among all thoughtful Christians. The pressing need for unity among Christian Churches is fully felt and desired in Asia and Africa. The formation of the Church of South India is an achievement in Church unity which will have an ever increasing influence upon other schemes for reunion. It is to be hoped that the plans for reunion among the Churches of North India and Pakistan and Ceylon, before long will be approved and bring into being a consolidated Christian Church in these lands.

Conversations concerning unity are taking place in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States of America. The actual fellowship and witness of the World Council of Churches forges quietly ahead. The divisions Theological, Political and Historical of the past four hundred years cannot be resolved in a few decades, but to this need, the crying need of our time, the Unity of Christendom, the Anglican Church is committed, and for it, is working perseveringly.

Under the title "Not by Bread Alone" the distinguished economist Lady Barbara Ward has discussed not only the kind of interdependent world society we should desire to bring into being, but the motivation by which such a desirable standard of living can be achieved for all mankind. This concluding statement of hers emphasizes the vision and the motivation which the Christian Church can generate amid the cultures of the world:

If we want to spread the revolution of liberty round the world to complete and reconcile the other great revolutions of our day, we have to re-examine its moral content and ask ourselves whether we are not leaving liberty as a wasted talent and allowing other forces, not friendly to liberty, to monopolize the great vision of men working in brotherhood to create a world in which all can live. But God is not mocked. We reap what we sow and if freedom for us is no more than the right to pursue our own self-interest-personal or national-then we can make no claim to the greatest vision of our society: "the glorious liberty of the Sons of God." Without vision we, like other peoples, will perish. But, if it is restored, it can be as it always has been the profoundest inspiration of our society, and can give our way of life its continuing strength.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Donald Jupp, O.B.E.

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The Church Amid World Cultures

The forthcoming Anglican Congress, under the title "The Church Amid World Cultures." The holding of world assemblies of churches: some background and current events and activities. Churchmen as citizens of their country and of their community, with the example of John Strachan and what he did in his community. The theme of the Anglican Congress: "The Church's Mission to the World," discussed under the following headings: "The Church on the Religious Frontier;" "The Church on the Political Frontier;" "The Church on the Cultural Frontier;" "The Challenge of the Frontiers—Training for Action;" "The Challenge of the Frontiers—Organizing for Action;" and "The Vocation of the Anglican Communion." A preview discussion of the Congress; subjects and specific speakers. The vision and the motivation which the Christian Church can generate amid the cultures of the world.