Project Canterbury

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ.

Toronto Anglican Congress, 1963.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ

Embargoed: not to be released before 11 am, Saturday, August 17. [1963]

The weeks leading up to the Anglican Congress have been filled with meetings of an unprecedented kind, in which representative leaders of every national or regional church of our Communion have shared. Conferences of "Missionary Executives", of those particularly concerned with the Church and Education, of the heads of theological colleges, of regional groups such as the African Archbishops or the representatives of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon--all these came to a climax in the days spent together by the Primates and Metropolitans of the Anglican Communion, with their advisers, meeting in the Advisory Council and the Lambeth Consultative Body.

In all this mutual exploration, certain great themes steadily pressed on all who shared the meetings. The Primates and Metropolitans have gathered these common insights, hopes, determinations into one statement, which follows. It is a united declaration and proposal for action, from the Anglican Communion, through its leaders, to every Anglican church and province, every diocese and parish, every member and minister. The title it bears indicates both its nature and depth, and also the supreme greatness of the setting within which the life and duty of the Anglican Communion must now be seen.



Meeting for the first time since Lambeth 1958, we have spent two weeks considering the present needs and duties of our churches in every part of the world. Representing every province and region, we have spoken to each other deeply, of our situation, of what God has done and is doing in our world and our church, and of the unexplored frontiers which we now face.

We might measure all this in terms of emergency, of the critical needs for money and manpower needed even to keep the Church alive in many areas. These needs are absolute, measurable and commanding. It is our conviction, however, that to interpret our present situation only in those terms would be wrong. What those needs prove is not our poverty. They prove that the ideas, the pictures we have of one another and of our common life in Christ, are utterly obsolete and irrelevant to our actual situation.

It is a platitude to say that in our time, areas of the world which have been thought of as dependent and secondary are suddenly striding to the center of the stage, in a new and breath-taking independence and self-reliance. Equally has this happened to the Church. In our time the Anglican Communion has come of age. Our professed nature as a world-wide fellowship of national and regional churches has suddenly become a reality--all but ten of the 350 Anglican dioceses are now included in self-governing churches, of one blood with their own self-governing regions and peoples. The full communion in Christ which has been our traditional tie has suddenly taken on a totally new dimension. It is now irrelevant to talk of "giving" and "receiving" churches. The keynotes of our time are equality, interdependence, mutual responsibility.

Three central truths at the heart of our faith command us in this:

The Church's mission is response to the living God Who in His love creates, reveals, judges, redeems, fulfills. It is He Who moves through our history to teach and to save, Who calls us to receive His love, to learn, to obey and to follow.

Our unity in Christ, expressed in our full communion, is the most profound bond among us, in all our political and racial and cultural diversity.

The time has fully come when this unity and interdependence must find a completely new level of expression and corporate obedience.

Our need is not therefore simply to be expressed in greater generosity by those who have money and men to spare. Our need is rather to understand how God has led us, through the sometimes painful history of our time, to see the gifts of freedom and communion in their great terms, and to live up to them. If we are not responsible stewards of what Christ has given us, we will lose even what we have.


If we are to find the new forms of unity and obedience, we must at once, together, meet the following necessities:

First, we must undertake a comprehensive study of needs and resources throughout our Communion, to give us up-to-date, tested data on actual work now going on, resources in manpower (clerical and lay), training facilities, financial resources and their distribution, and the unevangelized areas which still confront the Church.

Second, we cannot wait for the results of such long-range studies. We ask each church to join now in an immediate commitment to increased financial support, amounting to at least $15 million (£5,000,000) in the next five years, over and above our existing budgets and engagements, to meet already-known needs. This should not be understood as a once-in-a-lifetime appeal. It is no more than a first step forward, without reference to the longer-range needs. A strong, sustained and expanding pattern of giving is required, if our churches' work, born of the devotion of countless faithful Christians, is to survive.

We do not conceive of this as a new central fund, but as a higher level of mutual responsibility within the Body of Christ. These increased resources should be made available through our existing channels and commitments, or through new ones, from churches to churches, intensifying the awareness of responsible partnership which is of such cardinal importance in our time.

Projects which this support would make possible are already prepared and tested, and will be circulated to each church in the coming months. It is hoped that response will be swift, so that the necessary co-ordination of support may be simplified. We do not feel that quotas should be assigned, nor could they be; it is for each church to determine its own need to share in the life of other churches, and to determine how best to join in a common commitment.

The needs this new support will meet are in three main categories.

A: Training of clerical and lay leadership, through existing or new centers and enlarged provision for travel and scholarship aid, conference and retreat centers, centers for literature and the allied communication arts.

B: Construction of churches and other buildings in new areas of Christian responsibility.

C: A beginning on the great needs of new provinces, if they are to be rescued from the humiliation of beggary and given the means to make their freedom real. These include the minimum of central funds for provincial life and administration, and the equipment of new dioceses so that bishops may be set free to be the spearheads of mission and fathers in God to their people.

Third, we ask a parallel commitment as to manpower. The absolute shortage of priests in our Communion is measured in thousands. Their training is one of the primary needs our increased support will meet. But we think as seriously of the laity, of their longing everywhere to be involved more deeply as Christians in the life and service of their nation. This may sometimes be seen most vividly in the profound hunger for national dedication in the emerging nations--dedication to the holy work of building a society able to give decency and stature to its people. But this is not limited to such nations. Men and women in every nation and every church are searching in an unprecedented way to find how to serve as Christians and to fulfil Christ's ministry to the world in their own lives. No church is satisfied with its response; all our churches alike must face this search together.

Fourth, we must continue and extend the whole process of inter-Anglican consultation. This has deepened markedly in recent years, and we feel that the establishment of the Executive Officer has been a step in the right direction. We have now agreed on the addition of Regional Officers to further this process of planning, communication and consultation. We feel that such Officers in Africa, the British Isles, India, Latin America, North America, Pakistan and the Middle East, the South Pacific and South East Asia will aid in mutual consultation between the whole of our Communion and each part, help to develop planning in their own areas, assist in the mutual planning which is of such great importance, and play a major part in strengthening ecumenical relationships and projects.

We have agreed as well on more frequent consultations among ourselves, with the Regional Officers and other advisers, in order that mutual consultation may swiftly gain in reality. We also encourage our churches, wherever possible, to plan their new missionary ventures using teams drawn from every part of the Anglican Communion. Equally we urge all our churches to consider and extend this kind of inter-provincial partnership. We propose in consequence to continue studies of pay standards, educational qualifications, pension provisions and the like, in order to facilitate this increased sharing of one another's life.

Fifth, each church must radically study the form of its own obedience to mission and the needs it has to share in the single life and witness of our church everywhere. Mission is not only a giving to others, it is equally a sharing and receiving. If priorities in planning and area commitments are to be decided, and if the common life of our Communion is to be more equally shared, an essential element in this is every church's knowledge of itself. Every church has both resources and needs. If planning and responsible partnership are to be truly mutual, we must everywhere ask ourselves, systematically and with the best help we can gain from any source, what we have, what we need, and where we are called of God to share in major partnership with our fellow Christians.

Finally, we must face maturely and without sentimentality the nature of the Anglican Communion, and the implications for us all of the one Lord Whose single mission holds us together in one Body. To use the words "older" or "younger" or "sending" or "receiving" with respect to churches is unreal and untrue in the world and in our Communion. Mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky; it is mutual, united obedience to the one God Whose mission it is. The form of the Church must reflect that.


In the face of these necessities, we propose the following program to every church of the Anglican Communion; without exception:

First, that it join--as each church chooses--in our immediate commitment for increased support in money and manpower, through existing or new channels, in co-operation with the other churches of our Communion. Clearly each church must set its own time, goal and methods. But in many parts of the world we have little time left for this kind of partnership--some doors have already closed.

Second, that every church begin at once a radical study of its own obedience to mission. Included in this should be a study of its structures, of its theology of mission, and of its priorities in decision. We need to ask whether our structures are appropriate to our world and the church as it is, and if not, how they should be changed. We need to examine the training of laity and clergy alike, asking whether in fact God's mission is central in our teaching. We need to examine rigorously the senses in which we use the word "mission" as describing something we do for somebody else. We need to examine our priorities, asking whether in fact we are not putting secondary needs of our own ahead of essential needs of our brothers. A new organ in Lagos or New York, for example, might mean that twelve fewer priests are trained in Asia or Latin America. Inherited institutions in India or England may actually have outlived their usefulness but be still depriving us of trained teachers in the South Pacific or Uganda.

Third, that every church seek the way to receive as well as give, asking expectantly what other churches and cultures may bring to its life, and eager to share its tasks and problems with others. Full communion means either very little, if it be taken as a mere ceremonial symbol, or very much if it be understood as an expression of our common life and fortune. We all stand or fall together, for we are one in Christ. Therefore we must seek to receive and to share.

Fourth, that every church seek to test and evaluate every activity in its life by the test of mission and of service to others, in our following after Christ. The Church is not a club or an association of like-minded and congenial people. Nor is our Communion, named for its historic roots, a federation commissioned to propagate an English-speaking culture across the world. If our Anglican churches are guilty of presenting such a picture of ourselves, and we are, it is because we regard our own perpetuation and tradition as the end of our duty. The Church exists to witness, to obey and to serve. All our planning must be tested by this.

Finally, every church needs to develop swiftly every possible channel of communication with its companions in the Anglican Communion--indeed in the Church of Christ as a whole. This is not merely a matter of the printed word or occasional visits. It is a matter of deep and deliberate involvement in one another's affairs and life. It means the re-orientation of much of our teaching in parishes. It means a radical change in the structure of our prayers. It means massive exchange programs of men and women in different categories. It means a host of designed ways by which our common life and mutual interdependence may be expressed.


We are aware that such a program as we propose, if it is seen in its true size and accepted, will mean the death of much that is familiar about our churches now. It will mean radical change in our priorities--even leading us to share with others at least as much as we spend on ourselves. It means the death of old isolations and inherited attitudes. It means a willingness to forego many desirable things, in every church.

In substance, what we are really asking is the rebirth of the Anglican Communion, which means the death of many old things but-- infinitely more--the birth of entirely new relationships. We regard this as the essential task before the churches of the Anglican Communion now.

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