Project Canterbury





Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Gloucester;
formerly Bishop of Bombay





Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011

One Shilling Net
General Editor

IN view of the Archbishops' Pastoral of 1929, with its call of the clergy to a Way of Renewal in prayer and study, and in view of the probable extension of that call to the laity, there is an increasing demand for a popular series of books on the problems of the Christian religion. To this need for knowledge attention was drawn in the report of Committee No. I of the Lambeth Conference, and it is with the aim of meeting it, fully and adequately, that The Lambeth Series has been produced. JAMES NISBET AND CO. LTD. 22 BERNERS STREET, LONDON, W.I


THE Report of the Lambeth Conference (1930) is something more than an ecclesiastical pronouncement. It proclaims "The Faith and Witness of the Church to this Generation." Although dealing primarily with subjects of special concern to members of Churches in communion with the Church of England, to whom it is primarily addressed, yet in its treatment of these subjects it has taken account of what is moving in the modern mind and of currents of thought both within and without the Church.

This series is designed to examine and discuss the conclusions of the Conference in untechnical language, to assist thinking people to apply Christian truth, rightly understood, to the conditions of modern life and to their own personal problems, and to establish a fuller human contact between the official Church and the best thought and practice of today.

Albert Liverpool (signature)

The authors have had the utmost freedom in working out their own lines of thought, and each is alone responsible for the interpretations he offers.


FOREWORD - page 4
PREFACE - page 6
VII. DREAMS - page 45


THE purpose of this volume is to help the ordinary churchman to understand what the Lambeth Conference of 1930 said about the Anglican Communion. It attempts to supply the background to the deliberations of the Conference on that subject, and to state the arguments which underlie its conclusions, without assuming any specialist knowledge in the reader.

The wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury furnished the Bishops with a perfect preface to their discussions about the Anglican Communion in the following sentences which he uttered in his address in Canterbury Cathedral on the Saturday before the Conference:

"This Anglican Communion, as we still call it, has only gradually, stage by stage, become conscious of itself—of its place and meaning in the world. It will be for us in our deliberations to try to make that consciousness more clear and purposeful. The origin of our Communion we can see in the memories which Canterbury Cathedral treasures. Its growth we can see in this very Assembly. Can we foresee its destiny? The Church of England it has ceased to be except in origin and in one part of the world. Even Anglican, in the strict sense of the word, it must become less and less exclusively or even predominantly. For if God prospers these new Churches across the seas they will become not Anglican only in their character and outlook, but even more Indian, Chinese, Japanese, African.

"Then, if our aim is not to reproduce the Church of England throughout the world, not even to reproduce certain formularies and a certain tone and temperament called Anglican, what is it that we stand for in Christendom? Is it not just simply for Christ's Holy Catholic Church—exhibiting itself again as once it was before the masterful hand of Rome was laid upon it —as a community of Churches, self-governing within [6/7] their own areas, held together not by one dominion, but by witnessing to the same Gospel, by holding to the same broad traditions of Creed and Sacrament and Order, by the common counsel and conference of its Bishops, only now, please God, with a deep desire to bring into it whatever is of God in the life and history of the peoples and races of the world? Do we mean less than this when in our Encyclical Letter we shall describe ourselves as 'Archbishops and Bishops of the Holy Catholic Church'?"

With gratitude for the lead thus given, I print these sentences here. They foreshadowed and suggested the pronouncements which the Conference made. These will be found in the official report of the Lambeth Conference, 1930, in three places. I have printed the references to these at the end of this preface. Here I would explain that this book, being intended for the general public, takes no account of the technicalities of organization on which the Conference spent much labour. It deals only with certain great ideas which emerged from our discussions clearer than they had ever been before, because they were brought to the touchstone of concrete practical proposals for union (see Chap. V). Indeed, some ideas with which I had been familiar for thirty years seemed to be lit up with something of the brilliance of novelty. This impression was, I believe, shared by my colleagues at the Conference. Never before had we so clearly conceived what Anglicanism is (Chap. IV). Never before had we seen so clearly that the very principle of Anglicanism involved the prospect that most of the Churches now in the Communion would cease to be Anglican, and that we must prepare our minds for living and acting with non-Anglican Churches in a Communion far more important than our present Communion (Chap. V). Last, but not least, we perceived that the principle of our Communion was not only that of the undivided Church, but the only possible principle for a world-wide united Christendom of the future (Chap. VI).

[8] In these and other respects the principles which we had inherited, when tested and re-examined, proved truer and greater than we knew. God grant that this little book may help to communicate to our fellow-Churchmen the tonic of that discovery.

August 15, 1931.


(These should be studied in the order of their presentation to the Conference, as given below.)

Pages 152-63. Report of Committee on the Anglican Communion in which the following passages are specially important:
152-5- Section I—Its Ideal and Future.
161-2.  Section III (7)—National Churches.
54-8. Resolutions of the Conference of which the most important are Nos. 48, 49, and 52.
28-30. Encyclical Letter, relevant sections


"WAKE up and dream." In huge letters the words shone or flashed, day and night, over
the upper end of Hyde Park all the summer of 1929. They did not persuade me to enter the building on which they were displayed, and consequently I do not know what Mr. Cochrane meant to convey by them. I had just returned from India, and all my thoughts were on the Lambeth Conference of the coming year. What more appropriate challenge, I said to myself, could be addressed to the Lambeth Conference, especially on the subject of the Anglican Communion?

"Wake up and dream."—Wake up, that you may see what this Church of England has achieved without your knowledge, almost without its own knowledge; absent-minded itself, but guided by its wonderful Angel. Dream of the future to which this achievement ought to lead.—"Wake up and dream."

To a very large extent the Lambeth Conference succeeded in doing both these things. It is the object of this little book to explain its waking observations and its dreams on the subject of the Anglican Communion.

Anglican Communion, meaning of the term

The term Anglican Communion means the group of Churches which are Anglican and are in communion with each other. When it was first invented, it was synonymous with the phrase, "the Churches in communion with the Church of England." Both phrases are employed in the documents relative to the first two Lambeth Conferences, 1867 and 1878, in order to denote the same Churches, namely, those whose Bishops were invited to the Conference. When the Bishops met in the 1930 Conference they had before them for the first time a real possibility that the Churches of the Anglican Communion might soon be in communion with a number of Churches which had [9/10] never been and never would be Anglican. This forced them to consider with a new interest the meaning and value of the Anglican Communion, its place in Christendom, and its prospects of service to the cause of Christ's Kingdom.

It quickly became apparent that the phrase the Anglican Communion is misleading. It suggests to the ordinary person that a Church which is not a member of the Anglican Communion cannot be in communion with Churches which are members of it. But this is not true in principle, and will, we hope, soon be disproved in practice. Again, the phrase could not be employed to describe the larger Communion which may one day come into existence, consisting both of Anglican and non-Anglican Churches. The Bishops at Lambeth failed to find a substitute for the phrase, and, as this volume is primarily an exposition of their report, I have spoken of the Anglican Communion throughout it. I think, however, that we ought to abandon that phrase, and to speak simply of the Anglican Churches, and, when we desire to emphasize their solidarity, of the family or the group of Anglican Churches. But though the Bishops failed to arrive at a conclusion about the name, they reached many important conclusions about the thing.

Before attempting to explain those conclusions, I will place before my readers an outline of the history and some account of the principles which the Bishops had in their minds when the Conference started.

Historical outline

The history begins with the colonial and commercial adventures of our countrymen. The expansion of England involved an expansion of the Church of England—so truly was that Church a part of the national consciousness of Englishmen. Sir Thomas Roe, the Ambassador of James I to the Great Mogul (the Emperor Jahangir), took with him a Chaplain, and, when he died, wrote to the East India Company to send him another: "Here I cannot live the life of an [10/11] atheist. Let me desire you to endeavour me supply, for I cannot abide in this place destitute of the comfort of God's Word and Holy Sacrament." From that day to this the English in India have never lacked Chaplains to minister to their spiritual needs. Similar facts might be cited from some of the North American Colonies. For instance, "by 1612 the Colony of Virginia was laid out in parishes. Churches had been built, and the maintenance of the clergy secured." [* Bishop Barry, Ecclesiastical Expansion of England, P. 216.] The same story with different incidents repeats itself in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and many places of smaller importance. This line of development was simply an expansion of the Church of England. The members of that Church were taking their Church with them, as they crossed the seas, and settled in every part of the world. But another line of development also contributed to the formation of the so-called "Anglican Communion." Missionary Societies within the Church of England sent missions to the heathen all over the world, and their missionaries instructed their converts according to the beliefs, practices, and customs of the Church of England. The Missionary Churches thus founded by them were, and still are, in communion with the Church of England.

Thus the Church of England developed on two lines, the one that of colonization, the other that of missionary work, and gradually and without any preconceived scheme, and often without any action taken by the Church as a body, there came into existence the "Anglican Communion." Three years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury summoned the seventh Lambeth Conference. The total number of dioceses from which he invited Bishops was 310, [* The Churches of Wales, Ireland, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland are, of course, in no sense daughter Churches of the Church of England, but in various degrees represent Churches as old as the British Church in England, members of which assisted to re-christianize this country. Again, members of those Churches have taken their part in the world-wide expansion which I have sketched above, though it has been essentially an expansion of the Church of England.] while the number of [11/12] dioceses in England is 43, in Wales 6, in Ireland 13, and of the Episcopal Church of Scotland 7.

Thus there are now 241 Dioceses in communion with the See of Canterbury and Anglican in character outside the British Isles, where 150 years ago there was not one. Numbers such as these are impressive, but there are other facts of yet greater significance.

Constitutional developments

Many of the Churches of the Anglican Communion are entirely independent of the Church of England and fully organized ecclesiastically. Indeed, they enjoyed complete self-government when the Church of England was bound hand and foot, and even the Enabling Act of 1919 has not given the latter as much power over her own affairs as many other Anglican Churches possess. The Anglican Churches in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, in India, Burma and Ceylon, and the West Indies have provincial organizations, i.e. their dioceses are grouped into provinces under an Archbishop or Metropolitan, as are those of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America under a Presiding Bishop. All these Churches have legislative and governing assemblies with various names; and those of Canada and Australia seek to link their provinces together in a General Synod. In all these Churches Bishops are elected by some body or bodies within the diocese or the Church. More than half of the Bishops of the 1930 Lambeth Conference were thus elected.

Some of the purely Missionary Churches, such as those in China and Japan, have very nearly the same organization for self-government.

Other missionary dioceses have their Bishops appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and these Bishops hold commissions from him, and he has a quasi-metropolitical jurisdiction over them. To this group belong the dioceses in Central Africa, East and West, and isolated dioceses such as those in Corea or Persia.

[13] Beside these there are a few Bishops whose duty it is to look after the scattered congregations of British people in countries where there is a National Church, but it is not in communion with ours. Such are the Bishops of Gibraltar, or the Falkland Islands, or Argentina and Eastern South America.

The Lambeth Conference

To complete our survey of the constitutional organization of the Anglican communion, we must briefly consider the one piece of central organization [* This phrase is not quite correct, because in the present century the Central Consultative Body and the Liturgical Committee have been formed in connection with the Conference. They have been used but little, yet enough to show how valuable well-equipped and organized Standing Committees for information and advice might be.] that it possesses. This is the Lambeth Conference. There have now been seven of these Conferences, held at intervals of about ten years. The first met in 1867, being summoned by Archbishop Longley at the request of the Canadian Church. These Conferences are still summoned by the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the custom has arisen that they should summon only Diocesan Bishops and Bishops who are actually at the time holding commissions from Diocesan Bishops to do episcopal work within their dioceses. The Conference meets to pray, to consult, and to advise the Church. It can issue no commands. It has no executive or administrative or legislative functions. It gives opinions which individuals and Churches may, if they think fit, translate into action. It has been said frequently and by those in authority that it has never been summoned as a Synod, and therefore cannot issue a definition or determination of doctrine. But it has issued a great many opinions both on faith and morals. Time will show whether this Conference will occasionally be summoned as a Synod to determine doctrinal points, specified beforehand, and, if so, whether its determinations will differ at all in authority from the opinions which it has hitherto given. [* For a discussion of the principles involved in the conception of the Lambeth Conference as purely advisory, see Chap. VI.] The [13/14] effects of the Lambeth Conference have been the drawing together of the Churches of the Anglican Communion in sympathy and loyal co-operation, the contribution of their varied experience to the thought of the whole body, and, for all who have taken part in them, an increased consciousness of the unity and universality of Christ's Church.

Diversities of the Anglican Communion

Every new Lambeth Conference forces upon the imagination of the Bishops the diversities of the Anglican Communion.

No Anglican Church overseas has anything like the prestige that the Church of England has in England. The expansion outside the British Isles of Scottish Presbyterianism and of English Nonconformity has been numerically greater than the expansion of the Church of England. We are often told that there are more Methodists in the world than Anglicans. Our missionaries are greatly outnumbered by the missionaries of other Reformed Churches belonging to the United Kingdom and to races of British origin. Again, except in the West Indies, there is no established Anglican Church outside England. Again, a few of the Anglican Churches have lost the comprehensiveness which is the cross and the glory of the Church of England. Such are the main differences between the Church of England and Churches overseas. But among the Churches overseas there are yet more important diversities. Some are mainly composed of white races. Others have to deal with small groups of white settlers or sojourners in the midst of immense indigenous populations, as in South or East Africa, or in India, or with imported negroes or Chinamen, as in America. Some Churches, again, have much to do with people of mixed race, and these differ as widely as their homes in India, or Africa, or the West Indies. Think again of the differences of the life which men of our own race lead in the prairies of America and the back-blocks of Australia, or in the commercial firms [14/15] of Calcutta, and Shanghai, and Buenos Ayres, or in Government service in Nigeria or the Soudan. Think again of the differences in the ancestry and traditions of Anglican Christians of foreign race. Some have come from immemorial barbarism, others from world-famous civilizations, some from religions of worldwide appeal, such as Buddhism or Mohammedanism, others from the primitive religions of fear. The Anglican Communion does not, it is true, rank among the larger religious bodies of the world, yet there is no phase of human life, past or present, with which it is not in touch.

Unity of the Anglican Communion

Over against all these diversities there is the unity of the Anglican Communion. It is, on the one hand, a unity of history. All the Churches contained in it trace spiritual descent from the Churches of the British Isles. On the other hand, it is a unity of present doctrinal position. All these Churches are Catholic in the sense of the English Reformation: they are Catholic, but reformed; they are reformed, but Catholic. The embodiment of this character is the Book of Common Prayer. The influence of this Book on these Churches is almost incredible. There are half a dozen different Prayer Books authorized in the different Churches of the Anglican Communion. But from the point of view whether of religious ethos or of doctrine, they are little more than versions of the Book of Common Prayer. That Book has been translated into a great many languages—well over one hundred. Through these translations the Prayer Book has become the doctrinal and devotional standard of our missionary Churches. Ill-suited as it is to many of the races for which those Churches exist, and of which they will soon consist, the inevitable reaction against it, and the construction of more congenial forms of worship, have scarcely begun. Our missionary Churches are still Anglican. For the Prayer Book is not only the embodiment of Anglicanism, it is the means by which Anglicanism is [15/16] sustained. [* Compare the Resolutions of Lambeth Conferences quoted in Chap. V.] It makes those who use it really, even if unconsciously, Anglican in their most sacred moments, when they gather together for worship. Again, it presents Anglican doctrine in its truest and most attractive form, not as we present it controversially to men, but as we carry it with us before the Throne of God.

Thus the principles of the group of Churches which is called the Anglican Communion are still the principles of the Church of England.


OUR last chapter ended with the statement that the principles of the group of Churches which is called the Anglican Communion are still the principles of the Church of England.

Constitutional principles

In this book we shall be chiefly concerned with three constitutional principles, namely:

(1)That the Church in every country must be one;

(2) That that one Church must be the Catholic Church in and for that country, and that this is what a National Church means;

(3) That the different National Churches should recognize each other's freedom in many matters and should express and maintain their unity in the Catholic Church by intercommunion, by Councils of their Bishops, and by all possible co-operation.

(1) That the first of these principles is a principle [16/17] of the Church of England appears clearly enough from the Prayer Book, from the Act of Uniformity, and all the ecclesiastical law of England. When the State got tired of using its force to secure one Church in England, the Church was too deeply compromised by past approval of compulsion, and too rigidly devoted to uniformity to accomplish that end by persuasion and reasonableness. But the principle remained its ideal.

(2) The second principle is indicated in the title-page of the Book of Common Prayer, which runs as follows: "The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the Use of The Church of England." It is made clear in this carefully worded title-page that the Church of England knows and administers no Sacraments, Rites, or Ceremonies but those of the Church—that is, the Church Catholic or Universal; but the way in which she administers them is her way, "the Use of the Church of England," and that is set out in the Book of Common Prayer. The ideal thus indicated in the title-page of that book is more fully described in Article XXXIV. "It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word....

"Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying."

Thus in our authoritative formularies the position claimed for the Church of England is clear enough. That Church is the Catholic Church in England and for England. It is the Catholic Church as it adapts itself in England to English temperament and creates and maintains English usages.

(3) The quotations from the Articles just made show that the Church of England thought that other National Churches ought to have the same liberty [17/18] that she claimed for herself, but that that was a definitely restricted liberty. Further, from Cranmer onwards the leaders of the English Reformation appealed to a true General Council, and expressed their willingness to submit to it, if one should be convened to which they were summoned.

I propose to devote a chapter to each of these principles: Chapter III to the first, Chapter IV to the second, and Chapter VI to the third. In each instance I shall endeavour to show the permanent validity of the principle and the effect which it has had, or may have, on the development of the Anglican Communion.

But first it will be well to consider the governing principle of the English Reformation because it has determined not only our constitutional but also our doctrinal principles.

Governing principle of the English Reformation

The English Reformers were not trying to make a new Church. They had the Church of England, Ecclesia Anglicana, as it had been called for centuries. They were members of it, they loved it. They only wished to make it better. The Bible gave them criteria. But they did not imagine (as many of their contemporaries did) that it contained directions for every circumstance that might arise. They sought in history for a state of the Church which was purer, as tested by Scripture, than the Western Church of their own time. They found it in the undivided Church as pictured in those "ancient authors" to whom they often appealed.

Rationale of appeal to the Undivided Church

This appeal to the undivided Church justifies itself to our modern judgment on two grounds: one, that the unity of the Church is a condition of its perceiving and preserving truth; [* Cp. my Watersmeet, p. 9 (Press and Publications Board of the Church Assembly).] the other, that our Reformers required an example of a settled Church, which can only be found from the second century onwards: they [18/19] could not find it in the Church of the Apostolic Age, which was a missionary Church.

Inner meaning of the appeal

It was from the undivided Church that England had received Christianity, and in the undivided Church our Reformers recognized the essential elements of the Church in which they were living. These elements were a life, a life in a body, and that a body with a certain purpose and of certain structure. All these things they possessed. They had not discovered or excogitated, or even chosen or approved them. They had received them. They knew that they owed all that they were or ever could be to that life in that body with that purpose and that structure. [* I venture to think that this is the vital truth underlying the rather formal and frigid statement of the Committee on the Anglican Communion, Sect, I (6) (Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 154)]

The permanent significance of each of these elements is clear enough if we enlarge but very little on each.

The life was the life of Jesus Christ, God and man. He had given His life for men and to men. He had opened to them the way of forgiveness. He had taken them into His body, the Church.

The Body was the Body of Christ, carrying His life into the world, and filled with the Spirit.

The purpose of the Body was to continue the work of Christ, to bear witness to the revelation He had made of God, and to all that God had done for men through His Son, and to bring them into vital contact with God through Christ.

The structure of the Body was a structure that had its origin in acts and words of our Lord. It had developed, like our bodies, by an internal principle of growth, set to work in it by the Creator.

Such a view of the structural development of the Church as Christ's Body is of cardinal importance in certain contemporary controversies. At the same time it is an integral part of our inheritance. I will therefore [19/20] endeavour to indicate the reasons for adopting this view.

The Church began to have a structure from the moment when our Lord "appointed twelve that they might be with Him." [* Mark iii. 14.]  He developed that structure little by little till He could say: "Ye are my friends," [* John xv. 14.] and "Ye shall be my witnesses . . . unto the uttermost part of the earth." [* Acts i. 8, cp. Matt. xxviii, 19, 20.] Thus a teaching and directing company of men became a permanent element in His society. Thus the kleros (or clergy) originated in His action. Its functions had been indicated by example and precept and parable. Indeed, if the revelation of God's nature and purposes for man was to be handed on pure and uncontaminated, it must (as St. Paul said) be committed "to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also." [* 2 Tim. ii. 2.] From these seed-actions and seed-thoughts the Ministry started on its development. The Apostles following our Lord's example and His Spirit developed it both by delegation and transmission. This development, like our adolescence, was somewhat irregular and inconsistent. Parts of its history are unknown to us. But by the time that the Church was a settled Church, the Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons was its settled Ministry. [* Compare the prayer in the Ordination of Priests preceding the laying on of hands in our Ordinal, where the succession in the teaching of redemption is the leading thought.] The English Reformers accepted that as part of the structure of the Church. Our Lord had further determined the structure of His Church by the two Sacraments which He instituted, one signifying the divine act by which men are incorporated into His Body, the other the divine act by which they are sustained in it by the continual giving of His life. The structure of the Church had been completed, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by other sacramental channels of grace, and by the territorial distribution of the Ministry. All this life [20/21] of the Body of Christ our Reformers found in their day as it had been for ages, for the Body of Christ had achieved maturity of form and structure comparatively early in its history, as our bodies do. They repudiated the innovations in that life which the Western Church had introduced, since it had become a temporal power, sharing the ambitions and imitating the methods of its temporal rivals.

Besides inheriting a life, they had inherited certain writings, which they deemed to be of great importance to that life. They had inherited the Scriptures which the undivided Church had accepted as containing contemporary accounts of Christ's life and teaching, and of His first disciples' understanding of their meaning. They had inherited the Creeds in which, for the guidance alike of teachers and taught, the great facts of God's self-revelation are set down, and at the same time it is indicated that on the human side Christianity is a personal trust in God—a trust in which heart and will and mind co-operate—made possible by what our Lord has done and is. [* For their position in regard to Holy Scripture, see Articles VI, VII, XX, XXI, and XXXIV, and in regard to the Creeds, Art. VIII.]

All this our Reformers accepted as beyond their criticism. The Church of England would be nothing if it were not a part of the Catholic Church, and the matters just mentioned were characteristics of the Catholic Church as it had grown by natural development—a development demonstrably consistent with the seed-thoughts and seed-institutions of our Lord and His Apostles as reported in Scripture. They were, in fact, the inheritance of the whole Church. A true part of the Church could not do without them.

Comprehensiveness of the Church of England

There remained a large number of matters on which at the time of the Reformation men's minds were divided. There was nothing new in that. The Church had from very early times found room for mystics and semi-mystics side by side with the ordinary believer. [21/22] Mediaeval Scholasticism was the product of the permitted discussion of different views within the Church. Thomists and Scotists were fellow-churchmen. There were many questions on which the Church had never given an authoritative decision.

The Church of England at the Reformation did not invent the method of comprehensiveness. She stood by it when both Rome and the Protestants were more and more abandoning it in order to insist on detailed uniformity of doctrine.


THE fact that Church and State in England attempted to maintain the principle of One Church in One Country by methods which were doomed to failure, must not blind us to its intrinsic rightness. Penal legislation, and at times persecution, were employed both before and after the Reformation on behalf of this principle. The Act of Uniformity, enforced by the State, was another attempt in the same direction. All these attempts, faulty as they are from the point of view of religion, were made more dangerous by the interaction of political purposes. We may, however, dismiss these historical circumstances from our minds and turn our attention to the nature and ground of the principle itself.

Nature and ground of the principle

There can be no doubt that the Church from the beginning was led to respect and to sanctify the territorial unities. It was warned off following the lines of racial unity. It was led to follow unities of place. What else is at the bottom of St. Paul's expostulations about the divisions in Corinth? Where is there any other theory in all the early literature? It is not hard to see the reasons.

1. [23] Our Lord addressed Himself particularly to the simple folk. His heart went out to those whom He called "the little ones." His actions and His teaching were throughout designed to be intelligible to them. How, then, I ask, is it possible for a simple unlettered man to think that the Church is one, unless it is one as he meets it every day, in his village, or in his city, or in his county, or in his country?

2. Co-operation is of the essence of human life. When co-operation among a group of men becomes customary, a society comes into existence which has a life of its own. That life takes up into itself the individual lives of the members, and it enters into each, greatly enriching it. We know that God wills to take each of our individual lives into His own through the Church, and by so doing gives it new life. Is it not probable that similarly He wills to take the corporate life of each natural human society into His own through the Church, and by so doing to give it new life? And what are more natural than the societies which are founded on unity of place? On this view it is God's design to pour His own life through the parish into the life of the village; through the diocese into the life of the city or district; and through the National Church into the life of the nation. In so doing He will take up these existing corporate lives into His own life, and transform them.

We will not listen to those who urge that the Church has no call to attempt the redemption and sanctification of these lesser unities because its task is to bind together the world in a unity which would transcend and annihilate them. The lesser unities are providential and cannot be dissolved, but it is only when brought under the power of the divine life that they can be fitted into the unity of the world which has hardly, as yet, been born.

3. The value of these lesser unities may also be seen from their contributions to the life of the whole Church. How much, for instance, the whole Church owes to the Churches of countries such as North [23/24] Africa or Spain, or of cities such as Alexandria or Rome. But in order that such contributions should be made, it is necessary for the genius of a nation or of a place to come to its own in one Church, full of harmonious activity. [* Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, pp. 161-2 (National Churches), p. 56 (Res. 52), and p. 29.]

Practical implications of the principle

If the principle One Church in One Country is to be carried into effect, great care must be taken to make the Church a spiritual home for all those in that country whom our Lord has chosen to call into His Body and to employ in His work of saving the world. This cannot be done without considerateness and comprehensiveness.

(a) Considerateness for temperamental differences

Men are born with different temperaments. This observation is particularly important in a country like our own where a considerable mixture of races has taken place. These temperamental differences show themselves in various ways—conspicuously in the matter of worship. If the Church is to be a spiritual home for all its rightful members, it is necessary that it should provide for varieties of worship suited to their temperaments. This consideration was completely lost sight of in the sixteenth century, in other countries as well as in England. Indeed, the passion for uniformity was a disease which became epidemic in Western Europe in that century. We ought, by this time, to have shaken it off. It must, however, be borne in mind that there are certain constant facts which ought to be allowed to produce constant features in the forms of worship. The truth about the nature of God is one and the same. Men's principal needs are the same. The distinctive features of Christian worship are the same. However great the variety of form, these things ought to produce common points of similarity. Again, if people are to recognize that they belong to [24/25] one body, it will be a great help that the various forms of worship which it adopts should be easily intelligible to all. An observation of the same kind applies also to the Church organization. The body must have its constant framework or it becomes unrecognizable as one; it must have its universal authority or it becomes actually many instead of one. But, within the territorial framework of the diocese and the parish, and sometimes extending across those divisions, there must probably always be societies of like-minded persons who seek mutual edification in special ways. It was in vain that the Reformation tried to stamp out the Religious Orders. The same tendencies in human nature which had produced them produced the Methodist Society, and other such bodies. Like-minded devotees must be allowed opportunity for forming special societies, but they must not ask to withdraw themselves from communion with the other members of the Body of Christ who are not like-minded, nor from the general authority of the Bishops, nor to set up a Ministry independent of the universal Ministry of the Church.

(b) Comprehensiveness

It is not only temperamental differences which have to be considered. If there is to be One Church in One Country, we must also consider differences of opinion. This brings us to the principle of Comprehensiveness: a principle which, though to-day often ridiculed, is valid for the following reasons.

1. We must first place opinion in its proper relations to other spiritual activities. As Christians understand it, religion consists in God taking hold of man and man taking hold of God. The organs by which this mutual apprehension is effected are affection and will and thought. There are very few members of the human race who can do as much apprehending of God by thought as they can by the other two faculties. Consequently, it is wrong to make membership in the Church appear to depend primarily upon right opinion. It depends first of all on God's choice, and [25/26] then on man's threefold response. The only opinions which are fatal to membership in the Church are those which are fatal to a man making the right contacts with God through his will and his affection. One of the great services to the Church which the Nicene Creed has done is that it indicates those matters of opinion and thought which are essential to the making of the right contacts with God.

2. The other deep justification for comprehensiveness is that it is not the individual member of the Church, but the Church as a whole that can hope to apprehend the whole of truth, and its apprehension of truth is a process gradually completing itself. Thus, at any one time, we ought to be glad if, on matters which are not clearly settled, other people hold opinions different from our own, because we ought to expect that truth will emerge from the combination of different opinions. In times of controversy even the exaggerations have their value because they make it certain that neither side of the truth will eventually be overlooked. If we cannot at the present moment see how our opinions and those of our neighbours can be rightly combined, yet we ought to tolerate the opinions of others whom our Lord is obviously using in His saving work in the hope that they may in the future be found to have contributed to a more perfect apprehension of truth.


THE second principle of the Church of England which we noted at the beginning of Chapter II was the principle of a National Church, viz, that the [26/27] one Church in each country must be the Catholic Church in and for that country.

In this chapter we will consider how the Church of England has worked out that principle and with what results.

In the view of the Church of England there meet in every land two living forces, the life of Christ and the life of the nation. The life of Christ presents itself as a life flowing through His Body the Church. There follows the apprehension of that life not only by men as individuals, but by nations as nations. Just as when Christ's life is apprehended by a person, the product of this process is his personal Christianity, so when Christ's life is apprehended by a nation, the product of that process is its national Christianity.

What is called Anglicanism is the result of this meeting of the English character with Christ's life offered to it through His Church. It might have been English Christianity, but alas! the Church of England has not succeeded in keeping within itself all the English reactions to Christ's life as it has been poured out into England. Still, undoubtedly Anglicanism is a Christianity which is typically English.

What is English about it? and what is Christian? A complete logical answer is impossible, because the two have been fused in one life. But the partial answer which can be given is worth giving. There is, as a matter of fact, no doctrine in Anglicanism which is English. According to the considered judgment of Dr. Pusey: [* Spiritual Letters, p. 207.] "Our Church at the Reformation did not lay down anything new, and declared against nothing which had been matter of faith from the first." That sentence goes beyond even the famous phrase, "The Church of England has no peculiar doctrines."

Our Reformers [* See above, Chap. II.] went back both for the substance of doctrine and the standard of pious practice to the undivided Church, checking its traditions by the Holy Scriptures as having yet greater authority. In [27/28] short, when seeking to purify the Church which they had inherited, they took the undivided Church as their example.

To this example they added nothing and from it they omitted very little. What is meant may be made clear by citing from their own and subsequent times prominent instances of addition and omission. The Roman Church has gone so far as to add two new Articles to the Creed itself, the one affirming an extremely improbable doctrine (of which certainly St. Paul had no inkling), the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin; the other a pure invention, the infallibility of the Pope. The Lutherans invented the doctrine of the invisible Church; and Calvin a theory about God, the black shadow of which has darkened large parts of the world ever since. The Society of Friends omitted all use of the Sacraments, the Baptists the baptism of infants. The Friends did without any ministry. The Baptists [* "It is on all the members of the Church that the ministry devolves; all believers, men and women alike, are equally priests." T. R. Glover, The Free Churches and Reunion, p. 40 (cp. the whole chapter).] and many Congregationalists denied that an ordained ministry is essential to the Church, and the Presbyterians that there is or ever was any order of ministers superior to the Presbyters. [* Presbyterianism is the name for belief in the apostolic and catholic Church as governed by presbyters. There may be higher offices in the Church, occupied by individual presbyters for a time or even permanently, but there is no higher order of the Christian ministry than that of presbyters."—Moffatt, The Presbyterian Churches, p. I. The reply of a Special Committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to certain questions on the proposed Scheme of Church union in South India (1930) goes further, "on Presbyterian principles ordination at the hands of the Presbytery is full and valid New Testament ordination: also, no office is recognized in the Church of Christ higher than that of the teaching or preaching Presbyter thus ordained."

The characteristic "Presbyterian innovation" underlies Dr. Moffatt's first sentence. It is that the Presbyters have of right the government of the Church as a whole. Scripture lends no countenance to this theory, showing the Presbyters governing Local Churches in the absence and under the supervision of the Apostles. It was due to the consciousness of these facts and of their value that Bishops (as we now know them) emerged, and in the second century were called "successors of the [28/29]  Apostles." Dr. Moffatt's second sentence states the mediaeval Roman doctrine that the Bishops are an Office and not an Order, which was in its time an innovation, in spite of the famous sentence of Jerome.]

All these are departures from the living and ascertainable tradition of the early Church, and for these departures the Churches named are solely and wholly responsible. They are their peculiar doctrines. Nothing similar can be produced with regard to the Church of England. We teach no doctrine and no obligatory practice on the authority of the Church of England, but on that of the undivided Church, if not of the whole Church, and we can show that anything which we teach is not inconsistent with Holy Scripture. The points in which we are most unlike the undivided Church concern members of the Church who have departed this life. The Prayer Book does not provide for prayers for the departed, except in one or two general phrases, e.g. "we and all Thy whole Church," and "we with them"; it does not provide at all for invocation of saints, i.e. asking them to pray for us, nor for any markedly greater veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary than of other Saints. The abuses which were connected with these practices had by the end of the Middle Ages become so great that something very near total abstinence was the only chance of a return to truth and sanity. With regard to prayers for the departed (which were never forbidden and continued to be offered in private prayer), a return towards primitive practice in our public services is being made and meets with wide approval.

People so often speak as if Anglicanism were one of the competing types of Christianity, that it is imperative to emphasize the fact that it is no such thing. The Church of England teaches and practises Christianity pure and simple, as it has been since the Church acquired a settled order; only it regards it, teaches it, and practises it in an English way.

Let me make that statement also clear by concrete illustration. Our theological outlook is thoroughly English, because however learned our theologians, the [29/30] determining factor in forming their judgments is common sense. The characteristics of our worship are solemnity and self-restraint. Great pains have been taken to perfect its language, and are taken every day to secure a simple solemnity in its performance. In matters of discipline we think it better to give men the chance to develop a sense of personal responsibility to God and a power of initiative in His service, than to secure a certain standard by direction and regulation. We have no use either for perfect theory or strictly logical practice. We know the world is full of unexplained contrasts and strange anomalies. Why should we deceive ourselves by trying to deny it?

This is the national character which in England has met the message of the Gospel and received the life of Christ. The resultant is Anglicanism. Anglicanism is the Christianity of the early undivided Church taken into English hearts, practised by English wills, and stated by English brains. There is no alteration of the content of that Christianity. But there is something specially English in the proportion and balance of the doctrine and practice of the English Church, according as things seem to the English mind important or convincing or helpful. The Book of Common Prayer is the fruit and the record and the expression of Anglicanism.


THE last chapter gives us the key to the understanding of the Anglican Communion. When members of the Church of England went into all parts of the world and built up new Churches there, [30/31] they might have carried with them either essential Christianity (as the undivided Church understood it), together with the principle that every nation will naturally react to it somewhat differently, or this Christianity as we have reacted to it—that is to say, Anglicanism. Which of these have they exported?

The answer is Anglicanism. It is a most amazing answer. But it is true.

How Anglicanism was exported

The event had several causes. On the Colonial side of the expansion of the Church of England, it was entirely natural. What the colonists wanted was their home Church in their new home. Even when these Colonial Churches were becoming independent, they clung to this idea. The Church in New Zealand in a fundamental and unalterable provision of its Constitution called itself "the Branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in New Zealand." The Australian Church bound itself to accept every decision of the Privy Council and not to alter the Prayer Book except by adopting alterations which might be made in England. As the Colonies become Dominions and develop nationhood, there must come a change in the point of view of their Churches. Indeed, it is beginning. The Church in New Zealand has passed a Canon declaring that "the Church of the Province of New Zealand, commonly called the Church of England," is a sufficient designation. The Church in Australia has been discussing the dissolution of the legal nexus with the Church of England for many years, and the end cannot be far off. Yet for all that the position of the Prayer Book in these Churches shows that they have not only received but retained Anglicanism.

On the missionary side of the expansion of the Church of England, it is more surprising that the same thing may still be said. It was quite natural that the early missionaries should have taken with them Anglicanism. They knew no other form of Christianity. [31/32] They were neither careful nor skilful to distinguish the Catholic from the local elements in it. Then came the translation of the Prayer Book into a hundred languages. Though in many places far simpler forms of worship have been attempted, yet the Prayer Book is still the standard of worship and of doctrine. On the whole very little has been done in the direction of developing a really national Christianity [* For a luminous illustration of the difficulties involved, read Chap. IX of Canon S. Bickersteth's Life and Letters of Edward Bickersteth, Bishop of South Tokyo.] in the mission-field, however much our principles demand it.

Thus it is true to an astonishing extent that all the overseas Churches still retain not only the principles of the Church of England, but Anglicanism.

No clearer evidence of this could be produced than the manner in which the Book of Common Prayer is referred to by successive Lambeth Conferences. The Conference of 1888 [* Res. 10, Davidson, The Six Lambeth Conferences, p. 121.] says: "The Book of Common Prayer is not the possession of one Diocese or Province, but of all." The Conference of 1897 [* Encyclical Letter, Davidson, op. cit., p. 289.] says: "The Book of Common Prayer, next to the Bible itself, is the authoritative standard of the doctrine of the Anglican Communion. The great doctrines of the Faith are there clearly set forth in their true relative proportion. And we hold that it would be most dangerous to tamper with its teaching either by narrowing the breadth of its comprehension, or by disturbing the balance of its doctrine." The Conference of 1920 (the Conference which issued the Lambeth "Appeal to all Christian people") thus expressed itself in Resolutions 36 and 37 [* Davidson, op. cit., p. 36, of the Report of 1920 (which is separately paginated). The Committee of the Conference of 1930 on the Anglican Communion formally reaffirmed these two Resolutions, p. 162. There are similar references by the Conference of 1867, Res. VIII, op. cit., p. 56, and by the Conference of 1878, Encyclical Letter, op. cit., p. 86.] (the italics are mine):

"36. While maintaining the authority of the Book of Common Prayer as the Anglican standard of doctrine and [32/33] practice, we consider that liturgical uniformity should not be regarded as a necessity throughout the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The conditions of the Church in many parts of the Mission Field render inapplicable the retention of that Book as the one fixed liturgical model."

"37. Although the inherent right of a Diocesan Bishop to put forth or sanction liturgical forms is subject to such limitations as may be imposed by higher synodical authority, it is desirable that such authority should not be too rigidly exercised so long as those features are retained which are essential to the safeguarding of the unity of the Anglican Communion."

Definition of the Anglican Communion

These Resolutions bring us to a new point, the converse of our last. Since what we have actually carried all over the world is Anglicanism, the Anglican Communion is the group of Churches which accept and practise Anglicanism. In other words, it is the group of Churches which regard the Book of Common Prayer as their "standard of doctrine and practice."

This was the underlying assumption of two of the most important steps taken by the Lambeth Conference of 1930 in the matter of the Unity of the Church.

The negotiations with the Orthodox Delegation [* See Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, pp. 131-40.] were of the utmost importance, because the Orthodox agree in general with our conception of the constitution of the universal Church. But they have the theory that there cannot be fellowship in sacred things without agreement on "the totality of the faith." Consequently the Sub-Committee of the Bishops and the Orthodox Delegation discussed together a considerable number of the doctrinal positions of the Churches. Throughout this discussion the principal document brought forward as evidence for the position of the Anglican Communion was the Book of Common Prayer with its local variants. Thus it was represented to the Orthodox [33/34] that the "Anglican Communion"—intercommunion with which they were considering—is a group of Churches whose standard of doctrine and practice is the Book of Common Prayer.

Again, when the South India Union scheme [* The scheme as reported to the Lambeth Conference is obtainable from S.P.C.K.] was presented to the Conference for its consideration and observations, it was explained that the Book of Common Prayer would be a permitted Prayer Book in the proposed Church of South India, but not the one Prayer Book of the Church, and therefore it could not be said that it would be that Church's standard of doctrine and practice. It was also made clear that though the proposed united Church in South India would in its own consecrations and ordinations adhere to the historical principles recited in the first two sentences of the Preface to the English Ordinal, it would accept as ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the united Church after the union certain persons who had been ministering in the uniting Churches before the union, though they had not been ordained by Bishops. This is, of course, contrary to the rule laid down for the Church of England by the third sentence of the Preface to the Ordinal in the form in which it has stood since 1662. The Conference held that if such a united Church comes into being, it will be "a distinct Province of the Universal Church," [* Lambeth Conference 1930, Res. 40 (b), p. 51.] not "a fresh Church or Province of the Anglican Communion," it "will not be a member of the group of Churches called the Anglican Communion," and it "will not be an Anglican Church." [*Id. Encyclical Letter, p. 27, cp. Committee's Report, p. 124-5.] This is quite consistent with all that had gone before. The Anglican Communion is a group of Churches which profess to accept as binding on them that complex of doctrine and practice which is called Anglicanism, and the South Indian Church will not. At the same time it is said of this projected Church in South India, which will not be an [34/35] Anglican Church, that "it will have a very real inter-communion with the Churches of the Anglican Communion, though for a time that intercommunion will be limited in certain directions by their rules." [* Id. Encyclical Letter, P. 27, cp. Committee's Report, p. 124-5.]

Anglican Churches in communion with others

These deliberations and decisions open up a new prospect. It is the prospect of this group of strangely similar Anglican Churches entering into communion with other Churches not Anglican.

They hope that they may be enabled to enter into communion with the Orthodox Churches of the East which have preserved in practice that theory of the Church of Christ, to which our English Reformers desired to return, the limited but effective independence of National Churches within the Catholic Church and in strict loyalty to it, secured by the opportunities of mutual knowledge and consultation given by Synods of Bishops. It is true that the Orthodox Churches have developed in some directions which the English Church and other Anglican Churches have not taken. But that was to be expected. It is also true that they have not as yet felt the force of modern thought so much as we have, and are even more conservative than we ourselves. But they represent not only the principle of ecclesiastical constitution which we stand for, but also the ancient range and scope of Christian thought and institutions.

Again, there are hopes of communion with the Old Catholics, [* See Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, pp. 140-4.] and among these the Church of Holland claims in its own country a similar position to that which we are endeavouring ourselves to fill in ours.

Of the Reformed Churches of the West, the nearest to us in the matter of ecclesiastical principle is that of Sweden. The Lambeth Conference of 1920 (Res. 24 and 25) declared in effect that the way was clear for intercommunion between any Anglican Church and the Church of Sweden, and, though no Anglican [35/36] Church has made any official declaration (so far as I know) on the matter, actions have been done which are very irregular unless the Churches consider themselves to be in communion.

Again, the Lambeth Conference contemplates the Anglican Churches being in communion (as explained above) with a Church such as that projected in South India, which will be formed by amalgamation with other bodies which are not Anglican, and will (in the opinion of the Conference) not be Anglican itself.

Surely, also, the Anglican Communion contemplates remaining in communion with those Churches which its missions have founded, when they develop their national characteristics, adopt their own forms of worship and their own conceptions of the proportions of the faith, and cease to be Anglican.

Anglican Churches which will cease to be Anglican

It is certain that they will do so. Our missionaries exported Anglicanism full-grown. When they started their work they did not stop to think, "What was the seed that was sown in England? That is what we must sow in this foreign land to which we have come." They transplanted a tree. Often it did not grow very well. The truth is that Christianity is like a plant which grows differently in different soils and climates. It is the same plant; you can recognize it as such, especially by the fruit. But, from place to place, the "habit" of the plant varies, the leaves, the flowers, the fruit, vary in colour, in size, in shape, and in fragrance. If you transplanted a grown plant from one continent to another, and the transplanted specimen bore fruit, its seed sown in that soil would produce plants different in those respects from the parent. That is precisely what will happen with our Missionary Churches in heathen lands. We must be content that it will happen, we must be glad to see it happen, we must help it to happen. This is no new thought. The Episcopal Synod of India in 1883 expressed it in memorable words:

[37] "The Truth and Order of which we speak are no exclusive possession of Englishmen, nor are they to be purchased only by conformity to English ways. We do not aim at imposing upon an Indian Church anything that is distinctively English or even European. The Word, the Sacraments, and the Episcopal Ministry,—these are unchangeable. They belong to no age or country. As they met the needs of Europe or of Asia many centuries ago, they will meet the needs of the India of to-day. But in regard to the conditions under which these are presented, the Church adapts herself, and we desire to see her adapt herself more and more, to the circumstances and to the tempers of every race of men; and from these, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, her forms of service, her customs, and rules and institutions will take an impress. We trust that God has given this mission to the Church of England, to give to India that pure Truth, and that divinely appointed Order, in possession of which India shall work out her own spiritual life, bear spiritual fruit of her own, contribute her own spiritual gifts to the wealth of the universal Church of God."

The only thing that the Bishops of India did not say was that such an Indian Church would cease to be Anglican. Nevertheless, on the theory of Anglicanism adopted by the Lambeth Conference of 1930, it certainly would be true to say so.

We do not dream of making the world Anglican

The hope and anticipation that the Anglican Churches may soon be in communion with Churches not Anglican throw light on our subject in two directions. First, though we have exported Anglicanism full-grown into many parts of the world, it was not with the object of making the world Anglican. Here we differ entirely from Churches like the Romans and the Baptists, who think that there is no salvation for the world or unity for Christendom till all men become Roman or Baptist. It is not Anglicanism that we want [37/38] to see the world adopt, for that is only the English reaction to essential Christianity.

We look forward to a Catholic Federation of National Churches

We want to see each nation of the world adopt essential Christianity and react to it in its own way. And we want to be in full communion with the National Churches which in that manner accept essential Christianity. In other words, we long to see the realization of the third principle of the Church of England in a Catholic Federation of National Churches.


AT the conclusion of the last chapter we saw how the negotiations about unity in the Lambeth Conference of 1930 led the Bishops to anticipate a time when the Churches of the Anglican Communion would themselves be in communion with a number of non-Anglican Churches.

Third principle of the Church of England

That situation would give us the opportunity of working out the third principle of the Church of England which was mentioned at the beginning of Chapter II, "that the different National Churches should recognize each other's freedom in many matters, and should express and maintain their unity in the Catholic Church by intercommunion, by Councils of their Bishops, and by all possible co-operation."

[39] The Church of England did little in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and hardly anything afterwards, to work out this principle. Yet at the very period when she was most isolated from foreign Churches the principle reasserted itself within the circle of her daughter and sister Churches, now called the Anglican Communion.

Worked out in Anglican Communion

Thus the Anglican Communion has become (as the Encyclical of 1930 says) [* Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 28.] "a commonwealth of Churches without a central constitution: a federation without a federal government." It resembles the British Commonwealth of nations in that it is held together by a unity of spirit, by a common history gratefully remembered, by a common purpose, by mutual recognition of the ideal of freedom for each of the Churches, and common pleasure in its growing realization, but not by a written constitution. The Anglican Communion, again, is a unity made up of corporate bodies (the Churches in the different countries), possessing administrative independence, yet acknowledging an obligation to co-operate. [* See Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, pp. 54-55 (Res. 48 and 49), and pp. 154-5 (pars. 7-9).] For that kind of unity the most appropriate name is federation. But the obligation to co-operate is not imposed by law or treaty, nor is it enforced by any central government. It is an obligation to Christ Himself, the unseen Head, and it is His life flowing through the Churches that makes them desirous and able to co-operate.

The one outward organ of co-operation that these Anglican Churches possess is the Lambeth Conference. [* For present constitutional details, see Chap. I.] It gives no commands, only advice. The first declarations to that effect had as their motive a natural anxiety to forestall opposition by calming apprehensions. The Englishmen were apprehensive about their obligations as an Established Church; the Americans about their [39/40] independence. But as often happens, a decision taken for reasons temporary and accidental is justified by an enduring reason which posterity can recognize. Persuasion, not coercion, was our Lord's own method when on earth. In conformity with this, advice, not command, should be the typical method of the authorities of His Church on earth. The only obedience God cares for is willing obedience. The only success the Church ought to care for is willing and understanding acceptance of its advice. It is true that people who cannot understand, ask for commands. But, if commands are to be given, they must be given by an authority able to understand those whom it commands, that is to say, a near and not a distant authority.

If the Church Universal is ever to have a central authority, it must be an advising authority, not a government.

Thus it appears that this group of scattered, and in many places weak, Churches called the Anglican Communion has unconsciously been practising the only form of constitution which could be applicable to the world-wide Church of Christ, a federation without a federal government. Is this a fact to which we have woken up? Or is it only a foolish dream? Let us examine it.

Example of Primitive Church

First of all, this was fact in the primitive Church. The people who placed in the Creed the clause "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church" were living in a federation of regional or national Churches. The organization of the early Church had followed that of the Roman Empire, and the early organization of the Empire had frequently made provinces out of the territories of conquered nations. The most natural and stable unities within the human race are those which are developed by geographical necessities and limits. For this reason old national unities survived in the provinces of the Empire, and in the metropolitanates and patriarchates of the Church.

[40] Thus the groups of dioceses into which the early Church formed itself often coincided with ancient countries. The Churches of these countries had no central government above them, nor were they bound together by regular administrative or executive action. They all possessed the same faith, the same ministry, the same sacraments, the same sacred books. There was a constant coming and going of individuals. The Bishops exchanged letters, but the Churches of the different countries adopted different customs in worship and other matters. There seemed to be no need for formal co-operation except when serious doctrinal questions arose. These were dealt with by Councils of Bishops. General Councils were practically impossible unless the arduous journeys of the Bishops were facilitated by the Emperors; so these took place only occasionally.

The pronouncements of General Councils did not become final and binding until they were accepted by the whole Church. This was the theory, though the Emperors did what they could to nullify it by enforcing the decisions of the Councils. The Easterns still maintain the theory; and it is extremely important. It means that while the Church needs a central organ for the expression of authoritative opinions, those opinions should win their way by conviction and not be imposed as commands.

Thus the unwritten constitution of the Catholic Church in the first five centuries may be described as a Federation of regional (mostly national) Churches without a federal government. Both the Orthodox and the Anglicans regard this as in principle the true constitution of the Catholic Church on earth, and their own practice conforms to this principle as nearly as circumstances permit.

There are two other theories of the proper unity of the world-wide Church which men are attempting to put into practice to-day. This book not being a treatise on Church Unity, I must be content with indicating briefly what they are, and why we prefer the ancient way.

Alternatives: (1) A central autocracy

The Roman Church believes that the ideal constitution of the Catholic Church is a personal autocracy directing a central government.

We must beware of attributing to this principle all the features of the Papacy. For instance, the pursuit of temporal power, and the long restriction of the papal chair to Italians, have no logical connection with it, as the following features have.

1. A central autocracy in the Christian Church attempts the impossible, for Christian government must be understanding and sympathetic, and no government of the world can be. The indispensable condition of sympathetic and understanding government is that the governor should know the people he governs, and he cannot know them unless he lives among them. This gives a natural limit to government as such. Government attempted beyond this limit is bound to fall into certain vices, strongly opposed to the Christian spirit.

2. The first of these which I will mention is the elaboration of a great system of rules—a process which has been going on in the Roman Church from the Decretum of Gratian to the Codex Juris Ecclesiastici of 1917 with its 2,414 Canons. This cannot fail to produce the impression that goodness is the doing of specified acts—which Mohammedanism teaches, as did degenerate Judaism—and not the response of the heart and will to the limitless love of God.

3. Another vice which results from the attempt to exercise a world-wide government is a tendency to resent the existence of national customs and liberties. The history of the Church of Rome furnishes sad examples: for instance, the suppression of the Spanish rite (called in scorn Mozarabic), though it contained the most touching and imaginative forms of devotion in all Christendom; and the denial of the Gallican liberties, even when championed by so great a man as Bossuet. Indeed, the almost complete loss of the Nordic [42/43] peoples to the Church of Rome at the Reformation was partly due to the impatience of a distant central government with the emergence of national divergencies. If the glory and honour of the nations must be brought into the Holy City, this opposition to the development of national genius in religion must be wrong.

Alternatives: (2) Independent world-wide strata

It is difficult to say whether the present situation of the Protestant world is due to drift or theory. What is happening is the formation of a series of world-wide alliances of Churches which exist to maintain and propagate certain peculiar doctrines or institutions. If this procedure were carried out completely, world-wide Christendom would consist of a number of different coloured strata (like the rocks at Alum Bay): a Methodist stratum, a Presbyterian stratum, a Congregationalist stratum, a Baptist stratum, etc. "Oecumenical Conferences" of several of these strata have already been organized. Within each stratum there would be a world-wide unity, and that a unity of adhesion to some doctrine or doctrines. Between the strata there would be no unity except "the spiritual unity of all true Christians," and perhaps in some countries a local federation (for certain purposes) of the strata there represented and willing to federate. But the one essential point of such of these federations as have been formed is that they should not touch the separateness of the organizations of the different Churches or compromise their independence.

There are in these Churches currents of opinion showing grave dissatisfaction with this system of world-wide stratification.

If those things are true which have been said above about the essential bond of unity not being solely intellectual, about the place of territorial unity in the Church, and the need of comprehensiveness, and most of all about the necessity that the unity of the Church should be recognizable by the ordinary simple believer [43/44] in his daily life, then the true form of the unity of the whole Church on earth cannot be the co-existence of independent world-wide strata.

The ideal, the primitive federal unity with modern adaptations

We return, then, to the actual unity which the primitive Church had, and find it most congruous with the Christian spirit. It also harmonizes with sentiments of the present day as reflected in the League of Nations. It needs but little adaptation to our conditions. The number of Bishops has immensely increased. Nowadays the ecclesiastical provinces would probably send a few of their Bishops as their elected delegates to any General Council. Other distinguished persons might, as in antiquity, attend the Councils and address them, without the right to vote. Further, the means of communication have immensely improved. Periodical General Councils are now possible which would deal not only with pressing points of difficulty or dispute in faith and morals, but with current phases of the Church's work in the world, such as the distribution of tasks and forces or the Christian reaction to world-movements of thought.

Gradations in unity

We find in this ancient model the true scheme of the unity of Christendom. The Church must have all the unity it can. But that varies with different areas. In the small village all Christians can meet together for worship. Not even in a big town can they have that measure of unity. The next form of unity is unity of administration or government. Such is the unity of a diocese. The next form is the unity of legislation and co-operation, resting on consent and not on government. Such is the unity of the province, or the national or regional Church—all of them in theory voluntary federations of dioceses with a central legislature, but not a central executive. The last form is the unity of a federation with no central government, but a central [44/45] authority for guidance and instruction. Such is the unity of world-wide Christendom as it was in antiquity, and, please God, will be again. But all these forms are only forms which the One Spirit uses for the expression of His own unity and the preservation of ours.


AS we have woken up to the facts of the Anglican Communion and to the full implications of its principles, we have found ourselves carried beyond the present to dreams of its future.

We dream of a Church of England earnestly striving, and more and more able, to be the one Church in that country. It would gather into itself all the qualities of Englishmen that our Lord can use, and all the aspirations which He has inspired in them. It would not be afraid of differences, knowing that of all the rays which the spectrum reveals none is of the same colour as the light, which is the result of their combination. [* See Lambeth Conference, 1930, Report, p. 30.] It would turn united efforts to win England from psychological interest in religion to religious concentration on God; from the weary task of self-improvement to the joyous discipline of letting God improve her; from trifling with class hatred to taking seriously the membership of all in one Body.

We dream of the Churches of the Anglican Communion making it clear in act and deed that none of them is a sect among the sects, competing with the rest in the championship of peculiar doctrines, but that each is striving to bring into effective existence one Church in its land, and that the Catholic Church of Christ.

We dream of all these Churches entering gladly [45/46] into communion with other Churches in other lands which are pursuing the same ideals, however widely different their traditions and their history may be.

We dream of this free federation of National Churches, becoming more and more Catholic with each accession to its fellowship, and showing the way to a world-wide unity to those who at present conceive of no way or are committed to some other way.

These dreams are no unsubstantial fabric. They grow out of our principles—principles founded on the Truth and tested in history.

Let us pray and work, and work and pray, that when God wills, and as He wills, our Dreams may come true.

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