Project Canterbury

Boldness and Compassion
A Message from the Anglican Congress to the People of the Anglican Communion

Minneapolis, Minnesota August 13, 1954.

[New York: The National Council, no date]

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008

FROM our Congress here in Minneapolis, we--657 Churchmen and Churchwomen of the Anglican Communion--send a message of thankful comradeship to all the forty millions of our scattered brotherhood the world around. To you at home, in your churches . . . to you in the military services, who are deeply in our prayers . . . to you who in a thousand lonely places quietly serve in faithful duty . . . to all who bear our name or give us fellowship, grace be unto you and peace.

WE say, before anything else, that the certain assurance of God's calling of us and of the wonderful reality of our Anglican family is the greatest fruit of our Congress. We have prayed and shared in the Holy Communion day by day; we have heard great addresses; we have discussed them and tried to express our common thoughts as best we could; we have entered into a new and rich experience of fellowship. In all these things we have come to see, unmistakably and clearly, that our worldwide family of Churches is a reality, under God, and that he has a clear work for us to do.

We commend to you with all our hearts a study of the addresses soon to be published. We do so because of what was given us here, but even more because we wish for you what we ourselves have discovered in our discussions, that the Spirit is indeed leading us into all truth. God reigns! And in His Providence He lays a commanding duty upon us to bear our witness. It is a witness to freedom, to the truth which makes men free, to our Household of Faith wherein we hold together things old and new.

WE say to you, as loyal members of your congregations, that it is only through loyalty to God that men receive His gifts. Lukewarm Churchmen, Christians unwilling to yield themselves to the discipline of their discipleship, will never find what God has promised. But in response to faith God's promises do not fail. We do not claim that as Anglicans we only have His gifts, nor that we have them all; we say simply that there is nothing lacking to us in what our Church provides, that what is needed is not a new revelation or new fashions in belief, but a more thorough knowledge of and sincere commitment to what we have. Here at the Congress we have seen Anglicanism at its best, and discovered that, at its best, it is not simply conventional, nominal churchmanship, nor an easy tradition of inherited customs, but that it confronts us with the call of God and gives us power to obey.

BUT we cannot rest with this alone. Here we have met and known fellow Churchmen from every continent. We have heard our prayers in other tongues. We have knelt side by side with Anglicans of every color. We have discovered anew what it means to belong to a world Church. And in this world, so torn and twisted against itself, there is not one of us who has not seen the necessity of two Christian duties: Boldness and Compassion. You know how easy it is to dismiss such words as missionary and evangelist, as if they were out of date, old-fashioned. We do not quarrel about words; we simply say to you that we have seen, in a way none of us can ever forget, the terrible, absolute necessity of Christian witness in the contemporary world. We have seen with our own eyes both the reality and the need of Christian brotherhood, because we have come to know our brothers. We have understood a little of what God has done in making of one blood all nations of men, but we have also realized how far His purpose is still unfulfilled through our disobedience.

We have been taken out of our safe isolation: and we are resolved that boldness in standing up to be counted for our faith, and compassion in remembering the needs of our brothers are the best gifts we can bring to a world divided by selfishness or suffering. Three out of every five of our fellow men do not have enough to eat nor a safe nor decent roof over their children's heads. That misery is a fact. It is also a fact that God came into this world that men might have life and have it more abundantly. If, all over the world, the underprivileged are upsetting the world, if the meek are inheriting the earth, in their own way, it is no more than He said would happen. It is a merciful judgment of God that we favored ones are so reminded that He is still in control.

Boldness and Compassion. Boldness to say before all the world Whom it is we believe, what He does, what He wills. Compassion to understand the pain and sorrow of life for the greater part of mankind, and to share it. It is right to condemn the false ideology of the communists which draws its strength from the misery of mankind. But it ill becomes Christians and Churchmen who profess their faith in the Father Almighty to remain blind and deaf to this misery and to fail to do whatever we can to establish justice among men and make human brotherhood a reality.

THEREFORE we have, of necessity, thought much about missions and evangelism. Those two words, we came to see, are really one. It is our duty everywhere, in all circumstances, to live and speak and act in accordance with our belief in Christ Jesus and our love for Him. We thought a great deal about the way God calls us to exercise our discipleship in our homes, in our jobs, in politics and social service, and in all neighborhood relations. Businessmen, industrial workers, housewives, teachers, farmers . . . we are all alike called of God to do our work as He means it to be done. We went further; we say that our money was God's gift and needed to be offered to Him in full sincerity and honesty. Most of us are like most of you--unthinking people who give a mere token of our wealth to God. But it is hard to meet, as we have met day after day, and not think long thoughts about what God has given us and how little we have shared with Him and our brothers in Him. We talked about sacrifice, and afterwards were sorry we had used the presumptuous word in a time when life itself is required of many of our fellow Churchmen. God has given us everything. He requires of us both our gifts and the service of our lives.

Finally, we have talked of missions and of a new and better missionary strategy. Yet even the best strategy in the world will fail if there are not men and women to do the job and to do it faithfully and well. Mission stations, parish churches, schools, religious orders, hospitals, all the buildings and equipment which the vision and generosity of man can provide lie useless if willing human service is not there to bring them to life. The urgent need and the continual call of Christ are alike clear and compelling.

It is not for the sake of the Anglican Communion that we plead. That communion is not what is at stake. God will take care of His own. It is rather what our communion points to beyond itself, which haunts and commands us. A greater Church into which we may bring our gifts and lay them at His feet along with Christians of other traditions; a truer society in which the justice of God has overridden the inequalities of nature and history--these are what are at stake. This is the vision which we have seen, for which we are proud to work and witness. We pray that what God has given to us He will also give to you.

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