Project Canterbury

The Future of the Kingdom

Address by the Right Reverend William Thomas Manning, D.D.

Bishop of New York

At the Catholic Congress in Philadelphia Thursday, October 26, 1933

AT THIS CONGRESS you have been commemorating that great religious revival known as the Oxford Movement which began one hundred years ago and which has had such mighty effects in the whole of the Anglican Communion, in our own Church in this land, and far beyond in the World of Religious Thought. And at this closing session you have asked me to speak of the relation of the Catholic Movement to the Future of the Church and to the Coming of the Kingdom of God in this world.

One thing we need to keep unmistakably clear, and this is that the true object of the Catholic Movement is not to create a party in the Church, nor to promote party spirit, but to arouse us all to realization of our spiritual heritage as members of the One, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and of our blessings and responsibilities as such.

The Evangelical Movement emphasizes, and rightly emphasizes, the necessity of personal faith and of real individual conversion, the Liberal Movement urges, and rightly urges, that we must be loyal to truth, that our minds must be open to truth from every source, and that the Holy Spirit is as ready to guide and lead us now as in the earlier ages of the Church, the Catholic Movement emphasizes, and rightly emphasizes, the necessity of belief in Christ the Incarnate Son of God still present with us in His Church here on earth, still speaking and ministering to us through His Word and Sacraments.

From New Testament times onward there have been three marks of the Catholic Church, three great visible links of its life and fellowship, the common Creed, the common Sacraments, and the Apostolic Ministry, and these are all held sacred in the Anglican Communion.

The great principles for which the Catholic Movement stands are not the possession of a party, they are the principles which are common to all of us as members of this Church.

[2] The Protestant Episcopal Church itself holds and teaches the Catholic Religion. The word Protestant in our name emphasizes this, for that word as used in our official title means that this Church protests against departures from the Catholic Faith as received and taught everywhere by the undivided Church during the early centuries. Every man who accepts the teaching of the Prayer Book as to the Faith, the Apostolic Ministry, and the Sacraments, is a Catholic churchman.

And to-night we are to think of our work, as a Church, for the Future of the Kingdom. We are to ask ourselves what we need to do to help the Church, not only our own Church but the whole Catholic Church of Christ of which our own Church is a part, to fulfill its great mission in this world. Many of the Church's wisest leaders are warning us of the forces which, are gathering today against religion, and we know how powerful these forces are here in our own land. Vast numbers of our people are without any clear religious faith or guidance. All over the world there has been a weakening of moral and religious conviction, and a falling away from faith in God. And yet at the same time the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, the Church not as it is but as it ought to be, the Church as the New Testament shows it to us and 'as Christ intends it to be, has an opportunity perhaps without parellel in its history.

Side by side with the loss of faith, the revival of paganism, and the sense of futility and failure which this has brought, there is a wide spread longing for spiritual help and for higher and better things. That great vision of peace and justice and brotherhood which the Lord Jesus brought here and set moving in this world is before the minds of men, and in the hearts of many, as it has never before been. Some of those who imagine themselves most hostile to Christ and to His Religion are trying to bring in and realize His Gospel of Justice and Peace and Human Brotherhood. It would seem that as in the time of the old Roman Empire the world was prepared for the Coming of Christ Himself, so today the world is ready for the fuller Coming of His Kingdom among men.

Mere individualism is being left behind today in all departments of life. It is this false philosophy of life with its disregard alike of the law of God and the happiness of men which has led us into our present world crisis. And mere nationalism is proving equally to be impossible. We are being forced to realize that the world is one, and that we are all members of one family. And men are beginning to see that in a World that is one we need a World [2/3] Religion. The ideal of the Church of God as a supra-national, as well as supernatural, society makes today a fresh appeal. Men's minds are open to the ideal of the One, Catholic and Universal Church as witnessing to the unity of humanity. No religion that is sectarian, or provincial, or local, or merely individualistic, can now satisfy either the hearts or the imaginations of men.

It is the widest outlook now which makes the greatest appeal. The movements at this time for unifying the great Religions of the World give striking evidence of this, even though some of these movements may remind us of the famous offer of Sir Boyle Roche to give up the half of the Constitution, or if necessary the whole of it, for the sake of the remainder. These movements for religious fellowship are full of significance. It is the ideal of the world wide Catholic Church, the Divine Society of which Christ is the Head and the Cornerstone, which alone is great enough to meet the visions and longings of this present time. It is in the universal fellowship of the Church, with its Divine foundations and its true comprehensiveness, that these noble longings will be realized. It is the One, Holy, Catholic, Church of Christ which in its ideal, and in its very nature, stands against all barriers of caste, or race, or colour, against all in justice between man and man, against all that divides and separates men from God and from each other. It is this Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, which binds us in fellowship with the saints, and the common people, of all races, of all ages, and of all lands. And it is this Church in which we declare our belief, and claim our membership, every time we repeat our Creed.

What then is our part and work, as members of this Church, for the Future of the Kingdom? How are we to help to bring Christ's Kingdom into this world?

First and before all else as members of the Holy, Catholic Church of Christ we must be true to our spiritual heritage, and faithful to the responsibilities and obligations which this lays upon us.

As the Archbishop of York says in his message to this Congress, the Anglican Communion has a special opportunity and responsibility "because it alone combines the full heritage of the continuous Catholic tradition with that of the Reformation and of modern knowledge. It is therefore capable of attaining to a Liberal and Evangelical Catholicism to which no other Communion seems at present to aspire; but it can only hold together, and fuse into unity, these various elements in its inheritance if it is [3/4] fully loyal to them all, and maintains in its own life the historic structure which is the bond at once of its own unity and of its oneness with the Church of all times and of all places."

We must have always before us the vision of the One, Holy, Catholic, Church of Christ. The God given opportunity of the Anglican Communion, its uniquely central position among the separated Churches of Christendom, lays upon us a sacred and special responsibility. We must never for the sake of some supposed local benefit do that which is inconsistent with the Faith or the Order of the Catholic Church throughout the World. If Bishops or others take action of this sort, in disregard of their obligations as Ministers of this Church, they are not taking a broad view of the issues involved, they are taking a local and limited view and are leaving out of account the world wide ideal of the Catholic Church.

The Episcopal Church in this land and the other Churches of the Anglican Communion must be true to their great mission. They are called upon to think of the Church of Christ in world wide terms. They are called to bear their witness to a Catholicism which, as Bishop Gore expressed it, is "scriptural, liberal spirited, and comprehensive, but always Catholic."

It is so that we shall do our part for the Coming of Christ's Kingdom in this world, and it is so that we shall do our part for the cause of world wide Christian Reunion.

Second. We must see more clearly ourselves, and help others to see more clearly, the vision of the Church as it is shown to us in the New Testament. We cannot expect men to see the place of the priesthood, and the sacraments, and the worship, unless they see the New Testament vision of the Church itself. We must hold up more clearly before men St. Paul's great vision of the Church as the means which God has appointed for bringing to Himself all mankind in the fellowship of His dear Son. It is this glorious New Testament Vision of the Church which the world so greatly needs today, and it is this belief in the Church which men need to make Christ Himself real to them. Men lose their sense of the supernatural power of Christ unless they believe in Christ's continued presence and work among us in His Church. We have an illustration of this in the recent book called "Rethinking Missions". We must call upon men to look away from the Church as it is to the Church as Christ intends it to be, and to realize that if it is God's eternal purpose to work through the Church it is in the Church that we must do our work for Him.

[5] Third. It is, of course, the urgent duty of all who believe in, and belong to, the Holy Catholic Church to press for the realization of the ethical and social teachings of Christ's Gospel. We know how often, and how far, we have fallen short in this matter. There is a great call here to the Church at this moment. In the present World Movements for Justice, and Peace, and Brotherhood, the Church has a mighty opportunity. These movements are realizing the Will or Her Lord and Head. They are the marks of the Coming of His Kingdom. It must not be said with truth that the Church is so engaged in ecclesiastical matters that she leaves to others the building of a better world. We are not to bring politics into our religion, but we are to bring religion into politics and into the whole of life. It is for us to show that membership in the Holy, Catholic Church is a matter not only of theology and theory but of life and service. It is for us to let the world see that the Church is here not merely for the building up of an ecclesiastical organization but for the bringing in of the Kingdom of God.

Last. Let us remember always that while the truth which the Oxford Movement especially emphasized, the truth of the Divinely founded and Divinely commissioned Church as the organ of Christ's continued presence and work in this world, is vital and essential to the Christian Gospel, the truth which the Evangelical Movement especially emphasized, the necessity of individual conversion in Christ, is equally vital and indispensable. A Catholicism which is not truly Evangelical is dead and is nothing but an empty shell. We need always in the Church a great emphasis on personal conversion, and no one ever preached this with greater earnestness than Dr. Pusey.

It was that great priest of our own Church, William Augustus Muhlenberg who suggested that we should call ourselves Evangelical Catholics. The Anglican Communion throughout the world, and our own Church in this land, are called to bear witness to a Catholicism which is wholly evangelical, which is not disproportionately concerned with religious externals, which has for its one aim the bringing of men and women to Jesus Christ, and which stands for full intellectual and spiritual freedom.

We have our difficulties, our weaknesses, and our dangers, but we are a part of the Holy, Catholic Church and God the Holy Spirit will guide us.

It is a great mission indeed and a great opportunity to which God is calling us. At this critical time in the history of the world [5/6] we are called to hold up the ideal of a Church which is true to Scripture, which holds the full heritage of the continuous Catholic tradition, which includes also the truth of the Reformation, which welcomes all the truth of the present and the future at the risk of sometimes including error for a time as well as truth, and which realizes and faithfully proclaims the social implications and message of the Gospel. This is the Catholicism to which we are called to bear our witness. We need have no fear of the effect of error in the Church if we are true to Christ Himself, and to those great essentials which have bound the Church together and have been the links of its visible fellowship from the beginning, the common Creed, the common Sacraments, and the Apostolic Ministry. Let us have before our minds the spiritual power and freedom, the life and vigour, the startling innovations, the fearless grappling with new situations, and the victorious faith in the Risen and Living Christ which we see in the Church as it is shown to us in St. Paul's Epistles.

It is by bearing our witness for the New Testament ideal of the Catholic Church, in all its largeness, in all its fullness, in all its faith, and in all its fearlessness, that we shall do our part for the Future of the Church and for the Coming of the Kingdom of God.

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