A cold challenge to the Church of England to widen its horizons and play a dynamic role as the mother church of the world-wide Anglican Communion is made by a Canadian bishop in the April issue of Canadian Churchman.
Rt. Rev. G.N. Luxton, Bishop of Huron, says in the article that the English church's senior membership in the communion is unquestioned. But so far as leadership within the body, with its 19 national autonomous churches and a membership of 47,000,000, "her activity is restricted to a few persons and a few special issues" with the rest seemingly so "centred on their own domestic problems that they lack time or energy for wider concerns."
While admitting the difficulties inherent in the Church of England's position as an established church, Bishop Luxton says a radical change in its present structure is called for.
"She needs some form of synodical government at every level of her life," he says. "For over a century we have enjoyed such order in the Canadian church; we find it hard to understand how a church can exist without it. It is the duly-elected representatives of the people of God gathered to govern the church. In ancient days when the English church was the nation, and the nation was the church, there was some warrant for civil parliament holding control of the church and having the final word in deciding her laws, her worship and her leadership. I have read most of the defences offered for this anomalous situation. They are unconvincing."
Bishop Luxton believes there is need for an organized and planned unity within the Anglican Communion which would not mean either authoritarianism or bureaucracy. He favors the appointment of a commission to prepare a plan and commit the churches of the communion to an over-all strategy of mission. He suggests also a modest administration centre for joint work and a research and study group to evaluate the communion's work on all continents.
The article appears about four months before the opening of the Lambeth Conference in London where some 500 bishops of the Anglican Communion will meet at the call of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The conference which has been held approximately every 10 years since 1867 is not a legislative body but its resolutions concerning problems affecting the communion and society in general have become increasingly important in the ecclesiastical world. Bishop Luxton who will be among 38 Canadian bishops attending makes it clear that his views are personal and unofficial.
That the sincere thanks of the General Synod be conveyed to the Bishop of The Arctic, Chairman of the Spiritual Advance Committee of the A.A.A., and the Bishop of Huron, who on the illness of the chairman, took over the leadership of this committee and has rendered devoted and lasting service to the Church in its policy of Advance. CARRIED in both Houses.
"We cannot talk about the Anglican Journal and the diocesan newspaper network without a big nod of appreciation to Bishop George Luxton from the diocese of Huron. In 1957, armed with a communications strategy for the church at national and local levels, he headed to Ottawa to meet with Eric Cairns, the postmaster general. There he presented his idea for mailing diocesan newspapers, together with the national newspaper, then called the Canadian Churchman. Cairns agreed to a postal subsidy that mailed the newspapers at a deep discount. Two years later, in 1959, Canadian Churchman was produced along with six diocesan newspapers, each published by the diocesan bishop. As distribution moved from bulk mailings to individual mailings, circulation jumped from 5,000 to 65,000 readers. The editor of Canadian Churchman, Gordon Baker, promoted the newspaper network vigorously. More and more dioceses came on board and circulation tripled to 200,000 readers. Today the Anglican Journal and the 22 diocesan newspapers it carries reach 170,000 parishioners across Canada for less than 10 cents per copy".
Part of a four page supplement celebrating the 135th anniversary of the Anglican Journal.
The Bishop of Huron presented a prepared statement on The Office and Role of a Bishop. The presentation was prepared specifically with a view to answering the questions of members of the United Church who desire greater understanding of this feature of Anglican Church life. The presentation prompted much discussion, particularly with respect to the historic authority of a Bishop in the councils of the Church.
The Bishop of Huron continued his presentation. Appreciation was expressed by the applause of the House.
The second statement on the Role of a Bishop was presented by the Archbishop of Algoma. This statement was intended for use in connection with the prepared Canon on Bishops and was of a more theological character. It outlined the Bishop's role as Father in God, Liturgical Officer, and Administrator, with reference as well to the Episcopate as a necessary element in the maintenance and development of the Unity of the Church. Discussion brought out the missionary character of the office. The Bishop must not only care for the flock of Christ but reach out to those outside the flock. The House expressed appreciation of this paper also by its applause.
"That the Primate be asked to appoint a small committee to review the two papers presented to us on the Episcopate and to suggest the best use that we can make of them or some re-arrangement of them, either as a single paper or two documents."
The Committee appointed by the Primate consisted of the Archbishop of Algoma, the Bishops of Huron, Toronto, New Westminster and Caledonia. (For the Committee's see Section xxii)
Moved by the Bishop of Niagara, seconded by the Bishop of Moosonee and defeated:
"That in view of the origin of Bishop Luxton's paper on 'Why Bishops' we ask the Committee on Unity to decide on the best way of using this document."
"That the disposition of the Bishop of Huron's paper be left to the Primate and the Bishop of Huron."
The Secretary was instructed to record the deep appreciation of the House of Bishops to both the Bishop of Huron and the Archbishop of Algoma for the great amount of work they had done on these two papers, each of which is a thoughtful, thorough and most timely document.