Conference to mark 60th anniversary of historic 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress

Posted Apr 10, 2024

Anglicans pack Maple Leaf Gardens for the opening service of the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress. Photo: Anglican Church of Canada Archives

[Anglican Communion News Service] A conference marking the historic 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress is taking place April 12-13 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Toronto, Canada. It will be a significant international conference, marking a key moment in the history of the growth of Anglicanism worldwide.

MRI at 60” will examine the history and influence of the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress and its manifesto, “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence (MRI) in the Body of Christ.”

Anglicans from around the world will discuss the Congress that brought to Toronto more than 1,000 bishops, clergy and laity from almost every diocese of the Anglican Communion and 17,000 worshippers to its thanksgiving service. The conference also will discuss the Congress’s background and implementation of the MRI principles.

The MRI Declaration ended with a powerful call to action. It stated, “We are aware that such a program as we propose, if it is seen in its true size and accepted, will mean the death of much that is familiar about our churches now. It will mean radical change in our priorities – even leading us to share with others at least as much as we spend on ourselves. It means the death of old isolations and inherited attitudes. It means a willingness to forgo many desirable things, in every church. In substance, what we are really asking is the rebirth of the Anglican Communion, which means the death of many old things, but – infinitely more – the birth of entirely new relationships. We regard this as the essential task before the churches of the Anglican Communion now.”

The Rev. Mark Chapman from Oxford University will give the keynote address, “A Tale of Two Anglican Congresses: London 1908 and Toronto 1963.” Twenty-one papers will be presented by speakers from around the Anglican Communion, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Kenya, Malawi, England, the Philippines and South Africa as part of panel presentations. Chapman also will give a a free public lecture, “On Consulting the Faithful: An Anglican understanding of the laity,” on April 12.

The Rt. Rev. Jo Bailey Wells, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, will preach at the April 15 thanksgiving service at St. James Cathedral, and the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, will preside.

Wells said, “The 1963 Congress marks a turning point in the journey of Anglicanism. Its conception of ‘mutual responsibility and independence’ has shaped the Anglican family such that it aptly describes our relationships around the communion, recognizing both autonomy and interdependence. On the one hand we are united in witness and mission; at the same time we acknowledge and celebrate our diversity. These things are not opposites. Radical as it was at the time, the 1963 Congress recognized the importance of lay leadership and the gift of indigenous voices – features contributing to establishing the Anglican Consultative Council in 1968. I am honored to preach at the thanksgiving service. I look forward to celebrating what was a seminal event in the history of the Anglican Communion.”

The Rev. Stephen Spencer, adviser for theological education and Lambeth Conference implementation at the Anglican Communion, also will be giving a paper at the conference. He said, “In a world that seems to be increasingly violent and intolerant, it will be very helpful to reflect on how we can be mutually responsible and interdependent as churches of the Anglican Communion. We have so much to learn from each other and so much encouragement that we can give each other, if only we stop judging each other and start listening to one other. I am looking forward to the conference as an opportunity to do this.”

The conference is sponsored by the Canadian Church Historical Society, the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Foundation of Canada.

It also can be attended online.