Towards the Conversion of EnglandWhile browsing old issues of The Churchman, from which came the article referred to in the previous post, I came across a very interesting article on the 1946 Church of England report, Towards the Conversion of England, which was the subject of a recent book by John Richardson, and has been discussed in several conversations on this blog. During the 1930s and 40s, Evangelicals in the Church of England met for an annual conference in Oxford, and the report was the subject of the opening address at the 1946 conference, which The Churchman reprinted, and still makes available on-line here.

One of the interesting things about it was that the speaker, the Bishop of Rochester (who was also the chairman of the Evangelism Commission that produced the report), commended it to Evangelicals not only because conversion was naturally something in which they would be interested, but because the work of evangelism would do more than anything else to restore unity to the evangelical community, divided even then into conservative and liberal wings. ‘The only institutional bond that has held Evangelicals together, since their emergence in the Church, has been their great evangelising Societies. Evangelicals have have discovered their unity by engaging in active evangelism, and in no other way.’

One of the problems any revival of EFAC-USA faces is the theological as well as physical distance between Evangelicals of various stripes in the Episcopal Church. Perhaps if we were to make ‘active evangelism’ a higher priority than the protection of our particular understanding of what it means to be Christians under the authority of the Word of God, the differences would seem less important, and less likely to prevent us working together.

In a talk he gave to Church Society recently (available here) Richardson said that serious consideration was being given by the C of E’s publishing arm to a new edition of Towards the Conversion of England. ‘That tells you everything you need to know about the years since it was published’, Richardson commented. It’s also an acknowledgement that today’s Church could not produce a better set of suggestions for effective evangelism, all of which, mutatis mutandis, would be just as effective if applied in this country.