Lambeth Palace Library completes project on 50 years of foreign relations

06 October 2017

Church Information Office

On the council: a 1925 photo at Lambeth Palace, with Archbishop Randall Davidson, to mark the 1600th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea

On the council: a 1925 photo at Lambeth Palace, with Archbishop Randall Davidson, to mark the 1600th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea

LAMBETH Palace Library this week celebrated the completion of a pro­ject to record 50 years of the Church of England’s relationships with over­­seas Churches and states.

Librarians have catalogued 34 volumes and 266 boxes of material from the Church of England Council on Foreign Relations. Often de­­scribed as the Archbishop of Can­­ter­­bury’s Foreign Office, the Council was founded on 2 February 1933 by Archbishop Cosmo Lang to oversee the ecumenical work of the Church.

Under the chairmanship first of Arthur Headlam, Bishop of Glou­cester, and later of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, a network of committees and correspondents was established whose membership in­­cluded not only bishops and clergy, but former diplomats and know­­ledgeable laypeople. Their object was to promote links and dialogue with the Churches of East and West.

In 1970, after the creation of the Board for Mission and Unity of the General Synod, there was a call to disband the council. This was fiercely opposed by Archbishop Ramsey, who was heard repeating: “I must have my CFR! I must have my CFR!”

The council continued to advise Archbishops of Canterbury on foreign relations until 1981, when Robert Runcie brought ecumenical rela­tions within the administrative struc­tures and staffing of Lambeth Palace, where they remain to this day.

The council records were organ­ised in sections that corres­ponded to the council’s committee structure, relating to the Ancient Oriental, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Luth­eran and Reformed, and Old Ca­­tholic Churches. Each committee produced minutes and a series of numbered information documents for internal circulation, as well as sub­ject files, arranged by country, deal­­ing with ecumenical visits, ecumenical dialogues, exchange pro­­grammes for foreign clergy, and much else.

Although they deal mainly with ecclesiastical relations, they also contain rich political content, cover­ing subjects as varied as the German church struggle, the Spanish Civil War, conditions in wartime Europe, post-war recon­struc­tion, the British Mandate in Iraq, and relations with Communist Eastern Europe.

The files also chronicle high-level relations with the Ecumenical Patri­archate and the papacy, includ­ing detailed coverage of the Second Vatican Council.

The records complement other sources within the Lambeth Palace Library collection. The cataloguing project was partly funded by the library’s trustees.Visit: an entry from the CFR archive, covering a 125-page collection of papers relating to Donald Coggan’s visit to Rome in May 1977

The catalogue can be found at http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/calmview. Researchers who wish to use the archive in the Library’s reading room can find information about how to do this on the Library website: www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/hours-and-tickets.

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