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.