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The William Temple effect

15 June 2018

June 14th, 1918.

IT IS difficult to say whether the meeting of the London clergy last week to listen to Mr [William] Temple on the aims and objects of the Life and Liberty Movement is a sign of the progress of the movement or the reverse. Opinions differ on this. While there are some who are enthusiastic at the prospects there are others who regard them with a friendly scepticism. The movement bears so obviously within itself the seeds of possible collapse, as well as the promise of high achievement. The only point on which there is no difference of opinion is with regard to Mr Temple himself. Of his personal power and charm, of his capacity for leadership, of his endowment with the spirit of adventure, there is no doubt. He dominates the movement. It is a case of ‘‘Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere.” Probably, for the majority of persons, he is the movement. This is its present strength, but it may be its future weakness.

The Life and Liberty Movement may play a very important part in the ecclesiastical history of the next twenty years. It depends very largely upon whether it succeeds in capturing the imagination of the average, unimaginative member of the Church of England. If it does this the heather will be on fire with a vengeance, and it will take more than the House of Commons and the Bishop of Hereford to extinguish it. But at present there seems to be merely a smouldering. The movement does not appear to be awakening enthusiasm among the rank and file. It is not causing eager talk wherever two or three Churchmen are gathered together. From many places there comes the story of disappointing apathy. The icy atmosphere of official Anglicanism is barely warmed. And yet everybody, or almost everybody, speaks well of it. That may, indeed, be the reason why it is hanging fire at present. Perhaps the movement wants enemies. Well, it will probably find them directly its aims become clear to the average Erastian, and directly it embarks on the perilous sea of definite action.

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