The Oxford Conference [I]. To the Editor of The Church Times
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514 ] The Oxford Conference [I]1 To the Editor of The Church Times The Church Times, 118 (6 Aug 1937) 130 Sir, – May I be permitted, as a delegate to the recent Conference on Church, Community and State, to offer a brief postscript to your leading article of last week?2 I do not wish to make any extended criticism until the printed reports of the sections are available and until the reports of the Conference on Faith and Order are available.3 But at the moment the following two points seem to be pertinent. 1. Was the Conference “representative”? That depends on what one thinks ought to be represented. Of the full delegates, the number of whom was, I believe, supposed to be four hundred, the Church of England had eighteen, of whom I was one. The Church of Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland had one delegate each; and the Unitarian Church in England was represented by one delegate. From America, the Methodist Episcopal Church (coloured), the Five Year Meeting of Friends, the Methodist Episcopal Church (African), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Brethren in Christ, were all as fully represented, numerically , as the Church of Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Of the eighteen full delegates of the Church of England, at most five could be qualified as Catholic. How many delegates of the Episcopal Church in America were Catholic I do not know, as all the names were unknown to me. 2. Did the Conference arrive at any “unity”? It is impossible for such a Conference to arrive at any unity. There were far too many delegates – far too many Americans, some of whom did not strike me as having any theological qualifications whatever.4 The report of the section with which I was associated was prepared by a small number of delegates chosen because of their intelligence and vigour, irrespective of proportional representation or theological views, and the section as a whole was expected to accept it. I do not know of any other method by which it would have been possible to prepare a report at all. I was only present throughout the first week of the fortnight. What made that week valuable to me is this, that it made me much more clearly [ 515 The Oxford Conference [I] aware of the profundity of the differences between Christians. The official languages were English, French, and German. But these linguistic divisions were trifling compared to the differences of languages even between those who spoke the same language. I for one learned a greater respect, though no greater liking, for the Orthodox and Lutheran theologies. I wish I could saythesameaboutAmericanProtestantism.IconcludethattheConference will have done much good if it makes these fundamental differences clearer; and conversely only harm if it serves to obscure them.  T. S. Eliot 24, Russell Square, London, W.C. 1 Notes 1. This letter and the next follow TSE’s participation as a delegate and speaker at the World Conference of Churches held in Oxford from 12 to 26 July. See the headnote to TSE’s address, “The Church as an Ecumenical Society” (5.497). 2. The Church Times of 30 July devoted a full page to the section reports of the Conference, beginning with TSE’s section on “Economic Order.” TSE was a member of the committee that prepared the unsigned report, which was presented on 20 July by the chairman. It outlined several economic injustices that have given rise in capitalist countries “to such anti-religious political movements as Communism” and urged Christians “to acknowledge with contrition the gap which, largely through their own blindness, extends between the Church and the radical movements aiming at social justice. Indeed, the Church must recognize her contribution to the economic evils of the age through such sins as her too close alliance with the privileged classes, her disunion, and her preoccupation with lesser tasks.” It proceeds to sound a “call to Christian action, within the economic order as it is . . . and in criticism of the economic order, by realizing the duty to test every economic and political institution in the light of our understanding of God’s will.” The report closes “with a strong plea that the Church should set her own house in order, particularly in her capacity as an owner of property and an employer of labour” (108). Under the heading “Economic Order Criticized,” the Times of 21 July featured the report, quoting its introductory note: “The Conference...


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