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Towards The Conversion of England

In 1943, at the request of the church assembly, the then archbishop of Canterbury (William Temple*) set up a commission of nearly fifty people under the chairmanship of the bishop of Rochester to “. . . survey the whole problem of modern evangelism. . . .” This report, entitled Towards the Conversion of England, was published in 1945. The report considered the Gospel itself, the need for laity to be fully involved in evangelism, the different needs of town and country, young and old, and the new opportunities in the postwar situation. The report, which had many practical suggestions, was widely acclaimed* (it was reprinted eight times in the first eight months), but never had any substantial effect. A recent writer, Roger Lloyd, has described it as a “damp squib.”

Although the death of Archbishop Temple before the report was published may be one reason for its lack of influence, other reasons were the preoccupation of the Church of England with canon law revision, and the great and rapid theological and social changes unforeseen in the report. The report is confident in what the Gospel is; many in succeeding years were not. The report speaks of moral standards having reached a low point because of the war; there is no suggestion that they were to fall even further. The parish system and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer were still regarded as satisfactory; no radical reform of ministry or worship was contemplated. Furthermore, England was still seen as a Christian country to which “other nations look for leadership.” Finally, the report-while making valuable suggestions in many different spheres-was never really a “plan” as the subtitle describes the report.