The Anglican Church of Canada, from Conversion to Dialogue: The Case of Roland De Corneille, 1961-1970

By Genizi, Haim | Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Anglican Church of Canada, from Conversion to Dialogue: The Case of Roland De Corneille, 1961-1970

Genizi, Haim, Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Anglican Church of Canada, an autonomous denomination, is part of the world Anglican Communion. The census of 1961 reported 2,409,068 members, in 3,600 individual churches, operating in thirty dioceses, served by 2,400 priests, each headed by an archbishop. (1) In the last five decades church membership has seriously declined because of growing secularism in Canadian society and due to various divisive issues within the Anglican community, such as the liberalization of the church toward women priests and homosexuals. (2)

The attitude of the church toward Jews and Judaism was of a traditionally conservative Christian character. In the 1930's Jews were referred to as "God killers," and "Danger of Pharisaism." (3) One of the characteristics of the church was its missionary zeal. (4) Accordingly, two missionary institutions operated for the Jews, one in Toronto and the other in Montreal, the cities where most Canadian Jews lived: In the 1930's and 1940's, the rise of Antisemitism and the problem of Jewish refugees around the world were viewed as an opportunity to work for Jewish conversion. The Primate of the Church stated in his Good Friday pastoral letter in 1938 that the distress of the persecuted Jews "lends urgency to the need of evangelism among them." (6) Indeed, the Nathaniel Institute, as the Toronto Missionary Society was called, was very active under the leadership of Morris Kaminsky. He held an "ultra-evangelical 'Are you saved' approach." (7) The Missionary Society of the Church of Canada financed its activities. (8)

However, the efforts to win over the hearts of Jewish refugees from Nazism were a failure, as was stated by those who were close to the Institute, because the newcomers to Canada arrived "with hearts full of bitterness and prejudice because of the treatment they had received in the name of Christ and under the sign of Cross." (9) In spite of its meager results, the Institute continued to operate during the 1950's.

From 1958, Roland de Corneille, an Anglican priest, was a member of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto Committee on Christian Approach to the Jewish People (C.C.A.J.P.); in September, 1960, he became its secretary. (10) As the one responsible for Anglican missionary activities in Toronto, de Corneille gradually realized that, the "missionary method of the past is not acceptable." (11) Therefore, he was looking for a better and more effective method for the future. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, de Corneille studied at Trinity College in McGill University and at Yale. He was curate and then rector at several churches in Montreal and Toronto, including six years at St. Lawrence Church, Toronto. (12)

How did de Corneille reach his conclusion about the ineffectiveness of the traditional missionary methods, and what did he suggest instead? How did he move from being a secretary of a missionary institution to a leading figure in the dialogue process? It is the purpose of this essay to deal with these questions.

After "lengthy study" he proposed a program that he called a "Dialogue Approach." This new idea was "born out of necessity, and clarified by sociological and psychological insights." Analyzing the world situation after World War II, de Corneille maintained that a world revolution had taken place in the fields of rising nationalism and resurgent alien religions. Instead of Christian world superiority, non-Christians and nonwhites bitterly recalled former persecutions by Christians and regarded themselves not only equal to Christians but even superiors to them. In such a world, Christian missionary propaganda would obviously be resented. As for the Jews, the memory of the persecutions during the Holocaust by people who called themselves Christians and the rise of the Zionist movement "particularly complicates the problem." "In such a world as this, the missionary method of the past is still perhaps effective with a few individuals... However, on the whole, the missionary method of the past is not acceptable," stated de Corneille.

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The Anglican Church of Canada, from Conversion to Dialogue: The Case of Roland De Corneille, 1961-1970


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