Radical Compassion: The Life and Times of Archbishop Ted Scott, Tenth Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (1971-1986)

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Radical Compassion: The Life and Times of Archbishop Ted Scott, Tenth Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (1971-1986). By Hugh McCullum. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2004. 544 pp. CDN$34.95/US$19.95 (paper).

Archbishop Ted Scott (1919-2004), the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from 1971 to 1986, is certainly a worthy subject for historical study. He helped lead his church into some significant changes without triggering a major crisis. He represented the Commonwealth nations in their campaign against South African apartheid. He was the first Anglican since William Temple to take an eminent role in international ecumenism. And he was saintly. He had a deep humility, a gentle spirit, a listening presence, a profoundly integrated theology, and a quite exceptional commitment to the marginalized and the hurting. The title of this book is well chosen.

The subtitle, too, is well chosen. The author, Hugh McCullum, acknowledges in the preface that this is not really a biography of Scott. On the whole it might be best described as a series of narratives and discussions of some organizations and events in which Scott played a part. These include the World Council of Churches (Scott chaired its central committee), its controversial Program to Combat Racism, the Commonwealth's ineffective interventions with South Africa, the ordination of women, the abortive plan of union with the United Church of Canada, and liturgical experiment (noted very briefly).

But the authors strongest interest is the Christian social activism of the period. During Scott's primacy, the Anglican Church was a high-profile advocate on the progressive side of such issues as native land claims, corporate ethics, human rights, and environmental standards. It typically worked through interchurch coalitions, which in large part grew out of Scott s preferred style of collaborating with leaders of other denominations.

Although Scott was very much the public face of this activism, McCullum argues that he was not much more. For one thing, he was no administrator. He disliked office work, tended to lose correspondence, and avoided firm decisions. …