Hospitality and Embassy: The Persistent Influence of Kenneth Cragg on Anglican Theologies of Interfaith Relations

By Sudworth, Richard | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Hospitality and Embassy: The Persistent Influence of Kenneth Cragg on Anglican Theologies of Interfaith Relations


Sudworth, Richard, Anglican Theological Review


Born in 1913, and publishing books even into 2011, Kenneth Cragg bestrode a century of immense change within the Anglican fCommunion.1 The epitome of the "missionary-scholar," Cragg anticipated the shift in the center of world Christianity from the north to the south. He had a crucial role in ensuring the Arabicization of the Jerusalem Archbishopric in 1973. In his thwarted and much-lamented tenure as Warden of St. Augustine's College, Canterbury between 1961 and 1967, Cragg displayed his commitment to the learning of Anglican leaders throughout the Communion such that there would be "Herberts, or Gores, or Temples, of their own culture."2 Cragg's vision was for a vital Christian witness shaped in the idioms of local cultures yet responsibly interdependent. It is the encounter with other faiths, and supremely with Islam, that was formative for Cragg's sense of global Anglicanism: a self-understanding of his own priesthood that was, indeed, "schooled in the east."3 This encounter with the religious other has prompted, for Cragg, a sustained attentiveness to God's manifold wisdom in the interdependency of our common humanity. In the words of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, "all inner faith is inter-faith."4 Similarly for Cragg, any serious exploration of what it means to be a Christian, or to be an Anglican Christian, depends upon that responsiveness to the transcendent in the religious other, what he calls "the human meaning in divine question."5

From the seminal The Call of the Minaret6 in 1956 onwards, Cragg has provided a legacy of just such interfaith concerns attune to an Anglicanism that is bent on "fulfilling an honest will to learn its own sincerity through venture in the open world, lest it be only a 'fugitive faith'."7 This legacy has earned him the epithets "the Louis Massignon of Anglicanism"8 and "the Massignon of the Anglo-Saxon world,"9 echoing the towering influence of the French Orientalist on the interfaith relations of the Catholic Church.10 While Cragg has drawn comparison with Massignon, there has hitherto been no attempt to assess the influence of Cragg on formal documents for the interfaith relations of the Anglican Communion. It is my intention in this paper to identify the legacy of Kenneth Cragg in the important triumvirate of Lambeth Conferences of 1988, 1998, and 2008 to the development of theologies of interfaith relations in the Anglican Communion. I will argue that Cragg is a persistent and everinfluential interlocutor to the interfaith challenge for Anglicans. For each of the three Lambeth Conferences, I will identify a key component of the theology of interfaith relations described that owes a debt to his thinking. Furthermore, I will point to themes in Cragg s theological contribution that resonate with some of the formative Catholic influences on interfaith relations that suggest a confluence of significant Christian tradition. These themes provide a mine of theological resources for the ongoing encounter of Christians, of whatever tradition, with those of other faiths.

Lambeth Conference 1988: Christian Presence

While the 1968 and 1978 Lambeth Conferences acknowledged the context of Anglican witness to be one that included the encounter with other religions, it was not until 1988 that there seemed to be an appetite to assess that context theologically.11 Endorsing the "Four Principles of Dialogue" of the British Council of Churches in Resolution 20, the 1988 Lambeth Conference formally acknowledged interfaith dialogue "as part of Christian discipleship and mission."12 Coupled with this commitment to interfaith dialogue, a specific resource for the progress of dialogue with Jews and Muslims was offered in the form of the resolution, Jems, Christians and Muslims: The Way of Dialogue.13

As Lucinda Moshers unpublished analysis of the background to discussions of The Way of Dialogue demonstrates, political expedience broadened out the original scope of the 1988 Lambeth Conference's concerns. …

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