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Feast of Paul Couturier (March 24)   Leave a comment


Above:  Paul Couturier

Image in the Public Domain



Apostle of Christian Unity

Paul Couturier is one of three saints assigned to March 24 in Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005; Fourth Impression, 2010).  In my copy of Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000), however, his feast is absent.

Couturier, born in Lyon, France, on July 29, 1881, grew up as one of the pieds-noirs in Algeria.  In 1906 he became a Roman Catholic priest as a member of the Society of St. Irenaeus.  Next our saint studied physical science for several years before beginning to teach at the Institut des Chartreux, a parochial school in Lyon.  For most of the rest of his life Couturier taught at that school; he retired in 1951.  Couturier, as a teacher, influenced the lives of many students directly and therefore the lives of many other people indirectly.

His other work–that of ecumenism–has brought him to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however.  That ecumenical work had its roots in the early 1920s, when Couturier worked with Russian refugees.  They broadened his horizons by introducing him to Russian Orthodoxy.  By the early 1930s our saint had become a committed ecumenist.  In 1933 he founded the Triduum for Christian Unity.  The following year he renamed it the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25), an extension of the Octave for Church Unity, dating to 1908 and with Anglican origins.  In 1939 Couturier’s Octave became the Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Couturier developed a network of international contacts as he pursued ecumenical efforts.  In 1936 he organized the first Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue at Erlenbach, Switzerland.  The following to years he spent time in England as he studied Anglicanism.  His international contacts alarmed the Gestapo, which incarcerated our saint during World War II.  The prison experience damaged Couturier’s health; it was his cross to bear, he concluded.  Couturier witnessed the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and stayed in contact with that organization’s leaders for the rest of his life.  In 1952 Maximus IV, the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, declared Couturier an honorary archimandrite, or monastic priest.

Couturier died at Lyon on March 24, 1953.  He was 71 years old.

predictably Couturier’s legacy has received mixed reviews.  Both traditional Catholic groups (who oppose dialogue with other Christians) and non-Roman Catholic groups who oppose dialogue with Holy Mother Church have not embraced ecumenism.  After all, if one thinks that Catholicism is the repository of truth, why should one affirm dialogue with heretics?  Likewise, if one thinks that the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, why should one support dialogue with it?  Couturier, however, presaged the declaration of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) that non-Roman Catholic Christians are “separated brethren.”

Denominational identities and structures are frequently stubborn; inertia does much to maintain them, even long after the reason or reasons for the founding have become obsolete.  I wonder when the changing demographics of organized religion in the United States (where the fastest grown religious label is “none”) will begin to lead to the consolidation of denominations.  After all, what proportion of the devout Christian population in the United States really cares about minor theological differences?  One might point to the mergers that created the United Church of Canada (1925), the Church of South India (1947), the Church of North India (1970), the Church of Pakistan (1970), and the Uniting Church of Australia (1977).  Why not, for example, consolidate certain Reformed denominations in the United States?  [The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) + the United Church of Christ = a feasible denomination, does it not?  Portions of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church of North America might even what to participate in a merger also.  (Parts of the CRCNA are to the left of parts of the RCA.  I wonder if segments of the RCA and the CRCNA would be comfortable merging with some conservative Reformed bodies.)]  Why not lay aside minor theological differences and merge certain Anglican and Lutheran bodies in North America? [The Episcopal Church + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America = The Anglican Lutheran Church; the Anglican Church of Canada + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada = the Anglican Lutheran Church in Canada.]   The Lutheran and Anglican traditions have cross-fertilized each other since the 1500s, after all.  I could continue to offer examples of possible merger partners, but I think I have made my point sufficiently.  The churches, consolidated more and working together more closely when not merged, would have a more effective witness this way.








Heavenly Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ said to his apostles,

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:

regard not our sins but the faith of your Church,

and grant it that peace and unity which is agreeable to your will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 33:6-9a

Psalm 133 or 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:11b-23

The Alternative Service Book 1980, pages 904 and 905


Feast of Frederick and William Temple (December 22)   4 comments


Above:  Canterbury Cathedral, 1910

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24699



Archbishop of Canterbury

father of


Archbishop of Canterbury

His feast transferred from November 6


So let us set ourselves to gain a deepening loyalty to our Anglican tradition of Catholic order, Evangelical immediacy in our approach to God, and liberal acceptance of new truth made known to us; and let us at the same time join with all our fellow Christians who will join with us in bearing witness to the claim of Christ to rule in every department of human life, and to the principles of His Kingdom.

–William Temple, April 17, 1942; quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH:  Forward Movement Publications, 1991), page 130


The standard feast day of William Temple is November 6.  To the best of my knowledge, no ecclesiastical body lists his father, Frederick Temple, on its calendar of saints.  On this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, the two Archbishop Temples share a feast day–December 22.



Above:  Frederick Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Frederick Temple was an educator, an educational reformer, a theologian, and a minister.  He, born on November 30, 1821, debuted at Leukas (a.k.a. Santa Maura), the Ionian Islands, off the coast of Greece.  His father, Major Octavius Temple (1784-1834) was there on imperial assignment.  Our saint’s mother was Dorcas Carveth (born in 1805).  He was one of five children.  The family relocated to Corfu in 1828.  Then, in 1833, Octavius became the Lieutenant Governor of Sierra Leone, serving until he died the following year.

The death of Octavius left the family impoverished.  Frederick studied at Blundell’s School, Devonshire, from 1834 to 1839.  Then, from 1839 to 1842, he attended Baillol College, Oxford, on scholarship, studying mechanics and the classics.  He encountered Tractarians there and found himself more liberal than they were.  From 1842 to 1848 our saint worked as a lecturer then a fellow at Baillol College.  Along the way he became an Anglican deacon (1846) then priest (1847).

Frederick left Oxford in 1848.  Until 1850 he worked at the Education Office.  Then, from 1850 to 1855, he was the Principal of Kneller Hall, a training college for teachers at workhouses.  Next (until 1857) our saint inspected training colleges.  From 1857 to 1869, as the Headmaster of Rugby School, expanded the curriculum, presided over new construction, and functioned as a good example to everyone.  On the side, from 1864 to 1867, Frederick served on the Schools Enquiry Commission.

Frederick contributed an essay, The Education of the World,” to Essays and Reviews (1860), a liberal Anglican manifesto.  The volume proved to be controversial, partially because all seven authors favored freedom of inquiry in religion.  In our saint’s case, his argument irked many people and led to allegations to heresy.  He wrote of the parallels of human life (obedience during childhood, example during adolescence, and responsible freedom during adulthood) to three religious stages (the Law, the Gospels, and Pentecost).  In the last phase, Frederick wrote, humankind must be free to make decisions while drawing from all worthy sources, mainly the Bible.  Some critics accused our saint of being unduly optimistic regarding human nature and of ignoring sin and redemption.  In response to the controversy he authorized the omission of his essay from subsequent editions of Essays and Reviews.

Our saint became the Bishop of Exeter in 1869 and served until 1885.  Frederick encouraged secondary education.  he also worked hard to implement the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which expanded the reach of elementary school access and improved attendance.  Also during his tenure Frederick oversaw the creation of the Diocese of Truro from his diocese.  And, on October 15, 1881, our saint and his wife, Beatrice Blanche Lascelles, welcomed their second son, William, into the world.

During his time as Bishop of Exeter our saint published The Relations Between Religion and Science (1884).  He accepted both science and religion, acknowledging the reality of Evolution.  He had already covered much of that material in a sermon, The Present Relation of Science to Religion (1860).

From 1885 to 1896 Frederick was the Bishop of London.  During that time he advised the Archbishop of Canterbury, his friend, Edward White Benson, whom he succeeded in 1897.  When our saint became the Primate he was already going blind.  Yet he labored faithfully, attempting to settle ritualistic controversies and refuting the Papal bull (literally) regarding the invalidity of Anglican Holy Orders.  Frederick died at London on December 22, 1902.  He was 81 years old.

Another published work of our saint was “The Church’s Message to Mankind,” included in The Church’s Message to Men (1899).

Volumes about Frederick, at least in part, included the following:

  1. Archbishop Temple, Being the People’s Life of the Right Hon. and Most Rev. Frederick Temple, P.C., D.D., LL.D., Primate of All England, and Metropolitan (1903), by Charles Henry Dant;
  2. Six Great Schoolmasters (1904), by F. D. How;
  3. Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends (1906), edited by E. G. Sandford–Volumes I and II;
  4. Frederick Temple:  An Appreciation (1907), by E. G. Sandford, with a biographical introduction by William Temple; and
  5. The Exeter Episcopate of Archbishop Temple, 1869-1885 (1907), by E. G. Sandford.



Above:  William Temple

Image in the Public Domain

William Temple entered the world on October 15, 1881, when his father, then the Bishop of Exeter, was 60 years old.  Young William grew up in a financially comfortable and artistically rich family.  When his father was the Bishop of London our saint learned to play the piano and the organ.  He also attempted to learn to play the oboe and the French horn and came to consider Johann Sebastian Bach to be

the supreme master  who more than any other enables us for a few moments snatched from the passage of time to enter upon the experience of eternity.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 114

The bookworm suffered from various illnesses, such as gout, throughout his life.  He, like his father, had eye-related problems; William became blind in one eye, due to a cataract, in 1921.

William was also a natural intellectual.  He, educated at Rugby School (1894-1900) and Baillol College, Oxford (1900-1904), was a fellow and lecturer in philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, from 1904 to 1910.  Ordained to the diaconate in December 1909 and the priesthood in December 1910, our saint served as the Headmaster of Repton School, Derbyshire, from 1910 to 1914.

The priesthood had once been far from William’s mind, but it was his vocation.  Allegations of heresy had delayed his Holy Orders, but our saint became a simultaneously relatively orthodox and heterodox figure after his ordination.  The Incarnation occupied the center of his theology.  The Incarnation, William argued, had made the universe sacramental.  This understanding informed our saint’s opinion that one cannot properly divorce Christian doctrine from social justice.  Thus he served as the President of the Workers’ Educational Association from 1908 to 1924 and joined the Labour Party.  Christian disunity weakened the witness of the Church in the world, William knew.  Therefore he supported ecumenism in general and the Life and Work Movement (1925f) and the Faith and Order Movement (1927f), predecessors of the World Council of Churches (1948), in particular.  Our saint also favored the process that led to the formation of the Church of South India (1947).  William also supported the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood as early as 1916, but struggled with the fact that the ordination of women at that time would become an obstacle to ecumenism.

William entered full-time ministry in 1914.  That year he became the Rector of St. James’ Church, Picadilly, London.  On the side he also served as honorary chaplain to King George V and to Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 1916 our saint married Frances Anson; the couple had no children.  From 1919 to 1921 William was Canon of Westminster.  Next he served as the Bishop of Manchester (thereby becoming a successor of James Prince Lee) for eight years.  As the Bishop of Manchester our saint offended cotton magnates by seeking to resolve a general strike peacefully in 1926.  From 1929 to 1942 he was the Archbishop of York.  Then he succeeded Cosmo Lang as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

William was perhaps the most renowned Archbishop of Canterbury since the English Reformation.  He exercised the duties of the office during difficult times–World War II.  Our saint advocated for aid to Jews fleeing the Nazis, visited soldiers and sailors, broadcast sermons to soldiers and sailors, led prayer services at factories, preached on Sundays when Germans were bombing, and supported a negotiated settlement to the war.  He had to travel to and from his final public appearances in an ambulance and had to stand on one foot while speaking.

Wiliam died at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, on October 26, 1944.  He was 63 years old.  Reinhold Niebuhr reflected:

Dr. Temple was able to relate “religious insights and social order” more vitally and creatively than any other modern Christian leader.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 113

Major published works by our saint included the following:

  1. The Nature of Personality:  A Course of Lectures (1911);
  2. “The Divinity of Christ” and “The Church” in Foundations:  A Statement of Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought (1913);
  3. The Faith and Modern Thought:  Six Lectures (1913);
  4. Christianity and War (1914);
  5. Theology:  The Science of Religion (1914);
  6. Studies in the Spirit and Truth of Christianity (1914);
  7. Our Need of a Catholic Church (1915);
  8. Church and Nation (1915);
  9. Plato and Christianity (1916);
  10. Mens Creatrix:  An Essay (1917);
  11. The Universality of Christ:  A Course of Lectures (1921);
  12. Life of Bishop Percival (1921);
  13. Christus Veritas (1924);
  14. Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship (1926);
  15. Christianity and the State (1928);
  16. Nature, Man, and God (1934);
  17. Readings in St. John’s Gospel (1939 and 1940); and
  18. Christianity and the Social Order (1942).


Understanding Frederick Temple increases one’s comprehension for his famous son.  The apple, I contend, did not fall far from the tree.  Although William Temple overshadows his father, nobody should minimize the importance of the elder.

As both Temples understood well, an excessively personalized Christianity divorced from social justice is heretical.  They were good Anglicans and therefore men rooted in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  As I have learned, the Anglican emphasis on the Incarnation (as opposed to the Lutheran emphasis on the crucifixion) lends itself to reading John 1:1-18, especially the part about God dwelling among us, and seeking to serve God in those around us.  This point of view has led to ecclesiastical involvement in social justice movements.  This has always been orthodox; turning away from the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself has always been heretical.







Almighty God, we praise you for your servants Frederick Temple and William Temple,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life..

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60