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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 10. August 6, 1958

Anglican Society relations with other Christian Student Groups

page 5

Anglican Society relations with other Christian Student Groups

The following notes by a member of the Anglican Society at Victoria have been found of interest by the Society's Committee, and it is thought that they may prove of interest to members of other Christian groups in the University. They in no way commit the Society and they do not pretend to be "official" in character; but they may provide some food for thought and for discussion on the part of Christian students, and a possible agenda for the inter-group meeting for which the Society is making provisional arrangements:

There are a few principles which should govern our relations with the other Christian groups in the University, and they are set out below. They may or may not appear obvious, but obvious or not, they have not been fully acted upon to date:
1.Every Christian of every denomination is compelled by his loyally to our Lord to love and understand his separated brethren in Christ and to attempt to heal the divisions among them.
2.Every Christian must ensure that these divisions hinder as little as possible the work of God.
3.Every Anglican in particular, as a member of the "Bridge Church" has a mediating function to play in the drive for mutual love and understanding, for unity and for cooperation.
4.Within the university as outside it, the important division is not between Anglican and Roman Catholic or Baptist, but between Christian and non-Christian.

It seems to follow from this that there is considerable room for improvement in the relations between the various Christian groups at Victoria. Among defects which could be noted are these:

i. There is very little personal contact, socially or otherwise, between Christians of the various groups. The relations between individual Anglican Society members and SCMers are probably the best in this respect, possibly because there is a considerable overlap in membership. Anglican Society leaders have personal contact with a few leaders in all groups. But EUers, Roman Catholics, Anglican Society members and SCMers remain largely unknown to each other.


ii. There are few attempts at mutual understanding among the various groups. There are at least two bright spots in this picture:
(a)The combined annual meeting of the SCM and the CSG, and
(b)The increasing rapprochement between the SCM and the Anglican Society.

Both of these constitute a bridging of the gap between Liberal and Catholic. But by and large, active Christian students stay in three main groups representing the three main traditions in Christendom: The "Evangelical", the "Liberal", and the "Catholic", with little contact which would lead to a better understanding of each other's positions. The work being done by the SCM and, to a lesser extent, the EU in drawing together members of different denominations within their groups is vitiated by the fact that those coming together share a common approach to Christianity. The widest gaps, between the Liberal, the Evangelical and the Catholic traditions, remain largely unbridged, and construction parties on the banks are few and far between.

iii. The upsurge of Christian groups in the University is rapidly producing a situation where cooperation, especially in co-ordination of programmes, is a necessity. The Anglican Society this year for the first time took steps to ensure that its programme would not clash with those of the SCM, the CSG and the EU. Much remains to be done in this direction.

To the non-Christian student, too often we must present the picture of a number of squabbling, competing groups, and the efficacy of our witness is considerably diminished, and intelligent evangelism is handicapped.


In this situation the Anglican Society should be in a unique position to mediate between the various groups, if it is true to its nature as part of the "Bridge Church". Within its membership it is possible to have Evangelicals, Liberals and Anglo-Catholics, individuals who are at home in the EU, the SCM or among CSG members. And the biggest defect in the Anglican Society at the present moment is that it does not have this variety in membership. Moderate Anglo-Catholics, through no fault or desire of their own, constitute the bulk of the active membership. Evangelical and Liberal Anglicans have bypassed the Society, and in becoming members of the EU or the SCM only, have caused the Society to become unrepresentative of their Communion. This has impaired their own ability to contribute as Anglicans to the EU or the SCM and has impaired the Society's ability to mediate between the EU, the SCM and the CSG.

But every member of the Anglican Society, of whatever churchmanship, must be a bridge-builder, must draw from personal experience of a Church where the tensions of Christendom meet, the knowledge and the charity which are needed to bring the groups together. And the Society corporately must drive to bring the groups together for discussion and co-operation.

Present efforts of the Anglican Society to bring the groups together informally must be intensified, and above all, its own relations with them must further improve. The most promising way to do this on the corporate level seems to be to convene a combined meeting of representatives from the various group committees, at which can be thrashed out a pattern for future relations. A suggested agenda would include the following:
(a)The objects of co-operation: mutual understanding, personal contact, co-ordination of activities.
(b)The "organ" of co-operation and its status vis-a-vis the groups. It is doubtful whether the combined committee could or should have any official standing over the groups, and its agreements should merely be in the nature of advice to group committees. This is particularly important as the participation of the EU and the CSG will probably depend on a satisfactory settling of this question, and of the next, (c).
(c)The limits of co-operation. For example, an organic union of the groups cannot be invisaged. And it is clearly better to start with a limited and clearly defined field of co-operation inside which all groups can participate wholeheartedly, than a large Vague field, co-operation within which may compromise groups in the eyes of authority outside Victoria and thus cause eventual withdrawal.
2.Ways of increasing mutual understanding:
  • —combined meetings where both sides of a question are aired by selected speakers.
  • —discussion groups.
  • —worship, e.g., praying together, use of agreed intercession leaflets, discussions on traditions of prayer and worship, token attendance at "rival" university services in March.
3.Ways of increasing personal contact, e.g., activities in section 2, and a combined social evening (or whatever social activities seem appropriate).
4.Ways of increasing co-ordination of activities.
  • —co-ordination of programmes to avoid clashes of time and subject.
  • —combined platforms to present the Faith to the University.
  • —religious, drama and music groups.
5.The creation of a Christian-political-sociological-international affairs group at VU, making use of the existing tradition of interest in politics at VU and grafting it on to a Christian stem. Starting with a discussion group, this could well lead to an endowed series of lectures on Christian Sociology or some such field. VU seems to have a great opportunity here to reorient and reestablish an existing tradition on really worthwhile lines.

The writer is well aware that only a fraction of the activities suggested above can be embarked upon in any one year. Nevertheless, it is all the more important to hold in view some picture of the variety and extent of the opportunities and possibilities presenting themselves to us. The writer is also aware that these notes suffer from the limitations of being written from an Anglican Society viewpoint. Much more remains to be said and written on the subject, but these notes may serve to initiate such a discussion.

An Anglican Society Member