Conference to explore ’63 Congress

An arena filled with people and a large cross suspended from the ceiling.
Anglicans pack Maple Leaf Gardens for the opening service of the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress.
 on January 30, 2024
Anglican Church of Canada Archives

Historic gathering took place in Toronto

In August 1963, Anglican leaders from around the world came to Toronto for an Anglican Congress. The event, which included a service at Maple Leaf Gardens that was attended by 17,000 people, was featured in Time magazine, with a photo of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the cover.

To mark the 60th anniversary of that historic gathering, a conference will be held April 12-13 at St. Paul, Bloor Street. The conference will explore the lead-up to the Anglican Congress, the gathering itself, the personalities involved, its manifesto and its impact on the Anglican Communion. It might also help pave the way for another Anglican Congress.

“We felt it should be marked because it was a kind of Vatican II for the Anglican Communion and it took place in Toronto,” says Bishop Terry Brown, president of the Canadian Church Historical Society, co-sponsor of the conference along with the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. “It was an important event in Canadian Anglican Church history, probably the first time where the Canadian church was on the global Anglican stage.”

The conference, called MRIat60, will feature a keynote address by the Rev. Canon Dr. Mark Chapman of the University of Oxford. Twenty-one papers will be presented by speakers from various parts of the Anglican Communion. The conference will be held in person and will also be available online. Everyone is invited to attend.

Although there had been earlier Anglican congresses, the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress was unique, says Bishop Brown. “It was after World War II and decolonization was taking place, while at the same time new Church provinces were forming in Africa, Asia and South America with indigenous leadership,” he says. “The Toronto Congress was an attempt to move forward as a Communion in the 1960s, when a lot of rapid change was anticipated.”

The Congress, held over two weeks, included worship services, social events, plenary sessions and presentations. At the end, it issued a manifesto that called for a new understanding of mission relationships and a radical reordering of priorities and resources to establish equality, interdependence and interconnectedness in the Anglican Communion.

The manifesto, called Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ (also known as the MRI Declaration), ended with a stirring call to action that reverberated through the Church: “We are aware that such a program as we propose, if it is seen in its true size and accepted, will mean the death of much that is familiar about our churches now. It will mean radical change in our priorities – even leading us to share with others at least as much as we spend on ourselves. It means the death of old isolations and inherited attitudes. It means a willingness to forego many desirable things, in every church. In substance, what we are really asking is the rebirth of the Anglican Communion, which means the death of many old things, but – infinitely more – the birth of entirely new relationships. We regard this as the essential task before the churches of the Anglican Communion now.”

Bishop Brown says the Congress and its declaration shaped the direction of the Anglican Communion for decades afterwards and had a major impact on the Canadian church, especially in the area of overseas mission. The Church began to send more people and financial resources to dioceses and provinces in the global south and it participated in the Communion-wide Partners in Mission program. Canadian dioceses formed companionships with other dioceses in the Communion, leading to new ways of sharing and listening.

The Congress also shaped the ministries of a lot of people, he says. “For some people who were tied to parish ministry or bureaucratic structures in their diocese, it freed them up. The models of ministry that were put forward, with so much emphasis on the Church being out there in the world, gave a lot of people permission to go into other forms of ministry. It was a revelation to many people, to see just how broad and complex the Communion was.”

While the MRIat60 conference is exploring a Congress that convened decades ago, it is also responding to a current call within the Church to have another Congress. At the most recent Lambeth Conference, held in 2022, the gathered bishops requested that the Communion begin planning for an Anglican Congress to be held in the global south before the next Lambeth Conference (the Lambeth Conference is held every 10 years.)

“Our conference, with its emphasis on mutual responsibility and interdependence, could make an important contribution to planning for the next Anglican Congress,” says Bishop Brown.

For more information about the MRIat60 conference and to register, visit The website includes a video about the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress.


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