The Council on Foreign Relations

Material relating to the history of ecumenical relations can be seen on display in the Great Hall on Mondays 11 and 18 September between 12 and 3pm. The display marks progress in cataloguing the archive of the Council on Foreign Relations, due for completion in 2017. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is often described as the ‘foreign office’ of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its terms of reference were the ‘survey and promotion of the Relations of the Church of England with Foreign Churches’, that is Churches outside the Anglican Communion, and its inaugural meeting was held on 2 February 1933. It formalised the work already being carried out by Canon John Douglas, its first Honorary General Secretary.  Its records form a rich source for inter-church relations during the middle decades of the 20th century, shedding light not only on religious matters but on international political developments as well. In 1981 Archbishop Runcie brought ecumenical relations within the administrative structures and staffing of Lambeth Palace, which continued the work of CFR.

Douglas 77 266
Sixteenth centenary of Council of Nikaea celebrations, 1925: group photograph at Lambeth Palace (Douglas 77/266)

The work of CFR, and consequently its records, were organised in sections relating to the Ancient Oriental, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed, and Old Catholic Churches. The records are complemented by other extensive sources within the Library’s collections which document both the earlier and contemporary history of ecumenical relations.

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