By THE DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S
THE scene in the Convocation of Canterbury and the speeches made there are sufficient evidence of the place which the Archbishop holds in the estimation of the Church, but his resignation was felt to be an important event in circles far removed from ecclesiastical influence. It was front-page news even at the crisis of the world-War. Cosmo Gordon Lang had become a person of national importance and, it would not be too much to say, of international importance.
It is too early to sum up the results of his Primacy, but I believe the future historian will say that during his reign the prestige and influence of the See of Canterbury notably increased, and this in a period when, as a whole, the respect paid to ecclesiastical voices notably declined. The reasons for this para- doxical situation are complex, but among them is one very simple one—Dr. Lang is not only the ablest member of the English Episcopate, he is one of the three or four ablest meat in Britain. This fact is not always recognised, because of the restraint which .the Archbishop is bound to put upon his public utterances. A great part, however, of the growth of his prestige is due to circumstances of which he made good use. The development of broadcasting, together with the fact that he was the natural mouthpiece of " official " Christianity, enabled him to make his voice and personality familiar to millions to whom, but for the radio; he would have been only a name. It must be said that his addresses on great national occasions such as the Silver Jubilee, the death of George V and the Coronation have been grave, dignified and Christian, while those made during the war have done much to enlighten and steady the national conscience.
Probably even more significant has been the enhancement of the international influence of Canterbury. In modern times the Primate has always had much work and responsibility with reference to the mission-field and much correspondence with churches overseas. Dr. Lang has kept in close touch with Anglican mission-work, but during his Primacy another oppor- tunity of influence beyond the British Isles has opened out. One of the more hopeful consequences of the last war was the Ecumenical Movement, which aimed at healing the divisions of Christendom. The two landmarks of the progress of this drawing together of Christian communities were the Conference on Church, Community and State in Oxford and that on missionary problems at Tambaram just before the war. It was perhaps inevitable that the Anglican Church should play a prominent part, because of its points of contact with both the Protestant and Orthodox Churches, but we must recognise the great contribution which the Archbishop made to the movement. Great wisdom was needed to help forward mutual understanding without appearing to compromise the Anglican position. Some hoped that the Ecumenical Movement would bring about an expression of the Christian conscience on a world-scale which might reverse the trend towards war, but alas! it was too feeble and too late. Nevertheless, the Ecumenical Movement is not among the war's casualties, and, when it revives in new strength, we must not forget the services of Dr. Lang.
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the movement towards Christian reunion in this country made any progress in the shape of formal agreement. Rather the theological differences became more -evident as discussion proceeded; but on another plane—that of co-operation in Christian social work—there is teal improvement to record. The Archbishop, largely by his personal character and ability, held a position of leadership which was generously admitted by the Free Churches. He was trusted. More than once I have been present at a conference of repre- sentatives of various denominations, called to draw up a joint statement on some matter of urgent national concern. There has been much discussion—some more and some less relevant— during which the Archbishop could be observed busily writing. In a lull in the talk he had produced a resolution which was accepted without amendment.
It cannot be said that Dr. Lang will leave to his successor a Church with no problems and no possibility of crisis. There never was a time in the history of Christendom when this was true. But there has been an effort to study the questions and to prepare the solution of the problems. There are still grave disorders and divergences of teaching in. the Church ; the re- statement of doctrine so gallantly attempted by the Archbishops' Doctrinal Commission has not brought peace ; but there is far greater understanding and willingness to co-operate in the different parties than there was even ten years ago, and some at least of the credit for this must be _given to the Archbishop.
The amount and variety of the work required of an Archbishop of Canterbury has grown out of all proportion, and those who know something of it will sympathise with the Archbishop's valedictory statement that in the peace of retirement he hoped to regain that cofnmunion with God which had to some degree been lost in the stress of multitudinous affairs. To occupy a position of international weight, to guide a national Church, to administer a diocese, to preside over Convocation and the Church Assembly, to take part in the business of the House of Lords— all this in times of crisis is a heavier burden than one man ought to be asked to carry. That Dr. Larig should have done this with universally admitted competence up to the age of seventy-seven is a wonderful achievement.
The Primate is a complex character, and it may be suspected that many of his fellow-countrymen are unaware of some of its most fundamental elements. The dominant note, I would say. is an exacting sense of duty which drives him to unremitting labour. This sense of duty is the clue to some of his actions which have been criticised. What he said at the time of the Abdication may have been wise or unwise—there is room for two opinions—but those who knew him could not doubt for a moment that he said what he did simply because he believed it ought to be said, and to be said by him.
One who had been very near to him once remarked that at the centre of a complex and fascinating personality there was simple pastoral heart. That is true. Dr. Lang came to high office in the Church after experience of the trials and rewards of the shepherd of Christ's flock in Leeds, Portsea and Stepp* The memory of his activities as pastor and teacher are still green at St. Paul's. Those who, in later years, have had to do with him in hours of personal trial or difficulty know very well that beneath the great prelate, the ecclesiastical statesman, the im- posing-national and international figure, there was indeed "the simple pastoral heart."