MRI at 60 conference to examine legacy of 1963 Anglican congress

The 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress, held at Maple Leaf Gardens, called on the Anglican Communion to grow in “mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ”. Photo: Canadian Churchman/General Synod Archives
Published April 10, 2024

The Canadian Church Historical Society (CCHS) will mark the 60th anniversary of a 1963 gathering of Anglicans from around the world and explore its impact on the Anglican Communion at an upcoming conference, “MRI at 60: Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence.”

The title of the conference, to take place April 12-13 at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto and online, refers to the 1963 Toronto Anglican Congress. That gathering called on the Anglican Communion to grow in “mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ,” shortened to MRI. The conference will be dedicated to late retired bishop Terry Brown, who served as CCHS president and was set to attend before he died in late March.

General Synod archivist and CCHS executive secretary Laurel Parson says the organizing committee originally planned to hold MRI at 60 in 2023 but could not finish arranging the event that year.

Canon Mark Chapman, professor of the history of modern theology at Oxford University, will provide the keynote address, “A Tale of Two Anglican Congresses: London 1908 and Toronto 1963,” at the opening plenary session. He will also provide a free public lecture about Anglican understanding of the laity, “On Consulting the Faithful,” at St. James Cathedral on Friday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Alan Hayes, professor emeritus of church history at Wycliffe College and member at large on the CCHS executive board, says the 1963 Congress and its endorsement of MRI followed an era of decolonization, in which many former British colonies gained their independence. During this period, many Anglican churches that had been dependent on first-world missionaries and funds gained their independence as well.

“There were things going on in the late ’50s, early ’60s that just changed the course of Anglican history,” Hayes says. “The Anglican Congress was probably the most conspicuous of them.”

Primates and presiding bishops at the 1963 congress, Hayes says, developed and approved MRI “which basically said that the way that people have been doing mission in the Anglican Church and the way that people understood the Communion was all wrong… There were a couple things that they wanted to change. One was this idea that the wealthy nations—mainly England and United States, but also Canada as well—were making decisions about what the less wealthy nations should do by way of mission.”

Rather than “giving” and “receiving” churches, the MRI statement called for mutual responsibility and mutual consultation across the Anglican Communion. Put simply, Hayes says, “We have to listen to each other and make decisions together.

“It was blunt and candid and there was a great vision,” he adds. “Now, I guess almost everybody would say what they were hoping for and expecting didn’t exactly turn out that way. We still have a First-World-dominated Anglican community,” which he adds “has began to split up because Third-World Anglicans have not wanted to be told what to do by first world Anglicans, partly.”

According to notes written by Brown in the conference program, the focus of papers to be presented during MRI at 60 will be the historical significance of the 1963 Congress and how MRI was implemented and further developed.

“Was the Toronto Congress the last gasp of English imperialism or the new decolonized way forward?” the program asks. “Was it creative acceptance of secular developments in Anglican theology or the loss of valuable tradition and unity? Was MRI’s interdependence a genuine sharing on all levels or just shopping lists presented by poor dioceses to rich ones? These and many other questions will be addressed at this conference.”

Parson says MRI had an impact on Brown himself, who served as the Anglican Church of Canada’s Asia/Pacific mission coordinator from 1985 to 1996 and then as bishop of Malaita from 1996 to 2008.

“His career took a different path because of the whole idea of mutual responsibility and independence,” Parson says. From 1975 to 1981 Brown served as lecturer at Bishop Patteson Theological Centre (now College) in the Solomon Islands, which Parson notes at the time was preparing nationals to become priests.

Anyone interested in attending MRI at 60 can register at to participate in person, at a cost of $150 including meals and refreshments, or to participate online for free.


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

    [email protected]

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