William Temple

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during World War II, was invited to participate in the World Congress of Religions – an inter-faith body. His response is a guide to how to handle similar invitations.

“I have had many invitations to become associated with the World Congress of Faiths, and I have always felt obliged to decline because I do not see how it is possible for the activities of that movement to avoid the suggestion that, while one religion may be more true than another, they are all varieties of some one thing which does not find its full expression in any of them. To me it seems that if the Christian Gospel is true at all, it must be the consummation of all religions. Its adherents may fail in appreciating that with sufficient fullness to present it as having this quality. But, unless it has it, it simply is not true. Consequently, while most eager to join with adherents of other Faiths in promoting a human welfare on lines that all can agree to follow, I have never felt able to join myself in the effort ‘to establish fellowship between all who follow a religion of Spirit,’ and I cannot imagine that any amount of discussion would alter my conviction in this respect.

Christianity is, I am persuaded, a profoundly intolerant religion, not of course in the sense that it justifies persecution, for its Lord seeks only willing adherents, but in the sense of drawing a very sharp line between those who attempt to follow its way and those who only regard this as one among a number of good ways.”