Willem made the World Council of Churches became a colorful mosaic of cultures, continents, and concerns. According to its constitution it could not legislate for its members churches. It aim was understanding and cooperation among its members and Christian unity whenever possible.
New creeds for breakfast church history ii lesson 6
NEW CREEDS FOR BREAKFAST THE FORCE OF ECUMENISM
ECUMENISM• The World Council of Churches under the leadership of Willem Adolph Visser’t Hooft sought to unify the churches under one general council. In the sixteenth century the church was divided into four major movements: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican. By the twentieth century their were over 200 denomination in the U.S. alone.• Centrifugal: Proceeding or acting in a direction away from a center or axis.• Centralization: To bring to a center consolidate.• Ecumenism: Movement toward unity or cooperation among the Christian churches.
MOVEMENTS TOWARD CHRISTIAN UNITY• On very few subjects do all men think alike. Certainly Christians do not think alike about their faith. They have differences about doctrine, morality, worship, and organization. And they hold their religious views not as mere opinions but as religious convictions.• The first real effort at unity among Protestants was the Evangelical Alliance established in London in 1846. In 1908 thirty one American denominations joined in the Federal Council of Churches. In 1950 the Federal Council was absorbed by a larger body, the National Council of Churches of Christ. The most ambitious expression of ecclesiastical ecumenism is the World Council of Churches formed in 1948 in Amsterdam.
FOUR GREAT LEADERS• John R. Mott (1865-1955) a Methodist layman, at age twenty three he became a student secretary of the international Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). He served as chairman of the International Missionary Council for twenty years. No man contributed more to Christian unity than Mott.• Charles Brent (1862-1929 was a Canadian Anglican who served as a missionary to the Philippine Islands. Brent was concerned about doctrinal differences, and he saw Anglicanism as the bridge that might span the differences. Disunity, he said, is fundamentally creedal. Until these differences are resolved, Christians will find no authentic unity.
FOUR GREAT LEADERS CONT.• Nathan Soderblom (1866-1931) Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala in Sweden, was the founder and chief promoter of the Life and Work Movement. He rejected faith in the divine and human nature of Christ because he considered it unacceptable to modern man. True religion rests not in our conception of God but in our moral character.• Willem Adolph Visser’t Hooft (1900-1985) following the footsteps of Mott, he served as secretary of the Worlds Committee of the YMCA. He called the church to be itself again. That was the unofficial slogan of the men who started the ecumenical movement. Let the church be the church. Meaning the church should not echo the trends of the world, neither should the church run away from the world.
DENOMINATIONAL MERGERS• In the U.S. over thirty mergers of denominations were completed from 1900-1970, including such major creations as the United Methodists and United Presbyterians.• Outside the U.S. a more significant merger was the Church of South India formed in 1947 through the union of three religious bodies: Anglican Church, South India Methodist Church, South India United Church over 19,000,000 members strong.• Through ecumenism other alliances have met periodically for discussion and fellowship. International Congregational Council, The Mennonite World Conference, The World Methodist Conference, The Baptist World Alliance, The Lutheran World Federation, and The World Alliance of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches
EVANGELICAL EXPRESSIONS OF UNITY• Evangelicals have always stressed the necessity of a personal religious experience. Their primary concern in the Church is the mission of the Church.• In the early 1940’s American Evangelicals created two organizations: The National Association of Evangelicals and The American Council of Christian Churches.• In 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization, meeting in Lausanne Switzerland, gave clear evidence of a new maturity in the evangelical views of Christian unity. The honorary chairmanship of Billy Graham invited 2700 participants, and they forged the Lausanne Covenant.
THE CLOSE• As the 1970’s closed, the ecumenical spirit in the World Council of Churches apparently had turned to social concerns at times employing overt political instruments as the primary expression of Christian unity.• Among conservative evangelicals the aim was the restoration of evangelism to its central place in the mission of the church, with hope that unity would follow.