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The World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh 1910: -

Evangelical awakening and missionary movement in the 18 th and the 19th

centuries provided a favourable atmosphere that lead to the world missionary
conference in 1910 at Edinburgh. In K. S. Latourette’s opinion, the World
Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910 was the birth place of modern
ecumenical movement. The conference took place at a time when missionary
enthusiasm was at a high point. There was a sense of optimism about missionary
enterprises. It was primarily a consultative assembly, which brought missionaries,
native leaders, mission societies together for world evangelisation. The meeting
enabled them to form a common mind and joint action. It was widely represented
Conference. 1200 official delegates came from about 160 mission societies
participated in the conference. It was a well planned and a comprehensive and
inclusive meeting. Its emphasis was on the priority of evangelization of the non-
Christian world. There were no delegates from the Catholic church and the
Orthodox churches to the Conference. But there was significant representation
from younger churches in Asia and non-western world.
Ecumenical Result of Edinburgh 1910: - the Conference was the birth place of
modern ecumenical movement. The period from 1910 was a time of growth of
co-operation among denominations and the period from 1910 can be called the
ecumenical era. The Conference had the effect of creating a new sense of unity
among Christians from different Protestant traditions, national identities and
cultural backgrounds. From here many new movements towards Christian unity
took their origin. It is probably an over simplification to focus ecumenical origins
so narrowly on one event, but the movement for church unity in the 20 th century
clearly owes a great deal to the inspiration and insights of the World Missionary
Conference at Edinburgh. This Conference was ecumenical miracle.
The Conference was in a remarkable way a training ground for those who
were later to be leaders of the ecumenical movement. John R. Mott, Joseph H.
Oldham, Robert E. Speer were best examples.
A continuation committee under the leadership of John R. Mott as
chairman and Joseph H. Oldham as Secretary was epochal as it provided
continuity to the ecumenical process. The Committee was formed for carrying
out its work and goal, kept the ecumenical interest alive, and promoted its
interdenominational and international vision. Following the Conference John R.
Mott visited many countries and held conferences with missionaries and native
leaders. The aim was to communicate the visions of Edinburgh Conference on
areas of co-operation. As a result, many national councils were originated in
several countries in Asia, Africa and Europe and thereby creating tremendous
ecumenical awareness. J. H. Oldham strengthen the work through the publication
of the International Review of Mission in 1912.
The First World War created disruption to the work of Continuation
Committee. But the Committee was carried on after the end of the war in 1918.
Institutional Forms of Ecumenism: - the period after Edinburgh saw the
development of three major ecumenical streams which later joined the WCC: The
International Missionary Council, the Life and Work Movement, and the faith
and Order Movement.
The International Missionary Council: -
One of the significant impacts of Edinberg was the formation of IMC in
1921. In kept with the ecumenical interest, a continuation committee was formed
at Edinberg. But the first World War brought and abrupt ending to the function
of the committee. An Emergency committee was formed in 1918 to bolster plans
for missionary relations. The formation of IMC was held at Lake Mohonk, New
York at 1921. Its primary objective was to bring together national Christian
Councils to a common sense of unity for a world-wide evangelisation. The
Journal, The International Review of Mission was the main organ that served
ecumenical interest worldwide. The functions of IMC were to stimulate and
investigation on missionary questions, to help coordinate the activities of national
missionary organizations and in different countries to common consultation. The
Council took up several issues like indigenisation, disapproval of social evils
including opium consumption and racism and other.
The second conference of IMC took place at Jerusalem in 1928. The
conference gave emphasis on theological discussion on salvation, evangelisation
and values in other religion, younger churches and other social and international
issues. The conference seriously discussed the difference between older and
younger churches. The challenges of secularism of Christianity and syncretism
was also discussed. Another emphasis was on the social implication of Christian
mission on the background of economic and social context of inter-war period.
The third conference was held at Tambaram, Madras in 1938. The
conference witnessed strong representation from the younger churches. The main
subjects of the meeting were: the faith by which the church lives, the relational
of Christian witness to the non-Christian world, life and work of the church and
church and unity. The church- centric mission was the emphasis.
The fourth conference was held at Whitby, Canada in 1947. The main
theme of the conference was “The Christian Witness in Revolutionary World.”
This meeting was significant as it meets after the World War II. The Whitby
Conference developed a theology of partnership in mission. In the midst of
tragedies and human failures, the conference proclaimed hope in God.
The fifth conference was held at Willingen (Germany) in 1952. The theme
was “Mission in Unity.”
The sixth conference was held at Accra, Ghana in 1957. One of the
achievements of the Ghana conference was creation of Theological Education
Fund with an aim to help theological institution in the third world countries.
During the conference it agreed approved upon constitutional provision for the
integration of the IMC and WCC. The IMC became one of the departments of
WCC at the third WCC Assembly in New Delhi in 1961 and became known as
the division of World Mission and Evangelism of the WCC.
Life and Work Movement:
The idea of forming a worldwide movement of churches to work for peace
and justice between nations had been discussed in Christian peace movement
before WWI. The disaster situation of war created the urgency of the movement.
At the end of the war the churched started planning for a conference which would
help for a just and lasting peace, and formulate a Christina response to the
economic, social and moral justice in the world. Nathan Soderblom from Sweden
play a leading role in the formation of Life and Word Movement. Christina unity
and Christian Social reform were his vision. In 1920 a conference was held at
Geneva which paid attention to the “Work” aspects of Christianity but
deliberately passed over doctrinal issues. It gave rise to the catchy slogan
“doctrine divide but service unites.” It affirms the practical dimension of
Christianity and set aside the theological issues and ecclesiastical heritage. The
purpose of the movement had been to challenge an educate the churches in field
of social and international responsibility. The movement became a laboratory of
fertile ideas and projects for ecumenism and social concern. This meeting
approved the name ‘Universal Christian of Life and Work’. Archbishop William
Temple was another inspiration behind the movement.
The first conference on Life and Work was held at Stockholm in 1925. The
second conference of the movement was held at Oxford in 1937. Many
participants were from various walks of life- teachers, women, social workers and
church leaders.
Faith and Order Movement:
The Faith and Order Movement serves the churches by leading them into
theological dialogue as a means of overcoming obstacles to and opening up ways
towards the manifestation of their unity given in Jesus Christ. Soon after Edinberg
1910 a commission emerged to bring consideration of questions touching faith
and order. The 1st conference was held in Lausanne in 1927. Over 400 participants
representing Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Free Churches assembled under
the leadership of bhisop Charles Brent. The 2nd conference was held at Edinberg
1937 and decided to enter into a further step towards a world council.