International Congregational Fellowship

International Congregational Fellowship
   The International Congregational Fellowship is a coordinating body between Congregationalists in various countries that refused to merge with other Reformed church bodies during the ecumenical activity of the 1960s and 1970s.
   As early as the 1890s, churches within the British Puritan lineage that advocated a congregational polity (system of governance) had created a structure, the International Congregational Council (ICC), to facilitate communication and fellowship. By 1966, however, the majority of members had come to think that the beliefs and heritage they shared with non-Congregational Reformed churches was more important than church polity, and the ICC merged into the World Alliance of Reformed Churches,the majority of whose members follow a Presbyterian rather than Congregationalist polity. That highlevel merger was facilitated by the merger of the largest individual ICC member, the Congregational-Christian Churches in the United States, with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. A short time later (1972), the Congregational Church in England and Wales merged into the United Reformed Church.
   Many member churches of the Congregational-Christian Churches rejected the mergers. Asserting their Congregational heritage, they formed the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. In England, congregations staying out of the United Reformed Church formed the Congregational Federation of England.
   Called together by David Watson in England and John Alexander in the United States, people from six countries met in 1975 to form a new ecumenical body, the International Congregational Fellowship. At its first conference, two years later, delegates signed a document called "The Chisel-hurst Thanksgiving," affirming their allegiance to the Congregational way.
   The fellowship operates as a gathering of individuals concerned with the promotion of the Congregational form of church life and has rejected the model of a council of denominations. Rather than competing with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the fellowship runs quadrennial conferences to promote Congregationalism. The fellowship's program has found a response from the many churches around the world with Congregational roots, and in the 1990s regional secretaries were established for central Europe, Africa,Central and South America, and the Pacific and Australia. The fellowship now has affiliates in more than 50 countries, with headquarters in both London, England, and Royal Oak (suburban Detroit), Michigan. It publishes the International Congregationalist Journal.
   See also Ecumenical movement.
   Further reading:
   ■ International Congregational Fellowship. Available online. URL: http://www.congre HYPERLINK "" and
   ■ Jean-Jacques Bauswein and Lukas Vischner, eds. The Reformed Family Worldwide: A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerd-mans, 1999).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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