Faith and Order movement

Faith and Order movement
   The Faith and Order movement has been one of the most diverse ongoing church dialogues in the 20th century, with significant participation from Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches. A permanent commission (now part of the WORLD Council of Churches) and conferences have dealt with both theological issues and questions of church structure and polity.
   In 1910, the convention of the Episcopal Church (in the united States) issued a call for a commission across church boundaries to consider questions of "Faith and Order." Such a commission would facilitate theological dialogue as a means of overcoming the differences that had historically divided Protestants into many denominations. After other churches passed similar resolutions, a commission was selected to plan an international conference. World War I intervened, and the conference was not held until 1920.
   Some 80 churches were represented at the 1920 meeting in Geneva, each presenting its own vision of church unity. A continuation committee was established to plan for the next meeting, which occurred in 1927, at which some 400 participants represented Eastern Orthodox churches and a wide spectrum of Protestant bodies. Charles H. Brent (1862-1929), the key person nurturing the process, presided.
   The 1927 conference and a subsequent conference in 1937 discussed how to reach agreements on the issue of church union, and spotlighted areas of most profound disagreement. The 1937 conference also agreed to a proposal for union with the Life and Work movement, which eventually led to the creation of the World Council of Churches in 1948. The Faith and Order concerns were carried forth after 1948 by a commission within the World Council.
   The Faith and Order Commission has debated the issues of the sacraments, the ordained ministry, the nature of the church, the nature and role of Scripture, and controversial questions such as the ordination of women. The work of the commission has helped build respect between communions though differences remain. It has also nurtured the establishment of more formal fellowship among closely related groups within the council.
   Like the Ecumenical movement with which it overlaps, the Faith and Order movement began with the hope that its efforts would lead to the emergence of a united church, at the very least a united Protestant church. To date, that goal has had only moderate success, most notably in India, Australia, and South Africa. Denominational differences seem important to the way people express their life in the church. The movement has also had to contend with the celebration of diversity by the world's different peoples and the assertion of national rights in the former European colonies. Throughout the 20th century, the multiplication of Protestant denominations became a new challenge to any attempts at unity.
   Further reading:
   ■ Ruth Rouse and Stephen Neill, eds., A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517-1948 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1986)
   ■ John E. Skoglund and J. Robert Nelson, Fifty Years of Faith and Order: An Interpretation of the Faith and Order Movement (New York: Committee for the interseminary Movement of the National Student Christian Federation, 1963)
   ■ Lukas vischer, ed., A Documentary History of the Faith and Order Movement, 1927-1963 (St. Louis: Bethany, 1963)

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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