3 Life and Work movement

Life and Work movement

   The Life and Work movement of the early 20th century brought together ecumenically minded Protestant leaders dedicated to a Christian response to problems of war and peace and social justice. It reflected a sense of frustration that the churches had been unable or unwilling to work to prevent World War I, which had devastated European society.
   Representative of some 90 churches gathered in Geneva in 1920 to plan for a conference that could work to make the peace permanent. Swedish Lutheran bishop Nathan Söderblom (1886-1931) emerged as the leading figure. His vision was that joint work on social concerns could be a step toward an international council of Protestant churches.
   The initial gathering was held in Stockholm in 1925 under the name Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work. Both Orthodox and Catholic Churches were invited to participate. While falling short of solving the complex problems of postwar Europe, the conference did encourage a feeling that Christians could unite by rendering service to the world, while doctrinal discussions tended to divide them from one another.
   Faced with the economic woes of Europe at the end of the 1920s and the rise of Nazism, movement leaders became aware that they lacked analytical tools to understand the phenomena. Fortunately, as work began for the next large gathering in Oxford, England, in 1937, the movement acquired dynamic new leadership in the persons of William Temple (archbishop of York and future archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England) and J. H. Oldham (1874-1969), then secretary of the International Missionary Council. They led an effort to clarify the theological basis of the churches' approach to society. The publications that flowed out of the 1937 conference were among the most influential Protestant documents on social ethics of the century.
   The Life and Work movement became the driving force that culminated in its merger with the parallel movement Faith and Order, to produce the World Council of Churches.
   See also Ecumenical movement.
   Further reading:
   ■ J. H. Oldham and Willem A. Visser't Hooft, The Churches Survey Their Task: The Report of the Conference at Oxford, July 1937, on Church, Community and State (London: Allen & Unwin, 1937)
   ■ R. Rouse and Stephen Neill, eds. A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517-1948 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1986)
   ■ Willem A. Visser't Hooft, The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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