World Alliance of Reformed Churches

   The World Alliance of Reformed Churches traces its history to 1875, when 21 Reformed and Presbyterian churches from Europe and North America united under the somewhat unwieldy name: the Alliance of the Reformed Churches Throughout the World Holding the Presbyterian System. Over the next century, some of the original members merged with one another to form new united churches. At the same time, many of the missions they had created around the world matured into new autonomous Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, which were welcomed as sister churches into the alliance.
   Meanwhile, in 1891 the Congregational churches, most of whom shared the British Puritan heritage with the Presbyterians, formed their own ecumenical body, the international Congregational Council. However, two of the council's most important members, the National Council of Congregational Christian Churches (in the United States) and the Congregational Church of England and Wales merged with non-Congregational Reformed Church bodies, in 1957 and 1972 respectively. The American Congregationalists merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ and the British Congregationalists merged into the United Reformed Church.
   Such mergers suggested that the shared Reformed theological heritage was felt to be more important than differences in polity between Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. In confirmation, the Alliance of the Reformed Churches and the international Congregational Council merged in 1970 to form the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
   In 1946, the Alliance of Reformed Churches, anticipating the formation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), moved its headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland. Most of its member churches are also members of the WCC, and the two organizations work closely together.
   Like its sister organizations, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Methodist COUNCIL, the World Alliance keeps alive concerns that grow directly out of its allegiance to a particular theological heritage. The alliance promotes theological dialogues, facilitates communication and programs of mutual cooperation among its members, and publishes various items, including a periodical, The Reformed World.
   The alliance focused much of its attention on South Africa in the 1980s. In 1982, the alliance suspended the membership of two South African Reformed bodies until they brought their policies in line with the alliance's antiapartheid stance. one church left the alliance altogether, while the other maintained a dialogue and was received back into full membership in 1997.
   In 2003, the alliance reported 218 member churches in more than 100 countries.
   See also Ecumenical movement.
   Further reading:
   ■ World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Available online. URL:
   ■ 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. Eerdmans, 1999).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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