World Methodist Council
- The World Methodist Council, the primary agency providing fellowship between the many Methodist churches around the world, traces its origins to 1881, when the first of the Ecumenical Methodist Conferences assembled in London, England. These conferences aimed to overcome the splits in the movement, primarily those in North America that had separated Methodists both regionally and racially. Also, British and American relations had been strained by two wars (1776 and 1812) and by the British government's pro-South views during the American Civil War. The first conferences included attendees primarily from North America and Britain. They were especially important to African-American Methodist leaders, who had few others opportunities for ecumenical contacts.The conferences continued to meet every 10 years until 1941, when the meeting was cancelled due to World War II. In the meantime, the larger predominantly white Methodist bodies in the United States - Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Methodist Protestant Church - united in 1939. Earlier, the British Methodists had overcome much of their own splintering with a merger in 1932 that created the Methodist Church.While splintering and merging at home, both the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church had created international presences through their expansive missionary programs. Like most Western Protestant groups, after World War II they began elevating their mission churches into autonomous bodies. Ecumenism within the Methodist family was now redirected toward maintaining close ties between the older Methodist bodies in the West and the newer churches being formed around the world. Symbolic of that transformation, the group was renamed the World Methodist Council in 1951. It soon acquired a permanent secretariat, and headquarters at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Since the 1950s, the World Methodist Conferences have met at five-year intervals.The council also has a European office in the World Council of Churches headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Its ongoing program covers a spectrum of educational, evangelistic, and worship concerns. It supports exchanges of clergy and laity, and facilitates scholarship and theological reflection through the quinquennial oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. Churches from more than 108 countries are served by the council.Further reading:■ Nolan B. Harmon, Encyclopedia of World Methodism, 2 vols. (Nashville, Tenn.: United Methodist, 1974)■ World Methodist Council, Handbook of Information (Lake Junaluska, N.C.: World Methodist Council, 2003).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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