The Ecumenical Movement of the 20th Century

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  • 0:36 Edinburgh Missionary…
  • 1:29 Catholicism Included
  • 2:11 Denominations Merge
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the Ecumenical Movement of the 20th century. In doing so it will highlight Protestantism, the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, and the first Council of World Churches.

Definition of Ecumenical

Like most religions, Protestantism, or Christianity separate from the Catholic Church, is broken down into many sects or denominations. There are Lutherans, who usually believe in infant baptism, and there are Evangelicals, who usually do not. There are Orthodox denominations, that pray to Saints, and there are Baptists, who definitely do not.

With all these differences abounding, the last 100 years or so have seen an effort to unite Christian denominations under the original teachings of Jesus Christ. This effort has come to be known as the ecumenical movement.

Edinburgh Missionary Conference

This movement toward unity had its official beginnings of sorts when Christian missionaries began realizing that their denominational differences were getting in the way of effectively working together to share the message of Jesus Christ. For instance, if a Lutheran missionary was telling a native African that he had to baptize his baby, and an Evangelical one was telling him that was plain hogwash, you can see how problems would arise. Not to mention the confusion it would cause the poor African who was just trying to figure out how to be a Christian.

Seeing the need for some change and compromise, the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 was convened to work toward unity among Protestant missionaries. Considered by many church theologians as the first official ecumenical step, this conference resulted in the formation of the International Missionary Council.

Catholicism Included

With it looking like the Protestant denominations were moving toward cooperation, and as the world suffered through the tragedies of World War II, the idea of ecumenical thinking grew from just uniting Protestant churches to including the Catholic Church, as well. In fact, the World Council of Churches was held in Amsterdam in 1948.

This historic meeting was the first assembly of the world's Protestant and Catholic Churches. Since this first meeting, the council has continued to meet in countries like the United States, Australia, India, and Kenya. As these meetings have grown in attendance, Protestants and Catholics have continued to convene alongside one another.

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