stages in the history of visible church unity

I’d like to resume my notes from Church History class. I am taking a break from my break from blogging – largely related to working out my taxes… I hate doing taxes. Reality is so depressing! Far better to live in the imprecise haze of not knowing exactly where one stands! In Canada, our tax day is Apr 30, so we have a bit longer to dither than our USA friends. (Of course, if you don’t have to pay, they are in no hurry for you to get your refund!)

So a little R & R… blogging!

The lecture I am entering today comes under a header entitled:

The Ecumenical Movement

Next comes a quote – may not be exact words, but something was said that struck me:

Be aware of the difference between my will, Satan’s wiles, and the Spirit’s wooing.

Now for the main lecture:

stages in the history of visible church unity

    1. Post-Reformation concern to acknowledge an underlying unity beneath denominational exclusivism. (Efforts of unity after 30 Years War)

    [– these first points are not the same as the modern ecumenical movement which ecumenists try to claim as a starting point]

    1. Individual cooperation — Evangelical Alliance, etc.
    2. Interdenominational cooperation for specific purposes:
      1. Revivals – no organizational connection beyond the duration of the event.
      2. Missions
      3. Social mission
        – YMCA, Rescue Missions, Bible societies
        – SVM (Student Volunteer Movement, John Mott)
        – Christian Endeavour
    1. A process of organic reunion of groups

        · Within denominational families [e.g., Cumberland Presbyterian Church union with Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1906]

        · Among different denominations [e.g. United Church of Canada (1921) – Presbyterian, Methodists, Congregationalists]

    1. National and International ecclesiastical federations

        Of individual denominations world-wide
        [Baptist World Alliance (1905); Lambeth Conference (Anglicans, 1867); World Alliance of Reformed Churches of the Presbyterian System (1875); International Congregational Council (1895); Lutheran World Federation (1923); Ecumenical Methodist Conference (1891)]

        Among denominations nation-wide
        [Federal Council of Churches in America (1908) — liberal, social gospel
        National Council of Churches (1950) — FCCA plus International Council of Religious Education, Foreign Missions Conference of N. America, Home Missions Council, etc.]
        [Protestant Federation of France (1905); Swiss Federation of Churches (1919)]
        [American Council of Christian Churches (1941) – denominations; National Association of Evangelicals (1943) – individuals]

    1. World Council of Churches – liberal // International Council of Christian Churches – conservative

There is more on the WCC, but I’ll save that till next time.

There seems to always be a trend towards visible union between professing Christians. Some will call this part of the organic notion of the church – just the way the Lord planned it.

The visible ‘united’ or ‘uniting’ church through history has been mostly apostate or corrupted to a large degree.

The faithful churches through history have been small, separated, and persecuted (by the visible church, quite often). This is a theme of Pickering’s Biblical Separation I think.

All in all, as I look at the list (and think of the fruits of even the more conservative, Bible-believing uniters – think Luther, for example, or even the NAE as it started out) I think there isn’t a lot to be gained from broad united ‘church’ bodies. I wonder what the motivation for it is, especially among Bible believers.



  1. Visible, universal unity. The Kingdom of Christ. Until then, the church, the only one, local.

  2. Hi Kent… I thought this one would draw something from you!

    You know that I would not hold to an exclusively local theory of the church in this age, however I am convinced that the essence of the Great Commission is essentially local in its concept and application. I don’t see a mandate for the Church Triumphant in the Scriptures. I see a mandate for the churches dependent on the Might and Work of the Holy Spirit.

    Our efforts should be geared primarily and almost exclusively towards the building of the local church. The more of us doing that, the better.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3