Ecumenism after 1925




Useful links

The United Church report on ecumenism "Mending the World," 1997.

"Our ecumenical journey," from the United Church (from Mending the World).

Archdeacon Douglas Watney was deeply involved in the Anglican-United "Principles of Union"; his papers are summarized here. So was Bishop Tom Greenwood.

PDF bibliography on Anglican-Lutheran dialogue.

"The Waterloo Declaration" between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, 2001.

An Anglican news article on ACC-ELCIC rapprochement.

Report of the Joint Anglican/ Lutheran Commission, 2003.

Guidelines for common worship, Anglicans and Lutherans, 2003.

A statement on Anglican-Oriental Orthodox dialogue.

John Baycroft, former Anglican bishop of Ottawa, on the importance of ecumenical agreements, 2004.



Print bibliography

Du Charme, Doug. "Ecumenism in Canada - 'an Affection for Diversity'." The Canadian Society of Presbyterian History Papers X (1984-1985): 25-41




Ecumenism in Canadian Protestantism after 1925 took several forms: a significant attempt at organic union, intercommunion, collaboration through ecumenical agencies, and dialogue.

The Lund Formula

The Lund Formula is that Churches should "act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately." It was adopted at the 1952 meeting of the World Council of Churches at Lund University in Germany. (A guide to World Council documents is available at Yale Divinity library.)

The failed dream of Anglican – United Church Union

In 1943 the General Synod of the Church of England in Canada struck a union committee and invited all Christian churches to discuss reunion. The United Church responded. A joint Anglican - United committee was struck, and reported back in 1946, recommending that the clergy of both churches be re-ordained. This suggestion was unacceptable to both churches.

For the next ten years, various attempts at cooperation on the local level were encouraged.

In 1963, the Anglicans recommended a committee of twenty (ten from each denomination) to draw up principles of union. The committee's document was approved by General Synod in 1965 and General Council in 1966. An observer group, the small Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), joined the union negotiations in 1969.

The first draft of a Plan of Union was published in 1971. In that year two unionists were elected to head their respective denominations: Edward (Ted) Scott (pictured here) became primate of the Anglican Church, and A.B.B. Moore became moderator of the United Church. To receive and respond to comments on the Plan of Union, a revision committee was appointed, which submitted a Revised Plan of Union in 1973. There was more controversy. In February 1974 the three churches agreed to a four-year timetable for the Revised Plan of Union. But in February 1975 the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church published a "statement of counsel" which said that the Plan of Union was unacceptable. That ended the union discussions between Anglicans and Uniteds. Discussions between the United Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ended in 1985. — See John Webster Grant, "Leading a Horse to Water: Reflections on Church Union Conversations in Canada," in Horton Davies, ed., Studies of the Church in History, COURSE DOCUMENT 29; and Douglas F. Campbell, "The Anglican and United Churches in church union dialogue, 1943-75," Studies in Religion 17 (1988): 303-314.

John Webster Grant (Document 29) is an historian who (from March 1967) also chaired the executive committee of the general commission for church union.

He discusses the "Principles of Union" of June 1, 1965, which were endorsed by both churches. How does he think they influenced the course of discussions?

How does he evaluate the "Plan of Union" of November 1972? What concerns did it address, and what did it fail to address?

Why didn't church union work?

How did it probably feel to be a commissioner?

James R. Mutchmor (Document 27) was moderator of the United Church, 1962-1964. In the Christian Century, 7 April 1971, he reports on union negotiations. In the very midst of the negotiations, how does he evaluate the prospects for union? What influences his perspective?

Ralph R. Latimer, general secretary of General Synod in the Anglican Church, was the executive commissioner on the Anglican side for church union. In Doument 28 he reports to General Synod of 1969. What's his perspective? What has he been recommending? What problems, present and anticipated, does he seem to be addressing?

After the failure of union in 1925, discussions between the Anglican and United Churches resumed for the first time in 1999; here's a report on the meeting of that year; formal talks followed in 2003; and, finally, here's a 2005 update.

The inter-church coalitions for justice

Several ecumenical coalitions were formed in the 1970s and 1980s. More information to come. See Hugh McCullum, Radical Compassion: The Life and Times of Archbishop Ted Scott (Toronto: ABC Publishing, 2004).


Bilateral ecumenical dialogues blossomed after Vatican II. Some are international and have Canadian participation. Others are national. Inter-faith dialogue has also grown.

International Anglicanism. Ecumenical discussions were summarized in the "Agros Report," produced for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Anglicans have been in dialogue with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Methodist traditions, among others.

Anglican - Roman Catholic. In 1966 the archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, paid an official bishop to Pope Paul VI. They exchanged episcopal rings and issued a statement. By agreement, each appointed representatives to an international dialogue, called the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission, which began work in 1967. It, and its successor commissions, have studied theological differences and issued statements. ARC in Canada began in the mid-1970s

Anglican - Orthodox. Joint international commissions began in 1973, the ground having been laid in 1962 by discussions between the archbishop of Canterbury (Michael Ramsey) and the ecumenical patriarch (Athenagoras I of Constantinople).

Anglican - Oriental Orthodox. An international "forum," created in 1985, was upgraded to a "commission" in 1998. An Armenian Anglican priest from Toronto, Harold Nahabedian, served on the committee. In 2003 it reached an agreed statement on the divinity of Christ. Dialogue has been impaired by Anglican discussions of homosexuality.

Anglican - Reformed. International consultations were established in 1978, with members appointed by the Anglican Consultative Council representing about 65 million members) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (representing about 70 million members).

Anglican - Lutheran dialogue culminated in full communion, as indicated below.

United Church - Muslim. A study docment "That We May Know Each Other" has been produced for discussion at General Council 2006.

United Church - Jewish. The document "Bearing Faithful Witness" was approved by General Council in 2003.

United Church - Roman Catholic. This dialogue was instituted in 1974. A study report on the use of the Trinitarian formula in baptism, "In Whose Name?" is linked here.

The Presbyterian Church Ecumenical Relation Office

The Waterloo declaration

In July 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada entered into "full communion" with each other. This is less than organic union, but more than eucharistic sharing, which had already been agreed between the two denominations in 1989. Clergy may serve in each other's churches. Deacons, priests/pastors, and bishops in the one denomination may move to the other without re-ordination.

The Anglican and Lutheran churches were particularly well positioned for ecumenism since they both began as ethnic or national churches of the Reformation, and had never declared themselves out of communion with the other.

Picture: July 8, 2001, Waterloo, Ontario, Recreation Complex: Bishop Telmor Sartison of ELCIC and Archbishop Michael Peers of the ACC sign the Waterloo Declaration, while Jim Cowan, then Anglican co-chair of the joint ELCIC-ACC working group (and now bishop of British Columbia), looks on.

Ecumenical organizations

The World Council of Churches describes itself as "the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity." It brings together 340 churches in 100 countries, but not the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox churches in the Russian sphere of influence, the Southern Baptists of the U.S.A., and various smaller churches. It was founded in 1948 in Amsterdam, building on a great many ecumenical ventures over several decades, including the Faith and Order movement. — (An overview of ecumenical history is provided by Terry Matthews of Wake Forest University). — A short history of the WCC is linked here.

A particularly impressive fruit of the WCC is the Faith and Order document Baptism Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) published in 1982 after six decades of ecumenical study and dialogue. While the main authors were Protestant and Orthodox, major contributions were also made by theologians from the Roman Catholic Church, a full member of Faith and Order since 1968. The final text was agreed at Lima, and it is therefore sometimes called the Lima document. A companion liturgy, called the Lima liturgy, was celebrated at the WCC meeting at Vancouver in 1983, and is remembered by many as a highlight of the week. For a theological appraisal, see Paul Crow's essay in a Princeton Theological Seminary publication. BEM was generally endorsed by the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion in 1988.

The Canadian Council of Churches, founded in 1944 with ten churches, now represents nineteen churches of the Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican traditions. Its current constitution, approved in 1991, provides for a governing board and three commissions (Faith and Witness, Justice and Peace, Ecumenical Education and Communication). The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been an associate member since 1985, and a full member since 1997. Since 1996 the CCC has functioned as a "forum;" each member church is supposed to empower its representative to speak with full authority, and CCC decisions are supposed to represent 100% consensus of the member churches. It publishes a newsletter called Emmaus. The Canadian Council of Churches faces an uncertain financial future, according to this article dated March 1, 2005.

The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal was founded in 1963 by the Rev. Irénée Beaubien, S.J. It obtained a federal charter in 1976. It publishes a quarterly journal Ecumenism. The current director is Stuart E. Brown. The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism was founded in 1986.

The Churches' Council on Theological Education, founded in 1990, represents the Anglican, Baptist (Canadian Baptist Ministries), Lutheran (ELCIC), Presbyterian (PCC), Roman Catholic (CCCB), and United Churches.

The Canadian Churches' Forum for Global Ministries, founded in 1921 as the Canadian School of Missions, has also been known as the Ecumenical Institute and the Ecumenical Forum. It prepares people for cross-cultural mission and ministry. It represents the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Churches, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto and the Scarborough Foreign Mission Society. It publishes an annual newsletter, Forum Focus. The director of the Canadian School of Missions from 1921 to 1947 was J. Lowell Murray; he has a prominent place in Robert A. Wright, A World Mission: Canadian protestantism and the quest for a new international order, 1918-1939 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992). Here's the Forum's narrative of its own history.

The Church Council on Justice and Corrections, founded in 1974, represents eleven churches. Its work includes education, advocacy, and community development. Its principles include humane corrections, a fair system of criminal justice, a fair refugee system, and the worldwide abolition of executions.

Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives was formed in 2001 to bring together the work of ten previous ecumenical ad hoc coalitions. It works in such areas as international human rights, global economic justice, ecological justice, aboriginal rights, and Canadian social development. It follows the example of Kairos/USA, founded in 1990.

Project Ploughshares was founded in 1976 by Mennonites and Quakers to promote peace, demilitarization, and disarmament. It connected with the Canadian Council of Churches in 1977. Today it is also co-sponsored by the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and United Churches. Its name comes from Isaiah 2:4.

The Women's Inter-Church Council traces its beginnings to 1918, when the Presbyterian women's missionary organization invited the representatives of the women's missionary boards of five other denominations to consider possibilities for united action. It publishes an ecumenical feminist journal Making Waves. Eleven denominations are represented, though not all are sponsors. It is the Canadian sponsor of the World Day of Prayer, and is active in various justice and feminist issues.

World Day of Prayer began among women's missionary organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Canadian women sponsored the first National Day of Prayer on January 9, 1920. In 1926 women of the U.S. and Canada distributed the worship service to other countries. Today it involves women in 170 countries, with a celebration on the first Friday in March. The service is organized by the International Committee for the World Day of Prayer, which meets every four years, and selects themes (usually involving women's issues) and appoints persons to write the service. Offerings are collected to support grants to various programs from around the world. (Picture is from Unity Church, Ottawa.)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908, organized by an Episcopal priest, Paul James Wattson, the founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, who advocated Anglican and Roman Catholic reunion. Wattson became a Roman Catholic in 1909! The week began at the Feast of the Chair of Peter, at that time January 18, and ended with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25. The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II, promulgated in 1964, encouraged observance of the Week, and in 1966 the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches began collaborating on texts. A fuller history is linked here.

The Canadian WPCU is linked here.

The Canadian Theological Students' Association sponsors a conference every February for theological students from any institutions which care to sponsor them. It originated in a Christmas conference sponsored by the Student Christian Movement of Canada after the 1954 World Council of Churches meeting in Evanston, Illinois. A second meeting was held at Christmas 1963, and then it came under the sponsorship of the Ecumenical Institute (now the Canadian Churches' Forum) until 2004, when CCTE (above) began sponsoring it. It is financially supported by the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Churches, Scarborough Foreign Missions, and some Roman Catholic dioceses.

Canadian Girls in Training was started in 1915 by a founding committee representing different denominations and the YWCA. Today it has 150 groups and 2000 members. it is sponsored by the Canadian Baptist Ministries (Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces, Baptist Union of Western Canada), the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the United Church of Canada. (Pictured here: CGIT girls in Bella Coola, BC, in 1941.)

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada includes 40 denominations, another 120 or so ministry agencies, and 1000 congregations. It functions in some respects as a Canadian Council of Churches for evangelical denominations. EFC began as a meeting of Toronto area pastors in the early 1960s, and dates its beginning to a meeting in 1964 at Knox Presbyterian Church, Toronto. It approved a constitution in 1966 which in its preamble condemned "liberalism, apostacy [sic], and spiritual nihilism": the constitution was amended in 1981 and this phrase was dropped. In 1968 it began publishing a periodical Thrust, now called Faith Today. Its first full-time director, Brian Stiller, served from 1983 to 1997, and built the organization considerably. (He is now president of Tyndale College and Seminary, Toronto.) EFC sponsors "Share, Canada," an organization connected with the American organization World Relief. Presbyterian and Anglican evangelicals have been conspicuous in its leadership. Its current director is Bruce Clemenger.