Church Cooperation in the United States: The Nation-Wide Backgrounds and Ecumenical Significance of State and Local Councils of Churches in Their Historical Perspective

By Ross W. Sanderson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
Federative Progress, 1900-1908
While Chapter II brought the Sunday school story in America down to 1922 and to the organization of the International Council of Religious Education, Chapter I covered only nineteenth-century aspects of American federative beginnings. During the first decade of the new century the urge for cooperation in the entire life of the churches gained rapid and cumulative embodiment. This third chapter deals with twentieth century interdenominationalism before 1908.
National leadership Emerges
A 1900 conference in New York looked toward a National Federation of Churches and Christian Workers. In 1901, in spite of "strong opposition on the part of a few" New Yorkers,1 this national federation was organized at Philadelphia; but largely through representatives of local churches or a variety of state and local bodies, not delegates with national denominational credentials. Those attending represented Evangelical Alliance branches in Pennsylvania, Boston, and Philadelphia; the Connecticut Bible Society; the Maine Interdenominational Commission; and local federations in cities in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio As yet organizational policies were still experimental, and membership requirements relatively generous and a bit vague. However, as Dr. Macfarland was to write in 1948, "during the period beginning with (the 1902 meeting of the National Federation) we have seen . . . the movement for federation being developed from the bottom up as well as from the top down."2 Under the auspices of the National Federation of Churches ( 1900-1905), "local federations were actively promoted."3
Church Women Pioneer
The nineteenth century, according to Mrs. Fred S. Bennett, was not only the period when lay activity emerged; because of the new status of women--especially organized women--in church life as well as other aspects of our American culture, it was "destined to be known as the Women's Century."4 In the early twentieth century three national phases of church women's work were organized.
1. In 1901 the Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions was organized by interested women.
2. In 1903 the Women's Interdenominational Committee on Home Mission Study was organized. (These two bodies were later

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