Shakedown Voyage, 1908-1915
While it is not easy to say just when the Protestant Reformation began, by the time Luther had posted his theses it is clear that the Reformation was well under way. Similarly, by 1908 cooperative Christianity, according to the twentieth-century pattern, was beginning clearly to emerge. By 1908 there were in America a whole cluster of national bodies representing various aspects of what was later to be known as the ecumenical movement: the International Sunday School Association, the Foreign Missions Conference (in its earlier and simpler form), the Home Missions Councils, and the Federal Council of Churches--to name only those most central to the integrating churchmanship of the period. As yet their common concerns and ultimate merger were obscured by a sense of discrete organizational autonomy, soon to be modified, but only slowly to be outmoded. Ecclesiastically, the Federal Council was doubtless the most significant of these bodies. Each of the others featured some functional specialization within the total work of the church; the Federal Council united the denominations as such in a federal approach to their entire task.
The year 1908 is the more significant because of the determinative occasions which it antedated. Not until 1910 was the Edinburgh Conference to be held, which was greatly to accelerate world-wide interests both in "Life and Work" and in "Faith and Order." Not until nearly three decades later were those two streams to begin to merge into the World Council of Churches, long to be "in process of formation." Not until 1911 was the Foreign Missions Conference to acquire more continuous administrative significance through limited but expanded processes of reference and counsel. Not until 1922 was the Sunday School Movement to involve the denominational controls recognized in the organization of the International Council of Religious Education.
But, as Dr. Samuel McCrea Cavert points out, two additional facts must not be overlooked: "(a) 'Life and Work' really did get a tremendous impetus from the Federal Council, whereas the American program in 'Life and Work' was not much indebted to European experience; (b) (even) 'Faith and Order' as a movement was American-