First Period of Expansion, 1915-1924
Just what was to be the Federal Council's interest in state and local cooperation? Was it essential that state and local church federations should also be constituted ecclesiastically, by appropriate representation from member units? Or could they continue to be agencies or societies affiliating individual Christians? And was the Federal Council interested primarily in church cooperation for its own sake, or was its main objective favorable social change, including community betterment and the affiliation of all local agencies for its achievement? If its interest covered both these matters, which was to have the priority? Did some leaders regard church cooperation as a more urgent necessity, rather than the purposes to be accomplished by it? If so, what was to be the outcome?
This chapter provides an answer somewhat different from what some might have anticipated, and from what some have thought to be the case. Whether the answer was correct or incorrect is not here the question. Our next query is merely, What actually happened when the Federal Council faced up to the problem of state and local church cooperation?
For state and local cooperation 1915 marked as definitely new a beginning as 1908 did for national interdenominational federation. Each of these dates, coming at the close of a long succession of preparatory events and forces, was distinct in the sequence of American ecumenical developments.
From 1915 to 1924 the Federal Council staff included Dr. Roy B. Guild, a man peculiarly adapted to field promotion, deeply devoted to the cause of church cooperation, and backed by the volunteer services of Fred B. Smith, with whom he had been so closely associated in the Men and Religion Forward Movement. By 1915 also the local and state executives were beginning their annual assembling, a habit carried on almost uninterruptedly until now.
On January 7, 1915, the Federal Council's Administrative Committee made Fred B. Smith chairman of a Special Committee on