History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview

27 Movements Toward
Christian Unity

A SALIENT FEATURE OF THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS ENTERPRISE IN THE EIGHTY years antecedent to 1960 was a trend toward greater cooperation and unity. Estranged families of faith, once given to inter-communal polemics, found it increasingly possible to join forces in a common effort to further the Kingdom of God. Contributory to this development was the growing liberal spirit, which placed more emphasis on a maturing Christian life than on an acceptance of right doctrine. Revivalism, long a champion of the sudden conversion experience and the transformed life, was progressively becoming expressive of the ethos of smaller denominations and sects, while major denominations tended to view the Christian life in terms of gradual growth sustained by Christian nurture. The gigantic educational undertaking made necessary by this latter concept called for the utmost cooperation on the part of the churches.

Production of the International Sunday School Lessons was only one answer to this need. Another was the formation of interdenominational, even interfaith, associations to provide inspiration and knowledge of educational techniques for the religious institutions of the country. One of the most valued of these organizations was the Religious Education Association, founded in 1903 as the result of a conference of religious leaders called by President William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago. The membership of the Association was largely Protestant, but persons of all faiths might be admitted if they so desired. Contributions

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