Home > Queensland Synod News > Christians pray for unity, remember ‘unexpected’ insights of pioneers

Christians pray for unity, remember ‘unexpected’ insights of pioneers

Christians around the world are remembering the 1910 World Missionary Conference in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh as a key initiative that led to the ecumenical movement seeking the unity of the Church.

"The unexpected intuition to flash forth from the conference was the awareness that Christian disunity is destructive to the very mission of the Church, and the corresponding search for Christian unity began," said the Rev. John Gibaut, director of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.

He was preaching on 18 January in a service at the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to mark the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and as churches around the world prepare to mark the centenary of the 1910 conference.

The Edinburgh conference was one of the initiatives that led to the founding in 1948 of the WCC, which now gathers 349 churches, including most of the world’s Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches.

"Something unexpected happened [in Edinburgh], and we rightly identify that ‘something’ as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement," said Gibaut, a Canadian Anglican.

Traditionally celebrated between 18 and 25 January in the northern hemisphere, and at Pentecost in the global South, congregations and parishes are encouraged to take part together in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

For 2010, Christians are reflecting on what the Bible records as Christ’s final words before his ascension: "You are witnesses of these things." The theme was chosen in Scotland, where churches are to celebrate the centenary of the 1910 missionary conference at an event in Edinburgh in June.

"The insights of our ecumenical pioneers at the Edinburgh missionary conference in 1910 is that witness to the things of Christ’s resurrection will only be effective if Christians are united with one another," said Gibaut, a Canadian Anglican.

Since 1968, the liturgical and biblical material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been produced jointly by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission, which brings churches together to discuss unity.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC but cooperates with it in many areas, and has members on a number of its committees.

Opening the week of prayer in Germany, Lutheran Bishop Friedrich Weber of Brunswick urged "holy impatience" about the state of ecumenism, the German Protestant news agency epd reported.

"Even I am impatient because we do not do enough together," said Weber, the chairperson of the Council of Churches in Germany.

In Rome on 17 January, Pope Benedict XVI urged for prayer and reflection, "to revive the ecumenical spirit". He said, "Our proclamation of the gospel of Jesus will be much more credible and effective the more that we are united in his love." 

(c) Ecumenical News International