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II. THE CORPORATE UNION OF CHURCH BODIES: BASES AND TERMS.
Lit. A selection is here given of the many works, larger and smaller, on the subject of Church reunion: G. J. Slosser: Christian Unity, N. Y., 1929, 425 pp.—G. K. A. Bell, Bp. of Chichester: Documents on Christian Unity, 2 vols., Oxf., 1924–30, 382, 225 pp.—P. Schaff: The Reunion of Christendom, N. Y., 1893, 46 pp. The enlargement of a paper read before the Chicago Parliament on Religions and his last literary work.—C. H. Briggs: Church Unity, N. Y., 1909, 459 pp.—W. R. Huntington: The Peace of the Ch., N. Y., 1891, 240 pp.—Newman Smyth: Passing Protestantism and Coming Catholicism, N. Y., 1908, 209 pp.; A Story of Ch. Unity, etc., New Haven, 1923, 87 pp.—Glover: The Free Churches and Reunion, Cambr., 1921, 56 pp.—W. T. Manning, Bp. of N. Y.: The Call to Unity, N. Y., 1920, 162 pp.—Headlam, Bp. of Gloucester: Doctr. of the Ch. and Church Reunion, London, 1920, 326 pp.—Bp. Soderblom: Christ. Fellowship, N. Y., 1923, 212 pp.—Rowley, Baptist: Aspects of Reunion, N. Y., 1924, 182 pp.—Hayes, Prof. Evanston: The Heights of Christ. Unity, Cin., 1927, 271 pp.—Marchant: The Reunion of Christendom. A Survey, 1929.—P. Ainslie: Towards Christ. Unity, Balt., 1918; The Scandal of Christianity, 1929.929
During the last fifty years the movement towards the active co-operation or full union of Church bodies has called forth much amicable discussion in religious assemblies, in books, and in proposals looking to that goal, and has issued in the actual consolidation of certain Protestant communions. Historically, it received a mighty impetus from the Evangelical Alliance, whose articles showed the agreement of all Protestant bodies in the fundamental matters of doctrine and whose General Conferences, beginning with the conference in London, 1846, and especially the notable gathering in New York, 1873, gave exhibition of the fellowship between the individual members of the Protestant Churches throughout the world. The spirit of Christian fellowship and co-operation have shown themselves in various ways. The Revision of the English Scriptures was carried on by committees of British and American scholars composed of representative scholars of many denominations for fifteen years. The International Conventions of the Y. M. C. A. and the Sunday School Union and the Missionary Conferences of Edinburgh, 1910, and Jerusalem, 1928, have superseded the barriers of race and nationality and borne witness to common Christian aims. The work of the Salvation Army, ministering to the daily needs of mankind, has an important place in this connection. The consolidations of Churches in mission lands, Japan, China, North and South India, the Philippines, have set an example for the Churches at home to follow.
The unionistic movement has taken the forms of organic union, proposals of such union, and federation for the purpose of co-operation in practical work; and all with the purpose of more effectually furthering the progress of Christ's kingdom by conserving the forces of men and expenditures and avoiding the waste arising from the unwise multiplication of local churches and Church agencies.22502250Washington in his address to the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1789, among other things said: 'It would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects indeed to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more active charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other, with a more Christian-like spirit, than ever they have done ill any former age or in any other nation.' Such union and federation also serves to exhibit the substantial agreement within Protestantism in answer to the unjust attack from Roman Catholic sources that Protestant denominations are at discord in matters of essential Christian 930belief. Denominational divisions have been the natural if not inevitable result of the principle of Protestantism, the right of private judgment. A source of weakness, they have also been an evidence of inherent strength, serving a providential purpose by developing freedom and thoroughness in the study of the New Testament and the early and mediaeval history of the Christian Church, by quickening individual effort through competition, and by preventing the stagnation of religious thought and sameness of ritual, such as have marked certain parts of the Christian world. The amicable co-operation of Christian bodies is imperative. Organic union between them is desirable as a means of extending the message of the Gospel. Spiritual unity and fellowship are a mandate of the New Testament. Such unity is nobly expressed in the Anglican Bidding Prayer, by which ministers are bidden to 'pray for Christ's Holy Catholic Church, that is for the whole congregation of Christian people dispersed throughout the whole world.' A bidding prayer offered by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1919, speaks 'of the blessed company of all faithful people.' In all Protestant churches prayer is made for the Holy Catholic Church, meaning thereby the Holy Christian Church, as Luther would have altered the wording of the Apostles' Creed.
A list of the consolidations which have taken place between Church communions—which is not intended to be exhaustive—and the terms on which such consolidations have been effected seem to be in harmony with the purpose of these volumes and the mind of the author. It must not be forgotten that the first creed formulated in America, the Cambridge Platform, 1648, gave as one of its two ends 'the holding forth of the Unity and Harmony, both amongst and with other Churches,' and its authors declared that 'the more they discerned the unkind and un-brotherly and un-Christian contentions of our godly brethren and countrymen, in matters of church-government, the more they did earnestly desire to see them joyned together in one common faith, and ourselves with them' and that they did not 'desire to vary from the doctrine of faith, and truth held forth by the churches of our native country.' It may seem that the authors of the Platform took a strange way to show their regard for the unity for which they manifested concern, but it will not be forgotten that, in asserting the independence of the New England churches, they were also concerned for 'peace of conscience 931which the Platform declared 'more desirable than the peace of the outward man; and freedom from scruples of conscience more comfortable to a sincere heart than freedom from persecution.'
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