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Edinburgh Missionary Conference

1910. This ten-day gathering for discussion was significant for its representative character, its leadership, the range of its discussions, and its outcome. Previous conferences on the missionary task of the church had been undenominational in character; this was interdenominational. All churches, with the exception of the Roman Catholic, were represented. The Anglo-Catholic representatives insisted that South America, which they regarded as being Roman Catholic, be omitted from the agenda, and that matters of doctrine and church polity should not be considered, as they were the business of the churches. There were 1,355 delegates, the places being allocated on the basis of missionary society incomes. Less than a score were from the “younger churches.” The chairman was John R. Mott,* the secretary J.H. Oldham.*

Discussion ranged over the reports of the eight preparatory commissions: (1) conveying the Gospel to all the non-Christian world; (2) the Church in the mission field; (3) education in relation to the Christianization of national life; (4) the missionary message in religion to non-Christian religion; (5) the preparation of missionaries; (6) the home base of missions; (7) missions and governments; (8) cooperation and the promotion of unity.

During the discussions the need became apparent for a permanent representative body, able to coordinate missionary cooperation and to speak to governments. The only resolution of the conference, that a continuation committee with a fulltime executive staff be appointed, was carried unanimously. The continuation committee was the first-ever representative, interdenominational organization to be formed and, with its originating conference, is regarded as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.* J.R. Mott began his closing address with the words, “The end of the Conference is the beginning of the Conquest. The end of the Planning is the beginning of the Doing.”

See W.H.T. Gairdner, Edinburgh 1910 (1910).