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Lausanne Conference

1927. First conference of the “Faith and Order” movement, held at Lausanne, largely through the initiative of Bishop C.H. Brent and Robert H. Gardiner. Over 400 delegates from about ninety churches participated, notable absentees being the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches and several Baptist groups. Roman Catholic nonparticipation was explained by Pius XI in the encyclical Mortalium Animos (6 January 1928), in which he forbade Roman Catholic involvment in the ecumenical movement which he called “panchristian.” The conference was concerned with the doctrinal questions which divided the churches. Subjects discussed were: the call to unity, the message of the church to the world, the essence of the church, episcopacy and apostolic succession, and the sacraments.

The Greek archbishop Germanos declared that union was impossible without the acceptance of the seven Ecumenical Councils, and some delegates came away more conscious of differences than when they went. Even so, the conference did much to stimulate interest in reunion and encourage theological cooperation. The concluding statement, called “The Lausanne Message,” was an admirable exposition of the essential Gospel, defined as “the joyful message of redemption, both here and hereafter, the gift of God to sinful man in Christ.” It won the delegates' unanimous assent, and part was incorporated in the message of the Jerusalem Conference, 1928.

See H.N. Bate (ed.), Faith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference, Lausanne (1937).