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Oxford Conference

1937. Second conference of the Life and Work movement held at Oxford under the general title “Church, Community and State.” There were 425 delegates representing most churches apart from the Roman Catholics and the German Evangelical (the latter under Nazi control). Younger churches had only twenty-nine representatives. It was directed by J.H. Oldham,* secretary of the International Missionary Council,* who had organized the Edinburgh Conference,* 1910. The chairman was John R. Mott.* Its watchword was “Let the Church be the Church,” and statements were made on religious freedom, the criteria for a responsible economic order, and the Christian attitude to war. It went far beyond the first conference at Stockholm* (1925) in theological acumen and depth of social analysis, and it laid the groundwork for an ecumenical social ethic. It emphasized that the church must guard its moral and spiritual integrity and render a true critique of all social systems, especially those of Western civilization which it might be inclined to defend uncritically. Concurrently with the Faith and Order Conference (Edinburgh,* 1937) it proposed the formation of the World Council of Churches,* in which the concerns of both movements were integrated. A report was issued later that year under the title The Churches Survey Their Task.

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