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World Alliance of Reformed Churches

The oldest international Protestant confessional body, the Alliance grew out of the cooperation engendered by the revivals and missionary movements of the nineteenth century. Professors J. McCosh of Princeton College and W.G. Blaikie of Edinburgh first mooted the possibility. Steps toward a meeting were initiated at the New York meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in 1873, and after extensive correspondence a meeting was held at the English Presbyterian College, London, in July 1875. The Alliance was the result. Its full title was “Alliance of the Reformed Churches throughout the world holding the Presbyterian system.” Membership was open to any church organized on Presbyterian principles, which holds the supreme authority of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in matters of faith and morals and whose creed is in harmony with the consensus of the Reformed Churches.

The Alliance has a confederate structure and since the first general council of 1877 has met regularly. There have been occasional constitutional changes like those of 1954, but the Alliance’s role remains essentially consultative and advisory. An executive committee meets annually, and regional groupings of varying vitality exist in every part of the world. The Alliance has made major contributions to cooperation and understanding between Reformed Churches, and its significance has not been lessened by the growth of the World Council of Churches.* In addition to relief work, mutual theological consultation, and joint activities like editing Calvin’s writings, the Alliance has played an invaluable role in dialogue with Rome since Vatican II. At the Nairobi General Council (1970), the Alliance merged with the International Congregational Council* and since 1963 has held conversations with Lutheran representatives in both Europe and North America. The Lüneburg Concord of September 1971 was a vital step in removing historic divisions between the two families and will have far-reaching ecumenical implications if taken seriously by member churches. The Alliance publishes a periodical called The Reformed World.