Saturday, June 13, 2015

Christian World Communions: Five Overviews of Global Christianity, AD 1800–2025

This 8-page report is the twenty-fifth in an annual series in the IBMR. This year we set out a 5-fold panorama of descriptors of the relatively unknown Conference of Christian World Communions (CCWC)—historical, documentary, photographic, confessional, and statistical.

A Christian World Communion (CWC) is defined here as an ongoing body uniting only churches and denominations with one similar ecclesiastical tradition or characteristic (Adventist, Anglican, Baptist, Disciples, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Old Catholics, Oriental Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, Roman Catholic, Salvationist, etc.) though recognizing the existence and legitimacy of all the others.

Persons invited to the annual conference are few enough to allow everyone to get to know the others in the short three days. Those invited are heads of Communions¬—patriarchs, presidents, popes, archbishops, bishops, chairmen—with each bringing no more than one or two colleagues. No press are invited, nor observers. There is no centralized budget. Subjects discussed can be seen in the notes in Global Table 1's right-hand column. Average attendance in the early days was 15, rising gradually to 35 today (see Global Table 1 column T).

This first page draws attention to noteworthy aspects of the five tables that follow.

Global Table 1: Historical Overview

CCWC leadership has always insisted on a 3-day conference every October as top priority. This first global table reveals the success of this policy. The first Communion in this sense was the Lambeth Conference (1873), attended by 76 bishops, followed closely by 5 other Communions. By 1957 the movement was strong enough for the 7 major CWCs to hold their inaugural CCWC (see top photo in Global Table 3). Each year's activities and personages are described using the 26 letters A to Z as codes. This permits us to compress a large amount of data about each conference on its own line.

Landmark personages in this history of development are W. A. Visser 't Hooft, E. Perret, H. Meyer, B. B. Beach, J. Hale, P. Duprey, L. Vischer, John Paul II, D. Lotz, J. Peterson, J. Graz, A. D. Falconer, and S. Nyomi.

Global Table 2: Documentary Overview

Two streams of documents are relevant here. First, the CCWC has commissioned 97 research papers from 1957 as listed here in this table. A minority have been published, but most remain unpublished.

The second stream consists exclusively of published International Bilateral Dialogues (IBDs). These are agreements between any 2 worldwide CWCs who agree to sit down for a period of at least several months to discuss each other's difficult doctrines or central dogmas and to seek mutual answers and explanations. When each party feels satisfied, a joint statement of agreement is compiled and then jointly published. As Global Table 5 Line 48 indicates, by 2009 there exist at present 290 published IBDs, with 8 new ones currently under way.

In our accounting process in Global Table 1, category D enumerates only the first stream above, but category S includes the IBD summaries in Growth in Agreement I (1984), II (2000), and III (2007). Total IBDs = 300 by AD 2010. This means that the total professional documents generated by the CCWC has now passed 850—a formidable amount of scholarship and planning.

Global Table 3: Photographic Overview

Photos taken at each year's CCWC convey the humor, excitement, learning, and fellowship experienced, as well as the determination of all present to strive for the fulfillment of Christ's keyword: "so that they all may be one." The 1957 2nd meeting (top) identifies all 14 of those present by name and Communion. Note the large number of research reports as Visser 't Hooft finishes his opening paper. In 1986 Pope John Paul II (right) addresses the other 20 CWCs, drawing attention to the value of personal friendship. And on the last day of the 20th century, CCWC delegates (bottom) met in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, representing 91 percent of global Christianity, conversing in an estimated 3,000 different languages.

Global Table 4: Confessional Overview

The CCWC has 23 committed regular attending Communions. Some 50 additional CWCs are in full sympathy but have not been invited. Another 100 have friendly links to existing CCWC members. Lastly, some 110 may be described as opposed to ecumenism or conciliarism in general.

Global Table 5: Statistical Overview

This final table presents a statistical overview of the entire world's 2.2 billion Christians and their activities, encompassing 2 alternative parallel but different groupings: first, the (a) Global Christian Forum (GCF), which is bringing together all Christians of every variety. So far the Forum has held conferences together at the global level (Nairobi 2007, New Delhi 2008) and increasingly at regional levels. There has been remarkable success in the determination to invite as speakers church leaders who hitherto have avoided each other. Second, the ministry of (b) the Conference of Christian World Communions (CCWC) over its 50 years has developed such cooperation to a fine art.

These two global enterprises are now discovering powerful ways of working together in 80 varieties of ministry under 10 main global ministries or concepts or keywords in widespread or current use (background, presence, mission, common witness, baptism, unity, renewal, communications, evangelism, evangelization), for the period AD 1800–AD 2025.

In the light of history's 20 centuries of Christian disagreements, misunderstandings, rivalries, and even excommunications and outright warfare, the recent global developments sketched in this report are clearly of immense significance. {26}

This report, which is also available as a separate offprint, was prepared by David B. Barrett, a contributing editor, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing, who publish widely in the field of missiometrics. Most subjects mentioned in this report are expanded in detail in their World Christian Encyclopedia (1982, 2001) andWorld Christian Trends (2001), and are updated in Detailed footnotes for Global Table 5 can be found


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