Chapter 9 » 9.08

Britain Yearly Meeting and the ecumenical movement

The historical background

Britain Yearly Meeting is not a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC). This is because its Basis of Faith was considered by Yearly Meeting in 1940 to require acceptance of a credal formulation. Friends World Committee for Consultation, being representative of Friends worldwide, receives invitations and sends observers to the WCC and some of its constituent bodies. It also sends representatives to the annual meetings of secretaries of Christian World Communions, attended by representatives from the world bodies of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist and many other churches.

Having declined membership of the WCC, then in process of formation, London Yearly Meeting took the same position of principle in response to a similar invitation from the nascent British Council of Churches (BCC). In this case, however, it was met by the BCC’s decision to extend its Basis of Faith so as to include in its membership those bodies which had previously been associated with the ecumenical movement, thus embracing London Yearly Meeting. Friends continued to play an active part, corporately and individually, in the BCC from 1942 to 1990; London Yearly Meeting was only precluded, as an associate member after 1965, from voting on amendments to the BCC’s constitution. Through the BCC it developed an indirect relationship with the Conference of European Churches. Because of the Conference’s credal basis, however, the Yearly Meeting was never a member.

Friends enjoyed full membership of the Scottish Churches Council, which had no credal basis. Friends sent observers to the Council of Churches for Wales, which did. Both councils were, like the BCC itself, superseded by ‘new ecumenical instruments’ in 1990, as set out in the following paragraphs. During the lifetime of the BCC there was no national ecumenical body for England.

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