Tag Archives: WCC

Unity in the Midst of Diversity

I have finished processing my very first ever archival collection, the American Bilateral Conversations Records in the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Archives Group.  When I started I didn’t have much of an idea of what most of that meant.  I had no idea what a bilateral conversation entailed and I was only faintly familiar with what ecumenical meant.  I have to say this; previous to processing this collection I was on the fence about whether or not I would like to be an archivist.  I knew that there would be things that I would like, but would they seem less enjoyable when faced with the downside, the dirty and the buggy (I’m not a huge fan of bugs)?   The answer is “Yes!  I’m hooked!”  I can deal with the mess and the dirt (and bugs) because I get to do all the things that I love.  Namely, organize, label, research and then make it accessible for others to use. It is the last one that gives me the most amount of satisfaction.  Now others will be able use this collection and hopefully it will lead them to new understandings and new connections that didn’t exist before. 

On the downside I spent 3 weeks inventorying and organizing the collection.  I felt that this was a little too long for the size of collection I had, but I have to keep in mind that I’m only there for 10 hours a week and it is my first time.  I need to squelch the urge to do item level description; I feel this is my biggest hurdle to get over.  The cataloger in me just wants to describe every little thing.  I was also nervous about having to write a history about something I knew so little about and I’m a bit anxious about doing it right.  I love to do research and I am truly interested in this topic, so much so that I would find myself distracted by some of the papers that were written for consideration at these ecumenical conferences.  I am impressed with the sentiments and recognition of the necessity of unity within all members of the church everywhere.  I took pictures of a few of the statements I found while I was sorting through the material, so that I would have examples of some of the quotes I liked and to show what the papers look like.  When reading the quotes keep in mind most of these papers were written in the late 60s.  (NOTE: I have “retouched” the papers in the photographs to get rid of the text that doesn’t apply to what I’m talking about; I didn’t want the distraction of other portions of the text in the photograph.  All of these papers can be viewed in their entirety by following the citations underneath the pictures.)

Hanlon

Daniel J. O’Hanlon, S. J. “The Ministry and Order of the Church” Credit to
WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 4, Folder 16, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I like the simple realization that what these church leaders were attempting to do wasn’t easy, but that division is a problem worth trying to fix.  I love Glenn E. Baumann’s statement about the right to worship within inter Christian marriages.  Following Baumann's quote, Monsignor Henry G. J. Beck had similar desire for unity rather than division on this same topic.


Glenn E. Baumann, “The Churches and Their Attitudes Toward Inter Christian Marriages “
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


Monsignor Henry G. J. Beck, “Proposed Pastoral Guidelines for Inter-Christian Marriages”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I grabbed this one from a paper about the ordination of women because I liked the corrections that were penciled in.  I don’t know if you can read the words that are “carroted” in at the end but it says, “respond creatively to…” It is obvious that unity in all aspects was a difficult task.


Unknown, “The Ordination of Women”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 4, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

This last quote by Robert McAfee Brown I just like.  I thought it was an interesting way to regard the study of the New Testament.

Robert McAfee Brown “Order and Ministry in the Reformed Tradition”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 4, Folder 16, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

It is a fascinating topic and relevant even today, as ecumenical discussions are still on going. Some of the topics remain the same and some of the topics are new, but the idea behind unity in the church is still a driving force.  It was fascinating to discover that this tiny collection covers a very important era in the world wide ecumenical movement.  The collection mainly deals with Roman Catholic bilateral conversations; I learned it was in the early 60s; after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church came into full involvement in the ecumenical movement, (which began at the World Missionary Conference in 1910 at Edinburgh.)  In fact, there was a recent New York Times Op-Ed article, "Opening the Church to the World," which discusses the effects Vatican II had on the international ecumenical relationships of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is also interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church tended to favor and encourage a methodology of bilateral or two-party conversations, while most ecumenical discussions were multilateral.  In one of the books that I used to research the history of the ecumenical movement, the editor, John A. Radano recommended “more analysis of these dialogue reports, and accounts of what they have achieved are needed…” The scope of this collection reflects this pivotal point in the history of the modern ecumenical collection and I am happy to add a new collection to canon of ecumenical records to help in that analysis.

Sources:

O’Malley, John W. “Vatican II Opened the Church to the World.” The New York Times 10 Oct. 2012. Accessed: 15 Oct. 2012.

Radano, John A. Editor. Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism: Exploring the Achievements of International Dialogue: In Commemoration of the Centenary of the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2012.

World Council of Churches Records Available!

We are excited to announce that the World Council of Churches Records, 1893-1975 is officially open for researchers! Thanks to Amy Meverden for her hard work on this during her CUL Primary Sources internship.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Records comprise materials documenting the inception and institutional proceedings of the organization. Established to create dialogue between various Christian expressions of faith through publications, action committees, and assemblies. Collection contains materials such as correspondence, records, pamphlets, and photographs.

Records and documents relating to commissions, committees, conferences, and General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches including pre-Amsterdam, 1948 World Council of Churches in process. Includes various committees and commissions, including Life and Work, Faith and Order, Evangelism, World Council of Churches and International Missionary Council merger, Churches and International Affairs, Laity, Women in the Church, World Christian Youth, Church and Society, Churches Participation in Development, Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service, and History of the Ecumenical Movement.

Look to the finding aid for more information.

The Value of Ecumenical and Missionary Records


Credit to: WAB: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I had the pleasure of working on the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) collections this summer and the following highlights the materials that I found to be most interesting and the ways in which these materials enhance my research. The WCC is an organization dedicated to ecumenical dialogue within the Christian tradition (and beyond), and the FMCNA organization is a missionary relief effort that, through various committees, sought to assist the underserved or populations in crisis.

While working on the WCC records, I found an extensive collection of scholarly papers and had the pleasure of looking at correspondence addressed to “My dear Reinie” (Reinhold Niebuhr) regarding papers presented at the WCC general assemblies. Among these papers were discussions of general theological interest, but also papers on ethics and education. I was pleased to see, firsthand, the level of scholarly discourse and intentionality engaged in by the WCC as it met to discuss ecumenism and a vision for the global, unified Christian church. One discovery that made me so proud was the forward-thinking nature of the materials circulated by the WCC on the inclusion of women and a push to discuss race issues long before such discussions were vogue. I know that these papers are published in volumes and circulating in general collections, but holding the hand-typed conference papers, seeing notes in margins, and reading correspondence regarding edits brings to life the work and efforts of the ecumenists.

My absolute favorite part of the WCC collection is the photographs series; I could look at these photos all day long. It was fun to see snapshots from the decennial assemblies, marking the passage of time through ever-enhancing technology and the preferred fashions of the day. From petticoats to bell bottoms, the photographs series documents the growth of the WCC movement, and takes a special look at Union Theological Seminary’s role. I was actually quite surprised at how involved Union’s professors were in WCC efforts, and pleased to see scholars emerging from their ivory towers to engage in ecumenical discussions via the black and white photos depicting hand shakes, scholars robes, and a general Union seminary presence at these assemblies.

The FMCNA collection is a missionary relief organization and the materials here reflect the efforts of the FMCNA to provide assistance to communities suffering from war, famine, natural disaster, and poverty. Going through the FMCNA materials is like reading a world history book that details events of the past century. From accounts documenting accounts of the Gripsholm cruise ship as it braved war zones to trade Japanese citizens for US prisoners of war, to journals documenting Guerrilla Relief efforts in Japanese-occupied China in 1939, the materials depict the many logistics involved in these relief efforts. What these materials convey is less a story of white colonial domination and more an account of assistance in the midst of crisis, as the FMCNA stepped in to care for the most vulnerable individuals.

One of the most disturbing images I saw while working on this collection was a newsletter in the Committee on East Asia materials that had a picture of toddler orphan children from China living among the corpses of the toddlers who did not survive. Starving babies were crawling over their now deceased playmates, crying, emaciated, and alone. For all the commercials of hungry children compelling television viewers to donate to relief organizations, I have never seen an image like this. The FMCNA stepped into many war-torn situations, similar to the one in China, and provided aid via the Orphan Relief network.

That’s the amazing thing that most people do not realize about the missionary records that we keep here at the Burke Archives and about missionary archives in general: some of history’s greatest atrocities are documented and recorded in the accounts of missionaries. Missionaries are on the front lines (and not just in a spiritual sense), in the literal, day-to-day sense of living through various crises, and exchanging correspondence that documents historical accounts and needs from the margins back to the “dominant culture.”

At the end of the day, this is one of the greatest research benefits of the missionary collections housed at Burke and one of the most useful insights I gleaned in working with the WCC and FMCNA records: the value of perspective, location, and presence in the midst of crisis.