Federal Council of Churches

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The Federal Council of Churches, officially the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, was an ecumenical association of Christian denominations in the United States in the early twentieth century. It represented the Anglican, Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Polish National Catholic, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions of Christianity.[1][2][3] It merged with other ecumenical bodies in 1950 to form the present day National Council of Churches.


The Federal Council of Churches was founded at a convention that met at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in May 1908.[4] Originally the Council consisted of thirty-two denominations. By 1923, it maintained central offices at 105 East 22nd Street, New York City. It also had offices at the Woodward Building, Washington, D.C., and at 19 South La Salle Street, Chicago.[5]

Social and political advocacy[edit]

The Federal Council of Churches was active in the Temperance and Prohibition of alcohol movements.[6][7][8]

Additionally, the council was an organization that believed very deeply in democracy.[9] In its statement on the nature and tasks of Christian Cooperation, the Council declared:

With the demand for industrial democracy the churches are intensely concerned, for democracy is the expression of Christianity.[10]

The Social Creeds[edit]

"The Social Creed of the Churches" was a statement by members of the Federal Council of Churches in December 1908 against what it described as "industrial problems." The document spelled out a list of principles, including:

  • Equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life
  • Protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational disease, injuries, and mortality
  • Abolition of child labor
  • Regulation of the conditions of toil for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community
  • A living wage as a minimum in every industry
  • Provision for the old age of the workers and for those incapacitated by injury
  • Abatement of poverty[11]

Over time the Council included additional principles, including addressing the injustice of the unequal distribution of wealth.[12]

Member denominations[edit]

By 1923 the member denominations were as follows:[13]


The FCC worked through a number of Commission which addressed various social issues of the day. These included the Commission on the Church and Social Service which carried out research and education on industrial problems, the Commission on International Justice and Goodwill which stressed "Christian internationalism" and campaigned for the reduction of armaments and the Commission on Councils of Churches which worked on organizing local federations of churches in larger communities so they could be a more effect force in their neighborhoods. Other commissions included the Commission on Negro Churches and Race Relations, Commission on Evangelism, Commission on Education, Commission on Temperance, Commission on Relations with Religious Bodies in Europe and the Commission on Community Relations, which was founded in May 1923, "gives attention neighborhood programme of local churches, the housing of the community work of open churches, the social service work of local federations of Churches and represents the Protestant group in conferences of national social agencies working in communities." [15]


  1. ^ Dorrien, Gary (2010). Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice. Columbia University Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780231526296. In 1908 the newly founded Federal Council of Churches, comprising approximately thirty-one Protestant and Eastern Orthodox denominations, issued the Social Creed of the Churches.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (2004). A Religious History of the American People. Yale University Press. p. 985. ISBN 9780300100129.
  3. ^ "Convention of Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America Opposes Discrimination". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 6 December 1948. A statement calling on the churches of this country to press for extension of full social, political and economic rights to every citizen without discrimination as to race, color, creed or sex was adopted here this week-end at the three-day biennial convention of Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. The Council represents 27 Protestant and Eastern Orthodox church bodies in the U.S.
  4. ^ History
  5. ^ Preuss, Arthur A Dictionary of Secret and other Societies St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co. 1924; republished Detroit: Gale Reference Company 1966; p.125
  6. ^ Federal Council of Churches unshaken in its stand for American prohibition.
  7. ^ Federal Council Bulletin, Volumes 3-5, "Federal Council Promises Co-operation in Prohibition Enforcement"
  8. ^ The Federal Council of Churches, Temperance and Prohibition
  9. ^ FAVOR LABOR FORUM PLAN.; United Churches Urged to Recognize Demand of Industrial Democracy
  10. ^ The Gospel for a Working World, Harry F. Ward
  11. ^ http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/common-witness/1908/social-creed.php
  12. ^ Quadrennial Report, Volume 5, By Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America
  13. ^ Preuss p.124
  14. ^ The Layman's Magazine of the Living Church, Issues 1-20. Morehouse-Gorham. 1940. p. 5. The Episcopal Church's membership in the Federal Council of Churches is viewed by many observers as another evidence of the world-wide movement toward Church cooperation and unity which daily increases strength. Known as the "ecumenical" movement, it aims to draw together the scattered elements of Christ's flock into the One Church He prayed for on the eve of His crucifixion.
  15. ^ Preuss pp.124-5