Archives of the World Council of Churches - 1952: International Missionary Conference in Willingen, Germany

Young German boy bringing flowers to Elizabeth Theophilus, delegate from India to the International Missionary Conference in Willingen, Germany, 1952.


The first International Missionary Conference is held in Edinburgh in 1910 and brings together Protestant missionary council. Its continuation committee publishes for the first time in 1912 the  International Review of Missions. The International Review of Mission is the missiological quarterly of the World Council of Churches (WCC). It has been founded hundred years ago, almost four decades before the Council itself.

This conference also leads to the creation of the International Council of Mission, established in London in 1921 and integrated in 1961 in the World Council of Churches (WCC) as its Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. Today, the Commission is responsible for the programmatic work of Christian mission in a post-colonial, secularized and pluralistic world.

Conferences on World Mission and Evangelism are still organized, carrying on the reflection on mission initiated in the International Missionary Council conferences following Edinburgh 1910 : Jerusalem in 1928, Tambaram (India) in 1938, Whitby (Canada) in 1947, Willingen (Germany) in 1952, Accra (Ghana) in1958, New Delhi (India) in 1961, Mexico City (Mexico) in1963, Bangkok (Thailand) in 1972/73, Melbourne (Australia) in 1980, San Antonio (USA) in 1989, Salvador da Bahía (Brazil) in 1996, Athens (Greece) in 2005 and Edinburgh (Scotland) in 2010.

Beside its origins in the missionary conferences, the ecumenical movement also developed from student and lay movements of the 19th century and from a 1920 encyclical of the (Orthodox) Synod of Constantinople suggesting a "fellowship of churches" similar to the League of Nations.

Leaders representing more than hundred churches voted in 1937 to found a World Council of Churches (WCC). A provisional committee responsible for the WCC "in process of formation" is created. Between 1940 and 1946, the committee cannot function normally, but its members gather in the USA, England and Switzerland.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is finally founded at its inaugural assembly in 1948 in Amsterdam, with headquarters in Geneva, where the provisional committee has already been working. It is first located in Malagnou and moved 1964 to Grand Saconnex, where the Ecumenical Centre has been built and where the WCC is still located today.

To learn more:

World Council of Churches (WCC) history

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