The present era will be remarkable to future historians for its manifold expressions of an urge to unify human activities on a world-wide scale. This urge had taken clear form in men's minds by the opening of the 20th Century. Dreamers dreamed world Utopias. Statesmen fashioned a league and a court for the world's nations. In Germany and Russia, political reformations of the world were attempted. Scientists planned to blanket the earth with radio power waves from common world generators. Men flew around the world, proposed a world language, spun world-wide business networks.
In the past few weeks, the Christians of the world have been holding their first major conference in some 500 years for the specific purpose of seeing what can be done about unifying Christianity as the sum of its world-wide parts.
Preparation. Today the parts (denominations) number 200-odd, all of them organized as distinct entities. The practical necessity of relating so many parts, of discovering identity among so many entities, was established by the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. The logical necessity was established later the same year, at a convention of the Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. The man who then proposed a world conference on Faith & Order lived to see such a conference actually held, after 17 years of preparation, and to preside over it as chairman, at Lausanne, Switzerland, the past three weeks.
Chairman Brent. This man was Bishop Charles Henry Brent of the Episcopal diocese of Western New York. Canadian-born and educated, naturalized in the U. S., an obscure worker in the awkward robes of the Cowley Fathers among the poor of Boston, later (under Bishop Phillips Brooks) an Episcopal rector who was made a missionary bishop and sent to the Philippines because of his earnest simplicity, rugged strength and adaptability among people of other races, it was Bishop Brent who confirmed General Pershing in the Philippines and subsequently became Chaplain-in-Chief of the A. E. F.
First in war, first in peace, Bishop Brent had had experience in handling international conferences, as president of opium parleys at Shanghai (1909) and The Hague (1911). He declined the bishoprics of Washington, D. C., and New Jersey, to preserve for his world ministry the freedom of action he enjoys at Buffalo, N. Y. When his world ministry reached its peak this month, he was not content merely to preside over the hundreds of churchmen he had brought together, but went with them into their councils; explained, directed, adjusted and dictated daily despatches on their progress to the New York Herald Tribune.
Delegates. Some 500 church dignitaries faced the pulpit of Lausanne's 11th Century cathedral comfortable British bishops; intense Scandinavians; placid Chinamen; square-fingered Germans; bearded, broad-browed, wise-eyed patriarchs from Russia, Greece, Palestine; neat Americansrepresentatives of some 90 sects in 49 nations. There was one notable absentee; the Roman Catholic Church had declined to be represented, regarding itself as already the united church, infallible. A German and an Austrian prelate, however, sat by to "observe" for the Vatican.