|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series: Series 1: Roman Catholic Conversations; and Series 2: Protestant Conversations.
Includes conversations between Lutheran and Episcopalian, Lutheran and Reformed, Orthodox Eastern Churches and Anglican, Orthodox Eastern Churches and Reformed, Roman Catholic and American Baptist Convention, Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian, Roman Catholic and Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Methodist, and Roman Catholic and Presbyterian.
This collection contains an account of the Roman Catholic bilateral conversations with Christian Churches in the United States from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. The Churches involved in the conversations include the American Baptist Convention, Anglican, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterian, and Southern Baptist. Some of the papers and official statements included in the collection are drafts and have revision notes and marginalia. Several contain anthologies that cover multiple years. There is a minimal amount of correspondence; a few letters detail the agreements and disagreements that occurred during the conversations. This collection also contains a small collection of conversations between Protestant faiths from the United States as well as abroad, which include a few booklets outlining bilateral discussion in the 1930s and 1950s. Of interest are the four folders containing documents that date far earlier than the majority of the documents, dealing mainly with bilateral conversations between Anglicans and the Orthodox Church. The 1932 booklet covering the Joint Doctrinal Commission between the Anglican and the Eastern Orthodox Church is a report of the conference which was appointed under resolutions made at the Lambeth Conference of 1932. The collection also contains a report of the bilateral conference between the Rumanian Commission [sic] on relations with the Church of England in June of 1935, a 1958 report of the Joint Commission on the Assistance to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and a 1959 paper by Professor Vasil T. Istavridis on Orthodoxy and Anglicanism in the Twentieth Century.
Burke Library record group:
William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, series #, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
WAB: National Council of Churches Records, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
WAB: World Council of Churches (WCC) Records, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
World Council of Churches Records (RG 162), Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library. https://archives.yale.edu/repositories/4/resources/117
For a list of items separated from the collection but available for viewing through Columbia Libraries' Online catalog (CLIO), please see the legacy finding aid by contacting Burke staff.
The papers are part of the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives, which was founded in 1945 by the Union Theological Seminary Board of Directors.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The exact provenance of this collection is unknown. Many of the materials are stamped by the Department of Faith and Order National Council of Churches, indicating that these materials may have at one point been part of their collection.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Some records were cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-08-05. Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Acidic items were separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. Published books and journal issues which were transferred from the archival collection to library stacks are listed below with links to Columbia Libraries' Online catalog (CLIO). The finding aid was created by BreeAnn Midavaine in 2012 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2023.
2023-04-10 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
According to Catholicism and the Ecumenical Movement, in attendance at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh was an American Episcopalian, Bishop Brent, who decided to organize what would be known as the Lausanne Conference (1927) for Christian Churches. The purpose was to "thrash out their mutual difference and oppositions to each other… [Bishop Brent] hoped that…what was held in common would be more powerful than that which separated one body from another and that it would lead to a firm intention to work for the rebirth of a single Christian body." Catholics were forbidden to attend the conference due to its insistence that the One Church was something that would exist in the future; this is in direct opposition to the Catholic Church's doctrine that they are the One Church. The Catholic Church's decision to not participate in the conference influenced the ecumenical movement by helping to refine and clarify the movement's basic mission. Pope John XXIII convened the second Vatican council (1962-1965) and with its Decree of Ecumenism the Roman Catholic Church was pitched into full involvement in the ecumenical movement. The Decree pointed to "dialogue between competent experts from different Churches and Communities," as the main component to ecumenism. "Bilateral dialogue became an important ecumenical instrument for the churches in the second half of this century of ecumenism and a prominent feature of the Catholic Church's ecumenical activity." Bilateral conversations in the early 1960s were focused on the church as a universal body of Christ. By the late 1960s discussions emphasized "… the Trinitarian nature of God…and the humanity of Christ, including his suffering and solidarity with those who live on the margins of history…" according to The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices. John A. Radano points out that "the start of formal dialogues represented a major step in that new relationship [between the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches], a mutual determination to deal with theological issues over which they are divided." He also recommends that "more analysis of these dialogue reports, and accounts of what they have achieved are needed…" These national bilateral conversations in some instances precluded and may have encouraged international bilateral conversations. Some of these dialogues produced quick results while others took many years before progressing to second stage talks. Since Vatican II new international conversations have begun in each new decade with more and more Protestant and Orthodox faiths, including dialogues with the Pentecostals in 1972, Evangelicals in 1977, Mennonites in 1998, and Oriental Orthodox in 2003. Although the international ecumenical movement through the World Council of Churches (WCC) has grown from an initial 147 member churches to over 350 member churches today, Radano continues that there is still a need to find an "effective way of bringing the benefits of bilateral conversation to the wider search within the multilateral conversation." There is a need for a wider "ecumenical Forum" that would include churches not yet in membership with WCC, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches within its ranks.