1. Foundation and Constitution.
The Evangelical Alliance is a voluntary association of Evangelical Christians of different churches and countries to manifest and promote the union of Christian believers and advance the cause of religious liberty. It was founded, after several preparatory meetings and conferences, especially one at Liverpool in 1845, in an enthusiastic gathering held in Freemason's Hall in London, Aug. 19-23, 1846. Eight hundred Christians were present Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, Moravians, and others, including, from Great Britain, Edward Bickersteth and Lord Wriothesley Russell (Anglican), Jabez Bunting and William Arthur (Wesleyan), Drs. Chalmers, Candlish, Norman McLeod, and Thomas Guthrie (Presbyterian), Drs. Steane, and Baptist W. Noel (Baptist), Thomas Binney, John Angell James, and Dr. Leifchild (Independent); from France, Adolphe Monod and G. Fisch; from Germany F. W. Krummacher and Prof. Tholuck; from Switzerland, Prof. La Harpe; and from the United States, Samuel H. Cox and William Patton. Sir Culling E. Eardly presided, and became the first president of the British branch. Nine doctrinal articles were adopted, as follows:
- 1. The divine inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.
- 2. The right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.
- 3. The Unity of the Godhead, and the Trinity of the Persons therein.
- 4. The utter depravity of human nature in consequence of the Fall.
- 5. The incarnation of the Son of God, his work of atonement for the sins of mankind, and his mediatorial intercession and reign.
- 6. The justification of the sinner by faith alone.
- 7. The work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion and sanctification of the sinner.
- 8. The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the judgment of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, with the eternal blessedness of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.
- 9. The divine institution of the Christian ministry, and the obligation and perpetuity of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
These articles were not intended to be a binding creed or confession, but simply as expression of the essential agreement of Evangelical Christians whom it seemed desirable to embrace in the Alliance. Some have regarded the statement as too liberal, others as too narrow (art. 9 excluding the Quakers), while still others would have preferred no doctrinal statement, or at best only the Apostles' Creed. The American branch, at its organization (1867; see below, § 2), adopted the nine London articles, with the following explanatory and qualifying preamble:
Resolved, That in forming an Evangelical Alliance for the United States in cooperative union with other branches of the Alliance, we have no intention to give rise to a new denomination; or to effect an amalgamation of Churches, except in the way of facilitating personal Christian intercourse and a mutual good understanding; or to interfere in any way whatever with the internal affairs of the various denominations; but simply to bring individual Christians into closer fellowship and cooperation, on the basis of the spiritual union which already exists in the vital relation of Christ to the members of his body in all ages and countries.
Resolved, That in the same spirit we propose no new creed, but taking broad, historical, and Evangelical catholic ground, we solemnly reaffirm and profess our faith in all the doctrines of the inspired word of God, and in the consensus of doctrines as held by all true Christians from the beginning. And we do more especially affirm our belief in the divine-human person and atoning work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the only and sufficient source of salvation, as the heart and soul of Christianity, and as the center of all true Christian union and fellowship.
Resolved, That, with this explanation, and in the spirit of a just Christian liberality in regard to the minor differences of theological schools and religious denominations, we also adopt, as a summary of the consensus of the various Evangelical Confessions of Faith, the Articles and Explanatory Statement set forth and agreed on by the Evangelical Alliance at its formation in London, 1846, and approved by the separate European organizations.
2. Branch Alliances.
Branch Alliances have been formed in Great Britain, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Greece, and among the missionaries in Turkey, Egypt, and India; also in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and among the Protestant missionaries in Japan and China. There is no central organization with controlling authority; and the General Alliance appears in active operation only as it has met in its general conferences (see below, § 4). The various national branches are related to each other as members of a confederation with equal rights. The British organization, being the oldest and largest, and having a house and salaried officers who devote their whole time to the work, has been the most influential; the Continental branches are more elastic, and confine themselves to occasional work. The "Evangelical Alliance for the United States" or the American branch, was organized at the Bible House, New York, Jan. 30, 1867 (a previous attempt having failed on account of the antislavery agitation before the Civil War), with William E. Dodge as president. Its first official communication was made to the Fifth General Conference of the Alliance, meeting at Amsterdam, Aug., 1867, and was a report on the "State of Religion in the United States of America" prepared by Prof. Henry B. Smith, of Union Theological Seminary, New York, chairman of the executive committee of the American branch. Mr. Dodge remained president till his death (1883) when he was succeeded by his son William E. Dodge, Jr. Drs. S. Irenæus Prime and Philip Schaff were the first corresponding secretaries. The American branch at once became a vigorous organization and presented an invitation to the Alliance in session in Amsterdam to hold its next meeting (1873) in New York, which was accepted.
3. The Week of Prayer.
The Alliance has sought to accomplish its work in three ways,by means of the annual Week of Prayer, by conferences and by appeals for those oppressed by religious persecution. At a conference at Manchester, 1846, a resolution was adopted urging the "members and friends of the Alliance throughout the world to observe the week beginning with the first Lord's day of January in each year as a season for concert in prayer on behalf of the objects contemplated by the Alliance." Later the scope was widened in answer to an appeal from the English and American missionaries in India. It has become a fruitful means for promoting Christian union and the spread of the Gospel at home and abroad. A program is issued several months in advance of the date by the British organization, and sent to the branch Alliances for their revision and adoption. Each branch adapts it to the conditions and wants of the country which it represents, and gives it publicity. Fifty-nine programs have thus far been issued. In more recent years the American branch has acted independently in preparing a program of its own. The subjects chosen for prayer have included union with Christ, home and foreign missions, the nations and their rulers, the home, and Christian institutions such as the Young Men's Christian Association, schools and Sunday Schools.
4. Conferences, National and General.
The British organization from the beginning has held an annual conference in October in some city of England. The American branch has held conferences in Pittsburg 1875, Detroit 1877, St. Louis 1879, Washington 1887, Boston 1889, and at Chicago in connection with the Columbian Exposition 1893. The German branch has held national conferences at Berlin 1894, Cassel 1896, Essen 1898, Heidelberg 1900, and Hamburg 1905. It is managed by a committee of twelve, one of whom represents the Methodists in Germany. The Continental and other branches meet less regularly. Far more important, however, are the General Conferences convened at intervals according to circumstances. They have an international as well as interdenominational character, and may be called Protestant ecumenical councils, with the important difference that they do not settle dogmas or canons of discipline, and claim no legislative authority. They have been held in the great capitals, and arranged by the branch in whose bounds they meet, with the cooperation of all the sister branches. They last from seven to ten days, and are spent in prayer and praise, brotherly communion, and free discussions of the leading religious and social questions of the age. Eleven International Conferences have been held in the following cities: London in 1851, the year of the first great International Exhibition; Paris, 1855; Berlin, 1857; Geneva, 1861; Amsterdam, 1867; New York, 1873; Basel, 1879; Copenhagen, 1884; Florence, 1891; London, 1896 the diamond jubileeand 1907.
The Conference held in New York Oct. 2-12, 1873, drew together in friendly conference and communion representative Christians from many parts of Europe and from Asia and Africa, as well as from all parts of the United States and Canada. Dr. Philip Schaff made four journeys abroad to awaken interest in the gathering and to invite chosen speakers. He presented the matter before church diets including the Old Catholic Congress, before the faculties of universities and selected groups of clergymen, also in audiences with the German Emperor and Mr. Gladstone. Among the more eminent speakers from abroad, all clergymen and doctors of divinity, unless otherwise stated, were Joseph Angus (Baptist), R. Payne Smith, W. H. Freemantle, Stanley Leathes, and Rev. C. D. Marston (Anglican), John Stoughton and Joseph Parker (Independent), Wm. Arndt, John Cairns, and Robert Knox (Presbyterian), all of Great Britain; Georges Fisch, E. F. Cook and T. Lorriaux of France; I. A. Dorner, Theodor Christlieb and W. Krafft of Germany; Profs. C. Pronier and J. F. Astié and Franck Coulin of Switzerland; Cohen Stuart from Holland; Prof. M. Prochet from Florence; M. Kalopothakes, M. D., from Greece; and Revs. Antonio Carrasco and Fritz Fliedner from Spain. The Rev. Narayan Sheshadri, a converted Brahman of high caste, was one of the most interesting figures of the conference.
The seventh conference (Basel, 1879) was not so large and imposing. The eighth conference (Copenhagen, 1884) took the alliance to distinctly Lutheran ground and brought the strict Scandinavian Protestantism into fellowship with the churches of other lands. The conference at Florence (1891) gave an impulse to Italian evangelization. The tenth conference (London, 1896) was a jubilee meeting commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Alliance.
5. Appeals for Religious Liberty.
The Alliance has appealed against religious persecution in a number of instances through the press and deputations of influential public men, and while the appeals have not always accomplished their immediate purpose, they have had a considerable moral influence in favor of a more general adoption of the principles of religious liberty. It successfully exerted its influence for the release of the Madiai family in Florence, 1852, who were punished for reading the Bible and holding religious meetings; for the release of Matamoras, Carrasco, and their friends, who, during the reign of Queen Isabella in Spain, were thrown into prison and condemned to the galleys for the same cause, 1863. It aided in inducing the sultan of Turkey to abolish the death-penalty for apostasy from Mohammedanism in his dominions after the Crimean War, 1856. It interceded for the Methodists and Baptists in Sweden, 1858, which country has since abrogated the penal laws against Roman Catholics and Protestants not belonging to the Lutheran Confession. It sent in 1871 a large deputation to the Czar of Russia (then at Friedrichshafen) to plead for the oppressed Lutherans in the Baltic Provinces. Among the delegates from the United States were Philip Schaff and William Adams of New York, Bishop McIlvaine of Ohio, and the laymen William E. Dodge, Cyrus Field, and Nathan Bishop. It sent a similar deputation to the embassy from Japan, on its visit to the United States and the courts of Europe in 1872, to remonstrate against the persecutions of Christians, mostly Roman Catholics, in Japan. It has not forgotten the Nestorians in Persia, who appealed to the Alliance for protection against the oppression of a Mohammedan government. It prepared a memorial to the Czar on the persecution of Baptists in Southern Russia, 1874. At the seventh General Conference a deputation was appointed to wait on the Emperor of Austria in behalf of certain Christians in Bohemia, who were debarred the liberty of holding even family worship; and the request was granted by the special interposition of the emperor. In the last few years efforts have been made to secure a more enlightened and humane treatment of the Stundists in Russia and the Armenian Christians in Asia.
A new kind of work has been undertaken by the British and German branches in cooperating in the maintenance since 1905 of an Alliance School at Steglitz near Berlin to train students for religious work in Russia.
(PHILIP SCHAFF ) D. S. SCHAFF.