Brent, Charles Henry

views updated


Protestant Episcopal bishop and pioneer in the ecumenical movement; b. Newcastle, Ontario, Canada, April 9, 1862; d. Lausanne, Switzerland, March 27, 1929. He received his B.A. (1884) from Trinity College, Toronto, Canada, and was ordained in 1887. After serving in several parishes he was elected bishop of the Philippines in

1901, a post he held until 1918, when he became bishop of western New York. In 1926 he was chosen bishop-in-charge of the Episcopal churches in Europe for a term of two years.

Brent's experience as a missionary in the Philippines convinced him of the need for Christian unity. In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland, considered the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement. The harmony and zeal evidenced at the Edinburgh meeting convinced him that cooperation among the various denominations was possible, and he urged an international meeting for the discussion of religious differences. En route to the Philippines, he attended the 1910 general convention of the American Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his words in praise of the Edinburgh meeting resulted in the formation of a commission for the purpose of organizing an international meeting of Christian churches. World War I and its aftermath delayed the planning, but representatives of 108 churches finally met at Lausanne in 1927 under the presidency of Bishop Brent. Doctrinal differences were discussed, and a continuation committee was appointed to meet annually with Brent as chairman. From these and other independent meetings later developed the world council of churches.

Brent believed in a religious unity analogous to the unity that bound together the dissimilar sections of the British Empire, i.e., a unity of essential principles that would at the same time respect the traditions of the various groups. He looked to a future united church to which every Christian communion would contribute something from its own particular insight or experience.

Bibliography: a. zabriskie, Bishop Brent: Crusader for Christian Unity (New York 1948). g. weigel, A Catholic Primer on the Ecumenical Movement (Westminster Md. 1957).

[e. delaney]