The British Council of Churches was created in 1942. Archbishop William Temple described it as ‘the counterpart in our country of the World Council’ of Churches’. It began with sixteen member denominations and its Basis was the same as that agreed in 1938 for the proposed World Council of Churches:

‘A fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour.’

However, this was tempered ‘with the understanding that any body which has hitherto been represented on the Commission (of the Churches for International Friendship and Social Responsibility) shall continue in membership of the Council, if so willing, even though it does not itself accept the basis’.

This enabled the Society of Friends and the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches to be associated with the new body. The Roman Catholic Church was unable to be a member for its own reasons but after the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, it was invited as an observer and continued its involvement until 1990 when the BCC gave way to the new ‘Churches Together’ ecumenical instruments.

(Taken from From Councils of Churches to Churches Together, 2004, by Colin Davey and Martin Reardon)


The BCC story (available to download below), is set out in the panels designed by Alan Dawkins and is accompanied by notes written by Colin Davey which accompany it. Together they portray visually and verbally, in a brief, entertaining, but accurate way, the main events in the life of the British Council of Churches between 1940 and 1990, including some account of its origins and some indication of the ecumenical events in the life of the churches and of its sister-councils in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Not Strangers But Pilgrims Inter-Church Process facilitated the shift from BCC to the new Churches Together ecumenical instruments.