I knew that the WCC had been founded on August 23, 1948 (with the International Council of Christian Churches, led by Carl McIntire, founded a week earlier in opposition to the WCC), but until recently I didn't know that there had been an organization called Friends of the World Council of Churches, founded more than five years earlier. This organization was incorporated on January 27, 1943 and dissolved on February 13, 2013, with headquarters in Room 1062, 475 Riverside Drive in New York City (go here and here for official information).
According to Susan Bradford in A Church of Community Organizers: How the United Church of Christ was transformed into a political machine for the Left, published in Organization Trends, June 2014:
Two years after the Federal Council was established in the United States, representatives from Protestant denominations and missionary societies, principally from North America and Northern Europe, convened at the United Free Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, for the World Missionary Conference, which was chaired and organized by John Mott, a Methodist layman and community organizer who would later become a close friend and confidante of John D. Rockefeller Jr., a leading champion of the ecumenical movement. After Mott was appointed the first honorary president of the World Council of Churches, Rockefeller, a philanthropist and heir to the Standard Oil fortune, donated $1 million to the Friends of the World Council of Churches, which then established a Commission on International Relations whose stated purpose was to “stimulate the churches of all nations to a more vigorous expression of the demand of the Christian conscience in relation to the political policies of governments.”The Federal Council of Churches was established in 1908. For further reading on the origins of the modern ecumenical movement, see my posts:
Mott laid down “marching orders” intended for “members of every Protestant church around the world in an effort to expand Christianity.” He later won the Nobel Peace Prize for establishing Protestant student organizations. He was the world’s first community organizer, a tradition Obama would follow decades later. Mott also courted the financial elite and enlisted them to invest in the ecumenical movement.
As an “apostle of unity,” Mott convinced progressive Protestant denominations to set aside doctrinal differences in the interests of advancing “a vision of worldwide Christianity based on concepts they believed Christians around the world could agree on and work together to implement.” The movement was modeled after the streamlined and efficient organizational structure of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, which was ruthless in its efforts to secure monopolies for its businesses and drive competition out of its markets.
The ecumenical movement that endeavored to unite the churches under a central authority developed in concert with the movement to unite the nations under global structures like the League of Nations and its successor organization, the United Nations. “The League of Churches was to become a union of all churches on faith and order as the final purpose of the League of Nations,” remarked Willem Adolph Visser T. Hooft, a Dutch theologian who was later appointed Secretary General of the World Council of Churches. “The dream dreamt by so many philosophers, the dream of international order, based on law and justice, seemed at last to become a political reality.”
100 years ago: The modern ecumenical movement begins with the World Missionary Conference
Edinburgh 2010: The ecumenical movement observes its 100th anniversary