The Canadian Council of Churches is a community of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also other churches which affirm the same faith but which do not make doctrinal confessions.
One of the most significant developments in the 20th century in the experience of Christian churches has been the rise of an ecumenical movement, in which churches seek reconciliation, reunion and restoration of oneness; the hope is to reverse centuries of history marked by separation and withdrawal of churches from one another, a sad history of confronting, competing, and criticizing each other in a bitter rivalry that descended to name-calling, insult and even to internecine warfare. The ecumenical movement sought to change the goals and methods for churches to relate with each other, to seek an appropriate form of unity which would enable both an immediate common Christian work and an eschatological hope for the restoration of the broken unity of Christian believers, “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).
An application for membership by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was approved in May 1997. The Conference had held associate membership since 1985. In 1993 the Vatican issued a directory encouraging participation in ecumenism.
Membership in The Canadian Council of Churches is important, said the Conference’s ecumenical director Sister Donna Geernaert, because it signals the commitment of the Roman Catholic Church to ecumenism. About 43 per cent of the Canadian population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, according to the 2001 census, and more than half of them are francophones.
In 1997 Ms. Janet Somerville became the first Roman Catholic and the first lay person to serve as General Secretary of the Council. In 2004 for this work and other admirable contributions to the life of the country, she was named to the Order of Canada.
For the first time, the Council represented the majority of Canada’s Christians. Some Canadian churches belong instead to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and six churches belong to both. Cooperative work goes on between the two bodies.