It was not uncommon for Christian observers surveying the world in the years before the First World War to give voice to what may now appear as a vainly deluded sense that they were living in days of portentous significance for the future of Christianity. Although the consciousness of standing at a turning point in Christian history was most marked among evangelical Protestants who anticipated a missionary breakthrough in the Orient, Catholics were not entirely immune from the trend. Catholic modernists, almost as much as their liberal Protestant counterparts, constructed progressive 'new theologies' that would supposedly be free of the constraints of superstition and archaic dogma and liberate the Christian spirit to confront the intellectual and social challenges of the modern age. Catholic 'Christian democrats' and leaders of workers' associations, heartened by the encouragement offered by Rerum Novarum (1891), sought to achieve a synthesis of historic faith with the new co-operative forms of social and economic organisation of the modern world.
Pioneering international gatherings of Christian leaders such as the Latin American Plenary Council convened by Leo XIII in Rome in May-July 1899, the Pan-Anglican Congress in London in June 1908, or the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in June 1910, encouraged the heady mood of expectancy: 17,000 people attended one or more sessions of the Pan-Anglican Congress, numbers which Archbishop Randall Davidson claimed to be 'without parallel in European history'.1 Two years later, Davidson, delivering the opening address at the Edinburgh conference, appropriated the eschatological words of Christ in the gospel narratives of the Transfiguration to assert, that, provided the world church gave to foreign missions the support that they deserved, 'it may well be that "there be some standing here tonight who shall not taste of death till they see," - here on earth, in a way we know not now, - "the Kingdom
1 Stephenson, Anglicanism and the Lambeth conferences, p. 126.
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