John Wesley's sermon on the 'Catholic Spirit' might be regarded as a proof text for Methodism's commitment to ecumenism. It is not surprising that Methodists have played active and often leading roles in the ecumenical movement. The first Ecumenical Methodist Conference in 1881 brought delegates from 30 Methodist bodies to London. This helped to heal the divisions at national level. Through developing international relationships within World Methodism, British Methodists shared the vision of such ecumenical pioneers as the American Methodist layman, John R. Mott, who chaired the International Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910. Methodists from the British missionary movement participated fully in plans for future co-operation and comity in the work overseas. Methodism was similarly represented in the Life and Work movement, which held its first World Conference in 1920, and in the Faith and Order Conference in 1927.
In 1939 Conference welcomed the plans, springing from these two movements, to form a World Council of Churches and appointed an Ecumenical Committee to consider questions affecting such matters as the representation and financial contribution of Methodism to the ecumenical movement. In 1940 Methodism joined the newly constituted FCFC. In 1942 it became a founder member of the British Council of Churches and continued as a full member of the wider ecumenical body, the Council of Churches in Britain and Ireland (CCBI), which succeeded it in 1990. British Methodism has sent delegates to every Assembly of the World Council of Churches and been represented on its Central and Executive Committees. Three of the General Secretaries of the WCC have been Methodists: Rev. Dr P.A. Potter (of Dominica), Rev. Dr Emilio Castro (of Uruguay) and Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia (of Kenya).The Ecumenical Committee, now under the office of the Secretary of the Conference, is responsible for relations with all ecumenical bodies at both international and national levels, including the WCC, the Conference of European Churches and the FCFC. It also monitors the relations and bilateral conversations between the different Christian traditions in Britain. Ecumenical Officers with similar responsibilities are appointed in each District.