One of the state’s oldest organizations, the West Virginia Council of Churches is a Christian organization made up of 18 denominations and branches of denominations reflecting a membership of 600,000 people.
The Council arose from pioneering Sunday school work. In 1827, the churches of Berkeley and Jefferson counties organized an ecumenical Sabbath School Union. Fifty years later, the first convention of State Sabbath Schools was held in Wheeling. In 1880, an ecumenical effort growing out of the International Sunday School Association was organized in West Virginia. That organization, the West Virginia Sunday School Association, directed its efforts toward youth education and leadership training. In the 1920s, under the leadership of the Reverend Z. B. Edworthy, the association promoted weekday and vacation church schools, high school Bible study, and social action through county councils.
In 1924, the association changed its name to the West Virginia Council of Churches and Christian Education. In 1950, the name was shortened to West Virginia Council of Churches. The Council formally incorporated in 1924.
In the 1970s, the Council added two major programs. Ministry with the Aging enlisted older people to contribute their skills and knowledge to the Council’s programs. The second program, Disaster Response, began after the Buffalo Creek Disaster of 1972 in Logan County. A third program, begun in 1980, was designed to help people who had been in prison readjust to community life and to address matters concerning the criminal justice system. The Council continues these programs today, as well as others directed toward faith and order, family, governmental relations, interfaith relations, and peace and justice.
Members of the Council are major Protestant denominations, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, as well as Antiochian and Greek Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, and the Salvation Army. The West Virginia Council of Churches is not affiliated with either the National or World Council of Churches.
Written by Nancy Ray Adams