The Oxford 1937 Life and Work Conference is a highly important event in the history of the ecumenical movement. It met at a time of international political crisis. Within two years the world would be at war. The churches in Europe and North America were confronted by the rise of totalitarian regimes, especially in Germany and Russia. Led by Joseph Oldham the conference delegates analysed this crisis theologically. They understood totalitarian regimes to be a form of
political religion adopted by people whose lives lacked meaning and purpose. The advent of secularism had removed Christian belief and practice from the West and humanity turned to false and pagan religions to fill the void. Oxford 1937 was a call to the churches to reassert themselves against this secular and pagan challenge.