(Lat. confero, bring together. Used by some classical authors of pub. conferences and discussions. Early used in connection with religious discussions. Cf. Gl 2:6). Beginning in the 11th c., meetings (often called calendae because held on the 1st of the month) of priests were held to discuss religious topics, perhaps because the diocese as such had become too large for frequent meetings of all mems. Such meetings of priests declined in the 13th c. and have never been fully revived in the RC Ch., though officially endorsed.
In the Prot. Ch. no fixed meaning attaches to the word conference (see Methodist Churches, 3, 4a; in Congregationalism it designates the voluntary organization of chs. in a dist.). The term has been variously used in Am. Lutheranism. In the earliest days it was applied to the meetings of syns. as well as to less formal gatherings. Pastoral conferences have often been held in Prot. chs. of Eur. and Am.
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