A few Asian churches participated and made their contributions in the early stages of the modern ecumenical movement. Strong statements made by delegates from China and India at the Edinburgh World Mission Conference in 1910 and from India at the first Faith and Order Conference in Lausanne in 1927 have become part of the records of modern ecumenical history. Asia is also the region where the churches founded by western mission societies were the first to claim their autonomy and for some of them to enter into organic unity, e.g. the formation of the Church of South India in 1947. At the foundation of the WCC in 1948 Asia was the region of what is now called the global south that was best represented. It is also Asia where the first regional ecumenical organization was founded in 1957, the East Asia Christian Conference, forerunner of the current Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). The number of WCC member churches is now 74 representing over 60 million Christians.
The Asia region of the WCC stretches from Afghanistan on the western edge to Japan and North Korea far up in the north-east, Mongolia in the north and Timor Lorosa'e down in the south-east. Sub-regions known as Asia Minor and Central Asia are not part of it. On the other hand, as a result of the participation of the churches from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand in the ecumenical movement in the region, churches in these countries are part of the Asian ecumenical network. The WCC member churches in these two countries are members of the CCA. Most countries in Asia have a national council of churches or national Christian council or similar body and in most countries there is also an evangelical alliance or fellowship. In South Asia the councils of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have formed the South Asia Council of Churches (SACC). Another sub-regional entity of Asia is the Mekong sub-region (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar) where the ecumenical movement has had a long history of involvement in humanitarian assistance, inter-church aid and development. In 2006 the Laos Evangelical Church was the first church from the former Indochina region, which remained closed for decades under communist rule to become a member of the WCC.
With the exception of the Philippines and Timor Lorosa'e and to some extent South Korea, Christianity is a minority religion in all Asian countries. In some countries, e.g. Japan, Mongolia, Thailand the Christian community is a tiny minority of less than 1%. Yet there has also been an uninterrupted presence of the church in Asia since the apostolic times, notably in Kerala, South India, where according to the tradition Christianity was introduced and churches were founded by the Apostle St Thomas. And in recent years there has been remarkable church growth in China, Laos, Nepal, Vietnam and other places.
The main church bodies at the regional level are:
- Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)
- Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC, Roman Catholic)
- Evangelical Fellowship of Asia.
Since 1996 the CCA and the FABC have initiated the Asian Movement for Christian Unity. In 2006 the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia joined this movement.