The History of the World Congress of Families

Building a Movement

wcf-map-locations600During the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration and the United Nations, among others, had taken alarming steps to weaken the human family system — from abortion to parental rights to the institution of marriage. In response, The Howard Center for Family & Religion spearheaded the first World Congress of Families (WCF) in Prague in 1997. The next year, another meeting took place in Rome to plan for the second WCF, to be held in 1999 in Geneva. The group in Rome centered its discussion on how to protect the natural family as the fundamental unit of civil society–a term which actually has its roots in the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Rome gathering described the natural family in this way:

The natural family is the fundamental social unit, inscribed by the Creator in human nature, and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage for the purposes of:

  • satisfying the longings of the human heart to give and receive love
  • welcoming and ensuring the full physical and emotional development of children
  • sharing a home that serves as the center of social, educational, economic, and spiritual life
  • building strong bonds between the generations
  • passing on a way of life that has transcendent meaning
  • and extending a hand of compassion to individuals and households whose circumstances fall short of these ideals
In 2007, Allan C. Carlson, president of The Howard Center, and Paul T. Mero, former president of WCF IX host Sutherland Institute, took that foundation and expanded it into a book, The Natural Family: A Manifesto, that encompasses the concepts promoted by the World Congress of Families. Booklist hailed the book as "the most succinct, thorough, and impressive pro-family argument yet made." R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the book "demands the attention of all those who would defend civilization's most basic institution. This important document has emerged at just the right time." Progressives have also taken note. Feminist law professors Doris Buss and Didi Herman wrote, "In terms of international activism, it is through deployment of 'natural family' discourse that the [Christian Right] has had the most success in forging global alliances with other religious movements." Another analyst on the left, Duane Oldfield, said, "The most notable institutional embodiment of this [social conservative] alliance is the World Congress of Families, uniting groups of various faiths in defense of the 'natural family.' As this ... alliance has made its voice heard at UN forums and resisted UN initiatives, it has often used a strangely progressive language, defending third world autonomy against the meddling of first world feminists and the international institutions they allegedly control." Learn more about each World Congress of Families by clicking the links below.


WCF I, Prague – 1997

WCF II, Geneva – 1999

WCF III, Mexico – 2004

WCF IV, Warsaw – 2007

WCF V, Amsterdam – 2009

WCF VI, Madrid – 2012

WCF VII, Sydney – 2013

WCF VIII, Moscow – (canceled) 2014

WCF IX, Salt Lake City – 2015