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World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide inter-church organization founded in 1948. Its members today include most mainstream Protestant Christian churches and most jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church,[1] but not the Roman Catholic Church, which sends accredited observers to meetings.[2] The WCC arose out of the ecumenical movement and has as its basis the following statement:

"The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." [3]

The WCC describes itself as "a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service."[4] It is based at the denominations which claim to collectively represent some 590 million people across the world in about 150 countries, including 520,000 local congregations served by 493,000 pastors and priests, in addition to elders, teachers, members of parish councils and others.[6]


  • History 1
  • Events and presidents 2
    • Assemblies 2.1
    • Presidents 2.2
    • General secretaries 2.3
  • Commissions and teams 3
    • Diakonia and development and international relations commissions 3.1
    • Faith and Order Commission 3.2
      • Texts 3.2.1
    • Justice, Peace and Creation Commission 3.3
    • Relations with the Catholic Church 3.4
    • Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC 3.5
  • Peace journalism 4
  • Spin-offs and related organizations 5
  • Regional/national councils 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


After the initial successes of the Ecumenical Movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 (chaired by future WCC Honorary President John R. Mott), church leaders agreed in 1937 to establish a World Council of Churches, based on a merger of the Faith and Order Movement (under Charles Brent of the Episcopal Church of the United States) and Life and Work Movement (under Nathan Söderblom of the Lutheran Church of Sweden) organisations.

Its official establishment was deferred with the outbreak of World War II until August 23, 1948. Delegates of 147 churches assembled in Amsterdam to merge the Faith and Order Movement and Life and Work Movement.[7] This was consolidated by a second meeting at Lund in 1950, for which the British Methodist Robert Newton Flew edited an influential volume of studies, The Nature of the Church.[8] Subsequent mergers were with the International Missionary Council in 1961 and the World Council of Christian Education, with its roots in the 18th century Sunday School movement, in 1971.

WCC member churches include most of the Orthodox Churches; numerous Protestant churches, including the Anglican Communion, some Baptists, many Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian and other Reformed, a sampling of united and independent churches, and some Pentecostal churches; and some Old Catholic churches.

Many churches who refused to join the WCC joined together to form the World Evangelical Alliance.[9]

Delegates sent from the member churches meet every seven or eight years in an Assembly, which elects a Central Committee that governs between Assemblies. A variety of other committees and commissions answer to the Central Committee and its staff. Assemblies have been held since 1948.

The "human rights abuses in communist countries evoked grave concern among the leaders of the World Council of Churches."[10] However, historian Christopher Andrew claims that, during the Cold War, a number of important WCC representatives of the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe had been working for the KGB, and that they influenced the policy of the WCC.[11] From 1955-1958, Robert S. Bilheimer co-chaired a WCC international commission to prepare a document addressing the threat of nuclear warfare during the Cold War.[12]

At the 1961 conference, a 32-year old Russian Orthodox Bishop named Aleksey Ridiger was sent as delegate to the assembly, and then appointed to the WCC's central committee. He was later elected as Russian patriarch in 1990 as Alexei II.[13]

An assembly last met in

  • World Council of Churches

External links

  • W. A. Visser't Hooft, The Genesis of the World Council of Churches, in: A History of The Ecumenical Movement 1517-1948, R. Rose, S. Ch. Neill (ed.), London: SPCK 1967, second edition with revised bibliography, pp. 697–724.

Further reading

  • World Council of Churches. Members by country and by church Retrieved 2010-03-31


  1. ^ "Member list — World Council of Churches". 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Cross & Livingstone The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church OUP(1974) art.
  3. ^ "About us — World Council of Churches". 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  4. ^ single. Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  5. ^ World Council of Churches — World Council of Churches. (2013-08-04). Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  6. ^ "Who are we?". World Council of Churches. 2003. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  7. ^ "WCC Assemblies 1948 - today". World Council of Churches. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Flew's ODNB entry: Retrieved 18 September 2011. Subscription required.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Forsythe, David P. (2009). Encyclopedia of Human Rights, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 277.  
  11. ^ Christopher Andrew, "KGB Foreign Intelligence from Brezhnev to the Coup"', in: Wesley K. Wark (ed), Espionage: past, present, future?, Routledge, 1994, p. 52: "One recently declassified document of 1969 describes the work of five KGB agents on the WCC Central Committee and the appointment of another to a 'high WCC post'. A similar report from 1989 claims that, as a result of agent operations to implement 'a plan approved by the KGB leadership', the WCC Executive and Central Committee adopted public statements (eight) and messages (three) which corresponded to the political course of Socialist [Communist] countries'. While it would be naive to take such boasting entirely a face value, there can be little doubt about the reality of Soviet penetration of the WCC."
  12. ^ Jonathan Gorry (2013). Cold War Christians and the Spectre of Nuclear Deterrence, 1945-1959.  
  13. ^ John Gordon Garrard et al., Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia., p. 37 f. Google books preview here [1].
  14. ^ Strong impact, lasting memories
  15. ^ "WCC General Secretary Welcome Speech of the Official Visit of His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and of All Greece to the World Council of Churches, 29 May 2006". World Council of Churches. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Timeline | | World Council of Churches. Retrieved on 2014-01-15.
  18. ^ 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches — WCC 10th Assembly. (2012-10-29). Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  19. ^ Press Center | World Council of Churches. Retrieved on 2014-01-13.
  20. ^ WCC general secretaries since 1948 | | World Council of Churches. Retrieved on 2014-01-15.
  21. ^ What is Faith and Order?
  22. ^ Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper No. 111, the “Lima Text”)
  23. ^ Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Towards a Common Date of Easter, (10 March 1997), World Council of Churches/Middle East Council of Churches Consultation held at Aleppo, Syria, 5 - 10 March 1997
  27. ^ World Council of Churches Justice, Peace and Creation
  28. ^ Schmitthenner, Ulrich (1999). Contributions of churches and civil society to justice, peace and the integrity of creation: a compendium (with CD-ROM). Frankfurt, Germany: IKO.  
  29. ^ JPC Concerns - economy
  30. ^ Climate change and water
  31. ^ JPC Concerns - indigenous
  32. ^ JPC Concerns - Peace
  33. ^ World Council of Churches — World Council of Churches. (2013-08-04). Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  34. ^ JPC: Racism (E)
  35. ^ JPC Concerns - Women
  36. ^ Youth in the ecumenical movement
  37. ^ World Council of Churches (14 February 2006). "Final report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC". World Council of Churches. World Council of Churches. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  38. ^ World Council of Churches Living Letters - Ecumenical team visits
  39. ^ WCC press release: Churches launch major humanitarian alliance (24/03/2010)
  40. ^ WCC press release: Christian alliance for advocacy marks successes, future challenges (09/12/2010)
  41. ^ ECLOF press release: Happy Birthday WCC! (Dec. 1998)
  42. ^
  43. ^ All Africa Conference of Churches - Welcome
  44. ^ Index
  45. ^
  46. ^ Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias
  47. ^ The Middle East Council of Churches
  48. ^ - Stay Tuned!


See also

Membership in a regional or national council does not mean that the particular group is also a member of the WCC.

The WCC has not sought the organic union of different Christian denominations, but it has, however, facilitated dialogue and supported local, national, and regional dialogue and cooperation.

Regional/national councils

Ecumenical News International (ENI) was launched in 1994 as a global news service reporting on ecumenical developments and other news of the churches, and giving religious perspectives on news developments worldwide. The joint sponsors of ENI, which is based at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, are the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches, which also have their headquarters at the Ecumenical Centre.[42]

The Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF) was founded in 1946 as one of the world's first international micro-credit institutions in the service of the poor. Willem Visser 't Hooft, then general secretary of the "WCC in process of formation" played an important role in founding ECLOF. It was he who sketched the prospects and challenges for the proposed institution and gave specific ideas on potential sources of funds. His inspiration and team work marked the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation between ECLOF and the WCC.[41]

[40] The

The Action by Churches Together for Development) in March 2010. Both ACT International, established in 1995, and ACT Development (2007) were created through the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The two bodies coordinated the work of agencies related to the member churches of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation in the areas of humanitarian emergencies and poverty reduction respectively.[39]

Spin-offs and related organizations

The WCC is also a prominent supporter and practitioning body for Peace Journalism: journalism practice that aims to avoid a value bias in favor of violence that often characterizes coverage of conflict.[38]

Peace journalism

A Special Commission was set up by the eighth Harare Assembly in December 1998 to address Orthodox concerns about WCC membership and the Council's decision-making style, public statements, worship practices, and other issues. It issued its final report in 2006.[37] Specific issues that it clarified were that the WCC does not formulate doctrine, does not have authority to rule on moral issues, nor does it have any ecclesiastical authority. Such authority is entirely internal to each individual member church. It proposed that the WCC adopt a consensus method of decision making. It proposed that Orthodox members be brought in parity with non-Orthodox members. It further proposed clarification that inter-confessional prayer at WCC events is not worship, particularly "it should avoid giving the impression of being the worship of a church", and confessional and inter-confessional prayer each be specifically identified as such at WCC events. It also clarified that the so-called "Lima Liturgy" is not an interfaith eucharistic service: 'the WCC is not 'hosting' a eucharist'.

Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also nominates 12 members to the WCC's Faith and Order Commission as full members. While not a member of the WCC, the Roman Catholic Church is a member of some other ecumenical bodies at regional and national levels, for example, the National Council of Churches in Australia and the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil (CONIC).

The largest Christian body, the Catholic Church, is not a member of the WCC, but has worked closely with the Council for more than three decades and sends observers to all major WCC conferences as well as to its Central Committee meetings and the Assemblies (cf. Joint Working Group).

Relations with the Catholic Church

  • economy[29]
  • environment[30]
  • Indigenous Peoples[31]
  • peace[32]
  • people with disabilities [33]
  • racism [34]
  • women[35]
  • youth[36]

Attention has been given to issues around:

Focal issues have been globalization and the emergence of new social movements (in terms of people bonding together in the struggle for justice, peace, and the protection of creation).[28]

To analyze and reflect on justice, peace and creation in their interrelatedness, to promote values and practices that make for a culture of peace, and to work towards a culture of solidarity with young people, women, Indigenous Peoples and racially and ethnically oppressed people.[27]

Justice, Peace and Creation has drawn many elements together with an environmental focus. Its mandate is:

Justice, Peace and Creation Commission

  • Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper No. 111, the “Lima Text”; 1982) [22]
  • The Churchː Towards a Common Vision (Faith and Order Paper no. 214; 2013 [23]) after The Nature and Mission of the Church – A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement (Faith and Order Paper no. 198; 2005 [24]) and The Nature and Purpose of the Church (Faith and Order Paper no. 181; 1998 [25])
  • Towards a Common Date of Easter [26]


WCC's Faith and Order Commission has been successful in working toward consensus on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, on the date of Easter, on the nature and purpose of the church (ecclesiology), and on ecumenical hermeneutics.

Faith and Order Commission

Current WCC programs include a Decade to Overcome Violence, an international campaign to combat AIDS/HIV in Africa and the Justice, Peace and Creation initiative.

The WCC acts through both its member churches and other religious and social organizations to coordinate ecumenical, evangelical, and social action.

Diakonia and development and international relations commissions

  • Echos- Commission on Youth (ages 18–30)
  • Commission of the Churches on Diakonia and Development
  • Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation
  • Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
  • Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation
  • Commission on World Mission and Evangelism
  • Faith and Order Plenary Commission and the Faith and Order Standing Commission
  • Joint Consultative Group with Pentecostals
  • Joint Working Group WCC – Roman Catholic Church (Vatican)
  • Reference Group on the Decade to Overcome Violence
  • Reference Group on Inter-Religious Relations
  • Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC

There are two complementary approaches to ecumenism: dialogue and action. The Faith and Order Movement and Life and Work Movement represent these approaches.[21] These approaches are reflected in the work of the WCC in its commissions, these being:

Commissions and teams

Years Name Churches Nationality
1948–1966 W. A. Visser 't Hooft Reformed Churches in the Netherlands/Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, Geneva Netherlands
1966–1972 Eugene Carson Blake United Presbyterian Church (USA) U.S.
1972–1984 Philip A. Potter Methodist Church Dominica
1985–1992 Emilio Castro Evangelical Methodist Church of Uruguay Uruguay
1993–2003 Konrad Raiser Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Germany
2004–2009 Samuel Kobia Methodist Church in Kenya Kenya
2010– Olav Fykse Tveit Church of Norway Norway
[20]Since the World Council of Churches was officially founded in 1948, the following men have served as general secretary:

General secretaries

A former president of the WCC was Rev. Martin Niemöller, the famous Protestant anti-Nazi theologian.

The Presidents of the World Council of Churches are:[19]


The World Council of Churches held 10 Assemblies to date, starting with the founding assembly in 1948:[17]


Events and presidents

In 2013 Dr. Agnes Abuom of Nairobi, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, was elected as moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches; she is the first woman and the first African to hold this position.[16]


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