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The World Council of Churches (WCC) is an international Christian ecumenical organization. Based in Geneva, Switzerland 46°13′47″N 06°07′42″E / 46.22972°N 6.12833°E / 46.22972; 6.12833Coordinates: 46°13′47″N 06°07′42″E / 46.22972°N 6.12833°E / 46.22972; 6.12833, it is a fellowship of about 340 churches of which 157 are members.[1] The fellowship includes denominations collectively representing about 550 million Christians throughout more than 120 countries.[2]

Contents

History

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 and Life and Work Movement 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. 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 Reformed, a broad sampling of united and independent churches, and some Pentecostal churches; and some Old Catholic churches.

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.

These Assemblies have been held since 1948, and last met in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006, under the theme "God, in your grace, transform the world".[3]

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Previous Assemblies

Presidents

The Presidents of the World Council of Churches are:[4]

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

General Secretaries

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
2004–2008 Samuel Kobia Methodist Church in Kenya Kenya
elected 2009 Olav Fykse Tveit Church of Norway Norway

Commissions and Teams

There are two complementary approaches to ecumenism: dialogue and action. The Faith and Order Movement and Life and Work Movement represent these approaches [5]. These approaches are reflected in the work of the WCC in its commissions, these being:

  • 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

Diakonia and Development & International Relations Commissions

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

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

Faith and Order Commission

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.

Texts

  • Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper No. 111, the “Lima Text”; 1982) [6]
  • The Nature and Mission of the Church – A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement (Faith and Order Paper no. 198; 2005 [7]) after The Nature and Purpose of the Church (Faith and Order Paper no. 181; 1998 [8])
  • Towards a Common Date of Easter [9]

Justice, Peace and Creation Commission

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

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.[10]

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).

Attention has been given to issues around:

Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

The largest Christian body, the Roman 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).

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).

Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC

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.

The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC represents the potential for fresh and creative high-level discussion about the structure and life of the Council, a discussion explicitly seen as continuing the foundations laid by the process and the policy document "Towards and Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC".

Other programmes

ACT Development (Action by Churches Together for Development) is currently a programme under the auspices of the WCC.

Successes

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

Regional/national councils

It should be noted that membership in a regional or national council does not mean that the particular group is also a member of the WCC.

See also

Christian Denominations
in English-speaking countries

References

  • World Council of Churches. Churches (lists all churches, members marked with asterisk) Retrieved 2008-07-13

External links


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