World Council of Churches

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World Council of Churches,

an international, interdenominational organization of most major Protestant, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches; founded in Amsterdam in 1948, its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The idea of a world fellowship of Christian churches took concrete form in 1937, when two ecumenical conferences—on life and work and on faith and order—elected a joint committee to formulate plans for a world council. This provisional committee met at Utrecht in 1938 under the organization's first general secretary, Willem Adolf Visser't HooftVisser't Hooft, Willem Adolph
, 1900–1985, Dutch clergyman, a leader of the Protestant ecumenical movement, b. Haarlem, Netherlands, and educated at Univ. of Leiden. Visser't Hooft was named secretary of the World Alliance of YMCAs in 1924.
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, but it was not until after World War II that the first assembly took place (1948) and formally ratified the constitution. At Amsterdam there were 147 Christian churches from 44 countries; today there are 341 member churches from over 100 countries.

The governing body of the council is the assembly, which meets every seven years. The assembly appoints a central committee of 150 members, which meets five times between assemblies; this committee in turn elects a 26-member executive committee. The council also has a presidium to which eight persons are appointed. The council, which has no legislative power over its member churches, provides an opportunity for its constituents to act together in matters of common concern under their common calling "to accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior." Its concerns include international relations, environmental justice, education, and mission. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the council but sends delegated observers to its assemblies; it has full membership on the council's Commission of Faith and Order and on its Joint Working Group.

See ecumenical movementecumenical movement
, name given to the movement aimed at the unification of the Protestant churches of the world and ultimately of all Christians.

During and after the Reformation Protestantism separated into numerous independent sects.
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See W. A. Visser't Hooft, The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches (1982); J. A. A. Vermaat, The World Council of Churches and Politics (1989); M. Van Elderen, Introducing the World Council of Churches (1990).

World Council of Churches

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is "an international fellowship of Christian churches, built upon the foundation of encounter, dialogue, and collaboration." Formed as a result of the influence stemming from the ecumenical movement, it now consists of some 400 million Christians worldwide, most of whom probably don't even know they are members. About 340 denominations and individual churches belong. But when denominations send representatives, the individual churches of that denomination are included without necessarily being consulted. So aside from small items found occasionally in church newsletters, there has not been a whole lot of active participation from or even connection with individual Christians since the founding of the WCC in 1948.

Nevertheless, in numbers there is strength. The motto "One human family in justice and peace" resonates, even though only Christian churches are allowed to be a part of that family. This does not imply exclusion, however. The WCC simply sees itself as a Christian representative of some 120 countries on a mission to spark dialogue and involvement with all peoples. Its members accomplish a lot in terms of mission, charity, and disaster relief. Although they have been slandered by conservative churches and ignored by many liberal ones, they carry on a substantial ministry, and their presence is a constant reminder of those who struggle to overcome the history of splintering and division that is the legacy of much of Christendom.

World Council of Churches


the leading organization of ecumenical movement (a movement to unite the Christian churches), established in Amsterdam in 1948.

The council unites a considerable number of Protestant and Orthodox churches (as of 1968, 231 churches from 80 countries). Included in the World Council of Churches are many Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist churches, as well as the Old Catholic Church and the Quakers. Since 1961 the Russian Orthodox Church has been a member of the council, and somewhat later it was joined by the Georgian and Armenian Orthodox churches, the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian Baptists of the USSR, and the Evangelical Lutheran churches of Estonia and Latvia. The resident headquarters of the World Council of Churches is in Geneva (Switzerland). The Roman Catholic Church has its own observers in the council. Most of the council’s budget is covered by contributions from churches in the USA, and the key positions in its leadership are in the hands of American monopolists. Assemblies of the World Council of Churches are convoked periodically. The first assembly (Amsterdam, 1948) was held for the purpose of searching for ways to “overcome” the communist movement and atheism. At the same time it was critical of certain aspects of capitalism (but the principle of private property remained untouched). The second (Evanston, 111.; 1954), the third (Delhi, 1961), and the fourth (Uppsala, Sweden, 1968) assemblies reflected the striving of the World Council of Churches to adapt itself to the spirit of the times, evidence of which is the adoption of resolutions regarding contemporary international problems, particularly those in defense of universal peace.


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