World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

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Timeline

Since the founding assembly in Amsterdam in 1948, the WCC has held assemblies in New Delhi (1961), Uppsala (1968), Nairobi (1975), Vancouver (1983), Canberra (1991), Harare (1998), Porto Alegre (2006), Busan (2013)

1st Assembly, Amsterdam 1948

Place: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dates: 22 August to 4 September 1948
Theme: Man's Disorder and God's Design
Member churches: 147

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It was on the 23rd of August 1948, in Amsterdam, that the World Council of Churches was officially founded. 147 churches from different confessions and many countries came together to commit themselves to the ecumenical movement.

At the assembly in Amsterdam, four sections were organized to examine aspects of the theme  "Man's Disorder and God's Design":

  • the universal church in God's design
  • the church's witness to God's design
  • the church and the disorder of society
  • the church and the international disorder.

 

2nd Assembly, Evanston 1954

Place: Evanston, Illinois, USA
Dates: 15-31 August 1954
Theme: Christ - the Hope of the World
Member churches: 161

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The only WCC assembly to date held in the United States, it to some degree reflected - and certainly reflected on - the East-West tensions of the cold war. The Assembly divided its work into six sections:

  • Our oneness in Christ and our disunity as churches
  • The mission of the church to those outside her life
  • The responsible society in a world perspective
  • Christians in the struggle for world community
  • The churches amid racial and ethnic tension
  • The laity: the Christian in his vocation.

 

    3rd Assembly, New Delhi 1961

    Place: New Delhi, India
    Dates: 19 November to 5 December 1961
    Theme: Jesus Christ - the Light of the World 06f5eff8cf.jpg
    Member churches: 197

    Best remembered for the incorporation of the International Missionary Council into the WCC, and the admission of 23 new member churches, including significant sectors of Eastern Orthodoxy and churches from newly independent nations, the Assembly focused on the theme "Jesus Christ - the Light of the World" with three sections on witness, service and unity.

     

    4th Assembly, Uppsala 1968

    Place: Uppsala, Sweden
    Dates: 4-20 July 1968
    Theme: Behold, I make all things new
    Member churches: 235
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    The assembly at Uppsala bore further testimony to the expanding membership of the Council, as well as the fresh breezes of Vatican II that brought Catholic observers to participate in the meeting and discuss further opportunities for cooperation. Sections were organized under the headings:

    • The Holy Spirit and the catholicity of the church
    • Renewal in mission
    • World economic and social development
    • Towards justice and peace in international affairs
    • Worship
    • Towards new styles of living.

     

    5th Assembly, Nairobi 1975

    Place: Nairobi, Kenya
    Dates: 23 November to 10 December 1975
    Theme: Jesus Christ Frees and Unites
    Member churches: 285

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    "Jesus Christ frees and unites" the delegates sang in the midst of Nairobi's life:

    people from around the earth, standing before God in their captivities and disunities and naming a divine possibility.
    The assembly section titles echo concerns of that turbulent decade:

    • Confessing Christ today
    • What unity requires
    • Seeking community
    • Education for liberation and community
    • Structures of injustice and struggles for liberation
    • Human development.

    6th Assembly, Vancouver 1983

    Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Dates: 24 July to 10 August 1983
    Theme: Jesus Christ - the Life of the World
    Member churches: 301
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    At this assembly on the western shores of Canada, a renewed emphasis on common worship was experienced under the great white tent standing beneath the summer sun. Hope for closer fellowship arose from dialogue on the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) document, and such ecumenical experiments as the Lima Liturgy. At the same time, the nuclear threat and neo-colonialism glowered like dark clouds on the horizon. The Assembly proclaimed its theme: "Jesus Christ - the Life of the World", and carried out its work in the following issue groups:

    • Witnessing in a divided world
    • Taking steps towards unity
    • Moving towards participation
    • Healing and sharing life in community
    • Confronting threats to peace and survival
    • Struggling for justice and human dignity
    • Learning in community
    • Communicating credibly.

     

    7th Assembly, Canberra 1991

    Place: Canberra, Australia
    Dates: 7-20 February 1991
    Theme: Come, Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation d89be79dea.jpg
    Member churches: 317

    1991 was the first time a theme had explicitly invoked the third person of the Trinity, and it did so in the context of the physical universe. Sections were organized under four sub-themes:

    • "Giver of life - sustain your creation!"
    • "Spirit of truth - set us free!"
    • "Spirit of unity - reconcile your people!"
    • "Holy Spirit - transform and sanctify us!"

     

    8th Assembly, Harare 1998

    Place: Harare, Zimbabwe
    Dates: 3-14 December 1998
    Theme: Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope
    Member churches: 339
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    Half a century after the official foundation of the WCC, its member churches renewed their commitment to stay together, and delegates promised to remain in solidarity with their African hosts.

    The Assembly decided to set up a commission on the participation of the Orthodox churches in the WCC. It backed the creation of a "Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations" which could extend the ecumenical outreach far beyond WCC member churches.

    Delegates and assembly visitors participated in more than 600 contributions to a three-day "Padare" in which subjects ranged from Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue to human sexuality. It was preceded by a Decade Festival of churches in solidarity with women.

    Read more

     

    9th Assembly, Porto Alegre 2006

    Place: Porto Alegre, Brazil
    Dates: 14-23 February 2006
    Theme: God in your grace, transform the world
    Member churches: 348

    The 2006 assembly was one of the most representative gatherings of Christians ever held - with over 4,000 participants from ecumenical organizations and groups, delegates from 348 member churches, observers and visitors from all around the world.

    Addressing the core issues of Christian unity, the Assembly agreed on a new text, "Called to be the One Church," and urged that WCC and its member churches give priority to the questions of unity, catholicity, baptism and prayer. Other key issues discussed at plenary sessions were Economic justice, Christian identity and religious plurality, and Youth overcoming violence.

    Also, delegates adopted a substantially revised Constitution and Rules which moved the WCC to decision-making based on consensus and which amended membership criteria. Steps were taken to strengthen active involvement of youth (under 30 years) in the life and work of the Council.

    Visit the 9th Assembly website

    10th Assembly, Busan 2013

    Place: Busan, Republic of Korea
    Dates: 30 October - 8 November 2013
    Theme: God of life, lead us to justice and peace
    Member churches: 345

    In the message of the WCC 10th Assembly, participants offered this affirmation:

    “We share our experience of the search for unity in Korea as a sign of hope in the world. This is not the only land where people live divided, in poverty and richness, happiness and violence, welfare and war. We are not allowed to close our eyes to harsh realities or to rest our hands from God’s transforming work. As a fellowship, the World Council of Churches stands in solidarity with the people and the churches in the Korean peninsula, and with all who strive for justice and peace.”

    Visit the 10th Assembly website