World Council of Churches

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

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Ecumenical bodies related to the WCC

Various types of organizations formed by churches play a vital part in the life of the ecumenical movement as a whole.

Various types of organizations formed by churches play a vital part in the life of the ecumenical movement as a whole.

Some are organized geographically (regional ecumenical organizations and other regional and sub-regional fellowships). Others are international groupings of churches within a single confessional tradition (Christian World Communions). And some are world ecumenical organizations focusing  on a specific task or issue or a specific constituency.

Regional and sub-regional ecumenical bodies

The first Regional Ecumenical Organization (REO) was the East Asia Christian Conference (now called the Christian Conference of Asia) which was founded in 1957. Over the next 25 years, six more REOs were founded in all world regions except North America, each with its own history, programme, membership criteria and style of working.

Their principal aims include helping their members to shape a common Christian response to issues of regional concern, and serving as a bridge between churches and national councils in the region and worldwide organizations.

As "essential partners in the ecumenical enterprise" (WCC rules, XV.1.), REOs may send representatives to the WCC assembly and to meetings of its central committee.

More information on Regional Ecumenical Organizations

The WCC cooperates with several other regional and sub-regional organizations and groupings of churches and/or national councils of churches, which, in some regions, have become an important part of the ecumenical scene. They help groups of churches linked by historic and cultural factors to express their distinctive identity and witness within the larger regional framework.

Christian World Communions

Christian World Communions (CWCs) is the term commonly used to describe churches organized at the global level, or families of churches with common theological and historical roots, confessions or structure.

Such international church groupings have existed since the middle of the 19th century and their heads have met annually since 1957.  

The WCC Central Committee may invite CWCs to send delegated representatives to the assembly or an adviser to meetings of the central committee.

The roles played by CWCs within the global ecumenical movement  include: 1. fostering unity amongst their own community and working to prevent further divisions; 2. promoting ecumenism amongst their own communion; 3. providing an entry point into the ecumenical movement.

More on Christian World Communions


Ecumenical world organizations with a special focus

The constitutional documents of the WCC recognize that the Council must maintain working relationships with a wide variety of international ecumenical organizations, some of which are older than the WCC itself.

These include organizations representing particular constituencies - such as youth, students, women, lay people - and bodies and agencies with a particular functional purpose or ministry in such fields as education, communication, resource-sharing and development.

As organizations with an international scope and mandate, most of them understand themselves as carrying out a specialized ministry in response to the same ecumenical calling as the member churches of the WCC.

Since 2006, both specialized ministries and agencies engaged in ecumenical diaconal services and other international ecumenical organizations may apply for formal recognition by the WCC according to the revised rule XVIII. Thus recognized, they are invited to send a delegated representative to the assembly.