World Council of Churches

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

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC Central Committee / Geneva, 2003 / Follow-up on Recommendations on Membership

Follow-up on Recommendations on Membership

02 September 2003

World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 2 September 2003

Follow-up on Recommendations on Membership

Introduction

At its meeting in 2002 the Central Committee approved a set of recommendations on issues of membership as proposed in the Final Reports of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC and the Membership Study Group and amended by the Executive Committee and Policy Reference Committee I.

Several of the approved recommendations imply modifications to Articles of the Constitution and the Rules of the WCC. The Central Committee decided in 2002 to give further consideration to the proposed amendments at its meeting in 2003, to circulate them to the churches for their comments, and to do a final review at its meeting in 2005 for submission to the Ninth Assembly in 2006.

The proposed amendments which are now presented to the Central Committee for further consideration have been reviewed by the Executive Committee, the Steering Committee of the Special Commission and by resource persons with expertise in constitutional and legal matters.

Note: 1) Amendments to the Constitution require a decision by the Assembly, after review by the Central Committee and notice sent to the churches at least six months before the meeting of the Assembly; 2) Amendments to the Rules can be decided by the Central Committee but no alteration to Rule I on Membership shall come into effect until it has been confirmed by the Assembly.


1. Proposed amendment to the Constitution


The approved recommendation reads:

(Recommendation. D, Report of Ref. Cttee I point 8, CC 2002)

"that applicant churches be accepted to join the fellowship of the WCC at meetings of the Central Committee and not the Assembly. The application for joining the WCC would be presented to one Central Committee meeting, with an intervening period of participation in the work of the Council and interaction with the local fellowship of member churches, and the decision taken on the application at a subsequent meeting of the Central Committee."

This recommendation requires that Art. II of the Constitution be amended. The proposed new wording is:

II. Membership

"Those churches shall be eligible for membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches which express their agreement with the Basis upon which the Council is founded and satisfy such criteria as the Assembly or the Central Committee may prescribe. The Central Committee shall consider and decide on applications for membership which shall be presented by the General Secretary. An application shall be presented at one meeting of the Central Committee for decision on the period of participation of the applicant in the work of the Council and for interaction with the local fellowship of member churches. This decision shall be communicated to the member churches of the World Council of Churches. The Central Committee, meeting subsequent to the expiry of the prescribed period of participation shall take a decision on the application. The applicant shall be received as a member church belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, unless objection has been received, in the interim period, from more than one-third of the member churches."

2. Proposed amendments to the Rules

1. Proposed new Rule I

The approved recommendation reads:

(Recommendation C(a)(d)(e)(f)(g), Report of Ref. Cttee I point 8, CC 2002)

"that the Constitution and Rules of the Council be amended in order to:

a) Revise the "Criteria" section of the Rules in accordance with the specific language included as the proposed revised Rule I ………., as amended, ……. , notably with respect to the inclusion of specific theological criteria for membership;

d) Eliminate the current category of "associate membership";

e) Incorporate the current associate member churches by virtue of size (Rule I (5)(a)(1) category) into the description of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, retaining restrictions on the participation and representation of small churches;

f) Include in the term church a grouping of autonomous churches of the same confession.

g) Increase the minimum number of members required of churches for individual membership in the fellowship of the WCC from 25,000 to 50,000 members."

The proposed new wording of Art. I of the Rules is:

I. Membership in the Fellowship of the World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches is comprised of churches which have constituted the Council or which have been admitted into membership and which continue to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches. The term "church" as used in this article could also include an association, convention or federation of autonomous churches. A group of churches within a country or region, or within the same confession, may determine to participate in the World Council of Churches as one church. Churches within the same country or region or within the same confession may apply jointly to belong to the fellowship of the Council, in order to respond to their common calling, to strengthen their joint participation and/or to satisfy the requirement of minimum size (Rule I, (3)(b) (iii)). Such groupings of churches are encouraged by the World Council of Churches; each individual church within the grouping must satisfy the criteria for membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, except the requirements of size. A church seeking affiliation with a grouping of autonomous churches which is a member of the World Council of Churches must agree with the Basis and fulfil the criteria for membership.

The General Secretary shall maintain the official lists of member churches that have been accepted to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, noting any special arrangement accepted by the Assembly or Central Committee. Separate lists shall be maintained of voting and nonvoting member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC.

1. Application

A church that wishes to join the World Council of Churches shall apply in writing to the General Secretary.

2. Processing

The General Secretary shall submit all such applications to the Central Committee (see Art. II of the Constitution) together with such information as he or she considers necessary to enable the Central Committee to make a decision on the application.

3. Criteria

Churches applying to join the World Council of Churches ("applicant churches") are required first to express agreement with the Basis on which the Council is founded and confirm their commitment to the Purposes and Functions of the Council as defined in Articles I and III of the Constitution. The Basis states: "The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour 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."

Applicant churches should give an account of how their faith and witness relate to these norms and practices:

a. Theological
1. In its life and witness, the church professes faith in the Triune God as expressed in the scriptures and reflected in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
2. The church maintains a ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments as understood by its doctrines.
3. The church baptizes in the name of God, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" and acknowledges the need to move toward the recognition of the Baptism of other churches.
4. The church recognizes the presence and activity of Christ and the Holy Spirit outside its own boundaries and prays for the wisdom of all in the awareness that other member churches also believe in the Holy Trinity and the saving grace of God.
5. The church recognizes in the other member churches of the WCC elements of the true church, even if it does not regard them "as churches in the true and full sense of the word". (Toronto Statement)

b. Organizational
1. The church must produce evidence of sustained autonomous life and organization.
2. The church must be able to take the decision to apply for formal membership in the WCC and continue to belong to the fellowship of the WCC without obtaining the permission of any other body or person.
3. An applicant church must ordinarily have at least fifty thousand members. The Central Committee, for exceptional reasons, may dispense with this requirement and accept a church that does not fulfill the criteria of size.
4. An applicant church with more than 10,000 members but less than 50,000 members that has not been granted a an exemption under Rule I, (3) (b) (3), but is otherwise eligible for membership can be admitted as a member subject to the following conditions: (a) it shall not have the right to vote in the Assembly, and (b) it may participate with other churches in selecting five representatives to the Central Committee in accordance with Rule III, (4) (b) (3). Such church shall be considered as member church belonging to the fellowship of the WCC in all other respect. (Note: Rule III The Assembly will become Rule IV of the proposal for a new Rule II is accepted.)
5. Churches must recognize the essential interdependence of the member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, particularly those of the same confession, and should make every effort to practice constructive ecumenical relations with other churches within their country or region. This will normally mean that the church is a member of the national council of churches or similar body and of the regional/subregional ecumenical organization.

4. Consultation


Before admitting a church to membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, the appropriate world confessional body or bodies and national council or regional ecumenical organization shall be consulted.

5. Resignation

A church which desires to resign its membership in the fellowship of the Council can do so at any time. A church which has resigned but desires to rejoin the Council must again apply for membership.

Note: It is proposed to move the present Rule I.6 Financial participation to the Rule on Responsibilities of membership (present Rule II; will become Rule III in the new numbering, see below).

2.2 Proposed new Rule II

The approved recommendation reads:

(Recommendation C(b), Report of Ref. Cttee I point 8, CC 2002)

"that the Constitution and Rules of the Council be amended in order to:

b) Provide two possibilities for churches wanting to relate to the WCC:

  • member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC
  • churches in association with the WCC;"

This recommendation requires the insertion of a new Art. II of the Rules and the subsequent renumbering of the remaining Articles. The proposed new Art. II of the Rules is:

II. Churches in Association with the World Council of Churches

A church that agrees with the Basis of the Council may request in writing to be received as a church in association with the World Council of Churches, stating its reasons for requesting this mode of relating with the Council. If the reasons are approved by the Central Committee, such a church may be accepted to be in association with the World Council of Churches.

Churches in association with the World Council of Churches:

1. Can send representative(s) to the Assembly and the Central Committee who can speak with permission of the chair, but have no right to vote;
2. Can be invited to participate in the work of the commissions, advisory groups and other consultative bodies of the Council as consultants or advisors;
3. Have the possibility of participating in the work of the WCC as described, but will not be identified with decisions taken or statements issued by the Council;
4. Will not be obliged to contribute financial support to the work of the Council but may do so voluntarily. No financial support will be made available from the Council to such churches to facilitate their participation.


The General Secretary shall maintain a list of churches in association with the Council.