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New Delhi Statement on Unity

This is the report of the Section on Unity at the WCC 3rd Assembly. Particularly in paragraph 2 -- probably the greatest run-on sentence in ecumenical history -- we have one of the seminal and enduring statements on the nature of "organic unity".

31 December 1961

WCC 3rd Assembly, New Delhi, 1961

This is the report of the Section on Unity at the New Delhi assembly.  Particularly in paragraph 2 we have one of the seminal and enduring statements on the nature of "organic unity". Please see also the response to this report from the Orthodox participants, which illustrates the ways in which differences in ecclesiological understanding entail different visions of unity.

I. The Church's unity

1. The love of the Father and the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit is the source and goal of the unity which the Triune God wills for all men and creation. We believe that we share in this unity in the Church of Jesus Christ, who is before all things and in whom all things hold together. In him alone, given by the Father to be Head of the Body, the Church has its true unity. The reality of this unity was manifest at Pentecost in the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom we know in this present age the first fruits of that perfect union of the Son with his Father, which will be known in its fullness only when all things are consummated by Christ in his glory. The Lord who is bringing all things into full unity at the last is he who constrains us to seek the unity which he wills for his Church on earth here and now.

2. We believe that the unity which is both God’s will and his gift to his Church is being made visible as all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Saviour are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully committed fellowship, holding the one apostolic faith preaching the one Gospel, breaking the one bread, joining in common prayer, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all and who at the same time are united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all, and that all can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls his people.

It is for such unity that we believe we must pray and work.

3. This brief description of our objective leaves many questions unanswered. We are not yet of a common mind on the interpretation and the means of achieving the goal we have described. We are clear that unity does not imply simple uniformity of organization, rite or expression. We all confess that sinful self-will operates to keep us separated and that in our human ignorance we cannot discern clearly the lines of God’s design for the future. But it is our firm hope that through the Holy Spirit God’s will as it is witnessed to in Holy Scripture will be more and more disclosed to us and in us. The achievement of unity will involve nothing less than a death and rebirth of many forms of church life as we have known them. We believe that nothing less costly can finally suffice....

Please download the full document as a pdf:

Download : Unity_report_ND1961.pdf