By approving the expanded Basis of membership proposed last summer at St. Andrews, the New Delhi Assembly gave greater ecumenical centrality to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the role of the Bible. Hailed both by Evangelical and by Eastern Orthodox leaders, the step avoided reduction of the ecumenical witness to “a dull and uninteresting gray.” It gave promise of new virility in matching a theological counterattack to “the acceleration of history” in a revolutionary age, to the resurgence of non-Christian religions, to the aggression of evolutionary atheism, to the dazzling spell of scientific technology, and to the grip of secular materialism.

Although almost one in ten of the delegates voting on the issue opposed approval of the trinitarian basis, including some liberal leaders who thought the action would launch the World Council along the pathway of creed-making, the St. Andrews proposal swept through the General Assembly by a 383–36 vote. Its immediate effect was to disqualify Unitarians from WCC membership.

Amsterdam to Delhi

When WCC came into being in Amsterdam in 1948, it adopted the bare Basis that: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches who accept Jesus Christ as God and Saviour.” (This statement was stronger than that of the National Council of Churches.) Norwegian evangelicals sought in Evanston in 1954 to amend the Basis to read … who, according to Holy Scriptures, confess Jesus as God and Saviour,” but their proposal was sidetracked. Eastern Orthodox theologians later reinforced this move, urging additional reference to the Trinity and to church tradition. At St. Andrews last summer, the WCC Central Committee agreed to submit the altered form adopted by the Delhi Assembly after nearly ...

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