When the clack of the gavel begins to echo through New Delhi’s spacious Vigynan Bhavan Hall next week, it will resound presumably for the one-third of the world’s population which goes by the name Christian.

Assembled in the modern capital of India will be nearly 1,000 church men and women from throughout the world—devout, sincere individuals who are deeply concerned about fragmentation of the Christian witness. Their very presence at the third and most important assembly of the World Council of Churches will indicate hope that some kind of new posture can be attained, particularly for Protestantism, if not for non-Roman Christianity as a whole. Could New Delhi signal a much-needed ideological breakthrough, and a transcendence of existing diversities? Many Christians feel that such a breakthrough can come through a recovery of the Church’s authority and mission. Others hold that a demand for organizational unity exists as a near-term requirement, although pressing questions of doctrine and order remain for future debate.

In the New Delhi assembly hall, originally built by the government of India to house a UNESCO conference, the move for unity will manifest itself most acutely in the apparently-presumed integration of the International Missionary Council into the WCC. The proposal, already endorsed by the WCC’s Central Committee and a majority of the IMC’s constituent national councils, will see the IMC organization emerge within the WCC framework as the Commission and Division of World Mission and Evangelism.

“The assembly,” according to a WCC press release, “provides the major forum for Christian leaders to discuss Christian unity.…”

Spokesmen for the ecumenical movement are already heralding the New Delhi assembly as a major ...

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