A Report on the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches

Twenty years ago at Amsterdam the World Council of Churches was launched, using as its symbol a ship named Oikoumene sailing the ocean waves. During these first two decades of voyaging, the hull of the good ship Oikoumene has been expanded theologically to include additional Orthodox bodies and is being readied to take on the Roman Catholic Church. The ship’s chief officer, W. A. Visser ’t Hooft, has been succeeded by Eugene Carson Blake, former stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Death and retirement have edged out such notable crew members as John R. Mott, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, Henry Van Dusen, and John Mackay.

The passenger list has grown; more than 230 churches have boarded, and others are on the way. At Uppsala and the Fourth General Assembly, it was discovered that the Greek Orthodox Church (the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece) had jumped ship prior to docking and that the seventeen seats assigned to this church were empty for the time being. But despite this snub, the hope for the one church aboard the one ship is steadily increasing.

A ship must choose a port and map out a course to reach it. Here, perhaps, is the greatest problem facing the Oikoumene crew. Although the present course-setters monotonously assert that there has been no change, the ship’s initial course has been altered dramatically. Those who favor the new course seem to have the ship under firm control.

Evangelicals inside and outside the ecumenical movement must take a hard look at Oikoumene’s progress since it set out from Amsterdam. This is not easy, for the World Council of Churches has become a very complex organization, has extended its outreach deeply ...

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