In the quaint old university town of Uppsala, Sweden, students have already cleared out for the summer holidays. Ordinarily, the townspeople would also be busying themselves with vacation plans by this time. Swedish law provides everyone with a guaranteed four-week vacation, so most industries shut down completely. But this will not be a normal summer in Uppsala. Beginning July 4, the town will play host to the biggest and most important ecumenical clambake yet, the seventeen-day Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches.
Uppsala residents may not be aware that the assembly could turn their town into an ecclesiastical storm center. Radical forces in the WCC, bent on making churches a major instrument of socio-economic change, will seek delegate approval of militant strategies. A draft of a document due to be adopted by the assembly calls for “revolutionary action” to correct social ills, acknowledging that such action “may, if not kept under control, lead to even greater suffering.”
As many as three thousand persons, including 800 official delegates, may pour into Uppsala to witness the assembly. The town, about forty miles north of Stockholm, has a population of about 80,000. Since the year 1164 it has served as the seat of the Swedish Lutheran archbishop. Parts of the Gothic cathedral in Uppsala date back to the thirteenth century.
But the assembly theme, appropriated from Revelation 21:5, is “All Things New,” and delegates will be expected to use twenty-hour days occasioned by the northern latitude (about the same as that of Juneau, Alaska) to help engineer the demise of old orders. The WCC Central Committee’s report to the assembly contends that “the Council has moved out of the stage of discussing social ethics ...1
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