The good ship Oikoumene, owned and operated by the World Council of Churches, slid off the ways at Amsterdam in 1948. It began its maiden voyage captained by Willem A. Visser’t Hooft, who set sail for the New Jerusalem. Now, twenty-five years and two captains later, the ship, loaded with close to three hundred churches, has run into stormy weather. Many people are asking where it is, where it is headed, and whether its compass is accurate.

A short while ago Oikoumene put into port at Bangkok, Thailand, for a World Conference on Salvation Today, sponsored by the WCC’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). That conference, held from December 29, 1972, to January 9, 1973, was followed by the Third Assembly of the CWME January 9–12. The World Conference was attended by several hundred participants, the Third Assembly by 126 voting members.

The last major WCC meeting, the Assembly at Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, had been attended by a substantial number of radical secularist theologians, and also by a large contingent of left-wing European and North American young people. The Bangkok participants were those interested in missionary matters, representing what to the evangelical observer is the best side of the World Council of Churches.

Two new officers took their places in the administrative structures of the WCC at Bangkok. Philip Potter, a West Indian who formerly was the director of the CWME, succeeded Eugene Carson Blake (who recently retired) as general secretary of the WCC, and Emilio Castro, a Uruguayan, took Potter’s place as director of the CWME. And so two of the highest ranking officers of the WCC are from the third world.

To understand what went on at Bangkok, one needs some knowledge of the history of Christian missions for the past one hundred years. Noted historian Kenneth Scott Latourette called the nineteenth century the great century for missionary advance. The great advance began with William Carey in the 1790s. During the hundred years that followed, European and North American church-controlled and independent missionary agencies multiplied. For the most part the denominations and the independent agencies went their own ways without particular regard to other sending groups. With the dawning of the twentieth century a great change took place, a change that would at last produce the ecumenical movement and its structural form, the World Council of Churches.

The Ecumenical Missionary Conference convened in 1900 in New York, followed within ten years by the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. At both, denominational and non-denominational missionary agencies were represented. The impulse generated by these missionary conclaves and particularly by Edinburgh led to the formation of two inter-denominational organizations: the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA), founded in 1917 and including in its fellowship the so-called faith missionary societies, and the International Missionary Council (IMC), formed in 1921, the constituent councils of which were open to denominational and non-denominational societies.

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During the period between 1921 and the beginning of World War II, the IMC convened two international missionary conferences, one at Jerusalem in 1928 and the other at Madras in 1938. The papers from these conferences give evidence of wide theological cleavages. By 1921, theological liberals, schooled in German higher-critical rationalism, had captured many of the theological seminaries. A Pandora’s box of variant and heretical theological views had been opened, and all sorts of deviations and accommodations crept out. Universalism, syncretism, theological inclusivism, as well as patent unbelief found adherents within the churches.

During this time several important events influenced missions. Karl Barth’s work on Romans had appeared in 1918. In revolt against German liberalism, Barth sought a return to a revelatory and biblical theology, and he became the father and leading exponent of neo-orthodoxy. Later he wrote a massive systematic theology in which he dealt in part with God’s election of men to salvation in Jesus Christ. Barth’s idea of election opened the door wide to universalism, the view that all men are in Christ already, whether they know it or not, and shall at last be saved. Through this open door came the theology of Nels Ferré, Norman Pittenger, Bishop James Pike, and Paul Verghese, among others.

A second significant event was the publication of Rethinking Missions by William E. Hocking of Harvard as part of the massive Layman’s Foreign Missions Inquiry. The United States had become the leading missionary sending nation in the world, and these books hit like a thunderbolt. The Layman’s Inquiry vigorously assaulted the basic theological foundations on which missions rested. Latourette wrote: “Many of the most earnest of the constituency of the missionary enterprise cherished convictions which were quite the opposite of those represented by Rethinking Missions” (A History of the Expansion of Christianity, VII, 52). Virtually every American denomination had to justify and defend its foreign missionary program among its people.

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Although at Madras in 1938 it could be seen that non-evangelical views had made progress in the missionary movement, the major decisions of that conference were evangelical in tone and the larger proportion of the career missionaries were evangelical in theology. The discussions at Madras centered on Hendrik Kraemer’s book The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World, which was essentially a response to Hocking’s work. In a new preface to the second edition Kraemer took pains to deny that his book was “fundamentalist,” a charge circulated widely by critics of his work. There was some uncertainty as to the meaning of “biblical realism” as he used the term, but in the main his thesis was quite clear. He laid the axe to the root of syncretism, showing that any similarities between the Christian and the non-Christian religions were actually dissimilarities.

At the same time that the missionary agencies were banding together, a movement was afoot to bind the denominations together into a larger fellowship. In the United States it took the form of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ, which later changed its name to the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Meanwhile, on the international scene two other ecumenical organizations appeared, their impetus having come in part from the 1910 Edinburgh missionary conference. They were the World Conference on Faith and Order and the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work. These two organizations merged to form the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam in 1948. The WCC was similar to the National Council of Churches, most of whose members joined the WCC, except that it was international in scope.

The International Missionary Council, however, did not join the WCC in 1948. It was still assumed that missions was the business of the churches, and from 1948 on ecumenical leaders worked to bring the IMC into the World Council of Churches. The problem was that the IMC included in its membership non-denominational agencies and a number of evangelical mission boards that wanted no part of the WCC, which from its inception was theologically inclusive and had as its announced intention the creation of one organically united church. Finally, in 1961 the IMC was integrated into the WCC as the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. It is interesting to note that the effort to create unity was divisive in its outcome, for the faith missions, among others, quit the IMC when it went into the WCC.

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The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism held an international gathering at Mexico City in 1963, and the recent one at Bangkok was its second. The Mexico City meetings showed that the conciliar movement was moving away from the historic conception of the mission of the Church. Whatever defects had attended the IMC conclaves at Jerusalem in 1928 and Madras in 1938, both of these conferences in their plenary sessions defined evangelism and the mission of the Church in rather traditional terms. By 1963, however, a substantial shift away from the historic position of the missionary agencies was evident.

In 1968 the WCC itself met at Uppsala, and the theological gaps that had appeared in the Mexico City CWME meetings became yawning chasms. The emphasis at Uppsala was on humanization, secularization, socio-political involvement, economic development of the third-world nations, the elimination of racism, revolution, and a virulent anti-American feeling that centered on the war in Viet Nam.

Uppsala clearly had a polarizing effect. Before the meeting took place, Donald McGavran of the School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary posed the question of what the World Council intended to do about two billion people who had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The WCC statement prepared before Uppsala was wholly unsatisfactory from an evangelical perspective. The Gospel of personal salvation through the substitutionary atonement of Christ on Calvary was supplanted by a secularized, this-worldly version of social action as the mission of the Church.

In an editorial entitled “Will Bangkok Be a Watershed or a Washout?,” Paul S. Rees of World Vision, who has been as warm a friend of the ecumenical movement as any evangelical, picked out the observation by Visser ’t Hooft (former general secretary of the WCC) that there is both a vertical and a horizontal aspect to the Christian faith, and that those who neglect the horizontal, i.e., “responsibility for the needy in any part of the world,” are “just as much guilty of heresy as those who deny this or that article of the Faith.” But at Uppsala the WCC, when considering the declaration on “Renewal in Mission,” “fell between two stools,” says Rees:

It was not so much thought through as tinkered through, with the verticalists and the horizontalists making last-minute efforts to scotch one another by squeezing in a term here or a phrase there that would salvage their side of the debate. In the end neither side was satisfied. The horizontalists, alas, carried off more laurels than the verticalists.
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Rees seemed to imply that the struggle is only a matter of over-emphasizing the vertical or the horizontal at the expense of the other. This interpretation is open to question. Rees does admit, however, that there are those who wish “to substitute humanization for evangelism,” and quotes Dr. George Johnston, dean of religious studies at McGill University, who dismisses Christ’s atonement on the cross and says “eternal bliss conveys almost no meaning.”

The changes evangelicals at Uppsala secured in the “Renewal in Mission” report only served to highlight the basic differences, for they made the total report self-contradictory. It was evident that the WCC had departed from the positions it held at Amsterdam in 1948. The mission of the Church was now identified with social action, not with personal evangelism.

Against this backdrop the CWME met at Bangkok. In a report entitled From Mexico City to Bangkok the true nature of the struggle was delineated. The report stated:

We see the debate revolving around three major problems:
1. On the understanding of the Bible: Some see in the Bible the expression of unchanging truth which can be formulated and repeated. Others see salvation in the Bible as an ongoing event into which we enter.
2. On the understanding of human history: Some see in the biblical story of liberation, in both Old and New Testament, direct scriptural support for the quest for liberation, whether personal, political, economic or cultural. Others warn that the Bible is concerned with ultimate spiritual issues, not to be confused with temporal power struggles.
3. On the place of the Church in God’s purpose and work for salvation: Many find it difficult to make a clear distinction, in terms of being saved or not saved, between the fellowship of the Church and human fellowship. Others insist that the boundaries of the Church as the locus of salvation must be maintained.

These statements about the Bible, human history, and the Church fairly represent the basic differences that exist within the WCC. To reconcile them is impossible except through a synthesis of opposites, and this, of course, evangelicals could not accept.

At Bangkok the divergent viewpoints surfaced quickly. On the first Sunday the Reverend Wichean Watakeecharoen, general secretary of the Church of Christ in Thailand, preached a thoroughly biblical sermon on salvation by grace through faith in Christ. The mimeographed conference journal that appeared the following day contained comments on that service. A German participant said Watakeecharoen’s sermon was “very bad, representing the revivalistic theology of the Church of Thailand. The enumeration of ‘so many souls saved’ slaps the whole dialogue program in the face.” No approving statements were printed, though some hearers were delighted with the sermon.

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WCC staff member Thomas Wieser presented the first major paper to the conference, on the worldwide study of the theme “Salvation Today” during the four preceding years. The report noted the disparate opinions of what salvation is: from the concept of personal salvation from sin by faith in Christ, to the statement by the Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast that “ ‘salvation in the current sense means deliverance from illness, war, or slavery’ and is associated by many with the deliverance from colonialism and forced labor.” Wieser concluded his report by saying, “Reflectors will guide the conference in the task of interpreting the diversity of views and experiences in the light of Christian tradition.” If they did, it was not noticeable; no definitive statement appeared on what salvation really is.

The second major address was given by M. M. Thomas of India, chairman of the WCC Central Committee. He spoke of the need for spiritual salvation, saying that the mission of the Church “is to participate in the movements of human liberation in our time in such a way as to witness to Jesus Christ as the Source, the Judge and the Redeemer of the human spirituality and its orientation as it is at work in these movements, and therefore as the Saviour of Man today.” Thomas went on to open the door wide to syncretism and to a denial of the uniqueness of Christianity:

We are living at a time when we are deeply conscious of pluralism in the world—pluralism of human situations and needs, of varied religions and secular cultures, with different traditions of metaphysics, ideologies and world-views, in terms of which Christians themselves seek to express their commitment to and confession of Christ. So much so that any kind of a unity in the doctrine of Christ or of salvation in Christ, which has been the goal of traditional Christian churches, is to my mind impossible even of conception except in religious imperialistic terms. As a historian of religion, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, has recently said that on the grounds also of the loss of authority of the established churches today, “the old ideal of a unified or systematic Christian truth has gone. For this the ecumenical movement is too late,” leaving a situation of “open variety, of optional alternatives,” everyone choosing what suits him best (Questions of Religious Truth, pp. 34, 35). Then, of course, the question what kind of a criterion of Christian faith can we lay down in a pluralistic age, is sharply raised. Dr. Hans Küng, when he visited India recently, said that the criterion of faith could be that the believer should in some form acknowledge the Person of Jesus as “decisive for life,” that is to say, to translate in my terms, decisive for the knowledge of Ultimate Reality and the realization of the ultimate meaning of life and its fulfillment here and hereafter.
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His concluding remark was illuminating: “I leave all the unanswered questions for this conference of experts to tackle.”

The third major paper was the report of Philip Potter, new general secretary of the WCC and formerly director of the CWME. Potter ranged far and wide and devoted more time to sociology, politics, and economics than to the Gospel and evangelism. This was not unexpected: the report was intended to give an account of “what has been happening in our world since 1963,” and for this decade the controlling theme of the WCC and its agencies has been social action. Potter did admit that “there are strong voices which have claimed that the CWME has lost its integrity and its raison d’être through integration [i.e., by being incorporated into the WCC], I hope this issue will be honestly faced at this meeting, for what is at stake is not merely a structural arrangement within the WCC, but our whole understanding of mission.” Later he added, “Our fathers in the missionary movement avoided the pain of theological and ecclesiological controversy. We dare not.” But when Peter Beyerhaus of Tübingen asked the conference to consider the theological crisis in missions as expounded in the Frankfurt Declaration, he was rudely and decisively rebuffed by Potter and by third-world spokesmen who argued that the Declaration was peculiarly German and was irrelevant to the third world. The Western world, the spokesmen said, should not export its problems to the third world. This effectively shut the door to any real theological controversy over the basic issues, even those already set forth in the From Mexico City to Bangkok booklet.

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Potter, an articulate, friendly, and engaging speaker, used his position and power in other ways, too. It was he who told a reporter from the Bangkok Post,

The eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt succeed,” has led the world to the brink of annihilation. One doesn’t have to look far to see how fear of losing has kept America’s big power boys from accepting the fact that with all their massive efforts they have been beaten by the ‘little yellow people’ in Viet Nam.”

Potter also pulled no punches when he said that “serious heresy” exists in the churches (i.e., WCC churches) on the part of those who profess the Christian faith but are not obedient to its demands to change the economic, political, and social structures. Since the minimal doctrinal commitment of the WCC does not deal with this matter and since churches are free to believe as they choose, it was hard to appreciate his “ex cathedra” judgment of what constitutes heresy. It was also Potter who, in his Christmas message to the churches, said that salvation equals liberation and that in Jesus’s time salvation “signified liberation from all that impeded or restricted the life of persons and societies—whether sickness of body or mind, ignorance, indifference and fear, calamities of every kind, injustice by fellow citizens or by foreigners.”

Apart from listening to the three major papers, participants in the conference and the assembly spent most of their time in section and group meetings. Out of them came a plethora of pronouncements but no clear, unambiguous statement of the meaning of salvation today, yesterday, or tomorrow. The public bulletin boards did reveal some interesting opinions on the matter. One sign proclaimed that “People matter; people suffer; salvation is in sharing suffering.” Following an unscheduled session on China in which one delegate praised Chairman Mao as the saviour, this sign appeared: “Salvation=God save China from ‘conversion.’ ” Professor Moltmann of Tübingen diagrammed his view of “salvation in, by and through economic justice, political freedom and cultural change.” Some participants thought that the theological statement of Section II, largely the work of Moltmann, should stand as the “theology of Bangkok,” but WCC staff member van den Heuvel reminded the conference that theological perspectives had also come from conference addresses, worship experiences, conversations, drama, and art.

the great commission

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The risen Christ did not leave the fulfillment of his program to the whims of his disciples. Their whims led in other directions. They had to be rallied from their stupor, ordered out of their confusion.
The Master minced no words. Authority he had, backed by irrefutable credentials: graveclothes that had been abandoned, a Roman seal that had been violated, a cruel death that had been transcended.
The risen Lord took charge. Obedience he demanded, couched in undeniable commands: Go and make disciples, baptize and teach.
To the disciples’ uncertainty Jesus gave firm correction: no nostalgic return to their homes, no fearful huddling with one another, no anxious retreat from the world. Go was the way the command began.
To the disciples’ mission Jesus gave specific directions: Make disciples—not spectators, but full-time students in Christ’s school; all nations—without favor or prejudice, individuals, clans, tribes, peoples; baptizing them—all paganism rejected, total loyalty to the Father, Son, Spirit; teaching them—a new curriculum, written and illustrated by the Master.
The Saviour left no doubt. His presence he pledged, expressed in an incredible commitment: he would be with them, everywhere, through all time.
Obligated by his authority, captivated by his commands, motivated by his promise, they went. Like runners in a relay race they went. Because they went, we heard. Now the baton is with us—not to keep but to carry.—DAVID ALLAN HUBBARD, president, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

The spirit that brooded over participants was one of powerlessness, frustration, and despair. This was true not only of the evangelicals in the WCC, some of whom openly expressed sorrow over the lack of emphasis on evangelism and the fulfillment of the Great Commission, but also of those whose interest lies in a gospel of social salvation. Perhaps it was best expressed by the prayer that came from Section I:

For Christ’s Church on earth,

confused about its message, uncertain about its role,

divided in many ways, polarized between different understandings,

unimaginative in its proclamation, undisciplined in its fellowship,

we pray: Out of the depths we cry unto Thee, O Lord!

For ourselves in this Conference,

overwhelmed by our impressions, torn apart by prejudice,

often in doubt, plagued by frustrations,

struggling for honesty, for understanding of each other,

crying for love, searching for justice,

we pray: Out of the depths we cry unto Thee, O Lord!

Right now the WCC is in a crisis situation, for it appears to be unsure of its message, its mission, and its mandate. The good ship Oikoumene has been afloat for a quarter of a century; now it remains to be seen whether the new helmsmen, Potter and Castro, can keep it off the shoals.

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Among the things the World Conference and/or the CWME Assembly did were:

1. Blasted the United States and President Nixon on Viet Nam in a statement generously larded with such phrases as “ruthlessly destroyed,” “blasphemous mockery of peace making,” “holocaust of destruction,” “brutal power politics,” “sinister example of imperialism,” “wanton destruction,” and “blind reign of terror.” “In this war salvation is at stake,” the statement said, although “the Christian community itself is divided on this issue.” (84 ayes, 11 nays, 20 abstentions.)

2. Condemned Portuguese colonialism in Southern Africa, particularly Angola, with a recommendation favoring Christian support of the national liberation movement. In the assembly an amendment to include racism in Uganda as also wrong was defeated by a vote of 20 for and 30 against.

3. Approved an affirmation from Bible Study Group 3 that stated in part:

To the individual [Christ] comes with power to liberate him from every evil and sin, from every power in heaven [!] and earth, and from every threat of life and death. To the world he comes as Lord of the universe, with deep compassion for the poor and the hungry, to liberate the powerless and the oppressed.

4. Approved the report of Section II, which said in part:

a. Our concentration upon the social, economic and political implications of the Gospel does not in any way deny the personal and eternal dimensions of salvation. Rather, we would emphasize that the personal, social, individual and corporate aspects of salvation are so inter-related that they are inseparable.
b. There is no economic justice without political freedom, no political freedom without economic justice. There is no social justice without solidarity, no solidarity without social justice. There is no justice, no human dignity, no solidarity without hope, no hope without justice, dignity and solidarity.
c. Salvation is the peace of the people in Viet Nam, independence in Angola, justice and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and release from the captivity of power in the North Atlantic community … [but not in the Warsaw Pact!].

5. Approved the report of Section I, which said, among other things: “Our eyes will be keenly open to discover what He is doing among people of other faiths and ideologies.” “Other living faiths … have a mission.” “We shall rejoice in the common ground we discover.”

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6. Urged “missionary agencies to give serious consideration to the resolutions by the WCC Central Committee in Utrecht concerning the withdrawal of investments from Southern Africa.”

7. Recommended that serious attention be given to the possibility of supporting and encouraging local groups of action and protest against unjust economic structures (e.g., groups organizing a boycott of U. S. imports in areas of U. S. economic domination).

8. Expressed “particular concern regarding relationships between conservative evangelical groups and churches traditionally related to conciliar groupings.”

9. Voted that the CWME would “offer its services and make itself available to the Congress of World Evangelization to be convened at Lausanne, July 1974.”

10. Agreed “to promote and support self-tax of individuals and churches everywhere as an expression of transfer of power from the powerful to the powerless” (a resolution initiated by the X minus Y Action, an action group in Holland).

Conspicuously missing from the meeting: any condemnation of Communist oppression and exploitation; any reference to subjugated peoples such as the Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians; any reference to the Communist Warsaw Pact, though the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was panned; any criticism of socialism, despite repeated criticisms of capitalism; any adequate recognition of what God is doing through the Jesus movement, Key 73, the Berlin and other congresses on evangelism, Campus Crusade for Christ, or mass evangelism; any emphasis on the two billion unreached people without Christ or any genuine enthusiasm to harness the resources of the churches to finish the task of world evangelization according to the terms of the Great Commission (which I never heard mentioned during the entire gathering).

The WCC seems obsessed with the vision of establishing a truly just society among all men, saved and unsaved, atheistic Communists as well as committed Christians. Beneath the surface there lurks the terrible danger of the false promise of a golden age among men, an age of a world without injustice or oppression. Such a vision represents a sad misreading of history and reveals a mistaken view of the nature of man. The WCC is to be commended for its concern for social justice, and every Christian in and out of the ecumenical movement should likewise be concerned. But attempts to do away with injustice and oppression should be based upon one cold fact: oppression and injustice can be alleviated, in some areas considerably reduced, but they cannot be eliminated, even as the individual Christian can be improved in his personal life but not perfected so long as he is in the flesh. Sin will be with us until Christ returns, and as long as sin persists there will be injustice and oppression of all kinds. The problem will remain insoluble, though partially remediable, until sin is eliminated forever; no human efforts, no earnest pronouncements, and no illusory idealism can alter this basic fact.

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Virtually nothing was said at Bangkok about the command of Christ to evangelize the world, i.e., to finish the task of preaching the Gospel of personal repentance and faith to all men. Nor was anything said of the two billion who have never heard the Gospel, except in a single sentence in which Philip Potter dismissed the debate over this matter as futile. There was no clear-cut sense of the lostness of men without Christ and the fact that if they die in their sins they are eternally separated from God. The great stress on salvation as liberation from political, social, and economic oppression might very well have been just as much at home in a purely humanistic or secular conference.

Bible Study Group II seemed to get a little closer to the truth in its statement that “salvation can only be conceived as liberation from sin.” But the statement goes on to say: “It is necessary, however, to state clearly what sin means and to name without fear its present forms, especially its social and political forms.” Nowhere was sin or liberation from it clearly defined in the biblical sense. Sin is the lack of conformity to the will of God. While sin may be manifested in corporate ways, responsibility always lies at the doors of individuals. Society as such cannot commit adultery, for instance; individual sinners do this. Salvation in the biblical sense means the removal of the guilt and penalty of sin for those who come to God through Jesus Christ. It also means the beginning of deliverance from the power of sin in the individual’s life and the end of the presence of sin when Christ returns.

From all this, then, some conclusions:

1. The CWME and the WCC have in them a substantial number of people who are theologically evangelical as well as a broad spectrum of other views from a pale liberalism to extreme ideological leftism.

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2. Control of the ecumenical movement lies in the hands of those who are not theologically evangelical. Evangelicals exist by sufferance; their presence is welcomed, but they have no place in the power structure.

3. Neither Uppsala nor Bangkok produced any full-orbed statement about salvation, conversion, evangelism, or the mission of the Church that is biblically sound and therefore acceptable to evangelicals. Indeed, their statements are inimical to the evangelical viewpoint. The breach has been widened very considerably since Amsterdam in 1948.

4. Evangelicals within the WCC have been looking for encouragement and help in the pursuit of what they believe to be the major mission of the Church (the taking of the Gospel of Christ to all men everywhere, in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the hope that soon their king, the Lord Jesus, will return). Their expectations have been disappointed.

5. Evangelicals within the ecumenical movement have much more in common with their evangelical brethren outside the ecumenical movement than with non-evangelicals in the WCC. But many non-conciliar evangelicals have refused to join hands with their brethren who through church affiliations they cherish are related to the WCC. This has made impossible an alliance of all evangelicals in the cause of missionary outreach.

6. It is time for evangelicals in and out of the WCC to join together to do what all of them are committed to do as believers in the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus, i.e., to finish the task of world evangelization as soon as possible. The International Congress on World Evangelization, which will convene in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974, should give the most serious consideration to the creation of some form of continuing fellowship or organization that will have for its binding power a common commitment to the task of world evangelization.

7. Evangelicals should say to those who truly believe that salvation is deliverance from political, economic, and social oppression: “You do your thing and we’ll pray for you; we’ll do our thing and you pray for us.”

8. Evangelical unity and commitment to the evangelistic task are not enough. There must be a vital spiritual renewal in which the Holy Spirit provides the dynamic required to complete the Great Commission as well as persevering and prevailing prayer, without which no spiritual movement can get off the ground.

Will evangelicals catch the vision, see the possibilities, join hands, and move out for Christ in this new way?

George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”

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