“When the Devil wanted nothing to happen,” according to an old Norwegian saying, “he set up the first committee.”

Under a mandate from the Nairobi assembly of the World Council of Churches to do something about religious liberty in Eastern Europe (see January 2, 1976, issue, page 31), the policy-making Central Committee of the WCC decided last month in Geneva to set up an advisory committee. It was the first full meeting of the 130-member group since the late-1975 WCC assembly (the WCC has 286 member denominations). Human rights in Eastern Europe was one of the major issues in Nairobi, and more journalists than Central Committee members turned out for the meeting in the expectation that some action would be taken. Some 100 advisors, guests, and staff were also on hand.

When the WCC’s general secretary, Philip Potter, met with reporters after adjournment, he suggested that the new panel might get to work on the human-rights issue by next March. The Central Committee’s next annual meeting is scheduled next July.

Per Lønning, the resigned bishop of the Church of Norway who suggested the origin of committees, stopped short of calling the WCC demonic and of suggesting that it will never do anything on the Eastern European situation. He did, however, point out the council’s inconsistency in dealing with issues.

“I am happy that in many important questions such as the racism issue, or in issues of peace and war, this council has not spoken so contextually that the challenge to the consciences has been allowed to disappear,” Lønning declared. “I hope the issue of religious freedom will not be allowed to disappear either.”

Potter was disposed to speak in general terms about the issue rather than being specific. So was William P. Thompson, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.