Changes over the past 25 years demand a fresh look.

Evangelicals do not agree on what evangelicalism is, so it is no surprise that they do not agree on what to do about the World Council of Churches. It would be foolhardy, therefore, to attempt to prescribe what all evangelicals ought to think about the World Council. Our goal is much simpler: to spell out how we ourselves respond to it.

Ecumenism (the unity of the household of faith) has always been a deep concern of evangelicals. They recognize that unity of the spirit is far more important than any unity of structure. Yet since Reformation days, evangelicals have had a continuous history of attempts at union. In spite of meager success, Luther’s dialogue with Zwingli, the Diet of Augsburg, and the correspondence of Lutheran leaders with the Eastern churches bear witness to their hope that the body of Christ might be united.

The modern ecumenical movement began with evangelicals during the nineteenth century. The National Council of Churches, however, was never distinctly evangelical. Nor was the WCC when it was organized at Amsterdam in 1948. Ernest Hocking’s famous Layman’s Report on Missions typified the viewpoint of liberal ecumenists of that day. It decried efforts to convert the heathen. The aim of missions, so it argued, was not to convert Buddhists to Christianity but to make Buddhists better Buddhists. In 1948 at Amsterdam, liberals, many holding such beliefs, nurtured the new world organization through its infancy. Only the insistence of a block of European conservative churches eventually secured a commitment to the deity of Christ.

Karl Barth’S Rebuke Of The First Council

Karl Barth addressed the Amsterdam council as an outsider. Though he would hardly be recognized ...

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

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

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

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

Tags:
Issue: