The WCC’s Real Problem

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The World Council of Churches has an image problem. A real problem. Supporters of the council have their own explanations for the bad reputation, of course. For example, they say, most of what Americans have heard about the international ecumenical organization has come through the slanted reporting of Reader’s Digest and “60 Minutes.”

In addition, blame gets hung on the whole organization for just about any outlandish position taken by its many and diverse parts. And we can understand that whenever an organization embracing 311 churches and denominations in 100 countries sponsors gatherings of scholars to discuss societal and theological issues, leadership cannot predict or control the outcome. Nor can it always minimize the damage when far-out statements from such gatherings are amplified by journalists listening for any hint of controversy.

But the seventh assembly of the WCC, held in Canberra, Australia, last month (CT, April 8, 1991, p. 66) demonstrates that the council’s problem is more than cosmetic. The tarnished image is not simply due to unsympathetic media coverage, nor the council’s own lack of PR savvy. It has to do with a much deeper problem.

What evangelicals find most troubling about the WCC is its lack of unapologetically biblical and Christian moorings. For many within the council, of course, this is not true. But the council as a whole could do much more to allay the anxieties of conservative believers. Here is a sampler of ways the council could rehabilitate its image, and, more important, get on track to true unity:

First, the WCC needs to proclaim more confidently a historic “mere” Christianity. The kind of unity grounded in nonnegotiable essentials (articulated ...

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