The World Council of Churches (WCC) ended its seventh assembly in Canberra, Australia, in late February with a major question left unanswered: Will the Orthodox churches, which make up a major segment of the council’s membership, continue to participate in the ecumenical organization?

In a statement of “reflections” released toward the end of the assembly, the Orthodox participants suggested the time has come for Orthodox and other member churches to review their relations with the WCC, citing an “increasing departure” from the WCC’s theological basis. The ecumenical organization, which includes 317 member churches worldwide, describes itself as “a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Orthodox representatives said the “tendency to marginalize” this basis “has created some dangerous trends in the WCC. We miss from many WCC documents the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the world’s Saviour.

“We perceive a growing departure from biblically based Christian understandings of the Trinitarian God, salvation, the ‘Good News’ of the gospel itself, human beings as created in the image and likeness of God, and the church, among others.”

The Orthodox said they followed “with a certain disquiet” the development of the WCC “towards the broadening … of relations with other religions.” They added that they were alarmed by some presentations at the assembly dealing with its theme, “Come, Holy Spirit—Renew the Whole Creation.” ...

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