“A caricature of the ecumenical movement founded in 1948”—that is how February’s Reader’s Digest characterized the World Council of Churches. The A council has “drifted,” it said, “from its original goal of Christian unity into the choppy waters of secular ecumenism.’ ” Remarkably, and somewhat sensationally, the Digest now blames the drift on a secret KGB plot.

It was not the first time the “world’s most widely read magazine” took aim at the WCC. Indeed, many North Americans owe their most vivid impressions of the council to a major Digest article in 1982. “Which master is the World Council of Churches serving,” the article asked, “… Karl Marx or Jesus Christ?”

An organization that claims only to be a “fellowship” of churches finds itself again at the center of controversy. A group formed to confess “the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures” makes many Christians chafe. Is the controversy simply a result of “bad press”?

When CT went looking for contributors to take readers beyond the Reader’s Digest, we were repeatedly pointed to the names in this CT Institute Special Report. We asked Tübingen scholar Peter Beyerhaus to survey turning points in the WCC. Senior editor J. I. Packer tells why he once was “in” but now stands apart. James Stamoolis of Wheaton College’s Graduate School explores ecumenical lessons from the Eastern Orthodox, while African church leader Tokunboh Adeyemo wonders what has happened to evangelism in the WCC. We also asked tough questions of evangelical Wes Granberg-Michaelson, a WCC staff member. Finally, senior editor Tom Oden considers new forms for evangelical ecumenism.

Defining Moments
Peter Beyerhaus*

The World Council of Churches traces its official beginnings to 1948, although ...

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