World Council (of Churches) Forced to Rethink Itself

Article excerpt

The World Council of Churches -- the world's biggest ecumenical body -- is considering radical changes in its structure, including the creation of a new ecumenical forum which could include the Roman Catholic Church and other churches which are not members of the WCC.

The council has 330 member churches throughout the world, including nearly all of the world's historic churches, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church. The proposed changes seem likely to reduce the size of the WCC's organizational structure, resulting in a less costly and more flexible organization.

The proposals, outlined in a paper sent recently to the WCC's 330 member churches, will be discussed next September at the WCC's central committee in Geneva. Final proposals will be presented to the next WCC assembly, in 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Harare assembly will also mark the 50th anniversary of the WCC, which was founded at Amsterdam in 1948.

The paper suggests that in the year 2000, all Christian churches should -- in a "common act" -- commit themselves to working "towards the day when an ecumenical council of the entire Church of Jesus Christ, in the sense of the ancient undivided church, will take place."

The paper -- a draft policy statement entitled Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches -- is part of a process that has been under way since 1989, but which has taken on an added urgency because of a severe financial crisis facing the WCC.

An internal staff group is working on proposals to reshape council staffing in line with the new policy proposals. …