Magazine article The Christian Century

Reader's Digest Attacks WCC Again

Magazine article The Christian Century

Reader's Digest Attacks WCC Again

Article excerpt

Reader's Digest magazine has launched its third major attack on the World Council of Churches in two decades, and council officials have taken steps to defuse the article's impact. Titled "The Gospel According to Marx," the article focuses on a problem that has dogged the Geneva-based World Council for years - its relationship to Marxist regimes - and raises the ante by alleging that some of the council's leaders were Soviet KGB agents. "The KGB had a plan to penetrate and manipulate the WCC," claims the article, which appears in the February issue, scheduled for distribution to some 25 million readers. "Orthodox priests who were WCC delegates were often KGB agents acting on Communist Party orders."

Jean Stromberg, director of the council's U.S. office in New York, dismissed the article as essentially rehashing old issues. She said council officials welcome any reaction to the article as an opportunity to let people know about the WCC's work. Stromberg also said that the council is sending out educational materials aimed at helping church leaders correct what appeared to be "a deliberate attempt to distort what the World Council is about." Some WCC officials have begun notifying member churches about the article with warnings such as "Reader's Digest is not the gospel and has an ideological bias and uses its articles in unfair ways."

But Reader's Digest spokeswoman Martha Molnar defended the article by Senior Editor Joseph A. Harriss, calling it "thoroughly researched and absolutely correct." Harriss, who is assigned to the magazine's Paris bureau, was also the author of a 1982 Digest article that accused the WCC of channeling funds to radical groups. Many church leaders considered that article vindictive and unfair. Nevertheless, it created waves of negative reaction among grass-roots church members toward leaders of mainline Protestant denominations.

Harriss's most recent article does not identify by name any Russian Orthodox priests alleged to have been KGB agents. …

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