a brief history of the wcc

In an earlier post, ‘stages in the history of visible church unity‘, I left off on the point noting the emergence of the World Council of Churches on the one hand and the International Council of Christian Churches on the other. What follows is a bit of an expansion on that, again from my 28 year old Church History class notes.

Edinburgh 1910 – World Missionary Conference

  • Turning point towards WCC
  • International Missionary Council

[From this also flowed two conferences…]

Faith and Order (Pseudo theology and polity) [‘pseudo’ is very probably my own term, not my professor’s]

Life and Work (Social activity)

These conference series combined at Utrecht in 1938 where something was created called the “WCC in Process of Formation”

  • Amsterdam 1948 WCC established
  • International Missionary Council continued to hold its own meetings until 1961

WCC Meetings

  • Evanston, IL – 1954
  • New Delhi – 1961 (IMC joined)
  • Geneva – 1964
  • Uppsala, Sweden – 1968
  • Bangkok, Siam – 1972
  • Nairobi, Kenya – 1975


Well, those are my notes, kind of sketchy. I was relying a good deal on memory for the exams, it seems.

The WCC website offers a page on its history that indicates my outline is generally correct. A note from their site:

Two pioneering WCC projects were launched in co-operation with the IMC in 1946: the Churches’ Commission on International Affairs (CCIA), and the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. Today the Ecumenical Institute offers master’s and doctoral degrees in ecumenical studies through the theological faculty of the University of Geneva.

The purposes of the Ecumenical Institute are likely clear enough, but the CCIA may need a bit more explanation. This from the front page of the CCIA site:

The tasks of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) include:

  • advice on public policy and advocacy
  • advice on programmatic directions, including analysis of systemic issues that underlie injustice and social transformation
  • addressing particular programmatic and policy issues, with a special emphasis on the aim of promoting a peaceful and reconciling role of religion in conflicts and on the promotion of inter-religious dialogue as a framework for community building, faith sharing and understanding.

The CCIA oversees the WCC programmes Public witness: addressing power, affirming peace; Justice, diakonia and responsibility for creation; and Inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

The drive for unity in the Church produces this kind of institutional worldliness. The drive for unity especially produces this when the parameters for ‘Church’ are so broad as to hold to almost no distinctive – the broader the parameters for unity, the more worldly the result.

Beware of ‘Christian’ unity.