Page 1, 4th September 1981

4th September 1981
Page 1
Page 1, 4th September 1981 — THE WORLD Council of Churches is a highly complex body

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Organisations: WORLD Council of Churches


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THE WORLD Council of Churches is a highly complex body

which seems fated to being continually painted by both its friends and enemies in destructively simple colours. Yet a less likely candidate for such savage stereotyping would be hard to find.

The 300 denominations which are full members of the Council present a bewildering range of interpretation and practice within their shared faith in Christ. On their behalf the Council wields a formidable battery of committees and conducts an extensive programme of activities in the areas of faith, witness, education, renewal, justice and service which tends only to be noticed if it sparks off controversy.

Nevertheless in spite of this undoubted diversity in expression and action the WCC is constantly victim of unhelpful generalisations. At one extreme it can be hailed as a potential instant panacea to all the wounds of divided Christendom. There can be an unspoken assumption that any reservations about the organisation of the WCC implies a lack of commitment to the cause of unity itself. This makes no allowance for the view that healing must come from within and that any other cosmetic reconciliation can be a dangerous obstacle to the real work of unity.

At the other extreme of partisanship, there is a hard core of anti-WCC zealots who refuse to see the work of the Council as anything other than a thinly veiled pare-Marxist conspiracy aimed at undermining the fabric of Christian morality. In this case the implication is that all the work of the WCC lies under the shadow of the controversial grants made to guerilla movements. The publicity given to these grants rarely mentions that they are only part of a minor subsection of the justice and service programme and as such occupies only five per cant of the Council's timetable.

It is ridiculous that a forum as valuable as the WCC should be assessed either in terms of unqualified optimism of party political hysteria. A polarised debate leaves the more important questions of scope, purpose, jurisdiction and bureaucracy untouched.

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