Little Bits of History

Holy God

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2013
World Council of Churches logo

World Council of Churches logo

August 23, 1948: The World Council of Churches (WCC) is officially founded. WCC is a worldwide consortium of Christians. The movement’s roots go back to the late 1800s when student and lay movements called for a unified force. The first meeting of the type was held in 1910 in Edinburgh where a world missionary conference was held. In 1920 an encyclical from the Synod of Constantinople called for a “fellowship of churches.” The idea was predicated on the League of Nations but with religion rather than politics as the underlying principle.

Leaders of more than 100 churches voted to begin the WCC in 1937-38. The outbreak of war delayed their organization. International conferences on “faith and order” (tenets, doctrine, rites) as well as “life and work” (social projects, international watchdog, relief work) were the driving forces during the early years. At the close of World War II, participating churches were encouraged to work with refugees, migrants, and the poor. The displaced and disaffected in the aftermath of war needed services and succor.

The WCC holds assemblies every 6-8 years. The first was held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and ran from August 22 through September 4, 1948 with 147 member churches in attendance. The official founding occurred on this date with four sections organized and the theme “Man’s disorder and God’s design” was taken. The first churches were predominantly Western Protestant faiths but the group has expanded to include many Orthodox sects of the East. With the Second Vatican Council, relations improved between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, although it is not a member.

The ensuing assemblies have met in the US, India, Sweden, Kenya, Canada, Australia, Zimbabwe, and Brazil – in that order. The last meeting concluded on February 23, 2006 where Archbishop Anastasios of the Albanian Orthodox Church was unanimously elected as one of the Presidents of WCC. Their current theme is “God in your grace, transform the world.” There are currently 349 member churches. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist minister from Kenya, has been General Secretary since 2004, the sixth man to hold the position. He recently announced he will not seek a second term in office and a new General Secretary should be appointed in September.

“Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

“God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through.” – Paul Valery

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” – C. S. Lewis

“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.” – Kahlil Gibran

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The World Council of Churches remains intact with 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches included. Collectively, they represent 590 million people in 150 countries. There are 520,000 local congregations served by 493,000 pastors and priests represented by the group. Olav Fykse Tveit from the Church of Norway is the current General Secretary and took that post in 2010. There are seven Presidents from around the globe. Their tenth assembly is scheduled to take place from October 30 to November 8, 2013. It will be held in Busan, Republic of Korea and their theme is “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” These gatherings provide a public platform as well as the opportunity for the churches to deepen their commitment to unity. Their profession of faith and devotion to study and prayer may inspire others around the world.

Also on this day: The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.
French Wars of Religion – In 1532, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres begin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: