Nov 17th, 2005 · Categories: Christianity · No Comments

Christianity: Ecumenicalism leaves the WCC behind

An essential tenet of Christianity is the unity of the church. The body of Christ consists of all believers, all united in faith, all serving God according to their gifts. This fundamental fact does not necessarily preclude the formation of denominations, but it does clearly require that all Christians put their unity in Christ ahead of their unity with a particular denomination or other earthly organization.

In the late 19th century, Christians involved in missions decided that it would be helpful to form relationships across denominational boundaries to further their work. This cooperative effort became known as ecumenicalism sometimes referred to as ecumenism, or, more commonly, the ecumenical movement. Like many good ideas, this one got hijacked by leftist bureaucrats who subscribed to one of the great errors of socialist thought – the dreamy notion that good institutions can make people good.

Promoting unity from the top down

One of the institutions what was supposed to make Christians “better” was the World Council of Churches (WCC), founded in 1947. Thomas C. Oden, writing for Christianity Today, describes the WCC as “an organization of churches, historic denominations chagrined about their divisions. Its task is to bring church bodies into a formal dialogue leading toward visible unity.”

Oden notes that “the WCC’s Geneva offices were controlled for many years by leftist ideologues.” The WCC has been defined by its fondness for “colluding with Marxist regimes, fixating on regulatory politics, fantasizing about various liberation theologies, fostering illusions about world anti-capitalist revolutions, and advocating some forms of sexual liberation.” Even today, “though many Marxist regimes have passed, the historical pro-Marxist flavor remains in much of the political and social interpretation that comes out of Geneva.”

The WCC’s statist worldview underlies its basic structure, which Oden describes as “hierarchically organized to coordinate competing church hierarchies, each with their own vast bureaucracies.” With the usual arrogance of the left, the WCC believes that unity cannot be accomplished by individual Christians but must be achieved through its top-down enlightenment of the Christian masses.

Sacrificing unity for politics

The WCC’s left-wing arrogance has led it into another delusion – that WCC bureaucrats are wise and pure enough to determine God’s will and to pronounce it on behalf of all Christians for whom they presume to speak. But this is mere pretense. There is no agreement among Christians that the WCC’s left-wing ideology – or its shrill espousal of it – represents God’s will for the church.

This presumption belies the WCC’s claimed intent to be the “broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.” Indeed, the WCC seems bent on producing disunity with its political activism and Marxist worldview. This destructive behavior is illustrated by the controversy that erupts within my own Presbyterian denomination every time it appropriates another handout to prop up the WCC.

Seeing the light?

Years of irrelevance seem to have taken their toll on the WCC. In a recent meeting in New York, the moderator (Presby-speak for chairman) of the WCC central committee observed that “institutional ecumenism ‘ is in stagnation. The challenge is, how can we go beyond institutional ecumenism and make it a healing reality?'”

In an astonishing confession of years of wasted effort and money, he went on to say that “the ecumenical movement can no longer afford to be ‘a private club for conference-goers and church hierarchs.'” Another leader acknowledged the need “to be in dialogue with evangelical, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic groups” who do not belong to the WCC – and who would be unlikely to support the WCC’s political posturing. Another – perhaps seeing the need to focus on spiritual unity rather than political or organizational unity – called for “new approaches, based on ‘compelling spiritual vision rather than predictable organizational momentum, and by deep change rather than incremental change'”.

The real ecumenical movement

The “church hierarchs” who focus on talking to each other probably haven’t noticed, but the ecumenical movement is actually alive and well. It is characterized, as it originally was, by loose inter-denominational and sometimes international connections of lay people and local churches. There are many examples; here are a few my local congregation has participated in:

  • The March for Jesus has been going on for twenty years, uniting Christians across denominational lines in England, Australia, the United States, and more recently in the Global South.
  • The Alpha Course has been embraced by hundreds of churches of many denominations as way to teach the basics of the Christian faith to seekers and even their own members.
  • The cursillo movement, though not explicitly ecumenical in its intent, has united Christians from many denominations in focused three-day renewal retreats. The best-known are the original Catholic Cursillo, the Methodist Walk to Emmaus, and the Presbyterian Great Banquet, but there are many others.

In my city of 50,000, people from more than 100 local churches have attended Great Banquet weekends, praying. learning, and talking together. Instead of talking to each other, maybe the WCC leaders should be talking to churchgoers who actually live the ecumenical movement. But in the long run, it doesn’t much matter what the WCC does; Christian unity lives below their radar.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2005 at 10:00 am and is filed under Christianity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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