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close this bookOvercoming Violence: WCC Statements and Actions 1994-2000 (WCC, 2000, 130 p.)
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View the documentForeword - Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, WCC General Secretary
View the documentThe World Council of Churches: An Introduction
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The World Council of Churches: An Introduction

The World Council of Churches - to cite the definition in its constitution - is a “fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Located in over 100 countries, the WCC’s 337 member churches come from a wide range of social, cultural, economic and political contexts and represent nearly every Christian tradition. While the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, staff of the Council and of the Vatican co-operate in many different areas of work; and official Roman Catholic representatives are present at almost all major WCC meetings.

The Council was established in 1948 to call churches “to the goal of visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship”. As such, it is a product of the modern ecumenical movement - the growing impulse, beginning in the late 19th century, to overcome the often bitter separations and divisions that had arisen within the Christian church over the centuries. The WCC has no legislative authority over its member churches; rather, its task is to assist them in their common witness in the world, in expressing their common concern “in the service of human need, the breaking down of barriers between people and the promotion of one human family in justice and peace”, and in fostering their renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.

In carrying out these tasks, the WCC collaborates with national and regional Christian councils, international organizations of particular Christian traditions (e.g., Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist) and many specialized international bodies in which Christians work together across denominational lines. Through its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs it is accredited as a nongovernmental organization with the United Nations.

Policies for the World Council are set by the Assembly, made up of delegates from all its member churches, which meets approximately every seven years. Since the founding Assembly in Amsterdam in 1948, there have been six others, the most recent in Canberra, Australia, in 1991. The Eighth Assembly was held in Harare, Zimbabwe in December 1998. Each Assembly elects a Central Committee of some 150 members; it meets about once a year to supervise the ongoing work of the Council and to adopt its budget.

About 180 people work at the central offices of the WCC in Geneva. ACC programme work is divided into four clusters: Issues and Themes, Relations, Finance, Services and Administration, and Communication. The General Secretariat includes offices for the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and their support staff. Four ecumenical bodies are connected with the structure of the WCC, but are independent administrative entities: The Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, The Ecumenical Church Loan Fund, Action by Churches Together, and Ecumenical News International. A 100,000-volume library is located at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and contains a vast collection of ecumenical publications and resource materials.