From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC Celebrates 50th Anniversary of "Epoch-Making" Event

Date 07 Oct 1998 20:02:15

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    WCC Celebrates 50th Anniversary of "Epoch-Making" Event 
    by Edmund Doogue 
    Ecumenical News International 
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands-The formation of the World Council of Churches 
(WCC) in 1948 had been "an event of epoch-making importance," a key 
official of the organization told the congregation at a 50th-anniversary 
service of celebration in a church in central Amsterdam on September 19. 
    Catholicos Aram I, a leading figure in the Orthodox world and moderator 
of the WCC's Central Committee, was giving the homily in Amsterdam's Old 
Lutheran Church to a congregation of 500 people, including Queen Beatrix of 
The Netherlands, officials representing the Dutch government 
and the city of Amsterdam, the Executive Committee of the WCC, and Dutch 
and foreign visitors, including a handful of people who were present at the 
WCC's inaugural assembly, held in Amsterdam in 1948. 
    Catholicos Aram said that at that time the ecumenical movement, thanks 
to the "power of the Holy Spirit," had broken down a "partition" dividing 
the churches. "Can you imagine," he asked the congregation, "after so many 
centuries of isolation, estrangement and controversies, the churches coming 
together for the first time?" 
    The WCC began, he said, "mainly as a Protestant and European fellowship 
of [147] churches. But in the following years it became not only the most 
comprehensive manifestation of the ecumenical movement, but also the most 
efficient instrument of the churches by which the collaboration among the 
churches was given more organized expression, the search for visible unity 
acquired strong impetus, and concern for common evangelism and diakonia was 
articulated through a programmatic framework in response to the changing 
conditions, needs and priorities of the churches." 
    Catholicos Aram stressed in his homily that the WCC was a "fellowship 
of churches" and should not be concerned with "qualitative growth and 
expression. Its aim is to challenge the churches to grow together towards 
common witness, evangelism and visible unity." 
    During the service, conducted mainly in Dutch but also in English and 
organized by the Council of Churches in The Netherlands and other 
organizations, a candle was lit for each of the previous seven Assemblies 
of the WCC - Amsterdam (1948), Evanston (1954), New Delhi (1961), Uppsala 
(1968), Nairobi (1975), Vancouver (1983), Canberra (1991) - and for the 
forthcoming Assembly in Harare, in December. 
    The service was shown on Dutch national television on September 20. 
    As the service began, a group of 15 protesters gathered outside the Old 
Lutheran Church, some holding placards describing the WCC as "unchristian." 
One of the protesters told ENI that the group had traveled from Great 
Britain and Ireland to protest against the policies of the WCC. Brochures 
distributed by the group explained that they were members of the British 
Council of Protestant Christian Churches and criticized the WCC's dialogue 
with the Roman Catholic Church. The brochure declares that the WCC is 
promoting "the subversion of the historic Reformed and Protestant Faith."  

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