The World Council of Churches at 75
Susan Durber celebrates 75 years of the WCC
The World Council of Churches (WCC) and our National Health Service have things in common. They are each marking a 75th anniversary, had William Temple among their architects, were formed in the years of post-war reconstruction and now have those who question what their future might be. In both cases, it is wise to remind ourselves of the significance of what we have inherited and find ways to treasure a legacy.
In 1948, in Amsterdam, the WCC had its first assembly. The United Reformed Church minister the Revd Elizabeth Welch remembers her father, the Revd Clifford L Welch, telling her about being there and she still has the small plaque attendees were given to mark that moment.
There were 351 delegates, representing 145 Churches, meeting with a sense of relief that at last the hopes expressed, even before the First World War, had come to fruition after the end of the Second. But just as URC members might reflect on our founding service in 1972 and spot the differences from today, so we can look back at the first WCC Assembly. The Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican Churches were well represented, especially from Europe and North America, but the Russian Orthodox and the Romanians were not there. And the Roman Catholic Church was wary then of ecumenical gatherings. Only 81 of those assembled were lay men or women, and there was a small number from what might have been described then as ‘the third world’…
Susan Durber is the World Council of Churches President from Europe
This is an extract from an article published in the September 2023 edition of Reform