First assembly, Amsterdam 1948

Place: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dates: 22 August to 4 September, 1948
Theme: Man's Disorder and God's Design
Member churches: 147

It was on the 23rd of August 1948, in Amsterdam, that the World Council of Churches was officially founded. 147 churches from different confessions and many countries came together to commit themselves to the ecumenical movement.

At the assembly in Amsterdam, four sections were organized to examine aspects of the theme  "Man's Disorder and God's Design": First assembly, Amsterdam 1948

  • the universal church in God's design 
  • the church's witness to God's design
  • the church and the disorder of society
  • the church and the international disorder.

 

 

Second assembly, Evanston 1954

Place: Evanston, Illinois, USA
Dates: 15-31 August, 1954
Theme: Christ - the Hope of the World
Member churches: 161

The only WCC assembly to date held in the United States, it to some degree reflected - and certainly reflected on - the East-West tensions of the cold war. The Assembly divided its work into six sections: 

  • Our oneness in Christ and our disunity as churches
  • The mission of the church to those outside her life
  • The responsible society in a world perspective
  • Christians in the struggle for world community
  • The churches amid racial and ethnic tension
  • The laity: the Christian in his vocation.
Third assembly, New Delhi 1961

Place: New Delhi, India
Dates: 19 November to 5 December, 1961
Theme: Jesus Christ - the Light of the World
Member churches: 197

Best remembered for the incorporation of the International Missionary Council into the WCC, and the admission of 23 new member churches, including significant sectors of Eastern Orthodoxy and churches from newly independent nations, the Assembly focused on the theme "Jesus Christ - the Light of the World" with three sections on witness, service and unity.

Fourth assembly, Uppsala 1968

Place: Uppsala, Sweden
Dates: 4-20 July, 1968
Theme: Behold, I make all things new
Member churches: 235

The assembly at Uppsala bore further testimony to the expanding membership of the Council, as well as the fresh breezes of Vatican II that brought Catholic observers to participate in the meeting and discuss further opportunities for cooperation. Sections were organized under the headings:

  • The Holy Spirit and the catholicity of the church
  • Renewal in mission
  • World economic and social development
  • Towards justice and peace in international affairs
  • Worship
  • Towards new styles of living.
Fifth assembly, Nairobi 1975

Place: Nairobi, Kenya
Dates: 23 November to 10 December, 1975
Theme: Jesus Christ Frees and Unites
Member churches: 285

"Jesus Christ frees and unites" the delegates sang in the midst of Nairobi's life: people from around the earth, standing before God in their captivities and disunities and naming a divine possibility.
The assembly section titles echo concerns of that turbulent decade:

  • Confessing Christ today
  • What unity requires
  • Seeking community
  • Education for liberation and community
  • Structures of injustice and struggles for liberation
  • Human development.
Sixth assembly, Vancouver 1983

Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Dates: 24 July to 10 August, 1983
Theme: Jesus Christ - the Life of the World
Member churches: 301

At this assembly on the western shores of Canada, a renewed emphasis on common worship was experienced under the great white tent standing beneath the summer sun. Hope for closer fellowship arose from dialogue on the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) document, and such ecumenical experiments as the Lima Liturgy. At the same time, the nuclear threat and neo-colonialism glowered like dark clouds on the horizon. The Assembly proclaimed its theme: "Jesus Christ - the Life of the World", and carried out its work in the following issue groups:

  • Witnessing in a divided world
  • Taking steps towards unity
  • Moving towards participation
  • Healing and sharing life in community
  • Confronting threats to peace and survival
  • Struggling for justice and human dignity
  • Learning in community
  • Communicating credibly.
Seventh assembly, Canberra 1991

Place: Canberra, Australia
Dates: 7-20 February, 1991
Theme: Come, Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation
Member churches: 317

1991 was the first time a theme had explicitly invoked the third person of the Trinity, and it did so in the context of the physical universe. Sections were organized under four sub-themes:

  • "Giver of life - sustain your creation!"
  • "Spirit of truth - set us free!"
  • "Spirit of unity - reconcile your people!"
  • "Holy Spirit - transform and sanctify us!"
Eighth assembly, Harare 1998

Place: Harare, Zimbabwe
Dates: 3-14 December, 1998
Theme: Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope
Member churches: 339

Half a century after the official foundation of the WCC, its member churches renewed their commitment to stay together, and delegates promised to remain in solidarity with their African hosts.

The Assembly decided to set up a commission on the participation of the Orthodox churches in the WCC. It backed the creation of a "Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations" which could extend the ecumenical outreach far beyond WCC member churches. 

Delegates and assembly visitors participated in more than 600 contributions to a three-day "Padare" in which subjects ranged from Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue to human sexuality. It was preceded by a Decade Festival of churches in solidarity with women.

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Ninth assembly, Porto Alegre 2006

Place: Porto Alegre, Brazil
Dates: 14-23 February, 2006
Theme: God in your grace, transform the world
Member churches: 348

The 2006 assembly was one of the most representative gatherings of Christians ever held - with over 4,000 participants from ecumenical organizations and groups, delegates from 348 member churches, observers and visitors from all around the world.

Addressing the core issues of Christian unity, the Assembly agreed on a new text, "Called to be the One Church," and urged that WCC and its member churches give priority to the questions of unity, catholicity, baptism and prayer. Other key issues discussed at plenary sessions were Economic justice, Christian identity and religious plurality, and Youth overcoming violence.

Also, delegates adopted a substantially revised Constitution and Rules which moved the WCC to decision-making based on consensus and which amended membership criteria. Steps were taken to strengthen active involvement of youth (under 30 years) in the life and work of the Council.

Visit the 9th Assembly website