The basis of the WCC
Opening procession at the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, New Delhi 1961.

The WCC's 1948 inaugural assembly declared: "The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour". Soon this formulation gave rise to questions, and requests for a clearer definition of the Christ-centredness of the churches' common calling, a more explicit expression of the Trinitarian faith and a specific reference to the holy scriptures. The result was the re-formulation, adopted by the third assembly (New Delhi 1961), which still stands:

"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."

Less than a confession of Christian faith and more than a formula, the basis serves as a point of reference for WCC members, a source or ground of coherence. Since the WCC is not itself a church, it passes no judgment upon the sincerity or firmness with which member churches accept the basis or upon the seriousness with which they take their membership. Thus, the basis itself comes under William Temple's formula: "Any authority the Council will have consists in the weight which it carries with the churches by its own wisdom."

Theological and historical background of the WCC Basis