World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

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The WCC within the ecumenical movement

It is impossible to speak about the WCC apart from the ecumenical movement, out of which it grew and of which it is an important instrument.
The WCC within the ecumenical movement

"Oikoumene" by Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe (1991).

The World Council of Churches was formed by the merger of two earlier movements for the unity of the church: the Faith and Order movement, which focused on issues of doctrine that have divided the churches, and the Life and Work movement, which promoted collaboration by the churches in social action.

Their decision to join together in a body whose membership would be made up of churches responded to an appeal for the formation of a "league of churches" sent in 1920 by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople "to all churches everywhere".

The International Missionary Council, representing an even earlier stream of work for Christian unity, formally merged with the WCC in 1961. Ten years later, the World Council of Christian Education, whose roots lay in the Sunday school movement of the 18th century, became part of the Council. Much of the energy behind the impulses for Christian unity in the early 20th century came from movements of young people and students.

The WCC shares the responsibility to build on the legacy of the ecumenical movement with all who seek to promote the unity of the church and to bring Christians together to participate in God's healing of creation:

  • • regional, national and local councils of churches;
  • • organizations of churches of a single family or tradition;
  • • organizations representing a particular ecumenical constituency or serving a particular purpose or ministry;
  • • less formally structured Christian communities and movements;
  • • churches which are not members of the WCC but accept the call to make visible the oneness of the church.