Has your church fellowship ever given any serious consideration to exploring the possibility of membership in the ecumenical organization of the World Council of Churches (WCC) as a means of broadening and accelerating the exposure and impact of real Christ-centered discipleship upon Christendom? If not, what specifically prevents us from taking this course of action in addition to our current efforts? -- James McMillan-Chau
Hello! Interesting that you would address this question to me.
Actually, I tried. I was the delegate from my fellowship to the WCC in 1998 (the Jubilee meeting in Harare). Membership requires affirmation of basic Christian beliefs, including the Trinity, so being accepted wasn't difficult. There are about 330 denominations in the WCC. The main gatherings were about 1000 persons, with as many again in the observer tent. (The brother I brought along watched the proceedings from next door.) My supervisor in my doctoral program encouraged me to write to one of the WCC presidents, since I was effectively serving at the level of "archbishop" at the time. (Yes, I got a chuckle out of that.)
While there were many good folks in the WCC, seldom have I felt such ego — positioning, standing on rights, efforts to impress others. While many of the members are striving to live by the Bible, the leaders — the core group at the top — are liberals with an amazingly liberal agenda. (For example, in the opening session they encouraged us to use condoms during any sexual liaisons during our time in Zimbabwe, whether our preference was homosexual or heterosexual. And apparently many of the members are drinkers; the bar was open for business at 9:00 in the morning -- reminded me of the joke in Acts 2.)
The leaders made a special effort to be "inclusive," with Buddhist monks also in attendance (!). In such an atmosphere it's unclear what the goal is. Christian unity, or Christian redefinition?
Sadly, as with most political structures, corruption is endemic. Perhaps there will be good opportunities to get involved, but I experienced little interest in discipleship. As a small group leader I made an effort to bring up the real issues of personal commitment to Christ, discipleship, godly leadership, and so on. The bishops and archbishops did their best to derail the discussion!
The WCC has produced many written statements, yet what's proclaimed in documents doesn't necessarily translate to practical solutions or significant changes. Many groups recite the Nicene Creed, but if we're talking discipleship then it's clear that few live out the Creed. Crafting a common statement is a start. It's 1% of the race. The other 99% is holy living. And hardly any denomination requires that of its members! If a parachurch organization really more likely to be successful than the local church?
In fact, a good deal of harm came out of the 1998 meeting, as several of the speakers encouraged the Zimbabweans to demand back their ancestral land from the white farmers. Murder, theft, and terror combined to drive the country’s economy even further into the ditch.
There are times when cooperating with different denominations may be a good idea. I do not mean to demonize the WCC. For nearly 70 years this organization has been trying to unify, but its control center has been hijacked by men and women who have little appetite for conservative Christianity. In your city, I imagine there may be opportunities for collaboration (in disaster relief, for example, or perhaps in conferences). Yet at the global level, legislating morality (immorality?) and doctrine is a precarious undertaking.
In contrast, we see that the early church had no global government. Conferences were held as needed (there was at least one in the 1st century -- see Acts 15). Differences were discussed, usually without the ugly anathemas of the 4th century and beyond. In my view, the freshness of the faith, the influence of the still-living apostles, and the increasing peril involved in following Christ all kept most of his followers humble.