Ecumenical reconstruction, advocacy and action: The World Council of Churches in times of change, from the 1940s to the early 1970s

A. Laine, J. Meriläinen, M. Peiponen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This article sheds light on the history of the World Council of Churches (WCC) from the vantage points of three different programmes that helped transform the new interchurch organization into the flagship of the modern ecumenical movement of the 20th century. Reconstruction, advocacy and action were the strategic methods the WCC resorted to in the turbulent times of the 1940s the 1960s. Besides representing three different approaches to achieving certain aims of ecumenical work, these three methods also developed into programmes within the WCC: the Reconstruction Department, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and the Programme to Combat Racism. The motivation of the WCC can best be located in the Christian principles of helping those in need and strengthening the fellowship of churches in an inter-church body. Nonetheless, political intentions and ideological goals also underlay the activities of the WCC, which evidently intended to secure the standing of Christianity in difficult times and in the midst of such menacing ideologies as communism, secular humanism and apartheid. The active role of ecumenically minded American mainline Protestants in exerting pressure on the WCC in these endeavours is indisputable. Although the WCC can be seen as an active political agent against the background of the Cold War, it in fact functioned more as an international body engaged in ideo- logical battle to safeguard the operational preconditions of churches and respect for human rights. Since action and prophylaxis were needed to maintain and strengthen Christian fellowship across political and ideological lines, the three programmes concentrated not on Christian dogma but on social ethics. © 2017 [2018] Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen.
Original languageEnglish
JournalKirchliche Zeitgeschichte
Volume30
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
ISSN0932-9951
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 614 Theology

Cite this

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abstract = "This article sheds light on the history of the World Council of Churches (WCC) from the vantage points of three different programmes that helped transform the new interchurch organization into the flagship of the modern ecumenical movement of the 20th century. Reconstruction, advocacy and action were the strategic methods the WCC resorted to in the turbulent times of the 1940s the 1960s. Besides representing three different approaches to achieving certain aims of ecumenical work, these three methods also developed into programmes within the WCC: the Reconstruction Department, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and the Programme to Combat Racism. The motivation of the WCC can best be located in the Christian principles of helping those in need and strengthening the fellowship of churches in an inter-church body. Nonetheless, political intentions and ideological goals also underlay the activities of the WCC, which evidently intended to secure the standing of Christianity in difficult times and in the midst of such menacing ideologies as communism, secular humanism and apartheid. The active role of ecumenically minded American mainline Protestants in exerting pressure on the WCC in these endeavours is indisputable. Although the WCC can be seen as an active political agent against the background of the Cold War, it in fact functioned more as an international body engaged in ideo- logical battle to safeguard the operational preconditions of churches and respect for human rights. Since action and prophylaxis were needed to maintain and strengthen Christian fellowship across political and ideological lines, the three programmes concentrated not on Christian dogma but on social ethics. {\circledC} 2017 [2018] Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, G{\"o}ttingen.",
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Ecumenical reconstruction, advocacy and action : The World Council of Churches in times of change, from the 1940s to the early 1970s. / Laine, A.; Meriläinen, J.; Peiponen, M.

In: Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2017, p. 327-341.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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