31 1st WCC Assembly. Amsterdam 1948, 1946 - 1950 (Subseries)

Archive plan context

Information on identification

Ref. code:31
Title:1st WCC Assembly. Amsterdam 1948
Creation date(s):1946 - 1950

Information on extent

Archival Material Types:Paper
Number:33 boxes

Information on context

Name of the creator / provenance:WCC Assembly. Amsterdam 1948
Administration history:"Man's Disorder and God's Design"; Amsterdam, Netherlands, 22 August to 4 September 1948; 351 delegates, from 147 member churches.
The WCC's first assembly marked the assumption by the churches of responsibility for the ecumenical movement, as its message made clear : "Here at Amsterdam we have (...) covenanted with one another in constituting this World Council of Churches. We intend to stay together." Those constituting this world body, however, were largely from North America and Western Europe - only 30 of the founding churches came from Africa, Asia (including 5 from China) and Latin America. Although the term "younger churches" was often used for the latter bodies, they in fact included some of the oldest (Church of Ethiopia and Orthodox Syrian Church of Malabar); and among Western churches were some of the youngest (Old Catholic Church and Salvation Army).
Amsterdam said clearly that the churches had decided to come together in accordance with the will of the Lord of the church. Where this common way would lead them could not been foreseen. "We acknowledge", the report of section 1 emphasized, "that he is powerfully at work amongst us to lead us further to goals which we but dimly discern."
The first assembly adopted the WCC constitution (revised at successive assemblies), laid down conditions for membership, outlined programmes, discussed relationships with other ecumenical bodies and addressed a message to the churches - a practice repeated by succeding assemblies. The "nature of the Council", defined in an assembly statement, would be further elaborated on by the statement "The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches", adopted by the central committee at Toronto in 1950.
Section 2 expressed the indissoluble connection between unity and inner renewal : "As Christ purifies us by his Spirit we shall find that we are drawn together and that there is no gain in unity unless it is unity in truth and holiness." Evangelism was seen as the common task of all the churches, and the present day as "the beginning of a new epoch of missionary enterprise". Mission and evanglism belong together and condition between "Christian" and "non-Christian" nations must be discarded. The question of the training of the laity was examined by a special commitee which took as its starting point the experience of the already astablished Ecumenical Institute at Bossey.
In section 3 emerged the ecumenical concept of the "responsible society", as opposed to both laissez-faire capitalism and totalitarian communism. "Each has made promises which it could not redeem. Communist ideology puts the emphasis upon economic justice, and promises that freedom will come automatically after the completion of the revolution. Capitalism puts the emphasis upon freedom, and promises that justice will follow as a byproduct of free entreprise; that, too, is an ideology which has been proved false. It is the responsibility of Christians to seek new, creative solutions which never allow either justice or freedom to destroy the other." It was also agreed that since "no civilisation, however 'Christian'", can escape the radical judgement of the Word of God, none is to be accepted uncritically.
Section 4 was able to encompass such divergent views as those of the Czech theologian Josef L. Hromádka and John Foster Dulles (later US secretary of state). While this showed the strength of the fellowship in the newly formed Council, it also put that strength to its first test. Two points in this section were significant for the future : 1. rejection in principle of war as "contrary to the will of God", but inability to endorse such rejection unanimously; 2. concern that every kind of tyranny and imperialism calls for opposition, struggle and efforts to secure basic human liberties for all, especially religious freedom.

In Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, 2nd edition, 2002. WCC Publications, Geneva

Information on content and structure

System of arrangement:Original order

Section 1 : The universal church in God's design
Section 2 : The church's witness to God's design
Section 3 : The church and the disorder of society
Section 4 : The church and the international order

Conditions of access and use

Conditions of access:Open access

Internal statements

Date of description:2004


Entries:  Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1948, August 22-September 4, WCC 1st Assembly (Events\Assembly of the WCC)
  Governing Body (Subject\WCC General)
  Assembly of the WCC (Events\)

Related units of description

Related units of description:see also:
Amsterdam 1948, 1948 (Box)

see also:
MCA-48 WCC Assembly. Amsterdam 1948, 1948.08.22 - 1948.09.04 (Fonds)


Permission required:None
Physical Usability:Without limits

URL for this unit of description

URL: http://archives.wcc-coe.org/Query/detail.aspx?ID=40913

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