Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 133:532 (Oct 76) p. 350
“Who Runs the World Council of Churches?” Richard N. Ostling, Christian Herald, April, 1976, pp. 19-22, 30.
“The World Council: An Unlikely Congregation,” Daniel Hertzler, Christian Herald, April, 1976, pp. 20-22, 40, 42.
“The World Council of Churches Nairobi Assembly and Africa,” Byang H. Kato, Perception, March, 1976, pp 1–12.
These three articles all deal with the World Council of Churches and more specifically with its Fifth Assembly at Nairobi last November and December. Ostling is “on the editorial staff of the religion section of Time” (fn., p. 19). He and Hertzler, editor of the Gospel Herald, were among the “640 representatives of the press” who covered the Assembly. The late Dr. Kato, then general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, attended as an observer.
Ostling discusses the most basic question, using the Nairobi meeting to illustrate his conclusions concerning the power structure of the Council, which in fact is the complete reverse of what it professes. According to the Council’s constitution ultimate authority is vested in the Assembly held every seven years. It designates the Assembly as “the supreme legislative body governing the World Council” and authorizes it “to determine the policies of the World Council and to review programmes undertaken to implement policies previously adopted” (p. 19). In actuality the Council is run by its paid staff in Geneva, aided by various consultants, and the small Executive Committee, “which meets behind closed doors several times a year” (p. 20).
Such a delegation of authority is inevitable in an organization that convenes only every seven years. Ostling describes the process of power transfer as follows: “The Assembly, supposedly supreme in the WCC structure, has a nominating committee which chooses up to 145 Assembly
BSac 133:532 (Oct 76) p. 351
delegates to serve on the Central Committee; the Assembly dutifully ratifies those nominations. The Central Committee, which meets about once a year, has a nominating committee which proposes members of the Executive Committee…. The Central Committee exercises loose oversight over what the elite does, and the Assembly exercises even looser oversight over what the Central Committee decides” (p. 20). As a result a handful of “elite” in effect speak and act for “roughly half a billion Protestants and Eastern Orthodox” in the Council’s “286 member denominations” (p. 19).
The net result is that the real power structure of the Council—the Central Committee and Geneva staff—can and does inaugurate a...
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