World Council of Churches
It combines at total of 349 different churches, representing some 550 million Christians. Included in the fellowship are most of the world’s Orthodox churches; the historic denominational traditional churches, such as the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed, as well as many united and independent churches. However, the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest Baptist denominations, is notably not a member, believing the group to be liberal while the SBC holds to a conservative theology.
The WCC offers its members churches a forum to reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. As members of this fellowship, WCC member churches:
- are called to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship;
- promote their common witness in work for mission and evangelism;
- engage in Christian service by serving human need, breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation; and
- foster renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.
Member churches and their congregations are divided as follows:
- North America: 31 churches with 72,000,000 members
- Caribbean: 13 churches, with 2,600,000 members
- South America: 28 churches, with 4,500,000 members
- Europe: 81 churches, with 287,000,000 members
- Asia: 75 churches, with 62,600,000 members
- Pacific: 17 churches, with 2,000,000 members
- Middle East: 12 churches, with 9,700,000 members
- Africa: 92 churches, with 131,935,000 members
In 1937, church leaders agreed to establish a World Council of Churches, although the finalisation if the official organization was interrupted by the outbreak of the World War 2. It was not until 1948, that representatives of 147 churches finally met in Amsterdam to constitute the WCC.
The goal of the WCC was not to create a global "mega-church", nor to standardize worship, but rather to deepen the bond of fellowship between Christian churches and communities - in essence, a physical portrayal of the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church".
The current Secretary-general is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia of the Methodist Church in Kenya, although he has announced he will not seek re-election.
- New councils of churches and other ecumenical bodies in different countries and regions have created a genuinely worldwide ecumenical network of which the WCC is an integral part. The creation of this network has inspired its members to share an extraordinary number of resources of all kinds - theological, liturgical, spiritual, material and human.
- The Roman Catholic Church is a full member of many national ecumenical and several regional ecumenical organizations and has a regular working relationship with the WCC.
- Shared convictions on faith, life and witness are increasingly enriching theological reflection undertaken from strictly confessional perspectives. For example, theologians from different church traditions working together in the WCC's Faith and Order Commission produced a statement on baptism, Eucharist and ministry that has led to new worship patterns within churches, and to a greater understanding and changed relationships between churches of different confessional traditions.
- During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christians are drawn together into the prayer of our Lord that all may be one so that the world may believe. This Week, whose theme is developed each year by the Faith and Order Commission with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, draws churches at the local level into deeper fellowship.
- Since its creation, the WCC has supported and inspired church participation in struggles for justice, peace and creation. One example is the highly valued support given by the churches, through the WCC's Programme to Combat Racism, to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Support to efforts to bring about an end to the two decades-long civil conflict in Sudan, or to reunification of North and South Korea, or to the defence of human rights in Latin America during the decades of brutal military dictatorships in that region are three among many other examples.
- Recognition of the importance of inter-religious dialogue and relations with other faiths, as well as of the churches' responsibility for the integrity of creation, have been particular hallmarks of the ecumenical movement.