WCC member churches include most of the Orthodox Churches; numerous Protestant churches, including the Anglican Communion, some Baptists, many Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, a broad sampling of united and independent churches, and some Pentecostal churches; and some Old Catholic churches.
The largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church, is not a member of the WCC, but has worked closely with the Council for more than three decades and sends observers to all major WCC conferences as well as to its Central Committee meetings and the Assemblies. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also nominates 12 members to the WCC's Faith and Order Commission as full members. While not a member of the WCC, the Roman Catholic Church is a member of some other ecumenical bodies at regional and national levels, for example, the National Council of Churches in Australia and the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil (CONIC).
Delegates sent from the member churches meet every seven or eight years in an Assembly, which elects a Central Committee that governs between Assemblies. A variety of other committees and commissions answer to the Central Committee and its staff.
These Assemblies have been held since 1948, and last met in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006, under the theme "God, in your grace, transform the world".
Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania was unanimously elected World Council of Churches President in the 9th general assembly meeting held at the University of Porto Alegre in Brazil in February 2006. A former president of the WCC was Rev. Martin Niemöller, the famous Lutheran anti-Nazi theologian.
|1948 - 1966||W. A. Visser 't Hooft||Reformed Churches in the Netherlands/Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, Geneva||Netherlands|
|1966 - 1972||Eugene Carson Blake||United Presbyterian Church (USA)||U.S.|
|1972 - 1984||Philip A. Potter||Methodist Church||Dominica|
|1985 - 1992||Emilio Castro||Evangelical Methodist Church of Uruguay||Uruguay|
|1993 - 2003||Konrad Raiser||Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)||Germany|
|2004 - 2008||Samuel Kobia||Methodist Church in Kenya||Kenya|
The Commission has 120 members, including representation of churches who are not members of the World Council of Churches, among them the Roman Catholic Church. Members are men and women from around the world - pastors, laypersons, academics, church leaders nominated by their church.
Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (BEM) was published in 1982. It attempted to express the convergences that had been found over the years. It was sent to all member churches and six volumes of responses compiled. As a result, some churches have changed their liturgical practices, and some have entered into discussions, which in turn led to further agreements and steps towards unity.
A major study on the church (ecclesiology) is being undertaken examining the question 'What it means to be a church, or the Church?'
In particular with a focus on ecclesiology and ethics focusing on the churches/Church's 'prophetic witness and its service to those in need'. .
Faith and Order is collaborating with Justice, Peace and Creation to answer the questions:
Material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is prepared annually with the Roman Catholic Church.
Other work of the Commission includes facilitating the coordination of:
Attention has been given to issues around:
The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC represents the potential for fresh and creative high-level discussion about the structure and life of the Council, a discussion which is explicitly seen as continuing the foundations laid by the process and the policy document "Towards and Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC"
There has been controversy within the WCC about its programs and actions. Orthodox and Evangelical member churches have sought to make clear the nature of their involvement and limits on the authority of the WCC to speak on their behalf. Many churches have opted to stay out of the WCC, accusing it of being dominated by liberals and (or) leftists. Through the Programme to Combat Racism, the council was involved in several activities that caused controversy and criticism, including the funding for humanitarian purposes of groups engaged in liberation struggles during the 1970s, as in South Africa.
As a member based organization, the WCC has needed to address the concerns raised by member churches and has done so. The Programme to Combat Racism has been changed and Orthodox concerns have been and are being addressed through the Special Commission.
Additionally, several conservative Eastern Orthodox Christians consider the Council (as well as any union with non-Orthodox Christians) as heretical, and demand officials from the Eastern Orthodox Church to abdicate their membership.
The council has been described by some as taking anti-Semitic positions in connection with its criticisms of Israeli policy. They believe the council has focused more on activities and publications criticizing Israel than on other human rights issues. The council members have been characterized by Israel's former Justice minister Amnon Rubinstein as anti-Semitic, saying "they just hate Israel."
The World Council of Churches has rejected this accusation. In 2005, the General Secretary of the WCC, Samuel Kobia, stated that anti-Semitism is a "sin against God and man" and "absolutely irreconcilable with the profession and practice of the Christian faith," quoting from the first assembly of the WCC in Amsterdam in 1948.
This caused much controversy in the past among member churches. In a Time Magazine article entitled "Going Beyond Charity: Should Christian cash be given to terrorists?” (October 2, 1978). Further examination of WCC's political programme appeared in Amsterdam to Nairobi - The World Council of Churches and the Third World by Ernest W. Lefever (1979, Georgetown University, ISBN 0-89633-025-7 . Further criticism has also been cited by the Christian right, for example in March 1983 issue of Jerry Falwell related Fundamentalist Journal:
The WCC has not sought the organic union of different Christian denominations — it has however facilitated dialogue and supported local, national, and regional dialogue and cooperation.