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Amsterdam Assembly

Following the Oxford Conference* of 1937 it was decided to set up a committee to plan to inaugurate a World Council of Churches which would carry on the interests of both the Life and Work and the Faith and Order conferences. World War II prevented any early realization of this plan, although member churches had approved the formation of such a council, and a provisional committee existed. Fears that the ecumenical movement might be hindered by the war guilt question were dispelled by the German delegation's acceptance of this with the Stuttgart declaration.

In 1948 the long-postponed assembly met at Amsterdam, and on 23 August the WCC came into being. The basis was: “The World Council of Churches is a Fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour.” As before, it was stressed that the WCC was not a superchurch and that its pronouncements would carry no external authority but only “the weight it carries with the churches by its wisdom.” The conference was attended by 351 delegates from 147 churches. The Roman Catholic Church was invited, but permission was not given by that communion for any to attend. The Orthodox were only partly represented. Although representation from the younger churches would by modern standards be considered poor, it was considerably more than at any previous conference. The conference was still, like its predecessors, overwhelmingly Western in outlook. Amsterdam was a landmark in that the churches accepted responsibility as churches for the ecumenical movement, and vice versa the ecumenical movement became more fully rooted in the participating churches.

See the Official Reports, ed. W.A. Visser 't Hooft; and R. Rouse and S.C. Neill (eds.), A History of the Ecumenical Movement: 1517-1948 (rev., 1967).

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