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Evanston Assembly

1954. The second international meeting of the World Council of Churches, held at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; 132 member denominations were represented at the gathering, the theme of which was “Christ-The Hope of the World.” The program was divided into four parts: (1) the theme was presented and debate focused on varying views of eschatology, the part that evangelism of the Jews plays in hastening the return of Christ, and the relationship of the other- worldly to this world's problems; (2) the assembly was split up to study the six subthemes, the most controversial of which were those on the evangelizing church and on racial and ethnic tensions. The group on the evangelizing church recommended day schools as a means of providing Christian nurture, and that on racial tensions condemned segregation, urging member churches to renounce it (it also condemned anti-Semitism); (3) structural changes in the WCC were considered; (4) routine business was undertaken.

If many agreed that there ought to have been fewer plenary sessions and more time for personal interaction, it was because the machinery was so complex that some felt the Holy Spirit was hampered by seemingly insurmountable restrictions. Many also agreed that the concerns of the assembly were generated from the top down and that some delegates, especially non-English-speaking lay people, had difficulty sharing the concerns. A hint of the machinery may be seen in the fact that six-and-a-half tons of mimeograph paper were used to print official news releases and to record assembly speeches. Optimism about the assembly lay in the fact that Christians of a variety of backgrounds were listening to one another and interacting over differences, including theological ones, and that even without agreement on theological issues they could carry out a program of world relief and refugee help.

As council presidents for the ensuing seven-year period the assembly elected Dr. John Baillie of Scotland, Bishop Sante Barbieri of Argentina, Bishop Otto Dibelius of Germany, Metropolitan Juhanon of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Archbishop Michael (Greek Orthodox) of New York City, and Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill of the USA.

See J.H. Nichols, Evanston. An Interpretation (1954).