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New Delhi Assembly

1961. The third assembly of the World Council of Churches,* held in India with its theme “Jesus Christ the Light of the World.” Decisions and features of the assembly included a merger of the WCC with the International Missionary Council*; approval given to membership applications from twenty-three churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church and two Pentecostal churches from Chile, adding seventy-one million members to the movement; and the admission of five official Roman Catholic observers.

Some 577 delegates and 1,006 participants were present. Presidents elected were Archbishop A.M. Ramsey,* Sir Francis Ibiam of Eastern Nigeria, Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek archdiocese of North and South America, Dr. Martin Niemöller,* Dr. David Moses of the United Church of North India, and Mr. Charles Parlin, Methodist layman from the USA. Overwhelmingly accepted was a required Trinitarian formula: “The WCC is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

A variety of problems was encountered, among them the language barrier, time pressures, the subordination of delegates to preparation for the assembly, verbose papers, and distinctions between clergy and laity. Anti-Semitism, proselytism, religious liberty, and concern for refugees were discussed. Reports of the three study groups, concerned respectively with witness, service, and unity, were “approved in substance and commended to the churches for study and appropriate action.” Witness proceeded on these bases: Jesus Christ is the light of the world; the peoples of the world are interdependent; evangelism must proceed in new ways. Proclamation of Christ as Lord and Savior has “deep implications,” and differences among WCC members must be studied. Any evangelism must take specific cognizance of youth, the worker, the intellectual. New ways might include dialogue, small groups, listening, mass media, use of laymen, examination of church structures to see if they help or hinder evangelism, and the embodiment of the message in lives. Service was concerned about technology, social change, and political order. Since government gives a necessary order to society, Christians must work for political institutions which protect individual freedom and oppose governments which deny rights for racial and other reasons. The group was concerned to promote racial equality; international trust, especially between Russia and America; international institutions which promote peace; disarmament; integrity and honesty in political life.

In the unity section it was concluded that “the unity which is both God's will and his gift to his church is being made visible” in various ways “in the fully committed fellowship” which yet leaves many questions unanswered, including the inability to have intercommunion and one baptism.

See W.A. Visser 't Hooft (ed.), The New Delhi Report (1962).