Ecumenical–Evangelical Divide to Be Stressed at WCC Assembly

Ecumenical will meet Evangelical this week as the World Council of Churches holds its largest and most ambitious conference in eight years.

Starting Tuesday and running for a week, the WCC will be hosting its international assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. While the 350-member ecumenical body has held such gatherings in the past – with this year’s marking the Council’ s ninth assembly – the shifting landscape of modern-day Christianity has formed a completely new terrain for the world’s largest Christian body.

As aptly put by the head of the council, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, the gathering will take a fresh look at global Christianity. Namely, Kobia hopes to fully recognize the spiritual shifts in Christendom and begin serious dialogue with Pentecostal and Evangelical groups, who have often regarded the council as a threat to their independence, fund-raising methods, worship style, and theology.

“I will also call on Pentecostals, charismatic and others to approach us in an open mind and not with the hostility of history that has led to suspicion,” Kobia said in a statement.

Dozens of Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders will attend the assembly as “observers,” and are even planning a separate, smaller gathering among themselves during the weeklong gathering.

The WCC boasts a membership of 350 churches around the world that represents more than 500 million followers. And while the mission of the Council is cooperation among various Christian churches, most of its core membership is made up of two bodies of Christians: mainline and Orthodox.