April 1979 Print

The World Council of Churches: A FRAUDULENT GOSPEL

Bernard Smith

"We must be careful that we do not give the impression that the Church is an agency for supporting Left-wing politics." That was said by Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, one of the chief architects of the World Council of Churches (WCC). It cannot be said that anyone, least of all Temple himself, has paid much heed to the warning.

The WCC held its first General Assembly in 1948. The World Council's purpose was said to be the furtherance of the aims of the "ecumenical movement". This had been growing rapidly in Europe for several decades and was basically an attempt to heal the divisions between different church traditions. But its agenda had never been limited to purely theological issues. It was also much concerned with working out a Christian social philosophy. Questions such as war and peace, economic justice and internationalism were as likely to be discussed as rival doctrines of the eucharist. Inevitably this social philosophy owed more to the currently fashionable socialism than it did to Christianity.

There were some who saw the dangers. Dr. Headlam, Bishop of Gloucester, complained that the WCC would be "continually involved in political matters and largely influenced by the passion for identifying Christianity with Socialism".1 Temple rejected Headlam's criticism but the subsequent history of the WCC has amply justified it. In bondage to Left-wing politics, the WCC regards Christian evangelism as irrelevant in a world whose most urgent need is social and political change.

When Temple was enthroned at Canterbury in 1942 he spoke of the ecumenical movement as "the great new fact of our era". Nearly forty years later he would have difficulty in recognizing the ecumenism in which he believed. It is still popularly understood as an attempt to unite the divergent church traditions but since Temple's day the ideologues of the WCC have been at work on the concept of ecumenism. They have restored to the Greek word "oikumene" its original secular meaning, "all the inhabitants of the earth". The effect is that the word "ecumenical" now refers not just to all Christians but to men of all faiths and no faiths. The WCC has declared: "We recognize the importance of co-operating at every level with the Roman Catholic Church, with other non-member churches, with non-church organizations, adherents of other religions, men of no religion, indeed with men of goodwill everywhere. "2

This universalizing of the meaning of ecumenism has enabled the WCC to break free from the constraints of a specifically Christian identity and advance into a strange no-man's-land, a region of relativity where all faiths, ideologies and cultures are equal and where the uniqueness of Christ's revelation vanishes. The ecumenical goal is no longer the limited one of uniting the churches—it is now the grandiose objective of unifying all mankind.

With disarming frankness this new concept is styled "secular ecumenism". According to Robert McAfee Brown, an American theologian who was one of the chief speakers at the WCC's 1975 Nairobi Assembly, it is "the very heart of what the gospel is all about". It is, he says, an invitation to Christians "to accept the implications of concern for the secular order."3

We can better understand what McAfee means after reading the following extract from a WCC document in which the WCC's own preference for a secular, ecumenical society is barely concealed:

"Secularization is a process whereby man becomes freed from the presuppositions of metaphysical and religious ideology and attempts to understand and live in the various realms of the world on their own terms. In contrast with the society in which a particular religious ideology sets limits to a genuine search for truth, the secular society not only permits the diversity of religious ideas but also encourages the pursuit of a sincere and open understanding of the factual reality of the universe....In the secular society, therefore, man's choices are no longer obligatory and prescribed. Each man is free to seek his own faith and make his own assumptions about the purpose of being."4

Such a society is clearly more suited to the attainment of the WCC's goal of a unified humanity than a society in which one religion or church dominates. We must draw the obvious conclusion: historic Christianity with its embarrassing claim to be unique is an obstacle to the WCC. If Christianity wishes to survive it must take its place with all other religions and ideologies. It must purge itself of theological arrogance derived—the WCC says—from its imperialistic past and seek a humble spiritual anonymity. The Nairobi Assembly produced a document headed "Seeking Community: The common search of people of various faiths, cultures and ideologies." It states: "We cannot allow our faith, the gift of our sense of community in Jesus Christ, to add to the tensions and suspicions and hatreds that threaten to tear apart the one family of humanity." God may have made a unique and direct revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ but it doesn't help the ecumenical movement to say so! "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And the use of texts like that can only cause dissension according to the WCC.

The dream of a universal society has given the WCC an obsession with abolishing divisions between countries, religions, sexes, etc. Here is Miss Pauline Webb, Vice-Moderator of the WCC's Central Committee in full flood: after accusing every Church tradition and every local church of false self-sufficiency she continues:

"We need an awareness that our particular experience of Christian community is fragmentary and partial. We need the enrichment of every possible ecumenical, inter-racial and cross-cultural encounter. We need beyond that to identify more fully and with deeper commitment with the struggles of all those who are seeking to abolish the boundaries of race, sex, and class, cultural differences and denominational divisions."5

It is clear that what Miss Webb has in mind is the establishment of a classless, egalitarian world-state. But if a world state can be achieved only by abolishing all divisions between men, then the revival of those divisions would be regarded by the rulers of that state as a threat to its survival. A world state that ensured that no "divisive" ideologies (such as Christianity?) appeared would be quick to label them "revisionist", "fascist" and "against the will of the people". And those who promoted such heresies would be "dissidents". Are we not entitled to so see in the WCC's new community of a unified humanity the lineaments of the totalitarian superstate?

Our suspicions are heightened when we find the WCC using Marxism as an instrument of its ''one-world"' policies. The suitability of Marxism is clear: like the WCC's ecumenical philosophy Marxism makes a common appeal to mankind to shed its parochial loyalties to church, religion, and nation and accept all men as brothers. Wars will cease, we are told, when the artificial barriers of class and belief are thown down. Marxism and secular ecumenism propose the same triumphant end to human history: the dissolution of all differences of belief and allegiance will give rise to the global society dedicated to the needs of common humanity.

The Marxist sociologists and radical theologians who staff the higher levels of the WCC are convinced that Western bougeois culture is dying and that capitalism is morally corrupt and must be replaced by socialism. (Dwain C. Epps, spokesman for the WCC, admits that WCC staff are "nearly all socialists",6 American capitalists have an economic stranglehold on the Third World, and their unfair trade practices condemn the Third World to perpetual poverty. Dr. Philip Potter, General Secretary of the WCC, berates Westerners for being:

deeply implicated in the economic and political structures which maintain racism and underdevelopment. All of us, including the churches, are part of repressive systems whether in Southern Africa or in the so-called affluent societies where there is little genuine participation of people in the life of their societies. If we really claim to love our fellow man can we really go on supporting structures which dehumanize and oppress?

In his 1972 Christmas Message to the churches, Dr. Potter proposed a neat equation of Christian salvation and Marxist revolution:

Everywhere there are liberation movements struggling against political, economic, racial, social and male oppression. The word "liberation" frightens many Christians, especially those who are citizens of countries which one way or the other maintain or support the oppression of people. But "liberation" is a good biblical word, for that is what "salvation" means.

If salvation and political liberation are, according to Dr. Potter, one and the same, what must we do to be saved? The answer is unmistakably clear: we must change the "system". We must join the revolution. At its 1968 Uppsala Assembly the WCC made no bones about it:

Christian participation in mission involves Christian participation in the struggle for a just society. But such a struggle may necessitate radical changes in the structure of society, if these structures are to become the instruments of justice for all rather than of privilege for the few and oppression of the majority, or vice versa. It is these radical changes which are called revolutions.

Our Christian evangelist has done his crash-course on Christo-Marxist ecumenism and is now convinced that his divinely appointed mission is not to save men's souls but to overthrow capitalism. One question remains: is he allowed to use violence? The ideologues of the WCC are quick with their comforting answers:

The question often emerges today whether the violence which shed blood in planned revolutions may not be a lesser evil then the violence which, though bloodless, condemns whole populations to perennial despair....It cannot be said that the only possible position for the Christian is one of absolute non-violence. There are situations where Christians may become involved in violence.7

And this further extract from the same WCC report makes the point even clearer:

...wherever small elites rule at the expense of the welfare of the majority, political change towards achieving a more just social order as quickly as possible, should be actively promoted and supported by Christians....In cases where such changes are needed, the use by Christians of revolutionary methods—by which is meant violent overthrow of existing political order—cannot be excluded a priori. For in such cases it may very well be that the use of violent methods is the only recourse of those who wish to avoid prolongation of the vast covert violence which the existing order involved.8

The immediate task for Christians, it seems, is to achieve political liberation for themselves and for others. In the past, the Christian liberated men from captivity to idols of wood and stone. Today he must liberate men from the captivity of political and economic systems, in particular from the monopoly of power, money and trade exercised by the Western nations. Hence the WCC's notorious anti-western bias and its foreign policy which can fairly be described as pro-Soviet. This bias is not due to the presence in the WCC of Russian Orthodox delegates. It is not they who prevent the Western members denouncing the abuse of human rights in Soviet Russia. The Russians did not join the WCC until 1961 which gave the WCC plenty of opportunity before they joined to criticize the Soviet terror state. The fact that they did not do so suggests that for them the crimes of Stalin's Russia were less offensive than those of the racist, capitalist and imperialist West. This remains true today.

One example of the WCC's blatant disregard of communist oppression—chosen from a multitude—is the list of countries practising oppression and discrimination which the WCC published in 1973. The Central Committee had met in Geneva to discuss "the violence of social structures" and the list was the result of its deliberations. The following countries and areas were listed: The USA, South Africa, Latin America, Northern Ireland and the Middle East. In the section on the USA there is reference to its "economic domination and political interventions, sometimes openly violent, in Latin American." It goes on to day that protest movements and civil rights groups in the USA had sometimes been forced to adopt violence "against a systematic oppression armed with weapons both brutal and subtle." In Northern Ireland "Christians oppose Christians . . . atrocities are committed by groups wearing labels inherited from the Churches' past." Strangely, there is no mention of the IRA nor any suggestion that political issues may be involved. In Latin American, violence shows itself "through oppressive acts such as unjust imprisonment of opponents by the government, torture, censorship of the communications media and by economic exploitation backed by political powers."9

You will search this list in vain for any example drawn from a communist country. The WCC seemed to have overlooked the fact that several hundred million people in Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe are kept in place by electrified fences, trip-wire operated mines and guard dogs. That intellectuals are subjected to "psychiatric" treatment to cure them of their anti-social tendencies. That Russia keeps a slave population of over a million in labour camps living on starvation rations and forced to do long hours of heavy labour. That Soviet citizens are under constant surveillance by the secret police and are punished for any deviation from the ideological norm. That there is no free press or radio since every word that is made public must first be approved by the state censor. And that its citizens lack the basic right of religious freedom: a man may be sent to a labour camp for holding a prayer meeting in his home and a mother may be forcibly deprived of her children for teaching them their prayers.

One member of the Central Committee, Professor Olle Engstrom of Sweden, noticed the absence of examples from the Communist world and suggested that some should be included. A brave man! Delegates from communist countries rose one after another to deny that there was any denial of human rights in their countries. The Professor's suggestion was put to the vote: only two out of the 120 members of the Committee supported him, 26 others abstaining.

The WCC has consistently ignored the pleas of Christians behind the Iron Curtain to publicly protest on their behalf. At the 1975 Nairobi Assembly the WCC was forced to take the plugs out of its ears and listen—for the first time in 25 years. Two members of the Russian Orthodox Church, Lev Regelson and Fr. Gleb Yakunin, wrote an open letter to the WCC and managed to get it smuggled out of Russia and published in the Assembly's daily paper. The letter was a thrust at the WCC's conscience. It was the voice of oppressed Russian Christians. It had the authority of those who have suffered for their faith: Yakunin, the priest, had denounced the servility of the Russian Church leaders and had been debarred from his own altar for doing so. Could the WCC ignore the letter? It could not. For the first time in the WCC's history human rights in Soviet Russia were being debated in public. But it was a reluctant debate which had been forced on the WCC. Dr. Potter promised much but performed little. As soon as the Assembly was over the whole matter was skillfully dismissed and after a few routine committee reports was heard of nor more.

The WCC is not merely tolerant of Soviet tyranny but in all the great international crises of the past 25 years has either maintained a careful neutrality or has come down firmly on the side of Soviet Russia. Thus there is no doubt that the WCC regarded the USA as the aggressor in the Cuban missile confrontation of 1962. When the WCC issued a statement expressing "grave concern and regret with regard to Cuba", the Lutheran Church of America, whose 1,000 delegates were then in conference, repudiated the WCC statement as an attack on the US government. Metropolitan Nikodim of the Russian Orthodox Church took a different view: "We approve your condemnation in the name of the WCC of these dangerous acts of the American government against the republic of Cuba..."

In July 1968 as the crisis in Czechoslovakia deepened, the WCC met in assembly at Uppsala, Sweden. The assembly might have been expected to give some encouragement to Dubcek, especially as the Czech leader's attitude towards the Christian churches was the most liberal since the communist coup of 1948. But the WCC said nothing about Czechoslovakia. It neither supported Dubcek nor reproached Soviet Russia. What it did do, in the field of international politics was to address a peremptory request to the USA to stop the bombing of military targets in North Vietnam. An attempt to link this with a condemnation of the communist Viet Gong's invasion of South Vietnam was defeated. Not long afterwards every civilized voice was raised in protest as Soviet tanks rolled into Prague. Only the WCC remained silent. It was some weeks before it addressed a note to the Soviet government feebly remonstrating over what it described as "an ill-considered action."

As to the Vietnam War, the WCC never concealed its opposition to American policy. The WCC soon became a part of the international "peace-lobby", regarding the USA as an "imperalist aggressor" and the Communist North as engaged in a crusade to liberate the south. In 1970 the WCC launched a program to assist the American deserter and draft-dodger. It described the deserter as a "hero" and his act of desertion was a sign of "moral and social discontent" which the WCC found admirable. The WCC kept up an unrelenting campaign against the American presence in Vietnam, describing the bombing raids on the north as "immoral" and "inhuman". Eventually the so-called Peace Treaty was signed and the US forces left Vietnam. It was then that, in cynical defiance of the Treaty, the Communists invaded the South, pushing a million refugees before them. It was a savage assault. But worse was to come. After the fall of Saigon came the fall of Phnom Penh where the whole population of the city—two million—was driven out into the countryside at gun-point. Even hospital patients were wheeled out in their beds to die in the fields. But there were no protests by the WCC at this "immoral" and "inhuman" behaviour. Dr. Potter who was horrified at the American bombing was not, it seems, equally horrified by these events. Those who had cried "stop the killing" when the Americans were there, were now oddly silent. And as if to signal its satisfaction with the communization of Indo-China the WCC made a gift of three million dollars to the Communists.

More recently the WCC had been active in Africa. In 1972 the WCC began encouraging the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in a program designed to "animate" priests for social change. At least 200 underwent the special course and it was they who took part in the 1974 left-wing demonstrations in Addis Ababa. The revolutionary government that, with Russian help, was eventually set up in Ethiopia was reported in early 1979 to be persecuting Christians.

In both Angola and Mozambique, Marxist regimes followed the collapse of Portuguese rule. In both countries the Marxist "liberation" groups were supported by the WCC. Samora Machel, President of Mozambique, was formerly leader of Frelimo. While Frelimo was fighting for independence from the Portuguese we were repeatedly assured by the WCC that the triumph of Frelimo would bring democracy to the Africans. Four years later it is instructive to see what has happened. The thin disguise which Frelimo had worn for some years of being a "national liberation front", was dropped when it came to power and it professed with admirable candour "the principles of Marxist-Leninism." Machel went to Moscow for talks and the street names in the former capital of Laurenco Marques were changed to Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh. The free elections which had so often been promised were put off for three years which gave Machel enough time to indoctrinate the population. They finally took place at the end of 1977 when the Provincial People's Assemblies approved the list of candidates for the National People's Assembly. The list had been drawn up by the Central Committee of Frelimo and the first name on it was Samora Machel's. There are today an estimated 100,000 in Machel's "re-education" (concentration) camps.

The fate of Mozambique foreshadows what will happen in Rhodesia if the WCC-backed Patriotic Front succeeds in taking over. The WCC has given £160,000 to this terrorist group, ignoring its horrifying atrocities and ignoring, too, the familiar warning signs of a future Marxist autocratic state. Robert Mugabe, who with Joshua Nkomo, leads the Patriotic Front, has declared himself a Marxist and that he wants a one-party Marxist state in Rhodesia. (He is also, according to the deported Bishop Lamont, "a dedicated Catholic" and according to Andrew Young "a very gentle man".) Nkomo has often insisted that the Front will come to power "through the barrel of a gun" and that free elections in the "liberated" Zimbabwe will not be held until two years afterwards and will be supervised by his army and police force. How they will deal with a political opposition is suggested by the "death-list" published by the Front in November 1978. This threatens all members of the Transitional Government and all black members of the security forces with "people's courts" and "execution" when the Front takes over. (A touch of macabre humor is added to the document by the statement that this is the Front's first list and a second will be published "at the end of December as a Special Christmas Bulletin.")

In Rhodesia the two Anglican bishops have repeatedly protested at the WCC's support for these political gangsters. In January 1973 they wrote to the WCC complaining that it was financing groups that "employ methods of naked terrorism". They said the terrorists "came out of the bush, surrounded farmhouses by night, sprayed them with bullets and heavier armaments, wounding occupants, chiefly children, and burning down houses of local Africans". The bishops' letter was ignored. In May 1974 they wrote again. Since their last letter, they said, "members of ZANU and their willing or forced accomplices have killed 87 civilians in this country. Far and away the majority of these have been Africans, innocent of any offence and most have been killed with great brutality. Others have been abducted, raped, beaten and disfigured." The bishops ended their letter: "We have learnt with disgust that earlier this year £6,355 was voted (by the WCC) to ZANU."

The catalogue of terrorist atrocities lengthened until, in June 1978, it culminated in the massacre of eight British Pentecostal missionaries and their four children. (When a ninth missionary died later from wounds this brought the total of missionaries killed by Rhodesian terrorists to 37.) They had been killed with appalling savagery and the doctor who had conducted the post mortem said there had been an attempt to rape one of the children, a four-year-old girl. She had then been bayonetted in the arms and legs and finally killed by crushing her skull.

Less than three weeks after the massacre came the news that the WCC had made a grant of £45,000 to the Patriotic Front. "BLOOD MONEY: Rhodesian killers get cash aid—courtesy of world's churches" said the headlines on the front page of one of Britain's most popular newspapers. The British public was rightly shocked and angry and when the Salvation Army suspended its membership of the WCC, as a protest against the grant, most people applauded it. But while public indignation mounted, the WCC kept a careful silence. The British Council of Churches—the British equivalent of the National Council of Churches—met and after briefly debating the matter decided to approve the WCC grant. When the Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland (Rhodesia) heard of this he sent the following cable to the BCC's president, the Archbishop of Canterbury :

Judas Iscariot, Patron Saint of World Council, British support for World Council motivated by British love of blood sports.

On the same day that he heard the news of the BCC's decision, one of his black priests had to flee for his life from his rural parish because of the activities of Patriotic Front terrorists.

Grants to African terrorists are dispensed by the WCC's Program to Combat Racism. The WCC justifies its promotion of murder and Marxism in Rhodesia on the grounds that lan Smith's government is a racist government and racism is the worst of all injustices. But the WCC candidly acknowledges that it is concerned only with white racism. When, in the Sudan in the 1960's, half-a-million Christian Africans were massacred by Arabs, the WCC did nothing. Challenged, a WCC official replied: "We are concerned with white racism." In Burundi in 1972, the aristocratic ruling Tutsi tribe put down a rebellion by the Hutus and then practiced a sort of selective genocide. Educated Hutus from government offices, banks, schools—even secondary school children—were herded together and shot and thrown in rivers. 100,000 were disposed of in this way. It aroused no comment from the WCC: black man was killing black man in a racial war. If white men had been on the winning side it would presumably have qualified for the WCC's attention.

The reason why the WCC restricts itself to white racism is not difficult to find: it gives it another excuse for lambasting the white western people who, according to its own political mythology, are always wealthy and always wicked. This is why the WCC goes out of its way to finance and encourage "ethnic minorities" in Western countries. Examples of these are the American Indian Movement, Malcolm X Liberation University, Free Southern Theatre and The Puerto Rican Organization in the USA; the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines in Australia; the Colombian Council for the Defense of Natural Resources and Black Workers; Bolivian Project in Aid of Indian Liberation; and in Britain the WCC is financing a London-based Marxist black power group the Race Today Collective. All of these are plainly unrepresentative of the people they claim to represent since they are led by professional left-wing malcontents who exploit the often real grievances of the people for their own political purposes.

The exaggerated prominence which such groups give to minor injustices in Western societies is grist to the WCC's mill. Moral censure, for the WCC, is a political weapon. A society or government that earns the disapproval of the WCC will be made the target of a campaign of moral denunciation. It will be accused of injustice, oppression and corruption far in excess of its actual defects. South Africa, Rhodesia, Chile and South Korea are obvious examples. In harrying such victims the WCC acts as the ecclesiastical accomplice of the United Nations.

Because the Roman Catholic Church is not formally a member of the WCC it should not be assumed that it does not support its policies and share its objectives. There is in fact very close co-operation between the two. Ten percent of the WCC's Commission on Faith and Order is made up of Roman Catholic theologians. The WCC and the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace jointly run a committee on Society, Development and Peace called SODEPAX. Pope Paul VI sent a personal gift of £4,000 to the WCC to help finance this committee. And Cardinal Jan Willebrands has made the remarkable admission that "... the great problems and tasks that now confront the Churches are seen hv the WCC and the Catholic Church in the same way, indeed they are also formulated in almost the same way." 10

The WCC represents, with few exceptions, all the major Protestant and Orthodox churches in the world. If the Cardinal is right and the Catholic Church is allied with the WCC then we should take stock of the situation. There can be no doubt that the WCC is apostate. Canon Albert duBois of the American Episcopal Church has roundly declared that the WCC is the Anti-Christ. Certainly it takes what little theology it has from those contemporary writers whose destructive criticism has liquidated every concept of traditional Christian doctrine. They have secularized, radicalized and demythologized Christianity. Bereft of any purpose in living they have sought it in Utopian politics. The WCC's "political theology" has been described by Dr. Peter Beyerhaus as being "in its deepest analysis, a camouflaged atheistic humanism, in which the names of God and Christ are simply cyphers for the real nature and destiny of man . . ." 11 The future of Christianity is imperilled if it is entrusted to the WCC. It is important that member churches should realize this and withdraw from the WCC. It is important that the Catholic Church should realize this and sever its connections with the World Council.

The political consequences for the Western world that stem from the power and prestige of the WCC are equally grave. The Western Churches have surrendered their voice and their authority to a body which has an obsessive detestation of the West and its way of life. We must, says the WCC, purge our capitalist, imperialist souls by constant self-censure and self-denigration. When, on our knees, we acknowledge how unjust and corrupt our society is, then we shall be spiritually prepared for revolution. Solzhenitsyn has observed the failure of the West to offer any moral or spiritual resistance to the advance of Communism. It is the Christian Church that should arouse such a resistance but under the leadership of the WCC it will never do so. The politics of the WCC are treasonable.

The WCC's infatuation with Marxism, its support of terrorists and its promotion of violent revolution declare its alignment with that foreign state whose known intention is the overthrow of western societies. The defense of the West against communism will not become a psychological possibility until the Western Churches free themselves from the World Council's thrall. If they fail to do so it is difficult to see how either the churches or the West can survive the end of this century...


Bernard Smith is a well known conservative Anglican writer living near London, England. He is an authority on the WCC and his book, The Fraudulent Gospel: Politics and the World Council of Churches is available at $2.50 from The Church League of America, 422 North Prospect St., Wheaton, IL 60187.


1. R.P. Flindall, The Church of England, 1815-1948 (London 1972), p. 429.

2.Robert McAfee Brown in an article "Secular Ecumenism: the Direction of the Future" in World Year Book of Religion, Vol. 2, 1970.

3.Report of WCC's 1968 Uppsala Assembly.

4.Official Report on WCC's "Conference on Church and Society", WCC, 1967, p. 158.

5.Reported in Church of England Newspaper, 11 February 1977.

6.Mr. Epps quoted by Dr. Edward Norman in letter to British weekly Christian World, 18 January 1979.

7.From the WCC's official report on the 1966 Church and Society Conference.

8. ibid.

9."Violence, Nonviolence and the Struggle for Justice", WCC, 1973.

10. Cardinal Willebrands in an article "Jesus is Lord", in L'Osservatore Romano, 31 January 1974.

11. Reported in Church of England Newspaper, 9 June 1972.