World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

5 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 9

Membership of the World Council of Churches rose to a record 339 Saturday (5 December) as its Eighth Assembly, meeting in Zimbabwe, welcomed eight more churches. There are now 306 churches in full membership and 33 in associate membership.

Appropriately for the Assembly's venue, six of the additional churches are African: the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe, the Harrist Church in Ivory Coast, the Council of African Instituted Churches, which is in South Africa, the Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria, and the Congo's Anglican Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church. The two others are Indonesian: the Christian Protestant Angkola Church and the Christian Church of Sumba.

These new member churches are made up of more than 4,500,000 Christians. They join a total of some 500 million people represented by the WCC. Churches have to meet various criteria before they can apply to the WCC, including a minimum membership of 25,000 and evidence of ecumenical involvement.

The Assembly, meeting in Harare 3-14 December, also admitted two associate councils - the Samoa Council of Churches and the Council of Protestant Churches of Equatorial Guinea - bringing the total of associate councils to 55. The number of international ecumenical organisations linked to the WCC rose to 25 with the addition of five more, including the World Young Women's Christian Association and the United Bible Societies.

The Christian Protestant Angkola Church has been an associate member since 1991 and now graduates to full membership. It has over 27,000 members . Its fellow Indonesian church, the Christian Church of Sumba, has 182,000 members and employs 500 people, running schools in primary, secondary and higher education, two hospitals, and welfare and development programmes.

The Council of African Instituted Churches is made up of 10 member associations, each of which is a group of churches, some single congregations, some denominational. The membership is estimated at 3.5 million. Their archbishops, pastors, evangelists and deacons are chosen by the community. Few of the bishops have had formal theological training.

The Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria has 450,000 members and the Harrist Church has over 100,000 members, 1,400 trained preachers and over 7,000 apostles. The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe has 30,000 members in 30 congregations and runs development and education projects. The Anglican Church of Congo has six dioceses, 241 parishes served by 270 clergy and 160,000 members. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo has 82 parishes and 120,000 members, runs several health centres and specialized schools, a theological institute and agricultural projects.

WCC churches are found in more than 100 countries on all continents and come from virtually all Protestant and Orthodox traditions. The Roman Catholic Church has not joined but maintains close links with the WCC. When the WCC was formed in 1948, most of its original 147 churches were in Europe and North America. Now a majority of member churches are in the South.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 332, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.