Sermon Resources

Let us give thanks to God for guiding the journey towards unity. Just as God led the Hebrews by the roundabout way through the wilderness, so God led the pioneers of the ecumenical movement. Here are some pointers giving directions.

The World Missionary Conference in 1910 at Edinburgh is considered the first important meeting of the modern ecumenical movement. John Mott, one of the organizers, preached:

"Has it not humbled us increasingly as we have discovered that the greatest hindrance to the expansion of Christianity lies in ourselves? Has it not tried us as though by fire? Gathered together from different nations and races and communions, have we not come to realize our oneness in Christ?... We go out with a larger acquaintanceship, with deeper realization of fellowship, and that is a rich talent which makes possible wonderful achievements. Our best days are ahead of us because we have a deeper insight in the character and purposes, the desires and the resources of our God".

Dr John R. Mott
(WCC Photo)

Already at the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948, the theme of the jubilee was announced in its message:

Opening service, WCC First Assembly, Amsterdam 1948.
(WCC Photo)

"Our coming together to form a World Council will be vain unless Christians and Christian congregations everywhere commit themselves to the Lord of the Church in a new effort to seek together, where they live, to be His witnesses and servants among their neighbours. We have to learn afresh together to speak boldly in Christ's name both to those in power and to the people, to oppose terror, cruelty and race discrimination, to stand by the outcast, the prisoner and the refugee. We have to make of the Church in every place a voice for those who have no voice, and a home where everyone will be at home. We have to ask God to teach us together to say No and to say Yes in truth. No, to all that flouts the love of Christ. . . Yes, to all that conforms to the love of Christ, to all who seek for justice, to the peacemakers, to all who hope, to all who - even without knowing it - look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness".

At the Third Faith and Order World Conference in Lund in 1952, the ecumenical pilgrims were ready to draw the implications of being no longer strangers and aliens, but members of the household of God. Their question to the churches still challenges:

"We would earnestly request our Churches to consider whether they are doing all they ought to do to manifest the oneness of the people of God. Should not our Churches.... act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately?"

Archbishop Athenagoras (centre) with delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Lund 1952. (WCC Photo)

The World Council of Churches Central Committee in 1969 established the Programme to Combat Racism. Letting the oppressed go free and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour, the jubilee year, takes concrete and sometimes difficult decisions:

Racial Notices: "Whites Only" to the right -- "Non Whites" to the left. (IDAF Photo)

"Our action (against racism) must cost something and must be affirmative, visible and capable of emulation. We call upon the churches to move beyond charity ... to relevant and sacrificial action leading to new relationships of dignity and justice among all people and to become agents for the radical reconstruction of society."

The World Council of Churches' support gave encouragement to the people of Zimbabwe and South Africa in their struggle for the independence and the dismantlement of apartheid.

Terry MacArthur, Worship Consultant
World Council of Churches
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Tel.: (+41.22) 791 6486
Fax: (+41.22) 791 0361
E-mail: WCC Contact

World Council of Churches
Eighth Assembly
3 - 14 December
Harare, Zimbabwe

Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope

Good quality reproductions of the photos accompanying this text are available via Internet or ordinary mail. For information on our fees and/or to order, please go to our Photo Oikoumene site, or send an E-mail inquiry to photo. Please quote the following references:
John R. Mott
Opening Service, First Assembly, 1948
Archbishop Athenagoras, Lund, 1952
Racial Notices (XD-27)

The Ecumenical Journey
A Jubilee Anniversary
List of Assembly Materials
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