The World Council of Churches has decided to scrap the title of their main legislative body. They have come to the conclusion that "The Central Committee" sounded too Soviet especially to churches that have survived persecution in former Communist countries, and is a title used in hard-left, anti-religious political parties around the world.
News of the planned change — 63 years after the WCC was set up as the East-West Cold War was born — was outlined at a Geneva meeting of the committee by its moderator, Brazilian Lutheran Walter Altmann. “We should not underestimate (the change’s) importance in terms of visibility and of identification with our churches and partners,” he said. As far as he knew, no individual church had a “central committee”.
“But I do know that there are political parties that call their governing bodies by that name. It is certainly not the best name for an organisation like the World Council of Churches,” declared Altmann.
Over the years, critics of some policy stands taken by the WCC — its positions on Israeli-Palestinian issues or poverty in developing countries — have argued that the name “central committee” showed the WCC was a dangerously left-wing organisation.
In discussions so far on alternatives, no agreement had been reached. But the worst decision the WCC could take, likely to be finalised at an overall Assembly in South Korea in October, “would be to keep the present name,” he said.
The effective chief officer of the WCC — currently Norwegian Protestant pastor Olav Fykse Tveit — is called the General Secretary, a title that was also used by communist leaders including Josef Stalin. But there was no indication that the WCC, that claims 349 member churches with a total of 560 million members around the globe, plans to alter that.