Critical Imbalance

The main product of most church conferences is a flood of documents, position papers, and resolutions. Since the World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly in Vancouver this August involved almost every Protestant and Orthodox church in the world, it is no surprise that the deluge of paper it produced amounted to an ecclesial tidal wave. Numerous resolutions were presented relating to the internal life of the world Christian community, including a particularly significant one aimed at lowering the theological barriers to church unity. But as at past assemblies, the most attention and controversy focused on resolutions regarding international political issues.

Most of the political stands taken by the WCC were commendable and reflected a firm Christian commitment to establishing justice and making peace. The assembly passed an unconditional condemnation of apartheid, which included a call for disinvestment from South Africa.

The assembly also declared its opposition to U.S. policy in Central America in very forceful terms, calling on the United States to cease its efforts to "contain the aspirations of the Central American peoples." And the WCC adopted its strongest statement yet on the nuclear arms race. It called the "production, deployment or use" of nuclear weapons "a crime against humanity" and urged churches to oppose the arms race through "nonviolent protest including civil disobedience."

But the moral authority of the WCC's proclamations on these important issues was seriously damaged, if not completely undermined, by the assembly's failure to utter a similar unconditional condemnation of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan resolution approved by the assembly took note of the suffering caused by the war, but without allocating blame. And it called for a Soviet troop withdrawal, but only "in the context of an overall political settlement."

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