The sixth and final report adopted in 1968 by the World Council of Churches is titled: “Towards New Styles of Living.” One might well wonder, upon reading that title, what W.C.C. would come up with in this report. One woman explained the title at the meeting in Uppsala:
By the word “style” we do not mean merely outward appearance, fashion, or even conduct. In art, in literature, in architecture, style means something richer than that. It is a complex unity of shape and substance, of doing and being, of life and belief, of medium and message. It is about the outward manifestations of the inward convictions. It is about living on one’s faith.
A child of God, reading the adopted report, must be somewhat shocked. He would probably expect little from the W.C.C., but this report is one which could hardly be expected from those who call themselves churches of Jesus Christ. First, it is not at all specifically Christian. Some complained about this at the Uppsala meeting. These wanted to know why the report was not labeled: “Towards new Styles of Christian Living?” The chairman responded by pointing out:
. . . that although the report tried to define the character of Christian life today, it is “attentive to all human values whoever it is who defends them.” If there is a Christian style of living in the world today, it is an open style, lived by people who are ready to work on the various issues with various people of various faiths and convictions. To try to work out a principal, separating guiding line between a Christian style of living and a human style would therefore be a great error.
The most serious lack in the entire report is that the cross is missing. Christ’s name is used, but it is evident that the “new styles of living” represent not the life of the regenerated who have been cleansed through the blood of Christ. It presents rather man’s idea of ways in which that which calls itself church can adapt to the modern world.
The report suggests need for change, change involving relationships between classes and races of peoples, change in morality, change in family relationships. Among other things, the report suggests:
The contemporary world is dominated by middle class people, the majority of whom are white Europeans and North Americans. This also holds true of the churches, and particularly of an international assembly such as ours in Uppsala. . . . .
Modern methods of preventing conception raise a question in the minds of many about Christian teaching on chastity. Was it just based on a fear of possible consequences? Too often chastity is thought of simply in terms of abstinence or of keeping intercourse within marriage. But chastity is surely also concerned with the way love is expressed, with the qualities of tenderness and responsibility which not only restrain people in their personal relations but also sustain husband and wife in a life-long commitment to each other. . . .
Family patterns change in different social settings, and Christian marriage can find its expression in a variety of ways. We would like materials elaborating the problems of polygamy, marriage and celibacy, birth control, divorce; abortion, and also of homosexuality, to be made available for responsible study and action.
Suggestions are offered to make necessary changes in the present order of society. The report does not condemn violence under certain extreme conditions, but regards it as a legitimate option. It would rebuke churches which “tolerate racism,” though it will not rebuke churches or individuals who deny the atonement of the cross. Here is a sample of their suggestions:
a) participate in organizations of collective bargaining (trade unions, political parties, international organizations, law courts);
b) stimulate those in authority, and the disinherited, to act (letters to members of parliament, demonstrations, strikes, peasant leagues, training and organizing of slum dwellers, teaching and preaching, protest songs);
c) support international development and participate in nation building. Set the example as individuals and as churches (renouncement of possible careers in order to serve the needy; transfer of wealth and knowledge by an international development tax; moratorium on ostentatious church building programmes);
d) because racism is irreconcilable with Christian faith the churches should continue to rebuke those churches which tolerate racism, and make it clear that racist churches cannot be recognized as members in good standing within the ecumenical fellowship. Where other means have failed, some have chosen to protest against social injustice by economic boycott or by selective destruction of property. In extreme situations, some groups’ of Christians have borne the risk and guilt of shedding blood (examples: the resistance against Hitler, the Cuban revolution against the Batista regime). Those who condemn them should not forget the bloodshed that was inherent in those regimes, and the constant destruction of lives carelessly caused by some structures of contemporary society such as inhumane working conditions.
I wonder what the apostle Paul would say to all the above. I am rather certain that I know. Repeatedly he ignored the “moral injustices” which existed in his day. There was slavery. There was dictatorship of the worst sort. There was poverty as well as riches. But Paul, in the epistles, was not concerned with that He told the slave to be an obedient slave—he surely did not tell him: “Where other means have failed; some have chosen to protest against social injustice . . . by selective destruction of property.” He told the citizen to be obedient to those whom God had placed in authority—even to Nero. He wrote that he learned that in whatever state he was, therewith to be content. He recognized that injustices existed, but these were of such minor importance. The Christian is a pilgrim and stranger on the earth. At most, these injustices can be heaped upon the Christian only for a time of 70 or 80 years. Then the saints go home to be with their Lord in heaven.
Paul, and all faithful ministers of Christ, were always concerned with preaching Christ crucified. He is the answer, the only answer, for the child of God. All the efforts of man to improve this world will fail. These fail because the, “solutions” which man offers, exclude the idea of atonement.
This is the central evil of the report adopted by the W.C.C. It was not even meant to be distinctively Christian. It presents a certain philosophy which any religion could adopt. But its philosophy is not Christian. The report excludes Christ. It is true that His Name is mentioned a few times, but His cross is not. The work of atonement is not mentioned. Reconciliation, which is mentioned, is defined or explained thus: “Our aim is reconciliation which means directing conflicts towards constructive ends. . . .” The report goes on to explain how that there is not one style of life which can be termed “Christian.” It emphasizes that we meet Christ in all kinds of people generally:
No style of life is Christian if it is indifferent to suffering of other people. In the victims of war and exploitation (for example in Nigeria and South East Asia), in hungry children, in the prostitute seeking to be respected as a person, in the young man thirsting for knowledge,—in all these we meet Jesus Christ. Where there is a living protest against selfish accumulation of wealth, where a foreigner is respected as a colleague and welcomed as a neighbor, in those who stand up for the rights of minorities,—there we find ambassadors of reconciliation in our time. Whether we are rich or poor, it is in solidarity with the underprivileged that our existence acquires direction and purpose. We discover the marvelous truth of the promise that he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it.
. . . There is no single style of Christian life. Our style of living springs from more than what we consciously are or do: . . .
The above might give some idea of the direction and purpose of the World Council of Churches. It is engaged in a struggle for “social justice,” a struggle which has no room for the cross of Christ. This sixth report is very clear on this score. How any church or denomination, which claims to be faithful yet to God’s Word, can belong to such an organization advocating the above, is beyond me. How any individuals could urge their denominations to join this organization, I can not understand. There is simply no place in that organization for those who wish to maintain the Word of God purely. The faithful church must be separate.