Recently I commented on the demise of the so-called Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Its support at grass roots level is almost non-existent. After over a century of propaganda and high powered sponsorship it has come to very little. That has not dampened the enthusiasm of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches for the event. Since 1968, the WCC's Commission on Faith and Order and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have jointly sponsored it and this year the pope and the General Secretary of the WCC, Dr Samuel Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist, got together in Rome to give a very public thrust to their endeavor to produce one united church under the leadership of the pope.
The WCC, headquartered in Geneva, has 347 churches in its membership, including Anglican, Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal and Orthodox bodies. Although the Church of Rome does not belong to the WCC, it has members on some of its bodies, including the Commission on Faith and Order. About thirty ecumenical leaders of Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches met in Rome to take part in what was billed as a week-long ecumenical festival. Kobia's joint appearance with the pope marked the conclusion of the week of prayer for unity (January 18-25).
Kobia repeated the same old canard as all his predecessors. He said: "I want to assure you of our commitment to continue our co-operation in the best possible way. ... The world needs a church that is one and united in its witness." Referring to the unrest in his home country which has led to more than 800 deaths, Kobia continued, "The common witness of the churches for reconciliation and healing of the nation is crucial for peace in Kenya."
All this sounds great to the carnal mind. The secular press seems to love these apparently loving and peace-producing statements. In fact, Kobia's statement is absolutely false on all levels. Unity already exists among genuine Christians on the basis of fundamental Christian doctrine and practice. It does not necessitate a monolithic ecclesiastical structure without which our witness must remain ineffective. The opposite is clearly the case. As recent studies have shown, churches that are large state monopolies are dying while churches that are seen as being "competitive" are flourishing. So building ecumenical powerhouses carries no promise of having any effect on the world around us.