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Australian ecumenical leader says world body too bureaucratic

Head of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) Rev John Henderson has said the World Council of Churches (WCC) must find new ways of relating to Christians in southern hemisphere nations if it is to remain relevant.

He said: "The WCC has a top-down structure and rather bureaucratic procedures. That can disadvantage people who don't come from a culture of European-style decision-making and democratic processes."

Rev Henderson (pictured) said of the WCC: "If you don't know the system you don't know where to enter it. So unless the WCC finds ways of better empowering Christians from the South, it will lose its relevance."

The NCCA replaced that Australian Council of Churches ten years ago. The Catholic Church has been a member since the body's inception, but the Catholic Church does not belong to the WCC.

Rev Henderson said: "There's a sense in which the WCC is like the United Nations of the Churches, as it goes through a similar crisis of identity and structure. It is facing major questions about its tasks and how it performs its role.

"The crisis has been partly created by the shift in the balance of the world's Christians, from the so called North' of Europe and America, to the South, particularly Africa. It's no secret that Christians in Africa and Asia are outnumbering those in the North. There's a question of a sort of reverse evangelism taking place, with Christians from Africa and Asia evangelising people from what used to be regarded as Christian countries."

At the cross roads: Living in a changing world (National Council of Churches in Australia)

National Council of Churches of Australia
World Council of Churches

16 Apr 2004