Eugene Carson Blake
Renewal in Church and Society
Theodore A. Gill, Jr.
Theodore A. Gill, Jr., is a former senior executive editor of the World Council of Churches and a
former editor of The Ecumenical Review.
This article reviews the ecumenical involvement of Eugene Carson Blake, the second general
secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) from 1966 to 1972, focusing on the
support for the US civil rights movement and rejection of racism that he brought with him to
the WCC. It also examines his role at the WCC’s 4th Assembly, in Uppsala, which is
often seen as a turning point in ecumenical history.
Eugene Carson Blake, World Council of Churches, ecumenical movement, civil rights,
Uppsala, Programme to Combat Racism
The 4th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) – held in Uppsala, Swe-
den, in the culturally charged context of July 1968 – was the sole assembly during the
1966 to 1972 tenure of Eugene Carson Blake as its general secretary. At the heart of his
report to delegates and visitors, he made this plea:
I hope that one clear result will arise out of the Fourth Assembly – that it will be evident that the
churches and the leaders, the World Council and its leaders, will be revealed as men and women
with faith enough in God to break out of the sociologically routine actions of establishment
organizations, that it will be evident that they are really expecting and seeking renewal always, and
that they are remembering that the difference between a saint and a destructive revolutionary is
not easy to discern, especially by representatives of any establishment. I ask representatives
gathered here to run the risks that true renewal of the churches and of the Council requires.
“Report of the General Secretary,” in The Uppsala Report, ed. Norman Goodall (Geneva: World Council of
Churches, 1968), 292.
(2018) World Council of Churches. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.