Is It Still a Movement?
Eugene Carson Blake
The Rev. Dr Eugene Carson Blake was general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC)
from 1966 until his retirement in 1972. Born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1906, Blake was stated clerk
of the Presbyterian Church in the USA and then the United Presbyterian Church in the USA from
1951 to 1966. He was a delegate to the WCC assemblies in 1954 and 1961 and a member of the
WCC central and executive committees from 1954 to 1966. Blake died in Stamford, Connecticut, in
1985. This is an edited version of an address given to the US Conference of the WCC in Albany,
New York, on 28 April 1971.
In this address from 1971, the second general secretary of the World Council of Churches
(WCC), Eugene Carson Blake, sets out the challenges facing the WCC at the beginning of
the 1970s, identifying three key changes within the ecumenical movement: a shift in power
and decision making away from the Protestant churches of North America and Western
Europe; an organization more representative of churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin
America, and of Orthodox churches; and the ecumenical involvement of the Roman
Catholic Church. It goes on to set out how the WCC, particularly since its conference on
Church and Society held in Geneva in 1966, has been attempting to make Christian faith
and morals relevant to a world experiencing rapid social, economic, and political change.
World Council of Churches, ecumenical movement, Roman Catholic Church, social and
political change, crisis of faith, global village
Almost six years ago, when I was struggling with my personal decision as to whether I
ought to accept an invitation to become general secretary of the World Council of
Churches (WCC) – an invitation which at that time was not certain but seemed increas-
ingly likely – a good friend, then as now a leader in the United Presbyterian Church,
was discouraging me from accepting such an invitation. He argued that there was more
ecclesiastical power in the Presbyterian position I then held than there was in any
(2018) World Council of Churches. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.