The Mandate of the
Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft
Born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1900, Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft was the ﬁrst general secretary of
the World Council of Churches (WCC). He joined the staff of the World Committee for the YMCA
in Geneva in 1924, and, on its behalf, attended the Universal Christian Conference on Life and
Work in Stockholm, 1925. In 1932, he became general secretary of the World Student Christian
Federation in Geneva and attended both of the 1937 ecumenical conferences on Life and Work and on
Faith and Order at which it was decided to form the WCC, and the following year in Utrecht was
named general secretary of its provisional committee. At the founding assembly of the WCC in
Amsterdam in 1948, he became general secretary. He retired in 1966 and was elected honorary
president of the WCC at its assembly in Uppsala in 1968. Visser ’t Hooft died in Geneva in 1985.
This is the text of the address given by Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft to the Uppsala
Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1968 after being named
honorary president of the WCC, following his retirement as general secretary two years
earlier. In this address, Visser ’t Hooft reviews the 20th-century history of the
ecumenical movement and the contemporary mandate of the WCC, in which the central
issue is the relationship between the church and the world, where the vertical dimension to
God of the church’s unity determines the horizontal dimension of its service to the world.
The address concludes with four challenges: no horizontal advance without vertical
orientation; the ecumenical movement and the churches need each other; church unity is
important; and youth expects answers.
Ecumenical movement, Stockholm 1925, Uppsala 1968, Faith and Order, Life and
(2018) World Council of Churches. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.