When the World Council of Churches (WCC) was founded in 1948 there were high hopes for Christian unity. Some of these hopes have been realised and others not.
The realised hopes include, for example, the formation of numerous united churches around the world, effective cooperation in aid and development programs, and the growth of dialogue between Christians from different cultures and traditions.
On the negative side we see the continued inability of many churches to recognise the ministries and sacraments of other churches.
At various stages in its history, the WCC has redefined the goal of unity. One such redefinition was the New Delhi statement in 1961; another was the publication of the "convergence" statement, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, in 1982.
In 2006, at the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre, a new statement, Called to be the one Church, was released. It links mission and unity in a fresh way. While accepting that some churches cannot fully recognise, the statement also acknowledges that many will be able to go on mission together for the sake of a world which is sadly fragmented and sorely in need of healing. The Uniting Church in Australia, along with many other churches, has made an official response to the statement, indicating our re-commitment to mission and to Christian unity.
As well as being an important part of our wider ecumenical commitment, the statement is also very helpful for local congregations engaged in ecumenical activities as it offers some clear statements about the Uniting Church's understandings in a number of important areas such as baptism, recognition of ministry, shared Eucharist and ordained ministry.