Two church communions from opposite sides of the globe were welcomed into full fellowship of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Wednesday, increasing the membership of the global Christian body, the largest of its kind, to 349.
Newly joining the WCC are the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil and the Lao Evangelical Church. Under the WCC's new membership guidelines, both churches were received for an interim period at the September 2006 Central Committee meeting, allowing for a time of interaction and further evaluation.
WCC general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia on Wednesday read the Executive Committee recommendations that both bodies be officially accepted, and the Central Committee affirmed the recommendations without further discussion.
The Lao Evangelical Church is the first WCC member from Laos, a nation of some 6 million people. Growing out of mission work from the late 19th century, it was formally established in 1956 and today has approximately 100,000 members in 300 congregations. It is the largest denomination in the country officially recognized by the government.
The Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (www.ipib.org) has about 95,000 members and 500 congregations. It formally organized in 1903, developing a variety of mission projects, social work, and education programmes over the next century. It is the sixth WCC member church from Brazil, which hosted the WCC's Ninth Assembly in 2006.