The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, voted to continue its controversial Program to Combat Racism, but with a broader base of decision-making on which groups to support.
Three of the WCC's 293 memberchurches have susended their membership in the ecumenical agency to protest a grant of $85,000 made last summer to the Patriotic Front in Rhodesia. Leaders of other churches, in the United States and Western Europe particularly, both criticized and defended the grant.
A resolution adopted by the WCC's Central Committee said that the program's "purpose and thrust are still valid" and that its administration has "been in accordance with the established and accepted criteria set by the Central Committee."
But while agreeing that the antiracism program should be encouraged to "continue its work in situations of racial discrimination in the world," The Central Committee called for new procedures in selecting organizations around the world to receive the cash grants.
Under the new ground rules, before a grant is made. WCC member-churches on the continent of the prospective recipient will be consulted and the entire roster of WCC churches will be informed before grants are implemented.
The antiracism grants program has always stipulated that groups receiving awards must spend the money for humanitarian purposes rather than for military supplies. Critics, however, both in and out of the church, have questioned the propriety of church contributions to revolutionary and other groups which use violence in pursuit of their ends.
Money for the grants comes from a special fund whose contributors earmark their donations for that purpose. Since 1969 when the program began, the Program to Combat Racism has disbursed at total of $2.6 million -- most of it in small grants of less than $100,000 each.
While the bulk of the fund has gone to liberation groups in southern Africa, antiracism groups in other parts of the world, including America, have received grants.
In a related action, the Central Committee approved a special $5 million fund to "serve the needs of all peoples" but particularly "displaced persons, refugees, victims of the war and oppression" in southern Africa.