In a "Message to the Churches," the 835 delegates to the World Council of Churches' Sixth Assembly in Vancouver yesterday set the organization's direction for the next six years on the tracks of renewed Christian unity efforts and a continued campaign for justice and peace in the secular realm.

The message calls for a new international economic order and commits the delegates to "stand in solidarity across the world to call persistently, in every forum, for a halt in the arms race."

The council has been attacked for involvement in political issues, especially nationalist struggles in Africa, which fundamentalist religious leaders and others say are no business of churches. The new document said: "Since Jesus Christ healed and challenged the whole of life, so we are called to serve the life of all."

The message also cited church unity as a priority and pledged to "stay together, . . . to struggle together, . . . to live together."

That unity was tested over the weekend by elections to the 145-member Central Committee when Protestant-Eastern Orthodox tensions erupted over the election of a representative from the Middle East.

The post, traditionally held by an Orthodox Christian, this year was won by a Protestant. Although Orthodox delegates charged that the vote left them underrepresented, they were "not so immature or emotional as to walk out," said Archbishop Iakovos, Greek Orthodox primate of North and South America.