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“What is needed is an ecumenical act of solidarity:” the World Council of Churches, the 1969 Notting Hill Consultation on Racism, and the anti-apartheid struggle

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This article examines the Notting Hill Consultation on Racism organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), held in London in May 1969. The meeting framed racism as an urgent global problem. Its innovative “Program to Combat Racism” (PCR) acknowledged the historical complicity and benefit of the Church with imperial conquest. The Program’s special fund for liberation movements signaled a shift from verbal protest against apartheid to actions such as disinvestment in South Africa and material support for resistance movements. I use a rich archive of WCC reports, correspondence, speeches, and press coverage to offer the first major examination of the Notting Hill Consultation and its influence on the wider historical development of anti-apartheid protest. I demonstrate how a host of challenges from black power activists in Britain and the USA, nonwhite WCC delegates, and from British white supremacists made during the week-long consultation, shaped the WCC’s methods of protest and its PCR.
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Keywords: Solidarity; World Council of Churches; anti-apartheid; racism; religion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: European Research Council Project APARTHEID-STOPS, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

Publication date: April 3, 2019

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