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Final report of the membership study group

Final report of the membership study group presented to the WCC Central Committe, September 2002

02 September 2002

World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 3 September 2002

Final report of the membership study group

Guide to the Report

The report is presented in four sections:

· Section A reviews the context in which the Membership Study Group has undertaken its work, demonstrating that it has also sought to relate its work to the implementation of the CUV.

· Section B provides a summary of the historical background of the topic and issues raised.

· Section C provides discussion and exposition of the work of the Study Group.

· Section D includes the finite actions which the Study Group recommends.

Certain matters have to be spelt out in more detail and therefore attached to the report as appendices.

· Appendix A provides language for some proposed changes to the Rules (Article I, Sections 1, 2 and 3) specifically that related to criteria for membership as recommended also by the Special Commission.

· Appendix B provides language for proposed changes to the Rules (continuing the revised language of Appendix A to this report, replacing Article I, Sections 4 and 5). Additional changes to the Constitution and Rules of the World Council of Churches are anticipated to be necessary as well.

· Appendix C contains a summary of the report of the Study Group as the Group’s work has overlapped - but been informed by - the work of the Special Commission. This material is included because the specific subject matters was received by and incorporated into the Final Report of the Special Commission.

· Appendix D lists the members of the Membership Study Group

The Central Committee will be invited:
· to receive the present report,
· to take action on the proposals in Section D.

SECTION A

I. Mandate and Process

1. The Membership Study Group (the “Study Group”) was constituted by “and is responsible to” the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches (the “WCC) at its January 2001 meeting in response to issues raised in the ongoing work of the WCC and also to issues raised during the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC (the “Special Commission”). The eight-member Study Group, along with two staff members, has been designated in a manner consistent with the composition of the Special Commission, that is, with half of the members of the Study Group and staff representing member churches from the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, and half representing other member churches. Five members of the Study Group also have been members of the Special Commission.

2. The Study Group has met independently on four occasions. Additionally, the five members of the Study Group who are also members of the Special Commission, met as the core of a membership subcommittee of the Special Commission during plenary meetings of the Special Commission in Berekfürdö (Hungary) and Järvenpää (Finland). In addition to this final report, three interim reports have been prepared: two interim reports to the Executive Committee and a provisional interim report to the Special Commission. Comments from the Executive Committee have been integrated into the work of the Study Group. Some interim recommendations of the Membership Study Group were included in the Final Report of the Special Commission and are also included in this final report of the Membership Study Group as Appendices A and B.

3. All reports of the Study Group have been made available to all members of the Special Commission. The meetings of the Study Group purposely have been scheduled to alternate with the meetings of the Special Commission so that at every stage of the development of the work of the Special Commission, the Commission has been informed of the work of the Study Group and at every stage of the work of the Study Group, the Study Group has had the benefit of the comments, discussion and advice of the Special Commission. The final meeting of the Study Group took place several weeks after the conclusion of the final meeting of the Special Commission.

4. The Study Group reviewed an extensive dossier assembled by staff of material relating to membership in the WCC, from the inception of the Council through the work of the Special Commission. In addition, the Study Group reviewed the Constitution and Rules of the WCC, the Common Understanding and Vision document (the “CUV”), and The Ecumenical Movement -- An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices (Kinnamon and Cope, eds. WCC Publications, 1997), as well as documents prepared by staff, including a “Survey of Churches Received into Membership 1975 – 2002”, an analysis of representation on Central Committee or in the Presidium since the Nairobi Assembly, and the current application form for membership. The Study Group has undertaken at each step to integrate into its work review of the historical documentation on the issues of membership, to understand the implications for the WCC as an institution and for the churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC of the current model of membership and representation, and to consider practical effects of its recommendations.

5. All of the foregoing was undertaken whilst keeping in mind the terms of reference for the Study Group, the Common Understanding and Vision document particularly the many provisions related to issues of membership in the WCC , and especially the overarching question referred by the Steering Committee of the Special Commission in its aide-memoire, Geneva, March 2001: What kind of Council do we envisage in light of the CUV?”


SECTION B

II. Summary of History and Issues

6. The initial proposal (1936) for the model of membership was for a system of regional representation of the churches, including places reserved for the Orthodox churches, and representatives of “younger” churches to be appointed on the advice of the International Missionary Council (The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches, W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, WCC Publications, 1982, pp. 40--41). This regional approach was criticized by the advocates of the confessional principle who proposed (in 1945) a representation based on world confessional families which “would be able to deal more directly with the confessional differences which had led to separation.” (p. 61) The ensuing discussion led to an agreement whereby the “member churches would be the basic units” with “both regional and confessional factors taken into consideration.” (p.61) It was understood that exclusive implementation of the regional principle would have resulted in a World Council of national or regional councils, and the confessional approach would have led to a World Council of confessional families or communions. By 1948, the structure currently employed by the Council was in place, with direct membership in the Council by churches, “seats in the Assembly allocated by the Central Committee, and the membership of the Central Committee …to be distributed among the member churches by the Assembly.” (p. 62). Subsequent studies of the issue did not result in recommendations for change. A group commissioned to articulate “The Meaning of Membership” reported to the Central Committee in 1995, much of which report was subsequently incorporated into the CUV.

7. The original model of membership was reaffirmed in the CUV and by constitutional change which accompanied adoption of the CUV by the Harare assembly that the “primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world in order that the world may believe” (Constitution, Art. III; emphasis supplied).

8. Requirements for membership have remained largely unchanged since the inception of the WCC over fifty years ago. Currently, membership in the WCC is available to any church that expresses agreement with the constitutional Basis of the World Council of Churches --“The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Constitution, Article I) -- and that meets four basic criteria for membership outlined by the WCC Rules: autonomy, sustained independence, commitment to constructive local ecumenical relations, and adequate size (Rules, I.3). No impediments have been placed in the way of applicants from the same confession and the same nation or region as that of existing members (although churches in the same country or region that do not fulfil the criterion of size may jointly apply for membership -- Rules, I.4).

9. While the model of membership has remained the same and the requirements have only been slightly modified since the inception of the WCC, the character of the Council has changed in its half-century of institutional life. At its inception, membership was based upon the then current participation in the Faith and Order and Life and Work Movements, which included churches from the British Isles, continental Europe, North America, Australia and other continents as represented by the missionary councils, as well as several of the Orthodox churches. In the decade of the 1960’s, many other Orthodox churches joined the WCC as well as churches from the southern hemisphere, mostly arising out of the missionary efforts of the northern churches. Following the Upsala Assembly (1968) and continuing throughout the following decades, many more churches, primarily from the south, were received into membership, not only churches arising out of the missionary movement, but also independent churches. Membership has increased from 147 churches in 1948, including 5 Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, to 342 churches in 2001, including 21 Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches.

10. A statistical analysis of membership regarding churches approved as new member churches since 1975 (numbering 103), reveals that there were a significant number of new member churches of a small constituency (25,000 – 50,000) (23). Member churches that were products of divisions numbered six matched almost exactly by the number of churches which came into being as the result of a church union (7). The survey disclosed that most new member churches are related to Christian World Communions and the vast majority both grew out of missionary work (75) and were located in the southern hemisphere (96).

11. The conclusions stated in the Survey indicate an unabated trend of continued growth of numbers of member churches. If the model of individual church affiliation with the Council is continued, the disparity in numbers of member churches between the Orthodox churches and the rest of the WCC affiliated churches would continue to grow. Proliferation of member churches, however, carries with it difficulties beyond the issues raised by the Orthodox churches. There is continuing concern that the high number of churches admitted as member churches from the same confession and the same country is inconsistent with the stated purposes of the WCC for “visible unity” at the most basic level. Practical problems reside also in the administration of such numbers of churches: in representation, co-ordination and communication with such a large number of constituencies, in addition to financial ramifications for the Council.

12. In some parts of the world, especially in the north, there is de facto Eucharistic fellowship among many churches, with many examples of successful bilateral and multilateral dialogues. This progress toward visible unity has not included the Orthodox, given “…the fact that the two ecclesiologies operating in the WCC – Protestant and Orthodox – differ significantly, making koinonia more a goal than a reality. (Orthodox Taskforce Paper, May 2001, Membership Dossier, Document 19.) Moreover, growing unity among churches other than Orthodox Churches has yet to be fully realized in the membership structure of the Council.

13. The current model and requirements for membership have led to (a) a dramatic increase in the number of member churches belonging to the Western tradition, particularly Protestant churches, and to the marginalizing of the voice of the Eastern churches, which only rarely form into additional recognized autonomous or autocephalous churches, as well as the voices of some other minority churches, and (b) a situation in which churches are not encouraged to bridge differences at the local level with neighbouring autonomous churches of the same confessional family or the same tradition.

14. The current membership of the WCC is mainly composed of two of four main ecclesial traditions or streams of Christianity, Orthodox and Protestant/Anglican, with a small number of churches from the Evangelical/Pentecostal/Independent tradition. New ways of relating to the ecumenical fellowship of the WCC may encourage participation by the other streams of Christianity currently outside of the ecumenical fellowship of the WCC, namely Roman Catholic and Evangelical/Pentecostal/Independent churches.

15. The Study Group accepted among its primary tasks to evaluate and offer proposals for action regarding (a) forms of membership in the World Council of Churches, (b) the meaning of membership, (c) modes of relating to the World Council of Churches, (d) criteria for membership, (e) procedures for admission of new members, (f) oversight of membership, and (g) models of representation and participation.


SECTION C

III. Forms of membership in the World Council of Churches

16. After having discussed the issues raised by the current membership model in which individual churches are direct members of the Council, the Study Group very seriously explored alternative models of membership. As the Study Group explored a families of churches approach, it became clear that, despite the success of this model in some regional contexts, reorganising on the global level according to confessional families would not be feasible. Every variation of family grouping would be problematic to at least some, if not many, of the hundreds of Protestant, Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Old Catholic churches, as well as the Orthodox churches, currently in membership in the WCC. The self-understanding of some would prevent their grouping at all. Even mandating groupings that would seem to be the most natural or logical, that is, grouping according to a church’s own denomination (for example, all “Anglican”, all “Reformed”, all “Methodist” churches) would be problematic for some, particularly in the south where grouping according to denomination raises historical issues of colonialism, and grouping by region seems more congenial.

17. Membership according to geographical region would be problematic for other churches, including the Orthodox churches. Using national boundaries as the criteria for any type of definition or grouping concept for churches raises the danger of giving to such boundaries a theological significance they do not necessarily warrant. In both the families of churches model and the regional model, there is danger of marginalizing the newer churches of the south. Self-understanding and indigenization of the local churches from the historical traditions must be respected in their sense of individual church.

18. All of these options would significantly diminish the sense of ownership and fellowship among churches belonging to the WCC as the primary reality of the WCC. Restructuring membership in either of these ways, therefore, would seem to reverse the emphasis of the Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC. The Study Group concludes, therefore, that the WCC should continue to maintain the model of the Council as a fellowship of “churches”. However, the Study Group believes that there are two crucial issues that must be addressed within the current context of the WCC. First, how are major ecclesial traditions, or “streams of Christianity” appropriately represented in the governance of the WCC? Second, how does the current process of membership and representation serve to strengthen the visible unity of the churches in the local context? These questions are addressed in Paragraphs 20, 21 and 38--46 of this Report.

19. Whilst affirming the current form of membership of individual, autonomous churches, the Study Group would like to emphasize the significance of grouped or joint membership, theologically as well as in terms of the purpose and functions of the Council. Member churches or applicant churches which would be able to express their belonging to the fellowship jointly, in a form suitable to their ecclesial self-understanding, would respond in an important manner to the expectation of the founders of the Council that “When churches come together …. the fact of their common relationship to the one and same Lord Jesus Christ becomes decisive, and it becomes difficult for them to continue their separate lives” (Visser ‘t Hooft, p.91). For this purpose the Study Group and the Special Commission draw the attention of the churches to already existing provisions in the Rules.

20. In addition to providing for direct membership by individual churches, the Rules currently offer churches the opportunity to participate in the Council as one “church” by grouping together within a country or region. According to Article I of the Rules: “The term ‘church’ as used in this article includes an association, convention or federation of autonomous churches. A group of churches within a country or region may determine to participate in the World Council of Churches as one church.” A number of associations, conventions or federations of autonomous churches have been admitted into membership under this provision, providing examples of local co-operation and economies of participation consistent with the primary purpose of the Council “calling one another to visible unity”. The Evangelical Church in Germany, the Swiss Protestant Federation and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India are such examples.

21. The Study Group and the Special Commission urge churches to determine to participate with other churches locally as members in the Council using this provision of the Rules. The Study Group also recognizes that churches may wish to determine to participate in the Council as one “church” together with other autonomous churches of the same confession, and offers a modification of the language of Rule I to accommodate this option as well. In the interest of promoting visible unity and abating the trend toward fragmentation, the Study Group recommends that applicant churches belonging to the same ecclesial traditions of churches currently in the fellowship and in close geographic proximity, be urged to show a compelling reason why they should not join together with the existing member churches for purposes of membership. At the same time, where there are existing member churches which belong to the same ecclesial traditions and are in geographic proximity, they shall be encouraged to question the need to maintain separate membership in the Council.


IV. The Meaning of Membership

22. Several sections of The Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC (Sections 3.1 – 3.12) help to understand the meaning of “membership/fellowship” in the World Council of Churches. The Basis of the Council as a fellowship of churches with a common calling “indicates that the Council is not itself a ‘church’ and – as the Toronto statement categorically declares -- must never become a superchurch.” The Basis makes clear, however, that the Council is more than a “mere functional association.” (CUV 3.2) “The existence of the World Council of Churches as a fellowship of churches thus poses to its member churches what the Ecumenical Patriarchate has called an ‘ecclesiological challenge’: to clarify the meaning and the extent of the fellowship they experience in the Council, as well as the ecclesiological significance of koinonia, which is the purpose and aim of the WCC but not yet a given reality.” (CUV 3.4)

23. The significance of the CUV for applicant and member churches cannot be overstated, particularly the description of “A Fellowship of Churches” (CUV 3.2 – 3.7.9) and “A Common Calling” (CUV 3.8 – 3.12.5). One important description is as follows:

    By their mutual engagement in the Council, the Churches open themselves to be challenged by one another to deeper, more costly ecumenical commitment. This mutual accountability takes many forms: recognising their solidarity with each other, assisting each other in cases of need, refraining from actions incompatible with brotherly and sisterly relations, entering into spiritual relationships to learn from each other, consulting with each other “to learn of the Lord Jesus Christ what witness he would have them to bear to the world in his name.” (CUV 3.5.6)


Copies of the CUV should be made available to all applicant churches with their attention specifically drawn to these sections.


V. Modes of relating to the World Council of Churches

24. The Study Group reviewed the current Rules regarding member churches, including the language of membership and the categories of membership and associate membership. For some current and former member churches of the Council, and possibly churches not currently or formerly members of the Council, use of the juridical term “member” to denote participation in the fellowship of churches seemed to be problematic. As the Study Group explored alternative language, it became clear that the issue was more than semantic. That exploration, however, also made clear, that the current phraseology and categories for member churches contained in the Rules, do not reflect the understanding articulated by the CUV of the relationship among member churches and vis à vis the institution of the WCC.

25. The current structure does not provide adequately for churches which may wish to participate in the work of the WCC in some capacity, but which find themselves either unwilling or not able to be fully committed as member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC. Noting that the fellowship is not complete without the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical/Pentecostal churches, the Study Group and the Special Commission agree that ways of relating to the WCC other than formal membership in the organization would benefit the Council and provide the wider ecumenical space.

26. Responding both to the semantic adjustment and to the deeper question of providing alternative modes of relating to the Council, the Study Group, together with the Special Commission, recommend two possibilities for churches wanting to relate to the WCC: (a) member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, (b) churches in association with the WCC.

Member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC are churches that agree with the Basis of the WCC, confirm their commitment to the purposes and functions of the Council, and conform to the theological and organizational criteria.
Churches in association with the WCC are churches that agree with the Basis of the Council and are accepted for such status. Such churches can send representatives to the Assembly and the Central Committee who can speak with the permission of the chair, but have no right to vote. Such churches can be invited to participate in the work of commissions, advisory groups, and other consultative bodies of the Council as consultants or advisors. Churches applying to be in association with the WCC should state in writing their reasons for requesting this relationship, which reasons must be approved by the Central Committee.

27. Churches in association with the WCC would have the possibility of participating in the work of the WCC as described, but would not be identified with decisions taken or statements issued by the Council. There would be no financial obligation on the part of the church for the work of the Council, nor would financial support be made available from the Council to such churches to facilitate their participation.

28. Recognizing the commitment to fellowship shared alike by large churches and small member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, the Study Group recommends that the current category of associate members by virtue of size under Rule I.5.a.1 be incorporated into the description of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, retaining however the restrictions on participation by and representation of churches of small size. (See attached Appendix A.)

29. The Study Group investigated the issue of minimum size required of a church applying for membership. Within the trend over the years since 1975 showing continued growth in the number of member churches and the difficulties attendant thereto, there are many churches of small size, having between 25,000 and 50,000 members. In order to help mitigate this trend, the Study Group recommends to increase the minimum number of members of a church accepted for individual membership from 25,000 to 50,000 members, under normal circumstances. An applicant church with fewer than 50,000 members but more than 10,000 members which has not been granted a size exception as provided in the Rules, but otherwise is eligible for membership, could be accepted as a member church belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, but still subject to the provisions of the Rules that such churches do not have the right to vote in the Assembly, but may participate with other such churches in selecting five representatives to the Central Committee in accordance with Art. III.4.b.3 of the Rules.

30. The Study Group recommends that the existing category of associate member church under Rule I.5.a.2 be eliminated in favour of the new category of relationship with the World Council of Churches entitled “churches in association with the World Council of Churches.” (See attached Appendix B.)


VI. Criteria for Membership

31. The current membership definition and criteria for membership insufficiently reflect the ongoing work of the Council regarding ecclesial aspects of membership. The Study Group agreed with the Special Commission, that the existing criteria need to be clarified, expanded, codified and specifically subscribed to by applicant churches. The founding and governing documents of any applicant church, as well as its life and witness and self-understanding must be consistent with the Basis of the WCC and applicant churches also should understand themselves as conforming to the criteria, and be ready to give an account of their faith and witness in relationship to such terms.

32. “Revised Criteria” are proposed to be included as a new Section 3 of Article I of the Rules in lieu of the existing Section 3. These revised criteria are included in this report as Appendix A and in the Final Report of the Special Commission as Appendix C. The proposed revised criteria draw from the Toronto statement, assembly statements and Faith and Order documents, and include ecclesial marks as sought by the Special Commission with a reference to the Purposes and Functions of the Council as included in the Constitution.


VII. Procedures for Admission of New Members

33. The current application process relies upon staff in a manner inconsistent with the CUV such that the churches themselves are not involved in the application process until the application is presented to the Executive Committee for action. The current or any revised membership model would include a process of application to join the WCC. The Study Group suggests that the subcommittee of the Executive Committee that currently receives applications from churches seeking to become member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, be enabled to process, investigate and evaluate applications. It should assure the member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC that any applicant church is in conformity with the Rules, exhibits and retains all of the required criteria and demonstrates commitment to the purposes of the WCC in its local context over an extended period of time.

34. Furthermore, the Study Group and the Special Commission recognized that new churches should best be received, through the then-applicable decision-making procedures, at meetings of the Central Committee and not the Assembly, following review by the subcommittee referred to in the previous paragraph and approval for recommendation by the Executive Committee. This process would include that the application for joining the WCC would be presented to one Central Committee meeting, with an intervening period of participation in the work of the Council and interaction with the local fellowship of member churches, and a decision taken on the application at a subsequent meeting of Central Committee.

35. The Study Group addressed the relationship of the WCC with the churches that constitute an “association, convention, or federation of autonomous churches” considered to be and admitted to the fellowship of churches as one “church” (Rule I). Concern was expressed that the Executive Committee shall have determined (1) that each church within that association or grouping independently agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules for individual membership in the WCC, and (2) in the event any additional church or churches seeks to affiliate with the association, federation or grouping, that such church[es] agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules.

VIII. Oversight of Membership

36. The Study Group explored some related issues arising out of the experience of the Council over the past fifty years, including: (1) churches which do not participate in the life of the Council in any respect over a period spanning two Assemblies; (2) churches which do not make any effort to assist in the financial support of the Council for an extended period of time; (3) churches which would not meet the criteria for membership in the first instance, but which claim membership in the Council by reason of membership in an association of churches which is itself a member of the Council, and (4) churches whose self-definition and practice have evolved in ways that may no longer be consistent with the Basis or criteria.

37. In not one of these cases is the Council now provided with an effective procedure for re-examining membership of such church in the Council. The Study Group recommends that the General Secretary refer any such situations to the Executive Committee and that the Executive Committee develop fair and appropriate procedures to address them.

IX. Models of Representation and Participation

38. The current model of representation of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, at the Assembly, on Central Committee, on Executive Committee and in ancillary committees has evolved with some difficulty. The seats in the Assembly are allocated by the Central Committee, with the understanding that all member churches are expected to be represented at the Assembly. Membership of the Central Committee, limited by Rule and practicality to 150 members, is elected from among the delegates of the member churches by the Assembly, with due regard for numerical importance, adequate confessional representation, adequate geographical distribution, and consideration for appropriate gender and youth representation. Currently, twenty-five percent of seats on the Central and Executive Committees are reserved for representatives of Orthodox churches which have their own process of nominating representatives to Central Committee. A number of member churches or groups of member churches have procedures for making nominations for election to the Central Committee. The survey of distribution since 1975 of Central Committee seats among the member churches shows that some seventy churches out of 240 that were members in 1975 have not been afforded a seat on the Central Committee since 1975.

39. Members of Central Committee represent their own churches and are accountable both to their own church and to the Central Committee. Some already represent wider groupings of member churches, which may be confessionally or geographically defined. However, this system results in a large number of member churches other than the Orthodox member churches having no direct representation on a Central Committee. This is an aspect of representation which the Study Group believes should be addressed.

40. For many churches, their ecclesial tradition is primary to their self-understanding; for many other churches, their geographical setting is primary in their self-understanding. For some churches, both ecclesial tradition and location are significant when determining appropriate representation. There are also member churches for which their international character is an essential mark of their self-understanding.

41. The Study Group suggests that where no grouping of member churches already exists, all member churches join in groupings for purposes of representation and participation. The Special Commission and the Membership Study Group propose that churches join in groupings, e.g. geographically, confessionally, or according to other models, in order to make nominations for the Central Committee. If this principle is established, a process of grouping member churches will have to be carefully worked out and agreed upon in close consultation with the member churches.

42. The Study Group believes that the process of representation and participation, wherever possible, should enhance the New Delhi vision which held that “…the unity which is both God’s will and his gift to his Church is being made visible as all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Savior are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully committed fellowship…” By inviting the churches in a country or region to group themselves for the purpose of participating jointly in the life and work of the Council, the WCC contributes to strengthening the local fellowship of churches. It is hoped that this will result in a stronger sense of common accountability for their representation in the governing bodies of the WCC, especially the Central Committee. It may also encourage other ways of joint participation in programme activities, responses to studies, common action, mutual accountability, etc. Strengthening local fellowships of churches, whether of the same or of different confessions, is part of the journey towards the “one fully committed fellowship” held up by the visionary statement of the New Delhi Assembly. The Orthodox, in welcoming this emphasis at New Delhi, stressed the need for “…a reintegration of Christian mind, a recovery of apostolic tradition, a fullness of Christian vision and belief, in agreement with all ages.”

43. The process of electing a Central Committee would begin prior to the Assembly with member churches identifying persons from within its delegation to the Assembly available to attend the Assembly and who would have the approval and support of that church to represent it on governing bodies. These names would be made available to a local grouping, or other model of member churches. Such a grouping would then discuss and agree on a list, offering a list of names significantly larger than the number of vacancies allocated to that grouping. Working from these lists, the nominations committee will have the crucial role of shaping nominations for the Central Committee by taking into account the various priorities regarding balances of representation. Those individuals agreeing to be placed in nomination for the Central Committee would be expected to be available, responsible and accountable both to their own ecclesial tradition or family through their own church and also to the grouping of churches which has proposed them, both with regard to speaking for them at meetings, and reporting to them following meetings.

44. In order for the groupings to function and for the Central Committee member to undertake the responsibilities of availability, accountability and communication as spelled out above properly, appropriate resources and ecumenical formation would, where necessary, have to be provided.

45. The Study Group proposes that the effectiveness of the new model referred to in the previous paragraphs should be tested by a mid-term evaluation to which both Central Committee members and member churches should be invited to contribute. An analysis of the findings of such an evaluation should be presented to the officers of the Central Committee for necessary action.

46. The reservation on the WCC governing bodies of twenty-five percent of seats for representatives of Orthodox churches demonstrates the presence in the constituency of the Council of primarily two of the main streams of Christianity. It also acknowledges the realities imposed by the current and future membership pattern of the WCC, in which the Orthodox churches are a numerical minority because of their ecclesiological self-understanding and the dramatic increase in the number of member churches belonging to the western tradition as discussed in paragraph 13. The existence of these two main streams in the Council’s constituency is better reflected in the composition of the Standing Committee on Orthodox Participation in the WCC proposed by the Special Commission, based on the parity principle of fifty percent from the Orthodox churches with the balance from the other denominations represented in the WCC. The Study Group expects that some other committees and groups will be composed on the parity basis, particularly as the results of the work of the Special Commission and the Study Group are absorbed into the life of the WCC.


SECTION D

Some of the proposals listed below may require changes to the Constitution and to the Rules of the WCC, which must be adopted by the Assembly and by the Central Committee respectively. Language has been offered for some changes to the Rules as indicated in Appendix A and Appendix B, subject to the advise of legal counsel, with the expectation that other language of the Constitution and Rules would have to be conformed to those proposed changes. The articulation of theological criteria for membership included in Appendix A has been formulated by the Study Group and by the Special Commission with the advise of the Executive Committee.

Resolutions: The Membership Study Group

1. RECOMMENDS that the churches take action, where appropriate, to come together locally or confessionally for the purpose of membership in the WCC, using the existing provisions and proposed amendments in the Rules [paragraph 21].

2. RECOMMENDS that the Constitution and Rules of the Council be amended in order to:

a) Revise the “Criteria” section of the Rules in accordance with the specific language included as the proposed revised Rule I.3 included in Appendix A to this report and Appendix C to the report of the Special Commission, notably with respect to the inclusion of specific theological criteria for membership [paragraphs 31/32];

b) Provide two possibilities for churches wanting to relate to the WCC:
· member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC
· churches in association with the WCC [paragraph 26];

c) Incorporate the procedure, rights and expectations for the mode of relationship to the WCC described as “churches in association with the WCC” as proposed in Appendix B [paragraphs 26/27];

d) Eliminate the current category of “associate membership”[paragraphs 28/30];

e) Incorporate the current associate member churches by virtue of size (Rule I.5.a.1 category) into the description of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, retaining restrictions on the participation and representation of small churches [paragraph 28];

f) Include in the term “church” a grouping of autonomous churches of the same confession [paragraph 21];

g) Increase the minimum number of members required of churches for individual membership in the fellowship of the WCC from 25,000 to 50,000 members [paragraph 29];


3. RECOMMENDS that churches be accepted to join the fellowship of the WCC at meetings of the Central Committee and not the Assembly. The application for joining the WCC would be presented to one Central Committee meeting, with an intervening period of participation in the work of the Council and interaction with the local fellowship of member churches, and the decision taken on the application at a subsequent meeting of the Central Committee.[paragraph 34]

4. RECOMMENDS that the subcommittee of the Executive Committee that currently receives applications from churches seeking to become member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, be enabled to process, investigate and evaluate applications, assure the existing member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC that any applicant church is in conformity with the Rules, exhibits and retains all of the required criteria, and demonstrates commitment to the purposes of the WCC in its local context over an extended period of time. [paragraph 33]

5. RECOMMENDS that the Executive Committee determine that each church within an “association, convention, or federation of autonomous churches” considered to be and admitted to the fellowship of churches as one “church” (Rule I) independently agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules for individual membership in the WCC. In the event any additional church or churches seeks to affiliate with the association, convention or federation, that such church[es] agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules. [paragraph 35]

6. RECOMMENDS that the General Secretary refer to the Executive Committee situations regarding churches about which questions have arisen as described in paragraph 36 of this report and that the Executive Committee develop fair and appropriate procedures to address these situations. [paragraph 36]

7. RECOMMENDS that churches join in groupings, e.g. geographically, confessionally, or according to other models, for purposes of representation and participation, including making nominations for the Central Committee. [paragraph 42]

8. RECOMMENDS a process of electing a Central Committee whereby

a) member churches would identify persons available to attend the Assembly and who would have the approval and support of that church to represent it on governing bodies;
b) geographically local or other models of groupings of churches would then discuss and agree on a list of names from among those approved by its constituent churches, which list should be significantly larger than the number of vacancies allocated to that grouping;
c) the nominations committee of the Assembly would use those lists from which to shape nominations for the Central Committee by taking into account the various priorities regarding balances of representation;
d) individuals agreeing to be placed in nomination for the Central Committee should understand that they will be expected to be available, responsible and accountable both to their own ecclesial tradition or family through their own church and also to the grouping of churches which has proposed them, both with regard to speaking for them at meetings, and reporting to them following meetings. [paragraph 43]

9. RECOMMENDS that appropriate resources, where necessary, be provided for the ecumenical formation of Central Committee members and to undertake the responsibilities of accountability and communication to the grouping of churches which has proposed their name for Central Committee. [paragraph 44]

10. RECOMMENDS that the effectiveness of the new model of representation and participation should be tested by a mid-term evaluation to which both Central Committee members and member churches should be invited to contribute. An analysis of the findings of such an evaluation should be presented to the officers of the Central Committee for necessary action. [paragraph 45]

Appendix A

PROPOSAL FOR CHANGES TO THE RULES OF THE
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES


I. Membership in the Fellowship of the World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches is comprised of churches which have constituted the Council or which have been admitted into membership and which continue to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches. The term “church“ as used in this article could also include^ an association, convention or federation of autonomous churches. A group of churches within a country or region, or within the same confession, may determine to participate in the World Council of Churches as one church. Churches within the same country or region or within the same confession may apply to belong to the fellowship of the Council, in order to respond to their common calling, to strengthen their joint participation and/or to satisfy the requirement of minimum size (Rules I, (3)(b) (iii)). Such groupings of churches are encouraged by the World Council of Churches; each individual church within the grouping must satisfy the criteria for membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, except the requirements of size.

The General Secretary shall maintain the official lists of member churches that have been accepted to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, noting any special arrangement accepted by the Assembly or Central Committee. Separate lists shall be maintained of voting and nonvoting member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC. The General Secretary shall also maintain a list of churches in association with the Council.

1. Application
A church that wishes to join the World Council of Churches shall apply in writing to the General Secretary.

2. Processing
The General Secretary shall submit all such applications to the Central Committee (see Art. II of the Constitution) together with such information as he or she considers necessary to enable the Central Committee to make a decision on the application.

3. Criteria
Churches applying to join the World Council of Churches (“applicant churches“) are required first to express agreement with the Basis on which the Council is founded and confirm their commitment to the Purposes and Functions of the Council as defined in Articles I and III of the Constitution. The Basis states: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.“

Applicant churches also should understand themselves as conforming to the following criteria, and be ready to give an account of their faith and witness in relationship to these terms.

a. Theological
1. In its life and witness, the church professes faith in the Triune God as expressed in the scriptures and in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

2. The church maintains a ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments.

3. The church baptizes in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit“ and acknowledges the need to move toward the recognition of the Baptism of other churches.

4. The church recognizes the presence and activity of Christ and the Holy Spirit outside its own boundaries and prays for the wisdom of all in the awareness that other member churches also believe in the Holy Trinity and the saving grace of God.

5. The church recognizes in the other member churches of the WCC elements of the true church, even if it does not regard them as churches in the true and full sense of the word.

b. Organizational
1. The church must produce evidence of sustained autonomous life and organization.

2. The church must be able to take the decision to apply for formal membership in the WCC and continue to belong to the fellowship of the WCC without obtaining the permission of any other body or person.

3. An applicant church must ordinarily have at least 50,000 members. The Central Committee may decide for exceptional reasons to accept a church that does not fulfill the criterion of size.

4. An applicant church with fewer than 50,000 members but more than 10,000 members which has not been granted a size exception, but otherwise is eligible for membership can be accepted subject to the following provisions: (a) they shall not have the right to vote in the Assembly, and (b) they may participate with other such churches in selecting five representatives to the Central Committee in accordance with Section III (4)(b)(3) of the Rules. In all other respects, such churches shall be referred to as member churches in fellowship with the WCC.

5. Churches must recognize the essential interdependence of the member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, particularly those of the same confession, and should make every effort to practice constructive ecumenical relations with other churches within their country or region. This will normally mean that the church is a member of the national council of churches or similar body and of the regional/subregional ecumenical organization.

Other changes to the Rules and to the Constitution, including to conform language to the language changes indicated in this proposed revision to the Rules, may be required if proposals of the Special Commission and the Membership Study Group are adopted by the Central Committee.

Appendix B

PROPOSAL FOR CHANGES TO THE RULES OF THE
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES


I. Membership in the Fellowship of the World Council of Churches4. Churches in association with the WCC

a) A church that agrees with the Basis of the Council may apply in writing to the World Council of Churches requesting to be received as a church in association with the WCC, stating its reasons for requesting this mode of relating with the Council. If the reasons are approved by the Central Committee, such a church may be accepted to be in association with the WCC.

b) Churches in association with the WCC can send representatives to the Assembly and the Central Committee who can speak with the permission of the chair, but have no right to vote.

c) Churches in association with the WCC can be invited to participate in the work of commissions, advisory groups, and other consultative bodies of the Council as consultants or advisors.

d) Churches in association with the WCC would have the possibility of participating in the work of the WCC as described, but would not be identified with decisions taken or statements issued by the Council.

e) There would be no financial obligation on the part of churches in association with the WCC for the work of the Council, nor would financial support be made available from the Council to such churches to facilitate their participation.

Appendix C

EXCERPTS FROM THE FINAL REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMISSION RELATIVE TO MEMBERSHIP ISSUES


VII. Membership and Representation

52. Subsequent to the establishment of the Special Commission the Executive Committee of the WCC set up a separate study group to investigate matters of membership and representation and to make recommendations. This Membership Study Group is composed of both members of the Central Committee and the Special Commission with parity between Orthodox and participants from the other member churches. It has already made interim reports to the Executive Committee and shared these with the Special Commission at its plenary meetings. It will present its final report to the Executive Committee for submission to the Central Committee meeting scheduled for August 2002.

53. All reports of the Membership Study Group have been made available to all members of the Special Commission. The meetings of the Membership Study Group purposely have been scheduled to alternate with the meetings of the Special Commission so that at every stage of the development of the work of the Special Commission, the Commission has been informed of the work of the Membership Study Group and at every stage of the work of the Membership Study Group, the Group has had the benefit of the comments, discussion and advice of the Special Commission.

54. With the encouragement of the Special Commission, major focuses of the Membership Study Group’s work were (a) listing theological criteria required of those seeking admission as members of the WCC, (b) formulating new ways of grouping churches for purposes of their representation and participation in the Council, (c) exploring new models of membership including the family model and regional membership, and (d) evaluating new modes of relating to the Council.

55. The Commission proposes to the Membership Study Group that the Membership Study Group include in its recommendations to the Executive Committee two possibilities for churches wanting to relate to the WCC: (a) member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, (b) churches in association with the WCC.

Member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC are churches that agree with the Basis of the WCC, confirm their commitment to the purposes and functions of the Council, and conform to the theological and organizational criteria.

Churches in association with the WCC are churches that agree with the Basis of the Council and are accepted for such status. Such churches can send representatives to the Assembly and the Central Committee who can speak with the permission of the chair, but have no right to vote. Such churches can be invited to participate in the work of commissions, advisory groups, and other consultative bodies of the Council as consultants or advisors. Churches applying to be in association with the WCC should state in writing their reasons for requesting this relationship, which reasons must be approved by the Central Committee.

The Commission encourages the Membership Study Group to offer in its final report additional specific language spelling out more particularly the relationship entailed for churches in association with the Council consistent with the plenary discussion of the Special Commission in Järvenpää.

56. The Commission and the Membership Study Group recommend that the existing category of associate member church under Rule I(5)(a)(2) be eliminated in favor of the new category of relationship with the World Council of Churches entitled “churches in association with the World Council of Churches.” The Commission and the Membership Study Group recommend that the current category of “associate membership” by virtue of size under Rule I (5)(a)(1) (“small churches”) be incorporated into the description of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, retaining however the restrictions on participation by small churches. (See attached Appendix C.)

57. The Commission and the Membership Study Group propose that new member churches be received at meetings of the Central Committee and not the Assembly. The application for joining the WCC would be presented to one Central Committee meeting, with an intervening period of participation in the work of the Council and interaction with the local fellowship of member churches, and the decision taken on the application at the next subsequent meeting of the Central Committee. This change in procedure will require a revision of Article II of the Constitution.

58. Exploring the question of membership, the Commission and the Membership Study Group considered alternatives of either confessional or regional membership, but rejected both as leading to a diminished sense of the constituency’s owning the work of the Council. However, the Study Group and the Commission urge the churches to come together locally or confessionally for purposes of membership in the WCC.

59. The Commission and the Membership Study Group propose that churches join in groupings, e.g. geographically, confessionally, or according to other models, in order to make nominations for the Central Committee. Such persons, if elected, would be expected to develop a greater sense of responsibility/accountability to those who nominated them.

60. The Special Commission takes note of the work undertaken by the Membership Study Group and reported to it in interim reports and commends its work, and particularly expresses its agreement with the proposed changes to the Rules, including the theological criteria proposed by the Membership Study Group, acknowledging the Rules and the Constitution may require further modifications. These proposed changes to the Rules are attached to this report as Appendix C.

Appendix D

MEMBERSHIP STUDY GROUP


H. G. Bishop Nareg Alemezian
Armenian Apostolic Church, Cilicia

Professor John H. Y. Briggs
Baptist Union of Great Britain

Mrs. Donnalie Edwards-Cabey
Church in the Province of the West Indies

Rev. Fr. Mikhail Gundyaev,
Russian Orthodox Church

Rev. Dr. André Karamaga
Presbyterian Church of Rwanda

Ms Anne Glynn Mackoul
Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

Rev. Dr. Bruce Robbins
United Methodist Church

Very Rev. Dr. Georges Tsetsis
Ecumenical Patriarchate

Staff

Mr. Hubert Van Beek
Programme Executive
Church and Ecumenical Relations

Ms. Teny Pirri-Simonian
Programme Executive
Church and Ecumenical Relations