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Report of the policy reference committee II

Report of the policy reference committee II in response to the report of the moderator and the report of the general secretary.

02 September 2002

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

Report of the policy reference committee II


1. MANDATE/TASK

The Policy Reference Committee II (PRCII) has as its task to lift up trends emerging from the ecumenical community and to listen to the concerns of the member churches as reflected through the deliberative process in plenary and group discussions and regional meetings. As well, PRCII is asked to synthesize the responses of the CC members to the challenges of our times using padare themes as entry points; to analyze and consider the role and place of the regional plenaries in the CC; and to discuss and provide response to the thematic plenaries.


2. MODERATOR AND GENERAL SECRETARY’S REPORTS

The PRCII discussed the reports of the Moderator and General Secretary and forwarded its comments and recommendations to Policy Reference Committee I.


3. SPECIAL COMMISSION

The PRCII discussed the report of the Special Commission and forwarded its comments and recommendations to Policy Reference Committee III.


4. THEMATIC PLENARIES

The PRCII received the notes taken during the different thematic plenaries, discussed issues emerging from the engagement during the sessions and the reactions after the plenaries. The plenaries are broadly affirmed and the PRCII notes appreciation for the work, learning and benefit gained through these processes.

4.1 Plenary on Ecclesiology

The PRCII affirms the recommendation in the Moderator’s Report that Faith & Order work together with the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism and Inter Religious Relations and Dialogue and study the appropriate theological approach on the relationship of Christianity and other religions.

4.2 Plenary on Baptism

The following remarks reflect the on-the-floor responses at the plenary, small group discussions and committee deliberations.

Mutual recognition of baptism was affirmed by the PRCII as a hope of the ecumenical movement. The churches need to claim this remarkable hope, and build on it more systematically. Recognition of baptism admits that Christ’s action, in making believers his own, is somehow prior to the different understandings and practices of the churches. There is a great deal of variety within local baptismal practice and for some, it is easier to accept individuals as Christians than to accept other churches as churches.

For some churches the meaning of the term “common baptism” fails to provide clarity. It could imply more uniformity in understanding, or practice, than actually exists. Especially here the overall perspective of life-long growth into Christ is helpful.

The PRCII recommends

4.2.1 That the Central Committee ask Faith and Order to carry out further work on baptism
in relation to mutual recognition, paying particular attention to its ecumenical
implications and the clarification of difficulties experienced in some member churches.

4.2.2 That the next assembly include a powerful symbolic act in affirmation of baptism in the
life of the church, building on the celebration at Santiago de Compostella, the
appropriate nature of which is yet to be determined.

4.3 Plenary on Being Church and Overcoming Racism

The PRCII wishes to record its appreciation for the plenary on “Being Church and Overcoming Racism: It's Time for Transformative Justice” and commends member churches who are already engaged in specific processes for justice, healing and reconciliation to overcome racism.

Today as in the past, the call of the people - victims and survivors of racism and racial discrimination - to advance the racial-ethnic justice cause is a call to churches to continue their advocacy and concrete solidarity. It is also a call to churches for a deeper commitment to face their own racism, face their own past in relation to their own people - Indigenous Peoples, African-descendants, ethnic minorities, Dalits, displaced peoples and migrants. It is a call for churches to reflect on what it means for a church to overcome racism through the challenge of transformative justice.

In the context of racial-ethnic justice, churches, governments, civil society, victims or offenders cannot restore - reinstate, re-establish, bring back, return - what has been lost. Centuries of racism, racial discrimination and sexism cannot be erased - either historically, collectively or individually. Peoples' lives and cultures, languages, lifestyles, worship and spirituality cannot again be as they were. Transformative justice deals with the past in the present. Its goal is to overcome racism and to achieve healing, reconciliation and the re-establishment (“to put things right”) of people's relationships, with a particular focus on justice to racially, ethnically oppressed and caste oppressed peoples.

The committee also took note of the dramatic impact of the call for a moratorium on theological theories about injustice and healing delivered by Rev. Stan McKay in his plenary address and his subsequent call, instead, to engage in more direct processes of liberation and healing through encounters between perpetrators of injustice and those who are victimized.

Responding to the General Secretary’s statement (in his report to this Central Committee) that
"Within the fellowship of the WCC, we have affirmed many times that racism and racial discrimination pose a challenge to the unity of the church. However, racism is still deeply entrenched even in the life of the churches, who fall short of realizing the vision of being just and inclusive communities."

Affirming the need for a paradigm shift, for metanoia, to re-direct our actions towards building truly multi-racial-ethnic communities which safeguard diversity, where different identities and unity interact, and where the rights and obligations of all are fully respected in love and fellowship;

Calling the churches to engage in a process of critical, prayerful and community-based healing and reconciliation to overcome racism, racial-ethnic and caste discrimination, and to transform the existing division of the churches on racial and ethnic lines, we recommend that:

4.3.1 A review of the history/her-story of churches' relationships with peoples impacted by
their mission - Indigenous-Aboriginal Peoples, Africans and people of African-descent, Dalits,
ethnic minorities - be undertaken; and that this review emphasize
what the mission of the churches meant in the past and what it should mean today
for the nature of the church and in relationship to the goal of overcoming racism.

4.3.2 That the thematic foci of this review include justice, healing and reconciliation,
restitution and reparations regarding churches overcoming racism.

4.3.3 This review record peoples' memory/experience/stories of history/her-story; that it be
the place where the victims and the perpetrators of racism, racial discrimination and
caste discrimination come together to search for truth, healing and reconciliation.

4.3.4 This review hold together acknowledgement, truth-telling, confession of complicity,
omission or commission – to God and to people who were harmed, apologies, requests
for forgiveness and offers of forgiveness, “putting things right” in relationships and the
quest for wholeness.

4.3.5 Transformative justice in this context calls for a direct redressing of the injustice and
accrued harm including extreme economic and social imbalances caused by racism.
Reparation and restitution as a moral obligation is a part of transformative justice
which does not allow for easy solutions to deep historic patterns of racism which too
often fail to offer anything but an emotional “cheap grace” easing the consciences of
peoples and churches. Transformative justice is a costly commitment to justice.

4.3.6 The behaviours and attitudes of churches and societies are influenced by theologies.
Churches are called to acknowledge that some theologies, theological thinking, writings
and teachings have played and continue to play a role in promoting racism due to racist
presuppositions. Theologians, scholars and schools of theology are called to look at their
own traditions in theology and history identifying racist assumptions and
interpretations, confessing the radical complicity of some Christian theologians and
schools of theology in promoting racist and intolerant thinking and behaviour and thus
contributing to holocaust and genocide, and seeking ways to overcome racism in the life
and theology of the churches.

4.3.7 A resource guide for congregations on this review be built on similar healing and
reconciliation resources for congregations be developed by WCC member churches.

4.3.8 This review be taken into account by:
a. The study on “The Nature and Purpose of the Church”;
b. The CWME in the preparations for the 2005's World Conference on Mission and Evangelism on the theme "Called in Christ to be Reconciling and Healing Communities";
c. The Decade to Overcome Violence to strengthen the links with the work on overcoming racism.

4.3.9 Responses of the review be presented to the WCC's ninth assembly in 2006 with
recommendations for our life together within the WCC and its member churches,
together with programmatic implications for the work of the WCC.

Our assurance is that God's Spirit is present, guiding and opening our hearts and minds, that transformative justice comes to strengthen the prophetic role of the churches, and that it is not a human project alone. God's divine work for transformative justice is already operative in the world. Thus, we are called to cooperate with God's Spirit, which urges and initiates this dynamic in the world.


5. ASIA PLENARY AND REGIONAL PLENARIES


5.1 The PRCII commends those who organized the Asia regional plenary for their insightful and
imaginative presentation, especially the involvement of youth.

5.2 The PRCII recommends that holding future regional plenaries at CC meetings continue.


6. DISCUSSION OF PADARES, SMALL GROUPS AND REGIONAL MEETINGS

6.1 Padares

We received reports from a number of Padares. The committee makes the following recommendations on the Padares:

General
6.1.1 That WCC encourage that the overall presentation of a Padare includes various
perspectives;

6.1.2 That WCC ensure the title of a Padare accurately reflects its content;

6.1.3 That the Padare sessions during the CC meetings are held according to the African
Shona concept of “Padare” and that other forms of presentations such as workshops
should be labelled otherwise;

Specific
6.1.4 That the video on the conflict in Palestine is commended for widespread use in member
churches;

6.1.5 That the WCC in liaison with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) maintain
and strengthen its involvement in the Central and Eastern European region with
renewed focus, methodologies and models of cooperation, and using appropriate and
flexible instruments/capacities of work, including the WCC Eastern Europe Office.
Particular emphasis should be given by WCC to the areas of spiritual and material
diakonia, including issues of health (HIV/AIDS), children and families at risk;
ecumenical education, leadership formation and capacity building with churches;
information and networking for ecumenical awareness; an increased monitoring of
European political developments and their impact on churches, and on religious
freedom in some contexts.

6.2 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

The PRCII received a note from the Programme Committee on the summit (see Appendix 1: “Note on World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)”) as part of our deliberative process. After consideration of all the input the committee makes the following recommendations:

6.2.1 The Central Committee urges the churches to set apart September 1, each year, as a day
of prayer for creation and its sustainability. It further encourages the member
churches to follow up on the four issues that the churches will raise at the WSSD, with
reflections, theological engagement and action with governments as appropriate.

6.2.2 The Central Committee recommends that the churches advocate through their
governments, through the UN and its environmental agencies, that instruments be put in
place for the restoration and repair of damages caused by the exploitation of Third
World resources and of the environment.

6.2.3 The Central Committee recommends that member churches call on their governments,
the UN and its agencies for the development of a binding convention for corporate
accountability.

6.2.4 The Central Committee calls on its member churches to advocate with their
governments to sign the Kyoto Protocol and urge for a new round of negotiations for
even stronger regulations.

6.2.5 The Central Committee calls on its member churches to quantify their participation in
fair trade movements and their contribution to the environment and to continue to
advocate for just trade in the world.

6.3 Climate Change and Global Warming

The Pacific Caucus shared a concern that failure of countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocols will seriously endanger their island nation-states.

The PRCII recommends that
6.3.1 This Central Committee write to the President of the USA and the Prime Minister of
Australia urging them to sign up to the Kyoto Protocols.

6.3.2 This Central Committee write to the Director General of the United Nations requesting
him to engage the USA and Australia in further discussions on the importance of signing
up to the Kyoto Protocols.

The PRCII received information from the Youth Stewards of this CC advocating a boycott of Exxon Mobil on the basis that it has been undermining the implementation of the Kyoto Protocols.

6.3.3 The PRCII recommends that this matter be referred to the WCC Climate Change
Programme for further consideration and action in consultation with the WCC Youth
programme.

6.4 Status of Youth in the WCC

The Youth Central Committee members sent a statement to the PRCII stating that the work of the Youth Advisory Group has been impaired by lack of action on some requests it has made within the life of the WCC. Youth were concerned at their limited participation in the General Secretary Search Committee. They wished to register their concern that they are not being taken seriously within the WCC structures and are feeling marginalized.

The PRCII recommends
6.4.1 That this Central Committee note the concerns of Youth Central Committee members
and urges the WCC to take more seriously the important role and valuable contribution
of Youth in its life and work in order to ensure the future vitality of the ecumenical
movement.

6.4.2 That at the next CC meeting there be a Plenary on Youth in the life of the WCC.


Appendix

Note on
World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)


Ten years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, a World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) is being held in Johannesburg (August 26 - September 4, 2002). Over 100 heads of governments and other officials, representatives of international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and from the churches and other faith communities are meeting to review progress made in fighting poverty and in protecting the environment. The World Council of Churches (WCC) and representatives of member churches, world communions and partner organisations, have participated in the preparatory process leading to the WSSD so as to lift up the commitment of the ecumenical movement to the concerns over poverty, economic globalisation, the debt burden, the right to water, land and food, climate change, pollution of the seas and rivers, deforestation, desertification, the loss of diversity and the increasing controls and obstacles put in the way of the civil society and the churches for participation in decision making processes.

In the ten years since Rio, the concept of "sustainable development" has meant combining the need for development with the concept of sustainability. This has been undermined by the inexorable march of corporate-driven, market-oriented economic forces and their global outreach. The underlying development paradigm, with its strong emphasis on economic growth and market expansion, has served first and foremost the interests of powerful economic players. It has further marginalized the poor sectors of society, simultaneously undermining their basic security in terms of access to land, water, food, employment, other basic services and a healthy environment. International trade, financial investments and private-public partnerships continue to operate within this same “development” framework. There has been a deepening of the contradictions between the accelerating and expanding global economy and the struggles of people for their survival and livelihood.

In addition, the net flow of wealth from the South to the North has increased as a result of a worsening debt crisis, unfulfilled promises of international cooperation on the part of the OECD countries, and the ascendancy of negative aspects of globalization. This has included a weakening of political institutions and their legitimacy at national and international levels, and the inability of a majority of countries to ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of their people over against powerful global actors. The beneficiaries seem content as long as their governments protect their privileged, non-sustainable way of life. The preparatory process to the WSSD was marked by growing influence by the corporate lobby on the negotiations. The process has revealed that it is not only the lack of implementation of Agenda 21, (the main Rio plan document), but it is also the direction now being taken, which will further aggravate the situation of poverty and injustice for most people in the world. A change of direction is essential.

What is required is a just and moral economy in which people are empowered to be involved in making decisions that affect their lives; where public and private institutions and enterprises are accountable and held responsible for the social and environmental impacts and consequences of their operations; and where the Earth and the whole created order is nurtured with utmost respect and reverence rather than exploited and degraded.

By asserting the primacy of justice, ecological sustainability and the creation of viable communities, the ecumenical community states that authentic human development can never be achieved when the ultimate goal is amassing wealth and material goods, especially when these are at the expense of others in the global community and of the health of the global environmental commons. Justice and equity must be at the heart of any sustainable economic, social or environmental system supporting the whole earth community.

Some churches have acted with courage and vision in advocating for a sustainable earth. The call of His All Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, to Christians around the world to celebrate September 1 as Creation Day so as to pray for the WSSD, stands testimony to the commitment of the churches to the earth. It is planned that prayers will accompany the summit when the governmental negotiations begin in Johannesburg. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is the host of an ecumenical team that is present in Johannesburg. The churches in South Africa organised an opening worship service in Alexandra, one of the oldest black townships in Johannesburg.

    The Central Committee urges the churches to set apart September 1, each year, as a day of prayer for creation and its sustainability. It further encourages the member churches to follow up on the four issues that the churches will raise at the WSSD, with reflections, theological engagement and action with governments as appropriate.



1. Ecological debt refers to the debt owed by industrialized countries to the Third World, on
account of historical and ongoing resource plundering, environmental degradation and the
disproportionate appropriation of environmental space to deposit toxic wastes and greenhouse
gases. The people of the North who abuse the biosphere, transgress ecological limits and
enforce unsustainable patterns of resource extraction through over-consumption of
non-renewable resources, owe an ecological debt to the peoples of the South. For
sustainability to become a reality radical changes to systems of production, distribution and
consumption and a global legal framework to monitor and control this are urgently to be
addressed.

    The Central Committee recommends that the churches advocate through their governments, through the UN and its environmental agencies, that instruments be put in place for the restoration and repair of damages caused by the exploitation of Third World resources and of the environment.


2. Corporate accountability as a matter of sustainable justice: Economic decisions and
actions that shape the lives of most of the people living on this planet rest increasingly with
the private sector. Governments are reluctant, or incapable, of challenging this power. There
are, in many countries of the world, national laws that regulate business practices, but these
are being overruled by international trade requirements. There is virtually no international
regulatory regime to cover corporate activities that are transnational or global. The need for a
code of conduct for the corporate sector is urgent in a context where intellectual property
laws, especially the TRIPS agreement of the World Trade Organisation, has slowed access of
poor countries to produce inexpensive products, for example cheap drugs.

The Central Committee recommends that member churches call on the governments, the UN
and its agencies for the development of a binding convention for corporate accountability.


3. Climate Change: WCC has always stood in solidarity with those most affected by climate
change. The consequences of climate change further accentuate the deep injustice already
existing between industrialised and developing countries. Weather anomalies primarily hit
the countries of the South, where the majority of the world’s population lives. At the same
time, the poor in these countries make only marginal contributions to total greenhouse gas
emissions and they lack the means to protect themselves against the devastating impact of
changing climate conditions. There is also the lack of political will of leaders of rich
countries, who are the prime producers of greenhouse gases, to take the political and financial
responsibility for this. The Kyoto Protocol is a first step in a global effort to combat climate
change, but it needs to be followed with stronger efforts.

      The Central Committee calls on its member churches to ensure that all governments will sign the Kyoto Protocol and urge for a new round of negotiations for even more stronger regulations.


4. Sustainable Trade: WCC has been encouraged by the participation of church groups,
organisations and Christian communities in fair trade as an alternative form of trade that
generates economic value and reduces poverty and unjust trade relations. It also focused on
regenerating environmental resources. This model of trade that had been developed in the
1970s accounted for 0.01% of global trade and has grown by 10% annually, since the 1970s.
While this model is affirmed, it is becoming necessary to go beyond this method and for the
churches to become more active in environment safe and ethics centred forms of trade. Trade
needs to be seen as an integral part of the economic, social and cultural rights of all people.

      The Central Committee calls on its member churches to quantify their participation in fair trade movements and their contribution to the environment and to continue to advocate for just trade in the world.


The World Council of Churches perspective on the WSSD process is grounded in our Christian conviction about the sacred nature of all of Creation, and of all of life. The sacred origin of the Earth makes it the common inheritance of all peoples for all times, to be enjoyed in just, loving and responsible relationships with one another and with the Creator God.