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Assembly evaluation

06 September 2006

Introduction 

The Assembly evaluation process began in Porto Alegre. The Business Committee distributed evaluation forms, asking participants to rate the various ‘building blocks' of the Assembly programme. The responses provide basic statistics on the relative satisfaction of participants. The results of the participants' evaluation are presented in section VII of this document. 

Upon returning to Geneva, the General Secretary convened an all staff evaluation followed by an evaluation meeting of the Assembly Staff Group, which oversaw preparations for the event. 

Each of the 14 staff task groups entrusted with preparing various aspects of the Assembly produced a written evaluation of the their work, documenting the following:

  • Brief summary of the planning stage.
  • Evaluation of how the task(s) were implemented at the Assembly.
  • Evaluation of the impact these task(s) had on the overall dynamic of the Assembly.
  • Evaluation of the team dynamic experienced by those working on the task(s), including staff, co-opted staff, stewards and local volunteers.
  • Helpful suggestions for future organizers.

A number of churches, councils, agencies and individual participants have sent written evaluations. 

An evaluation by the host churches and partners throughout Latin America was conducted by the Centro Regional Ecuménico de Asesoría y Servicio (CREAS). 

A preliminary version of this evaluation was shared with the Executive Committee in May 2006. The committee's feedback helped to identify additional elements and key findings to be incorporated in this evaluation. 

Reporting the Assembly 

The Assembly website contains the adopted versions of Assembly Committee reports. A brief review of the Assembly in words and images, including the Assembly Message, is available in English. 

The official report of the Assembly will be published in November 2006. It will contain a narrative introduction to the Assembly, major addresses, committee reports and other key documents and listings. A CD containing the minutes of plenary proceedings, additional materials as well as translations of the major addresses and committee reports in Spanish, French and German will accompany the report. 

The reports filed by the rapporteurs of Ecumenical Conversations have been compiled and are available upon request. The notes submitted from Mutirão workshops have been synthesised to provide an overview of the discussions that took place and are also available upon request. 

Purpose of this evaluation 

The importance of evaluating the Assembly is to learn from our experience in Porto Alegre in order to strengthen the churches' commitment and witness to the visible unity of the church. The evaluation should be read in the light of the stated purpose and objectives agreed by the Central Committee (cf. Gen Sec 4, Central Committee 2005, Assembly Programme Book, Assembly Handbook). 

The details of what went well, what went wrong and how to strengthen future preparations are recorded in the written evaluations noted above. These are available for those interested and will be included in the Assembly archive for use by future organizers. 

This evaluation seeks to review the new elements introduced for the 9th Assembly. It also seeks to evaluate the Assembly vis a vis some of the stated expectations. The evaluation proposes some key findings for consideration. Finally, the evaluation proposes some steps for consideration in preparing the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. 

Preliminary reports 

By all preliminary reports the 9th Assembly was a success, as attributed to the following: 

  • The member churches and partners of the World Council of Churches came to Porto Alegre committed to strengthening their ecumenical relationships and sharpening their vision for the ecumenical movement in the 21st century. 

  • The programme, business and logistics of the Assembly were well planned and significantly strengthened by the support of the hosting churches.

The Assembly heralds a new era in ecumenical history marked by increasing attention to the spiritual strength of ecumenism as measured alongside the institutional concerns of the ecumenical movement. This is evidenced by: 

  • Churches maturing into a new ethos of fellowship, dialogue and spiritual discernment as the accord by which they seek to make visible their unity in Christ. The shift to consensus decision-making went relatively smoothly, reminding us of the importance of the WCC as a space first and foremost for dialogue. 

  • Participants came to the Assembly seeking spiritual renewal for their ecumenical witness. This was apparent from the significant attendance at morning and evening prayer and in Bible study. 

  • Assembly mandates for strategic cooperation among ecumenical partners for the purpose of strengthening mission, diakonia and service. 

New elements introduced for the 9th Assembly 

  1. Smaller delegations

In an effort to ensure a more affordable Assembly the Central Committee, meeting in 2004, reduced the total number of delegates, inviting the 45% of the member churches to send only one delegate. 

As a result, the number of women, youth or laypersons named as delegates was significantly below expectations. The "15% process", available to the Central Committee to redress imbalances, was only able to ensure that 36% of the delegates were women, 15% were youth and 39% were laypersons. 

Despite efforts to ensure that the leadership of the Assembly included 50% women and 25% youth, the cost of a more affordable Assembly was a less representative Assembly. 

Continued reflection on the best ways to maximise participation as well as representation is needed, considering that the strength of an Assembly comes from the fullest participation of member church delegations and the representation of other churches and the broader ecumenical movement. 

  1. New categories of participation

Two new categories of participation were introduced for the 9th Assembly - ‘Advisor to the Delegation' and ‘Delegated Representative' of specialised ministries. 

Member churches were invited to send an advisor to accompany their delegation. The seventy-five persons who attended the Assembly as an ‘advisor to the delegation' had the right to speak and were seated with their church. Many of these advisors serve their respective church as an ‘ecumenical officer'. The churches that sent advisors have expressed gratitude as this strengthened their participation and helped some churches overcome the feeling that their delegation had been ‘reduced'. Unfortunately, only those churches that were able to support the cost of the flight, board and lodging were able to take advantage of this invitation. 

With revisions to the WCC By-Laws, specialised ministries with an established relationship to the World Council were invited to send a ‘delegated representative'. Though the category of delegated representative is not new, this is the first time that the representatives of specialised ministries have been invited to attend an Assembly with voice. The specialised ministries that responded to the invitation were grateful for the opportunity to join similarly affiliated councils and ecumenical agencies in this capacity. 

  1. Consensus decision-making

The shift to consensus decision-making was the result of a major policy decision of the Central Committee intended to strengthen ecumenical dialogue and decision-making. The shift went relatively smoothly, considering this was only the Council's second major experience with the model. The presence of skilled mentors, the various levels of orientation/training for participants and the pre-assembly gathering of committee leadership all contributed significantly in helping the Assembly take the decisions that it did. 

The Assembly highlighted the need for more reflection on how to achieve the most positive dynamic between presentation, discussion and decision-making. Three issues fundamental to strengthening the consensus ethos can be noted: 

  • Major issues should be presented recognising not only a diversity of voices, but also the range of opinions or positions held by the members of the fellowship. 

  • The presentation of major issues in plenary sessions should always provide an opportunity for immediate feedback from the floor. 

  • The opportunities for dialogue on major issues and the expectations for how that dialogue will inform the decision-making process should be as clear and simple as possible. 

  1. Dialogue as a methodology

This Assembly introduced "Ecumenical Conversations" in an effort to engage delegates and other core participants in dialogue on critical issues. Fundamental to the methodology was the absence of pressure to produce a report or to formally agree on recommendations. In most conversations, where leadership was well prepared, the experience proved liberating and dialogue flourished. Likewise, the invitation extended by the Central Committee to participants under 30 to join the conversations regardless of their capacity contributed to the ecumenical formation of all who participated. 

The process foreseen to ensure that the conversations would be "heard" by the Assembly Committees was difficult to manage due the tremendous workload of the committees and the number of conversations. 

There could have been fewer conversations. The overlap between some conversations and the specificity of others was questioned. Again, the link between thematic plenaries and ecumenical conversations could have been more precise in order to strengthen the decision-making process. 

  1. Mutirão and the deeper integration of partners and networks

With every Assembly it is necessary to achieve a dynamic balance between the core business entrusted to the delegates, representatives and advisors on the one hand, and the witness of the wider ecumenical context on the other hand. The Mutirão was introduced to help achieve this balance. 

In many respects the diversity of offerings through the Mutirão and the spirit of the participants created a positive and concrete environment for the delegates to achieve their goals. Among the reasons identified for this are the following: 

  • The Mutirão was a shift away from the tradition of a "visitors' programme", recognising the limitations of being a ‘visitor' as opposed to being a participant who is encouraged to strengthen the work of the Assembly. 

  • The Mutirão sought to learn from Harare Assembly Padare experience by establishing a manageable framework, integrating offerings in the daily life of the Assembly and limiting the total number of offerings in order to maximize participation. 

  • The programme was not simply prepared, but developed, in close collaboration with ecumenical networks and partners in Brazil, Latin America and the world - in equal partnership. 

  • With more proposals than could be accepted, many workshops could only be accepted if the sponsors agreed to work cooperatively with others proposing similar offerings - thus the partnership between many Mutirão participants began before the Assembly.

Among the challenges for similar programmes in the future is how to strengthen the dynamic between the Mutirão and the Assembly. One suggestion would be to introduce a plenary session on "From Mutirão to the Assembly". Another future challenge is how to engage more directly the member churches in contributing to the environment created by a Mutirão. 

Major expectations 

  1. A praying Assembly

The Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC significantly shaped the development of the prayer life of the 9th Assembly. Based on the wisdom of the report and centred on the Assembly theme, the Assembly Worship Planning Committee sought to prepare a gathering deeply rooted in prayer. 

The balance between inter-confessional prayer, confessional liturgies and the open invitation to communions and churches to host services significantly strengthened the spirit of the Assembly. The rich prayer life coupled with the sense of community engendered through daily Bible study and sharing in home groups was, for the majority of participants, the most enriching part of the Assembly. 

Porto Alegre was a praying Assembly. Critical to ensuring this was the foundation of the Assembly in the theme "God, in your grace, transform the world" - itself a prayer. The experience in Porto Alegre indicates the need for continued reflection on the following paradoxes: 

  • A sharp distinction between confessional and inter-confessional prayer is often challenged by some church's own confessional commitment to "being" inter-confessional. 

  • The understanding that Eucharist services at ecumenical gatherings are most appropriately hosted by "confessional families" is likewise challenged by agreements of hospitality that already exist between some confessions. 

  1. A listening Assembly

As mentioned above, the implementation of consensus decision-making went relatively smoothly. The relative success of this shift is fundamental in evaluating Porto Alegre as a listening Assembly. 

The Central Committee gave significant leadership in preparing for the consensus shift. This was strengthened with new elements of preparation, including leadership training, general orientation and resourcing the Assembly with consensus mentors and recorders. It also required the use of new methodologies such as the Ecumenical Conversations and the role of Assembly Committee members as ‘listeners'. 

Despite the fact that the Assembly spent much of its time in discussion, there was a general dissatisfaction with the quality of the time made available for the delegates to speak, i.e. to be heard. 

This dissatisfaction was most strongly felt in relation to the thematic plenaries. Though the Assembly Planning Committee designed these plenaries not to include opportunities for response from the floor, it is clear from the reaction of the delegates that this was a mistake. 

The experience in Porto Alegre indicates that space for listening must be preserved in every aspect of the Assembly life. 

  1. A youth Assembly

The Central Committee, meeting in 2005, set the goal of making this the youngest Assembly in the history of the WCC. Over 700 young people attended the Assembly. Youth delegates and advisors who addressed the Assembly in each thematic plenary, represented 25% of the Assembly leadership and committee membership. Three youth delegates served on the Business Committee. The stewards' programme, youth camp, Mutirão and the invitation to join ecumenical conversations were intended to strengthen youth participation. For many young people the Assembly was a transforming experience. 

In spite of this many young people expressed frustration with how poorly the leadership of youth is integrated in the life of the churches and the ecumenical movement. While some young people felt they were able to participate and be heard at Assembly, others experienced hostile confrontations where they were belittled and silenced because they are young. 

The expectation that Porto Alegre be the ‘youth assembly' created an environment of hypersensitivity among young people about their role in the churches and ecumenical movement. Similarly, the ‘youth assembly' created a heightened sensitivity among some church leaders - some of whom expressed concern about sharing leadership with young adults. 

The divergence in expectations was exacerbated by the reality that, in general, the member churches did not prioritise persons under 30 years of age when naming their delegations and the subsequent effect this had on the ability of the Nominations Committee to propose youth delegates for election to the Central Committee who had the support of the churches in their region. 

The Assembly exposed one of the ‘fault lines' in ecumenical relationships. Young people at this assembly were concerned with more than just representation in numbers but challenged the often times dysfunctional relationship that reoccurs between generations in church and ecumenical life. 

In recognition of this frustration, the Assembly directed the Central Committee to appoint a permanent body of young people to work with the Council in order to strengthen the participation of youth in all WCC programmes and in the life of the church. The need to create meaningful opportunities for young adults and to build healthy and nurturing relationships across generations is one of the challenges emerging out of the Porto Alegre Assembly. 

  1. A Latin American Assembly

This was the first Assembly to be held in Latin America. There were many expectations both from the region and the fellowship concerning the context. From the earliest stages, the region was deeply integrated in the planning process, both of the Assembly and of the Mutirão. The host churches sought to share a message of hope and celebration about their life and ministry. The Assembly helped to revitalise ecumenism in Latin America. 

Each thematic plenary presentation included speakers from the region, helping the Assembly to understand the socio-economic, ecclesial and ecumenical realities of the context. The plenary and cultural events organized by the host churches were well received by the Assembly and visits with local congregations were a highlight for many. The statement on Latin America highlights some of the major achievements and challenges of the region. 

Though the participation of the Roman Catholic Church was strong, the participation of Pentecostal churches was less than expected by the churches in the region. Likewise, some participants from the region felt that poverty and external debt were not sufficiently addressed by the Assembly. 

The most difficult challenge to overcome in making this a Latin American Assembly was the language barrier between a predominantly English-communicating Assembly and a Spanish/Portuguese-speaking host environment. In spite of this barrier, what truly made Porto Alegre a Latin American Assembly was the active participation of over 2000 people from the region. 

  1. An Assembly for ecumenical formation

An Assembly is a rare moment in the life of the ecumenical movement. It brings together thousands of people in prayer and dialogue for nearly two weeks. The opportunities for ecumenical formation are numerous. This Assembly sought to make the most of this potential, recognising the event as a space in which faith-based sharing can flourish. 

The methodological shifts in dialogue, the variety of Mutirão offerings, the rich spiritual life and the diversity of participants were the foundations for ecumenical formation. The pre-assembly gatherings, the stewards programme, the youth camp, the young ecumenists group, the ecumenical congress, the theological café, the presence of the EDAN network are examples of how ecumenical formation was facilitated. The home group Bible study discussions were essential to the ecumenical formation of delegates, representatives and observers. 

The process of hosting the Assembly was itself an experience of ecumenical formation for the hundreds of local church members who contributed to over 20 working groups and participated in the daily life of the Assembly. The Assembly brought the local churches together in new ways and prepared the way for even deeper expressions of unity. 

The most significant challenge for future gatherings is how to more deeply inform and energise the business life of the Assembly with the creative encounters that emerge through ecumenical formation. 

For those who attended, the 9th Assembly was a significant moment in the life long journey of ecumenical formation. This was expressed most strongly by what has been called the ‘Assembly Spirit' - an enthusiastic, sense of commitment and hope that permeated nearly every corner of the Assembly. 

Some key findings 

  1. How was the fellowship of churches experienced at the Assembly?

The sense of fellowship among churches was felt most strongly through the spiritual life of the Assembly. Participants confirmed that the work of an Assembly depends on its foundation in common prayer and community Bible study. 

The fellowship was also experienced in dialogue - perhaps even more than expected. Dialogue flourished where the methodologies sought to achieve a sharing of experiences, rather than a sharing of positions. Dialogue also flourished where the common goal was mutual enrichment, rather than a common report. 

The fellowship flourished in its deliberations as well. The work of the Assembly Committees was critical. It was their task to give voice to the Assembly. In spite of tremendous pressures they achieved their task. 

The experience of the committees in Porto Alegre indicates the need to moderate the pressure of time at future meetings to enable the fellowship to work more effectively. The committee work in Porto Alegre was strengthened by ecumenical advisors, recognising the dynamics of the fellowship that go beyond membership. 

Despite their desire for more time to deliberate issues in plenary, the Assembly itself showed tremendous patience in its deliberations. It also showed significant maturity and appreciation for the consensus method of decision-making. The significant number of minority opinions that are now appended to the adopted reports indicate how important the ‘safety valves' provided by the procedures are in maintaining the fellowship. 

  1. Did the Assembly deepen the participation of churches and ecumenical partners?

In every respect the Assembly deepened the participation of the churches and ecumenical partners in the life of the World Council. This is evidenced by the significant interest in the Assembly and the manifestation of a spirit of commitment and inspiration among the participants. 

It is also being evidenced by the efforts of many churches to record and share the experience of their delegation with others who were not in Porto Alegre. The Assembly Message, in particular, has been translated into many languages and is being used by congregations around the world. 

The Mutirão provided the means by which mutual participation of both churches and partners was deepened. The Mutirão invited the wider ecumenical movement into the life of the Assembly and provided a space for exchange between the leadership of the churches and the ministries of the movement. 

The reports of the Assembly indicate most clearly the directions needed to foster even deeper participation of the churches and ecumenical partners in the life of the WCC. Not only do the reports confirm ongoing commitments, they set new directions and raise major expectations. 

The Assembly strongly confirmed the past decade's efforts to strengthen a common understanding and vision of ecumenism in the 21st century. On the one hand the core commitment of membership to the visible unity of the church was challenged and strengthened. On the other hand, the unique role of the WCC as the ‘trustee' of the ecumenical movement was more clearly articulated. 

The Assembly instructed the WCC to do less and to do it better, outlining the management philosophy and methodology by which it expects this to be done. 

Though the Assembly clearly deepened the participation of the churches and partners that attended, it raised serious expectations. Only if these expectations can be met, will the WCC be able to cultivate the most meaningful participation of its churches and ecumenical partners. 

  1. Can the participation of non-member churches in the life of an Assembly be strengthened?

There were considerable expectations concerning both the official and non-official participation of the Roman Catholic Church and of Pentecostal churches that are not members of the WCC, but which together represent a majority of Christians world-wide. These expectations were heightened by the fact that the 9th Assembly took place in a region that is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and in a country with the largest national population of Pentecostal Christians. 

The official participation of the Roman Catholic Church was strong as evidenced by the team of delegated observers sent by the Vatican, the message to the Assembly from Pope Benedict XVI and Assembly's affirmation of the ‘Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches'

The less official participation of the Roman Catholic Church was also significant, particularly the partnership with the Pontifical Catholic University, where the Assembly took place, and the hundreds of local Roman Catholic Church leaders and volunteers who helped to prepare, host and share in the Assembly. 

The official participation of Pentecostal churches that are not members of the WCC was less significant than hoped for, despite the presence of some key leaders from Latin America, North America and Africa; and the Assembly's affirmation of the work of the WCC-Pentecostal Joint Consultative Group. 

Even though there were fewer than expected Pentecostal church delegated observers present at the Assembly, there were more Pentecostal Christians present at the 9th Assembly than any other Assembly in WCC history. This is primarily due to the active participation of Pentecostal member churches of the WCC in Chile and Argentina through the Mutirão programme. 

Regardless of the official or unofficial representation of the Roman Catholic Church and Pentecostal churches that are not members of the WCC, the structure of the meeting significantly limited the ability of the Assembly delegates to be in dialogue with these churches. Home group bible study discussions among core participants drew from a limited number of official Roman Catholic or Pentecostal participants. The same dichotomy between core participants and others limited the diversity of ecclesiological representation in the twenty-two Ecumenical Conversations. 

The experience in Porto Alegre indicates that more effort is needed by the WCC itself to encourage and facilitate the participation of non-member churches in an Assembly. Relationships cultivated by regular contact with the respective church leadership, in particular, are essential. 

More effort is also needed to encourage and facilitate the participation of Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches' clergy, theologians and lay members, not only through programmes like the Mutirão, but through the spiritual witness of these traditions and adequate opportunities for dialogue on the full range of issues under discussion. 

  1. What was the impact of the Assembly on church and international media?

WCC media distributed over 160 news stories, interviews and features in five languages to 15,000 people, including around 2,000 media outlets. The daily web casts brought the Assembly home to those who were not in Brazil. 

International accredited media, both secular and church-related, amounted to 154 journalists. The countries most represented were Germany, USA, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, India, Sweden, Austria and Canada. Main news agencies (AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA, EFE) were all represented. Brazilian press was represented by over 160 journalists, who produced daily printed, radio and TV coverage in Porto Alegre and to a lesser extent in national media. 

Media coverage was widespread, mainly in the print media, with hundreds of articles in several languages and regions. The Assembly was reported widely in Protestant media during and after the event, with more limited coverage in Orthodox and Catholic media. Secular media coverage varied according to the context. Significant coverage in terms of reaching large non-church audiences was recorded in France, Lebanon, India, Greece and Russia. 

Generally, the issues covered by media were substantial, even where coverage was critical of some aspects of the Assembly. Main issues covered in secular media were, in order of relevance: Christian unity; Poverty; Peace; anti-violence; war; Inter-religious relations; Freedom of speech (Mohammed cartoons); WCC and its structure; Christian identity; Globalization; Youth; Assembly theme; Women; Israel/Palestine conflict. (See qualitative analysis below.) Hostile coverage was limited to those groups that have a history of negative coverage of the WCC. 

A summary qualitative analysis of the Assembly coverage in secular media indicates:

  • The Assembly theme was either associated with the promotion of inter-religious dialogue or with action to improve social and political realities (or in some cases, both). 

  • The issue of Christian unity was often framed in terms of differences, i.e. East vs. West, Catholic vs. Protestant, Conservative vs. Liberal, Charismatic vs. WCC members, Protestant vs. Orthodox. 

  • The global character of the Assembly was emphasised: 348 churches world-wide, from over 100 countries, "working together to construct a fairer world". But the urgency to make further progress was also stated, including significant coverage about the need to collaborate with denominations not represented in the WCC. 

  • The relationship with the Catholic Church remains a recurring issue: it supports the WCC but is not a member; it's centralised structure "does not blend", but the distance has diminished. 

  • Attention given to poverty issues was of a more political nature. Certain media picked up on disagreement within the WCC membership about how to address economic globalization. 

  • The poverty coverage shows that stories found briefly before the Assembly and during the first few days carried high expectations, while at the end various disappointed voices were reflected. 

  • The world-wide commotion caused by the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, shortly before the Assembly, dominated the debate about freedom of speech and expression. 

  • The letter of repentance from the US Conference for the WCC to the 9th Assembly received a lot of media attention, but was not necessarily accepted by everyone. 

  • Criticism was expressed about the fact that target figures for women and youth representation in WCC Central Committee were not met. 

  • Governance issues of the WCC were reported: certainly national appointments were covered, and the consensus model was mentioned a number of times, sometimes critically. 

  • A number of local issues were reflected in the media. For example problematic inter-religious relations in Indonesia, relations between Christians and Jews in the Middle East, and the situation of the churches in Latin America.

Participants' Evaluation

Assembly participants returned a total of 538 of the evaluation forms distributed by the Business Committee in Porto Alegre. Of these 538 forms, 306 were submitted by delegates (57%). 

Although the total number of responses represents a small percentage of participants, the following statistics include the opinion of half of the delegates present at the Assembly. 

Assembly ‘building blocks'

Good

Satisfactory

Unsatisfactory

 

 

 

 

Prayer Life

59%

33%

8%

Bible Studies

67%

25%

9%

Ecumenical Conversations

49%

40%

12%

Thematic Plenaries

37%

46%

17%

Business Plenaries

25%

61%

14%

Committee Meetings

51%

40%

9%

Regional and Confessional Meetings

34%

49%

16%

 

 

 

 

Latin America Plenary and Cultural Evening

60%

32%

8%

Visits to Local Churches

66%

26%

8%

 

 

 

 

Mutirão Workshops

55%

41%

4%

Exhibitions & Cultural Presentations

57%

40%

2%

Ecumenical Formation

48%

47%

5%

 

 

 

 

Accommodation

68%

29%

3%

Logistics

61%

34%

5%

Other practicalities

50%

44%

5%

Based on these statistics, participants were most satisfied with Bible study, the Latin America day events and visits to local churches. Participants were least satisfied with the thematic plenaries, business plenaries, regional and confessional meetings. The unsatisfactory ratings indicate more attention should be given to plenary activities and the conduct of business. 

Participants were also asked to make relevant comments when rating the Assembly. Their comments indicate the following general observations: 

Content - thematic plenaries, ecumenical conversations and dialogue

  • Presentations and dialogue need deeper theological grounding.

  • Presentations and dialogue in plenary are preferred over multi-media approaches.

  • More interaction with the floor and amongst participants is needed.

  • Difficult issues tend to be avoided.

  • Hope for a more integrated assembly, holding together celebration, dialogue and business.

  • A policy for receiving and limiting the presentation of messages is needed.

  • The lack of attention to the Afro-Brazilian community was noted repeatedly.

Spiritual life - prayer and bible study

  • Desire for more exegetical analysis in the bible study material.

  • More diversity in worship.

  • Need for silence during prayer.

  • More room for prayer and intercession in every part of the Assembly life.

Business - consensus, moderation, reports, nominations and elections

  • More clarity about the procedures, business agenda and reporting of committees is needed.

  • Moderators must be skilled, prepared and well trained.

  • More time and dialogue is needed to arrive at consensus.

  • The nominations and election processes needs more attention.

  • Documents and translations should be available before discussion.

  • The voice of the delegates should be taken more seriously.

  • A full day of orientation at the beginning of the Assembly would be helpful.

Some of the delegate's verbatim comments are quoted below: 

  • "I would have liked to have more theology in the bible study programme. The focus was placed on society and the effects of globalization in our respective societies. More emphasis on religion would have been more enjoyable." 

  • "There was very little said about the struggles of the African population in Brazil and the racism they experience as well as the poverty of that community." 

  • "Consensus decision-making requires that business be given more time and that consultation on the issues starts at least a year in advance." 

  • "Would suggest that in the future there be some consultation between the Moderator and the General Secretary so that issues are not repeated. I would suggest that the Moderator gives a vision as was done - and the G.S. gives attention to an overview of the period from last Assembly - highlights specific issues and actions." 

  • "I found the emphasis on youth participation was not carried through. The involvement of youth in WCC should be structured so as to grow in responsibility and activity; and thereby to achieve the relevant positions desired. I also felt that the basis of greater youth involvement was not clearly clarified." 

  • "This was huge undertaking. Thanks to all." 

  • "Please continue to pray, "God, in your grace, transform the world."

Financial results

The final Assembly accounts will be audited in 2007. A report on the income and expenses of the Assembly will be presented through the Finance Committee of the Central Committee. 

Practical suggestions for preparing the 10th Assembly

Though it is too early to consider where the next Assembly will be held or the theme it will gather under, it is not too early to consider the schedule of preparations and the means for securing the resources needed to prepare the 10th Assembly. 

  1. Schedule of preparations

The following draft schedule of preparations is based on the assumption that the 10th Assembly will be held in late 2013: 

Central Committee meeting in February 2008

  • Elaborate basic expectations for the 10th Assembly

  • Appoint an Assembly Planning Committee

  • Appoint an Assembly Worship Planning Committee

  • Initiate venue search.

Central Committee meeting in August 2009

  • Decide on Assembly theme

  • Decide on Assembly venue

  • Confirm the Assembly budget

  • Map the distribution of delegates

Central Committee meeting in February 2011

  • Confirm the Assembly programme and draft agenda

  • Issue invitations

  • Launch congregational resources

Central Committee August 2012

  • Confirm member church delegations

  • Nominate additional delegates according to the 15% process

  • Nominate Assembly leadership

  • Launch Assembly study materials

If the Assembly is held in early 2013, all matters of action must be presented to the meeting of the Central Committee in February 2011. 

  1. Securing the resources needed

An Assembly of the World Council of Churches is, on the one hand, the constitutional responsibility of the WCC as an institution and, on the other hand, the spiritual responsibility of the WCC as a fellowship of churches. 

In order to secure the financial and the spiritual resources needed to prepare an Assembly, the following suggestions may be helpful. 

The budget of the Assembly could be supported annually through the tithing of 10% of the total member church contributions. Such tithing over seven years could establish up to 4.4 million CHF towards Assembly expenses and would raise confidence in partners to support additional expenses. 

The cycle of member church, associate council and ecumenical partner synod, assembly, conference and other major meetings during the preparation phase could significantly strengthen the Assembly through prayer and a coordinated discussion on major issues placed expected on the agenda of the Assembly. 

Towards an ecumenical assembly 

The 9th Assembly recommended that the WCC pursue an "ecumenical assembly that would assemble all churches to celebrate their fellowship in Jesus Christ and to address common challenges facing the church and humanity" (PRC paragraph 5). 

The recommendation was supported by the Assembly principally as a witness "toward visible unity and a shared Eucharist", but also as a practical challenge to "explore the feasibility of a structure for WCC assemblies that would provide expanded space for Christian World Communions and confessional families to meet, for the purpose of deliberation and/or overall agenda" (PRC paragraph 25d). 

The Assembly requested that this be further deliberated early in the term of the Central Committee. 

This recommendation is the fruit of many years of discussion around a ‘joint' or ‘common' assembly that would allow multiple ecumenical organizations to conduct their respective assemblies in the same time and space. 

Reflecting on this discussion, the 9th Assembly proposed a more open gathering, preferring to set as the goal an ‘ecumenical assembly' of celebration, rather than a ‘common event' for respective business agendas of different organizations. 

This decision represents a considerable ecumenical momentum and the specific commitment of the WCC to explore how an ‘ecumenical assembly' could be a celebration of faith that reaches beyond ecumenical boundaries, but could also provide space for other Christian bodies to pursue the deliberations most appropriate to their self-understanding. 

Though the Assembly specifically mentioned working with Christian World Communions and other confessional bodies in pursuit of this vision, attention should also be given to the regional ecumenical realities. Recognising the diversity of Christian churches and the positive impact that the host region has on such an event, it is apparent that an ‘ecumenical assembly' would have a different flavour depending on where in the world it was held. 

An ‘ecumenical assembly' would be first and foremost a space of common celebration, prayer and dialogue. It would also be an event in which the WCC and other bodies were afforded the space necessary to conduct their respective deliberations. The event as a whole would be an unparalleled witness of Christian unity and spirituality. 

The WCC is committed to working with other Christian bodies that see an ‘ecumenical assembly' as an opportunity to enrich their faith, an invitation to deepen their ecumenical commitments and as a space to gather in counsel.