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Integration of Consultative Bodies

06 September 2006

 

Mandate 

The executive committee, meeting in Geneva (May 2006), took into account the spirit of the assembly and instructed the general secretary:

  • "to bring a proposal for the integration of the Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation (CJPC) and the Commission of Churches on Diakonia and Development (CCDD) and report to the next executive committee meeting;

  • to explore possibilities for the integration of the Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation (CEEF) and the Board of the Ecumenical Institute Bossey (Bossey Board) and report to the next Executive Committee meeting;

  • to explore possibilities of integration of the Joint Consultative Group between Pentecostal Churches and the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) and report to the next executive committee meeting;

  • to bring a proposal for the most appropriate consultative body to be created, to accompany the work on inter-faith dialogue."

 

Legal frame 

Article V.4 of the Constitution states that: "The assembly or the central committee may adopt and amend by laws not inconsistent with its constitution for the functioning of its committees, boards, working groups and commissions." This article gives power to the assembly or the central committee to amend by laws of any commission. The only condition is that the amendment must be consistent with the provisions of the constitution. 

The by-laws of consultative bodies stipulate that these can be amended "by the central committee in consultation with or on the recommendation of the commission" (cf. Central committee, minutes of the 50th meeting, Geneva, August-September 1999).  

The central committee, meeting immediately after the assembly, approved the nomination of the members of the core groups of the CWME, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and the Bossey Board (cf. Central committee, minutes of the fifty-fifth meeting, Porto Alegre, February 2006).  

The purpose for which the central committee appointed the core groups was for them to attend to the urgent and immediate task of the commissions and the board during the interim period between the end of the 9th WCC assembly, February 2006 and the first regular meeting of the new central committee, August/September 2006 period.  

Accordingly, the core groups of CCIA and the Bossey Board have approved the proposed action sought to be taken by the central committee. Similarly, the outgoing moderators of the CCDD, CJPC, and the reference group on Inter-Religious Relations (IRR) were also given an opportunity to provide their input and advice.  

Proposals 

1. Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA),

Commission of the Churches on Diakonia and Development (CCDD), Commission of the Churches on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (CJPC), Reference Group on Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue (IRRD)

There have been in the past attempts to integrate the work of CCIA, CCDD, CJPC during the last three commission meetings that took place concurrently, joint sessions were organized. The purpose was to bring more cohesiveness and coordination in the three programme areas linking public witness with actions of churches and social movements in the realm of justice, peace and the integrity of creation and in providing humanitarian aid and assistance to people in conflict with action to those affected by natural calamities. Recently, ecumenical partners particularly from the specialized ministries have suggested that the historical divide into three commissions was not in keeping with the present need for a more integrative and interactive approach. More so now given the growing influence and significance of religion in civil and political life. Hence the need to explore the possibility of integration of the four consultative bodies into a more coherent, cohesive and coordinated consultative structure.

The core group of CCIA met in Geneva (June 2006), and having listened to advice from the outgoing leadership of the other consultative bodies, made the following proposal: 

a) Combining the four advisory bodies - CCIA, Justice, Peace and Creation, Diakonia and Development and Inter-religious Dialogue - would strengthen interactive, integrated and coherent witness and advisory work and would build on the strengths of each of these commissions.

b) The new body under the name and title of CCIA will have a more representative character and membership as well as an expanded agenda:
i)
will provide advice on public policy and advocacy. Public policy is understood as the Council's witness to the world on important issues of the day. These policies may include: public statements by WCC governing bodies; letters and statements by the WCC general secretary; and statements and submissions to intergovernmental bodies.
ii)
will provide advice on programmatic directions, including analysis of systemic issues that underlie injustice and social transformation. While responsibility for programmes belongs to the programme committee, the close relationship between programme and policy suggests that there could be value in advising on some programmatic issues by the CCIA. The main areas of programmatic concern to the Commission are those in the proposed WCC programme areas of public witness, justice and diakonia, and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
iii)
will address particular programmatic and policy issues, supplemented as required with other experts through subgroups of CCIA. Rather than creating standing subgroups, emphasis will be placed on devising flexible and creative ways of including representatives of the broader constituency, including networks both within churches and community-based movements. In addition, the use of advisors to the commission could be considered.

c) Coordination of this policy work on public issues will be the responsibility of the director of the commission who will work in consultation and in collaboration with member churches, the commission and staff colleagues;


d) In addition to the recommendations, the by-laws be expanded to include the aim of promotion of peaceful and reconciling role of religion in conflicts. Early in its term, the newly appointed commission should review its by-laws to ensure that they include issues of concern from the four previous advisory bodies, for example, integrity of creation;


e) In view of the expanded agenda, the number of members of the commission continue to be 30, rather than the 20 recommended by the CCIA in 2005
(For the full text of the proposal cf. Appendix 1).

The newly appointed commission should also review its by-laws to ensure that they include a concern for the promotion of inter-religious dialogue as a framework for community building, faith sharing and understanding.

Expected actions:

That the central committee:

a) confirm the proposal to combine the four consultative bodies - the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the Commission of the Churches on Diakonia and Development (CCDD), the Commission of the Churches on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (CJPC) and the Reference Group on Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue (IRRD) - to strengthen interactive, integrated and coherent witness; the advisory work would build on the strengths of each of these commissions.

b) authorise that the number of members of the commission be increased up to 35 in order to accommodate all concerns brought by the four areas of work combined.

c) elect the moderator and appoints the membership of the new commission, with a more representative character.

d) mandate the newly appointed commission under the name and title of "Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA)" to revise and/or amend its by-laws in light of the proposals made by the outgoing commissions, and present them to the next meeting of the central committee.

2. Commission on ecumenical formation and Bossey Board

The Bossey Board met (June 2006) and, responding to the invitation of the general secretary, offered its advice on a possible integration with the commission on education and ecumenical formation as follows: 

a) The core group on Bossey welcomes the proposal to integrate the work on ecumenical formation within the WCC. It is open to the proposal to bring together the dimensions of ecumenical learning, lay training and ecumenical theological education etc. in the programme structure of the WCC and the work of the Ecumenical Institute. It hopes that all dimensions of work related to the current programmes on ecumenical formation and of the Institute would be integrated and staffed, so that ecumenical formation would receive the emphasis and visibility called for at the 9th assembly. We recognize that the coming together of all the programmes related to ecumenical formation provides a fresh opportunity to explore more fully the meaning of ecumenical formation in our day, and to rethink the instruments, methods and staffing employed to this end.

b) The core group recommends that one advisory body (name of the body to be determined) be appointed to direct and oversee the total work on Ecumenical Formation. In the interest of efficiency, and in view of the available financial resources, the core group recommends that the number of persons in the future ‘advisory group' be limited to 15, that it be made up of persons with expertise in all dimensions of WCC's current programmes related to ecumenical formation and the Ecumenical Institute. We also recommend that the by-laws of Bossey Board and of the other working groups/commissions of programmes that are being integrated be suspended until new by-laws are drawn up and presented to the 3rd meeting of the Central Committee for its approval. (For the full text of the proposal cf. Appendix 2)

The proposal of the Bossey Board takes note that no core group of the CEEF was formed by the central committee at Porto Alegre, and that, consequently, the CEEF had still to be elected and mandated by the central committee. Therefore, in keeping with the recommendation of the executive committee and willing to let the process move, the Bossey Board asks the central committee to suspend its existence and by-laws in order to explore the creation of a new joint body to direct and oversee all the Council's work on ecumenical formation.

This task could be entrusted to a new commission on education and ecumenical formation, to be elected by the central committee (September 2006) with the expectation that the commission, incorporating the mandate and tasks of the Bossey Board will submit its new by-laws to the next meeting of the central committee (February 2008).

Expected actions :

That the central committee:

a) confirm the proposal to integrate the work on ecumenical formation within the WCC;

b) elect the officers and appoints the membership of the CEEF, with a more representative character;

c) mandate the newly appointed CEEF to revise and/or amend its by-laws, and present them to the next meeting of the central committee.

3. CWME and Joint consultative group with Pentecostals

Three scenarios were explored in view of the potential integration of the two bodies:

a) A full integration of the JCGP with the CWME,

b) The Joint consultative group becoming a sub-committee of the CWME,

c)  more comprehensive way of looking at the Joint consultative group, by ensuring clear links (in terms of persons and programmatic concerns) with all four commissions (Faith and Order, CWME, CEEF and hopefully the fourth commission in formation).

The first two options, though they would be in line with the concern raised by the executive committee, could lead to difficult and time consuming legal discussions and would modify the decision of the assembly. The by-laws of CWME are quite complex, reflecting the wide ecumenical membership of the commission. In fact, "notice of any proposed amendment must be sent to the affiliated bodies of the conference not less than six months prior to its consideration by the commission (…) the commission may recommend a proposed amendment to the central committee unless one third of the affiliated bodies of the conference have indicated in writing prior to the commission meeting that they oppose to the amendment" (cf. Central committee, minutes of the 50th meeting, Geneva, August-September 1999, p. 154).

Taking into consideration this factor and other ecumenical dynamics, the third option emerges as the one that has the most potential in terms of a programmatic interaction and integration. Indeed, it will be important that the Joint consultative group be located strategically in a place where it can influence and receive input from many WCC programmes and also give visibility to Pentecostal presence and participation in the WCC life.

Expected actions :

That the central committee:

a) confirm the proposal that the Joint Consultative Group should ensure clear links with all four WCC Commissions;

b) appoint the WCC membership of the Group taking into consideration relationships with/commitment to the aims and objectives of the above-mentioned commissions;

c) mandate the newly appointed WCC membership of the Joint Consultative Group to implement a new, coordinated and interactive, working style.

APPENDIX 1

(Draft Proposal from the core group of the CCIA, members of other Commissions and staff)

Advisory functions for integrated advice to the WCC

Affirming:

  1. with the general secretary, that the integrity of the advisory role for public witness and public policy be maintained and developed within the Council; and

  1. the importance of integrating related areas of the WCC's work;

And recognizing that:

  1. WCC governing bodies and staff rely on advice from within its constituency relating to both policy and programmes;

A meeting on 22 and 23 June of the core group of the CCIA, members of other commissions and staff agreed that:

  1. Combining the four advisory bodies - CCIA, Justice, Peace and Creation, Diakonia and Development and Inter-religious Dialogue - would strengthen interactive, integrated and coherent witness and advisory work and would build on the strengths of each of these commissions;

  1. The new CCIA with this more representative membership and expanded agenda

a) will provide advice on public policy and advocacy;

Public policy is understood as the Council's witness to the world on important issues of the day. These policies may include: public statements by WCC governing bodies; letters and statements by the WCC General Secretary; and statements and submissions to intergovernmental bodies.

b) will provide advice on programmatic directions, including analysis of systemic issues that underlie injustice and social transformation.

While responsibility for programmes belongs to the programme committee, the close relationship between programme and policy suggests that there could be value in advising on some programmatic issues by the CCIA;

The main areas of programmatic concern to the commission are those in the proposed WCC programme areas of public witness, justice and diakonia, and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

c) will address particular programmatic and policy issues, supplemented as required with other experts through subgroups of CCIA;

Rather than creating standing subgroups, emphasis will be placed on devising flexible and creative ways of including representatives of the broader constituency, including networks both within churches and community-based movements. In addition, the use of advisors to the commission could be considered.

  1. Coordination of this policy work on public issues be the responsibility of the Director of the Commission who will work collaboratively with the Commission and staff colleagues;

  1. In addition to the recommendations that the by-laws be expanded to include the aim of promotion of a peaceful and reconciling role of religion in conflicts, early in its term, the newly-appointed commission should review its by-laws to ensure that they include issues of concern from the four previous advisory bodies, for example, integrity of creation; and

  1. In view of the expanded agenda, the number of members in the commission continue to be 30, rather than the 20 recommended by the CCIA in 2005.

APPENDIX II 

Response of the core group on Bossey to the general secretary's presentation on the organization of ecumenical formation beyond the 9th assembly. 

  1. The core group on Bossey welcomes the proposal to integrate the work on ecumenical formation within the WCC. It is open to the proposal to bring together the dimensions of ecumenical learning, lay training and ecumenical theological education etc. in the programme structure of the WCC and the work of the Ecumenical Institute. It hopes that all dimensions of work related to the current programs on ecumenical formation and of the Institute would be integrated and staffed, so that ecumenical formation would receive the emphasis and visibility called for at the 9th assembly. We recognize that the coming together of all the programs related to ecumenical formation provides a fresh opportunity to explore more fully the meaning of ecumenical formation in our day, and to rethink the instruments, methods and staffing employed to this end. 

  1. The core group recommends that one advisory body (name of the body to be determined) be appointed to direct and oversee the total work on ecumenical formation. In the interest of efficiency, and in view of the available financial resources, the core group recommends that the number of persons in the future ‘advisory group' be limited to 15, that it be made up of persons with expertise in all dimensions WCC's current programmes related to ecumenical formation and the Ecumenical Institute. We also recommend that the bye-laws of Bossey Board and of the other working groups/commissions of programmes that are being integrated be suspended until new bye-laws are drawn up and presented to the third meeting of the central committee for its approval.  

  1. We recognize that ecumenical formation is a Council-wide concern and that the staff of the new configuration need to be fully involved and participate in the programme work at the Ecumenical Centre. Yet, the Ecumenical Institute needs to preserve the particular status it has enjoyed in relation to working methods and location within the structures of the WCC. Past experience shows that the following features, peculiar to the Ecumenical Institute, need to be taken into consideration: 

  • Over the last several years Ecumenical Institute has developed the academic side of its programmes and is in a special relationship with the University of Geneva. The demands made on the time of the staff who are the faculty of the academic side of the Institute are very different from those working within the programme structures of the WCC located at the Ecumenical Centre. 
  • Traditionally, the Ecumenical Institute has kept some ‘distance' from the WCC programmes so that it was able to critically study and analyze the work of the WCC and the ecumenical movement, and remained a place that attracted people irrespective of their attitude and relationship to the WCC. In other words, the Ecumenical Institute has been both an ‘instrument' of the WCC as well as a ‘bridge' between the WCC and the wider Christian constituency. It is also intended to be a laboratory and avant-garde of the ecumenical movement as a whole. 
  • In the past, treating the work of the Institute as one of the WCC "programme streams" at the ecumenical centre has produced significant problems. The physical distance between the ecumenical centre and the Ecumenical Institute meant that the staff of the Institute could not easily participate in important meetings at the ecumenical centre; standing commitments to the programmes at the Institute prevented the staff, and even the director, from participating fully in the meetings at the centre. Because of the academic, resident, and week-end programmes, the Ecumenical Institute has a different rhythm of work; but, absence of the Institute staff at WCC meetings led to misunderstanding and frustrations. While it is important that the Institute is part and parcel of the work of the WCC as a whole, attempts to look at the Institute as part of the regular programme structure of the ecumenical centre has been a failure in the past.

In view of these, the Institute was attached to the general secretariat, working with all the programmes of the WCC, and reporting to the deputy general secretary. This arrangement has worked well until now. The Bossey core group, therefore, recommends that the reorganized Institute with its responsibility for ecumenical formation be attached to the general secretariat. 

  1. The core group welcomes the emphasis on research as part of the mandate of the reorganized Institute to assist the different programmes of the WCC. It hopes that such research programmes will be jointly initiated with the staff of the Institute and would correspond to the academic interests and freedom of the faculty.  

The core group is excited about the new possibilities opened by the proposal to integrate the different dimensions of the work on ecumenical formation and recommends that the staff of Bossey enter into sustained conversation with the current staff working at the centre on all dimensions of ecumenical learning and education to develop a proposal that would be reviewed by the newly formed advisory body (name to be determined) beyond the meeting of the central committee. 

Robert Welsh, Moderator
Wesley Ariarajah
Isabel Phiri
Erlinda Senturias
Shafique Keshavjee
Georges Lemopoulos
Ioan Sauca 

23 June 2006