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20th anniversary of 1st European Ecumenical Assembly

Greeting on the 20th anniversary of the First European Ecumenical Assembly, Basel

28 May 2009

May 2009

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.
(Matthew 13:33)

This month we celebrate a transformative moment in the life of the churches, a distinctly European moment with ramifications for the whole of the oikoumene. We recall the first European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA1), convened at Basel, Switzerland in May 1989 to focus on the theme of "Peace with Justice". And we rejoice in the hope of reconciliation and unity that pervaded this event and contributed to constructive changes in the life of Europe and the world.

The service of prayer that marked the close of EEA1 was based on two parables of Jesus concerning a mustard seed and yeast that leavens flour. These images of transformation aptly reflect the cycles of change and renewal in which the Basel assembly played a part.

Much is made of the significance of the World Council of Churches' proposal in 1983 for a "conciliar process on justice, peace and the integrity of creation" and its impact on the conception and planning of EEA1. We are proud to have contributed a share of leavening to this event, but credit must also be given to ecumenical attitudes and relationships advanced through the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, as well as the many contributions of assembly planners, CEC member churches and CCEE officers and staff.

The assembly at Basel was instrumental in processes of transformation that would follow it, in their turn providing leavening to movements that were reshaping Europe, forces abroad in the wider world that would end apartheid and challenge iniquities on many fronts. The documents of EEA1 spoke directly to the "interlocking dimensions" of a world crisis that threatened justice, peace and the environment. The assembly championed the equality of all humans, the eradication of poverty and starvation, the overcoming of violence and an end to unlimited exploitation of nature. The passion for these ends was communicated to the churches and through them has made a difference in the lives of millions. The message of the Basel assembly speaks to us still.

The transformational process of leavening continues as Christians move together in response to our common calling. Let us live out every dimension of the gospel, giving thanks for the example of those who have gone before us, in the eternal name of our Triune God. Amen.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General secretary
World Council of Churches