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WCC work to focus on four main areas of engagement

23 February 2006

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The World Council of Churches Assembly programme guidelines committee has established four main areas of engagement for the life and work of the organization until the next Assembly: unity, spirituality and mission; ecumenical formation; global justice; and public voice and prophetic witness to the world. Delegates at the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, affirmed these four areas on Thursday 23 Feb.

The central committee mantra of "Do less, do it well" noted earlier by the finance committee was echoed in the programme guidelines. "It is important for us to keep that in mind," Bishop Anders Wejryd, a delegate from the Church of Sweden, said during discussion of the recommendations. "We so easily wish for so much".

Specific actions named in the engagement areas include holding an international Ecumenical Peace Convocation to mark the conclusion of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), undertaking an expanded follow-up of the AGAPE economic justice process, and addressing the "sharp ecclesiological questions" raised in the report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC.

The report challenges the WCC to be "a strong, credible ethical voice" in the world. It underlines the importance of communications to member churches and to the broader world, doing so "in a timely and imaginative way".

It also emphasizes the need for inter-religious cooperation and dialogue and called for attentiveness to "situations of deep crisis", including northern Uganda - an area raised by former United Nations under-secretary general Olara Otunnu in a passionate address earlier in the Assembly.

"Continuing ecumenical formation for all" is a key need, the report says, and churches at all levels need to be a part of that process. It also notes the Assembly's "urgent call" for transformative justice in a variety of areas - particularly HIV/AIDS.

The WCC should articulate a "clear theological basis" for all of its work, the report says. It points to the interrelationship of unity, spirituality and mission and says that future work in mission and evangelism should engage churches in finding "fresh ways of experiencing the Christian faith".

The committee urges the "full inclusion of Indigenous Peoples, Dalits, people of African descent, persons with disabilities, and marginalized people all over the world" in all of the WCC's work and decision-making. It also lifts up the role of women and youth in WCC life.

Delegates affirmed a process to be used until the new central committee meets in September. A working group made up of the leadership of the various Assembly committees will "accompany the WCC leadership in developing future programme recommendations".

The process calls for dialogue with member churches and others related to the generation of additional financial support and for "clear exit strategies" for programmes, acknowledging limited resources. The report recommends overall that "the WCC claim a clearer and stronger public profile in its witness to the world" by focusing "its energy and attention on a limited number of issues that cry out for response by the churches together".

Delegates also adopted the report From Harare to Porto Alegre (documenting WCC work since the last Assembly) and the "Pre-Assembly Evaluation and Recommendations from the 2005 Central Committee" as part of the programme guidelines report, and reaffirmed the document "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC".

The full text of the "Report of the Programme Guidelines Committee" is available at

www.wcc-assembly.info/en/theme-issues/assembly-documents/plenary-presentations/committee-reports/programme-guidelines-committee/report-second.html

Assembly website:www.wcc-assembly.info

Contact in Porto Alegre:+55 / 51 8419.216