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Report of the policy reference committee I

Report of the policy reference committee I, in response to the report of the moderator and the report of the general secretary

02 September 2002

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

Report of the policy reference committee I

1. Report of the Moderator (CC doc GEN 2)

1.1 The committee received the Report of the Moderator with great appreciation. The committee stressed the need to clarify further the issues of ecclesiology, as it relates to globalization and catholicity, as raised in the Report. The committee is looking forward to the coming studies of Faith and Order in which it hopes the Report of the Moderator will make a contribution.

2. Report of the General Secretary (CC doc GEN 3)

2.1 The committee took note with appreciation of the General Secretary’s Report, in particular the section titled, “Towards a new Ecumenical Configuration for the 21st Century.” It was noted that the issues of broader ecumenical relationships are part of the Committee’s specific mandate. The Committee notes that duplication has long been recognized as evidence of the inadequacy structures. The problems of lack of coordination and autonomy between major ecumenical bodies, such as Christian World Communions, Regional Ecumenical Organizations, and the World Council of Churches, have been frequently cited in the past as major obstacles to strengthening the ecumenical cause. The General Secretary’s analysis is helpful to underscore these major problems.

2.2 Several factors underscore the need for a comprehensive reflection on the WCC’s relationship with other ecumenical structures, including REOs, and also with Christian World Communions, in light of emerging trends that are impacting churches around the world. These factors include:

  • the rapid growth of Pentecostal churches in many regions of the world;
  • the expansive growth of new Christian churches in the two-thirds world;
  • the blurring of denominational distinctives in many local areas;
  • the evolution of ecumenical bodies at local, national, and regional levels.

    2.3 Therefore, the committee offers the following recommendation in response to the Report of the General Secretary:

    2.4 That the Central Committee initiate a process of analysis and reflection on different ecumenical configurations for the future, taking into account present structures and emerging trends impacting the churches around the world, with a report, and recommendations prepared, for the next Assembly.

    3. Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation (CC doc GEN 5)

    3.1 The committee received the report of the Special Commission. The committee recognizes the pain of orthodox participants in the World Council of Churches since 1960. It acknowledges the depth of issues addressed by the Special Commission, and the challenges and concerns these present to all members of the WCC. In this light, the committee expressed great appreciation for the work of the Special Commission.

    3.2 In particular, the committee discussed the subjects of consensus decision-making and common prayer. Regarding decision-making, the committee underscores the need for a full explanation on the specific dynamics and mechanisms for consensus decision-making. The content presented in Appendix B needs to be studied and well understood. Further the committee suggests that the Central Committee and its officers begin to practise and be trained in various specific means of consensus decision-making. This will include consultation with the committee to be established to continue the work of the Special Commission. As we begin to practise and experiment, misunderstandings and questions can be resolved.

    3.3 Regarding common prayer, various perspectives on the recommendations of the Special Commission were shared. Some expressed reservations and others were very supportive of how these challenges have been addressed. The committee recognizes that the WCC will need continuing clarification of and care in the implementation of the guidelines for “confessional” and “inter-confessional” prayer.

    4. Relations with Pentecostals

    4.1 The committee heard reports from staff of the WCC (Jacques Matthey of CWME, Alan Falconer of Faith and Order) concerning various points of conversation with Pentecostals. Further, the committee received the report of the second meeting of the Joint Consultative Group with Pentecostals. Mel Robeck, a member of the Assemblies of God who is part of the Joint Consultative Group, provided the committee with a highly informative and insightful analysis of Pentecostal relationships, both positively and negatively, with ecumenical bodies. He pointed out that Pentecostal churches, in many regions of the world, are the fastest growing parts of the Christian community, now constituting about 25% of all Christians world wide. At the same time, he estimates that only about 1% of these churches are members of the World Council of Churches. The leaders of Pentecostal churches reflect the enthusiasm and zeal of their particular Christian experience. However, there is a widespread lack of understanding and knowledge concerning the history of the WCC and the ecumenical movement. Further the Committee noted the difficulty of obtaining the engagement of Pentecostal churches as proposed to individual Pentecostals who are open to ecumenical dialogue.

    4.2 During the committee’s discussion, members reflected on the importance of Pentecostal-ecumenical relationships for the life of their member churches and ecumenical bodies in their local contexts. Examples from Ethiopia, the Pacific, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, the National Council of Churches in Korea, Australia, the China Christian Council, France, and elsewhere were all cited as underscoring the crucial importance of building bridges of dialogue and fellowship with Pentecostal groups. In some cases positive and hopeful examples are developing, including participation of Pentecostal groups in ecumenical structures, the ecumenical prayer cycle, and other events. Committee members underlined the vital importance for the future of the ecumenical movement, for the WCC to continue to deepen opportunities of dialogue and relationship with Pentecostal groups in order to assist member churches in their local context. As we look to the future of the WCC in a time of economic pressure, committee members stressed the critical and strategic importance for the WCC to broaden relationships with Pentecostals in order to strengthen our ecumenical vocation.

    5. The Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations

    5.1 The committee received with much interest the report of the third consultation on the Global Christian Forum, held at Pasadena, California from June 15-20, 2002. This consultation, involving 58 representatives of various Christian churches and organizations, was a significant step in the process of the “forum.” A large number of those participating had not previously been involved in any dialogue with churches and organizations participating in the ecumenical movement.

    5.2 The committee heard clarifications regarding the need for the forum process to be independent from the World Council of Churches in a formal way. At the same time, great appreciation was expressed by participants in the recent consultation for the support given by the WCC to facilitate this process. It is expected that subsequent developments of the forum will receive support from participating bodies. The committee affirmed this continuing process as an essential part of expanding networks of ecumenical relationships.

    6. Christian World Communions

    6.1 With appreciation, the committee received the report on the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions. Staff pointed to work already being done to strengthen and deepen relationships with the two CWCs based in Geneva (WARC and LWF) .

    6.2 Though the expectations that the committee had in its report to the 2001 Central Committee are not fully met, there are areas of ongoing cooperation including:
    ENI and ACT
    Staff discussion on common membership questions
        Opportunities for reciprocal contributions by staff to the different assembly planning committees

    Potential new areas of cooperation include:
    HIV / Aids
    information technology

    6.3 Last year the Central Committee recommended that the Executive Committee bring to the September 2002 Central Committee meeting an appraisal of the possibility for future coordinated assemblies of WCC the WARC and the LWF. This has not been done.

    6.4 Recommendations:

    A. That the Executive Committee develop strategies for cooperation and coordination of future assemblies of WCC, WARC and LWF, following 2006, for the 2003 Central Committee meeting.

    B. That the Executive Committee invite representatives of WARC and LWF to the planning committee for the next WCC Assembly in 2006.

    C. That member churches be strongly urged to raise with the respective governing bodies the possibility of cooperation and coordination at all levels of assemblies of WCC, LWF, and WARC following 2006.

    7. Roman Catholic Relations

    7.1 The Committee heard a progress report on the different study themes being undertaken by the Joint Working Group, and noted the link between these studies and other major studies of the WCC.

    7.2 In addition an overview was presented of the major areas of cooperation since the Second Vatican Council and the start of the work of the Joint Working Group in 1965. Some of these involve a significant financial contribution on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Policy Reference Committee rejoices in the work of the Joint Working Group and commends and encourages the cooperation between these two bodies.

    8. Report of the Membership Study Group (CC doc GEN 6)

    8.1 The Report of the Membership Study Group was introduced by Ms Anne Glynn Mackoul, who served as a part of that group. The committee was also apprised of the comments made by members of Policy Reference Committee III. Policy Reference Committee III is recommending approval of those recommendations on membership that are part of the Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC. These include: 1) establishing two ways of relating to the WCC member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, and churches in association with the WCC; 2) revisions of theological criteria for member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC; and 3) providing that new member churches be accepted by the Central Committee rather than the Assembly.

    8.2 The committee considered the first recommendation of the report, noting that the Executive Committee had urged that this recommendation “be made more compelling.” The committee discussed the recommendation for membership, also in light of the recommendation regarding the representation of member churches in the Central Committee. After hearing that this recommendation for membership grouping emphasizes an option already existing with the present rules, the committee approved the recommendation with an amendment that implemented the request of the Executive Committee.

    8.3 Regarding the recommendation relating to the proposed criteria for membership, the committee listened to concerns from current member churches that do not practise the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist (e.g., Quakers, some others). Other committee members expressed reservations over the principle of adding any specific theological criteria to membership in the WCC, as proposed. An extensive discussion resulted. Some committee members underscored the importance of maintaining a clear expression of criteria and expectations, and offered different proposals for consideration.

    8.4 Regarding approval of applications for membership being considered only by Central Committee and not also by the Assembly, the Committee suggests that a reception ceremony be planned to take place at the Assembly for all churches received into membership since the preceding Assembly.

    8.5 Following further deliberation, the committee agreed to the proposed recommendations from the Report of the Membership Study Group, including the articulation of theological criteria for membership included in Appendix A as formulated by the Study Group and by the Special Commission with the advice of the Executive Committee, with further amendments suggested by the Policy Reference Committee I.

    A. recommends to the Central Committee to approve the recommendations of the Membership Study Group, as amended, with the understanding that these recommendations, if approved by the Central Committee, will follow the following process:
  • Review by a Constitution and Rules committee for formulation
  • Further consideration at the meeting of the Central Committee in 2003
  • Circulation to the churches for comment
  • Final review by the Central Committee in 2005
  • Submission to the Ninth Assembly in 2006 for confirmation

    B. recommends that, consistent with the purposes of the WCC stated in Article III of the Constitution “…to call one another to visible unity…”, the churches are urged, wherever appropriate, to come together locally or confessionally for the purposes of membership in the WCC, using the existing provisions and proposed amendments to the Rules, or as uniting churches.

    C. recommends that the Constitution and Rules of the Council be amended in order to:
    a) Revise the “Criteria” section of the Rules in accordance with the specific language included as the proposed revised Rule I (3) included in Appendix A, as amended, to this report, notably with respect to the inclusion of specific theological criteria for membership;

    b) Provide two possibilities for churches wanting to relate to the WCC:
  • member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC
  • churches in association with the WCC; Appendix B

    c) Incorporate the procedure, rights and expectations for the mode of relationship to the WCC described as “churches in association with the WCC” as proposed in Appendix B;

    d) Eliminate the current category of “associate membership”;

    e) Incorporate the current associate member churches by virtue of size (Rule I (5)(a)(1) category)
    into the description of member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, retaining
    restrictions on the participation and representation of small churches;

    f) Include in the term church a grouping of autonomous churches of the same confession.

    g) Increase the minimum number of members required of churches for individual membership in
    the fellowship of the WCC from 25,000 to 50,000 members

    D. recommends that applicant churches be accepted to join the fellowship of the WCC at meeting of the Central Committee and not the Assembly. The application for joining the WCC would be presented to one Central Committee meeting, with an intervening period of participation in the work of the Council and interaction with the local fellowship of member churches, and the decision taken on the application at a subsequent meeting of the Central Committee.

    E. recommends that the subcommittee of the Executive Committee that currently receives applications from churches seeking to become member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, be enabled to process, investigate and evaluate applications, assure the existing member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC that any applicant church is in conformity with the Rules, exhibits and retains all of the required criteria, and demonstrates commitment to the purposes of the WCC in its local context over an extended period of time.

    F. recommends that Executive Committee determine that each church within an “association, convention, or federation of autonomous churches” considered to be and admitted to the fellowship of churches as one “church” (Rules, I) independently agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules for individual membership in the WCC. In the event any additional church or churches seeks to affiliate with the association, convention or federation, that such church[es] agrees with the Basis and fulfils the criteria set forth in the Rules.

    G. recommends that the General Secretary refer to the Executive Committee situations regarding churches about which questions have arisen as described in paragraph 36 of the report of the Membership Study Group and that the Executive Committee develop procedures that are fair, pastorally sensitive, and clearly stated and undertaken in each particular situation.

    H. recommends that member churches join in groupings, e.g. geographically, confessionally, or according to other models, for purposes of representation and participation, strengthening local ecumenical cooperation, including making nominations for the Central Committee. The process of forming groupings will be done in close consultation with the member churches and in cooperation with NCCs and REOs where possible.

    I. recommends a process of electing a Central Committee whereby

    a) member churches would identify persons available to attend the Assembly and who would have the approval and support of that church to represent it on governing bodies;
    b) geographically local or other models of groupings of churches would then discuss and agree on a list of names from among those approved by its constituent churches, which list should be significantly larger than the number of vacancies allocated to that grouping;
    c) the nominations committee of the Assembly would use those lists from which to shape nominations for the Central Committee by taking into account the various priorities regarding balances of representation;
    d) individuals agreeing to be placed in nomination for the Central Committee should understand that they will be expected to be available, responsible and accountable both to their own ecclesial tradition or family through their own church and also to the grouping of churches which has proposed them, both with regard to speaking for them at meetings, and reporting to them following meetings.

    J. recommends that appropriate resources, where necessary, be provided for the ecumenical formation of Central Committee members and to undertake the responsibilities of accountability and communication to the grouping of churches which has proposed their name for Central Committee.

    K. recommends that the effectiveness of the new model of representation and participation should be tested by a mid-term evaluation between the Ninth and Tenth Assembly to which both Central Committee members and member churches should be invited to contribute. An analysis of the findings of such an evaluation should be presented to the officers of the Central Committee for necessary action.

    9. National Council of Churches

    9.1 The Committee noted with appreciation the report of the consultation with Associate National Councils of Churches held from 23 to 25 August 2002. The Committee asks the General Secretary and staff specifically to ensure consideration and follow up of the observations and items addressed by the consultation to the WCC.

    10. The Committee received the report of the membership campaign 1998 to 2005 update on the situation mid 2002 and noted that it is being discussed and acted upon by the Finance Committee.

    Geneva, 30 August 2002

    Appendix A


    I. Membership in the Fellowship of the World Council of Churches

    The World Council of Churches is comprised of churches which have constituted the Council or which have been admitted into membership and which continue to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches. The term “church“ as used in this article could also include^ an association, convention or federation of autonomous churches. A group of churches within a country or region, or within the same confession, may determine to participate in the World Council of Churches as one church. Churches within the same country or region or within the same confession may apply to belong to the fellowship of the Council, in order to respond to their common calling, to strengthen their joint participation and/or to satisfy the requirement of minimum size (Rules I, (3)(b) (iii)). Such groupings of churches are encouraged by the World Council of Churches; each individual church within the grouping must satisfy the criteria for membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, except the requirements of size.

    The General Secretary shall maintain the official lists of member churches that have been accepted to belong to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, noting any special arrangement accepted by the Assembly or Central Committee. Separate lists shall be maintained of voting and nonvoting member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC. The General Secretary shall also maintain a list of churches in association with the Council.

    1. Application
    A church that wishes to join the World Council of Churches shall apply in writing to the General Secretary.

    2. Processing
    The General Secretary shall submit all such applications to the Central Committee (see Art. II of the Constitution) together with such information as he or she considers necessary to enable the Central Committee to make a decision on the application.

    3. Criteria
    Churches applying to join the World Council of Churches (“applicant churches”) are required first to express agreement with the Basis on which the Council is founded and confirm their commitment to the Purposes and Functions of the Council as defined in Articles I and III of the Constitution. The Basis states: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

    Applicant churches ^ should ^ give an account of how their faith and witness ^ relates to these norms and practices:

    a. Theological

    1. In its life and witness, the church professes faith in the Triune God as expressed in the scriptures and reflected in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

    2. The church maintains a ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments as understood by its doctrines.

    3. The church baptizes in the name of God, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and acknowledges the need to move toward the recognition of the Baptism of other churches.

    4. The church recognizes the presence and activity of Christ and the Holy Spirit outside its own boundaries and prays for the wisdom of all in the awareness that other member churches also believe in the Holy Trinity and the saving grace of God.

    5. The church recognizes in the other member churches of the WCC elements of the true church, even if it does not regard them “as churches in the true and full sense of the word”. (Toronto Statement)

    b. Organizational

    1. The church must produce evidence of sustained autonomous life and organization.

    2. The church must be able to take the decision to apply for formal membership in the WCC and continue to belong to the fellowship of the WCC without obtaining the permission of any other body or person.

    3. An applicant church must ordinarily have at least 50,000 members. The Central Committee may decide for exceptional reasons to accept a church that does not fulfill the criterion of size.

    4. An applicant church with fewer than 50,000 members but more than 10,000 members which has not been granted a size exception, but otherwise is eligible for membership can be accepted subject to the following provisions: (a) they shall not have the right to vote in the Assembly, and (b) they may participate with other such churches in selecting five representatives to the Central Committee in accordance with Section III (4)(b)(3) of the Rules. In all other respects, such churches shall be referred to as member churches in fellowship with the WCC.

    5. Churches must recognize the essential interdependence of the member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC, particularly those of the same confession, and should make every effort to practice constructive ecumenical relations with other churches within their country or region. This will normally mean that the church is a member of the national council of churches or similar body and of the regional/subregional ecumenical organization.

    Other changes to the Rules and to the Constitution, including to conform language to the language changes indicated in this proposed revision to the Rules, may be required if proposals of the Special Commission and the Membership Study Group are adopted by the Central Committee.

    Geneva, 30 August 2002

    Appendix B


    II. Membership in the Fellowship of the World Council of Churches

    4. Churches in association with the WCC

    a) A church that agrees with the Basis of the Council may apply in writing to the World Council of Churches requesting to be received as a church in association with the WCC, stating its reasons for requesting this mode of relating with the Council. If the reasons are approved by the Central Committee, such a church may be accepted to be in association with the WCC.

    b) Churches in association with the WCC can send representatives to the Assembly and the Central Committee who can speak with the permission of the chair, but have no right to vote.

    c) Churches in association with the WCC can be invited to participate in the work of commissions, advisory groups, and other consultative bodies of the Council as consultants or advisors.

    d) Churches in association with the WCC would have the possibility of participating in the work of the WCC as described, but would not be identified with decisions taken or statements issued by the Council.

    e) Churches in association with the WCC will not be obliged to contribute financial support to the work of the Council but may do so voluntarily. No financial support will be made available from the Council to such churches to facilitate their participation.