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Activities Report

The activities report presented before the WCC Central Committee, 2003

03 September 2003

World Council of Churches
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 2 September 2003

Activities Report

The past year has been marked by intense WCC staff work to adapt programme plans to financial realities and to implement the decisions made by the WCC officers on 14 November 2002. At the same time, staff have devoted substantial energy to strengthening planning, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The challenges of working with de-centralized and relocated staff have been substantial. Efforts are underway to develop consistent policies and procedures for WCC staff who are based outside of Geneva.

While staff have gone through periods of anxiety and emotional strains during this time of transition, they have continued to develop and implement innovative and effective programmes in response to the changing world situation and following the recommendations of governing bodies. The sections below provide a brief overview of the programmatic work carried out by the teams since the August 2002 Central Committee.

This activity report is organized according to the core programmes revised in November 2002, with the names of the offices or teams that carry out the related activities. Much of the work, though, relies on cooperative efforts and expertise across teams.

Strengthening the Ecumenical Movement (General Secretariat)

1. Leading the work of the WCC

The General Secretary has continued his effort to visit all member churches at least once between the two assemblies. This reporting period included visits to several countries in Asia, Brasil (where preparatory work towards the assembly was inaugurated with the local churches and ecumenical partners) and Russia).

The General Secretary gave public lectures at various occasions (e.g. Willingen, Germany, "50 years anniversary of the World Mission Conference"; Brookline, MA USA, "The Orthodox Churches in a Pluralistic World"; Ecumenical Kirchentag Berlin, Germany; Thessaloniki, Greece, "The importance of Orthodox Contribution to the WCC"; Minsk, Belarus "The Role of the World Council of Churches in the Age of Globalization".)

The General Secretary continued exploratory discussions with a wide range of ecumenical partners following the positive reception of his presentation to the Central Committee (September 2002) on the need for a new ecumenical architecture. As a result, the proposal for a reflection and study process on the "Re-configuration of the Ecumenical Movement" has reached a sufficient degree of maturity and preparations have started for a meeting to take place in November.

The General Secretariat offered leadership to the Assembly Staff Group and organised the first meeting of the Core Group of the Assembly Planning Committee.

The General Secretariat participated actively in the effort of communicating to member churches the re-location of regional desks, of listening to the churches' concerns and of maintaining an open dialogue with heads of churches throughout the process.

The General Secretariat has reviewed the Council-wide work around the database and initiated a more rational use of human resources assigned to this specific task.

2. Facilitation of governing bodies and interpretation of their decisions

Following the 2002 meeting of the Central Committee, taking into consideration both the evaluation of the meeting by the members of the Central Committee and the financial constraints, an intensive study began and negotiations took place regarding accommodations and technical arrangements. A proposal with considerable savings was presented to the Executive Committee (February 2003) and was implemented in organizing the present meeting of the Central Committee.

In cooperation with the Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations and the Team on Budgeting and Planning, the subsidy policy for participation in meetings of governing and consultative bodies was implemented.

3. Preparing the rules for consensus decision-making

In consultation with the Officers, a small reference group was formed by the General Secretary in order to begin analyzing the questions related to the move to a consensus method of decision-making. The group took into account the report of the Special Commission and presented a first progress report to the Executive Committee (February 2003), further discussed with the Steering Committee of the Special Commission (June 2003) and prepared its report for submission to the Central Committee.

Nurturing the Fellowship of Churches

(Church and Ecumenical Relations)

1. Fostering membership relations

Staff visits were made to member churches in Greece, Albania, Czech Republic, Chile (on the occasion of the meeting of the Advisory Group on Church and Ecumenical Relations) and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A WCC staff team (from Faith and Order, Mission and Ecumenical Formation and Church and Ecumenical Relations) visited the China Christian Council (CCC) in March 2003 to strengthen the relationships and cooperation between the WCC and the CCC.

Representation of the WCC was arranged at the assembly of the Church of Scotland and the United Church of Christ in Japan and at the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Participation of the WCC was also ensured in an ecumenical team visit to the churches in Togo..

The work of the Special Commission was complemented throughout the year by expanding reflection and discussion of the issues on its agenda through special events; visits; contacts; dialogues; documentation both for the use of member churches and the SC; translation and interpretation of WCC documents for distribution in Orthodox Churches for a better understanding of the activities of the WCC; support for young Orthodox scholars to do research on ecumenical issues; and organization of ecumenical training workshops.

The Steering Committee of the Special Commission met in Neapolis, Greece in June 2003. The Committee continued working on consensus method and membership. It was informed about ongoing work on ecclesiology by Faith and Order and the extent to which this work responded to the concerns expressed by the Special Commission. It reviewed and tried to further clarify the sections of the Special Committee Report on worship and the "parity committee".

A seminar on the ecumenical movement and the WCC was held in Port-au-Prince, in cooperation with the Protestant Federation of Haiti. It was attended by some 30 participants from the Methodist Church, a member of the WCC, and Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Haiti which are not members of the Council. The participants recommended that the Protestant Federation of Haiti apply for the status of associate council with the WCC.

The Study on Membership, begun in 2001, was concluded in 2002. Staff facilitated and coordinated the work of the Membership Study Group. The final report was presented to the Executive Committee and subsequently shared with the 2002 Central Committee where the recommendations were approved. This concerns particularly new theological criteria for membership, the creation of a new category of "Churches in association with the WCC", the groupings of member churches for the purposes of representation on governing bodies and participation in the life and work of the WCC, the application procedures for membership and certain questions of membership oversight.

2. Widening the Fellowship

The Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC met in June 2003 and received reports from the sub-groups (consisting of members of the JWG and specialist-consultants invited by the two bodies). The Plenary will conclude the studies and begin its work on the Eighth Report. The work of the JWG is enriched by the wider co-operation between the WCC and the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity, such as the on-going relationship with Faith and Order and the co-operation between the team of Mission and Evangelism and Missionary Orders in the RCC. A new area of co-operation will begin soon with the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace on issues of globalisation, conflict in Africa and human rights.

The third meeting of the Joint Consultative Group with Pentecostals was held in a Methodist Retreat Centre near Seoul, under the theme the "Unity of the Church". As requested at the previous meeting, a selection of key WCC documents on ‘Unity’ had been sent to the members in advance. The venue provided an opportunity for exposure to Pentecostalism in Korea. The members of the group attended worship at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, which is the largest congregation in the world and is part of the Korean Assemblies of God. They also participated in a theological symposium held at another KAG church in Seoul hosted by the director of the International Theological Institute. While the Korean Assemblies of God was not in a position to host an event related to the WCC, it was nevertheless willing to organise and host a meeting in which their ecumenical concerns could be voiced in the name of "Ecumenicals and Pentecostals". The fourth meeting was held in Cleveland TN, U.S.A: in May 2003.

The Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions had its annual meeting in October 2002 and its Executive Group met in May 2003. The WCC contributed to the agenda of the CWCs by reflecting on the proposed Global Christian Forum and the question of reception of bilateral dialogues. Since the year 2000, the Secretaries have been discussing the question of new roles for CWCs in relation to the WCC. The Secretaries expressed their interest in contributing to the WCC study process on "new ecumenical configurations".

The Continuation Committee of the Global Christian Forum met from February 28 to March 1, 2003 in Amsterdam. It evaluated the third Consultation on the Forum proposal which took place in June 2002 at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, USA. Positive aspects were highlighted: the broad representation, the presence of many new people, the storytelling, the Provisional Purpose Statement, the affirmation of the Forum proposal and the vision of the process. Among the critical aspects were that some participants had expressed hesitation about their presence at the meeting and several Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and organizations had declined the invitation. Some of the main lessons drawn were the need for a clear sense of direction of the Forum process, and the need to give the Forum a profile and communicate the idea more intentionally and more widely.

3. Promoting the Coherence of the Ecumenical Movement

A meeting of REOs and ecumenical funding agencies (Specialized Ministries) in 2002, in conjunction with the annual meeting of REO general secretaries took place in December 2002 in Geneva, hosted by the WCC and the CEC. The meetings were further informed by the ideas put forward by the WCC general secretary on a "new ecumenical architecture". This meeting of the REO general secretaries, representatives of the Specialized Ministries and WCC staff was the first of its kind and provided a setting for common reflection on the respective roles of the ecumenical bodies and their cooperation, in the perspective of a new ecumenical configuration. The general secretaries group agreed to continue this important discussion in conjunction with its 2003 meeting.

The Liaison Group between the Christian Conference of Asia and the WCC had its third meeting, in Taipei, Taiwan just prior to the meeting of the CCA General Committee. One of the main recommendations was that the CCA and the WCC coordinate as closely as possible the next assemblies of the two bodies in 2005 (CCA) and 2006 (WCC), in terms of theme(s), Bible studies, preparatory process etc. The Group also agreed that the minutes of its meetings should be shared with the Asian members of the WCC Central Committee and the members of the CCA General Committee. It is still hoped that a meeting between members of governing bodies can be arranged.

Ecumenical Institute, Bossey

The renovated Château was inaugurated during a meeting of the Bossey Board on June 14 in an official celebration with about 160 guests from the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, surrounding communities, and long-time friends and former staff of Bossey, including a student from the first Graduate School in 1952. The beautifully-renovated facilities of Bossey provide an inviting, comfortable and well-equipped setting for the Ecumenical Institute's activities and for visiting groups.

1. Ecumenical Formation

The 53rd Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies was held 2 September-17 December 2002. The 54th session, under the theme Mission in a Broken and Suffering World was held 3 February-23 May 2003.

The Master of Ecumenical Studies programme was attended through spring 2002 semester by 11 students selected from a pool of 34 applicants (one woman and 10 men) from 7 countries, 5 regions, and 7 denominations who graduated in June 2002. The Autumn 2002 semester was attended by 10 students from 38 applicants (3 women and 7 men) from 8 countries, 4 regions, and 6 denominations who began studies in September 2002 .

The first Intensive English Summer Course, English as a Tool for Ecumenical Formation, took place from 3 June-27 August, 2002, and the second Intensive English Summer Course started June 2 and will continue until August 29. During these courses, students are involved in a process of ecumenical formation both through the practice of English used in some important documents of the ecumenical movement and through life in community and worship.

The research programme continued its work on the following themes: The Present Situation of the Religious Life in the World and its Challenges to the Ecumenical Movement and Towards an Ecumenical Social Ethics in a Period of Accelerated Process of Globalisation.

Short-term seminars on contemporary subjects that confront and challenge churches have been held, particularly oriented towards the wider formation of the laity. A few examples include: Overcoming Violence against Women: the Theological and Ethical Challenges (September 2002), Towards a Theological Statement on Disabilities and the Church (November 2002), Human Sexuality (April 2003), Women in Mission (June 2003), Interpreting the Bible in Pluralist Contexts (July 2003). Most of these seminars were organized in cooperation with various teams of the WCC. More recently, a "Staff Liaison Group" was created, bringing together colleagues from Geneva and Bossey for planning and organizing seminars on issues of common interest. Apart from these, Bossey hosted other seminars organised by outside groups and international ecumenical organisations.

2. Visiting Professors

While colleagues from the WCC staff were invited to teach in areas of their expertise, contacts were developed with member churches and ecumenical institutions in order to secure the presence of visiting professors with time-limited mandates. As a result, a visiting professor from the Netherlands will strengthen the Bossey faculty with responsibility in the area of social ethics.

3. Publications

The Ecumenical Institute has published and widely distributed its Academic Programme (in WCC working languages). Projects for the publication of books containing findings of the research programme had been delayed for technical and financial reasons.

Dialogue with Neighbours of Other Religions

(Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue)

1. Bilateral and Multilateral Interfaith Dialogue

A consultation in October 2002, "Christians and Muslims in Dialogue and Beyond" brought together forty persons, including leaders of major world Christian and Muslim bodies involved in dialogue. It examined the present state of relations between Muslims and Christians, assessed what has been achieved or attempted in dialogue and co-operation and reflected on the challenges in three areas: reciprocal listening and working together in education, fostering citizenship and upholding human rights, striving together in seeking justice and overcoming violence. The consultation suggested the priorities for the local and regional collaborative work, and its findings will be discussed in local and regional settings.

The three reports of the October Consultation opened the discussions in two seminars held in Lebanon (May 2003) and Turkey (June 2003). The seminar in Turkey was co-sponsored with the (Turkish) Intercultural Dialogue Platform, and the WCC delegation was able to discuss issues of human rights and religious freedom with many of the interlocutors. It was opportunity to learn more about the impact of recent political changes on the place and role of religion in Turkish society and polity. There was also an exchange on the Churches’ positions regarding Turkey’s integration in the European Union. The situation of Muslims in Europe was raised with government representatives who expressed appreciation of the role of Churches in relation to the migrant communities.

2. Religious Plurality and Christian Identity

The "Ecumenical Considerations for Dialogue" approved by the Central Committee has generated many requests from inter-faith partners to publish it in their own contexts.

Relations with the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) increased and IRRD was asked to facilitate the ongoing process of developing a common theological and ethical basis between Jews and Christians. Faith and Order, IRRD and the ICCJ are preparing for a study project to discuss the inter-relationship of Jewish-Christian dialogue and the churches’ self-understanding.

A multi-faith workshop preparing for the Visser’t Hooft Memorial Consultation on Religion and Violence brought together staff from DOV, Faith &Order, International Affairs Peace and Human Security, IRRD, Bossey and people of other faiths to design the 2004 consultation. The theme chosen is "Religion, power and violence - a consultation for inter-religious peace building". An interfaith study guide is suggested, for use multi-religiously and in our respective communities.

3. Promoting Relations with Neighbours of Other Faiths

a. Christian-Jewish relations

The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations (IJCIC) organized a Jewish-Orthodox Christian consultation in May in Thessaloniki and invited a representative from the WCC. The consultation was more descriptive than entering into any particular issue in depth. From the Jewish side, there was insistence that Orthodox Christians come to terms with anti-Jewish manifestations in liturgy and worship. There was a concerted Jewish – Orthodox Christian call to the Israeli government to give official recognition of His Beatitude Irenaios, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

b. Christian-Muslim relations

In response to requests for assistance from churches and related institutions, the WCC offered its contribution to inter-religious educational events they planned and organized. Christian-Muslim seminars were co-sponsored in Kaduna, (Nigeria), Kuala Lumpur, (Malaysia) and Cairo, (Egypt). Much of the preparatory and organizational work was done by partner bodies but the WCC could offer its good offices, expertise and facilitation of contacts with Muslim resource persons.

In the light of the interest of major world Islamic organizations in maintaining regular contacts with the WCC, a coordination meeting was held in Lebanon in June 2003. In addition to exchanging insights into the state of Christian-Muslim relations, the meeting explored ways of ensuring that Muslims are more attentive to, knowledgeable about and - if needed and possible - involved in, intra-Christian dialogue. The meeting also evaluated the role played by the WCC, often indirectly, in making possible certain forms of intra-Muslim dialogue. The diversification of Muslim partners of the WCC was affirmed and the search for more inclusive Islamic participation in WCC dialogue activities was encouraged.

c) Other faith relations

Discussion with a visiting delegation from Myanmar focused on the possibility of a Christian-Theravada Buddhist consultation capitalizing on the recent visit of the WCC general secretary to Southeast Asia. This consultation would address the missionary understanding of Theravada Buddhism and Christianity and how they relate to religious liberty and a religiously plural world.

WCC staff were invited to an inter-religious gathering organized by the Buddhist monastery in Turin mid-May on the theme spiritual contributions for a multi-religious Europe and to a weekend seminar on Spiritual Resources for the Construction of the new Europe.

d) Indigenous Beliefs and African Traditional Spirituality

A consultation in December 2002 in Dakar brought together representatives of the mainline churches, African Instituted churches, African Traditional Religion, Islam and representatives of Voodoo from Haiti. The significance of the concept of "The African Person" as a person identified in a web of relations provided an enriching contribution to the discourse on the role of values in our world today. The thrust of the consultation - to provide space for the integrity of African cultures, religions and traditions - was much appreciated and the discussion focused on how to create this space in the midst of the overwhelming domination of Christianity and Islam and how the specific contribution of Africa could effectively enter into a synergy with other competing visions.

e) Annual staff meeting between WCC IRRD and Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue

Among issues in the meeting in Rome in June were the joint project "The Contribution of Africa to Religious Life in the World", which involves a multi-faith meeting in 2004. The question of proselytism was discussed in relation to Hindu-Christian relations and it was decided to embark upon a common project as of 2004. This would be a multi-faith process, involving a hearing with people of other faiths, a theological work on the issue of proselytism and conversation in relation to inter-religious dialogue and concluded through a statement or code of conduct. Work on inter-religious prayer will continue.

f. Current Dialogue

The June issue of Current Dialogue (no. 39) published articles on Religion and Violence. In December 2002 the issue (no. 40) focused on the 'Guidelines for Dialogue and Relations with People of Other Religions' and the report of "Christians and Muslims in Dialogue and Beyond".

Ecumenical Focus on Africa

1. Ecumenical Accompaniment for Peace and Reconciliation Processes in Africa

Staffing for the Ecumenical Focus on Africa (EFA) was not in place until May 2002. Active lines of communication were established with key ecumenical contacts in several countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, DRC, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea). The Africa Peace Monitoring Group (APMG) met regularly to review and evaluate situations and advise on appropriate action.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment for Peace and Reconciliation Processes provides a framework and mechanism for infusing ethical values into these initiatives by:

  • increasing the "sense of ownership" of the peace processes by the civil society and the people to safeguard a lasting peace;
  • feeding in human rights questions and reconciliation mechanisms in the process;
  • keeping the wider ecumenical family informed and thereby enable them to assist with advocacy work as appropriate.

Initial contacts have been established for the Somalia Peace Talks where the partners involved have welcomed WCC's accompaniment.

In Uganda, where fighting has been continuing in the North for over a decade, the EFA facilitated high-level contacts between the representatives of the government and the rebels. This opened possibilities for further dialogue. The role of faith communities (Christian and Muslims) is increasingly accepted by the warring parties.

1. Sudan Peace Talks

To reach a common understanding on the role of the ecumenical envoy at the Machakos Peace Talks it became necessary to discuss the matter with all the key players. Meetings were held with IGAD officials, ministers in the Sudan and Kenyan governments as well as those from SPLM/A, and diplomatic envoys from countries accompanying the peace process (USA, UK, Norway, Italy, Canada, Switzerland). Both Parties (GOS and SPLM/A) was to warmly welcome the involvement of the ecumenical movement through WCC. Both recalled the role played by WCC in brokering the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972. The sensitivity of the issue at hand requires a high level of trust because highly confidential matters are involved.

While the table around which such negotiations are carried out cannot be expanded much further, the Parties concerned agreed that the process could and should be envisaged whereby insights/experience gained through peace processes from below (churches and civil society) can be shared. Ethical values will be injected into the process, especially as the churches consider justice as an inevitable element if the peace being sought is to endure and last.

A Sudan Resource Group was formed comprised primarily of people associated with the WCC and based in Nairobi with the WCC President from Africa moderating to advise and assist the ecumenical envoy. Alongside with WCC, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum (SEF) and its Core Group remain the key bodies to whom the ecumenical accompaniment is accountable.

The Inter-Religious Council for Dialogue based in Khartoum has embarked on dialogue between Muslims and Christians in Sudan. In consultation with SCC it was agreed to explore the possibility of looking at the dialogue within the framework of the peace processes. Follow up work will be coordinated with the IRRD.

2. The Journey of Hope Continued

In May 2002 the EFA with the participation of LWF and WARC convened a meeting of the AACC presidium and the regional fellowships. The outcome was a major breakthrough in ecumenical relations in Africa and the way forward for the AACC leadership. The main achievements were a) an agreement that WCC seconds a staff person to serve as AACC interim general secretary; b) designing a visioning process for AACC at its fortieth year (2003); c) gaining better clarity of the relationships between AACC and the sub-regional fellowships.

Under the metaphor "journey of hope" adopted by the Harare Assembly in response to the Africa Plenary the EFA joined with the Education and Ecumenical Formation team to organize a consultation "The Journey of Hope Continued in September 2003 which involved around 100 African educators, resource producers, ecumenical bodies and churches to explore ways of renewing theological education and ecumenical formation in the continent for the mission of the church and the benefit of society. In response to the resulting plan of action the ecumenical partners from Europe and North America stated that, "our accompaniment on the journey of hope in Africa is intentional, strong, and heartfelt, and will remain a significant part of our on-going work."

3. EFA web site (within WCC web site)

Initial work has begun on a web site to promote spaces for engagement and exchange of experiences for mutual inspiration. So far information about initiatives taken by churches, communities, social movements is limited to a small circle of experts. The EFA web site features stories of "journeys of hope" and people are invited to share experiences from their own contexts.


The EFA formulated a concept paper on the ethical and spiritual basis for a new vision for Africa. This served as a background document in preparation for a consultation, convened jointly with AACC and SACC on ecumenical response to NEPAD (New Partnership in Africa's Development) held from in March 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The deliberations were held under the theme "Behold I create a New Africa". The action plan adopted by the consultation provides a framework for collaboration between the ecumenical movement and NEPAD in translating that theme into reality.

5. Continuing tasks

The EFA will continue monitoring efforts of churches in the areas of ecumenical social responsibility and democratic change in Africa and efforts aimed at promoting ethical values in public life.

Decade to Overcome Violence

1. Accompanying churches and movements in processes of study and reflection

"Violence and Peace: An Interfaith Exploration into the heart of Religion" was the theme of the weeklong consultation organized in collaboration with the Bossey Ecumenical Institute and Inter-religious Relations in June 2002. About 45 participants representing various religious communities took part in this event that relied a great deal on mutual trust and respect to search for traces of both violence and peace in their religious traditions. There were case studies from Indonesia, Sudan, and the Middle East and discussion on DOV’s four thematic foci. However, the complex relation between religion, violence and power was an issue that dominated the discussions.

A Study Guide: Why violence? Why not peace? Was developed in collaboration between DOV and ecumenical formation staff. The study guide is based on the four themes of the Decade. The English version of the booklet was developed, printed and distributed in 2002, the German version in 2003. Both English and German versions have been through re-prints and translations into other language versions are ongoing.

Carried out in collaboration with JPC, the work of engaging the churches on violence against women has continued with the help of an office set up in Edinburgh. A letter was sent to the churches from the WCC General Secretary invoking information on actions and projects they have undertaken on violence against women. The WCC resources on violence against women have been documented and tabulated and are now available at the University of Glasgow (for more information see the project's web site, linked to the DOV web site). Contacts have been maintained with the network of women theologians and representatives of the Christian World Communions. Correspondence was initiated with writers for the proposed WCC Publication "Reconciling Memories: Women’s ways of Dealing with Histories of War and Conflict".

2. Annual DOV Theme

Following the recommendation of the CC 2002 to have an annual theme for DOV, the 2003 annual DOV theme - "Sudan - Healing and Reconciliation" - is being addressed by a number of events and world communions over this year and the next several years. DOV aims to work closely with the Sudan Ecumenical Forum in developing the theme and drawing from the experiences in Sudan as well as nurturing the peace process and the churches' contribution to it. Discussions have begun to prepare proposals for the annual DOV focus on the US and on Asia, possibly including Myanmar for the years 2004 and 2005. Contacts have been made with the Myanmar Council of Churches and the US Conference Board to help with the decision making process. More information on the theme is available on the DOV web site at

3. Facilitating information and communication

An inter-active, multi-lingual web site for the DOV was launched globally on December 10, 2002, as a platform for sharing resources, announcing events, connecting with DOV coordinators and activities across the globe. The DOV web site has rapidly become the most popular section of the WCC web site. The site is visited fairly frequently but submissions are not as high as we would like.

The DOV communicator (working until September 2002) and WCC Visual Arts coordinator have produced a DOV-related video on violence in Sierre Leone. The video, produced in cooperation with the Ecumenical Council of Denmark and Danish TV, is completed, and is currently being sub-titled into English.

From regions and countries, some examples of different initiatives and events that have been organized under the DOV umbrella include:

  • Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) made the DOV part of their strategic planning. A survey was conducted among their programs to determine where violence is encountered and how it is being addressed. In their annual strategic planning seminar the DOV and related themes were emphasized.
  • In historic statements and under the leadership of the WCC, religious leaders from the US, Germany and other European countries took clear positions against war as an instrument of politics. Some of the churches clearly and explicitly taking position against war put it in the context of DOV.
  • The Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu Archdiocese (Northern Uganda), the Church of the Province of Uganda, the Orthodox Church and Muslim leaders appealed to the Lord's Resistance Army in Sudan (LRA), the Uganda Government, the suffering people, and the international community to end the violence and particularly the abduction of children for military purposes.
  • In September 2002, the Pacific Conference of Churches launched the DOV during its 8th Assembly, under the theme "Holy Spirit Weave Us Together in Your Peace".
  • In May the Caribbean Conference of Churches launched the DOV combined with seminars on implementing DOV.
  • South Pacific: The church, government and the legal profession, a women's activist and a medical practitioner shared their perspective on the Elimination of Violence during a public forum at the Pacific Theological College. Entitled, "Violence against Women and Children: A Theological Perspective", the forum hopes to not only highlight current strategies and challenges facing the various sectors of society committed to the elimination of all forms of violence, but to also identify ways to incorporate the issue into theological education and debate, as well as within the community of the church.
  • In Cameroon each year since 1998, the Easter Week Campaign mobilizes Catholic, Protestant and Muslim believers as well as all people of good will against a social plague, in the light of faith. This year, with the slogan "together for security in Justice and Peace", it is insecurity in the cities and country sides of Cameroon that will be in the center of round-table discussions, social evenings and ecumenical services in Bamenda, Bafoussam, Douala, Nkongsamba, Garoua, Eseka and Yaounde. An animation handbook has been printed for groups and the community.

Unity of the Church (Faith and Order team)

1. Studies

Since the Central Committee, drafting groups have furthered the work on the Nature and Purpose of the Church, and on hermeneutics, and a second Consultation on Theological Anthropology was held in El Paso in February 2003. The work on ecclesiology has also involved a number of Seminars with Orthodox theologians in Sibiu and Thessaloniki.

The El Paso Consultation gathered some 20 participants representing different regions, churches and expertise, including prominent scientist-theologians. It focussed on contemporary challenges – war, violence, injustice, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and issues of genetechnologies and artificial intelligence. The focus was on the question ‘What does it mean when Christians and churches proclaim and confess that human beings are created in the image of God? The reflections took into account work being undertaken in the WCC by the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network (EDAN), the Advisory Group on Issues of Human Sexuality and the Decade to Overcome Violence. The resulting text is centered on the basic belief that human persons created in the image of God are relational beings, and that whatever destroys, distorts or violates their ability and their destiny to life and to foster caring and mutually nurturing relationships are against the will of God, and that the churches have to give witness to this truth.

The work, undertaken with the JPC team, on Ethnic Identity, National Identity and the Search for Unity was taken forward by a specialist consultation of biblical scholars in Bangor, Wales in June 2003.The scholars explored Old and New Testament texts dealing with themes that are evident in the local self studies produced by Councils of Churches in Sudan, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Ireland, including land, violence, issues of inclusion and exclusion, boundaries, the extent of Jesus’ mission and the unity of the early Christian communities.

With the decision of the expanded meeting of the WCC Officers in November 2002 to place the concern for theological reflection on peace in the Faith and Order team, work began to clarify and refine the emerging proposals for the reflection process. A draft document was discussed at the meeting of the Faith and Order Officers in January 2003 and was further developed by a small group of scholars meeting at Cartigny in April 2003. In the light of these discussions, an outline of the study was presented at the meeting of the Standing Commission in July 2003.The study focuses on five themes and is participatory in its approach.

As part of Faith and Order’s participation in the work around DOV a workshop on healing and reconciliation out of contexts of violence with biblical scholars and theologians in Africa was organized in Johannesburg in May 2003.

2. Work with constituencies

In September 2002, a major consultation of United and Uniting Churches was held in Driebergen, the Netherlands. The previous such consultation was held in 1995. This group of Churches, who have sought to take the risk of moving into union, and who receive advice from the Faith and Order Secretariat, addressed a number of questions to Churches and Christian World Communions concerning their identity and the mission of the Church in today’s world.

Work continues with the Christian World Communions and Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church.

In the context of cross team work, the Interim theological statement A church of all and for all has been completed and is before this meeting of the Central Committee for action. This statement has been a collaborative venture with the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network (EDAN) and the JPC team.

Work on issues of human sexuality – particularly the series of three Bossey Consultations -- has involved considerable staff time and cross-team work. Some of the lessons gleaned from this process will be the subject of a Hearing at this meeting of Central Committee.

3. Follow-up of 2002 Central Committee recommendations

In 2002, the Central Committee made a series of recommendations to Faith and Order through the Programme Committee, Policy Reference Committee and on the basis of the Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC. Most of these recommendations strengthened the existing work of Faith and Order in the areas of ecclesiology and baptism. In collaboration with the Commission World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) and the team on Inter-religious Dialogue, the issue of religious plurality is being addressed by a series of Consultations (15 members) at Bossey to explore how far – if at all- it is possible for the member churches to move beyond the San Antonio and Baar Consultation positions. Work on a statement for the Ninth Assembly was set in motion by the Standing Commission in Strasbourg in July 2003.

4. Other issues facing the Commission and Team

Governing Bodies: In January the Officers of Faith and Order met with staff , and a meeting of the Standing Commission took place in Strasbourg (transferred from Lusaka for financial reasons) in July. The Officers further developed plans for the meeting of the Plenary Commission to be held in Kuala Lumpur in July-August 2004, and discussed the ongoing studies of Faith and Order.

At their meeting in January 2003,the Faith and Order Officers began to explore the role of Officers of the Commission. Since the Standing Commission no longer meets annually but every 18 months, convening a meeting of officers has been found important. This necessitates a change concerning their role and relationship to the Commission and staff. A draft document on their mandate was discussed and has now been the subject of discussion at the Standing Commission in July.

The financial constraints have led to postponing meetings and publications (the latter makes reception processes very difficult) and to reduce the size of conferences, which makes it more difficult to maintain appropriate balances. Although new attempts have been made to identify possible hosts for meetings – churches and universities – and to continue working by e-mail as much as possible, the face-to-face encounter of persons wrestling with issues of unity, faith and order in a multilateral forum and framework is essential. There are high expectations placed on this team on the issues of ecclesiology, the nature of unity and common recognition of baptism (cf. The Report to the CEC Assembly at Trondheim); with regard to worship materials; in respect to dialogue processes by Christian World Communions and Uniting churches, and on issues of violence and reconciliation.

Ecumenical Advocacy and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts

(International Affairs, Peace and Human Security team)

The Report on Public Issues will provide a more comprehensive update on WCC work in conflict situations and human rights. The following are additional highlights of activities in this programme:

1. Peaceful responses to conflicts and war

A major part of this work comes under the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (see page 29).

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the consequent military strikes in Afghanistan there were a series of armed attacks by religious extremists against Christians, churches, hospitals, schools and other institutions in Pakistan. At the request of the member church and the NCC a WCC pastoral delegation visited Pakistan in November 2002 to express solidarity with the churches and Christians there, to listen and learn from the people about the situation in the country as a result of the war in Afghanistan and to understand the challenge facing the churches in the country. A written statement will be filed at the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights and the International Affairs team continues to monitor the situation.

An International Ecumenical Conference on Terrorism in a Globalised World was convened by NCC Philippines, the Christian Conference of Asia and WCC in Manila in September 2002 with the participation of around 135 people from 28 countries, including people of other faiths. The Conference noted that the "war on terror" had worsened the vulnerability of religious minorities in many countries. Emergency laws enacted in all the regions are sometimes being used to victimise and silence political opponents. The Conference called for upholding international and national rule of law and refraining from indiscriminate branding of people, nations and others as terrorists. The participants recommended forming a multi-religious People’s Forum on Peace for Life. The CCA convened a meeting of the sponsoring bodies in February 2003 to follow-up.

The Middle East Council of Churches Executive Committee meeting in January 2003 endorsed the request of the Jerusalem church leaders and the MECC General Secretary for the WCC to take the lead in setting up the Jerusalem Ecumenical Center and administering its funds. International Affairs has agreed to continue to take this responsibility until 2006, pending review. Having now raised the necessary funds, the WCC is in the process of setting up the Center in association with the Jerusalem church leaders and the MECC.

2. Ecumenical advocacy

The Sixth Annual Human Rights Programme was jointly organised by CCA and WCC in Jakarta in December 2002. The 30 participants were young pastors, seminarians and human rights defenders, mostly from the conflict regions of Indonesia. The programme, intended to equip human right activists particularly in situations of conflicts, included an introduction to international human rights instruments; study sessions on the theological basis for human rights work; monitoring and documentation of human rights violations in critical situations; and effective ways of undertaking advocacy work at the national and international levels on crucial human rights concerns.

The 58th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights took place in Geneva from 17 March to 25 April 2003. This year the WCC focused on human rights violations in Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Sudan. Briefings were arranged, as were meetings with members of the commissions, Special Rapporteurs and government missions. Written statements as well as oral submissions were made. WCC staff accompanied the delegations and a half day seminar with the International Service for Human Rights was organized.

Current developments of Truth and Reconciliation processes in different countries, especially in Peru and Sierra Leone, were shared at a panel at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, stressing the role of the churches and religious communities in these processes. The participation at an International Impunity Tribunal in Colombia helped to deepen the understanding of the present situation and to highlight WCC’s commitment to a peaceful solution to the conflict. A close follow-up of the process focusing on an international instrument to prevent forced disappearances, as a way to overcome impunity and grant justice, was made together with delegates from the South, specially during the UN Commission on Human Rights.

An ecumenical consultation on small arms was held with the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA) in Ghana in late November. Nine West African national councils of churches as well as representatives from the AACC, FECCLAHA and a variety of peace and human security organisations participated. A comprehensive and practical Programme of Action was adopted to include awareness building at the community level, capacity building at the regional level and facilitation and international advocacy at the level of the WCC. The WCC has followed up with seed funding for peacebuilding and disarmament programmes to the nine participating NCCs as well as substantive grants to FECCIWA and the AACC.

In preparation for the United Nations Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and the Programme of Action 7-11 July 2003, WCC staff participated in:

  • A governmental grouping called the Human Security Network in New York at the Canadian Mission on March 27. WCC/CCIA members Ernie Regher and Rubem Cesar Fernandes were invited as expert advisors and speakers.
  • A consultation of governments on Arms Brokering in Oslo on April 24.
  • A meeting by Ambassador Inoguchi, Japanese ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and chair designate to the UN Biennial meeting on June 13.
  • Four meetings of the "Geneva Process" to support the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light weapons from February to June, hosted by Quaker UN Office, UNIDIR and the Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies (IUHEI).
  • A seminar in June on the UN programme of action on small arms hosted by the Geneva Forum previewing the "Biennial Progress Report" published by IANSA and "Biting the Bullet".

In May, WCC staff participated in a Roundtable Discussion organised by UNIDIR on Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Africa in the Post Cold War Era, on the occasion of the launch of the book The Treaty of Pelindaba on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone by Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

3. Public issues and other matters affecting the team

In addition to the fuller report on Public Issues, a Seminar on state-church relations and what the prophetic role of the church means in different contexts was organized with Christian government representatives and Church people with experience of working in public office from Namibia, Norway, South Africa and Sweden. The seminar was hosted by the South Africa Council of Churches in Johannesburg in March 2003.

At the request of the All Africa Conference of Churches, WCC seconded Melaku Kifle to work with AACC for one year to support AACC’s efforts to re-vision its mission, carry out plans for AACC’s November 2003 Assembly and provide leadership until a new general secretary was elected.

Mission and Evangelism: Promoting the Ministry of Reconciliation

(Mission and Ecumenical Formation team)

In November 2002, the teams of Mission and Evangelism and Education and Ecumenical Formation were merged. Both programmes share common issues and both also have a "movement" character in the community. There is also the need to maintain the integrity of the three programmes under this one team -- Mission and Evangelism, Ecumenical Formation, and the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa.

1. Conference on World Mission and Evangelism

Preparations for the next World Mission Conference were central in the work of the team and the CWME Commission (meeting in April 2003). Venue, date and title of the conference have been decided and invitation letters sent out. A conference organizer has been appointed.

2. Mission Study and Relations

Work concentrated on issues relevant for preparing the CWME conference, through consultations, papers and publications (IRM): the relevance of the missio Dei theology, mission in secular contexts, theology of religions, healing and reconciliation as renewed focus of missiology. A particular emphasis was laid on the dialogue with Pentecostal and charismatic theologians on the question of Spirit, healing and mission (consultation in Ghana in December 2002).

Meetings attended to foster relationships included a meeting of representatives of European Mission Councils in Basel, Switzerland; the International Consultation on the Impact of the Globalization on World Mission of the World Evangelical Alliance; the Missions Commission in Vancouver, Canada; and the meeting of the British and Irish Association of Mission Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The team maintained relationships with the CWME constituency and in particular with evangelical mission bodies. Contact is constant with the Roman Catholic church and mission bodies through the Roman Catholic consultant in the team. The supportive work of the International Network Forum on Multi-cultural Ministry has continued.

3. Evangelism

In Ecumenical Letter on Evangelism (ELE) was published in September 2002 in four languages, with an article on the Project Night Church, in the Cathedral of Copenhagen, Denmark, which represents an effort to do mission and evangelism in the context of a Western post-modern and secularised society. The issue also included the statement, "Following the Traces of God in This World", which was written by the participants in the Seminar "Sharing the Good News in the Middle East", held in Aleppo, Syria, June 2002.

Following the internal reorganisation in the WCC, the programme executive for evangelism was appointed co-ordinator of the new Mission and Ecumenical Formation team, resulting in a wide range of new responsibilities and increased workload.

Networking included participation in the meeting of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in Rome; travel to Athens, Greece, in preparation for the World Mission Conference March 2003; participation in a WCC delegation to China invited by the China Christian Council, and participation and preaching at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly in Denver, Colorado, in May 2003.

4. Community and Justice (Urban Rural Mission)

The URM (Urban and Rural Mission) Working Group met at the beginning of February 2003 to analyze its future work vis-à-vis the new internal organization of the Council and to revise the planned regional and global activities in light of the financial uncertainties. Regional meetings to support the preparatory process towards the Mission Conference will be held, culminating in a global conference in May 2004.

5. Health and Healing

The desk has received information that the Consortium, of which WCC is a part, has won the bid for the "Communities Responding to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic" (CORE) Initiative of USAID, which targets resources and technical assistance to faith- and community-based organizations world-wide. This gives recognition to WCC as a body providing advice to faith communities on matters related to community mobilization and AIDS, and will give new financial support for the technical assistance that the team will be offering.

The Partnership Consultation was held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2003, followed by the Health Co-ordinating Agencies meeting.

The Challenge of Ecumenical Formation

(Mission and Ecumenical Formation team)

1. Promoting and delivering ecumenical formation

The WCC Round Table Working Group on ecumenical formation for partner agencies has begun its work. A group of WCC staff has begun to develop an approach to ecumenical formation in the House.

Following the restructuring, a rearrangement of staff responsibilities has made it possible to maintain relationships with OIKOSNET and its constituent associations even though administrative responsibility no longer resides with the WCC.

The work on preparing a Resource Book on Holistic Education is in its final stages.

With respect to Inter-faith Learning, there has been participation in an NGO consultation on Interfaith, Spiritual and Values Education. The Comenius Institute, Germany published "Shared Learning in a Plural Word" which consists of papers from EEF consultations.

Two issues of EEF-NET have been produced and the website has been used to make other writing on ecumenical learning available.

2. Ecumenical Theological Education

The experience of working with the three regional consultants (Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean and Central & Eastern Europe) has proved to be a useful strategy.

The ETE Working Group held its annual meeting to reflect on the experience of doing theological education ecumenically and contextually. The Working Group also approves funding requests for faculty and library development.

An emphasis of ETE is the participation of women in theological education. One of the means of doing this is the Sarah Chakko Theological Endowment Fund. Another instrument is the Feminist D.Min course based in San Francisco Theological Seminary. ETE encourages, e.g. through the development of a curriculum, the engagement of theological education with the issues of HIV/AIDS.

Three issues of Ministerial Formation have been published.

3. Scholarships

The Scholarships Working Group met twice to approve awards and to discuss policy. 93 awards were made – 75 for individual study and 18 for group training.

There has been regular communication with National Correspondents and the constituency to improve understanding of the programme and to improve the quality of applications. Changes have been made in the administration to ensure the efficient functioning of the programme. The lack of funding for theological studies continues to be a major concern.

The Ethics of Life and Alternatives to Globalization

(Justice, Peace and Creation team)

1. Economic globalization: affirming alternatives

The vision of another world at the World Social Forum III held at Porto Alegre, Brazil from January 23-28, 2003, created a unique space where over 100,000 diverse people, organisations and political groups to share similar visions of a world with justice, sustainability and peace for all. More than 70% of the participants were young people. This time, the churches, the ecumenical family and its related agencies were visible. The WCC organised five workshops which were well attended.

The WCC was invited by senior officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to dialogue about development issues. In response, the WCC General Secretary, in letters to the President of the World Bank (WB) and the Managing Director of the IMF, proposed a series of encounters between the institutions that will discuss the fundamental questions regarding world development today. The first Encounter between WCC and the WB/IMF was held in February 2003 and focused on: "Evolution of institutional mandates and related views/concepts of development" to allow discussion of the historical progression of institutional mandates as well as the institutions’ different views and operational paradigms of development that are manifested in trade, financial and other socio-economic policies. A seminar on "Towards a Caring Economy: Women Transforming Economic Globalization" preceded the encounter.

A WCC-CLAI Seminar on Youth and Globalisation brought together young people from 12 countries in Latin America in April in Buenos Aires. The seminar focused on globalisation, foreign debt, and international trade and their consequences for young people and the churches. The participants prepared a variety of projects addressing economic justice in the local context. Most of them also continued as participants in the following WCC-CLAI consultation on globalisation.

The WCC and the Latin American Council of Churches organised a consultation on "Globalizing the Fullness of Life." The churches in Latin America had prepared a document critical of the neo-liberal economic policies in Latin America called, "Seeking Solutions-Moving Forward: The Protestant Churches say enough is enough." Based on this document and inputs from international speakers on trade ( WTO) and finance, particularly on the issue of debt, the consultation produced a statement on how churches can work for a fullness of life for all people. The consultation drew over 70 participants and took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a country which is heavily indebted. The major aim of the consultation was to enable churches to analyse critically the neo-liberal policies in Latin America manifested through the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the financial policies of the World Bank and IMF and WTO. JPC and the WCC regional desk cooperated in the planning of the consultation and extensive coverage was organised by the WCC Public Information team.

2. Being church: strengthening voices of women, youth and racially oppressed and indigenous peoples

In order to energise itself and to reflect on directions for its work, the JPC Team called together 20 church leaders from all parts of the world to reflect on some of the challenges to ecumenism in the 21st century – particularly in the context of globalisation and the war on terror. A helpful differentiation was made between globalisation as a process which is inevitable and historic and globalisation as a project, controlled by centres of political and economic power. Some programmatic implications from the discussion were drawn up.

Based on decisions taken at the end of 2002, the Indigenous People’s Programme has been relocated to La Paz, Bolivia as of June 1, 2003. A moving ceremony to open the office was attended by church leaders in La Paz and representative staff of WCC. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between WCC and CLAI (Latin American Council of Churches) and Eugenio Poma has been appointed as a staff member of CLAI. The Justice, Peace Creation Team will maintain its links with the La Paz office and with the network of Indigenous Peoples developed by the WCC over the last several years. From Bolivia, the programme will continue to challenge the churches worldwide to ensure that the theological and spiritual contributions of Indigenous Peoples are nurtured. Additionally, negotiations have begun with the NCC India to ensure that the solidarity that WCC has built with Dalit Peoples in India is also maintained.

A Study Guide on the theme of Transformative Justice was recommended by the Central Committee in 2002. As a follow up, four resource persons from different parts of the world met in Geneva in March 2003 and July 2003. The Study Guide will be disseminated to member churches and ecumenical partners, articulating the understanding of Transformative Justice as a step forward in the struggle against racism. Responses from member churches, church related anti-racism programmes, Indigenous Peoples and Dalits will be solicited in preparing the Guide.

36 stewards have been selected to attend the WCC Central Committee. A one week ecumenical leadership training seminar has been prepared for the days prior to the Central Committee.

The WCC will welcome six interns from September 2003 to September 2004. The teams to host the interns are: Church & Ecumenical Relations; Justice, Peace, Creation; Faith & Order; Public Information; International Affairs; Diakonia & Solidarity.

3. Caring for life: reflecting on the ethics of life and life-sustaining alternatives

JPC has been following up on the 2002 Central Committee decision on issues related to genetic engineering.. The debate on genetically modified crops became a major issue in 2003. The concern for GMOs and food aid is now taken up by Action by Churches Together (ACT), the Lutheran World Service (LWS) and the WCC/JPC Team.

In preparing for the Caring for Life Plenary at this year’s Central Committee, the working group on genetic engineering met with representatives of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in May 2003 in Washington DC (USA) at the invitation of the UMC. The working group explored the ethical and theological challenges posed by human genetic technologies with the help of scientists active in stem cell research and theologians working on genetic engineering. It also benefited from the discussion on Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology at the meeting of the Faith and Order study group on Anthropology in 2003 in El Paso (USA).

The JPC team has also embarked on a survey of statements on biotechnology and genetic engineering by churches and ecumenical partners.

Diakonia and Solidarity

1. Relocation of regional desks and other team issues

In November 2002, the WCC Officers decided that the regional desks for the Middle East and the Pacific would be relocated to the regions. Implementing this decision has involved considerable work. In the Pacific, a consultation with leaders of member churches in the Pacific was held in Suva, Fiji in March to discuss the relocation. Although the decision was a painful one for the church leaders, they expressed their commitment to WCC and to the new office. Necessary steps were taken to open the office and to relocate staff to Fiji in early June. Registration of the WCC Office in the Pacific is expected to be completed by July 2003 and an opening ceremony will be held once that is accomplished. In the Middle East, consultations are on-going with church leaders in the region and recruitment of a new Programme Executive will begin in mid-July, with hopes of opening the office later in the year.

The reduction of programme staff in the WCC Office in New York from three to one, coupled with the retirement of the remaining staff member, has also required sustained attention. An enlarged meeting of the US Board in February 2003 discussed the consequences of this decision for its work and gave guidance to staff in following up these issues. Recruitment is underway for a new Programme Executive for USA with particular responsibility for relationships, and who is expected to be in place shortly after the Central Committee meeting. The office will move into smaller space. WCC programme staff in New York include the UN representative, the fund development officer and the programme executive for the USA. D&S staff are working closely with staff in Budget and Planning and International Affairs to ensure that, although located in two different locations, WCC staff in New York function as a single office.

The former RRES staff visited US partners in October 2002, strategic planning was done to achieve more coherence for the team as a whole, and relations with ACT and Aprodev strengthened. An external evaluation of the Strategic Initiatives Fund was undertaken, with the final report expected in July 2003. The team engaged in dialogue with specialized ministries/agencies on a number of issues and is working to support the agencies’ efforts to increase their collaboration. The regional desks provided support for visits by the WCC General Secretary and other staff.

2. Ecumenical work on children's issues

The Asia desk facilitated 6 National Consultations on children in collaboration with NCCs in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka in the second half of 2002. In Latin America a Consultation on the Dignity of Children was organised in Buenos Aires through CLAI in November 2002. In co-operation with NCCs in the Caribbean, research and analysis was initiated on the programmes and projects related to improving the situation of children with HIV/AIDS. The Europe desk was involved in several programmes to address the issue of street children, abandoned children, in Russia, Romania and Armenia through partners in these countries.

3. Uprooted people

WCC’s work with uprooted people, which is now included in the Diakonia and Solidarity team, focused on supporting regional working group meetings in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe as well as organizing the Global Ecumenical Network meeting on Uprooted People in September 2002. Staff, sometimes joined by partners, have actively advocated on protection issues with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) both through formal meetings and through informal contacts. Staff have also participated in meetings of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies --all of which are working to improve the humanitarian response of the international community.

4. Regional initiatives

a) Africa

Through ecumenical enablers and its staff, the desk planned and participated in the Core Group and Round Tables of a number of partners, including those in Burundi, South Africa, Sudan (SCC) and Uganda (Church of Uganda/PDR). The core group of the African Regional Group met in January 2003 and the full regional group will meet in September. In April 2003, the Africa desk participated in the Round Table in Madagascar and facilitated the Round Table that took place in the same month in the Democratic Republic of Congo - both are new Round Tables.

The accompaniment of the process of renewal of AACC has culminated with the election of the new General Secretary in the beginning of May.

An evaluation of previous Round Tables was carried out in Nairobi by Corat Africa with the participation of Christian Councils from Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and Lesotho. Management development has been carried out with FOCCISA and a meeting on ownership and sustainable development was organized with FECCIWA in Nigeria.

b) Asia

In September, the Asia desk organized a consultation of ecumenical development agencies and mission boards from Europe and North America and South Asian Church leaders on Social and Human Development in South Asia. In December 2002 the Asia desk organized several meetings in Geneva, related to partnerships in the Philippines, East Timor and Sri Lanka. The South Asia Ecumenical Partnership Programme (SAEPP) was launched in a meeting of the ecumenical partners and South Asian NCCs in Colombo, Sri Lanka in March 2003. Through SAEPP, programmes of five South Asian NCCs in the area of Peace and Reconciliation, Combatting HIV/AIDS, Capacity Building/Leadership Development and Inter-religious Co-operation will be supported for a period of three years.

The Asia Desk coordinated the CCDB Bangladesh Round Table in 2002 and also attended the CASA Round Table Meeting held in March in Delhi, after a gap of eight years. This has helped to begin a process of mending the estranged relation between CASA and WCC. The Asia Desk and CCA, together with EDAN, organised a consultation on Ecumenically Disabled Advocacy Network in Asia, in Bangkok in March. This new initiative brought together 25 disabled persons from 16 countries in Asia and led to the formation of an Asian ecumenical network of disabled persons.

The Asia Desk organised the visit of a delegation of Government Religious Affairs Bureau Officials and Church leaders from People’s Republic of China to Norway, Germany and Switzerland from March 19 to April 4 as part of a study visit to understand how churches engage in social development work and how church state relations are seen and function in these European countries. The delegation visited WCC on 26 March. In April, the Asia desk organized a seminar on the "Current situation of the Church in China" at the Ecumenical Centre and also facilitated the visit of a seven member delegation composed of the new leadership of the China Christian Council to WCC. A delegation from the Myanmar Council of Churches visited WCC in May.

A capacity-building programme for second line Church leaders from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was organised by Asia Desk jointly with the Christian Conference of Asia and with the assistance of the Ecumenical Enablers Team in Asia (EETA). Asia Desk organised a consultation of Ecumenical Enablers’ Team in Asia (EETA) in Bangkok. EETA’s function will be to assist the WCC to implement capacity building programmes in the regions by acting as a pool of resource persons for training programmes and serve as facilitators in training sessions and workshops organised by churches and councils.

c) Caribbean

Regional group meetings
were held in October 2002 and May 2003. The May 2003 meeting was preceded by the regional launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence with a visit to Vieques. Since 2001, the regional group meetings have developed a new character with the strong participation of National Councils of Churches and close coordination of work at the programmatic and planning levels with the Caribbean Conference of Churches. Presently the Caribbean desk is giving high priority to increasing communication between the English-speaking Councils, the CCC and the Protestant Federation of Haiti.

Follow-up has continued on the research project on New Religious Movementsand on Concentration Policies of the Agencies. Reports have been completed on Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic which will be used as to analyze the impact of the agencies’ concentration policies on the region. Mediation initiatives intended to strengthen relations and communication between churches and ecumenical organizations in the Caribbean were carried out, with particular emphasis on Haiti. Support and training of members of the National Councils of Churches with respect to stopping the violence in the Caribbean were carried out. The Protestant Federation of Haiti and about 15 church representatives participated in the Ecumenical Management Development Plan. The desk continues to play a role in mediating between the Caribbean Conference of Churches and European specialized ministries/agencies.

d) Europe

The WCC Europe desk and the Eastern Europe Office coordinated a wide range of diaconal and development programmes in Central and Eastern Europe in 2002-2003. Programmatic work was closely coordinated with the Conference of European Churches (CEC). Examples include the national ecumenical platforms in support of the churches’ social service which were developed in Albania, Armenia, Belarus, FYR of Macedonia, Russia and Slovakia.

New initiatives were taken in Moldova and Ukraine, and in former Soviet Central Asia. A consultation on Central Asia was organized in Geneva in May which brought together local partners with specialized ministries/agencies to develop an ecumenical strategy for the region. The WCC network of church-related diaconal partners was widened and new joint initiatives in the field of training and capacity-building with church partners, information-sharing and advocacy were planned. The European Regional Partnership Group met in April in Slovakia, bringing together some 70 representatives of ecumenical and church-related organizations in Europe.

In the Balkans, the WCC South-East Europe Partnership developed networking and enabled new ecumenical projects in the areas of refugee return, capacity-building, and peace and reconciliation, especially in Serbia and Bulgaria. A range of educational, training and youth projects were undertaken. A special website was developed to encourage tolerance and exchange ( The Ecumenical Women’s Solidarity Fund in former Yugoslavia completed an intensive year of healing and reconciling work with women and children and prepared to mark its tenth anniversary in 2003.

A strategic planning process of WCC’s work in Central and Eastern Europe was completed and the mandate of the WCC Eastern Europe Office (based in Eastern Poland) was renewed. Efforts were devoted to conceptual and theological work in the area of the social witness and service of the churches and an international conference on Orthodox witness and service was planned. Particular attention was given to strengthening analysis and sharing knowledge among the churches in Europe through the WCC web page (

e) Latin America

Staff participated in the CESE Round Table in October 2002, convened the CLAI-European Agencies Round Table in November and participated in the Regional Group Meeting, held in December in Nicaragua.

A high point in the work of the desk was the Joint CEC-CLAI Consultation on Mission and Cooperation which was held in April 2003 in Hamburg, Germany, in close collaboration with EMW. Among issues identified for further common discussion were: mission of church in society and ecumenical mission; community contexts; evangelization; Pentecostal trends in different churches; minority/majority roles of the churches and implications for citizenship and civil rights; globalization and economic justice; growing fundamentalism; and cooperation and partnership. Follow-up will be discussed in a joint planning meeting with CLAI in August 2003.

As the next Assembly will be held in Brazil, the Latin America desk has been particularly busy with Assembly preparations throughout the period.

f) Middle East

The Middle East desk continued to monitor and plan necessary follow-up for four Round Tables in the region: the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Department of Service to Palestine Refugees (DSPR), the ICNDR in Lebanon, and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). The core group of the Middle East Regional group met in September 2002 in Damascus and the regional group met in April 2003 in Egypt. These meetings provided a forum for discussing diaconal work in the region in light of the continuing Israel/Palestine conflict and the war in Iraq. In this regard, the Middle East desk provided translations of a number of WCC statements and documents into Arabic.

The Middle East desk participated in the Gulf Churches Conference, organized by MECC, in Kuwait in October 2002. Hosted by the local churches in Kuwait, this meeting brought together representatives of different churches in the Arabic Gulf, most of whom serve migrant workers. This was followed by the MECC Partners Meeting in Kuwait from 1-5 November which included meetings with local Kuwaiti churches.

g) Pacific

The Pacific desk organized the representation of the WCC to the 8th Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). One of the main events during this Assembly was the launching of the Decade to Overcome Violence for the Churches in the Pacific region. The WCC President for Oceania, Bishop Jabez Bryce, officiated in the launch.

The PCC Round table core group met in November 2002. This meeting endorsed the proposed programme that resulted from the Assembly and agreed on an external evaluation of PCC structures and programmes since the time of the last review in 1999. The Pacific desk also organized the last in the series of consultations on finance and management programmes as part of its capacity building programme. The main result of the consultation was the unanimous call of the participants to support the activities of the Pacific Churches Finance and Management Society.

Communicating the Fellowship (Public Information team)

1. Issues affecting the team

Since the last Central Committee meeting and through 2003 the Public Information Team (PIT) has been impacted by major staffing transitions. In addition to staffing reductions, all but one member of the team either began work with the WCC or had a major redefinition of their position in 2002-2003. The WCC's financial pressures have also meant that some of the teams have had to reduce or eliminate their printed publications to their specific networks. New ways of sharing information are being explored and supported, including electronic means of distribution, while ensuring access to essential information for all of WCC's constituency.

While staffing and resources have been reduced, expectations and demands remain high. Indeed the emphasis on "raising the visibility" of the WCC has been given more priority by the governing bodies and WCC leadership given the financial pressures and heavy competition for funds in the global market place, and the increased need for a strong and clear voice of the churches in the international arena.

2. Media Relations

In addition to daily tasks of preparing and distributing press material and responding to media enquiries, the media relations office has:

  • Expanded the press material available in four languages.
  • Created a "news flash" service in response to media feedback for shorter alerts - providing a short description of action in four languages, with a link to full text on the web.
  • Added service of offering selected free photos for use with WCC press material for added incentive for publication.
  • Incorporated the North American media distribution list due to staff reduction in the US office;

And are

  • Developing targeted press distribution lists.
  • Developing a WCC media calendar and expanding services for press on the WCC web site.

3. Web

The WCC web site is undergoing some fundamental changes technically, conceptually and structurally:

  • Technically, more of the pages are moving onto a database system that provides easier searching and archiving possibilities. Other technical improvements allow for greater interactivity, so that people can enter and link to their own information on selected parts of the site (the DOV web site launched on December 11 for example), or so that work done in different locations can be loaded locally (e.g. EAPPI reports loaded directly in Jerusalem).
  • The concept of "on-line services" that allows individuals to indicate areas of interest and register for electronic publications and information updates has become operational and is being used initially with WCCNews, Contact, and Behind the News: Visions for Peace - Voices of Faith. The service expands WCC contact with the general public, as well as more opportunities for cost-effective distribution.
  • Facilities for on-line giving have been added, and campaigns to promote this tool for fundraising begun through cooperation with the Budgeting and Planning team.
  • Conceptually, the team will be working strategically on redesigning the site to allow for thematic access to information, including better search by issues and keywords and the consideration of other domain names.

4. Visual Arts

Staff and financial cuts have made it necessary for more strategic focusing for WCC video and photo services. Given the extraordinary resource of Photo Oikoumene as a unique and professional photo service of the ecumenical movement, PIT is working on improving the on-line service and providing selected free photos with media products. The priority of the service is the visibility of the WCC and the work of churches through the use (with credit) of the photos.

Recent video productions have included Facing the Future, produced with the WCC youth desk and WSCF. However, due to staff cuts and strategic focus on PhotoOikoumene, future video productions will be out-sourced.

Other items, such as the new WCC display developed with the Publications and Research team, provide resources to project the image of the WCC. As we move into the future, the intention is that more resources will be integrated and use multi-media (stories, photos, exhibits, powerpoint, broadcast video) to project a cohesive and engaging image of the WCC.

5. Programme Liaison

Staff cuts in 2002 eliminated the positions of cluster communication officers, and combined the role of "programme liaison" with the team coordinator to link programme activities with communication services and products and assist with strategic communication of priority issues and activities. Setting up meetings with each of the programme teams in the first quarter of 2003 was part of the efforts in helping both teams prioritize activities and develop better collaboration in communication activities.

Production of Behind the News: Visions for Peace - Voices of Faith, oversight of WCC News developed jointly with Publications, and helping to develop resources such as the Ending Occupation: Voices for a Just Peace video are part of the activities of the position.

The coordinator/programme liaison officer now serves as the WCC liaison to ENI. Strong cooperation with ENI continues, with support on covering issues and stories, and looking at ways to connect services. This year the WCC has renegotiated its annual grant to ENI, reducing the grant by 15% in line with other cuts made by the WCC in 2002. This takes into account the ENI business plan to broaden its financial base while maintaining WCC's strong and essential support for a news service sharing stories of church and ecumenical life.

A number of events were selected for high priority coverage through efforts engaging the entire team. One example of the integration of programme, web, and media communication is highlighting the voice of the WCC and the churches against the war in Iraq. In particular, press, web and photo coverage of the strong statements of the Berlin 5 February meeting, Executive Committee, and the General Secretary on 20 March; providing, with Faith and Order and Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue, prayers to accompany the Day of Prayer called for by the Executive Committee; an on-line petition campaign in support of the church leaders statement which resulted in over 9,000 individual supporters and a wide dissemination through a fascinating variety of networks; and submitting an opinion article by Konrad Raiser to the International Herald Tribune, published on April 8. Coverage showed that the WCC's strong position, the virtually unanimous position of the churches, the inclusion of calls for prayer, and addressing issues of religious language, were the right approaches in this intense media debate, and illustrated good cooperation among different teams in the WCC that helped in forming strong messages and actions.

Telling the Ecumenical Story (Publications and Research team)

1. Publications, Sales and Distribution

Major efforts and new initiatives have been undertaken to improve the distribution and to coordinate the production of WCC printed materials.

Since the summer of 2002 the team has set up a new distribution network. The aim is to put in place, parallel to on-going efforts with sales through the churches, a network of professional commercial distributors to increase the distribution of WCC publications in university and theological libraries and bookshops.

A new initiative has started with Editions du Cerf in Paris, the largest publisher of religious publications in France, for the publication of a number of books in French. Plans are underway to co-publish five or six titles a year. The first co-publication, a French translation of Konrad Raiser’s book, For a Culture of Life, was launched on 12 June, 2003 at a meeting with representatives of ecumenical bodies, French churches and the press. The WCC general secretary was present. Two other titles will be published in 2003.

In collaboration with the Public Information Team, a new leaflet on the WCC has been prepared in the five working languages of the WCC plus Portuguese. WCC Publications also prepared a small flier on the WCC in Norwegian for the CEC General Assembly in Trondheim in June. WCC Publications co-edited with the Conference of European Churches the document Charta oecumenica. Publication of the DOV Study Guide in English/French/ German and Spanish was completed in May 2003.

Since the last Central Committee, WCC Publications has published six books and co-published five others, as well as two issues of the Ecumenical Review. Preparations are on-going on a document on the Special Commission to be published in the four working languages as well as Russian, Greek and Arabic.

A project to put the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement onto CD-Rom is being studied; this would allow for regular updates. Work is going forward with the publisher on the Brazilian Portuguese edition of the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, due out in February 2004. In collaboration with the Public Information Team, a preparatory process for publication of documents and materials for the Ninth Assembly in Porto Alegre has begun.

A policy to centralise production and printing of WCC materials, effective January 2003, for production, printing, and distribution of WCC print publications is being coordinated by the Publications and Research Team. The aim is to include all documents which are intended for distribution outside the Ecumenical Centre. The advantages include:

  • Through involvement in the Publications Board, teams will be informed of plans for publications and other material so overlap can be avoided and creative integration encouraged. Colleagues throughout the WCC will have access to all plans for production of materials.
  • The WCC will be better able to present consistent, clear messages.
  • Editorial control of periodicals, reports, and other publications will remain with the teams, but an overall graphic style for all publications emanating from the WCC will be implemented.
  • Teams will propose publications they wish to produce and maintain financial control over their publications budget.

2. Library and Archives

A major process of staff change and reorganisation was initiated at the end of 2002, in the context of the plans to create an Ecumenical Research Centre between the Geneva and the Bossey Libraries (with funding from the Pictet Bank). By June 2003, the new staff resources, both for the permanent positions at the library and for the short term positions (until the end of 2004), with regard to the implementation of the Pictet project were in place. The project is to create a single library on two sites (Geneva and Bossey) in order to develop the collections and make them more coherent and accessible to researchers and students.

  • The new computer system for paper, photo and audio/video archives is now in place and qualified staff have been hired on a limited 2-year contract to implement the new system in the context of the Ecumenical Research Centre project.
  • Cooperation between the Public Information team’s PhotoOikoumene and Web staff and the photo archives has been developed.

3. Language Service

The service has been affected by staff reductions. The appointment of a 50% translator for Spanish was delayed but is hoped to be filled by the time the Central Committee meets. The staff is working hard to:

  • ensure that the capacity of the Council to communicate in several languages is maintained and improved, as a matter of principle.
  • work with the WCC teams in identifying translation and interpretation needs and to set priorities and guidelines to respond to these requests. To this effect a Language Policy paper has been drawn up and discussed with the teams.
  • update and work on the "ecumenical terminology" to allow for consistent translations and interpretation of ecumenical language (as illustrated, for example, around the term "ecumenical worship").

In preparation for the next Assembly to be held in Porto Alegre, early planning is required to identify the needs and take the necessary action so that staff and others who might be called to help in the interpretation and translation are trained adequately.

International Ecumenical Initiatives

Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

Since the programme was launched in August 2002, 40 Ecumenical Accompaniers (EA’s) from more than 30 churches and ecumenical partners in 7 different countries have participated in the programme, coming from: Denmark, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. They were placed in and were accompanying the work of a large variety of local churches, Palestinian and Israeli organizations located in the Gaza Strip, several towns and villages in the West Bank (Jayyous, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Zababdeh, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah) as well as East and West Jerusalem. Their tasks included accompanying health teams crossing military checkpoints; assisting organisations engaged in human rights, peace, information and ecumenical efforts with fieldwork, research, documentation and reporting on issues; working with the Christian congregations in Jerusalem, visiting church schools and homes, and accompanying church leaders on local travels and meetings; accompanying humanitarian workers delivering relief aid; delivering vocational training and sessions on non-violence to women's groups. The EA’s produced numerous articles as well as dozens of photographs, which have been put up on the programme's website and distributed globally to churches, NGOs, media, UN bodies and governments.

The WCC International Affairs (IA) team has been coordinating and managing this programme with a group of national coordinators from nine countries who have either asked to join or sponsor EA’s; each being a consortium of churches and ecumenical organizations: Canada formed by 4 churches/organizations, Denmark with 3, Finland with 1, Germany with 7, Norway with 4, Sweden with 12, Switzerland with 5, the United Kingdom with 3 and the United States with 4. The WCC/EAPPI staff is composed of a 50 % programme assistant and a 50 % administrative staff in Geneva and one full-time local programme coordinator in Jerusalem working with the IA Programme Executive for Middle East affairs, who serves as the Executive Coordinator of the EAPPI. National coordinators are responsible for the recruiting and in-country training of accompaniers. IA organizes two face-to-face meetings of all coordinators annually and works through email and conference calls in between. WCC is now in the process of hiring two more staff for the Jerusalem field office.

Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa /EHAIA)

EHAIA is a tri-partite undertaking among churches in Africa, churches and their agencies in the North and the WCC, with the aim of making churches "AIDS competent". The Plan of Action developed in a consultation of church leaders in Nairobi in November 2001 was made operational on the WCC side through a document passed by the Executive Committee in February 2002. EHAIA started as a special WCC program in April 2002. The speed with which EHAIA was established was to some degree achieved at the expense of participation of churches in Africa and in the North; this was criticized by some National Councils of Churches in Southern Africa.

During the period under report three regional coordinators were appointed and their offices were set up with various church bodies or NGOs as hosts (Harare for Southern Africa, Nairobi for Eastern Africa, Accra for West Africa) in addition to the already existing office in Kinshasa for Central Africa. Four regional reference groups, each consisting of ten experienced persons in the local churches’ HIV/AIDS work, were appointed for each region and have met to guide the work in the respective regions. Prior to this, the international reference group met parallel to the last Central Committee Meeting here in Geneva. Procedures for managing this special program within the WCC administrative structure were also worked out. A theology consultant was added to the coordinator positions with support from other programs of WCC. The consultant’s objective is to bring HIV/AIDS into the curricula of theological training institutions for lay and clergy.

Examples of programme activities

The services of the coordinators and the theology consultant were highly sought after by churches, including non-WCC member churches, but also by government institutions, international organizations and representatives of other faiths. A few examples of EHAIA’s work are:

  • The Central Africa Coordinator was instrumental in bringing together the DRC Inter-Faith Platform and supporting its awareness activities.
  • A theological reflection seminar in Yaounde, Cameroon, had theologians from six countries read the bible in the presence of a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), exposing some of them for the first time to a person openly discussing her sero-positive status. Many took up the theological challenge. This became obvious when a seminar lead by the theology consultant nearly a year later in Brazzaville had many of them bring along PLWHA, whom they had started to work with after the first event.
  • The theology consultant published a HIV/AIDS Curriculum based on an earlier version of MAP International. It will be complemented by a methodological book to be published later this year.
  • The Plan of Action was printed in four languages and distributed in large numbers for implementation by the churches. Two editions of "EHAIA Newsletter" were sent out electronically. Four of the older HIV/AIDS publications of WCC were revised and reprinted because they are still in high demand.
  • EHAIA was heavily involved in organizing an inter-faith conference linking churches with UN organizations and other sizable donors in Nairobi in May, with AACC as the local hosting organization. These donors recognize the special contributions churches can make if they become involved in the fight with projects commensurate to the size of the challenge.
  • The country mapping of church activities in the field of HIV/AIDS was continued. 24 reports have been received so far.