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Consultation on Re-configuration of the Ecumenical Movement

Consultation on Re-configuration of the Ecumenical Movement - Planning Document

02 September 2003

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

Consultation on Re-configuration of the Ecumenical Movement - Planning Document

1. Context

International relationships, governance, economic power, communication, and the role of religion in society have changed dramatically since the World Council of Churches and many ecumenical organizations were established. The relevance and the need for a reflection on the re-configuration of the ecumenical movement have been discussed and studied in the World Council of Churches for several years. Notable points in this discussion have included the WCC policy statement ‘Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC’, discussion of the issue at the 2002 meeting of the WCC Central Committee, discussions with the Regional Ecumenical Organizations (REOs) and Christian World Communions (CWCs), as well as the Global Christian Forum discussion, and, most recently, the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC. All these processes, and other discussions, have recognized that the proliferation of international church and ecumenical organizations and instruments is not viable or sustainable, and undermines the coherence of the one ecumenical movement.

Following proposals by the WCC General Secretary for a new ecumenical ‘architecture’, supported by the WCC Officers (June 2003), WCC will convene a consultation on ‘the re-configuration of the ecumenical movement’ in November 2003. The consultation is expected to outline a process of reflection and study leading to a proposal to the WCC Central Committee in 2005, and eventually to the WCC Assembly (2006).

This planning document is expected to be amended and updated as the process continues.

2. Objectives of the Consultation

    • To analyze the main challenges presented by the changing world and their implications for the configuration of the ecumenical movement.
    • To identify the key areas of change and renewal necessary for a re-configuration.
    • To design a process of consultation and study leading to a report on re-configuration of the ecumenical movement in 2004-2005.

3. Parameters of the discussion

The discussion and process will focus on the vision and direction of the ecumenical movement, as well as the structures and relationships among the existing international church and ecumenical organizations. Particular emphasis will be placed on building on related processes intended to bring about change, both at the national and international levels. Identifying signs of hope among these processes will be key in strengthening and building on the vision of the ecumenical movement. The discussion may also include proposals concerning the governance, structure and constituency of the WCC.

4. Issues

A background paper will be prepared that describes the present ecumenical configuration and raises some challenges presented by the changing world to this configuration. This is intended to stimulate discussion around the following groups of issues:

    1. The purpose of the ecumenical movement
    2. Membership and representation
    3. Forms of organization and methods of work
    4. Priorities and programmes
    5. Linkages within the ecumenical movement

5. Participation

The proposal is that the WCC will convene an initial group of ‘wise’ people, similar to the founding committee of WCC, each of whom has individual commitment, knowledge and experience of the ecumenical movement, in different contexts and at different levels, including involvement in various ecumenical and church organizations. Emphasis will also be placed on bringing in fresh approaches from participants who are not tied to particular ecumenical structures. Therefore, participants would be understood as individual ‘experts’ and not as official representatives of their particular organization, church or network. Attention would be given to ensuring that people with theological, organizational, historical and other knowledge would be involved. It is suggested that the group could be comprised of about 25 people.

Following the first planning consultation, a more comprehensive and inclusive process may be convened, which would involve a broader group of ecumenical stakeholders, including REOs, CWCs, Catholic and Evangelical churches.

6. Venue

Following an invitation from the WCC Moderator, Catholicos Aram I, the first consultation will be held in Antelias, Lebanon, hosted by the Armenian Apostolic Church.

7. Dates

The proposed dates are 17-20 November (arrival 16th and departure 20th evening), in order to link with the WCC Officers meeting, 20-21 November 2003. Participants will be asked to ensure they can attend the entire meeting.

8. Youth Participation

The perspectives and vision of youth are particularly needed in this discussion, reflecting the active involvement of youth as current leaders in the ecumenical movement, and their responsibility for leading the movement into the future. A small youth meeting will be held immediately before the November consultation and the results of those discussions will feed into the larger meeting.

9. Budget and fundraising

Costs will be kept as low as possible and the budget of both the youth meeting and the full consultation is being finalized. In addition to the generous hospitality offered by His Holiness Aram I, the WCC welcomes the offer of Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) to coordinate the support of ecumenical agencies (specialized ministries) which have expressed a particular interest in the project. The final budget that will be sent with the official request for support may include