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Report of the Programme Committee

First Report of the Programme Committee presented before the WCC Central Committee, 2003

02 September 2003

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

First Report of the Programme Committee

1. Introduction

The Moderator welcomed members of the Programme Committee to the meeting and on their behalf welcomed Geneviève Jacques in her new role as Director of Programmes.

The Programme Committee was reminded that its main responsibility was to deal with the following issues:

1. Receive and comment on the Activities Report.
2. Receive and comment on the reports from the commissions and advisory bodies.
3. Prepare for the Pre-Assembly Evaluation.
4. Review and propose recommendations for the Programme Plans 2003-2005.

The Programme Committee appointed the augmented core group named at the last Central Committee meeting together with the rapporteurs to act as a steering committee during this meeting.

The Programme Committee continues to develop appropriate ways of working to deal with the tasks. Round table discussions with a focus on a few programmes on which members of the committee had involvement or expertise were used to maximise detailed discussions.

The Programme Committee understands that it has the responsibility to set programme priorities and thus when it affirms programmes/activities/emphases in reports that are received by Central Committee, the expectation is that staff teams will duly take note.

2. New internal organisation of the WCC

The Programme Committee received a power point presentation introducing the new internal structures of the WCC. Particular attention was given to explaining how the WCC relates to the Action by Churches Together (ACT), Ecumenical News International (ENI) and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA). The WCC now has 14 core programmes, each with several associated activities. In addition, the WCC has strong involvement in two international ecumenical initiatives. These are listed in the front of the blue booklet Working Together - Making a Difference (GEN 07).

The Programme Committee expresses its gratitude for the work that has been done in internal reorganization and for the new clarity of the presentation of programmatic work in the life of the Council, and is pleased that it was able to contribute to this process.

3. Activities Report 2002-2003 and reports from consultative bodies

The Activities Report 2002 –2003 (GEN 06) was presented, with particular examples of where the work of the WCC has been making a difference and several examples of some of the challenges in programme work. This provided a methodology for the round table detailed discussions on all programmes.

The Committee received the Activities Report and forwards it to Central Committee for its reception, commending all the staff teams for the way they have coped with changes and reductions in personnel and financial resources. It has been a year of transition, but the programme work of the WCC has continued to move forward, and heartfelt thanks are due to all staff.

The Committee received written and oral summary reports from the consultative bodies that had done work since the last meeting. Time was again given to these using the round table methodology in order to bring specific information and recommendations to the Central Committee. Where consultative bodies have met, there is inevitably more information.

A summary of the discussions of the programmes, with recommendations as appropriate follows:

3.1 Strengthening the One Ecumenical Movement

This programme is carried out primarily by the General Secretariat and is reported elsewhere.

3.2 Nurturing the Fellowship of Churches and Communicating the Fellowship

The WCC makes a difference when it both engages the churches and extends hospitality to non-member churches. Challenges identified include the need for clarity of language and recognition that we may not mean the same things when we use common terms such as ‘fellowship’ and ‘unity.’

The Committee encourages the WCC to be more intentional in encouraging member churches to share reports and stories in all its programmes. More involvement of Central Committee and Commission/Advisory Group members in WCC events would be helpful. WCC staff are encouraged to invite Central Committee members to represent the WCC in various fora and to report back. Strategies are needed to encourage visits and engage church leaders and ecumenical officers so as to encourage their input and involvement. Following the positive experience at the Central Committee meeting in Potsdam in February 2001, the Public Information team is asked to explore the possibility of organizing further training workshops on communication for Central Committee members, advisory-consultative groups and WCC staff on communication techniques about WCC work. The Committee welcomed the development of electronic forms of communication, specifically .

3.3 Ecumenical Institute of Bossey

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the development of a Master’s Degree programme and launching a Ph.D. programme, and the major renovation undertaken to Bossey’s physical facilities. The Committee was encouraged by the establishment of the Bossey Liaison Group which links WCC and Bossey staff and by the evidence that it is functioning well. Bossey’s increased networking with ecumenical institutions throughout the world was highlighted. Challenges facing Bossey include its emphasis on interfaith encounter and the development of ecumenical spirituality as integral elements in the task of ecumenical formation. The Committee affirms both these initiatives.

3.4 Dialogue with Neighbours of Other Religions

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the Guidelines on Inter-Religious Dialogue. Challenges are to ensure that the guidelines are used by publishing and distributing them widely. These guidelines are commended to the many groups involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue at this crucial time.

3.5 Ecumenical Focus on Africa

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included support for peace processes in Africa. The Programme Committee affirms the importance of the Ecumenical Focus on Africa acting in collaboration with International Affairs and the Decade to Overcome Violence to hold up issues around the on-going conflict in Sudan, which is the 2003 focus of the DOV. The Programme Committee requests that extra efforts be undertaken in collaboration with the communications teams and the regional desk working in particular on Sudan to highlight the role of the churches for peacebuilding, healing and reconciliation.

3.6 Decade to Overcome Violence

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the establishment of a regional and thematic focus each year. In particular, the Programme Committee noted that the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which had been initiated as part of the 2002 DOV focus, serves as a useful model because it shows the continuity of programmes launched in the context of the DOV. It would be useful to collect the stories and draw lessons from each focus. A collection of the lessons learned over the 10 years would be a useful resource for the churches.

The DOV focus is a space for liturgical and intercessory accompaniment, highlighting forgotten or ignored suffering and struggle, and at the same time celebrating hope and affirming peace building action. This year, 2003, the focus is on Sudan, with the theme Healing and Reconciliation. Aside from the theme being addressed by various denominational and ecumenical gatherings, the focus helps churches express solidarity in various ways; it increases awareness among churches world-wide and gives those in the regions concerned a sense of being accompanied in prayer and action.

To allow planning and preparation with churches in the regions concerned and based on the Reference Group’s recommendation and on the above considerations, Programme Committee recommends to the Central Committee, that the geographical foci for the three years 2004 - 2006 be affirmed as follows:

· 2004 USA
· 2005 Asia
· 2006 Latin America

Background information on the proposal for geographical foci is given in appendix I of this report. In the years after the Assembly, the Central Committee may decide to focus on other regions, such as Europe.

3.7 Unity of the Church

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the work done in preparing the EDAN statement on persons with disabilities and in finding ways to assist the churches to discuss together issues that can be difficult to talk about such as matters of human sexuality and of ethnic identity. It was noted with pleasure that much of the work of this programme is done in collaboration with other programmes.

Challenges include finding ways to perpetuate the discussion at national, regional and confessional levels and in being accountable to one another in the on-going reflection.

The Programme Committee appreciated receiving an update on the plans for the forthcoming Faith and Order Plenary Commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur from 28 July - 6 August 2004. It was recognized that the theme "Receive one another as Christ has received you to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7) provides a framework for substantial discussions on ecclesiology, baptism and studies in ethnic identity, and complements the theme of the forthcoming World Mission Conference. The Programme Committee noted with pleasure the plans to hold a Younger Theologians Consultation in parallel with the Plenary Commission.

The Programme Committee welcomed both the reflection on the work of the Special Commission and the work being done in preparation for a statement to go to the WCC 9th Assembly on “the church as local and universal, one and diverse.”

3.8 Ecumenical Advocacy and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the WCC’s public statements which have influenced the international policy debate. The Programme Committee especially commends the work on human rights and impunity, peaceful responses to conflicts and war, disarmament as well as its renewed efforts on ecumenical advocacy at the United Nations as mandated by the Harare Assembly. These statements are effective because they use local stories from the constituency. The challenge is how churches can make a difference in public policy by speaking together clearly and consistently.

The Programme Committee heard the report from the extended officers meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs which advises WCC governing bodies on the public issues agenda. The Programme Committee was supportive of all the proposals and asks the Public Issues Committee to take note of the following comments:

· With relation to the report to be presented to the next WCC Assembly on “The protection of endangered populations in situations of armed violence: toward an ecumenical ethical approach,” that this report be prepared within the framework of the DOV and in consultation with the DOV Reference Group.

· To consider including the issues of Sudan, given it is the current focus of the DOV, and likewise Rwanda, given the current elections and the exhibition in the foyer of the Ecumenical Centre, in its report.

3.9 Mission and Evangelism: Promoting the Ministry of Reconciliation

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the way the theme for the next World Mission and Evangelism Conference was being picked up and explored by member churches, affiliated bodies and interested parties, and the broad range of participants in the conference preparations.

Challenges include ensuring that the missiological focus of reconciliation and healing remains central, the publication of IRM has an important role to play in this; ensuring that evangelism activities are not lost, and continuing to enable member churches to engage with one another around the issue of proselytism.

The Programme Committee appreciated being updated on the plans for the forth-coming Conference on World Mission and Evangelism now confirmed to be held in Athens, Greece, 12-19 May 2005 inclusive, at the invitation of the Church of Greece and in cooperation with the Evangelical Church of Greece and other member churches of the WCC, together with the Roman Catholic Church in Greece who will serve on the Local Arrangements Committee. It was noted that the slogan “Come Holy Spirit, heal and reconcile” which is complementary to the thematic focus previously reported, picks up the concerns of last year’s Central Committee to have a pneumatological emphasis. Letters giving full information and inviting the nomination of delegates to the conference have gone to all member churches and affiliated bodies. The on-going work of preparation for the conference will draw on the specific fund balances for the conference.

The Programme Committee noted that the Commission had given careful consideration to the request from the Central Committee 2002 to invite persons of other faith communities to the Conference. The committee welcomed the decision to invite a limited number of people of other faiths, who are already engaged in acts of healing and reconciliation together with Christians.

The Programme Committee was pleased to learn that the Reformed Ecumenical Council had been received as a body in consultative relationship with the Conference as is allowed by the By-laws.

3.10 The Challenge of Ecumenical Formation

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included interfaith learning, the important work of Oikosnet, and the use of regional consultants for ecumenical theological education. The “Journey of Hope Continued” conference, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2002 brought together around 100 African participants to discuss the renewal of theological education and ecumenical formation in the region for the mission of the church. Challenges faced include offering opportunities for educational formation to church leaders and agencies, providing resources to local congregations to help them become ecumenically-minded. The Committee highlighted the specific contributions and needs of women in theological education, particularly as it relates to being church.

3.11 The Ethics of Life and Alternatives to Globalization

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included: the ecumenical formation of youth, the important work carried out by the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network, work on alternatives to globalization, encounters with the IMF and World Bank, and discussions with churches in the regions on the impact of globalization.

The Committee affirms new working methods of de-centralization being used by the JPC team, such as that being carried out through the programme on indigenous people, DOV overcoming violence against women, climate change, ecological debt and EDAN. The Committee acknowledges the key challenge of maintaining necessary linkages with the de-centralized programmes and the need to ensure their ongoing visibility in the work of the Council.

3.12 Diakonia and Solidarity

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included capacity-building and management initiatives carried out in the regions, and the work with children The Committee affirmed the central importance of diakonia in the life of the Council and the importance of accompanying the churches in their diaconal ministries. The Committee encourages further reflection and analyses on the changing context as a basis for further diaconal work.

The Committee affirms the need to continue analyzing possibilities offered by relocation of the regional desks. The Committee recognizes that the process of relocating the Pacific and the Middle East desks has been a difficult one and offers some recommendations in the second report of this committee. The Committee encourages the Council to continue to explore new ways of working with the regions and to develop clearer understandings with the regional ecumenical organizations.

3.13 Telling the Ecumenical Story

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the Ecumenical Research Centre, which also stands as an example of further cooperation between the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and Bossey, in making effective use of the archives and libraries. The Committee affirms the provision of materials to churches in Brazil for use at the congregational level in preparing for the Assembly. The pressure of diminishing financial resources at a time when more communication, not less, is needed remains an on-going challenge.

International Ecumenical Initiatives

3.14 Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)

The Programme Committee affirms the work of the EAPPI, as a concrete manifestation of ecumenical solidarity and advocacy with the churches of the Holy Land and suggests that EAPPI serve as a model for structuring and implementing future programmatic work within the foci of the DOV and other WCC ministries. As noted in the brief report (above, 3.6) on the Decade to Overcome Violence, the EAPPI played an important role in the DOV’s 2002 focus: “End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East” and continues to serve an important role.

3.15 Ecumenical Initiative for HIV/AIDS in Africa

Work highlighted for the difference it had made included the practice of ensuring that people living with HIV/AIDS are present to share their testimonies when programmes and policies are discussed, and the development of curricula concerning HIV/AIDS with theological schools. The challenge is to be seen as being churches working together as awareness builds and capacity is built. Drug availability and costs is another major issue. As curricula are being developed, HIV/AIDS should not be separated from the broader context of human sexuality. The Committee noted that the issue of HIV/AIDS affects people on every continent although the ecumenical initiative focuses on Africa.

4. Commissions and Advisory Bodies

The Programme Committee reviewed the minutes of the February 2003 Executive Committee discussions about proposals to establish two new commissions: the Commission of the Churches on Diakonia and Development and the Commission on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. In view of the new organization of the teams, it has been necessary to review the previous advisory groups of Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing and three advisory groups related to Justice, Peace and Creation, namely JPC, Youth and Women. Advisory mechanisms for the concerned programmes are important. Recognizing that all commissions and advisory groups have been asked to undertake a review and self-evaluation in the period leading up to the Assembly and that any new commissions will exist only until the Assembly, the Programme Committee recommends to the Central Committee:

4.1 That the decision made by the Central Committee in 1999 to establish advisory groups on Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing, Justice, Peace, and Creation, Youth and Women after the 8th Assembly be rescinded in light of the internal structural changes which have taken place.
That two new commissions be established – the Commission of the Churches on Diakonia and Development and the Commission on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.

4.2 That the composition of these two commissions be reviewed by the Staffing and Nominations Sub-Committee of the Executive Committee and membership in the commissions be presented to the Central Committee for approval.

5. Financial considerations

The Programme Committee was pleased to welcome members of staff from the Finance, Budgeting and Planning teams for an initial presentation regarding the outcome of the financial situation in 2002, and indication of the present situation to July 2003, and a first look towards budgeting for 2004.

The Programme Committee was pleased to note the significant increase in the number of churches making contributions for the year 2002, but recognised there was no room for complacency and that we have yet to reach the target set by the Harare Assembly of membership contributions reaching CHF 10 million by the next Assembly. Clarification was also sought as to the longer term picture when it would no longer be possible to draw down on past designated programme fund balances.

6. Ways of Working

In reviewing reports of programme activities and meetings of advisory bodies, the Programme Committee noted that there were several common themes which relate to our ways of working.

6.1 Given the length of time between meetings of Commissions and advisory bodies, there is a need to review the way these are able to work between meetings. In particular, the consultation with officers, the role of core groups, and the use of telephone conference calls between meetings have all been used. The Programme Committee asks that the issue of “ways of working” be part of the evaluation process which commissions and advisory bodies are asked to undertake in the pre-Assembly period.

6.2 In the past, WCC teams have been given additional programmatic work by bodies other than the Programme Committee, such as the Policy Reference Committees. This makes it difficult for the Programme Committee to exercise its mandate of overseeing the programmatic work of the Council. These additional tasks, which do not necessarily bring additional resources, also increase the pressure on the limited financial and human resources of the concerned teams. The Programme Committee notes that in forthcoming sessions, it is expected that the Finance and Policy Reference Committees will bring matters having programmatic implications to the Programme Committee by mid-afternoon on Friday, 29 August 2003.

6.3 It was noted that one of the consequences of the financial difficulties is that more WCC meetings are likely to be held in the North. The application of the policy prohibiting subsidies to member churches who have not paid their dues is affecting attendance at meetings of consultative bodies and there is a concern lest this affect primarily churches in the South. The Programme Committee accepts the importance of the subsidy policy and asks that statistics be provided on the consequences of the application of this policy on regional balances.

7. Evaluation Process

The Programme Committee began to give consideration to the evaluation processes for programmes needed as part of the preparations for the forthcoming WCC Assembly aided by document PRO 9. The Committee raised several concerns and questions about the process which will be discussed in forthcoming sessions.

Programme Committee first report appendix I


Background information on the proposal for geographical foci is given below.

2004 - United States of America
1. The churches in the USA face the particular challenge of being the body of Christ in the world’s most influential empire. In the wake of the war on Iraq, US churches have raised their voices in opposition to the war and they engage in alleviating suffering caused by violence and injustice abroad as well as at home. Yet, churches in the USA face internal dissent on the issues around the war on Iraq and the US role in the world, and at the same time growing domestic challenges in regard to racism, poverty and gun control.

2. The USA is the world’s most powerful nation, both in terms of military might and economic, political and cultural influence. As a hegemonic power the US administration seems to see itself in a position where it can afford to disregard international order, refuse to be accountable to the UN and ignore the concerns of the world’s populations.

3. The image of the USA around the world has suffered immensely in recent months. War and globalization have increased a love-hate relationship: Love for the material comfort and ideals of freedom and democracy; hate of the unjust conditions and unilateralist and arrogant approach to regional or global issues. That power is real and inescapable, yet society in the USA is more diverse and more complex than the behaviour of the US government and media suggest. Poverty, violence, racism in all its diverse forms, inter-faith relations, migration and inequality in education and employment are problems that are easily overshadowed by the headlines and images conveyed. At the same time, there are creative approaches and models generated by movements in the USA which tend to go unnoticed.

A DOV focus within its objectives, solidarity, understanding and celebration, will:

· Strengthen and encourage churches and movements that work for justice and peace in the USA. It will support them in prayer and action, while also helping them understand the realities and complexities outside the USA and as perceived by sisters and brothers around the world.

· Affirm the notion of one world. In a time of global mobility and communication, mutual accountability and multilateralism are not mere options, but essential for a viable future. A focus on the USA can illustrate and give shape to this as lived out by churches in touch with one another, as well as with communities of other faiths.

· Deepen the DOV study process through focused attention on issues such as power, militarism, restorative justice, and community building as ways to overcome violence.

· Challenge churches in the USA and elsewhere to engage with one another and with local partners in creatively addressing issues related to violence in their respective communities.

Partners: National Council of Churches, US DOV Committee, denominational offices and agencies, Church World Service, WCC US Conference Board and others.

2005 - Asia
Rationale: Asia is not homogenous but it is diverse. The people in the region differ given their respective social, economic, political, cultural and religious experiences. In this mixed milieu, Christians are a tiny religious minority. Nevertheless, churches in the region have played a significant role. First in pursuit of national development and then in the struggle for justice and peace. The churches, despite threats and censure by the state, have stood in solidarity with victims of injustice. They have also contributed to the creation of a culture of tolerance and non-violence.

The region is a hot bed of inter-state and intra-state conflicts, some of which have gone on for decades. It is a region of intensive militarization. The potential flash points with possible nuclear implications are the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan States, and South Asia.

The region also abounds with inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts that have resulted in discord, violence and large scale displacement. Globalization too has undermined traditional patterns of life and has fragmented middle and working classes, producing a sharp increase in inequalities and tension.

2006 - Latin America
Rationale: This is the year in which the WCC Assembly meets in the continent and marks the mid-term of the Decade to Overcome Violence. Latin America has suffered unspeakable violence in recent decades. At the same time churches have seen unprecedented movements, both spiritually and socially. They have been involved, together with other actors in society, in processes of reflection and in the search for alternatives to the situation from their Christian perspective. A rich liturgical life and spirituality have accompanied this process working towards life with dignity. The DOV can express solidarity with Latin American churches while learning from their experience.