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Report of the General Secretary

Report by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the WCC Central Committee at its February 2011 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

16 February 2011

WCC Central Committee meeting, 16 - 22 February 2011

Click here to listen to a recording of the report.

I. The Identity and the Purpose of the WCC

a. One Mutually Accountable Fellowship of Churches

Moderators, dear central committee members, honoured guests, sisters and brothers in Christ,

1. The quotation from the gospel of John, chapter 17, woven into the tapestry on the wall of this hall remains a reminder of who and why we are here together; today as a WCC central committee and everyday as staff serving the fellowship of churches in the WCC.  “That they all may be one” is the rationale behind, beside and before us in everything we do as the WCC, not only when we are in this hall. As this was my focal point last time I addressed you, I see the mandate given to me in this perspective. The question I have in mind, therefore, when I report back to you for the first time, is: how do we respond to this call to be one in everything we do as a World Council of Churches? (The first part of my report focuses on who we are as the WCC and why we do what we do; the second part focuses on how we respond to the call in our structures and the work I am involved in; the third part discusses what we particularly are focusing on now.)

2. The theme set for this central committee meeting is a comprehensive one. We are focusing on what it means to be one through the perspective of “just peace”, as we are preparing for the ecumenical peace convocation in Jamaica in May. We are also focusing on how this just peace is something that must grow from the most basic relationships among people, in arenas and on all levels, as we live in communities as women and men. I believe that we have a unique opportunity this year to show how this call to be one has many dimensions in our work for justice and peace, and that it can make a difference that we as WCC have this focus. We are called to be one so that the world may believe – that peace is possible.

3. “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” After the first year of my ministry here, I am even more convinced that this very clear and strong basis and purpose for our work is a great asset. Even though we are not yet in full communion, sharing together the Lord's Supper which is the ultimate sign of our unity in diversity, there are still many other ways through which we express and manifest this unity. The prayer of Christ is our prayer. This year I participated in the week of prayer for Christian unity in a local prayer service in our chapel here in Geneva and at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome, a centre carrying the legacy of this week in a special way, going back before the Edinburgh 1910 meeting.

4. We have agreed to have proper consensus processes behind our major decisions. We have proved that it is possible to work in this way, and we shall prove it again during this meeting. It is my experience that this has given a defined framework for the work for which I provide leadership every day. It helps us to know where we have consensus based on our common faith and our calling. In this way we can focus on how to respond to the life of the churches and the questions of ordinary people in this world, without shying away from the challenges and differences in the ecumenical movement today. As the WCC we offer one another a space for processes of consensus, requiring deeper listening to one another.

5. We offer one another a safe space based on a differentiated consensus.  That means working hard to clarify further how we build consensus in the midst of our diversity, knowing that we will not agree on everything, and therefore do not need to aim for this either. We offer one another a space where we can develop what I would call a strategic consensus. We can help one another to focus adequately on where the churches and the world particularly need for us to provide a joint prophetic witness now. We offer one another a consensus in mutual accountability. We come to the same table to give account to one another, to share our understanding and our concerns and to define our common challenges and common gifts. Our consensus must address the needs and reality of the world as it is. As member churches we show our mutual accountability regarding what we have seen together, yet the WCC does not decide what each church should do.  I believe that this model of consensus is a gift to the ecumenical movement and to the churches – one way of being one in our time.

6. What unites us is that we, through the gifts of God, have all received the same call. The call to be one comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. It also comes from one another as churches, and it comes from the whole of humanity who needs to see the churches giving joint witness about Jesus Christ to bring peace and reconciliation that Christ brought to the world. The call to be one also comes from the creation that needs us to be one. We must live in solidarity with creation, with one another and with the generations coming after us. The call does not disappear just because this becomes more difficult for us or because our resources available are less than before. The call is not revoked by God when we find that we are not united in all matters we address and we have to struggle with one another. The call to be one is not put aside because there are so many other issues that deserve our attention.  This call should be answered in all issues we undertake.

7. The concern for the disciples in the prayer of John 17 is shaped by reflections on their relationship to the “world” and as such on their relationship within the communion of the triune God. They are, in everything, in God’s world. There is no possibility for the church to isolate itself in an ecclesial world. There is no theological reflection that does not take place in God’s vulnerable world and in the midst of the joy and suffering of ordinary people. In this last year I have seen more of that reality than ever before, and I am even prouder of belonging to a fellowship of churches now that I have seen you respond to the needs of many in your own contexts. In the prayers for one another and with one another, this becomes a shared reality for us all. Being accountable to God always implies that we are accountable to the world for the effects of our common – or broken – expression of faith, life and witness. Some points in the critique against the WCC through the decades have alleged that we are too focused on how we address the needs of the world. But I am grateful for this legacy, and I see that it is now widely respected and annotated by many actors in the ecumenical movement. We have helped one another as churches to see more clearly what it means to be church in the world where we – together with all others - live. The WCC has through its work made it difficult, if not impossible, for any church or movement to be taken seriously unless it addresses the basic challenges of humanity and God’s creation: the need for food, for justice, for peace, for dignity, for hope and love. This belongs to the common witness to Jesus Christ that can lead the world to believe in Christ.

8. Having the distinction of the fourth gospel in mind, seeing “the world” as both the created universe of God and as the sinful, fallen humanity, we should reflect on our worldliness with humility and solidarity. We are not outside the world, but rather we represent Christ and are called to be somebody and something together in this world that breaks through the barriers of sin and injustice. We are called not to be of the world and carry on legitimizing the sinful attitude and act against the will of God, our creator. This is why we call for a community of just peace for women and men. We are part of the reality of this sinful world but not of this world in the sense that by our baptism and faith in Jesus Christ we also belong to the new creation and the new humanity, being a sign and foretaste of the new reality in Christ. Therefore, recognizing one another’s baptism (as we are challenged to do in a document presented to us from Faith and Order) is also to recognize the work of new creation and hope undertaken by the triune God.

9. We are a global fellowship of churches and through this fellowship we have become – all of us – aware of the fact that the church is a global reality and has a global identity. This reality and identity have become much clearer to me through the last months, as I have visited, encountered, prayed with and for people from all parts of the world. We are a fellowship calling one another, supporting one another, challenging one another. Neither are we a loose fellowship of individuals with certain convictions, commitments and preferences; we are a fellowship of churches.  We are a fellowship which must continue to be nurtured through providing intentional opportunities for global ecumenical formation as well as focusing on full and meaningful participation of young people at every level.

b. One Organization with Many Challenges

10. What is the unique added value of the WCC? I ask my colleagues this question every time we work on our plans and wherever I discuss WCC’s role and governing structures in different contexts with you and our partners. What do we add by organizing ourselves as a fellowship of churches in the way we do, with our governing bodies, commissions, secretariat, staff, programmes, meetings, communication and publications? By this question I continue the reflection that has been undertaken in processes such as The Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC, The Reconfiguration of the Ecumenical Movement, the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC and Ecumenism in the 21st Century as signalled by the last assembly and the subsequent meetings of the CC. Our call is to be a global, ecumenical, mutually accountable, committed fellowship of churches.  And our call is to be an organisation established and nurtured to bring the member churches to conciliar relationships and to act together. This dynamic between the two is our strength and uniqueness.  We can focus on the reality of the 349 member churches, the 560 million members, the daily life of joy and struggles, and remember the weight of reality in everything we do and discuss. However, we are not a hierarchical structure, with a lot of decisions coming from Geneva about what the churches should do. Together (with ecumenical partners and organizations) we serve, nurture, strengthen and improve these relationships with one another, as well as with other churches – and with peoples of other faiths. We do so by aiming at results through improved relationships; we do so by staying together so that we can act together.

11. From speaking of the WCC as the “privileged instrument of the ecumenical movement” I also have been inclined to focus on how the WCC is called to give strategic leadership in the ecumenical movement through how we do our work, with whom we do it, as well as by considering what we give attention to and focus on. During the last year I have heard this as an expectation of the WCC from member churches, ecumenical partners, cooperating organizations and from others who know the ecumenical movement well. We can and shall fill this role with the understanding of our call and with the proper humility proportionate to the reflections I shared above. The strategic role is not for the cooperation of church leader’s initiatives only. I have been particularly challenged by how we as the WCC can continue and strengthen our role to lift up the voice for those who particularly need the attention of a worldwide fellowship of churches. We are called to address those in power to listen to the cry for justice and for a better common future. For example I have had the privilege to see how together we contribute to build HIV and AIDS-competent churches and theological institutions at the level of the streets of Nairobi, Kenya and in the public positions taken by WCC’s two member churches in Ethiopia, and I have discussed this role with religious leaders from the whole world in global summits in Utrecht and Vienna.

12. It is important to reflect on who we are. But the call to be one is always followed by a reference to the purpose of our existence, a “so that”, leading our attention to somebody else, somebody for whom we are here. The hardworking and loyal staff has been able to do a lot of work and to keep our attention on our basis and our call this year, and to work more intensively with our partners, focusing on what the member churches are struggling with and what we do as churches every day around the world. In a time of limited financial capacities in the ecumenical movement we are forced to ask all the time: how do we do this together with the member churches, with the ecumenical partners and other partners, with their (your) facilities, their (your) human, financial and spiritual resources involved? We try to focus on developing our skills to involve you as churches and partners in our work, and to build competence among ourselves and for the churches. Therefore, the work at the Bossey institute, together with other activities of formation, must continue to have a high profile in our work. The focus is also on how we become more able to organize and follow up our programme work so that it can be done in close cooperation with the churches and the funding partners, not only in terms of transfer of financial resources. Perhaps the WCC can be even stronger when what we do is actually seen as what the churches are doing, as something that has a solid institutional and local rootedness yet also conveys some very important and crucial dimensions that the single churches cannot provide alone, through a strengthening of our identity as a global, ecumenical fellowship of churches.

13. During the period since the last CC meeting, we have given much effort to making our work more financially sustainable and to planning and budgeting responsibly for the coming years. We have worked very carefully together with staff and the executive committee to deal with the consequences of adverse financial developments which have affected us all over the last years. For us in Switzerland, one of the most significant challenges has been the relative strength of the Swiss franc. Half of the WCC’s programme contributions and substantial membership contributions are received in Euro payments. Compared with 2009, the 2010 value of Euro contributions in Swiss francs has been lower by about 10%.  This is one of the factors which has forced us to make difficult decisions, reducing our budgets for activities, and forcing us to plan ahead for lower staffing levels in 2011. This has been particularly difficult for those who had to receive notices of termination of contract, even in those cases where early retirement was concerned.

14. On the other hand let me also point to some very important stories of hope. In this period we have been able to revise and control the 2010 budget, completing the year with an increase to unrestricted funds which exceeds the required target. The 2011 budget has presented many challenges and the proposed solution and approach will be presented in the finance committee for your consideration and approval later this week. We see now that several of our funding partners have had to adjust their contribution to the WCC as they face severe reductions in their (or your) income. Still, I see strong commitments to continue supporting the work of the WCC.  But we have to address this reality, together. In this period WCC member churches have responded to the membership campaign, bringing about an approximately 35% increase in the number of churches paying membership contributions. We have also seen how churches and partners respond to the challenge of being committed partners of this fellowship in terms of in-kind contributions through hosting meetings, offering workforce and paying tickets for travels.  Some of you have found or helped us to find other donors who can contribute.   I want to express my deep appreciation to you, representing our member churches, and to you who represent other funding partners to the WCC.  We are very encouraged by your support and commitment.

II. Our Response to the Call to be One – and Our Agenda the last year leading us to this Meeting

15. The role of the WCC has been discussed and implemented in different ways through my months of service here. In our plenary sessions and our committees we will discuss how we can be one, work as one, be structured as one, appear as one and strengthen one another as one. At the same time we know that our work together in the WCC is enriched because we are different and bring varied experiences, traditions, opinions and gifts to the common table. In the programme highlights since the last central committee, you find some of the results of what we have undertaken through this period. The colleagues have led the work presented there, together with many of you, representatives from member churches, ecumenical partners, and specialized ministries and so on. Let me mention some of the issues and fields in which I have been involved and which we now embark on together these days in our quest for reaffirming the mandate of the WCC as a call to be one.

16. The continued work on the structure, tasks and scope of our governing bodies will now be presented to all of us in the report of the Governance Review Continuation Group. I trust that together we will find a way to organize and equip ourselves better for the tasks and the realities we will face in the coming years. This report have been carefully worked on based on many questions raised and discussed in the WCC for many years.  It has taken into consideration signals from you, from the executive committee in two meetings, as well as from the many responses from the churches and partners to questions on governance and WCC’s role. Participating in ecumenical gatherings of different kinds the last year, I was offered many opportunities to have sessions particularly discussing these issues and the direction in which we are heading. I have heard a lot of understanding as to why we need to do this, and I hear a lot of partners listening carefully and asking whether they should go in the same direction. I am convinced that the WCC can still be seen as offering the most important ecumenical arena, that we can have a more clear and efficient way of managing our work and that we can have structures that strengthen our accountability and trust at all levels and in the whole structure.

17. As we seek a fuller expression of the fellowship, responding to an ever changing and dynamic ecumenical landscape, it is important that our structures meet the challenge of this reality.  Taking seriously our concerns for good stewardship, for finding a balance between ‘living the fellowship’ and running the organization, between governance and management – these are the types of discussions I have had with churches and ecumenical partners around the world.  Therefore, the proposals offered in the governance report are critical to the ongoing sustainability of the council and indeed, our work within the wider ecumenical movement.   I trust that together in this meeting, we can discern a way forward that gives clarity to the way in which we manage our work and that strengthens our mutual accountability.

18. In the planning of the upcoming 10th WCC assembly in Busan, Korea (October 2013) the new assembly has wider participation and a more elaborated role in the ecumenical movement. We now come to the phase of focusing our preparations through a decision on the theme of the assembly. I am convinced that we will find a way to have this discussion and come to a shared understanding of what the assembly should focus on. I think both proposals presented by the Assembly Planning Committee (APC) can provide us with direction for our work, but as you can see from this report, the WCC in one way or another must know and focus on how, in everything we do, we respond to the call to be one in our role to bring reconciliation and peace into all contexts. In the work of the broadly representative APC as in all our programme work, we continue to develop our role of being one in many dimensions. I trust that through this assembly we can bring something new to the ecumenical movement. How can the unique added value of the WCC be seen through the way we carry out this process? I will be visiting Korea after the CC meeting and I look forward to reflecting together with the churches there on how the assembly can contribute to reconciliation and unity in the Korean peninsula.

19. In discussing our role in meetings with our many ecumenical partners I have heard their expectations of and questions to the WCC. This took place in the regional and national councils, the Christian World Communions related to the WCC, the specialized ministries – particularly as many of them are now organized in ACT Alliance, the Roman Catholic Church, The World Evangelical Alliance and The Lausanne Movement, partners in mission and evangelism, youth organizations such as WSCF, YMCA and YWCA, the neighbour institutions here in Geneva and others. In many of these conversations we have shared the vision of being one and discussed our different contributions. I have heard a lot of confirmation of the WCC as having a unique role to call together, to convene encounters in shared ecumenical spaces, to bring the perspectives and the interests of ecumenical partners together.

20. Some partners see the WCC as the distinct and “significant Other” with whom they do not identify, yet. But I understand that the WCC can have a role far beyond our fellowship of member churches by being the including Other and not the excluding Other. I do not believe in the concept of “enemy” as a helpful model to understand how Christian churches and groups deal with one another. I know well about differences and divisions, but I do not think that the concept of the enemy helps us to identify our road forward in responding to the call of God here. This is more than diplomacy work.  It is also a matter of being highly qualified in the skills to bring together, to listen well, and to find the common ground and the common tasks we can and should address together.

21. In my many encounters with member churches and their representatives in different ecumenical settings, I have had an enormous privilege as new general secretary to receive the confirmation of why you are members and how we share the WCC basis, why you expect a lot from me and my colleagues. I appreciate very much, for example, the open discussions with the regional ecumenical organizations (REOs) like the one we had in Nairobi in the general committee meeting of AACC, in the assemblies of the CCA in Kuala Lumpur and in New Orleans for the NCCUSA. I have also had several opportunities to have this kind of discussions with leaders and representatives from the REOs in Latin-America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. I have been particularly encouraged by how you have invite me to discuss with you what is your call in your context, addressing, of course, how do we help one another as churches by being honest in our trustful reflections with one another. I hope that we can continue this coming 18 months, and develop the most fruitful mutual relationships between the global organization of the WCC and the regional ecumenical bodies.  I particularly appreciate the relationships with my colleagues, the general secretaries of the REOs.  Last year I had the honour of congratulating one of the first women in this position and current the only one, Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang of CCA.

22. In visits to member churches and contexts where the need for ecumenical solidarity, accompaniment and mutual sharing and encouragement is absolutely vital, I have received feedback about the importance of the presence of the WCC that I would love to make you experience as well. In visits to Orthodox church leaders I have heard that I am in their prayers and that “we want you to take new initiatives.”  African church leaders affirmed that though we come from different countries and are racially diverse, we still belong to their fellowship.  The response of the Copts here in Geneva after visiting and praying with them in their church and here in the chapel following the tragic event in Alexandria at the new year was significant. The list is long, and I have attached information about major visits and events in which I have participated, etc. In the different delegations, living letter visits and other occasions it has been striking to me how much it means to know that you are part of a fellowship that cares when you experience tribulations and challenges as churches.  We have to make sure that the WCC has the necessary resources to continue to fill this role in the future.

23. In meetings with political leaders, ambassadors, heads and representatives of other global organizations, participants at the World Economic Forum, UN and its organizations, and many others, I have been challenged to make the profile of the WCC clear and understood as one, representative position of what the churches are doing. When we now re-staff and develop the UN Liaison Office in New York together with ACT Alliance, we continue to give this office a role of strategic joint representation of our whole constituency and the many challenges and experiences you represent.

24. In encounters with representatives of peoples of other faiths, and interfaith organizations, the role of the WCC has been discussed in terms of how we bring a common contribution and witness from our member churches to them. These discussions have also been focused on how we as a fellowship of churches are in solidarity with one another, particularly in terms of accompanying one another when we are in minority situations. We must now reflect together on what kind of partner do the other groups and institutions of faith find in the WCC, and how can the WCC play a role of bringing the churches to a united witness of Christ and a new commitment to follow his commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves.

25. In interviews, press releases, public statements etc., I have had many chances to bring our common voice to the public attention. I think we can do much more to make sure that our contribution is heard, even discussed. As we had to implement some serious cuts in our own budgets for communications and in our support to joint enterprises for the ecumenical movement, like ENI, the challenge is even more clear: How do we communicate more in many forms and channels what we are doing and what our positions are? How do we make our message clear and relevant? However, let me confirm that the WCC still retains its commitment to an independent ecumenical news agency, and in the case of ENI we remain that agency’s largest contributor.

26. It is not only I who have a responsibility to make the WCC known; when you speak, you also speak as part of this fellowship. Nevertheless, I am well aware of my own responsibility to make our common voice heard, how I must build on what the WCC has said and defined as our common positions, but I must also do this with the confidence that together we can listen to how the Spirit helps us to respond to the changing world and realities we are facing.

27. We are continuing these important processes in this meeting of the Central Committee. Let me therefore, elaborate a few of the observations and statements I already made during this year. Some of them you will find are a continuation of the reflections presented in the attached compiled documentation of some of the speeches and sermons I presented during this first fourteen months of my service. A list of my major visits and encounters has also been attached as an appendix to this report, so that you may have an overview of where I have been representing you and this fellowship.

III.           To be One – in some of our Focal Points

a.     To be One in the Quest for Peace – IEPC

28. Since the first day after my election, I have discussed with many of you how we can make the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica, in May this year a reality as we move from vision to an event. Now we together shall help to find the way from the discussions and events in Jamaica to clear new steps towards a common commitment for a “just peace”.

29. This event will manifest and strengthen our common efforts towards the ambitious goal of overcoming violence. Launching the Decade to Overcome Violence was a brave and courageous step taken in Berlin 2001. We know that it has provided much input to discussions and actions addressing the inhuman, de-dignifying and sinful acts of violence. We also know that there is so much more to be done, so much more to be overcome, in all our contexts, as well as in our churches. It is quite demanding to establish a joint understanding, a profile and a logistic for a meeting of this size and character.

30. Making decisions to convene something like this– as we did some years ago in the Central Committee – shows the potential roles of the WCC to manifest our call to be one. However, it also manifests the hard tasks of the WCC stake holders, you as CC members and staff to make the idea be more than just an idea.

We have been focusing on how the churches together with many of our partners of good will have a call to be one in our many initiatives and efforts for the goal of a just peace. We as the WCC have an historic opportunity to bring the call to be one and the call to be peacemakers into a new joint agenda. The churches are always called to do something to bring more just peace, whatever happens and whatever level we are addressing.

31. In Cairo last month I experienced one of the great reminders of how we can be united in these efforts. In a Christmas homily, H.H. Pope Shenouda spoke of peace as he responded to the massacre in Alexandria several days before. His words had effect in Egypt and far beyond. He called for justice at the same time he called the worshippers of Christ to be those who follow the Christmas message of love and peace for everyone, and not to follow the logic of revenge and hatred. This will stand as an outstanding example of the prophetic message of the church for just peace, inviting all peoples of faith to overcome violence. I was also told about the positive effect it had on Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. The churches should be part of discussions on how to protect everyone from violence and how to overcome injustice, how to build a just peace for the future. In these particular times we see how important it is to accompany one another in prayers and support, so that each church can find its own way to contribute to justice and peace in its own context. In the Middle East these challenges are particularly pressing at this time. The last weeks we have seen the people of Egypt moving together towards justice and democracy. It is a miracle and an encouraging sign for all of us that justice and freedom can be established through peaceful and non-violent actions. Just peace is the best way forward! There is an important role for us a fellowship of churches to continue the reflections on and our contributions to democratic processes and to building sustainable justice and peace. The role of the churches and the ecumenical actors in the present developments in Sudan is another significant example. Here we also clearly see the need for joint inter-faith initiatives.

32. This meeting in Jamaica is also a unique opportunity for contributions from church leaders (and in the last months many of them have announced their interest and their presence) and from peace workers in many organizations to find a joint call and a common arena. The many initiatives and partners will be visible, our common objective leading us. The traditional CCIA approach to peace issues, influencing political processes will be combined with the social movements of commitment and the peoples of prayer. I must also mention the youth perspective, as many events at the IEPC will look at the role of young people in different issues of violence. The Stewards Programme, a pre-IEPC youth event, a special evening and the sunrise vigil on the World Sunday for Peace all focus on the contributions of young people in addressing these issues.

33. Besides calling us to greater unity for peace, IEPC with its four just peace themes is a vibrant reminder to the world and the churches that we are called to seek peace together. The four themes invite us to work for peace with justice in the international arena, in the economy, with the earth and in our local communities. These themes of just peace reflect and enhance a deeper understanding of what constitutes and creates violence and injustice in our lives and in our relationships with others, among nations and with the whole of creation. Just peace is a peace to which many may contribute and in which many can engage.

34. In the closest relations in our families, neighbourhoods and local churches, as well as in the realities of national and international tensions, conflicts and injustices, we are present as churches. But we are also there as individual believers, as women and men, as citizens with our duties and our rights, as mothers and fathers. The many dimensions of our need for Saalam, Shalom, Frieden, Fred, Pace, Peace come into our focus when we address the need for just peace in this way.

b. To Be One as a Community of Women and Men

35. The focus on just peace has relevance also in our reflections about how we live together as a community in our local villages, in our cities, and in our churches - as women and men. We should discuss how the issues of gender and the reflection on relations between women and men in the churches can get the attention they deserve in our fellowship. Therefore, we have brought this perspective into the theme and the Bible studies and prayers for this central committee meeting. I am glad we can address these issues in the context of the quest for unity in our way of addressing violence and working for justice and peace. They belong to these very basic questions of human relationships and if we do not have a focus on the gender dimension of these issues, we will not take them seriously. This is true in the local contexts, the churches, the national and international contexts in which we work, including the ecumenical movement. One concern of mine has been how we as the WCC can give a proper contribution to the open and just community of men and women, through our work and practice.

36. I am not convinced that we make enough time and or have the capacity to address these issues at this central committee meeting as we could or should. However, I think it is important that we discuss our understanding of mutual accountability as a fellowship of churches, our identity as WCC, our call to be one, the changing ecumenical landscape, the role and content of diakonia, relations to peoples of other faiths, our theological contributions to unity, our contributions to build a society of just peace – also from this important perspective. It has everything to do with all of these issues. One important example from the last year was the global participation in the women’s discussion in Bethlehem on the meaning and the impact of the Kairos document.

37. Following my convictions of the benefit for all of a well gender-balanced staff community and leadership of the staff, I have tried to maintain a focus on this – inspired also by the intervention from the female presidents at the last central committee meeting September 2009. We need to work in short term and long term perspectives here, as always, but we need to remain focused on this dimension of our recruitments.

38. Planning my travels, I have tried always to have both men and women represented in my team. I have also emphasized that I need to meet with both genders as I visit churches and partners, that means that I need sometimes separate meetings to meet more than the male leadership of some churches. I have also expressed my vision to meet with youth, which is always a great inspiration and make me believe that we really are in a movement. This has become other opportunities to discuss the challenges of the churches as of tomorrow with both men and women, as I did during the CCA Assembly in Kuala Lumpur.

c. Jerusalem – the Source and Paradigm for our Call to be One

39. The call to be one is the heart of the legacy of the struggling Christ, expressed in prayer in Jerusalem.  We should recognize Jerusalem as a holy city for Christians in the world in at least three perspectives. First, it is time to lift up Jerusalem as a city of prayer, a shared city of neighbours and peoples of faith who pray – and there should be free access to their holy sites.  This should be the case for people from all the three Abrahamic religions, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Jerusalem has a central place in the life of Jesus Christ and in our holy texts. Therefore, wherever we read or listen to the word of God, there will be a connection to this city of God’s great revelation and action with all of humanity. We did this in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year, a city where we are receiving the fruits of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

40. Secondly, Jerusalem is a holy city for the people of the local churches as this is their place of prayer and worship. The local Christian presence and witness in Jerusalem and in the whole region has been continuous despite many tragic episodes in history. Christians have build churches, monasteries, institutions, etc. in Jerusalem and in the land around Jerusalem and they have their most holy places for worship in Jerusalem. It is a task of high importance to steward these significant buildings for the church today and tomorrow, and the churches and their leaders taking care of this undertake this task with a lot of   challenges. The local Christians are constantly joined by pilgrims from different parts of the world, particularly for Christian holy days. Pilgrims should also be witnesses to the reality of the Christian churches and communities.  The numbers of local Christians in Jerusalem, in the Holy Land and in the surrounding places and countries are diminishing in a way that should cause the attention of all Christians around the world.

41. Thirdly, Jerusalem should be a holy city in the sense of a city of justice and peace. Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims. The three religions should share this city and have equal free access to the holy sites within it.  The faithful in all three religions need to find ways of living together in justice and peace so that the cradles of our religions can be sign of hope for the whole of humanity. This should be a constant and effective contribution and dimension of our understanding of Jerusalem as a holy city, all over the world. I believe that the churches emphasizing Jerusalem as a shared, holy city can be a contribution to both Jews and Muslims understanding of this city as a holy city for the other as well as for themselves.

42. Fascination with the significance of Jerusalem, sometimes linked with strong eschatological ideas, has brought Christians to Jerusalem through generations. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of Jerusalem  and its significance among Christians has, on occasion, lead to destructive ways of thinking and condemnable acts in the period of the crusaders, and even beyond. Some Christians have in our time supported ideas implying acceptance of occupation, rendering Jerusalem a city of injustice, where its call is to be the city of peace and justice par excellence.

43. Different partners, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, have addressed me this last year to discuss the Kairos document written by Palestinian theologians. Churches have been discussing it and many of them have reached another stage in the debate about how to relate to Jerusalem through the process. I am convinced that this document has become a true reminder of a reality that sometimes is forgotten or hidden.  Palestinians continue to live under occupation, as they have done for more than 60 years.  There is a Palestinian Christian community that prays and works for the future of the Palestinian people living together with the people of Israel in peace and reconciliation. I therefore invite the WCC member churches to listen to Palestinian Christians in this document and to respond to it in accordance with what implies on all of us the imperative of our costly solidarity and prayers for a just peace.

44. The WCC has always recognized the internationally legal status of the state of Israel, as defined by the UN Security Council. The WCC has never been and will never be an anti-Jewish organization. And I believe that we have much more we can do together with representative Jewish partners to promote peace for all in this area. But among those in our constituency belong those who are affected by the occupation. Our sisters and brothers there also belong to many other churches around the world. And among our friends are the Jews and Muslims living in this area who need a sustainable peace without occupation, without violence of any kind – wherever it comes from, without fear of destruction and an ongoing culture of mistrust and hopelessness. Any theological reflection or statement legitimizing attacks or discrimination of any particular group or people must be abandoned. However, we do also convey the theological critique of any theology that defends the occupation and the annex of land and property that has happened in this area.

45. The churches in Jerusalem are part of the fellowship of churches and of Christianity in the Middle East.  Along with the churches in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, they belong to the holy land in a broader sense. This region faces a lot of challenges in addition to the Israeli/Palestinian tension, challenges that have become even clearer in the political crises that have accelerated in the last weeks. The region has many challenges – economically, politically, geopolitically, in terms of relationships between groups of faiths within the same religion and between religions, tensions between different ethnic groups, etc. The churches in the region belong there, they have their roots there, they have their history there and they have their mission there. In our time many of them find themselves in much challenged positions, and we see that for many of them significant numbers of members are moving away from the region. The Coptic Orthodox Church and other churches in Egypt are now living in a very challenging time for their nation and people. Church leaders from Iraq will provide us with important first hand information about the reality in which they live during this meeting.

46. The WCC is a fellowship of churches, including many churches in the Middle East; therefore, we are there – we are not only talking about them. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is an expression and a precious ecumenical tool in the region.  We are a global fellowship called to be one in solidarity, in accompaniment, in supporting one another in our mission. The understanding of the mission of the church in this region was developed over many years and it is particularly important to let the churches continue to do so.  That churches in other regions of the world support and accompany them is a sign of being one. We must as the fellowship of churches counteract whatever can be seen as a prolongation of any colonial approach to this region.  At the moment it is a priority to work with the churches in the Middle East, and to pray for just peace in the future of all peoples of the Middle East.

d.     To be One in Changing Tides or Changing Ecumenical Landscape?

47. During the last year we celebrated 100 years since the meeting of Edinburgh 1910. This historical meeting specifically focused on how the call to be one and the call to share the gospel belong together, how the lack of unity was an obstacle to witnessing to Jesus Christ. In September of last year, the WCC executive committee made a visit to the hall where the 1910 delegates had gathered. It struck me how large the hall was, how complicated the logistics must have been, how long the participants must have had to travel, and how many impulses they gave to ecumenism and mission! During this CC we will evaluate the 2010 centenary celebrations and the contribution of the WCC in this meeting. There are important questions to be dealt with: did the meeting give a broad enough expression of Christianity today; did the 2010 meeting succeed in bringing the perspectives from the churches and our understanding of the call to be one clearly enough? I trust we have been blessed by this event and that we can learn from it as well, as we ask whether our role of promoting visible unity in mission is best filled for the benefit of all if the WCC plays a supportive and not a leading role.

48. Several movements have flowed, been inspired by, or come to be after Edinburgh 1910. The ecumenical movement is one of them. The Edinburgh conference gave me important indications that it is appropriate to speak of the one ecumenical movement. Particularly I was encouraged to see this at the conference and in different encounters I have had with leading figures in the so-called evangelical movement, e.g. as I was invited to The Lausanne Mission conference in Cape Town, South Africa. I see a convergence that is definitely different from 35 years ago, the distance between Lausanne and Geneva is not felt to be that far anymore. We have convergence in agendas; most of what has been on our agenda for decades is also being actively addressed by evangelical institutions (e.g. advocacy work, human rights, peace building, environmental issues and relations to people of other faiths). Several of our member churches have many connections or even very much identify themselves with both movements. We all know that we have the challenge to live and share the gospel and there is a growing understanding that we are doing so every Sunday, every day.

49. I think there are open doors and changes in this landscape we should be aware of, and the WCC should be ready to fill its calling to promote unity in a wider sense than before. Our consensus procedures help us to invite broad reflection and participation in prayer and mission, without giving up the call we have to be one in our work for justice, peace, human dignity and human rights.

50. Another important signal in this respect is an invitation I received to speak at the Pentecostal World Conference. At the beginning of the last century the Pentecostal movement started bringing people of different classes and colours together in prayer, Spirit-lead worship and ministry to the Lord Jesus Christ. I was deeply moved when some said to me that in our Joint Consultative Group of WCC and Pentecostals there is now a difference in how many Pentecostal leaders see their place in relation to the ecumenical movement and the WCC. They spoke of changing tides. This joint work is now bearing new fruits, led by Rev. Jennifer S. Leath from the WCC side.

51. In my several encounters with the Roman Catholic Church, I have been richly blessed and encouraged by the commitment to respond to the call to respond to Christ’s prayer. This has been the message I have received in my official visit to HH Pope Benedict XVI, and to the two official visits to the outgoing and the new presidents of the PCPCU. I have also been very inspired by the conversations with people representing Roman Catholic movements actively supporting and driven by the vision to be one, like Sant’ Egidio and Focolare. In meetings with Catholic leaders from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Israel/Palestine, Malaysia, USA, Nigeria and several other countries, I have received strong messages about how important the joint efforts with our member churches are at the local and national levels.

52. We have planned for a double plenary during this meeting, giving us an opportunity to share and reflect together on the landscape in which we move. Landscapes change as we move, at least our perception of them changes. But we also may think that we can change the form of the landscapes, at least by what we plant there. We are watching important changes that we need to discuss and changes we ourselves intend to initiate or support. I think that the future role of the Central Committee meetings as an expression of living the fellowship implies that it would be useful to have this as a standing item.

e.      To be One in our Actions and Advocacy of Churches Together – WCC and ACT Alliance

53. The talk about changing landscapes is, of course, a dramatic, drastic and dangerous image. Natural catastrophes like volcanic activity, earthquakes, raising of the water level due to the effects of climate changes, landslides, floods, drastically changed weather conditions and melting of glaciers is exactly what so many of you have been facing the last year and months. Many of you have been involved in handling these crises in your own lands, your own neighbourhoods, many of you responding through supporting humanitarian aid. The new ecumenical body ACT Alliance – Action of Churches Together – began its operations at the same time as I came into this office, January 2010. Immediately the colleagues and partners in ACT Alliance had to, and showed that they could, coordinate the activity and responses of their own partners, already present at Haiti as it was hit by an earthquake on 11 January. As I saw myself in June together with an ecumenical delegation, the catastrophe and the losses are unimaginable, and the resilience of the people of Haiti is unbelievable. I also saw that the political ability to handle it was very weak, the international community willing, but not quite able to handle those challenges. I think we saw how ACT Alliance is our main tool to respond and to work for development that can lead to sustainable changes for Haiti. However, we also saw that the churches themselves were hit severely, that they need to unite, to be strengthened in their relationships to one another and to other institutions within society. ACT Alliance has already proved to be an important instrument in coordinating emergency responses and proper development aid in many places around the world. The birth and life of the ACT Alliance is closely linked to the WCC, and so should it be, into the future, for the credibility and benefit for both organizations.

54. The strong desire for changes we see now in many countries in the Middle East is a sign of how important it is to have political and democratic rights respected, and to have a focus on the wellbeing of the people in terms of the right to food, work and freedom to worship safely and without fear. Initiatives providing humanitarian aid and fostering economic and social development must be accompanied with work for better governance, improved relationships between peoples of different cultures and religions, advocacy for human rights, work for peace and reconciliation, struggles against violence, etc. Therefore, there are important links between the operational types of work of the ACT Alliance and the role of the WCC, especially now that WCC is not operational in the same way as it was in former times. This must be realized through coordination of our advocacy work, as we have already been planning together in our UN Liaison Office in New York.

55. The churches were doing diaconal work for centuries before WCC or ACT Alliance existed. In countries around the world many of the health institutions are run by churches or church-related organizations. The WCC as a fellowship of churches can help the ACT Alliance to find its role together with churches wherever ACT Alliance members are working. We should provide the ACT Alliance with reflection and definitions of the values for this kind of work and capacity building for church leaders to be in partnership with ACT Alliance members. The WCC can offer a way to see the sense of accountability to the local churches to bring greater quality in the local and national rootedness of the work, so that the churches cooperate with ACT Alliance beyond the operational dimension of the work. Therefore, we need to develop further the understanding of diakonia of the churches, prophetic diakonia for change and for a better world to live in as well as the role of diakonia as a way to show that we are one.

f.       Need for new Theological Initiatives in our Quest to Be One

56. As I visited Santiago de Compostela last December, I had a chance to reflect on how we need different expressions of the ecumenical movement. Even in December, the cathedral was full of pilgrims, among them dear friends I met in the headquarters of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem, visiting their sisters and brothers in another holy site for pilgrims. In my conversation with the Archbishop of Santiago, accompanied with the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Spain (one of our CC members), we reflected on how the pilgrimage of our time has also become an ecumenical movement, how those in Santiago de Compostela serve all people seeking peace with God on their way.

57. I was in Santiago to address a conference launching a statement on the need for defining the human rights to peace. The co-partners with the WCC in this conference were well aware of how the ecumenical movement can be and has been able to lift up these dimensions of basic human needs, in principle and concretely. As the WCC will do it again in the IEPC in Jamaica this year. However, I was also reminded of my first visit to Santiago de Compostela, in 1993, accredited as journalist in the Faith and Order World Conference. One story carried a title quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying, “Let the theologians clean up the mess!” He showed how the fight against apartheid required serious, joint theological reflection on our faith, ecclesiology in our context, as well as how the urgency of the fight against apartheid made it difficult to spend a lot of time trying to overcome the divisions related to issues of faith, ministry and sacraments still dividing churches, with divisions even between churches united in their fight for justice. We have needed and we definitely need more theological work – serious, committed, qualified theological work – in the ecumenical movement and in our work as the WCC.

58. Partners like the Roman Catholic Church and some Pentecostals participate fully in this work, and I am particularly interested in how we can continue work like those studies we are now finalizing on the mutual recognition of baptism and the ecclesiological study on the nature and the mission of the church. I am sure that the theological reflections we will undertake (e.g. in a Faith and Order consultation in Moscow this year) on our common roots in the texts of the Early Church will follow up on important reflections from earlier periods of great impact for the ecumenical movement, as happened before and during the Second Vatican Council. Theological reflection on ecclesiology and unity based on our mutually accountable relationships among the member churches and the growing relationships with other churches is urgently needed. It must reflect on our response to the call to be one in many different dimensions, as I have indicated.

g. To Be One in our Joint Christian response in a world of interfaith relations – and some growing tensions

59. The WCC has more than forty years of experience in interfaith relations. This means that not only do we have institutional experience but also that the WCC has had a significant role in bringing the reflection and the practice of interfaith relations to where they are today. This pioneering work has been one of the very challenging sectors of our programme, and the discussions in our governing bodies during the years prove that.

60. Today hardly anybody challenges the need for the WCC and member churches to address these issues. There are at least three major reasons for this. Firstly the reality of interfaith relations has become what all churches share – more or less. For many churches it has always been an important dimension of their identity. This is not an optional luxury for any of us. Secondly, the reflections have matured in many ways – theologically, practically, and politically. We do not have to give up our Christian identity, but we have to reflect on what it means together with peoples of other faiths or peoples of no faiths. We also see how important these issues are on a daily basis for coexistence. The basic Christian ethical questions are: How can I love my neighbour, how can we be the good neighbours the other needs? Thirdly, the WCC has a role to fill in this interfaith landscape internationally. We are called upon and our contribution is expected.

We now have time to reflect on what the character of the WCC’s work should be in the next years. There are many experts and professors dealing with these issues who are in or related to our churches. There are also a lot of committed, highly qualified people who have these particular issues as their task in the churches and in our related partner organizations. As WCC we should be a global partner for others. We represent values, experience from all kind of cultures and contexts and a particular sensitivity as to how the churches themselves experience and address people of other faiths in their context. We also have the special responsibility of bringing these issues into a fruitful ecumenical discussion. We are addressing the issues of human rights in the context of religious dialogue. WCC should be particularly qualified to see the wholeness of these questions and have a multifaceted approach.

61. At the end I would like to offer some personal remarks. I have checked this report against what I said and thought as you asked me to take this responsibility as general secretary of the World Council of Churches. I find that to a large extent what I identified as our major themes and challenges has proven to be accurate. I am deeply grateful for the good cooperation with colleagues, with my fellow officers, with you as a governing body, and with the churches and their representatives. I am sometimes overwhelmed by your supportive attitude. Now I am even more convinced that the work is important, that it is demanding, and that it bears fruits of blessing for the churches and for the world. I do believe that God opens doors for us, that we are called to follow Christ in new relationships. I have had the most busy and most blessed year of my life. I am particularly inspired by the encounters and cooperation with youth –they are the future and building blocks of the ecumenical movement. Their participation is always a great inspiration and I highly value their contributions to our present and future.

62. May God continue to give us all strength and joy in this work and in this fellowship!