World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC Central Committee / Kolympari, 2012 / General secretary's report

General secretary's report

God of life, lead us to justice and peace - The WCC general secretary placed his report to the Central Committee under the theme of the WCC 10th Assembly.

29 August 2012

WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

God of life, lead us to justice and peace

Moderator, vice-moderators, presidents, members of the Central Committee, others who are serving the World Council of Churches through your many tasks and ministries, colleagues and ecumenical partners

Your eminences, your excellencies, honourable hosts and friends, dear observers and guests,

Dear sisters and brothers,

A Central Committee meeting in Crete

1.      This is the last meeting of the Central Committee in this period after the 9th and before the 10th Assembly, and the first Central Committee in this period after the 9th Assembly outside Geneva.  We have received and accepted the cordial invitation from the Ecumenical Patriarch, H.A.H. Bartholomew I to hold this meeting here in the Orthodox Academy in Crete.  Let me express our gratitude for the invitation and the hospitality offered to us here, and for the good cooperation with the Director of the Academy, Dr Konstantinos S. Kenanidis and the staff of the Academy.  Let me also offer a special word of thanks to the vice-moderator, HE Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, who has facilitated this invitation and made the connections to local hosts together with our deputy general secretary, Mr Yorgo Lemoupolos.  And let me on behalf of the whole Central Committee express a sincere word of thanks to all our staff for the immense work of preparation for this meeting over a long period—those who are here and those who are back in Geneva.  There are weeks and months of planning the meeting itself; there is even more work to prepare the documents we are receiving.  We are sorry that Catherine Christ-Taha, the leader of the conference office, had to stay back due to health problems in her family.  We ask for prayers for Catherine and her family.

2.      Last week before this meeting, I attended memorial services for two outstanding ecumenists that normally would have been here with us these days. On Monday, 20 August, we held a memorial service in the Ecumenical Centre among colleagues and friends for Maria Chavez Quispe, who passed away 24 July at the age of 37. She was the consultant for the Indigenous Peoples' Programme, a Methodist theologian from Bolivia, a gift to her church and her people, and to the whole ecumenical movement. Her cancer, in the end, could not be stopped; but she gave the energy of her life during these last years to her work and her young daughter Zoe and her husband Hansueli.  We continue to be with them in our prayers, giving thanks to God for her strong contributions.

3.      On Thursday, 23 August, I represented the WCC in the funeral of our president, HH Abune Paulos, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Addis Ababa, who died suddenly at the age of 76. He had a dramatic life during the many phases of the life of his country and his church, and he was well connected to the ecumenical movement and the WCC many years ago. For 20 years he served as Patriarch of his church, which is the oldest and largest church in Africa, blessed by receiving the Gospel and the baptism in the name of the triune God in the very first years of the church (Acts 8). He connected the church to the wider ecumenical movement, and he brought impulses and learning from the WCC to his church.  He was a leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and he took significant interfaith initiatives. We enjoyed his friendship and support, and together with his church we thank God for his ministry. As Ethiopia also lost its prime minister in the same week, we are in solidarity and prayer for this country and for the election of new leadership.

4.      May God bless the seeds they have left among us, so that they bear rich fruit.

5.      We live in the shadows of death, but we also live in the life of God. The ecumenical life has many and rich blessings. We know that this academy is a place for many important ecumenical encounters. The academy is itself a sign of ecumenical reconciliation, built in solidarity with great support and inspiration from the movement of academies in Germany.  It has strong features of Mediterranean hospitality and warmth, in the many meanings of that word. This place, and the whole island, has significant expressions of our common Christian heritage. Important events recorded in the book of Acts happened on Crete and in the sea surrounding the island. Important traditions of the Christian faith are living here, not least through the monasteries and their spiritual life, practical diakonia and care for the ecology developed here.

6.      This academy also represents an openness to all dimensions of life, invites us to celebrate, reflect and enjoy life in the creation of God. It is also an arena for several discussions of threats to the life given by God, the environmental crisis and other challenges to the life in justice and peace that we are praying for. With all its facilities and neighbouring facilities, it therefore serves as an excellent arena for our meeting under the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace!”  In the natural splendours of Crete, we are able to enjoy both the sun and the shadow, sea and land, heavens and earth.

7.      We know, however, that the sunshine has been too strong and the land dry from droughts resulting in fires in several places in the northern hemisphere this summer and also in this country, Greece. This is something that many people, for example in Africa, experience as a daily reality most of the year. However, another reality of shadows, in addition to potential unwanted effects of climate change, also comes to us as we are gathered in Greece.  The effects of the financial crises of the last years, which have such a negative impact on the poorest countries particularly, are now also striking Europe and particularly Greece and its citizens where we are at the moment. Questions of justice are raised in many ways within this country and within the European fellowship in this financial crisis. Unemployment rates - particularly among young people – are higher than ever after World War II. The church here has found itself in the role of helping to provide a response to the most basic needs for food and shelter. Some European churches are raising fundamental questions about the leadership and justice of Europe these days, also in the perspective of keeping the state of peace achieved over many years. Questions of justice and peace are here - and in so many other places in the world - even a matter of life and death. Reminded of global realities in a gathering like this, we know that the call for both economic and ecological justice coming from our constituencies and from our study on poverty, wealth and ecology, is an urgent one.

8.      The church is called to bring the Gospel of the cross and resurrection of Christ to a groaning world, as the church as first fruit of the salvation, since the whole of creation groans for redemption (Romans 8). “The Gospel in a groaning world” was the theme on which the National Council of Churches of India asked me to elaborate in a keynote at their assembly this year, which gave me an opportunity to reflect on how this is genuinely the ecumenical ministry, uniting in Christian solidarity in the cross of Christ with one another and with the world as it is. We are lamenting and asking for actions that can bring change, asking together the questions that make us look for hope, not for enemies: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 31). This is what it means to pray to the God of life.

9.      As we are here to celebrate life, we are here also to find our contributions now and for the future to the justice and peace that life requires. Thanks to God, we are not empty handed. We are in the period of harvesting from the work in which we are involved. Harvesting time is not only a rewarding time, it is also a time to prepare for utilization of what we have, and to refine and be nurtured by the fruits of the soil and the labour of our hands and minds. It is also a time to discern for the next seasons what needs to be used for planting in the next phase, particularly to reflect on what we have learned from this period.

Harvesting fruits of our life and work

10.  This Central Committee meeting has three special tasks: (a) to receive the harvest of the work of the WCC since the 9th Assembly and prepare the harvest to be presented to the 10th Assembly,  (b) to guide the preparations for the 10th Assembly and to prepare decisions to be made at the 10th Assembly,  and (c) to assess the work of the WCC since the last meeting of the Central Committee and plan for and give guidance to the next months of work of the WCC until the assembly and a new Central Committee can take over. This is an important period of transition to make the best possible preparations for the right priorities to be made during the assembly.

11.  In our high-level policy-making functions as Central Committee, we share responsibility to lead the council. Now we have come to the time to conclude this period, to reap the harvest and take stock of where we are. The executive committee has filled its role to make further and necessary decisions to follow up the policy and the recommendations of the Central Committee. These meetings have been prepared by and led by the moderator and the vice-moderators; and I have had the privilege to work with them and secure the flow of the work of the council. My task as general secretary is to lead the work of the council accordingly and to represent the council and our fellowship within and outside our constituency, day by day, in accountability to you and the member churches as you represent them all.

12.  In my report, I will highlight some of the major issues I have dealt with as general secretary since we were together in February 2011. I will particularly share with you how the theme of this meeting, which is identical with the assembly theme, has been illuminating our work and has already been elaborated and given guidance to the events, experiences and reflections over these last 18 months.

13.  In the last months and weeks you have received several substantial and solid reports about different dimensions of our work. Some of them include documents and/or statements that we shall discuss, receive and authorize to be sent to the assembly.  I am humble and proud when I read these documents (and I admire you who read all of them and are well prepared for this meeting). These documents give testimony to the efforts and contributions of a wide range of highly qualified people; among them are you, others involved in the ecumenical movement, experts and resource persons, and not least staff of the WCC. I am humble and proud to be asked to lead the presentation of this comprehensive work; a substantial part of it was done before I was elected to this ministry under the leadership of my predecessor, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. I will particularly honour those who have been faithfully doing their work through different and sometimes difficult phases, and through what are often necessary challenges and critical comments of what was done and not (yet) done to improve and to bring the projects toward their present status or their completion. I particularly thank all those among you present here who represent our donors and others who through your efforts and contributions have been supporting the work presented in these many reports; without your contributions we could not do any of this.

14.  We present a wide range of fruits: projects, gatherings of real and transforming encounters, wide and deep reflections, new initiatives and faithful continuation of work that requires long seasons to be ready to harvest.

15.  I also particularly thank those who have participated in the evaluation of our work, our methods, our structures and our plans. This is sometimes inspiring, sometimes demanding and cumbersome work. As an institution serving a movement, we will always be in need of evaluation and change. After serving half of my tenure, I realize that change takes time. I also have learned that in order to be the inclusive and uniting fellowship we want to be, we need to have a proper profile to make us visible and identifiable, while also working through processes that give wide ownership and solid consensus to our results. In this, the overall policy developed for deliberations in the Central Committee and the signals given by these meetings are the impulses that bring direction to the later execution of the policy by the executive committee and the staff, as well as inspiration to the daily work and the legitimacy for our positions and efforts.

A revised structure of accountability and governance

16.  As you can hear from my reflections about our roles, I find that the harvest from the work we have been doing together in the last years, to revisit and revise our governing structures, make sense and offers us new possibilities for clarity and focus in our work. You have received the last report from the Continuation Committee on Governance Review. This last meeting of this Central Committee shall now conclude this important and demanding process for the council and provide an improved structure for the life and work of the council in the next period. The meeting of the Central Committee in February 2011 provided important discussions, guidance and new participants to the work in this last phase, and the committee has now successfully completed its work under the leadership of Bishop John White.

17.  The improved and clarified mandates and lines of accountability for the general secretary to the executive committee and further to the Central Committee, the moderators and the presidents are presented to us. The efficient and significant advisory role of commissions and their direct connections to the governing bodies will be strengthened. The proposal for rotation for the executive committee is the best available, as far as I can see. No structure is perfect, nothing is written in stone; but the invested time and work in this process will bear fruit, and already does so, as far as I can see.

18.  All structures, no matter how good they are, are only helpful when we use them properly and try to fulfil our different roles in them properly. Nevertheless, we should now harvest the fruits of this process, making us aware of the important issues involved in these questions discussed, and the many careful considerations behind the proposals on our table. I will particularly emphasize that this work is done to make us able to steward our resources in the best possible way, including the time, human capacities and the gifts of knowledge and representation of the many contexts and churches provided by all who are participating in the governing structures of the WCC. To be able to share our responsibilities, we need to empower all participants by an efficient and transparent structure. To be transparent we need to have clear mandates and regulations for each body and ministry. To be efficient we need to avoid unnecessarily complicated procedures. To be as representative of our churches as possible, we need to have systems of rotation and proper sharing of positions. To be an instrument of strategic leadership for the whole ecumenical movement, we need to have proper ways to include our partners in the work and in the governing processes. We also come to this conclusion of the work on governance to find the best ways to make us more able to be representative of the wide fellowship of churches that we are, to find the best way of making use of specialized competence in the churches and among the partners, and to make us more open to specific contributions from our partners.  A lot has been achieved in this process, and I thank all who have been giving substantial amounts of time and wisdom into it. We could have done even more to reform our council, but we also know that the structure is not the only dimension of reform that makes the council able to change and fulfil its tasks in the future.

19.  The World Council of Churches is defined by all the three key words in our name. We are global, in all continents, and therefore also in solidarity with one another, seeking peace in all its meaning for the whole earth. We are ecumenical in the mutually accountable way that conciliar ecumenism offers a unique model for, which we again confirmed in a consultation with regional and national councils of churches in Lebanon, in February of this year. And we are a fellowship of churches called to express this vision of unity, requiring justice and peace to be realized under contradictions and in conflicts, in humility, carrying the cross of Christ and the hope of resurrection together as churches, for and with one another.  This identity and calling brings us into different seasons or different phases. I find that we now are in a phase of transition into a period guided by the theme of the 10th Assembly, blessed by the richness of this theme and challenged to be in a mode of prayer and openness, as we try to make more clear what it means to pray to God of life, to make visible what this “us” means as churches, and as humanity and creation, and to realize the content and the dynamic between the two values of the kingdom of God: justice and peace.

“Lead us to justice and peace!”

20.  Since we met as Central Committee, the WCC has called and organized the biggest event in this period since the 9th Assembly, the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in May 2011. A lot of material has been presented to you before and after this remarkable event in the ecumenical movement, so well hosted and inspired by the churches in Jamaica. Through their commitment, their ministry and spirituality, the participants got a renewed theological, moral and spiritual incitement to unite in the call to a just peace. We have significant documents from that event that provide ample material for the council to give leadership in the ecumenical contributions to justice and peace.  We discussed last time in the Central Committee the document A Call to Just Peace. We also have a significant study of our legacy and the contributions from the ecumenical movement to peace presented in the Just Peace Companion. We also have the message from the convocation. This message was produced through a marvellous effort from the editing group, responding accurately to the message from the many very active and vocal participants in the convocation. These documents have given us a platform for the work for justice and peace that now is of great significance in the planning of the assembly.

21.  In the evaluation of the IEPC, we clearly saw the importance of confirming and even celebrating the work for justice and peace as belonging not only to the core business of the WCC but to the heart of our Christian calling to follow Jesus Christ and carry our cross together as churches and disciples. We also saw the need for common platforms for the many initiatives and institutions that promote peace with justice locally, nationally and globally, and that the WCC offers a unique opportunity for this. My friend, Senaid, the president of the Islamic Council of Norway, present in the IEPC, made me aware of how privileged the Christian churches are to have an organization like the WCC to promote just peace in the name of our religion and offer a forum for proper discussions about peace. We also learned that the common manifestation of the church as a fellowship of peacemakers and the ecumenical movement as one uniting different peace initiatives is important, even if we do not have a final and definite common statement on the concept of just peace. We did expect that more clarity could have come out of more substantial reflection in an event like the IEPC. We did, however, since it was an event, get a sincere and clear expression of the commitment and the priority of the work for justice and peace in the Christian world.  We did learn more about how to plan and monitor the dynamic of a large gathering like that, with the challenge of its not being a decision-making body but still a representative gathering of our constituency. We received a lot; we could have gotten even more.  More has to be done; but we have a substantial and strong impulse and a solid platform for our further involvement both in reflections and actions for just peace.

22.  The group appointed to discuss the follow-up of the convocation toward the assembly has advised me on how to proceed further. They have first of all asked that we try to make the call to and the contributions to just peace a bloodstream running through the whole assembly and the work we do now and in the future as a council. We will come back to this in our two plenary discussions on the assembly, as well in reflections and discussions on programme reports. The advisory group does not recommend that we now make efforts to produce a new declaration of just peace at this stage, partly because the process has not started to give that kind of work on a new concept this close before the assembly and partly because there is a need for reflecting more on the relevance of the concept in different contexts before more work is done to conclude a definition on what just peace is or should be. I think this is wise and that it might actually offer us more for the work for justice and peace just now than spending time and energy to formulate quickly a declaration on just peace (which has been the recommendation since the Porto Alegre Assembly). We should first gain even more from the process and discussions in the coming assembly using this significant theme, as we are receiving and making use of the harvest from this period, both from the IEPC and from other programmes like the study on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology, human rights advocacy, etc.  The wider understanding of peace, which corresponds quite well to the rich legacy of the work of the WCC that we also harvest in this meeting, is clearly expressed through focus on the four realms: peace among the peoples, peace in the market place, peace with the earth and peace in the communities.

23.  As you notice, I am shifting terminology between speaking about peace with justice, justice and peace, just peace and peace in its wide and deep meaning.  I do so for three reasons.  There is not yet a settled terminology of “just peace,” and therefore different ways of expressing the proper interrelation between justice and peace are needed to continue our discourse.  Second, we need to develop our concept and eventually a declaration of just peace clearly in a direction that is embedding this diversity of approaches to both justice and peace.  We should avoid developing a counter-concept to the concept of just war and therefore directly linking to that discourse; we should aim at something more.  On the other hand, those who might listen for guidance from the churches and from the WCC in difficult processes of decision-making in conflict situations should be offered arguments and principles that can be used and made operational in such situations.  Therefore, we should also have the goal of working toward some criteria for just peace that could be relevant in those contexts.  Even if some of the criteria in the old paradigm of “just war” can be used in certain cases to declare a military action “unjust,” the critical questions in the application of these criteria are many in a world were war and armed conflict are not so much a matter of international conflicts but within and across national borders.  The danger of making the paradigm of “just war” primarily legitimating the use of military means without the proper critical moral and political processes is a very real one.  We as churches cannot ignore the difficulty that political leaders have when they have to decide about how to stop or defend their people in an armed conflict; but we should offer much more than the old paradigm of “just war.”

24.  We should also avoid having a new concept that can easily (and wrongly) be understood as a reflection of imperial language and even of the proceedings and powers of colonialism.  The concepts of international law have, to some extent, been understood in terms of the agreement among the powerful, and were during colonial times – and still might be – used by the powerful to claim their “rights” to control or colonize other territories.  We see also in conflicts today that the stronger parties seek to control the conditions for peace agreements.  We have to struggle with these questions in different contexts.  And exactly that is our task as a fellowship of churches and an ecumenical movement, more than defining rules for international agreements that can be abused by the strongest part.  We need to be open to all relevant dimensions of peace and particularly insights of those from the marginalized or weaker part in any conflict. Nevertheless, we cannot accept that only because a concept like “just peace” has been used and even abused, that we cannot give it a proper and dynamic meaning.  Even the concept of peace can be used and abused for unholy purposes; but we cannot stop using it but must fill the terminology with the best meaning and make it a reality for those who need peace so desperately.

25.  Therefore, I find that the ongoing discourse, both conceptual and contextual reflections, should continue as we now have this privilege of having an assembly theme like the one we have.  A declaration of just peace, if needed, should be based on both dimensions.  I therefore see this as a proper task for the work of the council after the assembly.  It is a genuine task for a renewed CCIA with a clearer profile, having competence to discuss justice and peace in relation to many contexts in the world.  It could also be important for the Faith and Order commission to give proper theological reflection as to how the understanding of unity as a gift of the God of life requires both justice and peace and how the call to be peacemakers belongs to the mandate and mission of the church in any relationship with state and peoples.  We can and should continue to address situations of conflict and injustice in the light of our reflections on justice and peace or just peace in these coming days.  This Central Committee meeting in itself offers an opportunity for that in our public statements, in our reflections on how different programme activities contribute to that effort, and in having the theme of the assembly as a guiding theme for the whole meeting here in Crete.

26.  In my report to the executive committee in September 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we met at the invitation of the late Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Paulos, I reflected on how our work in many parts of the WCC programmes and in our fellowship as churches are contributing to a deeper and more mature understanding of the proper dynamic between justice and peace.  I would like to continue to share some of my reflections in this regard, not least as a result of visits to or from the member churches of the WCC, and give you some  accounts from initiatives I have been taking or involved in through the last months.  Two visits have been cancelled in this period so far, one to Iraq and one to Sudan and South Sudan, in both cases due to unclear internal situations and violence.  In Sudan, the WCC and the AACC have through many years accompanied the peace process and the establishment of a two-state solution.  Still, there is a great need for a just peace, including respect for basic rights in terms of religious freedom, particularly for the Christian minority in Sudan, where churches have been destroyed and burned.  This violence attacks at the core of human dignity and well-being and deserves proper attention from the international community.  Together with the general secretary of AACC, Dr Andre Karamaga, we have issued statements of protest against the attacks on churches in Sudan.


27.  Since our last meeting, I have visited Pakistan as one element in a wider initiative to address the negative effects of the so-called blasphemy laws in Pakistan.  The peaceful future of this country, as in all countries, depends on just laws and a fair implementation of those laws.  An important obstacle to real peace and reconciliation is grounded in the legal system.  These laws poison the relationships between peoples in Pakistan, and also between Muslims.  The visit coincided with the inauguration of the new cathedral of Raiwind Diocese in the Church of Pakistan, where our member of the Central Committee and executive committee, Bishop Samuel Azariah, has led the work for many years.  The very moving event was an important occasion to see the life of the church and the commitment to be church in a context of rich traditions but also new fears for violence and disrespect for human rights in a country where the political leadership is challenged by many, including extremist Muslim groups.  Together we reflected on the mission of the church under these circumstances and particularly the need for the church to search for and manifest the truth, but sometimes by not participating in the confusing public debates, being silent as our Lord was silent to witness to the truth when he was before Pilate.  At the end of last year, the moderator of CCIA, Rev Kjell Magne Bondevik, visited the prime minister of Pakistan on behalf of the WCC to raise these issues with him.  In September this year, a wide hearing about these problems is planned in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and initiatives to engage the diplomatic community in Geneva will be taken.


28.  The executive committee issued a statement about human-rights violations and injustice against the population of Papua in its meeting in February this year.  I had the privilege of visiting Indonesia in June, combined with participation in the last phase of the last meeting in the Poverty, Wealth and Ecology process in Bogor, outside Jakarta.  In this meeting, the significant report you have now received about an economy of life for all was (almost) finalized.  The meeting had a very qualified and representative participation, including two of our presidents, Dr Nababan and Dr Dossou.  It reflected also the realities of many countries in Asia, where matters of economic justice have a great relevance for the issue of peace in its deeper sense.

29.  The connection between economic justice and a sustainable stewardship of the resources of nature is clearly seen in Papua, where the indigenous population have little access to the enormous outcome of exploring and even exploitation of the natural resources of this land. In this situation the church finds itself between “the two heavy stones,” as it was said, the liberation movement and the government, seeking to comfort their people and give dignity to their life, struggling for the rights of the peoples of Papua for more justice, more security, but also more infrastructure and education to secure more self-determination (as they also are promised in legal acts of Indonesia).  The challenge is to find the proper relationship between justice and peace in this context.  How can the people secure their rights by peaceful means?  How can the people of Papua be liberated from military control over the political situation, building “peace” on the conditions of the powerful international companies and the powerful influence from Jakarta undermining their own rights and autonomy?

30.  The church in Papua, and particularly the member church receiving me, the Gereja Kristen Injili di Tanah Papua has the courage to be church in this conflict, to be prophetic and peacemaking, comforting and protesting, inclusive and strong at the same time.  The spiritual strength and the realistic approach to this reality impressed me, and the need for proper support and accompaniment from the international fellowship they belong to in the WCC and the WCRC were expressed in different ways.  The moderator of this church has confirmed the significance of the visits, both from our President Nababan in March and the one I could make in June together with our vice-moderator, Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, as expressions of accompaniment and encouragement in this particularly challenging situation.  We as ecumenical bodies nationally and globally should support them and be their voice in our places, both in Jakarta and Geneva.


31.  After several visits to Nigeria from the WCC the last years, particularly a living letter visit a year ago, I took an initiative to arrange another visit this May.  As follow-up to our Christian-Muslim consultation of November 2010, I asked, early this year, HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought to establish and lead together with me a joint Christian-Muslim high-level delegation to visit Nigeria.  We succeeded, with support from the Christian Council of Nigeria and our staff, in making this happen in May this year. Among the participants were President Bernice Powell Jackson.  The report of the visit was communicated broadly throughout our networks and to the media during July.  We had a wide-ranging joint understanding of the situation, and we witnessed the need for attention to more justice to bring an end to violence and ensure future peace.  The need for justice is striking and quite comprehensive, including land rights.  Economic justice is a significant issue, as within Nigeria the wealth is extremely unequally shared.  There is a need for basic security, too, bringing criminality and terror to an end and bringing those responsible to justice as well as need for an end of impunity, fairer and clearer regulations of rights, and a stronger and reliable legal and political system.  There is in all this a great need for attitudes of peace, for a willingness to see beyond the present political and ethnic conflicts, for not using religion and religious identity to fuel the tensions, and for going further into a joint vision of living together for the prosperity and the peace for all.

32.  We confirmed that we together as Muslims and Christians should and could convey attitudes and teaching about peace and justice from our traditions, and we can encourage the leaders of the Nigerian religious communities to commit themselves to a set of common values and objectives.  As Christians and Muslims we are deeply concerned about the recent attacks on church buildings and worshippers, as well as what we heard about attacks and killings of Muslims.  We heard testimonies from both Muslims and Christians about atrocities and killings.  We have to realize that Christians are also involved in the conflicts.  I hope we can get the resources to follow up this effort to accompany joint initiatives to bring forward the truth about what is happening and to strengthen a joint Christian-Muslim voice based on sources in our religious traditions for promoting peace.  The international audience should not identify Nigeria as a battlefield between Christianity and Islam but as a country that has a lot of struggles and conflicts, in which religion becomes a dimension in these conflicts.  It is our common responsibility to prevent and critique the use of our religious faiths and identities as pretexts for violence.

33.  In Abuja, Nigeria, I also had the privilege to participate in the installation of the new leadership of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA). The WCC should aim at paying more attention to the West African region, not at least due to the growing tensions related to religion and the new extremist groups in that region, probably a negative effect of the war in Libya.


34.  The visit to our member churches in Canada in March 2012 confirmed for me the strong commitment in Canada to justice in the whole world, for all and with all.  I was moved by witnessing the serious struggle with the effects of injustices against the First Nations Peoples in their own country, realities in which the churches had a very complicit role.  It was shocking but revealing to me that to sing “Amazing grace” could be a reminder of an experience of injustice and oppression from the boarding schools.  It was also challenging to hear in the same conversation with indigenous peoples their clear expectations of the WCC.  The Christian faith has been used for oppression. But the critical approach to the past is also a identifying trait of our faith, opening up to the truth and the reconciliation that God can give and that we are called to give one another.  To share the intention and the content of our statement (executive committee February 2012) on the doctrine of discovery was a particular privilege, referring to how we as a fellowship of churches have learned from and lamented over the effects of this political doctrine, which has been given a kind of theological rationale over the centuries.  That this rationale has been totally ignoring the Christian doctrine of God as creator of all, caring for all and the rights and dignity of all makes the doctrine of discovery a heresy – a still dangerous heresy, since the mentality of the doctrine is not gone.

35.  For our reflection on just peace, I noticed that the outstanding representative of the First Nations in the truth and reconciliation commission of Canada, Prof. Dr Littlechild, in a very personal way expressed the need to go from knowing the truth toward reconciliation, and a truth and reconciliation process first of all with himself.  He also affirmed the importance of the WCC’s role in international work for the rights of indigenous peoples, and he hoped for further cooperation within the UN systems both in New York and Geneva.

36.  The strong commitment to unity in the church and the world is a significant contribution from Canadian churches and ecumenists over many years.  We celebrated a joint Anglican-Lutheran Eucharist, a wonderful sign of the fruits of ecumenical labour over many years, including the work of Faith and Order.


37.  Several institutions and events in Germany have called upon the general secretary in the last year and a half.  Among them, the Kirchentag in Dresden, Germany, was a remarkable event in size and profile, confirming and nurturing the unification of Germany and the commitment to work with the WCC for just peace, emphasizing in that event particularly the peace with the earth. I was asked to participate both in discussions and by offering a Bible study.  It is encouraging to see the great interest in the theme of our assembly and the concept of just peace, particularly the many young people committed to work for peace and justice in the world.  The high public profile and significant influence that these events and movement can have in a country like Germany is remarkable, e.g., when politicians on all levels participate.  I also participated in a Central European event in Ulm, Germany, with representatives from churches from several countries along the river Donau, praying, walking and preaching for peace with the earth and among the people. There is a deep commitment in the German churches to elaborate the concept and idea of a just peace, following the strong impulses from the post World War II learnings and contributions from these churches.  The substantial influence in public discussions from the arena and the voices of the movements and the leaders of the church are an inspiration for the whole ecumenical movement.

38.  In a totally new type of encounter between labour movement, environmentalists and the church, taking place in Berlin, Germany, June 2012, again the WCC was called to participate.  The theme of transformation raised a lot of urgent questions for the whole ecumenical movement.  The issues of economic justice and equity were discussed and the contribution from the WCC addressed the just peace that requires also access to decent work.  I presented the new initiatives in Geneva for work between the ILO and the WCC on this theme, and it was warmly welcomed as a relevant matter in the German context.  There is in Germany, and in Europe as a whole, a great need for decent work, particularly for younger people.  This is a reality in many continents, and a potential threat to the just peace we are praying and working for.  The theological reflection on the concept of just peace is also an issue of theological reflection.  I was invited for the ecumenical workshop organized by Ökumenische  Rundschau to present the WCC work for justice and peace in the Israeli/Palestinian context, and the text was printed in the following edition of the periodical.


39.  The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) celebrated its 50 years in Samoa August 2011.  I learned about the welcoming ceremonies and the reconciling ceremonies of the people of the Pacific as a very special contribution to the richness of the church life in that region, and therefore of our fellowship.  Peace is built in many levels, and particularly in how one receives guests and how one addresses conflicts by rituals of reconciliation.  Papa John Doom, the president of the Pacific region, helped me to understand the great significance of conciliar ecumenism in the time of liberation and independence for the states and the churches about 50 years ago.  Since then, the World Council of Churches has served just peace in this region through several actions, together with the PCC, and on the mandate of the member churches, through our joint decisions and actions in Geneva.  The need to raise issues of both justice and peace in this region is on our table, and the executive committee has in its last meetings addressed both the restrictions on the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma and the injustices and suppression of the free nation of Tahiti (Maohi Nui) from the former colonial power, France.


40.  Pope Benedict XVI decided to mark the 25th anniversary of the prayers for peace among religious leaders, an event initiated by Pope John Paul II.  The WCC has been represented in these events in different ways, and this time the general secretary was asked for the first time to be one of the speakers in the public event, representing the member churches in this international inter-religious gathering.  I spoke about the need for religious leaders to take responsibility to promote just peace in Jerusalem, and I reminded the audience that the negative effects of not solving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with a just peace are felt in many other countries in the world, such as the church in Pakistan.  I also raised the need for the contributions from young people to justice and peace – in the time of St Francis and today.  The youth movements in the churches are vitalizing the work, and we desperately need them within our ecumenical movement.  Therefore it is crucial to empower and give space to young people in church and society, not looking at them only as the future of the church.

The Middle East and Northern Africa

41.  In February 2011, we again addressed the situation in many of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean.  Many changes have taken place since then, and we have addressed the potential and challenges of the “Arab spring” in different ways.  One was a consultation in Beirut, Lebanon, in January this year, where we called Christian and Muslims to discuss the future of Christians in this region after the so-called Arab spring.  Quite impressive were the younger men and particularly women from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria who asked for a new future based on democracy, shared citizenship and therefore equal rights for all women and men, regardless of faith and ethnic identity.  This request corresponds to our commitment to work for human rights and democracy as expressions of justice and peace.  But the challenges of the churches in these countries are also related to the uncertainty and even fear of what the future will bring after radical changes have taken place, particularly if authorities are based on a Muslim majority that would allow extremists to put pressure on Christians and churches. The example of Iraq is worrying many church leaders in this region.  Also within the churches there are changes.  In these days the Coptic Church is preparing for the election of a successor to the late Pope Shenouda (III); and some of our Central Committee members could not be here for that reason.  The next pope will have to find a role for the church in a changing Egyptian society.  The millet system from the Ottoman period in several countries has provided a certain protection and a predictable and even privileged situation for numerical minorities and groups for many years, including the Christians. However, the combination of the old system and the non-democratic authorities has become an unreliable and unsustainable situation in many countries and the churches have to contribute to the new reality.

42.  The question is what will come next, and how can Christians become an active resource for a society in change and development, in a society providing proper respect and security for Christians.  We have as a fellowship a call to contribute to this situation through many networks, events and relationships, and to bring our perspectives, not from outside, but from a fellowship that includes the churches in this region. However, there seem to be clear signs that they want and, in some cases, need others who raise their voices to make the truth known and the most difficult issues raised through safe spaces.  Christians in the Middle East and North Africa should not feel that they are alone within the fellowship of churches, particularly in times when they – and we as a council – find that the Christian presence in that region is in danger for several reasons, resulting in a decline of members. We have also in this last period tried to organize different visits, meetings and consultations about their situation; and another wide consultation with the wider ecumenical fellowship is planned for next January.  More than that, they should be encouraged and supported as they give a Christian witness, a prophetic and reconciling message, in words and acts.  The Christian tradition of working for peace with justice and Christian anthropology compel us to work for the rights and dignity of all human beings.  The voice and contribution of the churches are needed for peace and justice in the region.  Therefore, it is of high significance that the churches in the region are well connected through the World Council of Churches, churches of different confessional and church traditions so that the council also can know and speak on the basis of many perspectives and on behalf of many.  It is based on this focus on the need to accompany and give solidarity from the WCC to the churches in this region that my predecessor invited the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) to apply for membership in the WCC, and at this Central Committee meeting we come to the concluding phase of dealing with the issue.

43.  The situation in the Holy Land and in Jerusalem is an ongoing concern and challenge for all who work for a just peace, even if it has fallen into the shadow of the events in neighbouring countries like Egypt and Syria during the last year.  In my visit to Jerusalem a week ago, I was again reminded how things change all the time in this area. I can see from visit to visit that more annexation of land happens within the framework of occupation. The settlements increase, the houses and the land of the Palestinians, particular in and around Jerusalem, get continuously smaller.  There are so many examples of how justice and the peace are or must be interrelated in this context. Without ending violence, which includes the occupation and restrictions and violations of the human rights of the whole people of Palestine, there will not be a sustainable peace for the people of Israel either.  A just peace must be seen as a commandment, implied in the command to love God and your neighbour, shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians.  I have tried to address the issues raised in this process even last week, including by a visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Jerusalem a week ago, and I hope that we can find a consensus that corresponds to the intention of that invitation and our common commitment to strengthen the Christian witness and presence in the Holy Land.

44.  One remarkable development I see internationally, in a time when the peace process seems to be stalled, are the many signs and messages from Jews in different parts of the world, in the United States and in other countries, heavily criticizing the occupation and settlement policy of Israel, because it undermines the idea and the identity of being a democracy. This situation cannot continue, and Israel cannot have a future as an occupier and the violator of international law. This is what the WCC has said year after year, and that the concern for the justice of the Palestinian people is a deep concern for the peace and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians. This has become clearly manifested in decisions of the governing bodies of several of member churches the last year, as the occupation has been condemned through addressing different aspects of the illegal activities according to international law. The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the United Church of Canada, and others have made decisions, based on very serious preparations, that have received much well-deserved attention. The discussions have shown how these issues are a concern for member churches and their constituencies, and how significant the positions of the churches are in public opinion, particularly in the USA. I am encouraged to see how member churches affirm their responsibility to fill their role in the quest for a just peace for Israel and Palestine, and hope that this new manifestations strengthen the commitments and contributions of the WCC.

45.  This year one of our most significant programmes, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) is ten years old. It has a unique role in giving access for ordinary people to be directly informed about the realities of this conflict on the ground, but also to make a contribution to the people affected by the conflict through accompaniment, observation and reporting of what they experience. This is a genuine WCC programme for just peace, involving churches and ecumenical partners, providing new insight and understanding, offering expressions of fellowship and solidarity, mobilizing for peace for all peoples affected by addressing injustices. The reality speaks for itself, no propaganda or caricatures are needed from our side.  The accompaniers see what really happens, for some of them something new, for others a deeper understanding of what they knew.  “We have to see the reality, and then the conclusion is clear, it cannot continue like this,” one accompanier told me, “neither for Palestine nor for Israel.”  The comprehensive preparation and the debate in the synod of the Church of England this summer, followed by the decision to actively support the programme, is a confirmation of the importance of what we do there.  We thank all who have been and are involved in the programme for their great contribution to just peace and urge them to continue to soberly and properly illuminate the reflections and debates about this conflict in their home contexts, in the churches and in public.


46.  The people of Syria are bleeding from a terrible armed conflict, escalating in force and cruelty.  The world seems helpless and unable to offer solutions; the big nations are even unwilling to come to joint efforts within the UN that could help to stop the violence.  The WCC has tried to address the issue by several statements from the general secretary and the executive committee, calling all parties to an immediate stop to the violence, torture and killings, calling particularly the President and the government to take their responsibility to protect their own citizens and not use violence against civilians and against peaceful expressions of critique.  We have expressed support for the churches and all people of Syria in these terrible times of fear and violence and called for solidarity, support and prayers from the whole world.  We have encouraged the churches and all Christians to bring their witness for justice and peace to the whole nation.  We have tried to provide opportunities to reflect on the future of Syria, to develop relations across the different groups in Syria and visions for a life together with justice and peace, including safety and peace for the Christian churches.  There is no reason not to continue this call to solidarity and this work for a vision of just peace.  The people of Syria are paying a high price for the failures of many.  We are as human beings and as Christians obliged to care and be bothered about this situation, and we will be talking with one another about this reality also in this meeting.

47.  To summarize these reflections, churches in our constituency are in different ways involved in the quest for a just peace in all its dimensions.  To address these issues together with the churches is a primary task for the WCC, even prior to the conceptual discussion on “just peace.”  The WCC has several ways of doing this; but the flexibility to initiate proper actions is dependent on both the cooperation between the WCC and the churches and the means available to the WCC for these situations.  Second, these examples confirm that a common approach to a concept or a declaration of “just peace” should have a real contextual dimension; and it requires a multifaceted approach to get to more conceptual clarity. Third, the relevance of a joint approach, discussing the dynamic and relevant definition of “just peace,” is helpful as a way to apply our values and contributions in a certain context.  However, the struggle with the questions in a conflict is more important than having the fixed criteria to assess what to do.  Again, the connection between addressing our prayer to the God of life and praying for justice and peace guides us to a deeper reflection on how justice and peace are fulfilled in given contexts, not in an abstract realm. Fourth, I am impressed by the many reflections and initiatives for studying the theme of our assembly that have already taken place in many churches, and we should be aware of how the discourse develops in the next year.

“Lead us”: The WCC as a fellowship of churches serving the unity of all

48.  The opportunities to visit member churches or to have visits from you have been numerous and given me splendid access to personal relations and deeper insights in the life of the churches.  This is crucial in filling my role as general secretary and for this council as a fellowship of churches.  I have given priorities to participate in events that have given access to many of you in our constituencies, and I have tried to combine participation in meetings with visits to and encounters with local and national churches and institutions.  I have said I want to meet with women, youth and people living with HIV and AIDS and with representatives of diaconal programmes, in addition to the meetings with church leaders, as a general rule, in order to give me a wide understanding of the life and mission of the church.  A report like this should not and cannot be a travel report.  The appendix is meant to give you a picture of how I have tried to employed the outgoing part of my ministry in relation to the member churches and ecumenical partners.  This is time-consuming work, and I know that you and I wish there could be even more time for it.  You know the challenges of balancing the different tasks.  In these first two and one-half years, it has been of great importance for me to get to learn much more about the reality of our fellowship and the life of your churches, and to discuss what the WCC can be for you in the coming years.  I cannot reflect on all the encounters, as you understand, but I can assure you that all of them have been important and encouraging for me and the work I am asked to do.

49.  In the report to you last time, I focussed on how the call to unity is reflected in many dimensions of our work.  I have been asked to give lectures and speeches about our understanding and work for unity in several places the last year: Yerevan, Armenia; Trier, Germany; Toronto, Canada; and Sibiu, Romania.  I have in these contributions reflected on how unity is an expression of life.  We live in unity as families, in local communities, and we can see in nature how life has expressions of unity as a dimension of life itself, to care and protect, and to give life a chance.  I have used a photo I took of a rock at the seaside in my home country in Norway, where we can see how the lichen grow in uniting circles regardless of the circumstances, even when there is a deep split in the rocks to overcome.  They continue the circle on the other side.  I have used this to say that there is a mission of bringing dimensions of unity of life in our time when we pray this theme: God of life, lead us to justice and peace.  This mission is the common vision of the WCC, and we need the reminder that we have to give signs of unity in life across splits and what seem to be unmoveable realities.  Sometimes it is our task to help one another to zoom out so that we see the bigger picture, not only the relatively small rock, but the whole landscape to which we belong as Gods creation and the people of God.

50.  I am glad that we at this Central Committee can present to you a process and a draft for a statement on unity that can be discussed and approved by the assembly, according to the tradition of issuing a statement of unity at an assembly.  Led by our president, Dame Mary Tanner, a working group has gone into this task of saying something more, in addition to what has been said in the statements on unity from former assemblies, e.g. in New Delhi, Vancouver, Canberra, and Porto Alegre.  This statement will be brought into the reflections of unity before, during and after the Busan assembly, relating to the theme of the assembly.

51.  Unity is a gift of life and a gift of love, not a principle of unanimity or unilateralism.  We have a call as church and as churches together to express the unity of life that is given to us in Jesus Christ, through the life, the cross and the resurrection so that brokenness, sin, and evil can be overcome.  We are called to bring this into the life of humanity where we live, and even to the care for the unity of creation where we respect the balance of life and the most vulnerable dimensions and conditions of life.  In this perspective, it becomes even more urgent that we continue our efforts to make the unity of the church visible, to be more united in our understanding of our faith and our calling, and that it comes to expression in shared ministry and in sharing of the sacraments.  It becomes even more important now that we continue the theological reflections to make this gift of the unity of life a clear expression through the life in our churches:  As a sign of humility and care and of sharing the gifts of life expressed in the fellowship in the prayers, in the breaking of the bread and in the renewed listening to the word of God (cf. Acts 2:42).

52.  In my visits to the member churches, I am introduced to many challenges to the unity between and within the churches.  The many bilateral dialogues between churches and church families are still a reality that contributes also to the multilateral relationships between the churches.  New connections are established thereby. However, there is a certain and reasonable impatience among many to see more movement in the reception of the ecumenical dialogues and agreements.  Some of the churches and families of churches find that there are also new questions that are potentially dividing.  The ecumenical movement seems also in some churches to have less power and fewer committed spokespersons than in some earlier periods.  There are tendencies toward fragmentation and more attention to what is uniting the few rather than the many.  The call to unity is not ended by new challenges, rather to the contrary.  However, we also need to see more dimensions of the call to unity and remind ourselves that we are always only understanding from our perspective, fragmented, still embraced by and called to love (1 Cor 13).

53.  The need for ecumenical formation of present and future leaders of the churches is quite urgent in my mind.  We, therefore, should do more to develop a diversity of courses to be offered at Bossey for building the open and committed minds of the leadership of the churches and make us all more able to follow and be led together as one in our quest for justice and peace.  The need for safe spaces for reflection and dialogue over old and new challenging and dividing issues is something the WCC has offered and should continue to offer.  Helpfully, Faith and Order has offered a study of how we can learn more about the processes of making discernments in ethical issues.

54.  Faith and Order also presents to us a gift, a statement about the Church, which is a fruit of their many years work on ecclesiology.  This document is to be received by the Central Committee and to be sent to the churches to encourage further reflection on the important text presented here.  This study also has an important role in the coming years to analyse what could move the process of visible unity further, learning from the past and addressing specific issues that have potential for bringing more visible unity.  The follow-up of the longstanding and important work on ecclesiology is one of these vital tasks.

55.  However, this is not the whole picture.  I also see the strong expressions of solidarity, of joint search for justice, of willingness to abstain from demarcations and condemnations, of humility and tolerance, of search for a unity in many situations and events, among those who are praying for justice and peace, among those who recognize the life of Christ and the church in the other.

56.  One of the important issues that is coming up this year (and likely in the coming years) is how to mark the 500th anniversary of the critical examination of the life and teaching of the church by Martin Luther and others that led to what was later called the Reformation, and furthermore to the establishment of new churches independent from the Roman Catholic Church.  Is this anniversary something to celebrate or is it something that should call for repentance and change?  Our moderator, Dr Altmann, is deeply involved in these questions as he leads a group within the Lutheran World Federation to discuss these issues.

57.  What we should celebrate together is the renewal and the discovery of the Gospel.  We should celebrate that the ecumenical movement and dialogues have helped us to see this as a treasure for all of us, regardless which church tradition or identity we might have.  I agree that we should be humble, whether we are Lutherans or not, in the way we celebrate this as a jubilee for a church or a church tradition.  We know that the Reformation and the division between the churches were a result of many elements, not least political interest, but also of human failures on all sides.  However, this particular and significant event will raise many questions about how the status of the unity of the church is, and hopefully also lead to new initiatives of honest and constructive dialogue.  I will be disappointed if the strong recognition of the importance of the renewed understanding of the Gospel of 1517, which we have seen from all partners in the ecumenical family, including the participants of the Roman Catholic Church, is not anymore seen as a reason to celebrate in 2017.

58.  In this situation I believe we must renew our call to unity and engender new reflection on why we are called to unity.  This call comes from the God of life, from God our creator, our redeemer and our life-giver.  It is more than repairing broken inter- and intra-church relationships; it is for the sake of the world – so that the world may believe in the grace of God of life, in God’s will for life in unity.  The search for unity goes deep into our human existence and our life as human beings.  The church as a fellowship of the grace and life given in Jesus Christ is called to convey this grace and life of God to renew all life, and therefore we must express the unity in the gift of Christ.

59.  In the longstanding discussions of the ecclesial character of a World Council of Churches, we will find many warnings against seeing this as a church or a super-church.  We do not need to revitalize those questions.  We are per definition a fellowship of churches with different ecclesial identities, locally and globally; however, we should recognize the reality of the fruits of the ecumenical movement and of the dining and defining together in the many dimensions of work.  We do experience the real, but imperfect, reality of unity in faith, hope and love within and among our member churches and with other churches and that there are many fruits of the ecumenical movement that nurture the life of the churches.  We see new uniting churches these days, as in Sweden between the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and the Mission Covenant Church.  New initiatives, such as the Global Christian Forum, offer also new possibilities for building relationships we did not have.  God is opening new doors for many of us but also reminding us again that unity requires willingness to engage in a critical and self-critical accountability and to grow in humility and love.

60.  One particular way of experiencing the unity of the church is exactly the signs I see of sharing the willingness to carry the cross of Christ as a protest against injustice and as a sign pointing to the grace and new life in Christ.  This has been mentioned above in several reflections on how the churches find themselves in the middle of the quest for a proper relationship between justice and peace.  It is also quite moving to see the commitment to the dimensions of renewal and reform that the churches have in their relationship to ecumenism and the WCC.  I see examples of church leadership with new visions for the future common life together.

61.  Our legacy of work toward visible unity offers a lot for our reflections and for our future work.  We now can renew that commitment through the experience of being united in the prayer for life, justice and peace, bringing our call to church unity also into the mission of church – where it belongs.

Mission in the life - in and from the margins

62.  The WCC sponsored another major event, a pre-assembly mission conference in Manila, the Philippines, in March this year.  Although it had a smaller size than the previous global mission conferences, it led to a significant new statement on mission presented to us by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.  We will have a full plenary to discuss the content of this statement and the outcomes of the conference.  In this context, I would only like to emphasize two dimensions.

63.  First, the reflection on mission here is adequately included in the theme for the assembly and this Central Committee.  Moreover, the need for the mission perspective in the assembly with this theme becomes quite obvious.  It is by serving the world through sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we both can see the fullness of our faith in God of life and the full calling of the kingdom of God.  The Gospel drives us all to be where Christ is and to be there with the message of God’s love, justice, and peace.

64.  Second, I think this reflection about “centre” and “margins” is a significant sign of how the ecumenical movement has opened up to these perspectives through reflection and practice.  After several periods of mission and understandings of mission accompanying the ecumenical movement since the 19th century, this perspective is now where we are, acknowledging and appreciating the reality of the church and the Gospel in and from what has been seen as the margins.  We are a fellowship of churches in mission in all these contexts, and the impulses and the inspiration for our work come from all the many contexts in which we are doing mission.  It is no longer an impulse coming from (a few) centres in the north.  It is really a multi-centred reality.  And my experience is that remarkably strong testimonies with great integrity in words and action are often given when the church represents a less privileged or even vulnerable position.

65.  And again we are led to see that we, the WCC as a fellowship of churches, are a reality in the world as it is, where we are, in all the contexts of the world, in all continents, in many cultures; the churches are genuine expressions of the reality of humankind in its vulnerability and potential.

66.  I had the privilege of meeting with churches and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, as well as joint initiatives for human rights for women, youth and peoples with HIV and AIDS.  In many ways I saw the reality described in the mission statement, both the need for the holistic mission of the church and the reality of how the church has a mission in what could be seen as the margin and how that mission can inspire and empower the mission of the whole global fellowship.  I had another similar experience as I participated in the CCIA meeting in Tirana, Albania, where we see the fruits of the traditions and the new mission initiatives led by our president, Archbishop Anastasios.  These initiatives have led to resurrection of the church there and the new presence of the church with its mission of sharing the gospel, searching for justice and peace, and celebrating the presence of God in the midst of what was declared as a non-religious society.

67.  I also see that the WCC has an important role of being part of the wider ecumenical reflection on the definition and initiatives for mission and evangelism.  We carry a legacy of important discussions about mission; but we also represent a richness of traditions and churches' practices of mission in their daily life.

68.  In the visit to the churches in Armenia and Romania, I saw how they have revitalized their mission roles under the new conditions after the fall of communism.  The identification with the peoples of their lands, which has always been important, is quite significant also in this renewed reflection on the mission of the church, continuing the diaconal ministry in new times.  The meetings with the future clergy of the Orthodox churches in Armenia and Romania were inspiring, and they remind us that the commitment for the unity of the church and for participation in the ecumenical movement must be built in the phase of theological education and preparation for ministry in every generation.  In a consultation in Oslo in June 2012, we addressed the challenges of theological education today and emphasized again the importance of the relations built in those formative years, significant for the future of the ecumenical movement and the common mission of the church.

The WCC in Geneva

69.  One of the major tasks of the general secretary is to lead, guide, recruit and develop the staff resources and the staff community of the WCC.  Another is to provide resources and stability for the work and the individual staff.  I have tried to address several challenges in this last period.  The most substantial and demanding issue was to secure the pensions of the active staff in a time when the status of the WCC retirement fund was in a critical situation.  As I have informed you, we faced a situation calling for action from the WCC, more urgently than many of us were quite aware of when you in February 2011 asked me to look into this and to find a solution.  The deficit of the fund was growing fast, reaching a level that could only be seen as a situation that had to be solved with extraordinary measures taken and not by waiting for better times, according to the Swiss authorities.  Swiss regulations secured the pensions of the retirees, hence the risk of the active staff to face severe losses in their pensions gained through years of service for the WCC was becoming unacceptable.  The final moral and financial responsibility of the WCC could not be ignored, and therefore the situation caused a severe risk for the whole financial sustainability for the council.

70.  I quite immediately after February 2011 started to ask for a full analysis of the situation and the different options and started to take the actions I found necessary.  The deputy general secretary, Yorgo Lemopoulos, accepted the difficult task of leading the board of the WCC Pension Fund through the last one and one-half years with the clear expectation from the WCC as employer to describe the situation properly and to propose the necessary steps to be taken.  My understanding of the situation was a response to the request of May 2011 from the pension fund board for an extraordinary, substantial contribution from the employer.

71.  After a first consulting process, I presented the urgent situation and a plan for how to address the situation to the executive committee in September 2011.  This included a termination of the WCC Pension Fund, transferring all pensions for active and retired members to a bigger and more sustainable provider and finding a way to finance this through activating dormant assets in our real estate in Geneva.

72.  The financial plan to cover these costs has been developed and is based on two major elements: A bank loan with favourable conditions from COOP Bank and a development plan for the property in Geneva at and around the Ecumenical Centre.  After consulting several resource persons, within and outside the staff, particularly people who knew the Geneva real estate market well, and scrutinizing the alternatives carefully, we came to the conclusion that this was the best and to some extent the only option.  The decisions are made in good faith according to the mandate given by the Central Committee to the executive committee and the general secretary to do our level best to act as a responsible and reliable employer to our staff, to secure the WCC assets, and to act according to the Swiss regulations under which we operate in Geneva.  Based on solid discussions and decisions in the executive committee and in the steering group appointed by the executive committee to accompany the general secretary in this process, we have initiated a process of receiving offers for such a development; and the steering committee has chosen to accept the offer from and work with the biggest, well known and very experienced development company in Switzerland, Implenia.

73.  My conclusion so far is that we have done what we had to do when we had to do it and that we have tried to find the best available solutions for the pension fund and for the financial plan to address the problem. We have also done more than address a crisis; we have addressed a need to develop the property we have in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva for the future use of the council and the ecumenical movement and to develop the best of its financial potential now and for the future.  After a long and thorough process, guided particularly by the Director of Finance, Ms Elaine Dykes, confirmed by the steering group, I have signed a contract for a partnership cooperation with Implenia as the best available and most reliable option to realize our goals.

74.  A lot of work has been done to transfer the pensions and concluding the life of the pension fund. A lot of work is ahead of us to make the best choices for the development of our property to make it serve the objective of being a visible, functional, effective and attractive building for the work of the WCC and our ecumenical partners in Geneva also in the future.

75.  Since this has been an issue of great dimensions with a clear time pressure, also with issues requiring a high level of competence and at times confidentiality, I was very much occupied by how we have proper transparency and accountability in dealing with this process.  I will thank my good colleagues, Director of Finance, Ms Elaine Dykes, and Director of Human Resources, Ms Michèle Cassard, for the competence they brought to the many complicated issues we had to deal with so far.  I also thank the advisors provided by the churches, financial advisor Mr Martin Blöcher from EKD, lawyer and real estate advisor Mr François Bolsterli from FEPS (Geneva), and real estate manager Mr Kurt Mosvold from Norway.  The executive committee acted on the mandate they had to serve the best interests of the council at any time and in any situation between the Central Committee meetings.  The steering committee members appointed have given fidelity and wisdom to the steps taken, and we will need the same in the coming months.  We have tried to give proper information as wide as we could as early as we could.  We have tried to focus on what we need to do now to avoid the council’s ever being in an even worse and critical situation.

76.  I have not focused on how we came into this situation but how we get out of it.  Let me now raise the question that was raised in one of the reflections of the executive committee.  Since this issue related to the retirement fund has to do with stewardship of a very substantial financial value for the council, particularly so when we had to make additional contributions of this kind to liberate the WCC from unbearable risks and burdens, should there be somebody from outside looking into what happened and provide a report for the governing bodies and for the churches?  I find that this is a question you should answer in this next phase.

77.  Through this process, I have been forced to reflect more on what are the added values of having our secretariat and an ecumenical centre at the road between the Geneva airport and the UN institutions of that city.  As we learn how valuable this real estate is, we are immensely grateful for the wisdom of those who provided the ground and those who established and built this centre there almost 50 years ago.  We also see the awareness in the local and international Geneva context of our presence.  We also see more the enormous potential of being situated like this, within walking distance of many of the powerful institutions, international organizations and arenas that have been placed there, and which deal with closely related issues to other agendas: justice, peace, human rights, international cooperation on health, labour, etc.  In Geneva we also have access immediately to the missions of almost all countries in the world and the staff they have there to deal with issues on our agenda.  And, not to forget, these institutions and missions have direct access to the WCC as expression and manifestation of the 350 member churches around the world, to the ecumenical commitment and contributions from a number of specialized ministries, and to competence, networks and other capacities for addressing the issues we are there.  We have the benefit of being in more than 110 countries because the member churches are there; we do not need to establish an office here and there to know what is happening and to have an impact on the national and local contexts.  Geneva represents a legacy and an identity for the ecumenical movement; and it is an arena where the churches have to be visible and present somehow.  The added value of having an ecumenical centre and an ecumenical institute at Bossey gives countless opportunities to encounter many of the church representatives and partners in the same place, either in the offices or through the meetings. For instance, this spring we gathered the diplomatic corps for a lecture on human rights and religious faith by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams.  We have used the New York liaison office now as a platform for active work on behalf of us as churches to get an international treaty to control arms trade.  Much more is done; more can be done with these instruments.

78.  The most significant resource composition of the staff community is constantly a matter for reflection and further planning.  Since the last Central Committee there have been several changes in staff, which is normal in any organization (cf. the list that will be presented to you in the closed session).  One of the challenges at the moment is the clear request from the executive committee to implement the rule of up to 10 years service for programme staff, in cases of internal advancements up to 14 years.  To do this at the same time as we plan for the assembly has led me to give general encouragements for a while to staff who are in these categories to work on their own exit plans for the time around the assembly.  More specific conversations with individual staff will have to be pursued in the weeks after this Central Committee.  This change of staff will be substantial, but not a total change of staff resources, as many are on contracts that go into the next period after the assembly.  It will give the Council an opportunity for renewal and to adjust the staff resources according to the priorities given by the assembly.  On the other hand, it means that a lot of competence will leave the council as staff exit.  I hope that many of them can find new roles and jobs in their churches and in other related institutions, so that this very particular competence from the WCC will be brought into other dimensions of the ecumenical movement.  This is also partly your responsibility and the responsibility of the churches you represent.

79.  Furthermore, I call upon your cooperation, your creativity and your commitment as churches to encourage and help us to recruit the best personnel resources for the special ministry of working for the WCC.  The personnel committee has pointed very clearly to the need for more cooperation and communication between the WCC and the member churches in the processes of recruitment of staff.  This is a shared commitment for all of us, I hope.  The challenge of balancing continuity and renewal, gender and age, competence and representation from the whole constituency is a good one; and I am committed to lead that process, guided by the executive committee, according to the mandates we have.  Since we were together there have been a number of changes in staff, and I will particularly point to the efforts we have done to recruit well qualified women for key positions in the council.  The staff leadership group has now three women and four men, and we have more women in other positions of leadership, e.g., as manager of Income Monitoring and Development.

80.  One important change approved by you in February 2011, now implemented, is that the programme work of the council be led by two associate general secretaries, one for unity and mission, Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, and one for public witness and diakonia, Prof. Dr Isabel Phiri.  The project coordinators, including the two positions of directors for Faith and Order and CCIA, report directly to them.  There is no longer a level for directors of programmes.  This gives the advantage of connecting more dynamically the three dimensions: programmes, church and ecumenical relations, and the ongoing work of the general secretary.  As I have tried to show in this report, my ministry is dependent on and related to what colleagues do, and more can now be done to integrate these dimensions for mutual strength and benefits. Church relations and programmes also need to be much more in interaction.  The joint leadership of the two AGSs will ensure that all programmes can easily be related to others as relevant and required; most programmes have certain aspects of both sectors. e.g., interfaith dialogue is both about unity and mission, but has a lot to do with public witness for justice and peace, as well.  We also have given the organization another opportunity for flexibility, as definition of programme coordinators and projects can be handled without heavy structural changes.

81.  We have made plans and taken initiatives for developing staff competence for use of our electronic tools, for project management and developing indicators of impact, for leadership training and for media training.  We will continue to focus on what is needed in this period of transition before the assembly and what is needed for the new period after the assembly for new and old staff.

82.  In another report you will know about developments in communications.  Let me just make some remarks from my side on initiatives I have made, followed up by the communication department and others.  I have tried to narrow the focus of the communication department to development of our means and methods of communication, so that responsibilities like archives and library are placed under the general secretariat.  I have also taken the initiative to slim and upgrade what we offer in terms of book sales and library functions, making the library in Bossey the only collection of the WCC and strengthening the archives, closing the bookshop and opening a reading room with access to WCC publications.  We are also taking concrete steps to strengthen the quality and reach of our publications while avoiding large expense and inventory.

83.  I have also reduced the budget contribution to Ecumenical News International (ENI), in several steps, as we have had to cut our own budget and staff in communication drastically over the last years.  I have tried to keep it at a level so that the transition of ENI into a more independent and not basically WCC-funded activity could take place.  I have to express my regard to the new ENI board and staff for the ability to produce as much as they now do with far fewer resources than before.  We realize that all news services themselves are in transition now.

84.  I have appointed a staff writer to primarily report on the many good activities in our programmes and events.  The percentage of stories about the activities and initiatives has been reduced to give more space to other dimensions of our work.  On the other hand, I feel obliged to make sure that what I say and do in different events and on visits on behalf of you is recorded and presented to you and others through our website.  I have also started a programme of media training for myself and have learned a lot through it; I have decided to make use of other tools of communication like Twitter and a blog from now on.

85.  We do try, and work with consultants on how we can get into the secular media with our stories and messages.  More can be done; but I will refer to two issues that were planned and done with some results in that respect.  The first was the presentation and handing over of copies of all our archive files from the project Brazil Never More! They were given to the federal attorney of Brazil in June 2011 in São Paulo.  Mass media reaching the millions in the whole of Brazil covered the story and wrote about the material from the 1980s that now can serve as an important source for the truth and reconciliation work of Brazil after the time of dictatorship.  Some said that people in Brazil got more information about the WCC and its work for justice and peace through this event than at the assembly in 2006.  The advantage was that this connected to their own agenda, history and life, which is a condition for getting media attention.  In addition to me, both the moderator Dr Walter Altmann and our president Dr Ofelia Ortega accompanied me and made the WCC very visible in this event.  It is significant that the national and regional representatives of the council also become well known as such in their own regions.

86.  About the assembly preparations I have a lot to say, and I will address the good work done in Korea and in Geneva in my input in the plenaries on the assembly.

The Good New Days

87.  We are an organization that has many “good old days” or “golden days,” the times when there were more staff, more capacity, more francs in the bank accounts but also when there were more cigars in the cantina and more of a lot of other things.  We do not have the option to be the WCC of the past; we only can fill our role of today and plan for tomorrow.

88.  These two years and a half have taught me a lot.  I have been getting together with you in all the corners of the world, addressing your urgent needs, and discussing plans and visions for tomorrow.  I have tried to give you a picture of how this WCC is indeed a fellowship of churches, by using some of many examples from my work and experiences.  As we are gathered here these days we will share a lot more, all of us are invited to participate in this sharing of life and our visions for how we can pray together and be led together to justice and peace.

89.  This meeting is successful if we together can establish a revised future governing structure of the council, and if we here can articulate what we learn from the work of this period for the work to be done on the strategies for the next period.  Your mandate, as members of the Central Committee and as advisors for programmes and members of commissions and committees, is soon coming to an end.  New mandates and directions will be given by the assembly, so that the next Central Committee can meet in the year after the assembly to define the strategic policy and the programmes for the next period.

90.  Let me towards the end of my report offer you some of my strategic reflections for the future of the council, on the background of what I have discussed above:

a.       The world needs coherent and committed Christian contributions to justice and peace and particularly to the dynamic and balance between justice and peace, mobilizing or criticizing the powers of the world.  We have a unique legacy as WCC; we have a unique expectation directed to us.  We have a faith basis that brings unique motivation and vision for a just peace.  A proper Christian anthropology, emphasizing the unique value and dignity of every human being, is needed more than ever.  It is founded in the faith in the God of life of all, including the whole earth, made more and more visible.  The WCC should represent a voice that is free to address injustice and conflict and violence, bound to our calling and our love for others.  The assembly and the Asian context for it can teach us a lot about how this can be a reality in the coming years.

b.      We have to make more out of the vision and the reality of being a fellowship of churches.  We are already using that as a criterion in our programme planning.  We ask, and must ask even more prudently and actively, what in this programme or project is bringing what the churches need the WCC for?  What is our unique added value?  We also must answer how we involve donors to the programmes in the participation in the programme itself.

c.       The presence, facilities and relations in Geneva can be used even more to help increase the churches’ influence and participation in international agendas.  The same can be asked in relation to our office in New York.  That requires competence and relationships with these partners in Geneva; we have had them and we can have them for the future.

d.      Another methodological strategy is to combine the programme work, the church relations work and the work of the general secretariat even more than today so that the WCC works as one organization with our priorities.

e.       Another strategic reflection from my side is on how we define our priorities according to where the energy is.  The energy is where there is a combination of our calling, the urgent needs from the churches and from those who expect something from a fellowship of churches, and the willingness from churches and partners to invest time and money in the WCC to address these issues.  We are not donor-driven, but we have to be donor-financed.  It is possible for a WCC with clear visions and clear priorities to have an impact on what donors want to invest in; and round tables can and should be developed further to clarify this constructive balance and dynamic.

f.        The WCC should be a competence-driven and competence-building organization, offering this to member churches and partners, for example through the development of a diversified curriculum of courses in Bossey and other means of competence-building, for our staff and for staff in churches and partner organizations.

g.       The WCC should have a strategic leadership role in initiatives on church reconciliation and unity, particularly as we see the need to develop relations to parts of Christianity not currently members of the WCC.  I believe that we have something to contribute; I believe that member churches want and need that.

h.      The WCC should represent significant perspectives and take a leading role in interfaith initiatives on behalf of Christianity together with partners in the Christian World Communions.  This was done successfully with the document on Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World, launched in June 2011 together with the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Inter Religious Dialogue.

i.        The WCC should further develop a plan for common action to relate economy and ecology for all.  The good work of our programmes and initiatives in Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology, AGAPE, climate change, and water is foundational for our concerted and focused efforts in economic and ecological justice and sustainability.

j.        The WCC must encourage a more strategic and wider involvement of youth in the WCC, connecting to other ecumenical youth movements and other movements of young people who share our visions for justice and peace.  Such partnerships will speak to the WCC’s goals of ecumenical formation and nurture of the next generation of leaders.

91.  I have made it a slogan that the WCC is helping the churches to “dine and define together”--this role of setting the table for sharing, sharing life and sharing the gifts of God, discussions, discernment, even decisions on common strategies and actions.  I have come to the insight that I should add: “do.”  The WCC should dine, define and do together what we can according to our calling and our capacity.  The definition of what we should and could do is an important dimension.  After having terminated a lot of the most operational activities of the council, most of them now taken care of by ACT Alliance or other institutions serving the operational work in many parts of the world; after terminating our role of being a donor supporting other projects and partners; after reducing staff capacities substantially from those times when our portfolios were of that scale and kind, we still have the important task of defining what we are doing. What are the specific offerings we have, and what are the impact indicators and outcomes of our type of work?  We are sharing life and reflections, forging proper analyses and discussions, establishing consensus and commitments.  We are praying and listening, accompanying and affirming, supporting and being present, and recognizing and receiving one another.  We are being prophetic and reconciling, doing advocacy and creating new visions.

92.  The dining and defining are activities that express how we are sharing and the deliberations but also the real being at the same table.  These are also actions.  We can refine our tools, our capacities, our project plans, our initiatives, through experience, through work, through becoming active and praying ecumenists together.

93.  Therefore, we have to say: dining, defining, and doing.  We are called to find ways to do together what our divine calling compels us to do, a calling that we understand and respond to best when we are sharing at the same table.

94.  We should develop ourselves in this strategic period of transition.  I have taken initiatives to work in ways that help us define strategies for our work, processes that leads to priorities for the next period, develop leadership skills, improve our ability to assess impact and improve planning, and strengthen the role of the WCC as giving strategic leadership in the ecumenical movement. Now I will listen to you.

95.  I am looking forward to what is ahead of us, these days in this significant meeting, and in the days and months after this meeting, in the name of God of life.


Summary of meetings of the Steering Committee

Steering committee members: Dr Walter Altmann, H. E. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Bishop Ivan Abrahams, Dean Anders Gadegaard, Bishop Sally Dyck, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Advisers to the steering committee: Mr François Bolsterli, Mr Kurt Mosvold, Mr Martin Blöcher

Mandate:         Report to the executive committee on the solution for the pension fund and the real estate development process; and safeguard the interests of the WCC

1. Meeting of 24 October 2011


•         Master plan for the development: Mr M Heiniger

•         Three proposals from consultants or development company:

o   Pilot company mandate proposal: Colliers, consultants

o   Land evaluation, development process and proposal for services: Mr P Gilliot, consultant

o   Land evaluation, development process and proposal for services: Implenia, development company

Meeting notes

The meeting affirmed that the primary objective was to develop and sell enough of WCC’s current real estate to cover the pension fund deficit and move the fund to another service provider; to initiate plans for the whole property including the ecumenical centre, to house the WCC and other ecumenical partners; and to develop other portions of the property to generate income for WCC for the future.

The advantages of obtaining the initial funding directly from a bank, rather than from an investor were discussed, and preference expressed for obtaining a loan, while not excluding recourse to a suitable investor. Proposals for services from different development consultants and a development company were reviewed.

The steering committee advised the general secretary:

•         to move forward with staff colleagues to secure a loan of CHF 30 million to cover the pension fund deficit, using the WCC real estate as collateral;

•         to work with the pension fund board to select the best service provider that will accept the current pension fund which is unsustainable; and

•         to employ a consultant who will assist the WCC with a tender process to secure a pilot company which can partner with WCC to provide the capital necessary for development of the property over several phases.

2. Meeting of 24 November 2011


•         Letter of offer for tender to two development companies and two development consultants (prepared by Mr F Bolsterli, legal adviser)

•         Letters of offer received from the four contenders: pg development (Mr Gilliot), Colliers, Losinger and Implenia

•         Report: Evaluation of offers obtained for the transfer of the WCC Retirement Fund: management summary and annexes

Meeting notes

The evaluation report of the two offers received for the pension fund was presented and discussed.

Mr Bolsterli presented the offers received from the developers. The two consultancy firms did not offer the same depth of services, in particular the financing of the development work. Of the two development companies, Implenia was preferred, being the largest and most important development and construction company in Switzerland. Its proposal had stated that it would accompany WCC in securing CHF 30 million in loans. Holding a letter of intent with the developer would help in direct negotiations with a bank.

In approaching the decision, the committee acknowledged that the WCC had shifted from its original plan of partnering with a consultancy firm and investor to partnering with a development company.

WCC was working with two banks, and had expectations of receiving an offer before the end of the year from one bank.

The steering committee agreed:

•         with the recommended transfer of the WCC Retirement Fund assets and obligations to the collective institution, Profond; and

•         that WCC should pursue partnership with Implenia as a developer, securing a letter of intent in January 2012

The steering committee recommended that WCC consider in addition to Implenia the need for a commercial real estate consultant.

3.         Meeting of 13 January 2012


•         Draft discussion paper on strategy for development of the property

•         Draft letter of intent prepared by Implenia

•         Draft letter of intent Implenia/WCC, alternative text proposed by consultant Mr Gilliot

•         Draft consultancy mandate pg development, consultant

It was reported that the loan request had been refused by one bank at the end of December. Reasons included the financial profile of the WCC, the perceived higher risk in the Geneva real estate market and the reluctance of the bank to lend against an asset, rather than based on future cash flows. Following discussions with Implenia, the approach was now to develop a “pool”, in which several banks would be approached. The plan would be to raise CHF 15 to CHF 20 million with a major bank mortgaged by the Ecumenical Centre, CHF 4 million in addition mortgaged against the Ecumenical Centre, CHF 2 million in addition mortgaged against the residential building, and call upon charitable foundations, a private bank, and most importantly member churches, to complete the required funding.

The different texts of the letters of intent were reviewed, and preference expressed for the text proposed directly by Implenia. The committee discussed the broad guidelines for the building strategy.

The steering committee advised the general secretary:

•         to proceed with signature of the letter of intent in the format proposed directly by Implenia;

•         to request a revised mandate from Mr Gilliot, with services offered on an hourly basis during the preliminary phase of the project

The steering committee confirmed that complete demolition of the buildings should be undertaken in favour of a new development on the site; and that the advice of the Geneva canton and commune be taken into account in defining the development most likely to advance in a timely way with approval.

Dates of significant meetings and communications, 21 October 2011to 10 February 2012

(i)                 Concerning WCC Retirement Fund

24.11.11          Steering committee agreement on decision to transfer WCC Retirement Fund to the collective institution, Profond

25.11.11          Information meeting for all members on pension fund situation with pension fund board and WCC general secretary

19.1.12            All staff meeting with general secretary and WCC staff included brief report pension fund situation

19.1.12            Letter to affiliated organisations from the general secretary on the pension fund situation

10.2.12            Letter of information to members from pension fund board on change on anticipated transfer to collective pension scheme, change of scheme to defined contributions plan and related change in Rules 2012, effective from 1 January 2012

(ii)               Concerning development project with Implenia

21.10.11          Following preliminary meeting of 19.10.11, letter from Implenia expressing interest in project and assessing WCC’s objectives, concluding that the three objectives seem realistic and could be met

9.11.11            Letter requesting offers for tender for development partner sent to Implenia and others (Mr F Bolsterli)

21.11.11          Implenia’s letter describing offer for services

24.11.11          Steering committee agreement on selection of Implenia as development partner

1.12.11            Letter to Implenia confirming its selection as WCC’s development partner (Mr F Bolsterli)

9.1.12              Meeting with Implenia, WCC, Mr P Gilliot (consultant), Mr F Bolsterli: introduction of process, purposes of letter of intent, strategy for finance research

13.1.12            Steering committee agreement to proceed with letter of intent with Implenia

20.1.12            Meeting with Implenia, WCC, Mr P Gilliot (consultant), Mr F Bolsterli: discussion of letter of intent, review of progress with finance research, opening of discussion on approach to development project

20.1.12            Signature of letter of intent by Implenia and WCC

10.2.12            Meeting with Implenia, WCC, Mr F Bolsterli: summary of meetings with department of urban planning and commune of Grand-Saconnex; review of draft reports for steering committee of 13.2.12 concerning finance research and approach to development

(iii)             Concerning meetings with local authorities

2.12.11                         Meeting of general secretary with Geneva state councillor, Mr Mark Muller, president  of department of construction, transport and information technology

1.2.12              Meeting of Implenia and Mr F Bolsterli with the local authority FIPOI Fondation pour les immeubles pour organisations internationals (foundation for buildings for international organisations) WCC received minutes on 3.2.12

8.2.12              Meeting of Implenia and Mr F Bolsterli with the cantonal department of urban planning (minutes under preparation)

8.2.12              Meeting of Implenia and Mr F Bolsterli with the commune of Grand-Saconnex (minutes under preparation)

(iv)             Other relevant matters: Mr P Gilliot, consultant

7.12.11            Letter from WCC to Mr Gilliot requesting submission of a draft mandate as consultant for the development project

13.1.12            Draft mandate from Mr Gilliot reviewed by the steering committee, with recommendation that fees be submitted on a monthly basis during preliminary phase of project to 31 March 2012

7.2.12              Letter received from Mr Gilliot, communicating his withdrawal as consultant

Summary of meetings of the Steering Committee: 13 February to 31 May 2012

Steering committee members: Dr Walter Altmann, H. E. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Bishop Ivan Abrahams, Dean Anders Gadegaard, Bishop Sally Dyck, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Advisers to the steering committee: Mr François Bolsterli, Mr Kurt Mosvold, Mr Martin Blöcher

Mandate:         Accompany the real estate development project; report to the executive committee on the solution for the pension fund and the real estate development process; and safeguard the interests of the WCC

1. Meeting of  13 February 2012


•         Summary of the steering committee meetings 24.10.11 to 12.2.12 (annex to the report of the general secretary to executive committee)

•         Report from Implenia: Analysis of the real estate development options

•         FIN05 Report of the pension fund board to the general secretary at 12 February 2012, as requested by executive committee

Meeting notes

Efforts to obtain financing had not proved successful to date. A strategy of obtaining loans from three different banks was under consideration.

The preliminary results of the pension fund at 31.12.11, before audit, suggested that the net amount due to Profond for transfer at 1.1.12 might be between CHF 24.7 million and CHF 27 million, depending on policy decisions. The loan target continued to be set at CHF 30 million.

Implenia’s analysis confirmed that WCC could expect to generate CHF 30 million to repay a loan, own its own building and sufficient other buildings to meet its income objective of CHF 3 million. A land utilisation ratio of 1.7 was assumed, based on a proposal made by the state.  An architects’ competition should be planned, with attention to the roles of the canton and commune in influencing the period of delay governing the delivery of permits. Implenia estimated that sales proceeds from a first transaction might be expected after five years.

The steering committee advised the general secretary:

•         to continue to seek a loan of CHF 30 million, and to extend the period for the loan from four years to five years;

•         to ensure that an architects’ competition is planned in co-operation with the recommended state representatives;

•         to accept the state’s proposal that the density ratio for the estate be increased from 1.2 to 1.7, subject to the acceptance of development plans; and

•         to consider the need for additional advisors and consultants or staff to support the process over the next 12 months.

2. Meeting of 28 March 2012


•         Report and recommendations of the WCC RFB to the general secretary, 28.3.12

•         Draft development contract WCC and Implenia, 21.3.12

•         Commentary on the draft development contract, F. Bolsterli, legal advisor, 23.3.12

•         Five financial tables related to the development contract terms, Implenia, 28.3.12

•         Implenia’s diagram illustrating the cost-sharing scheme, 28.3.12

•         Draft text of decisions for advance consideration

Meeting notes

An offer of financing was received from the Co-op Bank at the end of February for CHF 30 million. A loan of CHF 24 million had been contracted at a fixed annual rate of 1.3% for five years, effective from 30.3.12, with no reimbursements due during the period. Any further drawing required under the loan offer would be presented for approval to the steering committee.

The estimate required to cover the cost of transfer to Profond at 31.3.12, with retroactive effect to 1.1.12, was CHF 23.2 million. Including additional provisions estimated at CHF 1.5 million and to be determined, the total estimated transfer cost was CHF 24.7 million, reduced by CHF 2.6 million from CHF 27.3 million in February 2012. Among other matters, actuarial obligations to retirees had reduced (CHF 0.9 million); and assets available had increased (CHF 0.6 million).

Discussion focused firstly on the requirement of the pension fund regulators that transfer be made at 100%, resulting in an issue concerning the treatment of a provision or reserve of an estimated CHF 1.6 million, given Profond’s estimated coverage of 92.3% (prior to its own year end audit) and secondly  on the steps required to complete the transfer contract.

F. Bolsterli had taken the lead in working on the legal terms of the draft development contract with Implenia. His commentary highlighted the fundamental principle that WCC can be assured of keeping costs low during the development and implementation process. WCC is authorised to conduct controls and to review offers for tender. Implenia is committed to transparency in its dealings with WCC and all decisions will be made jointly. While the financial terms reviewed were considered fair, they were open to negotiation.

The steering committee agreed that the date for signature of the development contract be extended to 31 May, with the objective of ensuring sufficient time for the advisors to assess possible adjustment to the financial and legal terms, and conduct negotiations.

The steering committee approved:

•         the transfer of capital to the WCC Retirement Fund according to the Report and Recommendations of the WCC Pension Fund to the general secretary of  28 March, 2012 , and authorized the general secretary  to sign and execute transfer contracts and a letter of confirmation to the WCC RF so that the WCC Pension Fund could make the transfer to Profond before 31 March;

•         the principle of "grand-fathering" measures, at the maximum cost of CHF 1,600,000, but required  that the model and the criteria be developed and presented by the general secretary to the steering group after a further consultation with the WCC RFB and external advisors on the subject, at the latest at 15 April, 2012;

The steering committee also required:

•         that the recommendation above also address whether WCC should cover the cost related to affiliated organisations or not, and if so that such cost be limited to a maximum of CHF 250,000, within the total cost of CHF 1,600,000;

•         that the issues related to insurances raised in the Report from the WCCRFB be discussed further in relation to the issues mentioned above, and that the general secretary bring a proposal to the steering committee on both issues at the same time.

3.         Meeting of 14 May 2012


•         Draft development contract v2

•         Update from the advisors on the results of the negotiation process with Implenia, 14.5.12

•         Comparison: financial profile after negotiations of 11.5.12 with financial profile as reviewed 28.3.12

Meeting notes

The transfer of assets to Profond had been successfully conducted at 30.3.12, while certain details of the transfer contract remained to be finalised.

A commercial real estate advisor had been appointed at the end of April, and had developed recommendations on the financial terms which had help confirm and guide the work of the advisors. The possibility of earning sufficient income through sale of leasehold rights, retaining title to land, was emphasised as an option by the adviser. The advisors to the steering committee reported various amendments agreed to financial terms, resulting in a potential additional gain of CHF 9 – 10 million in proceeds for WCC, subject to the building profile to be agreed, and then approved by the state. The outcome was considered to be satisfactory for WCC.

A report was made on a favourable meeting with the Wilsdorf Foundation, one of the most significant private charitable foundations in Geneva.

Further work was required on “grand-fathering” measures, in particular with regard to the cost, and a recommendation would be presented at a later date.

The general secretary expressed his thanks to all for the accompaniment and counsel. It was considered that the work of the steering committee may be considered as complete.

The steering committee advised that:

•         one remaining effort be made adjust the profit-share ratio in WCC’s favour

•         the contract proceed to signature, being considered satisfactory for WCC, with or without the addition of the requested additional adjustment above

The committee concurred that the recommendations on “grand-fathering” measures be submitted by e-mail.

Dates of significant meetings and communications, 11 February 2012 to 18 June 2012

(i)                 Concerning WCC Retirement Fund

16.3.12            Letter to all active members of the WCC Retirement Fund announcing the transfer to Profond and requesting any objections to be raised by 28.3.12  (no objections raised)

30.3.12            Transfer of CHF 24 million from WCC to the WCC Retirement Fund

30.3.12            WCC Retirement Fund completed transfer of CHF 88.5 million assets to Profond, with a further estimated CHF 2.5 million to be transferred to assure full coverage (remainder transfer completed by 4.7.12, with CHF 83,000 remaining payable from the WCC RF’s perspective)

25.4.12            Recommendations of WCC RF Board to the general secretary concerning potential additional provisions

30.4.12            Regulatory authority pronounced the entry into liquidation of the WCC RF

29.6.12            Final general assembly of the WCC RF

(ii)               Concerning development project with Implenia

20.3.12            Draft development contract v1 received

21.3. 12           Advisors’ meeting

27.3.12            WCC meeting with Implenia for first review of the proposed financial profile

30.3.12            Amendment to Letter of Intent, extending date of development contract to 31.5.12

2.5.12              Advisors’ meeting, followed by negotiation meeting with Implenia

3.5.12              Draft development contract v2 received

7.5.12              All staff meeting included report on the real estate development process

8.5.12              Report from commercial real estate consultant, Mr J Hamel, on financial terms in the development contract

11.5.12            Advisors’ meeting to review Mr Hamel’s report; subsequent negotiation meeting with Implenia

14.5.12            Draft development contract v3 received

24.5.12            Final version development contract received

30.5.12            Development contract signed

1.6.12              Letters sent to state department, commune, association for real estate for international organisations (FIPOI) and Wilsdorf Foundation announcing the signature of the development contract


General Secretary Visits and Meetings 23 February 2011- August 20, 2012





24 February 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of the Norwegian Minister of Government, Administration, Reform and Church Affairs with her delegation

24 February 2011

Ecumenical Centre

United Bible Societies Visit – offer of materials for WCC 10th Assembly

17-18 March 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of WEA general secretary, Geoff Tunnicliffe

28  March 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of RCC Archbishop from Eritrea

29  March 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Courtesy visit from Presbyterian Church in Cameroon leadership

30 March 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit from CCME head, Doris Peschke

French churches official visit

6-8 April2011

Ecumenical Centre

EKD Council Visit

Visit of the Old Catholics bishops

Visit of Lausanne Movement leadership, Doug Birdsall

9-10 May 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Cardinal Koch visit

11 May 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of PCUSA stated clerk, Gradye Parsons

1 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting with PCK leadership (officers)

6 June  2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Seong Won Park re- assembly

6-7 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland Archbishop

8 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Joint Consultative Commission with WCC and CWCs

Visit of PKN leadership, Adrien Plaisier

9-10 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

LWF Council Meeting

21 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of WACC GS, Karin Achtelstetter

22-23 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

WCC Round Table Meeting

27 June 2011


Lunch with University of Geneva rector and dean of theological faculty

27 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Ambassador Yoftahe Dimitros, general secretary of the Eritrean Orthodox Church

28 June 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Joint launch of “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World

Recommendations for Conduct” with PCPCU and WEA

29- 30 June2011

Ecumenical Centre

Continuation Committee on Governance Review meeting

16-18 August 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Church of Norway bishops

5 September 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Rev. Jonathan Goodall, Lambeth Palace

Visit of Claudia Warning and EED colleagues

10 October 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Dr Bubhe, Friedrich Ebert Foundation

31 October 2011

Iraqi Mission, Geneva

Meeting with Iraqi Ambassador

9 November 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Rev. Lee from Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korea and colleagues from Presbyterian and Methodist Church in Korea

10-11 November  2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Norwegian Church Aid Management Team

14 November 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Scottish Churches

16 November 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of YWCA President,  Deborah Thomas-Austin and general secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

23 November 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Most Rev. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of the African Church, Nigeria

2 December 2011

Geneva – Mr Müller’s office

Visit to Mark Müller, member of the Geneva government – Chargé du département des constructions et des technologies de l'information

5 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Lunch with Cardinal Koch (initiated by LWF)

8-9 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting on Syria

9 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre Library

IRM Centenary celebration

8 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Rev. G. Tunnicliffe, World Evangelical Alliance

8-9 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting of WCC Officers

12 December 2011

John Knox Centre

Financial Architecture meeting

16 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Norway Permanent Mission Ambassador H.E. Steffen Kongstad

19 December 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of  Prof. Dr Heinrich Beford-Strohm, Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria

5 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of South African Permanent Mission Ambassador H.E. Abudul Samad Minty

10-13 January 2012


Unity Statement Meeting

16 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

16-22 January 2012


Meeting of the Continuation Committee on Governance Review

17 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Rev. Jonathan Goodall, personal chaplain and ecumenical officer to the Archbishop of Canterbury

19 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Strategy Group on Health and Healing

19 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Bishop of Colombo and spouse

23 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Mgr Morerod, Bishop of Geneva, Lausanne and Fribourg

23 January 2012

Chapel of the Ecumenical Centre

GS hosted Vatican Mission Interreligious Prayer for Peace worship

31 January 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Delegation from Korea  - assembly planning Committee

8 February 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Norway Church Aid visit

9 February 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting of the Reference Group on IEPC follow-up

10 February 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Norway Permanent Mission Ambassador H.E. Steffen Kongstad and Mr  Kåre Stormark

Deputy permanent representative

10 February 2012


Dinner with South African Permanent Mission Ambassador H.E. Abudul Samad Minty

27 February 2012

Ecumenical Centre

HE Mr Ikram Adyerbekov – Special Envoy of the Head of the Congress Secretariat. Senator of Kazakhstan Parliament

27-29 February 2012

Ecumenical Centre and Bossey, WHO and British Embassy to the UN

Official visit of Archbishop of Canterbury and delegation

2 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Taizé Community

7 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Cuban 5 spouses

Ecumenical Centre

Iraqi guests

26 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Harris Church, Ivory Coast

27 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Swiss Church Women Presidents

27 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Mtg with Leonardo Emberti from Sant'Egidio, and Romain Grandjean from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

28 March 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Pat Gleeson, new ECLOF GS

13 April 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting with Korean journalists

8 May 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Kirchentag Presidium

9 May 2012


Visit to Wilsdorf Foundation

8-10 May 2012


Round Table

11 May  2012


Visit of Bishop Raul Vera Lopez from Mexico and delegation

11 May  2012

Norway Embassy

Meeting with Norway Ambassador and Mr Hovda, ILO

14-15 May 2012


Officers Meeting

23 May  2012

Ecumenical Centre

Delegation from Church of the Brethren, Nigeria

30 May 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Signing of contract with Implenia

30 May 2012

German Mission to the UN, Geneva

Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid

31 May 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Visit of Journes d'Arras

1 June 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Marie Dannis, co-president Pax Christi International

4 June 2012


Meeting with World Bank Geneva representatives

5 June 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Rev. Guy Liagre, new CEC GS

29 June 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Korean churches high level delegation

4 July 2012


Lunch with Coop Bank officials

6 July 2012

Ecumenical Centre

GCF meeting with WCC

12 October 2011

Ecumenical Centre

Meeting of Ecumenical Centre General Secretaries  bade farewell to Fr V. Ionita, CEC Interim GS

14 October 2011

11 November 2011

15 December 2011

19 January 2012

30 April 2012

7 May, 2012

29 June 2012

Ecumenical Centre

All Staff Meetings, December 15 meeting followed by Advent celebration

30 January  2012


SLG retreat

24 October 2011

24 November 2011

13 January 2012

13 February 2012

20 March 2012

28 March 2012

17 May 2012

Ecumenical Centre

Steering Group meetings

General Secretary Visits outside Geneva




8 January 2011

Cairo, Egypt

Present personal condolences to Pope Shenouda after Alexandria massacre

9-10 January 2011

Tripoli, Libya

Visit the offices and college campus of the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), discuss follow-up of November meeting on Christian-Muslim dialogue

14 January 2011

Lambeth, UK

Official visit to Church of England and Anglican Communion; consultation with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and dinner in honour of Cardinal Kasper

20 January 2011

Rome, Italy

Visit Centro Pro Unione – delivered lecture

2-3 February 2011

Loccum, Germany

Conference at Evangelischen Akademie Loccum – delivered lecture

2-5 March 2011


Orthodox consultation on The Nature and Mission of the Church

Meeting with Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus

Meeting with president of Cyprus, Dr Demetris Christofias

8-15 March 2011


Official church visit

Relationship building visit in light of the Busan assembly

14-16 May 2011

Kingston, Jamaica

WCC Officers and official church visit to Jamaican churches and government authorities

17-25 May 2011

Kingston, Jamaica

IEPC event

25-30 May  2011


70th anniversary celebrations of the NCC Cuba and visit to churches and government authorities

15-19 June 2011

Dresden, Germany


23-26 June 2011


Brasil Nunca Mais – handling of official WCC archives on human rights violations during the military dictatorship

CLAI Board Meeting

Confessional Families Gathering

25-27 June 2011


Visit churches

1 July  2011

Bern, Switzerland

Official church visit to SEK-FEPS

Speech  and visit to council of churches in Bern

2-4 July 2011



Ulm Donau Friedenswelle – end of the DOV celebration

ecumenical formation seminar

12-24 August  2011

Taizé, France

Visit to Taizé (spiritual retreat)

19-21 August 2011

Kerala, India

keynote speech for 150th anniversary of Mar Thoma church reformation

23-31 August 2011


PCC 50th anniversary celebrations

Pacific church leaders meeting

11-17 Sept 2011


WCC Executive Committee meeting

18-20 Sept 2011

Oslo, Norway

200th Oslo Conference, key note

20-23 Sept 2011

Yerevan, Armenia

Church Visit, Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Etchmiadzin), church visit

7-10 October 2011


Church visit, Church of Pakistan

17-19 October 2011

Washington DC, USA

Meeting of the Christian World Communion General Secretaries

20-21 October 2011

New York

Public event sponsored by WCC United Nations Liaison Office

26-28 October 2011

Assisi, Italy

25th Assisi World Day of Prayer For Peace – Pope Benedict XVI

28-29 Nov 2011

United Kingdom

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Networking Conference, delivered keynote speech

30 November 2011

Lyon, France

Rencontre Nationale des Délégués à l’œcuménisme, keynote speech

23-27 January  2012

Antelias, Lebanon

WCC Christian-Muslim consultation on “Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World”

1 February  2012

Trier, Germany

International Ecumenical Forum – Pilgrimage of the Holy Robe, keynote

2-4 February 2012


Church Membership Visits,

WCC Staff Coordination Meeting on Israel/Palestine and Middle East Issues

5-8 February 2012

Beirut, Lebanon

WCC Consultation on the Future of Conciliar Ecumenism – REOs and NCCs

23 February 2012

Kassel, Germany

Joshua Consultation--Resources for Spirituality and Interreligious Dialogue

24 February 2012

Frankfurt, Germany

Oekumenische Rundschau

11-16 March 2012


Strengthening Relations with Member churches

17-20 March 2012

Bergen, Norway

Visit to Church of Norway

21-25 March 2012

Manila, Philippines

CWME Pre-Assembly Mission Conference – offered   Reflections on Mission and Evangelism – visit with member churches and ecumenical partners

24-29 April 2012


NCC-India Assembly Strengthening relations with member churches and ecumenical partners

30 April-4 May 2012


United Methodist Church General Conference – Strengthening relations with member churches

4-5 May 2012


Armenian Diocese in the USA Strengthening relations with member church, received the “Friend of the Armenians” award

15-19 May 2012


Strengthening  relations with member churches

22-27 May 2012


Interreligious Delegation for Solidarity, Peace and Justice

6-7 June 2012

Oslo, Norway

Participation in the Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) consultation, meetings with NCA and MFA

8 June 2012


Strengthening relations with member church – EKD meeting on Transformation

12-16 June 2012


CCIA Meeting – Commission re-visioning, visit with CCC

17-28 June 2012

Jakarta and Papua, Indonesia

PWE consultation and Church visit Poverty, wealth, and economy reflections and affirmations; Strengthening  relations with member churches

18 August 2012


Church Membership Meetings

23 August 2012


Funeral of HH Abune Paulos