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Report of the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the WCC Executive Committee

"The One Human Family ", report of the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the WCC Executive Committee meeting Bossey, Switzerland, 20-26 November 2019

20 November 2019

Report of the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the WCC Executive Committee meeting Bossey, Switzerland, 20-26 November 2019

 

The One Human Family

 

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. John 1:3-4

In this report I wish to draw our attention to an aspect of the message of the incarnation that has become all the more important to me personally and in my work for the World Council of Churches. We are again preparing to celebrate the incarnation. The birth of Jesus is described in the Gospel of John as the Creator’s care for the world. We have come into being in him. This is the scriptural affirmation of God’s love for the world, for the whole world, for “all people.” Jesus is the life and the light of all and for all. Jesus as the Word of Creation is near us, among us, one of us. He is here for us and our salvation.

The Holy Family is described in the gospels as a vulnerable family, and a sign of the whole human family, living under pressure and threats, but in faith, hope and love. They are surrounded by the angels, but also by animals and everything God created through the Word.

The light and life of the world that we celebrate at Christmas are even more needed in a world threatened by our human actions and by lack of care for this earth, our common home. The Christmas message is for everybody and about everybody.

At the World Council of Churches, we have a special call to be a sign of this new creation, this one human family in which we take care of one another, in all the diversity in which the Word created us, and in all circumstances. We trust in and are entrusted with God’s care for justice, peace, and our future - particularly the future of our children – and grandchildren—for all who come after us.

I want to see my reporting from that perspective: How are we called to and enabled to show God’s care and affirmation of the whole human family, in a way that expresses Christ’s love and bring hope for reconciliation and unity? A lot of what we are doing is actually about that. I present here some reflections about some pieces of the work of the WCC since May, in addition to all that is prepared and written in the documents you have received. I think in all this, we can pose the question above to ourselves and our plans for next year.

 

1. “The One Human Family” in “Our Common Home”

We are in an urgent, critical situation in the world. The environment and future conditions for human life and all living organisms are threatened. I am honoured to present and represent the work and commitment of the WCC, our member churches, and our ecumenical partners for a sustainable world. I had the chance to do so in two events in New York City, in the UN and related organizations. One was the Kofi Annan Faith Briefings of the UN’s Multi-Faith Advisory Council last July, addressing what we are doing to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are interrelated, and most of them are somehow addressed in our programme plans. I was particularly asked to focus on the Churches’ Commitments to Children, and its connection to addressing global warming and climate change. Later, in September, several events related to the High Level Summit on Climate Change on the eve of the UN General Assembly. The WCC, together with local partners, invited people for a prayer service in the Marble Collegial Church in New York City. I preached there about the question Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and how the focus shifted to taking care of the flock. I focused on how Christ’s love for the world must be shown in what we do to protect and steward all that is created and loved by Christ: the one world and all the people in the world. We cannot respond to the call to love God and our neighbour as ourselves without showing our love and care for all God’s creation. Climate change makes poverty more critical, the many who live from farming now experience unpredictable weather and seasons, making the vulnerable more vulnerable. It is a matter of deep justice, as so much else is in the world. It affects all dimensions of life, and therefore all the SDGs.

It is impressive to hear and see how the churches around the world are raising their voices and issuing calls for pilgrimages of climate justice, getting into serious discourse with governments and the finance and business sectors. The national arenas are in many ways the most critical at the moment. The Paris-agreement must be implemented by the governments – and by others, even when the governments fail to do so or deny their responsibilities.

There are several ecumenical and interreligious initiatives in this respect. In this context I will pay particularly respect and honour to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s initiatives and leadership, as he has been leading in showing how, as churches and disciples of Christ, we can make a difference for the environment. One of our most faithful participants in the WCC climate justice network since it was established was Mr Elias Abramides, a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Argentina. He died recently, but his work and vision, particularly in the meetings of the COP, continue to inspire us. We will continue his work in the next COP in Madrid this December, another milestone in our work as One Human Family to show that we care for more than national interest or short-sighted financial gain or languishing in ignorance. This is the issue where we know that all will lose if we do not solve it together through swift and strong joint efforts.

We all have to contribute to the changes toward sustainable work, travel, consumption, and living. We are proud of having developed our building project, the Green Village, with every possible initiative to make sure that its buildings are constructed and used as sustainable environments for working and living. It is also moves toward using renewable energy for heating and cooling, for electricity and much more. An example of this is the contract between WCC (to be transferred to new owners), Implenia and Sunergic for a micro-grid that was signed last week. “Micro-grid” refers to solar panels in a network. We are also very proud of now having launched the certification of the Green Village Project under the label “One Planet Living.” This is exactly the perspective of the “one human family” in “our common home” put into practice through definitions of new standards. We are also changing our plans for 2020 in the direction of more sustainable work. I have asked colleagues to see how the programmes can reduce their carbon footprints from flying by 20 percent. This is a lot, but I believe we should and can do that, at least for the next year, to come to another level of air travel and using other tools for working together. For example, I have participated in a webinar on racism that brought people from the whole world together for two hours, with different competences and contexts, without flying.

 

2. Combatting Racism

The one human family is facing another threat, from growing racism in all parts of the world. We agreed in May that we should continue to work on a concept note for a new programme to combat racism. This is done, and it is presented to you in our documents.

I want to emphasize here that the problem of racism is growing quickly in many, if not all, parts of the world. That means that a new programme to combat racism must address this poison as it appears in many forms in many contexts. It must particularly help the churches to be able to analyze its roots and how it appears in attitudes, practices, policies, politics, public discourse and debates, legal systems, and much more. Now is the time to move beyond discussion based on accusations and denials of being a “racist.” Most people would deny that, without reflecting on how we are all involved in cultures and practices of discrimination, degradation, prejudice, a sense of superiority vis à vis others, and exclusion. The WCC should use its potential for being a platform of sharing, empowering, analyzing, and learning what this is and how to address and combat it. The educational dimension needs particularly to be emphasized, but also how this has to be analyzed as to how we preach and work in the churches and together. These are profound theological questions for us who believe in one God, the Creator of all human beings in God’s image, and in Christ’s love and its power to move, reconcile, and unite the world in justice and peace.

A theological conference in Japan in August addressed this theme through substantial contributions, and more work has to be done in strategizing, analyzing, and developing programme activities. Several meetings, conferences, and initiatives are already being taken this year with the focus on racism under the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace; some of it was reported already in May.

The WCC has a strong legacy in its historic Programme to Combat Racism, which should be activated as a source of inspiration and learning. It had a special focus on the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, and in combatting the apartheid theology and system in Southern Africa. I had the privilege, together with the moderator of the central committee, Dr Abuom, to participate in the NCCUSA’s event Virginia in October commemorating 400 years of since the beginning of slavery. This was a very moving moment, a moment of truth and lamentation, and of critical reflection on the theology and practices of the Christian tradition and our churches. I had the privilege to share in a seminar about the work of the WCC on this issue in the past and the present, and our plans for the future. Dr Abuom and others delivered a strong message about what our faith in the God of Life, the real God and not in others, has meant to survival, and to combatting the terrible injustice that slavery introduced and whose effects still mar countless lives today. Responsibility for slavery rests with many people and institutions (including the churches) in North America, but it was also a trade that involved other continents, particularly Europe.

One of the lessons learned for me was the brilliant analysis by Dr Ibram X. Kendi of what racism means today in the systems and practices of all sectors of life in the USA that go far beyond the legal systems, for example. The opposite of being a racist is not saying, “I am not a racist.” The opposite is being an anti-racist, addressing the issues in all dimensions of life proactively and with increased understanding.

The programme we should develop as the WCC must be comprehensive, but also strategic in terms of what the WCC can and should do. I believe that this is a programme that particularly needs the active participation of our member churches and partners. It must be developed also by them according to the needs of their contexts, but together in a fellowship of solidarity for justice. Something is already done and formulated in our plans. But more should be discussed in depth in relation to and at the 11th Assembly, in anticipation of its being a future priority of the WCC afterward.

 

3. Living together and dialogues with peoples of other faiths

The WCC this year celebrates 50 years of the programme for relations to other faiths, by launching a third journal, upgrading the publication Current Dialogue to the level of a theological journal. Competent people from different churches and academic institutions will guide the project through the editorial board, and through published articles. This academic and practical approach to building bridges between peoples of different faith traditions in the one human family has proven to be absolutely necessary, and it has been accepted and embraced by the member churches after being critically scrutinized in the first years.

A new initiative was launched recently in Cardiff, Wales, a network of officers and representatives of churches working particularly on these issues in the churches. This is a tremendous resource for the fellowship, and it will strengthen the work of the WCC in this field in many ways. I had the privilege to participate in the launching event, sharing some reflections on how I see the work on interfaith encounter and dialogue and collaboration in the WCC. We work on the basis of our call to work for peace and justice in the one human family, and this has become a dominant perspective in this programme in recent years. Religion is increasingly abused to legitimize conflict and violence. We have to deal with this in mutual accountability to one another for how our traditions and holy texts bring wisdom and hope, but also have been used to motivate conflicts and oppression. The theme of the 11th Assembly will help us to reflect more on how our faith in Christ is our identity, our call to being peacemakers and inclusive and care for the life together, but also our basis for sharing the gospel of Christ’s love.

The reference group on inter-faith relations has done what it was asked to do and has revised the drafts of the document on religion and violence. The group is now taking into account the many comments and critical remarks to it. In the next period it will be analyzed and revised further by the SLG and discussed internally among WCC staff. I hope that it could be brought then to the executive committee in its meeting in March 2020 to be reviewed and revised, to be presented to and received by the central committee and shared with the member churches and beyond.

In our plans for this programme for 2019, approved by the executive committee, there were defined tasks to further develop and make public the efforts to re-establish a dialogue with international Jewish partners. Over the last years I have been involved in meetings to work in that direction together with participants from member churches, led by H.E. Archbishop Dr Vicken Aykazian, and there was a break-through in our meeting in Paris in June in the sense that were a common understanding that the dialogue should continue as an open, honest, and accountable one. The theme for the meeting was “The Normalization of Hatred,” discussing how religious communities can combat all forms of hatred, particularly in public speech and social media, and can work to prevent violence, also against religious communities and sometimes with some religious legitimation. From our side, we emphasized that the WCC fights against all forms of attacks against religious groups, Jews, Muslims, Christians or others.

We are all worried that there is a significant increase in hate-speech against religious groups, violence and several terrorist attacks on sanctuaries and people praying there. This has shocked the whole human family, and we have to acknowledge that some of it is done while claiming a religious motivation. We also emphasized, through a presentation by Director of CCIA, Mr Peter Prove, that the new definition of “anti-Semitism” from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization is unacceptable as it falls short of offering protection against political misuse of the definition. For example, those who criticize the policies and activities of the state of Israel might unduly be called anti-Semitic.

We also have opened a new relationship to the Sikh-communities in the world, and have had a first meeting in this respect in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva on 5 July. The WCC’s hosting and convening this meeting was greatly appreciated, and we had strong collaboration also with other Christian partners, e.g., the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Bishop Miguel Ayuso was present as their new president, and the collaboration with them has been strongly developed. I sent him my congratulations when he was elevated to cardinal recently, and we sense a genuine interest from their side in cooperation with the WCC on inter-faith initiatives.

Recently I was invited by representatives of Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmed Al-Tayeb to participate in a meeting to discuss the potential future role of the WCC general secretary and the WCC partnering in implementing the commitments of the document signed by the two in Abu Dhabi on “Human Fraternity.” The themes and the initiatives are significant and urgent, building bridges and taking new initiatives to protect people from violence, conflicts, and divisions related to religion, and to change the culture of conflict and hatred. I have answered that we in the WCC are committed to working for a manifestation of “the one human family” in the churches and the societies in which we live. The resources made available for new initiatives are coming particularly from the UAE, where the signing of the text was held. The independence of this initiative from national governments was emphasized. However, the WCC must explore and assess the concept as it develops before a further decision is made.

 

4. A human family of service, care, and justice: International diakonia

The significant work done to establish a common platform for the WCC, our member churches, and our many partners on ecumenical diakonia now comes to a conclusion. The document was discussed thoroughly at the central committee in June 2018, and all comments were taken into the process of revision of the document. It is important for our programme work on diakonia with our member churches and particularly for our cooperation with many partner organizations doing ecumenical international diakonia. I am particularly grateful to all from this committee and from our partner organizations who contributed to the first draft and have now responded to the many comments and proposals from the central committee.

We are continuing our reflection on how the WCC works together with ACT Alliance in this field. I am grateful that they will launch, publish, and use this document as a common resource for our work and cooperation.

We also continue working on how to define our relationships and division of labour, and the roles we have to fill in the one ecumenical movement. This is particularly pertinent in the issues of advocacy, in respect to who is speaking on behalf of the many churches in the world, on which issues, and with what profile and mandate. The WCC role must continue to be the leading voice and agent in this respect, with support from others, like ACT Alliance and their members, and with defined distribution of some dimensions of ecumenical advocacy. We have scheduled a joint meeting for February of the WCC leadership and the relevant level of ACT Alliance to bring as much clarity and accountability as possible.

The one, whole ecumenical movement is accountable to God’s call and to the call from the needs of the whole human family. We have different roles and capacities, different means and competences, but we must as the WCC particularly fill the role of defining the common ground and the common goal, as well as contributing to coordination and mutual accountability. There is a shared understanding by many, also expressed by the ACT Alliance general secretary, Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, to me, that this is how we understand the role of the WCC.

 

5. A human family with difference and respect: A Gender Justice Policy for the WCC

We live together in the world and in the churches trying to build a just community of women and men. The proposal for a Gender Justice Policy for the WCC as an organization has been further revised and is now presented to you with a new proposal for practical implementation in our staff rules, etc.

We remind each other that the work on the Gender Justice Policy was completed by the WCC Gender Advisory Group, which was formed by the general secretary in consultation with the executive committee. Its terms of reference were adopted by the central committee in its meeting of August/September 2012 in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, and shared with participants in the women’s and men’s pre-assembly of the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan in 2013.

As a harvest of reflections over time in the work of the WCC, this policy document is divided into five sections. The first focuses on the rationale for the policy, which describes how the unequal and unjust power relationships that exist between women and men, have impacted the ability of God’s people to live life in fullness. The second section describes the historical background that informs the drafting of the policy, found in the many statements, reports, policies, and guidelines of the WCC. The third section presents the biblical and theological foundations for gender justice, and the fourth section outlines the principles that derive from these foundations. The fifth and final section proposes the implementation of the gender justice policy by the different constituencies of the WCC.

The WCC as a fellowship has a shared commitment to be a just community of women and men. The gender justice policy comes out of this shared vision of a just community of women and men. This shared commitment is now expressed through the WCC Gender Justice Policy to give direction to how we work and therefore serve as an instrument for the WCC as an organization for its staff, commissions, reference groups, and governing bodies. This is a piece of work that is to be recognized and honoured and made available to the churches for them to study as they want and find useful for their own reflections. The issues raised in the report are discussed in all churches in different ways, and with different principles and practices. The WCC should honour its role of providing platforms for exchange and reflection, and an environment for mutual listening and respect. You are invited to consider the policy and prepare recommendations for action by the central committee at its meeting in March 2020.

 

6. One Ecumenical Movement: The Regional Ecumenical Organizations and the WCC

In July we had a very fruitful meeting here in Bossey with the general secretaries or those representing the staff of the regional ecumenical organizations (REOs). Since that last meeting, a proposal for a memorandum of understanding was presented by some of the general secretaries and some of our staff. It was discussed and revised according to the common will to improve the cooperation, coordination, and the accountability among these organizations, showing that we are working as one ecumenical movement. It is not a document saying that there is a hierarchical structure or that any partner can block the work of the other, but that information and consultation should be done in due time when programmes and projects are happening in the same region or on themes that are a shared priority. This is a commitment to steward well the resources available for our common work, and to involve one another in the work. I believe this has been helpful for improving the relationships, but also serves a guide to how we work in the future.

Some of the REOs have serious problems. The Latin American council, CLAI, was not present at all, as there is no general secretary there, no staff, no office, and a board that has not been able to agree to meet. The meeting in July wrote a joint letter to the members of CLAI to express our sorrow and worry about their absence at the table of the one ecumenical movement, particularly in a time when there are so many challenges for their countries and the churches in their region that call upon the churches for joint efforts and a common voice. The responses to the letter expressed a hope that the WCC could play a role of bringing them together again. An effort from my side to call the board of CLAI together for a meeting in Brazil in October failed. The advice I receive from many who relate to the churches in the region, is that the churches should be addressed directly and invited for a new meeting to discuss the future of ecumenical cooperation in Latin America.

I also visited the Methodist Church in Mexico in October. They have frozen their membership since 1994 but had wished to reconsider their relations to the WCC and the ecumenical movement. They invited me to meet with their bishops and the Cabinet of the General Conference. We met in Monterrey for two days; and I presented the basis, the work, and the profile of the WCC of today. They showed a great deal of interest in how the WCC has gone through a process of the common vision and understanding of the WCC as a fellowship of churches, the use of the consensus method, and our strengthened relationship to the Roman Catholic Church and on what basis and how inter-religious dialogue and cooperation are pursued now. I invited them to make decisions that could enable them to participate fully again, and particularly in the assembly.

We have had meetings with several churches and partners from Brazil, discussing how the ecumenical fellowship can address the drastic changes in that country related to political directions, care for the environment, the protection of minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rule of law, democracy, etc. The Roman Catholic Church was also present. The work will be continued in cooperation with ACT Alliance and others.

We have also addressed the situations in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and Nicaragua, and we have been present at a conference on migration and racism in Ecuador recently.

The visit to Mexico and other sources of information show how the situation for asylum seekers who must leave their homes in Latin America and Central America is very serious, and how the churches try to address them in humanitarian help, etc. The very heavy restrictions and limitations of the rights to seek asylum or to migrate to the USA have affected their total situation severely. The church in Mexico told how they had to feed refugees who were waiting for asylum decisions from the USA or were rejected from entry.

From only being a partner to the regional organizations, the WCC together with other REOs can be of help and serve as a facilitator for new processes in these regions where we are asked to do so. We must pursue processes that are owned and led by the churches themselves. These are also relevant issues to discuss in relation to the Caribbean Conference of Churches.

 

7. One Human Family in Diversity: Together on the pilgrimage way

We are in the one human family people of difference and diversity, including in sexuality, and it falls to the central committee, together with the executive committee, to discuss several dimensions of human sexuality, for example, gender-based violence.

Before you is the report of the Reference Group on Human Sexuality. Mandated by the 10th Assembly of the WCC at Busan in 2013, and reiterated by the executive committee meeting in 2014, a Reference Group on Human Sexuality was formed. It was tasked with presenting reflections on different sources and foundations for discernment on issues of human sexuality; outlining common theological principles for understanding human sexuality; identifying the signs of the times on how sexual and gender-based violence are experienced by different groups; sharing information on different aspects of human sexuality as experienced by the WCC fellowship; and providing examples of establishing safe spaces of dialogue for conversations on human sexuality.

Conversations on the Pilgrim Way document is the latest in a 50-year series of conversations by member churches of the WCC. It is the result of a variety of conferences, consultations, and study processes conducted by churches of different denominations and traditions and from different regions of the world. The report draws on the work of the different commissions of the WCC and materials which have been presented to the governing bodies of the council. It wrestles theologically and pastorally with situations that confront contemporary societies, and it seeks to offer a theological framework for discernment. Conversations is a sharing exercise, and an invitation to member churches to share further their insights on, theological approach to, and experience of responding to human sexuality concerns. We are aware that church responses to the issues of human sexuality continue to be divisive within and between churches. Conversations on the Pilgrim Way seeks to explore how to maintain fellowship while holding different positions on issues of human sexuality. It lifts up examples of “safe spaces of dialogue” to help the churches engage in discussion of these questions. These discussions are urgent, as violence against women and children continues apace. Discrimination and stereotyping on grounds of sexuality is a recurring reality for many. The report reaffirms that: “Every person, inclusive of his or her sexual orientation, is created in the image of God and therefore irrevocably needs to be treated with utmost respect, dignity and love” (6.2.3).

This report has been submitted for peer review, and most of the advice offered has been taken into account in its finalization. I believe that the Reference Group has fulfilled its mandate, and I ask you to transmit Conversations on the Pilgrim Way to the central committee for discussion.

 

8. The Wider Ecumenical Family: A Visit to the Pentecostal World Fellowship

The relationships to the Pentecostal World Fellowship (PWF) has developed quite significantly over the last decade. I was invited to the assembly of the PWF in Calgary, Canada, and this is the third time I have participated in such events. I was again offered the opportunity to give a speech at their ecumenical dinner. This time I was also invited to participate in a workshop on ecumenism, a novelty in these events. The conversation was very rich and profound, with an openness and interest in the WCC and our role that was very encouraging. The hosting Pentecostal churches in Canada, led by Rev. David Wells, have had significant ecumenical involvement and commitment already. Rev. Dr Mel Robeck and Rev. Dr Harold Hunter, who both have participated frequently for a long time in the ecumenical movement and also in the work of the WCC and the Global Christian Forum, were central in facilitating this conversation and my participation. The outgoing president, Rev. Dr Prince Guneratnam, has also been playing a significant role in building these relations. I see that the need for theological reflection and wider ecumenical relations are acknowledged also in the Pentecostal movement, and I am hopeful for the outcome of the work of the joint working group between them and the WCC. They met recently in Bossey, and had a very fruitful and constructive meeting. I also met with them there.

 

9. National Councils of Churches

We have had the privilege also during this period since May to visit or receive visits in Geneva from several of the national councils of churches or similar institutions (Denmark, USA, Canada, Korea, Sudan, Brazil, India, Norway). The visit I had in connection with the Faith and Order meeting in Nanjing (see the report from the Faith and Order director) to the China Christian Council reminded me that they are not only a member church but also have the character of uniting many churches in China.

The national councils of churches play significant roles in the one ecumenical, conciliar movement, and are in many cases and different ways the most effective instrument in applying and promoting initiatives and advocacy together with the WCC. Many other countries could be mentioned, where the national councils of churches really are the leading force in ecumenical work for visible unity and promoting practical initiatives. They should be involved systematically and proactively in our work, even if they themselves are not directly members of the WCC. However, they have many resources that are of high quality as partners for the WCC. I want us to affirm that we honour and pay attention to their work and will continue to work closely with them as partners.

 

10. Our relation to the hosting churches in Switzerland

 

It is not so often that we pay visits to those who are closest to us, even as we work together often and in different ways here in Switzerland. I was invited to address the assembly of the Federation of the Protestant Churches in Switzerland (FEPS) and to have conversations in Bern with church leaders, as well as with ecumenical officers and ecumenists in academic settings and churches recently. The federation will now become a church structure, Evangelische Kirche der Schweiz (EKS). This was their last assembly in the old format. They need to rationalize their cantonal functions and increase cooperation.

The commitment to support the WCC was strongly affirmed, both in the work from Geneva and particularly the work in Bossey. Representatives of the local church in Geneva, including Rev. Emmanuel Fuchs from Saint Pierre Cathedral, stood up and related how their cooperation with the WCC has developed significantly the last years and has added a new dimension to their life and work in Geneva.

I think we need to strengthen this relationship to the Swiss churches, since they are hosting us but also are our closest partners in many ways. We also work with the Swiss mission agencies and the institutions for humanitarian and development aid, as well with the foreign ministry of Switzerland for our different projects. In Geneva we also work well with the local authorities, particularly now, during development of the Green Village.

Due to their understanding of the context, culture, and conditions for working here, and their heritage and willingness to contribute, the Swiss churches can help us with, and must have a significant place in, the work of the council. I want to express our and my gratitude for their strong commitment and support, but also for their open-minded and critically constructive approach to the work with the WCC.

 

11. The ecumenical fellowship and the work for a just peace for Palestine and Israel

We have had from time to time – or most of the time – some challenges related to the work of EAPPI. At the moment the Jerusalem office seems to work well, and we have EAs participating and reporting well. The programme is all the time under some attack, for example, as it was some months ago from NGO Monitor. We see how the funding basis for national offices recruiting for the programme is attacked. Still, the church partners with whom we work continue to contribute substantially to this significant and critical programme for the people on the ground and for the WCC’s witness for just peace in the world.

The initiative to restart the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum by inviting some of the partners locally to get together with WCC representatives in Bethlehem in June was a good next step in mutual understanding and commitment. The next, wider forum, to discuss present challenges and to revise strategies, was clearly desired, and it is now tentatively scheduled for February 2020.

The week of Work and Prayer for Peace for Palestine and Israel is observed by several churches in September, and it continues to focus on the need for a just and sustainable solution.

Questions of the policies of the WCC are raised from time to time, and they were discussed at length in the meeting in June in Bethlehem, particularly the issue of the feasibility of a two-state solution. There are many doubts and little commitment to it, as the so-called peace-plan from the USA does not make it a real option, as far as we were informed then. Other issues on the world agenda are dominating at the moment, yet the occupation and the initiatives for annexation of Palestinian land go on. The developments in the demographic realities in the Palestinian areas are worrying.

The work for a Just Peace must go on, but it needs constant and renewed attention from the WCC.

 

12. Green Village

We will hear and read new reports on the work for this significant and promising project. The attention to this is demanding, but we now see rewarding results. We are working toward the first sales contracts in December. Now we also see concrete changes happening on the ground, as new interim parking spaces are made outside my office. I had the promise from Implenia that they will start digging before I leave office. Now we expect the great enterprise to start in the beginning of January.

We have made a lot of progress, and work is done every day from the side of the WCC. Now it is time to increase our staff capacities for this project, in addition to the significant work that the Director of Finance, Ms Elaine Dykes, and other colleagues are doing, to make sure all our interests are well taken care of and to secure progress all the time. We will have more presentations and time to discuss this. I think it is also time to increase the members of the Steering Committee at this point.

We are particularly satisfied that we have launched the One Planet Living label on the whole project, together with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Grand-Saconnex and Implenia. This is representing a new standard of sustainable quality as an added value for our buildings and the use of them, the first of its kind in Geneva.

 

13. The one human family – and the one church family

In a phone call from the former president of the WCC, HB Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, I was reminded of how much has changed during these last decades in the relationships among the churches through the work of the WCC. He particularly encouraged me to see the great picture, to see how God’s call to unity, common witness, and service goes on and has been blessed by so many new opportunities over these years. Together we could remember his prayer for me immediately after my election, and I could affirm to him that the blessings of God on the work of the WCC continue in many ways through what we are doing together. The Archbishop said he was thanking God for how we have become able to be an expression of God’s will for the church and for humanity, in spite of all our shortcomings and challenges in the church families and in the one human family. We are the churches of the resurrection. As we carry our cross, we are reminded that the resurrection is always revealed and happens through the reality of the cross.

From the beginning to the end, it is all about Christ, who is the life and the light for us all.