World Council of Churches

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

Guidelines for Sharing

"Guidelines for sharing", in Sharing for Life, the report of the El Escorial consultation. 1987

30 October 1987

World Consultation on Ecumenical Sharing of Resources, El Escorial, Spain, 1987

Out of abundant and outgoing love, God has created the world, and has given it to all humanity for faithful use and sharing. As recipients of God's gift of life, we are called to see the world through God's eyes, offering it in blessing through our own acts of love, sharing and appropriate use.

But, because of our sin and selfishness, we have misused God's gift. We have allowed the interests of a few to diminish the life of many. It has led to the rise of unjust structures which perpetuate dependence and poverty for the majority of the world's people. This surely is contrary to the purpose of God.

It is in the midst of this sinful reality that in Jesus Christ God offered God's very self for the life of the world.

The presence of the Risen Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to break down barriers and renew structures, preparing for the coming of God's kingdom of justice and peace.

The new life given by the Holy Spirit in Christ creates us as a new people members of one body, bearing one another's burdens and sharing together in God's gift of life for all.

In the eucharist, we offer to God ourselves and the whole of creation in its brokenness, and receive all things back anew. The eucharist sends us back into the world to be Christ's body, broken and shared for the life of the world.

As the first-fruits of the new humanity, the church is called to stand in solidarity with all people, particularly with the poor and the oppressed, and to challenge the value systems of this world.

Having confidence in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, who alone to the divine wi1l through the Holy Spirit enables us to live in obedience to the divine will, we the participants in the world consultation on resource-sharing, coming from different regions, cmmit urselves to a common discipline of sharing among all God's people.

II

In all such sharing we commit ourselves
1. To a fundamentally new value system based on justice, peace and the integrity of creation. It will be a system that recognizes the rich resources of human communities, their cultural and spiritual contributions and the wealth of nature. It will be radically different from the value system on which the present economic and political orders are based and which lies behind the current crises like those of nuclear threat and industrial pollution.

2. To a new understanding of sharing in which those who have been marginalized by reason of sex, age, economic and political condition, ethnic origin and disability, and those who are homeless, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants take their place at the centre of all decision and actions as equal partners.

This means, for example, that

  • churches, council and networks will establish for this purpose ecumenical mechanisms both nationally and regionally;
  • equitable representation will be provided for women and youth in decision-making structures.

3. To identify with the poor and oppressed and their organized movements in the struggle for justice and human dignity in church and society. This in turn will imply the refusal to participate, either as giver or receiver, in ways of sharing that undermine this struggle.

4. To bear witness to the mission of God by identifying, exposing and confronting at all levels the root causes, and the structures, of injustice which lead to the exploitation of the wealth and people of the third world and result in poverty and the destruction of creation. This entails working for a new economic and political order.

This would mean, for example that the churches of the North and the South commit themselves to strengthen and participate in the various anti-nuclear movements and to bring pressure upon their governments to stop nuclear testing and the dumping of nuclear waste. It will also mean joining with the people in their struggle against transnational corporations, militarism and foreign intervention and occupation.

5. To enable people to organize themselves and realize their potential and power as individuals and communities, working towards the kind of self-reliance and self-determination which are an essential condition of interdependence.

6. To be open to one another as friends on the basis of common commitment, mutual trust, confession and forgiveness, keeping one another informed of all plans and programmes and submitting ourselves to mutual accountability and correction.

This implies, for example, the implementation of mutual accountability and participation in decision-making between the South and the North.

7. To represent to one another our needs and problems in relationships where there are no absolute donors, or absolute recipients, but all have needs to be met and gifts to give, and to work for the structural changes in the institutions of the North and the South which this calls for.

8. To promote through words and deeds the holistic mission of the church in obedience to God's liberating will. We are convinced that in responding only to certain parts of the mission we distort and disrupt mission as a whole.

9. To participate in the struggles of people for justice, and thereby overcome all barriers between different faiths and ideologies which today divide the human family. This means, for example, churches in East and West making use of all opportunities to strengthen the process of detente and integrating the resources freed by this process for ecumenical sharing.

10. To resist international mechanisms (such as the International Monetary Fund/World Bank) which deprive the people of the South of their resources, transferring for example their hard-earned capital, which is more than the aid they receive, in payment of foreign debt, thereby putting them in a state of perpetual dependence contributing instead to a fundamental and just redistribution of the wealth and resources of a country including the wealth of its churches.

11. To devise ways of shifting the power to set priorities and terms for the use of resources to those who are wrongfully denied both the resources and the power, such as movements for social justice.

This would imply that participation of the South in the decision-making must not only be on a consultative basis as it is practised today.

12. To facilitate and encourage mutual involvement among the churches and people in the South who have common concerns, for example through the sharing of human resources.

13. To promote and strengthen ecumenical sharing at all levels, national, regional and international.

III

Ecumenical sharing of resources will take place at all these three levels: local; national/regional; international/inter-regional.

Relations between bodies at the three levels of sharing should be characterized by flexibility, complementarity and mutual power-sharing.

All levels of implementation should recognize and work towards the goal of an equitable representation of 50% women and 20% youth in all decision-making structures over the next five years.

At the local level
The initiative to obtain resources from national and international agencies should, as far as possible, be taken by the local community.

In situations where local ecumenical groups and churches are not working together and where it prevents resource-sharing, the process should be facilitated through local community action, and every effort made to encourage ecumenical cooperation among groups and churches.

At national and regional levels
Where national or regional mechanisms for resource-sharing do not exist, the need to set them up must be seen as a matter of urgency. These mechanisms may consist of representatives of churches, ecumenical groups and those popular or people's movements which are involved in the struggle for justice, peace and full human development.

These bodies should constantly and critically examine their own composition and activities and the power structures inside and outside the church, in order to achieve a more just and equitable resource-sharing. They should invite and facilitate both dialogue and critical assessment through visiting teams from the churches or groups with whom they share resources, to enhance mutuality and the sharing of power. International agencies should take part in the activities of these bodies only when invited.

It is important to educate public opinion in all our countries regarding the structural causes of world economic disorder. This can be done in theological training centres, for example, with the help of witnesses from among partners in sharing.

The regional level is where methods for monitoring resource-sharing can be most effectively established.

At the international level
International ecumenical resource-sharing bodies must be based on equal representation of the partners involved. They should complement the national/regional and local decision-making bodies, for example through round table structures and through the sharing of all relevant information, including financial, of projects/programmes among the partners involved.

All Christian World Communions and ecumenical organizations are called on to take part in the ecumenical sharing of resources through the WCC and to adhere to the discipline emerging from this consultation.

The WCC is called to a better integration of existing units and sub-units of the Council and, as far as possible, to coordinate the channelling of its resources through existing networks.

It is recommended that the WCC set up a mechanism to follow up the implementation of the discipline emerging from this consultation.

IV

We will follow this discipline ourselves. We will try to create a climate in which it is understood and welcomed. We will challenge our churches, their peoples and their agencies to accept it.

We will urge acceptance of this discipline beyond the membership of the WCC.

We will refuse cooperation when this discipline is explicitly being rejected.

We will create opportunities to develop new ecumenical partnerships to enable churches of different traditions and contexts to enrich one another.

We will support one another in our commitment. We undertake to give an account to each other and so to God, of the ways in which we have turned our words into deeds. within a period of three years

Recommendations on women and youth
As a result of the meetings of women and youth at the consultation the following recommendations and comments were approved in plenary:

Women
The women's group recognizes that there is a very strong connection between the plight of women and the patriarchal interpretation of the Bible. Men's theology perpetuates a system where women are considered "less than". The theological section of the report must address this issue.

In the sharing of resources, women can offer new theological perspectives growing out of their experience (for example, "As Seen by Women" and "Asian Women Reading the Bible"). We strongly urge that during the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, the churches commit themselves to an in-depth study of and engagement with these perspectives.

1. We recommend that there must be 50% representation by women in all decision-making and consultative structures set up or changed as a result of this consultation, such as follow-up committees, local, national, and international bodies, and that all these bodies must reflect the liberating perspectives of women in their decisions.

2. We recommend that participants in this consultation commend to their organizations the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women and encourage their support for it. In concrete terms, this means making available sufficient financial and other resources to initiatives which work towards justice for women and which enable their full participation in the societies in which they live.

3. We recommend that within the first five years of the Decade the goal be achieved of using 50% of the total annual flow of funds channelled through ecumenical bodies for programmes and activities empowering women, and their communities. These include:
a) those entirely planned and implemented by women;
b) those benefiting the larger community in which women play an equal part in decision-making and planning;
c) those which enable people to organize themselves and realize their potentials as individuals and communities.

Special emphasis should be placed on funding activities which:
a) enable women to develop in a systematic way visions and concepts for an alternative society based on justice, peace, equality, and an ecologically appropriate economy;
b) conscientize women of their rights and potential in their own societies;
c) provide leadership and skills training for women;
d) provide opportunity for regional meetings of women from all sectors and levels, particularly in the South-South context.

We urge decision-making bodies to scrutinize all funding requests to eliminate those which discriminate or work against the empowerment of women.

In 1992 there should be an evaluation by women of the achievements of this recommendation, both in financial and prograrnmatic terms.

4. We also recommend that churches, church-related organizations and other donor agencies commit themselves to the 50% funding and decision-making patterns described above and submit themselves to the same review procedures. As these are likely to be bilateral relationships, it is important that the whole of God's family represented here, women and men, adopt and support this position as, in many cases, organizations are represented here by men alone.

5. We recommend that prior to the distribution of the audiovisual prepared for this consultation, alterations be made to the art work to make it inclusive of all God's family.

Youth
The youth group is not satisfied with the way young people have been invited to this consultation. The process has been going on for many years but youth have not been included. The primary concern of the youth group is the participation of young people in the ecumenical sharing of resources.

Young people around the world are bearing the heavy burden of the world's pain and injustice. Churches need to know and hear the experiences of young people.

Young people need solidarity, resources and support through the sharing of resources within the ecumenical movement.

Youth organizations, networks and projects need the support and the trust of those who themselves have once been young.

1. We recommend that in all decision-making bodies on resource sharing there should be 20% youth including both women and men.

2. We recommend that 10% of all programme and project funds be designated for youth projects and programmes. These funds should include the administrative budgets of youth organizations.