The assembly will also offer opportunity for conversations among ACT’s 140 member organizations, asl well as learning and worship. The theme of the assembly, which runs through 3 December, is “Hope in Action: Putting People First,” with a crosscutting emphasis on youth and climate justice.
World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca offered opening reflections that described the ACT Alliance as a gift to the ecumenical movement. “Action by the Churches Together is an essential partner of the WCC fellowship of member churches,” he said. “The work of ACT Alliance and its members is an important witness to justice, peace, human dignity and development.”
When ACT Alliance was formed, many referred to the WCC as its parent. “Today we are siblings, serving the churches side-by-side as an expression of unity and common witness,” said Sauca. “Our collaboration has matured over the past decade and it has been reinforced through these times of pandemic.”
The WCC-ACT collaboration is also expressed through mutual accompaniment in the organizations’ respective governing bodies. “The WCC executive committee is thankful for the faithful participation of the ACT general secretary, Rev. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, in its meetings,” said Sauca. “The participation of the WCC deputy general secretary, Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, in the ACT governing bodies has also kept us close and strengthened our collaboration.”
The general secretary of the WCC also moderates ACT assemblies. “It is also a joy for the WCC to be preparing our 11th assembly with the active participation of ACT Alliance,” said Sauca. “The WCC assembly comes at a time when the world seems more divided than ever with increasing disparities, increasing racism, increasing populism and increasing violence.”
The agenda of the ACT assembly looks to the future, Sauca said. “It proposes to elect new leadership and deepen conversation on the signs of our times,” he said. “As a digital assembly, it is also an expression of innovation.”
The pandemic has reinforced the need for hybrid methods, but also shown the value of greater cooperation at a regional level to overcome the barriers of time zones, Sauca reflected.
Grave world challenges
“I also want to reflect on some of the conversation themes on the agenda of this assembly,” he said. “The climate emergency is one of the most urgent issues facing the world today.”
Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the churches have been a leading force for climate justice, Sauca said. “I pray that the WCC assembly will be a turning point for churches’ bold action for climate justice,” he said. “I also want to reflect on the theme of racism.”
Already decades ago, the WCC fellowship declared racism a sin and its theological justification heresy, said Sauca. “In response to increasing racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia worldwide, the WCC executive committee, already in 2017, insisted that overcoming racism should be an ecumenical priority,” he said. “In 2019, the WCC hosted an ecumenical strategic forum with ACT Alliance and our specialized ministries that affirmed addressing racism in the context to humanitarian and development work.”
The WCC launched a new programme on overcoming racism this year. “Last week the executive committee approved a work plan building on a series of regional consultations that help define the complex manifestations of racism in our world today,” said Sauca. “The WCC looks to ACT Alliance to lead our common efforts in combatting racism in the context of humanitarian work and as an essential contribution to sustainable development.”
The program of the ACT Assembly also includes a public event on youth and climate justice, envisioned to define strategies on youth climate action within the alliance and beyond, and regional meetings and “member conversations” to enable discussions on issues facing the alliance.