Bible studies are among the plethora of program offerings at the World Council of Churches (WCC) 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, taking place 31 August to 8 September. A core reason the WCC exists is to be “a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling…” The WCC assembly every eight years is a way for members of those churches to discuss face to face what the scriptures say about their common confession and how their calling together can play out.
The first Bible study sessions were held on 1 September. Session attendees heard from Archimandrite Prof. Dr Jack Khalil from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, dean of the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, University of Balamand, and Professor of New Testament Studies. Khalil provided an exegesis of Colossians 1:19-20, in which the Apostle Paul “emphatically highlights the links between the theology of creation and kerygmatic theology,” according to Khalil.
Prof. Hyunju Bae, Co-President of the Korea Christian Environmental Solidarity Movement for Integrity of Creation, led a parallel reflection on the same theme, “The Purpose of God’s Love in Christ for the Whole Creation—Reconciliation and Unity”. Commenting on Matthew 9:35-38, Bae said, “As the disciples of Jesus, we find ourselves to be summoned to respond to an urgent call to revitalize ministry and mission, filled with the fire of compassion that is ignited by the Jesus movement.”
Following Khalil’s presentation, session participants in Karlsruhe discussed two questions in small groups, considering how Christ’s love moves his followers to justice and unity – what they can learn from God’s love – and what tangible actions of love toward humans and the whole of the creation that God is moving followers to take.
“It’s our goal as Christians to spread love, to show the practical love and deeds to the creation, to all people of earth and obedience to our master,” Khalil stated in his conclusion following the group discussion.
Bible study leader’s presentations are broadcast live on the web, and the recordings are available later, to enable observers of the assembly around the world to take part. The reflections are also included in the publication, When He Saw the Crowds.
Praying and studying the Bible together are features of every WCC assembly, and these activities can be fraught with disagreement due to the differences in theological understanding, practice, tradition and style among the member churches that are present. But worship and Bible studies can also be a source of inspiration for participants and for deepening their understanding with the diversity of thought and perspective available to them.
That is the purpose of the assembly’s Bible study sessions, according to their organizers. Participants are encouraged to be open to each another, to the Bible passage and to the Holy Spirit and not to persuade others to a particular point of view.
The plenary Bible study sessions, which are held regularly throughout the assembly, also give participants an opportunity to meet around a Bible passage for reflection on the theme and the experience of the assembly.
Subsequent sessions include:
Friday, 2 September: Christ’s Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity, with Dr Krzysztof Mielcarek, theologian, biblical scholar, and associate professor of the Faculty of Theology in the John Paul II Catholic Theology of Lublin (Poland).
Monday, 5 September: Christ’s Love—Compassion for Life—Affirming the Wholeness of Life, with Dr Diana Tsaghikyan, assistant professor at the Faculty of Theology, Yerevan State University, and the head of the undergraduate program.
Tuesday, 6 September: Christ’s Love—Transforming Discipleship— Affirming Justice and Human Dignity, with Dr Paulo Ueti, member of the Ecumenical Centre for Biblical Studies (CEBI) from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, working in London at the Anglican Communion Office with Anglican Alliance (Development, Relief and Advocacy) and the Department of Theological Education.
Wednesday, 7 September: Christ’s love—The bond of Christian Unity and Churches’ Common Witness, with Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, a Zimbabwean theologian and the general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.