When did the WCC central committee set the date to meet in February?
Dr Abuom: That date was set back in June 2021 based on the assumption it would take place in-person and in Geneva.
What has changed?
Dr Abuom: Since then, the Swiss Federal Authority has revised its COVID-19 regulations three times, each time with more strict measures. Because of increasing infections and hospitalizations, as of 20 December, teleworking is mandatory, access to public places is limited to vaccinated and recovered persons, and masks are obligatory.
The situation has continued to deteriorate with record infections. The government has said to expect an acute phase of infections in January and February.
Globally, access to a meeting like the central committee is restricted to vaccinated or recovered persons and masks are required. Restrictions may be increased or extended. To enter Switzerland, one must be registered digitally, vaccinated and have a negative test. Global travel restrictions continue to increase as infections spike in some countries.
If the meeting was held in Geneva, central committee members from several different countries would be required to quarantine upon their return to their home countries, some of them for up to 10 days.
What else led up to the decision to hold the February central committee meeting online?
Dr Abuom: In November 2021, the executive committee asked the leadership of the WCC central committee to monitor the situation, to call for a meeting of the executive committee if postponement is proposed, and to convene the central committee online in February if meeting in-person is impossible.
Would you like to share some details about the February meeting?
Dr Abuom: We will meet as planned but online due to the situation with the pandemic to protect lives, secure the work of the council, and finalize preparations for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany in September. The central committee will discuss and consider different scenarios for the assembly in the context of the pandemic.
The executive committee also agreed that central committee should reflect on a way forward with the process of the election of a new general secretary.
We will also focus on reports from the Assembly Planning Committee, assembly-related nominations, a draft unity statement, and documents intended for use at the assembly. In addition, the membership applications received by the central committee in June 2021 are ready for action for a decision on two new member churches.
In preparing the June 2021 central committee, the executive committee decided not to present the report of the working group on constitution and rules for action during an online meeting. The group has continued its work as requested by the central committee and has further revisions to propose regarding the use of electronic communications for discussion and decision-making. The central committee may decide how to proceed with the process of the revision of rules.
Central committee media accreditation opens 17 January 2022
Media accreditation to the World Council of Churches central committee 9-15 February 2022, will open on 17 January 2022. Detailed accreditation procedures with links to application documents will be available online in the WCC press centre.
In times of restrictions caused by the pandemic, online solutions have emerged as viable alternatives to physical meetings. The WCC will only offer the online press centre throughout the central committee with no media onsite in Geneva. The WCC Communication will provide full service to the media as usual, including online media briefings.
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