Jointly published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and ACT Alliance, the document provides a common platform for churches and ecumenical partners worldwide for acting and reflecting together.
The major publication outlines the theological components of diakonia and offers practical content for those engaged in the service of diakonia. The study document is intended to be used for formation and training in ecumenical diakonia, to strengthen the institutional capacity of those involved in diakonia, and to foster dialogue and cooperation between churches, ecumenical partners, ACT Alliance, and the WCC.
Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, moderator of the WCC central committee, greeted the news of the new German version with joy, and also took time to reflect on what diakonia means to him.
“Diakonia is the church,” he said. “And at a time when it is becoming less and less self-evident that the churches are being listened to, that the churches have an orientational function for society – in such times it is all the more important that we show ourselves as a church. That we show ourselves as a church through diakonia.”
Bedford-Strohm said he believes that the majority of people want to help make the world a better place for all. “When we see people in need before our eyes, when we see people in need either on our doorstep or in faraway countries, we feel the desire to help,” he said. “We want people who are in need to be helped, we want to see hardship overcome. And that is why diakonia is so important.”
Bedford-Strohm also referred to the scriptural roots of diakonia. “The double commandment of love—you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” he said. “This is the heart of the teaching which Jesus gave us. Love is at the heart, and one can never separate prayer and love for one’s neighbor.”
Loving God and loving one’s neighbor belong inseparably together, he added. “And that’s why you can’t say that worship is what is most important, or that helping others is what is most important. Rather, one and the other are inseparable. And that is why diakonia is an indispensable dimension of the church,” he said. “There is everyday diakonia in action out of charity toward other people, as well as the institution of diakonia – the Diakoniewerk, the Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe – here in Germany and the many worldwide associations which help people all over the world to receive aid, to receive aid out of Christian charity. And denominations do not play any role in this.”
Bedford-Strohm added a note of gratitude for the ecumenical document. “Not only because it brings together and considers the different denominational traditions and formulates a common basis. I am also very grateful for it because it makes one thing very clear which is inseparably connected to our Christian diaconal efforts, namely that it always takes into account the perspective of the world as a whole,” he said. “It is not possible to conduct a national diakonia or even a diakonia oriented to the regional churches. Rather, diakonia is always a task which takes people into account regardless of their national, religious or cultural backgrounds.”