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Thematic plenary focused on ’Christian Unity and the Churches’ Common Witness

7 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: Rev. Canon Dr Rosemary Muthoni Mbogo of the Anglican Church of Kenya speaks at a thematic plenary focused on ’Christian Unity and the Churches’ Common Witness’ at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Karlsruhe, Germany from 31 August to 8 September, under the theme "Christ's Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity."

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Bishop Prof. Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Stromn, delegate of the Evangelical Church in Germany and presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, led two panel discussions on Christian unity and the churches’ common witness.

H.E. Most Rev. Brian Farrel spoke about the need for churches to go beyond looking for commonalities but to face differences. “What differences are perfectly legitimate, what differences are compatible,” he said, “…and what are the ones we have to try still to overcome because they stand in the way of fuller communion. This for us is a hugely important achievement of the ecumenical movement.”

Transforming disciples

“One of the key goals of unity and mission should be to reflect on how we understand and give expression to the power of God’s love,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Jooseop Keum, delegate representative and general secretary of the Council for World Mission, noting a yearning for transforming discipleship that can bring reconciliation and healing.

“We need to be hope of the world, as agents of change,” he continued. “We need to witness together the power of God’s love.”

Ecumenism needs youth engagement

“Young people are here, young people have a spirituality… young people are already forming ecumenical spaces,” explained Lani Mireya Anaya Jiménez, challenging the assembly to consider how to better engage youth in intergenerational ecumenism and unity.

Rev. Canon Dr Rosemary Muthoni Mbogo, delegate and provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya also noted the need for engaging youth and young adults, “let’s use the gifts that are unique to all of us!”

Reconciliation and unity

Bran Friesen, assembly guest and member of the Mennonite Church of Canada, serving the WCC Reference Group on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, invited members of the assembly to “be uncomfortable” in the work of reconciliation and unity.

She spoke of the ongoing work of Indigenous reconciliation in Canada and around the world, and for her vision for what a future reconciliation would look like, “… my challenge to you would be to do this united – across denomination, across colour, across privilege, across location, across religion – inclusive of youth. And this will be the witness you want of love, needed in a rapidly changing landscape. It must be done together, it must be done now, and my hope depends on it.”

“For the future of our ecumenical movement, we need reconciliation,” urged H.E. Metropolitan Job of Psidia, delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and permanent representation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC. “We need reconciliation within our churches. We need reconciliation between our churches. We need reconciliation with the whole of humanity with those who are excluded and marginalize. I’m convinced that the WCC must have a prophetic voice for the future.”

Hope for the future

“Despite the many challenges that we face,” said Rev. Prof Jacqueline Grey, from the Pentecostal World Fellowship, “I have great hope for the future.” She spoke of Pentecostal involvement in the ecumenical movement. “It will still take deliberate engagement” we are brought together by Christ’s love. This requires us to truly love one another, not to just tolerate one another.”

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Livestream of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

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WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany