The joint WCC and ACT publication, “Called to Transformative Action: Ecumenical Diakonia,” outlines the theological components of diakonia and offers practical content for churches and ecumenical partners engaged in such service.
WCC partners in specialized ministries have been deeply involved in identifying different facets of ecumenical diakonia, and compiling their insights into a document that will help inform and inspire WCC member churches across the world.
Jørgen Thomsen, DanChurchAid, jokingly compared the upcoming document to birthing an elephant—an animal with one of the longest gestation periods. “The good side of that is, the baby is grown up, mature, and a very big baby and worth waiting for!” he said. “Jokes aside, I really celebrate the fact that this document will now be available.”
Thomsen added: “I think it's important to underline that the starting point of the document was not the relationship between the churches and the specialized ministries," he said. “But the starting point of this document is to clarify our joint understanding of ecumenical koinonia and articulate who we are and what we do jointly. And our relationships flow from that”.
WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri said that, for more than a decade, she has been observing and participating in forming the descriptions and examples that went into the publication. The work of the group included site visits to observe effective diakonia in places such as Malawi.
“Even within the fellowship of the WCC, we didn’t have a common understanding of what diakonia was about,” she said. “Now we do, and that will generate a lot of interest.”
Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, ACT Alliance general secretary, reflected on his years of studying and working on diakonia. When he became general secretary of ACT Alliance, he said, one of the first goals he had was to cement ACT’s identity as a faith-based organization. “We are connected to the church and we are connected to the ecumenical movement, especially to the World Council of Churches,” he said.
The purpose of the document is to clarify the understanding of ecumenical diakonia and to provide a common platform for reflecting and acting together for the churches and ecumenical partners worldwide. The release of the publication is planned for June 2022.