Following is the response of World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca to an open letter to the global ecumenical community on the Wuppertal Declaration, a conference message released in June 2019, when representatives from numerous countries and different denominational and faith traditions gathered in Wuppertal, Germany, to discuss the profound global ecological crisis.
What was the general reaction when the WCC, along with many others in the ecumenical movement, received this letter?
Rev. Dr Sauca: The WCC is a fellowship of churches and we welcome all forms of dialogue. The WCC considers the Wuppertal Declaration as an important conference message. It is the outcome of an initiative led by a WCC member church and international organizations on June 2019, with broad representation following an international ecumenical conference focusing on issues of eco-theology, ethics of sustainability and eco-friendly churches. The WCC was one of the co-organisers of the meeting and was represented in the gathering. Even if the Declaration does explicitly link the climate crisis to human greed, expressing more clearly the key role of the broken world economic order in producing and aggravating the ecological crisis, it remains a powerful voice for global action with specific suggestions that can be followed up and deepened.
As the main expression of the global ecumenical movement, the WCC operates in a wide range of contexts marked by diversity of identities, priorities and points of view. What holds the WCC together institutionally, also in terms of what the fellowship declares publicly, is the common voice that grows from our governing bodies, which, in many ways represents and streamlines that diversity and constantly seeks to reach consensus in a constructive and prophetic way. In this sense, it is important to highlight that the WCC Central Committee, Executive Committee and the general secretariat have been constantly affirming that economic and ecologic justice can never be separated.
How did you react to the criticism of the Wuppertal Call in the letter?
Rev. Dr Sauca: The open letter is not a criticism of WCC, but a critical look at the Wuppertal Declaration. It is a constructive criticism of the Wuppertal Declaration and will hopefully lead to deeper discussions and analyses. We always welcome dialogue and deeper reflection.
How will the WCC respond to the open letter?
Rev. Dr Sauca: Since the letter was not directed in particular to the WCC, we do not see the need to respond with another letter. We see our role in convening and bringing people with different opinions and perspectives around the table, to dialogue. As one of the co-organisers of the Wuppertal conference, we would like to reiterate the aforementioned affirmations and sharing key WCC statements that challenge the false dichotomy between economy and ecology and hold together justice and sustainability (as one cannot be achieved without the other). Both the Wuppertal Declaration and the open letter are very relevant and valuable inputs to the ecumenical movement to ensure that ecological justice will be addressed in a holistic manner, in the context of economic justice. We see that one of the roles of the WCC in this scenario is to work as the convener of such dialogue. It is only by working together that we can jointly ensure that the ecumenical movement will get the benefit of united and holistic responses to the existential challenges that humanity and creation face today. As the WCC fellowship is preparing for the 11th WCC Assembly to be held in Karlsruhe in September 2021, we look forward to having these issues discussed and further analyzed in ecumenical conversations at the assembly.