The gathering is scheduled to take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, in August-September 2022, around the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,”
It is the first time a WCC assembly has taken place in Europe since 1968.
Speaking at a news conference at the end of a 23-29 June meeting of the WCC central committee, Abuom said the theme speaks to the need for solidarity, in companionship with the churches and people of Europe.
“It could never be so appropriate, so relevant with COVID, with economic decline, with the issues of immigration, migration and refugees,” she said in reference to the theme.
The six-day WCC meeting, with many proceedings held online, discussed plans for the assembly and made recommendations to the WCC’s Assembly Planning Committee (APC).
Central committee member Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), part of the hosting group for the Karlsruhe gathering, said she hoped the assembly would send a “wake-up call” around the world, which has been put to the test by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Only together can we manage to face the challenges of this time,” she said.
“We as European churches need to meet churches from all over the world,” said Bosse-Huber. “I hope that we will learn from them to see our work and role as churches from a different perspective.”
She cautioned, however, that it is still not known how the situation around the COVID-19 pandemic will develop. The hosts and partners in Germany, and in neighbouring France and Switzerland, are monitoring the situation and are in close contact with the authorities, she said.
“No one knows what will be the future will be,” said Bosse-Huber, who is also moderator of the WCC’s programme committee.
Responding to a concern expressed by some African members of the central committee about the provision of vaccines to enable travel to the assembly, she described this as one of the “really troubling questions” that applied not only to Africa.
“We try to do everything to ask our government, our people, for help that the question of vaccination justice is taken as seriously as it should be,” said Bosse-Huber. “It’s not only about our assembly but about justice and peace in the world.”
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC central committee and moderator of the APC, said WCC member churches had responded positively to the invitation to name delegates for the assembly.
He said he hoped the Karlsruhe assembly would remind the churches of their commitment to continue their work for visible unity and Christian fellowship, a pilgrimage from which no one would be excluded.
Central committee vice-moderator Bishop Mary Ann Swenson said she looked to the Karlsruhe assembly offering an impetus for the future path of churches together.
“When we really do focus on Christ’s love moving us, we are talking about after Karlsruhe continuing to walk together in justice and peace, to walk together to attend to the integrity of creation, to deal with all the climate and environmental issues of the world, and we continue to walk together to end violence, and violence against women,” she said.
The WCC’s acting general secretary, the Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca described the search for unity as Christ’s testimony to his disciples.
“As people of faith we have to accept what Christ prayed for,” he said.
“We have so much as common which as Christians brings us together, helping us to move together, witnessing to the world our common values,” said Sauca.
“What COVID also taught us is that it’s not only Christians who belong to one another but the whole world,” he continued. “We are bound to one another as a human family, because the virus did not choose between confessions and religions. It touched humanity.”