Abuom said at an online press conference attended by journalists from all over the world, “After many meetings of reflection, prayer and consultation, we agreed with central committee members to meet online.”
She said, “We listened to the voices of the churches, the communities, the nations from around the world.”
Abuom said each region presented in the fellowship was able to reflect and to share with the central committee their moving testimonies of “how the church is coping, adapting to the new context and therefore its resilience.”
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the next assembly to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany, to next year and stopped the convening of last year’s central committee, the WCC’s main governing body, between assemblies.
Focus on assembly matters
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the central committee and moderator of the assembly planning committee, told the journalists that the agenda at the first online meeting in its history was finely focused on assembly matters.
He noted during question time that the youth presence and participation in the life of the WCC “has improved in the last years…with a lot of effort” and the “youth are part of our ecumenical family” for the future.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, central committee vice moderator, addressed the press conference from California.
She said that the areas reporting to the central committee were from Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America, and the Pacific.
“We heard from the different regions about issues of the environment and climate justice, and the concerns about their issues around racism,” said Swenson.
“We heard about their work towards the reconciliation and unity as we prepare for the assembly…. We also heard about the efforts of the different parts of the world on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.”
Swenson said the central committee received greetings from both H.B. John X, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East and from His Holiness Karekin II,the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Then it was the turn of Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany, a member of the central committee who cautioned that nobody currently knows how the situation around COVID-19 will develop.
“Therefore, we are in close contact with the German authorities and all partners in Germany, France and Switzerland. And we are monitoring the situation in the region and around the world very carefully,” said Bosse-Huber.
She said preparations show that secular institutions, cultural institutions and politicians are interested in the assembly.
“They recognize that the churches and religious communities are such important multipliers and engines for social development. I hope that the assembly will send out a wake-up call around the world, especially in a situation in which cohesion and closeness are put to the test by the corona pandemic.”
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC acting general secretary, said the central committee acted not only as a fellowship and a church organization dealing with topics of the world, but from the perspective of the Gospel, “and from the perspective of our faith.”
Prayer each day
“Every day, we started with prayer and ended with prayer. And sometimes, during presentations, the request was to stop and pray,” said Sauca.
For instance, when they shared about the situation of children killed, or the discoveries of bodies at church schools in Canada, or to pray for the situation in the Middle East.
“So, we had this experience of prayer and spirituality,” Bosse-Huber said, and added that she hopes that the assembly will engage and strengthen people “experiencing that the Christian community is colourful and lively and is really interesting.”
She said in Germany and many parts of western Europe, some people believe “that Christians and churches are something from the past.”
“And I hope that people are also encouraged through and in the neighbourhoods and Germany, that this movement is young and really vivid… that helps us to believe and to move forward to a better world.”