In a short opening address, WCC central committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom reflected that the current challenges demand that people of faith—across all faiths—pull together for justice, peace and sustainable development.
“We have to continue with the very important work to bring the churches together and bring hope to the world,” she said. “I’m very grateful to the acting general secretary, the staff leadership group and the staff for their hard work to accompany the fellowship in these challenging times.”
Abuom acknowledged that WCC member churches and ecumenical organizations are eagerly awaiting to hear the future direction for the WCC. “Therefore, the report of the Working Group on Constitution and Rules, appointed by the central committee, provides guidance for executive committee in order to take decisions whilst discerning God’s will as we pray, work and walk together,” she said.
The executive committee focused on addressing the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on WCC work in 2021 given the uncertainty of in-person meetings.
In an opening prayer, Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, from the Evangelical Church in Germany, spoke of hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared how people in Germany have been taking part in a “Windows of Light” #lichtfenster campaign by placing a candle in their windows at 4:30 pm each day. “We will place a light in the window,” she said, “a light of sorrow, a light of sympathy, a light of compassion.”
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, in his report, reflected that the WCC continues to fulfil its strategic role of convening churches to discuss important issues and find ways of responding together.
“Perhaps what has touched me the most are the stories of prayer,” he said. “This affirms the WCC is respected not just for our work on unity, justice and peace, but that we have a ‘spiritual authority’ and respect.”
Sauca also noted that this meeting of the WCC executive committee is, in itself, extraordinary. “We have one single agenda – how to convene the central committee in June,” he said.
Sauca said he is convinced that the WCC can convene the central committee by using electronic communications. “The central committee has not met since June 2018,” he said. “We need to come together again, not simply to do business, but to be a living expression of fellowship in Christ.”
Sauca has been publishing monthly accountability reports to the WCC central committee to keep members up-to-date on how the WCC is responding to and adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Decisions in brief
Executive Committee meetings 2021
The executive committee agreed to meet 17-20 and 25 (if needed) May 2021 by video conference to finalize the agenda and documentation for the central committee; as well as conduct its ordinary business.
The executive committee also noted that the dates for its November meeting will be 12-13 and 15-17 November 2021.
Central Committee 23-29 June 2021
The executive committee agreed to convene the central committee 23-29 June 2021, using electronic communications as provided in Rule XVIII.8, to address urgent matters that are reserved to the central committee, but also to be an expression of the living fellowship of churches.
The central committee needs to meet, not only to take decisions on urgent matters that are reserved to the central committee, but to share the experience of the churches in responding to unprecedented change and the devastating loss of life. At its meeting in June, the central committee will decide when and where the next in-person central committee will take place.
The process of election of the general secretary
According to the WCC rules and supplement outlining the process of the election of the general secretary, the central committee had established that the election must take place at an in-person meeting of the central committee in a closed session, following the procedures, including presentation of the report of the search committee. Though an in-person meeting is not possible in June 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is hoped that an in-person meeting of the central committee will take place before the assembly in early 2022.
The executive committee agreed that the current process for election of a new general secretary requires an in-person meeting; and affirmed the importance of holding an in-person meeting of the central committee in early 2022, if possible, to continue the process of election of a new general secretary.
Extended contract as the acting WCC general secretary
The executive committee extends the contract of Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca as the acting general secretary until the end of December 2022, ensuring continuity in leadership to the WCC 11th Assembly.
The acting general secretary serves with all authority and responsibility of general secretary to lead the work of the WCC as chief executive officer, including final responsibility for the work of the Council and its staff, and to speak on its behalf.