Speakers opening the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee meeting in Amman, Jordan from 17-23 November, emphasized peace, justice and unity as the WCC discerns its way forward and evaluates its past work.
The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, All Palestine and Jordan, Theophilos III, welcomed the group: “We welcome you to Amman in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and we bring you the blessings of the Holy City of Jerusalem.” He added “ We are delighted to be able to host this meeting of your Executive Committee, and we wish to express our continued commitment to the work of the World Council of Churches.”
The Patriarch underlined in his opening address: “ You come to the Middle East at a difficult time for our region. The world community is united in the view that a vital, vibrant Christian community is an essential part of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious landscape of the Middle East. We are indigenous to this region.”
The Patriarch concluded: “We hope very much that our World Council of Churches will continue in its mission in the Middle East to secure the position of the Christian Community against the new threats to our existence and freedom.”
A pilgrimage graced by faith
WCC central committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom said that most WCC programmes and visits have engaged the pilgrimage of justice and peace, which WCC committed as a foundation for its work at the 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2013.
“Our pilgrimage of justice and peace has been graced by faith,” she said. “We began the journey together not knowing everyone. But we took a bold step to move together. We now know each other.”
By taking cautious steps together, she added, the WCC fellowship can now raise questions to and with one another, sometimes not comfortable questions. “But at least we feel that on the journey we have come to a stage where we can raise these questions,” she said. “Our journey together has centered around issues of love, care, humanity, and God’s creation.”
The executive committee will need to review its own performance, Abuom concluded. “ What we are leaving for the generations to come?” She added “As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, he will guide us in our reflections and decision. We can ask God to give us wisdom to journey into the future with courage so that tomorrow we can give an account to our Lord and Saviour and to those who have entrusted his mandate to us.”
A quest for unity
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in his report, emphasized a quest for unity within the WCC’s work, particularly as it relates to justice and peace across the world.
“We are gathered here in a peaceful and hospitable setting, in a region of many conflicts and challenges,” said Tveit. “We are here to learn more about the realities of those challenges, but also to learn more about the rich traditions, the Christian presence and witness here, and the initiatives to live together in justice and peace for all.”
As the WCC moves towards through the mid-term between its 10th and the 11th assemblies, we live in a world where the dividing and fragmenting powers are strong, reflected Tveit. “The approach we have as WCC to be together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace has proved its relevance,” he said. “As we prepare for the 70th anniversary we are in a modus of thanksgiving and proving how this body is alive, moving and taking new initiatives for the sake of the unity of Christians and the churches in the world.”
Tveit emphasized a new quest for unity, and among his personal experiences was a two-week visit to WCC’s churches and partners in the Pacific region. “In the different encounters with them, I was reminded how the WCC represents the Christian family in the whole world, and how our member churches make significant contributions to this understanding of being united as humanity, as creation and as sisters and brothers in Christ,” he said. “The hurricanes and the extreme weather including drought, rain, and wind in many parts of the world have made many more around the world feeling themselves what the peoples from the Pacific have talked about for a while.”
Visits to the Pacific region as well as to various sites observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation had an impact on the WCC’s mutual relationships in a short and a long-term perspective, reflected Tveit. “We restored the sense of contact and attention and we shared ideas for the future mutual involvement,” he said.
Unity is a key issue for the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Africa and for the preparations of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Tanzania next year, continued Tveit. “The call to unity for the nations is much stronger when the churches also find their own credible expressions of unity,” he said.
The WCC has paid particular attention to the situation in Palestine and Israel, and the injustices, conflicts and occupation that still are obstacles to a just peace for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. “The call to just peace is as urgent and significant as before, if not even more,” Tveit concluded.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee will meet in Amman, Jordan from 17-23 November to approve the 2018 plans and budget, prepare for renewal of the WCC strategic plan, to discern the way forward for the WCC’s involvement in Palestine and Israel for justice and peace by learning more about the particular situation in Jordan and the Middle East, then discussing the challenges of the churches and the WCC response.
Please contact WCC director of communication Marianne Ejdersten: firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 507 63 63