The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee met in Uppsala, Sweden from 1-8 November to approve the 2019 programme plans and budget, follow up and decide on a variety of assembly matters, review the WCC strategic plan, discuss world affairs and issue seven statements in response to current situations. The Executive Committee also discerned the way forward for the WCC’s Communication Strategy. The local hosts, Archbishop Dr Antje Jackelen, primate of the Church of Sweden, Rev. Dr Olle Alkholm, vice president of the Uniting Church in Sweden and Rev. Karin Wiborn, general secretary of the Christian Council in Sweden, welcomed the group.
An evaluation of 70th anniversary activities and other major events in 2018, such as the central committee meeting in June, were also on the agenda. Particular attention was given to the historic visit of Pope Francis at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and Bossey Ecumenical Institute on 21 June.
Preparations and plans for the 2020 central committee have begun and will move ahead based on the 2018 evaluation. The Executive Committee also worked to discern a way forward for racism in the programmatic work of the WCC, discussing the report from the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism.
The Executive Committee also discussed WCC’s work on ecumenical diakonia; the deep concerns for the growing threat of people persecuted, especially Christians; and the next steps in the Green Village building project in Geneva.
Praying, Walking, Working and Remembering Together
The Executive Committee received the address of WCC Central Committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom and the report by the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
Abuom spoke on the theme of the meeting, “Praying, Walking, Working and Remembering Together.”
In addition to offering a recap of WCC’s history, Abuom spoke of a number issues and global trends that continue to inform WCC’s prayers, pilgrimages and action. “Waves of populist nationalism pose threats to human life and dignity; but stand also to erode democratic and human rights gains so far achieved and for which WCC has been an advocate for many decades,” she said.
Tveit also offered a look back as well as forward. “The ecumenical movement has been seen – and rightly so, I think – as emphasizing that we are called to live in discipleship here and now for the transformation of the world according to God’s will today,” he said. “God wants the world to believe, to receive, to be renewed and united according to God’s love.”
Tveit reflected that we must renew our calling and our drive toward justice and peace. “Time is passing, and we with time,” he said. “Yet we remain one with the many believers who came before us, those who have shown their hope as an anticipation that leads to their participation in the mission of God.”
The WCC expresses signs of hope in different ways, Tveit continued. “But how can we express more clearly that this is a hope that is nurtured by and upheld by Christ’s love?” he asked. “We do it in many ways, in our daily work as churches and as a fellowship of churches, and even beyond the membership of the WCC.”
Just community for women and men
The Executive Committee discussed that, although a lot of work has been done since the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women was launched, there are increasing problems and huge challenges. The decision was to request the general secretary strengthen the work on just communities of women and men through more advocacy, theological reflection and action on the worldwide, national, regional and local levels.
Communication for Unity
The Executive Committee approved a Communication Strategy through 2021, the year of the next WCC Assembly.
“The goal of WCC communications is to raise the profile and impact of the work of the WCC,” the strategy reads. “Communication is an important strategic tool for the WCC and its member churches and ecumenical partners to sustain influence, gain visibility and promote good causes.”
The WCC must be a catalyst for change, the strategy further urges. “Communications from the WCC must be inclusive and have participation and hope at their core,” the strategy reads. “Our task is to ignite hope for a better world where human dignity prevails.”
WCC leaders emphasized Thursdays in Black, a global campaign for a world free from rape and violence, as an example of a strong ecumenical initiative.
The prophetic voice of the council – seven statements
Six public statements and a “minute” were issued by the WCC executive committee at its semi-annual meeting. Among the important issues, public statements included urgent pleas to the international community and the churches to concentrate their advocacy and activism toward climate justice, economic justice and gender justice.
The public-issues statements in full:
- Statement on People on the Move: Migrants and Refugees
- Statement on COP 24 and Just Transition to Sustainable Economy
- Statement on Ecumenical Witness and Action for Primary Health Care for All: 40th Anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration
- Statement on Reconciliation and Restoration in Ethiopia and Eritrea
- Statement on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize
- Statement on the Urgent Challenge of Economic Transformation: 10 Years After the Global Financial Crisis
- Minute on the Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Testing in French Polynesia (Maóhi Nui), and Decolonization
The executive committee is the governing body that carries out essential business for the WCC. The group provides direction to the general secretary on work and developments while deepening common understanding on specific issues. The WCC executive committee is formed by the WCC central committee, which elects 20 of its members along with the central committee moderator, two vice-moderators and the WCC general secretary, as well as the moderators of the WCC programme and finance committees.
The executive committee meeting was organized with several other events in Uppsala this year: the joint day on Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainability with the ACT Alliance Assembly and the Ecumenical Weekend. Local hosts for the Executive Committee were the Church of Sweden, Uniting Church in Sweden, and the Christian Council in Sweden.
In Uppsala, the Executive Committee shared experiences and developments from churches in the different regions, and reflected on the one ecumenical movement.
Please contact WCC director of communication Marianne Ejdersten: [email protected], +41 79 507 63 63