Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, shared her perspective on what inspires the work of the WCC, noting that the world is still in a lethal battle against COVID-19. “It has abruptly disrupted the momentum towards achievement of the development agenda, having triggered the most profound economic and societal crisis the world has seen for the last century,” she said.
WCC interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said that the WCC remains a fellowship committed to justice, peace and visible unity. “On the way, we continue to learn from each other what it entails to be this fellowship committed to discover and live in the unity of apostolic faith and to engage in a common witness to the world, how Christian unity and the unity of humankind and all creation are intertwined,” he said.
Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace
The executive committee approved plans for 2021 in which the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace journeys with the churches in North America. The pilgrimage will also address racial injustice and solidarity with indigenous peoples. Pilgrim team visits will be online encounters.
New programmatic initiative on racism
The executive committee approved a new programmatic initiative on racism. Racism in its different expressions has been an ongoing concern of the fellowship of churches, indeed of the whole ecumenical movement. A detailed description of the history of the WCC engagement on racism was presented, and a detailed plan and budget for the initiative on overcoming racism were approved at the executive committee meeting and will be implemented from 1 January 2021.
Impact of COVID-19 on WCC governance
The executive committee noted with concern that the central committee was not able to convene in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that, as the pandemic unfolds, it is increasingly unlikely that an in-person meeting in Geneva in June 2021 will be possible. The committee discussed possible scenarios for convening the central committee meeting in light of continuing restrictions on travel and meetings. It discussed how an online meeting might affect decisions on (1) Assembly preparations, including confirmation of member church delegations, (2) General business, including proposed revisions to WCC rules, (3) the process of electing a general secretary. The committee agreed to ask the “working group on constitution and rules,” appointed by the central committee, to develop a proposal for using electronic communication to convene the central committee as provided in Rule XVIII.8. The proposal will be presented at an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee in February 2021 (15-17 February 2021), where a final decision will be made on the manner of convening the central committee.
Jerusalem Liaison Office
The executive committee received and discussed the plan and the structure of the Jerusalem Liaison Office, addressing the need to consolidate the work of the different WCC initiatives in the Middle East region, to secure their sustainability and to increase the engagement of local churches. Implementation is scheduled for 1 July 2021.
Proposal for Commission on Health and Healing
The executive committee received and discussed an updated proposal to establish a Commission on Health and Healing after the assembly in 2022.
The executive committee analyzed and reflected on the broad implications of COVID-19 on the oikoumene, on the work of the WCC as a whole, and also upon the financial impacts.
The WCC budget, apart from building project matters, projects income of CHF 21.9 million and a net draw down of funds and reserves of CHF 2 million. With regard to the WCC’s ongoing real estate development project, Green Village, the budget for 2021 also includes the prospective sale of one land plot and project, which, despite COVID-19 and delays, is scheduled for conclusion before the year end, with the prospect of net income of CHF 18 million approximately.
The plans and budget for 2021 reflect the hope that international travel and meetings will resume sometime next year, most probably in the second part of the year. With regard to that assumption, and as the situation evolves, monitoring and adaptation of both budgets and plans will be required.
The Green Village
The executive committee also took its first decisions concerning the third phase in the Green Village project. Further to the recommendations of the steering committee, the executive committee determined its strategy for the land transactions for the third phase. The steering committee set guidelines for offers which may be brought forward to potential interested parties in the next months.
The WCC executive committee issued two public statements, one on Nagorno-Karabakh and the other on Ethiopia.
One statement calls for calm and wisdom following six weeks of intense fighting for Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, suspended by an agreement announced between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. Welcoming an end to the bloodshed and destruction, the executive committee appealed for “a lasting peace founded on justice and human rights for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh and the wider region.”
The other statement lifts up in prayer the people and churches of Ethiopia.“The WCC condemns the numerous brutally violent attacks against churches and communities especially affecting the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, on the members of any community defined by religion or ethnicity, on churches and holy places, and on civilians by armed groups,” reads the statement. “We mourn the deaths of so many people in recent attacks.”