The governing body approved plans and a budget for 2024, and also monitored 2023 and the implementation of WCC strategies.
Moderator, general secretary reflect and report
Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said that the gathering brought him great hope. “For me, this experience is the one big source of hope in this world struck by division, polarization, injustice, and violence,” he said. “In addition to ongoing global economic and ecological injustices and in addition to the war following the Russian invasion in Ukraine, we are now witnessing an outbreak of violence in the Middle East, which generates terrible human suffering on both sides every day and has led to a deepening of global polarization.”
WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, in his report, reflected that, in the struggle for peace and justice in the world, the WCC is engaged in bringing justice, reconciliation, and unity. “It is very easy to get discouraged and to lose hope in the midst of all of these turbulent experiences and disruptions,” Pillay said. “Let us continue to work with God to make the world a better place for all people and creation.”
Opening the executive committee meeting on 8 November in the Cathedral Church of the Advent, WCC president from Africa His Holiness Most Rev. Dr Rufus Okikiola Ositelu, of the Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide, preached a sermon reflecting on the executive committee’s call as a people of God. “We are being called upon to step outside the values of our cultures and denominations, and put our faith in Christ Jesus and truly embrace ecumenism together on our way to the Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity,” he said. “The availability of God’s mercy should not become an excuse for careless living and moral laxity.”
Members of the executive committee visited an array of churches in Nigeria on 12 November, bringing a deep spiritual aspect to their gathering.
As churches filled with songs, dances, vibrant colors, and passionate prayers, the WCC visitors accompanied the host churches in celebrating their unique gifts and listening to the challenges they face in their daily lives.
Churches visited included The First African Church Mission, Methodist Church Nigeria, Nigeria Baptist Convention, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) , Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, Reformed Church of Christ for Nations, Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, The Church of the Lord (Prayer fellowship) Worldwide, and the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria.
The meeting closed with a prayer at the Nigerian Baptist Convention, where WCC president from North America, Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, offered a reflection. “A special word of appreciation for the hosting of my Baptist kindred within the Baptist World Alliance to which we are a part,” said Walker-Smith. “The priority of oneness and spirit of love for one another together, no matter what in the family, the church, or the community…we are together through thick and thin.”
The WCC executive committee released four public statements.
Statement on the War in Palestine and Israel. The text demands an immediate ceasefire, and the opening of humanitarian corridors in Palestine and Israel. The statement demands “the immediate unconditional release and safe return of all hostages” as well as “an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors.”
Statement on Nigeria, in the Regional Context of Africa. The statement included deep appreciation of Nigeria’s “astonishing diversity of cultures, languages, and religions”—as well as appeals to the Nigerian government to address economic injustice and other grave challenges facing the nation.
Statement on the Consequences of the Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian people and churches urgently need “a generous international response to the humanitarian needs of the refugees who fled from Nagorno-Karabakh, especially vulnerable women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, and those without any other means of support,”
Statement on COP28's Responsibility for Climate Justice. “At this time of climate emergency, it is essential that COP28 courageously addresses the fossil fuel industry and their responsibility towards people and planet,” reads the statement. “COP28 is pivotal for the future of the living planet, our common home, and for our children and future generations.”
Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity
The governing body further developed the Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity, and committed engagement in a myriad of ways. The executive committee expressed the determination to put their faith in Christ Jesus, truly embrace ecumenism together, and pursue the justice which brings true and lasting peace.
Commission of the Churches on Climate Justice and Sustainable Development
In June 2023, the central committee established the commission on climate justice and delegated the election of the commission membership and leadership to the executive committee. The executive committee appointed the Commission of the Churches on Climate Justice and Sustainable Development, executive committee also noted the composition of the commission, according to its bylaws, including member churches and ecumenical partners with the significant participation of young people and Indigenous Peoples.
The election of reference groups was delegated to the executive committee by the central committee in June 2023, marking the first time that reference groups are elected by governance. The executive committee reviewed nominations from the general secretary for eight reference groups in consultation with members of the central committee, executive committee, and member churches.
The reference groups include:
Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation and Unity Reference Group; Gender Justice Reference Group; Overcoming Racism, Xenophobia, Casteism and all forms of Discrimination Reference Group; Ecumenical Diakonia Reference Group; Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples Network Reference Group; Ecumenical Accompaniment in Palestine and Israel Reference Group; the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum Reference Group; Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation Reference Group.
2024 plans and budget
The WCC executive committee approved the programme plans and budget for 2024, while asking the general secretary to monitor the situation. The executive committee also requested the general secretary continue fundraising efforts and raise funds for Nicaea-related events in 2025. The governing body also approved the Implementation Plan as a reference for financial planning for programmes for the interim period (2023-2026) leading to the mid-term review.
Meetings in 2024
In 2024, the executive committee agreed to meet from 10 to 14 June (online or in person pending further consultation) and in person from 20 to 26 November. The committee accepted the invitation from WCC president Metropolitan Vasilios, Church of Cyprus, to meet in Paralimni, Cyprus in November 2024.
Visit to Sultan of Nigeria
The executive committee visited on 15 November the Sultan of Nigeria, Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar. As Sultan of Sokoto, he is considered the spiritual leader of Nigeria's 100 million Muslims.
The visit also included also a meeting with the board members of the International Center for Interfaith Peace and Harmony, established in 2012 by the WCC, local churches and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan.
In a closing press conference on 14 November, the leadership of the WCC central committee highlighted the WCC’s focus on some of the world’s most serious challenges, and how the WCC brings hope.