The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee just concluded its first meeting of the year. The committee reviewed and received the 2018 reports and adopted the 2018 financial report. The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace with Latin America and the Caribbean; the 70th anniversary of the WCC; the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism; and the visit of Pope Francis, together with many ongoing activities, made 2018 an extraordinary year in the life of the WCC – one that affirmed the vitality and visibility of the fellowship of churches.
The Executive Committee addressed many issues at its meeting and gave particular attention to the growing ecumenical concern about racism. They also discussed the preparations for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe 8-16 September 2021, a plan for the WCC’s work on a Just Community of Women and Men, as well as plans for the Central Committee meeting in 2020 as well as the Green Village, the new development concept for the property on which the Ecumenical Centre now stands. The Green Village will include a renovated Ecumenical Centre; new office space for commercial and civil society organizations, including the WCC, its sister organizations and tenants; and residential space.
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the Central Committee, offered opening remarks at the Executive Committee meeting, which convened at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute from 22-28 May.
“We come with many expectations and the desire to share our experiences in our churches, communities and countries,” said Abuom. “It is my hope that these will be realized formally and informally during our time together here at Bossey.”
Abuom lifted up five specific issues for continued reflection by the Executive Committee: the Just Community of Women and Men and gender justice; the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; the intersectionality of the WCC’s three pillars of Faith and Order, Mission and Evangelism, and Justice and Peace (Life and Work); preparation for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2021; and eco-justice.
With regard to the rights of children, Abuom suggested: “Perhaps we need to establish how our governments and churches are performing in regard to the rights and place of children,” she said.
Regarding eco-justice, Abuom said that the urgency of climate change is at the doorsteps of the church. As WCC governing bodies we are called to live out our policy statements,” she said. “Let us walk the talk.”
WCC general secretary on the role of the fellowship today
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit gave a report, and, among other issues, reflected on the theme of the WCC 11th Assembly, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” In this meeting, Tveit said, “we will reflect more on the content of the theme and where it will lead the WCC.”
The theology of love through the history of the Christian churches provides a richness of reflection, but also clear challenges, Tveit said. “What does it mean in our ecumenical fellowship today, and how are we moved as churches and followers of Christ today, sharing this love in a way that contributes to transformation of the world?”
Tveit said: “The connection to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is given in how love is the motivation and the inspiration to move toward justice and peace, but also how love is the content of our vision for a world ruled by justice and peace. True love is shown in its actions, in care for the other, and in care for the whole of humanity and God’s creation. The 1948 Amsterdam assembly clearly said that Christ’s love compels us to say clearly both yes and no: To promote reconciliation and unity as we combat injustice, racism and war.”
Tveit also noted that racism has been identified as a growing concern in many parts of the world. “It is also an indicator of many other growing problems in the world, related to neo-populism, fascism and exclusivity,” he said. “These tendencies are in a postmodern period leading many to focus on their own problems, needs and interests without caring for the need for joint solutions, for the wholeness of the world and for our common and shared interests.”
Racism is more than a historical lesson or an anthropological puzzle, Tveit reflected. “It is a persistent, daily, ugly, death-dealing streak in societies on every continent, one that robs the future prospects of tens of millions of people.”
Tveit also spoke about children’s rights, stating: “This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children are in a special way embraced by Christ’s love, as we know from the gospels. Children are also particularly gifted in expressing the human need for fellowship and unity.”
The Executive Committee issued statements on urgent situations and needs across the world. These include:
- WCC calls for de-escalation of tensions between USA, Iran
- Commemorating the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Forced Transatlantic Voyage of Enslaved African Peoples from Angola to Jamestown, Virginia (USA).
- Keeping the Faith for an End to AIDS
- Global Biodiversity Crisis and the Urgent Need for Structural Change
- Concern and Solidarity for West Papua
- Attacks and Persecution of Christian Communities in Asia
- Ecumenical Accompaniment for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel
The Executive Committee, which meets twice a year, carries out essential business for the WCC; provides direction to the general secretary on work and developments while deepening common understanding on specific issues; shares experiences and developments from the churches in the different regions; and continues growing in the consensus experience, both in terms of the spirit of the meeting and relationships, as well as in decision-making.