At its meeting 17-20 May 2021, the executive committee agreed to meet on 15 July to continue assessing the feasibility of holding the WCC 11th Assembly as planned from 31 August to 8 September 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The assembly planning committee, at its meeting in March 2021, addressed the need for an enhanced digital component and to plan with different scenarios to accommodate possible health and sanitary restrictions.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions in Germany, what are some options being considered for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe?
Dr Abuom: The WCC leadership team with the local host committee has developed some scenarios to adapt the number of assembly participants. depending on what gathering restrictions are in place in Germany in August – September 2022.
The first scenario is that we are able to gather 4,500 people at the Festplatz venue. This is the preferred option and currently is the scenario for planning, budgeting and logistical work.
An estimation of the probability of this scenario is approximately 80% with current information, projections and trends. With this scenario, online presence is maintained at approximately 1,000 people.
The second scenario is that we are able to gather 3,000 people at the Festplatz. An estimation of the probability of this scenario is approximately 15%, with online presence of 2,300 people.
Finally—and if we were to hold the assembly at this moment this is the scenario we would have to adopt—the third scenario: we could gather 1.900 people at the Festplatz. An estimation of the probability of this scenario is approximately 5%. With this scenario, online presence is increased to approximately 3,400 people.
What is the most important news for assembly delegates to consider at the moment?
Dr Abuom: To travel into Germany, a vaccination or COVID-19 test is required. The WCC executive committee strongly recommends all delegates obtain a vaccine—if they have access to one—as soon as possible.
How will the WCC make the decision?
Dr Abuom: The WCC executive committee, together with the host committee, will regularly monitor the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on participation in the assembly with particular concern for travel and entry to Germany as well as health and sanitary conditions during the assembly.
We will hold monthly meetings with the leadership of the central committee as well as the leadership of the local host committee. We will also be collaborating with the World Health Organization and the German Foreign ministry.
Can you share some timeline markers for this decision-making?
Dr Abuom: In September 2021 and again October 2021, the leadership of the central committee and host committee leadership will meet online to review the latest worldwide data on the pandemic and the situation in Germany.
In October 2021, the WCC assembly planning committee will meet online to review strategies.
In November 2021, the executive committee will meet online with the leadership of the host committee to monitor progress in meeting conditions related to travel and the use of venues. This is a critical moment for assessment.
In January 2022, the leadership of the central committee and host committee leadership will meet online to review the latest worldwide data on the pandemic and the situation in Germany, and prepare recommendations.
In February 2022, the central committee meets in-person. This is a critical moment to assess whether planning shall continue, or a significant change is required.
What are some indicators the WCC is considering?
Dr Abuom: We are following five main indicators to track progress toward meeting the needed conditions to hold an assembly. First, worldwide statistics, including vaccination rates, infection rates, and the impact of COVID variants and other emerging factors.
Indicators also include national contexts, the German context, ecumenical events, and individual contexts.
What are your hopes for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe in 2022?
Dr Abuom: The WCC will be coming back to Europe after 50 years since the last assembly held in Uppsala in 1968.
A lot has changed in Europe and at the same time some of the issues addressed at Uppsala remain or have resurfaced. First, we hope that all our delegates and other participants will be able to attend especially after this COVID-19. We look forward to an enabling environment for prayer, celebration, discussions, exchange of views and ideas. Above all we hope to get to have a glimpse of church life in Germany. As a global ecumenical movement it is our prayer that the assembly will energise and inspire churches to continue to work for unity of the church and unity of humankind. That many young people will find the WCC and ecumenical movement relevant as it addresses matters affecting them. We pray that assembly participants will give program and policy priorities and direction for the future. We pray that churches will recommit to the search for visible unity.
The executive committee completed also at the 15 July meeting business from the executive committee meeting 17-20 May 2021, recorded recent decisions on the Green Village building project and approved the 2021 revised budget.