As you begin a new era as the WCC moderator, has the momentum from the WCC 11th Assembly continued for you?
Bishop Dr Bedford-Strohm: Our journey as the WCC has been an exciting one in the past year. We came together in Karlsruhe, Germany, for the WCC 11th Assembly, and those of us who have been members of this great community of the assembly have been inspired in a beautiful way.
The motto of our assembly became real in the life of the Assembly: “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” I have experienced several difficult situations where we realized that we came from very different backgrounds, from backgrounds where we normally would not understand each other. Then, however, the spiritual force of unity and reconciliation was stronger and brought us together. Thus, the experience in Karlsruhe is a great backwind for all of us.
As we have come together in Geneva and at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute for our first meetings and gatherings, I have experienced that the unity of the church that we’re all striving for was something that we could already experience, being together in this group. For me, as a moderator, together with my two co-moderators, this is a big responsibility but it is still also a big joy to serve as the moderator, and to serve in this coming eight-year period.
Can you describe the current financial situation for the WCC?
Bishop Dr Bedford-Strohm: We had to go through difficult discussions and now also decisions. The budget for the WCC had to be drawn up and had to be decided upon. During a relatively short time range, currency fluctuation, the volatility of the exchange rates and the strong Swiss Franc caused a big problem for us at the WCC.
WCC member churches and partners have remained faithful in their contributions for which we are profoundly grateful, and they are also ready to keep their financial commitments for 2023. The executive committee has passed a 2023 budget that manages the situation.
We are with those people who are affected and we will make sure that there are doors open to the future for them, and I trust and I hope that God will lead us though this situation. We aspire—even with less budget—to do good and strong programme work in this coming year, 2023. It’s deeply needed by the world.
In what ways will the WCC respond to the needs of the world in 2023?
Bishop Dr Bedford-Strohm: We will be needed when the world struggles to give a strong response to climate change. We have, when were together with the WCC executive committee, issued a public statement encouraging all the churches in the world to engage in civil society activities to make sure it’s a global strategy to take the necessary measures to really fight climate change.
I am confident that we as churches can play an important role in this necessary transformation.
The assembly also made a clear statement against the Russian invasion into Ukraine, and against the bombing, and I repeat this plea for ending the use of weapons. I urge everyone to do whatever we can to meet the humanitarian minimal standards that are violated by the systematic bombing of Ukrainian infrastructure. We need to stand up for those who are the victims of this war. I strongly appeal for ending this war, ending the violation of international law and reestablishing the rule of international law.
Facing so many problems only solvable on a global scale, the world needs the input of global civil society more than ever. As WCC we have a unique potential to be agents of such global civil society as we are rooted everywhere in the world in local communities and at the same time connected on a global scale and united in our universal horizon.
What gives you hope as moderator?
Bishop Dr Bedford-Strohm: We have a great task as WCC but we also have a lot of strength from our faith in God. So when we now go into the days of Christmas, into the festive days, we will really see and feel and hear the message of Christmas: that this little vulnerable child has changed the world, has brought a love into this world that no one can wipe out anymore. That is what we believe and that is why we will never lose hope.
I wish you all a blessed and — in a very deep sense — joyful Christmas season and I hope to see many of you again soon in the next years. Merry Christmas. God’s blessings to all of you.