Participants arrived to live music at the ceremony in the main hall at the WCC. They received two gifts—the Report of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, 2022, which reflects many facets of ecumenical work and "Your Word Is Truth,” a co-publication with the United Bible Society.
The United Bible Society publication illustrates how the diversity of hermeneutics can be a source of Christian unity and a beautiful reflection of the diversity of God's kingdom.
The WCC commemorated its 75th anniversary on 25 June with an ecumenical celebration at Saint Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, recalling the founding of the WCC in Amsterdam in August 1948, three years after the end of the Second World War.
Participants joined in dancing in the hall and sang an old favourite, "We are marching in the light of God.”
Outbreak of joy
The central committee moderator, Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, thanked God "for the outbreak of joy. Let us experience this spirit when we go home," he said. The participants sang happy birthday to the WCC for the anniversary with loud cheers.
Bedford-Strohm served the 75th anniversary cake, which had been cut by former WCC deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos, the former central committee member present going back the furthest, along with Maria Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, the youngest member of the current committee.
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC acting WCC general secretary from 2020-22, also spoke at the commemoration.
The plenary was moderated by Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley, Jamaica Baptist Union, vice-moderator of the central committee, and Mr Brian Muyunga, Church of Uganda, member of the central committee.
For 75 percent of the central committee, the 21-27 June meeting is their first since the elections at the WCC assembly in Germany in 2022.
The central committee is the WCC's highest governing body between the council's assemblies and usually meets every two years.
Rev. Dr Angélique Walker-Smith shared a testimony about her engagement with the WCC and the council's work on overcoming racism and promoting gender justice.
She said the church's partnership with the United Nations is an essential phase of addressing these issues because it is doing some of the reconciliation work.
"So, we have, for example, the seasonal works, working with women, we also have the new space of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. And I think all of us need to look within our church spaces. I'm hearing more conversations, certainly in North America, where I'm at, where there's more a reflection of those groups that have not always been at the centre," said Walker-Smith.
"I think about our Indigenous brothers and sisters. I think about people of African descent in Asia and other diaspora communities that need to be brought more to the centre. I think our churches are listening, and I'm hopeful we can go further."
Prof. Dr Fernando Enns, a proponent of peace theology, spoke about the WCC's work on "just peace" from Harare in 1998 to Karlsruhe, recounting how he began his work with the council in 1996 when he began to represent the Mennonite churches.
"I was taken under the wings of three ecumenical mothers, as I would call them. I also want to call their names because they have been formative. And without these mothers, I would never have been able to do and experience what I did.”
The inspiring women were former central committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, a Kenyan Anglican who died earlier this year; Prof. Dr Janice Love from the Methodist Church in the United States; and Bishop Dr Margot Kässmann, a German theologian.
"These are powerful brains, hearts, and spirits. These mothers took me under their wings and taught me how to fly in the ecumenical movement," said Enns.
"So, we were coming from a time when it looked like we could really move mountains— overcoming apartheid in South Africa, tearing down the wall in Berlin by a nonviolent revolution. It was a time when you could say, 'We can redo things, we can build peace; it is possible.’
Enns said, "It was a bishop from South Africa who said, okay, apartheid is over, officially. Not really. But we see young people killing each other on the streets in our cities. So, what is the call of the churches? We invented this campaign, 'Peace to the City’—in seven cities around the world, trying to learn from the communities. How do you build peace? And this is all connected with justice—hands-on.”
In a video message to the celebration, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom noted that the WCC's journey faces many challenges "that can be difficult sometimes.”
"But the rewards, the blessings, the light that we shine into the world, the salt that we can be of the earth, and the example, serving others as our Lord, serve the whole of humankind—all of these things make the World Council of Churches, a wonderful platform for us to come together."