Dr Agnes Aboum
Anglican Church of Kenya
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
— Colossians 3:23
It is my special task and privilege to welcome you, members of the WCC executive committee, to this storied place and to our semiannual meeting. I speak for myself, of course, but also for my colleagues in the leadership and for the whole staff of the World Council of Churches. After weeks of preparation, we are ready and eager to join you in working on several important and some urgent matters for the larger good of the fellowship of churches and, we sincerely hope, all humanity.
Hope in fact is our reason for being here: For a world that seems mired in difficulties and so often discouraged, we stand unbowed to offer hope for a better future and a better world. That is who we are. We do not follow the masters of this world, nor the nay-sayers who counsel despair. We are followers of the risen Lord, whose triumph has created a new world of possibility. And through our discipleship here and elsewhere we hope to seek, to model, and to commit to transformative possibilities for all, illuminating the horizon of hope for all.
So let me therefore thank you for your presence, your dedication, and your active participation in this meeting of the executive committee. We know that you lead busy, even hectic lives, caring for your people and your organizations. Your presence here signals a commitment to the wider ecumenical movement of love, joining your work to that of others around the world, advancing serious ecumenical deliberation on our shared challenges, and offering your best wisdom to our shared causes and shared joys.
I offer special thanks to all our ecumenical allies and partners here for their continuing support and creative collaboration. Your presence enriches our work and gives it breadth, scope, and scale. And to the WCC staff, I am grateful, as always, for your work in preparing and hosting this event. This goes double for the general secretary, our friend and colleague Olav, whom we all thank for his ten years of service in leadership, which will end after our next central committee meeting.
I remind you of our special constitutional mandate: as the executive committee, we are gathered specifically to guide and encourage the secretariat in its function of monitoring and accounting the programmatic work and initiatives of the WCC. We also meet to receive and share our own stories from our churches, countries, and regions – looking at global challenges and their impact on our member churches. And, third, here we continue to work through consensus to make decisions about those organizational matters and, on behalf of the wider fellowship, to address those global issues we find most pressing.
Of course, each of our gatherings is also unique, and in several ways this meeting holds special significance. Here we will continue to receive reports of the WCC’s programmes and finances but also of preparations for the WCC’s 11th Assembly, in Karlsruhe, Germany, in September 2021. In fact, next March’s meeting of the central committee will be the last one before the assembly. We will also learn about progress in the Green Village initiative, evaluate next year’s proposed programmes and budgets, receive reports from the commissions, monitor and guide our Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, receive the study document on diakonia and another on Conversations on the Pilgrim Way, plan for the next central committee meeting, prepare for the election of a new secretary general, and offer public statements on international affairs of moment.
It is a full agenda, and it has been carefully prepared so that we can accomplish our work and so that later the central committee is able to do its work with our guidance and preparation. So of course I ask you to be thorough in your own preparation and review of the documents. I ask you also, in the interests of time management, to be very brief and to the point in your comments. We value all inputs but do not have the luxury of unlimited time. We can best taste your wisdom in small sips. Further, when we are in the executive committee, we subdue our own representation of our member church to the common good of the council and the whole global fellowship – that which works for the whole body. We have scheduled lots of moments for questions and clarification, and you can reach out during breaks to save time during the meeting.
Finally, I ask in this meeting for your prayerful discernment of what the Spirit is saying to us in our deliberations and in careful groundwork for a successful central committee and, eventually, assembly. In that spirit, and with that Spirit, we will be able better to glimpse the horizon of hope for the churches and all humanity.