The Echos Commission on Youth in the Ecumenical Movement met in October 2011 in Adma, Lebanon, to evaluate its work and mandate since it was first constituted after the last WCC assembly in Porto Alegre, 2006, as a consultative body of young people from a broad cross-section of the ecumenical movement.

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Luke 3:4) [1]

I. Introduction

Echos Commission on Youth in the Ecumenical Movement met for its fourth meeting 24-31 October 2011 in Adma, Lebanon. Given the clear call for our fellowship of churches to walk in solidarity with the churches of the Middle East region, the commission decided to meet in the Middle East and offer special support to youth in the ecumenical movement in the region, and especially in Lebanon. The Commission would like to thank World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) Middle East for their hospitality and accompaniment, along with many other young ecumenists representing churches and organizations in Lebanon. We also thank His Holiness Aram I for his invitation to meet at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia headquarters in Antelias, Lebanon. We give thanks to God for the “cedars of Lebanon,” the people of faith, who stand tall and strong as witnesses to the grace, mercy, and peace of God even in the midst of social challenges. The following include a recollection of our mandate and recommendations for the ongoing work of Echos and the future governance of the WCC based on our evaluation of the work of the Echos commission since the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (N.B. For our by-laws, a summary of our self-evaluation, our recommendations to the Assembly Planning Committee and the Echos report submitted to the Governance and Continuation Committee please see the appendices.)

II. Our Mandate

The 9th Assembly “endorsed promoting ecumenical leadership development of youth in the life of the WCC, including the full participation of youth in all programmes of the WCC. Their voices, concerns and presence must be brought more directly into the decision-making and leadership of the work and governance of the council” (cf. programme guidelines committee par. 15). As a result, the WCC 9th Assembly “directed the WCC Central Committee to create a representative body of young adults who would coordinate the various roles of young adults connected to the WCC and facilitate communication between them. Such a body would create space for a meaningful participation of young adults in the life and decision making of the WCC, and would be able to hold the WCC accountable to its goals regarding young adults” (cf. Policy Reference Committee par.14).

III. Evaluating Echos

Some key questions that emerged as a result of our evaluation process were the following, along with our strongest responses to these concerns:

1. In what (if any) capacity should Echos continue following the 10th Assembly? We recommend that Echos should be continued as a commission for the following reasons:

a. Echos has answered “identity questions,” having built a structure that can facilitate youth work in and beyond the commission and having established by-laws that can adapt to future generations’ needs. Because of this work, those who follow Echos in this commission will inherit a ready vehicle for their vision forward. Moreover, as a commission, a body with influence in the infrastructure of the WCC, the youth who follow will inherit an infrastructural position that will help it to fully attain its mandate.

b. Echos offers a unique and diverse voice of youth gathered, primarily, from member churches of the WCC while it also promotes a unique vision of expanding the ecumenical landscape by shaping a youth ecumenical movement within and beyond the WCC.

c. Echos facilitates a unique form of ecumenical formation: through practical and sustained experience, Echos trains commissioners (who, in turn, train others) in ecumenism, the role of the WCC in ecumenism, advocacy for systemic changes within the WCC and the broader ecumenical movement that empower youth and other marginalized groups within the WCC, advocacy for greater participation of youth at all levels of the WCC and in the broader ecumenical movement, and supporting one another as global youth ecumenical leaders.

2. How can we better prioritize networking with the wider ecumenical movement? On one hand, we see the ongoing value of the WCC and its uniquely prophetic voice in this season of ecumenism. On the other hand, we have seen other models of ecumenism that might accommodate more expanded ecumenical spaces and better facilitate certain, important forms of networking and unity building (e.g., Global Christian Forum). With this in mind, we believe that Echos must prioritize its participation in co-facilitating, as one of many invested partners, a forum involving other ecumenical organizations and churches. This forum may be realized through virtual and/or physical meetings, but is essential to the ongoing work of youth in WCC and in the broader ecumenical movement.

3. What is the value of the physical meetings of Echos Commission, and the importance of particular regularity of meetings and terms for commissioners? Physical meetings (with the frequency of every 18 months) have been essential to the productivity of the commission. Furthermore, our work has shown that, even with this regularity of time, there is a great deal of pressure and difficulty to complete the necessary work. As far as the numbers of commissioners are concerned, it is important to maintain the current level of 25 commissioners in order to maintain the strength of the WCC as a partner for work with the wider youth ecumenical movement. We recommend that the length of term for the commissioners remain as it is specified in the by-laws for the sake of accountability to our functions.

IV. Recommendations

Items to be approved by the Central Committee for action at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly to be held in 2013 in Busan, Republic of Korea: With the 9th Assembly mandate in mind and considering the progress Echos has made to fulfill that mandate, we recommend the continuation of Echos following the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea. We recommend that it continue to function as a commission, with the same regularity of meetings and according to its present bylaws. We also recommend that Echos especially strengthen its commitment to the broader ecumenical movement. To this end, we make more particular recommendations:

A. That the following aim expressed within the bylaws of Echos be the first and strongest priority of the commission: “To broaden and strengthen the ecumenical movement through networking with young adults from local, regional and global ecumenical organizations – inside and outside the WCC constituency – and facilitating spaces for exchange” (cf. By-laws). Specifically, we recommend that “spaces for exchange” be promoted through the co-facilitation of a forum (e.g., through virtual gathering) along with leaders of other youth church bodies and youth organizations in the wider ecumenical movement.

B. That the following adjustments be made to the composition of Echos through the by-laws such that there would be a slight increase amongst those within Echos who come from the wider ecumenical movement. We will ask for contributions toward participation expenses from 25-99%, from youth commissioners who join us from the wider ecumenical movement or their sending bodies.

Currently the composition of Echos is: four to six (4-6) Central Committee members, one (1) commissioner from each of the WCC consultative bodies, at least one (1) Roman Catholic and one (1) Pentecostal youth, two to four (2-4) youth from amongst important ecumenical youth partners and regional ecumenical organizations and remaining commissioners from youth involved in various levels of ecumenical work from the WCC member churches (cf. Doc. No. GEN 09 Section 6(6.1)(a-d) Echos By-laws).

We recommend that the composition be shifted to the following balance: two to four (2-4) Central Committee members, one (1) commissioner from each of the WCC consultative bodies, at least one (1) Roman Catholic, at least one (1) Pentecostal, and at least one (1) evangelical youth, seven (7) youth from amongst important ecumenical youth partners and regional ecumenical organizations and remaining commissioners from youth involved in various levels of ecumenical work from the WCC member churches.

C. That the commission continues to meet with the same regularity with which it currently meets.

D. That the youth programme (with the commission as a central part of the responsibilities of this programme) be assigned at least one (1) single person who serves as 100 percent staff.

IV. Conclusion

We give thanks to God for the work that we have been given to perform in the service of Christ’s Church and in the service of promoting fuller participation of youth in the WCC and within the wider ecumenical movement. We are also thankful for those within the WCC who have given support to the efforts Echos has made toward this end by praying for us, by consulting us with respect for our perspective and by including us as a matter of conviction. May God bless us all with the help of the Holy Spirit in the pursuit of justice and peace!

[1] The commission decided on its name in its first meeting 2007, Geneva: "We are called to respond to the echos from the past of those ecumenical leaders who have gone before us. We must also lay the groundwork for the youth that will come after this generation. So we hope to send our voices as echos into the future. One biblical reference to our name is revealed in the voice of John the Baptist who is speaking as an echo into the future: "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Luke 3:4)."