The following report was presented to and received by the Assembly.
Its resolutions were proposed by the Policy Reference Committee and approved by the Assembly through consensus.
Mandate and Overview
1. "Behold, I make all things new." (Rev. 21:5)
The ecumenical movement, inspired by the Holy Spirit, seeks to promote the renewal of our churches and God's whole creation as integral to the growth towards unity. It is in this broad framework that the Policy Reference Committee (PRC) did its work.
2. The PRC has been asked to work in an integrated way with the Programme Guidelines Committee and Public Issues Committee of the Assembly to offer one coherent outcome within their three reports that will guide future policies and the programmatic work of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The PRC was specifically directed to consider the changing ecclesial context and the relational dynamics in the wider ecumenical movement while proposing policy guidelines for the future on the fundamental and strategic questions of relationships.
3. The reports of the Moderator and the General Secretary were received with appreciation by the PRC, in particular, the deeply spiritual tone of both reports reflecting upon the theme of the Assembly "God in your grace, transform the world". The vision for the Ninth Assembly and also for the ecumenical movement in the twenty-first century derives from our self-understanding as a faithful, praying community of Christians dedicated to witnessing to the world together, in relationship with one another by the grace of God. The quest for the visible unity of the church remains at the heart of the WCC.
4. Our ultimate vision is that we will achieve, by God s grace, the visible unity of Christ's Church and will be able to welcome one another at the Lord's table, to reconcile our ministries, and to be committed together to the reconciliation of the world. We must never lose sight of this dream, and we must take concrete steps now to make it a reality. The report of the Moderator articulated specific hopes and dreams related to work already begun around (i) the common date for Easter, (ii) Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and (iii) preparations for a single ecumenical assembly, dreams that echo those stated by the founders of the WCC.
5. The Ninth Assembly sets as its goal that we will have made substantial progress towards realizing these hopes and dreams by the Tenth Assembly. Witness to the world of the progress made toward visible unity can include agreement among all of the Christian churches for calculation of the annual date for celebration of the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, for mutual recognition by all churches of one Baptism, understanding that there are some who do not observe the rite of Baptism in water but share in the desire to be faithful to Christ, and for convening an ecumenical assembly that would assemble all churches to celebrate their fellowship in Jesus Christ and to address common challenges facing the church and humanity -- all on the way toward visible unity and a shared Eucharist.
Emerging trends in the life of the churches and their ecumenical implications
Ecumenical Relationships in the Twenty-first Century
6. Understanding the rapid and radical changes in the shape of global Christianity and the life of the churches is essential to addressing the shape of ecumenical relationships in the twenty-first century. The PRC suggests that a report, on changing ecclesial and ecumenical contexts, be prepared and updated on a regular basis in advance of meetings of the Central Committee during the next period.
7. The Assembly was called upon by the General Secretary to put "relationships in the centre of the ecumenical movement". The PRC echoes this call, understanding the creative tension that exists at the various levels of relationship engaged by the WCC, particularly between being a fellowship while also responding to the changing ecumenical landscape and responding to the world.
8. The process of reconfiguring the ecumenical movement is in large part an effort to "choreograph" the intricate relationships among the various ecumenical instruments and new ecumenical partners, so that clarity, transparency, communication and cooperative efforts mark those relationships, allowing the ecumenical movement as a whole to offer to the world and to the regions and local churches the coherent grace-filled spiritual message of Christianity. The PRC took note of the messages coming from many sources gathered in the Ninth Assembly, as well as the theme at the heart of the Assembly. The process that has been called "reconfiguration" should be understood not as patching up the existing ecumenical structures, but as a dynamic process to deepen the relationship of the ecumenical movement to its spiritual roots and missionary identity, reaffirm the relationship of the ecumenical instruments to the churches, clarify the relationships among the various ecumenical instruments and ensuring that the message and the effort be coordinated and coherent.
9. The PRC noted with appreciation the efforts toward this end, including the two consultations that have taken place with broad participation, the mapping process that described the various ecumenical actors, the recommendations that resulted from those consultations, as well as the continuing dynamic, inclusive dialogue that has followed from that work.
10. The Ninth Assembly:
a) calls upon the member churches, and ecumenical instruments, to encourage the WCC in its role as leader of the process engaging the wider ecumenical movement in constructive collaboration (reconfiguration), including WCC member churches, Christian World Communions, Regional Ecumenical Organizations, National Councils of Churches, World Mission Bodies, Specialized Ministries, as well as Christian churches not currently in membership in the WCC, in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current status of the ecumenical movement and offer strategies for enhancing the strengths and addressing the weaknesses;
b) affirms the appointment of a continuation committee as recommended during the consultation on "Ecumenism in the Twenty-first Century" (Chavannes-de-Bogis, December 2004) that will report to the Central Committee to continue this process during this next term maintaining a primary role for the member churches;
c) requests that the WCC explores the implications of new forms of mission and ecumenism for the reconfiguration process, building on the method and results of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism, Athens (2005).
Strengthening and Deepening the WCC and Relationships among Member Churches
Who We Are and How We Work Together
11. The Common Understanding and Vision document (CUV) serves as a foundational statement of the nature of the fellowship among the member churches of the WCC and as the churches relate to other ecumenical partners. The committee affirms the centrality of this statement, urges that the CUV be more fully incorporated into the life and witness of the WCC at all levels, and continue to guide the programmatic work and relationships of the WCC.
12. The report of the General Secretary to the Ninth Assembly articulated urgent calls for deep change - not incremental change - in the way the WCC conducts its work during the next term. The most important is the call by the General Secretary for "a more integrated and interactive approach to programmes and for relationships" in the Council's future work. In the spirit of this report, therefore, the Assembly instructs the General Secretary, in consultation with the Central Committee, to implement clear and consistent changes to the working style, organizational structure and staffing of the WCC necessary to meet the current and future challenges to the ecumenical movement. The PRC is particularly interested in ensuring that all programmes, consultations, visits or statements initiated by the WCC are integrated and coordinated with the work being undertaken by staff in other programme areas.
13. The PRC affirms the importance of providing possibilities for young adults to participate in meaningful decision-making roles both in the churches and in the WCC, and urges that member churches provide additional opportunities for their young adults to benefit from ecumenical formation, including theological training at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey.
14. In light of the meeting of the Moderator and the General Secretary with young adult delegates to the Ninth Assembly, and the Statement on Youth Contribution delivered to the Assembly, the Assembly directs the 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.
15. The PRC noted the persistence of references to "persons with disabilities" which can be an acknowledgement of their absence in leadership and in decision-making processes. The PRC will, however, note that this can serve to mark the continuing marginalisation of those persons living with different disabilities. The Assembly recommends that the WCC work with representatives of the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network to articulate in an even more bold and creative way, consistent with Christian theology, ways to make the churches fully inclusive communities and the ecumenical movement a more open space for all human beings.
16. The PRC affirmed the recent actions of the Central Committee on human rights, Indigenous Peoples and language loss. The Assembly recommends to strengthen the participation and visibility of Indigenous Peoples within the WCC. The Assembly considers this an essential step for deepening the relationships among WCC member churches. The Assembly in particular urges the WCC to address the main areas which are problematic for Indigenous churches in its policy directions. The Assembly considers strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples an opportunity for the fellowship to gain new insights on the importance of place, land, language and theology of creation, as well as creative perspectives on grace and transformation.
17. The PRC appreciates the new consensus style of discernment for reaching decisions in the WCC and notes the opportunity this offers to the churches. A particular concern was expressed that the length of the reports of the Moderator and the General Secretary on the one hand, and the schedule of the Assembly on the other, limited meaningful discussion despite the stated goals of the consensus process, either during the presentation plenary or in committee. The PRC suggests that the shift to consensus process in decision-making also requires changes in methodology and process in order to create adequate space for consensus to occur. This requires an evaluation of current models of reporting.
18. The Central Committee engaged in a process of self-evaluation in the months immediately preceding the Ninth Assembly. The PRC thanks those who conducted that evaluation and receives with appreciation the report of the Evaluation Committee. The PRC suggests that clear mechanisms for planning and evaluation of the programmes and work and for transparent and mutually accountable working methods between the WCC and its member churches be established in advance of the second full meeting of the Central Committee, with particular attention to evaluating the transition to consensus and its consequences for working methods.
Relationships among Member Churches
19. Work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC marked this past term of the WCC. The PRC affirms this important achievement of the Council that deepens the relationships among member churches and helps dispel misperceptions between families of churches. In particular, the Committee urges the WCC to stress the importance of this work as it implements the policies adopted by the Central Committee, grows into the consensus process of discernment for decision-making, and engages in the reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement. The committee welcomed the revisions to the Constitution and Rules of the WCC, including especially the new ways of relating to one another in our work as member churches working towards consensus in discerning ways to work together, clarified understanding of membership in the WCC, and the new opportunities for relationship to the WCC through the category of "churches in association with the WCC."
20. The PRC noted that each new term of the Central Committee provides an opportunity for informal encounters between and among representatives of member churches, to deepen understanding of the ecclesial commonalities and particularities of each member church. The PRC urges the WCC to make space for this type of interaction at every opportunity, to encourage the practice of "Living Letters" that provides an opportunity for personal encounters with churches in their own contexts, so that the churches come to know one another, and to encourage local collaborative consultations of Faith and Order documents.
21. The PRC also urges the WCC to listen to the member churches and strive towards greater coherence in the various relations with them, increasing cooperation, exchange of information and consultation among all involved persons (including WCC staff) and ecumenical partners.
The Call to be the One Church
22. The PRC has received with deep appreciation the document entitled Called to be the One Church (the Ecclesiology Text).
The Ninth Assembly:
a) adopts the Ecclesiology Text as an invitation and challenge to the member churches to renew their commitment to the search for unity and to deepen their dialogue;
b) calls upon each member church to respond to the ten questions at the conclusion of the Ecclesiology Text with the expectation that, by the Tenth Assembly, each member church will have so responded;
c) directs the WCC, through the commission on Faith and Order, to prepare periodic reports to the Central Committee of the number and content of responses received, so that responses can inform the direction of work towards deepening the understanding among member churches and furthering progress towards the visible unity of the Church. Such a process would go some way to addressing the fundamental ecclesiological issues raised by the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC.
Relationships with Ecumenical Partners
Christian World Communions
23. The WCC is strengthened by interaction with the Christian World Communions. Its spirituality, witness, and work are enhanced by cooperative efforts with Christian World Communions towards building Christian unity. Multi-lateral and bi-lateral dialogues have contributed to a number of unity agreements and have enhanced understanding and cooperation among churches. Cooperative efforts in areas of witness, mission, diakonia and ecumenical formation are integral to the life of the WCC. The importance of strengthening this relationship is articulated in the Common Understanding and Vision document and affirmed by the Harare Assembly.
24. The PRC notes that the various structures and self-understanding of the Christian World Communions and of the member churches of the WCC results in a variety of ways of relating to the WCC, and welcomes the ongoing relationship with the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, whilst recognizing that not all member churches find themselves represented in this body. Some Christian World Communions and the General Secretary have called for new ways of relating CWCS to the WCC, including new possibilities related to future WCC Assemblies, expanded space in the structure of WCC Assemblies for confessional meetings, and the vision ultimately of a broadly inclusive ecumenical assembly.
25. The Ninth Assembly:
a) affirms the important specific role and place of the Christian World Communions in the ecumenical movement and as partners of the WCC, and particularly acknowledges the importance of the role of Christian World Communions in both multi-lateral and bilateral dialogues and reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement;
b) directs that the WCC jointly consult with the Christian World Communions to explore the significance and implications of overlap of membership, coordination of programmes, and other common efforts between the WCC and the Christian World Communions;
c) directs that the WCC initiate, within the next year and in consultation with the Christian World Communions, a joint consultative commission to discuss and recommend ways to further strengthen the participation of Christian World Communions in the WCC;
d) directs that the WCC explore the feasibility of a structure for WCC assemblies that would provide expanded space for Christian World Communions and confessional families to meet, for the purpose of deliberation and/or overall agendas. Early in the term of this next Central Committee, a decision would be expected as to whether the next WCC Assembly should be so structured;
e) directs that United and Uniting churches be included in this process.
Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches
26. The Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches worldwide comprise expressions of the ecumenical movement with a wide variety of structures and varying degrees of relationship with the work and programmes of the WCC. These independently constituted organizations have a composition of membership that is broader than that of the WCC, some including as full members representatives of bishop's conferences of the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical and Pentecostal churches that are not members of the WCC. The current relationship between the WCC, Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches, is mutually enriching and important to their common work and witness to the world, yet lacks clarity as to the specific character, role and particular strengths of each ecumenical instrument and the relationship of each to the local churches, and also lacks coherence of common vision and cooperative efforts.
27. The Ninth Assembly:
a) affirms the specific and important relationship between the WCC and the Regional Ecumenical Organizations and the National Councils of Churches as essential partners in the work of the ecumenical movement;
b) encourages the WCC to continue to facilitate the annual meetings of leaders of Regional Ecumenical Organizations in order to (i) bring more clarity to the specific character of each ecumenical instrument, (ii) improve the process of consultation, particularly in areas in which work and programmes might overlap and where statements or efforts of the WCC might have particularly sensitive local ramifications, (iii) articulate an agreement of shared values, and (iv) improve cooperation in programming and coherence of message so that each instrument of the ecumenical movement is undertaking the programmes and tasks most effectively suited to their strengths, the process to be overseen by the continuation committee formed following the consultation on Ecumenism in the Twenty-first Century (Chavannes-de-Bogis, 2004);
c) endorses the recommendation of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC that the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity be asked to cosponsor a consultation of representatives of National Councils of Churches, Regional Ecumenical Organizations and episcopal conferences from places where the Roman Catholic Church is not in membership. The consultation should consider the document "Inspired by the Same Vision" and reflect on the experience others have gleaned regarding Catholic participation;
d) directs that this consultation be held within the next two to four years, in order to (i) bring more clarity to the specific character of each ecumenical instrument, (ii) improve the process of consultation, particularly in areas in which work and programmes might overlap and where statements or efforts of the WCC might have particularly sensitive local ramifications, (iii) articulate an agreement of shared values, (iv) enhance relationships with the Roman Catholic Church by inviting the leadership of national bishops' conferences, and (v) improve cooperation in programming and coherence of message so that each instrument of the ecumenical movement is undertaking the programmes and tasks most effectively suited to their strengths, on the principle of subsidiarity, that is, ensuring that decisions are made closest to the people affected, and with the priority that programmes are preferable when they interconnect with regional, national or local initiatives.
Specialized Ministries and Agencies Related to the WCC
28. The PRC received with interest and for information a report of the proposal for a new alliance of churches and church and ecumenical agencies engaged in development work (Proposed Ecumenical Alliance for Development, PEAD), and understands that the formation of such a global alliance and its identity as an agency related to the WCC and its member churches, and/or related to the work of Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), is still in progress.
29. The Ninth Assembly:
a) affirms with appreciation the work and role of Specialized Ministries and their relationship to the WCC and to the diaconal work of the WCC and the member churches;
b) asks the WCC to continue its leadership role in exploring with the agencies which have proposed the new alliance the most appropriate structure for that alliance to take in relating to the other ecumenical partners, particularly as the alliance would relate to and serve the specific diaconal tasks of member churches and relate to ACT and other existing ecumenical instruments, including Regional Ecumenical Organizations, taking into account the priorities that have been articulated;
c) directs that the Central Committee encourage the continuing leadership role of the WCC in relation to this proposal.
Relationships with other Christian Churches
The Roman Catholic Church
30. The PRC received with appreciation the Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC and acknowledges with deep appreciation the past forty years of collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC. Since the Second Vatican Council, major studies have resulted from this joint effort, deepening the mutual understanding and the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the WCC. Joint responsibility for preparing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, full membership in the commissions on Faith and Order, Mission and Evangelism, provision for staff in areas of mission and at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute have enhanced that collaboration, even while the Roman Catholic Church declines membership in the WCC. The member churches of the WCC continue to encourage and hope for an even more organic relationship with the Roman Catholic Church in the quest towards the visible unity of the Church.
31. The Ninth Assembly:
a) receives the Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC and the report of the consultation, that marked the forty years of collaboration, and expresses its appreciation to the members of the JWG for their work in the period 1999 - 2006;
b) endorses the continuation of the Joint Working Group and its recommendations for future direction, but also asks the Joint Working Group, working with Faith and Order, to include in their agendas concrete steps in that context to realize the dreams described in the Moderator's report: for a common date for the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and mutual recognition by all churches of one Baptism understanding that there are some who do not observe the rite of Baptism in water but share in the desire to be faithful to Christ, and convening a common ecumenical assembly, including offering ways to deepen the theological basis of all ecumenical work and engage in work towards resolution of the theological divergences that still keep us apart.
32. Porto Alegre, Brazil provided a dynamic setting for the Ninth Assembly to receive the Report from the Joint Consultative Group between the WCC and Pentecostal Churches, which the PRC forwards to the Assembly with appreciation for the work of that Group. This six-year effort is an example of efforts of the WCC to broaden the Council and the ecumenical movement and to respond to the dynamically changing landscape of Christian expression, whilst being mindful of the ecclesial realities that makes formal partnerships difficult. The PRC appreciates the extraordinary effort that has accompanied this process to provide the safe ecumenical space for this mutually beneficial open dialogue.
33. The Ninth Assembly:
a) receives the Report of the Joint Consultative Group between the WCC and Pentecostals including the recommendations and the direction for future work, expresses its appreciation to the members of the Joint Consultative Group for their work in the period 2000 - 2005, and endorses the continuation of the Joint Consultative Group;
b) recognizes the visible contribution of the Pentecostal churches in the dynamically changing Christian landscape, and the importance to the ecumenical movement of engaging in mutual learning and sustained dialogue with the Pentecostal churches.
Global Christian Forum
34. The Harare Assembly affirmed the proposal that the WCC facilitate the process identified in the Common Understanding and Vision document as the " Forum proposal". This process has included a series of meetings preparatory to gathering a broader representation of Christian churches than currently are members in the WCC for consultation on issues common to all Christian churches and inter-church organizations. Several regional consultations have taken place, with participation from a wide range of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches not represented in the WCC, the Roman Catholic Church and from representatives of WCC member churches, gathering together at a global level representatives of all four main streams of Christianity. Demonstrating the timeliness of this initiative, given the changing global Christian landscape and to enhance a common Christian witness and solidarity in a fractured world, the Global Christian Forum process offers a fluid model of initiatives that can be facilitated by the WCC to welcome broader participation in the ecumenical journey.
35. The PRC noted the tension that will continue to be present as the WCC proceeds on the one hand to deepen its relationships among the member churches and explore the areas of theological convergence and divergence, while on the other hand encountering with ecclesial challenges presented by engaging with the broader Christian community. The committee reaffirms the centrality of the fellowship of member churches, the Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC, and the particular accomplishments of the Special Commission in deepening the relationships among the member churches, and notes the urgent need for the WCC to continue to facilitate gathering the broader Christian community in consultation and dialogue.
36. The Ninth Assembly:
a) receives the report on the Global Christian Forum including the direction for future work and expresses its appreciation to the organizers of the consultations and the forum event;
b) instructs that the WCC participate in the global forum event scheduled to take place in late 2007, and following that event conduct a formal and comprehensive evaluation of the concept and the process.
Relationships with Other Faiths
37. The WCC has committed itself to engaging in dialogue with partners of other faiths that is aimed at building trust, articulating common values, promoting mutual understanding, meeting common challenges and addressing conflictive and divisive issues. Interreligious dialogue is now more than ever an expression of the Council's essential identity engaging in the world, diffusing tensions, peacemaking, protecting human dignity and the rights of religious minorities. The PRC appreciates the strong reaffirmation of this work of the Council that was contained in the reports of the Moderator and the General Secretary and concurs that forming and deepening constructive, respectful, intentional relationships with others in this pluralistic world is one of the most important efforts the WCC can model for its ecumenical partners and for member churches at the international and the grassroots levels.
Relationships with Nations and World Events
38. The WCC expresses its fellowship by engaging in the world as we have been called by Jesus Christ to engage the world - as witnesses to His love. The WCC is in a unique position to articulate values that signify human dignity. The WCC has made a mark in its history by providing prophetic response to this calling. Participants in the Ninth Assembly were moved by the various plenary presentations and interactions with the local churches to recommit to engage together with issues of economic justice and globalization, to fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic, to reaffirm solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS and to promote a culture of peace through the programmes of the Decade to Overcome Violence. The PRC acknowledges the essential significance of the work of the WCC interacting as the voice of Christian churches with secular world bodies. The PRC recognizes the significance of this expression of the WCC's responsibility for the churches toward the world as a privileged instrument of the ecumenical movement.
39. The PRC received with deep appreciation the reports of the General Secretary and the Moderator of the WCC, and thanks the Moderator, especially on this occasion of his final report to an Assembly of the WCC as Moderator, for his years of dedicated leadership of the WCC.
40. The PRC received with deep gratitude the various reports of efforts to initiate, maintain and deepen the relationships of the WCC with its member churches, with its ecumenical partners, and with other Christian Churches. It suggests a full and closer reading by anyone involved in the ecumenical movement. Recommendations from those reports are offered as recommendations of the PRC with the understanding that priority be given to programmes that strengthen the WCC in the search for visible unity, enhance its ability to represent the member churches, and build new bridges for relationships and trust with other Christian churches not currently within its fellowship.
41. We give thanks to God for our relationships with Christian World Communions, the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal Churches, Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches, Specialized Ministries, and the emerging Global Christian Forum. We request that the Assembly call on them all to join in a fresh commitment with the WCC and one another to create a renewed and unified ecumenical movement as we begin the third millennium of Christian history that will strengthen and deepen the fellowship of churches and enable us to be faithful in our common calling to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.