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Together on the Way: official report of the eighth assembly
by World Council of Churches
3 December 1998

"You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month -- on the day of atonement -- you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee year for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family" (Lev. 25:8-10)


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2)


For fifty years we have gathered in the assemblies of the World Council of Churches, in response to the prayer of Jesus, that we may be one.

In Amsterdam we recognized the disorder of humankind in the face of your design for the world. Your design is the glory of a world reconciled to you and signed by the harmonies in all creation. We wait in hope for it still.

Evanston lifted up the one who is forever our living way: "Christ -- the hope of the world." We claim this hope again, a costly hope, crucified and risen in power before us. Hail to the Christ, the name beyond all names!

In New Delhi we celebrated the flame of your life among us: "Jesus Christ -- the light of the world." The light is now flickering, now flaming bright, challenging the shadows, forever warming the cold souls of our despair.

In Uppsala we lifted up our hearts and proclaimed your promise: "Behold, I make all things new." The vision of a new heaven and a new earth, arising in grace before us, called forth before the starkness of our life.

"Jesus Christ frees and unites" we sang in the midst of Nairobi's life: people from around the earth, standing before God in our captivities and disunities and naming a divine possibility.

In Vancouver we gathered in faith before you, "Jesus Christ -- the life of the world." We stood in wonder before the defeat of death, determined as now to reveal your victory, made real before the eyes of all people.

"Come, Holy Spirit -- renew the whole creation" was the longing prayer in Canberra. You, and you only, O God, are the source of our renewal. We bowed in humble faith before you, offering ourselves to work with you, in the power and truth of your Spirit.

We give thanks and praise to God for the journeying of our past. Great is your faithfulness, O God!

A celebration of gathering from the opening worship of the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches, 3 December 1998.

Table of Contents:

Preface
Being Together under the Cross in Africa: The Assembly Message
1. Harare 1998: An Introduction and Personal Perspective, Diane Kessler
2. The Theme: "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope"
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Anamnesis, Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
2.3. Metanoia, Wanda Deifelt
2.4. Rejoice in Hope, Kosuke Koyama
3. The Work of the WCC: Past, Present and Future
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Report of the Moderator, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia
3.3. Report of the General Secretary, Konrad Raiser
3.4. Discussion of the Reports of the Moderator and General Secretary
3.5. A Common Understanding and Vision: Plenary Discussion
3.6. Our Ecumenical Vision
3.7. The Work of the Finance Committee
3.8. Programme Guidelines Committee
4. WCC Membership and Relationships
4.1. The Work of Policy Reference Committee I: Introduction
4.2. New Members
4.3. Relationships with Orthodox Churches
4.4. Other Relationships
4.5. Proposal for a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations
4.6. Other Recommended Actions
4.7. Report of Policy Reference Committee I
5. Actions on Issues of Current Global Concern
5.1. The Work of Policy Reference Committee II
5.2. The Debt Issue (from Policy Reference Committee II Report)
5.3. Globalization (from Policy Reference Committee II Report)
5.4. The Work of the Public Issues Committee
5.5. Statement on Child Soldiers
5.6. Statement on the Status of Jerusalem
5.7. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights
5.8. A Statement on Human Rights
6. The African Context
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Africa: The Footprint of God by N. Barney Pityana
6.3. From Cover to Core: A Letter to My Ancestors by Mercy Amba Oduyoye
6.4. Response to the Africa Plenary
6.5. Address by President Nelson Mandela
7. Greetings from Religious and Political Leaders
7.1. Pope John Paul II
7.2. Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch
7.3. Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians
7.4. World Evangelical Fellowship
7.5. Kim Dae-jung, President of the Republic of Korea
8. Additional Documents
8.1. Letter from the Decade Festival -- Churches in Solidarity with Women
8.2. Response to the Plenary on the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women
8.3. Policy Reference Committee II Report. Appendix I: Sudan
8.4. Policy Reference Committee II Report: Appendix II: Globalization
8.5. Youth Participation in the WCC
8.6. Indigenous Peoples
8.7. Responses from Evangelical Participants
8.8. A Letter from Children
8.9. Visions for the future Philip Potter
Appendices

Preface

How will the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare be remembered? This official report begins with the words of a litany used at the opening worship in which the central messages of the seven preceding assemblies were recalled. What has been and what will be received as the main message of this jubilee assembly at Harare?

"Being Together Under the Cross in Africa" is the title of the message adopted by the delegates on the final day of the Harare assembly. During the plenary discussion of the draft message, some delegates suggested that a more dynamic formulation than "being together" should be found -- perhaps "moving together" or "building together". Both of these phrases, which are found in the report of the assembly's Programme Guidelines Committee, raise the question: Has there been "movement" at this assembly and has it engaged in an act of "building"? The following report will help the readers, particularly those who have not participated personally in the assembly, to find out for themselves.

Each of the WCC's eight assemblies has had its particular profile which is reflected in the official report. The Harare assembly was marked by its setting on the African continent, by its theme "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope", echoing the biblical jubilee motif, and by the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the WCC.

Despite the broad-based and constructive participation of member churches and ecumenical partners in the nine-year process of reflection about a "common understanding and vision of the World Council of Churches", fears had been expressed prior to the assembly about the future of the World Council. Eastern Orthodox churches in particular had expressed critical concern. The following introduction and the reports adopted by the Harare assembly show that the meeting took seriously these challenges and -- in the spirit of the assembly theme -- responded with a message of hope, not only for the WCC and the ecumenical movement but for Africa and the world at large.

Two features of this assembly, which had a special significance for the participants, could not be reflected adequately in any printed report. The first is the worship life of the assembly: the daily services in the worship tent, the special liturgical celebrations and the encounters in small groups for Bible study and reflection about the presentations in plenary session. For many in Harare, these were the moments of the strongest ecumenical experience. The worship book of the assembly will remain a resource for years to come in relation to all efforts to nurture what the Programme Guidelines Committee calls an "ecumenism of the heart".

The second special feature was the Padare, the open space for sharing, encounter and dialogue in the middle of the assembly programme, with its hundreds of presentations on a wide variety of issues and experiences of local ecumenical endeavour. The Padare was linked with the official agenda of the assembly through two series of hearing sessions under the guidance of the Programme Guidelines Committee. While the experience of this innovation in the programming of a WCC assembly not surprisingly pointed to many areas in which its organization could be improved, it was on the whole most encouraging, demonstrating that the ecumenical movement is alive and full of vitality -- in spite of all the seeming evidence to the contrary.

The rich diversity of the Padare, which defied the communication efforts of report-writers and journalists, also posed difficulties of choice for the participants. Indeed, the multifaceted character of the assembly programme as a whole -- while it reflects ecumenical reality -- poses even more sharply the question of the coherence and oneness of the ecumenical movement. In a way, each participant in Harare has experienced a different assembly; and sometimes their impressions and evaluations differ so widely that one wonders whether the people concerned were attending the same conference.

This official report and the extensive introduction written by Diane Kessler provide a comprehensive perspective on the Harare assembly, both as an event and in terms of its results. We are indebted to her for putting the different and sometimes contradictory facets together and placing them into a coherent whole. This is an indispensable condition for the process of the reception of the assembly to begin. With the Harare assembly the WCC has opened a new chapter in its life. This report reflects a spirit of hopeful expectation which does not deny the difficulties and critical challenges ahead but is prepared to face them in the confidence that "the one who calls us is faithful and will carry it out" (1 Thess. 5:24).

Konrad Raiser
General Secretary

Being Together Under the Cross in Africa: The Assembly Message

"Blessed is our God always, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen"

Called by the drums of Africa we gathered in Harare, Zimbabwe, as representatives of over three hundred churches at the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches. We greet our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ throughout the world who share and rejoice with us in the life and fellowship of the Holy Trinity.

Fifty years ago the World Council of Churches began its journey of faith with the assembly in Amsterdam and clearly affirmed "We intend to stay together". Our pilgrimage through Evanston, New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi, Vancouver and Canberra has led us to rejoice in the hope, mission, vision, freedom, life and renewal that God gives.

The theme of this Assembly, "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope", is an invitation to look again to the very foundation of our faith and life as churches, finding there the hope that will draw us on. In this our Jubilee year we proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the year of the Lord's favour.

Meeting in joyful assembly, we invite one another and the whole church to journey towards visible unity, which is God's gift and call to us. We have found that Christ is both the centre of our unity and our living water of life. We confess that we have often turned away from God's purposes and from serving God's reign. For this we grieve and repent.

The life of the assembly has revolved around worship, prayer and Bible study. At the centre of the place of worship has stood a great carved cross with the continent of Africa at its heart. It is indeed part of the joy of this assembly that we are in Africa. Here we experienced the life, growth and vitality of faith in local congregations. We rejoiced in the beauty and wonder of God's creation. We remembered that it was to Africa that the holy family with the infant Jesus came as refugees, and today Africa like every other continent is a place where many people are displaced, homeless and refugees.

Drawn by the power of the cross, we have been reminded that the cross is the most holy ground before which the very sandals of God are removed. We have seen all around us the suffering and pain of humankind. We have encountered the alarming problems of poverty, unemployment and homelessness which are here as they are everywhere. We have heard of the devastating effects of globalization and structural adjustments as those who are weak and powerless find themselves becoming increasingly "invisible". We have listened as our sisters and brothers have shared with us the grim reality of the debt crisis in the developing world. We call for the cancellation of debt in a manner which benefits the poor and marginalized and respects their human rights.

We have longed to touch those suffering from HIV/AIDS. We have stood alongside our brothers and sisters with disabilities, who bring a gift to those who are handicapped in relating to them. We have heard the voice of the Indigenous Peoples among us, claiming the place that is theirs by right. We have heard from women, children, refugees and displaced persons whose lives have been ravaged by violence. We have been challenged to express our solidarity with them, and to commit ourselves to overcome violence and to promote the full human dignity of all. By going to those at the periphery God causes commotion, making this periphery the centre. As churches, we are called to make these sons and daughters of God truly visible.

With the symbol of life giving water, we marked the completion of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, listening to the all-too-often painful reality revealed in the Living Letters and hearing the call that solidarity be followed by accountability. As it flows on parched ground, water is essential to life. Jesus offered to the woman at the well the living water, the healing and new life she so desperately needed. The call of God was presented again and again in the use of water. We were invited to drink the water of salvation, and to affirm our unity with all those incorporated into Christ. We are called to help and comfort the lonely, the bereaved, orphans, and the destitute, and to keep thirsting until the wounds of the world are healed.

We have wrestled with how we might foster greater participation at every level of the ecumenical movement, and the way in which decision-making can reflect the needs and expectations of those coming from many and varied traditions and cultures. We celebrated the leadership shown by young people which has been so apparent in the life of this assembly. We urge the churches to ensure space for the involvement of young people in every aspect of the life and ministries of the church.

Drawn together by God's love, we have sought to understand more what it is to be together. We have explored how we understand the World Council of Churches and the ways in which God has called us to look forward together. We have rejoiced in the developing koinonia (communion) between Christians in many parts of the world, and we affirm once again that God has called us to continue to grow in that communion together, that it may be truly visible. We rejoice in signs of this growth such as the hope for a common date of Easter.

We have also experienced the pain brought by our remaining divisions, as revealed in our inability to share one eucharist. But we were constantly reminded that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. Christian remembering is not centred on our divided memory but rather on the saving events of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For this reason, to remember together as Christians is an essential part of turning to God, so that we may rejoice in hope. It is as we turn to God and see in the other the face of God that we know and see who we are. This is the heart of a truly ecumenical spirituality.

We sought to allow open space for one another, and to create space for those who are failing to connect with each other in a divided world. In the assembly, a wide range of concerns and commitments came together, providing an opportunity to realize how the Spirit leads the community of faith far beyond any individual horizon. We experienced the richness of God, and of the various ways we can respond to a world which encompasses peoples of many living faiths. We claim religious freedom as a fundamental human right.

The World Council of Churches began its journey in faith with the determination to stay together. We experienced this same determination in Harare, even when we were aware of the difficulties that we faced. As churches long committed to staying together, we now commit ourselves to being together in a continuing growth towards visible unity -- not only in assemblies and ecumenical gatherings but each in every place. It is this being together that all ecumenical work at every level must serve. The mission to which God calls the church in the service of God's reign cannot be separated from the call to be one. In Harare we saw once again the immensity of the mission in which God invites us to share. In this mission we who are reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross are challenged to work for reconciliation and peace with justice among those torn apart by violence and war.

From this eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches we share with you our brothers and sisters a message of hope. The God who has called us together will bring us to the fulfilment of all things in Christ. The jubilee which has begun among us is sent to you, to celebrate the liberation of the entire creation. As we have turned once again to God, we have been able to rejoice in hope. We invite you to share with us the vision which we have been able to express together and which, we pray, will become part of a common life and witness:

We long for the visible oneness of the body of Christ,
affirming the gifts of all,
young and old, women and men, lay and ordained.
We expect the healing of human community,
the wholeness of God's entire creation.

We trust in the liberating power of forgiveness,
transforming enmity into friendship
and breaking the spiral of violence.

We are challenged by the vision of a church
that will reach out to everyone,
sharing, caring, proclaiming the good news of God's redemption,
a sign of the kingdom and a servant of the world.

We are challenged by the vision of a church,
the people of God on the way together,
confronting all divisions of race, gender, age or culture,
striving to realize justice and peace,
upholding the integrity of creation.

We journey together as a people with resurrection faith.
In the midst of exclusion and despair,
we embrace, in joy and hope, the promise of life in all its fullness.

We journey together as a people of prayer.
In the midst of confusion and loss of identity,
we discern signs of God's purpose being fulfilled
and expect the coming of God's reign.


1. Harare 1998: An Introduction and Personal Perspective
by Diane Kessler

1.1 Introduction

"Harare 1998". When delegates from the member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) gather in assembly, the event becomes identified by the place where the meeting is held. From 3 to 14 December 1998, the 50th anniversary jubilee assembly of the WCC was held on the continent of Africa, in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, on the sprawling campus of the University of Zimbabwe. It was the eighth since the WCC was founded in 1948. For almost two weeks, nearly five thousand people from every continent worked and worshipped, talked and listened, in formal sessions and informal encounters. In some way or other, this whole process related to the Council's aim "to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit" -- specifically, "to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe" (WCC constitution, I: Basis, and III: Purpose and Functions). This is a daunting responsibility. It also is a grand enough vision to be worthy of all the time, energy and expense entailed in its quest.
Anniversaries are occasions to pause and reflect. In many ways that is what this assembly was doing for the ecumenical movement. The delegates took a look at where the member churches have been together in the past fifty years, assessed where they are now, and made some decisions that will affect their life together into the 21st century.

This book contains the official texts approved by the delegates at the Harare assembly, with a record of central issues raised in plenary debate. It also includes key presentations, reports, messages and greetings, statistics, names, and the WCC constitution and rules. These proceedings become part of the WCC's ecumenical tradition. In this introduction, I have been asked to offer a personal perspective on the event. This custom puts the texts in a context and helps give a flavour to the whole.

1.2. The participants

As people from many nations and churches descended on the university campus, they made their way first to the registration tables at Beit Hall. Every participant was given an identification badge with a photo which was hung around the neck and became a permanent part of his or her garb for the duration. Those standing in lines were a colourful microcosm of the church in the world -- black, blue and pink cassocks, clerical collars, daishikis, saris and sarongs, and all manner of Western street clothes from T-shirts to ties; a dizzying array of languages; and people from every continent.

The Harare assembly was the largest in WCC history. It included 966 voting delegates chosen by the 336 member churches to represent them: 367 women, 599 men, 525 of whom were ordained, 438 who were lay. Included in these numbers were 134 youth. They came from the regions of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific. The largest number of delegates was from Africa and Europe, followed in number by Asia and North America. Twenty-nine associate member churches (those churches otherwise eligible for membership but with fewer than the required 25,000 members) sent 31 representatives who had the right to speak but not to vote. It was announced during the assembly that "to our great regret, the Orthodox Church of Georgia has withdrawn"; furthermore, a letter was received formally stating that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church also had withdrawn its membership.

The three central committee officers took turns presiding at plenary sessions: the moderator, Aram I (Armenian Apostolic Church [Cilicia]); and vice-moderators Soritua Nababan (Batak Protestant Christian Church [Indonesia]) and Nélida Ritchie (Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina). The general secretary Konrad Raiser (Evangelical Church in Germany, elected by the central committee in August 1992, was on the podium for all plenary sessions.

Forty-six guests attended the assembly. Among them was a four-member delegation from North Korean churches led by Rev. Yong-Sop Kang -- the first time churches from that country had attended a WCC assembly; and eight people from other faiths: Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu. Also participating were 289 observers, delegated observers (from non-member churches, including 23 delegated observers from the Roman Catholic Church), and delegated representatives (from organizations with which the World Council maintains a relationship, such as the Christian world communions and national and regional councils of churches). One hundred and twenty-one advisers were present. These are persons who can make special contributions to programmatic presentations during the assembly. Among the advisers were ten people with disabilities, who often gathered in a white tent near the Great Hall where all plenaries were held, ready to engage in conversation about the churches' ministries with people with disabilities.

Assembly staff support was given by 142 WCC staff; 182 stewards -- youth who work diligently to provide support services for the assembly; 117 coopted staff, pressed into service for the occasion; and young people from Zimbabwean churches, wearing red T-shirts, who provided additional volunteer support.

Many media representatives covered the event. The assembly schedule was interspersed with daily news conferences, during which representatives of the media had an opportunity to question key figures about major events of the previous day.

In addition, a record-breaking number of accredited visitors and day visitors attended some or all of the meeting, gathering daily in a tent beside the Great Hall to participate in a visitors programme. Many visitors came from all over Africa, thereby enriching the experiences of all attendees.

1.3. The task

Assembly delegates were mandated to assess the work of the churches together since the Canberra assembly in February 1991; to chart the course for the seven years until the next assembly; to elect the 150 members of the new central committee, who are responsible for implementing the programme guidelines adopted by the assembly; and to choose the eight new WCC presidents who will represent and interpret the work of the Council in their regions. As former WCC deputy general secretary S. Wesley Ariarajah (Methodist Church of Sri Lanka) said during the opening plenary orientation session, "The assembly is in your hands. What it will become depends on what you do."

Because this was the WCC's 50th anniversary, however, the assembly also was invited to take a broader look. This assembly wrestled with some key questions: What have the churches learned from our ecumenical history together in the WCC? What are the implications for us now of what we have learned? How should our churches respond as we look to the future? #Delegates were helped to do this reflection by a policy statement, "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches" (CUV), adopted in September 1997 by the central committee and commended to member churches. Two deliberative plenaries were scheduled at Harare in order to digest the material and reflect on its concrete constitutional implications. Delegates attended hearings at which the issues were presented and discussed in detail. They then engaged in floor debates about specific recommendations.

All these acts were crystallized on a warm Sunday afternoon, the day before the assembly concluded, when participants were invited on a "Journey to Jubilee". Former BBC commentator Pauline Webb told stories about the fifty years of churches together through the WCC. These were interspersed with large-screen video presentations from former assemblies, starting with the founding assembly at Amsterdam in 1948. South African president Nelson Mandela and former WCC general secretary Philip Potter gave testimonies about the churches' life together, and the positive impact this common witness has made on society. Mandela said, "Your support exemplified in the most concrete way the contribution that religion has made to our liberation, from the days when religious bodies took responsibility for the education of the oppressed because it was denied us by our rulers, to support for our liberation struggle." Potter said, "I fervently hope that young participants in this assembly will be present at the next jubilee in the year 2048 to testify to what God has done through their generation to carry out the purpose of good for all."

One memorable moment that afternoon vividly brought to mind the 1983 Vancouver assembly, when at the end of a procession of people bringing forward offerings from their countries, the then general secretary Philip Potter was handed a baby by her African mother. It was one of those spontaneous moments, captured on film, which stayed with people long after the assembly ended. At Harare, when Philip Potter walked on stage to address the assembly, he was surprised by that now-fifteen-year old girl saying "Remember me?" The crowd was jubilant.

After the jubilee celebration, everyone walked to the worship tent for the service of recommitment. While religious leaders exchanged crosses made in their home countries, each worshipper was given a simple wire cross made by a Zimbabwean, Simon Muganiwa. The crosses symbolized our own recommitment to the ecumenical movement. Worshippers were invited to focus on the meaning of the cross while saying the following prayer:

God of unity, God of love,
what we say with our lips make strong in our hearts,
what we affirm with our minds,
make vivid in our lives.

Send us your Spirit
to pray in us what we dare not pray,
to claim us beyond our own claims,
to bind us when we are tempted to go our own ways.

Lead us forward.
Lead us together.
Lead us to do your will,
the will of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Participants then stood for a litany of commitment, interspersed with a Zimbabwean "Hallelujah" that rolled through the big blue tent in vigorous harmony.


1.4. The setting

We came at the invitation of the Christian churches in Zimbabwe. Some people arrived early or stayed late so they could explore the region. My own first glimpse of assembly participants beyond the Harare airport was before the meeting in Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park, in the northwest corner of the country. During the hour flight from Harare, passengers looking out of the window saw lush green landscape and rolling, tree-covered hills, red soil heavy with iron deposits, some dry river beds not yet touched by the short rainy season, and scattered villages with round thatched huts occupied by the Ndebele people who live in that region.

A large number of Zimbabweans still live on small farms, cultivating the rocky land. On the ground, visitors were awed by the majestic, mist-throwing falls; bungee jumpers adventurous (or crazy!) enough to fly off the bridge into the gorge; and animals -- majestic, magnificent animals -- elephants, lions, jackals, wild dogs, bat-eared foxes, buffalo, hippopotami, zebras, kudu, bushpigs, and birds of every imaginable colour, shape and size. Others visited Great Zimbabwe, the largest complex of ruins in Africa, seven centuries old, holding tales of the Shona-speaking ancestors of many of today's Zimbabweans. Or they went on safaris around Lake Kariba and into Matusadona National Park.

It is risky to draw conclusions from first impressions. A systematic and comprehensive analysis of Zimbabwe and the African continent was provided during the Africa plenary on Tuesday, 8 December. In addition, President Robert Mugabe addressed the delegates for 50 minutes during his visit to the assembly. His speech offered a detailed and documented overview of the role -- both positive and negative -- played by Christian missionaries and Christian churches in Zimbabwe since the time of Cecil Rhodes. In this connection he thanked the WCC for its solidarity during the struggle that had led to the country's independence in 1980, particularly expressed through its Programme to Combat Racism. Responding to Mugabe's address (which had not touched on the current and growing political turmoil within his country), WCC president Bishop Vinton Anderson underscored the imperative of complementing declarations of independence and democratic constitutions with a continuing struggle for the freedom and equality of all members of the human family, created as they are in the image of God.

Images are more appropriate here, to give a flavour of the place. It is a country and a continent filled with contrasts. Saturday afternoon, 5 December, delegates and visitors piled into a seemingly endless supply of buses for the half-hour ride through the city to the Rufaro Stadium, where the Zimbabwean churches hosted worship. This was the same stadium where, eighteen years previously on 18 April 1980, crowds had gathered to celebrate the birth of the new nation of Zimbabwe. As soon as we arrived, we were given water to drink as a sign of hospitality. Cameras were clicking and videos were whirring as colourfully garbed representatives from Zimbabwean churches whirled around the grassy grounds. There was a steady drumbeat in the background. It was impossible to sit still with the rhythms.

This was contrasted with the sobering sermon of Roman Catholic Bishop Paride Taban of Torit, Sudan, a country plagued by civil war. Bishop Paride pleaded, "Stop the wars and killings. Give us peace." He reminded us that slavery still is practised in some parts of the Sudan. The following week 14 bombs exploded in the square in Narus, South Sudan, damaging both the bishop's cathedral and primary school, killing six people and injuring 14. That incident prompted the WCC general secretary and moderator to send a strongly worded letter of concern to the Sudanese government.

We were made aware of other African countries ravaged by civil wars, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where troops from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries had been dispatched to the concern of other governments on the continent -- and of a growing number of zimbabweans.

We heard other sobering stories as well, during the 8 December Africa plenary. These were told vividly by a Zimbabwean group (ZACT) in moving political theatre called "A Journey of Hope". The drama described a history in which "thus I happened to be another man's slave. And so it happened our neighbours Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Ben Bella and Nelson Mandela also became slaves of strangers in their own land. The strangers carried a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other... One to shoot and the other to tame our heart when it defied the commandments set out by the stranger. I and the rest of my community became drawers of water and hewers of wood." Following the drama, Barney Pityana and Mercy Oduyoye gave an analysis and interpretation.

They told of a present in which 700 people a week are dying of AIDS in Zimbabwe. Almost 10 percent of the population are infected with the virus. Unemployment is around 50 percent. The Zimbabwean dollar is weakening. Inflation is rampant. As in many other African countries, people are flocking to the cities to find work. Precious natural resources have been used to service the burgeoning national debt. Land reform is hotly debated. The gap between rich and poor is ever widening. People are suspicious of government leaders, and tales of corruption are frequent. This information became a backdrop for assembly actions concerning child soldiers, third-world debt, human rights and globalization (see the official texts). One afternoon as delegates returned to the Great Hall following an afternoon tea break, others stood shoulder to shoulder around the hall and passed a red paper chain through the huge circle while chanting "Cancel the debt!"

The same day of the Africa plenary, participants enjoyed an evening of music and dance. With African drums pulsating through the night air, it was a welcome change from steady sitting in the assembly Great Hall.

Many morning worship services in the big tent concluded with the lively South African sung response, "Ameni" -- kicked off with strong bass voices in the energetic choir singing "Ba-ba-ba-ba-bam..." One delegate remarked that he could stand in any room of ecumenists, sing "ba-ba-ba-ba-bam", and draw immediate recognition from the Harare assembly attendees. Participants were invited to an array of Sunday worship services on 6 December, fanning out to surrounding neighbourhoods and towns to participate in local worship. On 13 December, they attended local eucharistic services hosted by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Coptic and Greek Orthodox churches. Many returned with stories of incredibly gracious hospitality, friendships made, new experiences of worship with traditional African drums and hosho, rattles made from small dried pumpkins. Christian churches are growing faster on the African continent than any other location, and indigenous African Instituted Churches are burgeoning.

1.5. The theme

The theme of the Harare assembly, "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope", echoed the closing words of the message from the Evanston assembly in 1954: "... therefore we say to you: rejoice in hope". The theme was explored in a morning deliberative plenary on 4 December, moderated by WCC president Priyanka Mendis from Sri Lanka. Through slides, the assembly saw the design of artist Chaz Maviyane--Davies taking shape through the hands of sculptor Wilbert Samapundo in the strong black Shona stone spirit sculpture interpreting the theme. The sculpture was presented to the assembly by the president of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Enos Chomutiri, on 3 December during the opening session. Rev. Chomutiri said, "May it be a reminder. It comes from our hearts." Indeed, it was a reminder. That sculpture became the unofficial logo of the assembly.

Three presentations on the assembly theme were given by Anastasios, Orthodox archbishop of Tirana and All Albania, Brazilian Lutheran theologian Wanda Deifelt, and Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese theologian who has taught for many years in the USA. For many, this theme plenary was one of the electric moments of the assembly. These three Christian men and women, from different continents, traditions and perspectives, together provided a holistic sense of the theme that informed the entire event. Their presentations were interspersed with time for reflection and woven through with Bible readings calling attention to the year of jubilee.

The challenge to the presenters and the delegates, considered during morning discussion groups of ten or so people who shared a common language, was posed by Koyama: "The 'whole inhabited world' (oikoumene) is full of the desperately poor, starving children, people uprooted from their homes, and innocent victims of war and ethnic conflict. The threat of nuclear extinction still hangs like a cloud on our horizon, and our planet is in the grip of an ecological crisis. How can we rejoice in hope?" Anastasios reminded the assembly that "a community without memory or with intermittent memory is problematic and fragile". He suggested that "it is from that [anamnesis, remembrance] that all other things begin and draw their meaning". Deifelt talked about the need for repentance in this process of turning, "as prodigal children". She challenged the assembly with a question: "What message do we give to the world when Christians cannot speak in one voice against the injustices of our times?"

In one way or another, throughout the whole assembly, delegates struggled to answer this question. They turned and returned, through worship and biblical reflection, to God who, in the words of Deifelt, "breaks into history to be crucified". It was no accident that worshippers in the round tent were drawn to a giant, 4.5 metre teak cross carved by Zimbabwean artist David Mutasa. And they mulled over Koyama's response: "Is hope related to the future? Yes. But even more it is related to love. Hope is not a time--story. It is a love--story".

Through all the debates on public policy issues in hearings and on the plenary floor, delegates tried to make that hope concrete through their statements commending the member churches to address the pressing issues of our time: on human rights, globalization, third--world debt. These and other issues are related to the second aspect of this theme: the jubilee year.

In his preparatory meditations called The Drumbeat of Life: Jubilee in an African Context, Sebastian Bakare, chaplain at the University of Zimbabwe, recalled the connection between the 50th anniversary of the WCC and the biblical tradition of jubilee. He said, "According to this tradition, every 50th year was to be a year of jubilee. Celebrations were to be held for the whole year. Land and animals were to rest, debts were to be cancelled, land was to be returned to its original owners." Delegates made concrete connections between the biblical year of jubilee and the contemporary social, political and economic situation.

1.6. The process

Delegates had been given written materials prior to the meeting. (Despite counsel to the contrary, plane--loads of participants destined for Harare could be seen poring over the texts as they flew towards their destination.) From Canberra to Harare: An Illustrated Account of the Life of the World Council of Churches, 1991--1998, gave a summary report of the overwhelming breadth of work accomplished under WCC auspices by staff and representatives from the member churches. They did this work in response to mandates given in Canberra, as well as to an established tradition of policies. The 17--member Joint Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches also issued a report, its seventh, on the "forms of collaboration between the WCC and the RCC, especially between the various organs and programmes of the WCC and the RCC". The July 1998 issue of The Ecumenical Review was devoted to "Continuing the Discussion" about the CUV text. A book prepared by WCC Orthodox staff members offered Orthodox Reflections on the Way to Harare and was essential reading in the context of ominous rumblings and outright withdrawals of the Georgian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches, which provided an anxious backdrop to assembly proceedings.

The assembly did its work in three phases. The first task was to reflect on the journey from Canberra to Harare in the context of a discussion about the purpose and goals of the WCC. This process occurred primarily from 3 to 7 December, and included plenary reports from the moderator and general secretary; a discussion of the CUV text with an introduction to proposed changes in the constitution that could flow from this "Common Understanding"; and the summing up of the "Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women". Greetings from religious and public officials (see sections 6 and 7) were read during these days, including from Kim Dae--jung, the president of the Republic of Korea. The general secretary noted that sharing such a greeting from a public official was a departure from custom, but that "a particular and close relationship of mutual interest and support had developed over the years" between the WCC and the Korean president (and former political prisoner), warranting the exception. #All this information was digested in a series of three open hearings, ninety minutes each, on Monday, 7 December, during which delegates and other participants were encouraged to explore and assess the work of the churches together through the WCC. The whole hearing process was a departure from previous assembly practice, when sections had considered previously prepared reports. The intention of assembly planners was to create an open, free environment, "owned" as fully as possible by delegates from the member churches.

Phase I of the hearings was divided into the four programme units in which the WCC had worked between the Canberra and Harare assemblies: Unity and Renewal; Churches in Mission -- Health, Education, Witness; Justice, Peace and Creation; Sharing and Service; plus a hearing on the work of the General Secretariat. The latter included Church and Ecumenical Relations; Inter--religious Relations; Communication; the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey; and Finance. It was a challenge to reflect constructively on strengths, weaknesses and directions with so much material to cover in relatively little time. Nevertheless, delegates and staff made a valiant effort, and some came prepared with particular questions they later brought back into the work of the assembly committees.

Unlike the phase I hearings, which mirrored the WCC structure prior to Harare, phase II was grouped around themes and issues:

• unity -- relating to worship, spirituality, the visible unity of the church, and ecclesiology and ethics;
• justice and peace -- concerning a world marked by conflict, violence and globalization, and in need of reconciliation;
• moving together -- dealing with communication among member churches and with the whole ecumenical movement;
• learning -- addressing inter--religious relations and Christian and ecumenical formation which recognizes the cultural and religious plurality of the world;
• witness -- concerning communicating the gospel through witness and evangelism, and problems of proselytism;
• solidarity -- dealing with the churches' concern for the environment, and the development of just and sustainable communities, including practical actions of empowerment.

The Programme Guidelines Committee, chaired by Agnes Abuom with Barry Rogerson as rapporteur, was charged with assessing the work of the WCC in the first part of its report, as well as with giving recommendations for the future in the second part (see section 3.8 for a report of their work). Other committees meeting during the proceedings included (see appendix 3 for names of chairpersons and rapporteurs):

• the Nominations Committee, responsible for presenting new central committee nominees and WCC presidents to the assembly for consideration and election;
• the Message Committee, mandated to prepare a text encompassing the experience and hopes of the assembly as a message to the churches;
• the Finance Committee, charged with general oversight of WCC finances and preparation of general guidelines for central committee and staff implementation;
• the Public Issues Committee, instructed to prepare draft statements on selected public issues;
• two Policy Reference Committees: I -- responsible for presenting recommendations for assembly action on reports of the moderator and general secretary; on relations with member churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and other ecumenical bodies; on potential amendments to the WCC constitution and rules; and on the CUV text; II -- responsible for presenting recommendations for assembly action on future WCC policy, particularly in areas of globalization, international debt, and other matters that emerged from the Africa and Ecumenical Decade plenaries;
• the Business Committee, asked to coordinate the daily work of the assembly and oversee any adjustments in the agenda.

Over the course of the two weeks, the assembly met in plenary sessions twenty times to conduct its business.

1.7. Padare

A totally new feature of this assembly, designed to permeate the official deliberations but separate from the decision--making aspects of the assembly, was the Padare. In the Shona tradition of Zimbabwe, "Padare" means meeting place. It is a space for free exchange, common listening, sharing and deliberation. The WCC borrowed this concept for the assembly. The Padare was described as "a new process, designed to help all participants" so that everyone's voice could be heard. Acknowledging both the logistical difficulties and creative possibilities, one WCC leader said, "Padare is mission impossible, but we're going to take it on."

Over four hundred offerings were available during the span of five days, 7 to 11 December, in locations scattered around the campus. Some people came to Harare expressly for the purpose of leading or participating in a Padare, travelling thousands of miles for the occasion. Some Padare offerings were given the special status of a "forum" because they addressed a key dimension of WCC work -- for example, forums on the fifth world conference on Faith and Order (Santiago de Compostela, 1993), the Programme to Overcome Violence, violence against women, migration, globalization and racism. Some groups used the performing arts to convey their message, including several drama, dance and musical presentations by primary and secondary school children and church youth choirs from Zimbabwe. Some people told their stories. Some offerings addressed issues of faith and order. A few were designed to air tough topics for the churches, such as issues of human sexuality including homosexuality. The offerings varied widely in structure and style.

The results of the effort were uneven. Some events were cancelled because too few participants had registered. Others attracted 50, 60, 70 or more people, and generated enthusiastic responses. To the great relief of everyone, Padare offerings on controversial topics were conducted in a spirit of respectful listening. All in all, they were designed to give voice to the churches' concerns and priorities. They were free--wheeling, energy--generating, mind--expanding, grassroots--driven leavening agents pervading the deliberations in imperceptible but tangible ways.

1.8. The nominating process

An essential aspect of the assembly's work was the election of new WCC presidents and central committee members. As in prior assemblies, the Nominations Committee struggled mightily with efforts to be inclusive and provide balance -- by regions, churches, gender, lay/clergy, youth, and Indigenous Peoples. The Committee also considered the percentage of potentially re--elected delegates, to ensure continuity. That percentage from Nairobi to Vancouver was 27 percent, from Vancouver to Canberra, 26 percent, from Canberra to Harare, 18 percent. The Nominations Committee sought to make selections from recommendations that had been proposed by national or regional groupings whenever possible, as well as from commendations by member churches.

The Nominations Committee made three reports, on 5, 8, and 11 December. The final slate included 39.4 percent women, 14.7 percent youth, 24.6 percent Orthodox (Eastern and Oriental), and 43.3 percent laity. By families of churches, balances were as follows: 10 percent Anglican; 4.7 percent Baptist; 6.7 percent Free, Pentecostal and African Instituted; 8.6 percent Lutheran; 10 percent Methodist; 24.6 percent Orthodox; 6.7 percent others; 22 percent Reformed; and 6.7 percent united and uniting.

At one point in the process the committee chair, Bishop Melvin Talbert (United Methodist, USA), said, "It is incumbent on us as the assembly to decide now whether we mean what we say or not when it comes to representation, particularly for women and youth." In his third presentation, he acknowledged that the Nominations Committee had not reached its goals -- partly because of the increased number of WCC member churches. He said they had made their best efforts in light of constraints coming from some member churches. After general discussion in which five specific proposed substitutions were turned down, the delegates affirmed the recommendations of the Nominations Committee and approved the slate presented to them.

They also sent some general recommendations to the new central committee, based on their experiences, about ways the process could be improved in future assemblies. These included: (1) provide a process for alternation among churches in regions; (2) reconsider the maximum number of seats available to any one church; (3) limit the number of terms that can be served by a particular person; and (4) clarify procedures for eliciting names of nominees for presidents, with clear guidelines for balance. A difficult and awkward moment occurred when one of the newly elected members of the central committee, an Armenian Orthodox lay woman, withdrew her name so that an ordained representative of her church could have a seat on the central committee. But the assembly decided not to take action on her request and to refer the discussion to the central committee itself.

1.9. Worship

A big oval blue tent in a grassy field on the university campus was the central worship space for the Harare assembly. The centre of the tent was dominated by a large teak cross with an outline of the African continent in its centre. Seats were available for 3400 people, and every morning the tent was packed. People came streaming towards the tent, drawn by the irresistible rhythms of the energetic 100-voice choir and, at times, the full, rich sounds of African drums. Even the most culturally restrained worshippers found themselves moving to the music.

Tangible symbols were woven through the liturgies: crosses which religious leaders from around the world had brought to the assembly to exchange during the service of recommitment; healing, refreshing, welcoming water; blessed bread and fruit; leaves offered and eaten, along with prayers for healing, following a Sri Lankan custom; simple African crosses fashioned of wire. One special offering was taken to support victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America and people afflicted with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

The whole assembly was encompassed by worship. It began and ended the day. On four days, people could attend a mid-day preaching service in the university chapel. At the close of day they had a choice between chapel-centred compline and a freer pattern of prayer and song in the tent. Every day worshippers moved from the big tent to small-group Bible study and reflection during which themes in the service of the day were explored in an intimate setting.

In addition to this regular rhythm, the assembly attended special services -- in Rufaro Stadium, hosted by the churches of Zimbabwe (see "The Setting") and Sunday 6 December worship with local congregations; a Sunday night vigil acknowledging our brokenness at the Lord's table, with candles flickering on the ground, during which worshippers followed the stations of the cross using the passion narrative from the gospel of Mark; Monday morning resurrection matins in which many Orthodox traditions were represented; and the service of recommitment on Sunday afternoon, 13 December.

Since at the present time many churches are not able to celebrate the eucharist together, the central committee had had a thoughtful and wrenching discussion about whether or not it would be appropriate to have an official eucharistic service at the assembly. A decision was made to provide for morning eucharist in five local settings: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. This had been preceded by the evening vigil, described as a time of "confession and repentance for our brokenness". It was followed by the Sunday afternoon service of recommitment. Some were gratified by the decision. Others felt it was a loss.

A 19-member Worship Committee, appointed by the central committee, assisted by WCC staff, and moderated by Dorothy McRae-McMahon (Uniting Church of Australia), interwove a consistent liturgical structure with changing languages, leadership and hymnody. The structure involved musical preparation, silence, a greeting based on Psalm 51, a hymn, prayer, entrance of the word, biblical reading, response to the word, prayers of intercession, the Lord's prayer, a benediction and a hymn. At the same time, worshippers experienced a dizzying diversity of leaders, languages, songs, prayers and practices from all over the world -- a tangible reminder of the church catholic. But when the leader said: "Let us stand and say in our own languages the prayer of Christ which unites us", unity was experienced concretely as many mother-tongues from around the world joined in common prayer to our common God.

1.10. Other events and programmes

Three days before the assembly, four hundred people came together for a Pre-Assembly Youth Event on the university campus. Attendees included youth delegates, stewards and visitors, all under the age of thirty. The gathering is one means of fostering new generations of ecumenical leaders. One concrete outcome of the meeting was the recommendation that one of eight WCC presidents again be a young person. Kathryn K. Bannister, a Methodist minister from the United States, was elected to the post. Youth delegates were a vital, visible, vocal presence in assembly plenaries. Stewards brought a message to the assembly on 5 December. They also offered soil "to symbolize our diversity and our unique talents".

Some think assembly visitors have the best of both worlds. Through a specially designed Visitors Programme, they are able to participate in the worship life of the assembly, hear featured presenters, and reflect together about the significance of assembly happenings, without being obligated dutifully to attend to the details required of delegates. Visitors to Harare gathered in a big white tent next to the Great Hall, where they could see assembly plenaries on closed-circuit television monitors. They also participated in their own "home groups", engaged in Bible study, attended special workshops, and went to as many Padare offerings as they wanted.

Some of the assembly participants attended a two-week "theological school", providing a valuable opportunity for ecumenical formation. The programme brought together a mix of younger clergy and theological students. It was described as "an opportunity to encounter the international ecumenical movement firsthand, including meetings with contemporary church and ecumenical leaders..." In addition to hearing seven lectures and engaging in discussion, participants also were able to enter into the life of the assembly through the visitors programme.
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1.11. The Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women

Over a thousand women and about thirty men danced, sang, wept, worshipped, celebrated, analyzed and strategized for four days prior to the assembly in a Decade Festival. They came together to assess the achievements of the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-98) and to chart a course for the future, now that the Decade was concluding. They met at Belvedere Technical Teachers Training College in Harare. The Festival's hearing on violence against women in the church began with nine women bringing vessels of water symbolizing women's tears to a large central bowl. The hearing elicited chilling stories of rape, domestic beatings, sexual trafficking and abusive employment practices. When Metropolitan Ambrosius of Oulu, Finland, later reported on the Decade to assembly delegates, he said, "During the team visits and afterwards, many men, myself included, were shocked to realize -- for the first time -- how much violence and economic injustice against women, whether it is culturally conditioned or not, exist inside and outside churches all over the world." These testimonies had a catalytic effect on the assembly delegates, who vowed to redouble efforts to counter violence against women in church and society.

On 7 December in deliberative plenary, assembly delegates heard reports about the Decade from Despina Prassas (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), Biasima Lala (Church of Christ in Congo), Deenabandhu Manchala (Church of South India), Mukami McCrum (Church of Scotland), Metropolitan Ambrosius (Orthodox Church of Finland), and Bertrice Wood (United Church of Christ [USA]). Vinton Anderson (African Methodist Episcopal Church [USA]), who moderated the session, challenged the delegates to "move from solidarity to accountability". Rev. Wood presented a "Letter to the Eighth Assembly of the WCC from the Women and Men of the Decade Festival" (see text in section 8.1).

1.12. Behind the scenes

In some ways this was a "high-tech" assembly. Computers made this possible, despite the occasional frustrating technological challenges such as periodic crashes! For the first time, attendees could communicate with back-home office, friends and loved ones via e-mail. The WCC provided an "internet cafe". You could sign in, log on, and "talk" via computer with people halfway around the globe. To those who are gingerly entering the computer age, it seemed nothing short of miraculous.

Cell phones, ubiquitous among WCC staff, were the source of frequent amusement among the unconnected. A little jingle would erupt in the middle of a meeting, someone would pop up out of the gathered, put the instrument to the ear and talk. We laughed, but in fact the phones were indispensable in locating people on a decentralized and spread-out campus.

Other aspects of the infrastructure were very "low-tech". Staff and volunteer stewards could be seen transporting reams of documents on hand carts across the campus from Swinton Hall copy machines to the Great Hall, sometimes with the wind whipping and the rain flying. The assembly was overwhelmed with the happy surprise of more attendees than had been expected, with resulting lines -- lines for registration, lines for tea, lines for meals, lines at the bank. People were good-natured about it (most of the time!), and in fact some serendipitous meetings occurred in those lines. The WCC staff worked valiantly and creatively through it all.

The assembly was held during the southern hemisphere's summer rainy season. Many afternoons, the sky would quickly turn from blue to grey. Colourful African textiles in open markets around the centre of the campus would begin waving in the wind. People scurried to find their umbrellas or shelter. And the rain would come. In fact, a violent thunderstorm on 1 December (reportedly the worst in ten years) shortly before the assembly began resulted in power outages and posed daunting challenges to those who had come early to prepare.

As people arrived, workers could be seen constructing thatched huts to accommodate some of the Padare offerings and provide other services. Trenches crisscrossed the campus -- the result of a welcome grant to the university enabling it to install a badly needed new computer system. These maze-like mud-lines prompted Leonid Kishkovsky (Orthodox Church in America) to quip, "This gives new meaning to the phrase, working in the 'ecumenical trenches'."

Green-garbed guards were in every building -- vigilant, friendly and helpful. Attendees could be identified by the bags they carried sporting the WCC logo -- bags which swelled with more and more paper as the days went on. Big blue WCC logos were prominently displayed on buses that obligingly transported about half the participants to a variety of off-campus housing locations. #Huge billboards around the city welcomed the WCC, and more than one delegate could not resist hopping out of a taxi at a rather inconvenient location to snap a picture.

1.13. What does it all mean?

At age 50, the WCC is both venerable and vulnerable. In Amsterdam delegates said they would "stay together". In Evanston they said they would "go forward together". In Harare they recommitted themselves to "grow together in unity" and they prayed. They prayed for the Spirit "to pray in us what we dare not pray..., to bind us when we are tempted to go our own ways". They asked the God of unity and love, "what we say with our lips make strong in our hearts..."

Advance news reports of the Harare assembly heightened anxieties that it could be a messy meeting, fraught with tension and controversy. Such fears were not realized. In fact this was an assembly that reflected a more seasoned, mature, chastened ecumenical movement, still clear (at least in official texts) on the goal of visible Christian unity, but sobered by the challenges and reminded of our dependence on God as we face them. Implicit in the actions of delegates was the recognition that the councils of churches movement may be an imperfect instrument, but it is the best we have, and we will try mightily not to abandon it despite all the confusion and struggle.

Getting an overview of anything as diverse and multifaceted as a WCC assembly is a daunting challenge. Words freeze ideas in time and for time. Any evaluative comments so soon after an assembly must be tentative. The official texts themselves, tested over time by the reception of the churches, will reveal the full weight of the assembly's actions. Nevertheless, some tentative, preliminary assessments may be offered.

1. The churches at the assembly in Harare reaffirmed and renewed their commitment to the quest for visible Christian unity. Not all of the delegates may have understood the full implications of this commitment (I am not sure that any of us can), but they made it on behalf of their churches when they considered their "Common Understanding and Vision" and voiced their commitments in the service of recommitment. When our churches are fully reconciled, it will change the ways that we relate, are accountable, and are committed to each other and to the world around us. Churches around the corner, down the block, across town, around the world will see each other with new eyes. For many people, it is difficult to imagine how these new ways of being church together will look. Yet when reconciliation happens in tangible, concrete, visible ways, it can be transforming and invigorating. Councils of churches have an essential role in this journey, serving as ecumenical advocates, reminding, helping, when necessary cajoling the churches towards this goal of visible unity.

2. The assembly reinforced an awareness of our ecumenical interdependence, of the local in relation to the universal. The assembly made a more intentional commitment for the WCC to work in concert with ecumenical partners such as Christian world communions, national and regional councils of churches, and other ecumenical organizations. It reaffirmed that the ecumenical movement is one. It is whole. Its story belongs to everyone. Its tradition is our tradition. Our churches are a part of it. We have participated in it. We have contributed to it. Its strengths are our strengths. Its weaknesses are our weaknesses. Its struggles are our struggles. And Christians everywhere will help shape its future.

3. People voiced a longing to make our ecumenical life whole by finding ways of including the full range of Christian churches in their midst -- Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Indigenous churches.. We are not always clear about how best to do this. Not everyone who is being invited into the tent wants to come! What might work with one tradition may not for another. What might work in one place may not make sense in another. As the ecumenical tent gets bigger, it stretches our capacity to function together. But this longing is on the right path, and the WCC assembly tried to honour and respond to it. With some appropriate anxieties, WCC delegates supported continuing to consult with leaders of various ecumenical bodies about the idea of a global forum in which the WCC would be a partner. Such a forum could be held periodically without the responsibilities and commitments entailed in membership in a council of churches. That is one approach. It has its dangers, especially (as some delegates noted) if churches settle too comfortably into this limited commitment as a substitute for the hard work of healing the divisions among the churches. But by this action, the delegates also said that we should not be afraid of experimenting in the ecumenical movement, of trying new things, seeing if they work, moving on to something else if they do not, as long as we do not lose sight of the ultimate goal of visible unity.

4. Orthodox churches are speaking with renewed determination and vigour about their concerns in the ecumenical movement, and they are being heard. WCC delegates and staff listened attentively to the doctrinal and ecclesial issues the Orthodox raised during the assembly. Both the moderator and the general secretary addressed these concerns forthrightly in their reports, which helped to defuse some potential problems at the assembly. As a May 1998 statement following a meeting in Thessaloniki explained, some of these concerns included the desire to increase participation of Orthodox churches in the decision-making bodies of the WCC, and the resistance to issues "alien to their tradition" such as intercommunion with non-Orthodox, inclusive language, the ordination of women, the rights of sexual minorities, and certain tendencies related to religious syncretism. The process of change may be confusing over the short run since everyone is used to doing things and thinking about things the way they always have. But the pressing of these issues is a healthy and positive development in the ecumenical movement.

Furthermore, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Orthodox churches located in countries of the former Soviet Union and other countries in Eastern Europe are experiencing a new freedom at home and abroad which most of their members have not known in their life-times. As Orthodox representatives said in Thessaloniki, "certain extremist groups within the local Orthodox churches themselves... are using the theme of ecumenism in order to criticize the church leadership and undermine its authority, thus attempting to create divisions and schism within the church". This situation is resulting in uncertainties and reorientations, the implications of which I suspect none of us fully understands yet.

The assembly approved creation of a special commission to study the issues raised and propose actions that can be taken. This is a positive development that could have ripple effects throughout the ecumenical movement.

5. In Harare there was a fresh impetus to talk and listen to each other, to consider new ways of making official decisions, to seek common ground where it can be found, to clarify the sources of differences when they are sharp. Some of our disagreements are tough, the resolution unclear. This is true within the churches, so it should not surprise us that it also is true among them. We want changes through the Council that we are not able to accomplish within our own churches, and then we get exasperated when the churches together through the WCC are not able to deliver them. Patience is a frustrating but essential virtue in the ecumenical movement.

Some of the subjects treated in the Padare raised difficult questions, but I saw in Harare a hopeful reaching for new ways of doing our ecumenical business that reflect more faithfully what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ. We do not really know each other as well as we think we do. Too often we put people and churches in stereotypical boxes that are caricatures of reality. The ecumenical movement, at its best, helps break through those boxes.

When Nelson Mandela thanked the WCC member churches for the Programme to Combat Racism on that Sunday afternoon journey to jubilee, he said, "Above all, you respected the judgment of the oppressed as to what were the most appropriate means for attaining their freedom." In other words, people listened and responded accordingly. The dialogical process may seem like it takes a long time, but the assembly affirmed its confidence in and commitment to this process.

6. The integral relationship between the ecclesial, spiritual, prophetic and service dimensions of the ecumenical mandate were clarified and strengthened. The Common Understanding and Vision statement had identified previous bifurcations, observing "a continuing tension and sometimes antagonism between those who advocate the primacy of the social dimension of ecumenism and those who advocate the primacy of spiritual or ecclesial ecumenism" (para. 2.5). The CUV study process at the assembly sought to encompass these dimensions of the church in ways consistent with the marks of the church in their fullness, for example, as expressed in the litany "Our Ecumenical Vision". WCC leaders seemed intent, in word and deed, on making visible the coherence of the classical concerns of faith and order, life and work as expressions of the one ecumenical movement. They did so through continuing studies about the relationship between ecclesiology and ethics, the church and the world, the gospel and cultures.

Furthermore, delegates and visitors spoke both informally and publicly about the necessity of grounding the ecumenical quest in prayer, worship and Bible study -- a common core of our Christian spiritual traditions. The assertion repeated in the 13 December service of recommitment that "when we draw closer to the cross of Christ, we draw closer to each other" was echoed throughout the assembly. The whole event was designed to give these three elements of prayer, worship and Bible study a central place informing every aspect of the life and work of participants.

7. A radical transformation has taken place in this 20th century we are about to exit. It has been labelled "globalization", and delegates said that the implications of this phenomenon "should become a central emphasis of the work of the WCC". Through changes in transportation, technology, communications, economics and finance, the world and its creatures are increasingly interdependent and closely connected. This fact is part of our lives in new ways. At the same time that ethnicity and border consciousness are on the rise, boundaries we used to take for granted have been transcended. People from all over the world hopped on planes and were halfway around the world on the African continent in hours instead of days or weeks. Some sent e-mails to their friends and family. They heard about threats to Christians in places where they are in a minority, and came home to read in the newspapers or see on cable television news about fresh assaults. As the adopted statement "to end the stranglehold of debt on impoverished peoples" said, "The social, political, and ecological costs of the debt crisis can no longer be tolerated and must be redressed."

It is hard to anticipate what all this means -- for good and for ill, especially for increasingly interwoven economies, but delegates firmly charted the course for churches through the WCC in these areas.

8. The assembly acknowledged, through the acts of remembering during the Sunday afternoon journey to jubilee, that the ecumenical movement must span the sweep of past, present and future. We are hobbled unless we remember our history. We fade unless we attend to coming generations.

We have an ecumenical tradition, and it is important. At the same time, by seeking (albeit sometimes awkwardly) to include youth in significant ways in the life of the WCC (including the election of a youth president), the assembly tried to strengthen its commitment to cultivating new generations of ecumenical leaders. Both are essential elements in the ecumenical quest.

The ecumenical movement is rooted in the very nature of the Godhead. Thus, the unity of the churches and the renewal of human community are not options for the churches. The challenge is to find ways, in all our human frailty and fallibility, with our limited perspectives of space and time and our inadequacies of structure, to do the best possible now -- to make it better into the future -- to listen and respond together for the word of the Holy Spirit.

A word of thanks!

An ecumenical assembly mirrors the ecumenical movement. Only together can one hope to glimpse the whole picture. Thus, I am especially grateful to all who shared so freely their perspectives and impressions, both during and after the proceedings. Thanks also go to my editorial colleagues Dafne C. Sabanes Plou (Spanish), Nicholas Lossky (French) and Klaus Wilkens (German). We met regularly to confer about the structure of the report and share perspectives. These associations were stimulating, refreshing and enormously helpful. Colin Davey, Rosemary Green and Margot Wahl served as scribes at the business plenaries, gathering accurate names of speakers and other details sometimes difficult to glean. And we have been aided at every step by WCC communications staff Evelyne Corelli, Marlin VanElderen, Jan Kok and Elizabeth Visinand.

2. The Theme: "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope"
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Anamnesis, Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
2.3. Metanoia, Wanda Deifelt
2.4. Rejoice in Hope, Kosuke Koyama

MISSING


3. The Work of the WCC: Past, Present and Future

3.1. Introduction

One purpose of an assembly is to receive and respond to an accounting of what the churches have done together through the WCC since they last met. The report From Canberra to Harare was included in advance materials mailed to delegates. This 53-page text, which included illustrative photographs, gave highlights of the work of the General Secretariat and the four units of the WCC (unity and renewal; churches in mission -- health, education, witness; justice, peace and creation; sharing and service). On Friday, 4 December, delegates heard reports from the moderator, the general secretary, and the Finance Committee. On Monday, 7 December, delegates were invited to attend a hearing on one of the units or the General Secretariat. Members of the Programme Guidelines Committee were distributed among the hearings, enabling them to prepare the part of their report assessing the work of the WCC in these areas since the Canberra assembly.

3.2. Report of the Moderator, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia

3.3. Report of the General Secretary, Konrad Raiser

3.4. Discussion of the Reports of the Moderator and General Secretary

Twenty-one people were able to speak in the allotted time for reactions to the reports; 26 more delegates would have liked to comment. All the delegates were well prepared with carefully organized thoughts when they approached the microphones scattered around the assembly floor. They were recognized by Soritua Nababan who moderated the discussion.

Those who responded to the moderator's description of Orthodox concerns expressed appreciation for his analysis and urged the delegates to support the recommended process of creating a "mixed theological commission", though some regretted the choice of that phrase. Several people said that concerns being voiced by the Orthodox churches are shared by other churches as well. One person described the challenge as "changing the basic style and culture of the WCC to let all the churches experience it as their home". Delegates affirmed trying to change the style of decision-making in the Council, using a consensus model.

Delegates voiced appreciation for the moderator's appeal to integrate youth into the work of the Council. It was noted that this has been part of the Council's history which should inform its future, but that the young people of today "will not be radical in the same way as they were at Uppsala in 1968". It was suggested that guidelines for youth involvement be enhanced.

An appeal was made for the assembly to address "the terrible effects of globalization", the problems caused by governmental indebtedness, the irresponsible use of economic power and the corruption that sometimes exacerbates problems. Some delegates expressed appreciation for the possibility of addressing human rights at the assembly. One delegate wanted staff support for the Indigenous Peoples programme to coordinate efforts around the world. Another voiced the importance of having the WCC exercise leadership in seeking reconciliation where conflicts have erupted.

Several delegates commented about the state of ecumenical life together through the Council. Challenges identified were: how to deepen the fellowship among the churches, including the cultivation of a greater sense of mutual accountability; how to widen the fellowship to include the fastest-growing churches and deepen relationships with the Roman Catholic Church; how to place ecumenical spirituality at the heart of ecumenical life; and how to articulate more clearly the ecclesial significance of life together through the Council, reaffirming the trinitarian nature of the basis. The proposal for an ecumenical "forum" received mixed reviews.

The reports were referred to Policy Reference Committee I, which recommended that they be received with appreciation and gratitude. On 12 December the assembly voted affirmatively.

3.5. A Common Understanding and Vision: Plenary Discussion

Former general secretary Eugene Carson Blake said at the WCC's fourth assembly in 1968: "Any movement to last must organize and any organization to be important must be faithful to its vision, unwilling to settle down into organizational self satisfaction" (Uppsala Report, p.292). After fifty years of life together, with a changed context in church and society, the WCC reflected on the ecumenical vision. Intended as an "ecumenical charter" for the 21st century, a policy statement entitled "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches" (CUV) was adopted by the WCC central committee and commended to member churches and ecumenical partners for study and action in September 1997. The text was intended to enable churches "to reaffirm their ecumenical vocation and to clarify their common understanding of the WCC". It included an historical overview, a definition of terms, reflection on the self understanding of the WCC, and implications for other relationships. The CUV text was discussed in two successive deliberative plenaries on 6 December, the first moderated by Aram, the second by Soritua Nababan. It then was considered by Policy Reference Committee I, which recommended on 12 December "that the eighth assembly receive with gratitude 'Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches' and urge the WCC to use it as a framework and point of reference as the WCC programmes are evaluated and developed in the future". That recommendation was adopted with four abstentions.

When moderator Aram introduced the process, he said that "the aim of this CUV process, which began in 1989, has been to give a fresh articulation to the ecumenical vision that is faithful to the gospel message and responsive to the needs and experiences of the member churches; to re emphasize that unity is the major goal of the ecumenical movement; to spell out the decisive importance of unity, mission, evangelism, diakonia and justice as the basis of any serious articulation of the ecumenical vision; and to sharpen and give more visibility to coherence, integrity and accountability within interchurch collaboration, interchurch relationships and the WCC's agenda and programmes". He noted that the study process belonged to the WCC's member churches and ecumenical partners, and particularly thanked the Roman Catholic Church for its contributions.

Outgoing WCC president Eunice Santana (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) also helped introduce the text. She said the term "towards" was significant because the discussion about a common understanding and vision is a continuing process. Retiring executive committee member Metropolitan Zacharias Mar Theophilus (Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar) said the new millennium "calls for a new vision and new action", and noted the challenges of "economic collapse, moral and spiritual decay, denial of human rights, and domination of the rich and powerful..."

Peter Lodberg (Denmark) then interviewed four panellists: Mary Tanner (Church of England), Juan Sepulveda (Pentecostal Church of Chile), Nicholas Apostola (Romanian Orthodox Church), and Thomas Stransky CSP (Roman Catholic Church). Dr Tanner emphasized that "visible unity is at the centre of the ecumenical calling", and identified the marks of visible unity articulated by the Faith and Order commission. Sepulveda urged that we "clarify our common centre" rather than focus on the "limits of diversity", and noted the importance of widening the WCC's ecumenical mandate to include the "high percentage of the world's Christians" in churches which are not members of the WCC. Apostola said that the centre is "God's self revelation in Christ. The further we go from that, the harder it is to achieve unity." Stransky talked about the experience of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II, and said that participation in ecumenical dialogue means "we can have a deeper understanding of ourselves by having a deeper understanding of others". Marion Best and Georges Tsetsis gave opening presentations in the second session -- which focused on constitutional and institutional implications of the CUV text.

Click to either of the following presentations:

Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC: Constitutional Implications
by Georges Tsetsis

Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC:
Constitutional Implications
by Georges Tsetsis

During the previous session we have been introduced to the general directions of the document "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC", and have participated in the discussion which followed. Now it is time to consider the constitutional and practical implications of this document for the day to day life of the World Council of Churches.

Before we get down to essentials, however, it is important to mention specifically the question which has been at the heart of the churches'common process of reflection from the beginning, namely: who is responsible for promoting Christian unity? - the WCC as an institution, as stipulated by Article III of the present constitution? or the member churches themselves, or these churches which, within the framework created in the WCC, "call one another to the goal of visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship...and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe"?

The second related question was, what would be the functions and purposes of the WCC, in view of the new role which the member churches would exercise in future within this "fellowship of churches", at the same time working together with other partners who are also committed to the one ecumenical movement?

It was with these two questions on its agenda that the outgoing Central Committee had the task of harmonising the WCC constitution with the spirit and the directions of the document in question. This is the origin of the proposed amendments which you have before you.

1. Proposed amendments to the constitution

Article III on the functions and purposes: The first proposal is to amend article III of the constitution, which speaks of the functions and purposes of the WCC. In fact, proposals for constitutional amendments were already made when the document "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC"(CUV) underwent its first reading three years ago. These were then crystallized at the 48th WCC central committee meeting in September 1997, in the light of comments made by the member churches.

The amendments proposed by the central committee are found in the Assembly Workbook, beginning on page 121; the proposed changes are printed in bold type, parallel to the corresponding portions of the present constitution. As you can see, the proposed article radically changes the basic set-up and roles assigned in the WCC. Henceforth, it is no longer to be the Council which calls the churches to the goal of their visible unity; rather it is the churches themselves which are to make use of the platform offered by the WCC to promote their unity and to work together to fulfil the purposes for which they founded it. This rewriting of the article notably specifies that the WCC is the heir and the continuation of the world movements which preceded it, namely Faith and Order, Life and Work, the International Missionary Council and the World Council of Christian Education. It is also emphasised that the WCC should "strengthen the one ecumenical movement" by nurturing relations with non-member churches, and also with ecumenical organisations at local, regional and international levels.

Other proposed amendments to the constitution affect article V on organization, specifically:

(a) page 124: on the assembly's function in determining the overall policies of the WCC (consisting in the insertion of a single word in Article V.1.c)3), and (b) page 125: on the central committee's function regarding:

the method of election the collegial presidency of the WCC (V.2.c), para. 1), which it is proposed would no longer be done by the assembly itself, but by the central committee (it is important to note that this amendment would entail minor changes to paras. 1.c and 2.b of article V)

the method of electing WCC commissions (V.2.c)4), which now becomes one of the prerogatives of the central committee

responsibility for WCC programmes and activities (V.2.c)5) within the policies adopted by the assembly.


2. Amendments to the WCC rules proposed by the central committee

In parallel to the proposed amendments to the constitution, the central committee is submitting to this assembly a certain number of proposed changes to the WCC rules, to make these compatible with the new provisions of the constitution (if adopted). It would be appropriate to emphasise that these amendments also reflect the provisions already made by the central committee to ensure that the main directions advocated by the document "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC" (CUV) are clearly reflected in the WCC's working structures.

These proposed amendments are also to be found in the Assembly Workbook, printed in italics. To be precise:

on pages 129-130 we have proposed changes to the criteria for membership of the Council and for associate membership, and for the financial obligations of member churches to the WCC.

page 137: on the role of the central committee's appointed Nominating Committee in electing the presidents;

page 138: on the function of the central committee in electing the Programme Committee;

also on page 138: on determining priorities and policies for the WCC.


3. Procedure to be followed

In conclusion, I would like to inform you that all member churches have been duly informed of these proposed amendments, in accordance with the rules, and to note that the general secretariat has not received any reaction from the churches to either the content or the nature of these proposed amendments within the time frame specified by the WCC constitution, namely six months prior to the date of the assembly.

The assembly participants are now cordially invited to comment on the proposed amendments, in so far as they wish to do so. Your comments and suggestions will be submitted to the Policy Reference Committee I of the assembly, which will have the task of working out the final text to be submitted to you later for your approval.


Implications of the Policy Statement: Broader Proposals for Institutional Change
by Marion Best

Implications of the Policy Statement:
Broader Proposals for Institutional Change
by Marion Best

Concluding his analysis, in the July issue of The Ecumenical Review, of the responses to the Common Understanding and Vision process, Peter Lodberg underlined that "the central committee had to adopt a rather conservative and cautious document which in itself will not make a great change in the life and the immediate future of the WCC." He added however straightaway, and rightly so, that "the central committee could not do otherwise than it did if it wanted to be in accordance with the churches."1
In the preface to the CUV document, the central committee stated that through adoption of this text, it did not claim the authority to speak the final word on the WCC and the ecumenical movement. In fact, the central committee recognized that "it is of the essence of the churches' fellowship within the ecumenical movement that they continue to wrestle with these differences in a spirit of mutual understanding, commitment and accountability."2

As a consequence of the reflection process, churches and ecumenical partners have already begun wrestling with a number of specific points regarding the present institutional profile of the WCC. The intensive discussion around issues emerging from the CUV policy statement -- a discussion reflected both in the moderator's and general secretary's reports to this assembly --, clearly indicates that the debate should continue. Many may think immediately of the Eastern Orthodox churches and the meeting in Thessaloniki, last May. One should also add, however, that concrete proposals and recommendations have recently come, as for example, from the Lambeth conference, from the Nordic churches, or from Christian world communions; and others may be expected.

We are therefore entering the important phase of the institutional implications of the policy statement. What are the principal areas of concern? What are the churches asking for, with regard to the future institutional profile of the WCC?

I would like to simply refer to a number of areas where further work will be needed in the coming years. And there is no doubt that the results of this common work can significantly influence and even reshape the present structure of the WCC. Clearly, this assembly is the most appropriate body to give the necessary instructions and orientations for such a work.

(a) Membership in the WCC -- Criteria: At the heart of the reflection process was the understanding of what is implied by membership in the Council."3 The proposed amendments to the Rules constitute a concrete result of the process, and reflect a renewed understanding of membership in the WCC. Yet, the debate seems to remain open rather than being closed. The question being frequently raised is whether there are alternative forms of membership or participation in the WCC which would support the efforts of "being churches" today, rather than focusing on the organic link to an ecumenical organization. Churches' contributions to the reflection process included certain proposals with regard to the present understanding of membership: some argue strongly for participation and not membership, others suggest a review of membership to include the Roman Catholic Church, yet others invite a common reflection which may lead us to a solution "beyond membership". There is also concern among certain member churches whether the purely formal character of the criteria for membership is appropriate for a "fellowship of churches."

(b) Orthodox concerns: Orthodox churches, for example, are among those raising fundamental questions about membership in the WCC. Should the understanding of membership be limited to an institutional arrangement with rights and responsibilities? Could not member churches review the present forms of representation in the WCC, looking together for a participation which would allow a qualitative contribution to the fellowship, and which would take into consideration ecclesiological criteria rather than structural rules and regulations? Related to these questions are Orthodox concerns about the present forms of decision-making. Certainly the Orthodox churches are joined in this particular concern by many other member churches, especially from the South. The suggestion is to explore ways for adopting a decision-making process by consensus, i.e. without majority vote which will better manifest the spirit of the fellowship and permit the elaboration of a commonly accepted agenda.

Having these important points in mind, Eastern Orthodox churches have asked for the formation of a commission after the assembly, to discuss "Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement and the radical restructuring of the WCC."4 This recommendation was endorsed by the executive committee at its meeting in Amersfoort (September, 1998) and is now being submitted for action to the assembly.

(c) Models for councils Obviously, every suggestion for "restructuring" of the WCC points to the need of looking carefully both at the history of the ecumenical movement and the recent developments in institutional ecumenism at the regional and national levels. Recalling the history of the WCC, one discovers that a model of organization based on "confessional families" had been seriously considered, although the present structure of the WCC, based upon national church representation, was finally preferred. It would be important, therefore, to re-examine what was the rationale at that time for the adoption of the present structure and see whether it is still valid. On this same issue, there have also been discussions within the framework of the Joint Working Group between the RCC and the WCC, as well as within the context of discussions about church and ecumenical relationships. Should it not be essential to look afresh at the outcome of these discussions? In the meantime, certain ecumenical organizations have seen the need to rethink and restructure themselves. To give only some examples, the MECC opted for the "Church families" model, including in its membership the Roman Catholic Church; churches in Britain and Ireland chose the "Churches Together" model; Canadian churches formed "ecumenical coalitions" and moved to a forum model. It would be appropriate to recall ongoing discussions on and experiences of "Christian councils", or "councils of councils."

The search for churches' participation and representation in ecumenical organizations, as well as the concern for relationships with churches and ecumenical partners within the "one ecumenical movement" seem to be the major leading forces of this debate around the models for ecumenical organizations. What could be the specific contribution of the WCC to this debate? How could the WCC learn from other experiences? What are the necessary steps for undertaking a serious effort to make the institutional structures of the WCC better serve and better reflect the reality of a "fellowship of churches"?

(d) Relations with REOs and CWCs: The challenge for a possible representation and participation in the WCC structures and its processes of programme planning and decision making has also come from ecumenical partners such as the REOs and CWCs. How would it be possible to translate the spirit of relationships with partners in the ecumenical movement into concrete forms of structural cooperation?"5 Could we explore ways of involving the REOs and CWCs more directly in the structures of WCC decision making bodies? Is it time to engage in a process of reflection about a new configuration linking more directly the global and regional structural expressions of the ecumenical movement?

These questions point to the fact that part of what one may qualify as the "unfinished agenda" of the CUV is to further deepen the whole area on relationships with partners in the one ecumenical movement.

(e) The forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations: Today all churches and ecumenical organizations are challenged to reflect on the re-orientation of their work and to assess together what instruments would be necessary in the future to serve the "one ecumenical movement". The concept of a forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations was proposed as one way that those involved in the ecumenical movement, whether structurally related to the WCC or not, could come together for purposes of dialogue and co-operation. After a process of consultation involving churches, ecumenical organizations, confessional families and ecumenical associations, this proposal emerged in the course of a consultation which took place in Bossey (August 1998).

The proposed forum is intended to help build more significant, more inclusive relationships. It would give primary attention to issues of Christian unity and common witness with the objective to share insights and information and to build up common orientation. Those who have elaborated the proposal were fully aware that the Forum should not become a new organization with its own administration and the ambition to set policies; it should rather remain flexible, open, expectant and relying on a minimum of rules and structures. The WCC would be one of the partners, not the organizer of the Forum. The intention is not to change the WCC into the forum.

The forum is envisaged as an occasional gathering which would provide opportunities for worship, exploration of matters of common Christian concern and development of mutual understanding, rather than for decision making, programme initiatives or producing documents. The proposal is to be shared with member churches and ecumenical partners for their comments and responses. We are in a very early stage with the proposal and a possible action for this assembly would be, at this stage, to encourage the WCC to continue the consultation process with all those ecumenical bodies involved in this project.

The floor is now open and you are all welcome to share your views. You are also encouraged to present your written comments to Policy Reference Committee I. Its task is to listen carefully to all contributions during this assembly and to formulate guidance for appropriate action by the assembly.

_______________

Notes:

1. Peter Lodberg, Common Understanding and Vision: An Analysis of the Responses to the Process, in The Ecumenical Review 50(1988), 3, pp. 268-277.
2. Preface to the CUV Document, in The Assembly Workbook, p. 98
3. CUV 3.7, in The Assembly Workbook, pp. 108-109.
4. Evaluation of New Facts in the Relations of Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement, Thessaloniki, Greece, 29 April-2 May 1998, in: Orthodox Reflections On the Way to Harare, Edited by Thomas FitzGerald and Peter Bouteneff, WCC: Geneva, 1998, pp. 136-138.
5. CUV, chapter 4, in The Assembly Workbook, pp. 113-116.


Issues raised from the floor in the two sessions included the following: (1) Orthodox participation in the WCC is a challenge to the whole ecumenical movement, not simply an Orthodox "problem". The Orthodox have felt "isolated and marginalized". What is needed is "a new equality between ecclesial traditions", and a "radical restructuring". The WCC needs the development of a common vision based on the churches' longing for God the holy Trinity. The process for developing this vision should be through consensus rather than votes, but might such a process "silence weak voices"? The proposed mixed theological commission will help address these concerns. (2) Too much emphasis has been placed on arriving at a common confession, not enough on a common calling. The mission of the church has been addressed inadequately by the assembly. Many of our ecumenical struggles are about power rather than theology, and we should acknowledge this. (3) Ecumenism begins with lay Christians, and we should use language that communicates effectively to all Christians. (4) How can confessional bodies contribute to the ecumenical discussion? How can other churches participate? Would an "ecumenical forum" create a more open space for conversation and cooperation by a wider range of Christian bodies and organizations? Does it run the risk of creating a parallel structure, or one enabling churches to disengage from commitments through the WCC? Where are the resources to support it? (5) WCC presidents should not be elected by the central committee, as proposed in a constitutional change, but rather by assembly delegates, as has been the previous practice.

Some 20 participants spoke during the plenary discussions in the two sessions.

3.6. Our Ecumenical Vision

At the recommitment service on 13 December, delegates reafirmed their ecumenical vision using the following text:

Jesus Christ, who has called us to be one, is in our midst!
As Christians from every part of the world, we give thanks
that the triune God has drawn our churches closer together
in faith and life, witness and service.
We celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Council of Churches ---
"a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour
according to the scriptures
and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling
to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit".

Receiving the legacy of those who have gone before us:

We are drawn by the vision of a church
that will bring all people into communion with God and with one another,
professing one baptism,
celebrating one holy communion,
and acknowledging a common ministry.

We are drawn by the vision of a church
which will express its unity by confessing the apostolic faith,
living in conciliar fellowship,
acting together in mutual accountability.

We are challenged by the vision of a church
that will reach out to everyone,
sharing,
caring,
proclaiming the good news of God's redemption,
a sign of the kingdom and a servant of the world.

We are challenged by the vision of a church,
the people of God on the way together,
confronting all divisions of race, gender, age or culture,
striving to realize justice and peace,
upholding the integrity of creation.

Affirming anew that our task is to embody, here and now, the vision of what God's people are
called to be:

We journey together as a people freed by God's forgiveness.
In the midst of the brokenness of the world,
we proclaim the good news of reconciliation, healing and justice in Christ.

We journey together as a people with resurrection faith.
In the midst of exclusion and despair,
we embrace, in joy and hope, the promise of life in all its fullness.

We journey together as a people of prayer.
In the midst of confusion and loss of identity,
we discern signs of God's purpose being fulfilled
and expect the coming of God's reign.

Therefore, this is our vision for the ecumenical movement:

We long for the visible oneness of the body of Christ,
affirming the gifts of all,
young and old, women and men, lay and ordained.

We expect the healing of human community,
the wholeness of God's entire creation.

We trust in the liberating power of forgiveness,
transforming enmity into friendship
and breaking the spiral of violence.

We open ourselves for a culture of dialogue and solidarity,
sharing life with strangers
and seeking encounter with those of other faiths.

This is our commitment:

We intend to stay together and are restless to grow together in unity.
We respond to the prayer of Jesus Christ
that all may be one in order that the world may believe (John 17:21).
We are sustained by the assurance
that in God's purpose all things shall be united in Christ ---
things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10).

We affirm that what unites us is stronger than what separates us.
Neither failures nor uncertainties
neither fears nor threats
will weaken our intention to continue to walk together on the way to unity,
welcoming those who would join us on this journey,
widening our common vision
discovering new ways of witnessing and acting together in faith.

We recommit ourselves in this 50th anniversary year to strengthen the World Council of Churches.
as a truly ecumenical fellowship,
fulfilling the purposes for which it was founded ---
to the glory of the triune God.

Prayer

God of unity, God of love,
what we say with our lips, make strong in our hearts,
what we affirm with our minds, make vivid in our lives.
Send us your Spirit
to pray in us what we dare not pray,
to claim us beyond our own claims,
to bind us when we are tempted to go our own ways.
Lead us forward.
Lead us together.
Lead us to do your will,
the will of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


3.7. Report of the Finance Committee

The work of the Finance Committee

The assembly Finance Committee provides general oversight and guidance concerning the WCC's finances. The central committee is constitutionally mandated "to adopt the budget of the World Council and secure its financial support" (art. V.2.c.6). It gives more regular oversight than is possible by the assembly which meets every seven years. A 44-page 1997 financial report was provided to all delegates.

Birgitta Rantakari (Finland), outgoing chair of the Finance Committee, gave a preliminary finance report on 4 December. She said the past seven years had been economically turbulent for the Council and for many of its members. Although WCC leaders had hoped the constricted revenues would be temporary, in fact they appear to "reflect a fundamental change in the Council's funding base". Several factors contribute to this change: (1) the worsening global economic climate; (2) a sharp drop in the value of the US dollar in relation to the Swiss franc; (3) large deficits in 1991 (SFr.6 million) and 1992 (SFr.9 million).

Since the last assembly the Council has reduced its staff from 300 employees (immediately following Canberra) to 237 in September 1997. Staff salaries were frozen for two years; and to provide coherence and control over finances, the new structure approved by the central committee in 1997 regroups the four previous programme units into an administrative whole, provides for centralized finances. This will enable the WCC administration to keep its operating costs in line with annual income, and to present a balanced budget for 1999. Rantakari said the WCC needs to: (1) broaden its donor base; (2) have administrative flexibility, making expenses consistent with income; and (3) change its "working style and culture", for example by having fewer and less costly meetings. An investment portfolio has produced income with fluctuating results.

Following a hearing on the General Secretariat, during which WCC finances were presented, the assembly again heard and discussed the finance report on Friday, 11 December. It was noted that a continuing imbalance in sources of income makes the WCC vulnerable, with 81.76 percent coming from churches in Western Europe. The Finance Committee urged "complete openness and transparency in financial accountability".

Issues raised by delegates included the proper relationship between membership grants and representation on decision-making bodies of the WCC, and the responsibilities of affluent member churches in relation to the whole; concerns about the impact on programmes of the decline in WCC staff; and the degree to which the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey should be self-supporting. Strong concern was raised about whether the investment portfolio is being handled as effectively as possible. The general secretary was asked to explain in greater detail how the reductions in staff had been accomplished. He said some contracts had been terminated by non-renewal, some staff had taken early retirement, and some had been relocated within the WCC.

The following Finance Committee recommendations were widely supported or, in the case of 4.2 and 5, unanimously adopted. The full document then was considered, and received almost unanimous support (one against, no abstentions).

Report of the Finance Committee

Introduction

From 1948 to 1998, the vision of the WCC has always been greater than its financial resources.

The seven previous assemblies have each faced the challenge to match vision with money. Since Canberra, costs have been cut by reducing the number of staff by one third. Now this jubilee assembly faces its own challenge to increase income by deepening the commitment of all the members and by accepting new methods.

Before making its recommendations, this report briefly reviews:

the financial position achieved since Canberra against a background of world economic upheaval

some financial implications of the "Common Understanding and Vision" document and process in the present and foreseeable contexts.


I. From Canberra to Harare

1. External developments

The great political, social and economic changes taking place in the world have deeply shaped the WCC’s finances during the past seven years. Amongst the most significant have been:

the ending of communist systems in the USSR and Eastern Europe;

the further integration and growth of the global economy;

conflicts in former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa;

financial crises, first in Mexico and, more recently, in the countries of South and East Asia, Russia and Brazil;

The imposition of structural adjustment programmes on countries with unpayable debts.


These events have, directly or indirectly, affected the financial circumstances of the member churches. This is made worse by the concentration of the WCC's sources of income. In 1997 the situation was as follows:

Western Europe 81.76%
USA and Canada 15.83%
Rest of the world 2.41%


As world developments had their impact on Western countries and their governments reacted to that, so the financial situation of the churches deteriorated. For example, German churches, which provide half of Europe's contribution, have had to react to financial restrictions in their work and to cuts in their spending because of expected changes in the country's tax policy which will deeply influence the financial situation of the churches. In addition, many Western member churches face crises from declining numbers of members and ageing congregations. There must therefore be no complacency about the WCC's present stable financial position.
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Part 3 of __

2. Internal developments

2.1 Restructuring 1991 - 93

In response to the worsening global economy in the early 1990s, and its own significant operating deficit in 1990, the seventh assembly at Canberra mandated a number of initiatives to achieve a balance between income and expenditure. A radical re-structuring of the Council was implemented in January 1992. The seventeen existing administrative units and financial groups were replaced by five administrative units: four programme units and an expanded general secretariat. Each programme unit, however, retained a number of financial functions and each had its own finance officer.

In the face of projected budgetary deficits, the central committee also approved a significant reduction in staff numbers. The number of staff declined from 340 in 1990 to 270 in 1992. This 20% decrease in staffing levels enabled the Council to balance its budgets and to obtain small surpluses from 1991 to 1993.

Table 1: Operating results 1987 - 97

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2.2. Dealing with deficits 1994 - 96

The improvement in the Council's finances by 1993 underwent a sharp reversal in 1994 due to a number of factors. After a number of good years, WCC investment portfolios performed poorly.

Table 2: Investment Income /(Loss) 1994-1997

CHF 000's / 1994 / 1995 / 1996 / 1997
Total Investment Income/(Loss) to the Council / (9,158) / (3,048) / 10,774 / 5,669


Exchange rate fluctuations led to some exceptional losses on transactions, and some WCC funding partners were obliged to reduce their contributions.

The Council undertook a complete review of budgets, initiated a full programme evaluation, and mandated a staff restructuring scheme. By 1997, the number of staff had been further reduced to 237.

2.3. Aiming at equilibrium 1997 - 98

It was now clear that WCC's financial difficulties were not temporary. Its operating income was static and its reserves had been substantially reduced.

Table 3: Operating Income Contributions 1994-1999

CHF 000's / 1994 / 1995 / 1996 / 1997 / 1998 Budget / 1999 Budget
Membership Contributions / 6,366 / 6,267 / 6,347 / 6,659 / 6,531 / 6,972
Designated Operating Contributions / 20,906 / 21,026 / 20,358 / 21,035 / 18,338 / 16,355


Many member churches and partner agencies found themselves in similar situations. It was obvious that the Council would have to make, yet again, a radical adjustment in its structures and activities. The result was the adoption of a new working structure and style which eliminated the four programme units and regrouped all the Council's work as "one administrative whole", operating in four clusters of staff teams. A new budgetary methodology opened the way for transparent discussions by management about budgetary priorities and, in turn, for a coordinated approach to the 1999 budget.

In 1997 a small operating surplus was achieved, and similar results are anticipated for 1998.

The eighth assembly Finance Committee acknowledges and applauds the energetic efforts and significant changes exercised by the finance committee of the central committee over the past seven years to achieve stability in the WCC's finances. An important element in the considerable progress made has also been the unswerving commitment of hard-working WCC staff members to improve financial accountability, and clarity in budgeting and reporting mechanisms.

Despite the significant progress that has been achieved since Canberra, this assembly Finance Committee is mindful of a number of continuing challenges:

Internal and external challenges for the WCC:

• reduced financial resources among some member churches and church-related agencies
• increased competition in the churches between needs at home and those abroad;
• shifting priorities among development agencies;
• increased competition for funds from other ecumenical bodies;
• fluctuating exchange rates;
• volatility in investment portfolios;
• insufficient undesignated income to cover full operating costs;
• continued heavy financial dependence on only 10 member churches;
• lack of membership contributions from 48% of current members;
• reduced level of reserves;
• continued need for greater transparency in budgeting process and financial reports.

II. The "Common Understanding and Vision" Process and its implications for the financial policy of WCC

The Common Understanding and Vision document raises some specific implications for the finance functions of the WCC.

The restructure of the management process within the Council to inter-related teams and clusters requires new financial processes and has implications for the meaning of membership.

1. New understanding of the meaning of "membership"

1.1. The Finance Committee affirms the principle that membership contributions reach the goal of 10 million CHF in five years from now. To achieve this goal, the member churches will need to work with intention and deep commitment so that they meet, and wherever possible exceed, the minimum contribution. Changes in the capacity of the traditional contributors of the past challenge other member churches to contribute as an expression of mutual accountability.

1.2. The Finance Committee strongly supports the principle that every member church meet its membership contribution.

1.3. The importance of the membership contribution is not only its financial implications but also an expression of participation in the ecumenical movement and the work of the WCC, as emphasized in the CUV document.

2. Teams to become both revenue and expenditure centres

2.1. The Finance Committee believes that there is considerable scope for the staff teams to generate revenue. It is anticipated that workshops to help develop skills for innovatively using staff teams as revenue centres based on project concepts will enhance the capability of the Council to perform its work in this regard. The Committee believes that there is considerable potential for new income sources to be developed through partnership with other organizations around themes and projects. Likewise, we believe that significant cost reduction could be achieved through diverting non-core projects to regional and national ecumenical organizations or member churches. The imperative for staff teams is to operate with a new mind-set that is proactive in identifying and generating sources of funding through the implementation of the project work. This work will be coordinated through the Office of Income Coordination and Development (OICD).

2.2. Alternate funding sources and cost reduction possibilities can be developed through further joint ventures with church ecumenical and/or other organizations.

2.3. It is also affirmed that member churches second staff where appropriate.

3. Financial control

Finance and accounting functions of the teams must continue to be integrated into one financial and administrative service function for the work of the whole Council.

4. Moving towards financial equilibrium

4.1. Financial equilibrium aims to match certain types of income with specific categories of expenditure. Table 4 illustrates an "ideal" situation. Arrows represent flows of funds from one category of income to the appropriate category of expenditure.

4.2. Definition of terms used in Table 4:

Membership income

Membership income represents the contributions paid by the member churches for the general support of the Council. They should be used primarily for the General Secretariat, finance services and administration, and public information functions.

Undesignated income

These funds give the Council the necessary flexibility to carry out the priorities established by the member churches. They comprise additional contributions from member churches and others which carry no pending restrictions. To these are added rental income from properties, investment income and production income. They may be used for any of the expense categories listed in the diagram.

Activity income

This represents money coming to the Council designated for particular activities and which must be used for those activities, both as direct costs and as management costs.


4.3. Proposal for equilibrium

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Some activity income may be designated to special time defined projects residing in the general support areas - the ecumenical database is a case in point. This is depicted by the dotted arrow.
The arrow to the right of the activity expenditure box represents a levy (management fee) due by the activity teams to general support teams for services rendered, such as accounting and finance, personnel, information technology, building maintenance services.

5. Accountability and transparency

The Finance Committee is aware that some member churches have expressed concern at the lack of detail in financial reporting. The Assembly Finance Committee affirms the need for complete openness and transparency in financial accountability. Such transparency is required to be mutual so that the Council has confidence in the commitment of its member churches.

6. Reinforcing ecumenical commitment

The Finance Committee has accepted with enthusiasm the possibility of member churches observing an ecumenical commitment Sunday on the third Sunday of Advent or on another Sunday, following the solemn recommitment to the World Council of Churches during this assembly on the third Sunday of Advent 1998. This would have as its objective a focus on membership commitment as well as provide an opportunity for fund-raising. It also can potentially become an occasion for member churches to have participatory involvement in the global ecumenical movement.

III. Finance Committee recommendations

1. Ecumenical commitment sunday

We recommend that the member churches be encouraged to observe ecumenical commitment Sunday with an offering for the activities of the World Council of Churches. We suggest the third Sunday in Advent or another Sunday of the churches' specific choosing. (Approved)

2. Financial support by member churches and associate members

2.1. We recommend that the assembly adopts the change in the Rules regarding financial participation, and instructs the central committee at its first meeting to decide on how rule I.6.c on not fulfilling the financial obligations should be interpreted and inform the member churches.

2.2. We recommend that the minimum contribution remains low so as to encourage all members and associate members to contribute.

2.3. We recommend a goal of CHF10 million in member-church contributions to be reached within five years.

2.4. We recommend in addition the encouragement of undesignated giving outside the membership contributions. (Approved)

3. Additional sources of funding

3.1. We recommend that the teams, under the coordination of OICD address the issue of generation of income for the activities, with appropriate approaches to funding sources beyond the member churches. To this the WCC should convene workshops which help to proactively and innovatively fulfil this task.

3.2 We recommend that the general secretary ensures that a consultation is convened on new ways of income development and the finding of new resources with fundraising and marketing experts from the ecumenical family.

3.3. We recommend the use of seconded staff and the receipt and use of "in kind" resources. (Approved)

4. Reserves

4.1. We recommend that an appropriate and prudent level of reserves be established, and that reserve funds depleted by the fiscal emergencies of the last few years be restored as soon as possible. Therefore the staff review designed to examine the level and purpose of reserves should be completed and reported to the next meeting of the executive committee.

4.2. We recommend that clear guidelines be developed regarding the use of reserve funds for approval by the first meeting of the new executive committee. (Approved)

5. Investment policies

We recommend the continuation of the recently established prudent investment policy with regular monitoring of investments. (Approved)

6. Financial development and budgeting

6.1. We recommend that sufficient resources (fiscal and personnel) be allocated for income development.

6.2. We recommend the development of improved instruments of fiscal forecasting.

6.3. In affirming the commitment to a balanced budget, we recommend a three-year forecast and encourage member churches to forecast their contributions for this period.

6.4. We recommend that time limits be set for projects and encourage that these time limits be respected, subject to proper evaluation of the work done. (Approved)

7. Facilities: Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and Ecumenical Institute at Bossey

We recognize that the development of a fund for renovating these facilities is already underway, and recommend that the general secretary present a detailed financial proposal for these projects to the meeting of the executive committee to be held in the second half of 1999. (Approved)

8. Public relations and promotion

Recognizing that addressing the issues of public relations and interpretation is more the task of the Council's communications teams, the Finance Committee believes that the success of this work is crucial to the establishment of an effective income development strategy. We therefore recommend that a plan for the raising of the profile of the World Council of Churches be developed. For example, the lay training programme at Bossey could be seen as an ingredient of this strategy. (Approved)

Conclusion

The assembly's Financial Committee emphasizes that there is no room for complacency regarding the Council's finances and commends this report and its recommendations to the assembly, as we commit ourselves in this 50th anniversary year to strengthen the World Council of Churches.

3.8. Programme Guidelines Committee

The work of the Programme Guidelines Committee

This committee, chaired by Agnes Abuom, was responsible for preparing a report assessing the WCC's work during the previous seven years, and making recommendations for the future. These become the primary policy directions for the next seven years.

Committee members divided themselves into sub-groups to attend and participate in the hearings, which occurred in two phases. The first set of hearings reviewed previous work; the second set looked towards the future. According to the assembly programme, Committee members were asked to attend selected Padare offerings, "listen to informal conversations and read comments participants have posted on newsprint or placed in the suggestion box..." They used this information as they moved into the second set of hearings, where they were asked to "present a synthesis of what they have heard in the Padare, report any specific suggestions regarding future WCC work, and comment on how this relates to the CUV policy statement..." They also served as resource persons in the second phase of the hearings process, answering and asking questions, to get the best possible overview. They then prepared their recommendations for consideration by the assembly. They received many recommendations in writing, and made many adjustments to the first draft of the text based on input from delegates which Agnes Abuom and Barry Rogerson reported in opening remarks.

The Programme Guidelines Committee report was approved (1 against, 5 abstentions).

Report of the Programme Guidelines Committee

Discussion

Some points raised by delegates included the following: concern about whether the search for visible unity which has been addressed by the Faith and Order commission was given sufficient visible weight in the text, or whether it was inappropriately subsumed under the heading "spirituality"; appreciation that witness and evangelism are among the four principal foci of future WCC work; the need to glean from historic peace churches and the Christian pacifist tradition insights into the WCC Programme to Overcome Violence; gratitude for the WCC's leadership in assisting churches facing situations of war, conflict, and disaster; concern about whether the problems of proselytism are adequately understood by WCC member churches; anxiety about the extremely delicate and divisive nature of discussions about human sexuality and homosexuality; appreciation for the statement about globalization, but a need to study the resurgence of fundamentalism in the context of globalization since it is an obstacle to church unity and the source of many conflicts; and a plea for additional help for those in sub-Saharan Africa.

FULL REPORT

3.8. Report of the Programme Guidelines Committee

Hearings phase I

• General Secretariat
• Unit I: Unity and Renewal
• Unit II: Churches in Mission - Health, Education, Witness
• Unit III: Justice, Peace and Creation
• Unit IV: Sharing and Service

Hearings phase II

• Unity and spirituality
• Moving together
• Justice and peace
• Education and learning
• Mission and witness
• Solidarity

Overall themes

• An ecumenism of the heart
• Inclusive community
• Non-violence and reconcilliation
• Human sexuality
• Globalization
• Debt cancellation

Methodologies
A framework and focus for the Council's future work
Recommendation

Introduction

For which of you intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it. Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him saying, "This fellow began to build and was not able to finish." (Luke 14:28-30)


One of the tasks of the delegates of the assembly is to determine the overall policies of the World Council and to review programmes undertaken to implement policies previously adopted.1 The assembly is to review activities of the Council during the last seven years and set directions for the Council's activities in the future.

By what criteria is the past reviewed and future directions set? The Basis speaks of the World Council as a fellowship of churches... who seek to fulfill together their common calling.2 Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC sees this "common calling" as integrating the vision of John 17:21 ("that they may be one... so that the world may believe") with the vision of Ephesians 1:10 (God's "plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth").3 This "common calling" seeks the visible unity of the church for the reconciliation of the creation to God and with and to itself. With this renewed stress on the World Council as a fellowship of churches and as a servant of the one ecumenical movement the emphasis for the coming seven years might use the concept of "common" to determine its priorities -- common life in Christ, common witness and common concerns in the service of human need.

The process

The Programme Guidelines Committee did its work in two phases. The first phase reviewed the work undertaken by the four Units and the General Secretariat, evaluating what had been achieved and indicating what might continue in the next period. In the second phase the committee worked within the framework of the six Padare streams. The PGC members were in dialogue with the delegates, bringing initial suggestions for new areas of work and modifying them in the light of their further contributions. The Programme Guidelines Committee presents its report in the following terms as an instrument through which the assembly can determine the overall policies of the World Council for the coming seven years.

HEARINGS PHASE I

Introduction

The PGC thanks the staff of the WCC for all their efforts in presenting the work of the four units and the General Secretariat in this first phase of the hearings. In the circumstances of much reduced staffing levels and major financial constraints, what was achieved -- the quantity and the quality of the work which had been undertaken -- impressed us. Nevertheless, concern was expressed that the organizational changes which were introduced after Canberra had not always led to integration and cooperation, which had been one of its purposes. The reduction of staff members appeared to have affected some units more than others and this had had a detrimental affect on the way in which work could be undertaken.
There were a number of themes which were common to all the hearings.

How much work can be done?

In a Council where the staffing levels have been reduced by 45% since the last assembly there is a danger that the current staff are expected to continue the level of activity of a much larger group. The Programme Guidelines Committee heard that across the Council the reduction in staff has meant that some programmes which were mandated were never started and others were curtailed. The restructuring has caused some anxiety that good achievements and work which needed to continue might be lost. Some structure to alleviate these anxieties needs to be put in place immediately.

How will it be done?

The question to be asked in the case of each programme is, "What is the most appropriate and effective method to be employed?" The staff have considerable experience in using different methodologies: networking, collaborative working, large conferences and consultations, visits to member churches, publications, delegating work to regional groups. But there are many new ways of working. The dominant method used by the Council has been that of consultations and staff members travelling the world. Perhaps this is not the best method in view of decreased resources to accomplish the Council's mandate.

Who will do it?

The publication From Canberra to Harare said, "... the WCC cannot do everything, but it also need not and should not try to do everything". It is salutary to remember that the good is often the enemy of the best. It may be that there are tasks which only the WCC can undertake. Two examples might be the Programme to Combat Racism and the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document. But on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity the questions the assembly and subsequently the Council need to ask are first, "What should be done by the WCC?" and then, "What should be done locally?", "What should be done by other ecumenical bodies?" and "What should be done by Christian world communions?"

The WCC has a special service to offer the one ecumenical movement. It must find partners, work with them and encourage cooperation wherever this is possible, directly asking other ecumenical organizations, study institutes, Christian world communions and the churches themselves if they will undertake work on behalf of the one ecumenical movement.

Who will receive it?

It is clear that a great deal of good work has been undertaken by the WCC, but much of it is neither known nor used by church leaders and grassroots Christians. In the light of the CUV process the ownership of programmes must be shared by the churches and rooted in their life.

GENERAL SECRETARIAT

The Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations (OCER) was created after the Canberra assembly. Its mandate was to deepen the fellowship and mutual accountability between the member churches, and to widen the relationship with non-member churches and organizations. The potential scope of OCER's work in expanding the relationships of the WCC far exceeds this office's limited staff capacity. What the past period proves decisively is the essential need of such a function. The WCC's work "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision", the place given to the participation of the Orthodox churches in the life of the Council, growing expectations from Pentecostal, Evangelical and newly formed churches, new initiatives in the Joint Working Group with the Roman Catholic Church, and potential development of the Forum, all point to the need for dramatically heightened capacities in this office in the period following Harare.

The Office of Inter-Religious Relations (OIRR) was added to the General Secretariat after Canberra, with the intention of shifting work in this area from dialogue to fostering inter-religious relationships. Work on the "religious dimensions of conflicts", included in the past mandate, deserves stronger attention. OIRR should have a primary focus in helping member churches who find themselves confronted increasingly with the theological, missiological and political challenges of living in situations of religious pluralism. Finally, this work should not be the task of an isolated office but be done in an interactive manner in the new structures.

The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey was relocated from Unit I to the General Secretariat four years after the Canberra assembly. It has recently evidenced a revitalized commitment in its task of ecumenical formation, despite periods of financial uncertainty. In the coming period the Institute needs to strengthen links with its enthusiastic alumni, expanding programmes for the laity, building links with other institutes of ecumenical formation and exploring creative ways for offering its rich learning resources at locations around the world. It is even more important at the present time to develop ecumenical formation and inspiration for church leaders, seminary professors and others as well as to give attention to methods of ecumenical dialogue. These insights need to be shared continuously within the wider life of the WCC.

The Office of Communication carried out its essential tasks in the period since Canberra with a reduced staff and expanding technological expectations for its work. The establishment of ENI has been particularly effective in providing a semi-autonomous, reliable source of ecumenical news throughout the world. Questions remain about the role of printed versus electronic communication methods, while the wide diversity of needs in member churches should not be forgotten. A priority for the coming period will be the clear implementation of an integrated communication strategy and process throughout the Council.

UNIT I: UNITY AND RENEWAL

The unit's mandate, a mandate shared in part by other units, was to assist the churches in their process of renewal and reconciliation, and to work towards the visible unity of the church. This is undertaken through theological dialogue and reflection, ecumenical theological education, inclusive lay participation, and worship and spirituality. The hearing affirmed that the passion for visible unity must be at the centre of the churches' life together, and this work will need to be given strong programmatic expression within WCC also in the future.

The work has been conducted in four streams.

Faith and Order must continue working to improve regional participation and collaboration with other programme units, and have a much stronger focus on the reception process as an integral part of its work style and approach. There was a strong affirmation of the work on ecumenical hermeneutics and of the need for this to be pursued. The text on the "Nature and Purpose of the Church" was at a preliminary stage and had yet to come to maturity. The mandate from Evian indicated that Faith and Order should undertake a study on "Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Unity of the Church". This has just been initiated and is at a very preliminary stage.

Lay Participation towards Inclusive Community: This theme has a potential to renew local congregations in mission and to provide bridges to other programmatic activities of the WCC as well as to engage in partnerships with movements and organizations outside the WCC. This stream witnessed to the resource that is available to the church and the ecumenical movement through people who are already in lay ministries, and in consequence to the need to support churches and movements in their efforts to empower and train lay people for such ministry.

Inclusion and visibility are recognized as spiritual issues. While the concerns of people with disabilities were administratively located in this stream (as Youth was based in Unit III), these concerns are pertinent to the life of the churches as a whole, in order that the body of Christ can reach its full expression, and are thus to be found across the Council.

Ecumenical Theological Education: This stream emphasized the need for contextualization and networking and the viability and strategic relevance of ecumenical theological education, both for ordained and lay. It has facilitated inter-regional exchange and enabled access to resources. Wherever this work is placed in the future it will be important to maintain its regional orientation while addressing the key themes and standards of theological education on a world level. It was clear that theological training institutions needed to be encouraged to be ecumenically open and inclusive and to do theology in a holistic manner for the renewal of the mission and ministry of the church and its ecumenical well-being.

Worship and Spirituality: Common worship is the most visible expression of ecumenism and represents a powerful tool to create inclusive community and help communicate the spiritual richness of different traditions, cultures and contexts. There is a hunger for spirituality, which makes this work a priority for our time, and the interlinkage between spirituality and worship is essential. The work done in producing publications of liturgies and hymns drawing on resources outside the WCC is effective. The initiative taken in preparing for a common date of Easter has been commended to the churches.

UNIT II: CHURCHES IN MISSION - HEALTH, EDUCATION, WITNESS

The unit's mandate was to energize and equip churches for their role in the mission of God, supporting and encouraging the work of the churches, through its roles in networking, monitoring and calling the churches to accountability.

Mission: Widespread concern for the future of mission in the WCC was expressed, especially in view of the new structures. The IMC tradition needs to be maintained. Mission should be kept at the centre of the ecumenical movement, and must be held together with the concern for unity.

In particular the mission statement now in process should be completed; a follow-up should be undertaken to the Gospel and Cultures study and the Salvador conference (particularly in the area of developing hermeneutical methodologies for studying cultures and the gospel); and continued attention should be given to indigenous people's experience and the issues they raise, as well as to developing new and effective methods for witnessing in secular societies.

Proselytism still causes pain and is a problem which extends far beyond the former communist countries, and which affects many more churches than just the Orthodox. One person's proselytism is another's evangelism, and the Council's condemnation has not deterred those who engage in this behaviour. The churches should focus their attention on building up their own faith and mission so that they can make a positive, appealing and credible witness to the people, for which the WCC may be able to provide resources.

The mandated study on the theological significance of other faiths did not take place. This was a case where the restructuring undertaken after Canberra was not effective. The Programme Guidelines Committee noted the comments brought from the hearing of the General Secretariat and the proposed changes in the Council's Constitution which together point to the need to focus and consolidate this work.

Health: The mission of God includes healing in its broadest sense. While work in this area was curtailed, the Programme Guidelines Committee noted the crucial importance of HIV/AIDS work and commended the impressive efforts to date in urging the churches to address this issue and equipping them for reflection and action.

Education will continue to be a concern of the WCC with a goal of equipping the churches for mission in a pluralist context. Flexible strategies are needed when dealing with different parts of the world which are undergoing rapid change in various ways.

Urban Rural Ministry (URM) has emphasized the church's presence with the marginalized and vulnerable. This lies at the heart of what it means to be church and should pose a greater challenge to middle-class churches which as yet appear untouched by it.

UNIT III: JUSTICE, PEACE AND CREATION

The unit's mandate was to continue the work on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). In 1995 the unit identified the five programmatic themes around which it undertook its work (Assembly Workbook, p.57ff.). The Programme Guidelines Committee noted with approval that the Unit had endeavoured to simplify and integrate specific programmes within a larger framework following the restructuring.

Theological grounding: In each of the programmatic areas the need was seen for clearly articulating the theological impulse undergirding moral action. This has begun in the "Ecclesiology and Ethics" studies, in cooperation with Unit I, as well as through the "Theology of Life".

Working style: The necessity for the unit and the WCC to shift towards networking as a major way of addressing programmatic priorities was a continuing theme. The unit has expanded and experimented with its networking efforts. In each of the programme areas studies have already been done or are available from other sources, but resources that distill and synthesize current materials in a clear and unjargoned style are needed. Such materials would complement the networking efforts.

In addition to specific programmes the unit has spent a great deal of effort at adopting new ways of working, including sokoni (Assembly Workbook, p.58). The intention is to create a space and method conducive to open participation and it has proved successful when adequately prepared.

Programmatic areas

All the programmatic areas were strongly supported. Major areas of concern have been:

Violence: An emphasis for the future was the need to broaden the definitions of the forms of violence. There was a clear call for an exploration of the relationship between issues of violence and programmes for disarmament. It is already clear that the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women further expanded this area of work by noting the need to name and face the violence against women found within the church and society.

Racism: As with violence there was an emphasis placed on the need to take account of past definitions as well as to broaden the definitions of racism and ethnicity and to continue to give a high priority to this work in the future. It was clear from the hearing that there was an inter-relationship between racism and violence which would need to be taken into account in any future work.

Environment and the economy: The Programme Guidelines Committee heard the need to explore the relationship between the environment and the economy. Here the process of globalization was seen as a major organizing principle around which to address these concerns.

International affairs: The major comments regarding international relations centred on using existing local, regional and international networks and in particular the United Nations to educate and mobilize people on these issues.

Work with women, youth and Indigenous Peoples was recognized as significantly more than programmatic work. It is essential to the life of the member churches and the WCC. This work was successful in giving voice and visibility to these groups both within the Council itself and in many of the member churches. While these programme areas have been integrated into Unit III, it has been difficult to integrate them fully into the work of the whole WCC.

The accomplishments of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women were celebrated and commended. The plenary and the Unit III hearing pointed to the need to continue work on racism, economic justice, participation within the church and, as already noted, violence against women.

There will be a continuing need for work with and programmes associated with Indigenous Peoples which were noted and valued.

Work with young people needs to be significantly strengthened. The importance of ecumenical formation, particularly internships, stewards programme and pre-meeting orientations, was stressed. This work will be best undertaken in concert with greater participation in decision-making bodies by young people.

UNIT IV: SHARING AND SERVICE

This unit's mandate was to assist member churches and related ecumenical agencies and organizations to promote human dignity and sustainable community with the marginalized and excluded. In this way the diaconal work of the WCC is facilitated. The theological and methodological underpinnings of this work as well as the challenges and learnings were explored in the hearing. The specific ways in which Unit IV carried out its mandate can be found in the Assembly Workbook, pp. 79-82, which develop the concept of Jubilee. In particular the unit used the models of the round table, regional desks, the creation of global networks (particularly of children and uprooted peoples) and advocacy.

The Programme Guidelines Committee heard special emphasis placed upon three pieces of reflective work which needed to be undertaken in the future.

1. a more detailed analysis of the root causes of many of the problems which result in marginalization and exclusion, in particular issues relating to power and globalization;

2. A theological exploration of diakonia as a visible sign of unity, as part of the Council's commitment to the visible unity of the church;

3. the meaning of "just sharing" in different contexts (North, South, Indigenous Peoples' spirituality).

Lastly the churches were challenged to reflect upon their roles as "giver" and "receiver"', and on their call to take up more strongly the work of diakonia through mutual and just ecumenical sharing, fostering people-to-people encounters, witnessing to the unity of the church.

As in other units, the concern for the marginalized was expressed in the hope that ways of capacity-building would be explored so that the process of diaconal work would not further marginalize those already on the margins but lead to a holistic understanding of the churches' witness.

A transition

The WCC is faced with the essential challenge of developing the fellowship and mutual accountability of its member churches, as underscored in Towards a Common Understanding and Vision. Further, it must seek ways to widen this fellowship in the service of the one ecumenical movement. Focused attention on these goals is an over-riding priority which must be established before determining the importance of various programmes.

HEARINGS PHASE II

Following the completion of the first phase of the hearings, members of the Programme Guidelines Committee divided into six groups. The members of each group attended Padare offerings in one of the six streams. On that basis they served as a team of animators for the corresponding stream in the second phase of hearings.

Understandably, the issues raised and topics discussed in the three sessions of each of these hearings ranged widely. Under the rubrics of Justice and Peace, Unity and Spirituality, Moving Together, Education and Learning, Mission and Witness, and Solidarity (with each of these Padare streams further subdivided into several issues), participants brought to the sessions not only impressions and insights from the Padare offerings they attended, but also the background of their own church contexts, ecumenical experiences and convictions.

The members of the Programme Guidelines Committee in each hearing took careful note of what was being said. They raised occasional questions for clarification in response to interventions from the participants, as well as offering a provisional synthesis of what they were hearing. However, there was no intention of preparing a report to be adopted or agreed by the hearing itself. Each set of hearings thus surfaced many issues and themes of current ecumenical concern and elicited helpful insights into how the WCC can and should work. But none of the hearings -- each with its own subject area -- could by itself specify overall priorities for the work of the WCC in the coming years nor even offer a comprehensive listing of all important ecumenical concerns and potential concerns in the area it dealt with.

Each group made an oral summary of the key results of its hearing to the whole Programme Guidelines Committee. Reports being prepared by other assembly committees were scanned for any implications regarding policies for future WCC activities. On this basis, a number of overall themes for the Council's work in the years ahead were identified. While it is these overall themes which form the substance of this report, the Programme Guidelines Committee judged it worthwhile to include here brief summary reports of each of the six phase II hearings.

1. Unity and spirituality

The goal of the ecumenical movement is for all to gather at the common eucharistic table. Our theology is formed by the intertwining of ecumenical hermeneutics, worship, spirituality, study of ecclesiology and ethics.

It has long been recognized that prayer and theological principles have added depth to our lives as we have shared resources between and among churches. Recent ecumenical work by Faith and Order on the church as koinonia should be deepened with an investigation of the rich varieties of Christian spirituality found in the church worldwide. The indigenous spirituality being expressed in many places around the world can be a contribution to this work.

The work of Faith and Order is able to present the churches and the World Council of Churches with important ecumenical challenges, and a solid theological base for common efforts towards visible unity, joint mission, and inclusive service. This work will benefit from and contribute to other programmatic work within the World Council of Churches in particular, the work on worship and spirituality, and on the theological foundation of the ecumenical engagement in action for solidarity, justice and peace.

As we stand at the dawn of a new millennium, one of the most significant tasks for the churches will be to address the contemporary ethical issues growing out of the enormous advances in fields such as genetic engineering and electronic communication. Issues of personal and interpersonal ethics must also be addressed. The WCC should offer space and direction for conversation and consultation enabling member churches to discuss these difficult issues -- including human sexuality -- which cause division within and among its member churches. This conversation must build on the shared theological and hermeneutical reflection that has informed earlier ecumenical ethical discussions on issues such as racism.

With the ecumenical map changing rapidly, the WCC must continue to encourage and support bilateral and multilateral discussion on local and regional levels, offering space for reflection, conversation and evaluation of progress and process for those actively on the road to unity.

2. Moving together

In their message, delegates to the WCC's first assembly in Amsterdam in 1948 declared: "We intend to stay together." A fitting pledge from the Harare assembly fifty years later would be: "We are committed to move together." In making this pledge, it should be understood and emphasized that this "we" describes an inclusive community.

Churches and ecumenical organizations at local and regional levels are increasingly finding new ways of living and working together. This ecumenical flexibility and creativity should be applauded; and the WCC should learn from these experiments, while continuing to draw attention to the obstacles which proselytism throws up to our moving together.

In order to move together, special attention needs to be given to bringing together regional ecumenical organizations (REOs), Christian World Communions (CWCs), funding agencies and ecumenically open groups and networks as ecumenical partners in the WCC family. The WCC should develop adequate mechanisms for improving its relationships and models of cooperation with these groups as it moves into a new internal structure of its own.

The current setback in the ecumenical movement may be largely attributed to the lack of mutual understanding and in-depth knowledge between churches and between historic traditions. One way of addressing this and of deepening our ecumenical fellowship could be interchurch visitations -- not primarily in the form of delegations sent from the WCC to the churches, but delegations from the churches, through the WCC, to one another.

The collaboration of the WCC with theological faculties and seminaries in every part of the world for both theological study, ministerial training and research is imperative. The mutual exchanges and partnerships which are already successfully going on among faculties in some parts of the world could fruitfully be extended, perhaps with the facilitation of the WCC; and the assistance of theological and other faculties in undertaking study projects on behalf of the WCC could be more systematically solicited. In view of the benefits in terms of mutual understanding and cooperation that have emerged from bilateral theological dialogues, the WCC should continue to encourage these for the benefit of the churches around the world.

The WCC should continue to explore the tremendous potential opened up by technological developments in the area of communication, while at the same time remaining attentive to the challenges posed by contemporary mass media, particularly in promoting consumerist values and in widening the gap between rich and poor, powerful and powerless.

The variety of ways in which the WCC has used the print media has made a significant contribution to communicating the ecumenical message; intensified attention must be given to the distribution of these materials, while taking into account the limitations imposed by language, level of treatment and cost.

The ecumenical potential of art, music and other forms of creative expression as a means of communication needs further exploration.

3. Justice and peace

The churches' work for justice and peace is rooted in a faith commitment, and aims to affirm and uphold equal rights and worth for all nations and people, sustainable and just development, the overcoming of violence and the enabling of full participation for all. Discrimination, human-rights violations, exclusion and failure to transform conflicts to peaceful solutions are closely interlinked.

Human rights are indivisible. Economic, social and cultural rights are intimately connected with civil and political rights. It is a gospel imperative for churches not only to recognize violations of rights but also to act when the gift of life and the sanctity and dignity of all in creation are violated. Churches must explore the root causes of human-rights violations and offer an analysis from the point of view of the victims. They must make visible the existing threats to the integrity of nature and to all of creation. They should engage together, and with peoples of other faiths, to contribute to the development of a global ethics that further applies human-rights commitments to an increasingly interconnected world community. Discrimination in all its forms is a violation of rights. In the face of the growing complexity of discrimination, the churches must recognize and expose its underlying mechanisms of exclusion and marginalization. Affirmation of the worth, identity and value of each person, irrespective of mental and physical abilities, through inclusion within the church fellowship is the only way to realize the full expression of the body of Christ. Structural and interpersonal discrimination on the basis of race still prevail in church and society, and new forms of racism are emerging.

Armed conflicts and violence constitute major violations of human rights and cause a massive degree of human suffering. The Christian response must comprise just peace-making, conflict transformation and reconciliation. The churches' engagement must be situation-specific, combining roles of advocacy, prophetic speaking and mediation. More effective and flexible linkages are needed between the local and the global, as well as more deliberate collaboration with churches outside the WCC fellowship and stronger emphasis on catalyzing and enabling interfaith responses.

The role of the church at all levels is therefore to engage in (1) monitoring and advocacy that identify and expose the causes of rights violations, discrimination and violence; (2) building constituencies of peace and reconciliation through enabling open and safe arenas for dialogue; (3) a spiritual and emotional presence and accompaniment that keep the horizon of reconciliation in view.

4. Education and learning

There is a critical need to develop educated clergy and lay people to strengthen and renew the ecumenical movement. Most effective for ecumenical work is the model of contextual education, using action and reflection for learning and allowing local, regional and international agendas to inform one another. Special emphasis should be given to ensuring the availability of ecumenical learning for women, indigenous people, people with disabilities and youth.

Among the promising models of ecumenical education is that of extension programmes offered by seminaries, lay centres and the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, which increase the accessibility of education to people with limited resources of money and time. Particular needs for ecumenical education and training are also evident in the churches in Eastern and Central Europe. Funding available for scholarship programmes should be increased.

Recognizing the increasing religious plurality of the world in which the churches live and work, the WCC should include interfaith learning in its own educational work and encourage interfaith learning in the educational work of churches and lay centres, recognizing the integral link between this and interfaith dialogue.

Ecumenical formation and theological education must continue to be given high priority in the WCC's educational work. Networking, partnership and collaboration in programmes between the WCC, the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey and lay centres can strengthen the educational process. Seminary faculties in the regions should be provided resources to help them to promote ecumenical formation. The Council should facilitate the development of lay centres where none exist, especially in Eastern Europe and the Pacific.

There is a need to continue and deepen educational and ecumenical learning activities which can accompany and inform all the WCC's work in the area of justice, peace and creation. A particularly important example is the development of training and educational materials on the topics of family life and domestic violence; other issues include globalization, economics, civil society, the role of religion in nation-building and issues relating to disability.

5. Mission and witness

Mission and evangelism should be at the centre of the life of the churches and thus also of the work of the WCC. In this connection, three areas of concern emerge forcefully: (1) gospel and cultures (with a particular emphasis on the need to examine the relationship between the gospel and cultures in Africa and in the West); (2) mission and evangelism in secularized contemporary societies; (3) health and healing (with a particular emphasis on community based health care and HIV/AIDS). Because the WCC's most recent world conference on mission and evangelism (Salvador, Nov.-Dec. 1996) was convened just before the period of intensive preparations for the eighth assembly, it has not been possible to implement many of the suggestions for follow-up which emerged out of that conference. Consequently, a substantial agenda exists for WCC engagement in the area of mission and evangelism.

Among the areas of mission study and programmatic activity in which the WCC should be engaged in the coming years are: (1) examining and revising missionary methods; (2) building solidarity between churches in mission; (3) defining "new frontiers" in mission, including concerns for health and healing in collaboration with governmental and international organizations (e.g., UN AIDS); (4) exploring further the rootedness of the gospel in different cultures; (5) strengthening common witness and engaging in dialogue about proselytism; (6) the relationship between faith, healing and wholeness; (7) relations among mission agencies, churches and the WCC.

6. Solidarity

The development of a single global economic network, unrestrained by any framework of values upholding the common good of humanity, the dignity of all persons and the inherent value of God's creation, confronts the churches with a cluster of inter-related issues -- among them ecological threats, poverty, international debt, the plight of uprooted people, HIV/AIDS. At the heart of the churches' response to "globalization" is the call to "turn to God". Only then can they nurture a global vision and support alternative initiatives and models which can enable people to "rejoice in hope".

Calling the churches to unity beckons them to turn, in response to God's transforming love in Christ, to the world's suffering and need and to act together. The eradication of poverty through the building of sustainable communities is on the agenda of the WCC because it is rooted in God's agenda for the world. Faithfulness to God beckons the churches to embrace the world's globalized pain with the hope of a whole gospel for a whole world. Our ecumenical calling is a divine imperative for common witness in our one world.

This calling directs the churches to nurture the life of their own community, to deepen their commitment to community between one another as churches, and to hope, pray and work for a global community responsive to God's boundless love. To do this, a focused theological foundation is necessary. Earlier WCC work on the theology of life and on the theology of sharing and service must be developed further and integrated.

Since the Vancouver assembly, the WCC has undertaken sustained efforts to gather the churches' commitments to justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Since the Canberra assembly, that theme has integrated and focused the WCC's work in this area. It now speaks and acts with depth to the challenge of building sustainable communities. Work within this integrated framework needs to continue in the period ahead. Among examples which might be cited are climate change, earth ethics, trade, debt reduction and biotechnology. The time has also come to explore how the WCC's commitment to human rights and dignity can be built into a global framework of values capable of holding accountable the forces which shape the global economy.

Equally crucial to the WCC's witness has been its commitment to enable the churches in the sharing of their resources, expressing the shared love of God and building sustainable communities for the future. In the present global context the WCC should initiate a renewed commitment of the churches to ask from one another the costly commitments entailed in belonging together. Past work in sharing resources among churches has strengthened bonds of fellowship and also raised questions of practical ecclesiology. Likewise, the churches' engagement together for justice, peace and the integrity of creation sharpens ecclesiological issues which arise in the context of moral engagement. The work in ecclesiology and ethics has provided a crucial foundation. But in the next period the experience of koinonia and the churches' call to mission should add new, integrating chapters to the WCC's past work in ecclesiology and ethics.

How can churches share together their resources, commitments and lives for the sake of the world? A central task in the period ahead is to enable churches to respond faithfully to that challenge.

Overall themes

The revised Constitution of the WCC says: "The primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe." The themes of visible unity, mission and evangelism, and service were affirmed time and time again in the hearings and the plenary sessions. It is inconceivable that this work should not continue. The Programme Guidelines Committee underlines the importance of the Council's continuing work in these areas.

From the reports of the six hearing groups - as well as from contributions and interventions during other sessions of the assembly - it is evident that a number of broad areas of concern merit intensified attention as the World Council of Churches seeks to "serve the one ecumenical movement" in the years ahead. All these issues are many-faceted and at many points they are interconnected. Thus the identification of these issues as priorities in what follows should not be seen as directly implying a single programmatic activity. Rather, these are areas of activity in which the WCC must exemplify the integrated style of work which is central to its new internal structure.

An ecumenism of the heart

The assembly theme beckoned us to "turn to God". The one ecumenical movement is not, first of all, about programmes, structures and cooperation. Rather, the foundation for all our ecumenical engagement is our response to God. It asks for nothing less than conversion of our hearts. Because ecumenism is directed towards God, and to the world so loved by God, worship and spirituality must take even deeper roots in the heart of all we do as the World Council of Churches. We recognize that this priority is not without pain and conflict. Yet the only sustaining path towards the heart of the unity we seek leads us together in worship, prayer and shared spiritual life.

The Council has said this before, following Vancouver and Canberra. But now we realize this is not just one "programme" among many. Rather, worship and spirituality are an essential "method" of our ecumenical journey. They shape and sustain our journey. Having experienced this again in Harare, we know this dimension can never be marginalized in the life of the Council. Instead, we must fully utilize the rich resources which are so capable of nurturing our conversion and response to God.

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Inclusive community

At many points in the hearings process, it was affirmed that the role of women, youth, Indigenous People and people with disabilities in the life of the church is significantly more than programmatic work. For the first time an assembly of the WCC has received a letter from children; thus, the whole church was present in Harare in a deeper way than before. Particular attention should be given to ensuring that the work undertaken by the WCC with these marginalized groups is not lost in the transition between the unit structure of the past and the new team structure.

Many have said that work with youth is today significantly less visible and integral to the WCC than in past times. In order to move towards a vision of inclusive community and to ensure the future of the ecumenical movement, it is critical that significant work with youth on ecumenical formation and issues relevant to their future be undertaken.

The vision of an inclusive community which makes all feel welcome, ensures that all have a voice and gives the opportunity for individual gifts to be contributed to the life of the community needs to be strongly affirmed by the assembly.

In order to move towards this vision, the WCC must develop an agenda and methodology for building inclusive and reconciled communities which affirm the worth, identity, gifts and value of each person, so that a fuller expression of the body of Christ can be realized. Central to this is opening safe arenas for dialogue in which to listen and to deepen our shared understanding of the reality of exclusion and acting on it through repentance, reparation and reconciliation. This work should also address the question of reconciliation in contexts of religious intolerance which threaten minorities. The World Council of Churches should provide opportunity for the churches at the next assembly to mutually account for their follow up work to the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women.

Non-violence and reconciliation

Truth, justice and peace together represent values basic to granting of human rights, inclusion and reconciliation. When these values are ignored, trust is replaced by fear and human power no longer serves the gift of life and the sanctity and dignity of all in creation.

Violence arising from various forms of human rights violations, discrimination and structural injustice represents a growing concern at all levels of an increasingly plural society. Racism combines with and aggravates other causes of exclusion and marginalization. Conflicts are becoming increasingly complex, located more often within nations than between nations. Women and children in conflict situations represent a special concern.

There is a need to bring together the work on gender and racism, human rights and transformation of conflict in ways that engage the churches in initiatives for reconciliation that build on repentance, truth, justice, reparation and forgiveness.

The Council should work strategically with the churches on these issues to create a culture of non-violence, linking and interacting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peace-making in the newglobalized context.

Therefore, the WCC proclaims the period 2000-2010 as an Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence.

Human sexuality

In plenary sessions, Padare streams and the hearings the issue of human sexuality has emerged as an important issue which faces the churches. It is clear that issues surrounding the understanding of human sexuality have divided and continue to divide some churches.

An ecumenical approach to issues of human sexuality would need to take into account Christian anthropology, a hermeneutic which could draw out the biblical witness, the relationship between ethics and culture, undertaken in a way which would allow sufficient space for Christian women and men to explore the issues while creating and deepening mutual trust.

WCC study of and dialogue on the theological, social and cultural aspects of human sexuality will benefit from work done since the Canberra assembly on ecclesiology and ethics, and could be framed within the perspectives unfolded in the Joint Working Group document "The Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues: Potential Sources of Common Witness or Divisions" (1996).

Globalization

The term "globalization", widely used in recent years, has often been heard during this assembly. As the CUV document indicates (paras 1.8, 2.9), "the emergence... of transnational and increasingly worldwide structures of communication, finance and economy has created a particular kind of global unity", whose cost is "growing fragmentation for societies and exclusion for more and more of the human family... This constitutes a serious threat to the integrity of the ecumenical movement, whose organizational forms represent a distinctly different model of relationships, based on solidarity and sharing, mutual accountability and empowerment."

Understood in this sense, the challenge of globalization to the churches must be seen first and foremost as a theological and spiritual challenge. The love of God, expressed fully in Christ, reveals a vision of fullness of life for all; the emerging global economy projects a vision of limitless material gratification for those who can afford it. Thus, churches are called to witness to and embody God's intention for the world in the face of growing globalization and the values which underlie it.

The WCC as a global fellowship has unique perspectives on the basis of which it can assist churches in confronting this challenge. For many years, it has played a vital role in establishing networks of ecumenical groups and organizations committed to the goals of justice, sharing and the building of sustainable community. Out of this experience it can support the increasingly critical work of articulating alternative models which demonstrate the path of sustainability. It can draw on the wide resources of its member churches and ecumenical partners in order to bring together and strengthen the churches' witness on critical issues on the international political, social, economic and cultural agenda. It can expand its efforts to encourage member churches to deepen their knowledge and awareness of one another's life and witness around the oikoumene, and to enable them better to maintain the links between their own local concerns and global realities. It can build relations with partners of other faiths to explore how commitments to human rights and dignity can be built into a global framework of values.

While the term "globalization" is often used ambiguously and while many of the features of the process characterized as "globalization" are ambivalent, it is evident that the elements of the new global context which the term describes require concentrated attention from the WCC in the coming years.

The Council is invited to take an ecumenical approach to globalization in a perspective that identifies and links together issues and brings out the biblical imperatives. International and national governance, consumption and production patterns, financial systems and trade, and the impact of these on national debt and peoples' rights to land and sustainable livelihood should receive particular attention.

Debt cancellation

In many countries of the North there has been a mounting campaign to urge the cancellation of unpayable debt. In the Africa plenary in particular but at many other moments of this assembly there have been calls for the fellowship of member churches, church-related institutions and social movements to give high priority to work towards ensuring the possibility of the cancellation of debts which bring a heavy burden on those countries which can least afford such a drain on their resources. The WCC should develop an action plan on debt cancellation which takes into consideration the complexity of the issue so that such a release from debt will ensure release from poverty for the citizens of such countries.

There will need to be a further phase which will not only look at the restitution of social and ecological debts but also at the development of patterns of trade agreements on a global scale in which the concept of justice and equity is in the fore.

Along with such a programme the Policy Reference Committee II recommended that work already begun through the Reconstructing Africa programme of dialogue and study, with an emphasis on capacity-building and information-sharing, be further developed in order that Africa can make its unique contribution to the ecumenical movement.

Methodologies

As has been noted in the introduction, the Council has limited financial and staff resources with which to undertake the mandate for its future work. Consequently there have been many suggestions about the methods which the Council could use in the next period. The CUV document suggests the shared responsibility of member churches, networks and related organizations towards carrying out programmes and activities.

In every stream in the hearings there was a call for taking seriously the need to build theological and biblical foundations for programmes. This will require close working relationships and shared responsibilities across teams, with Faith and Order particularly involved with others.

It is clear that with the development of information technology, new and exciting and even cost-effective ways of carrying out programmatic relationships are available through electronic mail, the Internet and the World Wide Web. Enhanced also will be the traditional methods of working through advocacy, networking at regional and global levels and information-sharing. Significant recently have been new patterns developed which have their origins in non-Western cultures such as the sokoni in Africa, which, when carefully prepared, has produced exciting results.

One sadness has been the reminder that receiving the work undertaken by the Council into the life of the local church has been at best patchy and all too often invisible. In this next period if resources are to be used effectively more time and imagination will have to be given to creating new ways by which the Council's work can affect the life of the member churches.

The WCC needs to expand the following roles for future work:

• to serve as a shared platform for advocacy and making the voices of the churches heard in relation to the international mechanisms and constituencies that are actors on the global arena;
• to serve as a catalyst for building coalitions with other constituencies and for sharing interpretation and joint action with other faith communities;
• to serve as an enabler through linking local and regional churches as appropriate, and bringing parties around the table;
• to be a focal point for information-sharing, networking and watch functions;
• to accompany churches and to mediate in situations of urgent need.

To this end the WCC should also engage in self-study and analysis of its own work styles and methodologies.

A framework and focus for the Council's future work

The Common Understanding and Vision process calls the World Council of Churches decisively to deepen, as well as broaden, the fellowship which we share as churches. Our witness and service in the world, now needed ever more urgently, depend upon strengthening spiritually our bonds of commitment and accountability. We must, as we have promised at Harare, "build together".

To do so, in the period following the eighth assembly and as we enter the 21st century, the WCC's fellowship must directly engage each member church around four questions central to the purposes of the World Council of Churches.

• How do we as churches engage together in mission and evangelism in the midst of a highly pluralistic world?
• How do we understand baptism as a foundation for the life in community to which we are called to share together?
• How do we offer together our resources, witness and action for the sake of the world's very future?
• How do we walk together on the path towards visible unity?

Before we meet again in assembly, the life of each member church must be addressed ecumenically with these four questions. Our shared responses will build our common life and empower our witness in the world. No task is more important than this. All the WCC's work should be focused by these four concerns.
This can only be done through fundamentally changing the style of the WCC's work in the next period, building on new values and methods. As our general secretary stated, we dare not return home from Harare and "do ecumenical business as usual". Rather, we commit our churches, and direct our shared life in the WCC, to engage ourselves deeply, imaginatively and accountably in this common calling. Then the heart of our ecumenical commitment will guide us to God's future.

Recommendation

Presented in this report are both the programmatic content and a framework for focusing and directing the future activities of the Council in the next period. The PGC was not able fully to integrate this programmatic content into the proposed framework: therefore, we recommend that a small working group continue this task in preparation for the meeting of the central committee in August 1999.

Background documents

1. Text of the Children's Letter
2. Notes taken in phases I and II of the hearings and the six Padare streams
3. Original reports from the hearings in phases I and II
4. Public Issues Committee reports
5. Policy Reference Committee II report
6. WCC Action Plan on Debt Cancellation
7. Letter from the Decade Festival, "From Solidarity to Accountability"

Materials submitted by individual delegates and not integrated into the report will be acknowledged in the follow-up process.

_______________

Notes:

1. WCC Constitution, V.1.c.3
2. WCC Constitution, I.
3. CUV Document, para 2.5.


4. WCC Membership and Relationships

4.1. The work of the Policy Reference Committee I

Policy Reference Committee I, chaired by Gabriel Habib, with Daniel F. Martensen as rapporteur, was responsible for considering reports and formulating recommendations in the general area of the ecumenical relationships of the WCC. It also formulated the assembly’s responses to the reports of the moderator and general secretary and made recommendations for its action on the proposed constitutional amendments and rule changes.

4.2. New Members

Eight new churches were recommended for full WCC membership by the Committee. Each recommendation was voted on individually on 5 December, and all were accepted by a large majority, some without dissent. The fruit of this action was made visible when the representatives of these churches moved to the plenary floor and took their seats as delegates. Two of the new member churches -- the Harrist Church from Côte d’Ivoire and the Council of African Instituted Churches from South Africa -- are churches founded by Africans (rather than by Western missionaries); the application for membership from a third such African Instituted Church, the Celestial Church of Christ in Nigeria, was not accepted by delegates because of unclarities and uncertainties about the church’s stance on the issue of polygamy. However, the vote turning down the application was then challenged as being inconsistent with the provision in the WCC constitution that every member church has only one vote on motions to receive new member churches. This challenge was sustained; and the assembly subsequently decided to refer the whole matter to the new central committee for further consultation and decision.

Two councils of churches -- the Samoa Council of Churches and the Council of Protestant Churches of Equatorial Guinea -- were approved unanimously as associate councils. WCC rules say that associate councils are entitled to send a delegated representative to assemblies. By common consent five organizations were recognized as international ecumenical organizations in a working relationship with the WCC.

4.3. Relationships with Orthodox Churches

The Committee also addressed relationship with the Orthodox churches. Bishop Nifon (Romanian Orthodox Church) interpreted the Thessaloniki statement, developed by Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches to convey their concerns and commitments about participation in the WCC. Comments by the seven people who spoke from the floor emphasized the importance of the special commission and the need for understanding the complex context in which Orthoedox churches in the former Soviet Union now find themselves.

Delegates then voted (with 4 abstentions) to approve the creation of a special commission to devote a period of at least three years to studying the full range of issues related to the participation of Orthodox churches in the WCC and to present proposals about changes in structure, working style and ethos to the central committee for decision (or for eventual formulation of constitutional changes at the next assembly).

4.4. Other Relationships

Policy Reference Committee I also made proposals, accepted by the assembly, regarding ways of strengthening relationships with regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches and Christian world communions, as well as with churches which are not members of the Council.

Suggested priorities for the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church (JWG) were endorsed, and the JWG was encouraged "to continue its effort to understand past difficulties and open ways towards new perspectives and possible positive initiatives". Specifically underscored for attention by the JWG in the coming period were issues related to "the nature, purpose and methods of dialogue" and "the nature of regional and national ecumenical organizations".

The Council and its member churches were urged to seek "new forms of relationships with evangelicals in the spirit of the CUV". Approval was given to the formation of a new joint working group with Pentecostals, and a number of tasks were outlined for it, including broadening the range of the existing dialogue between the WCC and Pentecostals and "initiating studies and exchange on issues of common interest, including controversial issues".

Several of the recommendations concerning relationships touched on broader questions regarding what "membership" in the WCC means; and how churches and organizations which are not formally WCC members might nevertheless find appropriate forms of participation in the Council’s "governing, consultative and advisory bodies". The new central committee was urged to continue the reflection already begun, within the context of the CUV discussion, on the understanding of and criteria for membership -- and issue which was also reflected in consideration of the proposal for an ecumenical "forum".

4.5. Proposal for a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations

Reports from the moderator and general secretary referred to the idea of a "forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations". This proposal had been developed at an August 1998 consultation which brought together participants from the conference of world communions, the regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches, international ecumenical organizations, and member churches of the WCC.

The assembly affirmed the report from the August 1998 consultation and asked the central committee to continue consultations with leaders of bodies which have already expressed interest in the forum idea. The assembly also offered nine observations which it said should guide this further consultation. Central to this were several recommendations dealing with concerns about how an eventual forum would differ from the WCC. One of these stated explicitly that "participation by churches in a forum should in no way be seen as comparable to the ecumenical accountability and commitment of ongoing membership in the WCC".

4.6. Other Recommended Actions

The report of Policy Reference Committee I also included a proposal, accepted by the assembly in plenary session, that the central committee encourage common local, national, regional and global ecumenical celebrations for the year 2000. It expressed appreciation and gratitude for the substantial reports presented by the moderator and the general secretary.

The assembly also approved a number of changes in the WCC constitution and rules. The one proposed change that was defeated would have been the election of WCC presidents by the central committee rather than the assembly. The Policy Reference Committee itself reported that it could not reach a consensus on the proposal. Primary reasons given during floor discussion were that the assembly is the highest authoritative body of the WCC, and its prerogatives in this matter should not be removed; and that only a third of the member churches would be involved in the electoral process if it were conducted by the central committee. One person spoke in favour of the amendment, nine spoke against.

4.7. Report of the Policy Reference Committee I (full text)

FULL REPORT

4.7. Report of Policy Reference Committee I

Table of Contents:

I. The moderator's report
II. The general secretary's report
III. The policy statement "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC"
IV. Applications for membership
V. Relationships with the Orthodox churches
VI. Relationships with regional ecumenical organizations
VII. National councils of churches (NCCs)
VIII. Relationships with Christian world communions (CWCs)
IX. Relationships with the Roman Catholic Church: the seventh report of the JWG
X. Relationships with evangelicals
XI. Relations with Pentecostal churches
XII. Proposal for a forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations
XIII. Amendments to the Constitution and Rules
Appendix I The Celestial Church of Christ (Nigeria)
Appendix II Proposals regarding a forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations

I. The moderator's report

The moderator's report offers a comprehensive assessment of the WCC's activities since the last assembly. It contains a challenging analysis of the present ecumenical dynamics, and points to the role of the WCC within the "one ecumenical movement", recalling the lessons learned from the reflection process leading to the policy statement, "Towards A Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC" (CUV). It offers an honest evaluation of the relationships between the Orthodox churches and the WCC, and suggests constructive and mutually agreed solutions. It presents an encouraging reading of churches' attitudes towards human rights and the challenge of globalization. It also presents a forward-looking policy, integrating a vision for the role of the younger generation in the ecumenical movement.

The moderator called for confidence in the future, while speaking openly about a crisis caused by many factors, and summoning the Council to self-criticism and redefinition of its future orientations, its structures and its activities. Emphasizing the fact that there is a "crisis of institutional ecumenism", the report recalls that this crisis should not be uncritically qualified either as a "crisis of the ecumenical movement", or as "an Orthodox crisis" as such.

The awareness of a new situation calls for renewal. The CUV process has been an effort to give fresh expression to and reflect the coherence and integrity of the ecumenical vision. In the spirit of this process, the report calls for conversion and transformation, for an assessment of our understanding of the church in an ecumenical context, although it recognizes that some churches are not fully satisfied with the changes proposed. It stresses therefore the fact that the CUV process must be seen as continuous.

It is within the context of such a process that the report places Orthodox concerns. It reaffirms Orthodox commitment to the ecumenical movement, highlights the Orthodox contribution to the WCC, interprets the causes of present difficulties, and informs the assembly about the initiatives taken or the efforts made so far. Against this background, it suggests that a space be provided in which Orthodox churches engage in creative interaction with other member churches.

The report affirms the need for the WCC and its member churches to redefine and rearticulate their commitment to human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation. While the comprehensiveness of the report is to be stressed, one should also take note of the ensuing discussion, bringing forward the issue of forgiveness and repentance as integral part of the reconciliation process, and the issue of corruption which could be qualified as a chronic disease affecting all societies and all spheres of life.

In practically all parts of the report there are references to youth and a call for an integrated youth engagement in the ecumenical movement. This reminder was further strengthened by the moderator's response during the plenary discussion, that the churches themselves should create more opportunities for youth participation in their lives and in the ecumenical movement.

In 2001 Easter will fall on a common date, 15 April. The moderator highlighted the possibility of this point in time being a step toward a common celebration of Easter.

The eighth assembly received the moderator's report with appreciation and gratitude for what he has brought to the life of the Council since the WCC's seventh assembly.

II. The general secretary's report

The general secretary's report, reflecting and interpreting the experiences of the WCC and its member churches in the last years, leads from a realistic description of the jubilee assembly, through the present difficulties and challenges, to an ecumenical vision for the coming century. Referring to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the WCC, the report opts for a realistic assessment of the present ecumenical situation, recalling the signs of uncertainties about the purpose of the fellowship in the WCC and the doubts about the future of the ecumenical movement.

The report asks what inspiration and orientation can be drawn from the jubilee tradition for the common journey towards communion and what the place and task of the WCC could or should be in this context. Using the image of "institutional captivity", the report invites a thorough reflection on the meaning of "ecumenical space" today, an understanding inspired mainly by the theology of life programme. This is an attempt to overcome the limits of the present institutional ecumenism which goes far beyond the fellowship of the WCC member churches. The numerous possibilities for applying the notion of "ecumenical space" to a variety of activities and programmes of the WCC calls for a further deepening and exploration of its ecumenical implications. This could be the task, in the coming years, of teams and clusters in the new configuration of the WCC.

Following and sharing the moderator's concerns for the state of relationships with the Orthodox, the report widens the horizon and raises questions about the present institutional understanding of membership which reflects both choices made in past, and most recent, developments. The report does not try to provide solutions. It simply raises the question whether there are other forms of participation than institutional membership. It also raises the question whether the formation of a forum could give tangible expression to the WCC's readiness to foster wider relationships with ecumenical partners beyond its membership. Both questions invite further reflection and response during and after this assembly.

The report concludes with a reference to the second part of the assembly theme, "Rejoice in Hope", the core of a vision which could carry the churches as they move into the 21st century, an ecumenical vision which could be compelling enough to inspire the new generation.

The eighth assembly received the general secretary's report with appreciation and gratitude.

III. The policy statement: "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC"

The policy statement "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC" (CUV) is presented to the assembly by the central committee as a significant milestone in an on going journey of self-reflection on the nature and purpose of the ecumenical movement in general, and the World Council of Churches' vocation in particular. Informed by several years of sustained theological reflection by the member churches and the various structures of the Council, the CUV process attempts to articulate values and principles that have been and will continue to be at the heart of the ecumenical movement. It identifies ways in which the ecclesial and global context has changed since the founding of the World Council of Churches fifty years ago. Finally, it sets forth a broad agenda for the future life of the Council along with suggestions for ways the Council, with other ecumenical partners, might implement that agenda. In so doing, it takes its place alongside other significant documents of the WCC expressing the Council's intense longing for the visible unity of the church and the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

The full title of the statement, "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC," indicates that in this statement the member churches do not yet dare to speak of a common vision or a common understanding. This was evident in the plenary discussions as well as in the reports of the moderator and the general secretary which identified numerous ways in which full consensus has not been achieved in either our vision or our understanding. Thus, while the CUV is completed as a document, its reception in the life of the churches and in the WCC, including further clarifications, corrections and elaborations will be an on going process. Therefore, action by the eighth assembly of the WCC on the CUV document does not imply full agreement with all it contains, but an affirmation that it sets forth a sufficiently rich and promising understanding and vision for shaping and inspiring our future life together, as well as a commitment to draw concrete guidance for specific actions and initiatives in the years immediately following the assembly. The assembly is asked to begin this reception process by acting on a number of recommendations which follow in the report of the Committee dealing with the structure of the Council, the need to attend to the health of relationships among the member churches, particularly including but not limited to the Orthodox members, and the desire to provide a broad "ecumenical space" in which ecumenical relationships may be at once broadened and deepened.

It is clear from the plenary discussion that reception of the CUV document challenges the WCC and its member churches in a number of ways. There is the challenge to find language for our understanding and vision that is accessible and inspiring to all the baptized, not simply to specialists. There is the challenge to avoid being drawn into an institutional preoccupation that obscures the wider ecumenical movement's evangelical commitment to the mission of God. There is the challenge to the member churches to engage in a self-critical review of their commitment to membership and participation. There is the challenge to find new ways for discernment and decision-making in the life of the Council that will enhance the quality of the fellowship while at the same time empowering it for clear and decisive action. There is the challenge to seek ways to share power in the Council to embody its commitment to justice, inclusiveness, mutuality and participation. There is the challenge to nurture an ecumenical spirituality and a moral integrity undergirding a fellowship in which the voices of all are heard with respect and the concerns of all are received with understanding. There is the challenge to be a World Council of Churches serving the vitality and coherence of the one ecumenical movement.

Recognizing that much remains to be done, but with deep appreciation for the insight contained in the policy statement, the Committee affirms "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC" as an important milestone in this, the jubilee year of the World Council of Churches, and as the starting point for our journey together into the new millennium.

The eighth assembly received with gratitude "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches" and urged the WCC to use it as a framework and point of reference as the WCC programmes are evaluated and developed in the future.

IV. Applications for membership

A. On recommendation of Policy Reference Committee I, the eighth assembly agreed to receive the following churches into full membership of the World Council of Churches:

1. Christian Protestant Angkola Church (Indonesia)
(Gereja Kristen Protestant Angkola -GKPA)
2. Christian Church of Sumba (Indonesia)
(Gereja Kristen Sumba -GKS)
3. Harrist Church (Ivory Coast)
(Eglise Harriste, C“te d'Ivoire)
4. The Council of African Instituted Churches (CAIC, South Africa)
5. Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria
6. United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe
7. Anglican Church of Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
8. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)

B. The eighth assembly further agreed to receive the following national councils of churches as associate councils with the World Council of Churches:

1. Samoa Council of Churches
2. Council of Protestant Churches of Equatorial Guinea
(Consejo de Iglesias Evang‚licas de Guinea Ecuatorial)

C. The eighth assembly (according to rule XIV of the rules of the WCC) recognized the following organizations as international ecumenical organizations in working relationship with the World Council of Churches:

1. Frontier Internship in Mission
2. Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism
3. World Young Women's Christian Association
4. United Bible Societies
5. Associations of Christian Colleges and Universities: International Ecumenical Forum
D. The Celestial Church of Christ [Nigeria] -see appendix I


[In presenting the above recommendations for action, Policy Reference Committee I is fully aware that the understanding of membership will constitute one of the issues to be further discussed during and after the eighth assembly in the light of the policy statement "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches" (CUV) and its implications.]

V. Relationships with the Orthodox churches

In the period following the Canberra assembly it has become clear that the relations of the Orthodox churches with the Council have reached a critical stage. Indeed, two Eastern Orthodox churches have withdrawn from membership in the WCC: the Church of Georgia in 1997 and the Church of Bulgaria in 1998. In their reports to the assembly both the moderator and the general secretary gave thoughtful and careful attention to an assessment of the reasons which have brought the fellowship of the WCC to this critical situation.

At a meeting in May 1998, the Eastern Orthodox churches gave their initial evaluation of the current situation and proposed that a commission be created with the WCC to discuss "the acceptable forms of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement and the radical restructuring of the WCC". Also in May 1998, at an Orthodox pre-assembly meeting in Damascus, the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox church representatives together evaluated the ecumenical situation in which the Orthodox find themselves. They saw "the need for change which would enable a more effective presence and witness, together with a more constructive and engaged participation of the Orthodox".

The WCC's executive committee has given careful attention to the relationships of the Orthodox churches with the WCC and has affirmed the principles for the creation of a special commission and for the scope of its work (executive committee, Amersfoort, September 1998, doc. no. 7; executive committee, Harare, Zimbabwe, December 1998, doc. no. 5 and 5.1).

While it is the Orthodox concern about the nature and quality of the WCC ecumenical fellowship which has brought before the assembly the need for a special commission after Harare, it is clear that other churches and ecclesial families have their own - and sometimes similar - concerns which will find expression in the work of the commission. Thus in the commission's work, the WCC fellowship will continue the journey "towards common understanding and vision" and make a contribution to the life and ecumenical vision of all the member churches of the WCC. If the commission's work enables the churches, the families of churches and the World Council of Churches to address constructively the challenge we face, this will constitute a living and practical example of the new ethos we are seeking. The opportunity is offered, therefore, not only to manage the present critical situation, but to make a contribution to the quest for Christian unity - a quest not just for negotiated structural compromises but for discernment of God's will, God's truth, and God's love.

The eighth assembly approved the creation of the special commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC, with half of its members to be determined by the Orthodox Churches and half by the executive committee of the WCC after consultation with other member churches.

Further, the eighth assembly:

1. requested that the special commission study and analyze the whole spectrum of issues related to Orthodox participation in the WCC, recognizing that many of these concerns are of importance to other member churches as well;
2. asked that the special commission make proposals concerning the necessary changes in structure, style and ethos of the Council;
3. suggested that such proposals will be brought before the central committee for consideration and decision, while necessary constitutional changes will be presented to the next WCC assembly;
4. proposed that the full scope of the commission's work be projected for a period of at least three years.

VI. Relationships with regional ecumenical organizations (REOs)

The Committee has studied the document on relationships with the regional ecumenical organizations approved by the executive committee (September 1998), particularly the chapter dealing with these relationships in the perspective of CUV. The Committee also considered a number of written responses related to this area of relationships, with special emphasis on possibilities of decentralizing the work of the WCC.

The CUV process has been the subject of dialogue with REOs in various settings during the past two or three years. It has helped the WCC see itself as one of several actors in a polycentric movement in which the REOs are full partners. REOs have begun to see the relevance of the CUV reflection for themselves. Some of the issues which have emerged in these discussions are the widening of ecumenical structures, in particular in the direction of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the Pentecostal and evangelical churches, the interaction between movement and institutions, the transition to a younger generation and hence the importance of ecumenical formation.

In its final chapter, the CUV document states that "the relationship between the WCC and regional, national and local councils (conferences) of churches or Christian councils (conferences) is crucial for the vitality and coherence of the ecumenical movement". This includes seeking concrete ways whereby more coordination of activities, joint programme planning and common decision-making can be achieved, taking into account the particularities of the regions. The REOs have also raised the question of their possible representation and participation in WCC structures and processes. The CUV document does not speak to this specifically. Nevertheless, the inter-relatedness of the agendas of the WCC and the REOs and hence the need for coordination are no longer questioned by anybody. The challenge is to move to a common ecumenical agenda which will not only require coordination but steps towards an integration of ecumenical structures.

The issue of regional relationships is also relevant with regard to the proposal for a forum. However, the recent steps forward in REO-WCC relationships and the search for further coordination and integration should not be terminated or suspended if a wider process towards a forum involving more partners would begin. Rather, the present and future REO-WCC developments should eventually find their place in the broader framework of a forum.

In the perspective of the CUV document, relationships with the RCC are of special importance. In three regions (Pacific, Caribbean and Middle East) the RCC is a full member of the REO, in other regions there is increasing cooperation between the REO and its regional Roman Catholic partner body (e.g., Europe and Asia). The REOs have raised on several occasions the question of linking their relationships with the RCC more intentionally with those existing between the WCC and the RCC.

Another aspect of the CUV perspective regarding churches outside of WCC membership is the issue of relationships with evangelical and Pentecostal churches. These churches have formed alliances and fellowships in the regions which in some cases have grown to become representative bodies of a similar nature as the REOs. Responding to CUV's encouragement to "search for new forms of relationships at all levels", the WCC and the REOs could develop a common approach which would create space for a variety of new initiatives.

In light of the information above and in line with the CUV document, the eighth assembly encouraged:

• the WCC and the REOs to engage in a process of reflection on a common ecumenical agenda and on the nature of the integration of global and regional structural expressions of the ecumenical movement (taking into account other processes, e.g., with the Orthodox and in relation to concept of the forum);
• the WCC and the REOs to design ways of consultation and decision making on the division of responsibilities for ecumenical programmes;
• that ways of representation of the REOs on the central committee be considered;
• that a mechanism be explored whereby persons serving on WCC and REO governing bodies from the same region could meet at least once in between WCC assemblies;
• that the REOs be consulted on the work of the JWG taking into account the regional cooperation between some of the REOs and the RCC;
• the WCC and the REOs to develop a common approach to relationships with evangelical and Pentecostal churches and organizations.

VII. National councils of churches (NCCs)

The Committee received a report from staff describing work done in response to the seventh assembly's expression of a need for a "permanent framework of relationships with the NCCs as communities of churches rooted in a specific context". The Committee considered a summary of the work of the third international consultation of national councils of churches in February 1993 in Hong Kong, the "Guidelines for Relationships between National Councils of Churches and the World Council of Churches" adopted by the central committee in 1995, and the work of Unit IV in relating to NCCs in Africa. In addition, it was noted that opportunities were provided for the participation of NCCs in the reflection process leading towards CUV which states that "both the WCC and the REOs recognize the NCCs as essential partners in their work, mediating and coordinating relationships with the member churches in a given country; and this should be recognized in any effort to develop a comprehensive framework linking the different councils and conferences of churches in the one ecumenical movement". In spite of these affirmations and the important work done since the seventh assembly, it is clear that the question of a more effective participation of the NCCs in the WCC has, to this point, not found a satisfactory response.

The eighth assembly encouraged ongoing discussion by the WCC of its relationship to national councils of churches in order to learn from their experiences, and work with them to help member churches with the implementation and ownership of the ecumenical commitment locally and nationally, within the framework of CUV.

VIII. Relationships with Christian world communions (CWCs)

Cooperation between the WCC and various CWCs has to some degree been the case for many decades, examples being WCC presence at the meeting of secretaries of CWCs and the mutually sponsored forum on bilateral dialogues. Recent developments include Action of Churches Together (ACT) and Ecumenical News International (ENI). There is, however, a duplication of programmes and projects within the WCC and other CWCs which cannot be justified. As both are called to ecumenical work, to increase the level of sharing and mutual learning from one another becomes imperative.

It should also be recognized that advances made in the decades-old models of unity debate about conciliar fellowship and unity in reconciled diversity leading to current concepts of visible unity and full communion are the direct result of WCC-CWCs common engagement. Included in this process is the focus upon "ecclesial self-understanding" as manifested by some of the respective CWCs. This fact marks an important characteristic of WCC-CWCs relationships. It is for the reason cited above that the WCC should recognize the historical and ecclesiological uniqueness present in the effort to strengthen the ongoing relationship with the various CWCs.

The CUV document affirms that the WCC's relationship to CWCs is to be marked by mutual accountability and reciprocity. It asks that ways be found to associate such bodies more directly to the organized life of the WCC. The earliest proposal for a forum, for example, strongly supported by a number of CWCs, envisages the possibility of holding assemblies together. Also, the possibility of directly involving CWCs in the decision-making bodies of the WCC was investigated. Both attempts failed because of the present juridical and constitutional framework in which these ecumenical organizations operate. It should be noted here that the proposed constitutional amendment (article III) acknowledges the ecumenical partners of the WCC and sees it as a responsibility of the WCC to move "towards maintaining the coherence of the one ecumenical movement".

The eighth assembly recommended that a process be initiated to facilitate and strengthen the relationships between the WCC and CWCs as called for in the CUV document. The assembly recognizes the unique historical and ecclesiological contribution of CWCs to the one ecumenical movement. The proposed process aims to foster cooperation, effectiveness and efficiency in the quest for visible unity.

The assembly noted with appreciation the important work already done by the conference of secretaries of CWCs, and encouraged that this Conference be called upon to contribute to this work in the future.

IX. Relationships with the Roman Catholic Church: the seventh report of the JWG

The committee has studied carefully the seventh report of the Joint Working Group (JWG) between the RCC and the WCC, taking into consideration the broader framework of relationships summarized in the moderator's report. The Committee expressed deep appreciation for the tangible expression of the irrevocable commitment of the RCC to the ecumenical movement found in the cordial and encouraging message sent to the eighth assembly by Pope John Paul II.

The report describes seven years' intensive work by the JWG. Both the Canberra assembly and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) had encouraged the following priorities for 1991-98: the unity of the church: goal, steps and ecclesiological implications; ecumenical formation and education; ethical issues as new sources of division; common witness in missionary endeavours; social thought and action. The report shows that the JWG has achieved concrete results in meeting most of the prioritized issues in its mandate. However, the ability for the JWG to fulfill its task was hindered by time and decreasing financial and staff resources.

The seventh report is both descriptive and evaluative. It emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the RCC and the WCC as a critical factor in the quest for Christian unity. It highlights some examples of ecumenical cooperation, including at the local level. It recognizes that there are possibilities for dealing with moral and social issues, using differing methodologies while still maintaining fellowship. It points to the fact that particular attention should be given to ecumenical cooperation especially at the local level. It demonstrates, through the representation of the RCC in nearly all of the programme activities of the WCC, the developing cooperation between the two parent bodies of the JWG. Finally, the report leads to some suggestions for future work.

Four issues can be identified throughout the report that are shaping the ecumenical agenda and demonstrating the potential special contribution of the JWG to the ongoing ecumenical dialogue: (a) the unity of the church - koinonia (in cooperation with the Faith and Order commission); (b) ecumenical formation; (c) further study work on moral issues and on common witness, and the resurgence of proselytism; (d) the growing participation of the RCC in the life and witness of NCCs and REOs.

The report also includes three important study documents: (a) "The Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues: Potential Sources of Common Witness or of Divisions"; (b) "The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness"; (c) "Ecumenical Formation: Ecumenical Reflections and Suggestions". The section on the history of the JWG was provided as an educational background to promote better understanding of the JWG.

The Committee acknowledged the positive response of the PCPCU to the seventh report and expressed its appreciation for the suggestions for the future work of the JWG.

The eighth assembly approved the seventh report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. Further, the eighth assembly endorsed all the specific priorities suggested by the JWG for the next period of its mandate (cf. pp. 22-23 of the report).

The eighth assembly encouraged the JWG to continue its efforts to understand past difficulties and open ways towards new perspectives and possible positive initiatives for future collaboration in the area of "social thought and action".

The executive committee has emphasized that the development of ecumenical relationships depends on the reception of theological dialogues. It has also noted the wider ecumenical implications of recent statements by the RCC. In light of this, the eighth assembly requested the JWG to re-emphasize in its agenda for the period 1998-2005 issues relating to: (a) the nature, purpose and methods of dialogue; (b) the nature of regional and national ecumenical organizations.

Expressing appreciation for the substantial response of the RCC to CUV, the eighth assembly requested the JWG to include in its future agenda the implications of the CUV for the understanding of membership and forms of participation in ecumenical organizations, as well as for the ongoing efforts to widen ecumenical partnership.

As in its seventh report the JWG has "Ahighlighted the ecumenical potential of a worldwide 'common celebration' of the new millennium" (p.15), the eighth assembly requested that the central committee of the WCC take into consideration opportunities to encourage common ecumenical celebrations at local, national, regional and global levels for the year 2000.

X. Relationships with evangelicals

Within the broader framework of relationships with churches which are not members of the WCC, the CUV document recognizes that the fellowship of the WCC is limited by the absence of many evangelical churches. The committee notes that there are some evangelical member churches in the WCC, and that most member churches include persons who describe themselves as evangelicals. Since the seventh assembly contacts have been initiated which have begun to break down barriers. Furthermore, the CUV document calls for the search for new forms of relationship between the WCC and other churches and ecumenical organizations, including evangelicals.

The eighth assembly encouraged the WCC and its member churches to continue the search for new forms of relationships with evangelicals, drawing on the many evangelicals within the WCC and its member churches, in the spirit of the CUV document.

XI. Relations with Pentecostal churches

The Committee considered the proposal to form a Joint Working Group between the WCC and Pentecostals, approved by the executive committee (February, 1998).

The seventh assembly had formulated recommendations concerning the relationships between the WCC and Pentecostals. Since then, several steps have been taken. Consultations, along with visits and other initiatives, have contributed to the opening up of channels of communication through which it is possible to relate to significant levels of leadership of the international Pentecostal movement, as well as to Pentecostals directly involved in local communities. These steps forward, made at the level of the WCC, should be seen in the wider context of other initiatives, e.g., the RC-Pentecostal dialogue, in existence for 25 years, the role of the Latin American Council of Churches in relation to Pentecostal churches in the region, the entry of the Korea Assemblies of God into the National Council of Churches in Korea and the discussions in many local situations.

The eighth assembly approved the proposal of the February 1998 executive committee to form a WCC-Pentecostal joint working group and asked the central committee to monitor the process. On the basis of consultation between the WCC and Pentecostals since the seventh assembly, the assembly recommend that some of the tasks of this joint working group be:

a) consolidating existing relations and broadening the range of WCC and Pentecostal constituencies involved;
b) initiating studies and exchange on issues of common interest, including controversial issues;

c) exploring forms of participation in the spirit of the CUV document which are not primarily based on formal membership in the WCC;

d) encouraging REOs and NCCs to explore possible ways and forms of collaboration.

In making this recommendation, the eighth assembly recognized the important contribution of Pentecostal churches currently members of the World Council of Churches.

XII. Proposal for a forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations

The Committee reviewed the parts of the moderator's and general secretary's reports referring to the idea of a Forum, studied the presentation by Marion Best, listened carefully to the plenary discussion, and received written contributions. The Committee received the document, "Proposals Regarding a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations", based on an August 1998 consultation convened following the February 1998 executive committee meeting which encouraged "further exploration of issues as well as the calling of a consultation to examine the proposal (i.e., of a forum) in more detail with key partners". This consultation brought together participants from the conference of Christian world communions, from the REOs and the NCCs, from international ecumenical organizations and from member churches of the WCC.

The eighth assembly encouraged the central committee of the WCC to continue the process of consultation with leaders of the various bodies who have expressed interest in the forum.

In this process, the eighth assembly commended for serious attention the report of the August 1998 Bossey consultation setting out A Proposals Regarding a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations" (see appendix II).

In affirming further work towards the goal of providing opportunity for a more effective, more sustaining, more inclusive network of relationships among churches and ecumenical organizations, the eighth assembly offered the following guidance to the central committee in this effort:

a) the WCC needs to give careful consideration to the nature and scope of its role with other partners in working towards the initiation of the forum;

b) there needs to be a clearly articulated distinction between the nature and purpose of the WCC and that of the forum;

c) participation by churches in a forum should in no way be seen as comparable to the ecumenical accountability and commitment of ongoing membership in the WCC;

d) much can be learned from the positive experience of various kinds of forums currently existing in some regions of the world, and exploration of the usefulness of forums in other regional or national contexts is encouraged;

e) it is assumed that there will be the need for a modest organizing and facilitating structure with limited responsibility for convening, organizing, funding, and evaluating the forum; establishing and sustaining this structure should be the shared responsibility of the participating churches and organizations;

f) in order to achieve comprehensive participation, the process of invitation should be as inclusive as possible, based on the criteria for participation stated in appendix II, point 9, and should remain open into the future;

g) the distinctive ecclesial self-understanding of each member church and ecclesial family of the WCC, of Christian world communions such as the Anglican Consultative Council, the Baptist World Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, needs to be honoured as the concept of the forum is developed;

h) consultation with the Joint Working Group between the RCC and the WCC, and with the proposed WCC-Pentecostal joint working group is encouraged to help clarify the potential nature of the involvement of these churches in the Forum;

i) consideration should be given to whether regional or national forums could be seen as an alternative or as complementary to the concept of a global forum.

[cont'd below]
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XIII. Amendments to the constitution and rules

The Committee has looked at the proposed amendments to the constitution and rules of the WCC in the light of the overall debate around the CUV document and its implications, the plenary presentation by Georges Tsetsis and a number of written suggestions.

1. Article III on the purposes and functions

The proposed amendment incorporates a number of convictions emerging from the reflection process on the CUV. It affirms that the WCC is constituted by the churches to serve the ecumenical movement; recalls the ecumenical legacy, specifying that the WCC is the heir and the continuation of the world movements; brings into the heart of the common calling the concern for visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, stressing the significance of churches calling one another to this aim; describes the possibilities offered to the churches within the fellowship in the search for koinonia in faith and life, witness and service; and emphasizes the role of the WCC in the effort to strengthen the one ecumenical movement by nurturing relations with ecumenical partners at local, national and regional levels.

The eighth assembly agreed to the proposed amendment.

2. Article V: on organization

2.1. The proposed amendment to para V.1.c)3), with regard to the assembly's functions in determining the policies of the WCC consists in the insertion of a single word, "overall".

The eighth assembly agreed to the proposed amendment.

2.3. The proposed amendment to the article V.2.c)1) gives the responsibility for electing the collegial presidency to the Central Committee. While the Committee has not achieved consensus on this recommendation, it does recognize that this amendment comes from the central committee as an attempt to affirm and strengthen the moral and spiritual authority of the presidency by altering an electoral procedure which has proved to be politicized and painful in the past. The change is also intended to allow, after an assembly, a more extensive and sensitive consultation process with member churches and REOs in identifying candidates widely recognized and respected for their spiritual leadership and ecumenical commitment. In order to enable the plenary to deliberate on this amendment, the Committee recommends that the eighth assembly adopt the proposed amendment.

The proposed amendment was defeated.

2.3. The proposed amendment to paragraph V.2.c) 4) affecting the method of electing commissions and boards, which now becomes a prerogative of the central committee is, in fact, a slight adaptation to the new working structures of the WCC. Although the Committee understands that the structures of the WCC should remain as flexible as possible, it regrets that already foreseen commissions and advisory groups are not spelled out, at least not in the rules.

The eighth assembly agreed to the proposed amendment.

2.4. The proposed amendment to paragraph V.2.c) 5) specifies the responsibility for WCC programmes and activities according to the new structural reality of the Council. The role of the Programme Committee (cf. rules VII).

The eighth assembly agreed to the proposed amendment.

3. Article VI: on other ecumenical organizations

The proposed amendment to para VI.1. with regard to the assembly's functions in determining the policies of the WCC consist in the insertion of a single word, "international".

The eighth assembly agreed to the proposed amendment.

4. Amendments to the Rules proposed by the central committee
These amendments intend to embody the provisions already made by the central committee to ensure that the main directions advocated by the CUV document are reflected in the WCC structures. They also make the rules compatible with the constitution (if the proposed amendments adopted).

The eighth assembly confirmed the following amendments proposed by the central committee:

• I.3, 4, 5 and 6: criteria for membership of the Council and for associate membership, and financial obligations of member churches to the WCC;
• IV.5.a.1 on the function of the central committee in electing the Programme Committee;
• IV.5.d. on determining priorities and policies for the WCC;
• VII. on the Programme Committee.

The eighth assembly recommended that the central committee continue the reflection on the understanding and criteria of membership in the light of developments emerging from experiences and discussions at various levels.

The eighth assembly further recommended that the central committee review the possibilities for churches and ecumenical partners to participate in governing, consultative and advisory bodies of the WCC, so that participation is not confined to the limited number of seats in the present committees, commissions and boards.

APPENDIX I

The Celelstial Church of Christ [Nigeria]

The Celestial Church of Christ in Nigeria was one of nine churches recommended by the executive committee for acceptance into full membership of the World Council of Churches (doc. No. PL 1.1).

In its interim report to the assembly (doc. no. RC-I 1), the Policy Reference Committee recommended that the decision on the reception into full membership of the Celestial Church of Christ be postponed in order to allow for further study.

Policy Reference Committee I formed a sub-committee which met with the leaders of the Celestial Church of Christ who were attending the eighth assembly; also present at the meeting was a member of the WCC delegation which visited the Celestial Church of Christ in Nigeria in September 1998. The main item which needed clarification was the policy of the church with regard to polygamy. Along with many other African Instituted Churches, the Celestial Church of Christ has admitted polygamous converts, but in document PL 1.1 it was reported that clergy may also remain polygamous.

The sub-committee reported back to Policy Reference Committee I, explaining that the church in the past admitted polygamous clergy but in 1986 it had ruled that all new clergy must live a monogamous marriage, and this rule was now strictly observed with regard to all candidates for the ministry. The few remaining clergy of the previous period were allowed to continue exercising their spiritual leadership. The sub-committee also gained more insight into various other aspects of the life of the Celestial Church of Christ and its motivations for seeking WCC membership. It became convinced that membership would be beneficial for the church in its efforts to proclaim and live out the gospel message within the African culture.

The report of the sub-committee satisfied Policy Reference Committee I which decided to recommend that the eighth assembly receive the Celestial Church of Christ into full membership of the WCC. The vote to accept this church into membership had been lost. This vote, however, had been challenged as not being in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The WCC's legal advisers admitted that this challenge was in order, and that the vote was invalid. The general secretary invited the assembly not to take a new vote on this matter, but rather to refer the matter to the central committee for further consultation with the Celestial Church of Christ.

The eighth assembly agreed to refer the matter to the central committee.

APPENDIX II

Proposals Regarding a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations
1. A consultation took place at the Château de Bossey, near Geneva, 26-29 August 1998, to consider the possible creation of a broad-based forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations. Twenty-eight participants represented the WCC, Christian world communions, regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches, international ecumenical organizations and churches not at present associated with major ecumenical structures.

2. The gathering noted dramatic changes in the world situation, as well as major developments in relationships between churches and between ecumenical organizations. Efforts to advance Christian unity now take many forms, have many players and focus on many centres. However, this diversity raises urgent questions about how to strengthen the wholeness of the movement against tendencies towards fragmentation and competitiveness, not least in view of shrinking resources. A more effective, more sustaining, more inclusive network of relationships is needed to bring differences of understanding among the partners into a mutually committed dialogue so that all may find their way to a clearer discernment and a more faithful obedience.

3. The following proposal for a forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations emerged in the course of the consultation. It is offered in the hope that churches and ecumenical structures may discern in it a way forward for the years immediately ahead.

Goals and objectives

4. The proposed forum is possible because of the unity which is already given in Christ. It is called for because of our common faith in a reconciling God whose church knows itself summoned to become God's reconciled and reconciling people.

5. The forum is intended to help build more significant, more inclusive relationships. It will not speak for the participating bodies, but it will provide a way for them, transcending the limitations of existing frameworks, to think new thoughts, dream new dreams, and glimpse new visions.

6. Seeking to be open to the charisma the Spirit gives to Christ's people, the forum's style will be open, expectant and relying on a minimum of rules and structures. One condition for participation, therefore, is a willingness to accept other participants as bona fide partners in a dialogue, the aim of which is to strengthen the obedience of all to Christ.

7. The occasional gatherings of the forum will provide opportunities for worship, exploration of matters of common Christian concern and development of enhanced mutual understanding. They are not conceived as decision-making, programme-initiating or document-producing events. However, they might lead to new forms of cooperation.

Participation

8. This is a forum, not an organization, therefore the question to be considered is participation, not membership.

9. Participation will be based on confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and seeking to fulfil together the common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It should be characterized by the desire to mutually engage in the search for obedience to Christ.

10. Participants will mainly be representative of church bodies and ecumenical organizations of international significance. Some participants will also be individuals who are representative of and accountable to identifiable constituencies with a commitment to our common calling.

11. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, evangelicals, Pentecostals, and other families represented in the conference of Christian world communions, as well as regional ecumenical organizations, international ecumenical organizations and the World Council of Churches, are among those envisaged as participants in the forum.

12. Criteria of participation include willingness to listen, to talk and respond together with others in the Christian family to God's calling. Participants must have mutual respect and respect for the self-understanding of the others.

Size, process and content of forum meeting

13. The forum is a concept that will be manifest in many ways, including international meetings. Once the idea has taken root, it could meet in various configurations and locations.

14. The initial meeting should be made up of 150 -250 participants, depending on the response to the invitations issued. The process will be designed to allow maximum participation. This will begin by soliciting issues and challenges from the participating bodies prior to the meeting.

15. There will be a balance of plenary and small group time, with space for celebration and spontaneity. Worship will be an integral part of the forum. The meeting should reflect awareness of the historical forces that bring participants together and should provide opportunities for in-depth discussion.

16. The distinctiveness will be in the style of meeting which will promote open dialogue of sharing without a focus on documentation and recommendations. No votes will be taken.

17. Provision might be made for a group of Alisteners@ to help discern and articulate the insights gained by the gathering.

Funding, timing

18. Participants would be expected to cover their costs. In order to ensure fullest participation, the organizing committee will seek funds to cover certain overhead expenses and make available a modest amount for subsidies.

19. The initial forum meeting may take place as early as the year 2001.

Organizing mechanisms

20. A small continuation committee drawn from the consultation of August 1998 will continue as a bridge between the process thus far and its future. It could also become the nucleus of the organizing committee for the first forum meeting.

21. The continuation committee is to consider responses to this proposal and to work out the modalities of a first meeting of the organizing committee by October 1999. This continuation committee will need to meet before mid-1999.

22. A small group of eminent persons who have a broad basis of credibility among Christians and churches might be constituted by the continuation committee to serve as an inviting body. This group may or may not need to meet. Invitations to participate would then go with the signatures and under the patronage of these persons.

23. The organizing committee should be called by the continuation committee in consultation with the leaders of the interested bodies who by the responses to the initial proposal sent after this meeting would have expressed interest in the forum.

24. It will include representatives of ecumenical partners of international significance who currently have various levels of collaborating as well as new partners representing the wider community such as Pentecostal churches, the World Evangelical Fellowship, the Organization of African Instituted Churches who may express interest. A strong representation of the Roman Catholic Church was also stressed.

25. The tasks of the organizing committee will include:

a) receiving and evaluating responses which contribute to building the agenda;

b) building an inclusive agenda;

c) taking care of logistics and budget of the forum;

d) raising some funds for the overhead costs as well as for granting a small subsidy to those who might need one;

e) preparation of a procedure for evaluating the first meeting of the forum.


5. Actions on Issues of Current Global Concern

5.1. The work of the Policy Reference Committee II

• a response to the Africa plenary (section 6.4), including a background paper on Sudan (see section 8.3);
• international debt (section 5.2);
• globalization (section 5.3; section 8.4);
• the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women (section 8.1; section 8.2).

The Committee presented proposed texts on these issues in plenary session on 12 December, received recommendations for revisions and presented the final texts for action on 14 December. The texts were approved by voice vote.

5.2. The Debt Issue: A jubilee call to end the stranglehold of debt on impoverished peoples
Five people spoke from the floor, offering recommended changes, many of which were accepted by consensus.

5.3. Globalization

Six people spoke from the floor. Some of their recommendations were incorporated into the text before a final vote on the afternoon of 14 December.

5.4. The Work of the Public Issues Committee

Public statements are one means enabling the churches in the WCC to speak with a united voice about significant international and ecumenical concerns. The authority of the statements is rooted "only in the weight which they carry by their own truth and wisdom" (WCC rule X).

In 1976 the central committee formulated guidelines to clarify the basis for making public statements. These are:

1. areas and issues on which the WCC has had direct involvement and long-standing commitment;
2. emerging issues of international concern to which the attention of the churches should be called for action;
3. critical and developing political situations which demand the WCC to make known its judgment and lend its spiritual and moral voice;
4. expectations from the member churches that the WCC should speak;
5. to se a policy mandate for the WCC secretariat.

The eighth assembly Public Issues Committee, chaired by Trond Bakkevig (Church of Norway), considered and presented statements on three issues: child soldiers; the status of Jerusalem; and human rights. In addition, when the Committee made its initial report to the plenary on Friday, 4 December, Aaron Tolen presented a text marking the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights on 10 December. The Committee presented its final recommendations to a business plenary of the assembly on 12 December.

5.5 Statement on Child Soldiers

This statement was adopted unanimously, with one abstention. Nineteen people wanted to speak about this statement when it initially was presented, but time constraints prompted the moderator to request that they put their comments in writing and give them to the Committee. The one comment from the floor, made by delegate Eden Grace, urged a clearer definition of children as "up to the age of eighteen".

5.6. Statement on the Status of Jerusalem

The statement was adopted with 15 opposing votes and 17 abstentions. During the discussion by assembly delegates, several comments and concerns were voiced: the statement did not draw sufficient attention to the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and to concern for the security of the state of Israel; this issue is of great concern to churches around the world and of particular concern to churches in the Middle East; rather than calling for Jerusalem to be "a shared city", the sovereignty of Jerusalem should be protected for Israelis and Palestinians; Palestinians should be given the right of repatriation.

5.7. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, delegates adopted (with two abstentions) on 5 December a text to be released on 10 December, the day of the anniversary. On 12 December the secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan addressed the assembly via video, voicing admiration for and appreciation to the churches because their faith shows true dedication to the common good of humanity. The text adopted by the assembly began by quoting the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the Third General Assembly of the United Nations, meeting in Paris on 10 December 1948.

5.8. A Statement on Human Rights

From its inception, the WCC has been an advocate of human rights. At the Nairobi assembly in 1975, an official policy was adopted. Because the international context has evolved since then, a consultation was held in May 1998 to review that policy and consider necessary changes. The proposed guidelines were submitted to the Public Issues Committee and the assembly for consideration.

The statement was adopted (two against, three abstentions). The text evoked many responses and proposals for amendments, some expressing concerns about particular situations. The following issues were raised: the need to mention the dangers experienced by Christians in the Indian sub-continent and other parts of the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith; regret that the statement did not more specifically include the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people; the need to respect the mandate for evangelism in newly freed territories, and the importance of developing good practice; the importance of supporting fair and accurate voting procedures. An affirmative vote was taken to eliminate the phrase "as they experience the invasion of exogenous religious movements and proselytism" from the section (3.21) on religious freedom and proselytism. "A full life" was substituted as the goal for people with disabilities. Some thought the section concerning elimination of the death penalty should be strengthened. Appreciation was voiced for the emphasis on the whole creation.

Some frustration was voiced because the grave situations experienced by delegates in particular countries -- for example the Congo and the Sudan -- were not mentioned. The general secretary drew attention to WCC policy to limit assembly statements to matters of general policy rather than specific situations of crisis. Attention was drawn to the variety of ways the WCC can respond to situations: pastoral visits to churches, discussions with governments, interventions through intergovernmental agencies, confidential expressions of concern, and support of churches in affected areas.

6. The African Context

6.1 Introduction

On Tuesday afternoon 8 December delegates experienced a deliberative plenary on "Ubuntu and the African Kairos". The session began with powerful political theatre, "A Journey of Hope", written by Wahome Mutahi and performed by a Zimbabwean theatre group (ZACT). Two analytical interpretations followed by Barney Pityana and Mercy Oduyoye. The session concluded with an act of commitment, during which all Africans from the continent and the diaspora were invited to stand and commit themselves to work for a better Africa.

6.2. Africa: The Footprints of God by N. Barney Pityana

6.2. Africa: The Footprint of God
by N. Barney Pityana

A set of fossil footprints was recently discovered at Langebaan in the West Coast of South Africa. Paleontologists estimate the footprints to be about 117,000 years old. And are considered to belong to some one who must have been an ancestor of modern humanity. These are among the oldest discovery of anatomically modern humans. This is part of the evidence that is being discovered by archeologists and pre-historians that Africa is the cradle of humanity and the birthplace of modern people.

Set against that recent dramatic discovery of ancient or even pre-ancient humanity is the encounter of the modern European visitors, later settlers, with Africa. In the 15th century European seamen stepped ashore, set foot on African soil and met the people of Africa. Their most dramatic discovery was that these people have no religion. They had no religion because there were no signs of religiosity: no temples or architecture of sacred places, no visible places set aside as holy, no moments devoted to worship, no postures that showed recognition of the divine. These people sang and danced and beat their drums with sensuous exhibitionism.

It is not surprising, therefore, that what was discovered in Africa is not evidence of worshiping ancient humanity but the very quintessence of being human, footprints. They left their imprint on their environment. They walked to gather food, to dominate their environment and to build relationships. Humanity walks. The culture and way of life of the ancient people is not discovered through religious artifacts but through the activity of being human. Fossils of ancient animals, plant and sea life, stone tools at least one million years old with which humanity fashioned life have been found in the gravels of the western Cape. Peer's Cave at Fish Hoek testifies to human life that goes back to about 500,000 years. The Fish Hoek Man discovered in 1927 among nine human skeletons were discovered, was aged about 12,000 years old. What all this says to me is that the people of Africa walked with God and God with them. The shape of the footprint resembles the geographical features of Africa. There can be no other footprints, no other evidence of God except by being at one with the activity of the people. The God of Africa is coterminous and coexistent with the people of Africa. God has no existence other than with the people. This God is weak and vulnerable because we have known no other God. This is the God who shares our human condition because God has no other existence but ours. We have only known God in the people of our everyday experience. There are no temples, no stone architecture, no holy places, no holy dress or holy moments. The entire activity of the people, their very being was a devotion to the deity who is the creator. To understand the people of Africa, therefore, requires a paradigm shift about God and religious life. Africa IS the footprint of God.

Discourse about Africa has to avoid the temptation of two extremes: the gloom and doom about a continent in perpetual crisis, a people who have been throughout modern history the targets of exploitation, where corruption and wars are rife and where the people suffer from every imaginable malady. A world without science or knowledge. Zephania Kameeta gives us the most dramatic example of this view of Africa from Keith Richburg, an African American journalist who has done service in the troubled spots of Africa:

Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African brothers and I'll throw it back in your face, and then I'll rub your nose in the images of the rotting flesh But most of all I think: Thank God my ancestor got out, because now I am not one of them.


The other extreme is one associated with the famous African American scholar, Manning Marable. Marable has studies ancient civilization of Africa. He is focused on what Africa has given to modern civilization. Africa as the cradle of humanity, the fountain of ancient scholarship and science and culture, the great Africans who have shaped the history of knowledge and civilization. Its an amazing uncovering of history from an African perspective where Africa is the subject and not the object of history and where the tools of interpretation are in the hands of the African as interpreter of his own history, the teller of his own story. The problem with this is that it fails to take account of the fact that Africa is no longer visible, it has been drowned out in the misery and suffering and exploitation that has become the lot of many in Africa today. Colonization has robbed Africa of its soul. The other problem is that one is inclined to blame everyone else for the fate of Africa except Africans themselves. Africa need not take responsibility for their condition, their politics, their economy and their culture. There are forces at work, the deus ex machina reeking its devilish power on a hapless continent and its people. This is the theory of victimology and we must avoid it.

What I am offering is a mean between the two extremes: not falling for the gloom and cynicism of her detractors or the glorification of her past by her admirers. I use faith as an interpretative tool of the heart and soul of Africa. The image of the footprints is the one that tells me that the people of Africa have journeyed and labored with God over centuries. They are the people of faith. It is the faith that has sustained them. The faith that is part of their daily and ordinary lives. It is their faith that says that God dwells in the midst of them. God walks with them and suffers with them. God is not the ultimate explanation for the people are the explanation of their environment and their circumstances. It is always interesting that African people never blame God for their suffering. Theodicy is not the philosophy of our religion. Every effect has a cause and the search for meaning and explanation means that diviners are kept in business because they can see beyond the elemental world. Evil does not just happen, it is caused; often by human evil and ultimately by evil forces beyond human understanding. Humanity has the power of good and evil.

Africans journeyed with God and God tabernacled in their midst. God was incarnate They were sustained by faith and they lived in faith. Their cosmology linked the past and the present and the future through the ancestors. The spirits of the ancestors were forever present mediating and intervening in life's fortunes. This view of life meant that African people were a tolerant people. Yes, they fought wars, had heroes and heroines. Yes, the dominant groups oppressed the less powerful. That was the law of nature. But those who lived under their protection were accepted and the stranger was assured hospitality. That explains why the people of Africa were colonized. They were accepting and welcoming of strangers. They were vulnerable to forces that failed to understand their ways of life. The religions of the world found a home in Africa. No culture was totally alien. It became part of the whole and found expression in the culture of the Continent. That is why we have a mix of cultures and religions in Africa today. The people of Africa journey with God in faith.

But this faith is in crisis and may even be the cause of the crisis of the Continent. African people are not anymore good or bad that any other people the world over. They seek better systems of life for themselves and their children. They dream of freedom, of better opportunities of life and the means to extend their life choices. They have witnessed governments and systems come and go. Powerful men have lorded it over them and when their time came they bit the dust. There is a cycle of life that is as predictable as it is inevitable. And so the faith of Africa has always been tied up with humanity. People have always shaped her fortunes. Faith is in crisis because confidence in people has been shaken, betrayed. God seems to have deserted the people of Africa. The God who instilled hope in tragedy and sustained the future is no longer in the midst of them. The people have been left to merciless ravenous forces. We have sought like the Israelites to be like the other nations forgetting that in our midst dwells the God who journeys with us. We have built walls of division and hostility one from the other; we have built armies and frittered away resources on instruments of destruction. We have turned our weapons on our own people and destroyed one another in fratricidal wars. The wealth of our nations has been bargained in the global markets with scant regard for the needs of our own people. Our leaders have stolen from us only to bank our money in Europe. We are burdened with debt. In such circumstances, the faith of the ancestors needs a re-incarnation. But we have been there before.

I said that I was merely devising an interpretative tool and not indulging in apologetics. It seems to me that that tool will take us back to the people of Africa and their faith in God. The challenges we face are threefold: eradicating poverty, establishing democracy, human rights and good systems of governance and, finally, setting standards for a moral universe.

I start with poverty not because I wish to indulge in the politics of gloom about Africa. Although I accept that Africa must take responsibility for her management of her affairs, one cannot lose sight of the fact that poverty is not a natural condition of humanity. It is man-made. It is man-made because poverty is the result of policy options that have been taken which impoverish some and enrich others. Inasmuch as poverty is man-made, so also do I believe that poverty can be eradicated. The Human Development Report 1997 puts it succinctly:

Eradicating poverty everywhere is more than a moral imperative and a commitment to human solidarity. It is a practical possibility and, in the long run, an economic imperative for global prosperity. And because poverty is no longer inevitable, it should no longer be tolerated. The time has come to eradicate the worst aspects of human poverty in a decade or two to create a world that is more humane, more stable, more just. (106)


This confident assertion is a very hopeful sign. With goodwill and the political will poverty can be eradicated. Some 220m people in sub-Saharan Africa earn less than $1 per day, 122m with functional illiteracy, 205m have no access to safe drinking water and 205m have no access to health facilities. This trend should and can be reversed within our lifetime. It can be done if corruption in the management of public resources is eliminated. Corruption is theft from the poor. It can be done if national priorities in the distribution of available resources are restructured so that there is evident bias for the poor in public policy. In other words, it can be done if there is the political will. It can be done if globalization and the curse of the markets are controlled and managed to benefit the most needy and genuine interdependence and burden sharing in trade policies is adopted. It can be done in a less selfish world. It can be done if the poor do not have to carry a crippling debt burden. It can be done. Poverty is a curse to humanity. The 1998 Human Development Report has identified trends in consumption as one of the patterns of modern life that will need to be altered if humanity can address the challenge of eradicating poverty.

The second challenge I have pointed to is democracy, human rights and good governance. Of course, poverty cannot be eradicated, corruption will not be eliminated except on the basis of truly democratic policies, and sensitivity and responsiveness to human need, in short, good governance. These aspirations express the vision of African states who in the preamble to the Charter of the OAU founded in 1963, determined that "freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of African peoples " The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted in 1981, sets out a uniform and minimum standard of achievement for African peoples based on the "virtues of their historical tradition and the values of African civilization which should inspire and characterize their reflection on the concept of human and peoples' rights." In his report to the General Assembly, Kofi Annan refers to the resurgent spirit of Africa that seeks to address meaningfully and honestly the patterns of the past. Among these he mentions human rights and the rule of law as the cornerstones of good governance. An Africa committed to good governance, free participation of the people in the government of their country, an interaction between the governed and those who govern by consent, a commitment to root out corruption and to ensure accountability at all times will ensure long-term stability, prosperity and people for all its peoples. This is how Kofi Annan puts it:

Africa must summon the will to take good governance seriously, ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization, promoting transparency and capability in public administration. Unless good governance is prized, Africa will not break free of the threat and reality of conflict that are so evident today.


Questions continue to linger about the most appropriate forms of democracy for Africa today. Since the heyday of multiparty elections, the dismantling of one-party states and Presidents-for Life since the end of the Cold War, questions abound not only about "the vitality, quality' and relevance of the kind of democratic transition that is taking place but also about its sustainability and the prospects for consolidation/ institutionalization of the reforms that have been put in place." (Olukoshi: 10) These are all legitimate questions, answers to which could help ensure a more durable political and social dispensation and one which the peoples of Africa could own and therefore defend.

My third challenge is a call to moral regeneration of the Continent and its peoples. In a sense this is an over-arching concern because it is fundamental to all our concerns. An ethical orientation of life is a necessary condition for a society based on good governance and that protects the human rights of citizens. Such a society will respond positively to the moral imperative to address the incidence of poverty and inequality. A moral society will also be the one that seeks to approximate as much as possible the will of God in human dealings and in then organization of society. The cause of Africa is never going to be served by prevailing moral relativism and selectivity. There must be some common, shared and abiding values that bind us together for all time. The mark of a great people is their capacity to wrestle with the moral challenges of their time and lay the foundations for the good society for this and future generations. We are at our most human when we display moral sensitivity. That is the mark of ubuntu, the creed that has held many Africans to an ideal that affirms one's humanity as being tied up with the humanity of others. The greatest gift we can bequeath to future generations to a world that is more not less human, more caring and more loving.

That is what the parable of the fossilized footprints tells me. It says to me that God is great not because God is powerful but because God has chosen to dwell among us ordinary sinful people. That is the hope that Africa is ready to share with the world. As the ecumenical movement returns to the great Continent since Nairobi, 1975, it will find Africa yearning for peace and more confident about the future. The Africa full of faith and hope.

_______________

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Human Development Report 1997 and 1998; UNDP
Echoes: Justice, Peace and Creation 14/98; Geneva: WCC
Adebayo O Olokushi (Ed): The Politics of Opposition; Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet; 1998
Kofi Annan: The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa; United Nations General Assembly; Doc A/52/871-S/1998/318.
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6.3. From Cover to Core: A Letter to my Ancestors by Mercy Amba Oduyoye

6.3. From Cover to Core: A Letter to my Ancestors
by Mercy Amba Oduyoye

Dear Ancestors,

Once again the World Council of Churches is in Africa, and we the children of this soil are trying to show them round our home, the heritage from God which you preserved for us. Last time this council was here we dramatized our history and our humanness in the play "Muntu", indeed some of you were then in the flesh. Today, as I pour these words to you like a libation, my heart and soul are full of grief and hope, quite conflicting, but that is the truth. You see, I have just heard the hurt of your children. I am re-living in my bones and hearing in my ears the voices of the pain of the "family-ghosts of the Middle Passage".(1) No wonder that Ali Mazrui says that you are angry with us.(2) True, often we find that we are angry at ourselves and continue to vow "Never Again". But even as we say "never again" and defeat apartheid, we find ourselves reaping the whirlwind of racism at every turn. We yearn to be authentic, we yearn to discover the strength with which you resisted total obliteration of what you had received from your forebears and indeed of the total annihilation of our kind from this soil. We yearn to rediscover your wisdom, for who knows but that we may glean insights and inspiration for our contemporary struggles and dilemmas for we too resist total absorption into an euro-centered global culture we have not helped to shape. We know you have something to say to us.

I remember you Anowa, you had taught us how to live in harmony with ourselves and with the rest of creation.

I remember you Creator, that moving away from the smoke and fire created by man, you charged woman to teach her sons to honor God and to apologize when they have wronged others.

I remember you, God of Many Names, you taught us to seek reconciliation when we fall into strife, you gave us padare where we can have our palavers.

Honorable ancestors, our land knows a lot of strife and I have just seen and heard more. We grieve for you as we grieve for ourselves. But it seems in the very turmoil and decay, that is Africa, is the seed of the New Africa determined to sprout so that Africa might make her own unique contribution to the global community.

Dear ancestors, you had a religion, you were led by the Creator. Some of you like Nehanda, held on to it even with your dying breath. Some of you enhanced it with tenets from Islam, others of you enriched it with Christianity and many of you struggled to abandon it totally and taught that we too should abandon that African Religion outright. But you preserved the essentials of the religion ingrained in the culture you passed those on to us. I am not complaining. We too are creative beings, so we have taken the challenge to craft a Christianity that does not obliterate our Africanness, but rather contributes to its enrichment globally. We make bold to seek the new, for if we are afraid of positive change we shall be over taken by decay and simply perish from the face of the earth as a distinct people.

Did you not say that the one who is blazing a trail does not know that the path behind is crooked? We too have to take the responsibility for the choices we make. Nevertheless I have an urgent need to tell those of you who opted for Christ that, we who followed your foot steps continue to grieve the Holy Spirit. You remember how Jesus , our spiritual ancestor prayed that we may have peace, and how he wished us fullness of life. This was nearly 2,000 years ago. The world has known very little peace. For us in Africa, the only peace we have known in the past 500 years is that which comes from acquiescing in our own dehumanization. I am not unmindful that some of you resisted the imposition and paid with your earthly lives.

I can hear Anowa say "enough is enough". I see Jesus weep to see our inability to identify and adhere to that which makes for our peace. Our refusal to stay under his motherly wings gives him grave sorrow for the hawkers hovering around us are ready to sell us any and all ideologies and world views as long as they line their pockets and feed their racism. It was not too long ago the Western media was telling us that Africa has been "abandoned". We did our own analysis and steeled ourselves up, for we came to know the reality of the siphoning of Africa's resources by Trans-national corporations and the newly named fad "globalization". We know the economic exploitation which promotes the misery of Africa, as Africans enrich the West and increasingly the East too. We seek a way out and a way forward and we count on you our ancestors to accompany us through out. Today, we are reminded that:

" It is not the material poverty that constitutes the biggest problem of Africa in the bid for social transformation. It is the lack of a vital inner force, a moral will and a capacity for sustained initiatives in the struggle for positive change" (3)


We have been through liberation struggles that you know so well. Today we continue where you left off...retrieving our lost humanity. Today, it is our very humanity that is being belittled and overlooked by the powerful ones, both internal and external. Today we aspire to a cultural liberation by distilling and incorporating the valuable norms you tried to preserve.

This is why I make bold to pour these words to you, my ancestors. I am convinced that both our African and our Christian heritages as well as the Islamic, have something to say to us. Even the Western heritage may be gleaned for a positive contribution. Was it not you who said "Tete wo bi ka, tete wo bi kyere? [the past has something to say: the past has something to teach"]. But the past has nothing to impose.

Do hear me out a little my ancestors in Jesus. What has the Christian past to teach us as we struggle with our contemporary realities? Can we find a healthy and healthy-giving Christianity in Africa? Well, say something. OK! You too have questions to ask. You ask: What are we doing in our community based organizations? Are we carefully examining the concepts of structural adjustment, of liberalization, of privatization, or do we contain our efforts within "rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying"? I hear you urging us on "Go beyond changing, transforming, reconstructing so you might continuously nurture, enhance, build and sustain beautiful lives in beautiful environments. That is the way to claim our descent.

You call us to the need to face the impunity with which we violate the humanity of others. How right you are. We are promising ourselves a new day. We have begun with gender-sensitivity and gender equity. If only the churches will develop awareness of women's perspectives, involvements and contribution we would not lose so much potential. Whatever the context and agenda, you call us to pay particular attention to those whom the world consider "marginal". New voices will help shape the new Africa. We have vowed to help bring an end to social exclusions in our communities; so why not begin in the Church? Jesus you specifically prayed that we be one , just see what we have made of unity on this continent. We have promised ourselves to develop ecumenically-minded leadership, to replace our confessional fundamentalism with the zeal for joint-work in mission. We shall not be partners only, but companions, a people walking the Emmaus road with you.

My esteemed forebears, in 1970 David Barrett made a statement that till today fills me with fear and trembling. He wrote under a title "AD 2,000, 350 Million Christians in Africa" I can see you smile because you told us that "If might were right, the elephant would be king of the forest".(4) What does this numerical strength represent? What sort of Christianity? I thought of the onion that once disappointed me to the core of my being; it held a theological message. This big perfectly shaped glossy-skinned fruit of the earth, had a hollow center. The life sustaining growth point had dried up. So I ask , What is the theology and spirituality at the core of African Christianity, dried, rotten or alive? Our claim to relevance depends on the answer.

Today what fills me with fear and trembling is that Africa is perceived and treated as marginal in all spheres of world concerns except as a source of wealth for others and in matters of faith. Both Islam and Christianity run high on the crest of visibility as people grope for shalom. So the concerned observer is bound to ask: What faith? What practice? What theology ? What Church? Now ancestor Blyden, I do not know if you remember, but you once prophesied concerning Africa that will become the spring of spirituality for the whole world.(5) I do not know whether we are entering into the heritage of this prophesy. What I do know is my own question on which you may perhaps enlighten me. "How can Christianity in spite of its 19th century legacy of Western impact become a frame of reference for the expression of African ideals of life?"

Living with our history we declare the 20th century as Africa's Christian century. You will bear us out that even though the churches of the first Christian centuries were concentrated on the shores of this continent, this century that is closing, has seen more dramatic presence of Christianity. The Church has grown, yes, but it seems little has changed from 1951 when it was said that

"the Church has grown evangelically without corresponding theological, liturgical and economic maturity." This "lamentable" situation needs to be addressed with all intentionality." There is an understandable concern that under the stress of political and social change, organized Christianity may start to disintegrate at the center while it is still expanding at the circumference.(6)


Well, honorable forebears, you know that we are expanding, there are many more churches, many more expatriate missionaries, many more charismatic movements and many more people who confess Christ as their personal savior. There are many who leave it to The Christ to deal with their enemy, The Devil, and to dispel the fear of some of you whom they had demonized or are beginning to do so. We too want to leave behind a path of faith and on that we shall faithfully work.

We do not deceive ourselves. When we protest the dismal image of Africa projected in the Western media, we do so fully aware of our own complicity and domestic exploitation. Bessie Head has observed that " the roots of cheating and stealing" is that of "despising the people". People at the helm of affairs in Africa or related to Africa say the people "know nothing simply because they do not read and write".(7) We despise ourselves as others despise us, while we proclaim that wisdom does not come from reading and writing many books. We are aware of our "social defects". We experience or inflict

"a form of cruelty, really spite, that seems to have its origins in witchcraft practices. It is a sustained pressure of mental torture that reduces its victims to a state of permanent terror. And once they start on you they don't know where to stop, until you become stark, raving mad. Then they grin."(8)


In the second half of this century, as in the first, we have seen politicians, colonial, civilian and military do this to those who challenge them. In another context this is a picture of the economic strangulation of Africa by global monetary powers which makes Mazrui ask "Is there life after debt?"(9)
If we cannot live through victorious, then we are not your children. It is in the midst of all this monetary witchcraft that Mazrui assures us that Africa does have a leverage for we possess what he calls "counter power". Counter power is defined as "power exercised by those who in absolute terms, are weaker, upon those who are by absolute measurements are stronger" For he says there is power even in being a debtor; for "the threat of default makes the creditor vulnerable."(10) There is a mutual indebtedness which the Christian lobby says can only be resolved by forgiveness of debts. What else does the Church of Africa say or do with regard to this economic situation which seems to be at the core of the denigration of our humanity.(11) In 1995, the AACC called a consultation on "Democracy and Development in Africa: The Role of the Churches". The proceedings were subsequently edited and published by J.N.K. Mugabi. In this volume we find some hints for our quest.

Nananom, you are around us and so you are witness to the fact that political sagesse on the part of religious bodies is at a very low ebb in Africa. The dramatic discontinuation of the structures that served you has not served us well and where they continue, they are often in conflict with the imposed Westernization. We still have the Churches and the mosques. They have the opportunity to touch the lives of people at the least on a weekly basis not to talk of the daily and the one on one encounters with these living roots of our nations. But one still asks " How is this availability of the people utilized?"

Political parties use their opportunities to cultivate people to rally around the interests of the party said also to be the best interest of the nation. But the results are ambiguous, for while mouthing the needs of the people, our political leaders are forced to implement "externally induced projects of democratization and population control"; economic structural adjustments that pass on the responsibility to stay alive on the people themselves and their community efforts named "Civil Society" are the demands of globalization. My ancestors, I am puzzled. "To what purposes are our taxes beyond the maintenance of armies and an ill-equipped police force?" The complex political and economic challenges overwhelmed us and have resulted in social decay that send people scrambling for the spiritual support. "What is the Churches response?"

The consultation just mentioned, warns clearly that "It is deceptive and dangerous to preach a Gospel of Prosperity in the midst of massive poverty." It is deceptive because we do not bring the people to an analysis of the "socio-structural constraints that prevent many African communities from enjoying descent living by any standards".(12) It is dangerous because we claim that religion is "an agent of welfare" but do not empower the people to seek this welfare. And above all it is deceptive to continue to teach that religion and politics do not mix, when both claim to cater for the welfare of the people. It is deceptive because while on this side of the grave, we dare not separate body and soul hence we have to see to it that religion serves our humanity.

Beloved ancestors, you gave up your people for labor, then you gave up the land to be colonized. You were the first to experience the globalization of our economy. You moved from maize to coffee to satisfy the trade terms. You were forced out of traditional statecraft and made your way into modern statehood and "the blackening" of the UNO in the 1960s.(13) In the process, we, your children have been incorporated into an Euro-centered world culture. I am not saying all is unambiguously bad. By the imperial languages some of us your children can communicate beyond our mother tongue. But whether we speak these tongues or not we find ourselves bound by Euro-centric "international" laws we did not help to craft. I knew you would say, "But you can change some of these". We have to shed the carefully groomed inferiority we experience when faced with Western science and technology. I know you will point out that technology has no race and that several have entered its ambit who are not of European descent and who knew no colonization. Yes I agree and would even add, "so have some erstwhile colonial peoples". Nothing prevents us from joining the latter.

You, our ancestors have asserted your continued presence to make us work, so you too can feel at home in global Christianity. No longer shall we join in demonizing you in translations and in theologising. We realize today, that cultural and religious pluralism is a global reality. We affirm therefore that taking this factor seriously demands that we take African Religion seriously. Those of us who are Christians shall learn to be both authentically African and authentically Christian. The challenge is to strife to contribute to World Christianity and a Christian Ecumenism.

We crave dissent so while we take a critical distance from local cultures, which find dehumanizing, we shall remain true to our African heritage. This means all externally stimulated change has to be minutely examined, for we too have a responsibility to contribute to the changing and the shaping of world history and culture.

You heard the life stories that I heard today. We are faced with how to reduce the West's stranglehold over Africa. The marked Euro-centrism of the past five hundred years has meant that world-culture too bears its marks. We need to strive more intentionally to build on the values you crafted from your experience. We need a totally new vision of ourselves and a positive outlook that will generate innovative perspectives. Both Idowu and Mazrui describe Africa as a woman. I forgive their sexism. Mazrui describes Africa as a woman with the expression "the female continent" - passive, patient and penetrable".(14) In his African Traditional Religion: a Definition, Idowu compares what the powerful nations expect of Africa with what most societies expect of women:

"Where she behaves herself according to prescription and accepts an inferior position, benevolence which her poverty' demands is assured, and for this she shows herself deeply and humbly grateful. If for some reason she takes it into her head to be assertive and claim a footing of equality, then she brings upon herself a frown; she is called names; she is persecuted openly or by indirect means; she is helped to be divided against herself..."(15)


As women resent these stereotypes so Africa must refuse this female typology. We have participated in changing the world. We took part in evangelizing Africa, right from the inception of Christianity as well as during later centuries. It is our duty to identify our contribution to help posterity build up their self-esteem.

At the moment we continue bound under the western sphere of influence and seem unable to highlight our interdependence so as to build up the self-esteem of our children. The West continues involvement in how we run our economies and prosecute our politics because they need us for a market and for investment space. Our resources helped to develop their world so we can make them strengthen our regional structures. We can and must think Pan-African. We can and must think and work for change. We've done it in South Africa where we rescued our humanness from the jaws of racism. How will South Africa use this new-born dignity in Africa and globally?

The world extracts minerals from Africa and we have a numerical power in the UNO. Should we not use this to make the Trans-National Corporations more responsible? It seems to me that through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the world community has sacralized money and put it even higher than the political state. Could we in Africa keep our diamonds, gold and oil in the bowels of the earth, if we cannot make them speak for the good of Africa? We have become heavily Christianized, could we engage in influencing the shape of global Christianity or at least develop our own distinctive African practice and articulation of the faith? Who knows but that others may find our's speaking to them or at least we shall enhance and enrich the diversity and the variety of ways of living out the faith. We would be contributing to shaping the history of Christianity and demonstrate the universal import of the coming of Jesus the Christ. Western Christianity has in the main been a de-Africanising power, but that does not need to continue. You our ancestors expect us to do better than that. So with you among the great cloud of witnesses I call upon my sisters and brothers of African descent to conversion and commitment we cannot afford to do less.

A call to conversion and commitment

Return to ourselves as we Turn to God so we can move forward with integrity.
Never again shall we walk on tiptoe.
Never again shall we suffer humiliation.
Re-assert indigenous African ways that have seeds of humanization for all humanity.
Refuse laws that serve the interest of lawmakers to the woe of the people
Never again shall we be plagued with coups and religious strife.
Never again shall we condone the cultural de-Africanization from outside.
Refuse westernization that comes in the guise of Christianization.
Never again shall we be silent in the face of opportunistic foreign policies as in open markets and liberalization that sell our heritage to all bidders for a pot of porridge.
Never again shall we buy into the transplantation of foreign life styles without the appropriate soil in which they can make us prosper.
Recoil from inefficiency, mismanagement corruption and our narrow definitions of who belongs and who is our community.
Never again shall we be satisfied with living as hunters and gatherers with no maintenance and creative culture and a resignation to death and decay of infra-structure.
We vow to you and to ourselves before this great cloud of global witnesses seen and unseen.
Never again shall we walk on tip-toe around the globe which is God's world and our common heritage.


_______________

Notes:

1. From Howardena Pindell Auto-biography Water/Ancestors/Middle Passage/Family Ghosts 1988 a painting used in The Black Aesthetics African American Arts at the Wadsworths Atheneum. 1998 Calendar, for the month of October.
2. I have had the probes of Ali A Mazrui into African culture in mind as I do this analysis of the meaning of our contemporary experiences in Africa believing, like him, that Africa is at a critical phase in which culture must take the center stage. See his book and video The Africans: a triple heritage, Little, Brown and Company, Boston & Toronto, 1986.
3. From the WCC staff paper on the "Africa Plenary" for the 8th Assembly of the WCC, Harare 1998.
4. David Barrett, IRM, vol.159, No. 233, London, 1970, pp. 39-54.
5. Blyden, Edward Wilmot, "Ethiopia Stretching Out Her Hands to God or Africa's Service to the World" in Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1967, p. 124; see Kwame Bediako, Christianity in Africa, Edinburgh University Press, & Orbis Books, 1995, p. 6-14.
6. The Missionary Factor in East Africa, 2nd edition, Longmans, 1951.
7. Bessie Head, A Question of Power, Heinemann, Oxford, 1974, p. 133.
8. Bessie Head, op. cit., p. 137.
9. Mazrui, p. 314.
10. Mazrui p. 314-5
11. I understand a denigration as de-nigration, an attempt to "whiten" our humanity, obliterate our Africanness, to make us the shadow of others.
12. Mugambi, p. 33.
13. Ruth Engo speaking on "The UNO and Africa" at a conference on Africa held at Stony Point, USA in 1998.
14. Mazrui, p.303.
15. E. B. Idowu, African Traditional Religion : A Definition, p. 77.


6.4. Response to the Africa Plenary

The Policy Reference Committee II prepared a "Response to the Africa Plenary" with five recommendations which were adopted by the assembly on 12 December.

6.4. Response to the Africa Plenary

Gathering in Zimbabwe has given the world church an opportunity to experience some of the realities of life in Southern Africa. We recalled how on arrival here the currency exchange was 34 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar. One week later it was 40 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar. What will it be next week and the weeks following? Each devaluing brings increased hardship for the local people.

Here are some images beyond the assembly setting that helped us to feel the pulse of Africa:

• Sunday worship on the outskirts of Harare with hundreds of people sitting on sheets of plastic in a simple open shed as they listened attentively to the message;
• a small boy who sheds his ill-fitting shabby shoes and walks barefoot (echoes of "grace goes barefoot" from the plenary theme presentation);
• the woman marketing beautifully crafted products hand-made by women and unemployed school leavers. She warmly invites us to "feel free" to "take time" as she engages us in conversations about where we live and about the work we are doing here.

All human brings are created in the image of God and have the right to life with dignity in a free and just society: life in all its fullness. The church is called to be in solidarity with those who suffer deprivation, injustice and oppression. We are also called to celebrate life as a free gift from God, and rejoice in hope when we behold the acceptable year of the Lord.

Response to the Africa Plenary

Preamble

1. Throughout the assembly we have been reminded of the significance of our meeting in Africa. We have enjoyed, and responded to, the hospitality and courtesy of the churches and people of Zimbabwe. We have heard much of the range of problems and challenges facing the governments, people and churches at this time throughout this vast continent.

2. The holding of the World Council of Churches' eighth assembly on African soil gives us the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the African dream and agenda for the twenty-first century. It is imperative that effective change should occur on the African continent towards the attainment of lasting peace, the enabling of people to participate in making the decisions that affect their lives, and respect for the integrity of the human person and community.

3. We were deeply impressed by the Africa presentation through drama of past and present hopes and traumas in the life of Africa's nations, including our host nation. We express our deep respect for the prophetic courage of this presentation.

The dream of Africa

4. Through its "Reconstructing Africa" programme of dialogue and study, culminating in the event held in May 1997 in Johannesburg with the theme "Jubilee and the African Kairos", the WCC has already sought to engage creatively and in solidarity with Africa and to stimulate a new way of looking at Africa. This has already generated renewed hope in the African church that change is possible. Participants at the Johannesburg meeting expressed their conviction about the future of Africa on the following lines:

"We are proud in seeing a vision of the journey of hope of African churches for the development of the continent for the twenty-first century. We are determined to work out this vision that promises life with dignity for the African people. We see such a vision grounded in the spirit of 爽buntu' (爽bu', 爽muntu') the embodiment of African spirituality and moral integrity lived in sustainable communities.

"This is a vision that

• calls us to work together and creatively to be in solidarity with one another, to accompany those among us with burdens too heavy to carry alone;
• compels us to work towards the elimination of the barriers and walls that divide and enslave us;
• provides us with instruments to reconcile broken relationships and heal wounds inflicted by violent ways of resolving misunderstandings and conflict;
• can be realized if Africans agree to work together in the spirit of pan-Africanism, and manage their human and natural resources responsibly and ethically, together and in partnership with one another and with nature."


The African challenge

5. In the padare there were many opportunities to share and exchange stories about issues of social change relating to Africa. In the plenary session that focused specifically on Africa, we heard, in striking and powerful form, the voices of the people of Africa, including not only cries of pain and suffering, but also testimonies of struggle, faith and hope. We listened to accounts of Africa's twin legacies of oppression and resistance and of the current opportunity to determine her own future. Through music, drama and discussion the dilemmas and challenges were presented and explored -- the liberation from colonialism; the struggle to overcome poverty; the progress towards good government and participatory civil society; issues concerning justice, human rights, the rule of law, fragmentation and exclusion, and the moral regeneration of society.

6. We heard about the huge challenges facing Africa, many resulting from the economics of "war and manna" that have resulted in the phenomenon known as globalization. Global pressures mean that nations and individuals battle against overwhelming socio-economic odds arising from the debt crisis, structural adjustment programmes, and in some cases bribery, corruption and the misuse of resources. Half of Africa is at present at war in their own countries and we were vividly reminded of the suffering that continues in southern Sudan as a result of 50 years protracted civil war. Conflict in some parts of Africa, such as the Great Lakes Region, has been continuing for many years. Issues of indigenization are not as clear cut in Africa as in other places, but are being addressed in the WCC through the Indigenous Peoples Programme. There is widespread concern about health issues, particularly about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Overarching all else, there is an urgent need to carry forward the process of moral regeneration, a process to which the churches have an important contribution to make, through the development of both a new ecumenical vision with a coherent prophetic voice and the capacity to explore and articulate ecumenical social thinking.

7. In relation to the priority of human rights and the integrity and dignity of the person, church leadership in Africa must secure the full participation of women, youth and lay persons in the definition, articulation and implementation of the African agenda at all levels. This will ensure the development of common initiatives and actions that would guarantee the survival and success of the agenda. The role and place of the family, and distinctive Christian qualities such as integrity, generosity and, above all, hope in Christ, also need to be explored and clarified in the context of the emerging civil society.

8. It is important that the emphasis should be positive, leaving behind the notes of fatalism, despair and helplessness which tend to characterize some attitudes and responses. There are clear signs within Africa, alongside the vibrant Christian faith and spiritual vitality, of the emergence of a new spirit of patriotism, a sense of pride in identity ("ubuntu") and a desire to construct a different image of the continent. In responding to all that we have heard, we wish therefore to celebrate the heritage and culture of Africa and to reflect on the assembly theme "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope". With a sense of repentance we recognize that governments and churches from out of Africa bear no little responsibility for policies and decisions that have contributed to the present difficulties; but we see a situation at present that is full of promise and hope. Reiterating the action with which our Africa Plenary session ended, we commit ourselves in mutual solidarity to the reconstruction of Africa. In the case of those of us from Africa this represents a commitment to work with and through our churches for a better future and to seek to ensure that never again will Africa suffer such humiliation as has been experienced previously. In the case of those of us who belong elsewhere this represents a commitment to work with and through our churches in accompanying our African brothers and sisters in their journey of hope.

Recommendations (Adopted)

The eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches:

1. affirms the African agenda and commits the World Council of Churches' structures and constituencies to supporting, accompanying and helping with the realization of this agenda by placing a special focus on Africa during the beginning of the 21st century;

2. supports wholeheartedly the commitment, undertaken before God by the leaders and representatives of member churches of Africa at the assembly, to

a. continue the unfinished task of working towards the transformation of their social, political and economic systems and institutions with a view to creating a just society in which women and young people have opportunity for full participation;

b. seek and pursue peace and reconciliation for their people and communities;

c. work towards the establishment of appropriate ethical values in work, governance and management, and good stewardship;

d. do everything in their means to help contain and overcome the scourge of HIV/AIDS;

e. affirm the right of African children to hope for a bright future which, with all strength and ability, they will help to create.

3. instructs the central committee to carry forward the work already started through the Reconstructing Africa programme of dialogue and study, with an emphasis on capacity-building and information-sharing so as to develop solidarity within the ecumenical family and enable Africa to make the unique contribution it has to offer to the world ecumenical movement;

4. encourages councils of churches in Africa, and the All Africa Conference of Churches, to seek new ways, within the limits of available resources, of working together with the churches in their areas, and in partnership with civil society organizations in Africa, so as to provide moral leadership, articulate a new vision for Africa, and motivate and mobilize Africans to participate in the building of just and sustainable communities;

5. urges all member churches to engage in dialogue with their respective governments and make representations with a view to the governments, United Nations organizations and other international bodies playing whatever part they can in the process of reconstruction and reconciliation within Africa through, for example, respect for human rights, the promotion of an alternative economic order, debt relief, reductions in the arms trade, and urgent measures to bring about peace with justice in the Sudan, the Great Lakes Region and other areas of conflict in Africa in particular and the world at large.

See also Appendix I: Sudan


6.5. Address by President Nelson Mandela

On Sunday 13 December during a "Journey to Jubilee" celebration of the 50th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa, came to acknowledge "fifty years of achievement in activating the conscience of the world for peace and on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and the dispossessed".

6.5. Address by President Nelson Mandela to the WCC on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary, Harare, 13 December 1998

It is a great honour, as an African, to join this august gathering on African soil. I thank you most sincerely for your invitation.

We have come to celebrate with you fifty years of achievement in activating the conscience of the world for peace and on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and the dispossessed.

When the World Council of Churches was established, the smoke was still lifting from a world shattered by decades of economic crisis and armed conflict, by the pursuit of racist doctrine and the violation of human rights.

As part of an international effort to ensure that never again should such things happen, the WCC helped voice the international community's insistence that human rights are the rights of all people everywhere. In doing so you helped vindicate the struggles of the oppressed for their freedom.

To us in South and Southern Africa, and indeed the entire continent, the WCC has always been known as a champion of the oppressed and the exploited.

On the other hand, the name of the WCC struck fear in the hearts of those who ruled our country and destabilized our region during the inhuman days of apartheid. To mention your name was to incur the wrath of the authorities. To indicate support for your views was to be labelled an enemy of the state.

Precisely for that reason, the vast majority of our people heard the name of the WCC with joy. It encouraged and inspired us.

When, thirty years ago, you initiated the Programme to Combat Racism and the Special Fund to support liberation movements, you showed that yours was not merely the charitable support of distant benefactors, but a joint struggle for shared aspirations.

Above all, you respected the judgment of the oppressed as to what were the most appropriate means for attaining their freedom. For that true solidarity, the people of South and Southern Africa will always remember the WCC with gratitude.

As we were coming here, I told President Mugabe that he is a younger man than myself, and I said perhaps the experiences I have had he did not have during his time. But I said my generation is the product of church education. Without the missionaries and other religious organizations I would not have been here today.

The government of the day took no interest whatsoever in the education of Africans, Coloureds and Indians. The churches bought the land, built the schools, equipped them, appointed and employed people. Therefore when I say we are the product of missionary education, I recognize that I will never have sufficient words to thank the missionaries for what they did for us. But you have to have been in an apartheid prison in South Africa to appreciate the further importance of the church. They tried to isolate us completely from the outside. Our relatives could only see us once every six months. And we could only write and receive one letter every six months. The link was religious organizations, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and members of the Jewish faith. They were the faithful who inspired us.

The WCC's support exemplified in the most concrete way the contribution that religion has made to our liberation. From the days when religious bodies took responsibility for the education of the oppressed because it was denied us by our rulers, to support for our liberation struggle, whenever the noble ideals and values of religion have been joined with practical action to realize them, it has strengthened us and at the same time nurtured those ideals within the liberation movement.

It is therefore a matter of pride to us that democratic South Africa has a constitution that embodies those values and ideals in whose name we enjoyed the support of the international community in our striving for freedom and justice.

Those ideals and values must be our guide in the unfinished journey we have travelled together.

The rights that have been gained, and that have been declared universal, will remain hollow shells and our freedom incomplete if they do not bring an end to the curse of hunger, disease, ignorance and homelessness which blight the lives of millions, in our country, in Africa and across the globe.

Fifty years after the establishment of an international order intended to avert the repetition of a human catastrophe, the spectre of a new disaster on an unimagined scale requires of us the creation of a new world order. In a changed international environment that was not foreseen in the middle of the century, the gap between the rich and the poor parts of the world is widening rather than narrowing.

Central to the challenge we face as we enter the new millennium is the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.

The reshaping of the institutions of the existing order has become a matter of urgency if peace and a life of dignity are to become a reality for all. In using this Council meeting to assess your own role and seek directions for the next century, the WCC is answering to the needs of the times.

Within this context, my own continent of Africa dreams of an African renaissance in which, through reconstruction and development, we will overcome the legacy of a devastating past and ensure that peace, human rights, democracy, growth and development are a living reality for all Africans.

We have, through our own efforts, taken important steps along that road. We can, for example, speak of over forty democratic elections since 1990. Most of the countries in the continent are at peace with themselves and their neighbours. Until the impact of the current global economic turmoil was felt, sub-Saharan Africa was showing modest but steady economic growth at an average of 5 percent for almost a decade. Regional cooperation is a reality, and strengthening by the day, whether here in Southern Africa or in other parts of the continent.

This is in no way to suggest that Africa has managed to pull herself out of the quagmire of poverty, disease, conflict and underdevelopment.

The conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Sudan and elsewhere are a great concern. In a world as interdependent as ours, they impact not only on those directly involved but on their neighbours and whole regions, bringing instability, displacing people and diverting resources away from social services.

Such conflicts have the capacity to set back all our efforts to meet the urgent needs of our people, but I would like to make it perfectly clear that Africa in general and our region in particular has highly competent, committed and experienced leaders, and I have no doubt that they will be able to resolve these conflicts to the satisfaction of everybody. All our leaders in this region understand that peace is the greatest weapon which humanity has in advancing progress. They understand that everybody without exception in all continents wants to get on with his life. And peace is the only environment under which there can be stability and people can get on with their life. All the leaders in this region realize this, and they are working 24 hours a day to bring about a solution.

At the end of a century that has taught that peace is the greatest weapon in development, we cannot afford to spare any effort to bring about a peaceful resolution of such conflicts.

Nor can we allow anything to detract from the urgent need to cooperate in order to ensure that our continent avoids the negative consequences of globalization and that it is able to exploit the opportunities of this important global advancement.

That means working together to ensure that the legacy of underdevelopment does not leave Africa on the margins of the world economy.

That means finding ways to deal with the world's highest incidence of AIDS, to advance and entrench democracy, to root out corruption and greed, and to ensure respect for human rights.

It means together finding ways to increase the inward flow of investment, to widen market access, and to remove the burden of external debt which affects Africa more than any other region.

It means cooperating to reorient the institutions that regulate the international trade and investment system, so that world economic growth translates into the benefits of development.

It means finding ways of ensuring that the efforts of countries to put their economies on a sound basis in order to uplift their people are not set back by huge flows of finance as they move across the globe in search of quick profits.

The challenge facing today's leaders is to find the ways in which the prodigious capacity of the contemporary world economy is used to decisively address the poverty that continues to afflict much of humanity.

The WCC forms part of the cadre of leaders who must accomplish this formidable but achievable task. The fact that on your 50th anniversary you have chosen Africa as the venue for your deliberations on the challenges of the new millennium bears witness to your continuing solidarity with all who strive for peace and dignity.

Thirty years ago you launched a programme that broke new ground and set new directions for the future. You moved beyond the affirmation of the right to resist on the part of the oppressed, to the risk of active engagement in the struggle to end oppression. Today the WCC is called upon to show that same engagement in the new and more difficult struggle for development and the entrenchment of democracy.

It is a great privilege for me, as my public life draws to a close, to be allowed to share these thoughts and dreams for a better world with you.

I do so filled with hope, knowing that I am among men and women who have chosen to make the world the theatre of their operations in pursuit of freedom and justice.

It is as a peaceful and equitable world takes shape that I and the legions across the globe who dedicated their lives in striving for a better life for all, will be able to retire in contentment and at peace.

And I am talking to the members of an organization each of whom can say, I believe, at the end of their life, "I have done my duty to my country and my people". I am talking to people whose word is written across their faces. That distinction of immortality, men and women whose names will live beyond the grave, and down the centuries. It is because of this that I put aside everything that I had to take the opportunity to come and say thank you for all you did for each and every one of us. Thank you, and again thank you.


7. Greetings from Religious and Political Leaders

7.1 Pope John Paul II

A message from Pope John Paul II was read by the Most Rev. Mario Conti (Scotland) on 4 December. The moderator voiced "appreciation for the growing ecumenical collaboration which exists between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, particularly through the Joint Working Group and Faith and Order".

7.1 Pope John Paul II

To the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary, WCC

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches, I am pleased to extend best wishes and congratulations to the delegates of the member churches gathered in Harare for the Council's eighth assembly, to be held 3-14 December 1998, on the theme "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope".

I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation of the work of the World Council of Churches over these years. The World Council has been a valuable instrument at the service of the ecumenical movement, contributing in a significant way to the promotion of unity among Christians, in response to the Lord's prayer "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).

The celebration of the World Council's golden jubilee, as well as the theme of the assembly, offer an important occasion to give thanks and praise to the triune God for progress made towards the great jubilee year 2000, which could provide a special opportunity for all Christians to offer common witness in concrete ways to their One Lord Jesus Christ.

With regard to the relationship between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, it is our hope that ways of future collaboration within the framework of the Joint Working Group can be found in order to intensify the search for Christian unity, also in its visible dimension.

I am pleased, on this auspicious occasion, to reiterate the irreversible commitment of the Catholic Church to work tirelessly for the realization of full Christian unity. "This unity which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ's mission... It belongs to the very essence of this community" (Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, 9). Such commitment is part of the Christian vocation, since every Christian by virtue of baptism is called to promote the unity of all Christians modelled on the life of the Holy Trinity. "To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer: ‘Ut unum sint'" (ibid.)

May the abundant gifts of the triune God accompany and sustain you and all your collaborators in this important work.

Joannes Paulus II
From the Vatican, 24 November 1998
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7.2. Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarchate

A message from Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarchate, was read by Metropolitan Athanasios of Heliopolis on 4 December. The moderator responded with appreciation, saying that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been a committed member of the WCC since its inception and has played an important role in the Council's life".

7.2. Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarchate

Bartholomew, by the Grace of God Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the beloved participants in the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches: grace, mercy and peace from our triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

From this holy and apostolic Throne of Apostle Andrew, the first-called disciple, we heartily greet the leadership and the participants of this jubilee assembly, marking the 50th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, with the words of St Paul: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:4-7).

As a church actively involved both in the emergence of the contemporary ecumenical movement and in the formation and foundation of the WCC, we rejoice in the fact that what the Ecumenical Patriarchate foresaw in 1920, namely a "koinonia of churches", eventually became a reality and for fifty consecutive years served the sacred cause of Christian unity, while trying to act as an agent of reconciliation and respond to the manifold needs of contemporary society.

This ecumenical Throne of Constantinople, in its declaration issued on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the WCC (1973), spoke extensively about this constructive contribution of the WCC in the ecumenical scene, underlining its role in the promotion of Christian unity and its involvement in the healing of the sufferings of humanity today. This was reiterated later on by the third Preconciliar Panorthodox Conference (1986) which eloquently stressed that theological studies, undertaken by the Council in the framework of its commission on Faith and Order, were instrumental in bringing churches together, while the Council's "manifold activities in the fields of evangelism, diakonia, health, theological education, interfaith dialogue, combatting racism, promoting peace and justice, responded to particular needs of the churches and of the world, providing opportunities for common witness and action".

A jubilee is a moment for shared joy and celebration in peace. And there are many reasons for rejoicing over the positive achievements of the WCC and its member churches. Indeed, throughout the five decades of its life, the WCC has been a platform where churches, coming from different horizons and from a great variety of traditions and ecclesiological backgrounds, were able to converse with each other and promote Christian unity, in spite of the obvious difficulties of such an endeavour. From their side, the Orthodox churches, through their participation in the WCC, were able to bring into the heart of the wide ecumenical debate their tradition, theology, ecclesiology, spirituality and liturgical life, as a witness to their "apostolic faith within new historical conditions and in order to respond to new existential demands" (third Preconciliar Panorthodox Conference). It was precisely this very reality that was acknowledged by the inter-Orthodox conference of Thessaloniki (May 1998) through the affirmation that "the WCC has been a forum where the faith of the Orthodox church, its mission and its views on a number of issues such as justice, peace and ecology were made widely known to the non-Orthodox world".

It is also evident that many Orthodox churches of the former Eastern Europe, because of their presence in the WCC, overcame the isolation imposed on them by the socio-political conditions prevailing in their countries in the last five or seven decades. On the other hand, the WCC, as an institution called to serve the churches, assisted its Orthodox member churches in many ways, whether in the field of pastoral work or theological education or in the generous area of diakonia by expressing concretely the Christian solidarity between its member churches.

A jubilee is also a moment for critical assessment of shortcomings and difficulties. It should be acknowledged that in the fifty years of the life of the WCC, it has more than once passed through turbulent periods. A significant number of theological, ecclesiological, socio-political, cultural and ethical divergences have been at the very centre of the difficulties member churches have faced within the Council -- difficulties which became even more visible during the seventh assembly in Canberra and took a critical turn afterwards, when a series of liberal theological and moral positions were adopted and brought into the life of the Council by a variety of member churches, mainly from the Northern hemisphere.

The Council is undoubtedly a heterogeneous body. It is constituted by a multitude of member churches of different -- and sometimes diametricaly opposed -- theological, ecclesiological and liturgical traditions. This diversity reflects in fact a double reality. On the one hand, it highlights the great richness of the Christian faith expressed through a variety of theological schools of thought, liturgical practices, expressions of spiritual lives, cultural specificities. On the other, it reflects the tragic reality of Christian division as a historial fact in the life of churches, and a wound in the Body of Christ, the church, which should be healed.

One major task of this assembly is to redefine the nature of the WCC and to reorient its work, continuing the debate on the churches' Common Vision and Understanding of the WCC. It is our strong belief, however, that before embarking on the definition of the nature of the WCC, one should proceed to a theological and ecclesiological analysis of the very term "koinonia" and agree on a clear and unequivocal understanding of the fellowship experienced by the member churches in the WCC. As the Ecumenical Patriarchate pointed out in its analysis of the CUV document in November 1995: "After fifty years of fruitful cooperation within the WCC its members are obliged to clarify the meaning and the extent of the fellowship they experience in it, as well as the theological significance of koinonia, which is precisely the purpose and the aim of the World Council of Churches, and not the given reality." This is in fact the major ecclesiological challenge with which the WCC is faced at this critical juncture of its life.

If the much-commented and indeed often misinterpreted report of the Thessaloniki inter-Orthodox meeting, while affirming the understanding of the Orthodox churches of the need to continue their participation in various forms of inter-Christian activity, asked for a fundamental change of the structure of the WCC, it was because of their feeling that the Council's member churches have so far failed to experience this koinonia due to the fact that they were caught up in an institutional logic which, for a variety of reasons, jeopardized a real and meaningful Orthodox participation in the Council.

It is important to stress that in the restructuring of the WCC the options before the member churches are rather limited. Either they should regard the WCC as a mere organization with an institutional understanding of membership and decision-making processes -- in fact an organizer of conferences and theological symposia -- in which case church unity will emerge through negotiations, always depending as it were on majority-minority relationships between member churches. Or they should work towards the shaping of the WCC as a fellowship in which, through being, working, reflecting theologically and witnessing together, and above all by sharing a common vision of what the church is, they will come to the point of confessing not only the one Lord but also the one Church. The task looks insurmountable, given the radical differences in the ecclesiological understanding of its member churches. Hence the deeper meaning of what this ecumenical Throne has described as an "ecclesiological challenge", and the imperative of an Orthodox participation in the WCC "on an equal footing", as suggested by the third Preconciliar Panorthodox Conference.

We should not be discouraged by the enormity of the task. In the final analysis, our commitment in the ecumenical movement is a response to the Lord's calling to unity (John 17:21) and our participation in the WCC is precisely "to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ through witness and service to the world and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe" (WCC constitution).

As member churches celebrate the jubilee of the WCC at the eve of the third millennium, we look forward with particular attention and great expectations to the outcome of this assembly as far as the nature and the future mission of the WCC are concerned. We are confident that the planned mixed commission on the Orthodox participation in the WCC will be in a position to bring proposals which will enable the member churches of this Council to continue their common journey and to fulfill their tasks within a world which is thirsty for the good news of the gospel.

Our main duty today would be to consider together the ways in which the Christian faith handed down by the Apostles to the undivided One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (325-81), this ecumenical creed par excellence, can be interpreted in our times, in the midst of problems faced by humankind.

In congratulating the WCC on its jubilee, we pray the almighty God to send His abundant blessings upon the participants in this assembly, enabling them to accomplish the enormous task entrusted to them by their churches and thus contribute to the advance of the sacred cause of Christian unity.

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).

Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, fervent intercessor to God
At the Phanar, 30 November 1998, Feast of St Andrew the Apostle


7.3. Karekin I: Catholicos of All Armenians

A message from Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians, was read by Archbishop Aghan Baliozian (Australia) on 4 December, and was received with warm appreciation.

7.3. Karekin I: Catholicos of All Armenians

Beloved brothers and sisters,

In Christian love and fellowship I greet you all as you are assembled in Harare, Zimbabwe, and are engaged in the deliberations of the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches.

I personally regret that I will not be able to be with you, for purely health reasons. The delegation of our Armenian Church will certainly participate actively in all the work of the assembly.

Having personally attended four assemblies -- in New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi and Vancouver -- I know how significant is the task of the assembly not only for the mandate and the ongoing work of the WCC, but indeed for the life of the member churches. This is not only a time of reviewing the work accomplished by the WCC since the Canberra assembly; rather, it is a golden opportunity to "read the signs of the times", seeing our present-day predicament in pan-Christian perspective and in the spirit of partnership and fellowship.

I am aware of the complex issues you are facing in this assembly. One must admit that in all assemblies held so far, there have been difficult moments and acute problems. My experience has shown that the fellowship, our staying together, struggling to resolve them together in spite of divergences, has always prevailed. It could not be otherwise because fellowship is God's gift to us that we have to cherish, to enrich, and to promote in His grace on our pilgrimage to visible unity. Problems have always arisen and have often disturbed the life of the church from the very beginning of the apostolic age. Yet the church has always overcome them when it has approached them with that strongest "weapon" of the Holy Spirit, in other words the fellowship, the sense of belonging to the same Lord, to the same gospel and to the same mission.

Our common ecumenical commitment through the World Council of Churches has already reached its 50th anniversary: half a century of such tremendous witness that, to my understanding, this 20th century, taken as a whole and in spite of some recent trends of re-emergence of confessionalism, can justly be described as "the ecumenical century". On this jubilee occasion we have humbly to recognize that impact-making events took place which enriched our common Christian history. Usually in WCC circles we have been self-critical; we have often been inclined to see the dark side. What about the positive areas?

As we prepare to close this second millennium, let us with this assembly take courage from Him to whom we turn to rejoice in peace. "Turning to God" means opening up to fellowship and walking hand in hand in this journey, our pilgrimage on earth, that will take us to the third millennium and to the ages of ages.

It is with this state of mind and heart that I, as the head of one member church of the WCC, wish you the very best in your noble and God-pleasing task.

With love and prayers,

Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians
December 1998


7.4. World Evangelical Fellowship

George Vandervelde brought greetings to the assembly on behalf of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) on 11 December. Evangelical participants in the assembly also formulated two letters (see 8.7.).

7.4. World Evangelical Fellowship

I am pleased to have the opportunity to convey to you the greetings of the World Evangelical Fellowship. In doing so, I have only one regret, namely, that this greeting is not conveyed to you in an African voice. The Council made provisions for two persons to represent the WEF. Naturally the WEF chose as one of these a person from Africa. Unfortunately, because of a miscommunication on our part this did not come about.

The WEF has its roots in an ecumenical venture that predates the establishment of the WCC by a hundred years. In 1846 the Evangelical Alliance was founded. Almost as soon as it began, however, it floundered, interestingly, on an ethical-social issue, namely, slavery. Nevertheless, its initial failure as an international movement was largely offset at another level. In many regions of the world, the 1846 event provided a strong impetus for the establishment of national and regional evangelical fellowships. When the World Evangelical Fellowship was established in 1951, it became heir, as it were, of these flourishing national fellowships. Today the WEF represents a membership approaching one hundred and fifty million Christians around the world. The WEF continues to be active, especially through and in support of 111 country and regional evangelical fellowships.

I would like to call attention to two aspects of evangelical-ecumenical relations. The first concerns overlap, the second tension.

In many national and regional contexts, evangelicals are closely involved in ecumenical councils related to the WCC. In fact, in some countries, such as Ghana, evangelicals are on the staff of WCC-related councils of churches. The overlap between evangelicals and ecumenicals is demonstrated at this assembly: more than a dozen delegates representing WCC member churches identify themselves as evangelicals. Most prominent among these is the courageous leader of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Archbishop David Gitari.

More specifically, the WEF commitment to ecumenism beyond its own members is evident in the existence and work of its task force on ecumenical issues (of which I am convener). Through this task force, the WEF is engaged in an ongoing consultation with the Roman Catholic Church. Similarly an evangelical-Orthodox dialogue was initiated at Canberra and, as you have heard at this assembly, continues in lively fashion. Furthermore, the task force has formulated a response to the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document, as well as to the apostolic faith study.

All of these initiatives indicate that "evangelicals" and "ecumenicals" are by no means mutually exclusive categories.

Yet decided differences of outlook and emphasis exist which, if not overcome or at least understood and respected, will increasingly become a rift. The tension takes many different forms but, in the interest of brevity, may be illustrated in the understanding of an approach to mission. Evangelicals are committed to holistic mission, articulating this, partly in dialogue with ecumenical developments, as encompassing the socio-political aspects of human existence. What characterizes the evangelical burden for mission is a strong sense on what it considers to be the pivot, the axis of mission: the universal call to conversion -- conversion to the crucified and resurrected Lord.

The evangelical focus on this heartbeat of mission is best captured by an intervention of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin at the last major ecumenical gathering he attended before his death, the 1996 conference on world mission and evangelism in Brazil. When the conference proposed that we commit ourselves to unequivocal witness to the gospel of hope in Jesus Christ, Bishop Newbigin proposed that this phrase be added: "so that all may come to know and love Jesus". These ten words sum up the evangelical passion for mission, an all-embracing mission that has as its core this call to conversion.

Charity and conviction regarding the heartbeat of holistic mission is that for which we hope, for which we pray, and for which we work, also at this assembly, devoted as it is to the theme "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope".

George Vandervelde


7.5. Kim Dae-Jung, President of the Republic of Korea

While WCC assemblies have not usually heard messages of greeting from political leaders outside of the country in which the assembly is being held, the special concern of the Council over the years for the situation in Korea, divided for more than fifty years, warranted an exception in the case of Kim Dae-jung, president of the Republic of Korea. Kim's personal engagement in the struggle for democracy in the country had in earlier years costs him his freedom and even threatened his life.

7.5. Kim Dae-Jung, President of the Republic of Korea

I am very pleased that the World Council of Churches is holding its eighth assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, this year. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the participants.

Since the end of the second world war and throughout the cold war, the WCC has consistently strived to seek unity among all churches and realize justice, peace and freedom of conscience for all individuals. The Council's keen interest in -- and solidarity with -- the politically persecuted as well as citizens of the third world and elsewhere have proved a major force for a better future. South African President Nelson Mandela's visit to the WCC assembly is testimony to all the Council has done for those who have undergone trials and tribulations, including myself.

On the occasion of this WCC assembly, I make special note of the fact that the Council has stood with the churches, intellectuals, students and other people of Korea during their long years of struggle to achieve democracy and reunification. I will be forever thankful for the solidarity and support it extended to me all those years that I was in agony. It is with a sense of utmost happiness that today I am able to report that Korea is now being transformed into a more just and democratic country.

I earnestly hope that this assembly, being held at the threshold of a new century in human history, will be a festival of abundant blessings. In that way, it will continue to inspire all peoples and enhance their lives.

Respectfully yours,

Kim Dae-jung
2 December 1998


8. Additional Documents

8.1. Letter from the Decade Festival -- Churches in Solidarity with Women

Over a thousand women and about thirty men met on the campus of Belvedere Technical Teachers Training College in Harare from 27-30 November to assess the now-completed Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-98). The Decade was the latest in a series of initiatives through the WCC, including the creation in Evanston (1954) of the Department on the Cooperation of Women and Men in the Church, and a four-year study process on the Community of Women and Men in the Church which concluded with an international conference in Sheffield, England (1981). The Decade Festival was presented to assembly delegates in plenary on the morning of 7 December (click here to read the Decade Plenary presentations). Six people made presentations.

Eighth Assembly
Plenary on the Ecumenical Decade
Churches in Solidarity with Women

Table of Contents:

The Memory
The Ecumenical Decade
The Present
• Women and economic justice
• Violence against Women
• Racism against women
• Participation of Women in the Life of the Church
The Anticipation
• Letter to the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches from the women and men of the Decade Festival: FROM SOLIDARITY TO ACCOUNTABILITY
• The Ecumenical Decade: The Journey Continues

Phase 1 - The Memory

(This phase will be presented via a procession, a video and the following expression of thanksgiving from Despina M. Prassas.)

The Ecumenical Decade

Despina M. Prassas
Document No. DE 1

I greet you in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen.

Good morning. I would like to express thanks to our Lord God for the opportunity to be here and to celebrate together the closing of the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. We are thankful for the many ways in which we have been able to celebrate our talents and gifts, gifts which have been offered to the Church. The courageous effort and commitment of the women who have taken part in the Decade has benefitted many. Our love for one another is the hope which keeps the churches alive and carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ.

Women from around the world joined in worship to celebrate the beginning of the Decade throughout Africa national and regional gatherings took place in more than a dozen countries, decade launchings in Asia included Easter morning sunrise services in Pakistan and the Philippines; in the United Kingdom, many people gathered for a service at Westminster Abbey and in the Methodist churches women preached at the Easter services; in Costa Rica, an ecumenical group of over 150 women gathered to launch the Decade; Orthodox women from around the world met on Crete to celebrate, and throughout the United States officials of programs and councils organized to coordinate Decade materials while other churches adopted specific resolutions to encourage Decade participation.

Midway through the Decade, ecumenical teams visited almost all the member churches to acknowledge and affirm what had taken place during the first half of the Decade, and to encourage the churches to move ahead ion their commitments to their members.

The 1997 report of the ecumenical teams, entitled Living letters, documents the determination and endurance of women to overcome the difficulties of oppression which include violence, lack of participation in the life of the church, racism and economic injustice. These difficulties plague many of our churches, in many regions, and are addressed in a variety of ways . Some difficulties are being addressed by women helping each other, and others have been approached as church organizations work together with secular organizations to achieve their goals. The teams encountered the cultural, ecclesiastical and local realities of the churches and responded by asking for concrete signs of the churches' solidarity with women.

While many difficulties still exist, one of the greatest signs of hope was the realization on the part of churches that most gender or community issues are not simply women's issues, but belong to the entire church. Both difficulties and hopes have been documented in the text, Women's Challenges: Into the 21st Century, the agenda for action which was discussed and developed during the Ecumenical Decade Festival: Visions beyond 1998, held last week here in Harare.

While several of the concerns of women have been addressed, we still have much work to do. Therefore, we are here to "turn to God and rejoice in Hope!"

I have also been asked to speak for a moment on the symbol of the Decade Festival, which is water. Water has been carried by women from around the world to the Decade Festival and is being presented here today. Church women from each region of the world have offered their water as a sign of solidarity with and commitment to one another and to the preservation of life.

Water is a very ordinary compound in that it covers nearly three quarters of the earth's surface, yet at the same time is extraordinary in that it is essential for the life of the world: some microscopic organisms can exist without air, but none can grow without water.

Water has given rise to great civilizations and sometimes it has been responsible for their destruction. Over hundreds of millions of years, it has been one of the most powerful instruments in shaping and reshaping the face of the earth, as frozen glaciers, flowing rivers and oceans. It regulates the climate, forms the soil in which crops and forests take root and, as steam or hydroelectric power, water drives the mechanisms of modern technology. It is an indispensable ingredient in nearly all manufacturing processes, from the baking of bread to the production of microchips for computers.

[x]
Pouring out the "tears" brought to the Decade Festival by women from around the world.

Water plays a vital role in the affairs of the world, being essential for economic growth and development. In many counties of the world it is women who are responsible for collecting and managing water. Not having access to clean drinking water they must travel long distances, taking many hours out of their day in search of water to sustain the health and well-being of their families.

Yet water is a paradox. It is scarce in some regions and overly abundant in others. It is a commodity which divides people and areas of the world, yet as a valuable and scarce resource has brought countries together for the development and management of transboundary water sources. It is known for its destructive capabilities, which have shown themselves clearly in the onslaughts of El Ni寸 and, most recently, Hurricane Mitch, which have taken the lives of thousands. Yet at the same time, these natural disasters revitalized the ecosystems, helping to detoxify inland and coastal waters.

However, there is one type of water for which no paradox exists: the living water offered by Jesus to St. Fotini, the woman at the well (Jn 4). Our Lord the Savior, looking into the heart of St. Fotini, realizes she is in need of healing and offers her the genuine healing, the truly vivifying experience, he offers her life everlasting. Through the waters of baptism, Jesus, "washes us with his own water from the filth of sin, which has disfigured the beauty of the image."

Water, therefore, is not only a symbol of our solidarity with one another, but most importantly, a symbol of the renewal of our love for and faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. "For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes," (Rev. 7:17, RSV).

__________________________

1. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon on the Beatitudes.

***

Phase 2 - The Present

(This phase will be presented4 via reflections by Lala Biasima, M. Deenabandhu, Mukami McCrum and Bishop Ambrosius of Oulu.)

Women and economic justice

Lala Biasima
Document No. DE 2

I give thanks to God for this opportunity to speak in the name of my African sisters on a burning issue of today - economic justice.

The realities

In the Holy Scriptures we see the Divine Will to provide the creation with everything needed for the happiness and the survival of human beings, demonstrating God's love and justice. But unfortunately human beings, instead of using and protecting the creation for the benefit of humanity, have become their neighbours' executioners, by inventing economic systems and business agreements which give priority to the market, monetary systems and profit at the expense of human beings and their dignity.

The globalization of the economy world-wide, the installation of the market economy, the reduction of social services, the relocation of businesses in countries with lower labour costs, are sufficient evidence of a dishonourable intention to favour an unjust world economic order, in which economic policies have priority over social policies.

Women are the ones most affected by the consequences of this selfishness. The feminisation of poverty is taking place in all countries, even though it is manifested differently in different contexts.

In the countries of Europe and North America, most working women are in the lowest paid job categories. They are the most affected by the reduction of social spending and by job cut-backs, losing not only their salaries but also their retirement pensions. Thus there is an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, but especially between the economic situation of men and women.

In the developing countries, women are subjected to a double martyrdom by the economic crisis: first, as poor women without education, and second, as wives of chronically unemployed and unpaid workers who sometimes have to move away from home in pursuit of usually hypothetical employment. The full weight of the survival of home and family then falls on the women's shoulders, often to the detriment of their health.

The Structural Adjustment programmes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are a vast international conspiracy to require governments to abdicate their responsibilities for health, education, and public services, and to increase their revenues (taxes, fees for services), in other words to exploit their populations even more in order to make the rich richer while maintaining unemployment, poverty and suffering in their countries. This conspiracy - I use the word again - has fully reached its objectives. Nowhere, where it has been applied, has the population seen any sign of the economic recovery which those who instigate Structural Adjustment have promised. To the contrary, millions of people are condemned to poverty and to an early death. The money which should serve to meet their most basic needs is sent back to pay their countries' creditors. This is quite simply a transfer of the riches and resources of the poor countries to the rich countries.

This tragic situation affects especially women, but also their children, who are sacrificed on the altar of profit. These children are at work before they are even old enough, in order to contribute to the survival of their families, often at the risk of their lives (sex tourism, prostitution, rape, juvenile delinquency...)

How churches and women are facing up to this situation

During the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, campaigns, conferences, training seminars in economic literacy and for income-generating activities have had the following results:

• Raising of women's consciousness regarding their involvement in the economy. This is no longer viewed as an area reserved for the experts, but rather the involvement of every human person in the daily stewardship of the resources given by God to the world for its survival.
• Acquisition of knowledge of how the world economy and the economies of each of our countries are organised.
• Acquisition of training in many types of income-generating activities.
• Development by women of nutritious new recipes using locally available foods, even learning to eat things which were formerly taboo. This has contributed to reducing malnutrition.
• Identification of social structures, unjust laws and traditions of our countries, which prevent women from developing their economic capabilities.
• Raising of women's consciousness, and that of parents in general, about the necessity for girls and boys to have the same educational opportunities.

Challenges following the Decade

The Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women has given to women insight into many things they did not know before. But there are still many challenges which remain.

• The world economic system. Christians world-wide have been looking on passively while economic systems have been erected like towers of Babel (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the "free market", etc.), based on injustice, arrogance and domination. This tacit acceptance of ideologies which are impoverishing the greater part of humanity makes us accomplices in doing economic injustice. Where are the Christians in the stewardship of the oikoumene - the whole inhabited earth?
• The Structural Adjustment Programmes. The multinational corporations demand that states reduce spending on social needs, and on the other hand they accept investments by the same states in armaments which are used to keep entire populations terrorised. The churches should insist that the debts of developing countries be forgiven, and that the money thus released be converted to funding programmes to improve the quality of people's lives.
• The lack of capital. There is no money available to finance the activities of women. The economic crisis serves as an excuse for states, and churches, to justify their lack of interest in women's projects. A change of priorities is called for in this area on the part of the churches.
• The lack of education remains an abiding danger for women, since it always marks them out for poverty. The churches must do everything in their power to support education and training for women, and see that their talents are used in a variety of roles, including participation in decision-making bodies.

These are the challenges which remain. They require the ongoing solidarity of the churches with women, beyond this decade which is ending, for the sake of our Christian witness in the world.

***

Violence against Women
Rev. Deenabandhu Manchala
Document No. DE 3

The widespread prevalence and escalation of violence against women all over the world is perhaps the most obvious proof of the moral decadence of our generation. As we gather here, as a global fellowship of churches, to learn from the lessons which the Decade has taught us, we are confronted by this seemingly indomitable reality.

The Decade Team visits to member churches - the Living Letters - saw that violence against women is a reality everywhere. The reports from the teams record that across all boundaries of class, race, caste, age, education, culture, place, and denomination, women are exposed to violence of different sorts - physical, economic, social, institutional, psychological and spiritual. Additionally, those of us who participated in the Decade Festival last week, heard the poignant testimony of women who have experienced violence in the life of the church itself.

I come from India, a country much eulogized for its ahimsa (non-violence) and dharma (morality). Ironically, it is a society which derives its strength from the pervasive influence of two cultures of exclusion, namely, caste and patriarchy. Consequently, it is not just physical violence but also the carefully crafted, nurtured and religiously sanctified structural violence that makes life miserable for those who are excluded. I stand here representing the victims of these cultures - women, and Dalits (the oppressed) who are the most despised, impoverished and exploited section of the Indian society. Of these, the Dalit woman is the "Dalit of the Dalits". She is thrice oppressed, on account her being poor, Dalit, and woman, making her the worst victim of violence due to the interplay of class, caste, and gender. I want us to remember today millions of Dalit sisters who are thus victims of violence, of various sorts, day in and day out. These cultures of the oppressor have become so saturated in the minds of the victims, that they accept violence as inevitable and the rest get immune to it. So much so, India continues to top the list in cases of violence against women. Every year, a little over

15,000 women are raped
15,000 are either kidnaped or abducted
7,000 brides are killed for not bringing enough dowry
30,000 are tortured
30,000 are molested
15,000 are harassed, and about
15,000 are held in what is called immoral trafficking - what it means of course is prostitution.


Nearly 125,000 cases of crimes against women are registered. Furthermore, majority of those who die due to ill-health, epidemics, natural calamities, caste and communal clashes, and ethnic strife, are women.
During our visits, we have found that, by and large, the churches seem to view this as a given cultural phenomenon and not only abstain from responding but also in many cases actively support and perpetuate various forms of violence against women through language, denial of opportunities and participation, reinforcing of stereotype roles, etc. Unfortunately, the responsibility of having to safeguard the traditions of the institutional Church seems more a faith imperative than to hunger and thirst for justice and peace, to many a Christian today. But amidst this gloomy reality, we have seen signs of hope. We have sensed a growing consciousness among women. They are getting organized to resist, to fight for equality, justice and fair treatment. They are breaking the culture of silence. They are articulating their views of a new social order based on the values of mutual companionship, equality, and justice. They are discovering the liberative potential of the biblical faith. Here lies the challenge. Does the Church wish to remain a custodian of a culture of violence or catalyst of a culture of life? As it draws to a close, "violence against women", a major concern of the Decade offers a few possibilities:

1. In situations characterized by oppressive values, structures and cultures of human relationships, the challenge for the Church lies in its ability to present alternatives, both in form and functions. When life is denied, abused and made a burden for more than half of the world's population, we must stop seeing it as a women's problem but as one that compels us to affirm the life and dignity of all people. This implies a rediscovery of what it means to be a church. The Church is called not just to be a community of believers concerned about the purely spiritual, but for its transformative presence and to make present the promise of the coming reign of God through its being and actions. Overcoming violence from within its structures, relationships, interpretation of Bible and language is the first urgent task that the Church has to undertake.

2. While we affirm the need of contextualisation and inculturation, we must also actively uphold the transformative potential of the gospel as one that counters and transforms all that is oppressive in culture. Culture cannot be held as an excuse to justify inaction. The Church must stop patronizing the cultures of the oppressor and begin to, in obedience to the God of liberation, own the cultures and visions of the oppressed. Culture is a changing reality which can be transformed. In many places, we have noted the Church lagging behind even when some of the rigid patriarchal societies, like India, have begun to display greater sensitivity and practical action to render justice to women. Perhaps, this is at least one aspect where the Church should follow the world.

3. Like the Dalits and many other oppressed groups, women today are in awakened lot. The numerous grass roots movements and the emerging solidarity arising out of their shared experience of barriers, testify to a new spirit of ecumenism. The Church needs to discern this and actively participate in these grass roots ecumenical movements for justice, freedom and life. If the Church will lose the opportunity to be an ally of the forces of life.

***

Racism Against Women
Mukami McCrum
Document No. DE 4

I speak to you today from a perspective informed by the multiple identities as a black woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife and as a Christian. As a black woman I confront racism every day of my life. As a mother I deal with racism against my children. As a sister I share my sisters' pain when they tell me their stories. As a daughter, my duty to my parents connects me with generations of black women of African, Asian, Pacific, Caribbean and Latin America and Australasia, Indigenous, migrant, and refugee women, past and present, who have endured hardship in their struggle against slavery, colonial and imperial racism. As a wife the sounds of ambulance sirens numb my heart with fear. Will my husband and my son be injured at the anti-racist demonstration? As a Christian I seek for answers to my problems from the church and wonder why we cannot love one another as Christ instructed us.

The Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women was expected to be a direct response to women's issues and concerns. But when I ask women about their experiences of the decade, the response from most women is usually, "What Decade?". When I ask women of colour the same question, their response Is "What Decade, which women?" This suggests to me that the "stone of racism" has not yet been dislodged, never mind being "rolled away". It seems to me that both the Church and the women's movement have failed racial minorities, migrant women and indigenous women. This view is supported by the fact that these women experience racism, oppression and exploitation by both women and men of the dominant colour, culture, religion and class in most countries of the world. The churches appear to have missed this very significant point.

Many men and women in the church community are horrified when we tell them about our experiences of racism within church. This is because they would never dream of smashing windows with bricks, writing insulting graffiti, spitting and attacking women. But they forget that the most insidious and persistent form of racism is the 'exclusion and invisibility' these women suffer from every aspect of church community life. It seems that, except in 'black led' churches, the rest of the church community has not understood that solidarity with women must include us too. A woman was told me, "lt is extremely hurtful when white sisters, whom you have known for years, tell us, 'we forgot to invite you or we did not know you would be interested'. How can the needs of people, who are so visible by colour become so invisible?"

However to say that the Decade has changed nothing is to negate the efforts and achievements, however small, of thousands of women who have worked hard to raise issues and concerns even when they are too ill or too tired. It is also vital that we applaud the efforts of the church and give credit where it is due. I have in mind the success of programmes such as Women under Racism and SISTERS.
The SISTERS is a network of women from all over the world. It has brought women together from Africa, Asia, Caribbean, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific, and now we can truly say that the world is our neighbourhood. Many women now recognise the similarities in the oppression of women, and the need to support each other and to resist racism together. I can proudly say that an injury to one Sister has become an injury to all, and a concern for everyone.

While any form of racism is obscene and a sin, time does not allow me to name all the different struggles but two examples are worth mentioning:

1) The struggles of Dalit women in India, and the struggles of Indigenous women all over the world. The Dalits are the most despised, impoverished and exploited section of the Indian society. The Dalit woman is thrice oppressed because she is a Dalit, a woman and poor, making her the worst victim of violence due to the interplay of class caste and gender. If you substitute the word Dalit with black women the message reads the same. Caste is a form of racism which needs to be fought at institutional as well as ideological levels.

2) The link between racism and trafficking is obvious. The majority of poor women live in developing countries with a predominantly black population. There is a historical link between racism and exploitation Today global, political, social and economic forces to continue to exploit these countries and the women are regarded as nothing more than commodities, to be bought and sold in the market place. Racism contributes to poverty which makes women and children destitute and therefore vulnerable to criminals who enslave and traffic them to countries where xenophobia, combined with hostile and racist immigration laws further trap them into a life of prostitution and violence. Racism and trafficking of women are serious violations of human rights.

For the women's movement, at a time when many changes are expected as we move towards the millennium, one thing remains constant: racism and its ability to cross national and geographical boundaries, like a hurricane, and cause devastation as it breaks and fragments any form of solidarity among women. To make sure that the gifts of all women continue to flourish, a number of things must happen. The Decade has helped to open many eyes and we cannot go back to that dark and cold place inhabited by women without a voice. We have named and shamed all forms of oppression against women. But we must hold hands firmly together, continue to articulate the problems and struggles which stem from the links between extreme economic deprivation and poverty on one hand, and the political, religious, legal and cultural factors which legitimise racism.

For my daughter and young women everywhere, when you sit under the shade of the trees that your mothers, aunts, and grandmothers planted, nurture the trees well; be vigilant; take turns to sleep; guard the trees well, never forgetting that there are still forces out there that would rather cut the trees down and pluck them out by the roots. As you nurture the trees, scatter the seeds to grow even more trees for your children.

For the churches and WCC: I would like to affirm the challenges listed in Living Letters. In addition I ask the churches, and in particular our white sisters to:

(a) combat all aspects of racism by ensuring that all organs of the church produce a work plan which clearly lists the actions and tasks for churches and church community at local, national and global level

(b) provide adequate resources for Women under Racism /SISTERS in order to strengthen the links, cooperation and joint work with secular women's organisations. The church must do this, mindful of the fact that racism does not respect boundaries of church, state, or nations. It is therefore imperative that action against racism is not confined to such boundaries. I ask the church to walk and stand with and to support women's organisations that are in the front line battling against all forms of racism. This requires that the church stands shoulder to shoulder with black, migrant, refugees, and indigenous women against oppressive forces and powerful state machinery which are often mobilised against them. We must push for implementation of the Convention of Human Rights in recognition of the fact that racism is a form of violence.

The work has just begun. I pray for, and look forward to a millennium without racism. May God be with us all.

***

Participation of Women in the Life of the Church
Metropolitan Ambrosius of Oulu, Finland
Document No. DE 5

"You have destroyed death by your Cross - You have changed a lamentation of the myrrh bearers into joy." (An Orthodox Resurrection hymn)

From the viewpoint of the churches, the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women has been very important within the WCC and its member churches. It has helped us to see some of the limitations of present-day decision-making processes and power structures in our churches and their lack of inclusiveness and transparency more critically than before. In many places women have remained invisible and ignored, in spite of the fact that the community of the Church should always be the community of women and men. Women's concerns are vital parts of the strength and well-being of the whole church. As far as the future of our churches is concerned, we dream of and pursue a community which listens to the hopes, dreams and even the frustrations of its members. It should be a source of liberation equally for men and women, because both are persons created in God's image and called towards God's glory in their building of the church as a community.

We are thankful for having had the opportunity to participate in various Decade activities and the mid-Decade team visits. This opened our eyes to the significance of the Decade in a profound and constructive way. Some of the more traditional churches showed some hesitation and reservations at the beginning. But we gradually discovered that the Decade was not a feminist movement - though we may need that too - but something that concerns the whole Church, her self-understanding and ecclesial nature. The Decade did not attempt to challenge in a negative way those church traditions which do not ordain women. We have not experienced the work of the Decade as a threat, but as a positive method of action inside our churches.

The gospel has the duty and power to criticise culture. During the team visits and afterwards, many men, myself included, were shocked to realise - for the first time - how much violence and economic injustice against women, whether it is culturally conditioned or not, exist inside and outside churches all over the world. It seems that no region is free from hidden agendas, eliminating and marginalising women in various ways.For this reason, we will have the duty, and even the privilege, to bring the fruits and results of this Decade back to our churches.

Contextual theologies are often needed to correct our stereotypes concerning the quality of our participation, solidarity, love and mutual trust between women and men, for example, in decision-making, theological education and lay ministerial roles in every church. The challenge the Decade has posed should remain. By the guidance of the Spirit we will then, in each church, become women and men letters of Christ, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts' (2.Cor.3:3).

***

Phase 3 - The Anticipation

(This phase - the presentation of the recommendations from women and men who attended the Decade Festival, to the churches - will be moderated by Bertrice Wood.)

Letter to the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches from the women and men of the Decade Festival of the Churches in Solidarity with Women: FROM SOLIDARITY TO ACCOUNTABILITY

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The Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women: The Journey Continues
Bertrice Y. Wood
Document No. DE 7

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" Hebrews 11:1 (NRSV)

There was a day in our history as a people of faith, on that first Easter morning, when the women discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead. Yet, their witnessing to the male apostles was dismissed as an idle tale. Their testimony to the good news was not believed.

The good news for the life of the church throughout the generations is that that dismissal was not the last word spoken about the fulfillment of God's promises in the Resurrection. Though eyewitness and heartfelt accounts of many believers, especially those of women, of God's mighty acts in history have been cast aside as idle tales, one of the important affirmations reminders of the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women is that women have not been sitting by idly.

The "Living Letters" team visits pointed out that women are indeed the pillars of the church in all regions of the world. They are the marrow in the Body of Christ. Just as on that first Easter morning, the faithfulness and witness of women continues to sustain and nurture the church. We learned irrefutably that women love the church, as we always have. In our time, as the Living Letters discovered in visit after visit, women are, more than ever, recognizing their God-given gifts as invaluable contributions for the life of the whole church and the whole world. And women are clearly calling the church, as the Body of Christ, to embody Christ's ministry of justice wherever there is injustice, to embrace Christ's example of inclusivity wherever there are persons excluded, be it in the church or in society. The call to be agents of change began with the teachings of Jesus that repudiated much of the traditional attitudes about women and the teachings that modeled ways for women and men to live as equal partners, in the home, the community of faith and in the society. Women, and thankfully many men, have not been sitting by idly. We learned how global, how ecumenical, is the commitment and the energy to overcome whatever are the obstacles which divide people in our churches and block our ability to live in solidarity with all persons in the world.

By visiting almost every member church, the team visits have demonstrated how solidarity and cultural sensitivity can go hand in hand. The visits have encouraged the churches of every context and tradition to speak. They have allowed women and men in each of the churches to discern what solidarity with women appropriately means in their setting. Indeed, the visits offer a model for how the WCC might approach other issues of ecumenical import.

There are vivid signs of hope which the visiting teams have discovered. These signs give us hope that we might anticipate the accomplishments of the Decade will have been of lasting, transformative, significance for the churches and the WCC. Positive changes have occurred. In many places, church leaders are examining their priorities, placing before the whole church the status of women in the church and the churches' call to participate in God's mission of, to learn from the vision of the prophet Amos, repairing the breaches and raising up the ruins which have characterized the circumstances of far too many women. We have heard powerful testimony from men who have been, in their words, "converted." Solidarity has blossomed among women, binding women together across the human barriers of race, class, nationality, confession, theological perspective, and vocation in the church. Women have come forward to support each other in situations of war and violence. The Decade and the team visits have been good for the churches and their members, particularly, but not exclusively, the women. The Decade has been a gift of God to the churches and the ecumenical movement.

But, sadly, there have also been graphic signs of despair. It has been saddening and enraging to realize that the one experience which women have in common with each other, regardless of their status in the church or society, is the experience of violence, in our homes, our societies, and even our churches. The "culture of silence" regarding violence has been so deafening that at times it has felt like a conspiracy. The Body of Christ exists to transform and not be transformed by the world. Yet, we discovered the worldwide tendency to use "culture" as a bulwark against challenging traditional attitudes and practices toward women. There have been noteworthy accomplishments in many churches, but the Decade has been largely a Decade of women nurturing solidarity with women around the world. In general, churches have not permitted the goals and process of the Decade to infuse the whole church with new visions of faithfulness to the gospel. In all places there has been an enormous gap between words and actions. These signs remind us that we must confess that the goals of the Decade still elude the churches. The agenda of the Decade is clearly unfinished.

Yet, in the midst of these actualities, women and supportive men have displayed tremendous courage and commitment to the churches and to the healing, reconciling word of the gospel. Patterns of discrimination and oppression have been challenged in the open. The courage and commitment will not go away.

When the Decade was launched, many of us feared that by focusing on a particular time frame we risked facing a day when the churches and the WCC might approach the end of the Decade with a sigh of relief and a return to sidelining the vision, energy, and resources needed to sustain the church on its journey toward health and wholeness. Still, we knew the time was ripe for a heightened focus on this longstanding ecumenical endeavor. We may be at the end of the Decade; yet, even more important, we are at a high point in a time of kairos. We would do well to recall that the women who approached the tomb on the first Easter discovered that the removal of the stone did not finish their work but that it invited them-and the other disciples-to embark on a journey of life and witness to the resurrected Christ who redeems and liberates us from all that falls short of what it means to be created, male and female, in the image of God. The Decade has been in many ways more than we expected for but far less than we dreamed, hoped and prayed for.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. We approach the culmination of the Decade and the passage into the 21st Century with a renewed call to the churches to build upon both the accomplishments and the unfinished work of the Decade. We do so confident that the God to whom we turn is faithful to the promises God has made. We join a cloud of witnesses in this generation and generations past in anticipating God will continue to work with the churches and people of faith in transforming the lives of individuals, our churches, our cultures, and our world.

The Decade Festival presents to this Assembly and the churches we represent the communique "Women's Challenges: Into the 21st Century." It conveys specific challenges calling for action. The quest for economic justice remains before us, particularly in the ways that women and children are the most directly affected by the trends of the globalization of economies. We have not yet responded faithfully to the ethical and theological imperative for the Church to embrace and facilitate the full participation of all persons. We have started down the path toward empowering women to share the fullness of their gifts and toward enabling the church to be enriched by those gifts; but it is still largely before us. Women have found ways to grow in solidarity with persons across the walls of racism and ethnic tensions. The ecumenical movement and our churches are being called to continued support of that leadership by women. Women know that violence against women, in whatever form, is a sin and call on the churches to take the bold step of stating so, just as the churches have ecumenically denounced other social sins as being contrary to the very essence of the Church, the Body of Christ.

Consider again the symbol of water. Recall again the prophetic words of Amos. "...let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." To the women and men who have labored in the garden of the Decade, we might say take heart. Often seeds of God's Word fall in unrecognized and unanticipated places. New growth often later sprouts where the sowers have tilled the rocky soil and planted the seeds. It is often those who later pass through the garden who discover the transformation. The harvest is plentiful and more laborers are needed. Our hope is in what is still to come as our churches and our societies are nurtured with the waters of justice and streams of righteousness.

Conclusion

It is time to declare that the Decade as a project is completed. As one of the millions of women and men throughout the world for whom the Decade was a source of refreshing waters; as one of the millions who were shocked yet emboldened by the signs of despair and lifted up by the signs of hope discovered during the Decade; on our behalf, I would announce that we have reached the culmination of the Decade. We would give thanks to God for this gift of love and grace to the Church. We would give thanks to God for all of those who knew that God was issuing us all an invitation, as the ecumenical movement, as churches, and as individuals, to partake of the healing waters.

I would also remind us that the Decade has afforded the World Council of Churches and the member churches an opportunity to recognize that solidarity with women-in word and in deed-in the Church and in society is a vital part of the vocation of the WCC. It is of the essence of the Church and of the WCC as an expression of ecclesial life that we embody the goals of the Decade. In this respect, the Decade has allowed us to take a major step on the journey toward wholeness and to live by an oasis for a time. It has also shown clearly how much of the journey is still before us. We have received the offering in writing from the women of the world, captured in the statement of challenges as we move into the new century.

The prophet Habakkuk records that God responded to his cries for justice with these words: "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it." Women and men, rooted in our faith in the promises of God, have written our vision of the fulfillment of those promises clearly and vividly. The vision is clear enough that even one passing by quickly will be able to read it-if each of us would only look in the direction of the women in our churches and in our societies and in the direction of the living God.

The Decade is over as a project and we now anticipate and work as partners with God on the journey toward the appointed day when all visions of justice and reconciliation will be fulfilled.

Then "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."


Vinton Anderson, moderator, posed two questions to the assembly:

1. "What experience have you had of the Decade in your own church?" and

2. "What kind of personal commitment do you make to continue the stand in solidarity with women?"

Bertrice Wood concluded the session by declaring that the Decade is over as a WCC project, and by presenting the letter from the Festival participants to the assembly, entitled "From Solidarity to Accountability".

Seven people spoke from the floor. Comments included, on the one hand, an expression of support for the ordination of women based on the new humanity we receive in Christ, and on the other, opposition to it based on the "spirit and order of the early church"; the need for churches to move from solidarity to accountability in areas such as violence against women, exclusion of women, economic injustice, and racism; and concern voiced by one Orthodox woman delegate who had participated in the Decade Festival that the final text of the letter did not reflect full consensus in all aspects of moral and theological positions, especially concerning reproductive rights.

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8.2. Response to the Plenary on the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women

Policy Reference Committee II developed a response to the Ecumenical Decade plenary which was approved by assembly delegates on 12 December.

8.2. Response to the plenary on the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women

We are grateful for the living letter entitled "From Solidarity to Accountability" (for the text see appendix III) sent by the women and men of the Decade Festival: Visions Beyond 98. We rejoice with all who have rejoiced, celebrated and participated in the progress made during the years of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.

As was expressed in the publication From Canberra to Harare, in some churches the Decade brought together "groups... who had never before sat around the same table to reflect together about the concerns expressed in the Decade". These concerns or areas emphasized were:

• empowering women to challenge oppressive structures;
• affirming their contributions to their churches and communities;
• giving visibility to their engagement in struggles for justice, peace and the integrity of creation;
• enabling churches to free themselves from racism, sexism, classism and discrimination;
• encouraging church action in solidarity with women.

Yet this publication also recognizes that Decade progress was greatly due to the "solidarity of women with other women" and that "transforming the churches into truly inclusive communities" should be a continuing priority of the WCC in the new millennium. We ask delegates to share the living letter "From Solidarity to Accountability" along with other documents presented at the Decade plenary with member churches in their region.

Voices of the Decade plenary

You have changed a lamentation of the myrrh bearers into joy (Orthodox hymn).

Joyful voices were raised in solidarity and praise for the Ecumenical Decade. Many stones, stumbling blocks, have been removed during the Decade. The voices of the Decade plenary presenters were unanimous in praising the progress. Voices affirmed the deep call for human and social rights for women. Voices deplored violence in all its many forms against women. Voices declared commitment to continue the struggle to make the new millennium truly new, especially for women.

However, in response to the Decade presentation, some assembly voices expressed differing and even conflicting views. Some voices say "not now, not ever" to issues raised with regards to ordination, sexual orientation, reproductive rights and inclusive language. One speaker expressed this with the thought that "sometimes it seems we are on a different apostolic journey".

Other voices cautioned the assembly about the delay in removing obstacles to the full inclusion of women in every aspect of life, both in the church and society. These voices say it is time to move on from solidarity to accountability. They state that there is no turning back in the journey of faith that has marked the Decade. This is God's time, God's kairos, for transformation.

As expressed in the title of the letter sent to the WCC, now we are being called to "accountability". The WCC has heard clearly the challenge to account for its commitment to the aims of the Decade in all its workings and policies. We also hear the call to strengthen the churches' solidarity with women.

To strengthen the churches' solidarity with women it is clear that both the WCC and the churches should involve themselves in deep conversation, conversion, prayer and action with regard to the issues discussed in the document "From Solidarity to Accountability" and in the Decade plenary. As the church, we seek to live out the biblical affirmation that we are created in the image of God, male and female (Gen. 1:28) and the baptismal vision that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, no longer male or female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). To this end we make the following recommendations:

Recommendations (Adopted)

1. That the WCC prepare guidelines for inter-gender conduct which incorporate the understanding that any form of violence against women is a sin.

2. That the churches be encouraged to provide opportunities for women to speak out about the issues of violence and abuse where both the victims and the perpetrators of violence can experience the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. The need is recognized for repentance for actions and omissions with regard to the inclusivity of women and the violence to which many have been victims.

3. That the assembly affirm the ongoing work of the WCC on de-legitimizing war, commends the central committee statement of 1995 on overcoming violence, and other statements of the WCC especially as such statements impact on women and children who are the innocent victims of war, conflict situations and domestic violence.

4. That the assembly encourage the use of languages and policies t hat support the inclusion of persons in leadership positions in all aspects of the life of the churches, where this is in harmony with the churches' ecclesiological self-understanding, especially in regard to the issues of gender, age, race, cultural background and disability.

5. That the WCC advocate debt cancellation measures and that the resources saved as a result be used for the improvement in quality of life, especially for women, youth and children.

6. That the WCC denounce the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, such as sex slavery, prostitution, pornography and all such trafficking of women and children.

7. That the WCC support the development of just economic systems and structures in church and society so that people regardless of gender, age, race, cultural background or ability may experience the blessings of justice, equal pay for equal work, sustainable and livable wages and honourable labour practices.

8. That the assembly commend to member churches the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the UN document "Beijing Platform for Action" and the UN Decade entitled Decade of Eradication of Poverty 1997-2007.

9. That the assembly ask the member churches to find ways to keep the goals of the Decade before them.

For information the following recommendations were forwarded to the Programme Guidelines Committee for consideration:

1. That the WCC provide and/or support programmes, opportunities and curricula for theological education that include women's voices, perspectives and experiences. (referred to the central committee for consideration)

2. That the WCC engage in a study of human sexuality, in all of its diversity, to be made available for member churches. Furthermore, that the WCC encourage member churches to open discussion and dialogue on the topic of human sexuality. (incorporated into the Programme Guidelines Committee report)

3. That the assembly commend the Decade emphases on efforts to combat racism and concern for migrant workers and ask that these concerns be incorporated in the various programmes of the WCC. (incorporated into the Programme Guidelines Committee report)

4. Ask the WCC, in consultation with the churches to monitor progress in this area, to hold a midpoint consultation and to report to the ninth assembly. (referred to the central committee for consideration)


8.3. Policy Reference Committee II Report -- Appendix I: Sudan

Rather than attempting to address specific crises in individual African countries, the assembly response to the Africa plenary (section 6.4) spoke in general of the "range of problems and challenges facing the governments, people and churches... throughout this vast continent". However, after the poignant testimony of Bishop Paride Taban of the Roman Catholic diocese of Torit, Sudan, and the deadly bomb attack in his diocese a week after his sermon in Harare during the assembly, Policy Reference Committee II decided to append a "Background Note on Sudan" to its report.

8.3. Policy Reference Committee II Report

Appendix I: Sudan

Addressing the WCC eighth assembly Bishop Paride Taban of Torit Diocese, Sudan, called on the international community to demonstrate more political will and help to stop the slaughter in Southern Sudan. The assembly recalls that in 1972 the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) brokered a Peace Accord between the government in the North of the Sudan and the Anyanya I, precursor to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), in the South. As a result of this Addis Ababa Accord, there was peace in the country till the re-ignition of the conflict in the early 1980s.

This latest outbreak of conflict, which continues unabated, has claimed over a million lives, has displaced countless numbers both internally and outside the borders of the country and has forced the majority remaining to subsist with outside humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the economy in the South has been devastated and is virtually bankrupt. But compounding an already desperate situation the area was hit by famine and starvation.

As is often the case in conflict situations, human rights violations are perpetuated on all sides with mounting incidences of extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, forced relocation, dispossession of land and cattle and enslavement particularly of women and children. These crimes have been well documented by international agencies. Yet no relief is in sight for the victims and their families.

What began as a result of dispute between the North and the South over power sharing and equitable distribution of resources has become even more complex. Prolongation of the war has resulted in violent ethnic and factional infighting in the South. In the North, the government decision to implement the Islamic sharia has completely alienated and marginalized the non-Muslim religious minorities. But the war has also regional and international dimensions. Political and economic factors within the Horn of Africa and the fear of Islamic expansionism have prevented attempts to arrange a cease fire.

During this period of renewed conflict, the WCC and its member churches and aid agencies have continued to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and development aid to the victims. They have continued to express their concern at the escalation of the conflict and the resultant loss of life and property, and the use of humanitarian aid as a weapon of war.

In May 1998, after a visit to the region, United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan said that the warring parties "have restricted access to area where people are suffering; they have banned humanitarian aircraft, including essential cargo planes, and they have attacked refugee camps, truck convoys and relief workers". It has become increasingly clear that aid alone will not bring an end to the suffering of the Sudanese people. Only a just and peaceful settlement will provide them with a chance to rebuild their lives.

The WCC has endeavoured to work for peace through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, which has provided space for church leaders in the North and the South to revitalize their efforts to promote peace. As a result, these church leaders have developed their position on peace in the Sudan and gave expression to it in the paper "United We Stand in Action for Peace". The WCC continues to support and encourage them as they struggle for a just and durable peace in their country. It is convinced that the Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) peace process is the best hope for achieving this objective. Therefore, the WCC will continue to call on the international community to take all necessary steps to revive and strengthen the IGAD peace process. The Declaration of Principles of the IGAD provides a viable framework and basis for a just and lasting peace in the Sudan.


8.4. Policy Reference Committee II Report -- Appendix II: Globalization

In order to provide an additional resource for the first and basic recommendation on globalization in the Policy Reference Committee II report - "that the challenge of globalization should become a central emphasis of the work of the WCC, building upon many significant efforts of the World Council of Churches in the past" - the Committee appended to its report an introductory document growing out of a WCC staff text and presented to the executive committee just prior to the assembly.

8.4. Policy Reference Committee II Report

Appendix II: Globalization

Resisting Domination - Affirming Life: The Challenge of Globalization

Globalization is a reality of the world today - an inescapable fact of life. All people are affected. Globalization is not simply an economic issue. It is a cultural, political, ethical and ecological issue.
Increasingly, Christians and churches find themselves confronted by the new and deeply challenging aspects of globalization which vast numbers of people face, especially the poor.

The vision behind globalization is a competing vision of the oikoumene, the unity of humankind and the whole inhabited earth. How do we live our faith in the context of globalization?

Gathered in Harare

1. Gathered in Harare, this eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches, has listened to the voices of the people of Africa during the Africa plenary and padare. Those voices included both cries of pain and suffering, but also testimonies of resistance, faith and hope. The remarkable strength, creativity and spiritual vitality of our African sisters and brothers is an inspiration to us all. Together we were reminded of the vision of a free people which inspired Africa's struggle for liberation from colonialism.

2. That vision is still alive in the struggles of the people for daily livelihood, to sustain their community life, to be nourished by the rich traditions and values inherited from the past, to live in harmony with the earth, to find space to express themselves. People are longing to live in dignity in just and sustainable communities. We resonated to their vision and aspirations because, though we come from all parts of the world, experience the same yearnings.

3. In the midst of these visions for our people, and our children's children, we have become more acutely aware that, in some fundamental respects, the legacy of colonialism of the past is still present with us in a new form -- a form perhaps more seductive on the surface, but demeaning and dangerous at deeper levels. The driving forces of this new form of domination are economic powers which may be as insidious as political colonizers and a subtle but powerful ideology which assumes that the most promising way to improve the quality of life for all people is to give free rein to market forces.

Concentration of power

4. Today, despite the independence of many formerly colonized peoples, power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a relatively few nations and corporations particularly in the North. Their power extends across the globe and into many areas of life. Their power is extensive and intensive. Major decisions are made by these 30 or so nations and 60 giant corporations. The intentional globalization of production, capital and trade further strengthens the power of the financial centers of the global market.

5. Globalization affects all of us. It contributes to the erosion of the nation state, undermines social cohesion, and intensifies the conquest of nature in a merciless attack on the integrity of creation. Debt crisis and Structural Adjustment Programmes became instruments to gain more control over national budgets and create a profitable and safe environment for investments by the private sector at unbearable costs for the people.

6. This process is greatly strengthened by the development of global communications and media networks. It is also accompanied by a very costly, but successful strategy by the USA and other developed countries to gain and secure military and political hegemony on a global scale. The forging of new institutions, like the World Trade Organization and the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, solidify the power of the already privileged. The convergence of such factors in the 1990s represents a new level of challenge to the poor, the vast majority of the world`s population.

7. The concomitant homogenization in the process of globalization does not include labour. While the movement of global capital is unrestricted, new barriers are created to keep migrant workers in check. In the face of globalization labour is controlled and is losing its strength. Although the liberalization of trade is high on the agenda of economic globalization, developed countries still protect their local agriculture and certain industries against the import of competitive products. They still subsidize their exports with often devastating effects for local markets in the South.

Poverty and exclusion

8. We recognize that there are potentially positive aspects of this burgeoning globalization. As we have seen, new technologies often have linked people against current injustices and abuses of power. They can be used to alert the Christian community of persecutions, violation of human rights, human needs, and emergencies. Easier and efficient accessibility across regions facilitates solidarity among social movements and networks.

9. Those who defend the free market argue that free market economies have demonstrated remarkable capacity to produce goods and services in a world which has a desperate need to meet people's basic material needs. While they acknowledge that some economies have been distorted by being more closely linked to the world economy, they also emphasize that sometimes this link has afforded new levels of prosperity. Such alleged benefits of globalization make it attractive to those who see an unfettered free market system as a way out of poverty.

10. The reality of unequal distribution of power and wealth, of poverty and exclusion, however, challenges the cheap language of a global shared community. The often-used image of the "global village" is misleading. The new situation is lacking exactly the sense of community, belonging and mutual accountability that is typical of village life. Global media networks promote a consumerist mono-culture. The situation of many poor people deteriorates. The World Bank has concluded recently that in 1998 the number of countries with negative economic growth had grown from 21 to 36 during the past year. As a result, they observed that fiscal policies and interest rates have had a much greater social cost than originally envisaged.

11. Further, only a small fraction of the one and one-half trillion dollars of currency exchange each day is related to basic economic activities. The great proportion is mere financial speculation, not genuine investment. That speculation weakens further the already weak economies. Massive speculation led to the collapse of financial markets in Asia and risks to jeopardize the global economy as a whole.

12. The life of the people is made more vulnerable and insecure than ever before. Exclusion in all its forms breeds violence that spreads like a disease. The number of migrants desperately searching for jobs and shelter for their families is increasing dramatically. In the industrialized countries of Europe and North America pockets of the poor are growing in number and size. Everywhere, the gap between rich and poor is widening, making Indigenous Peoples, women, youth and children the primary victims of poverty and exclusion. The vast majority of those excluded are inevitably people of colour who are targets of xenophobia, racism and oppression.

Contradictions, tensions and anxieties

13. Globalization gives rise to a web of contradictions, tensions and anxieties. The systemic interlocking of the local and the global in the process created a number of new dynamics. It led to the concentration of power, knowledge, and wealth in institutions controlled or at least influenced by transnational corporations. But it also generated a decentralizing dynamic as people and communities struggle to regain control over the forces that threaten their very existence. In the midst of changes and severe pressure on their livelihoods and cultures, people want to affirm their cultural and religious identities.

While globalization universalized certain aspects of modern social life, it also causes and fuels fragmentation of the social fabric of societies. As the process goes on and people lose hope, they start to compete against each other in order to secure some benefits from the global economy. In some cases this reality gives rise to fundamentalism and ethnic cleansing.

Neo-liberal ideology

14. Economic globalization is guided by the neo-liberal ideology. The credo of the free market is the firm belief that through competing economic forces and purposes, an ‘invisible hand' will assure the optimum good as every individual pursues his or her economic gain. It views human beings as individuals rather than as persons in community, as essentially competitive rather than cooperative, as consumerist and materialist rather than spiritual. Thus, it produced a graceless system that renders people surplus and abandons them if they cannot compete with the powerful few in global economy.

15. As a consequence, people tend to lose their cultural identity and deny their political and ethical responsibility. Promising wealth for everybody and the fulfilment of the dream of unlimited progress, neo-liberalism draws a picture of universal salvation. But obsessed with rising revenues from financial markets, expansion of trade and growth of production, the global economic system is blind for its destructive social and ecological consequences.

A challenge to the churches and the ecumenical movement

16. Globalization poses a pastoral, ethical, theological and spiritual challenge to the churches and the ecumenical movement in particular. The vision behind globalization is a competing vision of the oikoumene, the unity of humankind and the whole inhabited earth. The globalized oikoumene of domination is in contrast with the oikoumene of faith and solidarity that motivates and energizes the ecumenical movement. The logic of globalization needs to be challenged by an alternative way of life of community in diversity.

17. Plurality and diversity within the ecumenical movement, for example, are no longer seen as an obstacle to the unity of the churches and a viable future for humankind. Diversity provides rich resources and options for viable solutions if the stories, experiences and traditions of others are recognized and individual Christians, ecumenical groups and churches search together for alternatives that affirm and sustain life on earth. The traditional concept of the catholicity of the church deserves renewed attention. The notion and praxis of catholicity can be understood as an early form of Christian response to the imperial form of unity that was shaped and represented by the Roman Empire. Such an alternative option to the imperial power is of relevance for the affirmation of the ecumenical dimension in the life of the churches in the context of globalization.

Jubilee and globalization

18. During these days together we have been reminded often of the jubilee, a time of emancipation, restoration of just relationships and new beginnings (Lev. 25, Isa. 61, Luke 4). The jubilee is a recognition that, left to its normal and uninterrupted course, power becomes more and more concentrated in a few hands, that without intervention every society slides into injustice. As the Hebrew Bible reminds us, the powerful build house upon house, appropriate field after field (Isa. 5:8). The weak and poor are vulnerable, marginalized, excluded. Restoration requires to turn against this course of history (Mic. 7; Neh. 5). The wholeness of people, and of a people, requires the intervention, the periodic breaking down of the ordinary course of events.

19. The jubilee has important implications for our reflections on globalization today. Globalization usually appears benign, or even beneficial, especially when one benefits from that process. But the increasing concentration of power -- economic, political, cultural, military -- is dramatically shaping the world of the present and future in ways that are not benign. The scandal of crippling debt, the marginalization and exclusion of vast numbers of sisters and brothers, the exploitation of women and children, additional strain on minorities struggling to keep their culture, religious tradition and language alive, the destruction of the ancestral land of Indigenous Peoples and their communities are in part an expression of this concentration of power legitimized in the name of a better standard of living.

Affirming God's gift of life

20. It is now even more necessary than before to call for a fundamental re-shaping of the economic system and to affirm God's gift of life that is threatened in so many ways. Sustainable development, a concept prominent in international fora, still leaves powerful forces of globalization in command and does not question the underlying paradigm of continuous and unlimited progress and growth. Affirming God's gift of life to all creation in the midst of the pain, suffering, and destruction caused by economic globalization, it is imperative to discern a life-centred vision.

21. Jesus came so that all may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). God's salvation in Jesus Christ not only means fullness of life for the human community, but the restoration of all creation to its goodness and wholeness. God's Holy Spirit comes to renew the whole creation. According to the creation stories of the Bible, the earth was meant to be home for all living creatures, which live in different spaces, but linked to each other in a web of relationships. The human community is placed within the wider community of the earth, which is embedded in God's household of life. It is this vision of a truly ecumenical earth, that challenges the ecumenical movement to search for new ways of revitalizing and protecting the communities of Indigenous Peoples and of the marginalized and excluded, participate in resistance against the growing domination of economic globalization, and engage itself in the building of a culture of peace and just relationships, a culture of sharing and solidarity.

22. Peoples' stories show and reflect the longing and desire for sustenance of life through fulfilling the essential needs of all people, for the protection of life through peace-building and peace making in situations of violence and war, for the enhancement of life through the strengthening of accountability in a truly democratic society and the improving of people's economic welfare by broadening opportunities and solidarity linkages, and for the enrichment of life through the deepening of people's spirituality and cultural activities as well as the up-building of just and sustainable communities.

23. Four essentials for a life-centred vision need to be nurtured: participation as the optimal inclusion of all involved at all levels, equity as basic fairness that also extends to other life forms, accountability as the structuring of responsibility towards one another and Earth itself, and sufficiency as the commitment to meet basic needs of all life possible and develop a quality of life that includes bread for all but is more than bread alone.

The task of the ecumenical family

24. What should be the response of the churches in the face of this challenge? What is the task of the ecumenical family? What should be the role of the churches through the World Council of Churches? How should churches and the WCC relate to others who struggle to understand and meet the challenges posed by globalization? How can we be vehicles of God's jubilee so central to Jesus' message (Luke 7:18-23)? That response must be named by each person and community represented here.

25. We acknowledge that in the context of globalization we have compromised our own convictions. We repent for the ways the power of new technologies, the lure of having things, the temptations to superiority and power have diverted our attention from our neighbour who suffers. We acknowledge the temptation we have to strive for our own inclusion in a world which has space for a privileged few. Lest our confession and repentance be hallow, we are called to discover and restore our solidarity with the excluded ones.

26. It is the task of the WCC to strengthen the ecumenical dimension in the life of the churches and provide space necessary for dialogue and mutual up-building towards a common witness by the churches locally, regionally and internationally. There is a need to strengthen the voice and representation by the WCC on international levels, a representation that can build on the capacity to analyze global trends, but one also that depends upon the kind of networking, support and transformation the WCC can muster as the churches own instrument. Critical to the vision of earth as home is the call for people in very different situations and contexts to practice faith in solidarity and affirm life on earth together.

27. In retrospect, it is clear that since the seventh assembly in Canberra the different programmatic areas of the WCC have been increasingly aware of the challenges and dangers inherent in the process of globalization. The new central committee and all of the member churches should be encouraged to develop a more coherent approach to the challenges of globalization, with a focus on life in dignity in just and sustainable communities.

Recent WCC publications on globalization and economic matters

1. Tony Addy (ed), The Globalizing Economy: New Risks-New Challenges-New Alliances, WCC-Unit III: Geneva, 1998
2. Tony Addy (ed), The Globalizing Economy: New Risks-New Challenges-New Alliances. Summary of Recommendations, WCC-Unit III: Geneva, 1998
3. Bas de Gaay Fortman/Berma Klein Goldewijk, God and the Goods: Global Economy in a Civilizational Perspective, WCC: Geneva, 1998
4. Richard Dickinson. Economic Globalization: Deepening Challenge for Christians, WCC-Unit III, Geneva, 1998
5. Rob van Drimmelen, Faith in a Global Economy, WCC: Geneva, 1998
6. Samuel Kobia, The Changing Role of the State and the Challenge for Church Leadership in Africa, in: Echoes 14, WCC-Unit III: Geneva, 1998, pp. 8-11
7. Julio de Santa Ana, Sustainability and Globalization, WCC: Geneva, 1998
8. WCC-Unit III (ed), Dossiers I and II on Multilateral Agreement on Investment, Geneva, 1998
9. WCC-Unit III (ed), Featuring Globalization, Echoes 12, Geneva, 1997


8.5. Youth Participation in the WCC

This text, based on discussions by the WCC’s mandated working group on youth during a meeting in Geneva in November 1998, was adopted by the participants in the pre-assembly youth event.

8.5. Policy Document on Youth Participation in the WCC

1. The Common Understanding and Vision process has challenged the Council to relook at its programmatic structure and its relationships to the churches and other ecumenical networks. The new structure calls for an integration of all programmes and for new styles of work. In this context, this paper looks at the future of the work with youth in the new programme structure.

2. The challenge of representing the whole body of Christ has long been at the core of the WCC's ecumenical vision and work. The Council has sought to embody the diversity found within the member churches by setting goals for participation of various constituencies, in all aspects of its life. Commitments to meeting goals and attaining greater integration have therefore been made by the Council's governing bodies. The introduction of Council-wide mandated working groups was also intended to achieve this.

3. But despite the good faith of these commitments the goals have not been reached. The level of youth participation in many aspects of the Council's life stands in glaring contrast to the firm commitment made by WCC's central committee in 1988 for 20 percent involvement of young people. The seventh assembly echoed this:

"We expect that the participation goals for women and youth will be maintained in all events and in membership of committees. The central committee should assure funding only for those activities which reflect approved goals for inclusiveness" (Signs of the Spirit: Official Report of the Seventh Assembly, p.189)


In the restructuring of the WCC after Canberra attempts to internalise the commitment to youth participation in program planning and the whole life of the Council were not fully accomplished. At times the Council has returned to the mistaken notion that youth work can be accomplished by one programme unit or team. In fact, the fifth assembly in Nairobi (1975) had already called for a different style of work:

"Youth work must have a somewhat autonomous character, structurally located in one particular programme unit, but relating to all units so as to bring the presence of youth fully into the life of the ecumenical movement" (Breaking Barriers - Nairobi 1975, London, SPCK, 1976, p.316)


4. At the heart of the CUV process is the search for renewal. This search carries the challenge for inclusivity and empowerment. Neglecting to use and develop the gifts offered by God through young people, or any group, is detrimental to the renewal we seek. It also weakens the testimony of the churches. Youth who are committed to the ecumenical movement are valuable communicators for the churches. Youth are witnesses to other young people and nurture the faith given to the whole people of God. The Bible is full of examples where young people were called to witness and even lead at a surprisingly early age (1 Sam. 3; 1 Sam. 17; Jer. 1; 1 Tim. 4,11).

The eighth assembly convenes at a time when, in many countries, young people are leaving the historical churches because they feel excluded and ignored; an increasing number of youth feel the church is irrelevant to their lives and their society; many churches do not fully use the human resources which young people are in their witness to the world.

5. In the work of renewal, there is a new vision for work with young people. This vision is one which calls for young people to be integrated into the ecumenical movement for the mutual benefit of all generations. By calling for integration we do not seek to take away the focus of youth work. We seek both continued leadership development of young people through specific youth programmes and inclusion of the specific experiences of young people in all programs. Examples of integrated youth work in the last seven-year period include the stewards and internships programme and programmatic cooperation on issues such as Gospel and Culture. The internship programme has helped WCC to benefit from the resources that young people bring to its work, but has also trained them to be ecumenical catalysts at their local/national level.

Integrating young people into ecumenical service requires programme staff to facilitate equitable participation of youth in the WCC itself, in member churches and in national and regional ecumenical organizations alike. It is encouraging to see the active participation of young people in the search for unity and in social action in certain countries and regions and the number of churches who include youth, enabling them to give a stronger testimony.

To reach the goals and commitments the WCC has set for itself regarding youth participation, it is recommended:

1. that the WCC ensure the equitable participation of young people in all aspects of its life by (a) maintaining the requirement of 20 percent youth membership in assemblies, committees and meetings; (b) mandating the equitable participation of young people in its programmes by: assigning one person in each staff team to monitor youth participation within the programmes of that staff team: these staff could form the new staff coordinating group on youth; assuring resources only for those activities which reflect approved goals for inclusiveness; maintaining an affirmative action policy in the employment of young people in all areas of work; (c) maintaining the position of youth president;

2. that the WCC retain programme staff for youth work, the staff coordinating group on youth and mandated working group on youth, to facilitate the achievement of goals set for equitable youth participation across the Council;

3. that the WCC provide opportunities for ecumenical formation at all levels; the stewards and internship programmes should be further developed and serve as models for future work in the WCC;

4. that the WCC maintain programmes which respond to particular concerns of youth as well as affirming their participation in addressing wider issues; this is best done through pre-meetings for the youth participants prior to all WCC consultations and events.


8.6. Indigenous Peoples

This text was adopted at a pre-assembly gathering of Indigenous Peoples, held in Harare on 1 and 2 December, and attended by 42 people from 19 countries; many of whom attended the assembly as delegates of their church.

8.6. Appeal from the Indigenous Peoples: "Why are we still waiting?"

"We are still waiting... for true partnership, for full recognition of our rights."

By the grace of the Creator and guided by our ancestors we, the Indigenous Peoples, celebrate our survival. We have survived in spite of the racism of genocide, colonization, assimilation and development. The earth is our Mother and is therefore sacred. We affirm our identities, cultures, languages, philosophies of life, spiritualities and the sacredness of our lands. These are linked to the balanced relationship with all of creation.

Historically and still today, the churches have compelled us to engage in an ecclesial and theological journey culminating in assimilation, uniformity and assent. The churches have not known or understood Indigenous Peoples, to the impoverishment of everyone.

Our lives, our spiritualities, our languages and our cultures as distinct peoples are constantly under threat. We are threatened by mining, wildlife conservation, deforestation, commercial long-line fishing, hydro-electric dams, militarization, nuclear dumping and testing, eco-tourism and other projects. Modern state boundaries are colonial constructions that fragment and interfere with the way of life of our peoples. Our sacred sites have been and are still being desecrated. These threats came with the colonizer and are perpetuated today by models of development that seek to exploit our natural resources without regard for future generations.

We acknowledge that the WCC and some of its member churches have made efforts towards understanding and working with Indigenous Peoples in our struggles, but much more needs to be done. The enrichment of the churches and the healing of Indigenous communities must begin with a viable and meaningful ongoing commitment to collaboration and partnership. This partnership requires a radical change of heart in the churches. There must be an acknowledgment that the churches have benefited from unjust political and economic structures that they have helped to create. Change must come not just because the churches have to but because they want to -- as a response to gospel imperative. We would urge that the member churches hear our stories again and experience from within them the churches' historic role in oppression.

We therefore challenge the WCC and its member churches:

• to reaffirm the Canberra statement in Indigenous Peoples and land rights in move beyond words;
• to include the Indigenous Peoples programme in the core programmes of the WCC;
• to promote and enable equal participation of Indigenous Peoples at every level of decision-making within the structures of the churches;
• to continue to draw the concerns and issues of the Indigenous Peoples to the attention of the WCC and its member churches for action and reflection;
• to continue the process of Gospel and Culture dialogue at a local and global level;
• to respect and promote Indigenous Peoples rights to self-determination including land rights, spiritualities, culture, languages and intellectual property rights;
• to support the adoption of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments and standards related to the promotion of Indigenous Peoples rights.

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WCC, but we remind our sisters and brothers of the member churches of the need for the restoration of the land and the liberation of the oppressed.
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8.7. Responses from Evangelical Participants

The group of evangelicals who met regularly during the assembly represented a broad range of theological positions and sensibilities within the evangelical movement. As at several previous WCC assemblies and major conferences, the group worked on drafting a letter that would be publicly addressed to the assembly as an "evangelical response" to the event. The text eventually agreed upon was signed by most of those who had taken part in various ways in the work of the group and the discussions. A number of persons who signed the letter nevertheless felt that it did not sufficiently address from an evangelical point of view certain issues debated by the assembly, such as globalization and debt relief. They decided therefore to write an additional letter. To indicate the diversity and complementarity of these evangelical responses, both letters are published here.

A Jubilee call: A Letter to the WCC by Evangelical Participants at Harare

8.7a. A Jubilee Call: A Letter to the WCC by Evangelical Participants at Harare

History of evangelicals and the ecumenical movement

The WCC owes its origins in large part to mission and evangelism by member churches and their agencies and is based on confession of "Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures". Since Nairobi in 1975 there has been sustained discussion by evangelicals inside and outside the WCC regarding its vision and work. In Vancouver in 1983 the WCC committed itself to increased dialogue with and participation by evangelicals. At Canberra in 1991, in "Evangelical Perspectives from Canberra", evangelicals asked the WCC to monitor the progress of evangelical participation and representation in the Council. This traditional letter of response asks what progress has been made, as reflected in the Harare assembly. We recognize that the WCC might have similar questions about evangelical intentions in the journey with them.

The WCC has been a chief instrument of global ecumenism, although it recognizes itself as only one such instrument. Evangelicals both inside and outside WCC member churches have also been active in local ecumenism. Within the last decade their participation has grown in national ecumenical organizations and programmes. A growing number of evangelicals are also committed to the global ecumenical vision and seek further involvement on that level. We thank the WCC for its continuing commitment, first expressed at Vancouver to "seek new forms of relationships with evangelicals" and affirmed again here at Harare. We appreciate the formation of the WCC-Pentecostal joint working group. Depending on their context and history, however, some evangelicals still experience a sense of frustration and even crisis about the future of their WCC participation because of uncertainty over the nature of the WCC commitment to mission and evangelism, and biblical theology. Others are more hopeful of closer relationships. It is not clear how evangelical involvement in global ecumenism is to be related in other ways to WCC programmes and structures. We pledge our support to join with you in other ways of working together.

An evaluation of Harare

We affirm the following contributions of this assembly to the ecumenical movement:

• The Christian faith of the people present, especially the vibrant African spirituality that we experienced.
• The worship, vigil and evening prayers as moving and challenging experiences rooted in the Lordship of Christ.
• The beauty of the biblical ecumenical vision shared in personal fellowship and conversation.
• The African venue of the assembly. With particular reference to Africa and the rest of the two-thirds world, it has addressed debt cancellation, HIV/AIDS, peace, justice and reconciliation and good governance, globalization, and solidarity with women, youth and children. In particular we support:
o Debt relief in poor countries, to which we add the need to fight corruption, promote good governance and strengthen civil society and democratic institutions.
o The move for a decade against all forms of violence, particularly against women, children and Indigenous communities, including the vision of the Programme to Overcome Violence and its Peace to the City initiative in seven violent urban areas. We stand on the side of any group which suffers injustice and institutional violence.
o The critique of globalization as a process that tends to exclude and further marginalize the poor, even while we recognize that it brings diverse cultures into contact, and that this can increase the richness and variety of human experience.
o The continuing fight against all forms of human rights abuse, especially the light of Christians suffering religious persecution particularly in Sudan.
• The initiatives of the task force set up after Canberra to include evangelicals, many of whom are present here. We regret that evangelicals may not have responded adequately to task force initiatives and invitations to this assembly.
• The continuing evangelical-Orthodox dialogue. We greatly appreciate the WCC for taking this dialogue under its auspices and the emerging Pentecostal-Orthodox dialogue. The evangelical dialogue will address sensitive issues such as proselytism, human rights, mission and women's ordination, but always in the framework of that commitment to the triune God and a biblical Christology which we share. We, with our Orthodox colleagues, encourage people at the grassroots to participate in this dialogue.

We fear that the following features of the assembly contradict some earlier WCC achievements and hinder attainment of the global ecumenical vision.

1. We appreciated worshipping daily in the presence of the symbol of the cross of Christ covering the African continent. However, theological input into the African plenary did not represent the theology and vision of many African churches which are committed to scripture's centrality along with cultural renewal and social, political and economic change. The final commitment at this plenary did not mention Jesus once. Platform presentations by representative African leaders from member churches were lacking. Though we are in Africa, many of its Christian voices were not heard.

2. Many African churches, amid much poverty, suffering and persecution, have extensive ministries to HIV/AIDS patients based on a Christian sexual ethic and understanding of family. The family, as well as community participation in all moral, spiritual and daily activities, are central to the African worldview. We regret that the importance of the family and of biblical sexual morality were little featured in the plenary, Padare or hearings.

3. Serious theological reflection was largely absent. This is inconsistent with the call at Canberra for a "vital and coherent theology". Some major speakers and presentations fell outside the boundaries of the credal bases of all member churches and the Council's own faith basis.

4. While the theme, "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope", should have led to a strong emphasis on mission, evangelism and the church, this was largely missing. Work in these areas by member churches and the WCC (such as by the CWME in Salvador) was not drawn in. We urge a renewed emphasis on mission and evangelism which will empower the churches to communicate the gospel through the world. Christ's transforming gospel both affirms and critiques cultures and societies, and requires humility, sensitivity and prophetic engagement with oppression. We would like to express our own commitments and make the following proposals.

o The gospel of Jesus Christ speaks on behalf of those who have no voice in confronting social and economic injustice, for these affront the love and justice of God. For this reason, we affirm the WCC emphasis on solidarity as an expression of mission. The gospel, which focuses on the Lordship of Jesus, crucified through injustice and risen in triumph over evil and death, is at its heart a call to personal "turning to God", to obedience to the risen Lord and to fellowship in his body. Evangelism, as this call to personal turning to God, must be at the heart of the church's mission of social transformation. We would like to be involved with you in a study of how personal transformation through Christ relates to such programmes as the Theology of Life study.

o Since personal transformation is at the heart of mission, personal change must be stressed in efforts to alter global systems. For example, in dealing with the indebtedness of poor nations, the greed and corruption that affects all people and nations must be addressed. The gospel requires us, in response to God's initiating love, to take responsibility for one's life and one's sins. Consequently, personal transformation makes people subjects in addressing their own issues rather than objects of other peoples' endeavours. We invite you to join us in a study of how evangelism and mission relate to structural transformation.

o Mission, then, has personal and social dimensions. On the social level the WCC has often seemed to favour sweeping structural changes which do not adequately take personal responsibility into account. The perspective of scripture and much non-Western culture views the person as inseparably involved in families and communities, and responsible to them in all individual choices, and as deserving respect from them in all corporate decisions. We welcome the sense of personal responsibility shown in the assemblies' decisions on debt and other issues.

o Strengthening the family which is disintegrating under the pressures of moral relativism, individualism, materialism and harsh economic need, is an important mission imperative. The reluctance to affirm biblical norms, including sexual ones, for all persons, or to insist on personal repentance as a fruit of granting the autonomous individual an inordinately large role in society. It seems to underlie a permissive Western approach to homosexuality which denies biblical norms and absolutizes autonomous individual preferences. We recommend cultural sensitivity to this issue which respects the pastoral approaches operative in the two-thirds world. We invite you to join us in a study on the meaning and nature of personhood in which we trust there will be a significant Orthodox participation.

o Evangelicals will continue to devote energy to local, regional and national expressions of the ecumenical vision. We will participate in grassroots ecumenism, build up the evangelical oikoumene and strengthen local and national councils of churches.

o Since the WCC recognizes itself as but one instrument of global ecumenism, some of us question how much energy to invest on this one path to the global vision. Others of us are more hopeful of being heard and involved in various WCC activities. Some of us would like to initiate discussion among Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and evangelicals on worldwide unity, either through new structures or reformation of the WCC. All of us insist that for evangelicals to be involved in the WCC in increasingly meaningful ways, the WCC must operate more in accord with the biblical, christocentric, missionary emphasis of its original vision. Jubilee is also a time to return to the beginning for we can all affirm the original Amsterdam message.


An Evangelical Response to Harare

8.7b. An Evangelical Response to Harare

As evangelicals present at this assembly, we share the concern for a visible unity that witnesses to God's loving engagement with a suffering world.

We affirm our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the ecumenical movement in this time of struggle to stay together and develop a common vision that is committed to a holistic gospel that embraces all of life and has at its centre the call to turn to Jesus and the transforming power of his reign. We sense a new movement of the Spirit for the creation of new wineskins that will better reflect our common commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

In particular, we support:

1. the call for debt relief in poor countries, and we add the need to fight corruption, promote good governance and strengthen civil society and democratic institutions;

2. the move for a decade against all forms of violence, particularly violence against women, children and indigenous communities; we stand on the side of any group of people who suffer injustice and all kinds of institutional violence;

3. the critique of globalization as a process that tends to exclude and further marginalizes the poor, even as we recognize that it makes possible contact among diverse cultures and peoples and brings about richness and an increasing sense of plurality;

4. the continuing fight against all forms of human rights abuses, including especially the plight of Christians who suffer religious persecution.

At the same time we wish to bring to WCC's attention and action:

1. a renewed emphasis on mission and evangelism so that the churches are empowered to carry the whole gospel to the whole world; the transforming power of the gospel both affirms and critiques cultures and societies; for this reason this task requires humility, sensitivity and a prophetic engagement with the oppressive aspects of cultures;

2. the strengthening of the family which is disintegrating under pressure of moral relativism, individualism, materialism and harsh economic need;

3. the need to broaden and strengthen the participation of a large number of evangelicals and Pentecostals/charismatics and the potential for mutual enrichment and contribution that this relationship can bring.

Ecumenical cooperation is a growing reality among churches in the two-thirds world where the centre of Christianity has shifted. It is our prayer and our hope that the inclusive vision of the gospel will lead to an enduring relationship of trust and meaningful cooperation among evangelicals and the ecumenical movement.


8.8. A Letter from Children

Children and organizations involved in two WCC consultations on children's issues in 1996 and 1997 joined with street children from Harare and children from village schools in Zimbabwe to take part in a Padare offering on "The Dignity of Children". The children, from 13 countries, wrote a message requesting support and leadership from WCC member churches.

8.8. A Letter from Children

We, the children of the world, constructing the international Global Ecumenical Children's Network, gather here in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 9 December 1998. We are here to challenge the World Council of Churches and its member churches to give their moral, financial and spiritual support to our network.

We, the children, cannot overstress the urgency to engage in direct, immediate and drastic action to help our suffering peers around the world.

We have already presented our concerns to Unit IV and the WCC's 1997 and 1998 central committees. As a result of those meetings many plans of action for children have emerged. However, we do not lack "plans"; instead, we are in dire need of action.

As a result of the above, we challenge the assembly of the World Council of Churches and all its member churches to do the following:

• make all publications concerning children available to the youth in local parishes;
• foster the opening of the Global Ecumenical Children's Network in local churches;
• promote the participation of children in the churches, and thus their protagonism;
• recognize the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in all churches;
• adopt a resolution stating that the WCC agrees with all the points of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially but not exclusively the clause which allows youth participation;
• help to build a positive image of children, particularly of delinquent children, and prevent stigmatization;
• organize an internet-site dedicated to the Global Ecumenical Children's Network and the positive role that youth are playing in today's society;
• make a commitment to fight the exploitation of children, especially those involved in the sex trade, including the sexual exploitation of domestic servants;
• promote a yearly event when the local churches make a collection on International Children's Day; the money would be distributed by the Global Ecumenical Network to help the exploited and abused children of this world.

We, the children, want to congratulate the World Council of Churches for its leadership role on an international level in fostering youth protagonism. However, we wish to remind the WCC that we are only at the beginning of the long walk into the new millennium in which we "turn to God and rejoice in hope."


8.9. Visions for the Future by Philip Potter

Philip Potter, a WCC staff member for 24 years and general secretary from 1972 to 1984, was the logical choice as a speaker for the "Journey to Jubilee" celebration of the Council's 50th anniversary on 13 December. At the first assembly in Amsterdam fifty years earlier, he had been the spokesperson for the active contingent of youth participants (for the text of the other presentation in the session, by South African President Nelson Mandela, see section 6.5).

8.9. Visions for the Future
Address by Philip Potter to the WCC on the Occasion of its
50th Anniversary, Harare, 13 December 1998

I have been asked to follow up the journey of the World Council of Churches through these fifty years, by trying to see visions of the future. Being now an old man myself, I can only aspire to dream -- though I must admit that I have always been a poor sleeper!

At Amsterdam the average age of the delegates was 61, while that of us youth delegates was about 25. But a large number of those older delegates had kept alive the vision which they had captured in the Student Christian Movement and the YMCA and YWCA. I did say to the assembly in my address that the young and the old needed each other, in the fellowship of the Spirit, for the tasks ahead.

What struck us young people most at Amsterdam was the boldness and the prophetic character of the message, and especially the call to be Christ's witnesses and servants among our neighbours. The message said in particular:

"We have to remind ourselves and all people that God has put down the mighty from their seats and exalted the humble and meek. We have to learn afresh together to speak boldly in Christ's name both to those in power and to the people, to oppose terror, cruelty and race discrimination, to stand by the outcast, the prisoner and the refugee. We have to make of the church in every place a voice for those who have no voice, and a home where everyone will be at home. We have to learn afresh together what is the duty of the Christian man or woman in industry, in agriculture, in politics, in the professions and in the home. We have to ask God to teach us together to say No and to say Yes in truth. No, to all that flouts the love of Christ, to every system, every programme and every person that treats anyone as though he or she were an irresponsible thing or a means of profit, to the defenders of injustice in the name of order, to those who sow seeds of war or urge war as inevitable; Yes, to all that conforms to the love of Christ, to all who seek for justice, to the peace-makers, to all who hope, fight and suffer for the cause of humanity, to all who -- even without knowing it -- look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness."


These words are as fresh and pertinent today as they were in 1948. We started our journey this afternoon with the reading of the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 1, which speaks of the "cloud of witnesses". We must not forget that the writer indicates in chapter 2, verse 5, that his vision is "the oikoumene which is coming" -- the oikoumene of God, in which dwells justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

This century has been called "the century of extremes" and it might well continue to be so in the coming 21st century. Certainly, it was in this century that the ultimate weapons of human destruction have been produced and used, and that the pollution of the natural environment has become a real menace. During these fifty years, the oikoumene, the whole inhabited earth, has been brought into one global city, through the various high-technology means of communication, but under the control of only a small minority of the world's population. As the century comes to an end, the world is divided economically into North and South, and culturally and religiously into many hostile factions.

What is the legacy of the ecumenical movement in this half century, and what gains have we experienced which must be carried forward towards the unity and community of God's people as a sign of God's purpose for the unity and community of all peoples in a sustained earth? As we have briefly surveyed the work of the World Council of Churches over these fifty years, there are some things which stand out and point to the future.

First, Christians are now willing to face openly the divisions which have taken place, especially over the past 1000 years. The historic churches are now all on speaking terms. Within the last forty years there have been remarkable comings together and conversations between the major families of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and the churches of the Reformation and their offshoots. We have been able, through the persistent efforts of the Faith and Order commission, to articulate ways to visible unity, and to take small steps towards deeper fellowship in faith, worship and life.

Even though in North and South America, in Africa and elsewhere several independent and Pentecostal communities are sprouting up, they are no longer publicly regarded with suspicion and intolerance. Indeed, religious liberty is being more clearly observed. This is in no small measure due to the contribution of the World Council of Churches and of its related churches to the drafting of the clauses on religious liberty in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948, and to the continued work of the Council in defending religious liberty everywhere.

Second, the WCC has continued and intensified its central task of furthering the mission of the church in six continents, and the proclamation of the gospel in diverse cultures, as well as the ministry of health and healing. There has also been a steady development of dialogue, in mutual respect and openness, with people of the major non-Christian faiths. In several cases cooperation on concerns of human rights and welfare and of disarmament and peace is fruitfully taking place. All this must go on.

In the last twenty years, however, there has been an unhappy increase in ethno-religious conflicts, which calls for more concerted ecumenical attention than has been given. Unfortunately, as the pressure of the globalization of finance, economics and communication accelerates, so do the violent reactions of ethno-religious groupings in many countries. Here again, a very difficult and imperative task awaits the World Council of Churches, together with other Christian and religious groups, to intensify mutual dialogue and action, and to seek ways to overcome violence and encourage cooperation for human well-being.

Third, the ecumenical movement, and the World Council of Churches in particular, have carried out many study programmes and activities which have effected change and will continue to do so for the common good, in several aspects of our human condition. These activities are pursued in order to achieve one of the aims of the Council for "the service of human need, the breaking down of barriers between people, the promotion of one human family in justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation".

Let me enumerate some concerns which are central to our ecumenical agenda now and in the future and which should engage our thought and energies.

• Work among refugees, displaced persons and migrants has been and will be a major activity in a world which is broken with war and conflicts.

• The Programme to Combat Racism has highlighted one of the scourges of the human family -- discrimination against and exclusion of people because of their race, and the marginalization of Indigenous Peoples, as in the Americas and in the Pacific. The task of affirming and contributing to the sanctity and full humanity of persons of every race must be carried out with eager determination.

• The age-old discrimination against women in church and society has been challenged with vigour since the Amsterdam assembly. Through the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women, which has ended with this assembly, a new and hopefully more creative stage has been reached in recognizing the God-given equality of women and men.

• The option for the poor and deprived has also been carried out with particular force and enthusiasm during the last thirty years. In a world in which poverty and unemployment are dramatically increasing in both poor and rich countries, we have the obligation, together with all persons of goodwill, to uncover the causes of economic and social inequalities and work unremittingly for a more just world community.

Let me mention here one of the many occasions on which youth have played a significant role in ecumenical discussion and action. Uppsala was the most open and exciting WCC assembly, which was facilitated by the open houses for coffee and discussion, as well as a daily paper which the Swedish students provided. The youth participants were well prepared for the work of the assembly, and during the days of the assembly itself there were many late-night discussions on strategy, in which I took part. The youth participants influenced some of the resolutions presented to the assembly for adoption. One of those young people was a Dutch economics expert named Jan Pronk. Six years later, as minister of economics in the Dutch government, he presided over an important UN conference which produced a powerful charter on a New International Economic Order. At our Nairobi assembly, I, among others, quoted from this Charter as we were hammering out our own programme towards a Just, Participatory and Sustainable Society. Jan Pronk also addressed our Vancouver assembly as deputy director of the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

• This century of extremes, which has witnessed the most devastating wars in history, will transmit its legacy of the proliferation of arms of mass destruction and of civil, regional and international wars into the 21st century. Here again it is the duty of the WCC and other Christian bodies, and also of international instruments like the United Nations, to work with ceaseless vigilance to create and maintain a climate of peace on earth and goodwill among peoples.

• During these fifty years, there has been a growing consciousness of "the limits to growth" and of the squandering of the earth's resources. What has become more evident is that the earth and the atmosphere must be protected and preserved from further pollution. The irony is that it is the richest and the poorest countries, though for quite opposite reasons, which are least willing and able to tackle this growing threat to humanity and to the whole creation. Christians are called more than ever to proclaim and practise God's blessing of "good" on the whole creation.

What is abundantly clear is that the WCC, as a fellowship of churches and as an instrument of the ecumenical movement, has as its continuing raison d'être to declare by word and deed the unity of all God's people, to witness to the saving and renewing grace and power of the gospel of God through Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; and to serve and advance the well-being of all people. I fervently hope that young participants in this assembly will be present at the next jubilee in the year 2048 to testify to what God has done through their generation to carry out the purpose of good for all.
We have been meeting in this jubilee assembly at a time of great challenges and also of great uncertainty about our life and calling together as a fellowship of God's people in Christ sent to do God's work in God's world. We feel insufficient for the tasks before us. But as the apostle Paul reminds us: "Our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5). That is why we have been saying to ourselves and to each other: "Turn to God, rejoice in hope". Indeed, this hope is love in action through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. And to God be all the glory!

9. Appendices

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Porto Alegre, 2006
by World Council of Churches
Accessed: 4/8/19

1. Statements & documents adopted

1. Statements & documents adopted

Christian unity and message to the churches

Christian unity and message to the churches

Called to be the Οne Church (revised draft)
22 February 2006

An invitation to the churches to renew their commitment to the search for unity and to deepen their dialogue

WCC Assemblies have adopted texts offering a vision, or identifying the qualities, of "the unity we seek".1 In line with these texts the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre has adopted this text inviting the churches to continue their journey together, as a further step towards full visible unity.

The purpose of this Invitation to the Churches is two-fold: (a) to reflect what the churches, at this point on their ecumenical journey, can say together about some important aspects of the Church; and (b) to invite the churches into a renewed conversation - mutually supportive, yet open and searching - about the quality and degree of their fellowship and communion, and about the issues which still divide them.2

I

1. We, the delegates to the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, give thanks to the Triune God, Father; Son and Holy Spirit, who has brought our churches into living contact and dialogue. By God's grace we have been enabled to remain together, even when this has not been easy. Considerable efforts have been made to overcome divisions. We are "a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit".3 We reaffirm that "the primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship expressed in worship and in common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe".4 Our continuing divisions are real wounds to the body of Christ, and God's mission in the world suffers.

2. Churches in the fellowship of the WCC remain committed to one another on the way towards full visible unity. This commitment is a gift from our gracious Lord. Unity is both a divine gift and calling. Our churches have affirmed that the unity for which we pray, hope, and work is "a koinonia given and expressed in the common confession of the apostolic faith; a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship; a common life in which members and ministries are mutually recognized and reconciled; and a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation".5 Such koinonia is to be expressed in each place, and through a conciliar relationship of churches in different places. We have much work ahead of us as together we seek to understand the meaning of unity and catholicity, and the significance of baptism.

II

3. We confess one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381). The Church's oneness is an image of the unity of the Triune God in the communion of the divine Persons. Holy scripture describes the Christian community as the body of Christ whose interrelated diversity is essential to its wholeness: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:4-7). Thus, as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church is called to manifest its oneness in rich diversity.

4. The Church as communion of believers is created by the Word of God, for it is through hearing the proclamation of the gospel that faith, by the action of His Holy Spirit, is awakened (Rom. 10:17). Since the good news proclaimed to awaken faith is the good news handed down by the apostles, the Church created by it is apostolic. Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets the Church is God's household, a holy temple in which the Holy Spirit lives and is active. By the power of the Holy Spirit believers grow into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph 2. 21-22).6

5. We affirm that the apostolic faith of the Church is one, as the body of Christ is one. Yet there may legitimately be different formulations of the faith of the Church. The life of the Church as new life in Christ is one. Yet it is built up through different charismata and ministries. The hope of the Church is one. Yet it is expressed in different human expectations. We acknowledge that there are different ecclesiological starting points, and a range of views on the relation of the Church to the churches. Some differences express God's grace and goodness; they must be discerned in God's grace through the Holy Spirit. Other differences divide the Church; these must be overcome through the Spirit's gifts of faith, hope, and love so that separation and exclusion do not have the last word. God's "plan for the fullness of time [is] to gather up all things in him" (Eph. 1:10), reconciling human divisions. God calls his people in love to discernment and renewal on the way to the fullness of koinonia.

6. The catholicity of the Church expresses the fullness, integrity, and totality of its life in Christ through the Holy Spirit in all times and places. This mystery is expressed in each community of baptized believers in which the apostolic faith is confessed and lived, the gospel is proclaimed, and the sacraments are celebrated. Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfills its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches. We affirm that the catholicity of the Church is expressed most visibly in sharing holy communion and in a mutually recognised and reconciled ministry.

7. The relationship among churches is dynamically interactive. Each church is called to mutual giving and receiving gifts and to mutual accountability. Each church must become aware of all that is provisional in its life and have the courage to acknowledge this to other churches. Even today, when eucharistic sharing is not always possible, divided churches express mutual accountability and aspects of catholicity when they pray for one another, share resources, assist one another in times of need, make decisions together, work together for justice, reconciliation, and peace, hold one another accountable to the discipleship inherent in baptism, and maintain dialogue in the face of differences, refusing to say "I have no need of you" (1 Cor.12:21). Apart from one another we are impoverished.

III

8. All who have been baptized into Christ are united with Christ in his body: "Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). In baptism, the Spirit confers Christ's holiness upon Christ's members. Baptism into union with Christ calls churches to be open and honest with one another, even when doing so is difficult: "But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Baptism bestows upon the churches both the freedom and the responsibility to journey toward common proclamation of the Word, confession of the one faith, celebration of one eucharist, and full sharing in one ministry. There are some who do not observe the rite of baptism in water but share in the desire to be faithful to Christ.7

9. Our common belonging to Christ through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit enables and calls churches to walk together, even when they are in disagreement. We affirm that there is one baptism, just as there is one body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of us all (cf. Eph. 4:4-6). In God's grace, baptism manifests the reality that we belong to one another, even though some churches are not yet able to recognize others as Church in the full sense of the word. We recall the words of the Toronto Statement, in which the member churches of the WCC affirm that "the membership of the church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own church body. They seek, therefore, to enter into living contact with those outside their own ranks who confess the Lordship of Christ".8

IV

10. The Church as the creation of God's Word and Spirit is a mystery, sign, and instrument of what God intends for the salvation of the world. The grace of God is expressed in the victory over sin given by Christ, and in the healing and wholeness of the human being. The kingdom of God can be perceived in a reconciled and reconciling community called to holiness: a community that strives to overcome the discriminations expressed in sinful social structures, and to work for the healing of divisions in its own life and for healing and unity in the human community. The Church participates in the reconciling ministry of Christ, who emptied himself, when it lives out its mission, affirming and renewing the image of God in all humanity and working alongside all those whose human dignity has been denied by economic, political, and social marginalization.

11. Mission is integral to the life of the church. The Church in its mission expresses its calling to proclaim the Gospel and to offer the living Christ to the whole creation. The churches find themselves living alongside people of other living faiths and ideologies. As an instrument of God, who is sovereign over the whole creation, the Church is called to engage in dialogue and collaboration with them so that its mission brings about the good of all creatures and the well-being of the earth. All churches are called to struggle against sin in all its manifestations, within and around them, and to work with others to combat injustice, alleviate human suffering, overcome violence, and ensure fullness of life for all people.

V

12. Throughout its history the World Council of Churches has been a privileged instrument by which churches have been able to listen to one another and speak to one another, engaging issues that challenge the churches and imperil humankind. Churches in the ecumenical movement have also explored divisive questions through multilateral and bilateral dialogues. And yet churches have not always acknowledged their mutual responsibility to one another, and have not always recognized the need to give account to one another of their faith, life, and witness, as well as to articulate the factors that keep them apart. Bearing in mind the experience of the life we already share and the achievements of multilateral and bilateral dialogues, it is now time to take concrete steps together.

13. Therefore the Ninth Assembly calls upon the World Council of Churches to continue to facilitate deep conversations among various churches. We also invite all of our churches to engage in the hard task of giving a candid account of the relation of their own faith and order to the faith and order of other churches. Each church is asked to articulate the judgments that shape, and even qualify, its relationship to the others. The honest sharing of commonalities, divergences, and differences will help all churches to pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

14. Towards the goal of full visible unity the churches are called to address recurrent matters in fresh, more pointed ways. Among the questions to be addressed continually by the churches are these:

a. To what extent can each discern the faithful expression of the apostolic faith in their own life, prayer, and witness and in that of other churches?

b. Where does each perceive fidelity to Christ in the faith and life of the others?

c. Does each recognize a common pattern of Christian initiation, grounded in baptism, in the life of the others?

d. Why do some believe that it is necesssary, others permissable, others not possible to share the Lord's Supper with those of other churches?

e. In what ways is each able to recognize the ordered ministries of the others?

f. To what extent can each share the spirituality of the others?

g. How will each stand with the others to contend with problems such as social and political hegemonies, persecution, oppression, poverty, and violence?

h. To what extent will each participate in the apostolic mission of the others?

i. To what extent can each share with the others in faith formation and theological education?

j. How fully can each participate in common prayer and in the worship of others?

In addressing these questions churches will be challenged to recognize areas for renewal in their own lives, and new opportunities to deepen relations with those of other traditions.

VI

15. Our churches journey together in conversation and common action, confident that the risen Christ has disclosed himself as he did in the breaking of bread at Emmaus, and that he will unveil the deeper meaning of fellowship and communion (Luke 24.13-35). Noting the progress made in the ecumenical movement, we encourage our churches to continue on this arduous yet joyous path, trusting in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose grace transforms our struggles for unity into the fruits of communion.

Let us listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches!

_______________

Notes:

1 The present Invitation to the Churches was produced at the request of the Central Committee of the WCC (2002), in a process organized by the WCC's Faith and Order Commission. A first draft was written at a meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus in March 2004; this was revised (on the basis of extensive comments received from WCC governing bodies, the Faith and Order Commission, and the Steering Committee of the Special Commission) at a second meeting in Nicosia in May, 2005. Faith and Order extends on behalf of the WCC its appreciation to the Church of Cyprus, which graciously hosted these preparatory meetings. A final revision took place at the Faith and Order Standing Commission meeting in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, in June 2005.

2 To assist this process, Faith and Order has produced and sent to the churches a new Study Document, "The Nature and Mission of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement", Faith and Order Paper No. 198.

3 Basis, WCC (Constitution, I).

4 Purposes and Functions, WCC (Constitution, III).

5 "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", The Canberra Statement, 2.1.

6 The Nature and Mission of the Church, §23.

7 Cf. "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", The Canberra Statement, 3.2.

8 The Toronto Statement, IV.3

***

Called to be the One Church (as adopted)
23 February 2006

An invitation to the churches to renew their commitment to the search for unity and to deepen their dialogue

WCC Assemblies have adopted texts offering a vision, or identifying the qualities, of "the unity we seek".1 In line with these texts the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre has adopted this text inviting the churches to continue their journey together, as a further step towards full visible unity.

The purpose of this Invitation to the Churches is two-fold: (a) to reflect what the churches, at this point on their ecumenical journey, can say together about some important aspects of the Church; and (b) to invite the churches into a renewed conversation - mutually supportive, yet open and searching - about the quality and degree of their fellowship and communion, and about the issues which still divide them.2

I

1. We, the delegates to the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, give thanks to the Triune God, Father; Son and Holy Spirit, who has brought our churches into living contact and dialogue. By God's grace we have been enabled to remain together, even when this has not been easy. Considerable efforts have been made to overcome divisions. We are "a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit".3 We reaffirm that "the primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship expressed in worship and in common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe".4 Our continuing divisions are real wounds to the body of Christ, and God's mission in the world suffers.

2. Churches in the fellowship of the WCC remain committed to one another on the way towards full visible unity. This commitment is a gift from our gracious Lord. Unity is both a divine gift and calling. Our churches have affirmed that the unity for which we pray, hope, and work is "a koinonia given and expressed in the common confession of the apostolic faith; a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship; a common life in which members and ministries are mutually recognised and reconciled; and a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation".5 Such koinonia is to be expressed in each place, and through a conciliar relationship of churches in different places. We have much work ahead of us as together we seek to understand the meaning of unity and catholicity, and the significance of baptism.

II

3. We confess one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381). The Church's oneness is an image of the unity of the Triune God in the communion of the divine Persons. Holy scripture describes the Christian community as the body of Christ whose interrelated diversity is essential to its wholeness: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:4-7). 6 Thus, as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church is called to manifest its oneness in rich diversity.

4. The Church as communion of believers is created by the Word of God, for it is through hearing the proclamation of the gospel that faith, by the action of His Holy Spirit, is awakened (Rom. 10:17). Since the good news proclaimed to awaken faith is the good news handed down by the apostles, the Church created by it is apostolic. Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets the Church is God's household, a holy temple in which the Holy Spirit lives and is active. By the power of the Holy Spirit believers grow into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph 2. 21-22).7

5. We affirm that the apostolic faith of the Church is one, as the body of Christ is one. Yet there may legitimately be different formulations of the faith of the Church. The life of the Church as new life in Christ is one. Yet it is built up through different charismata and ministries. The hope of the Church is one. Yet it is expressed in different human expectations. We acknowledge that there are different ecclesiological starting points, and a range of views on the relation of the Church to the churches. Some differences express God's grace and goodness; they must be discerned in God's grace through the Holy Spirit. Other differences divide the Church; these must be overcome through the Spirit's gifts of faith, hope, and love so that separation and exclusion do not have the last word. God's "plan for the fullness of time [is] to gather up all things in him" (Eph. 1:10), reconciling human divisions. God calls his people in love to discernment and renewal on the way to the fullness of koinonia.

6. The catholicity of the Church expresses the fullness, integrity, and totality of its life in Christ through the Holy Spirit in all times and places. This mystery is expressed in each community of baptized believers in which the apostolic faith is confessed and lived, the gospel is proclaimed, and the sacraments are celebrated. Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches. We affirm that the catholicity of the Church is expressed most visibly in sharing holy communion and in a mutually recognised and reconciled ministry.

7. The relationship among churches is dynamically interactive. Each church is called to mutual giving and receiving gifts and to mutual accountability. Each church must become aware of all that is provisional in its life and have the courage to acknowledge this to other churches. Even today, when eucharistic sharing is not always possible, divided churches express mutual accountability and aspects of catholicity when they pray for one another, share resources, assist one another in times of need, make decisions together, work together for justice, reconciliation, and peace, hold one another accountable to the discipleship inherent in baptism, and maintain dialogue in the face of differences, refusing to say "I have no need of you" (1 Cor.12:21). Apart from one another we are impoverished.

III

8. All who have been baptised into Christ are united with Christ in his body: "Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). In baptism, the Spirit confers Christ's holiness upon Christ's members. Baptism into union with Christ calls churches to be open and honest with one another, even when doing so is difficult: "But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Baptism bestows upon the churches both the freedom and the responsibility to journey toward common proclamation of the Word, confession of the one faith, celebration of one eucharist, and full sharing in one ministry. There are some who do not observe the rite of baptism in water but share in the spiritual experience of life in Christ.8

9. Our common belonging to Christ through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit enables and calls churches to walk together, even when they are in disagreement. We affirm that there is one baptism, just as there is one body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of us all (cf. Eph. 4:4-6). In God's grace, baptism manifests the reality that we belong to one another, even though some churches are not yet able to recognise others as Church in the full sense of the word. We recall the words of the Toronto Statement, in which the member churches of the WCC affirm that "the membership of the church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own church body. They seek, therefore, to enter into living contact with those outside their own ranks who confess the Lordship of Christ". 9

IV

10. The Church as the creation of God's Word and Spirit is a mystery, sign, and instrument of what God intends for the salvation of the world. The grace of God is expressed in the victory over sin given by Christ, and in the healing and wholeness of the human being. The kingdom of God can be perceived in a reconciled and reconciling community called to holiness: a community that strives to overcome the discriminations expressed in sinful social structures, and to work for the healing of divisions in its own life and for healing and unity in the human community. The Church participates in the reconciling ministry of Christ, who emptied himself, when it lives out its mission, affirming and renewing the image of God in all humanity and working alongside all those whose human dignity has been denied by economic, political, and social marginalisation.

11. Mission is integral to the life of the church. The Church in its mission expresses its calling to proclaim the Gospel and to offer the living Christ to the whole creation. The churches find themselves living alongside people of other living faiths and ideologies. As an instrument of God, who is sovereign over the whole creation, the Church is called to engage in dialogue and collaboration with them so that its mission brings about the good of all creatures and the well-being of the earth. All churches are called to struggle against sin in all its manifestations, within and around them, and to work with others to combat injustice, alleviate human suffering, overcome violence, and ensure fullness of life for all people.

V

12. Throughout its history the World Council of Churches has been a privileged instrument by which churches have been able to listen to one another and speak to one another, engaging issues that challenge the churches and imperil humankind. Churches in the ecumenical movement have also explored divisive questions through multilateral and bilateral dialogues. And yet churches have not always acknowledged their mutual responsibility to one another, and have not always recognised the need to give account to one another of their faith, life, and witness, as well as to articulate the factors that keep them apart. Bearing in mind the experience of the life we already share and the achievements of multilateral and bilateral dialogues, it is now time to take concrete steps together.

13. Therefore the Ninth Assembly calls upon the World Council of Churches to continue to facilitate deep conversations among various churches. We also invite all of our churches to engage in the hard task of giving a candid account of the relation of their own faith and order to the faith and order of other churches. Each church is asked to articulate the judgements that shape, and even qualify, its relationship to the others. The honest sharing of commonalities, divergences, and differences will help all churches to pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

14. Towards the goal of full visible unity the churches are called to address recurrent matters in fresh, more pointed ways. Among the questions to be addressed continually by the churches are these:

a. To what extent can your church discern the faithful expression of the apostolic faith in its own life, prayer, and witness and in that of other churches?

b. Where does your church perceive fidelity to Christ in the faith and life of other churches?

c. Does your church recognize a common pattern of Christian initiation, grounded in baptism, in the life of other churches?

d. Why does your church believe that it is necessary, or permissible, or not possible to share the Lord's Supper with those of other churches?

e. In what ways is your church able to recognize the ordered ministries of other churches?

f. To what extent can your church share the spirituality of other churches?

g. How will your church stand with other churches to contend with problems such as social and political hegemonies, persecution, oppression, poverty, and violence?

h. To what extent will your church share with other churches in the apostolic mission?

i. To what extent does your church share with other churches in faith formation and theological education?

j. How fully can your church share in prayer with other churches?

In addressing these questions, churches will be challenged to recognise areas for renewal in their own lives, and new opportunities to deepen relations with those of other traditions.

VI

15. Our churches journey together in conversation and common action, confident that the risen Christ will continue to disclose himself as he did in the breaking of bread at Emmaus, and that he will unveil the deeper meaning of fellowship and communion (Luke 24.13-35). Noting the progress made in the ecumenical movement, we encourage our churches to continue on this arduous yet joyous path, trusting in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose grace transforms our struggles for unity into the fruits of communion.

Let us listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches!

_______________

Notes:

1 The present Invitation to the Churches was produced at the request of the Central Committee of the WCC (2002), in a process organized by the WCC's Faith and Order Commission. A first draft was written at a meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus in March 2004; this was revised (on the basis of extensive comments received from WCC governing bodies, the Faith and Order Commission, and the Steering Committee of the Special Commission) at a second meeting in Nicosia in May, 2005. Faith and Order extends on behalf of the WCC its appreciation to the Church of Cyprus, which graciously hosted these preparatory meetings. A final revision took place at the Faith and Order Standing Commission meeting in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, in June 2005.

2 To assist this process, Faith and Order has produced and sent to the churches a new Study Document, "The Nature and Mission of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement", Faith and Order Paper No. 198.

3 Basis, WCC (Constitution, I).

4 Purposes and Functions, WCC (Constitution, III).

5 "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", The Canberra Statement, 2.1.

6 The scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1989, 1995 by the Division of Chirstian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

7 The Nature and Mission of the Church, § 23.

8 Cf. "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", The Canberra Statement, 3.2.

9 The Toronto Statement, IV.3

***

Message (as adopted)
23 February 2006

The following message was presented to and approved by the Assembly through consensus.

"God, in your Grace, Transform the World"

Message of the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches: An Invitation to Prayer

Sisters and brothers, we greet you in Christ. As representatives of churches from all the world's regions, we gather in Porto Alegre, Brazil, meeting in the first decade of the third millennium, in the first assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Latin America. We have been invited here to join in a festa da vida, the feast of life. We are praying, reflecting on the scriptures, struggling and rejoicing together in our unity and diversity, and seeking to listen carefully to one another in the spirit of consensus.

Meeting in February 2006, we are made aware by Assembly participants of cries arising daily in their home countries and regions due to disasters, violent conflicts and conditions of oppression and suffering. Yet we are also empowered by God to bear witness to transformation in personal lives, churches, societies and the world as a whole.

Specific challenges and calls to action are being communicated to the churches and the world in the reports and decisions of the Assembly, such as: the quest for Christian unity; our mid-term call to recommitment to the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010); discernment of prophetic and programmatic means to achieve global economic justice; engagement in inter-religious dialogue; full inter-generational participation of all women and men, and common statements addressing the churches and the world on public issues.

The theme of this Ninth Assembly is a prayer, "God, in your grace, transform the world". In prayer our hearts are transformed, and so we offer our message as prayer:

God of grace,
together we turn to you in prayer, for it is you who unite us:
you are the one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - in whom we believe,
you alone empower us for good,
you send us out across the earth in mission and service in the name of Christ.

We confess before you and all people:
We have been unworthy servants.
We have misused and abused the creation.
We have wounded one another by divisions everywhere.
We have often failed to take decisive action against environmental destruction,
poverty, racism, caste-ism, war and genocide.
We are not only victims but also perpetrators of violence.
In all this, we have fallen short as disciples of Jesus Christ
who in his incarnation came to save us and teach us how to love.
Forgive us, God, and teach us to forgive one another.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

God, hear the cries of all creation,
the cries of the waters, the air, the land and all living things;
the cries of all who are exploited, marginalised, abused and victimized,
all who are dispossessed and silenced, their humanity ignored,
all who suffer from any form of disease, from war
and from the crimes of the arrogant who hide from the truth,
distort memory and deny the possibility of reconciliation.
God, guide all in seats of authority towards decisions of moral integrity.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

We give thanks for your blessings and signs of hope that are already present in the world,
in people of all ages and in those who have gone before us in faith;
in movements to overcome violence in all its forms, not just for a decade but for always;
in the deep and open dialogues that have begun both within our own churches and with those of other faiths in the search for mutual understanding and respect;
in all those working together for justice and peace -
both in exceptional circumstances and every day.
We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of resurrection.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

By the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit, O God,
may our prayers never be empty words
but an urgent response to your living Word -
in non-violent direct action for positive change,
in bold, clear, specific acts of solidarity, liberation, healing and compassion,
readily sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Open our hearts to love and to see that all people are made in your image,
to care for creation and affirm life in all its wondrous diversity.

Transform us in the offering of ourselves so that we may be your partners in transformation
to strive for the full, visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ,
to become neighbours to all,
as we await with eager longing the full revelation of your rule
in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

God, in your grace, transform the world. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;

Amen.

***

Message (first draft)
14 February 2006

"God, in your grace, transform the world"

As representatives of churches from all the world's regions gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil, meeting in the first decade of the third Christian millenium, in the first assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Latin America, we unite in prayer:

God, in your grace, you brought the universe to birth,
and all creation is yours alone.
We turn to you in common prayer, for it is you who unite us:
you are the one God in whom we believe,
you alone empower us for good,
you send us out across the earth in mission and service.

We invite the world to join us in confessing:
We have been unworthy servants. We have abused the gifts you give.
We are both perpetrators and victims of violence.
We are weakened by divisions everywhere.
We have misused and abused the creation.
We have failed to take decisive action against poverty, racism, war and genocide.
In all this, we betray Jesus Christ who came to save us and teach us how to love.
Forgive us, God, and teach us to forgive one another.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

God, hear the cries of all creation,
the cries of the waters, the air and the land.
The cries of those who are exploited, marginalized, abused and victimized,
those who are dispossessed and silenced, their humanity ignored,
those who suffer from any form of disease or from the violence of war and conflict.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

We give thanks for signs of hope that are already present in the world,
in people of all ages and in those who have gone before us in faith;
in the deep and open dialogues that have begun both within our own churches and beyond;
in the search for a mutual understanding and respect among all people and faith traditions;
in all those working together for peace and justice - both in exceptional circumstances and every day.
We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of resurrection.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

By the power and guidance of your Spirit, O God, may our prayers never be empty words
but an urgent response to your living Word
in bold, clear, specific acts of solidarity, liberation, healing and compassion.
Help us in our prayers to open our hearts to affirm life and hope, and the evidence of your abiding love.

Transform us in the offering of ourselves so that we may be your partners in transformation
to strive for the visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ,
to become neighbours to all,
as we await with eager longing the full revelation of your rule
in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

We give you thanks and praise, Eternal God, Holy Trinity,
for in you another world is possible.

God, in your grace, transform the world. In Jesus' name we pray: Amen.

***

Message (second draft)
22 February 2006

"God, in your Grace, Transform the World"

Message of the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches: An Invitation to Prayer

As representatives of churches from all the world's regions, we gather in Porto Alegre, Brazil, meeting in the first decade of the third millenium, in the first assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Latin America. We are praying, reflecting on the scriptures, struggling and celebrating together in our unity and diversity, and seeking to listen carefully to one another in the spirit of consensus. Sisters and brothers, we greet you.

Meeting in February 2006, we are made aware by Assembly participants of cries arising daily in their home countries and regions due to disasters, violent conflicts and conditions of oppression and suffering. Yet we are also empowered by God to bear witness to transformation in personal lives, churches, societies and the world as a whole.

Specific challenges and calls to action are being communicated to the churches and the world in the reports and decisions of the Assembly, such as the mid-term call to our recommitment to the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010), guiding principles in the quest for Christian unity, engagement in inter-religious dialogue, full inter-generational participation of women and men, and common statements addressing the churches and the world on public issues.

The purpose of the message is to reflect the heart of the Assembly, its experiences and hopes. The theme of this Ninth Assembly is a prayer, "God, in your grace, transform the world". In prayer our hearts are transformed, and so we centre our message in prayer:

God, in your grace,
through the love of your Son Jesus Christ, and the breath of the Holy Spirit,
you create and sustain your universe.
Together we turn to you in prayer, for it is you who unite us:
you are the one God in whom we believe,
you alone empower us for good,
you send us out across the earth in mission and service in the name of Christ.
We confess before you and all people:
We have been unworthy servants. We have abused the gifts you give.
We are not only victims but also perpetrators of violence.
We wound one another by divisions everywhere.
We have misused and abused the creation.
We have often failed to take decisive action against environmental destruction, poverty, racism, war and genocide.
In all this, we deny Jesus Christ who in his incarnation came to save us and teach us how to love.
Forgive us, God, and teach us to forgive one another.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
God, hear the cries of all creation,
the cries of the waters, the air and the land;
the cries of all who are exploited, marginalised, abused and victimized,
all who are dispossessed and silenced, their humanity ignored,
all who suffer from any form of disease, from war
and from the crimes of the arrogant who hide from the truth,
distort memory and deny the possibility of reconciliation.
God, guide all in seats of authority towards decisions of moral integrity.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
We give thanks for your blessings and signs of hope that are already present in the world,
in people of all ages and in those who have gone before us in faith;
in movements to overcome violence in all its forms, not just for a decade but for always;
in the deep and open dialogues that have begun both within our own churches and with those of other faiths in the search for mutual understanding and respect;
in all those working together for justice and peace - both in exceptional circumstances and every day.
We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of resurrection.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
By the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit, O God,
may our prayers never be empty words
but an urgent response to your living Word -
in nonviolent direct action for positive change
in bold, clear, specific acts of solidarity, liberation, healing and compassion.
Open our hearts to love and to see that all people are made in your image,
to care for creation and affirm life in all its wondrous diversity.
Transform us in the offering of ourselves so that we may be your partners in transformation
to strive for the full, visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ,
to become neighbours to all,
as we await with eager longing the full revelation of your rule
in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.
God, in your grace, transform the world. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Amen.


Institutional issues

[quote]Institutional issues

Amendments to the constitution and rules

(As adopted by the WCC 9th Assembly) Please note: Further amendments to the constitution have been approved by the WCC 10th Assembly.

World Council of Churches
9th Assembly
14 to 23 February 2006
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Original Document No. A 03
English

ADOPTED

Amendments to the Constitution and Rules of the World Council of Churches

I. Preliminary action

The Ninth Assembly is asked to endorse the decision of the Central Committee to move to the consensus decision-making method.1 Since the adoption of the consensus method has implications on the Constitution and Rules of the WCC, and since the move to the consensus method is a major institutional and cultural change, the Ninth Assembly is invited to inaugurate its work on the amendments to the Constitution and Rules of the WCC making a decision on this matter.

1. In February 2002, the Central Committee, recognizing the spirit of mutual trust and commitment to discerning the mind of Christ, and receiving the proposals of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC decided that the Council move to a consensus method of decision-making. In February 2005, the Central Committee adopted the new Rule XX (“Conduct of Meetings”) thus formally adopting the consensus method. The new rule envisages that a limited number of matters (e.g. constitutional changes; elections) will still be decided by vote and includes the possibility to move from consensus procedures to decision making by vote when a decision must be reached.

Resolution: The Ninth Assembly affirmed the decision of the Central Committee.

II. Further implementation steps (for information)

2. The Central Committee affirmed that the adoption of the consensus method of decision-making constituted a major change in the life and work of the WCC and that it was appropriate that such a measure be subjected to an evaluation at an agreed upon time. Therefore, in 2005, the Central Committee recommended that the second full meeting of the Central Committee after the Ninth Assembly reflect on and evaluate the experience of using the consensus method. This evaluation will allow the Central Committee to deepen its understanding of the consensus method and to discern whether any clarifications to Rule XX (“Conduct of Meetings”) are necessary.

3. In the course of the discussions on the amendments to the Rules approved by the Central Committee in 2005, several matters of detail have been noted which will require further consideration. These and other maters of detail may also come up in the discussions on the amendments to the Rules by the Ninth Assembly. The Executive Committee, at its meeting in September 2005, recommended that all such matters emerging from the adoption of the new Rules be recorded and brought to the Central Committee in September 2006 for consideration and decision.

III. Procedure

The Ninth Assembly is asked to amend three articles of the Constitution 2 of the WCC, and to confirm the amendments made by the Central Committee to four specific Rules 3 of the WCC.

1. The proposals for changes to the Constitution and Rules arose out of the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC. The proposed amendments touch on two of the five main themes with which the Special Commission has been engaged: decision-making and membership. Concerning membership, a Membership Study Group appointed by the Executive Committee worked in consultation with the Special Commission. The proposed amendments to the Constitution and the amendments to the Rules are the result of the recommendations on decision-making and membership in the final report of the Special Commission approved by the Central Committee in 2002.

2. A first reading of the amendments to the Rules on membership was approved by the Central Committee in 2002. The Steering Committee of the Special Commission and the Executive Committee further developed the wording and formulated the proposed amendment on membership to the Constitution. The proposed amendment on membership to the Constitution and the amendments to the Rules were approved by the Central Committee in 2003 and subsequently sent to the member churches. Comments received from the churches were considered by the Steering Committee of the Special Commission and the Executive Committee, and the amendments were approved in their present reading by the Central Committee in 2005.

3. The amendments to the Rules on decision-making were formulated by the Steering Committee of the Special Commission and the Executive Committee and approved by the Central Committee in 2005. The proposed amendment to the Constitution on decision-making, submitted to the member churches in due time, simply conform the wording of Article VI to reflect the wording adopted by the Central Committee to describe the process of making decisions.

4. Amendments to the Rules of the WCC are governed by the final Rule XVII (old)/XXI (new) of the Rules of the WCC (on page 68 of the Programme Book) and can be accomplished by the Central Committee, with the provision that amendments to specified Rules « shall not come into effect until it has been confirmed by the Assembly ». These are Rule I addressing membership (pages 44 – 46), Rule V (old)/VI (new) and Rule VII (new) addressing Central Committee, and Rule XVII (old)/XXI (new) addressing amendments to the Rules. The Ninth Assembly is asked to confirm the amendments to these four specific Rules.

When the Ninth Assembly has confirmed the amended Rule I of the Rules of the WCC, the assembly will be asked to approve an amendment to Rule III (old)/IV (new) addressing the Assembly, requested to conform the wording, in two locations, to the wording of the amended Rule I.

5. Amendments to the Constitution of the WCC are governed by Article VII of the Constitution and can be accomplished only by an assembly. The Ninth Assembly is asked to approve three amendments to the Constitution. The first is a substantive amendment to Article II “Membership” for which entirely new wording is offered. The second amendment is requested to conform the wording of Article VI of the Constitution, in two locations, to reflect the wording that has been adopted by the Central Committee to describe the process of making decisions.

6. When the Ninth Assembly has confirmed the amended Rule I of the Rules of the WCC, the assembly will be asked to approve a third amendment to the Constitution, required to conform the wording of Article V of the Constitution, in two locations, to reflect the new categories of membership indicated in amended Rule I of the Rules of the WCC.

IV. Amendments to the Constitution and Rules

1. ARTICLE II OF THE CONSTITUTION

The new wording of Article II of the Constitution was elaborated and eventually approved by the Central Committee in February 2005. According to Article VII of the Constitution notice of it was sent to the member churches six months before the Ninth Assembly and the amended version reflects comments received.

Old

II. Membership

Those churches shall be eligible for membership in the World Council of Churches which express their agreement with the Basis upon which the Council is founded and satisfy such criteria as the Assembly or the Central Committee may prescribe. Election to membership shall be by a two-thirds vote of the member churches represented at the Assembly, each member church having one vote. Any application for membership between meetings of the Assembly may be considered by the Central Committee; if the application is supported by a two-thirds vote of the members of the Committee present and voting, this action shall be communicated to the churches that are members of the World Council of Churches, and unless objection is received from more than one-third of the member churches within six months the applicant shall be declared elected.

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Amended

II. Membership

Churches shall be eligible for membership in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches who express their agreement with the basis upon which the Council is founded and satisfy such criteria for membership as the assembly or central committee may prescribe. The central committee shall consider applications for membership in accordance with Rule I.

Resolution: The Ninth Assembly approved the amended Article II of the Constitution of the World Council of Churches by more than the required two-thirds majority.

2. ARTICLE VI OF THE CONSTITUTION

The amendment to Article VI of the Constitution is a consequence of the decision of the Central Committee to adopt the consensus method of decision-making. According to Article VII of the Constitution notice of it was sent to the member churches six months before the Ninth Assembly.

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VI. Other ecumenical Christian Organizations

1. Such world confessional bodies and such international ecumenical organizations as may be designated by the Central Committee may be invited to send non-voting representatives to the Assembly and to the Central Committee, in such numbers as the Central Committee shall determine.

2. Such national councils and regional conferences of churches, other Christian councils and missionary councils as may be designated by the Central Committee may be invited to send non-voting representatives to the Assembly and to the Central Committee, in such numbers as the Central Committee shall determine.

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Amended

VI. Other ecumenical Christian organizations 1. Such world confessional bodies and such international ecumenical organizations as may be designated by the central committee may be invited to send representatives to the assembly and to the central committee, in such numbers as the central committee shall determine; however, these representatives shall not have the right to participate when decisions are taken.

2. Such national councils and regional conferences of churches, other Christian councils and missionary councils as may be designated by the central committee may be invited to send representatives to the assembly and to the central committee, in such numbers as the central committee shall determine; however, these representatives shall not have the right to participate when decisions are taken.

Resolution: The Ninth Assembly approved the amended Article VI of the Constitution of the World Council of Churches by more than the required two-thirds majority.
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