A Friend of the Devil: Inside a famous Cold War deception

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Part 12 of __

Forming the ecumenical mind on the dilemmas of the use of force

11. It is necessary to distinguish prevention from intervention. From the church and ecumenical perspectives, if intervention occurs, it is because prevention has failed. The responsibility to protect is first and foremost about protecting civilians and preventing them from any harmful human rights crisis. The international community's responsibility is basically a non-military preventive action through such measures as the deployment of humanitarian relief personnel and special envoys, through capacity building and the enhancement of sustainable local infrastructure, and the imposition of economic sanctions and embargoes on arms, etc. The international community has a duty to join the pursuit of human security before situations in troubled states degenerate to catastrophic proportions. This is the duty of protection through prevention of assaults on the safety, rights, and wellbeing of people in their homes and communities and on the wellbeing of the environment in which they live.

12. In calling on the international community to come to the aid of vulnerable people in extraordinary suffering and peril, the fellowship of churches is not prepared to say that it is never appropriate or never necessary to resort to the use of force for the protection of the vulnerable. This refusal in principle to preclude the use of force is not based on a naive belief that force can be relied on to solve intractable problems. Rather, it is based on the certain knowledge that the objective must be the welfare of people, especially those in situations of extreme vulnerability and who are utterly abandoned to the whims and prerogatives of their tormentors. It is a tragic reality that civilians, especially women and children, are the primary victims in situations of extreme insecurity and war.

13. The resort to force is first and foremost the result of the failure to prevent what could have been prevented with appropriate foresight and actions, but having failed, and having acknowledged such failure, the world needs to do what it can to limit the burden and peril that is experienced by people as a consequence. This force can be legitimised only to stop the use of armed force in order to reinstate civil means, strictly respecting the proportionality of means. It needs to be controlled by international law in accordance to the UN Charter and can only be taken into consideration by those who themselves follow international law strictly. This is an imperative condition. The breach of law cannot be accepted even when this, at times, seems to lead - under military aspects - to a disadvantage or to hamper the efficiency of the intervention in the short term. Just as individuals and communities in stable and affluent societies are able in emergencies to call on armed police to come to their aid when they experience unusual or extraordinary threats of violence, churches recognise that people in much more perilous circumstances should have the right to call for and have access to protection.

14. Churches may acknowledge that the resort to force for protection purposes in some circumstances will be an option that cannot guarantee success but that must be tried because the world has failed to find, and continues to be at a loss to find, any other means of coming to the aid of those in desperate situations. It should be noted that some within the churches refuse the use of force in all circumstances. Their form of responsibility is to persist in preventative engagement and, whatever the cost - as a last resort - to risk non-violent intervention during the use of force. Either of these approaches may fail too, but they both need to be respected as expressions of Christian responsibility.

The limits of the use of force

15. The churches do not, however, believe in the exercise of lethal force to bring in a new order of peace and safety. By limiting the resort to force quite specifically to immediate protection objectives, the churches insist that the kinds of long-term solutions that are required - that is, the restoration of societies to conditions in which people are for the most part physically safe, in which basic economic, social, and health needs are met, where fundamental rights and freedoms are respected, where the instruments of violence are controlled, and which the dignity and worth of all people are affirmed - cannot be delivered by force. Indeed, the limiting of legitimate force to protection operations is the recognition that the distresses of deeply troubled societies cannot be quickly alleviated by either military means or diplomacy; and that in the long and painstakingly slow process of rebuilding the conditions for sustainable peace, those that are most vulnerable are entitled to protection from at least the most egregious of threats.

16. The use of force for humanitarian purposes can never be an attempt to find military solutions to social and political problems, to militarily engineer new social and political realities. Rather, it is intended to mitigate imminent threats and to alleviate immediate suffering while long-term solutions are sought by other means. The use of force for humanitarian purposes must therefore be carried out in the context of a broad spectrum of economic, social, political, and diplomatic efforts to address the direct and long-term conditions that underlie the crisis. In the long run, international police forces should be educated and trained for this particular task, bound to international law. Interventions should be accompanied by separate humanitarian relief efforts and should include the resources and will to stay with the people in peril until essential order and public safety are restored and there is a demonstrated local capacity to continue to build conditions of durable peace.

17. The force that is to be deployed and used for humanitarian purposes must also be distinguished from military war-fighting methods and objectives. The military operation is not a war to defeat a state but an operation to protect populations in peril from being harassed, persecuted or killed. It is more related to just policing - though not necessarily in the level of force required - in the sense that the armed forces are not employed in order to "win" a conflict or defeat a regime. They are there only to protect people in peril and to maintain some level of public safety while other authorities and institutions pursue solutions to underlying problems.

18. It is the case, therefore, that there may be circumstances in which affected churches actively call for protective intervention for humanitarian purposes. These calls will always aim at the international community and pre-suppose a discerning and decision-making process in compliance with the international community, strictly bound to international law. These are likely to be reluctant calls, because churches, like other institutions and individuals, will always know that the current situation of peril could have been, and should have been, avoided. The churches in such circumstances should find it appropriate to recognise their own collective culpability in failing to prevent the crises that have put people in such peril.

Proposals

That the 9th Assembly of the WCC, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil February 14-23, 2006:

a) Adopts the statement on the Responsibility to Protect and expresses thanks to all member churches and individuals involved in the study and consultation process on "The Responsibility to Protect: Ethical and Theological Reflection" and asks the Central Committee to consider further developing guidelines for the member churches, based on the principles in this report.

b) Fosters prevention as the key tool and concern of the churches, in relation to the Responsibility to Protect. Because churches and other faith communities and their leadership are rooted in the daily spiritual and physical realities of people, they have both a special responsibility and opportunity to participate in the development of national and multilateral protection and war prevention systems. Churches and other faith communities have a particular responsibility to contribute to the early detection of conditions of insecurity. Prevention is the only reliable means of protection, and early detection of a deteriorating security situation requires the constant attention of those who work most closely with, and have the trust of, affected populations.

c) Joins with other Christians around the world in repenting for our collective failure to live justly, to promote justice, and to refuse to participate in injustice. Such a stance in the world is empowered by acknowledging that the Lordship of Christ is higher than any other loyalty and by the work of the Holy Spirit. Critical solidarity with the victims of violence and advocacy against all the oppressive forces must also inform our theological endeavours towards being a more faithful church. The church's ministry with, and accompaniment of, people in need of protection is grounded in a holistic sojourning with humanity throughout all of life, in good times and in bad.

d) Reaffirms the churches' ministry of reconciliation and healing as an important role in advancing national and political dialogue to unity and trust. A unifying vision of a state is one in which all parts of the population feel they have a stake in the future of the country. Churches should make a particular point of emphasising the understanding of sovereignty as responsibility. Under the sovereignty of God we understand it to be the duty of humanity to care for one another and all of creation. The sovereignty exercised by human institutions rests on the exercise of the Responsibility to Protect one another and all of creation.

e) Calls upon the international community and the individual national governments to strengthen their capability in preventive strategies, and violence-reducing intervention skills together with institutions of the civil society, to contribute to and develop further the international law, based on human rights, and to support the development of policing strategies that can address gross human rights violations.

f) Urges the United Nations Security Council, in situations where prevention has failed and where national governments cannot or will not provide the protection to which people are entitled, to take timely and effective action, in cooperation with regional organisations as appropriate, to protect civilians in extreme peril and foster emergency responses designed to restore sustainable safety and well-being.

g) Further calls upon the international community and individual national governments to invest much greater resources and training for non-violent intervention and accompaniment of vulnerable peoples.

h) Asks the Central Committee to consider a study process engaging all member churches and ecumenical organisations in order to develop an extensive ecumenical declaration on peace - dealing with topics such as just peace, the Responsibility to Protect, the role and the legal status of non-state combatants, the conflict of values (for example: territorial integrity and human life), - to be adopted at the conclusion of the Decade to Overcome Violence in 2010.

Statement on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights

1. "The violence of terrorism - in all its many forms - is abhorrent to all who believe human life is a gift of God and therefore infinitely precious. Every attempt to intimidate others by inflicting indiscriminate death and injury upon them is to be universally condemned. The answer to terrorism, however, cannot be to respond in kind, for this can lead to more violence and more terror. Instead, a concerted effort of all nations is needed to remove any possible justification for such acts."

2. This message, included in the letter of the General Secretary of the WCC to the Secretary General of the United Nations on October 1, 2001 is reaffirmed by the 9th Assembly of the WCC.

3. In recent times, acts of terror and some aspects of the so-called "war on terror" have introduced new dimensions of violence. In addition, fundamental international laws and norms, including long-established standards of human rights, have come under threat.

4. Terrorists base their actions in absolutist claims. Religion is sometimes used as a pretext for the use of violence, divinely sanctioned. Assembled as representatives from churches in all corners of the world, we state unequivocally that terror, as indiscriminate acts of violence against unarmed civilians for political or religious aims, can never be justified legally, theologically or ethically.

5. The WCC' 9th Assembly supports the stated goal of the Decade to Overcome Violence to "relinquish any theological justification for violence and to affirm a new spirituality of reconciliation and active non-violence".

6. Acts of terror are criminal acts, and should be addressed by the use of the instruments of the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. These instruments should be strengthened. The internationally accepted norms and standards of human rights and humanitarian law are the result of common efforts and are specifically meant to deal with situations of crisis and threats to individuals and societies. There is a danger that these instruments will be eroded in the response to terror. It is of critical importance to resist this erosion of rights and liberties. The "war on terror" has redefined war and relativised international law and human rights norms and standards. A military response to terror may become indiscriminately destructive and cause fear in affected populations. It may provide legitimacy to a violent approach rather than the criminal justice approach which is appropriate in dealing with cases of terror. The international community should co-operate in addressing terrorism, especially by strengthening the International Criminal Court to respond to acts of terror. Terror can only be overcome by the international community that upholds respect for the dignity of human beings and the rule of law.

7. Churches and all other faith communities are called to respond to the reality of living in a world terrorised by fear. At such a time it is appropriate to point to the rich resources in religion which can guide us to peace and reconciliation. These resources should be utilised when religious communities and religious leaders come together to speak out against all acts of terror and any attempt to legitimise it. They should also take action against any attempt at meeting terror with military means and disrespect for human rights and the rule of law. Religious communities and leaders should be in the forefront of the struggle for a society which is ruled by law and respect for human dignity. Churches have a pivotal role in framing the issues within a culture of dialogue.

Proposals

The Ninth Assembly of the WCC, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 14-26, 2006:

a) Adopts the Statement on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights.

b) Affirms the role of the churches to seek peace and pursue it. Violence against unarmed and innocent civilians for political aims by states and non-state actors can never be justified legally, theologically or ethically.

c) Urges that terrorist acts and threats as well as organisational support for terror are considered as matters of criminal justice. Measures to counter terrorism must be demilitarised and the concept of "war on terror" must be firmly and resolutely challenged by the churches.

d) Appreciates the theological work done by the churches on the concept of security and calls for its further development.

e) Expresses the need to accompany and support the churches as they respond prophetically and creatively in a pastoral and prophetic mission to assist those that are caught up in fear.

f) Encourages interfaith initiatives to mobilise alternate responses to terrorism that do not rely on violence. They should reject all attempts to justify acts of terror as response to political and social problems and play an active role in the prevention of conflicts by serving as an early warning system and by building a culture of peace for life.

g) Affirms that all acts to counter terrorism actions by the state must remain within the framework of the international rule of law ensuring respect for human rights and humanitarian law. Legislation to counter terrorism shall not result in humiliation and violation of the human rights and dignity of ordinary citizens. It is necessary for the states and the international community to go beyond policing and military cooperation and embrace cooperation in order to address root causes of terrorism.

Minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with People of other Faiths

1. The international community must work together to nurture global respect for diversity, culture and religion. Religious communities and leaders have a special responsibility to promote tolerance and address ignorance about others. Representatives of 348 Churches from 120 countries, gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the 9th Assembly of the WCC, reaffirm their commitment to respectful dialogue and cooperation between people of different faiths. Through dialogue we learn about the faith of the other and better understand the underlying pain and frustration. We see ourselves through the eyes of the other. We can also better perceive the role of religion in national and international politics.

2. In a world where we recognise a growing interaction between religion and politics, many conflicts and tensions carry the imprint of religion. The WCC has always encouraged interfaith dialogue both on the global and the local level. We urge member churches and national councils of churches to create platforms for such dialogues. Dialogue should be accompanied by cooperation where faith communities together can address the rest of civil society and governments on issues of common concern, and particularly when religion, holy places, minority rights and human rights are threatened.

3. Faced with the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, starting in Denmark in September last year, it is crucial to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. The publications have caused world-wide controversies. Further publication and the violent reactions to them increase the tension. We deplore the publications of the cartoons and the violent reactions to them.

4. Freedom of speech is indeed a fundamental human right which needs to be guaranteed and protected. It works at best when it holds structures of power accountable and confronts misuse of power. By the publication of the cartoons, freedom of speech has been used to cause pain by ridiculing peoples' religion, values and dignity. Doing so, the foundation of this right is being devalued. We remind ourselves of what St. Peter wrote: "As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil - honour everyone" (1.Pet.2; 16-17). Misuse of the right to freedom of speech should be met with non-violent means like critique and expressions of firm disagreement.

5. We recognise that there are more than just religious aspects to the present tensions. Failure to find a just and peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, difficulties to accept outcomes of free elections, together with the war on Iraq and the war in Afghanistan add frustration to historical experiences marked by crusades and colonialism. In large parts of the world people feel politically and economically excluded, and they often feel that dominant powers and cultures apply double standards in dealing with issues which are important to them. In many countries in the rich and dominant parts of the world, integration policies have failed to welcome new minorities. Instead, they meet racism, stereotyping, xenophobia, and a lack of respect for their religion.

6. The real tension in our world is not between religions and beliefs, but between aggressive, intolerant and manipulative secular and religious ideologies. Such ideologies are used to legitimise the use of violence, the exclusion of minorities and political domination. The main victims of the controversies are religious minorities, living in a context of different majority culture. Nevertheless, we recognise a growing respect and tolerance in all cultures. Many are learning that it is possible to be different, even to disagree and yet remain in calm dialogue and work together for the common good.

7. The recent crisis points to the need for secular states and societies to better understand and respect the role and significance of religion in a multicultural and globalised world, in particular as an essential dimension in human identity. This can help religion and people of faith to be instruments for bridging divisions between cultures and nations and to contribute to solving underlying problems.

Proposals

That the 9th Assembly of the WCC, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006:

a) Adopts the minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with People of other Faiths.

b) Asks member churches and ecumenical partners all over the world to join in an expression of solidarity with those who experience attack on their religious symbols and feelings, and defend the integrity of their faith with non-violent means are defending the integrity of their faith.

c) Recommends all member churches, National and Regional Councils of Churches to contribute to the creation of platforms for dialogue with people of other faiths, and to address immediate as well as underlying social, economic and political reasons for division.

d) Urges member churches and ecumenical partners in contexts where religion interacts with politics in a way which causes division, to deepen dialogue with leaders of other faiths, seek common approaches and develop common codes of conduct.

e) Calls on member churches and ecumenical partners all over the world to continue to address racism, stereotyping and xenophobia in their respective societies and together with people of other faiths nurture a culture of respect and tolerance.

f) Reaffirms our commitment to the right to freedom of speech, at the same time as member churches are called to contribute to a needed reflection on how to uphold the need for ethical behaviour and good judgement in using this right.

***

New central committee and presidium
New Central Committee members (as adopted)

World Council of Churches
9th Assembly
14 to 23 February 2006
Porto Alegre, Brazil
ADOPTED Document No. NC 04.1

List of the New Central Committee Members

Reg = Region M = Male / F = Female O = Ordained / L = Lay Yth = Youth Ind = Indigenous Dis = Person with disabilities *Church not meeting the criterion of size

Reg Title First Name Last Name Church Church family M/F O/L Yth Ind Dis REG-Family REG-Gender REG-Lay REG-Yth REG-Indig M/F-O/L Yth-M/F Ind-M/F

Africa

AF Rev. James Lagos Alexander Africa Inland Church Sudan Free M O AFFree AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Dr Agnes Abuom Anglican Church of Kenya Anglican F L AFAnglican AFF AFL AF AF FL F F
AF Pasteur Sombepouire Lazare Kinda Association of Evangelical Reformed Churches of Burkina Faso* Reformed M O AFReformed AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Rev. Micheline Kamba Kasongo Church of Christ in Congo - Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa Reformed F O D AFReformed AFF AFO AF AF FO F F
AF Mme Suzette Vaolimanga Razanadrakoto Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar United and Uniting F L AFUnited and Uniting AFF AFL AF AF FL F F
AF Pasteur Simon Zeyi Ndingambote Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by his Special Envoy Simon Kimbangu African Instituted M O AFAfrican Instituted AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Rt Rev. Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Anglican M O AFAnglican AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Ms Iyabo Oyekola Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide African Instituted F L Y AFAfrican Instituted AFF AFL AFY AF FL FY F
AF Very Rev. Nangula E. Kathindi Church of the Province of Southern Africa Anglican F O AFAnglican AFF AFO AF AF FO F F
AF Mr Onesimus Asiimwe Church of the Province of Uganda Anglican M L AFAnglican AFM AFL AF AF ML M M
AF Mrs Sophia Ophilia Adjeibea Adinyira Church of the Province of West Africa Anglican F L 1 AFAnglican AFF AFL AF AF FL F F
AF Rev. Iteffa Gobena Molte Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Lutheran M O 1 AFLutheran AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Bishop Dr Owdenburg Moses Mdegella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania Lutheran M O AFLutheran AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Pasteur António Pedro Malungo Evangelical Reformed Church of Angola Reformed M O AFReformed AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Most Rev. Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah Methodist Church Ghana Methodist M O AFMethodist AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Mr Itayi Ndudzo Methodist Church in Zimbabwe Methodist M L Y AFMethodist AFM AFL AFY AF ML MY M
AF Bishop Ivan Manuel Abrahams Methodist Church of Southern Africa Methodist M O AFMethodist AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Rev. Dr Festus Ambe Asana Presbyterian Church in Cameroon Reformed M O AFReformed AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Rev. Dr Elisée Musemakweli Presbyterian Church in Rwanda Reformed M O 1 AFReformed AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Mrs Helen Ubon Usung Presbyterian Church of Nigeria Reformed F L AFReformed AFF AFL AF AF FL F F
AF Rt Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi Anglican M O 1 AFAnglican AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Mrs Pati Kyafa Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria Reformed F L AFReformed AFF AFL AF AF FL F F
AF Pastor Jane Mutoro Religious Society of Friends: Friends United Meeting Free F O Y AFFree AFF AFO AFY AF FO FY F
AF Ms Bridget Naulapwa United Church of Zambia United and Uniting F L Y AFUnited and Uniting AFF AFL AFY AF FL FY F
AF Rev. Dr Moiseraele Prince Dibeela United Congregational Church of Southern Africa United and Uniting M O AFUnited and Uniting AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AF Mme Akissi Jeannette Aneyé United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast Methodist F L 1 AFMethodist AFF AFL AF AF FL F F

Asia

AS Mrs Hera Rere Clarke Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia Anglican F L I ASAnglican ASF ASL AS ASI FL F FI
AS Ms Alison Jane Preston Anglican Church of Australia Anglican F L Y ASAnglican ASF ASL ASY AS FL FY F
AS Rev. Renta Nishihara Anglican Communion in Japan Anglican M O ASAnglican ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Rev. Ying Gao China Christian Council Post-denominational F O 1 ASPost-denominational ASF ASO AS AS FO F F
AS Mrs Meilin Chen China Christian Council Post-denominational F L ASPost-denominational ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Rev. Dr Andreas Yewangoe Christian Church of Sumba (GKS) Reformed M O ASReformed ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Ms Peggy Adeline Mekel Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa (GMIM) Reformed F L Y ASReformed ASF ASL ASY AS FL FY F
AS Rev. Dr Sint Kimhachandra Church of Christ in Thailand United and Uniting M O ASUnited and Uniting ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Mrs Prabhjot Prim Rose Masih Church of North India United and Uniting F L ASUnited and Uniting ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Bishop Samuel Robert Azariah Church of Pakistan United and Uniting M O 1 ASUnited and Uniting ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Rt Rev. Dr Govada Dyvasirvadam Church of South India United and Uniting M O 1 ASUnited and Uniting ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Dr Minda Peranginangin Karo Batak Protestant Church (GBKP) Reformed F O ASReformed ASF ASO AS AS FO F F
AS Ms Hae-Sun Jung Korean Methodist Church Methodist F L ASMethodist ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Bishop Isaac Mar Philoxenos Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar Mar Thoma M O ASMar Thoma ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Bishop Taranath S. Sagar Methodist Church in India Methodist M O ASMethodist ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Mr Anthony Row Methodist Church in Malaysia Methodist M L ASMethodist ASM ASL AS AS ML M M
AS Rev. W.P. Ebenezer Joseph Methodist Church Sri Lanka Methodist M O ASMethodist ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Dr Anna May Chan Myanmar Baptist Convention Baptist F L 1 ASBaptist ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Mrs Carmencita Karagdag Philippine Independent Church Independent F L 1 ASIndependent ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Mrs Ming-Min Lin Cheng Presbyterian Church in Taiwan Reformed F L ASReformed ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Prof. Dr Seong-Won Park Presbyterian Church of Korea Reformed M O ASReformed ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Rev. I Made Priana Protestant Christian Church in Bali (GKPB)* Reformed M O ASReformed ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
AS Rev. Dr Margaretha M. Hendriks-Ririmasse Protestant Church in the Moluccas (GPM) Reformed F O ASReformed ASF ASO AS AS FO F F
AS Mrs Jenny Rio Rita Girsang Simalungun Protestant Christian Church (GKPS) Lutheran F L ASLutheran ASF ASL AS AS FL F F
AS Ms Sanchita Kisku United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India Lutheran F L Y I ASLutheran ASF ASL ASY ASI FL FY FI
AS Rev. Gregor Henderson Uniting Church in Australia United and Uniting M O 1 ASUnited and Uniting ASM ASO AS AS MO M M

Caribbean

CA Miss Nerissa Celestine Church in the Province of the West Indies Anglican F L Y CAAnglican CAF CAL CAY CA FL FY F
CA Rev. Glenna Spencer Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas Methodist F O CAMethodist CAF CAO CA CA FO F F
CA Rev. Dr Paul Gardner Moravian Church in Jamaica Free M O CAFree CAM CAO CA CA MO M M

Europe

EU Dr David Robin Goodbourn Baptist Union of Great Britain Baptist M L EUBaptist EUM EUL EU EU ML M M
EU Rev. Kathy Jones Church in Wales Anglican F O EUAnglican EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Rt Rev. Thomas Frederick Butler Church of England Anglican M O 1 EUAnglican EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Ingrid Vad Nilsen Church of Norway Lutheran F O EULutheran EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Mr Graham Gerald McGeoch Church of Scotland Reformed M L Y EUReformed EUM EUL EUY EU ML MY M
EU Ms Inger Aasa-Marklund Church of Sweden Lutheran F L I 1 EULutheran EUF EUL EU EUI FL F FI
EU Ms Kristyna Mlynkova Czechoslovak Hussite Church Reformed F L Y EUReformed EUF EUL EUY EU FL FY F
EU Bischof Dr Martin Hermann Hein Evangelical Church in Germany United and Uniting M O 1 EUUnited and Uniting EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Bischof Dr Rolf Koppe Evangelical Church in Germany Lutheran M O 1 EULutheran EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Pfarrerin Heike Bosien Evangelical Church in Germany Lutheran F O 1 EULutheran EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Rev. Frank Schürer-Behrmann Evangelical Church in Germany United and Uniting M O EUUnited and Uniting EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Frau Christina Biere Evangelical Church in Germany United and Uniting F L Y EUUnited and Uniting EUF EUL EUY EU FL FY F
EU Dean Anders Gadegaard Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark Lutheran M O 1 EULutheran EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Bishop Sofie Bodil Louise Lisbeth Petersen Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark Lutheran F O I EULutheran EUF EUO EU EUI FO F FI
EU Bishop Simoo Peura Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Lutheran M O EULutheran EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Mr Aaro Paavo Samuli Rytkönen Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Lutheran M L Y EULutheran EUM EUL EUY EU ML MY M
EU Madame Marie-Christine Michau Evangelical Lutheran Church of France Lutheran F L EULutheran EUF EUL EU EU FL F F
EU Ms Anita Jakobsone Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Lutheran F L EULutheran EUF EUL EU EU FL F F
EU Rev. Prof. Dr Christoph Stückelberger Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches Reformed M O EUReformed EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Bishop Peter Gáncs Lutheran Church in Hungary Lutheran M O EULutheran EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Dr Fernando Enns Mennonite Church in Germany Free M O 1 EUFree EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Dr Heather Morris Methodist Church in Ireland Methodist F O EUMethodist EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Rev. Sofia Ann Camerin Mission Covenant Church of Sweden Reformed F O EUReformed EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Archbishop Joris Vercammen Old-Catholic Church of the Netherlands Old-Catholic M O EUOld-Catholic EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Wies Houweling Protestant Church in the Netherlands United and Uniting F O 1 EUUnited and Uniting EUF EUO EU EU FO F F
EU Obispo Carlos Lopez-Lozano Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church* Anglican M O EUAnglican EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Jill Margaret Thornton United Reformed Church United and Uniting F O 1 EUUnited and Uniting EUF EUO EU EU FO F F

Latin America

LA Pastor Hector Osvaldo Petrecca Christian Biblical Church* Pentecostal M O LAPentecostal LAM LAO LA LA MO M M
LA Rev. Dr Walter Altmann Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil Lutheran M O LALutheran LAM LAO LA LA MO M M
LA Pastor Carlos Duarte Evangelical Church of the River Plate Lutheran M O LALutheran LAM LAO LA LA MO M M
LA Obispo Carlos Poma Apaza Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia* Methodist M O I LAMethodist LAM LAO LA LAI MO M MI
LA Dra Magali Nascimento Cunha Methodist Church in Brazil Methodist F L LAMethodist LAF LAL LA LA FL F F

Middle East

ME Rev. Dr Safwat Nagieb Ghobrial El Baiady Evangelican Presbyterian Church Egypt Synod of the Nile Reformed M O MEReformed MEM MEO ME ME MO M M

North America

NA Bishop McKinley Young African Methodist Episcopal Church Methodist M O 1 NAMethodist NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Rev. Rothangliani Chhangte American Baptist Churches in the USA Baptist F O NABaptist NAF NAO NA NA FO F F
NA Rev.Canon John Alfred Steele Anglican Church of Canada Anglican M O NAAnglican NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Rev. Dr Sharon Watkins Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States Disciples F O NADisciples NAF NAO NA NA FO F F
NA Dr Evelyn Parker Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Methodist F L NAMethodist NAF NAL NA NA FL F F
NA Ms Sarah Harte Episcopal Church in the USA Anglican F L Y NAAnglican NAF NAL NAY NA FL FY F
NA Ms Kathryn Lohre Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Lutheran F L Y NALutheran NAF NAL NAY NA FL FY F
NA Mr Charles Peña Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Lutheran M L NALutheran NAM NAL NA NA ML M M
NA Rev. Robina Winbush Presbyterian Church (USA) Reformed F O NAReformed NAF NAO NA NA FO F F
NA Rev. Judy Angleberger Presbyterian Church (USA) Reformed F O NAReformed NAF NAO NA NA FO F F
NA Rev. William Ingram Presbyterian Church in Canada Reformed M O NAReformed NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Rev. Dr Tyrone Pitts Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Baptist M O 1 NABaptist NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Rev. Gretchen Schoon-Tanis Reformed Church in America Reformed F O Y NAReformed NAF NAO NAY NA FO FY F
NA Ms Carmen Rae Lansdowne United Church of Canada United and Uniting F L Y I NAUnited and Uniting NAF NAL NAY NAI FL FY FI
NA Rev. John Thomas United Church of Christ United and Uniting M O NAUnited and Uniting NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Bishop Sally Dyck United Methodist Church Methodist F O NAMethodist NAF NAO NA NA FO F F
NA Rev. Dr Larry Pickens United Methodist Church Methodist M O NAMethodist NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
NA Ms Motoe Yamada United Methodist Church Methodist F L Y NAMethodist NAF NAL NAY NA FL FY F
NA Ms Lois McCullough Dauway United Methodist Church Methodist F L 1 NAMethodist NAF NAL NA NA FL F F

Pacific

PA Rev. Tofinga Vaevalu Falani Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu Reformed M O PAReformed PAM PAO PA PA MO M M
PA Pasteur Hnoija Jean Wete Evangelical Church in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Isles Reformed M O PAReformed PAM PAO PA PA MO M M
PA Ms Terauango Beneteri Kiribati Protestant Church Reformed F L Y PAReformed PAF PAL PAY PA FL FY F
PA Miss Geraldine Varea Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Methodist F L Y PAMethodist PAF PAL PAY PA FL FY F
PA Rev. Sanele Faasua Lavatai Methodist Church of Samoa Methodist M O PAMethodist PAM PAO PA PA MO M M

Orthodox Eastern

ME H.G. Bishop Dr Vasilios Karayiannis of Trimithus Church of Cyprus Orthodox Eastern M O 1 MEOrthodox Eastern MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
EU Bishop Ioannis of Thermopylae Church of Greece Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Prof. Georgios Martzelos Church of Greece Orthodox Eastern M L EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUL EU EU ML M M
EU Archimandrite Dr Job Getcha Ecumenical Patriarchate Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Mag. Emanuela Larentzakis Ecumenical Patriarchate Orthodox Eastern F L EUOrthodox Eastern EUF EUL EU EU FL F F
EU Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima Ecumenical Patriarchate Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Ms Anna Teodoridis Ecumenical Patriarchate Orthodox Eastern F L Y EUOrthodox Eastern EUF EUL EUY EU FL FY F
AF H.E. Archbishop Makarios of Kenya and Irinoupolis Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa Orthodox Eastern M O 1 AFOrthodox Eastern AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
LA Metropolitan Damascinos Mansour Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Orthodox Eastern M O LAOrthodox Eastern LAM LAO LA LA MO M M
ME Rev. Fr George Dimas Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Orthodox Eastern M O MEOrthodox Eastern MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
NA Ms Anne Glynn-Mackoul Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Orthodox Eastern F L 1 NAOrthodox Eastern NAF NAL NA NA FL F F
ME Dr Audeh Quawas Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem Orthodox Eastern M L 1 MEOrthodox Eastern MEM MEL ME ME ML M M
ME Archbishop Aristarchos Peristeris Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem Orthodox Eastern M O MEOrthodox Eastern MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
EU Mr Jorgo Papadhopuli Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania Orthodox Eastern M L EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUL EU EU ML M M
NA Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky Orthodox Church in America Orthodox Eastern M O 1 NAOrthodox Eastern NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
EU Rev. Fr Heikki (Tuomas) Huttunen Orthodox Church of Finland Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Ms Outi Vasko Orthodox Church of Finland Orthodox Eastern F L Y EUOrthodox Eastern EUF EUL EUY EU FL FY F
EU Ms Iveta Starcová Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia Orthodox Eastern F L Y 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUF EUL EUY EU FL FY F
EU Rev. Pawel Wlodzimierz Stefanowski Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Poland Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Archbishop Nifon of Targoviste Romanian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Dr Michael Tita Romanian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Bishop Dr Hilarion Alfeev Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Father Igor Vyzhanov Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Mrs Margarita Nelyubova Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern F L 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUF EUL EU EU FL F F
EU Father Mikhail Goundiaev Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Archpriest Vladan Perisic Serbian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O 1 EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M
EU Rev. Hieromonk Irinej Dobrijevic Serbian Orthodox Church Orthodox Eastern M O EUOrthodox Eastern EUM EUO EU EU MO M M

Orthodox Oriental

ME Bishop Nareg Alemezian Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia) Orthodox Oriental M O MEOrthodox Oriental MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
ME Dr Nora Bayrakdarian-Kabakian Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia) Orthodox Oriental F L MEOrthodox Oriental MEF MEL ME ME FL F F
EU Mrs Paula Devejian Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Etchmiadzin) Orthodox Oriental F L EUOrthodox Oriental EUF EUL EU EU FL F F
NA Bishop Vicken Aykazian Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Etchmiadzin) Orthodox Oriental M O NAOrthodox Oriental NAM NAO NA NA MO M M
ME H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church Orthodox Oriental M O MEOrthodox Oriental MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
ME H.G. Bishop Youannes Coptic Orthodox Church Orthodox Oriental M O 1 MEOrthodox Oriental MEM MEO ME ME MO M M
AF Dr Nigussu Legesse Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Orthodox Oriental M L AFOrthodox Oriental AFM AFL AF AF ML M M
AF H.G. Abune Zecharias Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Orthodox Oriental M O AFOrthodox Oriental AFM AFO AF AF MO M M
AS Rev. Dr Kondothra M. George Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Orthodox Oriental M O 1 ASOrthodox Oriental ASM ASO AS AS MO M M
ME H.E. Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Orthodox Oriental M O MEOrthodox Oriental MEM MEO ME ME MO M M

***

Nominees for Central Committee

[MISSING]

***

Nominees for President of the WCC (as adopted)
23 February 2006

Africa

Rev. Prof. Dr Simon Dossou, Methodist Church in Benin

Dr Dossou is an Old Testament scholar who did his theological studies in Porto Novo (Benin), Yaoundé (Cameroon) and Lausanne (Switzerland). He has been theological professor in the Yaoundé Faculty of Theology and in the Theological Institute of Porto Novo. Dr Dossou is currently President of the Methodist Church in Benin and Chairperson of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA). He is the author of many books and theological articles.

Asia

Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP)

Dr Nababan's international ecumenical involvement began with membership in the WCC's Youth Committee in 1961, followed by service as Youth Secretary for the Christian Conference of Asia 1963-1967 and as President 1990-1995. He has been involved at various levels of ecumenical work through the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (General Secretary, 1967-1984; General Chairman, 1984-1987); the World Council of Churches (Vice-Chairman and then Moderator of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, 1968-1985; member and then Vice-Moderator of Central Committee, 1983-1998); and the Lutheran World Federation (Vice-President, 1970-1977 and 1984-1991). He has provided leadership to his own church, the largest Protestant church in Indonesia, serving as Ephorus (bishop) from 1987 to 1998.

Caribbean / Latin America

Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba

Dr Ortega was the first Presbyterian woman to be ordained in Cuba. She worked at the WCC from 1985 to 1996, first as professor at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, and from 1988 as executive secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Programme on Theological Education. She then returned to Cuba to serve as the rector of the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) in Matanzas for eight years, leading it to a multi-faceted ministry of social service and community involvement. Beyond her responsibilities with the seminary, she served as volunteer in the rural areas of Cuba during the national literacy campaign, as well as offering her gifts to the Ministry of Public Health

Europe

Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England

Dr Tanner has contributed to the ecumenical movement in a variety of ways throughout the years. She has been a member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission since 1974, serving as moderator from 1991 to 1998. She has also been a member of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC since its inception in 1991. Dr Tanner has been involved in various ecumenical conversations on behalf of her church, including the Anglican-Roman conversation. From 1982 to 1998 she was active within the Church of England body which ultimately became the Council for Christian Unity, serving as its General Secretary from 1991 to 1998.

North America

Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ

Dr Powell Jackson has served for the past 18 months as President of the WCC for North America, completing an un-expired term. She served on the national staff of the UCC for nearly twenty years, most recently as one of the five officers of the church and as head of Justice and Witness Ministries. During the 1980s, she was director of the Bishop Tutu Scholarship Fund in the US, where she worked closely with the Archbishop. She has worked for more than three decades on civil rights, human rights and justice issues, and is a much-sought-after preacher. She is currently working on a book on God, religion and politics.

Pacific

Mr John Taroanui Doom, Maòhi Protestant Church

Mr Doom became a deacon of his church in 1962, and served as its General Secretary from 1971 to 1988. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Pacific Conference of Churches 1966-1989, and Principal of the Hermon Theological School, Tahiti, 1972-1977. He was a member of central committee 1976-1983 and of the Churches' Commission on International Affairs 1983-1989. In 1989 he became the WCC's Executive Secretary for the Pacific, a post which he held until 2000. He is currently national co-ordinator of the Association of the Former Nuclear Site Workers of Moruroa (Moruroa e Tatou).

Eastern Orthodox

Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

His Beatitude Archbishop Anastatios is professor emeritus of the National University of Athens and honorary member of the Academy of Athens. He was Dean of the Theological School at the University of Athens 1983-1986. From 1981 to 1990 he was the Acting Archbishop of East Africa, where he organised and developed the Orthodox Mission in East Africa. He was Moderator of the WCC's Commission on World Mission and Evangelism 1984-1991, and is currently vice-president of the Conference of European Churches. He has served as Primate of Albania since 1992, reconstructing the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania from ruins and initiating important contributions in healthcare, development work, emergency relief, culture, ecology and peace-making.

Oriental Orthodox

His Holiness Abune Paulos, Ethiopian Orthodox Church

His Holiness Abune Paulos is the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. He has served as a member of central committee and the Faith and Order commission, and attended the Nairobi assembly. He has participated in many international meetings, including the World Economic Forum and the World Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations, and has been instrumental in encouraging interfaith dialogue in Ethiopia. He has shown keen interest in youth, women's issues and HIV/AIDS, acting as patron of the national programme on HIV/AIDS. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the protection of welfare of refugees, he was awarded the Nansen Medal for Africa by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2000.

Resolution:

The Ninth Assembly elects the Presidents of the World Council of Churches as presented in this document.
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Part 13 of __

2. Plenary presentations
Assembly theme

Carmen Lansdowne presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Ms Carmen Lansdowne is a member of the United Church of Canada, and is serving an internship in parish ministry in rural Saskatchewan

"Man is above, outside, and against nature. Man is part and product of nature.
These two visions of man... represent the two contrasting philosophies of our time."
-Mario Palmieri


This thought, articulated by Palmieri in the early 20th century, continues to hold true. Perhaps the scales have been unevenly weighted: for more than focusing on our being part and product of nature, humankind has focused on being above, outside, and against nature. We have objectified, violated, oppressed and negated the earth. Not only have we been perpetrators of destruction in the name of development and progress, but we have done it despite warning signs which foreshadow the disruption of the delicate ecological balance which supports life on earth.

I speak from the context of having grown up in North America. Not all cultures or societies share the Western worldview of economic development through domination of resources. Sadly, the world I see through 30 year old eyes is taking lessons from the economic superpowers and their reckless endangerment of the delicate balance of life in God's creation.

This assembly's focus on "Water" as an environmental concern, as an acknowledgment of the basic dignities necessary to human life, as a symbolic metaphor used to express our faith in the Christian tradition, leads us to the impossibility of further ignoring our relationship with the Earth. The call for the WCC programme emphasis on water states that reasons for the present water crisis include, " increased and unsustainable agricultural and industrial use of water, deforestation and land degradation that seriously change the water cycle, over-consumption and waste, pollution and population growth." Every one of these factors listed is the result of human behaviour affecting the earth. To pray to God for grace to transform the earth requires the ability to be accountable for our part as humankind in creating an earth that needs to be transformed.

Ecological theology has been influenced by feminist and liberation theologies. Feminist theologies would stat that in order to act with integrity and justice with regards to the earth, we must stop making the earth an objectified "other" and instead allow the earth to become a subject, just as we are subjects. This subject-to-subject interaction is the basis for a sound ethical treatment of the earth: one which will embody justice without the power imbalance of humankind always acting against or on-behalf-of the earth.

Renowned theologian Sallie McFague has this to say about Christian nature spirituality:

"To those who say, "But Jesus did not extend this love to nature," we reply, "But neither did he extend it explicitly to slaves, women, or people of colour." Christians in subsequent generations have done so, however, because "the oppressed" change over time. If God the redeemer is concerned for the well-being of all creation, then we have to extend the line we have drawn which puts us within the circle of divine concern and the rest of creation outside. And we must do this, first of all, for theological reasons. It is what Christian praxis demands. We do not do it because unless we care for nature, humans cannot survive or because Christianity had better get on the environmental bandwagon, but because commitment to the God of Jesus Christ demands it. A Christian nature spirituality is the logical next step away from a tribal God toward the universal God, away from a God concerned with "me and my kind," toward the One concerned with the entire creation." -Sallie McFague, Super, Natural Christian p. 12.

The ways in which we objectify the earth are infinite. The persistent worldview that humans are "above, outside, and against nature" has allowed us to take from God's creation at an unprecedented rate. We have created environmental catastrophes of which we even still cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude. This is becoming common knowledge. The awareness that something must change is juxtaposed against the belief (which has not significantly altered) that God has given humankind dominion over the earth. It is true that the book of Genesis states that people should have dominion over the earth. A quick look to the dictionary will define dominion as the exclusive right to have "control over". But a second definition will state that dominion can be a self-governing entity within a larger whole. Perhaps this is the definition which we ought to move towards. The earth has powerful abilities to regenerate, to recreate, to resurrect. Recognizing these powers may allow us to enter into renewed relationship with the earth recognizing that God is, and has been, always answering our prayer. If the earth is constantly transforming, then perhaps we need to pay attention to how our prayers are already being answered.

I acknowledge that the word "dominion" as translated from the Hebrew does, in fact, mean to have rule over. The Wester world, however, has appropriated that term for the exclusive use of economic development, when it was written as a liberation theology by the biblical writers. The people of Israel were oppressed and did not have access to land on which to subsist. It is still, then, appropriate to use the traditional definition of "dominion" in the case of the disenfranchised and oppressed in the world as a liberation text. It is no longer acceptable, however, to use it as a coercive force of human power over creation. To do so any longer is to deny that the whole of God's creation has inherent worth and is deserving of our embodied Christian love. One North American preacher wrote:

"The Genesis stories were written to exemplify the deep truths about how creative and purpose-filled God's acts were, and are. That God's willingness to consult and share power, and our human responses, sometimes lead to messy and less-than -desirable outcomes and to recognize that everything does not always turn out as God planned. Yet, through it all, God remains a faithful, covenant-making, covenant keeping God" (taken from http://www.godalming.org.uk/13-2-05.html)

The inability to see how God's spirit moves in creation is not new to us as humans. Throughout history we have often prayed for salvation, prayed for God's intercession in our lives, yet remained blind to see God's grace and radical love incarnate in the world. John 3:31-36 tells the story of John's testimony to Jesus as the messiah. The people of Israel prayed and prayed and prayed for a messiah. People were following Jesus and the disciples in their ministry, yet there were still those who could not see Jesus' true nature. It wasn't only the Pharisees and those with authority. Jesus and John's own disciples are described as been consistently unable to fully comprehend Jesus as messiah. John 3:32 states that, "He has testified to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony." Is this not what we are doing with our inability to see the earth as inherently worthy in God's creation?

Even our focus on nature as a means for spiritual connection to God can be, in a way, an objectification of the earth. For rather that using the earth for the extraction of resources, we are using it for the creation of personal pleasure - as if the earth exists solely for our use and sense of beauty. Even those who are responsible for decisions that create destruction in the environment have a sense of the aesthetic beauty in the world. It is not that each decision we make as individuals is catastrophic in itself, but rather the use of earth as pleasure which allows the denial of accountability for our use of the earth. If I was the CEO of a large manufacturing corporation, and my hobby was hiking in the mountains on the weekend, I can see how it would be difficult to admit that I was not loving the earth. For I would be just one person, and standing on a lush mountain top looking at the glory of God's creation below me, how could I not want to deny the fact that my actions at work were contributing to the destruction of what I held most dear?

Again, I turn to the Gospel of John (6:60-63a). "When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?' But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life;".

What the Spirit is calling us to is a re-evaluation of our global economic paradigm and how it affects God's creation. Theologians are beginning to learn that being able to speak to economists in economic jargon is a way to make progress in this area. Rather than viewing this form of dialogue as submitting to the status quo, it can and perhaps should continue as a form of resistance. Resistance which is consistent with our Christian heritage. Post-colonialist theologian R.S. Sugirtharajah writes that: "Resistance... is a 'rediscovery and repatriation of what had been suppressed in the natives' past by the process of imperialism.' Seen within the colonial context, resistance meant not simply a repudiation or rejection of Western rule or Western discursive practices. Rather, it was a profitable use of paradigm provided by the colonizer, in that it was successfully turned against him." - R.S. Sugirtharajah The Bible and the Third World p. 74.

The work of economists such as winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Amartya Sen, encourages us as Christians to advocate on behalf of nature. If nature is not viewed as inherently worthy, then it becomes simply a utility for the use of humankind. Sen clarifies something implicit in the global economic model: economic evaluation based upon utilitarian principles excludes any non-utilitarian information. That means the exclusion of information such as the inherent worth of creation. It is sometimes easy to view the workings of global corporations as separate from the actions of individuals - indeed, that is why they were created. But the people in corporations who are making decisions which dictate our interactions with the earth are, in fact, people we know. Some of them are sitting in the pews of our congregations and worshiping with us. Our working theologies of how we take our faith out into the world need to be modernized to include a 21st century understanding which overrules the misappropriation of a utilitarian "dominion"-based theology. And those in our communities who are making good/healthy decisions about how to interact with the earth need to be held up as living examples of Christ's ministry.

Our faith is one based upon the rebellious love of those excluded by society. Jesus ate, served and taught those who would have been considered the margins of society - those who could not speak for themselves. The earth has, with regards to its inherent worth, become disenfranchised. Our faith, through prayer for the earth, calls us to accept the Spirit says through our environment: to refuse to be offended by the need to look at the world as an intricately woven ecological web; to walk with grace and humility in creation; to show an incarnate love for the earth as a renewed form of Christian praxis devoted to the One concerned with the whole of creation. May it be so. Amen.

***

Gracia Violeta Ross presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Ms Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga from Bolivia is an activist for human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS

Grace for Grace

Testimony of a pastor's daughter

Gracia

My name has a meaning. Gracia in Spanish means Grace. My parents named me Gracia due to their understanding of "God's grace"; that wonderful attribute of God which enabled human beings to be saved. This essay shows how I (Gracia) received the Grace of God.

When I was a child, I had many problems at school because my classmates used to make fun of me with my name saying "Gracias Gracia", in Spanish the words "thanks" (gracias) and "grace" (gracia) are different only in the "s".

Every time I had to say my name was Gracia, I had to explain people about the grace of God and the reason why I had such a different name, I had to declare I was a Christian and I was not ready to do so with every single person I met. Therefore I decided to use my second name: Violeta, which means "violet", the flower. This name was easier to remember and did not cause so many questions.

Nevertheless, the difference between Gracia and Violeta was not only in the name but also in the attitudes and the kind of life Gracia and Violeta had. Within the church I was Gracia, living a "good" life like "the daughter of a pastor" that I am. Violeta was a rebellious teenager doing her will and ignoring God's commandments. As Violeta I did all things Gracia was not allowed to do. This situation ended with me having two lives.

Within the church

I was born in a protestant family. My father is a spiritual leader; both my father and my mother have founded churches in Bolivia. I grew up in the church. For a while, the church was based in my garage while we did not have a place to meet. I used to attend Sunday school, and learnt about Abraham, Joseph and Jesus and also heard about Samson and his mistake involving a woman who did not belong to God's people.

Without being completely conscious, I developed two kind of lives. Gracia used to attend church every single Sunday making a "performance" for other people, showing that everything was good. Violeta was a different person and I can say as Violeta, I did not belong to God's family at all. My life was being divided in two attitudes, and none of them was real nor complete. I was playing with God and the flesh at the same time. This game can never have a good end. I was not a real Christian, I was just someone else in the church, using another seat.

Bitterness roots

I do not pretend to justify myself but the abyss between my life and God was growing deeper every time. When I decided to do my will I never thought I could end up my days having HIV. I was not aware of the great risk I was at.

This history of rebellion started with my inability to forgive, and the bitterness I let grow up in my heart because I was not able to forgive my older sister when she became the fiancé of the boy I used to like. Since that moment I started to think all Christian people were a fake and decide to have a boyfriend out of the church.

My bitterness made me feel so much the need of being loved, I needed so much to have someone to love in order to show my sister that even though, she was with the boy I liked, I had many others and did not need him.

This career to get more boyfriends than my sister was my death sentence. I was looking for love, for someone to take care of me, someone to understand me, to be loyal, never lie, to support me, to be faithful, to speak the truth… I was looking in a man for what only God can give! So I never found it. Men realized I needed love and took advantage of my need. Men can love but they will ask a price for it, they will ask for the body, the integrity, they ask to have the temple of Holy Spirit. They asked for my body and I accepted.

I kept going to church every Sunday but my heart was far from God. I went into university to study anthropology even though my father disagreed with this choice. While at university I began to drink alcohol and met friends who used to smoke marijuana and other drugs.

My family suffered a lot during this time, because they were worried about the people I had made friends with, they felt that they were bad influences for me. They could not understand how was I able to make these decisions to go out with these people, because I had been brought up knowing God, and this was not how they had brought me up.

I remember nowadays, with tears in my eyes, how much my mother and father, my sisters and little brother suffered. They tried to rescue me, they locked the doors so that I did not escape, they prayed for long nights when I did not arrive home, they forbade me the access to the telephone so that I would not be able to contact those friends who took me to drink alcohol; finally they begged me to change and to remember God, crying so many times they told me to abandon that life but I become more rebellious each time they tried to talk to me.

I asked them to forgive me and they did, but I can not forget all the pain I caused. I understand now that my parents are the first authority settled by God himself, the rules they have were there in order to protect my life.

My life far from God

I learned I had to remain a virgin until I got married. My parents wanted me to marry someone from the church, but I decided to date boys outside of the church. I also decided that I wanted to play sex with them. I knew about the severe risk of getting pregnant outside of marriage, and I knew what shame this would bring on my father, especially because he was such a prestigious leader within the church. Therefore I had to find information on my own, regarding issues such as avoiding pregnancy. No one in the church spoke to me about sex or sexuality and all the problems that these issues raise.

I never got pregnant but I was unaware of the risk of AIDS, and at that time I did not realize how much of risk I was actually at of contracting HIV. I do not know how long I could have kept living this kind of life. I did not care about anything. I did not care about my parents' suffering or about my family's credibility within the church, I just wanted to do my will.

My chosen life style had bitter consequences. One night I was coming back home from a party. I did not have any money to get a taxi home, because I had spent all my money on the ticket for the party. I went out every Saturday, without my parents permission, they had no idea that I was going out! Honestly I only wanted to dance, and have a good time with my friends, but unfortunately wherever there is music, there is also always alcohol, at least in Latin America. That very night I crept out of my bedroom via the balcony. It was getting really late at the party, it was 2 AM, and I wanted to go home.

I asked my friends to walk me home but they wanted to stay at the party a little while longer. I begged them to walk me home, and because they all wanted to stay, they chose one person to do it. On the way home this 'friend' told me that he wanted to have sex with me but I asked him why he was saying this, and I knew it was because he was drunk, if he had been sober then he would not have asked me that. He was angry because I said 'No' and he left me alone, right there, and I was left to walk home alone, it was only a short walk to my house from there.

My sister used to help me escaping and getting in again, but that night she was not home and had not read the note I left her to open me at 2:30 am. I decided to go and look for her in a pub she used to attend. I was really drunk and did not realize that two men were following me. They hit me and took me to an alleyway and they both raped me.

I could not believe this was happening to me, I was so close to home. I felt my heart was being destroyed. I was a child of God; I thought that He had a duty to protect me. I told my older sister about what had happened, but I never told my parents, I did not want to see them suffer. I was traumatized for a time. I did not want to have any man near to me. What happened should have taught me a lesson. However, I did not learn from my mistakes.

"My son do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin (…) these man lie in wait for their own blood."1

"You have made my days a mere handbreath"

"You have made my days a mere handbreath, the span of my years is as nothing before you"2

After this experience of sexual assault I thought nothing worse than that could ever happen to me. I was wrong. Even though I had experienced a great pain with this assault I did not change my life-style. I used to think that nothing worse could happen now, so why would I try to take care? Why? Everything was lost already, I had screwed it up already.

In March 2000 I went to a little town in my country, I was preparing my research for a thesis degree about the availability of small loans for small enterprises of peasants in Bolivia. I was bitten by a little insect and the bite got infected, I was getting very tired quickly and was having some nosebleeds. My family and I thought I had malaria because this zone is endemic for this illness. I went to a specialized laboratory to take a test to find out if I had contracted malaria or another similar illness, and my older sister told them to test for HIV as well.

The other tests were negative, however my HIV test came back positive. I could not believe it; I had not had more sexual experiences than most of my school friends, in fact I had less than them! I was simply a girl from university discovering her sexuality. I never injected drugs and I was not a sex worker. My first thought was how to tell my parents. What was going to happen to me? When was I going to die? How could I face the people and their prejudices about AIDS? How could I ever tell people from church that I was HIV positive?

I cried a lot and I was sad and depressed for a very long time. Finally one day my sister told me that I had to tell my parents. How could I tell them? We had never talked about sexuality, where was I going to find the strength to tell them "I have AIDS" ? The thought of telling them tortured me for many months.

I decided to tell them. I thought that they were going to reject me. I thought that they were going to throw me out of the house. I wrote a letter to them and I sent it with my sister. Meanwhile I was staying at a friend's. I decided that if my parents rejected me, life would not be worth living. When I saw them they were astonished with what I had told them in the letter. I will never forget their tear-stained faces, they had one question written all over their faces: why did this happen to our child?

My family did not reject me at all, they received me with open arms, they told me they did not want to know what happened, they just wanted to be with me and support me until the last day. The Bible says:

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him"3

I begun to understand this proof of love was a reflection of God's love in my family. This love was just one of the gifts God has prepared for me.

"Let the bones you have crushed rejoice..."4

In my anguish due to this HIV positive diagnosis, I looked for God again. He gave me freedom from blame and shame, I found peace, forgiveness, hope and eternal life. My Heavenly Father consoled me in the worst time of my life, He showed me promises of eternal life and strength to go on:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me"5.

The Lord used different brothers and sisters in the faith to bring healthiness and consolation to the pain in my heart. He showed me nothing could take me away from His incomparable love, neither all the evil I had committed, nor the virus, nor the death:

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" 6.

Not even AIDS can separate me from the love of God!

The sacrifice Jesus made in the cross was enough to save me and enough to forgive my sins and those of people living with HIV. So much grace and mercy were difficult to believe! The Lord is faithful to me even though I was unfaithful! He had a mission for my life, even based on my mistakes!

"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man..."7

I reconciled with God, as king Hezekiah did8, I humbled in God's presence, I repented from my sins, I asked for forgiveness and I gave God what I still had of my broken life. He forgave me, restored me, healed my body, my soul and my spirit.

I started to study the Bible again. I was not the same person any more, I needed to know what God demanded from me now.

I have met other People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). The pain for their souls and bodies is terrible: they die alone, abandoned by their own families, without having a light of hope.

I discovered I was a privileged among those living with HIV. I have a family who support me, they do not judge or discriminate me. I am healthy, alive and have eternal life. The Lord told me to work as volunteer with these people.

I wanted to find what God said about illnesses like AIDS. I found that the judging role is only for God. I understood I had to put aside my prejudices if I really wanted to work with these people, specially when we are talking about sex workers and gay people.

I also discovered God gave us examples of what to do in such situations. I was impressed by Jesus' attitudes with people with leprosy. Meanwhile the whole society and synagogues treated them with discrimination (physical, symbolic and social discrimination), having special rules for them, asking them to use a bell to announce their presence; Jesus touched them, ate9 with them and healed them, both physical and spiritually:

"A man with leprosy came to him and begged, "if you are willing, you can make me clean" Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing", he said. "Be clean !"10.

"...he has given us new birth into a living hope..."11

I decide it was not important to know how much time I would live. Each day lived would be for God's glory.

The Lord had a mission of hope for persons living with HIV and AIDS. God has designed a mission based in my mistakes! His mercy and grace cover my broken promises and my failures. He did not reject me but used my experiences to console in order that I console other people suffering.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (1 Peter 1.3).

God had a living hope for persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Meanwhile most of people despite and judge us,

the divine response is plenty of forgiveness and living hope.

Together with other coworkers, I decided to found a self-help group for PLWHAs. We work as volunteers in prevention, advocacy, assistance for the ill ones, information for families, society, community-based organizations and the government. The Lord has blessed our work, we have been chosen as a "successful experience on HIV and AIDS" by the Pan American Health Organization. God used us to bring hope to suffering people.

"The AIDS crisis is the harvest God gave us "12

Between the plans God had, was the role of being a messenger to the Bolivian evangelical churches.

On September 2002 I was invited to the Conference on Integral Mission and HIV/ AIDS held by the Micah Network in Chiang Mai - Thailand. I met Leah Mutala in this conference. Leah is an African woman working as volunteer taking care of the orphans left by AIDS epidemic. She taught me that God takes the cause of the widow and the orphan, God is a Father to the fatherless13. These are only some of the consequences the AIDS epidemic brings for societies. The most important thing Leah taught me was that "the AIDS crisis is the harvest God gave us":

"Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest"14.

This is the message I received for evangelical churches:

Let's open our eyes and see, the harvest is ready.

The AIDS crisis is the harvest God gave us,

we will crop for eternal life

"I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done"15

It is not important for me to know how long will I live any more, because I know, that if I die soon or later, I will be with my Heavenly Father for the eternity.

The time I shall live in this world,

I will proclaim the wonders God has done

in my life and the way his great love

and mercy reached me having grace in his eyes;

God taught me the meaning of my name in my own flesh.

"This church that I love"

God had even more beautiful things prepared for me. I am a public speaker on HIV and AIDS, I am leader of the community-based organization REDBOL (Bolivian Network of PLWHA). I am on TV very often and it is not possible to keep the secrecy anymore.

So my family and I decided to tell the church about my HIV status. We were frightened abpit the possibility of being expelled from the church, specially considering that my father currently is the pastor of the church. There is a lack of information about HIV in Bolivia and very often we saw attitudes of discrimination. We prayed a lot but I must confess we did not trust God.

We chose one Sunday to tell the church and since the moment I started speaking I could not avoid the tear drops in my eyes. I was so repentant for causing that pain, for being a bad testimony for my church, for the shame I brought to my father and my whole family. I had a fight in my soul, sometimes the fear was bigger than my need to confess my sin.

God had prepared a loving church who supported us since the moment they knew about my HIV status. My dear brothers and sisters pray for me every week, asking God that I can be finally healed. They support me during my trips by praying and also in my speeches and my family with words of hope. This church that I love is a gift from God.

Nowadays

My viral load (number of virus in blood) is 15000 copies/ml16. Currently I do not take any antiretroviral medicine. These medicines are very expensive (USD1500/month) and no one in Bolivia has enough to pay this kind of money, and still have enough left over to live. The HIV virus reproduces itself every 37 hours into my body. A medical diagnosis would say that I am a weaker person every day, but God supports me; He said to me:

"My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong"17.

_______________

References:

Arthur, Kay (1988) Señor, sana mis heridas. Florida: Editorial Vida

Train, Felipe (2002) "Las parejas ¿qué hacemos con ellas? Conferencia dictada en La Paz el 15 de Febrero de 2002.

White, John (2000) Hacia la Sanidad Sexual. Buenos Aires: Certeza.

1 Proverbs 1. 15-18. NVI

2 Psalm 39.5, NVI

3 Psalm 103.13 NVI.

4 Psalm 51.8b, NVI.

5 Psalm 23.4, NVI.

6 Romans 8.37-39, NVI.

7 Mark 1.41b, NVI.

8 2 Kings 20, NVI.

9 "While he was in Betany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper" Mark 14.3, NVI.

10 Mark 1.40 and 41, NVI.

11 1 Peter 1.3 b, NVI.

12 Leah Mutala, Zimbawe 2002.

13 Psalmo 68.5; 146.9, NVI.

14 John 4..35, NVI.

15 Psalm 118.17, NVI.

16 A PLWHA can die with over a million copies/ml

17 2 Corinthians 12:.9-10 NVI.

***

Leandro Bosch presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Rev. Joseph (Leandro) Bosch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Rome

Introduction

Today's world with its convulsions could be characterized as a complex maelstrom of changes and transformations, which perhaps form one of the many-faceted peaks of its essentially multiform nature. These changes and transformations, as can be observed, come one after another and have one outstanding feature: the giddy pace driving them on and accompanying these changes that are taking place at all levels and in all areas of human life in post-modern society. We are thus experiencing constant changes at the economic, technological, cultural and social levels, and, we must admit, at the religious level as well. Of necessity, humans seek to change all that has become outdated and is not equal to their high expectations, all that has consequently become an obstacle or barrier to the attainment of their aims, all that has inevitably completed its task and must now disappear in its present form so as to make way for a form more appropriate to meet present-day demands. Thus, individuals, who are anxious and even bold, are not passive links in the living chain of humankind, on the receiving end of strong pressures caused by changes in their surrounding world. They themselves are the authors and architects of the changes and alterations taking place in all aspects of life with the aim of improving it. What we thus see are human beings who are fundamentally active, energetic, diligent, prepared and expectant in face of the changes that they themselves are producing. They are, however, at the same time anxious and often fearful of the consequences of change, which does not always produce the favourable solution that they themselves have planned. In reality, not all the changes produced by humankind today have happy results: hence nature's violent reaction to the harm done to it; hence humankind's reaction against itself owing to the profound worldwide imbalances arising out of arbitrary political, economic and thus social change: famine, war, terrorism, social inequality, racism, trade in living organs, trade in children, drugs, and further numberless scourges afflicting post-modern society as a result of the changes that it itself has brought about, unavoidably or avoidably, knowingly or unknowingly, deliberately or accidentally. These changes, and their resulting methodology, manifest themselves and have repercussions in individuals and contemporary society producing controversial results, very often approaching, almost inevitably, the maximum opposite extremes of benefit or damage to individuals and their environment, since today's world is easily thrown off balance by these changes. Meanwhile, humankind and the cosmic order are increasingly at odds with each other in face of changes that are a damaging attack on the natural rhythm and nature of the life of each.

Within this convulsed and controversial world, and also over against it (1), we Christians also thirst for change, for transformation, but not according to the pattern of this age: our desires are not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. And so we have been brought together by divine providence for these days of blessing in this beautiful land in our diversity, yes, but first and foremost in unity, so that we may lift up our voices in prayer, or rather in a cry arising from our inmost being: 'God, in your grace, transform the world!'

Methodology

Since this is an examination of the theme from the viewpoint of the Orthodox teaching of the Greek Fathers, it is necessary for me to be explicit about my theological presuppositions. They can be presented as distinctions, which are the key to understanding and interpreting the theme. These distinctions are:

1.The distinction between the Uncreated and what is created.

2. The distinction between the Essence of Godhead and the divine energies.

3. The distinction between the oneness and the distinctions within the Godhead.

4. The distinction of the creation into an intelligible and visible world.

5. The distinction between essence and energy in the world of creatures.

Objectives

My aim is to bring out the following aspects of the transformation undergone by the created world through its participation and experience in the history of the divine economy, in the drama of revelation and consequently in its experience of the divine energies.

I. From the Uncreated

A threefold vision.

The process of transforming and perfecting creation is necessarily closely dependent on divine providence, which rules, governs, guides and brings to fulfilment the positive process of change from what was created out of nothing at the beginning of its existence, passing through redemption in Christ, up to the second coming of Christ. These three stages - creation, redemption and the second coming (parousia) - provide the historic framework and also the divine framework of this process towards perfection which is taking place in the created world. These three pillars, then, reveal in the same way the trinitarian nature of divine action upon the created world and, consequently, the trinitarian stamp on this process of transformation from the first things (protology) to the last things (eschatology).

[insert diagram]

The Christological coordinates of transformation

If the process of transformation is Trinitarian in nature, then it must necessarily also be, according to the Eastern tradition, Christolgical in nature. The process of transformation has as its beginning the embodiment of the Logos - the asarkos logos - in the priesthood of the Old Testament. It has its pivotal point in the events of the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father. Finally, it reaches it consummation in the glorious second coming of the Saviour at the parousia.

[insert diagram]

It can thus be seen how the process of transformation of the created world from its beginning to its end is necessarily in harmonious relation with the Christ mystery, Christ himself being the beginning, the fulfilment and the goal of this transformation, i.e. from where it begins, in where it reaches its fulfilment, and towards where it comes to an end. Christ is thus the actual prototype of transformation. We are thus able to call it 'Christification', or, following the Greek Fathers 'divinization'.

The pneumatological nature of transformation.

If this process is trinitarian in nature and thus Christological, it has of necessity also to be pneumatological. The Holy Spirit is the creator of the universe, governs creation, makes all creatures divine, is the foremost guide of existence, life, wisdom and sanctification, the Paraclete, who proceeds from the Father and rests upon the Son, and through the Son indwells the whole of creation. By the Holy Spirit all is created, receives being, is sustained and sanctified (2). It is the Holy Spirit who carries forward the process of transformation, jointly with the Father and the Son, in each one of the historical divinely indwelt stages referred to above: creation, redemption, parousia. There is however more: the Holy Spirit's action, like that of the Father and the Son, is constantly present in this ongoing ascent of humanity from the human condition towards divinity, becoming firstly human to enable humankind to attain divinization by grace.

II. From the created world

The cosmic plan of transformation

At the cosmic level, transformation is constantly taking place in accord with the divine economy as God disposes, towards the mysterious fulfilment of the universal divine order, which is ceaselessly being perfected until the fullness of the ages and of all things is attained in the awesome second coming of the Divine Christ. This transformation process, as can be easily deduced, takes place at a universal level, and depends solely on divine providence - or 'economy', as the Greek Fathers called it, which is the mighty flow of the uncreated divine energies - or 'emanations' - in which all created beings participate by the mere fact that they exist and live, i.e. the energies that confer being and life. Thus the whole creation - both the part of it endowed with reason and the part not - shares in the divine energies and each one of them evolves, or undergoes positive change, according to the ontological structure and form of existence proper to each of them, and consequently in accord with its capacity to receive (3). It is highly important to be clear that this transformation, or mutation, takes place both in beings not endowed and those endowed with reason, who share in the divine energies by virtue of being or being alive, or both, since there exists a structure of being that determines this development: they are beings created out of nothing, ex nihilo, i.e. by change. Thus, of necessity, they must mutate, or be transformed (4).

[insert diagram]

Transformation at the level of persons

We are by nature at the level of rational beings, humankind, created in the image and likeness of God. Transformation at this level takes place within parameters different from those of the foregoing level - although it also includes them - owing to the peculiar conditions and ontological structure belonging to persons and their consequent perfectibility. Consequently, since human beings are endowed with reason, they are also necessarily endowed with freedom, free will (5). Since they are beings with the possibility of change, human beings change, not only in their bodies (as do those beings not endowed with reason) but also as a result of the choices that they make by virtue of their freedom. Although humans cannot extricate themselves from participating in the uncreated energies relevant to their existence and life, since these lie outside the sphere of their freedom, they are able to resist those energies that produce wisdom and divinization (6), since they have a direct effect on their rationality and not only on them as living beings. Thus, human beings, as free beings endowed with reason, change or are transformed positively or negatively according to the choices that they make. They can take the direction leading nowhere, and thus disappear, or they can take the direction leading to the Creator and be divinized, become divine by grace through drawing on the uncreated energies. At this point, we need to concentrate our attention on the word used by the Fathers, 'synergia', which will help us to understand this process of positive transformation, from 'einai' (being) to 'eu einai' (well being). There must thus be constant collaboration - 'synergia' - between the human and the divine. The initial stage in this collaboration is acceptance of the divine invitation, and from then on a consequent coexistence of human freedom and will with the divine. In that way, human beings, and with them all created beings, begin to conquer the upward path, the mountain that Moses had to climb to reach the presence of God, knowledge of God (teognosia), and participation in God (metoche), according to the Eastern mystical literature, passing through the various stages involved in aspiring to the life above. This upward movement is also called 'ascesis' (7), spiritual exercise, since in it human beings exert themselves to experience the divine, and thus in their whole being become formed in the divine image.

[insert diagram]

The stages of human transformation in this process: metanoia, purification, enlightenment.

The process of transformation, which is also called healing, or terapia (therapy), begins with purifying the heart, moves on to its being restored to its natural state of enlightenment, and then the whole person begins to be perfected beyond their natural capacities by the body and soul being glorified by the uncreated glory of God (shekinah). Following the scheme adopted by St Isaac Syrus, I propose to examine first the stage of metanoia (8). The resulting scheme would be:

God, the supreme invisible centre of all worth, presides over the whole process of:

Metanoia, transformation of the heart, leading upwards to

Purification, catharsis of the passions, leading upwards to

Enlightenment, attainment of the normal state, leading upwards to

Glorification, perfection in Christ, divinization or 'theosis'.

Metanoia, as Vladimir Lossky makes clear (9), must not only be the beginning of the process but an ongoing state throughout the whole process. Metanoia is thus not merely one stage, but a constant posture vis-à-vis the Creator. Metanoia is not simply repentance, nor even penitence: it is transformation (metamorphosis), regeneration, new birth. According to Lossky (10), metanoia is 'the gateway to grace'. Confronted with this ‘gateway of grace', human beings must turn with all their will towards the One who bestows grace through prayer. The process of healing, attainment of the normal state, and perfection cannot be undertaken without prayer, since prayer is the most intimate link between God and humans. At its different levels - praxis and theory - prayer is the common denominator in all the various stages of healing.

Purification is the stage involving release from our passions and consequently the purifying of the heart. Once that release is attained through the stage of purification, the noetic system attains its normal state and there thus follows the stage of enlightenment. In this phase, the individual sees God, but not face to face. The enlightened individual sees God vaguely, as if in a mirror. 'Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror' (11). Paul, also referring to this period writes, 'Now I know in part' (12). The enlightened person is a child: 'When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child' (13). However, on attaining glorification, he becomes adult: 'When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me' (14). Now he sees God face to face: 'then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known' (15). On becoming enlightened, the individual does not know Christ, but is known by Christ. But, on attaining glorification, individuals know as they are known, i.e. perfectly, since seeing or knowing Christ is seeing or knowing above and beyond one's own natural ability to see and know. Thus, paradoxically, individuals see and know without seeing or knowing, since they are in effect seen and known by the Lord of Glory.

Glorification is the result of the noetic system achieving normality. Divinization is the end of the healing process. The person who is glorified is able to contemplate Christ in the uncreated glory of his Father. Only those who are cured of love of self, the product of the disorder in the noetic system, will be capable of contemplating and participating in the uncreated glory of Christ in the coming age. St Isaac notes in this regard, 'On acquiring absolute purity, the soul's movement shares in the energies of the Holy Spirit.' Its nature remains in ecstatic movement, paradoxically passively active, with no memory of material things, in apatheia. In effect, as the spirit descends from the mind to the heart, individuals cease to be enslaved to their environment and are no longer distracted or enthralled by things of the earth. Every human faculty, now divinized, is directed towards the vision of the uncreated glory of Christ. The glory of God is present everywhere pervading the creation with its divinizing power. This uncreated glory is also present in our hearts and is available to purify and divinize us. However, not everyone responds to or accepts its life-giving transforming activity.

Once the union between the Uncreated and the created is achieved, love is healed. It no longer seeks itself, but is disinterested. As St Simeon the New Theologian puts it, the heart burns with compassion and the whole of creation is the object of love, an occasion for loving. And this occurs simply because it can contemplate Christ and his immaterial uncreated Glory permeating all created things, regardless of whether or not they accept the action of that glory. Those who are glorified are already living in the age to come and thus become perfect beyond all known limits. The heart is enlarged (16) through the warmth of the spirit's prayer, the force that unites heart to spirit, the force that inspires us to observe God's commandments with great delight and ease.

God is an unfathomable mystery for humans and is united with them only through God's uncreated energies when humans see God face to face in this glorified state. According to St Maximus the Confessor, who in this regard is developing the thinking of Evagrius Ponticus, 'To know the mystery of the Trinity in its fullness is to enter into perfect union with God, achieve divinization of the human person, i.e. enter into the divine life, into the very life of the Holy Trinity, to share in the divine nature - in the divine energy and not, of course, in its physis or essential nature - as expressed by St Peter (17).

Conclusion

The process of transformation in the created world begins in the very act of creation itself by which God creates out of a substance different from God's substance. God brings into being beings that are of a different substance from the Godhead out of non-being, not out of God's essence. That is the principle of transformation, which, necessarily passing through the redemptive events of incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Christ, reaches its fulfilment in the second coming of Christ at the end of this dimension of creation. The divine historical events underlying this process of transformation are creation, redemption, parousia. They must be seen together in their completeness as an integral whole. They must never be regarded as separate events or phases, but as the dynamic continuous activity of the divine economy on the creation.

Thus humankind - and with it the whole of creation - feely and dynamically - and dramatically -by virtue of the pivotal events referred to above, shares in the uncreated divine energies, which are guiding the process to its complete fulfilment in the end days. Thus, in constant cooperation with divine grace, we look for the day of the coming of the new heavens and the new earth (18), of the heavenly Jerusalem (19), which will be the completion of the plan that the Father had from the beginning, to bring all things together under Christ by the Holy Spirit (20). Therefore we cry out, 'God, in your grace - and with our collaboration, our synergia - transform the world.' Therefore we cry, 'Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!.

_______________

Notes:

1. John 15:3 and 17:16
2. John of Damascus, 'De Fide Orthodoxa'
3. [Greek!]
4. John of Damascus, op. cit.
5. John of Damascus, ibid.
6. [Greek] Professor Matsoukas concludes that humans have access to the energy that operates reason in a way that is not free as the two previous energies. If we regard this energy not only as operating reason but also as operating wisdom, we can see that it operates similarly from the level of logic that it initiates, and then it can be regarded as operating once human freedom is conferred, since human freedom puts it into operation and seeks perfection through wisdom. It can thus be regarded in both ways: when it makes logical beings, it is participated in without freedom; when it makes wise logical beings, it is participated in by virtue of freedom.
7. The word 'ascesis' must in no way be understood as referring to or applicable to an exclusively monastic setting. 'Ascesis' is not only a product of monastic life. Ascesis is the way to be followed by all Christians in the pursuit of divinization, of union with their Creator and Perfecter. 'Ascesis' is simply life in the Spirit, which does not have to be lived in a monastery or in the desert, but in all places and forms, where and how the Spirit itself guides them.
8. So as to understand the rich meaning of the Greek word 'metanoia', we need to examine its etymology. The word is made up of two parts, the first being a preposition, 'meta-' meaning beyond' or 'after'. It refers to the distance between what something was and what it now is after changing, after being transformed. The second part is a noun, 'nous', and is the English word 'nous'. Metenoia is thus a change of the spirit, a profound change in one's inner disposition, which is reflected in one's outward aspect. It is a change of attitude, a change of feelings. Is this metanoia then the same as repentance? Not exactly. Repentance is a phase of metanoia, which is an ongoing state in humans. Metanoia is not a conscience burdened for faults committed, let alone remorse, since where remorse exists, it is impossible for repentance to exist, let alone metanoia. Metanoia involves complete knowledge and acceptance of one's own weaknesses, the cause of the fault, the object of the wrongful act, its intention and the resultant product or consequences. However, the light of the Father's love, who is waiting with open arms for his sons and daughters to return after having squandered their inheritance, attracts, draws on the soul that has moved on from - 'meta-', its former state, its initial fault; and the spirit - 'nous' - is being enlightened by the shining light of forgiveness and remission. Metanoia is thus the result of a synergy between the sinful individual and the Divine Redeemer.
9. Vladimir Lossky, 'The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church', London, Clarke, 1957.
10. Ibid.
11. 1 Cor. 13:12
12. 1 Cor. 13:13
13. 1 Cor. 13:11
14. 1 Cor. 13:11
15. 1 Cor. 13:12
16. 'I will run in the way of your commandments, since you enlarge my heart' (Ps. 119:32)
17. 2 Peter 1:4
18. Rev. 21:1
19. Rev. 21:2
20. Eph.1:10
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Part 14 of __

Namsoon Kang presentation

Reflections on the Assembly theme: God in your grace, transform our churches, by Prof. Dr Namsoon Kang, a feminist theologian from Korea, vice president of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions.

Namsoon Kang presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Prof. Dr Namsoon Kang, a feminist theologian from Korea, serves as vice president of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions

Reflections on the theme: God in your grace, transform our churches

Opening Remarks

Before I start my remarks, I would like to make clear about two things. One is about the word, "transform" and the other is about "churches," which are the two key component of the theme that is given to me.

First, about the word, "Transform."

Very often, "Transform-the-churches" can easily become a catch-phrase or a kind of propaganda when it is used by those in the church politics. So I would like to make clear what I mean by "Transform." My use of the word, "transform" is based on three sensitivity: 1) "contextual sensitivity, 2) ecumenical sensitivity, and sensitivity to all forms of justice. And this notion of "transform" requires a radical and fundamental change of the very framework of the churches. The meaning of "transform" is not like "reform." Transform means a fundamental paradigm shift from the old to the new. It requires a thorough scrutinization of the church as it is with these three sensitivities. "Transform" is not just adding something to what it is. It is about a fundamental change of the epistemological framework, institutional structure, practice of Christian tradition to promote holistic sense of justice, peace, and equality for all living being within the churches and society.

The second point that I would like to make clear about is the obvious simple fact that the "churches" are not a unitary entity. There has been no unitary form of Christian churches in an entire history of Christianity. We tend to have a nostalgic notion of the church , especially in a grand ecumenical gathering like WCC Assembly. We wish to say we are somehow "one" in the name of Jesus the Christ. This is both Yes and No—Jain (in German). In order to reflect on the issue of "transforming our churches", it is necessary for us to carefully attend not only to our similarities as believers in Jesus Christ, but also to our critical differences among churches. There are churches, for instance, that do not allow women into ordination, while there are churches that not only ordain women but also have women bishops. There are churches that condemn the sexual minority people in the name of God, while there are other churches that allow sexual minority people even into priestly ordination in the name of God. Therefore, it is obvious that the way we deal with the issue of "transforming our churches" may take a totally different direction depending on which specific churches I refer to. Having this complexity of the theme, "transform the churches," in mind, I would like to start my remarks.

First, transforming the churches requires overcoming a "Religious Peterpan Syndrome".

There are more and more churches that are trapped in the so-called "Peterpan Syndrome." As you may know, "Peterpan" is the one who refuses to become an adult. Simply speaking, being an adult means to grow, to change, to take a responsibility. Those who are trapped in the "Peterpan Syndrome" just want to enjoy receiving the tangible, materialized blessing from God but continue to refuse to take any responsibility for making commitment to justice, peace, and equality of society. I would like to call this "Religious Peterpan Syndrom".

Growth, both physical and mental, is the only evidence of life and to grow is to change. Transforming the church requires overcoming a "religious Peterpan Syndrome," changing their perspective of human being, of the world and God, taking responsibility for the world, and continuously being self-critical to become mature. Many Christians in "good faith" continue to remain in the stage of "Peterpan" by not asking why it is what it is, by not taking responsibility in church and society and thereby continuing to support the system of various form of injustice and discrimination, wittingly or unwittingly.

Many churches are taking out the "question-marks" from the teaching of Christian life. And those who ask a fundamental "WHY" are easily excluded from the faith community, being labeled, "unfaithful," "unspiritual" or "less-Christian". However, not asking "why" but saying always "Yes and Amen" is very dangerous because there is no way for Christians to see their own participation and role in fostering various forms of injustice and violence. This is the lesson from the history of Holocaust, slavery system, witching-burning, apartheid…There are so many examples of how so-called "good Christians" can foster such horrible practice against humanty in the name of God by not asking the fundamental WHY. Christian's conscious or unconscious complicity in injustice must be revealed by a fundamental question-mark, WHY. But if taking out this fundamental question mark, "WHY", the absence of question marks in the churches, may easily lead to the unwitting complicity in the maintenance and perpetuation of injustice, discrimination, exploitation, bigotry, or hate-crime.

"Charity" act of the churches is important but not enough because it does not ask WHY, because it does not question the fundamental problem of reality that requires the very act of charity. Charity act of the churches needs to be complied with the compassionate concern for justice. Concerning justice means asking the fundamental question of WHy about the reality as it is.

This question mark of Why is the beginning of transformation of churches. The churches need to move from the charity-oriented mission to the justice-oriented mission by overcoming the Religious Peterpan Symdrom . And this is a way to revive a social accountability of the Christian churches today.

Second, Transforming the churches requires "institutional repentance." Without repentance, no true transformation of the churches is possible.

To grow is to change. Simply speaking, to change is first repudiating prejudice and discrimination. This is what Christians mean by repentance, a complex activity that involves discarding wrong attitudes and publicly espousing right ones. It is certainly easier for individuals to do this than for humanity in its collective forms, but "institutional repentance" for collective or systemic sin can happen and is powerfully effective when it does. There have been several celebrated examples in Christian history.

For instance, in 1972 Pope Paul VI repudiated the ancient Christian accusation that the Jews had killed God, the sin of deicide, and thereby publicly repented for centuries of anti-Semitism in the Church. An equally dramatic example of public repentance took place in South Africa in 1990, when the Dutch Reformed Church publicly repented the sin of racism and the heresy of apartheid and invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to absolve them.

These acts of "institutional repentance " and repudiation of past sins are profoundly liberating. They reveal the fundamental nature of Christian churches. The Christian community, after centuries of indifference, publicly repented of the great evil of slavery. Thus it was that Christians in the USA publicly repented of the sin that denied African Americans their civil rights. And thus it is that many Christian men today are publicly repenting the sin of sexism in themselves and in the Church. They are acknowledging that for centuries the Church has discriminated against women, according women a lower status than men, thereby denying the liberating truth of the Gospel. Now it is time for the Churches to institutionally repent for the complicity of churches in various forms of injustice and violence, to repent for misogynism, to repent for capitalistic teaching and practice of the Gospel, to repent for religious expansionism and superiorism over other faith, to repent for hierarchical clericalism, to repent for homophobia and bigotry.

Without "institutional repentance", without knowing what has been wrong in the churches, and without harshly scrutinizing the complicity of Christian churches in fostering injustice and violence of various form, a true transformation of the c hurches is ever-impossible.

Third, Transforming the Churches requires transforming theological institutions and ecumenical bodies.

Transforming the churches is inseparably interlinked with the transforming theological institutions and ecumenical bodies. I would call this interlinked nature of transformation of the churches, the Triangle of Transformation in Christianity. These three areas are so closely interdependent and their own existence is sustained by one another's existence. Without transformation of theological institutions and ecumenical bodies, the transformation of the churches is always incomplete, and also vice versa.

Unlike "reform", "transform" requires a radical, fundamental change of the very ground. If we adopt this "radicality" as the nature of "transform," we need to look at the very ground of theological institutions that educate the pastors and leaders of the churches. We need to first scrutinize the curriculum, the composition of faculty members and also its method of teaching and pedagogy to see whether these are really reflecting the global reality and the pressing issues that we face, whether these are democratic and inclusive enough, whether these are ecumenical enough, whether these are justice-oriented in an unjust world that we live in.

These three bodies -- church, theological schools and ecumenical bodies -- are like siblings. They are closely interdependent, one way or the other. We must remember that all transforms are interdependent.

Fourth, Transforming the Churches is also closely interlinked to transforming WCC as an umbrella body of all churches of the world.

Transforming the ecumenical bodies entails national, regional, and global dimension. Since this is a global gathering of ecumenical bodies and Christian churches, I would like to take an example from the WCC for what I mean by transformation based on three sensitivities that I mentioned earlier: contextual sensitivity, ecumenical sensitivity, and sensitivity to all forms of justice.

There have been various discourses on what to transform in the WCC. But there is one dimension that has hardly been challenged in a fundamental way: the very way of communication in the WCC.

An attentive communication with one another is the very starting point for pursuing for the "unity" of the Churches. This 9th WCC assembly is drawing a very significant mark on the entire history of WCC in its adoption a consensus-model decision-making. By adopting this consensus-model in its doing business, the attentive listening to one another, exploration, consultation, questioning and reflection on the issues on the table are becoming more and more significant. I entirely welcome adopting this consensus-model. Nevertheless, there is one thing that worries me very deeply, which has been a lingering dilemma that I have had for a long time: the standardization of official language in WCC assembly and other international gathering.

There is long-standing and deep-seated "rankism" in WCC . When you are on board, you realize that there are different classes among those who are on board: the First Class passengers, the Prestigious (Business) Class passengers, and the economy class passengers. On the plane, those ranks are made by the amount of money they pay for the airfare.

I sense the exactly same mechanism has been operating in the WCC meetings and assembly. But in this WCC gatherings, ranks are made not by money but by the language. The first class passengers are those who speak English as their native language. The business class passengers are those whose native language belongs to either one of the three translated languages: French, German, Spanish (sometimes Russian). Needless to say, the economy class passengers are those whose native language belong to neither one of the four languages, and who cannot express themselves with these four "official" WCC languages.

The choice of language is absolutely the issue of power. Language is not just a means of communication. It is about standardization of thinking, worldview, value-system, culture, and even one's attitude to other people around. The choice of language is about power: power of decision-making, power of knowledge-production, power to express oneself. Language is power to express who one is, power to persuade, it is power to convey one's values and opinion.

We should ask then a fundamental questions to transform that has hardly been asked: why it is what it is now, how right it is what it is.

If one cannot fully express his/her opinion with these four/five WCC official languages, the decision-making by consensus is in fact the consensus by only those who hold languages. As long as WCC continues to adopt these four languages, the former colonial languagues, it would be impossible to avoid to fall into the trap of the imperialistic mentality that WCC is against. It is so obvious that majority people in the world do not speak English.

Today I would like to strongly suggest that WCC needs to organize a "Language Committee" as one of WCC Assembly Committees. The "Language Committee" has three roles to play. First, examine the practice of inclusive language in all the documents and continuously theorize the theological, historical, social, spiritual, psychological and political implication of the use of inclusive language. Second, make a suggestion and even create languages/terminologies that enhance the rights and dignity of the marginalized people. And finally, persistently find an alternative solution to this huge dilemma of standardization of official languages in WCC. WCC's decision to adopt a consensus-model is not based on the "utilitarian, pragmatic" value. To find an alternative to this languages issues cannot be based on the pragmatic value. It is based on the value of true unity in its biblical sense.

Closing remarks

It has been emphasized that churches need to be prophetic. One of the significant act of prophet is to read the signs of our time. It is hard to deny that there is signs of "moral disengagement" not only in society but also in the the churches.

The churches do not seem to care about the global reality of war, violence, dislocation of the people, and furthermore there are a sort of "Church-exceptionalism" that employs a religious alibi for violating even a common-sense and moral code of society. We have to learn to recognize this moral disengagement of the churches and scrutinize church-exceptionalism.

"Transforming the church" is a decisive act of total reconstructing our epistemology (way of knowing things), our value system, our way of practicing Gospel, our understanding of mission of the churches. It is a collective act of hope for a New heaven and New Earth. Thank you.

***

Paula Devejian presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Ms Paula Devejian from the US is currently working for the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia as Internet development director

Reflections on the theme: God, in your grace, transform our societies

Societies today are faced with ever increasing problems. And while tension mounts between people and between nations, complacency and apathy also abound. We become numb to the disasters, and the tragedies, which make it easy to turn a blind eye to the problems of others. Changes in society can be subtle, but over time, result in decreasing moral principles, values and standards as well as ethics.

Prior to departing for this Assembly, our delegation met as a group to prepare ourselves for the event. One of the questions asked around the table was, what did our nation, our community and our church expect out of these proceedings? I had to honestly answer to myself, that I didn't think the expectations were much. Not that there was no hope, but that there is an awareness that no one body or organization can resolve the problems of the world.

In today's society, individual responsibility is often overlooked. When we call upon God to transform our societies, we must not forget that he has already granted us the tools to make this possible. He has taught us, through the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ, the rules of life, right from wrong, good from evil. We also know that actions speak louder than words; leading by example does work; and we can make a difference, as long as we choose to do so.

When we speak out against violence, or tyranny, or poverty, we must also ask ourselves, "What do we do or not do in our own daily life to work to overcome these things?" These are hard choices we are faced with, because as humans, we are weak and the temptation to take the easy path is always great.

It is not easy to refuse or deny ourselves the new piece of clothing because it's in fashion or more modern or even looks nicer on us than 3 we already own. Consumer excess in the Western world is rampant and sadly, sets a standard that others long for and desire. The quest for material wealth and possessions and creature comforts has a snowball effect on society with people constantly wanting and looking for what's next, what's new and what's better.

This makes it easy to overlook the plight of others. We talk about the inequities in the world, but how many of us make a concerted effort in our everyday lives to make a difference, to not be wasteful, to set a true example for others.

God has given us the tools to change our societies, what we need to pray for is the strength, will and fortitude as individuals to use what he has already granted to us, and make it happen. The examples of God transforming the world are constantly around us.

Throughout history, the Armenian Church and nation has been shaped by God's Grace of transformation. Noah's Ark landed on Mt. Ararat, in the historical lands of Armenia, and is an example of God's grace giving all of humanity a second chance. Through God's grace, the Armenian nation was one of the lands visited by the Apostles, and through the works of Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew, our Bishops have been graced by the unbroken chain of Apostolic succession. Through the seeds of Christianity, planted by the apostles, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity nation in the 4th century through the efforts of our patron saint, St. Gregory the Illuminator who survived insurmountable odds and converted a pagan king only through God's grace. We were forever defined as a nation when our alphabet was created in the 5th century, which allowed our people to worship and learn of God's teachings in their own language. The first sentence translated into Armenian was: "That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight" (Proverbs 1.1). Even with the first written words in Armenian, the Church encouraged her people to accept the tools of God's Grace. Wisdom, understand and insight, all words leading us to a more peaceful coexistence with one another.

Through God's grace we became a national church, preserving our faith and ethnic identity for over 1,700 years, and while we've also suffered many times for our faith, the Armenian people never stopped believing that the power of God's grace could transform the world. Our people suffered the heinous crime of Genocide, not only for our faith, but also for our ethnic identity. As a result of the Genocide, our people were scattered throughout the world, but our Diaspora grew strong and despite adversity we found strength. We lived through 70 years of Soviet atheism and state sanctioned oppression of our church, and even in those days we did not feel deserted by God, as his light was kept alive in the hearts and minds of the people. We have been separated from each other, those living behind the oppressive curtain of communism and those on the outside. But we remained faithful to one another, through the Grace of God. Our people relying on Jesus Christ have always looked to the future, to the coming day, to the better tomorrow. And in 1991, we received our independence, and once more he transformed the Armenian lands. In 1991, Artsakh and the historical lands of Armenia were declared independent and through great sacrifice the land was liberated and today our people worship freely. We have been united once again as a nation, under the banner of the Armenian Church and our spiritual and administrative headquarters, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and today through God's grace we believe that there are better days ahead, that our economy will improve, and that our people though denied the light of Christ for nearly a decade, will learn again of God's Grace. In my lifetime, I could only dream that I would one day see the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin free from foreign domination, but it was a dream that I never stopped having. And now that dream has come true, and our people are a witness to God's grace and power.

The Armenian nation is an example to the world of how God's grace can transform a society. The Armenian people, given their difficult history of persecutions, invasions and oppression from the moment they accepted Christianity, should long ago have disappeared from the earth. But they have remained steadfast to their faith, and turned adversity into advantage, using the tools God gave them. While we are a small nation, our people have made impact on the societies, wherever they have lived. By living as a nation in dispersion in foreign lands, we have co-existed with people of many faiths and cultures. We exist on every continent of the world. And even in regions where we no longer live, our positive impact on society remains. We have adapted ourselves to our new homes and made peaceful contributions to whatever society we have lived in. We have trusted in God and His Divine Grace and succeeded in maintaining our national identity while becoming contributing members of society on foreign shores. We have remained steadfast and loyal to the lofty ideal of brotherhood and solidarity, as first stated by St. Augustine and confirmed by our venerable pontiff St. Nerses the Graceful in the 11th century: "Unity in the Essentials, Liberty in the non-essentials, Love in everything".

God's grace is all around us, he has given us the tools to change our societies, we must find the strength and courage to use them. We talk about unity, about speaking and acting with one voice, and one mind, but we as a body are unable to achieve this among ourselves. If we, as a Christian body cannot unite among ourselves, how can we realistically expect the world to? We talk about unity, but do our actions really reflect that wish. Long after the speeches have been made, studies done, papers written, theories analyzed, what becomes of those words? When we leave this venue, leave the view of the public eye, do our actions reflect these same desires and goals that we preach?

We seek for the world to accept each other. But maybe we seek too much. We have learned through our experiences that perhaps what we should start with is tolerance. Accepting another person's view point, lifestyle, even culture is difficult and sometimes even impossible. If we can get people to first tolerate each other, then the acceptance will come later. But it is something that must be worked on every minute of every day.

God created us as individuals, with free will. And this individuality balances the effects of globalization. Our individuality is what makes us strong. Our diversity doesn't have to be something negative and can be viewed as a positive if we tolerate the differences among us.

Each of us, by the experiences and wisdom that we have received at this conference by attending this assembly, now have the power to return to our churches, communities, neighborhoods, family and friends, and by example, through our own actions, effect the perceptions and actions of society. We should not look to "the Church" by itself, as a separate body aside from ourselves, to solve the problems of the world, because each of us as individuals make up the body of the Church. We have the power within our own hands to change society, we must pray for the strength to use them.

***

Sarah Newland-Martin presentation
21 February 2006

Plenary on the Assembly theme

Ms Sarah Newland-Martin is the general secretary of the Kingston YMCA and the national general secretary of the National Council of YMCAs in Jamaica

Introduction

'Grace' is that quality in the heart of God that causes Him not to deal with us according to our sins or to retaliate against us according to our iniquities. God's grace pours out love, kindness and favour to all who will trust Him.

The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible indicates that 'transform' means "a change radically in inner character, condition or nature". In Romans 12:2 Paul exhorted Christians 'not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

In order to experience a transformed life, the following are of great importance.

1. Openness to God

Openness to God allows us to be frank with Him and become aware of aspects in our lives we know are wrong, such as: poor decisions, bad habits, behaviour that we are ashamed of, areas we want God to change, but where we may be fearful of His condemnation. If we have received Christ into our hearts, we have been declared His own, forgiven and now under His Grace. (But there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus -- Romans 8:1).

2. Accepting the invitation

God offers an open invitation for us to come in truth and humility. James 4:6 says "God is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the humble." If we refuse to accept His invitation, there is no relationship. When we come to the Lord, He is willing to listen to us sharing our short falls in the areas mentioned and then He will meet us in that need with His grace. God is not demanding that we change ourselves. Instead He asks us to come to Him in honesty and faith and cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:5-7).

3. Recognition for the change needed

The story in Luke 18:9-14 which speaks of the parable (told by Jesus) of the Pharisee and the tax collector, showed that the tax collector who stood some distance away beating his chest saying "God be merciful to me a sinner" was deeply conscious of his sin and guilt and in true repentance turned from sin to God for forgiveness and mercy. So it is for us, we need to be aware of where we fall short and instead of being defensive, able to say, like the tax collector, 'Lord be merciful to me, a sinner."

We can experience God's grace and transformation in our lives when we recognize our weaknesses and come to the throne of grace in truth and humility. When we are walking in God's wisdom, then we will recognize the change needed in our lives.

4. Acceptance of the transformed life

Hebrews 4:13, says "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Romans 5:20 says, "where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more." We must take God at His Word that His grace is there, in order to be able to receive it. There is absolutely one inescapable condition that must be met if grace is to change a person, and that is, God's grace must be believed. We have to respond to God with an answering trust. And He will act.

Lewis Sperry Chafer who wrote a comprehensive book on Grace says "The overwhelming testimony of the Word of God is that every aspect of salvation, every blessing of divine grace, in time and eternity is conditioned only on what is believed."

Personal experience

As a child I grew up in two institutions after being abandoned by my parents. I was born with both legs deformed - which were of no use.

The first institution was one which catered to children who were from destitute families, orphans, abandoned children and a small number of children with disabilities. I fell in the last two categories.

While growing up at these institutions, the late Professor Back spoke with the late Sir John Golding who had me transferred to the University Hospital and performed surgery to remove the legs I could not use. I was sent to another institution. This one had only children with disabilities. There were some 50 other children and 30 adults who were afflicted with polio after the epidemic in 1954 at that time.

I strongly believe that these men were specially identified by God to do His work in my life.

Most of the children had a family of one sort of another - I had no one to call family. I felt rejected, alone and unwanted. Many times I was afraid of not being like the other children who had legs and who were visited by their relatives. Often times I was reminded by them that I had no one. They were mean at times to me. I felt like a ‘nobody' and this happened for a long time.

The transformation came when I could walk on peg legs before being allowed to use artificial legs; when I started going to high school and made to feel that indeed I was like anyone else, that I was a child of God, that I should not compare myself with others, that God made me unique with my unique role, with my own personalities, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. The day I walked through the waters of baptism in 1968 was the key point in my life.

I met my mother and father at age 24 and discovered that I had 6 brothers.

I found then that when I became a Christian, Jesus began to transform me in His image. I was able to forgive my parents for what happened and my thinking became moulded by God's word which is "inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives" (2 Timothy 3:16a NLT). Indeed, knowing God's word is very important because it is the objective means by which I am able to evaluate the world and myself.

A relationship with God is more powerful than anything else in the world and under grace I have more than my own resources. I have God's Holy Spirit enabling me to do His will. I am able to acknowledge my weaknesses and keep bringing it back to God and continue to take personal responsibility for my sins, asking Him to asking Him to transform my life on a daily basis.

Often times when I reflect on where I was and the various levels of transformation through which I have passed, I am deeply indebted to God for His limitless love in my life. As a result of my transformed life, the lives of many individuals have been positively impacted, in particular the young people.

Biblical characters whose lives were transformed

The following gives a brief account of some of the Biblical Characters whose lives were transformed:

Saul (the original name of Paul) who was a prosecutor of the church became an apostle of Christ and a missionary of the early church (Acts 7:58-9:26; 11-25-13:9).

David and Bathsheba - Although David was a righteous King, he was subject to sin, just like any other human beings. On one occasion when his army went to battle, David stayed home. This led to his great sin with Bathsheba. While Uriah, the Hittite, Bathsheba's husband was away in battle, David committed adultery with her. David repented and asked for God's forgiveness. His prayer of forgiveness is recorded in Psalm 51.

Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of Jericho who had grown rich by over taxing people. When Jesus visited Jericho, Zaccheaus who was ‘of short stature' (Luke 19:3) climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. Jesus asked him to come down and visited him as a guest. As a result of the visit of Jesus, Zacchaeus became a follower of the Lord, repented of his sins, and made restitution for his wrongdoing. Jesus showed that He came to call sinners to repentance.

Self-evaluation

In evaluating our lives one can ask the following questions:

• How do I see myself?
• Do I accept God's invitation?
• Are there hindrances to my being transformed?
• Am I ready to be transformed?
• Is my life one of transformation?

Conclusion

When we become followers of Jesus, God begins to transform us in His image. A key part of this transformation is the transformation of the way we think.

However, it must be noted that transformation is not a one shot experience but is likened to the salvation experience which is a process. We must guard against putting ourselves into a box by asking questions such as 'Why me?' 'Can I be changed?' The process of transformation allows us to ask, seek, and surrender our lives.

Transformed lives depict an outward action of what happens inside as a result we should not wait for things to happen but instead we can pray for others such as our children, friends, fellow believers, missionaries and pastors.

One of my favourite Books in the Bible is Colossians which provides many steps in to living a transformed life.

In Col. 1:9-11, for example, we are told that the knowledge of God's will, results from praying and remaining in his word and in fellowship with him. It is only this kind of knowledge that will lead to spiritual understanding and transforms our hearts and lives.

As we experience nearness, love, righteousness and power through prayer and the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed into his likeness (2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). In this age the transformation is progressive and impartial. When Christ returns, we will see him face to face, and our transformation made complete (1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 22:4).

***

Christian identity & religious plurality

Anna May Chain presentation
17 February 2006

Plenary on Christian identity and religious plurality

Dr Anna May Chain is a theology professor and biblical scholar from Myanmar (Burma)
My Place/My Identity

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams has stimulated us with many critical issues relating to Christian Identity and Religious Pluralism. I want to concentrate on one point and that is the place Jesus is in, and as followers of Jesus we are in, in relation to a loving and forgiving God and in relation to the world, both human and non-human

For a start I would like to begin by identifying myself as a Karen Baptist from Myanmar, a minority group among the Burmese Buddhists who form 92% of the population. Further. I would like to describe my place as a Karen Christian at a time of political chaos in our homeland, that is, in 1949.

After the Japanese Occupation of Burma ended with the allied victory in 1945 we all thought that with Independence from the British, Burma could now build Pyi Daw Tha- Peaceful Nation. But our peaceful world again erupted into flames with the Karen Insurrection in 1949. The background for this conflict was the British colonial policy of "divide and rule" which had pitted the Buddhist Burmese against the ethnic minorities who were mainly Christians such as the Karens. As ethnic Karen Christians we suddenly became the enemy to our Burmese Buddhist neighbors. The Karens tried to find safety anywhere they could amidst cries of "Kill the Karens. Kill the Christians." When a mob met a person they asked, "Are you a Karen Christian?" A Yes most often led to death.

In this life and death situation, our family desperately looked around for help. At this point, Moslem neighbors offered us sanctuary. My father and brothers were hidden in the mosque and I and other women were taken from one safe house to the next. These Moslems neighbors, at great risk to their lives, kept us hidden and fed us out of their meager food supply. Later, we were taken to prison for safety.

Burmese Buddhist friends had been trying to get news of us. When it was against the law to help the enemy they forgot their own safety to demonstrate their solidarity with us by bringing food, medicine and clothes to the prison.

From jail, Father Perrin, a French priest, came and took us to St. Joseph's Convent. In those days, for the Baptists, the Catholics were outsiders. To get help from the Catholics was unimaginable for the Baptists. However, sisters and brothers warmly welcomed us, gave us a place to sleep and food to eat. Father Perrin, a French priest, tried to rescue both Karen Christians and Burmese Buddhists and said, "Stop this fighting!" On one of his mission of rescue, Father Perrin was killed. All of us who had been brought to a safe place through the love of this man forgot our differences for one day and joined together in mourning him. In times of conflict and war, the worst is brought out of us as well as the best.

At this point in my life, the neighbors, Muslims, Buddhists and Catholics were in the place of Jesus to me. I was at my most vulnerable and weakest. They were my guard and shield. They were the risk takers and life givers. My Muslim and Buddhist neighbors may not know the name Jesus but I believe God had found a path for himself to them.

My Neighbors' Place

Next, I want to talk about "my neighbors' place," the place where they come from, their perspective on life today and in the future.

When I say neighbors, I mean my close friends. There are six of us, all women who meet irregularly. We have been friends since we were in Grade One in a mission school. Two of us are Christians, three Buddhists and one Muslim.

We have taken part in each other's festivals and family rituals. Talking is an important activity in our get-togethers. As teenagers we talked about make up, clothes, movie stars, and boys. As young adults our interests were on college, work, husbands and children.

Now as Senior Adults our talk turns more on serious subjects. All 6 of us are committed to empowering women. We find things in our religions that are liberating for women and others that oppresses us. For instance, in Theravada Buddhism as practiced in Myanmar, although the path to Enlightenment is open to all, women cannot be a Buddha unless she is reborn as a male. To be a son is to be valued. My friend Miriam, the Muslim, also finds some restrictions against women in Islam. As a Christian, I find the evangelical tradition prevalent in our country limiting the leadership and status of women in the churches. As women, although from different faith tradition, our common for women empowerment unite us.

In another area, we do not agree but are learning from each other. Last June, one of us, Than Nwe, died unexpectedly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She was the first in our group to die. We thought we were invulnerable, special. But one of us, still relatively young, was dead. We five gathered in sorrow and remembrance. At one point I asked my Buddhist friends, "At Buddhist funerals, when the dead person leaves the house for the last time, the eldest son breaks a pot of water. What does it mean?" Tin Tin, who had lost her husband three years ago tried to explain, "For Buddhists it signifies that the person as we know him is no more. The stream of his life which had mixed and flowed with ours has ended. As the spilt water from the pot cannot be gathered together again, that person no longer can be the person he was." Aye, another Buddhist added, "The person we know as Than Nwe no longer exists. Depending on her thoughts and deeds she will have another reincarnation." Marjorie, the other Christian in the group asked, "Then there is no way we can meet each other after death?" "No, for us death is the end. So our life here together is so precious." Marjorie said, "Last Christmas my eldest son died. This year my little granddaughter died. It would be unbearable for me as a Christian if we had no hope of a future." As a Christian I respect my friends' spirituality, their commitment to live each day mindfully, to work to improve other peoples' lives today and not wait for tomorrow.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams has said we should not turn away from those who see from another place, not ours. So I will continue to walk and talk together intimately with my friends. Our lives are intertwined. As I have learned from them to value living life today mindfully my conviction is that they will also learn from me about the lovingkindness, the forgiveness and mercy of God. God in loving relationship with us and in infinite love and compassion for us, may have a plan for us, my friends and I, to continue this walk even beyond death.

***

Assaad Elias Kattan presentation
17 February 2006

Plenary on Christian identity and religious plurality

Prof. Dr Assad E. Kattan is professor in Orthodox theology at the Wilhelms-University in Münster
Thoughts of a Protestant missionary

A missionary's story

I am a missionary. My father was a missionary, as was my grandfather. I am a Protestant missionary. However, I could just as well be a Catholic or Orthodox missionary. Today it seems that the confession to which one belongs is of no great consequence. For in this third millennium which Christian confession is the most numerous will certainly be far less important than whether Christianity itself can actually set the pace (1).

I am a missionary. My family is almost entirely made up of missionaries. One of my ancestors came to the Near East -where we all later lived - to preach the gospel to the Muslims there. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - the Western missionaries had hardly any success with the Muslims. As a result my ancestors turned their attentions to the local Christians. Doubtless they meant well. They were full of enthusiasm, although at that time they did tend to identify the gospel with the form it had taken in their own culture. Many people in the Middle East today acknowledge that the missionaries have left an enduring legacy, in the form of education, freedom and democracy. My ancestors did mean well, so well that some of them even came to the opinion that only the local Christians could succeed in evangelizing Muslims, for they shared the same language and culture with them. For that to happen, however, the local churches had themselves to be reformed, for in the course of time the gospel had been replaced with many traditions. Particularly the fact that local Christians were attached to images of Jesus, Mary and the saints was considered by my ancestors to be a serious obstacle to persuading Muslims of the self-evident truth of Christianity (2). That is an approach which certainly no intelligent Protestant would have today, since the days of Protestant iconoclasm and Christian glorification of one´s own culture are long past. None the less, my ancestors did mean well. However, they ovelooked one thing: a considerable number of local Christians did in fact consent to be reformed, but few of them had any interest in making Muslims into Christians. Of course, their experience with the Muslims was not always milk and honey. And many of them, who in debates with the West are today attempting to idealize this history, are simply creating a myth that must be demythologized. None the less, despite tensions with the Muslims, despite occasional instances of persecution and massacres, the local Christians were content with their Muslim neighbours as they were. And these neighbours often visited them, not only to be able to have a secret drink of wine with them, but sometimes to pray together with them.

I am a missionary. It is indisputable that our missionary activity has been of benefit to the local peoples of the Middle East, whether Christians, Muslims or Jews. We translated the Bible into Arabic, which resulted in a revival of Arabic language and literature. We established schools, universities and hospitals and thereby comunicated the values of the gospel through people who were inspired by God´s living Spirit. I have to admit, however, that the process of learning was mutual. On this subject I could tell you many things that I have heard from my father and grandfather, but I will limit myself to my personal experiences. As a missionary in the Middle East I have often come into contact with Arabic literature. An Arab Christian has written a beautiful novel in which he refers to a liturgical song that is sung in the Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Rite on Good Friday. In the song, Joseph of Arimathea approaches Pilate to ask him for the body of Jesus, with non-biblical words, in which the dead Jesus is described as a foreigner

Give me the foreigner,
Foreign as a foreigner from childhood
Give me the foreigner,
Killed as a foreigner,
Give me the foreigner,
I am amazed that he is held by death.

What I find striking in this song is that Jesus is perceived as a foreigner, not only on the day of his death - as if all living people had rejected him, as if no alternative were left him but to find hospitality in the kingdom of the dead - but that he is also portrayed as a foreigner from his childhood on. Jesus´ foreignness was thus not dependant on his situation but was a permanent condition. I think that the reason why I remember this image is because being a missionary also means being "foreign". We are foreign, we live in a foreign land, we are peerceived as foreigners. And the context to which we have to relate is also foreign. There will always be an element of foreignness remaining in us despite all our efforts to become part of this foreign world, to familiarize ourselves with it. Jesus, however, who in this song is presented as a foreigner, identifies not only with us missionaries, who in any case live in a foreign land, but also with those people whom we meet and who seem foreign to us, to whatever culture they may belong.

I am a missionary, who - probably like many other missionaries - is constantly wondering what our Christian identity over against other religions means. What is the relationship between one's own perspective and the perspective of others, one's own position and the position of others, one's own belief and the belief of others. And just like so many other missionaries, despite my full trust in the gospel, I have no clear answer, but have an inner feeling mainly of brokenness, interwoven with hundreds of questions, such as ‘Did Jesus reveal himself by concealing himself and did he conceal himself by revealing himself?' I do know one thing, however. When people are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, then they meet the Crucified One. We can draw a picture of this encounter in our imagination... Those baptized are taken to Golgotha. They seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, in order to die his death. And what do they see there? On the cross Jesus of Nazareth is not alone. There are two other crosses, one on either side of him, two crosses with unknown faces. Everything happens very quickly - the bitter drink, the abandonment by God, the cry of dereliction. And then all three crosses are caught up into God's silence, like in the Old Testament cloud that accompanied a foreign people through the desert, and was an anticipation of the light of the resurrection. Some missionaries have over the course of time have developed an ability to sense the power of God, which for a moment makes itself known, as at the cross, through silence… in our silence, in the silence of events that have not been significant enough to be mentioned in the history books, in the silence of our failing church institutions, in the silence that comes out of the foreignness of other religions.

It is difficult for us Christians to define ourselves unambiguously. It seems to me, however, that the event of the cross, which we all confess, can put us in the position to include in our identity foreignness, brokenness, and silence. And when we reach that point a door can be opened for the others who are standing outside. Any attempt to determine a Christian identity must never skirt around OR must never avoid taking the way of the cross.

***

George Mulrain - welcome and introduction
17 February 2006

Plenary on Christian identity and religious plurality

Rev. Dr George M. Mulrain is president of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA)

Moderator's welcome and introduction

Sisters and brothers, I am George Mulrain, President of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. I am happy to be your moderator for this plenary session on Christian Identity and Religious Pluralism.

I bid you Welcome. I feel certain that you will not regret having come to participate in this event. I maintain that the concept of ecumenism must extend beyond the confines of the Christian family. The "oikumene" or the whole inhabited earth includes persons of all faiths and none at all. The theme that will be dealt with is of relevance not just to those who live in so-called multicultural or multi-faith areas. Indeed all of us who inhabit this planet should derive some benefit from the treatment of this afternoon's topic for it concerns us all. We who are Christians are living, not in an exclusively Christian world, but in a religiously plural world.

There will firstly be a feature presentation of the topic. This will be followed by responses from two speakers whom I will introduce at that time. After they have spoken, I will give a couple of minutes for you to talk to your neighbours. This is mainly to provide you with an opportunity to clear your minds on some of the issues that might have been raised. We will then open the floor to entertain some of your questions, comments and hopefully to engage in a fruitful discussion.

It is my pleasure to introduce the person who will lead our thinking on this important subject of Christian Identity and Religious Pluralism. Born in Wales, educated in Cambridge and holding a doctorate from Oxford, he is respected as one of the most distinguished theologians of our time. In fact, I am reliably informed that he made history in being the youngest person to have been appointed professor at Oxford University.

For many persons his is a household name. He is widely regarded as one of the most radical priests and bishops to have served the Anglican communion. His present function within the institution has not stifled his ability for creative thinking. He is married and is the father of two. He has written and spoken extensively on issues of moral, social, political and religious import. He is the one hundred and forth (104th) Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England.

I now invite the most Reverend Dr Rowan Douglas Williams to address us on Christian Identity and Religious Pluralism.

***

Katsunori Yamanoi
17 February 2006

Katsunori Yamanoi is chairman of the Board of Directors, Rissho Kosei-kai

Greetings everyone, my name is Katsunori Yamanoi and I am the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rissho Kosei-kai. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, I would like to express my profound gratitude for this opportunity to participate in the Ninth WCC Assembly. I would also like to express my deep respect for the WCC, which has made a great contribution to harmony among different churches and interreligious dialogue for more than half a century.

Rissho Kosei-kai has sent representatives to every WCC Assembly since the Sixth WCC Assembly was convened in Vancouver, Canada. And since 1985, Rissho Kosei-kai has continued dialogue with the WCC through its liaison office in Geneva, Switzerland. Rissho Kosei-kai is also the parent organization of the Niwano Peace Foundation, which in 1986 awarded the Fourth Niwano Peace Prize to Dr. Phillip A. Potter, the former WCC General Secretary. Long before then, in 1969, Nikkyo Niwano, Founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, met with then WCC General Secretary Eugene Carson Blake at WCC Headquarters in Switzerland. Their exchange of ideas formed a bond transcending their differences of faith.

Rissho Kosei-kai is a lay Buddhist organization aiming to live life according to the True Dharma revealed by Shakyamuni. We continue to grow spiritually confirming and reconfirming the essence of what Shakyamuni wanted to convey to us.

This year, Rissho Kosei-kai will reach a turning point as we observe the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Founder Nikkyo Niwano. In life, Founder Niwano's goal was the realization of peace through interreligious dialogue and cooperation, and so he worked tirelessly to establish and develop WCRP, the World Conference of Religions for Peace. The basis of his work was the "One Vehicle" spirit, that is, "Since by nature all human beings are riding together on the same vehicle, we should be broad-minded, respect one another, and cooperate with each other." Today, as I participate in this Ninth General Assembly, I once again realize that the world all of you in the WCC are striving toward is the same for me as a Buddhist.

The WCC has proclaimed the first decade of the twenty-first century to be "The Decade to Overcome Violence." Truly, this is a timely appeal. At present, war and acts of terrorism continue unabated in our world. People's hearts are swelling with suspicion, antagonism, and misunderstanding. We religious people cannot afford to overlook this.

Shakyamuni showed us the True Way when he said, "Truly, malice cannot be extinguished with malice. Only through compassion can it be extinguished." And Dr. Martin Luther King said that, "Returning violence with violence increases violence, and only makes a dark, starless night that much darker. Darkness cannot be chased away with darkness. Only light can do that. Hatred is not dispelled by hatred. Only love can do that." Compassion and love are all we can rely upon to overcome violence.

I understand that the world of compassion, the world of love for which we strive, cannot be realized in a day and a night. Nevertheless, I believe that if religious leaders can have sincere dialogue and cooperate with each other, then step by step society, and the world, will have peace. This belief is etched in my heart, and my hope is that from now on, I will strive in that direction, hand in hand with all of the members of the WCC.

By the way, in August of this year, the Eighth Assembly of WCRP will be convened in Kyoto, Japan. The host of this Assembly is Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai. This will be WCRP's first Assembly of the twenty-first century, and I sincerely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that many members of the WCC will be able to cooperate with and participate in the Assembly so that it will be even more productive.

I would like to conclude my address today with my earnest prayer that the results of this Ninth WCC Assembly will become a chapter of brightly shining hope in world history and be an inspiration showing humanity how to live.

Thank you very much.

***
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Part 15 of __

WCC Assembly plenary on Christian identity and religious plurality

Rowan Williams presentation

17 February 2006

Plenary on Christian identity and religious plurality

The Most Rev. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, is the most senior bishop in the established church in England and the leader of the Anglican Communion around the world

If someone says to you 'Identify yourself!' you will probably answer first by giving your name - then perhaps describing the work you do, the place you come from, the relations in which you stand. In many cultures, you would give the name of your parents or your extended family. To speak about 'identity', then, is to speak about how we establish our place in the language and the world of those around us: names are there to be used, to be spoken to us, not just by us; work is how we join in the human process of transforming our environment; and who we are becomes clear to those around when we put ourselves in a map of relationships. Before we start thinking about what is essential to Christian identity in the abstract, it may help us just for a moment to stay with this element of simply putting ourselves on the map.

So in these terms how do we as Christians answer the challenge to identify ourselves? We carry the name of Christ. We are the people who are known for their loyalty to, their affiliation with, the historical person who was given the title of 'anointed monarch' by his followers - Jesus, the Jew of Nazareth. Every time we say 'Christian', we take for granted a story and a place in history, the story and place of those people with whom God made an alliance in the distant past, the people whom he called so that in their life together he might show his glory. We are already in the realm of work and relations. We are involved with that history of God's covenant. As those who are loyal to an 'anointed monarch' in the Jewish tradition, our lives are supposed to be living testimony to the faithfulness of God to his commitments. There is no way of spelling out our identity that does not get us involved in this story and this context. Explaining the very word 'Christ' means explaining what it is to be a people who exist because God has promised to be with them and whom God has commanded to show what he is like.

And to say that we are now under the authority of an anointed monarch whose life on earth was two millennia ago is also to say at once something about that 'monarch'. His life and presence are not just a matter of record, of narrative. There are groups that identify themselves by their founders - Lutherans, Marxists - but the name Christians use of themselves is not like that because of what the title 'Christ' means. We do not look back to a founder; we look now, around, within, for a presence that has authority over our lives and is active today. And so we already imply the ways in which we shall be thinking theologically, doctrinally, about the story of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

But as we go further, the identity we are sketching becomes fuller still. What does the anointed king tell us to do and how does he give us power to do it? We are to reveal, like the Jewish people, that the God whose authority the king holds is a God of justice, impartial, universal, and a God who is free to forgive offences. But we are also to show who God is by the words our king tells us to address to God. We are to call him 'Father', to speak in intimate and bold words. Our identity is not just about relations with other human beings and our labours to shape those relationships according to justice and mercy. It is about our relation to God, and the 'work' of expressing that relation in our words and acts. In Greek, the word leitourgeia first meant work for the sake of the public good, before it came to mean the public service of God. Christian identity is 'liturgical' in both senses, the work of a people, a community, showing God to each other and to the world around them, in daily action and in worship. Our 'liturgy' is both the adoration of God for God's own sake and the service of a world distorted by pride and greed. It is expressed not only in passion for the human family, especially in the middle of poverty and violence, but in passion for the whole material world, which continues to suffer the violence involved in sustaining the comfort of a prosperous human minority at the cost of our common resources.

'Identify yourself!' says the world to the Christian; and the Christian says (as the martyrs of the first centuries said), ‘We are the servants of a monarch, the monarch of a nation set free by God's special action to show his love and strength in their life together, a monarch whose authority belongs to the present and the future as much as the past. We are witnesses to the consistency of a God who cannot be turned aside from his purpose by any created power, or by any failure or betrayal on our part. We are more than servants or witnesses, because we are enabled to speak as if we were, like our king, free to be intimate with God; God has stepped across the distance between ourselves and heaven, and has brought us close to him. When we speak directly to God, we speak in a voice God himself has given us to use.'

So, as Christians spell out, bit by bit, what is the meaning of the name they use of themselves, they put themselves on the map of human history. Before they start analysing the doctrines that are necessary for this identity to be talked about and communicated abstractly, they speak of themselves as belonging in this story and this set of possibilities. Creed and structure flow from this. And it can be put most forcefully, even shockingly, if we say that Christians identify themselves not only as servants of the anointed king but as Christ. Their place in the world is his place. By allowing themselves to be caught up into his witness and doing what his authority makes possible for them, in work and worship, they stand where he stands. The Christian Scriptures say that believers bear the name of Christ, that this name is written on their foreheads, that their life together is a material 'body' for the anointed king on earth.

Christian identity is to belong in a place that Jesus defines for us. By living in that place, we come in some degree to share his identity, to bear his name and to be in the same relationships he has with God and with the world. Forget ‘Christianity' for a moment - Christianity as a system of ideas competing with others in the market: concentrate on the place in the world that is the place of Jesus the anointed, and what it is that becomes possible in that place.

There is a difference between seeing the world as basically a territory where systems compete, where groups with different allegiances live at each other's expense, where rivalry is inescapable, and seeing the world as a territory where being in a particular place makes it possible for you to see, to say and to do certain things that aren't possible elsewhere. The claim of Christian belief is not first and foremost that it offers the only accurate system of thought, as against all other competitors; it is that, by standing in the place of Christ, it is possible to live in such intimacy with God that no fear or failure can ever break God's commitment to us, and to live in such a degree of mutual gift and understanding that no human conflict or division need bring us to uncontrollable violence and mutual damage. From here, you can see what you need to see to be at peace with God and with God's creation; and also what you need to be at peace with yourself, acknowledging your need of mercy and re-creation.

This perspective assumes from the beginning that we live in a world of plural perspectives, and that there is no ‘view from nowhere', as philosophers sometimes express the claim to absolute knowledge. To be a Christian is not to lay claim to absolute knowledge, but to lay claim to the perspective that will transform our most deeply rooted hurts and fears and so change the world at the most important level. It is a perspective that depends on being where Jesus is, under his authority, sharing the 'breath' of his life, seeing what he sees - God as Abba, Father, a God completely committed to the people in whose life he seeks to reproduce his own life.

In what sense is this an exclusive claim? In one way, it can be nothing except exclusive. There is no Christian identity that does not begin from this place. Try to reconstruct the ‘identity' from principles, ideals or whatever, and you end up with something that is very different from the scriptural account of being 'in Christ'. And because being in Christ is bound up with one and only one particular history - that of Jewish faith and of the man from Nazareth - it is simply not clear what it would mean to say that this perspective could in principle be gained by any person anywhere with any sort of commitments. Yet in another sense exclusivism is impossible here, certainly the exclusivism of a system of ideas and conclusions that someone claims to be final and absolute. The place of Jesus is open to all who want to see what Christians see and to become what Christians are becoming. And no Christian believer has in his or her possession some kind of map of where exactly the boundaries of that place are to be fixed, or a key to lock others out or in.

In the nature of the case, the Christian does not see what can be seen from other perspectives. He or she would be foolish to say that nothing can be seen or that every other perspective distorts everything so badly that there can be no real truth told. If I say that only in this place are hurts fully healed, sins forgiven, adoption into God's intimate presence promised, that assumes that adoption and forgiveness are to be desired above all other things. Not every perspective has that at the centre. What I want to say about those other views is not that they are in error but that they leave out what matters most in human struggle; yet I know that this will never be obvious to those others, and we can only come together, we can only introduce others into our perspective, in the light of the kind of shared labour and shared hope that brings into central focus what I believe to be most significant for humanity. And meanwhile that sharing will also tell me that there may be things - perhaps of less ultimate importance, yet enormously significant - that my perspective has not taught me to see or to value.

What does this mean for the actual, on-the-ground experience of living alongside the plurality of religious communities - and non-religious ones too - that we cannot escape or ignore in our world? I believe that our emphasis should not be on possessing a system in which all questions are answered, but precisely on witness to the place and the identity that we have been invited to live in. We are to show what we see, to reproduce the life of God as it has been delivered to us by the anointed. And it seems from what we have already been saying that at the heart of this witness must be faithful commitment. Christian identity is a faithful identity, an identity marked by consistently being with both God and God's world. We must be faithful to God, in prayer and liturgy, we must simply stand again and again where Jesus is, saying, 'Abba'. When Christians pray the Eucharistic prayer, they take the place of Jesus, both as he prays to the Father and as he offers welcome to the world at his table. The Eucharist is the celebration of the God who keeps promises and whose hospitality is always to be trusted. But this already tells us that we have to be committed to those around us, whatever their perspective. Their need, their hope, their search for healing at the depth of their humanity is something with which we must, as we say in English, ‘keep faith'. That is to say, we must be there to accompany this searching, asking critical questions with those of other faiths, sometimes asking critical questions of them also. As we seek transformation together, it may be by God's gift that others may find their way to see what we see and to know what is possible for us.

But what of their own beliefs, their own 'places'? Sometimes when we look at our neighbours of other traditions, it can be as if we see in their eyes a reflection of what we see; they do not have the words we have, but something is deeply recognisable. The language of 'anonymous Christianity' is now not much in fashion - and it had all kinds of problems about it. Yet who that has been involved in dialogue with other faiths has not had the sense of an echo, a reflection, of the kind of life Christians seek to live? St Paul says that God did not leave himself without witnesses in the ages before the Messiah; in those places where that name is not named, God may yet give himself to be seen. Because we do not live there, we cannot easily analyse let alone control how this may be. And to acknowledge this is not at all to say that what happens in the history of Israel and Jesus is relative, one way among others. This, we say, is the path to forgiveness and adoption. But when others appear to have arrived at a place where forgiveness and adoption are sensed and valued, even when these things are not directly spoken of in the language of another faith's mainstream reflection, are we to say that God has not found a path for himself?

And when we face radically different notions, strange and complex accounts of a perspective not our own, our questions must be not 'How do we convict them of error? How do we win the competition of ideas?' but, 'What do they actually see? and can what they see be a part of the world that I see?' These are questions that can be answered only by faithfulness - that is, by staying with the other. Our calling to faithfulness, remember, is an aspect of our own identity and integrity. To work patiently alongside people of other faiths is not an option invented by modern liberals who seek to relativise the radical singleness of Jesus Christ and what was made possible through him. It is a necessary part of being where he is; it is a dimension of 'liturgy', staying before the presence of God and the presence of God's creation (human and non-human) in prayer and love. If we are truly learning how to be in that relation with God and the world in which Jesus of Nazareth stood, we shall not turn away from those who see from another place. And any claim or belief that we see more or more deeply is always rightly going to be tested in those encounters where we find ourselves working for a vision of human flourishing and justice in the company of those who do not start where we have started.

But the call to faithfulness has some more precise implications as well. In a situation where Christians are historically a majority, faithfulness to the other means solidarity with them, the imperative of defending them and standing with them in times of harassment or violence. In a majority Christian culture, the Christian may find himself or herself assisting the non-Christian community or communities to find a public voice. In the UK, this has been a matter largely of developing interfaith forums, working with other communities over issues around migration and asylum and common concerns about international justice, about poverty or environmental degradation, arguing that other faiths should have a share in the partnership between the state and the Church in education, and, not least, continuing to build alliances against anti-semitism. The pattern is not dissimilar elsewhere in Europe. There is a proper element of Christian self-examination involved here as Christians recognise the extent to which their societies have not been hospitable or just to the other.

However, the question also arises of what faithfulness means in a majority non-Christian culture; and this is less straightforward. For a variety of reasons, some based on fact and some on fantasy, many non-Christian majorities regard Christian presence as a threat, or at least as the sign of a particular geopolitical agenda (linked with the USA or the West in general) - despite the long history of Christian minorities in so many such contexts. One of the most problematic effects of recent international developments has been precisely to associate Christians in the Middle East or Pakistan, for example, with an alien and aggressive policy in the eyes of an easily manipulated majority. The suffering of Christian minorities as a result of this is something which all our churches and the whole of this Assembly need constantly to keep in focus.

Yet what is remarkable is the courage with which Christians continue - in Egypt, in Pakistan, in the Balkans, even in Iraq - to seek ways of continuing to work alongside non-Christian neighbours. This is not the climate of ‘dialogue' as it happens in the West or in the comfortable setting of international conferences; it is the painful making and remaking of trust in a deeply unsafe and complex environment. Only relatively rarely in such settings have Christians responded with counter-aggression or by absolute withdrawal. They continue to ask how they and those of other commitments can be citizens together. It is in this sort of context, I would say, that we most clearly see what it means to carry the cost of faithfulness, to occupy the place of Jesus and so to bear the stresses and sometimes the horrors of rejection and still to speak of sharing and hospitality. Here we see what it is to model a new humanity; and there is enough to suggest that such modelling can be contagious, can open up new possibilities for a whole culture. And this is not simply a question of patience in suffering. It also lays on Christians the task of speaking to those aspects of a non-Christian culture which are deeply problematic - where the environment is one in which human dignity, the status of women, the rule of law and similar priorities are not honoured as they should be. To witness in these things may lay Christians open to further attack or marginalisation, yet it remains part of that identity which we all seek to hold with integrity. Once again, where this happens, all of us need to find ways of making our solidarity real with believers in minority situations.

The question of Christian identity in a world of plural perspectives and convictions cannot be answered in clichés about the tolerant co-existence of different opinions. It is rather that the nature of our conviction as Christians puts us irrevocably in a certain place, which is both promising and deeply risky, the place where we are called to show utter commitment to the God who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom his invitation is addressed. Our very identity obliges us to active faithfulness of this double kind. We are not called to win competitions or arguments in favour of our 'product' in some religious marketplace. If we are, in the words of Olivier Clement, to take our dialogue beyond the encounter of ideologies, we have to be ready to witness, in life and word, to what is made possible by being in the place of Jesus the anointed - 'reasons for living, for loving less badly and dying less badly' (Clement, Anachroniques, p.307). 'Identify yourself!' And we do so by giving prayerful thanks for our place and by living faithfully where God in Jesus has brought us to be, so that the world may see what is the depth and cost of God's own fidelity to the world he has made.

© Rowan Williams 2006

***

Church unity

Isabel Apawo Phiri presentation
20 February 2006

Plenary on church unity

Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri is current head and professor of African theology at the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu Natal, and general coordinator of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians

"Called to be the One Church" The Future of Ecumenism
A Protestant Voice
Introduction

In this presentation I attempt to present only "one" perspective of the Protestant voice as a response to the text: "Called to be the One Church" as an impulse for the churches' search for visible unity in faith, life, witness and action. This perspective is shaped by my own context as a Malawian Presbyterian, living in South Africa. In addition, it is informed by my work in theological education in ecumenical and multi-faith environments and my commitment to social justice issues through the work of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.

Unity a divine gift and calling

"Is the Holy Spirit present in these ecumenical gatherings that you attend?"

I was recently asked by my Minister's spouse whether the Holy Spirit is present in ecumenical gatherings, as she understood ecumenical gatherings to be simply about what she called "head knowledge." When reflecting on her question I realized that this is a view that is shared by a significant number of Christians across the denominations in Africa who think that the Holy Spirit is not present in Ecumenical gatherings, let alone among ecumenical believers. What is missing in this understanding however is that church unity is indeed both a divine gift and calling. It is the Holy Spirit that guides the Church, both at a global and local level, to be obedient to the command of Jesus that all Christians should be one.

As part of a Charismatic Presbyterian Church, my own congregation shows signs of visible church unity by broad acceptance of: a) a variety of different types of baptism; b) invitation to all believers in Christ from all churches to partake of the Holy Communion; c) Ordained ministers of other denominations to share the pulpit; and d) allowing Ministers of other denominations to preside over the Holy Communion.

Koinonia/Communion through theological education and formation

The document "called to be the one church" has affirmed that we confess one, holy, catholic and apostolic church". The School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa is an example of an attempt to live out the consequences of this unity through the formation of a cluster of theological institutions who offer theological education and formation to the Roman Catholic Church, The Evangelical Churches, The Lutheran Church, The Moravian Church, The Congregational Church, The Anglican Church and soon the Methodist Church. At a time when many ecumenical institutions are closing in favour of denominational ones, Pietermaritzburg is thriving again as the hub of visible unity of the church as a witness of Christ. The school also engages in a multi-faith dialogue and collaboration. This is a clear affirmation and example that ecumenism goes beyond "church unity". This is a very important angle in our witness as one Church because Africa is home to many religions.

The fact that many more churches in South Africa, the African continent and other continents are sending their students to be part of this ecumenical body of Christ is promising to the future of ecumenism in our region and strengthens the urgent need for ecumenical theology to guide the theological institutions and the church in Africa.

Church unity through ecumenical rites of marriage

I come from a family of six children. Despite our Presbyterian background, through inter-church marriages the Assemblies of God Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church, the Living Waters Church, and the Anglican Church have found their way into our family and we embrace them all. Our family has resisted the assumption that women follow their husband's denomination. Inter-church marriages have been a thorny issue in the body of Christ due to our different church doctrines, especially among the Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant churches. To some marriage is a civil or social contract, while to others it is a sacrament. However it is what happens at grassroots level that calls for the Church in Africa to heed the call for ecumenical rites of marriage, as one visible symbol of the obedience of the Church in Africa to Jesus' call for one church. Ecumenical marriages should be a place to celebrate the spirit of fellowship and Christian unity.

The church as communion of believers

The document on "called to be one Church' has reminded us that the Church is a communion of believers. In practise, the marginalisation of people on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and ability undermines and challenges what we have been given by God.

Several publications of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (which is both an ecumenical and a multi-faith movement) illustrate gender challenges to the unity of the Churches. For example, many women express the frustration that gender difference is used "to divide women from men and assign their gifts an inferior value." This can be seen in the inability to deal with gender-based violence in the church; and in the difficulties which women who are already ordained experience in the church as they carry out their ministry. A continuing source of tension is the fact that some churches ordain women, and others do not.

Conclusion

The topic of church unity is far too broad to have done justice to in this short presentation. Notwithstanding, I have attempted to hone in on my own context to frame the discussion. I have highlighted some of the possibilities that exist for further exploration such as the potential for unity which exists in all the Protestant churches in Africa. If indeed we believe that God is calling us to unity we need to show it in action through recognition of ordained ministers (of all races, gender, age, ability and sexual orientation) of other churches at our Holy Communion table; through ecumenical rites for inter church marriages; embracing the spirituality of others through theological education and formation; and affirming the church as communion of believers by getting rid of all that undermines this belief.

Thank you

***

Plenary on church unity, WCC 9th Assembly

Jacob Kurien presentation
20 February 2006

Plenary on church unity

Fr. Dr Jacob Kurien is the vice-principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church) in Kottayam, Kerala, India

An "invitation" on the ecclesiology statement from an Orthodox, Indian perspective

Moderator, Sisters and Brothers,

There is a proverbial statement in the Harare Report: "Any vision which does not inspire new forms of acting remains a distant utopia". The strength, of the Ecclesiology statement entitled "Called to be the One Church", is an inspiring vision and a new form of acting for the manifestation of Christian unity.

As an Oriental Orthodox, I am delighted to notice a Trinitarian image of unity and an emphasis on the Faith of the early undivided Church as embodied in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. As an Indian Christian living in a multi-religious and dominantly non-christian background, I see in the text a commitment for inter-religious dialogue as integral to the unity we seek. A theological self-understanding on religious plurality and a common stance against religious extremism and violence are central to our vision of Christian unity.

My reflections and comments on the text are summed up in seven observations especially from an Orthodox, Indian perspective.

Observation 1. An anxiety: over the prevailing culture of 'stagnation'

Our text begins with an affirmation on "our commitment on the way towards visible unity". But are the Churches, including my own, really serious about this commitment? Are we not living in an age of ecumenical 'stagnation"? (For this term 'stagnation' I am indebted to Prof. Nikos Nissiotis, one of the former Moderators of the Faith and Order Commission). No doubt, we have been accustomed to a culture of stagnation, with no spectacular unity-concerns for decades. Let me touch my own context. Despite the theological agreements on almost all theological issues, the two families of the Orthodox Churches still remain divided! Many people, especially youth, have lost hope and confidence in 'official' deliberations for unity. They have been seeking alternate channels of Christian unity. Out text is infact inviting the Churches to rethink the legitimacy of our self-complacency, we having become immune to ecumenical sensitivity and having delegated the unity-concerns to W.C.C and similar bodies.

Observation 2. A hope : for new 'ecumenical spaces' at the national and the local levels too.

The second paragraph of the text, is very much underscoring the fact that the Church is manifested "in each place" through the local Eucharistic Koinonia and the Koinonia of such Eucharistic communities is the manifestation of unity which is the ideal conciliarity of the early ecumenical councils. To-day we, however, experience this Koinonia and conciliarity in limited horizons only. Such experiences give us the hope for wider 'ecumenical spaces'. It is hoped that the recently suggested ecumenical space Viz. the Global Christian Forum can provide new levels of conciliarity in the national and local situations too where the experience of conciliarity was so far limited.

Observation 3. An opportunity: to heal the painful memories of divisive ecclesiastical interventions.

The third paragraph of our text is highlighting the beauty and gift of diversity in Church-life. The Orthodox Churches in general and the Orthodox Church in India particularly, witness to an underlying unity in the midst of cultural diversities. We in India have been experiencing it in two contexts: viz. that of the same Koinonia in diverse cultural traditions and that of the same cultural group in diverse ecclesiastical traditions. We can observe here that it is not the cultural diversity that became divisive, but the ecclesiastical interventions. This calls us for measures of healing the painful memories of divisive ecclesiastical interventions from outside and seek ways of returning to the once enjoyed unity.

Observation 4. A missing note : on "holiness"

The text on ecclesiology has substantial elaboration on Oneness, Apostolicity and Catholicity of the Church (paras 3 to 6). But its comparative silence on "Holiness" is conspicuous. Is this symbolic of the growing signs of unholiness becoming legitimized in the Churches? Is not this 'missing' a reminder to rethink the Churches' pre-occupation with money and power-politics.

Observation 5. A threat : of proselytism.

Two paragraphs of the text (Paras 8 and 9) seek to underline our common belonging to Christ through baptism. We should thank, the Faith and Order Commission, the JWG and other study groups for the theological consensus on "Baptism" as a basis for our common belonging to Christ. Our belonging to Christ through ‘Baptism', will be the basic ground for the mutual accountability. However, it remains a fact that wherever proselytism is practised with or without (re) baptism in inter-christian belongingness, the quality of the common belonging is seriously threatened.

Observation 6. A need : for more appropriate criteria in judging 'social commitment'

Paragraphs 10 and 11 in the text are projecting the mission of the Church as a 'reconciling and reconciled' community. In my Indian context, the mutual reconciliation of the Churches has to take place largely in the area of mutual apprehensions on each other's social commitment. Social commitment is often judged by such inadequate criteria like the weight given to the Brahminic Hinduism, solidarity with the Dalits and the approach to the ordination of women etc. The apprehensions on the basis of such criteria have branded certain Churches as "Caste"-oriented and affected the local initiatives on Church-unity. Therefore, the already existing social apprehensions have to be sorted out, and more appropriate criteria are to be evolved.

Observation 7. A Challenge : of choices and priorities in the matter of confessional allegiance.

When we finally address the nine (and similar) questions in the unity-text, are we once again driven back to the pre-Uppsala situation of 'comparative ecclesiology'? The reason for this doubt is that the possible answers may again be 'confessionally' conditioned. In the Asian context, especially that of mine, the local initiatives and enthusiasm for visible unity have been controlled by the confessional identities created by a so called 'ecclesiastical neo-colonialism'. Here, the Churches have a challenge indeed to make choices and set priorities in favour of local fruits of visible unity, always bearing in mind the words of the Indian Philosopher-poet, Rabindranath Tagore: "Emancipation from the soil is no freedom for the tree".

God, in Your Grace, transform not only the world, but also the Churches - Amen.

Fr. Dr. Jacob Kurien, Malankara Orthodox Church
Vice-Principal, Orthodox Seminary
Kottayam, Kerala, India
jksem (at) sancharnet.in

***

Jorge A. Scampini presentation
20 February 2006

Plenary on church unity

Fr Jorge A. Scampini, a Dominican priest, is the moderator of the St Thomas Aquinas University's theological faculty's study centre, and teaches systematic theology at the centre and at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina

Church unity: claiming a common future

Reflecting together on the text "Called to be the one church"

As a Roman Catholic, I approach the text 'Called to be the One Church' in a particular way. The text is an 'invitation' addressed to the member churches of the World Council of Churches, which is not the situation of the Catholic Church, although it has entered into a considerable network of working relationships with the WCC in the course of the forty years of existence of the Joint Working Group, and through participation in the Commissions on Faith and Order and World Mission and Evangelism. Despite the peculiarity of this relationship, all that is affirmed and achieved within the WCC takes place within the one ecumenical movement, which the Catholic Church acknowledges as a gracious gift from God, and to which it is irrevocably committed. This invitation thus concerns us. Within that framework of reference I now offer the following observations.'

Any title is an attempt to express the thrust of a document's contents. Thus the title 'Called to be the One Church' expresses a vision of the Church and, consequently, a way of conceiving the goal of the ecumenical movement. Without forgetting that we are dealing with what 'we at this point on our ecumenical journey can say together about some important aspects of the Church', this vision is a yardstick for discernment that should allow the WCC, at the beginning of a new stage in its life, to evaluate what has been achieved, where there has been slowness and uncertainty in the past, and to discern challenges and determine priorities for coming years.

The invitation is being issued at a particular ecumenical time and place, characterized by the grace of God, who ‘transforms the world', and the churches' response to that gracious gift. Beginning with its identity as an institution, as expressed in its doctrinal basis (section 1), it moves on to an understanding of unity as koinonia, as stated by the Canberra Assembly, and appreciated in Catholic circles for its theological rigour. That is done without ignoring what lies ahead concerning the understanding of 'the meaning of unity and catholicity, and the significance of baptism' (section 2). In fact, this tension, between what has been achieved ecumenically and issues awaiting clarification, is present as the central themes of the invitation unfold: the Church (sections 3-7), baptism (sections 8-9), and the Church's service in the world (sections 10-11).

In dealing with the subject of the Church, the invitation begins with a confession of faith, which is a way of saying that everything that follows should be seen in the context of dynamic faithfulness to the gracious gift given us. This is the context of the affirmations concerning the Church. As regards convergence, Catholics could assent to what is stated in the invitation. It is clear that they would do it in full awareness that a mere listing of the elements that, put together as a whole, express the mystery of the Church, can be understood and articulated in different ways, resulting in different ecclesiologies.

Thus, working through the document and by way of example, in addition to the questions in section 14, we could ask ourselves the following questions:

a) Is it possible for us all to state, baldly, that 'the Church as communion of believers is created (only) by the Word of God' (section 4)?

b) What are we to understand by 'Each church is the church catholic and not simply a part of it' (section 6)? Are we referring to each 'local' church or to each 'confessional' church? And, if each local church, what do we mean by that?

c) How long will it be possible for us to go on speaking of Christ's reconciling ministry without clarifying the basis on which certain moral decisions are made?

5. As the Catholic Church understands it, the unity of the Church as a mystery of communion is expressed by a threefold bond: the bond of the faith that is professed (vinculum symbolicum); the liturgical and sacramental bond (vinculum sacramentale); and the hierarchical and social bond (vinculum hierarchicum). While the first two bonds constitute the Church and are its foundation and origin, the third represents its task of witness and guarantees its continuity. For the Catholic Church that is an integral part of its vision of faith. Thus the divergences referred to in the invitation (section 14) are real obstacles lying in the way of achieving visible unity. That explains why the Catholic Church attaches such importance in theological dialogues to the themes relating to sacraments, ministry and the Church.

6. We who are on this journey and trust in the risen Christ look back to the past and live in hope for the future. At the level of the ecumenical memory, it is important to point out that the issues in the invitation - in a condensed form by the nature of the document - are reminiscent of Faith and Order studies: Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982), Confessing the One Faith (1991), Church and World (1990), and The Nature and Purpose of the Church (1999); and are also related to studies by the Joint Working Group: The Church: Local and Universal (1990), Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues (1996) and Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Implications of a Common Baptism (2004). This recognition of the ground already covered should give rise to a renewed commitment to make these studies more widely known and to study them in depth, with the aim of encouraging the reception of them by the churches. These studies, which are the fruit of long careful theological work, still have a word to say to us on some of the questions that await a response.

These very questions give me the hope that God's gift to us will not be in vain, thanks to the acceptance and willingness of the churches and the WCC

a) of the churches, because the invitation is being addressed to them as the real protagonists on their common journey in response to the grace of God. They should enter into a renewed conversation 'about the quality and degree of their fellowship and communion, and about the issues which still divide them' frankly and thoroughly, because God, in love, is calling God's people to discernment and to the fulness of koinonia.

b) of the WCC, because in service of the cause of unity, it must continue to have the role of 'privileged instrument' (section 12) and that in two ways

- by stating that one of its priorities is taking up the theological issues arising out of the present invitation and effectively supporting the continuance of the programmes dealing with the differences 'dividing the churches', particularly the Faith and Order studies on ecclesiology, baptism and theological anthropology.

- by adopting as an Assembly the text before you as your own word addressed to the churches. This can be a milestone in the history of the WCC as an institution, taking relations between the member churches on to a new stage, as was the case at New Delhi, Nairobi and Canberra, and thereby being of service to the whole ecumenical movement.

***

Lei Garcia and John Ngige Njoroge presentation
20 February 2006

Plenary on church unity

Ms Lei Garcia is the director of CONTAK Philippines, and former director for partnerships and ecumenical relations of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Mr John Ngige Njoroge is a Kenyan theology student and a member of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria

TITLE Desire For A Common Future

PLOT John and Lei met in the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre. They began talking about their vision of the ecumenical movement and church. Both will share their visions and discuss the challenges of achieving the visible unity. They will tell their hope amidst the challenges brought by the fragmentation of the world and the church.

ACTORS Lei Garcia and John Ngige Njoroge

SCENE 1

John : Good to see you again Lei!

Lei : Hey John, how are you?

(John and Lei hug each other)

Lei : It's so good to see many people here at the Assembly!

John : Yeah! It's amazing. So, how do you feel to be a participant?

Lei : Well, I'm very glad to be part of this important juncture in the life of the WCC. And of course, it is my joy to be among those who are praying with Christ for the unity of the divided church. (John 17:20-21)

John : That's great and speaking about the divided church, it is challenging when we look beyond into the texture of the unity we seek, its quality and significance.

Lei : (nodding) So are you saying that the texture of unity means the value and relevancy of the visible unity in our churches? If so, I think this calls for a common Christian identity that invites our churches to a visible unity, which is an expression of a common faith, common mission, and a common witness to the world.

John : Aha! But would a common identity mean anything to the diversified local Christian churches on the ground, when it comes to their spiritual, economical and political struggles?

Lei : I believe so. For example, in the Philippines, our very own pastors, priests, and religious workers were not spared in the recent political killings and repressions because they took the side of the poor and exercised their prophetic voice. So, I firmly believe that a united church is an instrument by which our churches, which constitute the household of God, seek to live and witness to all peoples that the oikoumene may become the oikos of God. The WCC was created precisely to be an instrument to build the household of God?

John : And it shall take place through our collective and mutual involvement.

Lei : You are absolutely right! This could mean that it is in the creation of a better world that we begin to know what it means to be part of the oikoumene. The clearest theological statement we can make is our active involvement in the struggles of the people. Therefore, the heart of ecumenism is being immersed in the world that churches find their unity.

John : Wonderful reflection. But is it possible to achieve this vision with all the fragmentation and brokenness inside and outside our churches?

Lei : Of course, it is possible! Don't you think so?

John : (silently thinking) Well, yeah! I think so, it's just that

Lei : Come on John, I know you are more optimistic than I am.

John : Okay, I think. Our common faith in the Triune God, God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit goes beyond our current divisions and quests us not to limit the unity we seek only to a dialogue level but to make it practical in the reality of our everyday life.

Lei : Right, it is possible, first and foremost through the grace of God and our commitment to collectively work for the realization of these visions. And I also think that we can achieve this vision of unity by reordering our relationships, at all levels, into images of wholeness, mutuality and interdependence.

John : Well, realization of these visions calls us to worship together as a community of believers. This confirms God's presence and action in the midst of His people. It renews and keeps alive the relationship between God and His people, which and creates harmony and unity among us.

Lei : Do you think worship, with its widely diverse liturgical practices, is the focal point of the existing divisions among us?

John : Yes, sure, but in the future I hope that we will participate truly into the spirit of worship without pointing at each other as liturgically "right" or "wrong" but rather listen and spiritually benefit from each other's liturgical practices.

Lei : And also, we can achieve this vision of a truly united church if we will internalize that Jesus Christ is the central focus of our being together and any divergences in understanding of who we are as a church and even the style of worship or faith expressions are all but peripheral.

John : That's a good observation, Lei - center and periphery. But of course we also have to recognize that our search for unity is not simple and to achieve it, it needs a lot of trust, understanding and respect for each other.

Lei : I absolutely agree! Thanks John!

SCENE 2

(Sound of the drums)

(John and Lei would move closer to each other)

J & L : As the younger member of ecumenical movement,

J & L : we offer our VOICES

Lei : to speak the truth in love

John : to tell the stories of the unknown, outcast, downtrodden, and marginalized

J & L : we offer our EARS

Lei : to listen to each other with respect

John : to carefully listen to the wisdom of the elders

J & L : we offer our FEET

Lei : to tread the path of righteousness and to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming God's redemptive love and justice

John : to dance and celebrate for every gift God has given us

J & L : we offer our HANDS

Lei : to support and be in solidarity with those who suffer

John : to create instruments of peace, not war

J & L : we offer our MINDS

Lei : to think of innovative and creative approaches to deepen our dialogue and to realize mutual accountability.

John : to dream a just world

J & L : we offer our HEARTS

Lei : to beat the rhythm of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation

John : to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, and to receive each other as Christ has received us in his Church.

(John and Lei arms linked)

J & L : Finally, we commit ourselves to a common future of Christian life and witness.

We commit ourselves to our continuing journey in calling 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).

We commit ourselves, through God's grace and our collective response, to transform the world.

We are ready.

Together, sisters and brothers let us walk towards that beautiful day full of love, justice, and peace.

Let us do it!

Amen.

***

Norberto Saracco presentation
20 February 2006

Plenary on church unity

Rev. Dr J Norberto Saracco is a Pentecostal pastor and scholar, and founder of Argentina's International faculty of Theological Studies

New Possibilities in the Quest for Visible Unity

A Contribution from the Evangelical Churches of Latin America

You belong to the same church as me,
If you stand at the foot of the cross.
If your heart beats in time with to my heart,
Give me your hand. You are my brother, my sister.

For decades the words of that chorus have been sung by millions of evangelicals throughout Latin America. It has been a sort of theme song in meetings and activities at which brothers and sisters of different denominations met. Its ecumenical theology is simple: if you are at the foot of the cross, you belong to the same church as I do; if your heart beats in time with my heart, you are my brother, my sister.

That simple statement reduces centuries of ecumenical discussion to the barest minimum, but it also glosses over our real divisions.

Diversity and plurality, values which are a legacy from our Protestant history, have drifted towards fragmentation and polarization. These have been features of the life of the evangelical churches and, for the Pentecostals, almost a measure of their spirituality!

However, today it is different. In recent years, it has been the evangelical churches, and particularly the Pentecostal churches, that have worked hardest in the quest for the visible unity of the church. The strengthening of the National Alliances and Federations of Churches, the establishment of Pastoral Councils in thousands of cities, and joint mission and evangelism projects are only some examples of this. We know that it is not the same in all places and that there is still much to be done, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge the truth of this.

For the evangelical churches, unity comes out of their faithfulness to the Word of God and and out of mission. In the Lausanne Covenant, it is put like this: "We affirm that the visible unity of the church in the truth is the will of God. Evangelism is also an invitation to unity, since unity strengthens our witness, just as disunity is a denial of our gospel of reconciliation."

For evangelical churches, unity is not based on the recognition of a hierarchical authority, nor on dogmas, nor on theological agreements, nor on alliances between institutions. We have to accept that that way of doing ecumenism has gone as far as it can. We know one another better than ever before, we have said to one another all that we have to say, and we understand exhaustively the causes of our divisions. What is the next step to be? The ecumenical agenda must disentangle itself from the past and become open to the ecumenism of the future. In a dynamic and lively church, like the church in Latin America, there is an ecumenism of the People of God, which declares, like the song I mentioned to begin with, that if you and I are at the foot of the cross, then we belong to the same church, so, give me your hand, let us walk together, you are my brother, my sister. I admit that this ecumenical simplicity may be disturbing, but its sole aim is to help an ecumenism that has come to a standstill to break out of its inertia.

Why can we not listen to the millions of Christians who have no understanding of our divisions? In recent decades, we have in fact witnessed the weakening of denominational structures. There has been a globalization of religious experience. The lines of authority, loyalty and spirituality cut across the different denominations. We cannot ignore the dangers in this new situation, but we must also ask, Will this not be, perhaps, the breath of the Spirit? Will it not be that God is creating something new without our being aware of it?

We are being asked, how can the evangelical churches relate to the fellowship of churches which belongs to the World Council of Churches?

When the question is asked in that way, the diversity among the evangelical churches and the diversity among the WCC member churches make an answer impossible.

I can, however, suggest some possible ways how they can relate to one another…

1. We need to regard one another honestly with mutual respect and appreciation. In the past, we evangelical churches in Latin America have (in inverted commas) "evangelized" by exposing the weaknesses of the Catholic Church. Today it is different. In the 1970s we were also not able to understand the struggle of our brothers and sisters who, at that time, were risking their lives by being witnesses to Jesus Christ, his justice and his truth. Since then, we have, more than once, publicly and privately, repented of this. Unity becomes, however, difficult when our brothers and sisters treat us as sects, when they regard Pentecostals as a threat, and see in the growth of evangelical churches an advance of the pro-war right. Unity cannot be built on misrepresentation and prejudice.
2. We need to understand that the religious map of the world has changed and that the map of Christianity has also changed. The centre of gravity of the church has moved from the North to the South. The fact that this Assembly is taking place in this city of Porto Alegre is not a coincidence. We, the Christians from this part of the world, therefore have this not-to-be-missed opportunity to make our unity in Christ visible in our day-to-day commitment to mission. Our impoverished peoples, our pillaged lands and our societies in bondage to sin present us with a challenge. An ecumenism of mission is possible in so far as Jesus Christ is proclaimed as Saviour and Lord and the gospel presented in its entirety. We believe that the centrality of Jesus Christ points up the difference between the mission of the church and religious compassion. We need to be clear. Latin America needs Jesus Christ and we should come together in mission to declare that truth.
3. We need to accept our diversity as an expression of the grace of God that itself takes many forms. There are different ways of being church and in recent times that diversity has multiplied. It would be a good ecumenical exercise to find out what are the limits to diversity that we are prepared to accept. But we need to accept one another without reservation, without dividing churches into first-class and second-class. It needs to be an acceptance without ecclesiological word-play (communities of faith, ecclesial communities, churches, and so on), which is an attempt to conceal our inability to acknowledge others as part of the one church.
4. Allow me to end with a question. Suppose we were to give the Spirit a chance? We have used oceans of ink and tons of paper in writing about unity. That has not been a waste of time, effort or money. But it has brought us as far as we can go. Is not this the time for a new Pentecost? Only a Spirit-filled church will see racial, sexual, economic and ecclesiastical barriers come down. Only Spirit-filled lives will stop calling "impure" or "unclean" what God has called holy, and stop regarding as sacrosanct what is "unclean".

The unity of the church will be a work of the Spirit, or it will not be at all.

***
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Part 16 of __

Economic justice

Nancy Cardoso presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Rev. Dr Nancy Cardoso is a Methodist pastor working in the ecumenical pastoral commission on land, based in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Empire and religion : gospel, ecumenism and prophecy for the 21st century

When Janis Joplin sang in the distant 1960s, 'O Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz,' it seemed a piece of harmless fun, but in a way it was a prophetic condemnation, in advance, of a trend in Western Christianity: voracious consumerism.

Today this spirituality of the market economy has taken complete possession of some sectors of Christianity, and prayers alternate between continuing to pray to God for a Mercedes Benz and, already in some cases, 'O Mercedes Benz, buy me a god!' or even, 'Mercedes Benz, be my god!' - as if material goods themselves could be the way to fullness of life.

The divine beings vying to bring 'our daily bread' to our tables feed not only on the total control of the processes of food production and distribution, but are also gobbling up the forms of consumption represented by quick-moving fast-food outlets. Today, world trade in agricultural products - especially cereals, meat and dairy products - is controlled by no more than twenty oligopolistic groups of transnational corporations located in the United States and Europe. 'Give us this day our daily bread, O Monsanto, Cargill, Swift, Anglo, ADM, Nestlé, Danone, Syngenta, Bunge!'

So, 'on earth as in heaven,' globalized capitalism in national capitals - an unfathomable metaphysical mystery - is punishing farmers in poor countries, whom they are treating as permanent debtors, while at the same time the debts of agriculture in rich countries are being cancelled in the form of subsidies, tariffs and free trade treaties - and there is no one who 'can deliver us from that evil.' The last WTO round in Hong Kong showed that the farming capitals in the United States and Europe will not be 'led into temptation' and will continue to defend the interests of their agricultural, industrial and service sectors. The peasant workers of Korea, India and Brazil, and other countries, know that the governments negotiating in Hong Kong had no legitimacy to negotiate on their behalf.

Capitalist transnational corporations want more: they want 'the kingdom, the power and the glory' by controlling the land, water and seed stocks. They are already lords of other people's work. They now control and determine the monetary value of their livelihood and their actual lives. 'Hallowed be the name' of patents and technologies that make inroads into people's inner being, their possibilities and their vulnerability, and then make fresh profits out of medicines, chemical products, biological products and genetically modified products.

'Hallowed be the name' of the business campaigns that declare themselves to be environmentally friendly, community-building, child-friendly, educational sponsors who by complex sleight of hand attempt to disguise the voracious appetite of the profit motive. False NGOs, promotional moral talk, funding of campaigns and community initiatives, with no questions asked about profits or motives.

Regardless of life, war fulfils its role of ensuring access to cheap materials and labour, of expanding and protecting markets for capital's consuming hunger and its passion to enslave. Money passionately loves profits and will not tolerate any obstacle, restriction or regulation. 'My kingdom come!' cries capital, seated on its divine throne at the heart of the world, making itself out to be god.

In the pride of its heart, capital says, "I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." You think you are wise and no secret is hidden from you. By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud You think you are wise, as wise as a god Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence and you sinned Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries (Ezekiel 28: 2-6; 16-18).

Ezekiel's prophecy is forceful and amounts to saying simply and directly, 'You are only human! You are not God!'

Who today knows how or is able to produce such theology and prophecy?

Who is able to condemn and combat this spiritual aura conferred on a social phenomenon, this illusion that things, that economic systems are natural or eternal? The dominant economic system becomes before our eyes no longer a historical social phenomenon: rather the world and its beings, personal relationships and human creations become commodities; business takes on an impetus and existence of its own that cannot be questioned, a movement that sweeps us along to perpetuate inequality and violence, without our even realizing it. The economy and economic relationships rule humankind, instead of being seen and appreciated as the product of humankind in history, and for that reason capable of being overcome, criticized and reinvented.

Our theologies and pastoral policies are tired and exhausted. The economic system has taken over Western religious language, leaving more or less generous margins for the churches that have before them the easiest option, which is to become an integral functional part of the whole package presented by capitalism, offering religious goods as commodities, and services in the form of powerful fundamentalisms and charismatic spectacles of marketing and prosperity.

We need to choose the difficult option and learn to say again, 'By your many sins and dishonest trade, you have desecrated your sanctuaries' (Ezek. 28:18). The world and its living beings, peoples and their cultures, the earth, water and seeds - everything that moves is sacred! And no economic system that produces injustice and dishonest dealing can be blessed or legitimized or tolerated in the name of God.

The gospels, the Law and the prophets, which are accepted in our Christian tradition, demand that we confess God throughout the inhabited world - the oikoumene - but that we give that confession concrete form, in the struggle for law and justice as the full accomplishment of the world and our humanity.

However, the theology that we are doing today is sterile, because it attempts to hide behind systematic exegetical generalizations that fail to name, choose, opt, state preferences, take a stand, refute, be outraged, condemn or resist.

At the beginning of all things, the world order was divided into sky, water and land, setting up relationships within the whole created world: weather, night and day; dry land and water; land creatures and the birds of the air; living beings in their animal and plant forms.

Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so' (Gen. 1:11).

So God said, 'Let them live!' and all came to life, as an exercise in similarities and differences, as question and response, consecutively or simultaneously. Everything is alive and everything is good.

The whole book of Genesis examines again and again the issue of the highly delicate relationships between living creatures and the constraints placed on them by land, water and fire; between the constraints placed on the earth, on the plants and on the beasts, and the human mouth and its hunger. The hunger of the world, the hunger of the human body produces new relationships within the created world. Hunger produces contemplation, observation, work and its technologies. Hunger is the world's yearning, the longing for more, for life. It is hunger that establishes the critical creative relationship between living beings and their surrounding environment. And God saw that it was good.

Starting with this ordering of creation the text goes on to emphasize the essential but difficult relationships between the physical world and its vegetation and human bodies and their hunger. The book of Genesis describes crisis situations of food shortages at the beginning of the narratives of the wanderings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Going to Egypt is always represented as a consequence of a shortage of food:

'Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe' (Gen. 12:10).

In the following narrative, we read that 'The land could not support them' (Gen. 13:6), giving limited access to resources for survival as a reason for remaining in small family groups engaged in animal husbandry. Thus human groups and their memories are also marked by issues of food insecurity within the wider framework of the farming and land policies of empires.

In this context the story of Cain and Abel is fundamental. The text recalls different ways of life and work and relationships with God. Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain tilled the soil. That is the one piece of information that we are given: two different ways of organizing people's relationship with the earth, work and relationships with other people.

The offering is made. Cain offers the fruits of the soil as his offering and Abel offers some of his animals: fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. God looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but God did not look with favour on Cain and his offering. Simply that. Various explanations have been given to explain this situation. Why did God prefer Abel and his offering?

The gauchos here in Rio Grande do Sul would like to interpret this story by seeing God as a gaucho whose favourite food was a barbecue, but perhaps we ought to look elsewhere for alternative interpretations!

I take it to be possible that this text recalls two ways of life, two ways of organizing work and relationships in antiquity. If Cain represents agriculture, he should be seen as part of an economic system of exploitation based on forced labour and tribute, probably in the setting of the city-states in Canaan under Egyptian influence.

Abel would thus represent human groups engaged together in different economic activities that were not the monopoly of the city-states with their tribute and forced labour. Abel, the keeper of sheep, would be found among the Canaanite population of the high plateau, who resisted and survived on the basis of smallholdings, nomadic sheep-rearing, the activities of bands of mercenaries or groups involved in trading, either as merchants or carriers of merchandise.

The significant fact is that God chooses, elects, prefers the latter way of life to the former. That explains the conflict. Cain is angry and his face downcast. God says, 'If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door You must master it' (Gen. 4: 6-7).

This description of the two offerings could mask the violence, hiding the wild beast If only God would accept both offerings! But the God in this narrative refuses to legitimize the offering that is the fruit of violence and sin. Cain comes out of the ritual offering with his face downcast. He has been rejected. No. Cain is incapable of mastering the violence inherent in his way of life, because it is systemic violence. That is the function of the ritual act: it assesses, scrutinizes, sheds light on production methods, and it opts, states a preference.

Cain cannot cope with living without divine approval. He invites Abel out into the country - and, in the final definition, that is what it is all about: land! Cain kills Abel. Simply that. Apparently, Cain decided to kill Abel because he, Cain, had been rejected by God. Seen in that way God could be to blame!

Or, rather the violence against Abel was already an integral part of Cain's offering and that is why it was not pleasing to God. Cain's way of life and production involved denying life to Abel and to other human groups with him. That is why Cain's offering was rejected.

Offerings do not simply offer themselves. The function of religion in economic exchange does not consist of establishing regulations and procedures, but of determining value, i.e. formulating economic values, shaping structures and strengthening assessment mechanisms.

This ritual exchange or offering contains the cultural mechanism for calculating value, i.e. what can be given and exchanged and what is kept and retained. It is not the intrinsic value of beings or things that determines the difference between what is retained and what is acceptable in the form of an offering, but it is society that confers value and produces the scale by which to measure the meaning and function of ritual exchanges.

God reappears in the narrative, asking the key question, 'Where is your brother?'

Cain's reply is well known, 'I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?'

God replies, 'What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground.'

It is one of the most probing narratives in our tradition. It is a dialogue between God and the violent brother and the other brother who, as a victim of violence, is speaking in the form of blood spilt on the ground.

For some reason or other, this narrative has remained dormant in our theologies. This radical understanding of a God who prefers, who discriminates, who chooses, has given way before a co-opted theology that no longer knows how to ask the difficult questions. It is a community life that no longer sees itself as a space where life is assessed and true worth established.

Alas for us! God is no longer asking, 'Where is your brother?' We have made a god who whispers sweet messages of forgiveness and reconciliation, without the critical courage that makes the violent bow their heads in shame, unable to claim any human or divine qualities. They are cornered wild beasts prepared to destroy!

This god is no longer able to hold a conversation with the ground. This god now does not hear the cry of the blood of people and beings who are being downtrodden by an economic model that knows no limits, accepts no regulation and brooks no opposition.

On the periphery of world Christianity there are minorities who stress the need for a theology that liberates: that liberates God, and the earth, and the men and women whose humanity is being denied every day by capitalism. This World Council of Churches has been a privileged and sensitive space where voices can be raised that are not heard in our countries, in national churches or in regional councils. Men and women who no longer wish to repeat again and again the North American and European theology that ceaselessly pores over itself and its dearly loved theologians, what they have said, what they have written. Throughout the world young theologians are silenced by a dominant North American and European theological model that is weary of becoming good news, that is cosying up to the knowledge industry in the service of an economic model which gives privileged place to its comfortable, stable consumerist societies.

They no longer want to know about a God who asks questions, who causes the powerful to bow their heads in shame and encourages the weak to announce the Kingdom of Justice. They no longer ask after their brothers and sisters, because they have created NGOs and agencies that fund works of charity but do not ask questions about the system.

The blood crying out from the ground becomes a case study, an experience mentioned in the course of the liturgy, but it does provoke the anger that refuses to continue to tolerate ways of life and production based on violence and inequality.

Together with many brothers and sisters here in this space I have learned not to refrain from asking these questions. I have learned with brothers and sisters from different churches and different countries to organize campaigns and efforts to opt constantly for a way of life and production based on justice that will enable us to walk with straight backs, open minds and tranquil hearts.

This Assembly must acknowledge and identify its tasks so as to commit our churches to take up again a prophetic evangelical stance in the world. 'No one can serve two masters,' said Jesus. It is either God or money, life or death and all the difficult issues contained in that question, 'Where is your brother? Where is your sister?'

We need to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, what the Spirit is saying through the blood spilt on the ground, through our brothers and sisters not present here! We need to listen to the earth, to learn to engage in conversation with the blood of people who are being destroyed.

We need to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the empires of this world: 'You are not God. Bow your heads in shame.' Let the wild beasts be mastered: Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Monsanto, Cargill, Swift, Anglo, ADM, Nestlé, Danone, Syngenta, Bunge.

We are not motivated by an all-embracing missionary project for the whole world. Our passion comes from what we learn in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and from our lively faith, which is able to live with differences without being afraid of being destroyed or disappearing.

The faith that affirms God's grace in the building of another possible world is not like the strength and wealth of the successful but is like an adventure of love, caring for life, for the world, for ourselves.

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything' (2 Cor. 6: 4-10).

Nancy Cardoso Pereira
Methodist pastor
Member of the Pastoral Land Commission
Professor of Ancient History
Porto Alegre Institute of the Methodist Church

***

Teruango Beneteri presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Ms Teruango Beneteri is an active young lay member of the Kiribati Protestant Church

We, as the Pacific island churches wish to contribute the Pacific concept of the Island of Hope to the Assembly.

Pacifically, on the Island of Hope, life is significant, valued and celebrated. There is a celebration of life over material wealth. The Island of Hope is sacramental, self-contained, independent, and in tune with nature. It is an island marked by sharing and caring, to which people want to journey in order to celebrate life in all its fullness (Isa. 25:6). The Island of Hope has the "mana" (power) to draw human beings together.

The Island of Hope, like the Kingdom of God, is praise-worthy and unique, boundary-less and sought after.

Island of Hope is a reality of people together braving the attacks of religio-social, political and economic tyrannies.

The Island of Hope is biblical/theological and is inclusive of the idea of smallness in partnership uniting people and making them strong. Jesus is the Island of Hope who gave the whole world what it hopes for. Jesus passion and the cross (resurrection) is the Island of Hope for humanity.

As Pacific Islanders, there is awareness that the Island of Hope is not spared from the forces of globalization. Yet, in the face of its onslaught, the following defenses remain firm and intact:

• The ethos of communal life and of communal economic and social relations.
• Communal ownership of resource bases.
• The strength of family and kinship ties.
• High levels of intra-community interaction and solidarity.
• A wealth of living languages and of ceremonies, rituals and other practices rich in meaning.
• Traditional structures like fale, bure-Kalou (house of worship) and material cul ture producing both functional and exchange or gift items.

The Island of Hope offers an alternative to the negative effects of globalization. The Island of Hope is founded on Godly values as opposed to economic globalization, which is erected on the value of material goods. The Island of Hope is sustainable, wholesome, peaceful and all-embracing, where as globalisation is unsustainable, damaging, conflict-ridden, and excluding.

The concept of the Island of Hope is not merely a dream. It is founded in reality and has been our normal life in our islands. The institutions and values embedded in the Island Of Hope may not create wealth on a massive scale but they will never be responsible for creating second class citizens, destroying the environment at will, causing poverty, the debasement of humanity and denial of human dignity, as economic globalization is doing.

• The Island Of Hope will never entail economic tyranny.
• Spirituality, family life, traditional economy, cultural values, mutual care and respect are components of the concept of the Island Of Hope which prioritizes relationships, celebrates quality of life and values human beings and creation over the production of things.
• The Island Of Hope is an alternative to the project of economic globalizatio n which entails domination through an unjust economic system.
• The Island Of Hope represents life-centered values deeply rooted in Pacific communities, which provide an orientation for a just and sustainable economy and a life of dignity.

***

Plenary on economic justice. Prof. Veronica Araújo coordinates the work of the Focolare Movement's Centre for Dialogue with Culture.

Veronica Araújo presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Prof. Veronica Araújo coordinates the work of the Focolare Movement's Centre for Dialogue with Culture

The Economy of Communion project

Mr General Secretary, Dr Samuel Kobia,

Honourable Delegates from all over the world,

Allow me first of all to convey Chiara Lubich's greetings, the foundress of the Focolare Movement whom I am here to represent.

Since she could not be here as she so desired, she assures you of her prayers and best wishes for the success of this Assembly.

My task is that of briefly outlining the project referred to as the Economy of Communion, born within the sphere of the Focolare Movement from an inspiration that Chiara Lubich had while travelling here in Brazil in May 1991.

While staying at the small city of witness of the Focolare close to São Paulo, Chiara was directly exposed to the social-economic inequity of this immense nation. She was informed that numerous members of the Movement lived in the favelas of many Brazilian cities, immersed in poverty and want. The communion of goods that had been practiced among the members of the Movement since its inception was no longer enough to cover the basic needs of many of them.

After living days marked by a high spiritual climate and great brotherhood among people of different social backgrounds, she then had an inspiration: to give life to businesses, entrusting their management to competent people who would run them efficiently and render them profitable. Then - and herein lies the novelty - these profits would be divided into three parts: the first part for those in need; the second for the formation of new people, that is, people oriented to the culture of giving and inspired by it for their economic endeavours, because without such people, it is impossible to build a new society. And finally, the third part would be invested in the business, to strengthen and further develop it.

It was a simple idea, linear and very innovative because it introduces on the economic plane the principle of gift, of gratuity.

Today there are about 750 business that follow the principles of the Economy of Communion (EOC) worldwide. In responding to their primary mission to help the poor, every year they share their profits and thus alleviate many people's needs, providing employment for them, helping them rediscover the dignity that they had lost or never experienced.

This initiative is managed by a central commission that compiles the requests of needs and distributes the profits to those people, through the help of the directors of the Focolare Movement throughout the world. The people who receive them are also committed to living the culture of giving and mutual love.

This is a new way of giving: it is not a matter of philanthropy or social benefits, but of living in communion with the poor through the shared brotherhood experienced among the business members and those who are disadvantaged.

Then, in these 15 years, we have understood and experienced that the EOC project, in embracing the principles of the spirituality of unity of the Focolare as values to be lived out in concrete economic activity, is now developing its own method of business management. This practical experience has germinated guiding principles of a technical-ethical nature with which to orient business practice towards social co-responsibility, the mentality of giving.

These businesses, while operating in the current "for profit" market, function with a different logic than the traditional market model insofar as they follow a logic of sharing and communion.

Industrial parks have grown around the small cities of witness of the Movement as further developments of the EOC in these years. These parks give visibility to the project, bringing different firms together who have mutual love at the core of their business dealings, giving each other advice, supporting one another.… Seven of these industrial parks have already been built, in several nations: three in Brazil; one, respectively, in Argentina, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy.

Chiara Lubich has received two honorary degrees in economics as a result of this project. Many scholars are beginning to deepen new ideas that emerge from these businesses, such as the concept of relational goods, trust, communion, and so on.

Many people are asking how businesses that are so attentive to anthropological and ethical issues can actually survive in our current market. I will let Chiara respond to that question: "In this type of business, one leaves room for God's intervention even in its concrete economic management. One then experiences that with each decision made counter-culturally to normal business practice, He never fails to send that hundredfold that Christ had promised: perhaps in the form of an unexpected revenue, a new window of opportunity, the support derived from new collaborations, an idea for a new product, and so on."1

This then, in brief, is the Economy of Communion Project which is raising considerable interest in the business sector and academic circles.

Thank you for your kind attention.

_______________

Notes:

1C. LUBICH, The experience of the Economy of Communion: from spirituality a new proposal for business practice. Report given during the Conference organized by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, titled "Market economy, democracy and solidarity: a space for comparison?"

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Vsevolod Chaplin presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin is deputy chairman, Department for External Church Relations, Moscow Patriarchate

POST-SOVIET COUNTRIES: THE NEED FOR NEW MORALS IN ECONOMY

After the demise of the totalitarian Communist system the economic and social life in the countries of the former Soviet Union found itself in the hands of radical neo-liberal reformers and their Western advisers. The initial public support to these people's policies was almost unanimous: the USSR population knew very well all the disadvantages of the state-controlled, absolutely centralized and heavily militarized totalitarian economy which suppressed any independent initiative. The idea of free market's "omnipotence" in solving not only economic, but also political and social problems, occupied the public space in the beginning of 1990s.

Unfortunately, the results of unwise policies of radical neo-liberals proved very soon to be dramatic. Dozens of millions of people, including young and energetic ones, started to live below the poverty level. Their savings turned into nothing, many of them lost jobs or were paid only symbolic salaries. The Soviet social system which guaranteed for many people a predictable future started to gradually disappear. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide became widespread. Social marginalization (e.g., the number of street children) reached levels unknown since the Civil War of 1917-1923.

At the same time many economic players started to "preach" unlimited wealth and moral cynicism in the context of absolute poverty of millions. Several families who started to "own" post-Soviet countries as a result of questionable privatization of state properties, pretended to hold the political power as well. One of their representatives said on TV: "Population doesn't matter"; another one - "I can elect even a monkey president here". In the eyes of many simple people the very word "economy" became sort of synonym to crime, injustice, manipulation and oppression. Schoolchildren, when asked about their plans for the future, were naming "prostitute" and "gangster" among the most prestigious professions. The very idea of economic ethics was declared outdated and linked to Communist past. Still, at the turn of the new century many economic actors started to realize that economy without ethics is not only immoral, but also counterproductive.

The Russian Orthodox Church uniting many dozen million Christians in different post-Soviet countries and other regions of the world has raised its voice many times against economic injustice in 1990s and 2000s. Its leadership spoke to the state power, the businessmen and the common people, criticizing late payments of salaries, unemployment, inadequate monetization of social benefits and many other phenomena which brought suffering to our compatriots.

In February 2004, at the initiative of my Church, the World Russian People's Sobor (Assembly) adopted The Code of Moral Principles and Rules in Economy, which was offered to the state, entrepreneurs and workers. Although it doesn't speak direct Christian language (the document was later supported by Jews, Moslems and Buddhists), the Code is based on the Ten Commandments of the Bible. Allow me to quote just several paragraphs from this document.

"Historically the Russian spiritual and moral tradition has been inclined predominantly to give priority to the spiritual over the material, the ideal of personal selflessness for the sake of the good of the people. However, the extremes of this option would lead to terrible tragedies. Remembering this, we should establish such an economic order as to help realize in a harmonious way both spiritual aspirations and the material interests of both the individual and society".

"The greater one's property is the more powerful one is over others. Therefore, the use of property in economy should not be of narrow egoistic nature and should not contradict the common interest… Poverty just as richness is a test. A poor person is obliged to behave in a dignified way, to seek to make his work effective, to raise his professional skills so that he may come out of his misery".

"Political power and economic power should be separated. The participation of business in politics and its impact on public opinion should be open and transparent. The entire financial support given by business to political parties, public organizations and the mass media should be made public and verifiable. Any secret support is to be condemned publicly as immoral".

"Individuals and structures guilty of grievous crimes, especially those involved in corruption, should be unacceptable as business partners or participants in the business community… Those who fail to pay salaries, who delay them systematically and allow them to stay below the subsistence wage are to be censured by society".

Now the Russian Orthodox Church is working to promote and implement this Code. It was well received by several economy-related state institutions, leaders of nation-wide trade unions. Several big companies (for example, financial corporation Sistema, Itera oil company and Ingosstrakh insurance company), have indicated that they will follow in their activities the rules and principles mentioned in our document. The Code was widely discussed by researchers, journalists as well as broader public. Some criticized the Church for "interfering in non-religious area". But I am deeply convinced that it is the task of the Church to call and work for moral renewal, truth and justice in economy.

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Wolfgang Huber presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Bishop Wolfgang Huber is the bishop of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg

Introduction: The signs of the times

Bishop Dr Wolfgang Huber

In recent days in Peshawar, a city in Pakistan, 70,000 people have been demonstrating against cartoons published in Copenhagen. The offices of a Norwegian mobile phone company there have been set on fire to demonstrate outrage against a Danish newspaper. These are alarming signs of the global reality in which we live. But it is also in Pakistan that more than 11,000 fair trade footballs for the World Cup in Germany are being produced for our church; some of these fair trade footballs have found their way to Porto Alegre. That's also a sign of the global reality in which we live. To what extent does the globalisation of our world challenge us to readjust our trade according to the yardstick of justice? My introductorz remarks concentrate on this issue.

Globalization has many aspects. One aspect is that hatred can be organized and spread throughout the world. But another aspect is that global humanitarian action for the victims of the tsunami around the Indian Ocean was organized within a few hours. Another aspect is that economic relations can promote prosperity and enable people to have decent work. But it also means that economic power can be organized selfishly, thereby standing in the way of economic justice. Anyone who wants to interpret the signs of the times needs to look at both sides: both the opportunities and the dangers of the current developments in the world.

We live in an age in which the world economy as a whole is growing, leading to an improvement in living standards, an increase in life expectancy, and improvement in levels of education in some parts of the world. But at the same time the blatant and inhumane poverty experienced by more than a billion people continues. The United Nations in its World Social Report makes it clear that in many parts of the world social inequalities are increasing. The natural foundations of life are being exploited in a way that is incompatible with the most basic requirements of sustainability. For all Christians increasing poverty in many part of our world is a scandal. For those of us in Europe, Africa and eastern Europe are two examples that challenge us particularly. Our Assembly directs our attention to the increasing poverty in Latin America. Such a scandal will jolt us even more in that we, as no generation before us, have the possibility to overcome structural poverty and to make the world a more just place.

In issues of economic justice the Christian faith is not neutral. It does not conform to the economy's claim to be omnipotent; because its allegiance is to Christ as the only Lord of the world. It does not leave economic trade to follow its own laws, because it is based on God's commandment. Human dignity, human rights and social justice are basic values against which economic activity is to be measured both today and tomorrow. As Christians we judge the globalization of our world according to whether it promotes dignity of life, serves human freedom, and enables the expression of cultural diversity. That is why we name the injustices that are linked to current economic relationships of power.

A globalization worthy of its name is includes everyone and does not divide humanity into winners and losers, into rich and poor. That is why we are mobilizing as a worldwide fellowship of churches linked by the prayer of Jesus, through the Lord's Prayer that includes the request for daily bread for everyone. In the World Council of Churches we are not a global player but a global prayer. It is through the power of prayer that we work for economic structures that benefit of all.

In recent days many Christians have been remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian of the Confessing Church in Germany who encouraged us as Christians to pray, to do justice, and to wait on God. A few days ago on 4th February we marked the 100th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's birth. The key experience that made him a Christian, as he himself acknowledged, was the encounter with the Sermon on the Mount. The corrolary he wrote in a letter: "There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. And it seems to me that peace and social justice, or Christ himself, are such things".

In the perspective of this commitment the economy is only part of life, not the whole of life. The debate about the issues linked to globalization should not be limited to economic aspects alone. As Christians and as representatives of the churches we must not surrender to the pervasive economic thought around us. Economic decisions do not create moral values. Solidarity cannot be created by the market. Economic justice is only possible only when civil society maintains its own independence and develops new strength. It can develop only when the state promotes the conditions for human solidarity and supports those who are weaker. Appropriate political conditions are needed to create social equality and promote social cohesion.

The ecumenical movement has been intensively discussing the process of globalization since the Harare assembly. This was inspired by the word "Agape", the word which means love for one's neighbour. Many people are now waiting for us to get beyond making statements, to show that there are alternative possibilities for action. The key issue is how the biblical option for the poor can be related in a more meaningful way to economic thought. Young people in particular, including youth at this assembly, are clamouring for alternative perspectives for action to be developed that can be implemented and find resonance in the worldwide debate. Even Christians in positions of responsibility in the economy or international institutions are hoping to hear the voice of their churches. They want to be part of a globalization of justice and solidarity. I hope that this afternoon will serve this purpose.

Is there an Agape economy, an economy of love? That is what we have to discuss this afternoon. We will hear the perspectives of a theologian and of an economist. The theology part will be the first part and the economy part the last part of our session. Then we shall hear about three examples for alternative action in our churches. At the end of this plenary session is the Agape call that is intended to stimulate thought and action. But first we shall see a video about the ways in which the ecumenical movement in the past dealt with issues of economic justice and what answers it found.

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Yashpal Tandon presentation
16 February 2006

Plenary on economic justice

Mr Yashpal Tandon, an economist from Uganda, is the executive director of the South Centre in Geneva

Wealth and poverty: challenge to churches

Brothers and Sisters,

The greatest challenge of our time is the increasing disparity between wealth and poverty both between and within nations. The chasm between the poor and the rich is widening. From the monetary measure over 3 billion people are classified as poor living on less than 2 dollars a day. This is 50 % of the global population. The neoliberal approach in economics, particularly how trade and finance is handled globally, is responsible for this human tragedy.

Global inequality has grown exponentially. The ratio between the richest and the poorest 20% of the world's population was 30:1 in 1960, and 114:1 in 2002. If this is not addressed, humanity risks gross social and political chaos unprecedented in world history. Ecologically, we are destroying our mother earth to a degree never experienced before. Churches and social movements have alerted the world over and over again, but actors of corporate globalization have decided not to heed this warning. Instead, the driving forces of economic globalization continue to promote more growth without limits. One country which has 5% of the world's population consumes a quarter of the world's oil. Global trade is dominated by corporations. They pay lip service to poverty eradication and the protection of public goods and the environment. Profits, not public welfare, are their raison d'etre.

If we all go down this road, we shall need seven more planets like ours. This Assembly comes at the right time. We are at the crossroads between continuing to live or die with our earth. I therefore challenge the churches who are a custodian of ethics and morals, I believe, to show the way of promoting a just and participatory world, where resources can be shared and the earth cared. We need a world without poverty and this should be possible if we rethink the way we consume, produce and distribute resources.

NEOLIBERAL DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM - THE CURSE OF OUR TIMES

The AGAPE document which I have read defines Neoliberalism. You need to say loud and clear that the free market system is a myth - it never existed, nor will it ever. It is in truth an ideology of the corporations paraded as "science of economics" by the neoliberals. They are a kind of sect in the academic community that are employed in large numbers by global trade and financial institutions, major universities in North and South, and most finance ministries in third world countries. They use a one-size-fit formula as their development paradigm. In the Greek legend, the bandit robber, Procusteus, used to waylay travellers and chop their legs if these did not fit into a "one-size-fit" bed. It may be said with justification that the neoliberal economists are the "Procustian Economists" of our time; they chop the legs of poor nations when they do not conform to their economic programmes. The poor in the South are these chopped legs that do not fit the one-size-fit formula of the neoliberal economists.

Malaysia, to give one example, has been able to develop better than larger countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Why? Because Malaysia made its own policies, often in defiance of the IMF and the World Bank and the neoliberal economists. Most of Africa, on the other hand, has adopted neoliberal strategies as part of the Structural Adjustment Programmes and Africa is the worst suffering continent. In Latin America, on the other hand, things are changing. Argentina followed the neoliberal strategy with dedication in the 1980s and 90s. Then came the financial crash in November 2001, and the country imploded like a powder keg. The present government negotiated with the IMF and got away with writing off 75% of the debt. The IMF could do nothing about it. In Venezuela the people, in popular elections, overthrew the ruling oligarchy, and declared a Bolivarian revolution, and took control of the nation's resources. In Bolivia, they are doing the same - taking control of the nation's oil and gas resources.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? REASONS FOR HOPE IN THE FUTURE

The challenge to the Churches is to offer to the people alternatives to Neoliberalism. They do not have to go far. People everywhere are engaged in working out their own partial solutions out of their experiments in survival strategies. These have to be acknowledged, made more systematic, and given support, but in a different environment. For example, credit institutions for people's self-help projects have been tried by the thousands all over the third world. But they have failed to lift people out of poverty. Why? Because the environment was not conducive. Within the reigning capitalist framework, these self-help projects simply got absorbed in the dominant patterns of production and finance.

So the foremost challenge of our epoch is to change the whole edifice of global production and exchange. In order to do this, the Churches have to work at various levels:

A. At the global political and ideological level;

B. At the national and regional levels;

C. At the level of the people on the ground.

Starting at ground zero, people are learning from the past, and taking matters in their own hands. Against Thatcher's famous dictum that There is No Alternative (TINA), people are saying There Are Hundreds of Alternatives (TAHA). People are experimenting with creating their own currencies, or exchanging goods and services using the barter system. They are pooling their labour together to build boreholes and damming rivers to generate electricity. They are growing food in abandoned lands to fight against hunger and poverty, collecting waste and turning them into assets for survival. They are now even taking to politics, and putting in power their own leaders who will respond to their demand for a total overhaul of the national and global system of production and ownership as well as distribution and welfare systems.

At the national and regional level, some Latin American and Asian countries are defying the IMF and the Neoliberal orthodoxy. The churches have to support such acts of unilateral defiance by the nations and regions of the South. Argentina paid only 25% of its external debt and got away with it. In Bolivia the people are taking control of their natural resources. For Africa, the Bolivarian type revolution could be a start. But it may not be enough. Africa may have to seriously contemplate active disengagement from globalization in a sequenced selected manner, and then, once they build African unity within sub-regions and continentally, negotiate its re-entry into the global system from a position of strength. The churches in Africa may have to look at this possibility seriously. Already, an innovative section of the trade unions in the SADC region has launched a movement called ANSA - Alternatives to Neoliberalism in Southern Africa. They have a ten-point programme on an alternative strategy that the churches may want to study and support.

At the global level, there is now a paradigmatic confrontation between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Social Forum (WSF), or what may be described as the "development camp", and the "free trade" camp. The latter believe that the objective of development is best served through giving free rein to the forces of the market, and creating conditions in which each country engages in international trade on the basis of its comparative advantage. This position has been challenged for the last twenty years, and now there is enough evidence on the ground that contrary to the self-perception of the free market theorists, they are actually anti development. The practical effects of their policies lead to the negation of development, and the creation of extreme wealth on one side and extreme poverty on the other. In 2001, here in Porto Alegre, began a process that challenged the rich people's club at Davos in Switzerland. As opposed to looking at the world from the perspective of those in citadels of power and privilege (which is what Davos does), the Porto Alegre process does so from the perspective of the marginalized and disempowered people of the world.

Where governments and intergovernmental organisations - even including the United Nations - are still bogged down in discredited theories of the past, some church organisations such as Christian Aid, and secular organisations such as Oxfam are taking the lead to draw attention to the inequities of the system, and challenging neoliberal theories that are servicing the greed of corporations. But these efforts are still in the margins of society. They have to become mainstream. The Churches are positioned well in society to make this happen.

Some people and institutions in the North are realising that the problem of poverty is not confined to the South. Globalization, and with it the erosion of social welfare in Europe and America, is creating a new wave of the unemployed, a new generation of the poor in the North as well. Furthermore, the South's poor are jumping walled fences across the Rio Grande in Mexico, and crossing from Africa to Europe over land and sea, half of them perishing on the way or exploited by unscrupulous agents who all want to get rich. The minorities from the South in the North are becoming the racial and religious underclass that is threatening the peace and prosperity of Western nations. At the same time, the wanton exploitation of the soil, minerals, forests, seas, oceans, mountains, wild-life, all this for the greed of corporations, is creating a doomsday scenario for the world.

The warning that the time bomb is ticking has been sounded a thousand times before. These have been either largely ignored, or palliatives thrown at some problems, such as making corporations responsible to the poor and to the environment. These have not worked; these will not work. The world needs a more thorougoing transformation of the way it is organising life on this planet—the only planet we have.

I hope that from here the churches will go with two messages: how to deliver the world from the curse of Neoliberalism, and how to strengthen the hundreds of alternatives (TAHA) of the people for a different world. In the words of the World Social Forum: Another World is Possible ! We can make it !

Yash Tandon

16 January 2006

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Part 17 of __

Latin America
Plenary on Latin America

Plenary on Latin America
19 February 2006

Where is God at work in Latin America?

The Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro speaks of three major sources that have shaped race and culture in Latin America.

• There are the surviving indigenous people of the south of México, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, who maintain the pre-Colombian legacy of the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas.
• There are the new people, including inhabitants of Venezuela, Colombia, the Guyanas, Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean, and Paraguay, mixed race descendents of Indigenous, European and African ancestors, whose distinctive identity is still being shaped.
• There are the transplanted people, European immigrants living in Argentina, Uruguay, the south of Brazil, and the south of Chile, who swamped the earlier Indigenous and mixed race populations. This group has been responsible for the second major wave of religious diversification in the continent, marked by the presence of all the forms of Protestantism brought by immigrants, various types of European Catholicism, the ancient Orthodox versions of Christianity from the East, plus other religions, such as Islam, Buddhism and Shintoism. The first wave was the distinctive cultural and religious diversity of the more than 2,500 indigenous peoples, which was smothered by the imposition of Christianity.

An important aspect is that our continent was built on the foundation of colonial political domination, confiscation of the land of indigenous peoples, their massacre, or their economic and social exploitation as forced labour; and the imposition of Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and Dutch culture, and of Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

The main challenge facing Christianity is the inequality and injustice that it has shared in and legitimized -and at times prophetically condemned. An important contribution by Christianity follows in the line of this more prophetic tradition. It has surfaced in the last forty years in the form of co-operation with popular movements, has nurtured the ecumenical movement, and has contributed to the flourishing of Latin American theology and its various accompanying strands taking up the cries of the poor and the cry of the earth for the integrity of creation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Pentecostal movement made its appearance in Latin America, formed by communities that, in the great majority of cases, have a strong sense of their calling to evangelize, an immense capacity to welcome the sick and the overburdened, and who celebrate their faith in cultural ways close to everyday life. These experiences, albeit with their inconsistencies, together with those of many churches in Latin America, have shown that Christianity has a great contribution to make towards affirming a spirituality and pastoral approach rooted in the life of the people. The basis of these movements and theologies is the popular reading of the Bible, which is both prayerful and liberating, and can be seen in the words of our various characters.

In our presentation we have indigenous faces (an indigenous woman and an elderly indigenous man), an Afro-Latin American face (our pilgrim), and the faces of transplanted peoples (a teenager and a revolutionary). The presentation using puppets is an attempt to show that fun and humour are part of our way of life and are elements in the struggle for survival and love of life.

We realize that the whole diversity and richness of the peoples of Latin America cannot be shown here in all their detail. However, we wish to invite you, the participants in this Plenary, to enter into this short experience of the Latin American way of being and living, and, above all, of surviving, of struggling for life and of dreaming of better days to come. In that way we shall be showing where God is at work in Latin America…

Resumé

In a multi-media presentation, using dummies, music and videos, different characters reflect on the question, 'Where is God at work in Latin America?' Five individuals - puppets - offer their reflections on the most important historical events in Latin America, emphasizing the role of the churches and the ecumenical movement. Nine individuals from the region will also share their thoughts on these issues. The question, 'Where is God at work in Latin America?' is explored by examining the various elements of the Assembly logo:

• The hand of God illustrates the present situation of the continent with its various social contradictions (poverty, wealth, deprivation).
• Creation and the Cross symbolize the cruelty of colonizers towards the Indigenous and Black peoples. The cross, although violently forced on Latin America, is also the symbol of a Christianity that, despite its inconsistencies, has promoted a holistic and liberating Gospel.
• The spirit of peace reflects the richness of the different peoples living in the region, with their cultures and traditions, which, despite the wounds of the past, make it possible for them to live together in plural societies.
• The rainbow symbolizes the commitment of men and women of faith who have struggled for justice and life; people who believe in the importance of combining prophetic with pastoral activities; men and women forming the churches that have become healing communities.
• The transformed world shows that the humblest of people, with faith as their foundation, are building pathways of hope in our continent.

Characters (Narrators)

TEENAGER (15 years old) - inquisitive, sensitive, naïve and with a sense of humour. She represents the persistent hope that a society with more justice and freedom can be built. She wants an answer to the question, ‘Where is God at work in Latin America?'

OLD INDIGENOUS MAN - the oldest character (70 years old), who easily shows his feelings and has lived through some of the most moving moments in the history of the continent. He represents suffering, resistance and longing for freedom. He is in favour of accepting people who are different, the quest for an inculturated Christianity, the demand for the conversion of the conquistadors and a plea for forgiveness from them, so that communion with them can come into being.

INDIGENOUS WOMAN - She represents the struggle of women and the reinstatement of the indigenous presence in Amerindian (45 years old). She describes the important campaigns of women in defense of human rights at various moments in the history of our continent. Her long plaits portray the legacy of other women who have responded to the challenges of being a woman in Latin America.

THE REVOLUTIONARY - (a reference to the revolutionaries of the 1950s-70s) A character who swings between anger and fun (55 years old). His appearing here points to the activity and ideas of those who acted against military repression, and to the continuing popular struggles in Latin America. He believes that democracy is one of the greatest achievements in Latin America and must be maintained.

THE PILGRIM (35 years old) - He is black. He represents the awareness that in vast areas of Latin America the economy and society were based on traffic in black people and slave labour, which was responsible for almost everything that was built and produced. His intention is to discover the challenges arising out of his own people, whose ancestors were so violently destroyed. His remarks show his concern with breaking the chains of injustice, and building up faith in the continent, with the God of the poor and the little ones, the God of life, as its foundation. He recalls the role of the churches and the ecumenical movement.

Videotaped testimonies will include:

• Julio Cesar Holguin, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the Dominican Republic, and President of CLAI, the Latin American Council of Churches
• Adriel de Souza, Bishop of the Methodist Church of Brazil, and President of CONIC, the National Council of Churches
• Elsa Tamez, a Latin American theologian and Professor at the Latin American Biblical University
• Nora Cortiñas and Estela Carloto of Asociaciones de Madres y Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo", the Plaza de Mayo mothers and grandmothers
• Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous women from Guatemala who, thanks to her personal struggle for justice as well as for her people, received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1992
• Antonio Olimpio Santana, Pastor and Director of CENACORA, defender of the rights of Blacks in Brazil and Latin America
• Federico Pagura, Bishop (E) of the Methodist Church of Argentina, and President of the WCC
• Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who was arrested by the Military Dictatorship in 1977 and was counted among the missing persons until he reappeared alive 14 months later thanks in part to the efforts of the ecumenical movement. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1992 for his work on peace and reconciliation.
• Juan Sepulveda, a Pentecostal theologian and a Professor of Theology in Chile

Credits

Main contributors

- World Council of Churches/Latin American Working Group

- National Assembly Committee in Brazil

- Ecumenical Forum in Brazil/KOINONIA, Ecumenical Presence and Service/Anivaldo Padilha, Methodist University of São Paulo

- Latin American Advisory Group composed of the WCC and CLAI: Eugenio Poma, Benjamín Cortéz, Rui Bernhard, Juan Sepúlveda and Marta Palma.

Production

Methodist University of São Paulo (Rectorship, Department of Communication and Marketing, Department of Technology and Information, Faculty of Theology, Faculty of Multimedia Communications, Department of the Arts)

Programme

Maria Aparecida Ruiz

Creator and General Director

Alvaro Petersen Jr.

Acting and Musical Director

Álvaro Petersen Jr.

Coordination

Magali do Nascimento Cunha

Production in Porto Alegre

Marcelo Schneider

Audio-visual production: Methodist RTV Agency

Marcio Kowalsk

Michelle Dantas Garcia

Audio Technician

Gustavo Cotomacci

Technicians

Moacyr Vezzani

Assistente de vídeo

Guilherme Bravo Alves

Filming

Marcelo Moreira

Márcio Antonio Kowalski

Michelle Dantas Garcia

Actors /Puppeteers: Chamelion Doll Theater Group

Andréa Perez

Adriana Azevedo

Carlos Azevedo

João França

Tânia de Castro

Doll Makers

Jesus de Moraes

Models

Antonio Rabadan

Scene design

Rafael Silva

Support

Vera Lucia Potthoff da Silva

Programme Collaborators

São Paulo Methodist University Working Group

Álvaro Petersen

Claudia César da Silva

Davi Betts

Fábio Josgrilberg

João Plaça Jr.

Lauri Emilio Wirth

Luciano Sathler

Luiz Carlos Ramos

Magali do Nascimento Cunha

Paulo Roberto Garcia

Paulo Roberto Salles Garcia

Rui de Souza Josgrilberg

Tércio Bretanha Junker

Anivaldo Padilha, KOINONIA, Ecumenical Presence and Service

José Oscar Beozzo, Comissão Ecumênica sobre História da Igreja na América Latina

Content Advisors

Benjamin Cortés

Eugenio Poma

Juan Sepúlveda

Lucio Flores

Marta Palma

Rui Bernhard

Anivaldo Padilha

Production Advisor in Porto Alegre

Rui Bernard

Picture transmission

Benjamin Cortés

Humberto Shikiya

José Oscar Beozzo

KOINONIA, Ecumenical Presence and Service

Secretaria para a América Latina/CMI

Song selection

Álvaro Petersen Jr. with the collaboration of Anivaldo Padilha

Picture selection and digitalization

Priscila Munhoz

Thiago Siqueira

Ecumenical Journey Pictures and Testimony

Felipe Oscar Ino

Michele Dantas Garcia

***

Video: testimonies and statements
19 February 2006

Series of testimonies and statements to be shown on video

Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin, CLAI President, Honduras

(Soundtrack - Spanish)

On behalf of the Latin American Council of Churches I want to repeat our warmest welcome to all the delegates who are participating in the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches. I wish to repeat our welcome to Latin America, to Porto Alegre, to this dark-haired America. We ask you to come with open minds, ready to change what has to change. Just as we pray to God that, in Gods grace, God will transform the world, we pray also that God, in God's grace, will transform our churches, transform the ecumenical movement and equip us with his grace better to proclaim our faith through our diaconal service. May God in his infinite goodness, mercy and grace be with us always.

Bishop Adriel de Souza Maia, President of CONIC, Brazil

(Soundtrack - Portuguese)

The National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil has great pleasure in welcoming delegates from throughout the world to Brazil, and, in particular, to Porto Alegre for this Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches. This is a key moment in the life of Brazil, a time when we are consolidating the ecumenical movement. It is our hope that this Assembly, especially inspired by the theme God, in your Grace, Transform the World, will send out an appeal worldwide, so that, in Jesus' words, we might have life in abundance, and that the churches might bear effective witness to the the grace of God to a world where there is so much exclusion, in order that the world may believe in the gospel and in transformation.

Nora Cortiñas, a Mother of the Plaza de Mayo, Argentina

(Soundtrack - Spanish)

The last time I saw my son was at Easter 1977, on Easter Day. I shall never see him again, and I shall never know what has happened to him. Today, it is almost 29 years ago, and I still do not know to this day what happened to him, or where his body is, for Gustavo is certainly not alive. But, even so, I and all the mothers are hoping that the State will at some time respond to our legal demands and give an account of the events that have happened. From the moment my son disappeared I began to go out into the streets, and there I met the first group of mothers who went to the Plaza de Mayo for this imaginative campaign by Açucena Villa Flor de Vinzente. And so we began to meet one another, the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and all of us began to make one demand, all of us for all our sons and daughters. The mothers began to stop taking individual action and began to campaign together, because they had taken away from us dissidents and leaders of people's movements. They took our children away from us, they held on to the children born of pregnant women, whom they kept for themselves, and they even arrested mothers who were looking for their sons and daughters. All of that shows what we have been condemning for years and years - a system that is perverse. And then, it shows that there are no limits, no boundaries, no frontiers, to the economic plan that the United States implemented here in the Southern Cone of Latin America, with the arrival of Kissinger to prepare the path for the military dictatorships. It also shows why and for what purpose they took away our sons and our daughters. It is obvious - it was because they were militants, militating for human rights, militating for life, militating for change. They took them away from us, so that they could implement fully this neo-liberal policy that is still with us today.

We began to understand this, and we took up the cause for which our sons and daughters had struggled, and we widened the call that we were making for them to be restored to us alive, with the guilty being justly punished, to take up also the cause of the defence of rights, economic, social and cultural rights. On this long journey, we have had many disappointments, but we have also had the joy of knowing that others have been with us. That is the case with the Catholic Church, local priests who had been friends of our sons and daughters, who had worked in poor areas alongside them. The Protestant churches have also been very generous in their solidarity, such as at times when the priests of the Catholic Church who were with us were being persecuted and being forbidden to associate with the movement of the Mothers and celebrate mass for the disappeared. We received, particularly from the Methodist Church, unqualified support and friendship and solidarity which deserve to be remembered still today.

Alba Lancillotto, grandmother of the Plaza de mayo, Argentina

(Soundtrack - Spanish)

I am very much involved in the struggle for life, because I struggle for our sons and daughters, I struggle for the disappeared, so that there will be no more disappearances. This is a struggle for life and for justice. I believe that the Christian churches have a duty to be involved in this struggle, for, if they did not, it would be a denial of the gospel. I had the good fortune as a practicing Catholic to be part of a committed church that was faithful to the gospel, and be very close to the Protestant churches, the Methodist Church, and various groups that have been and still are our friends. They have taught us many things. I believe that the churches have to be involved in this because it is part of their faithfulness to the gospel, and I believe that faithfulness to the gospel obliges us, and obliges the churches, to be present in the struggle for life, because God is a God of life. They have to be present in the struggle for life and in the struggle for justice. I could not be part of a church that did not think in that way.

Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Guatemala

(Soundtrack - Spanish)

The Nobel Prize is a symbol of peace. Beyond any doubt, it was a sign of hope for the struggles of the Indigenous peoples throughout the continent, freedom for Indigenous peoples, wherever they are in Latin America and worldwide. For as long as they are alive, there will be a gleam of hope and original thinking for life.

"I crossed the frontier full of sadness. I felt immense pain at this dark rain-sodden early morning, that goes beyond my own existence. Our mother earth is in mourning and is bathed in blood. She weeps day and night , she is so sad."

The so-called discovery (of Latin America) has above all resulted in a long night of darkness, quite apart from how we have survived in the ashes of 500 years. They have been for us 500 years of silence, marginalization and much oppression. And that is why we cannot rejoice in, nor celebrate the elimination of our ancestors in this long night of darkness.

These 500 years of oppression directed against the Indigenous peoples have had different forms, different methods, but a common feature has been the cruelty with which the voice of our people has been repressed and silenced.

As regards discrimination, it is not only lack of respect for people and their knowledge, their values and their opportunity to make a rich contribution to

culture, but we also feel lack of respect and appreciation even for our art, our dress, our way of life.

There are many things that unite us as the Indigenous peoples of America. There are aspects that unite us, such as love of the earth, the concept of Mother Earth as the source of culture, as the source of our roots.

We have survived the destruction of the earth, we have survived discrimination, the sterilization of women. In the same way we have felt the teaching that produces discrimination, oppression, and the denial of access to a life of greater dignity.

This is also the first time that as indigenous peoples we come together once again - a reaffirmation of our Indigenous pride. The Indigenous peoples not only demand adequate food and good housing. We also lay claim to our historic memory, we lay claim to our language, we lay claim to our Indigenous status.

This is a search for our roots, this moment in time is a search for our identity, which will strengthen the struggles of the Indigenous people and strengthen our cause.

The Nobel Peace Prize represents a recognition of all that the people of Guatemala have lost.

Revd Antonio Olimpio Santa-ana, Combat against Racism, Brazil

(Soundtrack - Portuguese)

CENACORA is devoted to struggle, as its title suggests, the struggle against racism, discrimination, intolerance, prejudice and xenophobia. We defend women and chidren, who are the main victims of violence - social, racial, physical and psychological violence. In our land we are committed to this task, working mostly with the churches, seeking to involve them in the struggle against these social evils.

In our population, which is 45.4% made up of black people, it is important to note that this is where the most poverty is concentrated, where there are the most poor people. Those who are the poorest are precisely those who are members of the black community. This is a classic picture mirrored again and again throughout Latin America. Poverty is quite normal where there are black people. The same situation is experienced mainly by black women, who are victimized because they are black, becauuse they are women, and, when they get old, throughout Latin America they become victims of a third prejudice: that of being old. All the black countries of Latin America have a black population that is naturally victimized because of the colour of their skin. In our land, as in all Latin America, we need to fight against what we call inequality.

Differences are natural, but inequality is not. Our struggle, which has been taking place since the beginning of the last century, is making progress, but despite all this, while we are making progress in our struggle, our oppressors are also perfecting their schemes of racism, their schemes of discrimination, their schemes of intolerance, of prejudice and xenophobia. We are all fully aware that our struggle must continue and that it is a hard struggle so that racism can be overcome. What I want to do is to express our pleasure that we, the black community of Brazil, have in welcoming all the members of the Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

Elza Tamez, Methodist Teologian, Costa Rica

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

The theme of this Assembly is grace. Obviously this setting needs grace, the grace of God, full of justice - transforming, liberating, tender grace - which is what has given as a tool to our people to be what we are, as sons and daughters of God, who are full of dignity. Why? Because grace is not abstract, but grows out of real life situations. Thus, as a woman, I do my theology based on the experience of women. What is this experience of women?

In today´s world women are being killed at a terrible rate. I have to take this into account as I do my theology. We know that the classical categories of Christian theology were based on Western patriarchal categories, that the Bible is a book written in a patriarchal culture. That presents great challenges to women, because all we women have to be creative as we do theology.

We women have a great contribution to make to the church, to help it become another way of being church, because at the moment it excludes women and, in the world of theology, which is generally a discipline in which men engage, women have not been present as subjects, as creators of theology. Theological studies have not been part of their world. But a new possibility is opening up in Latin American theology.

Poverty has a woman´s face. That means that , in this sinful econmic system that is increasingly separating rich and poor, having a woman´s face means that there is a very close connection between the patriarchal system and the economic system. We cannot skirt around this reality of sin. Can we speak of grace without also speaking of sin? That would be to undervalue what grace is. The situation in latin America challenges men and women to think about God, including speaking about God out of our situation, which cries out for justice, and for transforming grace.

Juan Sepulveda, Pentecostal theologian, Chile

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

We have already said this is not an complete or final description. We are not dealing with a closed truth, but with a truth in change. New actors appear on the religious scene and raise questions and demand discernment. That is the case with the so-called neo-Pentecostal movement. We need to acknoledge that it is a new, but legitimate, face of a diverse and multi-centred Christianity. This is a question that is still open and the reply will depend in large part on the way in which these movements themselves regard or approach the traditional Christian families.

Depending on how we experience it and on how we understand it, diversity could be something that we know, appreciate and celebrate. But it could also be a threat to unity, both Christian unity and social unity.

If we take an honest look at history, none of the faces we see can claim to be completely blameless with regard to the divisions, prejudices and intolerance that separate us. However, we wish to give thanks to God because little by little we are learning to get to know one another, to recognize one another as brothers and sisters, to pray together and to be together. We can thus venture to say that these are some of the faces with whom God is journeying in Latin America, bringing joy, confidence, hope and vitality to a people who, in the midst of great adversity, are seeking a new land in which all men and women will have their own space and live a dignified life.

Bishop Federico Pagura, WCC Latin America President, Argentina

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

Human rights have been one of the basic issues that have concerned me. Some people might ask, why human rights? We are researching, studying, proclaiming, sharing the gospel, the good news of Jesus´message, the message of the kingdom. Because human rights have been violated many times in my lifetime. But there was a key moment in my life, which was when I went to Central America, which we, proud people from the River Plate, in our prejudiced way, used to call ´banana republics´. In Mexico, in El Salvador and in Guatemala, I could see the suffering of the Indigenous people, the suffering of the peasants. I could see the fear in the faces of Costa Rican women and I also saw the oppression by the banana companies. The result was that my life took on a new direction, a new vision inspired by that Central American experience. I was led to a stronger commitment to the gospel, including the gospel of the kingdom, which includes the quest for justice, the quest for truth, for authentic freedom, and also the hope for a new world, the hope that a new world is possible.

As a President of the World Council of Churches I have tried to be the voice of Latin America within in the life of this much loved institution. In the midst of all that, I have also had the experience of being pastor in a city such as Mendoza, on the border with Chile. There thousands of refugees came to the hotels, where we Methodists, with the Lutherans and the Catholics - only those three churches - had the courage to commit ourselves, to serve our refugee brothers and sisters.

We campaign together in peace and justice organizations with our Nobel Prize winner Perez Esquivel. It is a task, a movement for justice and peace, without separating those two elements, because justice and peace have met, have kissed one another, and together they are the only possibility for a permanent and lasting peace for our peoples.

For all this I give thanks to God, for having been able for almost 83 years to be part of this great adventure that never ends, but that does end on a note of hope, for "I know whom I have trusted, and am confident of his power to keep safe what he has put into my charge until the great day", until the final victory of his kingdom. For all this, I give thanks to God.

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Argentina

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

We continue working to solve conflict and support popular organizations, a work of faith and social action. In doing so, we are creating spaces of freedom, understanding, life and development. We are a people who are subjected and dominated, and inevitably we have to find answers in order to live in human dignity. That is the message of the gospel. It is a message of life, not a message of death. In so doing we are working to build, to contribute consciously to building the human person, to building a vision of the human person, and, naturally, to building as far as we can in our own countries. I believe that the church is the people of God, the people of God on a journey, who are building and attempting to do the will of the Father in the kingdom, this kingdom which is the kingdom of life, the kingdom of the human person, which with God transcends all.

Here in Argentina, some bishops - and I am speaking of the Catholic Church - collaborated with the military dictatorship. And there were others who were consistent with the message of the gospel, and accompanied the people, supporting them in their struggles and their demands.

In the Protestant churches it was more or less the same. Pastors in the Church of the River Plate, of the Methodist Church were very committed to social action. That is because Christ is our brother and sister and on that basis we can build new possibilities and a purpose to life based on faith. Sadly, we meet other groups who do not make this commitment.

I believe that the churches have an essential role. It is a role that has to do with critical consciousness, with values, with building a new dimension to the human person, and I believe that this is more effective when grounded in faith. I believe that out of our culture we can form relationships and reach understanding. I believe that in the ecumenical movement we must also have a deep sense of prayer, since without prayer we cannot be truly and concretely committed to express the word of God in our lives and in our communities.

Bishop Carlos Poma, Methodist, Bolivia

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

God is journeying on in the midst of God´s people. God has always been in the midst of God´s people, and God is also journeying in the midst of his people. God is raising up these peoples that for a long time have been excluded and forgotten and whom the powers that be have also forgotten and never paid attention to. But among these excluded people, there is God, journeying on with them. Here, in unity and diversity God is journeying on in Latin America.

Regina da Silva Ferreira, Lutheran (IECLB), Brazil

(Soundtrack: Portuguese)

I think that God is everywhere. I think that he lives in people´s hearts, God is with those who are suffering, with those who are happy. I think that sometimes people close their hearts a little to God but despite that God enters in, because we are God´s dwelling place. God is everywhere, in the world of nature, in the air, in the wind.

I believe that God is always with us, in everything, in every place, at all times.

Francisco Pernambucano, Movement of the Homeless, Brazil

(Sountrack: Portuguese)

God is present in Latin America in social movements, with the poor, with the homeless, with the landless. God is to be found particularly in the favelas, under the bridges where the beggers are, with the hungry, with those who have no justice, no peace, here in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

Revd Guadalupe Gomez, Baptist, Nicaragua

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

God is to be found in the midst of the conflicts taking place in Latin America, in the midst of brothers and sisters who have no hope, who struggle day after day and work for a better society, who proclaim the gospel, who denounce wrongdoing.

Revd Israel Batista Guerra, General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches
(Soundtrack: Spanish)

God is to be found today in Latin America among those who do not belong and immigrants. God is journeying on and invites us to join him to renew our hope.

Bishop Nely Ritchie, Methodist, Argentina

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

I believe that God is present and is to be seen in the faces of the little ones, the vulnerable of all times, and among the vulnerable there are those who, for our society and for the interests of this world, are often faceless, invisible, anonymous. God gives a name and dignity to people, and through the preaching of the gospel we give a face and a dignity to people.

Revd Milton Mejia, Presbyterian, Colombia

(Soundtrack: Spanish)

God is to be found in the churches that are committed to all those who are asking for the life in abundance which Jesus promised us. As churches we need to give signs that life in abundance is possible.

Christina Takatsu Winnischofer, Episcopal-Anglican, Brazil

(Soundtrack: Portuguese)

God is to be found everywhere in Latin America, in the recovery of cultures, for example the cultures of Indigenous peoples, of Afro-Latin Americans, bringing back to light all the experience of their ancestors, all their culture.

Revd Jorge Julio Vaccaro, Pentecostal (Church of God), Argentina
(Soundtrack: Spanish)

The Lord is dwelling among us and is to be found among the excluded the homeless, and those who are about to become homeless. Those who have no food, those who are hungry, those with no work. God is among them, is alongside them, blesses them, heals them, frees them, and also is doing it through other men and women, whether Christian or not. God is also present among Christians, in the churches, and at this particular time to enable us not to succumb to the temptation of theologies that come from the Empire.

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Part 18 of __

Moderator's & general secretary's reports
General secretary's report
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia: Celebrating Life - a festa da vida

15 February 2006

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
Celebrating Life - a festa da vida
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ.

1. How wonderful it is to be here in Brazil! How wonderful it is to be together! Let me add my words of welcome to all of you to this first WCC Assembly in the 21st century and the first to take place in this region. Special thanks to our Brazilian hosts, for their overwhelming hospitality, and excellent preparations for this assembly.

2. God, in your grace, transform the world! This theme has come alive to me during my visits to member churches in the past two years. And, as we meet here on this continent, we celebrate with the people in South America the recent election of Mme Michelle Bachelet as the first woman President of Chile and Evo Morales as the first Indigenous President of Bolivia. Commenting on these historic developments, one Latin American ecumenical friend told me, ‘this signifies that the seeds of peace, justice and democracy which were planted twenty or thirty years ago have grown up through the years and are now blooming'. He went on to thank the WCC for contributing to the struggles that led to the fruits they are now reaping.

3. That reminded me of the moving experiences I had during my visit to South America in November of 2004. One particular moment was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The leadership of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo told me that under the dictatorships of the mid-1970s churches and ecumenical organizations provided the "safe place" where the relatives of those who disappeared could meet to share their sorrow and hope. One of them could not hold back her tears as she narrated what the support of WCC had meant to them. She said if it had not been for such accompaniment, most likely she would not be there to tell her story. But what was really impressive for me were the testimonies of those mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared persons. For over thirty years they have lifted up the flame of hope seeking truth and justice. The crucible of their spirit is matched only by their incredible resilience.

4. In my travels I have witnessed again and again such surprising signs of hope. People celebrate life in places where humanly speaking one could only see death and despair. It is this capacity to celebrate together and to strengthen life in community that has kept Africa going. It reminds me of what links my own experiences as an African with the history of Brazil and of this continent. In the lively and vital celebration of the carnival, I catch glimpses of the African heritage!

5. As a Christian, I discern the gift of God's grace in those moments, when life is transformed and a glimpse of hope becomes reality. It is against such a backdrop that I dream of an ecumenical movement as a movement of people who are messengers of God's grace, a people open to each other and discovering the presence of Christ and of God's grace in the other. To see Christ in the other is so much stronger than all that separates us. The reward in the search for visible unity of the churches in Christ is to discover the presence of the grace of God in each other on the common journey as we walk together.

6. In my report to you today, I would like to make five assertions of an ecumenical movement open to these signs of God's transformative grace as movement of life. I will talk a bit about this assembly and essential dimensions of the challenge that the WCC is engaging. I speak of an ecumenical movement which:

• is grounded in spirituality
• takes ecumenical formation and youth seriously
• dares to work for transformative justice
• puts relationships at the centre
• takes risks to develop new and creative ways of working

An ecumenical movement, daily grounded in spirituality

7. We come together here in Porto Alegre to reflect, to deliberate, to discuss, and to make decisions. But most of all, we come together to pray for unity of the churches and for the world, to rejoice in the shared experience of glorifying God in Christ, and to affirm the deep spiritual bond that holds us together across many divides. Imagine a time ten years from now when this assembly has long been over, when the reports have been written and the decisions duly noted. What will you remember above all else? Most probably, the common prayers in the worship tent, the murmur of the Lord's prayer being said in 100 different languages; and the exhilarating feeling of this assembly, in all of its glorious diversity of those who have come together to praise God, the one who has given us life.

8. I invite you to think of the spiritual base of the ecumenical movement as the festa da vida - the feast of life. The invitation to the feast comes from God and we are all welcome. This feast, this festa, comes to us as grace. The wonder of grace is that it is a gift, which we don't deserve, a reward which we don't earn, but it is freely given and is ours for the partaking. In the Christian tradition, grace is defined as a spiritual, supernatural gift which human beings receive from God without any merit on their part. Grace can better be defined as signs and, indeed, acts of divine love. Grace reveals itself as God communicating God-self.

9. In an Easter sermon, the father among the Saints, St. John Chrystom, said it wonderfully:

The table is full, all of you enjoy yourselves. The calf is fatted let none go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of the faith. All of you enjoy the richness of God's goodness… Let no one bewail their faults: for forgiveness has risen from the tomb. Let no one fear death: for the Saviour's death has freed us.

10. Festa da vida. Fiesta de la vida. The feast of life. Fête de la vie. Fest des Lebens. Karamu la maisha!

11. As churches, we celebrate the life-giving presence of God among us in the Holy Eucharist. It is at the Lord's table that the broken body of Christ and the blood shed on the cross create a new community reconciled with God. This Eucharistic vision of the world, reconciled and united with God in Christ, is at the heart of the visible unity of the church which we seek. This vision is rooted in faith.

12. Spiritual discernment is essential for our way towards unity. When I talk of spirituality, I want to make it clear that I am not referring merely to contemporary religious or quasi-religious responses to the felt lack of a deeper meaning in the values of affluent societies - although the spiritual hunger in those societies is real. I point here to the subject and origin of all life: God's Holy Spirit. All our efforts will be meaningless and powerless if they are not blessed by God and not driven by God's loving grace. After receiving such blessings, one's spiritual life is fully transformed. One's intellect, will and memory are ever more focused on God, thus creating space for a meeting point at which God's love is shared with us. The ecumenical movement is rooted in a common recognition that we are spiritual beings who long to know God and the knowledge that our spiritual quest is enriched by the fellowship we share.

13. Spiritual discernment grounds us. It gives us strength, conviction, and the courage to withstand the harsh realities of power. In this fractured and insecure world the forces of globalization and militarism threaten life itself. Being in touch with the word of God and experiencing the presence of God in the other makes us able to withstand the day-to-day rigours of working for peace and justice.

14. Spiritual discernment also allows us to step back from the immediate issues and to see the larger picture. We all get so wrapped up in specific issues, in details of our particular programmes, organizations, issues, and constituents that sometimes we lose sight of the big picture. A process of spiritual discernment can get us back on track.

15. I am suggesting that we take a different approach to the ‘business' of our meetings: our business is part of the process of spiritual discernment and is embedded in the festa da vida. Let us look at the assembly as a spiritual experience and not just as a business meeting that has to fulfil a constitutional mandate.

16. This assembly is the first to use consensus procedures. Consensus is an effort to build the common mind. The differences among us reflect the realities of our congregations and the lives that we share with people around us. In fact, these differences help us to see the multi-faceted realities and lead us to search for the truth that is not ours, but the truth of the Holy Spirit among us (1 John 5:6). It is this truth that ultimately lies in God that will transform us and make us free (John 8:32). We need to approach consensus these next 10 days not as a technique to help us make decisions, but as a process of spiritual discernment.

Taking ecumenical formation and youth more seriously

17. We live in a world of proliferating Christian churches and related organizations, resurgent confessionalism, a shift in the centre of Christianity towards the South, painful internal struggles within church families, the growth of Pentecostalism and of evangelical, conservative and charismatic churches. In mainline Western churches that have been a mainstay of ecumenical councils, we find complex patterns of shifting membership and renewal. A clear vision of what these churches may become is still emerging. All of these trends and uncertainties have made the ecumenical movement fragile.

18. Young people are growing into this reality, struggling for orientation and meaning. The ecumenical movement emerged from the same search for new meaning by an earlier generation of young people. The heritage of those who came before us is too precious to be kept just for us. It must be transmitted to the next generation. We pledge to devote energy and commitment to nurturing a new generation, knowing that this is not just a matter of education and formation, but of trust and participation.

19. Ecumenical formation must be based on the formation of faith. Ecumenical learning is experiential. Young people need opportunities to experience the joy of working and praying with others from different traditions and different contexts. They need support and mentoring to participate fully in ecumenical gatherings with their sometimes intimidating elders. We need to go out to where young people are - to the schools and universities. We need to be willing to change to respond to the demands of young people. We must offer opportunities to know and learn from others through scholarships and travel. At a time when information technology is forever advancing, we must enable our youth to interact more deeply and to discover creative ways of using virtual spaces for ecumenical formation.

20. The time has come, when we must not only open opportunities to young people for their ecumenical growth and leadership, but where we must learn from the innovative and dynamic models of ecumenical relationships that youth can teach us. As an ecumenical and intergenerational family, we need to humble ourselves and to listen to young people. It was with young people that the ecumenical movement was born. It is young people's passion and insight today that will ensure the relevance and vitality of it. Without young people our ecumenical family is incomplete. At this time we need to nurture meaningful relationships and shared leadership between the generations. Young people need to know that they are important partners and that we are open to learning from their ecumenical experience.

21. They can help all of us to understand better where we are going and what kind of response is required of us. It is young people today who increasingly have little patience with the divisions among us and who reach out to others with similar values. There is a widespread hunger for spirituality in young people, even though there may be a rejection of church structures. Out of desperation, one of my colleagues enlisted her 22-year-old daughter to format the mutirâo schedule over last Christmas. When she finished the tedious work with Excel spreadsheets, she said excitedly to her mother, "I want to come to this assembly. The workshops are so diverse and so interesting - I had no idea that this was what ecumenism is all about. It makes me want to get involved." The issues that engage the ecumenical movement today are the issues which attract young people. But they need to be invited in. And they need to be equipped and supported to participate.

22. We hope that this assembly is a wonderful experience of ecumenical formation for the participants - both the young and the "formerly young" - and that it becomes a part of our ongoing life. The festa da vida, the feast of life, is a call to young people. The festa da vida is an open feast, but sometimes participating in an open feast means that others must step back. I challenge all of you church leaders here at the assembly to look at ways that your young people can participate. I call on all of us - ecumenical organizations, denominational structures, international and regional ecumenical bodies - to commit ourselves to youth. We have tried very hard to make this a youth assembly, but we have only partly succeeded. It needs the will and commitment of all of us.

Working for transformative justice

23. It is in Jesus Christ that God's loving grace transforms the world from within. Christ became flesh, lived among us and shared human suffering and joy (John 1:14). In Christ we have all received "from God's full store grace upon grace" (John 1:16). In him and through him all were created and all are called together in unity, in justice and peace. In him, all are to be reconciled, transformed, transfigured and saved (Col 1:15-23): a new humanity and a new heaven and earth (Rev 21:1). The whole world is filled with God's grace in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

24. The assembly theme is an invitation to look at the world as a place loved by God and permeated by God's grace. Such emphasis on God's transformative grace corresponds to a new emphasis on transformative justice in our work for change and transformation. Seen with the eyes of faith, we ourselves, and this world, can and must be transformed.

25. God has given us the gift of life and we have abused it. Human greed and thirst for power have created structures that cause people to live in poverty and systematically undermine the basis of life. Our very climate is in jeopardy. In an era when there is more than enough food to go around many times over, 852 million people across the world are hungry, up from 842 million in 2003. Every single day, 25,000 people are killed by hunger. Every day, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes - one every five seconds. Threats to life - here in Latin America and in the world - abound. Globalization both brings us closer together than ever before - and exacerbates disparities of power and wealth. Violence continues to cause untold suffering - violence in the homes, on our streets, in our countries, sometimes even in our churches. Asymmetries of power are manifest in a thousand ways - between people, between communities, between countries. The litany of sins and suffering could go on and on.

26. Something is gravely wrong when at the beginning of the 21st century, the wealth of the three richest individuals on earth surpasses the combined annual GDP of the 48 least developed countries. Political arguments and economic rationalizations cannot counter the basic immorality of a world with this degree of inequality.

27. Something is gravely wrong in the world when there is still a real risk that nuclear weapons will be used in our lifetimes. Nuclear proliferation is an outrage to all humanity. The recent reports of countries acquiring nuclear weapons technology is frightening. But it is equally a scandal that countries which possess vast arsenals of nuclear weapons are unwilling to renounce their use.

28. Something is horribly wrong when children are sold into prostitution, when babies are aborted because they are girls, and when people of a certain ethnicity or race or caste continue to be oppressed. We need to be spiritually centered to confront such realities.

29. As churches, we are called to plan together, to speak together and to take action together in the face of conditions that we know to be wrong in this world.

30. A belief in God's call for abundant life means, first and foremost, affirming human dignity and the right of the poor to liberate themselves from unjust conditions. The struggle for life must be rooted in the experiences and the actions of those who are oppressed and excluded. When the poor as social actors begin to disappear behind "poverty" as defined by the statistics of the international financial institutions, our whole understanding changes. Poverty becomes an abstract term, divorced from the reality of what it means to be people who are poor. We must struggle to hold up the voices of the poor, to recognize them as actors in their own struggles, and to continually strive to enable them to advocate on their own behalf, to tell their own stories in their own language.

31. The festa da vida - the feast of life - is not a party. It is a celebration of life, which will sometimes be painful. The festa da vida invites you all into the household of God, to experience the pain and the suffering of others, and to feel yourself a part of the fragile and imperfect community of humanity. The vision of Christians gathered around a table in celebration recalls the gospel accounts of the last supper. There the people of God received God's gifts directly from the hands of Jesus, sharing one loaf and one cup. This is the source of our Eucharistic vision, an occasion for joy.

32. And yet at the very same time, the disciples sensed that something was amiss. There was a failure of mutual trust, a prophecy of betrayal, a conviction that something was terribly wrong. When Jesus confirmed that one of them would betray him, the response on the lips of each was, "Is it I, Lord?" And this question was not directly answered - for even though eleven of the twelve would not betray him, all would deny him. In today's world, we find that our celebration of being together is also marked by contradictions, by a lack of mutual trust, by failure to live up to the Gospel call.

Is it I, Lord? Is it we? Teach us to pray "God, in your grace, transform the world."

33. As part of humanity we must constantly ask why the world is in such a mess. Too often we have been silent or too quick to blame others, while failing to recognize our own responsibility to each other. We need to move from resignation to indignation to righteous anger in confronting these life-denying forces.

34. If we are to transform the world, we have to change our paradigms. For example, it is common practice these days to talk about the United States as the world's sole superpower. And yet we know that the powers of this world and the empires they form come and go in history. At the end, the Bible tells us, they are built on feet of clay. They are vulnerable in many ways. How can we talk of any country as a superpower when the government cannot protect its people from terrorism, from natural disasters, from preventable diseases? Our conceptual tools are inadequate to understand the ambiguities of power. As we are recognizing, power is not only expressed in different forms of empire. The rapid development of newly emerging technologies is a very powerful tool with great potential impact on people and nature.

35. When there are such enormous inequalities and unequal access to different means of power, it counts in what part of the world one lives. Our churches and the stance they take on matters of economic justice and many other ethical challenges often reflects the realities surrounding them and impacting on the lives of their members. Some churches tend to see the present phase of economic globalization as the continuation of 500 years of oppression through colonialism and changing empires. Others emphasize change and discontinuity based on their experience of the rapidly changing political landscape. These different perspectives cannot be easily reconciled. We need to continue wrestling with these tensions because they help us to see the realities surrounding us more clearly and to identify the different entry points for both, advocacy and dialogue.

36. At this assembly we are celebrating the mid-term of the Decade to Overcome Violence. The goal of DOV is not so much to eradicate violence as it is to overcome the spirit, the logic and the practice of violence by actively seeking reconciliation and peace. This is an ecumenical task - because, as we are learning, preventing violence cannot be accomplished by any one particular group. Preventing and overcoming violence must be done collaboratively by churches together, and jointly in cooperation with governmental and civic institutions and people's grassroots initiatives.

37. In the second half of the Decade, several issues must be considered if we want to remain both realistic and hopeful.

38. Firstly, globalization is a reality on every level, not just economic. Terrorism appears to be globally networked, as is the war on terrorism. The consequences of this affect people in their activities and dignity almost everywhere. We must, therefore, take globalization and its many implications into consideration as we plan our common actions towards proclaiming the good news of peace.

39. Secondly, interfaith dialogue and cooperation is significant and imperative in the process towards overcoming violence, seeking peace and promoting reconciliation. Churches and religious people of all walks of faith recognize the imperative of interfaith action in response to the pressing needs and concerns of the societies in which they live. More and more people see interfaith action as an integral part of the ecumenical task. The vision of many today is that God's oikoumene includes not just Christians, but people of all living faiths.

40. Dialogue is often called upon to assist in resolving many ongoing conflicts that seem to be framed by religious language or have religious overtones. However, contacts between people of different faiths built quietly by patient dialogue during peacetime may in times of conflict prevent religion from being used as a weapon. Contacts across communal divides may prove to be the most precious tool in the construction of peace.

41. Thirdly, spirituality contributes crucially to overcoming violence and building peace. I believe that prayer and contemplation together form the foremost discipline for overcoming violence. The joint exercise of that spiritual discipline is an ongoing challenge for our fellowship. We must make space for this exercise to inspire and shape our individual and joint actions.

42. Within this dimension of spirituality, I am grateful to our Orthodox brothers and sisters in helping the ecumenical movement to recognize the dimension of the earth and nature more consistently. Our spirituality is robbed of a crucial dimension if it does not include our being part of creation as well as co-creators in an intimate relationship with God's earth and all that fills it.

43. The theme of the 9th Assembly - God, in your grace, transform the world, reminds me very much of the theme of the 1st Assembly in 1948 in Amsterdam: Man's disorder and God's design. The theme of the Amsterdam Assembly reflected both the violent past and the new hopes of the time. The colonial conquest of European nations had reached into the most distant corner of the world, epitomized by the British Empire where the sun never set. European nations themselves had turned against each other in violence in the so-called World Wars I and II. With the development and use of the atomic bomb, humanity had acquired the terrible capacity to destroy life on this planet. The vital question of the new era was whether God's design of the web of life of a transformed world would mark the future or whether human disorder where life is threatened and millions suffer would prevail.

44. The Amsterdam Assembly dared to speak of "God's design." This was an ethical statement par excellence in such troubled times. The theme reminded the churches and the world that when God created the world, the world was good. There was reason to become engaged for justice and peace. There was reason to work for a responsible society despite human sin and the quest for power. There was not only the hope, but also the ethical imperative for a new United Nations to provide a basis for peace, human rights and development for all.

45. The theme of the Amsterdam Assembly reflected a certain optimism that responsible leadership mindful of God's design would correct the disorder of human societies. Somehow the basic assumption of the Christendom era that progress in history would lead by itself to a world united by a powerful Christian civilization was not yet broken. Such optimism - often unaware of its contextual origins in Europe and North America and its colonial and imperial connotations - was fuelled by the rapid development of new technologies as the cutting edge of economic, political and military power.

46. Just as in Amsterdam, we too are on the threshold of a new era, conscious of the enormous gap between God's will for humanity and the present reality. In the run-up to the Amsterdam Assembly, the world stood on the brink of a human-generated disaster; in the run-up to the Porto Alegre Assembly, the world stands on the brink of seemingly natural disasters. According to God's design nature has an in-built self-regulatory capacity and cannot destroy the earth's entire life. But, driven by insatiable greed for self-aggrandizement, human beings have interfered with God's designed natural order to such an extent as to induce natural disasters capable of annihilating all life, including humankind.

47. Today we have become much more aware that the crisis we are confronted with goes much deeper and manifests itself beyond injustice and war among human beings, but affects all life. In particular, I point to the challenge to this planet and its inhabitants of climate change. Just as atomic weapons changed the very way we thought about life, so too the potential of major climatic changes put life as we know it in danger.

48. Climate change is, arguably, the most severe threat confronting humanity today. This is not an issue for the future: severe consequences are already being experienced by millions of people. We can prevent catastrophic climate change - at least, we know enough to reduce the degree of human-induced climate change - if we find effective ways of combining the voice of the churches with others who can make a difference. We must call on all Christian churches to speak to the world with one voice on addressing the threat of climate change.

49. This divided world needs a church living as one body of Christ. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said "apartheid is too strong for a divided church." I say that this planet, where life is threatened, needs a church which lives unity in diversity as a sign and foretaste of the community of life that God wants to be - God's household of life, the inhabited earth, the oikoumene. Even though our differences may at times divide us, deep in our hearts we know very well that we belong to each other. Christ wants us to be one. We are created one humanity and one earth community by the grace of God.

Focus on Africa

50. Together with the Decade to Overcome Violence, the Africa Focus was a major mandate from the 8th Assembly. In response to the call from the African plenary at the Harare Assembly, the WCC committed itself to accompany the churches and the people of Africa on their journey of hope for a better Africa. In the intervening years the Ecumenical Focus on Africa provided the framework for coordinated programmatic work in the areas of women and youth, peace-building, governance and human rights, reconstruction, HIV and AIDS, people with disabilities, theological education and ecumenical formation, inter-religious relations, church and ecumenical relations and economic justice. (The full account is found in the official report From Harare to Porto Alegre.) In our ecumenical engagement with Africa in these last seven years, we have also learnt to listen to the African churches and to the people of Africa concerning the continent's situation: pain and cries as well as joy and hope.

51. The insights gained from our experience with the Ecumenical Focus on Africa suggests that overcoming poverty in Africa, which should be a high priority in our future ecumenical accompaniment, will require addressing two root causes: one systemic and structural, the other ethical and political in nature. On the systemic level, there are four factors that combine to militate against food sufficiency, which is a prerequisite to overcoming poverty. The economic policies which are unfavourable to investment in agriculture and rural community development. Rural-urban migration continues to empty rural areas of educated and able-bodied young people who contribute the core of human resources for rural transformation. The third factor is violence. This includes civil war and senseless inter-personal violence at the domestic and community level. The fourth and most recent is HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. For aid to make a dent on poverty in Africa it must be an integral part, and not given in isolation, of a holistic and comprehensive approach addressing all those factors.

52. It is possible to formulate and have in place good policies for development. It is also possible to increase foreign financial aid to Africa. It is also possible to provide mechanisms for good governance. But the experience so far has shown that overcoming poverty and achieving social transformation is more than a mechanical approach to sustainable development. A vital ingredient that lacks is the moral will on the part of African leadership. Far too long African leaders have accepted the unacceptable and tolerated the intolerable.

53. Progressively, Afro-pessimism is being replaced by guarded optimism on the part of African churches and African people. The transformation from the Organization for African Unity to the African Union, the creation of new partnerships in Africa's development, the ongoing transforming of the All Africa Conference of Churches into a strategic ecumenical instrument, peace initiatives of women in Sierra Leone and Sudan and the recent election of the first woman president in Africa, Mme Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of Liberia, are signs of hope. In the last seven years, most of the African countries have moved from one-party dictatorships to parliamentary democracies.

54. But, in the final analysis, Africa remains a paradoxical continent: Africa is extremely rich yet full of extremely poor people. Certainly, the outside world, the ecumenical movement included, has accompanied Africa in many and diverse ways. One of them is by providing aid. In the last thirty years a staggering $ 330 billion have been poured into Africa. So why is Africa in its present predicament? This one thing we have observed: financial aid alone is not the answer to overcoming poverty in Africa; it is too easily misconceived, misdirected, misregulated or misapplied. It will take a level and depth of anger, indeed of righteous indignation, similar to that which produced the spirit of Pan-Africanism in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, to overcome poverty in Africa. The Africans on the continent and the African diaspora will have to come together again under the rubric of a kind of global Africana and say: it cannot go on like this because what is at stake is the core of what it means to be African - the African soul! And that requires more than material aid to recover.

It's all about relationships

55. Why is it so difficult to overcome what separates us? Why do we fall still short in our relationships with other human beings despite the technological advances of our age that defy imagination? It is incredible to think of our ability to manipulate genes and to send rockets to the far edges of our solar system - while we are still engaged in wars.

56. There is a common element in the social, economic and environmental threats to life we are confronted with and the ambiguous experience of growing inter-dependence that provokes greater fragmentation and enmity instead of better co-operation. Those whose power strives on our fears and anxieties exploit this situation. Fears and anxieties prevent us from a common witness. They pit us against each other, undermine our trust and confidence in each other, and force us to become defensive and reactive to the realities that surround us.

57. The biggest challenges that we face today, it seems to me, all converge at their roots in the lack of human capacity to relate to each other, to creation, and to God as we ought to. Whether we talk about our social realities, issues of power and politics, and even about the realities within and among the churches, we can see that the quality of our relationships has suffered considerably not just today, but for decades and centuries.

58. We live in a diverse world - a world of ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural and religious differences. The migration of people has meant that almost all of our societies have become multi-cultural. And yet our capacity to relate to the other is sadly limited. We lash out and accuse those who are different from us. We are too often fearful of newcomers. We draw lines between ourselves and others in ways that are hurtful. Racism continues to rear its ugly head; xenophobia and Islam-phobia spread to more and more places; anti-Semitism has revived where it was expected to have died years ago. And yet the commonalities that unite us are far greater than those that divide us. We are all capable of love, we all revere our families, we all depend on the environment, we all have a vested interest in making this planet a loving and hospitable place.

59. If we focus on our capacity to relate to each other, to creation and to God, we realize that our ethical challenges have a profoundly spiritual dimension and vice versa. We can no longer separate ethics and ecclesiology, the search for unity of the church and the unity of humankind. They are closely intertwined with each other. What aggravates our divisions and the inequality among us and what can contribute to healing and reconciliation, has, indeed, a common centre.

60. This should not surprise us. The reality of sin reflects the reality of broken relationships with God, the fellow human being and creation. Sin - so teaches the Bible - is first and foremost a matter of broken relationships in all of these three dimensions of our existence. Sin is real. Sin has its social and practical expressions, which breed death instead of life and undermine our fellowship. It is this reality that is directly targeted, redeemed, and transformed by God's grace. Taking the toll of human sin on himself in his death on the cross, Christ restores life and heals and reconciles relationships distorted by sin. We celebrate this mystery of life renewed in Christ in the Eucharist that transforms us as members of the one body of Christ. In our daily lives, this liturgy of the Eucharist continues in the healing of relationships, in sharing life with life.

61. The life that God gives us and that sustains us, all of us, is the food that creates a new community of sharing, a community justified and reconciled with God by God's grace. The festa da vida is an open feast. It welcomes those who come and it builds community through relationships. For Christians, the "Agape" - the fellowship meal that often follows the Eucharistic service - is a celebration of this community. It too anticipates the Kingdom which is to come.

62. We will be best equipped to promote human relationships in the world around us if as churches we shall learn how to share with one another all the gifts of grace which we have received from God. To a very large extent our disunity as churches is due to our incapacity to practise this genuine sharing of gifts. One way of enriching our fellowship of sharing is by transforming the way we relate to each other as churches and as ecumenical organizations - a kind of horizontal sharing of the gifts of grace. Today more than ever before we need each other as churches. We must find new ways of deepening our fellowship as churches within the WCC fellowship. A new paradigm of being church to each other is an imperative in the 21st century work on ecumenical and ecclesial relationships. This is needed for the churches' self-empowerment, not for their own sake, but for the sake of each other and in order to gain the capacity to contribute to the world in dire need of learning to build better ways of relating. But as churches we can also learn from many communities that have developed ways of sharing the richness of who they are in spite of what they are.

63. During my travels to different regions of this world, I have seen that in many places worship continues in a common Agape meal - a celebration of shared life for all. I remember poor Indigenous women in Bolivia sharing the little they had after worship and creating a festive meal for everybody on the basis of the different varieties of potatoes they had brought to church. There, in that deprived community, the communal joy radiated as life met life in earnest. By sharing the little each had, the women did not become poorer than they had been; rather, they each became happier for each other because none went back home hungry. The miracle of feeding five thousand (without counting women and children!) is a reality on a daily basis among the poor. That is how they still survive in this otherwise cruel and merciless world.

64. Carnival here in Brazil is exactly such a sprawling and over-abundant celebration of life against a backdrop of poverty and marginalization. Poor communities continue to nurture the creativity and capacity to celebrate life together in the midst of the destitute and desperate situation that confronts them. Such celebrations of life among the poor remind me also of all the other parables of the invitation to the festive table that are told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in various ways. They all have in common that the host is deeply disappointed by the negative response of those invited in the first place. In an act of transformative justice, he extends the invitation to those from the streets and the fences at the margins of society. Jesus' sermon in the synagogue of Nazareth speaks to their lives: the good news to the poor (Luke 4:18f). They want to celebrate the new, empowered community in Christ by worshipping together in song and prayer. They want to experience the healing power of the Gospel in their daily lives. And this is for sure: they will celebrate with God when the usual patterns of exclusion and marginalization are turned upside down!

65. The festa da vida invites us to look afresh at the quality of our relationships and to put these relationships in the centre of the ecumenical movement.

66. The Common Understanding and Vision (CUV) policy statement adopted at the Harare Assembly called on WCC and its members to deepen their relationships with one another. To some extent, this has taken place, as in the important work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches. Pastoral visits and "living letters" have offered churches the opportunity to express solidarity and compassion with one another in different difficult situations. We need to deepen our mutual accountability to one another, and do it in concrete and visible ways.

67. The CUV also recognized that the ecumenical movement is broader than the World Council of Churches and called on WCC to develop its relationships with other Christian bodies, notably the evangelical and Pentecostal churches and other ecumenical organizations.

68. Our relationship with the Roman Catholic Church has matured over the years. The WCC and the Roman Catholic Church are very different bodies, but both are deeply committed to the ecumenical enterprise. For the last forty years we have worked together fruitfully through the Joint Working Group. The WCC is grateful for the direct involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in our work to overcome the theological, historical and social divisions among the churches; in mission; in theological education; in the witness for justice in our world; in inter-religious dialogue; and in other ways.

69. Perhaps sometimes there have been unrealistic expectations - and that on both sides. But we have always had the will to clarify the issues, in order to resume a common search for the kind of unity which is Christ's will for his church.

70. There is a natural tension between efforts towards deepening, and those towards widening, the fellowship of the churches constituting the World Council. This assembly gives an opportunity to re-focus attention on the quality of relationships within the fellowship, to explore together what it means to be in fellowship towards greater unity, and to challenge one another to manifest that unity more deeply. The assembly also gives us the opportunity to reaffirm our readiness to widen this fellowship through dialogue, inter-action and cooperation with sisters and brothers in Christ beyond the intimate circle of membership in the World Council of Churches. One concrete example is that of the Global Christian Forum, which brings together followers of Jesus Christ from a broader range of traditions and expressions than has ever been seen. The World Council of Churches is pledged to do everything in our power to continue to facilitate this process which, so far, has been very encouraging.

71. There is, as we know, a natural tension between the various institutional expressions of the ecumenical movement. All ecumenical organizations are struggling today with the question of how to respond to the changing ecclesial and ecumenical landscape. This is why we have begun to address together the major challenges to ecumenism in the 21st century - a process that goes beyond a narrow institutional focus that the term "re-configuration" might suggest. There is the constant need for spelling out together the theological and spiritual basis of our common ecumenical commitment. Just as there is the urgent need to work out mechanisms for coordinating our ecumenical response to diakonia, advocacy and development. Many actors in the ecumenical movement underline the need for defining together the common ecumenical vision and not only "the common vision of the WCC". I expect that this assembly will affirm the Council's role within the one ecumenical movement and encourage the Council to become the leading force, the facilitating agent for this important ecumenical task in serving the ecumenical movement of the 21st century.

72. In addition, there is some tension in regard to inter-religious relationships. Many ask if this is integral to the ecumenical quest for Christian unity. We all recognize that we live in a multi-faith world, and we need to learn more about relating to people of other faiths, particularly at the community level. Beyond that, in addressing a broad range of world issues - and not just those involving conflicts between peoples of different religions - we need to learn how to relate, learn about the ways people of other faiths believe and see the world, and learn to act together for the good of our communities and of the world. Religion is increasingly recognized as playing a major role in international affairs, and we need to build relationships with other faith communities on all levels. This was affirmed by the Critical Moment on Religious Dialogue Conference which the Council organized last June. The meeting brought together participants from all major world religions in all parts of the world. One of the main conference recommendations was to call on the WCC to put in place mechanisms for bringing world religious leaders to address together the problems facing the human community today. Inter-religious relationships should be given a high priority in the next period, and we look up to this assembly to advise on best ways of achieving this objective.

73. The festa da vida, to which we are all invited, is also an invitation to reach out to those we know and to those whom we don't yet know.

74. We have long recognized that all of WCC's programmatic work is grounded in relationships and yet the reality is that different staff or teams are responsible for programme and for relationships. In our work after this assembly, I hope for a more integrated and interactive approach to programme and relationships where our programmes strengthen the quality of our relationships and where our constituency feels more ownership of the programmes. The significance of this deep inter-relatedness was emphasized by the main findings of the Pre-Assembly Evaluation Report.

Creative ways of working

75. As we begin this assembly, I hope and pray that we celebrate this extraordinary opportunity given to us as a moment of sharing with each other what we bring to this place and celebrating together a fiesta of life. We hope that the assembly plenaries, the series of ecumenical conversations and mutirâo events will help us to identify the main challenges and priorities the churches should address worldwide through their common instrument, which is the World Council of Churches. We hope that the Programme Guidelines Committee will arrive at a relevant and workable agenda for transformation and that the Policy Reference Committee will move our relationships forward. And we hope that the Finance Committee will offer practical advice on how to develop a concept of dynamic stewardship which undergirds the management of our financial, human and physical resources as an integral part of the Council's overall work. Beyond that, we will focus on adopting a plan of work and programme for ecumenical spirituality that will be inspired and strengthened by our common commitment to praying together and fully owned and implemented by member churches. Several pre-assembly events have already highlighted the contributions of those often on the periphery of the ecumenical movement: youth, Indigenous Peoples, dalits, women, and people with disabilities. Their challenge and perspectives continue to be an important entry point not just for critique of injustice and exclusion but for new and creative understandings of transformation. The fact that we are meeting in Latin America will shape our discussions and we look forward to deepening our understanding of this continent through the Latin American celebration and plenary.

76. In what has been described as "the information age", our ecumenical movement is challenged to proclaim God's eternal Word and interpret its meaning across a wide range of cultures and technologies. As we seek creative ways to communicate, we remain committed to telling the love of Jesus, building trust and supporting the growth of base communities - both actual and virtual - in which spiritual fellowship may mature and lives may be transformed.

77. The present context challenges us to re-think the following four current emphases of the ecumenical movement. They should not be seen as a proposal of a new WCC programme structure because there are many different ways of dealing with them.

78. Faith and spirituality: The central question of our time, as I have indicated in my remarks, is the question of faith and the presence of Christ in the other. This is at the basis of our understanding of unity and mission. Faith must be central to our life together and must be the foundation for our ecumenical vision and engagement. How do we make visible and effective the unity which is given us in Christ?

79. What does Christian faith in the 21st century entail? This question is relevant to the Northern and Eastern churches as well as to the churches in the global South. It is no longer a realistic expectation that Christian faith formation takes place in the Christian families, in the churches and Sunday schools, and in the schools or even in the society at large. Deliberate efforts must be made to ensure that basic facts about the Christian faith are understood by those who confess Christianity. However, it is also necessary to understand the emerging Christendom in the 21st century because Southern Christianity is not just a transplant of Christendom of yester-centuries. New expressions of non-denominationalism and post-denominationalism are increasing in all parts of the world. Our Christian self-understanding in an increasingly multi-faith society will gain greater currency in the next period. What all this challenges us to do is to see our faith in a radically new perspective. This we could do if we considered Christianity as a global reality, i.e. seeing it with new eyes and not just with the eyes of one particular region or theological perspective. What must be our theological response to the poverty and deprivation of so many, to the affluence of others, and to the link between the two? All these phenomena have implications for the way we do and teach theology, how we do mission, and how we witness in the 21st century.

80. At a time when issues of identity characterize political, social and interpersonal relationships, dialogue and cooperation between faiths become even more imperative. The more firmly we are grounded in our Christian faith, and the more we speak with one voice, the more effective we shall become as participants at the table of inter-religious dialogue.

81. Ecumenical formation: This is one of those areas that surfaces forcefully, not merely as need or priority but as a real ecumenical imperative, as a determining factor that can have decisive influence on the ecumenical movement throughout the 21st century.

82. In many member churches, a new generation of leadership - though committed to ecumenical principles - seems not to be fully informed about the rich legacy and experience of the modern ecumenical movement. In this crucial moment of generational transition, leadership should be given the opportunity to profit from this body of knowledge and wisdom.

83. If contemporary Christians, including church leadership and staff, are to participate creatively and responsibly in the search for unity, and grow together, appropriate means of ecumenical formation must be offered to enable better, richer contributions to our common life. We must bring together human resources and educational materials, from the churches and from ecumenical organizations.

84. If we look at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, a model for ecumenical formation, we may discover two further challenges. First, in recent years, evangelicals and Pentecostals have been manifesting a clear interest in ecumenical courses and seminars, including programmes of graduate study. Second, young people have been pressing for more inter-religious encounters and seminars. Both these trends are suggestive of the way forward, and a cause for hope.

85. Transformative Justice: In response to those who suffer the consequences of injustice that splits the world along the lines of poverty and wealth, work in the area of transformative justice is needed which integrates the care of creation, the transformation of unjust economic and social structures, a clear prophetic voice in global advocacy and prophetic diakonia.

86. In the period since Harare, WCC has explored the concept of transformative justice particularly in the area of overcoming racism. Instead of the more commonly used "restorative justice", the concept of transformative justice is based on the understanding that it is not possible to simply reinstate, re-establish, bring back, return - what has been lost. Centuries of injustice in any form cannot be erased - either historically, collectively or individually. People's lives and cultures, languages, lifestyles, worship and spirituality cannot again be as they were. Transformative justice deals with the past in the present. Its goal is to overcome oppression and domination so as to achieve healing, reconciliation and the re-establishment ("to put things right") of people's relationships.

87. My vision for the future is that we will explore this further as we continue to address issues of justice and diakonia, advocacy and dialogue. This will require creative new ways of addressing how the church's mission history has sometimes been interwoven with the breaking down of traditional forms of healing and reconciliation. It will include more direct processes of liberation and healing through encounter and dialogue between perpetrators of injustice and those who are victimized.

88. This calls for a paradigm shift in our work, for metanoia, that will allow structures, culture, and defining values to be transformed. It will require us to re-direct our programmes towards more intentionally building truly inclusive and just communities which safeguard diversity, where different identities and unity interact, and where the rights and obligations of all are fully respected in love and fellowship. Transformative justice calls on the churches to make a costly commitment to overcome the divisions within their own life - our communities need to be transformed to fully live the diversity of their peoples and cultures as a clear reflection of God's creation and image in humankind. To be the church today is to be healing, reconciled and reconciling communities.

89. Being a moral voice to the world: With growing recognition of the role of religion in public life, we have new opportunities to influence decisions on global policies. This changing context with a renewed emphasis on the role of religion introduces new perspectives in dealing with issues of the churches' social responsibility.

90. In fulfilling our historic responsibility we are challenged to become a strong, credible moral voice to the world: A voice that is grounded in spirituality, and therefore is distinguished and distinguishable from the many competing voices in a world where ethical values are too often found wanting.

91. All these are common concerns for member churches and ecumenical partners. I hope that in the future we can develop fresh and creative ways of working which strengthen our relationships with churches and a wide range of ecumenical partners. These ways will take different forms with different partners. For example, I would like to see an interaction with Christian World Communions, especially those whose membership largely overlaps with the membership of the WCC, in our common commitment to visible unity and our common readiness to develop relationships with those churches and Christian families that do not actively participate in the ecumenical movement. I would like to see a closer programmatic relationship between WCC and the regional ecumenical organizations, which builds on our respective strengths and constituencies. I would like to see more intentional collaboration with the international ecumenical organizations, which are often working on the same issues. I hope that initiatives to develop new ways of working in the field of development and diakonia with specialized ministries will bear fruit in the coming months and years. And as I have previously indicated, I hope that a renewed focus on ecumenical spirituality will transform the way we work.

92. But I want to go beyond these suggestions and renew the proposal that, as a concrete step, the next assembly of the WCC should provide a common platform for the wider ecumenical movement. If we are ready to take such a significant, concrete step we could envisage together, instead of the many different global assemblies and general conferences organized by the various world communions and other bodies, just one celebration of the search for unity and common witness of Christian churches. To be even more specific, and as a minimum next step, I propose that this assembly give us a mandate to accelerate the dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to explore possibilities of holding our next assemblies as a combined event. And we should also invite any other world Christian body to join us in this dialogue.

93. Such a proposal obviously requires careful consideration of many details. But I am fully convinced that we can do this, and that the ecumenical movement will be stronger with a common global platform. This could be a means of beginning to plan together, so that we may even more effectively speak and act together.

In closing

94. Dear friends, sisters and brothers in Christ, the delegates to the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches are entrusted with a significant responsibility. It is a responsibility alive with potential. In Porto Alegre we are challenged to face up to the sharp-edged realities of this world, and to discern the signs of the time. In the same moment, we are challenged to pray with all our hearts, "God, in your grace, transform the world!" And renewed through prayer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we expect to be sent again from this place as messengers of God's grace and of God's will for the transformation of this world, as messengers of hope for our children, for our grandchildren, for the future.

95. The Word of God is a word of hope, the good news of transformation by grace. It is the proclamation of a new heaven and a new earth, where former things are no more. It is God's invitation to participate in a festa da vida, to rejoice in the feast of life!

96. In the course of this assembly, may God's Spirit spark an unquenchable flame of hope within our spirits, illuminating a creation restored to goodness, revealing us as God's children, members of the one human family and one earth community.

97. At this gathering, may God's Spirit kindle within us the deepest desire of our predecessors in the ecumenical movement, the conviction that there is and must be one church - holy, catholic and apostolic - the undivided body of Christ in service to the world, united at one table in the presence of our living Lord.

98. With God, all things are possible. And so we take up our responsibility, relying on God's transforming grace. All are welcome to the festa da vida; therefore, let us keep the feast!

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Part 19 of __

Part 1 of 2

Report of the moderator
15 February 2006

Document No. A1

For action

1. Assemblies are important stages in our ecumenical journey. Through prayer, meditation, presentations, discussion and decision, they provide a proper framework to evaluate the World Council of Churches' ecumenical witness, identify its future priorities and set a new course. Assemblies are also unique occasions to deepen our fellowship "on the way" towards the visible unity of the church. This 9th Assembly takes place in a period of world history when values are in decline, visions are uncertain and hopes are confused; when injustice is spreading and peace is almost unattainable; when violence and insecurity are becoming dominant in all spheres of human life.

"GOD, IN YOUR GRACE, TRANSFORM THE WORLD"

2. In this turbulent world we turn to God and pray: "God, in your grace, transform the world": a supplication emanating from our broken hearts; a sign of hope emerging in the midst of the uncertainties of human life; a genuine expression of faith unfolding in the context of the tensions and anxieties of the world.

3. Grace (in Hebrew Q'en and in Greek Xaris) is the core of God's revelation. It appears in the Bible with multi-faceted meanings and manifold implications. Grace is benevolence, compassion, love, mercy, gift, and beauty manifested through God's "manifold gifts" (1 Pet. 4: 10) and "gracious deeds" (Is. 63: 7-9). St. Paul's letters are rightly described as the basis of the theology of grace. In the Bible, grace displays the following basic features: a) It is God's gift of the "fullness" of life (Jn. 10:10). It is also a quality of life sustained by obedient response to God. b) Grace is the concrete expression of God's love (2 Cor. 12:7-10), which makes the human being strong even in his weakness (2 Cor. 12:10). c) It is God's transformative power that restores His image in human beings. d) As God's essential attribute, grace pertains both to His transcendence and immanence. God has communicated and shared His grace with us; He came to us "full of grace" and "dwelt among us" (Jn. 1: 14-16). e) Grace is God's victory over sin (Rm. 5: 21). Salvation of humanity and creation is the fruit of God's intervention in Christ (Rm. 3:24). f) Grace is God's gift of justice and peace, namely, the expression of God's mercy and love towards humanity and His commitment to the covenant. g) The grace of God is His reconciliation in Christ with humanity (2 Cor. 5: 17-21). Reconciliation is healing and transformation of humanity and the creation realised by God's Kenosis in Christ (Col. 1: 19-20). h) God's grace is the coming of the Kingdom of heaven on earth manifested in and through Christ. God's Kingdom is the reign of grace. i) Grace has replaced the law. It is God's free gift (Rm. 3: 24) given to all without discrimination. However, God's preferential option is for the oppressed and marginalized (Mt. 5: 1-12).

4. The biblical perception of grace is dominant in Orthodox theology and spirituality. The following aspects capture our attention:

a) Grace aims at the renewal and transformation of the whole of humanity and creation; it is new creation. Grace as re-creation starts with the "microcosm", i.e. human beings and the human community. Humanity and creation are interconnected. The blessing of elements of creation (water, fruit, land etc.) in Orthodox Churches indicates the integrity and sacredness of creation.

b) God's act of transformation has become a reality in the Christ-event. God's transformative presence with us is a continuous reality; it is both an event and a process, existential and eschatological. In the power of the Holy Spirit, God's grace becomes a living and life-giving reality in and through the eucharist.

c) The transformative action of God is Trinitarian: the love of God the father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Grace is God's all-embracing action; it permeates all dimensions and spheres of created order, which is referred to in Orthodox theology as the cosmic action of grace. Grace is God's omnipresent and omnipotent power; it transforms all aspects of human life. It comes through the sacraments of baptism, eucharist and ordination.

d) God's grace makes us all one body; it is the source of our unity in Christ and of our bond of unity with each other. In spite of worldly divisions, in the power of the Holy Spirit God's grace continuously ensures, undergirds and protects our unity, as well as the integrity and continuity of the church and leads it to eschaton, the second coming of Christ in glory.

e) God's grace creates communion between the human being and God. The human being is not only created by God, but also for God. The human being is co-worker (1 Cor. 3: 9) with God and the guardian of His creation. The human stewardship of the creation and accountability to God are expressed through the humanity-God communion that reaches its culmination in theosis.

f) Accepting God's grace means sharing it with others through evangelism and diakonia. This is "liturgy after liturgy". Responding to God's grace in gratitude and faithfulness is costly; it implies Kenosis, namely, martyria in life and even in death.

5. Strenuous efforts have been made in history to transform the world. All political, religious, economic, ideological and technological attempts have failed. With its new value-system, paradigms and powerful forces, globalization is yet another attempt to transform the world. As Christians, we believe that only God's grace can empower, renew and transform humanity and creation. In this Assembly, we will identify the implications of this theme to the ecumenical movement and particularly to the ecumenical witness of the World Council of Churches by reflecting and praying: "God, in your grace, transform the world". Indeed, this prayer is the cry of the poor for justice; the cry of the sick for healing; the cry of the marginalized for liberation; the cry of humanity and creation for reconciliation. Empowered with the grace of the Holy Spirit (Mk. 13: 11; Jn. 16: 13), the church as transformed and transforming community is called to be Christ's witness to the end of the world, until in Christ all things are reconciled and the whole of creation is transformed into a "new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1).

LATIN AMERICAN CONTEXT

6. This is the first assembly of the WCC to take place in Latin America. With its struggle and hope for justice and dignity, this continent will, undoubtedly, have strong impact on our deliberations and actions.

7. Latin American societies have suffered from their colonial origins. European societies, mainly Spain and Portugal, imposed their social and political systems and cultural values on the aboriginal peoples, thus destroying their cultures and religions. The coloniser's oppressive rule and culture left deep scars on the Latin-American societies. The poverty, inequalities and foreign dependence, continued after the transition from the colonial period to the era of independence.

8. Today, although Latin American societies differ from one another in many ways, they also share a great deal. Most of them were affected by political, economic and social turmoil throughout the 20th Century. By the middle 1970's, many Latin American countries were ruled by military regimes, which violated human rights, persecuted and assassinated political and community leaders and outlawed political organisations. Since the 1980's, most governments of the region have adopted economic strategies that were inspired or based on neo-liberal principles and doctrines. For the last ten years, most countries in the region have suffered severe economic and political crises, which in turn have brought about social unrest and protests. Throughout this period, the Latin American people have struggled for life, dignity and human rights. Globalization has dramatically impacted the political, social and cultural aspects of the societies in the region. Because of globalization, local people have lost control over their national resources and economic activities, and the gap between rich and poor people has widened. Recently, several countries have elected governments committed to development strategies that are at odds with the policies of international institutions (IMF, World Bank, etc.).

9. Many churches have been and remain alert to these changes, developments and challenges. They believe that their pastoral and prophetic role is to participate actively in nation building. The churches' involvement in nation building has helped them to understand God's mission in a new context and in a new way. Faith is an essential reality in the daily life of the people of Latin America. Spirituality, evangelical zeal and ecumenical engagement are strong among the churches. The growth of non-institutional churches and charismatic movements is an important feature of Christianity in Latin America.

10. The Assembly theme has a special meaning at this moment in the history of this continent. Through the special session on Latin America, as well as through worship in local communities and daily contacts with the local churches and people, we will have the opportunity to learn more about the continent, in general, and Brazil, in particular.

A PERIOD OF UPHEAVALS AND TENACITY

11. The last seven years have been a complex and fragile period of world history. The report From Harare to Porto Alegre (1998-2006) covers the major developments and significant aspects of the Council's witness during this period. It briefly outlines the achievements made and the lessons learned during the journey from the 8th to the 9th Assembly. Attached to the report, you also have in your files the Pre-Assembly Programme Evaluation, which is a critical, comprehensive and objective assessment of the Council's work in its various aspects and manifestations.

12. As we look at the period that is now behind us, we may rightly ask how much we have been able to move forward towards our ecumenical goals. Giving a full and exhaustive account about the journey of our fellowship is not easy, indeed. One of the words frequently used in recent years to depict the life and work of the Council is "crisis". We have gone through crises of various kinds. We have faced tremendous tensions and have carried on the Council's witness under enormous pressures. Great achievements are realised and major goals are attained through crises. Was not the incarnation of Christ due to a crisis? Was not the creation of the WCC a response to a crisis? Crises will always remain with the Council in different forms and ways. We are called to respond to crises in faith and hope and with a forward-looking vision.

13. The last seven years in the life of the Council was a period of upheaval and yet tenacity. The Council experienced the strong impact of global developments. In spite of the negative repercussions of these developments, the in-house mood of restlessness, due to a significant fall in income and the necessity of reducing programme and staff and, in spite of the emergence of multiple concerns pertaining to Council-member churches relations, the Council largely realised the recommendations made and the programmatic priorities set by the Harare Assembly. The reflection and action of the Council were mainly organised around four foci: being church, caring for life, ministry of reconciliation and common witness and service amidst globalization. Financial constraints, programme re-adjustments and changes in staff leadership did not hamper the quality of the Council's witness. Nor did they affect the morale and dedication of the staff. Guided by the Central and Executive Committees and supported by programme-related committees and commissions, the Council's staff performed their work well. They deserve our great appreciation.

14. An assembly is primarily an occasion for the Council to be accountable by assessing its achievements, failures and deficiencies. It is also an opportunity to take a broader and realistic look at the ecumenical movement, which the Council is called to serve. Indeed, such a serious attempt to analyse the ecumenical situation, spell out the emerging new realities and concerns, and identify new expressions and challenges of ecumenism will enable us to look forward with greater confidence and clear vision. In the last decade, the ecumenical movement has witnessed significant developments, which will undoubtedly become, with their broader ramifications and far-reaching consequences, crucial for the future course of ecumenism. I would like to focus my observations on three specific areas: ecclesiology, inter-religious dialogue, and new self-articulations of the ecumenical movement.

FOR A CHURCH BEYOND ITS WALLS

15. The ecumenical movement is about "being church". It will always remind the churches to fulfil their being and vocation in the context of changing times and circumstances. In my report to the Harare Assembly, I asked: "What kind of church do we project for the 21st century: a church confined to nation-states or ethnic groups and exclusively concerned with its self-perpetuation or a missionary church open to the world and ready to face the challenges of the world?"(1). Through its programmes, relations and activities, the Council continued to wrestle with this pertinent question. Our churches, too, each in their own way, grappled with this critical issue.

16. Mainstream Christianity is ageing and falling in number, and Christianity is re-emerging with new faces and forms. The formation of non-denominational congregations, para-church and mega-church organizations has dramatically changed the Christian panorama. Major changes are taking place also inside the churches: the institutional church is losing much of its strength and impact on society; tensions and divisions in many churches on ethical, social and pastoral issues are creating confusion and estrangement; the divide between "belonging" and "believing" is growing; and we hear more and more in the mass media about the church in "confusion", the "polarised" church and the "silent" church. Many people, particularly the youth, seem to be disappointed with what they perceive as the incapacity of the institutional church to respond to the challenges and problems of new times. They are looking for a church that is capable of meeting their spiritual yearnings; a church that can serve their pastoral needs; a church that can provide answers to their questions.

17. These emerging trends urge the church to go beyond its institutional boundaries, to transcend its traditional forms and reach the people at the grass roots. For centuries, dogmatic, ethical, theological, ethnic, cultural and confessional walls have protected our churches. I wonder whether they can any longer defend the churches in a world where interaction and inter-penetration have become integral to human life. The church is exposed to all sorts of vicissitudes and upheavals of society. Some churches have reacted to this situation by withdrawing back into their national, confessional or institutional boundaries to preserve their specificity. In response to the changing environment, others are seeking new ways of "being church". The church can no longer stay inside the "fortress" as a self-contained reality; it must interact with its environment. The church cannot transform the world from inside the walls; it must reach out. In a new world context "being church" is, indeed, a great challenge with concrete implications:

a) It means perceiving the church essentially as a missionary reality and not a frozen institution. The church acquires its authentic nature and full meaning when it fulfils itself as a mission. The church is sent out to the world to discern and respond to the will of God in the complexities and ambiguities of the world.

b) It means going beyond itself, reaching out to the poor and outcast, sharing their concerns, identifying with their suffering, and meeting their needs. The church loses its credibility if it fails to interact with the people in the pews. It must become a "church for others", a church that empowers the marginalized.

c) It means becoming a community of and for all; where all segments of society come together within the framework of a common life and decision-making, where the voices of women are heard, the participation of youth is encouraged, and expectations of differently-abled people are met; where, in fact, all forms of discrimination are destroyed.

d) It means addressing issues related to bio-ethics, bio-technology, human sexuality and other areas of ethics and morality. The ecumenical debate has taught us that the church's being and unity are intimately related to ethics. The churches can no longer ignore these issues in intra-church and inter-church relations. Through pastoral and contextual approaches a common ground must be sought. Such an engagement will greatly help the churches avoid tensions and divisions.

e) It means bringing healing and reconciliation to the broken humanity and creation. As God's transformed community, the foretaste and sign of the Kingdom, the church is sent by Christ to transform the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is mandated to exercise its responsible stewardship over the creation.

f) It means rediscovering the centrality of unity. A divided church cannot have a credible witness in a broken world; it cannot stand against the disintegrating and disorienting forces of globalization and enter into a meaningful dialogue with the world. Speaking with one voice and assuming together the church's prophetic vocation are, indeed, essential requirements of "being church" in a polarised world.

18. Today, new environments are being formed around the churches, calling on them to review and broaden the church's theological reflection; new ways of missionary outreach are emerging, challenging the churches to go beyond traditional norms of evangelism and diakonia; new ways of "being Christian" are being shaped, reminding the churches of the necessity to change their educational concepts and methodologies. Clearly, a self-sufficient and inward-looking church cannot survive in radically changing societies. Only a church liberated from its self-captivity, a church in creative dialogue with its environment, a church courageously facing the problems of its times, a church with the people and for the people, can become a living source of God's empowering, transforming and healing grace. I am not advocating for the church an uncritical openness to the world, but a dynamic and decisive move from self-centredness to dialogical interaction, from concern for self-perpetuation to missionary outreach, from reactive to proactive engagement, from self-protective to responsive action. "Being church" is an ecclesiological issue; it means going to the authentic roots of the church's catholicity, holiness, apostolicity and unity. "Being church" is a missiological issue; it means redefining and re-articulating the esse of church as a missionary reality. "Being church" is also an ecumenical issue; it means challenging and helping the church to become an efficient and credible instrument of God's transformation in a changing world. "Being church" must remain at the heart of the ecumenical movement.

SELF-UNDERSTANDING IN PLURALIST SOCIETIES

19. Religious plurality constitutes the very context of "being church". Our theology, our traditions, our values, and our way of life are strongly influenced by our pluralist environment. The church is called to redefine its identity and missionary vocation in the midst of religious plurality. The church has always lived in dialogue with its milieu. Globalization has made dialogue even more existential and integral to the church's daily life. Dialogue is the commitment of living our diversities as one humanity, meaningfully and coherently in one world. It is also the attempt to work together, irrespective of our divergences and tensions. The following considerations merit special attention:

a) Christian self-understanding in the context of religious plurality is crucial. Phenomenological approaches to the question of identity in a globalized world and in pluralist societies are simply irrelevant. The new environment in which we live questions exclusivist, monological, and self-centred self-understanding, and calls for a dialogical self-definition. Although our identity is conditioned by our faith, it is tested by the specific environment in which it is experienced and articulated. This interactive perception of Christian identity in spite of its potential risks, enriches and broadens our self-understanding; it also affects the way we organise Christian education and formation.

b) This approach to Christian self-understanding also helps us to understand in the right perspective the "otherness" of the other who is no longer a stranger, but a neighbour. Globalization has transformed the dialogue with strangers into a dialogue of neighbours. As an expression of compassion and respect, dialogue with our neighbour is a vital dimension of biblical teachings. To discover the "other" is to rediscover oneself. But our understanding of the "other" should always be checked by the "other's" self-understanding. Our perception of the "other" is also crucial for the church's missiological self-understanding and self-fulfillment. The churches' missionary outreach must not be perceived as a reaction "against" the stranger, but as a proactive engagement "with" our neighbor. Hence, we need to explore the meaning and implications of Missio Dei in the context of religious plurality.

c) Addressing religious plurality from a Christian perspective is always judgmental; it is based on our faith in Triune God and our commitment to Missio Dei. We must revisit the biblical theology and the Logos Christology of the early church, which help and remind us to look at the basics of our faith in a broader perspective. According to biblical teachings, God's gift of salvation in Christ is offered to the whole humanity. Likewise, according to Christian pneumatology, the Holy Spirit's work is cosmic; it reaches in mysterious ways to people of all faiths. Therefore, the church is called to discern the signs of the "hidden" Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in other religions and in the world, and bear witness to God's salvation in Christ.

d) In inter-religious dialogue our truth claims cannot be compromised. Affirming our faithfulness to Christ, however, must not preclude engaging in dialogue and collaboration with other religions. The specificity and integrity of each religion should be respected in dialogue. To make our dialogue credible and set it on a solid basis, we must deepen our common values and accept our differences. While the need for religions to speak together on issues of common concern from the perspective of common values is growing with acute urgency, the ambiguity of religion's role in society and misuse of religion are ever increasing. The churches are caught in this dilemma. This ambivalent situation makes inter-religious dialogue even more imperative. The churches and the ecumenical movement must take most seriously the inter-religious dialogue.

FOR A RELEVANT AND CREDIBLE ECUMENISM

20. We have entered a new period of ecumenical history. The ecumenical landscape is undergoing rapid and radical change: traditional ecumenical institutions are losing their motivation and interest; new ecumenical models and norms are emerging; new ecumenical alliances and partnerships are being formed; and new ecumenical agendas are being set. The ecumenical panorama today presents a new picture. I want to identify some of these significant developments:

a) People-centred ecumenism. In the last decade, institutional ecumenism began to generate indifference and even alienation, and ecumenism, as a movement pertaining to the whole people of God, started to acquire predominance. Ecumenism is steadily coming out from the narrow confines of institution and even going beyond the churches. Ecumenism is marginal for some churches, while it appears as a top priority for ecumenical agencies and action groups. Grassroots ecumenism is gaining more attraction in many regions. There is a growing awareness that if the ecumenical movement is not rooted in the life of people and is not looked at from the perspective of people, its authenticity and credibility will be considerably undermined. In fact, ecumenism is not something to be imported from the outside or developed on an institution-centred basis; rather, it must emanate from the very life of people and be owned by the people. It must touch the life of people in all its layers and dimensions. As a consequence of people-centred ecumenism, a life-centred vision of ecumenism is emerging as a feasible paradigm. Such a vision, which has all the potential to take the ecumenical movement beyond its institutional expressions, is already in formation. The movement of "Churches Acting Together" is a concrete manifestation of it.

b) An ecumenism that is responsive to changing realities. The ecumenical movement- for some - is getting old; for others, it has already become obsolete. The current norms of ecumenical culture and forms of ecumenical structure are no longer adaptable to new environments. Furthermore, the ecumenical agenda is, to a large degree, outdated and incompatible with present needs and concerns. In addressing issues, the ecumenical movement has perceived its role mainly as one of discerning and articulating. It is expected that the ecumenical movement go beyond its traditional role by seeking solutions, providing guidance and, when necessary, taking a strong prophetic stand. I also see a serious problem in the ability of the ecumenical institutions to respond promptly and efficiently to the churches' expectations and global crisis. Institutional ecumenism has been preoccupied with its own problems and has, therefore, lost touch with the issues facing the churches. This growing gap between institutional ecumenism and the churches must be treated critically. Rather than the reactive ecumenism that we have been developing, we must build a responsive ecumenism that transforms and accompanies the churches in their efforts for the renewal of the church, an ecumenism that questions archaic perceptions and encourages creative reflection, and one that endeavours to replace traditional styles by innovative methodologies and conservative approaches by realistic attitudes.

c) Ensuring the complementarity and wholeness of the ecumenical movement. More and more churches are engaging in bilateral theological dialogue (a form of ecumenical relationship favoured mainly by the Roman Catholic Church since the Vatican II Council) and in bilateral ecumenical collaboration. As a result, multilateral ecumenism is declining and conciliar ecumenism is stagnating. The ecumenical movement is developing in four directions: bilateral theological dialogue, bilateral ecumenical partnerships, institutional ecumenism and people's ecumenism. The ecumenical institutions and the churches thus far have not been able to ensure the complementarity of these directions. In fact, we are now witnessing the emerging signs of polarisation, identifiable in many areas and on different levels of ecumenical life, and a steady disintegration in many ecumenical institutions. It is vitally important to establish coherence between ecumenical structures, initiatives or actions on global, regional and national levels. It is even more important to ensure the oneness, wholeness and integrity of the ecumenical movement. As the ecumenical statement on "Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches" (CUV) has stated, the WCC, as the most organised and institutional manifestation of the ecumenical movement, is obliged to engage in this major task(2). During the last decade, the Council has made considerable effort to strengthen the inclusiveness of the ecumenical movement; yet, in my judgement, we have not been so successful in manifesting concretely, even with the Roman Catholic Church, the oneness and the wholeness of the ecumenical movement. It seems to me that if the churches, the main owners and actors of the ecumenical movement, do not assume this critical task, the ecumenical organisations will be dominated by ecumenical partners and the churches' ecumenical work will be confined to bilateral theological dialogues.

d) Unitive or divisive ecumenism? When the ecumenical movement came into existence, its stated aim was to destroy the "walls of separation" (Eph. 2:14) and lead the churches to visible unity. However, due to intra and inter-church developments and changing circumstances in the world, the ecumenical movement has become a space for new tensions and alienations. Controversies and divisions pertaining to ethical, political and social issues are often echoed in the ecumenical movement. Many churches misinterpret ecumenism; they equate it with the forces of liberalism and secularism. They fear that it threatens the church's moral teachings and will lead to proseletysm and syncretism. The WCC and many regional and national councils, and even world communions, have suffered from this misperception. This situation calls for deep reflection, a comprehensive approach and careful treatment. The only way to cope with this complex situation is for churches and ecumenical institutions to listen to and trust each other, understand each other's sensitivities and respect each other's concerns. The ecumenical movement must continue to provide space for the churches to engage in honest dialogue and creative interaction in order to see their contradictions clearly. It must also assist them to strive for greater coherence and consensus, while remaining faithful to their diversities.

e) Emergence of new models of ecumenism. For a long time the ecumenical stakeholders and actors were limited to churches and their hierarchs; they now include donor agencies and specialised ministries. New ways of "being" ecumenical and "doing" ecumenism are enfolding: networking is replacing institutions, advocacy is substituting the programme; membership-based ecumenism is losing its importance and an ecumenism of partnership and alliance is gaining ground. More and more churches and ecumenical circles consider the ecumenical movement as a ‘forum' or a ‘space' for encounter and collaboration. These new models of ecumenism are not only strengthening the non-committal ecumenism, but also sidelining the goal of visible unity. I believe that we should not waste any more time and energy on the perpetuation of vestiges of ageing ecumenism. The ecumenical movement must serve its sacred cause and not remain paralysed within ossified structures. I also believe that any form of ecumenism that does not create restlessness and does not generate commitment is not ecumenism. "Easy-going" and "free-lance" ecumenism impedes our ecumenical journey. We need ecumenical models that constantly challenge the churches not simply to co-habitate, but to grow together, to move from self-sufficient existence to interdependent existence, from unilateral witness to multilateral witness. This is the true ecumenical way.

f) Are the institutions or the vision in crisis? The ecumenical movement has always faced crises. Many believe that crisis is inherent in the institution. I agree. In my view, the ecumenical vision is also facing crisis. Some maintain that the problem is not so much with the vision, but with the way its imperatives and challenges are perceived and translated into reality. Others, however, are convinced that we are already beyond CUV, and, therefore, must seek a new vision for the 21st century. The real problem, in my judgement, is twofold: the ecumenical institutions have started to lose contact with the vision; and the vision appears to be vague and ambiguous. We must not become captives of our ecumenical institutions; neither must we be trapped in our ecumenical vision. The ecumenical movement cannot be equated to the programmatic activity; it cannot be reduced to mere advocacy and networking. The institution cannot replace the spirituality, and action cannot replace the vision. As the gift of the Holy Spirit and as a future-oriented movement, the ecumenical movement transcends its institutional limitations and geographical expressions. What the ecumenical movement needs is a fresh articulation of its spirituality and vision. The horizontal dimension of the ecumenical movement must be under-girded by a vertical dimension, namely by a spirituality that will make the ecumenical movement a source of renewal and transformation. Furthermore, the ecumenical vision must be constantly re-assessed and redefined, both in faithfulness to the Gospel message and in response to changing conditions.

21. These developments will continue to have an impact on the WCC and we must have the courage to accept not only the Council's strengths, but also its vulnerability and fragility; along with its achievements, we must also have the humility to recognise its deficiencies and failures. A triumphant spirit will only deepen the stagnation, and a protective spirit will further isolate the Council from the ecumenical movement. The WCC is not an organisation to be evaluated only on "checks and balances". It is a fellowship of prayer and hope. The Council is called to become the sign, agent and instrument of a credible, reliable and responsive ecumenism. To achieve such a goal, the Council must undergo a profound change and renewal in its way of thinking and acting, and of organising and communicating its work.
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BEYOND THE ASSEMBLY: LOOKING FORWARD

22. An assembly is also a unique opportunity to look forward, to attempt to identify those emerging priority areas and major concerns that will determine the future agenda and course of the Council. The post-Assembly period should be marked by intensive strategic planning, the aim of which should be to reshape the programmatic framework of the Council. In this process, which must start in this Assembly, I strongly believe that the following issues need to be given serious consideration:

FELLOWSHIP-BUILDING: AN ECUMENICAL PRIORITY

23. In spite of continuous efforts to fulfill itself as a fellowship of churches, the WCC has remained an organisation located in Geneva. More than ever, the fellowship character of the Council faces tremendous challenges: first, with the widening gap between the member churches and the Council; second, with the increasing participation of the ecumenical partners in the life and witness of the Council; third, with the growing shift of emphasis from fellowship-building to an advocacy-oriented role of the Council.

a) For many, unity is no longer an ecumenical priority, but, rather, an academic topic or at best an eschatological goal. In fact, as a new ecumenical methodology and strategy, the Council has linked unity to ethical, social and missiological issues. As a result, unity has lost much of its centrality and urgency. The Council must re-emphasise the vital importance of visible unity by re-embarking on convergence and reception processes, particularly through the following studies: "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry"(3), "Confessing the One Faith"(4), and "The Nature and Mission of the Church"(5). Yet, on the other hand, the Council must also deepen the theological conviction that the quest for unity and engagement in common witness and service to the world are not mutually exclusive, but are, rather, mutually enriching.

b) What kind of Council are we: an organisation that plans activities, sets programmes and initiates advocacies, or, a fellowship that strives for the visible unity of the church? I would say both. I do not see any dilemma or ambiguity; these two aspects of the Council's work condition and strengthen each other. Because we are an organisation, it is imperative that we work with a broader constituency, including ecumenical partners. It is also crucial for the future of the ecumenical movement that we develop a sense of mutuality and complementarity with ecumenical partners. The Council needs their expertise and financial resources. We must bear in mind, however, that the creation of new alliances and advocacies and the growing partnership with ecumenical partners may, sooner or later, reduce the fellowship character of the Council. The WCC cannot be transformed into a global ecumenical organisation that simply facilitates, networks, and organises activities. This would deny the very nature and vocation of the Council. The Council must remain accountable to the churches as a church-based fellowship; yet it needs more space for creative reflection and action. As the CUV has indicated, "deepening" and "widening" of the Council's fellowship are inseparable(6). Therefore, the specificity of the Council as a fellowship of churches and its unique role as an organisation within the world-wide ecumenical movement need to be balanced, re-affirmed and reshaped.

c) Some churches believe that there are other ways of articulating ecumenical engagement. Hence, they are committed to working together rather than growing together and dialoguing within the membership of the Council. How can we initiate a process of deeper ownership of the Council by the member churches? The Council is the member churches in their common commitment to the Gospel and to one another. The Council must listen more carefully to the churches; its primary focus must be to deepen fellowship. And the churches must take their membership in the Council more seriously, and must recognise that being part of WCC fellowship has spiritual, ecumenical and financial implications. Once, when I asked a church leader what his church does for the WCC, he said: "we raise money". I said: "you must also raise awareness". Indeed, building fellowship entails deepening awareness, strengthening confidence and making sacrifices. At the Harare Assembly, the churches said: "We now commit ourselves to being together in a continuing growth towards visible unity"(7). We are called to give a new quality to our fellowship: by sharpening the Council's accountability to the churches and by enhancing the churches ownership of the Council; by seeking new ways of reflecting, working and acting together; by initiating new ways of "being church" together. If a minimum ecclesiological basis is not ensured for the Council, our fellowship will always remain shaky and ambiguous. Is it not the time to revisit the Toronto statement?(8)

FROM CHANGE OF RULES TO CHANGE OF ETHOS

24. Since the end of the cold war, the WCC and the Orthodox Churches have basically followed separate directions, with different concerns and priorities. The WCC has neither fully nor correctly understood the Orthodox expectations in their attempt to recover and rediscover their identity and place in the post-communist society; at the same time, the Orthodox Churches' criticism of the Council has been exaggerated to the extent of ignoring fundamental ecumenical achievements, in which it had played a significant role. Some of the WCC-Orthodox tensions and estrangement were caused by the intra-Orthodox situation, the changing realities in new societies with a predominantly Orthodox population and the internal structure and agenda of the Council. After seven years of intensive work, the Special Commission, which was created by the Harare Assembly, has identified a number of specific areas that require serious review. The Commission's recommendations have been adopted by the Central Committee. Matters pertaining to the constitution and bylaws are on the agenda of the Assembly.

a) The consensus model in voting procedures is the most important achievement of the Commission. Through it the Council will experience a fundamental change by moving from a parliamentary voting system to consensus building. The consensus model is not only intended to change voting procedures; it is expected that it will promote participation, ownership and fellowship. Consensus does not necessarily mean unanimity; rather, it means preserving diversity and respecting differences, and, at the same time, overcoming contradictions and alienation. Therefore, it is not merely a procedural matter; it is intended to challenge us to share our theological insights and spiritual experiences, as well as display our perspectives and concerns more effectively, empowering each other and seeking together the mind of the church. Initially, consensus was a move to strengthen the participation of the Orthodox Churches. It must go beyond the Orthodox Churches, and remind all member churches that they, together, constitute a fellowship and, therefore, are called to address issues in a non-confrontational way and in a spirit of mutual openness and trust.

b) Would the consensus model and other recommendations of the Special Commission change the ethos of the Council? In fact, the "Orthodox consultations" that we have organised, "Orthodox statements" that we have made, "Orthodox contributions" that we have offered to the Council since its creation in 1948 have, undoubtedly, had some impact; but they did not bring about any real change in the Western Protestant- dominated style, structure and methodology of the Council. This failure was mainly due to the lack of consistent and persistent engagement and follow-up on the part of the Orthodox Churches, as well as to the reluctance and indifference of the Protestant Churches regarding the Orthodox concerns and contribution. Here is the real problem; here is also the real challenge. The Special Commission has proposed new ways of working together in respect to controversial matters and divisive issues. It is expected that the Orthodox Churches will be better heeded and understood. I hope that the Orthodox Churches will, in their turn, seize this opportunity to bring more organised and efficient participation in all areas and at all levels of the Council's life and work. The Council's ethos cannot be immediately changed by the findings of the Special Commission. We must be realistic and patient. The critical question remains: how can the Council move from a change of rules to a change of ethos? All the member churches have a pivotal role to play in this long and difficult process.

c) Do the findings of the Special Commission meet the "Orthodox concerns"? Some Orthodox Churches are not fully satisfied with the work of the Commission. Some Protestant members of the Council also have reservations about certain aspects of the Commission's work. Besides common approaches, divergences and ambiguities will continue to exist. What the Special Commission has thus far achieved is not the end; it is only the beginning of a process. Further work needs to be done, particularly in respect to membership, common prayer, ecclesiology, social, and ethical issues. The times of Orthodox "contributions" have gone; and the time of Orthodox integration into WCC has come. This process must be primarily initiated in the Orthodox Churches at the grassroots level by building awareness of the importance of ecumenism for the life of the church. It must find its concrete expression through the active involvement of the Orthodox representatives in programme-related committees that constitute, in a sense, the heart of the Council's work. Consensus and the recommendations of the Special Commission facilitate this process. I hope that the WCC-Orthodox crisis will shake and challenge all member churches in their ecumenical commitment.

RECONFIGURATION: A PROCESS OF RENEWAL

25. The ecumenical institutions have been shaped in response to the old world order. They are incompatible with the new world context. The present ecumenical landscape, with its new developments and realities, may soon create confusion and disorientation if it is not critically assessed and reordered. In the last decade, the WCC has sought to address, through the CUV and Special Commission, urgent and pertinent questions facing the ecumenical movement in general and the Council in particular. The "reconfiguration" process that the Council recently embarked on must occupy an important place on the ecumenical agenda. The following questions and factors, in my view, need to be given due attention:

a) The concept of reconfiguration has different connotations in different regions, and the churches and ecumenical partners look at it with different perceptions and expectations. The common concern is that the ecumenical movement, in all its aspects and manifestations, needs a comprehensive and realistic re-evaluation, and a reshaping and refocusing. Therefore, reconfiguration must not be considered as a Council-related project with limited scope and implications. It must be perceived and organised as a global and common venture, involving all churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, ecumenical institutions, partners and different ecumenical actors.

b) Reconfiguration must not be confined to merely mapping and reordering of the oikumene. It must basically aim to renew the ecumenical life and witness by: adapting its culture to new conditions, restructuring the ecumenical institutions, reviewing the programs and relationships, deepening the quality of growing together, establishing coherence and networking among different forms and expressions of ecumenism, and broadening the scope of ecumenical partnership. The Council has not been able to incorporate CUV fully into its programmatic work. Although CUV, as a vision statement, still retains its relevance for the whole ecumenical movement, it needs reinterpretation. The CUV and the work of the Special Commission must be given proper attention in this process.

c) The ecumenical movement should develop an integrated approach to its institutions, agenda, and goals, as well as to its way of reflecting and acting. It must also develop an integrated perspective to respond to the critical issues and major challenges of the world. The integrated approach, which opposes the unilateral and isolated initiatives by promoting an interactive and co-ordinated perspective, is not merely a question of methodology or strategy; it is an ontological reality pertaining to the esse of Christian faith. Such an approach may also ensure the effectiveness of ecumenical witness.

d) The ecumenical movement is currently in a dilemma, wavering between integration and disintegration, partnership and fragmentation, advocacy and fellowship, and bilateralism and multi-lateralism. By its very nature, being a growing fellowship of churches, the WCC also has a facilitating, networking and co-ordinating role in the world-wide ecumenical movement. This specific and privileged vocation of the Council must acquire more visibility and efficiency at this critical juncture of ecumenical history.

e) The ecumenical movement is facing a crisis of credibility and relevance. We must not respond only by reconfiguring institutions. At the dawn of the 21st century, what the ecumenical movement urgently needs in order to respond responsibly and effectively to the problems of new times and the expectations of the churches, is fundamentally "aggiornamento", i.e. renewal and transformation.

f) The Roman Catholic Church has been calling for "clarity" concerning the theological foundation and vision of ecumenism. I share this concern. One of the most valuable contributions of the reconfiguration process could be the development of what I call a shared ecumenical vision. By shared vision I mean a comprehensive review and articulation of ecumenical goals, with which all churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, and ecumenical partners can associate themselves. This shared vision must sustain our ecumenical action irrespective of its institutional or ecclesial framework. Such a step would significantly enhance the ecumenical goals. Otherwise, the growing activism may weaken the spiritual and theological basis of the ecumenical movement. Reconfiguration must also take into consideration this important matter.

VIOLENCE: A MAJOR ECUMENICAL CONCERN

26. In response to a growing culture of death, the Harare Assembly launched a Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2000-2010) (DOV). In embarking on this landmark process, the Council said: "We will strive together to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence", and our prophetic vocation calls us to be "agents of reconciliation and peace with justice"(9). Regional launches, annual focus campaigns (Latin America is the focus for 2006), peace to the city projects and resource materials, significantly helped raise awareness and promote values of life, tolerance, and compassion. Responding to and overcoming violence must remain a major ecumenical priority. By assessing the insights and experiences gained during the first half of the Decade, the Assembly will certainly give its direction for the period ahead of us. In this context, I want to share with you a few perspectives:

a) We have repeatedly stated that DOV, being a Council-wide focus, is basically an ecumenical process. It is, therefore, vitally important that the ecumenical movement, with all its institutional expressions, consider "overcoming violence" as an urgent priority. The Christian contribution to this global campaign against violence must be reorganised in light of new developments, and its specificity be more sharply spelled out.

b) Violence is a complex phenomenon with different faces. The DOV must address not just the symptoms or blatant eruptions of violence, but also its root causes and its surrounding ideology.

c) Overcoming violence implies understanding the "other", and promoting compassion, tolerance, and the values of co-existence. Religions can play a pivotal role in this context. Inter-religious dialogue and collaboration can serve as a proper framework to enhance community building.

d) Overcoming violence means healing memories by accepting the truth and thus moving towards forgiveness and reconciliation. DOV calls the churches to work for reconciliation. As an efficient way of conflict resolution, which is a vital dimension of Christian faith, the Council must take this particular area most seriously.

e) Often the root cause of violence is the denial of justice. Working for justice is an important way to overcome violence. On the other hand, sometimes violence is used to achieve justice. The inter-relatedness of justice and violence is a critical matter that requires a more comprehensive and deeper analysis. In this context, the study document prepared by CCIA on the protection of endangered population in situations of armed violence(10), which was sent to the churches for reflection and reaction, must be revisited.

f) The church's approach to violence must be proactive and not reactive. Non-violence must be considered as a powerful strategy and an active approach to overcoming violence. The church must preach tolerance, mutual openness and acceptance. Our Christian vocation is to become agents of God's reconciliation, healing and transformation. Others' strategy is "war on terror"; ours is "overcoming violence"; others' objective is "security", even by military intervention; ours is peace with justice and the promotion of mutual understanding and trust.

YOUTH: THE GENERATOR OF A NEW COURSE IN ECUMENISM

27. "God, in your grace, let the youth transform the world". This is what the youth said with a profound sense of humility, responsibility and courage at the last meeting of the Central Committee. They called for a more open church, more relevant theology, more credible ecumenism, more participatory society. I fully associate myself with the youths' firm commitment and clear vision. As Head of church and as Moderator, I have always enjoyed and been enriched listening to the youth in my church and in ecumenical circles. Listening to the youth! What a challenge to each of us sitting on chairs of authority in our respective churches and in ecumenical institutions. Certainly, youth have an important role to play in our churches, the ecumenical movement and our societies. But, to simply state that idea is not enough. We must engage them fully in the total life of the churches and the ecumenical movement at large. In this respect I want to make a few observations:

a) Youth have a special role in "being church". I consider the role of youth as being essentially an agent of transformation. We must help the youth to move from the fringes of our churches to the heart of the churches' life and witness, including the decision-making processes. I cannot imagine a church without its youth. They ensure the church's vitality and renewal. Youth should be actors, not merely listeners; they should be leaders, not merely followers.

b) Youth have a major role to play in "being ecumenical". They are called to become actively involved in reshaping and transforming the ecumenical movement. When we organise meetings or appoint committees, we should not regard youth as merely an appendix or a separate category. The question of youth is neither about quotas nor about programmes directed specifically at youth. I want to see youth actively present in all categories, in all places, in all areas, and at all levels of the whole life and witness of the churches and the ecumenical movement.

c) The ecumenical formation of youth is of decisive importance for the future of the ecumenical movement. The quality and quantity of persons interested in ecumenical life, both in the WCC and elsewhere, is declining. The survival of the ecumenical movement is largely conditioned on the active and responsible involvement of youth. A vision requires visionaries to dream and struggle for its realisation. The preparation of a new ecumenical generation is imperative. I t must become a major focus for the ecumenical movement. The future belongs to those who have the vision and courage to shape it.
d) If we do not empower our youth, they will find other "spaces" outside the churches and the ecumenical movement to create their own networks and seek other ways of expressing their concerns, their dreams and visions. The 8th Assembly was a Jubilee Assembly. This Assembly must become a Youth Assembly, not only by a strong youth presence, but also by their impact-making participation and challenging perspectives. Youth should become the pioneers of a new ecumenical order, as well as the avant-garde of a new ecumenical future.

A JOURNEY OF FAITH AND HOPE

28. I started my ecumenical journey as a youth delegate with such feelings and commitment. I was so delighted when, a few years ago, a group of young people from different parts of the world, meeting in my own church in Antelias, Lebanon, stated that being ecumenical "belongs to the very essence of being church"(11). This is what I myself learned out of my existential experience in the ecumenical movement.

Being ecumenical means engaging in a common mission and diakonia, and struggling for the visible unity of the church.

Being ecumenical means praying together, working together, suffering together, sharing together, witnessing together.

Being ecumenical means perceiving our essential identity not in those matters that distinguish us from each other, but in our faithfulness to the Gospel imperatives.

Being ecumenical means affirming our diversities, and at the same time transcending them to discover our common identity and unity in Christ.

Being ecumenical means being a church that constantly fulfils itself as a missionary reality in response to God's call in a changing world.

Being ecumenical means being firmly committed to and responsibly engaged in a journey of faith and hope.

29. In Amsterdam, at the 1st Assembly of the WCC (1948), we said: "we intend to stay together". In Porto Alegre we must say: "we shall stay together" in this journey of faith and hope towards God's future.

30. When I assumed my task as Moderator in 1991, I said: "The sea is stormy; we are called by God to sail, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the ecumenical boat in the stormy sea". The ecumenical movement is a boat moving forward. The profound symbolism of this image will always challenge us. While sailing through the stormy sea, the ecumenical boat has taken on plenty of water. Some would even say that the ecumenical boat is foundering. I deeply believe that our spiritual courage to seek new visions, our profound faith to hope for a new future, our firm commitment to the ecumenical cause will keep the ecumenical boat strong and straight in the terrible storms of the world.

31. The ecumenical journey is a pilgrimage of faith and hope. I have been on this pilgrimage since 1970- what a short period of time for such a long journey! In this journey of faith and hope I have had dreams:

I dreamed that mutual recognition of baptism, the seal of our Christian identity and foundation of our Christian unity would soon be realised. I dreamed that all the churches of the world would celebrate the Resurrection of our common Lord together on the same day, as one of the visible expressions of Christian unity. I dreamed that an Ecumenical Assembly - if not an Ecumenical Council at this point in time - would be convened with the participation of all churches to celebrate their fellowship in Christ and address common challenges facing the church and humanity. Dreaming is an essential dimension of "being ecumenical". I am confident that new generations, sustained by renewed faith and hope, vision and commitment, will continue dreaming.

I am grateful to all those who, in this ecumenical journey, strengthened my faith, nurtured my reflection, supported my action and enriched my diakonia. I have had the privilege to work closely with three General Secretaries: Rev. Dr Emilio Castro, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser and Rev. Dr Sam Kobia, and four Vice-Moderators, Bishop Dr Nelida Ritchie, Bishop Dr Soritua Nababan, Dr Marion Best and Judge Sofia Adinyira, as well as with so many sisters and brothers in Christ from different parts of the oikumene. Let God judge what I gave to the WCC. What I took from the WCC transformed my life and my ministry. I give thanks to God for granting me this privilege of serving Him through the WCC.

Recently, an ecumenical friend asked me: "Will this Assembly be the epilogue of your ecumenical journey?" I said: "On the contrary; it will become the prologue of my new ecumenical journey." Ecumenism has become integral to my very being. Enriched by many years of experience, I will become even more ecumenically engaged. With the help of God, I will continue this journey of hope and faith as one of the devoted ecumenical pilgrims praying with you and with so many people around the world:

God, in your grace, transform our churches.

God, in your grace, transform the ecumenical movement.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

ARAM I

CATHOLICOS OF CILICIA

February 2006

Antelias, Lebanon

Report of the moderator

***

Youth overcoming violence

Saving God's children from the scourge of war

Plenary on youth overcoming violence: Presentation by Olara A. Otunnu, president of the LBL Foundation for Children and former UN under-secretary-general and special representative for children and armed conflict.

Saving God's children from the scourge of war
18 February 2006

Plenary on youth overcoming violence

Presentation by Mr Olara A. Otunnu, president of the LBL Foundation for Children and former UN under-secretary-general and special representative for children and armed conflict.

The theme for my presentation this morning is: Saving God's Children from the Scourge of War. I believe that few missions could be more compelling for the world today. This is a central issue of peace and justice.

When adults wage war, children pay the highest price. Children are the primary victims of armed conflict. They are both its targets and increasingly its instruments. Their suffering bears many faces, in the midst of armed conflict and its aftermath. Children are killed or maimed, made orphans, abducted, deprived of education and health care, and left with deep emotional scars and trauma. They are recruited and used as child soldiers, forced to give expression to the hatred of adults. Uprooted from their homes, displaced children become very vulnerable. Girls face additional risks, particularly sexual violence and exploitation.

I can think of no group of persons more completely vulnerable than children exposed to armed conflict. Yet, until very recently, their fate did not constitute specific and systematic focus and response by the international community. Indeed when policymakers convened to discuss issues of peace and security, the fate and well-being of children did not feature in their deliberations. This has now changed.

Children do not only deserve but, indeed, have a right to protection and well-being. Those who brutalize children and deny them schooling and medical care in situations of war, are committing two crimes simultaneously-- they are destroying the present as well as the future.

These violators need to be identified, named and held accountable by the international community.

In post-conflict situations, it is imperative to invest in the healing, rehabilitation and development of children. This should constitute a central concern, reflected in the setting of priorities, the formulation of policies and programmes, and the allocation of resources. When they are constructively engaged and are active participants, war-affected youth can be an important force for rebuilding their societies. But when they feel marginalized, alienated, embittered and without hope, the same youth can easily turn into an army of spoilers, and a recruiting pool for other warlords to fight new wars. Such youth also become much more vulnerable to radical indoctrination and enlistment by terrorist entrepreneurs.

Ensuring protection for our children and investing in their education and development is therefore among the most important and effective means for building durable peace and justice in society.

Campaign to protect children from the scourge of war

Over the last several years, I have led a UN-based campaign to mobilize international action on behalf of children exposed to war, promoting measures for their protection in times of war and for their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict. I undertook this mission by developing and implementing specific strategies, actions and initiatives. The campaign was organized in four phases, namely: laying the foundation; developing concrete actions and initiatives; instituting a ‘naming and shaming' list of offenders; and instituting the CAAC 1 compliance regime.

The first phase -- laying the foundation -- consisted of defining and framing the CAAC agenda, gaining acceptance and legitimacy for the new agenda, establishing a network of stakeholders within and outside the UN, and laying the groundwork for broader awareness- raising and advocacy.

Developing concrete response and actions

In the second phase, I led initiatives and efforts (involving in particular UN entities, governments, NGOs and regional organizations) to develop concrete responses and actions and initiatives.

During this period, our initiatives and advocacy yielded significant advances and innovations, most notably: significant rise in awareness, visibility and advocacy on CAAC issues; the protection of war-affected children has been firmly placed on the international peace-and-security agenda; a comprehensive body of protective instruments and standards has now been put in place; a systematic practice of obtaining concrete commitments and benchmarks from parties to conflict has been developed; children's concerns are being included in peace negotiations and peace accords, and have become a priority in post-conflict programmes for rehabilitation and rebuilding; Child Protection Advisers (CPAs) have been integrated in peacekeeping operations; key regional organizations have incorporated this agenda into their own policies and programmes; this issue has been integrated and mainstreamed in institutions and mechanisms, within and outside the UN; and war-affected children are coming into their own, through their active participation in rebuilding peace and ‘voice of children' programmes. These efforts and initiatives created strong momentum.

Embarking on the 'era of application'

Yet, in spite of these impressive gains, I remained deeply preoccupied by one phenomenon. On the one side, we had now developed these clear and strong standards for protection, and important concrete initiatives, particularly at the international level. On the other side, atrocities and impunity against children continued on the ground. In effect, the international community and the children were now faced with a cruel dichotomy. This dichotomy is not unique to the CAAC agenda; it is a perennial problem of UN and other multilateral efforts at moving from creation to enforcement of international instruments, norms, and standards.

In my view, the key to overcoming this gulf lay is embarking on a systematic campaign for the 'era of application' -- for transforming international instruments and standards into an actual protection regime on the ground. The 'era of application' had to be developed and anchored within a formal and structured compliance system of mechanism. Words on paper alone cannot save children and women in danger. To my mind, the time had come for the international community to redirect its energies from the normative task of the elaboration of standards to the compliance mission of ensuring their application on the ground. I have spent the last three years, working to crack this conundrum.

Instituting a 'naming and shaming' list

The third phase was to institute a 'naming and shaming' list. This also became the first concrete step in the era of application' campaign. The purpose of the 'naming and shaming list ' was to institute a practice to identify, name and publicly list offending parties for grave abuses against children. This would underscore accountability and exact public pressure on the offending parties. The idea was not only to publish the list but to submit it officially to the Security Council. This was a controversial project in uncharted territory. It would take a lot of lobbying and negotiations before the proposed listing was accepted by the Security Council.

We proceeded to develop the listing practice in stages, building block by building block. The first list, compiled in 2002, named only parties in situations of conflict which happened to be under consideration by the Security Council. The violation for which the parties were cited was limited to the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The second list, compiled in 2003, was expanded to include all offending parties, governments as well as insurgents, and in all conflict situations, whether or not their particular conflict happens to be on the agenda of the Security Council.

The third and latest list, published in January 2005, was the subject of protracted and difficult negotiations at all levels. But in the end we were able to realize our most important objective - a comprehensive listing practice. The ‘naming and shaming' list now incorporates all offending parties, in all situations of armed conflict or concern, and with respect to all major violations against children. This became the basis for the development of a full compliance regime, discussed below.

Establishing a formal CAAC compliance regime

The fourth and last stage in our campaign was the task of developing a full-fledged compliance regime. Two years ago, I embarked on an intensive process of designing, drafting and holding extensive consultations with all stakeholders, particularly, governments, UN agencies, regional organizations, and NGOs. Last January I put forward a detailed action plan, 2 proposing a structure and a series of measures necessary for a formal compliance regime. This was subsequently submitted to the Security Council for formal approval. The action plan identified the international instruments and standards that constitute the basis for monitoring - - the yardsticks for judging the conduct of parties to conflict and the basis for ‘naming names '. It specified the particular violations to be monitored and the entities that should undertake the gathering, scrutiny and compilation of information at various levels. Much of this work is designed to be undertaken by the Secretariat-level task force, working with similar monitoring and reporting bodies at the country-level. The Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, UN peacekeeping missions and UN country teams are to play the key roles in the implementation of the compliance regime.

It took six months of intensive and protracted negotiations within the Security Council and with other delegations, before the Security Council, in a major and ground-breaking development, unanimously adopted Resolution 1612 on July 26.3, endorsing the structure and the series of far-reaching measures contained in the action plan. This marks a turning point of great consequence. For the first time, the UN has established a formal, structured and detailed compliance regime of this kind.

The compliance regime breaks new ground in several respects. First, it establishes a 'from-the-ground-up' monitoring and reporting system, which will gather objective, specific, and timely information - - 'the who, where and what' - - on grave violations being committed against children in situations of armed conflict. UN-led task forces in conflict-affected countries will focus on six especially serious violations against children: killing or maiming; the recruitment or abduction of children for use as soldiers; rape and other sexual violence against children; attacks against schools or hospitals; and the denial of humanitarian access to children. Under this new mechanism, UN-led task forces will be established in phases, ultimately covering all conflict situations of concern, to monitor the conduct of all parties, and to transmit regular reports to a central task force based at UN headquarters in New York. These reports will serve as ‘triggers for action' against the offending parties.

Second, all offending parties, governments as well as insurgents, will continue to be identified publicly, in what has been called the 'naming and shaming' list, which I have prepared and submitted annually to the Security Council since 2003. The latest report lists 54 offending parties 4 in 11 countries. These include: the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in Sri Lanka; the FARC in Colombia; the Janjaweed in Sudan; the Communist Party of Nepal; the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda; the Karen National Liberation Army in Myanmar; and government forces in DRC, Myanmar and Uganda.

Third, the Security Council has ordered offending parties, working in collaboration with UN Country Teams, immediately to prepare and implement very specific action plans and deadlines for ending the violations for which they have been listed. Typically, these should include: immediate end to all violations by the listed party; commitment by the listed party to the unconditional release of all children within its ranks, within a time-frame agreed with the United Nations team; time-bound plans and benchmarks for monitoring progress and compliance, agreed with the United Nations team; and agreed arrangements for access by the United Nations team for monitoring and verification of the action plan.

Fourth, where parties fail to stop their violations against children, the Security Council will consider targeted measures against those parties and their leaders, such as travel restrictions and denial of visas, imposition of arms embargoes and bans on military assistance, and restriction on the flow of financial resources.

And, finally, in order to monitor compliance with Resolution 1612, the Security Council has established its own special Working Group, composed of all 15 members, to review reports and action plans, and consider targeted measures against offending parties, where insufficient or no progress has been made.

Clearly the information compiled and transmitted in monitoring reports is only useful if it serves as 'trigger for action', on the part of key decision-making bodies, such as the Security Council, the International Criminal Court, the Commission on Human Rights, regional organizations and national governments, to take necessary and concrete measures to end documented grave violations against children. The monitoring reports are designed to serve this specific purpose.

It is also crucial that the issue of compliance be taken up beyond the corridors of the United Nations, by concerned public opinion. That is why it is important to mobilize an international public campaign in support of compliance. With Resolution 1612 we have a solid base and springboard for this campaign, particularly on the part of legislators, religious leaders, women's organizations, the media, non-governmental organizations, and children themselves. There is a need and important role for a civil society network of 'Friends of 1612.'

Building local capacity for advocacy, protection and rehabilitation

In order to build a viable regime of protection on the ground, international actors need to do much more to support the efforts of local actors, in particular, to strengthen the capacities of defenders of children who are labouring at the very frontline of this struggle - - national institutions and local and sub-regional civil society networks for advocacy, protection, and rehabilitation. This is the best way to ensure local ownership and long-term sustainability for the protection of children.

I believe that we should strongly support local communities in their efforts to reclaim and strengthen indigenous cultural norms that have traditionally provided for the protection of children and women in times of war. In addition to international instruments and standards, various societies can draw on their own traditional norms governing the conduct of warfare. Societies throughout history have recognized the obligation to provide children with special protection from harm, even in times of war. Distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable practices have been maintained, as have time-honoured taboos and injunctions prohibiting indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations, especially children and women. These traditional norms provide a 'second pillar of protection', reinforcing and complementing the 'first pillar of protection' provided by international instruments.

In these efforts to build and strengthen local capacity for advocacy, protection and rehabilitation, I see communities of faith playing a particularly important role.

Can we influence insurgents?

The question is often raised as to how the international community can influence the conduct of all parties to conflict, particularly insurgents. In fact, insurgent groups have grown increasingly sophisticated in their political and financial operations and in their external connections. This means that carefully chosen and calibrated measures can have significant impact on insurgencies.

The imposition of carefully calibrated and targeted measures can have the desired impact on governments as well as insurgents. At political and practical levels there are levers of influence that can have significant sway with all parties to conflict. The viability and success of their political and military projects depend crucially on networks of cooperation and goodwill that link them to the outside world - - to their immediate neighbourhood as well as to the wider international community. In this context, the force of international and national public opinion, including particularly the voice of the communities of faith; the search for acceptability and legitimacy at national and international levels; the demand for accountability as represented, for example, by the ICC and ad hoc tribunals; the external provision of arms and financial flows; and illicit trade in natural resources; the growing strength and vigilance of international and national civil societies, and media exposure - - all of these represent powerful conditions and levers to influence the conduct of parties in conflict. From this list, "pressure points" can be determined and a carefully targeted sanction regime can be constituted against a given offending party. That the imposition of such carefully calibrated and targeted measures can have the desired impact on insurgents as well as governments is demonstrated by the recent examples of effective sanctions measures imposed on UNITA in Angola and RUF in Sierra Leone.

In today's inextricably interdependent world, parties to conflict do not and cannot operate as islands unto themselves.

Northern Uganda: the worst place in the world to be a child today

As we focus this morning on the fate of children being destroyed in situations of war, I must draw your attention to the worst place on earth to be a child today. That place is the northern region of the Republic of Uganda.

The situation in northern Uganda is far worse than that of Darfur, in terms of its duration, its magnitude, and its deep and long-term consequences for the society being destroyed.

Witness the following:

20 years of war. The human rights and humanitarian catastrophe in northern Uganda has been going on, non-stop, for twenty years.

10 years in concentration camps. For over 10 years, a population of almost 2 million people, of whom 80 percent are children and women, have been herded like animals into concentration camps, some 200 camps in all * in abominable living conditions, defined by staggering levels of squalor, disease and death, humiliation and despair, appalling sanitation and hygiene, and massive overcrowding and malnutrition. As a relief official in Gulu stated, "People are living like animals. They do not have the bare minimum."

Staggering death levels in the camps. These camps have the worst infant mortality rates anywhere in the world today. A recent survey by WorldVision reported that about 1,000 children die every week because of the conditions imposed in the camps; the director of WV in Uganda stated, "When I first saw these findings, I though it was a lie. But let us face it. We have reached the worst category an emergency can ever reach." This situation was underscored by the UN in a November report which stated that the mortality rates are in northern Uganda double those of Darfur. As the Gulu NGO Forum noted, "The camp population is not coping anymore but only slowly but gradually dying."

Healthcare, non-existent. As reported recently by the international agency, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, "Access to healthcare is almost nonexistent."

Malnutrition and stunted growth. Chronic malnutrition is widespread; 41% of children under 5 years have been seriously stunted in their growth.

20 years without education. Two generations of children have been denied education as a matter of government policy, they have been deliberately condemned to a life of darkness and ignorance, deprived of all hope and opportunity. Imagine this is the land that produced Archbishop Janani Luwum, the martyred primate of the Anglican church in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire (Eastern DRC) who was murdered by Idi Amin in 1978.

Children abducted and brutalized. Over the years, over 20,000 children, unprotected, have been abducted and brutalized by the rebel group, Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Some 40,000 children, the so called "night commuters," trek several hours each evening to sleep in the streets of Gulu and Kitgum towns (and walk back the same distances in the morning) to avoid abduction.

Suicide and despair. In the face of relentless cultural and personal humiliations and abuse, suicide has risen to an alarming level. Suicide is highest among mothers who feel utter despair at their inability to provide for their children or save them from starvation, and death from preventable diseases. For example, in August, 13 mothers committed suicide in Pabbo camp alone.

Rampant rape, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. As several reports have documented, rape and generalized sexual exploitation, especially by government soldiers have become "entirely normal." As noted in a recent report by Human Rights Watch, "Women in a number of camps told how they had been raped by soldiers from the Ugandan army… It is exceptionally difficult for women to find protection from sexual abuse by government soldiers." From almost a zero base, the rate of HIV infection among these rural communities has galloped to staggering levels: 30%-50% compared to national infection of 5%. Last June, the medical superintendent of Gulu Hospital reported that 27% of children who were tested there were found to be HIV-positive; 40% of pregnant women attending Lacor Hospital for routine prenatal visits tested HIV-positive. Journalists John Muto-Ono p'Lajur and Wendy Glauser reported that, "Awer camp leader Benjamin Oballim believes HIV infection is cl ose to 50% among adults living in his camp. A 2004 study in Lira found out of 4,026 IDPs who went for testing, 37% were positive."

This is the face of genocide.

In the sobering words of a missionary priest working in the region, "Everything Acoli is dying". Or, as MSF has reported, "The extent of suffering is overwhelming…according to international benchmarks this constitutes an emergency out of control."

Following a recent visit to the region, the Ugandan journalist, Elias Biryabarema, wrote: "I encountered unique and heart-stopping suffering,…shocking cruelty and death stalking a people by the minute, by the hour, by the day; for the last two decades… These children, these women have committed no crime to deserve this. They deserve an explanation from their president: they deserved it yesterday, they do today and will tomorrow." Or, in the words of another Ugandan journalist, P.K. Mwanje, "Ugandans south of the River Nile and their friends do not know of the genocide taking place in northern Uganda."

The population of northern Uganda has been rendered totally vulnerable; they are trapped between the brutality of the LRA and the genocidal project, atrocities and humiliations which are being systematically committed by the government. The LRA have been responsible for brutal atrocities, including massacres, abduction of children and gruesome maiming, for which they must be held accountable. However, it is clear that the LRA factor and presence is being cynically manipulated to divert attention from the genocide unfolding in the camps and other atrocities being committed by the government itself. A carefully scripted narrative is promoted, according to which the catastrophe in northern Uganda begins with the LRA and ends with their demise. In this respect, the LRA and the 'war' have become both the cover and the pretext under which genocide is being conducted in the region.

In his Easter message last year, the Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, stated "There will be genocide in the north if the international community does not intervene to end the war." In an anguished plea, Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II, retired Anglican Bishop of Kitgum Diocese in northern Uganda, recently said "All these cries from the people of Uganda show very clearly that a slow, but sure genocide has been taking place in Northern Uganda, while the world is looking on, as it was the case in Rwanda genocide."

* * *

When faced with genocide, we have a moral, religious and political obligation to recognize it, denounce it, and stop it, regardless of the ethnicity or the political affiliation of the population being destroyed.

We look particularly to you as spiritual and religious leaders to provide that prophetic voice and leadership. We look to you to denounce the genocide in northern Uganda. We look to you to mount a campaign to end the genocide and to dismantle the concentration camps.

As I review what is unfolding in northern Uganda, I cannot help but wonder if we have learned any lessons from the earlier dark episodes of history: millions of Jews exterminated during the Holocaust in Europe, genocide perpetrated in Rwanda, children and women systematically massacred in the Balkans. Each time we have said, "never again," but only after the dark deed was accomplished.

The genocide unfolding in northern Uganda today is happening on our watch, with our full knowledge. And tomorrow, shall we once again be heard to say that we did not know what was going on for all these years? And what shall we tell the survivor children in northern Uganda, when they ask why no one came to stop the dark deeds stalking their land and devouring its people?

***
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3. Preparatory and background documents

A pastoral and educational response to sexual harassment

"When Christian solidarity is broken" : This pastoral and educational response to sexual harassment was prepared for use within the WCC community, including its staff and participants at ecumenical gatherings.

A pastoral and educational response to sexual harassment
14 February 2006

When Christian Solidarity Is Broken

A pastoral and educational response to sexual harassment

Christian community and solidarity

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. (Isa. 32:17)

Christians affirm the basic dignity of all humankind, created in the image of God. In ecumenical gatherings, an environment of welcome and hospitality encourages the full and equal participation of all. The WCC strives to bring together a community based on the values of solidarity and mutual concern that challenges all forms of violence and harassment. The WCC is committed to raise awareness about sexual harassment in order to prevent it from occurring and to provide a safe space free from intimidation for all participants. When human sin breaks the trust in this community, Christians are called to be present for one another, especially for those who struggle for their safety, dignity and rights. God calls us into right relations with one another to show care and respect for each human being.

Cultural diversity

Our cultural diversity adds to the strength of our community and is something to be cherished and celebrated. As we encounter one another's differences we should be careful not to assume that our way of being and behaving is comfortable for everyone else. Sometimes our differences of age, gender, culture, spirituality, religion, ability, language, caste, ethnicity and class make it a challenge to understand and communicate effectively with one another. How can each person be encouraged to take seriously his or her own responsibility to act with care in the multi-dimensional, cross-cultural interactions of the ecumenical world? What may be considered normal friendliness and sociability to one person can be misinterpreted in a culturally mixed group and even between individuals of the same culture or background. This is why we must take extra care and sensitivity with one another in an ecumenical environment. Finding appropriate expressions of the friendship and warmth felt for others in a positive, non-threatening way is a challenge faced by the ecumenical community.

Violence and power

Harassment is an intolerable manifestation of unequal power relations between people. Sexual harassment often also includes discrimination on the basis of gender, age, race or class, causing stress or humiliation to the person being harassed. This may happen in situations where dominance and abuse of power result in a lack of respect for and mistreatment of people as sexual objects. This ultimately demeans and destroys the dignity of a person. Sexual harassment is most often experienced by women from men. So harassment is not an isolated incident or individual problem. Rather it is a problem stemming from wider patterns and dynamics of power in our societies. Harassment can also occur between people of the same gender and sometimes involves women harassing men.

The Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace carries forward the commitment of churches around the world to overcome the institutional and personal violence that women experience. Sexual harassment has been identified as the most common expression of this violence. Incidents of sexual harassment and assault at church and ecumenical meetings have engaged the churches and the ecumenical movement in seeking responsible action and policy. Many churches, organizations and governments have introduced institutional or legislative remedies to protect those who experience the dehumanizing effects of violence and sexual harassment.

The purpose of these guidelines is to set a positive foundation upon which to build Christian community marked by solidarity, despite the brokenness in our midst. These guidelines are intended to encourage men to reflect on their attitudes towards women and those who are privileged on the basis of race, class, gender, social status, position of leadership and age to reflect on the spirit of justice and community that the ecumenical movement upholds.

They are also intended to encourage individuals to assert their dignity and contribute to the renewal of community. How can each of us, in our worship, work and meetings, help to create a reconciled, respectful community, conducive to the full humanity of all?

What is sexual harassment and assault?

On a continuum of severity, harassment ranges from whistles in the street and obscene phone calls to sexual assault. Sexual assault includes rape, sexual intercourse without consent, and sexual contact without consent.

Several kinds of behaviour with a sexual connotation, if unsolicited and unwanted and especially if repetitive, can be forms of sexual harassment. Examples are: suggestive looks or comments, teasing or telling of jokes with sexual content, letters, calls or materials of a sexual nature, imposed touching or closeness, pressure for dates or activities with a sexual overtone, or offers to use influence in return for sexual favours.

The feelings of the person experiencing any unwelcome behaviour are what is important. This depends on each individual and the context. In the end, harassment is not what someone necessarily intends to do but how his or her actions impact another's person's feelings and well-being.

Some steps to prevent and deal with sexual harassment


• Be clear with yourself and others about your personal boundaries what sort of closeness with others feels comfortable or appropriate for you?
• Refuse any inappropriate gesture or contact.
• Respect other people's personal boundaries. If you are not sure ask first (i.e. would it be okay if I gave you a hug?).
• If you experience harassment, make it clear that the behaviour is unwelcome. You can say "no" with a look, words or gestures.
• Harassment is never the fault of the person being harassed. By its nature, harassment is unwanted attention or behaviour. It is not consensual.
• If harassment persists, and you are in a public place, make your protests louder so that the public notices the harasser.
• Trust your intuition and feelings if someone's behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable. People who experience harassment sometimes try to rationalize or deny what is really going on.
• Talk about it with people you trust, so that the name of the harasser and the kind of objectionable things done are known. This is important so that others are not subjected to the same treatment. Silence may only provoke more harassment.
• In serious cases where legal or other follow-up action is necessary, a verbal and written record of events will be helpful.
• If you see or hear of someone being harassed, don't keep silent. You could approach the person being harassed to see how you can help. Tell the person doing the harassing that their actions or words are inappropriate and make everyone feel uncomfortable. If the case is severe call for help.
• If you have experienced harassment, the solidarity care team can provide a safe space to talk about the situation and your feelings. They can also support you with whatever follow-up measures might be appropriate when you return home (i.e. local centre against sexual harassment and assault or support group through a local church).

Concluding statement

The churches and the World Council of Churches are called to develop a truly inclusive community free of violence and injustice. Sexual harassment and all forms of violence will not be tolerated or condoned. Offenders will be held responsible for their behaviour and are subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

The location and members of the solidarity care team will be announced at the assembly.

***

Alternative globalization addressing people and earth - AGAPE

"Alternative globalization addressing people and earth - A call to love and action" : Prepared by the WCC commission for Justice, Peace and Creation, this call "to love and action" invites the churches to act together for transformation of economic injustice and to continue analyzing and reflecting on challenges of economic globalization and the link between wealth and poverty.

Alternative globalization addressing people and earth - AGAPE
14 February 2006

- AGAPE
A call to love and action

This document is the result of work on economic globalization from Harare to Porto Alegre. It was prepared by the commission for Justice, Peace and Creation under the direction of the central committee. Its final version was received by the executive committee in September 2005 which also approved the use of the document in the economic justice plenary.

Introduction

We, representatives of churches gathered at the ninth assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), emphasize that a world without poverty is not only possible but is in keeping with the grace of God for the world. This conviction builds on the rich tradition of ecumenical social thought and action, which is centred on God's option for the poor as an imperative of our faith. It captures the results of a seven-year global study process of the churches' responses to economic globalization with contributions from all regions of the world and involvement of a number of Christian world communions, particularly through the 2003 assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the 2004 general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) (see appendix).

This process has examined the project of economic globalization that is led by the ideology of unfettered market forces and serves the dominant political and economic interests. The international financial institutions and the World Trade Organization among other such institutions promote economic globalization. The participants in the AGAPE process shared their concerns about the growing inequality, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few and the destruction of the earth - all aggravating the scandal of poverty in the South and increasingly in the North. In recent years the escalating role of political and military power have strongly surfaced. People all over the world experience the impact of imperial forms of power on their communities.

Meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the home of the World Social Forum (WSF), we are encouraged by the constructive and positive message of the movements gathering in the WSF that alternatives are possible. We affirm that we can and must make a difference by becoming transformative communities caring for people and the earth.

We recognize that the divisions of the world are present among us. Since we are called to be one in Christ, we are called to be transformed by God's grace for the sake of all life on earth, overcoming the world's division. Challenged to monitor and transform economic globalization, we call ourselves to action as churches working alongside people of faith communities and movements.

AGAPE Call - for love and action

God, Creator, endowing your creation with integrity and human beings with dignity;
God, Redeemer and Liberator, freeing us from slavery and death;
God, Holy Spirit, transforming and energizing us.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit let us witness to your love, life and transforming grace.

All: God, in your grace, transform the world.

We have become apathetic to suffering and injustice. Among us are many who suffer the consequences of economic globalization; women, abused and yet caring for life; children who are denied their rights; youth living in economic insecurity and unemployment; those labouring under exploitative conditions; the many caught in unjust trade relationships and debt slavery. There are people with disabilities and those living at the margins of society, people of colour often the first and most painfully hit by poverty, those pushed away and alienated from the land, the earth - battered, depleted and exploited. Denied of their sustenance, these people are often the most vulnerable to diseases such as HIV/AIDS. We confess that many of us have failed to respond in solidarity.

All: God, in your grace, transform the world.

We are tempted to give in to comfort and its empty promises when we ought to choose costly discipleship and change. We are driven to accept oppression and suffering as a given, when we should keep our hope and advocate for justice and liberation.

We confess that many of us have failed to take a stand in our faith and act against economic injustice and its destructive consequences on people and the earth. We are tempted to give in to materialism and the reign of money. We play to the rules of greed and conform to political and military power when we should align ourselves with the poor and excluded people.

All: God, in your grace, transform the world.

God, we ask your forgiveness.
All: God, in your grace, transform the world.

God, let our economic structures be inspired by the rules of your household of life, governed by love, justice and grace.
Let us not be afraid of change, or to seek alternatives.
Let us work for justice by resisting destructive economic structures,
Proclaiming with hope the jubilee year of the Lord, the cancellation of debt, the release of the captives and rest for the land,
let us work for an agape economy of solidarity.

All: God, in your grace, transform the world.

God, you send us out,
to care for the earth and to share all what is necessary for life in community;
to resist and to denounce all that denies life,
to love our neighbours and to do what is just,
so that where there was death, there will be life.

We call each other
to respond to your love for all people and for the earth
in our own actions and in the witness and service of our churches;
to work for the eradication of poverty and the unconditional cancellation of debts;
to care for land, water, air - the entire web of life;
to build just and sustainable relationships with the earth.

In the world of labour, trade and finance to study and engage power in its different forms and manifestations, remembering that all power is accountable to you, God. God in your grace, help us to be agents of your transformation and to hear your call to act with courage.

All: Creator God, may the power of your grace transform us,
Christ, give us courage and hope to share our life with each other and the world,
Holy Spirit, empower us to work for justice for people and the earth.
God, in your grace, transform the world. Amen.

In the spirit of this uniting prayer, we challenge ourselves to have the courage to take action. The AGAPE call invites us to act together for transformation of economic injustice and to continue analyzing and reflecting on challenges of economic globalization and the link between wealth and poverty.

1. Poverty eradication

We recommit ourselves to work for the eradication of poverty and inequality through developing economies of solidarity and sustainable communities. We will hold our governments and the international institutions accountable to implement their commitments on poverty eradication and sustainability.

2. Trade

We recommit ourselves to work for justice in international trade relations through critical analyses on free trade and trade negotiations, and to collaborate closely with social movements in making those agreements just, equitable and democratic.

3. Finance

We recommit ourselves to campaign for responsible lending; unconditional debt cancellation and for the control and regulation of global financial markets. Investments should be redirected towards businesses that respect social and ecological justice, or in banks and institutions that do not engage in speculation, nor encourage tax evasion.

4. Sustainable use of land and natural resources

We recommit ourselves to engage in actions for sustainable and just patterns of extraction and use of natural resources, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, who seek to protect their land, water and their communities.

We recommit ourselves to challenge the excessive consumption of affluent societies so that they will shift towards self-restraint and simplicity in lifestyles.

5. Public goods and services

We recommit ourselves to join the global struggle against the imposed privatization of public goods and services; and to actively defend the rights of countries and peoples to define and manage their own commons.

We recommit ourselves to support movements, groups and international initiatives defending vital elements of life such as bio-diversity, water and the atmosphere.

6. Life-giving agriculture

We recommit ourselves to work for land reforms in solidarity with landless agricultural labourers and small farm holders; to advocate in various ways for self-determination over food concerns. To oppose the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as well as trade liberalization as the sole directive. We commit ourselves to promote ecological farming practices and to stand in solidarity with peasant communities.

7. Decent jobs, emancipated work and people's livelihoods

We commit ourselves to build alliances with social movements and trade unions that advocate decent jobs and just wages. We commit ourselves to advocate for those workers and bonded labourers who work under exploitative conditions and are deprived of their rights to form trade unions.

8. Churches and the power of empire

We recommit ourselves to reflect on the question of power and empire from a biblical and theological perspective, and take a firm faith stance against hegemonic powers because all power is accountable to God.

We acknowledge that the process of transformation requires that we as churches make ourselves accountable to the victims of the project of economic globalization. Their voices and experiences must determine how we analyze and judge this project, in keeping with the gospel. This implies that we as churches from different regions make ourselves accountable to each other, and that those of us closer to the centres of power live out our first loyalty to our sisters and brothers who experience the negative impacts of global economic injustice everyday of their lives.

This AGAPE call is a prayer for strength to transform unjust economic structures. It will guide our reflections and actions in the next phase of the ecumenical journey. Our engagement will build on the findings, proposals and recommendations to the churches from the AGAPE process as outlined in the AGAPE background document.

***

Assembly books

Assembly Programme Book

Within the pages of this Programme Book are several key texts and documents for delegates and other participants attending the Ninth Assembly of the WCC in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from 14 to 23 February 2006.

Assembly Programme Book
14 February 2006

Within the pages of this Programme Book are several key texts and documents for delegates and other participants attending the ninth assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from 14 to 23 February 2006.

The entire Programme Book is available in PDF version.

Individual documents are also available separately:

• Official working documents:
- Called to be the one church
- Alternative globalization addressing people and earth (AGAPE) : a call to love and action
- Call to recommitment: mid-term of the Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010: churches seeking reconciliation and peace
- WCC financial profile: recent history and current trends
• Policy documents:
- Guidelines for the conduct of meetings
- Constitution and rules of the WCC
- Final report of the Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC
- When Christian solidarity is broken: a pastoral and educational response to sexual harassment
• Ecumenical conversations:
- Introduction
- Changing religious and cultural context
- Changing ecclesial and ecumenical context
- Changing international and political context
- Changing social and economic context
• Resource documents:
- Religious plurality and Christian self-understanding
- Global Christian Forum
- Joint consultative group WCC-Pentecostals 2000-2005: excerpts from the report to the Ninth Assembly
- Mid-term of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010: Churches seeking reconciliation and peace (background document)


***

Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC

The Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches outlines the activities of the JWG between 1999-2005, and includes three completed study documents as well as some themes pursued and issues addressed.

Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC
14 February 2006

The Eighth Report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches outlines the activities of the JWG between 1999-2005, and includes three completed study documents as well as some themes pursued and issues addressed.

A 17-19 November 2005 consultation held at Bossey, Switzerland, the site of the first JWG meeting in 1965, on the occasion of the Group's 40th anniversary, affirmed the JWG's Eighth Report, covering the period 1999-2005, and its recommendations.

First place among the recommendations is given to "the need to promote a return to the spiritual roots of ecumenism". What is needed, the report says, is "a renewed ecumenical spirituality based on the riches of our respective traditions," which should allow "enriching one another spiritually, through common prayer and other forms of spiritual sharing".

The second recommendation stresses that "greater effort is needed in the field of ecumenical formation". The report emphasizes the "importance of offering young people opportunities to be exposed to traditions other than their own, especially in shared programmes of formation, mission and service".

In the third place, and as an area of concern, the report stressed the need to follow closely the topic of "possibly church-dividing difficulties encountered in giving common witness in the field of personal and social moral issues". A list of those issues includes "bio-ethics, human, civil and religious rights, issues of peace, social justice, healing of memories, human sexuality and reproduction".

Finally, the report lists a number of "new challenges" that are demanding a response from Christians and "can be fruitfully examined by the next JWG". These are "inter-religious dialogue," "religious pluralism and, in some places, the increasing absence of God in cultural life," "the spread of modern technology and the power of the media," "the prevalence of injustice, different forms of violence and the fear induced by international terrorism".

Joint Working Group
between the Roman Catholic Church
and the World
Council of Churches

Eighth Report [MISSING]
1999-2005

***

From Harare to Porto Alegre report

"From Harare to Porto Alegre" is the report of the activities and dialogue undertaken between the WCC's eighth assembly in December 1998 in Zimbabwe and the final stages of preparation for the Ninth Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006. In telling the story of the Council, it also reflects the life and faith of member churches, partner agencies and individual believers.

From Harare to Porto Alegre report
14 February 2006

"From Harare to Porto Alegre" is the report of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee on activities and dialogue undertaken within the ecumenical fellowship between the WCC's eighth assembly in December 1998 on the campus of the University of Harare in Zimbabwe and the final stages of preparation for the ninth assembly at the Pontifical Catholic University in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006. In telling the story of the World Council, it also reflects the life and faith of member churches, partner agencies and individual believers.

***

Official Report of the WCC 9th Assembly

Edited by Luis N. Rivera-Pagán WCC Publications, Geneva

Official Report of the WCC 9th Assembly
30 August 2007

Official Report of the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches
Edited by
Luis N. Rivera-Pagán
WCC Publications, Geneva

ISBN : 978-2-8254-1512-2

A report of the WCC's Ninth Assembly is also available in German from Verlag Otto Lembeck.

The Assembly reports and addresses contained in the report are also available online in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.


***
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