number 2, december 5, 1998

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WCC-Orthodox relations ‘critical’

The moderator of the WCC central committee yesterday described the council’s relationship with its Orthodox members as "critical", but not yet in a crisis state. He said too little has been done to bring them into "creative interaction" with the council’s western Protestant thinking and methods.

Addressing an issue widely discussed before the assembly started, Aram called upon Orthodox and other members of the council to maintain their commitment to one another.

Orthodox members "have played an important role" in the WCC, bringing "significant contributions to ecumenical thinking and spirituality," he said. Even so, Orthodox churches "have not integrated themselves fully" into the life of the WCC because of council practices and methods that were not compatible with Orthodox tradition.

"Unless the Assembly takes this present situation seriously," Aram acknowledged, "I fear that the Orthodox participation will steadily dwindle."

He called upon Orthodox members to come to the Council "with a clear agenda and an open attitude," and he asked other WCC members to provide "ample space and opportunities" for Orthodox. "It is time that the Orthodox Churches move from monologue to dialogue, from reaction to action, from contribution to participation, from being observers to becoming full partners in the WCC."

Aram’s analysis of Orthodox-WCC relationships were part of this comments on the Council’s Common Understanding and Vision planning document (CUV), which has led to proposed Constitutional amendments that will come before the delegates at this meeting.

In the next decade and the next millennium, the Moderator said, the Council will find itself facing new social and political realities.

"We have all become neighbors in a ‘global village,’ black and white, rich and poor, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, followers of other faiths or atheist. Torn by our differences and tensions, we do not yet know how to live together in a world in which we are bound to live together in one community."

"Turning to God implies turning to our neighbor in active love, justice and reconciliation," he said, referring to the Assembly theme.

"On December 13th, during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the WCC, we will be invited to reaffirm our commitment by saying, ‘We intend to stay together.’"

Aram did not read aloud a large portion of his address to reporting on important WCC achievements in Faith and Order, Christian education, mission and healing ministries. He cited the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, the integration of youth into the WCC, programs to improve the world’s ecology and the Programme to Overcome Violence.

Four thousand international representatives and visitors are meeting in Harare for the two-week Assembly, which meets every seven years to set policy goals for the WCC and to provide a multi-cultural celebration of the Christian faith.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Assembly theme, carved and examined
Moderator: affirm human rights, teach one community
WCC-Orthodox relations 'critical'
Assembly theme turned to sexuality
Pluses and minuses of council finances

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor