A unique experiment in the 50-year life of the World Council of Churches (WCC) was launched yesterday with the opening of the "Padare" at the 8th assembly.
Padare, a local word meaning "meeting place", is a traditional Zimbabwean gathering to deliberate on common issues.
Over the next four days, more than 550 exhibits, performances, presentations and discussions on a vast array of issues and activities will be presented at the Padare by WCC member churches and organisations related to them.
Some delegates to the assembly are already saying that the most interesting and important developments of the assembly will be at the Padare rather than in the formal plenary discussions by the 900 delegates at the assembly.
Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary, told Ecumenical News International yesterday that council officials "have been overwhelmed by the response of churches" wanting to participate in the Padare.
"This is turning out to be a wonderful opportunity for new networks to develop and for people to discover each other they will surely realise that the churches and the ecumenical movement are alive and vital."
The goal of the Padare was, he said, "to make visible the richness and health of the life of the churches".
Rather than simply reacting to actions and programmes of the WCC, Padare participants had the opportunity to "come with their contributions to the whole life of the ecumenical movement", he said. He added that he hoped "to draw from the Padare ideas for the WCC agenda for the future".
The Padares wide range of subjects includes a number of issues which could be sensitive for churches, including biotechnology, inter-faith co-operation, sanctions against Iraq, capital punishment, debt forgiveness for poor countries, and the role of women in the church.
Homosexuality, the subject of 11 Padare offerings, is likely to prove the most controversial subject as many churches believe it should not be a subject of discussion at Christian gatherings.
Raiser said he was not afraid of controversy growing out of the Padare.
"Of course there will be disagreements, with so many people discussing so many important issues," he said. He noted that an advisory group had been established "to maintain the open spirit of the Padare", adding, "This is not a place for resolutions, but for the free exchange of ideas, and sometimes they will be controversial."
Padare offerings have been organised into six streams: Justice and Peace, Unity and Spirituality, Moving Together, Education and Learning, Mission and Witness, and Solidarity.
The Justice and Peace stream includes such topics as alternatives to violence in solving conflict, racism and race relations, the churchs role in transitional societies, violence against women and their role in church and society, nuclear testing and the threat of nuclear war, prospects for Middle East peace, issues of human rights and indigenous peoples rights, and homosexuality and other gender issues.
The Unity stream includes workshops on prayer, discussions of "koinonia" (the community of the church), steps toward unity being taken in various countries and regions, various expressions of spirituality, the role of the diaconate around the world, the role of ethnic and national identity in unity efforts, and the growing tensions between churches and other religious movements around the world.
Topics in the Moving Together stream include the relationship between Evangelicals and the ecumenical movement, reports of successful local ecumenical efforts, the relevance of Christian communication, the student Christian movement, electronic networking, and WCC relations with Pentecostals, African Instituted churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Education and Learning stream, topics include theological literacy, the effects of globalisation on religion, children and worship, models of interfaith dialogue, gender awareness issues, and leadership development for women and youth in various contexts.
International debt forgiveness will be part of the Mission and Witness stream, as well as disability issues, the churchs response to HIV/Aids, how to minister to street children, international medical missions, alcohol and drug abuse, responsible investment policies, health and spirituality, child prostitution, and urban ministry.
The Solidarity stream will include discussion of the effects of globalisation on urban poor women, the negative impacts of tourism, the rights and exploitation of children, uprooted people and refugees, environmental concerns and climate change, and youth involvement in the struggle for justice in the world.
Ecumenical News International
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A day of hearings
Attention! Debt to be chained up
Padare' to showcase vitality of ecumenical movement
Harare liturgy marks growth of Orthodox Church in Africa
Invest in human rights education, church told
Assemblies: Nelson has seen them all
Church doing well in Africa?
Decade plenary reveals consensus and division
The topic was sin
|8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary|