8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on the Way
8.2. Response to the plenary on the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women

We are grateful for the living letter entitled "From Solidarity to Accountability" (for the text see appendix III) sent by the women and men of the Decade Festival: Visions Beyond 98. We rejoice with all who have rejoiced, celebrated and participated in the progress made during the years of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.

As was expressed in the publication From Canberra to Harare, in some churches the Decade brought together "groups... who had never before sat around the same table to reflect together about the concerns expressed in the Decade". These concerns or areas emphasized were:

Yet this publication also recognizes that Decade progress was greatly due to the "solidarity of women with other women" and that "transforming the churches into truly inclusive communities" should be a continuing priority of the WCC in the new millennium. We ask delegates to share the living letter "From Solidarity to Accountability" along with other documents presented at the Decade plenary with member churches in their region.

Voices of the Decade plenary

You have changed a lamentation of the myrrh bearers into joy (Orthodox hymn).
Joyful voices were raised in solidarity and praise for the Ecumenical Decade. Many stones, stumbling blocks, have been removed during the Decade. The voices of the Decade plenary presenters were unanimous in praising the progress. Voices affirmed the deep call for human and social rights for women. Voices deplored violence in all its many forms against women. Voices declared commitment to continue the struggle to make the new millennium truly new, especially for women.

However, in response to the Decade presentation, some assembly voices expressed differing and even conflicting views. Some voices say "not now, not ever" to issues raised with regards to ordination, sexual orientation, reproductive rights and inclusive language. One speaker expressed this with the thought that "sometimes it seems we are on a different apostolic journey".

Other voices cautioned the assembly about the delay in removing obstacles to the full inclusion of women in every aspect of life, both in the church and society. These voices say it is time to move on from solidarity to accountability. They state that there is no turning back in the journey of faith that has marked the Decade. This is God's time, God's kairos, for transformation.

As expressed in the title of the letter sent to the WCC, now we are being called to "accountability". The WCC has heard clearly the challenge to account for its commitment to the aims of the Decade in all its workings and policies. We also hear the call to strengthen the churches' solidarity with women.

To strengthen the churches' solidarity with women it is clear that both the WCC and the churches should involve themselves in deep conversation, conversion, prayer and action with regard to the issues discussed in the document "From Solidarity to Accountability" and in the Decade plenary. As the church, we seek to live out the biblical affirmation that we are created in the image of God, male and female (Gen. 1:28) and the baptismal vision that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, no longer male or female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). To this end we make the following recommendations:

Recommendations (Adopted)
1. That the WCC prepare guidelines for inter-gender conduct which incorporate the understanding that any form of violence against women is a sin.

2. That the churches be encouraged to provide opportunities for women to speak out about the issues of violence and abuse where both the victims and the perpetrators of violence can experience the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. The need is recognized for repentance for actions and omissions with regard to the inclusivity of women and the violence to which many have been victims.

3. That the assembly affirm the ongoing work of the WCC on de-legitimizing war, commends the central committee statement of 1995 on overcoming violence, and other statements of the WCC especially as such statements impact on women and children who are the innocent victims of war, conflict situations and domestic violence.

4. That the assembly encourage the use of languages and policies t hat support the inclusion of persons in leadership positions in all aspects of the life of the churches, where this is in harmony with the churches' ecclesiological self-understanding, especially in regard to the issues of gender, age, race, cultural background and disability.

5. That the WCC advocate debt cancellation measures and that the resources saved as a result be used for the improvement in quality of life, especially for women, youth and children.

6. That the WCC denounce the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, such as sex slavery, prostitution, pornography and all such trafficking of women and children.

7. That the WCC support the development of just economic systems and structures in church and society so that people regardless of gender, age, race, cultural background or ability may experience the blessings of justice, equal pay for equal work, sustainable and livable wages and honourable labour practices.

8. That the assembly commend to member churches the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the UN document "Beijing Platform for Action" and the UN Decade entitled Decade of Eradication of Poverty 1997-2007.

9. That the assembly ask the member churches to find ways to keep the goals of the Decade before them.

For information the following recommendations were forwarded to the Programme Guidelines Committee for consideration:

1. That the WCC provide and/or support programmes, opportunities and curricula for theological education that include women's voices, perspectives and experiences. (referred to the central committee for consideration)

2. That the WCC engage in a study of human sexuality, in all of its diversity, to be made available for member churches. Furthermore, that the WCC encourage member churches to open discussion and dialogue on the topic of human sexuality. (incorporated into the Programme Guidelines Committee report)

3. That the assembly commend the Decade emphases on efforts to combat racism and concern for migrant workers and ask that these concerns be incorporated in the various programmes of the WCC. (incorporated into the Programme Guidelines Committee report)

4. Ask the WCC, in consultation with the churches to monitor progress in this area, to hold a midpoint consultation and to report to the ninth assembly. (referred to the central committee for consideration)

Go to 8.3. Policy Reference Committee II Report -- Appendix I: Sudan
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