7 December 1998
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Two of the central constitutional responsibilities of each assembly of the World Council of Churches are (1) evaluating the programmes and other activities the Council has undertaken since the previous assembly and (2) providing directions and guidelines for its work during the period until the next assembly. These tasks of assessing the past and pointing the way to the future are obviously related. In Harare, they will principally be approached by way of hearings.|
The hearings will take place in two phases during the middle days of the assembly. Both phases will include three 90-minute sessions. There will be five different sets of hearings in Phase I and six different sets of hearings in Phase II.
During the process of registration all delegates will have chosen to follow one set of hearings in each phase. Members of the Programme Guidelines Committee will be assigned to each of the sets of hearings in both phases. Based on what its members hear, this committee will bring together the results of the hearings in both phases into a report to be presented for adoption by the assembly in its final days.
To encourage free and creative exploration by the delegates in the process of setting guidelines for the future of the WCC, Phase II of the hearings is intentionally organized around broad areas of issues rather than around the WCC's organizational structure. The focus of the hearings in this phase is on developing mandates for the work of the WCC in the years to come. Each of the six sets of hearings in Phase II will concentrate on one cluster of related issues. Together these six clusters are intended to comprise all the areas in which the churches have been engaged together over the years through the ecumenical movement.
Undergirding and informing both the evaluation of the Council's work in the past and the setting of guidelines for the future is the continuous process of listening, speaking, discussing and reflecting by which the important issues facing the churches and the world today come alive for assembly participants. This takes place in every aspect of the assembly - during the times set aside in the programme for plenary presentations and discussions, for Bible study, for encounter in small groups, for worship, as well as in the countless informal conversations among delegates and others over meals and coffee breaks, while moving from one event to another, in their places of residence, in their contacts with the host community.
The eighth assembly will also include a special place in which this exploration can take place: the Padare. Here churches and ecumenical partners from all around the world will share their own experiences in a variety of ways. During the two days between Phase I and Phase II of the hearings, delegates will be free to enter completely into the Padare experience.
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