world council of churches

8th assembly and 50th anniversary
preparatory materials


Annotated Agenda

Session I
1. Welcome and introduction
2. Introduction to the hearing process
3. Overview of the unit and streams and their activities

Session II
Presenters will bring comments and lead discussion on the following questions:

Faith and Order
1.Why does the unity of the church matter?

  • theological imperative
  • case studies and testimonies from the work of this period, e.g. ethnicity and nationalism, ecclesiology and ethics

2.What sort of unity are we talking about?
  • the relation of unity and diversity (from Santiago, Moshi, experience of regional conferences, debates in multilateral and bilateral dialogues)
  • unity as dynamic not static (koinonia theme)
  • community of interpretation (hermeneutics study)
  • the marks of the church (Santiago, ecclesiology study)

3.What are the obstacles to unity?
  • real differences remain on "matters of faith and order" which divide our churches
  • unwillingness to change, tendency to live in the past, refusal to be transformed, post-modernism (Moshi Plenary Commission on reception and conversion as challenge to this)

4. Signs of hope
  • the common confession of the faith (apostolic faith study)
  • recognition of baptism (continued responses to BEM, Faverges consultation, theology of laos)
  • common understanding of worship and eucharist (Ditchingham and Bossey reports, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, common date for Easter)
  • common witness (ecclesiology and ethics, input of F&O studies on Porvoo, united/uniting churches, Oriental-Roman Catholic dialogues, etc.), work on AIDS, inclusive community

Lay Participation towards Inclusive Community
1. Why is participation of the laity important for the unity of the church and unity of humankind?
  • theological imperative
  • overall vision of the work on a new profile of the laity (ecclesiology of the people of God)

2. What sort of unity with justice are we talking about? Formation of the laos:
  • ecumenical learning, laity formation and leadership formation
  • exchange programme

3. What are the obstacles to inclusive community?
  • work on persons with disabilities (Cartigny, Sibiu, Beirut, Korea)
  • interim statement on theological and empirical understanding of the issue of disabilities

4. Signs of hope
  • recognition of baptism of the whole people of God
  • closer cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • recognition of the gifts and talents of persons with disabilities
  • formation of new leadership for the ecumenical movement

Session III
Presenters will comment and lead discussion on the following questions:

Ecumenical Theological Education
1. Why does theological education matter? Does theological education need the church? Does the church need theology?

2. What does the church's ecumenical vocation mean for theological education and ministerial formation? Theological education is a hermeneutical process, attempting to retrieve the tradition in the present. How can it help to achieve the togetherness of all disciplines and function as a whole? How is the church's sacramental life relevant to the multidimensional needs of Christians especially in the areas of suffering and relief from suffering? How must theological education and ministerial formation be transformed to equip it for the task?

3. What does ETE as an agency of ecumenical formation mean for the WCC, churches and theological schools? How do we balance the ecumenical challenge and the reality of denominationalism?

4. Problems and promises

  • financial viability
  • the emergence of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements highlight healing as a function of religion and ministry, but liturgical and canonical forms often make it difficult to incorporate new healing traditions; hence the danger of heterodoxy or even schism. How may theological education and ministerial formation help to overcome this situation?
  • "A prophet arises." How is ecumenical theological education related to the vibrant Pentecostal and charismatic movements?

Worship and Spirituality
1.How shall we pray?
  • worship workshops as the source for liturgical patterns
  • worship as a practical locus for issues of gospel and culture
  • worship as a unifying activity or one which divides

2. Shall we pray?
  • the importance of spirituality in the life of the WCC (consultation on a Christian Spirituality for our Times)

3. We pray
  • worship at ecumenical meetings and the possibilities this offers for local use

4. Pray
  • the date of Easter
  • the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle and the invitation for an ongoing ministry of prayer


Mandate, structure and programmatic emphases
The new Programme Unit on Unity and Renewal began to function in January 1992. Its four streams - Faith and Order; Lay Participation - Inclusive Community; Ecumenical Theological Education-Bossey; Worship and Spirituality - were called upon to seek "increased interaction, cooperation and enrichment". At its first meeting in Evian in 1992, the unit commission expressed this inter-relationship in terms of the search for manifesting unity as koinonia:

The search to manifest this unity as koinonia remains a constant challenge to theological work and dialogue in order to overcome both inherited differences and new divisions. It is also inextricably related to the struggle for inclusive community, so that the church may embody in its life and reflect in its experience the work of unity with justice that heals divisions. The fostering process of theological education of the whole people of God serves the ultimate goal of keeping alive the prophetic and teaching ministry of Christ in the diverse reality of both past and present. The life of the churches, also at the local level, should be renewed through ecumenical worship and spirituality, across the barriers of language and culture.

The commission also identified broad programmatic emphases for the four streams:

Faith and Order
"The struggle to manifest the unity of the church as communion/koinonia expresses the response to God's gift and calling and looks towards its fullness. This gift and calling requires on our part constant theological work and dialogue to overcome inherited and new differences which keep the churches divided and constitute obstacles to a truly inclusive community. It requires focusing on the basic affirmations of the Christian faith which we already share. For the fulfilment of God's kingdom, it requires a conscious inter-relation between work for the unity of the church and the renewal of human community since God's purpose is the reconciliation and transformation of all humanity and creation.

"This programmatic emphasis requires work oriented towards the koinonia given and expressed in the common confession of the one apostolic faith; a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship; a common life in which members and ministries are mutually recognized and reconciled; and a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation' (Canberra Statement on The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling').

"Work towards this goal includes the search for common perspectives among diverse theological approaches. We must also reflect on the relation between the communion we seek in faith, life and witness and the enriching and needed diversity in expressing and living this communion."

Lay Participation towards Inclusive Community
"The church is drawn together and renewed in the love of the Holy Trinity, who is a community of persons united in mutual, self-effacing love. The church is to be both a sign of this unity and also to call the whole world to participate and be included in it. The church is challenged by this call to embody in its life and to reflect in its experience the work of unity with justice that heals divisions.

"This stream... sees itself as a servant of this call to unity with justice. The primary focus of this stream is the laity, strengthening its participation in the church. Both clergy and laity belong to laos tou Theou - the entire people of God - but we recognize that the relationship between clergy and laity is often itself in need of the healing work of unity.

"The differences, distinctions and divisions present not only in society at large but also within the church can exclude certain persons and sometimes entire categories of people from full and meaningful participation and fellowship within the community.

"The issues of race and gender have been a continuing concern of the WCC. The differently abled, the senior citizens, the children and the young... are among the most vulnerable of our society, but they are also those who are being increasingly excluded from the community and are pitted one against another for recognition and resources.

"However, the work of including everyone within the one community is not so much a separate programme as a way in which each and every programme is conceived and implemented. Sometimes this will require theological reflection and study, to provide the solid necessary grounding. Other times it will require specific education and training. But it will require everyone at all times to reconsider the implications of their actions and programmes on

Ecumenical Theological Education
"Theological education, a service (diakonia) of primary importance, is a vital task for the whole church, especially for those being trained for future leadership, both clergy and laity. The ultimate goal of the theological task is to keep alive in a dynamic way the prophetic and teaching ministry of Christ in every historical moment in the life of the church and society. In this perspective, although specialists have a particular role to play, the whole people of God are also called to contribute, in the light of the Word of God and with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

"Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) is primarily concerned with fostering the unity of the church, the church's missionary vocation, and addressing scientifically and coherently the socio-ethical issues confronting humanity."

Worship and Spirituality
"Our deepening life of prayer together is vital for our ability to understand one another, across the lines of language and culture, in the true Pentecostal spirit.

"Ecumenical worship and liturgy is also a means through which the WCC can touch the life of local congregations through music, liturgical material and prayer. Today there is a widespread hunger and thirst for spiritual renewal, in terms of both personal sanctification and corporate transformation. The emerging ecumenical spirit of worship and liturgical life may be a movement of the Spirit for the renewal of our churches."

Programmatic priorities
The programmatic priorities for each of the streams identified by the unit commission in Evian were reviewed by the Central Committee in 1992:

Faith and Order
1. The nature of the unity of the church as koinonia. The preparation, holding and follow-up of the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order on the theme "Towards Communion/Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness". Follow-up to this conference would involve a major study on Ecumenical Perspectives on Ecclesiology with special reference to the understanding of koinonia and the requirements of visible unity.

2. The study on the unity of the church and renewal of the human community with particular reference to emerging new issues such as ethnic tensions and nationalism.

Lay Participation towards Inclusive Community
1. Study and research on inclusive community including the needs of the differently abled, the elderly and

2. Formation and participation of lay people in the life and mission of the church in the world, in close cooperation with the Christian lay centres and movements.

Ecumenical Theological Education
1. Ecumenical Theological Education as expressed in (a) the work of the Ecumenical Institute Bossey and diverse theological education in the regions; (b) strengthening the research activities and facilities of Bossey; (c) relating the programmes of Bossey to the ongoing work of the Unit as a whole; (d) developing links between Bossey and other ecumenical institutes, e.g. the Irish School of Ecumenics.

2. The need to examine the viability of theological education in different cultural contexts and using differing methodologies.

Worship and Spirituality
1. Exploring Christian spirituality in our time: the theology and practice of worship as a sign and commitment towards the visible unity we seek; it engages us in reflections on worship, music, Christian art and symbols, iconography, architecture, prayer, styles of life, struggles of discipleship, and retreats.

2. Renewal of ecumenical life in local congregations.

Intra-unit and inter-unit priorities
The Central Committee in 1992 also identified intra-unit and inter-unit priorities. Within the unit, each stream was encouraged to contribute to the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, reflect together on local ecumenism and its implications for our understanding of the nature of the church, work together on the planning of worship and reflect on how worship nurtures our journey towards unity. The insights of the stream on Inclusive Community should be related to the Faith and Order study on the Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community; and Bossey should be encouraged to take up the themes of the unit's work in the graduate school and summer courses.

Within the Council as a whole, the unit was urged to engage in biblical and theological reflection with each unit; specifically, with Unit III on the ecclesiological implications of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation; with Units II and III on interfaith dialogue; with OIRR on dialogue between Christians and Jews; with Unit II on unity in mission and evangelism and on Gospel and Culture; and with Unit IV on diakonia as a practical expression of


The Unit I commission met four times to receive the reports of the various working groups and board, and to provide oversight for the unit's ongoing work.

Evian 1992. As we have noted, this meeting provided general guidance for the programme of the unit, which had come into existence four months earlier.

Crêt-Bérard, Switzerland, 1995. Besides making recommendations on the work of the four streams, the commissioners examined the question of the location of Bossey and affirmed that it remain within the unit. They also began to become involved in the Common Understanding and Vision (CUV) process. They declared: "At this critical moment, we have come to view the unity we seek in terms of communion - reflecting the relational nature of our communion with God, with each other and with the creation as a whole."

Abbaye de Hautecombe, France, 1996. This meeting produced three important documents: (1) a statement affirming the work of the four streams and identifying priorities in the light of growing concerns about the financial situation of the Council; (2) an open letter to the general secretary, offering a number of recommendations regarding the process of financial review; (3) a response to the CUV draft text.

Annecy, France, 1997. In their extensive report of this fourth meeting, the commissioners took positive note of the many accomplishments of the unit and its four streams since 1992. The report also provides valuable observations on the future direction of the Council and the CUV document.


The Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order
The first major focus for Faith and Order during this period was planning, holding and following up the results and recommendations of the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order (Santiago de Compostela, August 1993). The conference sought to

  • take stock of what has been achieved through ecumenical dialogue in Faith and Order and beyond on the way towards visible unity;
  • challenge the churches to receive these achievements more fully into their thinking, life and ecumenical relations;
  • encourage the churches to affirm and live the already existing though partial communion with each other and to resist all tendencies to move backwards;
  • identify and struggle with those issues, old and new, which still remain barriers to full communion and to indicate ways towards overcoming them;
  • reflect together on the future direction and priorities of the ecumenical movement, the WCC and the Commission on Faith and Order.

The conference drew together the insights of three major Faith and Order studies (Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry; Confessing the One Faith; Church and World) and "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness", a document which developed the basic outline of the Canberra unity statement through a series of regional consultations.

While bringing together participants from the wider Faith and Order movement, Santiago differed significantly from previous world conferences in the high proportion of women participants and those coming from the two-thirds world. A group of 35 younger theologians (aged under 35 years) had a major impact on the conference through their public statement.

The Santiago message declared that "there is no turning back, either from the goal of visible unity or from the single ecumenical movement that unites concern for the unity of the church and concern for engagement in the struggles of the world". It developed the understanding of the unity of the churches as koinonia - a communion in faith, life and witness - and focused on the process of reconciliation which might lead to fuller communion, emphasizing the interdependence of faith, worship and witness. The reports and papers have subsequently entered the theological literature of scholars and churches, and were commended in the papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint.

Faith and Order studies
Ecclesiology. At its first meeting after the world conference, the Standing Commission adopted a "Conspectus of Studies" which identified the major project for Faith and Order as an ecumenical study on "The Church as Koinonia". Contributing to it would be other studies on worship, hermeneutics, and ecclesiology and ethics. The purpose of the ecclesiology study was to present common and converging lines of ecclesiological thinking, to bring together in a coherent form the results of the past and present ecumenical dialogue, and within that context to set out points of disagreement at the confessional level, in the hope that this might lead to a shared vision of the nature, unity and mission of the church.

At the request of the united and uniting churches (Ocho Rios 1995) and the Leuenberg-Meissen and Porvoo churches (Liebfrauenberg 1996), a consultation on "Episkopé and Episcopacy within the Quest for Visible Unity and in the Service of the Apostolic Mission of the Church" was held in Strasbourg (1997). The aim was to review and reflect theologically on recent developments in the understanding and practice of episkopé, drawing on the work of BEM, the churches' responses to BEM and the bilateral dialogues.

Ecumenical hermeneutics. The aim of the study on ecumenical hermeneutics, in process since 1994, is to assist the churches to engage in dialogue across cultures and confessions and to understand the inter-relation between them. Since Unit II was undertaking a study on intercontextual hermeneutics within the framework of its "Gospel and Cultures" study, Faith and Order decided to collaborate with Unit II. The text, which seeks a framework of coherence for doing theology together ecumenically, has been sent to hermeneutics scholars for their comments.

Worship. Theological reflection on worship in relation to the unity of the church has been a continuing concern of Faith and Order. A major conference on this theme in Ditchingham, England, in 1994 went beyond BEM in showing the possible variety which can flourish within a common pattern of worship. The consultation and report brought Faith and Order into discussion with liturgical scholars; and this new relationship also informed the discussion of the baptismal ordo at a consultation in Faverges, France, in 1997.

Ecclesiology and ethics. At the request of the Central Committee, Faith and Order joined with Unit III in a study relating theological and ecclesiological reflection to the concrete ethical expression of Christian faith in life. Three consultations were held and their results published. These explored the inter-relation of koinonia and justice, peace and the integrity of creation; the ecclesiological imperative for ecumenical ethical reflection and action; the inter-relation of covenant, eucharist and ethical engagement; and the church as "moral community". The wide interest in and discussion of these three reports makes it clear that these are not only internal WCC issues, but have wider significance for the churches. The Central Committee in 1996 mandated further collaboration between Faith and Order and Unit III on "Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Unity of the Church" (a study located in Faith and Order) and on the Programme to Overcome Violence (a programme located in Unit III).

Other highlights
Other studies also were undertaken during this period. Sharing the One Faith was produced as a guide to the report Confessing the One Faith. Two meetings of the Bilateral Forum and a major meeting of the United-Uniting Churches were held, along with many collaborative ventures with Christian World Communions and Regional Ecumenical Organizations.


New profile of the laity
A World Convention of Christian Lay Centres, Academies and Movements for Social Concern was held at Montreat, North Carolina (USA), in September 1993. Co-sponsored by the WCC and the World Collaboration Committee of Christian Lay Centres and Movements for Social Concern, it brought together 300 representatives from ecumenically-minded lay institutes around the world, from different confessional, regional and cultural backgrounds. Participants spent one week visiting communities in North America before gathering in Montreat around the theme "Weaving Communities of Hope".

From 1993 to 1997 exploratory work continued on the "new profile of the laity" and the ecclesiology of the people of God in cooperation with all WCC units, member churches, Christian councils and lay centres. These concerns were highlighted in the October 1993 issue of The Ecumenical Review, which was devoted to the theme "Reopening the Ecumenical Discussion of the Laity". The plenary session on "The Laos - the whole People of God" at the WCC Central Committee meeting in Johannesburg in 1994 led to a focus on exploring the strong ecclesiological implications of this concept, including the general issue of lay movements and their relationship with the church. Similar discussions took place at the meeting of the US Conference of the WCC in May 1995, and at smaller consultations with member churches and councils of churches in Cuba (Havana, Matanzas, Cardenas, Santiago de Cuba), in January 1996, and in Prague, Czech Republic, in September 1996.

At a consultation on "Towards a Common Understanding of the Theological Concepts of Laity/Laos: the People of God" (Geneva, May 1997), 27 men and women from a variety of ecclesial traditions considered the possibility of a common understanding of the theological concepts of laity/laos and the people of God. Three presentations, "On Being Christians in the World", "Baptism, Ecclesiology and Vocation", and "Formation and the Laos" are included in a final report.

Ecumenical learning, laity formation and leadership in lay training
A global women's Course for Leadership in Lay Training (CLLT), under the theme "Affirming our Identity: Women Working for Empowerment", was held in Brazil in 1995. Inter-regional CLLTs were held in India ("Creating Communities of Hope: A Step Towards World Peace", 1995), Canada ("Outside the Lines", 1996) and Trinidad and Tobago ("Education for Empowerment - Partnership for Transformation", 1997). These courses provided important opportunities for persons working in churches and in movements of social concern to share experiences and deepen their awareness of their role in effecting positive change in church and society. Participants drew new insights from the experiences of persons from different denominations, faiths, cultures and ideologies; were exposed to various approaches to ministry and mission; and learned to work together for a common cause and to join hands in prophetic witness and solidarity with the struggle of the poor and oppressed.

The WCC plans annual meetings of the World Collaboration Committee and administers the Lay Centres Coordination Fund, established in 1990 to help regional associations' secretariats, their basic programmes, and programmes of the World Collaboration Committee. At its meeting in Argentina in October 1997, the World Collaboration Committee changed its name to OIKOSNET- A Global Network of Christian Laity Centres, Academies and Movements for Social Concern working for just, participatory, sustainable and inclusive communities.

Inclusive community
Under the direction of a consultant on Differently Abled Persons, contacts were re-established between 1994 and 1996 with member churches, national councils of churches, regional ecumenical bodies, and church and secular agencies working with differently abled. (In 1997 the term "differently abled" was replaced by "persons with disabilities", in accordance with general usage.) Because funding to maintain this position was not available after 1996, the emphasis was shifted to building a stronger network to promote awareness of these concerns among WCC member churches and secular groups.

Consultations in the period from 1994 to 1996 included (1) a consultation of regional ecumenical bodies (Cartigny, Geneva, November 1994), with participants coming from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, North America, the Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific; (2) a joint consultation with the Middle East Council of Churches on "From Institutionalization to Independent Living" (Beirut 1995); (3) a consultation on "The Church as Inclusive Community: The Place and Role of Differently Abled Persons in its Life, Education and Mission" (Sibiu, Romania, 1996); (4) a consultation on "Theological and Sociological Approach to the Differently Abled", co-sponsored by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Christian Conference of Asia (Seoul 1996). All these consultations helped the WCC to establish relations with secular and church groups around the world. Follow-up work needs to be done, however, to build on them.

An "Interim Statement on the Theological and Empirical Understanding of the Issue of Disabilities" was received by the Central Committee in 1997. It has been translated into French, German and Spanish and sent to WCC member churches, national councils and regional ecumenical bodies. It is hoped that the work begun in this important area will be continued beyond the assembly.


In 1989, prior to the Canberra assembly, the WCC's Programme on Theological Education (PTE) was merged with the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey. The new construct, under the name Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE), would represent residential and mobile programmes "for ecumenical theological education of the whole people of God, with staff and other resources committed to the development of an ecumenically and theologically trained and networked leadership in ministries for the member churches and for the ecumenical movement itself in the decades to come". The vision and mandate was "to meet old and new challenges in constructive ways consistent with evolving understandings, new opportunities and available resources". At that time, ETE staff resourced Bossey with personnel and scholarships, especially for the summer seminars and the graduate school.

"Regional" operation was understood as fostering flexible relations with the regions and facilitating exchange between regions of talents and persons for mutual engagement and enrichment. Inter-regional exchanges between Asia and the Pacific and between China and Indonesia fostered cooperation between seminaries and theological associations in sharing programmes for mission studies and post-graduate studies. ETE has also served as a meeting place between donor agencies and regional associations and theological institutions. For example, ETE is brokering a meeting between Angolan churches and donor agencies for the purpose of mounting the resources for establishing a faculty of theology.

ETE's executive staff of three (until April 1997) had regional responsibilities, with one person for Africa, Europe and the Middle East; a second for Asia, Australia, Aoteoroa New Zealand and the Pacific; and a third for Latin America, the Caribbean and North America.

The "marriage" with Bossey broke up in 1995, with evident costs in terms of motivation, resources, vision and, indeed, the mandate. But the agenda of ETE remained constant: to foster ecumenical formation in the regions, particularly through theological education and ministerial formation.

ETE's handles on its ministry
Ecumenical sharing of resources implies sharing human and material resources in all regions of the world with a bias in favour of the poorer parts of the oikoumene. ETE has approached this sharing through direct funding and advocacy, particularly in five categories: (a) creative and innovative projects; (b) associations of theological institutions; (c) faculty development, especially in the South; (d) exchange of faculty among the regions of the world, especially South-South, thus breaking the North-South exchange of earlier times; (e) literature and library development.

In the past six years ETE directly distributed over SFr. 3.6 million in these five categories, as well as advocating extensively with establishments in the North for more direct funding of institutions in the South and in the formerly socialist countries of Eastern and Central Europe. The depletion of resources in the WCC has underscored the importance of such advocacy.

This involvement of ETE (which is distinct from the work of the WCC Scholarships Office) has proved a helpful instrument for realizing visions, since its engagement in funding gives ETE the leverage to challenge and effect change.

Ecumenical learning and formation. Under the auspices of the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, a document on "Ecumenical Formation" was published. Quarterly issues of ETE's journal Ministerial Formation offered a helpful vehicle for mutual exchange at the global level.

Theological education and ministries in world contexts is a key to the search for an ecumenical consciousness in which churches that would not normally do so have been able to enter into dialogue and begin to trust one another. For example, Pentecostal institutions in Latin America, which have often been critical of the WCC, were able to collaborate in the three-year process on viability of theological education and ministerial formation.

In this quest ETE emphasizes three criteria: quality - intellectual rigour, spiritual maturity and commitment to service; authenticity - critical encounter with each socio-cultural context in the design, content and purpose of theological education; and creativity - leading to new approaches and deepening the churches' understanding and obedience in mission. An International Directory of Theological Schools, published in 1997, has been a valuable tool for making such connections.

Some programmatic highlights
1. Promoting women as a priority of theological education. ETE's concern to promote responsibly the full participation of women in all areas of church and public life has built on the women's statement on the "Vision of the Kingdom of God" for the Melbourne World Conference on Mission and Evangelism, which called for theological education and training of women to be a first priority, as well as the insights of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) and the assessment of the UN's Women's Decade.

ETE has initiated partnerships with regional and national associations of women in theology, including the Circle of African Women in Theology, Asociación de Teólogas y Pastoras de América Latina y el Caribe, Association of Theologically Trained Women in India (ATTWI); Association of Women in Theology (AWIT) in the Philippines, Association of Theologically Educated Women in Indonesia (ATEWI), Korean Association of Women in Theology (KAWT) and WEAVERS in the Pacific.

In collaboration with the WCC Women's Desk, ETE initiated a programme on Young Women Doing Theology, aimed at promoting exchange between young women theologians and women working in theological institutions, encouraging their work and making it known in theological and church spheres throughout the world.

Women were a priority in the funding of theological education, particularly in ecumenical institutions in West Africa, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. Not least, ETE enabled improvements in the infrastructures of colleges through building programmes (for example, the women's facilities at Trinity College, Legon, Ghana) and assisted the associations to hold consultations and conferences on and for women in theology.

2. Eastern and Central Europe. The predecessors of ETE were oriented to the third world. But in the past decade, ETE has tried to live out the conviction that the fulness of ecumenical vision and commitment is impaired as long as any region or church is excluded. Political developments in Eastern and Central Europe have facilitated ETE in opening doors there through ecumenical sharing of resources, consultations and teaming up with others to do programmes. In 1995 ETE organized a European Orthodox consultation at Agapia Seminary, Romania, on "Formation of God's People for Ministry and Mission Today".

3. Literature development. In the early days, literature and library development were a priority for ETE's predecessors. Over the years, this diminished. Since Canberra, however, the necessity of such efforts for the development of a fuller ecumenical vision and the promotion of dialogue among regional bodies has been rediscovered. The factors that went into this reawakening are several. ETE in its programme of faculty development had sponsored doctoral studies by many third world students, but their work has not been fed back into the regions of the third world nor are these books affordable there. Thus the parent region is deprived of vital material for the growth of its own churches.

In various regions ETE has initiated publication schemes and series to produce works at affordable prices with wider distribution, as well as subsidizing monographs by African scholars.

4. Viability of ecumenical theological education. ETE's work in the Canberra to Harare period was gathered together in the process on Viability of Ecumenical Theological Education. Two bottom-line issues confronted the churches: (a) how does a renewed understanding of the church affect and influence the formation of leadership in the church and the people of God as a whole, so that they can be effective in achieving their goals? (b) how are theological education and ministerial formation to be shaped to give them the capacity to renew communities of faith and the world?

The process began with regional meetings building towards a world conference in Oslo in August 1996. The global consultation covered six broad areas: (1) spirituality, worship and viability; (2) the importance of the ecumenical vision for theological education and ministerial formation today; (3) faithfulness to tradition, the ecumenical imperative and formation programmes; (4) the financial viability of ecumenical theological formation; (5) the formation of the laos; (6) the renewal of theological education.

In dialogue together, theological educators, church leaders, theological associations and some agencies drew up a new profile of ETE which the constituencies will feel able to own.

5. Celebration and repentance. While it is not difficult to find evidence for a negative critique, the record of ETE outlined here is cause for rejoicing. Much has been achieved through the ministry of the WCC in ecumenical theological education. There is joy that the global consultation in Oslo affirmed that "without the sustained efforts and hard work of TEF/PTE/ETE throughout the years, the churches and the ecumenical movement would not be where they are today; the renewal and viability of theological education are at the heart of the renewal of the churches as a whole". At the same time, the efforts regarding women in theology and ministry point to the need for repentance, because churches and theological programmes still have some way to go before they can be said to do right by women.

For the future, two areas of particular concern may be mentioned: ecumenical formation through theological education with Pentecostals and the charismatic movement; and the development of something similar to the viability process for Theological Education by Extension. On the latter, ETE has already done some work: a consultation in Malawi for the Africa region produced a publication on Theological Education by Extension in Africa and established a continuation committee whose tasks include compiling a directory of TEE programmes in the region.


Worship workshops
Worship workshops continue to be part of the basic research undergirding preparation for worship at ecumenical meetings - including this assembly. New songs are created and ways of praying are shared. Many key issues of gospel and culture come to life during a worship workshop. Difficulties arising from various styles of worship are experienced, giving both a clearer focus on what divides us as Christians, and a greater appreciation of the gifts others bring.

The stream organized a number of worship workshops which brought together persons from churches and regions to share experiences and expressions of worship: Bossey, 1991; Asian workshop, Manila, 1992; African Lay Centres Association workshop, Blantyre, Malawi, 1992; Latin America workshop, Rio de Janeiro, 1993; Caribbean workshop, Rio de Janeiro, 1993; workshop in Tainan Theological Seminary, Taiwan, 1997.

A unique collection of worship materials, hymn books and worship books, sent by churches from all regions of the world, is housed in the Worship Resource Centre at the WCC. From these sources come many of the symbols, actions and songs which are used as part of worship services not only at WCC meetings but also by other ecumenical partners. Some of this has been collected in the book Worshipping Ecumenically.

In collaboration with other partners, the stream organized or contributed to a number of consultations:

Christian Spirituality for Our Times (Iasi, Romania, 1994). Organized in cooperation with other streams and units, this consultation sought to identify essential characteristics of spiritual formation in an ecumenical perspective. The participants recommended:

  • fresh efforts towards and new guidelines for eucharistic sharing in time for the WCC's eighth assembly;
  • further study of charisms and movements of spiritual renewal within the churches;
  • a new initiative towards the common celebration of Easter (see below);
  • appointment of a WCC staff member responsible for theological and experiential exploration of spirituality among the churches;
  • making spirituality central to the life of the eighth assembly, including the engagement of its participants in group work on spirituality and on Bible study.

The Role of Worship in the Search for Christian Unity (Ditchingham, England, 1994). Organized with Faith and Order, this consultation examined both issues and practices of contemporary worship. The participants' letter on "Koinonia in Worship" asked members of the churches to join them

  • in renewed prayer for the unity of the churches, such as Christ wills and by the means that Christ wills;
  • in a new and deeper study of the sources and meaning of Christian corporate worship;
  • in a commitment to clarify and renew our local worship so that our witness to the world and the grounds of our koinonia may be shown forth by the centrality of these common gifts: Sunday assembly, scripture reading, preaching, intercessions, thanksgiving at the holy table, eating and drinking the gift of Christ, forming new Christians in the faith and praying for them, baptizing, and sending in mission to the world;
  • in a decision to undertake this prayer, study and renewal together with other Christians, across our divisions.

Towards a Common Date for Easter (Aleppo, Syria, 1997). Organized with the Middle East Council of Churches, the Christian world communions and Faith and Order, this consultation examined the issue of the dating of Easter and made proposals to the churches for a common annual celebration. The participants made two recommendations:
  • the most likely way to succeed in achieving a common date for Easter would be (a) to maintain the Nicene norm (that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first vernal full moon), and (b) to calculate the astronomical data (the vernal equinox and the full moon) by the most accurate possible scientific means.
  • that the churches now undertake a period of study and reflection towards the goal of establishing as soon as possible a common date for Easter along these lines. In the year 2001 the paschal calculations now in use by our churches will coincide. Together, Christians will begin a new century and a new millennium with new opportunities to witness to the resurrection of Christ and to proclaim their joy in his victory over sin, suffering and death. The unity that will be reflected as Christians celebrate Easter on the same date will be for many a sign of hope and of witness to the world. This celebration of Easter on the same date should not be the exception but the rule.

The Central Committee received the report of the Aleppo consultation and recommended that it be transmitted to the eighth assembly and taken into account in ecumenical discussions on the millennium.

Plenary on worship and spirituality
A plenary session on worship and spirituality was held at the Central Committee meeting in 1997. Jean Vanier gave a moving presentation which emphasized the importance of commitment to Jesus Christ, spiritual disciplines and love for the needy, placing special emphasis on those with disabilities. Following discussion with members of the Central Committee, there was a service of footwashing.

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