world council of churches

8th assembly and 50th anniversary
preparatory materials


Annotated Agenda

Session I
1. Music
2. Welcome and introductions
3. Explanation of the hearing process
4. Video on Unit II's identity and work
5. Interviews of four "witnesses" on specific unit programmes: Common Witness; Christian Education for Multifaith and Pluralist Contexts; Study on HIV/AIDS; Conference on World Mission and Evangelism. The witnesses will speak of the significance of the work, its relevance for the churches and/or their situation, aspects needing further attention and shortcomings
6. In buzz groups of two or three, participants will discuss the work presented in the video and by the witnesses in terms of what seems relevant to the situation of their churches and their own involvement
7. Feedback: some responses from the buzz groups
8. Music

Session II
1. Through interactive discussions, presentations will be made on a variety of aspects of the unit's work of assisting the churches in their role as healing, learning and witnessing communities. With the help of a facilitator, significant aspects of Unit II activities and programmes will be highlighted. Conversations will focus on Gospel and Cultures, Urban Rural Mission, CMC Churches' Action for Health, Evangelism, and Christian Education in Central and Eastern Europe. In the course of the discussion, guests will share relevant reports, slides, videos or other material with the participants, and time will be given for responses from the wider group.

2. The discussion is followed by a short period of silent reflection, and participants will be invited to write their responses to and comments on the following questions on cards that have been distributed:

  • What was the relevance of the unit's concerns for your region or church?
  • What issues or concerns arising from the unit's efforts must have the attention of the WCC in the coming period?

3. As music plays, participants leave the session and place their cards in boxes.

Session III
This session is organized and led by the Programme Guidelines Committee.


The Canberra assembly report included the following affirmation: "A reconciled [humanity] and renewed creation is the goal of the mission of the church. The vision of God uniting all things in Christ is the driving force of its life and sharing." This forceful understanding nurtured the vision that would serve as the compelling call and raison d'ˆtre of Unit II as it moved through various stages of development in terms of its mandates, programme priorities and relationships in the post-Canberra period.

In the 1992 restructuring of the WCC, Unit II was given the task of articulating the concern of the ecumenical movement for mission. The merger of three former WCC sub-units - Christian Medical Commission, Education, and the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism - brought together the healing, teaching and witnessing dimensions of mission.

"The hope that the Holy Spirit will renew and empower God's people in every place to participate fully in God's mission of healing, reconciliation and restoration is at the heart of the purposes of the unit", declared the newly formed Unit II Programme Commission in Evian, France, in 1992. "In the context of increasing fragmentation of humanity, broken relationships, marginalization and impoverishment, the churches are encouraged to bear witness to God's intentions to build a new, healthy and just society - a new community in the perspective of the reign of God." Thus, the principal mandate of the unit was established as that of "strengthening the churches in their equipping (oikodomé/building up) of all God's people for their growth in faith for their witness to God's offer of fullness of life for all in Jesus Christ".

The unit's role was identified as contributing to:

  • exploration with churches and groups of the meaning and challenges of mission today;
  • education, empowerment and renewal of the people of God for mission;
  • linking churches and groups to one another for mutual sharing, solidarity and the building up of a just and healthy community;
  • identifying with people in their struggle for liberation, analyzing the context, encouraging innovative initiatives, and providing resources through particular programmes.

Much was achieved in this period through combining theoretical explorations with practical discussions, providing the middle-level leadership of churches with insights and tools for their work, and producing materials for local congregations and groups. The unit's style involved recognizing and linking up with existing local efforts (contributing sharpness and a global perspective), and working together with the churches and other ecumenical partners.

The unit commission provided the main guidance for this work through its advice and direction-setting deliberations. Four full commission meetings were held: Evian, France (1992); St Ann's, Trinidad and Tobago (1993); Coventry, UK (1995); and Salvador, Brazil (1996). These meetings not only enabled intense discussion on the unit's programmes and relationships, but also offered opportunities for memorable encounters with different local contexts and the churches in those places.

Experienced advice was also given in particular programmatic areas by the commission-appointed working groups on Mission and Evangelism in Unity (which included a consultative group on Gospel and Cultures), Urban Rural Mission, Christian Medical Commission (CMC)-Churches' Action for Health, and Education for All God's People. In addition, the Mandated Working Group on Education - a WCC-wide advisory body created by the Central Committee - was based in the unit. While the excellent guidelines for the WCC's involvement in education produced by this body did not have the expected influence, mainly because of structural difficulties, much of the current energy for revitalizing education in the WCC has come from its work.

The period covered by this report was intense and challenging, not least because the financial crisis in the WCC and thus in the unit came to have an impact on virtually every aspect of the work. Adjustments had to be made, staff positions were closed and new directions were clarified in the course of participating in the WCC's far-reaching Common Understanding and Vision (CUV) reflection process. Most acutely affected in the unit were the Health and Education programmes. To the credit of the staff, the commission and the unit's partners, priority programmes were in fact carried out in remarkable ways; and within the CUV framework the unit contributed a number of influential policy papers to enhance the WCC's effectiveness.

For most of the period under review, the staff of the unit worked in five teams:

  • Mission and Evangelism in Unity
  • Community and Justice/Urban Rural Mission
  • Gospel and Cultures
  • CMC-Churches' Action for Health
  • Education for All God's People

While each team had specific priorities, attempts were made to be flexible and to aim for cohesion and complementarity through cross-team and cross-unit approaches to common objectives such as the organization of the conference on world mission and evangelism. Similarly, most of the staff became involved in the Gospel and Cultures and HIV/AIDS studies; and educational efforts undergirded a number of the programmes.

At different stages of the unit's development, coalitions were formed for addressing common themes; and the teams twice regrouped in response to declining numbers of staff. At present staff members work in two teams: Mission and Evangelism, and Education for All God's People.

How were the unit's vision and mandate translated into programmes and activities? What resonances did these have with the churches, ecumenical partners, agencies and communities in different parts of the world? What were some of the challenges addressed, and what were some of the achievements and shortcomings? The following attempts to provide an overview of the main features of Unit II's work during the period from Canberra to Harare.


Though the whole unit was involved in mission in the broad sense, the staff team on Mission and Evangelism in Unity focused on particular dimensions of Christian witness and on specific mission situations. Its particular mandate was to assist the churches to reflect on the goals and styles of mission, encouraging them to take primary responsibility for mission and evangelism in their own contexts, and to do so from an ecumenical perspective. Through particular desks as well as corporately, the programmes and activities in this area provided opportunities for the churches to reflect on central issues in mission today, promoted fresh discussions on the pressing concern for common witness and proselytism, and encouraged innovative approaches to evangelism and education for witness.

Visits were made to theological institutions to assist them with the missiological emphasis in their curricula. A three-stage programme, "Called to be Caretakers of the Earth", gave support to innovative experiences in ecumenical learning by participants from Finland, the Philippines and Zimbabwe, who shared educational methodologies and made follow-up commitments.

In addition to being fully involved in the Gospel and Cultures study and the preparatory processes for the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism, the Mission and Evangelism in Unity team stimulated a number of reflection efforts. These were normally undertaken with member churches, councils of churches and other ecumenical partners, but also reached out to involve Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and representatives of independent churches.

The staff, for example, accompanied a long-term process on the renewal of local congregations in mission in Europe (initiated in 1989 in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches), which stimulated local worshipping communities to respond to God's agenda in their places. A high point of this effort was an all-Europe gathering in Potsdam, Germany (1993), under the theme, "Hear What the Spirit Says to the Churches". Today this process continues in creative ways through its own coordinating group, with which the unit maintains a link.

When the commission established that the unit should work on a fresh statement on mission and evangelism (to supplement the widely accepted 1982 statement, "Mission and Evangelism: An Ecumenical Affirmation"), regional and national encounters were promoted in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America to help identify the main contemporary challenges for the mission of the church today, together with new paradigms for mission. Further input for the statement (which is to be finalized after the Harare assembly) came from focused discussions in various ecumenical gatherings and a global consultation on "Mission 2000 Vision and Challenges" in Morges, Switzerland (1997).

Another major thrust of the work was to encourage Christians to share their faith as a gift of God, through practices of evangelism that are sensitive to the cultural context. It was recognized that churches were often reluctant to share their resources for evangelism or to evangelize together. Some seem to be embarrassed about their "lack of success" or to see evangelism narrowly in terms of increasing membership. Thus creating spaces for dialogue and mutual learning was seen to be necessary.

In response, the unit collaborated with regional and national councils of churches to bring church representatives to the discussion table. Thus the evangelism programme co-organized a meeting with the All Africa Conference of Churches in Tanzania (1995), "The Fire on the Horizon - a Call to Evangelism", to discuss the nature of evangelism in the African context and to call the churches to holistic, cooperative mission. An opportunity for dialogue as well as "hands-on" work was provided for church representatives in the Pacific through a regional workshop on "Evangelism and Communication - Voicing the Gospel in the Pacific Islands" in Tonga (1997). Churches in Cuba were brought together in 1996 to look at how they might cooperate in the face of the evangelistic ferment their country is experiencing.

An important development in this period was the revival and expansion of a global "Evangelism and Witness Network" of persons responsible for evangelism in the churches and mission agencies. The network - currently numbering more than 250 persons - shares reflections on the evangelistic task and lends support to meetings on mission and evangelism held in their countries or regions. Unfortunately financial limitations made it impossible to enable these persons to come together in regional consultations, which surely would have been of considerable significance for their work.

The well-known "Ecumenical Letter on Evangelism" (published four to six times a year in three languages, with circulation of about 3000) continued to serve as an important instrument for sharing reflections, experiences and resources on evangelism. Its popular style and stimulating topics have made it appealing to a broad readership.

Relationships in mission
Convictions on common witness and the concern for expressing the church's unity in mission lie at the heart of the value placed by the unit on inputs that come from explicit work with Orthodox churches and established relationships with the Roman Catholic Church.

As will be seen in other parts of this report, creative Orthodox inputs (often but not only through specially organized consultations) were made to the Gospel and Cultures and HIV/AIDS studies, the extended process which resulted in the statement on common witness, and a large number of programmes based in other teams and other units and offices. Contact was maintained with the historical Orthodox churches and with the newer ones in Asia and Africa and those in diaspora, as well as with Orthodox theological schools and missionary associations. All these endeavours served to stimulate missionary reflection in the Orthodox churches, strengthen the relationships between historical and younger churches in the Orthodox family, link them to local and international thinking, and bring the perspectives and challenges of the Orthodox missionary ethos into ecumenical thinking and dialogue.

Members of the team paid periodic visits to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Union of International Superiors General. The unit's Roman Catholic consultant (who represents the Roman Catholic missionary orders and is seconded by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) is a member of the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, and maintains contact with the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Regular participation in seminars such as those sponsored by SEDOS and the Centre for Unity in Rome has been vital to the two-way communication of ecumenical perspectives.

Statement on common witness. Recent years have seen a dramatic escalation in competitive missionary activities in many parts of the world, leading to accusations of proselytism and often to the establishment of parallel ecclesial structures. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of new mission agencies based in the South and working independently in other parts of the world, often without contact with the churches in those countries.

In response to the WCC Central Committee request in 1989, a wide-ranging study of issues related to common witness was undertaken. Between 1993 and 1995 three consultations were organized (in Chamb‚sy and Moscow, primarily for Orthodox churches, and in Manila) which affirmed anew the theological understanding of the one church in its mission while examining the challenges posed by conflicting motives, understandings and practices of mission. Special efforts were made to bring together in dialogue the "proselytizers" and the "proselytized", and to involve not only WCC member churches but also persons from evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic constituencies.

These discussions were brought together in a synthesis meeting (1996) and collated with other work on common witness and proselytism. The resulting draft document was sent to more than 200 people for comment. In September 1997, the Central Committee received the statement, "Towards Common Witness - A Call to Responsible Relationships in Mission and to Renounce Proselytism", and commended it to the churches for reflection and action. This statement will constitute an important reference for the proposed forthcoming study on ecclesiology and mission.

Study on relationships in mission. The unit built on several decades of work on international relationships in mission by facilitating regional encounters and studies (until 1993) and by initiating a study project (1995-96) on this subject. The research, which was undertaken by a (non-resident) consultant, included a survey of ecumenical discussions to date, a survey of structural and other changes undertaken by mission societies and churches, and studies of contemporary mission situations in a select number of countries, including an examination of mission movements from the South.

One of the recommendations emerging from this process has led to the creation of closer ties between some Indian missionary societies and the churches in that country. The WCC is also being requested to assist with other aspects of the follow-up.


Solidarity with and participation in the struggles of poor and excluded communities for justice and fullness of life in the perspective of the reign of God has long been understood as being constitutive of the mission of the church. Within the WCC this work has developed through Urban Rural Mission (URM). In addition to involvement in concrete situations of human suffering and struggle - through the primary methodology of enabling the organizing of local communities for selfhood and dignity - there has been much biblical, theological and missiological reflection from the perspective of "the underside", in order to challenge the mission thinking and practice of the churches.

Following the WCC's 1992 reorganization, a consultation was convened to review the URM programme in the light of Unit II's mandate and missiological focus and to explore and agree on undergirding principles, guidelines and perspectives for the future. On the basis of that consultation, the URM Working Group subsequently formulated a statement on "Mission and Evangelism A URM Contribution to Ecumenical Perspectives" and a series of other agreements on URM programmatic and organizational considerations. These were published in URM Reflections '93, which continues to encapsulate URM's self-understanding, vision and mandate.

URM activities take place principally in six regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America. Efforts during the period to initiate work in the Caribbean were not followed up due to financial and other limitations. The work in each region is coordinated by a contact group - composed principally of locally rooted community organizers together with church representatives and persons who assist with theological reflection. In recent years the contact groups have taken on greater responsibility for generating resources at the regional and national level, thus reducing dependence on the WCC for funding. The shift begun in the late 1980s from a "project" to a "programme" approach, especially in relation to funding, was eventually fully realized, in that funds are no longer sent to individual "projects" but directly to the regions in relation to major themes chosen nationally, regionally or globally but expressed in local programmes.

Three consultations organized by URM provided global reflection on issues confronting people who have been made poor and marginalized:

  • The Mission of God Five Hundred Years of Resistance (Campo Grande, Brazil, 1992) - a consultation with representatives of South American Indigenous Peoples on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the European conquest. Missiological insights arising from the indigenous experience and the meaning of solidarity in that context were examined.
  • Community Organizing in the Perspective of the Reign of God (Seattle 1994) - a consultation to evaluate and critique community organizing as the primary methodology of URM. Stories of local and national community organizing were shared, thus enabling models to dialogue with each other. While it was recognized that there can be no single model of community organizing, it was nevertheless found important and possible to identify common principles.
  • Gospel and Cultures (Bangkok 1996) a "synthesis" consultation to share and discuss the insights from studies done in the six regions as the URM contribution to the global Gospel and Cultures study. The focus was on the relationship between culture and power: the search for identity of excluded and minority communities and the effects of a culture of globalization in crushing identities.

The Salvador world mission conference raised theological insights which have undergirded URM since Canberra, and raised new missiological issues. Questions such as the meaning of identity in community, the gospel as an articulation of a counter-culture in the face of a culture of violence and exclusion, and the impact of globalization on marginalized communities will shape URM's future reflections and work.


The critical need for the churches to engage in a theological exploration of the relation between the gospel and cultures arose with fresh force at the Canberra assembly. The lack of an ecumenical framework for mutual understanding was very evident there, as was the acute awareness of a world context of increasing fragmentation of human communities.

At its Evian meeting the Unit II commission mandated the launch of a major study process on gospel and cultures which (as was later articulated) would "seek to understand the implications of a gospel that both challenges and is challenged by the cultures in which it finds itself, in order that the churches and individual Christians may live and witness authentically. The goal is to better equip the churches for mission and evangelism in the diverse cultural contexts of today." Five inter-related strands were woven together in what became one of the more widely known WCC programmes during the period.

1. Historical study of ways in which the gospel and cultures have intersected in selected places. During the four years of the programme, more than 20 historical studies of the encounter between the gospel and cultures were undertaken by individuals or groups. Of these, 18 were widely distributed in the form of 40- to 60-page pamphlets in the WCC Gospel and Cultures Series.

2. Encouraging fresh explorations of the gospel/culture interaction in the life of local churches today. Study and reflection was undertaken by churches, ecumenical agencies, special groups and constituencies (such as the Orthodox churches, CMC and URM), church organizations (such as the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches), theological institutions and interested individuals in almost 60 countries. In all, more than 110 reports, reflections, essays and other materials, prepared specifically in response to the study, were received. A brief study guide, two videos and other resources were produced to help initiate the discussions. A summary report of the findings of many of these studies was the basic resource for the preparatory papers for section work at the Salvador world mission conference; and the four focal points of the study process became the sub-themes of the four sections at the conference.

3. Helping churches to share their insights on the issue across cultures. Two major meetings were held with heads of mission departments and agencies to promote cross-cultural sharing of the insights and experiences of the gospel/culture encounter within and across networks of churches.

4. Developing a framework for an ecumenical intercultural hermeneutics. Together with Faith and Order, substantial work towards developing a framework for intercultural hermeneutics was done with a group of theologians and missiologists who met three times over a two-year period.

5. Developing documentation on the relation between the gospel and cultures. The wealth of materials gathered from groups and individuals who participated in the study has been classified and archived, constituting an invaluable reference for future research and exploration. Work continues on a compilation of selected important writings on the subject. The substantial articles on various aspects of the gospel/cultures debate that were featured in the 1995-96 issues of the International Review of Mission stand as an important legacy.

A related activity focused on rereading the Bible in cultural context (continuing the WCC's long-term programme of biblical studies, which came to an end with the departure of staff in 1992). At a consultation in Jamaica (1997) which brought together a representative group of people who engage with the Bible in church settings, each presented his or her encounter with the same biblical passage and the group as a whole looked at how individuals and local congregations may be helped to do the same in an authentic way.

Clearly the moment was right for the gospel and cultures theme; in many cases the task was simply one of harnessing what was happening already. The study process was perceived not as something imposed by the WCC, but as an opportunity to focus on a matter with tremendous potential for the renewal of the local church and the relevance of its witness leading some churches and ecumenical agencies (such as the Canadian Council of Churches) to continue the study even beyond the four-year period. For a programme involving groups in almost 60 countries, the financial resources available were not great; the contribution in terms of both time and local resources from churches and groups was very significant indeed.

The study admittedly had a number of limitations. The time-line was too short: some groups began to show interest only around the time of the conference; others began discussions as a result of the conference. The study was not able to involve Orthodox churches at the local level to any great extent, nor to include sufficiently the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples and poor communities (the study was undertaken predominantly by middle-class people); and very little interest was shown by the central leadership of the churches

. It is hoped that ways can be found to continue to provoke the churches to further reflection on issues of gospel and cultures, so that they may further understand the cultural forces facing Christians in their day-to-day life and the ways the gospel addresses these.

Theological significance of other faiths
This study, recognized as an important concern of the unit, was undertaken in cooperation with the WCC Office on Inter-Religious Relations. A first international consultation (1993) identified the state of the exploration to date, continuing questions and ways the WCC might address them; subsequently some of these issues were explored at the regional level, beginning with South Asia. Given the intrinsic relationship between religion and culture, issues of religious plurality were taken into the Gospel and Cultures study and were explored in more than one place in the Salvador world mission conference.

Conference on World Mission and Evangelism
Closely linked to the Gospel and Cultures study was another major highlight of the unit's work, namely the preparation and holding (in November-December 1996) of the eleventh conference on world mission and evangelism (CWME) in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, on the theme "Called to One Hope - The Gospel in Diverse Cultures". WCC world mission conferences are held every eight to ten years, "to assist the Christian community in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to the whole world to the end that all may believe in him and be saved". The global Gospel and Cultures study process reached a nodal point at the conference, thus contributing to a focus for analyzing the mission situation and articulating the nature of Christian witness at the turn of the century.

Intensive preparations, begun in 1994 by a conference planning committee appointed by the commission, eventually involved not only the entire Unit II staff but also many colleagues in other parts of the WCC and elsewhere.

The conference took place in the historic city of Salvador in northeast Brazil - formerly a principal port of entry for the slave trade, and a city which is imbued with Afro-Brazilian cultural and religious expressions. The conference drew 574 participants from 98 countries (and about 160 member churches) and a multiplicity of cultures for intensive encounter and exchange on the inter-relationship between the gospel and culture - how culture shapes the response of Christians to the voice of Christ and how Christians can witness authentically in their own context. Highlights of the conference included:

  • the prominence of the South, including the influence of indigenous people and people of African descent;
  • the strong role of women and of their experience and participation in the life of their churches and communities;
  • the exposure to a wide variety of cultural expressions of the gospel in the "Rainbow Festival of Gospel in Cultures" and the 27 national and regional presentations in the Encontros (encounters);
  • daily Bible studies (in small groups) and worship services;
  • the memorable and moving service at the infamous Salvador slave dock, where six to twelve million slaves were offloaded and traded until late in the 19th century.

The conference theme was developed by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Dr Musimbi Kanyoro of Kenya, while related presentations were made in two panel discussions on interpreting the Bible across cultures and evangelism in cultures. The main deliberative activity took place in four sections:
  • authentic witness in each culture;
  • gospel and identity in community;
  • local congregations in pluralist societies;
  • one gospel diverse expressions.

The conference issued a message and participants made seven specific acts of commitment. The section reports have been widely distributed and the official report is also available. These outputs have the potential of influencing a renewed understanding of mission from the perspective of the communion of people with God and with each other in Christ in an increasingly fragmented world.

Among its contributions to the development of mission thinking and practice were that the conference "moved forward" in its understanding of culture and in viewing religion as integral to it. While affirming the necessity of a positive approach to culture, the conference spoke repeatedly of the ambiguity of each culture. Culture can and must be challenged, particularly in relation to its life-denying elements.

There was equally strong affirmation of the need and right to live out and celebrate the faith according to each culture, and a tacit recognition that any inculturation is to some extent syncretistic. Salvador discussed criteria for discerning the work of God's Spirit in cultures and appealed for the elimination of aggressive practices against indigenous spiritualities.

The conference agreed on the need for a holistic view of mission and on the essential calling of the churches to express unity in mission through relationships of mutual accountability and in ways that involve all aspects of life.

Clearly, the processes leading to Salvador and the body of thought at the conference itself have much to offer for future reflection and work on the nature of Christian missionary obedience.


The WCC has continued to affirm strongly the understanding of health, healing and wholeness as an essential dimension of God's promise of reconciliation in the world. In a global context in which life has become cheap and a culture of death dominates, this understanding calls the churches to a clear expression of their healing ministry. The unit's overall mandate in this area was therefore to encourage and equip the churches for effective response.

Diminished resources and the need for the WCC to re-articulate its priority functions more precisely led to a serious curtailment of the programmes in this area. Nevertheless, major work was done, and a clear focus on health and healing will be maintained in the future WCC structure. The main features of programmatic activities are outlined below.

Equipping the churches for the ministry of healing. While some work was done through seminars such as the one at Bossey (1992) on "Medicine and Theology: Can They Get Together?", the principal thrust of this programme was to equip and accompany the churches in carrying out participatory action research in their local communities. The strength of this methodology was that, in the process of discussing and analyzing concrete issues, people were enabled to develop transformational actions. Encouraging results were obtained through the concerted efforts of churches and agencies in Uganda, Tanzania and Za‹re (now Democratic Republic of Congo); and these results were multiplied through South-to-South study visits for persons from other regions of the world.

Specific issues such as human rights and the vulnerable situation of women were taken up in special meetings such as one in Phnom Penh (1994). In addition, support to projects on women and health was provided within the framework of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.

Capacity-building for community-based health care. A major focus of capacity-building efforts was the training of facilitators - health and community workers - mainly in Africa and Latin America.

A sustained effort was made in cooperation with the Pacific Conference of Churches to create awareness of challenges in health through community-based approaches. In 1993-94 a series of seminars and workshops was organized in Tonga, Kiribati and the Cook Islands to identify issues in health care (especially in relation to HIV/AIDS) and to seek ways of sharing resources and establishing follow-up processes.

Significant accompaniment and support was provided for approaches to coordination and networking. Thus the health team assisted in the launch of Afri-CAN, a network of health agencies, centres, groups and institutions in Africa, and helped the Latin American Council of Churches to establish its community health and ecology programme.

Communicating health and healing concerns. Contact, the unit's well-known health publication, has been a prime vehicle for promoting community involvement in health and discussion on the nature of the churches' ministry of health and healing. Appearing six times a year in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese (circulation 15,000), it reports on topical, innovative and courageous approaches to the promotion of health and integrated development.

While it had been hoped to continue the publication of Contact within the WCC, financial considerations and the impending departure of staff prompted the search for a decentralized arrangement. The unit is currently studying an option that would allow Contact to be published through a multilateral partnership in which the WCC would continue to play a role.

Coordination of church-related health services. Since its inception, one of the key concerns of the WCC's health and healing programme has been to foster collaboration among church-related health services in the countries of the South, and to strengthen the role of the health coordinating agencies which the churches have set up. Carrying forward this concern, the unit has stressed visits to Christian Health Associations (CHAs), contacts with donor and advisory organizations, participation in the evaluation of particular aspects of health services, and exchange of information and advocacy of church perspectives in global forums dealing with health concerns. A small but significant achievement was the publication of a Directory of CHAs (1996)

. A global consultation of health coordinating agencies took place in Tanzania (1995) to follow up agreements reached at a similar meeting in New Delhi in 1991. The participating agencies grappled with Christian values and perspectives on health and healing in situations of economic depression and structural adjustment programmes, and committed themselves to greater mutual support.

In a complementary effort, the leaders of CHAs and denominational health ministries in West Africa were brought together in Togo (1996) to discuss national health system profiles and the churches' contribution to them. Special attention was given to the multifaith context of the programmes under consideration.

A three-year study of selected church-related health facilities in eleven countries of Africa and Asia was undertaken in an effort to determine what makes them viable in the face of current demands and socio-economic conditions. The study attempted to identify patterns and factors indicating probable "success" what the "best performers" do differently and how. When the report is released (late 1998) it is expected to be useful particularly to hospitals "at risk".

Pharmaceutical programme. An impressive body of work was done by the health team through a pharmaceutical programme intended to raise awareness on issues of essential drugs and promote training in the area of rational drug use. The programme intensified its work of accompanying churches, primarily in Africa, in addressing such issues as the privatization of health care, drug donations, drug management and joint drug procurement. Emphasis was also placed on local human resource development, through country workshops.

Due to financial and other considerations, it was decided to relocate this highly effective programme to Africa in the form of a co-sponsored programme under the joint responsibility of a network of partners. Since June 1997 the pharmaceutical programme has operated out of Nairobi, while maintaining a relationship with the WCC.

Study on HIV/AIDS
Mandated by the Central Committee in 1994, the HIV/AIDS study was one of the most recognized achievements of the unit during this period. The WCC had already undertaken significant relationships and work in this area, but the scope of this was greatly expanded in response to the churches' appeals for assistance in addressing the pain, fear and ignorance associated with HIV/AIDS. The consultative group entrusted with developing the study designed a two-year process that (through the work of sub-groups) addressed the areas of theology and ethics, pastoral care and the church as a healing community, and justice and human rights. Each sub-group formulated its own methodology but took advantage of existing work by others and also involved local communities and individuals affected by the AIDS pandemic.

In the final stages of the study process, the commission agreed to the preparation of a concise statement on HIV/AIDS which could be forwarded to the churches; and in September 1996 the Central Committee adopted the statement, "The Impact of HIV/AIDS and the Churches' Response", and commended the study document to the churches.

Love in a Time of AIDS: Women, Health and the Challenge of HIV, by Gillian Paterson, was published in the WCC Publications Risk Book Series, and a congregational study guide on HIV/AIDS issues is to be published in 1998. Issues related to HIV/AIDS were also the focal point of a number of consultations examining the churches' response to this dramatic challenge. Of particular significance in this regard were consultations with the churches in Romania (1997) and with representatives of Orthodox churches in Africa (1998).

While the unit continues to respond to requests for resource materials to assist the AIDS ministries of the churches, the real success of this work is that it is now largely carried on by them.


The unit drew on a rich legacy of educational activities in and through the WCC as it sought to fulfil the mandate "to collaborate with the churches to enable the whole people of God to grow in faith for common witness and service in the world". This legacy was carried forward in a number of significant educational efforts.

Christian education in Central and Eastern Europe. The Education programme picked up the pressing concern first voiced at the Central Committee meeting in Moscow (1989) for concerted assistance from the ecumenical family to the churches in Central and Eastern Europe as they faced acute needs in terms of education and formation in the post-communist situation.

With priority given to the Orthodox churches in the initial stages, a three-faceted programme was designed:

  • Curriculum development: A major symposium involving Eastern and Oriental Orthodox participants took place in Cyprus (1994) to analyze the current state of Christian education in the churches in post-communist situations, discuss achievements and prospects, and establish guidelines for an Orthodox religious education curriculum.
  • Leadership/teacher training: Ten persons participated in a month-long exposure programme in mid-1994 in parishes, workshops, monastic centres and a liturgical-pastoral institute in the USA, with a view to enhancing their perspectives and capacities and enabling them to become multipliers of this experience.
  • Course design/writing: Teachers of religion and designers and writers of educational materials met in a workshop in Finland (1995) to apply theories and methodologies to the actual planning, writing and presentation of lessons.

This comprehensive effort contributed positively to the significant progress of the several Orthodox churches in carrying out their educational ministry. Unfortunately, work with other churches in the region largely had to be deferred until the local ecumenical climate improved. Continued efforts in Poland and the Czech Republic, however, eventually resulted in important initiatives.

This programme is expected to be handed over to the Orthodox churches through the creation of an inter-Orthodox documentation and training centre in 1999.

Christian religious education in religiously and culturally pluralist societies. The challenge of affirming Christian identity while being sensitive and open to neighbours of other faiths in a pluralist context has become a priority concern for the education ministry of many churches in recent years; and the unit has taken a leading role in promoting fresh approaches to this challenge. Its programme had two components: one addressed to Sunday school teachers, teachers of religion in schools, educators of adults, parish workers, curriculum writers and seminary teachers; the other to women specializing in various aspects of women's work, professional women and housewives living in inter-religious contexts.

During 1994 and 1995 meetings were held in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the USA, Europe and the central Asian republics. The meeting in Tashkent was particularly noteworthy, in that it brought together for the first time Christian and Muslim religious leaders and teachers to discuss ways of learning about each other's faith and to set up a process of education and training. The next stage of this work with the regions will be to assist the churches in moving towards inter-religious educational models and approaches.

Fruitful work was done through the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (Procmura), which encouraged meetings and workshops for grassroots Christian and Muslim women discussing religious and other aspects of women's health and helping them to live with neighbours of different faiths.

In addition, the Education team continued to provide human resources and expertise in educational methodologies and curriculum development for living in multifaith contexts to a number of institutions, education movements and ecumenical bodies.

Orthodox spirituality and feminine images. In cooperation with the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, the Education programme developed a series of three seminars bringing together Orthodox and non-Orthodox women (with some men) for mutual learning and support. The final seminar (1997) was on "Authority and the Community of Women and Men". The programme gave an important place to the sharing of daily life experiences, with women telling stories of spirituality in their context.

Family life education. Programmatic work in this area continued until 1994, when a staff departure gave the unit the opportunity to review the nature of its role in family life education. Following this evaluation, it was decided not to renew the staff position. A handbook for pastoral workers, Crisis and Caring in the Family, was published in 1993.

Two important meetings addressing issues in family life education subsequently took place. The first (1995) examined some of the most pressing issues relating to families. The second (1997) looked at the strategies, methods and materials being used by the churches in family life education, and considered how family life educators can accompany one another within and across regions and what advice could be given to those setting up or developing programmes in this area.

Adult popular education. Building on the legacy of Paulo Freire in adult literacy and "education for liberation", this programme accompanied a number of popular education initiatives, primarily in the South. Support was given to the training of women and youth leaders, education for democracy and the evaluation of popular education methodologies.

A major project in 1994 evaluated approaches to popular education in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A significant offshoot of this was a cross-unit consultation (1995) leading to the report "Living in Spaces with Open Doors", which indicated possible future directions for adult popular education and highlighted the importance of cultural diversity in adult education, particularly in relation to women.

The overlap of this programme with similar programmes in other units (especially Unit III), together with the financial crisis, led to the decision not to renew the staff position when it became vacant in early 1996. It is hoped that the emphasis of this programme might be rearticulated in the post-assembly period.

Networking and collaborative initiatives. Recent years have seen a notable increase in contacts and fruitful exchanges with movements, institutions and agencies involved in education. Of particular significance was the encounter with superiors of religious congregations in Rome (1996) to look at the goals of church-related education institutions. This meeting, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is to be followed up by a second meeting in mid-1998 in Geneva

. Education Newsletter. The unit continued to publish the Education Newsletter two to three times a year, as a means of stimulating reflection on dimensions of education. The Newsletter, which was evaluated in 1997, normally develops particular themes; this approach seems to be well received by the broadly based readership. Consideration is being given to making these and other educational materials available through the Internet.

This report has attempted to capture the essence of the unit's work in a period marked by far-reaching changes and adjustments. Although staff reductions led to many important efforts being redirected or curtailed, the unit was able to fulfil its essential mandates in significant ways

. Intensive discussions and preparations are now under way to ensure a smooth transition into the new WCC structure, thus enabling the wealth of experience and insights acquired to be expressed in new and creative ways for the benefit of the churches and the ecumenical movement as it approaches the turn of the century.

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