world council of churches

8th assembly and 50th anniversary
preparatory materials


Annotated Agenda

The aim is (1) to present significant aspects of the programme work on Justice, Peace and Creation; (2) to give an account of how the unit has dealt with the heritage of ecumenical social thought, reshaping it according to present-day realities, and how it has dealt with the fire and fervour for justice, peace and the integrity of creation experienced ecumenically at the Vancouver assembly (1983); and (3) to evaluate the mandate from the Canberra assembly and the unit commission meeting in Evian (1992). The "Legacy Paper" prepared by the Unit III commission is an additional resource for this hearing.

Session I
1. Welcome and introductions
2. Overview of the unit's programme work, highlighted through a slide presentation with commentary

Session II
This session will be based on feedback from delegates and other participants offering reactions and concerns from the local context. Two animators will move among participants inviting their comments. A basket containing one-line statements or questions on justice, peace and creation issues will be passed around to provoke participants to react to these with particular reference to their own local context. These statements may in turn elicit reactions from other participants. The intention is not to set up an adversarial situation, but to illustrate the wide diversity of understandings and experiences.

Interspersed in this process will be a number of pre-recorded telephone conversations with people in different parts of the world who have been involved in Unit III programmes or for whom the WCC's work on justice, peace and creation has been critical.

Session III
Members of the Programme Guidelines Committee (PGC) will describe what they have heard in the previous sessions. Participants will then be asked for reactions and comments. The session will end with the members of the PGC indicating the direction of what they will carry back to subsequent PGC meetings.


Mandate, programme structure and programme summaries At its first meeting in Evian, May 1992, the Unit III commission formulated the following mandate:

  • To promote the conciliar process of justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC) as a challenge to the churches to express more fully their vocation in the search for visible unity and to spell out its implications for the ecumenical vision;
  • To develop study, research and analysis on the theological, ethical and socio-political implications of JPIC;
  • To build networks of action groups, in relation with the churches, to empower them in their work for JPIC and to facilitate their vision of a more just and humane society;
  • To design and implement programmes which carry out, in an integrated manner, concerns for justice, peace, the integrity of creation, human rights and racism;
  • To integrate the perspectives of women and youth throughout the work of the unit and empower women and youth in the ecumenical family to bring these perspectives into the whole life of the WCC;
  • To advise and assist in the formulation of WCC policies on international affairs, especially as they affect the life and witness of the churches.

As it developed, the work of the unit was built on three types of activities:
1. Study and reflection: basic theological work, ethical reflection and development, socio-economic and political analysis, documentation.
2. Networking and advocacy: enabling and empowering groups, ecumenical formation, facilitating local initiatives, strengthening communications.
3. Support of partners in action.

Without a doubt the greatest challenge for the unit has been to work in an integrated and cohesive way. Five former sub-units, each quite large and each with its own decision-making bodies and budgets, were required to work as one. Both the commission and staff devoted a good deal of time, imagination and energies to that end; and a reasonable measure of success was achieved.

The process of integration had three stages: (1) thematic integration

An important step was taken in May 1995 when the commission agreed on five themes:

  • Participation and governance
  • Human rights and peoples' rights
  • Racial justice, Indigenous Peoples and ethnicity
  • Peace with justice
  • Ecology and economy

Since 1996 these themes have provided the framework for the unit's programmatic activities. Programme staff were grouped in working teams around these themes - some being in more than one at any time, as specific programmes were developed within a theme requiring their particular skills.

In recent years the concern about "globalization" has become increasingly prominent on the unit's agenda. The discussion on globalization provided the opportunity for discerning how the changed and the changing global context affected the unit's work in terms of concept, content and methodology. In the course of time it became clear that virtually all the unit's programmatic activities were affected in one way or another

. The term "globalization" does not appear in the official report of the Canberra assembly. However in the period following the Evian meeting in 1992, globalization came to be generally accepted as the term that best describes the economic, political and social changes the world is going through. Its usage within Unit III gained greater currency during and after the second unit commission meeting at Larnaca in 1993. At the Geneva commission meeting in 1995, the director's report focused on globalization as a challenge to the ecumenical agenda.

Since the unit's programmatic work from 1991 to 1996 was actually done within teams, this report will focus on the three unit-wide programmes and the five teams.


Theology of Life
When Unit III was formed, it was clear that integration of the unit had to be much more than just an internal bureaucratic exercise, but had to involve the broader constituencies of the different teams. Within two years, the unit developed a process that promised to fulfill this function: a programme called Theology of Life Justice, Peace, Creation. The proposal for this programme began from the conviction that theologies developed in the struggles for justice, peace and creation are inter-related and all share in the common concern for life. The question put on the table was how to address matters of difference in multi-cultural societies where race, class and gender still discriminate against many.

The ten affirmations of the world convocation on JPIC (Seoul 1990)were chosen as entry points for more than twenty case studies in different parts of the world - usually two on each of the affirmations. This methodology was based on the assumption that theological commonalities and differences, when raised up in local, regional and worldwide interconnected struggles, can deepen understanding in each place and for all involved. The case studies were complemented by a study of the history of ecumenical social thought in the WCC.

The case study groups started their work in 1994. They began to reflect on one of the ten Seoul affirmations based on the experiences of the people in their own context. They encouraged each other to trust the language of life and to resist the usual division between intellect and emotion which devalues the latter in favour of the former. While this corresponded to what many contextual theologians in different regions of the world were already doing, the unit took a new initiative in applying basic insights of contextual theologies also to the process of mutual exchange, by linking the local and the global. The question was: "Can we find a way of doing contextual theology ecumenically and contextualize ecumenical theology in a new way?"

The process culminated at the "Sokoni" conference in Nairobi in January 1997, which proved to be a turning point in the life of the unit. Sokoni is the Swahili word for the traditional African market in Kenya. More than merely a place for exchanging goods, Sokoni is a place for communication that builds and strengthens the community. Representatives of the unit and case study coordinators met at Nairobi together with 300-500 people from Kenya in a circle of open African huts. The Unit III commissioners, in summarizing lessons learned in the Theology of Life programme and other areas of programmatic work, emphasized that the unit had developed a new style of ecumenical work:

Essentially this style of ecumenical work is one in which churches, and churches and movements, learn from one another, with the WCC as a vehicle for deepening and broadening their exchange and taking new or enhanced initiatives. When it works, the process stimulates renewed vision, deeper analysis, and more creative cooperative methods, all pursued in ecumenical networks. Inclusiveness is prized; multiple entry points for analysis and advocacy are used; and the kind of participation that builds on the experience and energies of everyday life, that draws from traditions, and that crosses boundaries and barriers, is facilitated. This leads to richer reflection by way of multiple perspectives freely exchanged. Most simply put this style of work is essentially a space and a method conducive to building up local and regional cultures of life and articulating theologies indigenous to them. The media may be storytelling, personal witness, Bible study and worship, analysis and reflection, drama, songs, music, dance, exhibits or other forms. Substantively, the direction overall is a decentralized one that nonetheless includes global perspectives, that seeks a downward distribution of economic, social and political power, and that encourages a heightened status for all forms of life, in, with and before God.

Ecclesiology and Ethics
The study process on Ecclesiology and Ethics was conducted jointly by Faith and Order and Unit III. Laying aside stereotypes in order to find common ground, the study tackled the tension between the search for the visible unity of the church and its call to prophetic witness and service. It explored the relationship between what the church is and what the church does. Ethical issues are inseparably linked to the very being of the church. The essential marks of the church - apostolicity, unity and holiness - are in question whenever the church justifies injustice of any kind. The study underlined the imperative for ecumenical ethical reflection and engagement and offered important insights on the concepts of the "household of life" and of the churches as communities in which moral formation takes place through their teaching and through their life.

Jubilee and the African Kairos
Unit III's Towards Reconstruction in Africa programme took three years to evolve. It went through several stages, one of which included elaboration of a plan of action to promote the concept of "the church in dialogue with African society". Two methodologies were followed: dialogue through ecumenical studies and reflection, and dialogue through ecumenical exchange visits within Africa and between Africans. Part of the harvest of the two processes was offered at the conference on Jubilee and the African Kairos in May 1997 in Johannesburg. The conference recommended more study, analysis and reflection on faith and politics, faith and economics and mission and partnership.

A study on Democracy and the Ethics of Good Governance provided a dynamic framework for in-depth reflections on African politics and the role of religion today. In several African countries churches have been actively engaged in the democratization process. Often this role has been thrust on them by history, since many other institutions of the civil society have been systematically disabled by more than two decades of dictatorship. By and large the churches are illequipped for such a role.

The study process therefore was instrumental in attempting to build the capacity of the churches to play a meaningful role in the search for peaceful, just and participatory societies in Africa. One of the findings of the study was that while the struggles for democracy in Africa have been going on for a long time, the current democratization process is not necessarily a process of people's emancipation; rather, it is a process for legitimizing the disempowerment of the people. In most countries of Africa the preoccupation is with the process and not the content of democracy,

The process of dialogue identified many issues that need further reflection and action in the areas of theological and biblical understanding, social change, and methodologies and strategies.


During the period when the energy and resources of the Programme to Combat Racism (PCR) were mainly focused on Southern Africa, the challenge was to pinpoint the most appropriate descriptions of institutional (or, in the case of South Africa, constitutional) racism, reinforced by personal prejudice and discrimination. As the focus began to shift away from South Africa in recent years, understanding of the manifestations of racism has significantly broadened.

PCR's earlier programmes depended heavily on analysis and proposals for action from large international consultations of people from the regions and the PCR commission and staff. While that methodology significantly helped work to eradicate the constitutional racism of apartheid, it did little to encourage the churches to "look in their own backyards". People and churches in many parts of the globe became experts on racism in South Africa but seldom considered how the very same dynamics were present in their own countries. The challenge now is to encourage member churches to analyze and act on racism in their own context as sharply as they did in South Africa.

A thread running through the history of PCR has been the ties with churches and movements. Links with anti-apartheid movements all over the world were very strong. With PCR's encouragement, some of these movements began to work on racism in their own countries as well. The commitment to maintain the ties between churches and movements remains. While the commitment to "combat" racism remains, words like "support" and "initiatives" better characterize the work now.

The Ecumenical Study Process on Racism. While the black-white paradigm is still basic in the understanding of racism, new manifestations of racism have begun to emerge. Increasing attention is being given to the global effects of racism, the dynamics of economic and environmental racism and racism in the church and theology.

The WCC Central Committee noted in 1995 that "institutional racism and the ideology of racism in their most pernicious forms continue unabated in contemporary societies and still affect churches dramatically", while ongoing social, political and economic trends "are producing new expressions of racism". Thus, an Ecumenical Study Process on Racism is being developed to identify and analyze contemporary trends and manifestations of racism, with special attention to regional understandings and experiences.

Contributing to this study are responses to a discussion starter on "What Is Racism Today?", contemporary analyses from the regions and processes developed in the WCC's work on Gospel and Cultures. This process, which will produce both global and regional documents, will make a significant contribution to the debates at the eighth assembly and will inform the WCC's future work on racism.

The US Campaign: Racism as a Violation of Human Rights. In 1994 the WCC and the US National Council of Churches co-sponsored a year-long campaign to heighten awareness of racism as violation of human rights. This campaign included educational activities and hearings before an Eminent Persons Team who visited seven sites around the country, chosen to highlight specific human rights violations affecting different ethnic and racial groups. The issues covered by the hearings included immigration, self-determination, sovereignty, prison conditions, sentencing, police brutality, the death penalty, political prisoners, education, health, unemployment, housing, environmental racism and racist violence.

On the basis of the hearings the Eminent Persons Team concluded that "there is widespread evidence of gross and consistent patterns of racism throughout the fabric of US society; many of the acts of racism testified to... constitute apparent violations of fundamental human rights as set out in international law." Follow-up work on the campaign has included interventions at the UN Commission on Human Rights (1995), a resource packet for churches and movement groups, and a WCC report on the campaign.

Women Under Racism (WUR) and the SISTERS Network. Women of colour actively involved in the ecumenical movement called for a programme to analyze the triple oppression women of colour suffer: racism, sexism and classism. Formed in 1980, the programme gave priority in the Canberra to Harare period to two main objectives: (1) mobilizing the churches to commitment and action in concrete solidarity with women of colour; and (2) facilitating the networking of WUR in a global sisterhood to strategize together against their triple oppression.

Workshops and meetings, circular letters, analysis and reflection led to a global gathering of WUR in 1992, which was a major contribution to the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. On that occasion, the global network SISTERS - Sisters In Solidarity To Eliminate Racism and Sexism - was formed in response to the call for more systematic exchange of experiences and strategies and coalition-building. The regions reached are Europe, Latin America, North America, the Pacific and, on a smaller scale, Asia and the Caribbean.

Among the themes addressed at the workshops are the manifestations of racism in a given region and its impacts on women's lives; links between racism and colonialism, casteism, sexism, economics, migration; the lands and livelihoods of peoples and cultures; human rights and citizenship; elements for a theology from women of colour. In the past few years WUR has strengthened its cooperation with WCC member churches and REOs.

Ethnicity. Progress has been slow in developing a Council-wide understanding of the parameters of this issue, partly due to general lack of critical analysis of the churches' role in the development of ethno-nationalism.

The Unit III commission expressed disappointment at this slow development and called for better definition and specific programme proposals. A subsequent WCC-wide staff consultation revealed considerable existing programme work on this and related issues, taking place in various ways in the offices on Inter-Religious Relations, Communication, Urban Rural Mission, Education, Gospel and Culture, Refugees and Migration, and Emergencies. Unit III has dealt with it in International Affairs (through mediation and consultations in conflict situations), in PCR with ethnic minorities, in Women and in Youth.

The increasing number of ethnic conflicts and confrontations in the world obviously gives added urgency to the issue. But work within the WCC lacks coordination. The 1994 consultation in Sri Lanka, in conjunction with LWF and WARC, set out a number of case studies and a "challenge to the churches".

Indigenous Peoples Programme (IPP). In 1990 Indigenous Peoples' work received renewed impetus from the WCC global consultation in Darwin, "Land is our Life". The "Darwin Declaration" and the Canberra assembly statement on "Land and Indigenous Peoples: Move Beyond Words" challenged the churches to take specific actions in sharing resources with Indigenous Peoples and increasing Indigenous participation in church structures, congregations and United Nations forums.

The methodologies used by the Indigenous Peoples Programme include sharing experiences, analyzing issues collectively and reaching outcomes by consensus. Local, regional and global workshops, encounters, conferences and consultations have aimed at building bridges among Indigenous Peoples' organizations and churches and church-related organizations.

Indigenous Peoples' spiritualities were addressed as an holistic expression of life within creation, which is threatened by the dominant societies. The WCC and the IPP brought leaders together to dialogue and to begin to rebuild their hopes and visions of inclusive communities. A permanent dialogue is in place on the theme of Christian theologies and Indigenous Peoples' wisdom, with women and men elders maintaining the historical and cultural identities. Indigenous Peoples have recognized that the Bible and the gospel have been captured by the Western culture. They believe the essence of the gospel was misinterpreted and imposed on them as the only one, with all others considered evil and satanic. Indigenous Peoples call Christians to respect their way of encountering the good news.

Land and self-determination are of fundamental importance for the existence of Indigenous Peoples. The WCC has encouraged churches to engage in dialogue with Indigenous Peoples in their midst, exploring critically the history of their relations with Indigenous Peoples and taking up the jubilee challenge "to restore to Indigenous Peoples or offer reparation for their historical lands currently owned by churches".

The WCC's Youth Internship Programme has provided an opportunity for ecumenical formation to two young adult women: a Maori from Aotearoa and a Sami from Norway. The IPP has in turn been enriched by the presence of these young interns.

The participation of Indigenous Peoples in the UN forums is growing constantly. In addition to providing some funds, the IPP has been facilitating annual Indigenous caucuses at the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in July, the Working Group on the Draft Declaration in October and the Commission on Human Rights in March/April.

Solidarity with the Dalit People of India. When the PCR commission met in Madras in 1989 and resolved to establish ties with Dalit communities in India, few could have projected the direction such aspirations would take. Unit III has facilitated the establishment of Dalit Solidarity Peoples, a movement of Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu Dalits working in solidarity with each other- something not achieved before in India. The WCC's chief role in this development has been to raise funds and draw international attention to the issue.

The movement is now a significant actor in the struggle for social, political and economic change to benefit these nearly 200 million Indians who endure systematic oppression because they were born outside the caste system.


The importance of the WCC's witness in international affairs has grown during this time of major transition in world history. Globalization has demanded more analytical work on current global and regional trends, greater capacity to follow through initiatives for peace and conflict resolution, and a focus on new challenges to human rights and the rule of law.

WCC international affairs work includes both Council-wide international affairs (public issues) and programme activities within the framework of Unit III.

Work on public issues includes:

  • regular monitoring of global political trends and particular situations;
  • working together with other WCC units and offices on the international affairs dimensions of their work;
  • advising the general secretary on the Council's response to particular concerns;
  • preparing background notes and proposals for governing body action on public issues;
  • bringing together church representatives for consultation about ecumenical responses to critical concerns.

The post-cold war environment has obliged CCIA to provide a wide range of background notes helping to identify new challenges to the churches. It has been crucial to prep

. While many controversial situations have been addressed, the WCC's statements and other forms of response have generally been welcomed by churches in countries and regions affected as helpful expressions of solidarity. In several particularly contentious areas (East Timor, Sudan, China-Taiwan, the former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes Region), meetings with church representatives have brought parties closer together in their evaluation of the problems and of possible ecumenical responses. CCIA's UN Headquarters Liaison Office in New York has often provided crucial input and helped to establish ties with political affairs specialists there.

Programme activities have involved the following broad areas of continuing concern:

  • human rights, including impuniy and religious freedom;
  • disarmament and the arms trade;
  • peace and conflict resolution, including the Programme to Overcome Violence;
  • global governance, including UN relations.

A particular mark of this period has been the intertwining of concerns for human rights, peace, conflict resolution, arms issues and global governance.

Human rights. This work involves monitoring trends and specific situations in which human rights are consistently violated or threatened. Close relationships must be developed with churches, ecumenical bodies, church-related and other human rights organizations at all levels, as well as intergovernmental bodies. Some situations require urgent action, including pastoral or investigative missions. Other facets of the work are promotion and financial support of new human rights initiatives and development of solidarity networks among churches in the different regions.

Ecumenical participation in the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1995 was preceded by regional consultations; and the Global Review of Ecumenical Policy and Practice in Human Rights has helped the unit to apply lessons from past work to current involvements and to identify emerging trends in the field of human rights.

One of these trends has been the work on impunity. Case studies in Latin America, meetings and contacts with groups in other parts of the world have shown this issue to be critical not only for effective protection of human rights, but also in relation to peace, reconciliation and conflict resolution. Specific work in the field of religious liberty has made it clear that more needs to be done in this area, especially regarding the churches' contribution to the public discussion of church-state relations, particularly in transitional societies. Another emerging area is interfaith cooperation in the protection of human rights.

Disarmament and the arms trade. The nuclear arms race, trade in conventional weapons and militarization - areas in which the WCC has done landmark work in the past - continue to be important concerns.

At the beginning of the period a consultation was held on the trade in conventional weapons, and guidelines were developed for action by the churches to counter it. Particularly critical issues are the commerce in conventional weapons to areas of open or potential conflict, and the accumulation of weapons in private hands. Special attention is being given to developing practical guidelines for the churches in the area of micro-disarmament.

Peace and conflict resolution. No field has been more demanding in the post-Canberra period than this one. The proliferation of conflicts in the former Soviet Union and in Africa has required intensive attention, also because of the new and more complex character of conflicts. The ethnic conflicts which have re-emerged in several parts of the world often involve the churches directly. New forms of narrow nationalism have developed. The expectations of the churches and governing bodies that the WCC be a direct mediator of conflicts have risen greatly.

A study was initiated on the role of economic sanctions and in 1995 the Central Committee adopted policy guidelines on their application.

A great deal of work has been done in search of effective church and ecumenical involvement in conflict resolution in the former Yugoslavia, in Armenia and Azerbaijan, East Timor, Sri Lanka and Cyprus. In Africa, special attention has gone to conflicts in Angola, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, the Horn of Africa and Sudan, and especially in the Great Lakes region. The WCC participated in the process of negotiation in Guatemala, and similar work has been developed in Colombia and Haiti. It organized ecumenical teams to monitor elections in South Africa and Palestine and worked on the question of the final status of Jerusalem.

Programme to Overcome Violence. The Central Committee set up the Programme to Overcome Violence (POV) in January 1994 in response to the rising worldwide tide of violence and the longing for peace with justice. Its focus is on the building of a culture of peace through practical means of overcoming violence at different levels of society and on encouraging the churches to play a leading role in using nonviolent means such as prevention, mediation, intervention and education appropriate to their particular contexts. The POV can be regarded as a broad framework within which the efforts of the churches and other groups can find their own place.

The POV has undertaken a study process with Faith and Order to look at the theological and ecclesiological dimensions of violence and nonviolence and the powerful resources offered by the Christian faith in building cultures of peace.

Launched by the WCC Central Committee in September 1996, the "Peace to the City" campaign is a two-year global initiative within the POV which will culminate at the eighth assembly. The campaign concentrates on seven cities around the world where imaginative efforts are being made to overcome violence through cross-community work. These creative models of peace-building and reconciled communities are being highlighted in order to:

  • make them visible;
  • recognize the value of their approaches and methodologies;
  • synthesize lessons learned to form new insights and theoretical perspectives;
  • stimulate sharing and networking;
  • give others hope and the tools to attempt something similar in their own contexts.

The cities are Belfast, Northern Ireland; Boston, USA; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Durban, South Africa; Kingston, Jamaica; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Suva, Fiji.

Key to the success of the campaign have been new methodologies for partnership and communication. Local campaign partners have come from a variety of Christian, secular and interfaith organizations beyond groups normally associated with the ecumenical movement. To communicate the aims and progress of the campaign and to expand networks for peace and justice work, an interactive World Wide Web site has been developed for sharing regularly updated information and resources and providing a forum for other groups and individuals to share their work and ideas. An e-mail list server, newsletters, books and videos are also part of the communication strategy for the campaign.

Global governance. The tone for the work on global governance during this period was set by the pointed questions raised in the Canberra assembly resolution on the Gulf War about the post-cold war "new world order" and its effects on the institutions of the United Nations. The statement on "Contemporary Challenges to Africa" adopted by the Central Committee in Johannesburg (1994) laid the groundwork for consideration of "democracy" in a transition period of world history, both with respect to international behaviour and the implications for governance at regional, national and local levels.

Work with the UN Human Rights Commission and Sub-commission continued. Several teams of Units III and IV were involved. Interventions were prepared on a range of country issues, often inviting persons from the respective countries to speak or work with delegations. Cooperation was developed with the special rapporteurs on the issue of impunity for past crimes against humanity.

An unprecedented number of UN world conferences were organized during this period, and the WCC was involved with six of these: Rio de Janeiro (environment and development), Cairo (population and development), Vienna (human rights), Beijing (women and development), Copenhagen (world social summit) and Rome (world food conference).

The first thorough survey and evaluation of WCC relations with the UN system in nearly two decades was carried out during 1995. Among other things, this review highlighted the importance of the UN Headquarters Liaison Office in New York. Assistance was given to several WCC programmes in relation to their work vis-a-vis the UN. New efforts were made to develop working relations with the UN secretariats on humanitarian affairs and peace-keeping. The UN increasingly recognizes the essential contributions of nongovernmental organizations, and particularly of the WCC and its member churches, to both policy-formation and field-level operations.


Programme work on this theme has used a variety of methodologies: networks (regional as well as on specific topics); exchanges and communication; campaigns (such as the climate change petition); study and reflection; education, training and formation; farming out specific tasks (e.g. regarding climate change, civil society, Bretton Woods institutions); innovative methodologies (e.g. contextual biblical and theological reflection).

In developing its programmes, the team favoured a decentralized style of work, starting from local initiatives and involving member churches, Regional Ecumenical Organizations, network partners and agencies. The programme activities were grouped under three broad headings: Life in Creation, Life in Community and Towards Economies of Life.

Life in Creation
This work concentrated on an ecumenical response to the UNCED process (Rio 1992), global warming and accelerated climate change, and theological reflection on JPIC in the framework of a Theology of Life.

A major conference under the title "Searching for the New Heavens and New Earth" was organized alongside the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED). This ecumenical gathering rooted itself in Baixada Fluminense, a community outside Rio where issues of economics, environment and racism are daily realities for the majority of people. The meeting had an energizing effect on participants and their work in various places; and the link between the local situation of people struggling for life and the global agenda became an overarching concern of the work on Life in Creation. Increasingly the WCC questioned the misuse of the term "sustainable development" to legitimize current economic approaches which are premised on unlimited economic growth and a continuous and unregulated expansion of production and consumption by the world's rich. Future work needs to address the conflict between the quest for socially just and sustainable communities and the expansion of world trade.

The covenant on global warming and environment at the Seoul JPIC convocation in 1990 called for further WCC work on climate change. This programme successfully developed a decentralized style of work which strengthened linkages between the WCC and regional networks. A series of consultations helped to improve the approach and reflect on the social idea of just and sustainable communities. A petition campaign to reduce carbon dioxide emissions was organized in cooperation with the Christian world communions and other ecumenical and environmental organizations.

Life in Community
Since the beginning of the 1990s three important concerns have emerged: a critique of the understanding of development in a new global reality; new challenges for international cooperation; and the need for new ways to strengthen the self-reliance of ecumenical organizations. "Discerning the Way Together" was an initiative by donor agencies, in cooperation with the WCC, to respond to the new situation. Another approach was chosen by partners in Latin America who started a creative research project on the economic viability of ecumenical organizations.

There were three programmatic lines in this area of concern: Networks: Social Movements, Globalization, Exclusion. In the period of global change and upheavals following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the WCC has encouraged new initiatives, organized exchanges and given support for training and research. Two regional networks were dismantled; five new ones came into existence. Linkages to new partner groups were built up. The WCC has strengthened its role as facilitator, enabler and catalyzer of networks, always seeking an adequate response to the question of how to work with the agenda of the networks and groups in regions while maintaining close relationships with its own programmes.

Meetings organized from Geneva were not the appropriate instrument for this. The programme had to develop a decentralized approach in order to facilitate meaningful processes in the regions and affirm the role of social movements in the life of the ecumenical movement. At the same time the networks have valued the WCC as an international organization facing issues of globalization and promoting spaces of encounter across diversities.

Civil Society and Life in Community. This programme was implemented in response to the search for new social paradigms by many partners in the regions. The work has been done in cooperation with partners in Germany, Korea, USA and South Africa. The main instrument used until 1995 was the "Corresponding Academy", a joint effort with the Evangelical Academy of Loccum, Germany, and the Vesper Society (USA). A major thrust in the programme was to encourage and facilitate local initiatives involving churches in the areas of democracy, conflict resolution and economic alternatives. Special emphasis was given to South Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, East Africa and Cuba.

Biblical and Theological Reflections from People's Perspectives. This programme was designed to animate people to do theology and read the Bible in daily life. A successful methodology was developed in Latin America that could be shared with other regions. Biblical scholars were asked to develop a new hermeneutic and to provide training capacities. Around 240 local animators were trained. A new global programme on biblical pedagogy was started in 1997. The theological programme began in 1994 with a meeting that brought together theologians related to the "Kairos" and "Road to Damascus" processes. The idea was to animate local theological reflections as much as possible. A number of important activities were organized, including "From Kairos to Jubilee" in the USA, theological reflection in Kairos Europe and a process on Theology and Culture in the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia.

Towards Economies of Life
The study document on Christian Faith and the World Economy Today, translated into nine languages, provided the framework for much of the WCC's work on economic issues in the 1990s. It was used in numerous encounters to stimulate reflection and action on the relationship between Christian faith and economics, which became an increasingly crucial dimension of a Christian response to the accelerated process of globalization

. The WCC began work on the debt issue already in the early 1980s in close cooperation with partners in the South and with the Center of Concern in Washington. The Council sought to help member churches to understand the origins of the crisis and to explore possible alternatives, against the background of considerable critique of the churches' involvement in financial matters even within the churches themselves. Beginning in 1997, the Jubilee 2000 initiative has given new impetus to ecumenical work on this issue.

Recognizing that the debt problem must be approached in the context of developments in the world economic system as a whole and the financial sector in particular, Unit III supported an ambitious programme of the Center of Concern in Washington to explore possible alternatives to the so-called Bretton Woods institutions: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The 50th anniversary of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1994 was an occasion to call together a number of action groups and research organizations for a meeting in Washington, which provided a platform for exchange of information, comparison of analyses and strategies, and identification of possible common actions.

Education for JPIC
With the different Unit III programmes undertaking various educational processes around their own issues and themes, Education for JPIC focused on exploring the methodological challenges and implications of the unit's work. To do this, it was necessary to coordinate with education desks in other units and to engage in inter-regional and regional evaluation of education processes. The results revealed certain shifts in perspectives and approaches, and underscored the need for a multi-dimensional approach to education, particularly in contexts where globalization is having an immeasurable impact on people's lives. Of particular significance has been the challenge posed by feminist theory and praxis to the nature and content of education. Questions of sexuality, power, identity, culture, gender, age, race, ethnicity and environment were thus predominant themes in the inter-related processes undertaken in Education for JPIC.

Out of such exploration have come several resources for churches and groups, highlighting insights from women, the younger generation, Indigenous Peoples and educators in local communities:

  • What Do We Mean When We Say Sacred?, on culture and identity, sums up the insights on the cultural dimensions of the work on JPIC, identifying positive elements in various communities that enhance the building of a culture of life. Analysis and reflections focus on gender, environment, spirituality and people's movements.
  • Five Loaves and Two Fishes, on worship and JPIC, reflects new and creative ways of celebrating the life experiences and transformations that take place in various contexts. The handbook includes suggestions on the use of symbols, natural elements, gestures and movements, drama and stories in worship.
  • Towards a Feminist Pedagogy draws from the experiences and perspectives of women in education through life stories, reflections on notions of power and identity, the origin of knowledge and the social conditions that shape women's lives. The resource handbook from this process includes insights on the ethical implications of storytelling, healing and spirituality as integral to learning, feminine symbols, and values and principles underlying women's ways of doing education.
  • "Caretakers of the Earth", rooted in the work on climate change, focused on the ethical principles and cultural values which govern people's relationship with the environment with a view to the development of alternative development strategies and sustainable life-styles. This involved training workshops, exchanges and support of initiatives to develop training resources on environmental concerns.


The WCC has been committed to women from the outset, and there has been programmatic work on issues related to women in church and society for over 40 years. Since 1988 the major framework for this has been the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. In carrying out Decade activities, the WCC has benefited from the contributions of the growing church and secular women's movements around the world. It was these movements which challenged the WCC to launch the Decade, and it is the energy of women that has kept the Decade alive.

Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women
By 1992, as the midpoint of the Decade approached it was apparent that an initiative which was to have addressed the churches' commitment to women had in fact become a decade of women in solidarity with each other, or even of women in solidarity with the churches. The question posed was how to "give the Decade back to the churches" and how to support women in the regions in their efforts. A group of women from the regions who met in Geneva proposed two ways in which this could be done.

First, the group identified four major issues that could be embraced by the Decade, with the request that each member church act on these issues in the context of its own concerns for solidarity:

  • continuing barriers to women's participation in the life of the churches, in leadership, theology, diakonia, spirituality and ministry;
  • the grave impact of the global economic crisis on the life of women all over the world;
  • violence against women in both church and society, and the growing awareness that this issue demands serious and active attention from the churches;
  • the effects of racism and xenophobia, which are tearing our societies apart, on the lives of women.

The second proposal was that the WCC organize ecumenical team visits to all member churches to assess with them how far they have come in their commitments to women.

Between 1994 and 1996 a programme of team visits to member churches was undertaken. This ambitious programme sent out 75 teams of four members (two men and two women) drawn from the member churches, to meet with member churches, Christian councils, and church and secular women's organizations. This process culminated with a visit to the WCC itself. The purpose of the visits was to assess how the aims of the Decade have been integrated into the life of the churches, to identify obstacles to change and to challenge the churches to take a clear stand in implementing commitments made to women. These "Living Letters", as the teams were called, visited over 330 churches, 68 national Christian councils and 650 women's groups and organizations in all regions of the world. The visits sought to bring to the consciousness of each member church, in its local reality, the global and ecumenical challenge to ensure the full and creative participation of women in the life of the churches and in society. The team visits have also provided support; and all have made visible the decades of courage and faithfulness of women through their organized work at local, national and regional levels.

The Decade has been successful because it has sharpened women's voices in the churches and given women the space organize and make their concerns known. Most significantly, it provided a vision for the WCC's work and an important methodology for the Council's relations with churches and with other networks. It has emphasized that local experiences are important and significant in understanding the role the WCC can play as an international organization.

Other activities
Women and development. In the past ten years or so, in the context of the Decade, this programme has sought to develop women's capacity for self-organization, which together with democratization provides an environment in which sustainable development can become a reality. The programme has worked at this through both short- and long-term strategies.

The Rural Women's Development Programme has continued to support women's initiatives, guided by the two basic principles that these small grants must express solidarity among women and contribute to women's empowerment. At the same time, a series of regional workshops has taken place under the theme "Women and Economic Justice", which is one of the four main foci of the Decade. Participants in these workshops have come from a variety of organizations- governments, NGOs, church and civic groups - which are facing in different ways the negative impact of globalization and economic liberalization on their communities in general and on women in particular.

Women in conflict situations. The WCC has a long history of standing with disadvantaged communities faced with injustice in all its manifestations. The women's programme has continued this through a number of pastoral and fact-finding women-to-women visits to several countries - including South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Burundi - to express solidarity and focus attention on a basic principle for human development and growth: the need for peace with justice.

Violence against women. Regional consultations on violence against women (Bali, Indonesia, 1993; San José, Costa Rica, 1993; Nyeri, Kenya, 1994; Western Samoa, Pacific, 1994; Ballycastle, UK, 1994; Ayia Napa, Cyprus, 1995; Bolton, Canada, 1996) brought together the voices of women demanding a safe and violence-free society and world in order to move towards preparing a global agenda of action for the churches on this issue. Women spoke of the escalation of violence against women caused by political and military conflicts, economic crises brought about by burgeoning debt and structural adjustment policies, and cultural and religious traditions and practices. Such violence takes many forms: domestic violence, prostitution and pornography, sexual harassment and sexual abuse, also in the church, as well as more subtle expressions such as psychological violence. Strategies were developed to deal with the violence both in society and the church. A global meeting in 1997 drew together the variety of insights and testimonies from women in the regions.

Women in the ecumenical movement. Two important meetings of women who have been active in the life of the ecumenical movement, locally and globally, were held in September 1992 and January 199- and how it has occasionally been a difficult experience for them. The meetings made a major contribution to developing forward-looking strategies on the challenges emerging from the Decade.

Meetings of Orthodox Christian women. Two important meetings of women of the Orthodox churches were organized in the context of the Decade - in Damascus in October 1996 and in Istanbul in May 1997. More than 100 women from Orthodox churches in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, North and South America and Africa reflected on the impact the Decade has had on the Orthodox churches and on Orthodox women. The meetings identified the ways in which Orthodox Christian women view doctrinal issues and the ministerial roles of women in the churches, and emphasized the gifts that they bring to their communities, families and churches as they grow up Orthodox and female.

Some future directions
The WCC's commitment to women must continue. The Decade process, if anything, has raised the hopes for support and follow-up which women have of the ecumenical movement. The focus must be on "justice in community", both as an ecclesiological imperative and as a reality in society. There is also a need to continue an advocacy role, supporting women in the churches in their struggles to achieve greater levels of participation in decision-making structures, in theology and theological education, in ecumenical education in congregations and communities, and in other forms of ministry.

A conspicuous challenge for the future which the Decade has brought to light is that the issues of racism and xenophobia have not yet received adequate attention in the churches or in women's organizations. Moreover, the work on exposing the issue of violence against women has revealed the need for a sharp and focused WCC response to this. The WCC must continue to play a challenging role, drawing out an ecclesiological and ethical response to violence against women and providing a credible programme at the global level.


In many ways the period since the Canberra assembly has been a watershed for youth work in the WCC. The seventh assembly said clearly that youth concerns needed to be taken seriously in the work of the WCC, and this was echoed by the commission meeting in Evian in 1992. The years since Canberra have challenged the WCC to express its stated commitment to youth in very tangible ways. While it is emphasized that youth is not only a concern of a single unit or staff team but also of the Council as a whole, the past period has shown that there is clear need to question the work of the other units in the Council on youth

The Ecumenical Global Gathering of Youths and Students (EGGYS), in 1993, was expected to be a process of deepened ecumenical cooperation among ten youth and student organizations, including the WCC. It provided the opportunity for networking and joint action by national, regional and global partners to work on issues of common concern among youth. However the follow-up of EGGYS, after all the human and financial investment at every level, has been disappointing. This is particularly significant when one recalls how much expectation and energy the four-year preparatory process for EGGYS had built up around the world.

The World Youth Projects Programme (WYP) has been the framework for much of the work of the WCC Youth Office and in regional ecumenical youth networks in the period under review. The four parts to the WYP are:

  • Ecumenical Youth Action (EYA). Over 500 young people take part every year in EYAs, networking through practical action to counter poverty, injustice and hunger. EYA provides a space for reflection and action by an ecumenical group of local, regional and international youth in the context of the local work camp.
  • Regional youth programmes facilitate the work of youth offices in the Regional Ecumenical Organizations in their support of networks in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. Among these programmes are Youth and Peace-Building, Empowering of Young Women, Leadership Training, Study Process on Globalization.
  • Solidarity Platfor provides support for one-off and short-term solidarity action on specific themes.
  • Inter-regional cooperation. Consultations and workshops bring together young people from the regions. Priority areas of inter-regional work during the past period have been developing a young women's network, work on youth and HIV/AIDS, youth and peace-building (youth in conflict situations), Gospel and Cultures, youth in mission, and indigenous youth.

The WCC Youth Internship Programme provides opportunities for young people to work at the WCC (Geneva and New York offices) for up to twelve months as a means of training and form - bring fresh voices and visions to the WCC's work. A recent evaluation has suggested that the internship process is a model of ecumenical youth formation which should be continued in the WCC as well as in the regions.

The Youth and HIV/AIDS programme led to a joint workshop on HIV/AIDS organized by the youth offices of the Lutheran World Federation and the WCC in Namibia in 1993. This workshop, which brought together 27 young people from all the regions, led to the production of two resources on HIV/AIDS to be used by young people in the member churches of both organizations: a brochure "AIDS - Why We Care", and the resource book Making Connections, Facing AIDS. Both have helped to stimulate discussion on this issue and are serving as a tool for beginning the conversations in many groups in different parts of the world.

I Am Worthy": Young Women Demand a Violence-Free World sought to develop more effective ecumenical leadership among young women at national, regional and global levels. The programme included annual global planning and review meetings, a global festival in Fiji in November 1994, and the participation of young women from the ecumenical movement in the UN world conference for women (Beijing 1995). The theme of the process transformed the concern for violence against women into an affirmation of the dignity of young women as agents of change and full participants in the ecumenical youth movement. The success of the process has been measured in a stronger presence and contribution of young women to ecumenical youth work in all regions.

The Youth Peace and Justice Campaign and Youth in Conflict Situations programmes allowed for encounters between young people living in situations of conflict in order to establish networks of cooperation and to provide insights and resources for breaking down the sense of isolation and hopelessness. The ecumenical youth movement could play a pro-active role in bringing the fruits of young people's practical experience and skills in peacemaking to places where latent tension threatens to turn into open conflict. A further concern was to bring out the perspectives of young people on war, conflict, peace and justice. The focal points of the engagement on youth in conflict situations were Africa, the Middle East and

Youth, Gospel, Cultures and Identity involved young people in the preparatory process for the WCC's 1996 world conference on mission and evangelism. Young people reflected on their own cultures in the context of new mission impulses, increasing threats of religious fundamentalism and xenophobia. These explorations helped to develop a critical understanding of the interconnection between gospel and cultures and the forces which shape the identity of young people.

The WCC Stewards Programme, which has brought more than 1500 young people to serve as stewards at assemblies, Central Committees and conferences since 1948, was reorganized during this period to become a more intentional programme of ecumenical youth formation. A mandatory orientation session, generally three to four days, has become an integral part of the stewards programme.

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of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor