8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on the Way
3.1. Report of the Moderator
Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia

1. As we meet today as the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches, my mind goes back to the second assembly of the WCC in Evanston, in 1954. Meeting at a time of fear and despair, and confrontation between East and West, the assembly made an urgent appeal to the churches and the world "to turn from our ways to God's way" and "rejoice in hope."1

These words are more than appropriate 44 years later at this critical point of history as we come together under darker clouds of uncertainty and hopelessness, in a world threatened ecologically, spiritually and morally, to challenge the churches and the world to "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope".

2. Unprecedented and far-reaching changes have marked the history of humankind since we met in Canberra (1991). Ideologies have collapsed, barriers have been destroyed, apartheid has almost disappeared. Yet, the end of the cold war has not ushered in a new era of justice, peace and reconciliation. The world remains broken, divided, threatened. These radical and rapid changes and the emergence of complex realities have had direct repercussions in the life and witness of the churches, the ecumenical movement and the work of the WCC.

3. In fact, the period extending from Canberra to Harare has been marked for the Council by a number of significant programmatic achievements, a considerable growth in the membership of the Council, acute financial instability and multiple and diverse challenges coming from the churches and societies. In spite of enormous and unpredictable difficulties the Council has carried out its work with a profound sense of responsibility and accountability within the mandate given by the Canberra assembly. Before I turn to the actual work of the Council, I invite you all to remember, in a moment of silent prayer, the "great cloud of witnesses" who, coming from different churches and regions, brought their important contributions to the promotion of ecumenical values and goals. These ecumenical witnesses will always remain with us in our common ecumenical pilgrimage. The work of the Council is an indivisible whole to which each person or body brings active participation and makes a specific input. At this point, I would like, on behalf of the vice-moderators and myself, to express my sincere thanks and deep appreciation to the former general secretary, Dr Emilio Castro, to the present general secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser, to all members of the outgoing Central and executive committees, to commissions, committees, working groups and Council's staff who have significantly contributed to the implementation of programmes and policies set by the Canberra assembly.

4. The central committee has been the magnet around which the Council's life and programmatic activities are organized and developed. Since Canberra, the central committee has met five times. The attendance at these meetings, each of which had a flavour of its own, was excellent and participation was serious. The WCC is a council of churches. The member churches, through their delegates, elected us to implement their decisions. The Council's role is to be the churches' servant. Therefore, the assembly is the proper context in which to give account of our work and to analyze the Council's stewardship. In fact, our long and complex journey from Canberra to Harare cannot be condensed in a brief moderator's report. The report From Canberra to Harare and the Assembly Workbook provide a full and illustrated account and a helpful overview of the life and activities of the Council over the past seven years. Through an intensive process of hearings as well as through Padare you will be given ample opportunity in these days to assess the Council's work in all its dimensions, aspects and manifestations.

5. My report will be composed of two parts. In part I, I will evaluate critically the programmatic work of the Council by highlighting some key areas of involvement, indicating the emerging trends, and spelling out their impact on member churches. In part II (paras 47-71), I will discuss the significance of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the WCC, and the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I will attempt to bring into focus some of the challenges and perspectives emerging from these two jubilees for the life of our churches and for the future of the ecumenical movement. And, as a conclusion, I will share with you a few personal thoughts pertaining to the theme of this assembly to discern our ecumenical journey.


6. The process that came to be known as "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC" (CUV), embarked upon in 1989, became the major initiative of the period under consideration. It led the Council into two comprehensive processes of internal restructuring and programmatic prioritization. The first restructuring took place in 1991, right after Canberra, and divided the programmatic work of the WCC into four units: Unity and Renewal; Churches in Mission: Health, Education and Witness; Justice, Peace and Creation; and Sharing and Service. For historical and methodological reasons each unit divided into what were variously called teams, streams or desks. Units were urged to work in a collaborative and integrated fashion while maintaining their specificities. Almost six years of full experimentation and concrete experience revealed the deficiencies of the structure in light of the major changes that have taken place in the life of the churches. This reality, combined with a significant drop in the Council's income, led the WCC to a second restructuring within the process of the CUV. At its last meeting in 1997 the central committee endorsed the proposed structural changes, together with constitutional amendments, for the Assembly's approval. It is important to note that one basic question motivated both these attempts at internal restructuring: How can the WCC as an instrument of the ecumenical movement best serve the churches in their continuous search for visible unity and in their common witness in a rapidly changing world? This same concern has also determined, sustained and oriented the programmatic work of the Council.

Towards a fuller and more visible koinonia

7. The search for fuller and visible unity remains at the heart of the ecumenical movement, and a major goal for the WCC. At Canberra, the assembly adopted a statement describing the unity of the church as koinonia which is God's gift and calling, and considering the church as the foretaste of this koinonia with God and with one another. The fifth world conference on Faith and Order (Santiago de Compostela, 1993) explored the meaning and implications of koinonia for the life and work of the church, focusing on "koinonia in faith, life and witness". The conference, which drew participants from every continent and ecclesial tradition and which had been prepared through a series of regional consultations on the theme, also explored steps towards the visible expression of koinonia in the life of the church and identified the theological and practical implications of living in communion.

8. In the light of the search to manifest a fuller and more visible koinonia, Faith and Order prepared a convergence document on "The Nature and Purpose of the Church". This issue is fundamental, for our differences in this area hinder the growth towards a more visible koinonia. This document explores further the understanding of koinonia, which means "to have part in", "to participate", "to act together" and "to be in a contractual relationship involving obligations of mutual accountability".2 In the future, Faith and Order should explore how to engage the churches in work that draws more on contextual as well as confessional expressions of what it means to be church. Furthermore, we are responsible for strengthening each other as we seek to be faithful to the gospel in diverse situations. The understanding, as developed in the CUV document, of the WCC as a fellowship of churches is an invitation to the member churches to manifest such solidarity and accountability.

9. But how do the churches understand the gospel and articulate it? Different emphases, which have sometimes alienated one tradition from another, are in part derived from different ways of reading the gospel and the history of the church. In struggling for a fuller and more visible koinonia, it has been important to seek convergence in methods of interpretation, including contextual methods of understanding and articulating the Christian faith. The search for fuller koinonia also requires an appreciation of the structure, meaning and symbols of worship. In fact, during this period Faith and Order has reflected, with liturgists, on the basic patterns of worship (both eucharistic and non-eucharistic) which are shared by an increasing number of churches today, on the issues involved in inculturation of worship in local contexts, and on the ethical implications of worship, especially baptism. This work will certainly help diverse Christian traditions recognize one another's worship as an authentic and faithful expression of prayer and praise to the triune God.

10. As the fifth world conference on Faith and Order affirmed, there can be no concern for the unity of the church which does not take engagement in the struggles of the world seriously. Faith and Order in conjunction with Unit III has explored, through the Ecclesiology and Ethics study process, the implications of koinonia for engagement in issues of social ethics. I believe that such commitment is intrinsic to the life of the church. Applying our faith to crucial issues facing humanity and the world today is not an optional "extra" for the churches, but is a matter of faithfulness to the gospel. And as Christ calls us to be one, he calls us to a common engagement in the ethical, social and economic issues of today. This common engagement is not always clear or comfortable; it may offend sensitivities and create tensions, and test our resolve "to stay together". Thus "a costly unity requires a costly commitment to one another".3 This calls the churches to mutual trust and accountability. Koinonia must be undergirded and strengthened by an ecumenical spirituality that affirms the centrality of praying with and for each other, embracing each other even in our differences. This ecumenical spirituality, which the Council has started to explore, must be further developed.

Ecumenism and proselytism cannot co-exist

11. Through the years, the Council has repeatedly spelled out the intrinsic relationship between mission and unity, witness and ecumenism. It is a matter of utmost gravity for the ecumenical movement and the WCC that proselytism continues to be a painful reality in the life of the churches. Ecumenism and proselytism cannot co-exist. Proselytism is not only a counter-witness, it is a negation of fundamental theological and missiological convictions.

12. We are all aware that the situation produced in Eastern Europe and in the former USSR countries following the collapse of communism has become particularly urgent for the ecumenical movement. In all major ecumenical meetings since 1989, we have been reminded that the new freedom for churches to express and develop their witness openly not only presented unforeseen opportunities to the local churches, but also to scores of foreign mission groups and sects directing competitive missionary activities at people already belonging to one of the churches in those countries. The re-emergence of tension between the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church concerning the Eastern rite Catholic churches is another case in point. So the question of how to reconcile our history and overcome mutual ignorance and distrust has also become a fundamental ecumenical concern in our time. Though the situation of Eastern Europe is particular, it is by no means unique. Recent years have seen an increase of aggressive evangelism and competition in mission in an almost free-market spirit in many other areas of the world as well. We can be grateful for the regeneration of mission in numerous local contexts, yet we cannot turn a blind eye to the damage inflicted to the unity of Christ's church by different expressions of proselytism.

13. In the face of a myriad of new and complex situations and complaints, the Council organized fact-finding team visits to Eastern Europe and held a major consultation on Uniatism in Geneva. The central committee in 1991, in its turn, recommended that the issue of proselytism and common witness be studied further. Unit II embarked on a broad consultative study process that incorporated the work of the Joint Working Group (JWG) and involved churches, mission agencies, the evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic constituencies, theologians, missiologists and local congregations. New impulses were given to this study effort by the conference on world mission and evangelism (Salvador, Brazil, 1996), and the CUV process. This led to the formulation of a statement called "Towards Common Witness: A Call to Adopt Responsible Relationships in Mission and to Renounce Proselytism". This document, adopted by the central committee in 1997, while though recognizing the facilitating role of the WCC, places the main responsibility for implementation with the churches themselves.

14. An analysis of these questions affecting our common life, we must reminds us that one of the principal unfinished tasks of the ecumenical movement is, in fact, ecumenical education at all levels. The Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) programme of the Council has done significant work in this respect. Not only should ecumenical formation and learning and love and respect for other churches become new priorities for the member churches; it is vitally important that the churches disseminate, discuss, own and uphold the statements on the urgency of common witness that have been adopted by the WCC. Maybe the time has come to encourage the churches to do an audit on their degree of knowledge of and commitment to the principles and guidelines they subscribe to in the ecumenical fellowship.

Pluralism: a new context for Christian education

15. Another pressing issue that requires a concerted ecumenical response is the reality of pluralism. Around the world, local Christian communities find themselves surrounded by neighbours of other faiths, cultural traditions, ideological persuasions, or no faith at all. For some churches, pluralism is a relatively new phenomenon, brought about mainly through migration and refugee situations. Others, for whom interfaith co-existence has been a fact of their life for centuries, are experiencing new tensions due both to shifts in the balance of power among the religious groups and to the rise of fundamentalism.

16. The reality of pluralism and the challenges it presents to the task of Christian education need to be raised up for priority attention by the Council and the churches. How can the churches, through processes of learning and formation, more fully express God's reconciliation and inclusiveness in the context of pluralistic societies? How can local congregations be helped to overcome fears and prejudices that lead to the exclusion of strangers? How can Christians be assisted in learning about the faith traditions of their neighbours in an attitude of respect and openness? What resources are available for improved interfaith relationships?

In this context the Christian formation of the laity remains a continuing priority for the churches. In fact, the church is the people of God, the community of men and women. The churches must develop people-oriented educational methodologies by which the local congregation is engaged in a learning process in its contextual setting.

17. During this period, the Council, through Unit I's Inclusive Community stream, and Unit II's Gospel and Cultures study, Education and Urban Rural Mission (URM) programmes, took a leading role in stimulating reflection and sharing on some of these questions and in encouraging practical collaboration among people of different faiths. In a focused way, it promoted fresh approaches to Christian education in a pluralist context through a programme that developed along two lines: one addressed Sunday school teachers, teachers of religion in schools, educators of adults, parish workers, curriculum writers and seminary teachers; the other addressed women specializing in various aspects of women's work, professional women, and housewives living in inter-religious contexts. Fruitful work was done in a global seminar held in Salatiga, Indonesia, to develop a basic educational resource for learning how to live as Christians in community with people of other faiths. A ground-breaking meeting was also held in Tashkent, where Christian and Muslim religious leaders came together for the first time, to discuss ways of learning about each other's faith and to set up a process of education and training. The important task of creating opportunities for Christians to grow in conviviality through sharing in day-to-day situations and developing inter-religious educational models and approaches lies ahead.

Contextual mission

18. Churches everywhere are called to witness to the gospel in ways that are authentic, both in the sense of being faithful to what God has done in Christ and of being rooted within local culture. In recent decades the plea for authenticity and relevance in mission has been voiced with a greater sense of urgency in ecumenical discussions. The Vancouver assembly asked the WCC to help member churches develop an understanding of the relationship between evangelism and culture in respect of both the contextual proclamation of the gospel in all cultures and the transforming power of the gospel in any culture. Canberra strongly affirmed that the gospel of Christ must become incarnate in every culture, and spoke of the need for the churches to recognize how cultures themselves nourish and enrich the gospel.

19. In the past seven years, the Council has made deliberate efforts to encourage reflection and action in the direction of contextual mission, understood both as authentic inculturation and contextual proclamation. A number of regionally-based consultations on contextual mission and evangelism have been held. These meetings were important occasions for discerning the context, and examining the motives, content and methods of mission and evangelism in cultures. Solidarity with and participation in the struggles of poor and excluded communities for justice and fullness of life have long been understood as central to the mission of the churches. This work has been developed and sustained through URM.

20. The Gospel and Culture study and the focus it provided for the conference on world mission and evangelism assisted the churches to witness more authentically within their cultures. This study, undertaken by churches, ecumenical agencies, special groups, theological institutions and interested individuals in over sixty countries, shed new light on the dynamic and creative inter-relationship between the gospel and cultures and offered both valuable critiques and important affirmations for the contextual mission of the churches. Where there has not been a sufficiently profound interaction between the gospel and local cultures, churches are being challenged to take steps to embody the gospel more deeply. In situations where the voice of the gospel has been muffled through powerful forces, or where it has lived too cosily with rampant individualism and consumerist values, or where the gospel has been relegated to the private spheres of life, the churches are urged to recover the challenge of the Christian message. In fact, the Gospel and Culture study has helped us not only to focus on the symbols and values of our cultures in relation to the gospel, but to examine the structural realities in cultures that suppress and deny the presence of the gospel. We have been powerfully reminded that the forces of racism, social, economic and political marginalization and the destructive repercussions of globalization need to be countered with the churches' resolute witness to the liberating news of God's inclusive and reconciling love for all people and the whole of creation. I believe that globalization, contextualization and pluralism with all their implications for mission and evangelism must continue to be seriously studied in the coming years.

Towards a holistic healing ministry

21. Churches recognize that they are called by God, through the example of their Lord and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be healing communities and to be involved in the ministry of healing. In a world that is marked by brokenness through war, injustice, poverty, exclusion and ill health, they are gifted with the possibility of finding healing, forgiveness and wholeness and to bring these gifts to bear in society. This calling is becoming increasingly acute in the present circumstances, as the displacement of people due to violence or injustice continues on an unprecedented scale, environmental degradation destroys the quality of life, and the combination of a market-driven economy and the abandonment of health as a priority of public interest threatens the survival and well-being of the human community. Through its programme CMC-Churches' Action for Heath, the Council has carried out the specific mandate of equipping, strengthening and enabling the churches to participate fully in this ministry of healing. Key to carrying out this mandate has been the basic conviction that spirituality, theology and ethics, justice and advocacy, human rights and the perspectives of women and vulnerable groups, empowerment and capacity-building are interlinked. During this period, highly significant work has been accomplished through seminars, such as the one on "Medicine and Theology: Can They Get Together?", a series of workshops on community-based approaches and on health and healing in cultural contexts, and special meetings on such specific issues as human rights and the vulnerable situation of women were taken up.

22. The Council made additional efforts to foster collaboration among churches, address the question of human-resource development, advocate church perspectives in global forums dealing with health, analyze factors that make the operation of church-related health facilities sustainable, and communicate perspectives on the nature of the churches' ministry of health and healing. The Council's three-year, broadly based study conducted on HIV/AIDS grappled seriously with illness and health, brokenness and healing in a holistic way. In response to the churches' appeal for assistance in addressing the pain, fear and ignorance associated with AIDS, a specially convened consultative group designed a process that engaged the areas of theology and ethics, pastoral care and the church as a healing community, and justice and human rights in specific yet inter-related ways. Building on existing work carried out by the churches and relationships already established in the regions and with expert bodies, the study process culminated in the production of an extremely valuable and timely resource for the churches called Facing AIDS: The Challenge, the Churches' Response, and a statement on AIDS; this resource was adopted by the central committee in 1996. Appropriation of this work continues as churches, agencies and networks discuss, translate, adapt and critique its findings. The WCC's work on the healing ministry of the church is comprehensive and inter-related. The churches are challenged to bring the full range of their resources to bear on human brokenness, as a sign of God's desired fullness of life for all. While it will not be possible to continue to conduct programmes in this area in the same style as in the past, the healing ministry of the church, as an essential dimension of the churches' missionary calling, should continue to be one of the foci of the Council's work.

A Decade that generated dignity and justice

23. The Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women was launched in 1988. This ten-year period was intended to give the churches a space and a time to translate the commitments that have been made to women, since the inception of the ecumenical movement, into concrete action. The scope of the Decade has been wide enough to encompass the concerns and issues of each church within its own life and in its own context. The focus has been on the local and national church, in order to make each church, and indeed each congregation, into a truly inclusive community. It is regrettable that the churches have not been as responsive as was hoped. There have, however, been some important signposts of visible solidarity actions of the churches along the way. We have witnessed some remarkable changes in the last ten years. While all the changes that have taken place cannot be attributed solely to the Decade, there is little doubt that the Decade did contribute to the churches impulse to act. In fact, the proactive role of the churches in calling for changes the growing participation of women in all spheres and at all levels of church and community life, including the decision-making, the reactivating of women's associations to deal with issues related to social and economic justice, increasing concern for violence against women, and emerging similar initiatives and actions in many churches and societies are, indeed, concrete expressions of the impact that the Decade made on the life and witness of the churches.

24. It is important to note that the ecumenical teams that visited the member churches during the mid-point of the Decade have identified, among many others, the following facts:

a) Women all over the world have grasped the Decade as an opportunity to become more organized in linking with each other ecumenically within countries and across the world. There are many examples of this growing sense of global solidarity among women.

b) The mid-Decade team visits provided an opportunity for women to speak out on issues of deep concern to them. Four issues have received special attention in this process: (1) continuing barriers to women's participation in all aspects of the life of the churches; (2) the global economic crisis and its grave impact on the life of women; (3) violence against women, and the growing consciousness that this issue demands the serious and active attention of the churches; (4) racism and xenophobia that are tearing our societies apart and the effect this has had on the lives of women.

c) Often issues related to women have been divisive and have even threatened to tear the ecumenical movement and churches apart. Too often, when women speak up their voices are viewed as being confrontational or as a demand for token representation in power positions. A reading of women's participation in the church reveals in fact that women are crying for a more responsive church, and a participatory and inclusive community 4.

25. The women viewed the Decade as a space in which the churches could welcome the contributions and gifts of women. But have the churches really heard this plea? The WCC has invested an enormous amount of staff and financial resources in the Decade project. What has been its value to the churches and to the ecumenical movement? Despite the gains of the Decade and the ecumenical movement, women have not yet been fully accepted and integrated into the work and life of the churches. What the Decade has achieved is only the beginning of a long process. This assembly will discuss a statement on the Decade and will definitely call the churches to take the matters emerging from the Decade seriously and responsibly in the future.

For an integrated youth engagement

26. The integration of youth and its concerns in the life and work of the Council has been a permanent trend in the history of the ecumenical movement. The fifth assembly gave voice to this concern by stating: "Youth work must have a somewhat autonomous character, structurally located in one particular programme unit, but relating to all units so as to bring the presence of youth fully into the life of the ecumenical movement."5 Since then the Council's Youth office has been located in a unit while its mandate was to ensure that youth work permeate all aspects of the Council's programmes, the objective being to overcome the temptation of placing the concerns of the youth "on a separate island".

27. The internship programme has proved to be a bridge between the Youth team and the hosting unit/programme where the intern was placed. It has helped the different hosting units to discover and integrate the resources of young people into their work, as well as training young people and developing their skills, which in turn makes them ecumenical catalysts at their local/national level.

The Gospel and Culture study involved close cooperation and cross-unit engagement between the Gospel and Culture stream and the Youth team over a two-year period. Youth were integrated into this process by participating in: (a) an international planning group and two workshops designed specifically for young people; (b) participation in the Gospel and Culture drafting group which linked the separate youth events and the overall Gospel and Culture process; (c) the youth pre-conference meeting held prior to the conference on world mission and evangelism; this meeting brought together many of the youth involved in the process and maximized their contribution to the conference.

28. The recent past has shown that whenever the youth team has cooperated with other teams (Women, PCR, ECOS, CCIA) the experience has proved to be meaningful for everyone involved and their respective constituencies. A particular reference should be made in this respect to the Faith and Order work with "younger theologians", a relationship that should be encouraged in the coming years. Following the recommendation of Canberra, the Council committed itself to integrating the perspectives of youth into the entire work of the Council. A critical evaluation of the work of the units reveals that this mandate was not implemented fully, except in Unit III, the administrative home for the Youth office. This anomaly ought to be redressed in future to enable the youth to enrich the ecumenical movement more fully. The Council needs to take this responsibility seriously if there is to be a new generation of ecumenically minded and committed young people in the churches. We need to work together with the youth in order to create new vocations. Only through integrating the young people into the ecumenical journey will we establish a creative and meaningful interaction that may bridge the expectations of the youth with the emerging new ecumenical vision.

Sustainable creation through sustainable society

29. The Canberra assembly was marked by a new awareness of the suffering of God's creation. The Seoul world convocation on "Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation" (1990) had already called the churches to a renewed relationship with God's creation. The Rio de Janeiro "Earth Summit" raised hopes, that sustainable development could foster international cooperation and give humankind a new sense of direction. The UN Earth Summit review last year, however, revealed a lack of progress in addressing issues of poverty, consumption and ecological destruction. The state of the global environment has not improved since 1992; rather, it has been characterized by rising levels of toxic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste. Non-renewable resources are still being used at clearly unsustainable levels. New developments in biotechnology and genetic engineering add another dimension to the concern for God's creation. Opening up new markets for transnational corporations and biotechnological issues are high on the agenda of international trade negotiations and agreements; these activities often weaken farmers' and Indigenous Peoples' rights. Clearly, the relationship of globalization and trade to human development and the environment is a very important cross-cutting issue for sustainability and for the attempt to promote just and sustainable communities.

30. The Council's work on both theology of life and climate change has deepened our understanding of the link between the sustainability of God's creation and the quest for a just and sustainable society. Churches and individual Christians play important roles in nurturing this link, celebrating God's gift of life and rediscovering our rich faith resources for responsible stewardship. Lessons learned between Canberra and Harare were summarized in the statement of the WCC's delegation to the fifth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in 1997: "In our work, we are regularly questioning the term sustainable development... Our vision of a just and moral economy places on us the responsibility to build and nurture economies that put people and the environment first... We speak increasingly of sustainable community' because it implies the nurturing of equitable relationships both within the human family and also between humans and the rest of the ecological community, in other words, justice within the whole of God's creation." 6 In fact, the vision of the Ecumenical Earth that the Council started to explore through the Theology of Life programme can become a vital contribution to the future of life on earth.

Overcoming violence through justice and peace

31. Despite the end of the cold war, war itself has not gone away. Traditional wars between states have largely been replaced, as the main source of global instability, by long-term and low-intensity wars within states. These violent conflicts are often based on bitter ethnic and religious divisions. The violence has also moved from the battlefield to our streets, our communities, our homes and into our families. Violence is nothing new to humankind. What is new in our century is its nature and scope. People are suffering worldwide from structural violence. The image of violence permeates all sectors of life including the creation. The use of violence has embedded itself in the global culture. The 20th century is marked by the spreading of this "culture of violence". People are bound together across political and social barriers more by fear and their common experience of violence than by their mutual hopes and aspirations.

32. The churches' response to the question of violence has been with the WCC since its inception. This is evident in the statement of the inaugural assembly. "War as a method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The part which war plays in our present international life is a sin against God and a degradation of man." 7 There has always been hope that with the churches' growing together in unity, religion would cease to be a factor in the waging of war. Building this strong unity remains a crucial challenge for the ecumenical movement. In 1994 the central committee established a Programme to Overcome Violence (POV). The purpose of this programme was to challenge the global culture of violence and to transform it into a culture of just peace. This was a courageous step in the history of the ecumenical movement.

33. The conciliar process for JPIC provided the framework within which the POV was formed. Seoul saw "the concretization of the act of covenanting for JPIC in the commitment to a culture of active nonviolence which is life-promoting and is not a withdrawal from situations of violence and oppression but is a way to work for justice and liberation." 8 The POV has built on the following insights, developed throughout the last fifty years: (a) peace and justice are inseparably related; (b) under conditions of the nuclear threat, war can no longer be regarded as a legitimate means of interstate politics and conflict resolution; (c) we are called to seek every possible means of establishing justice, achieving peace and solving conflicts by active non-violence.

34. As a way of giving the POV a sharper focus, the central committee in 1996 launched the Peace to the City Campaign. The campaign broke new ground for the WCC. It forged active partnerships with groups (Christian, interfaith, secular) that were not part of the ecumenical movement, but that were engaged in activities of peace-building and limiting or overcoming violence. While many people are still under the spell of fatalism and resignation, and others resort to violent ways of resolving conflicts and can see no escape from the culture of violence, this campaign has been a sign of hope, a hope not based on proclamation but rooted in the living example of human communities. In the face of the all-pervasive presence of violence in the life of human societies, and with the Council's limited resources, the POV undoubtedly must remain one of the most ambitious undertakings of the WCC in the period to come.

Sharing and acting together

35. Theological reflections on diakonia have, in the last four decades, played a pivotal role in binding together faith and order/mission and evangelism concerns. Radical changes in the life of the churches and societies, and emerging new realities have led the Council to a holistic and integrated approach to diakonia. The nature and goal of diakonia have been redefined and new models and methods have been developed. The last period was marked by significant developments in the Council's theology and praxis of diakonia:

From inter-church aid to sharing and acting together

36. Sharing resources is not just a new name for diakonia. It indicates a major shift from the model of donor and receiver to partners. In fact, partnership has remained at the heart of the Council's initiatives and programmatic activities, including the whole area of diakonia. Unit IV has constantly and carefully reviewed and updated resource-sharing in its institutional and functional aspects and contextual setting, and the round-table system has been strongly reaffirmed by ecumenical networks as an important mechanism. Certainly there are some cases where the system has not functioned well, but on the whole the round table has provided an ecumenical meeting place where common reflection, analysis, joint decision-making and mutual accountability has been possible. In the same way, regional groups have met every year to provide a platform for partners in the regions to reflect together on the priorities and strategies for ecumenical diakonia. These groups have been formative in initiating dialogue between partners around the issues of sharing.

37. The Council has sought in this period to analyze critically the quality of ecumenical response in emergency situations. It has broadened the scope of emergency response so that aid to victims has come to be linked to a longer term strategic struggle for justice. This goal has guided the Council's diakonia in the most complex situations. Rwanda and Yugoslavia are concrete examples of a comprehensive ecumenical response to complex emergencies. We learned from these situations that an integrated and comprehensive approach cannot mean that everyone involved does everything. It means that we need meticulous coordination to enable all involved to play their own part. Achieving such a high level of coordination was the purpose behind the major internal management exercise that resulted in the creation of a new Geneva-based emergency response team, Action by Churches Together (ACT) owned jointly by the WCC and the Lutheran World Service. ACT is an expression of growing together in partnership. Many churches and ecumenical partners consider it a good model of joint venture.

Towards multi-dimensional and multi-centred diakonia

38. Sharing and acting together implies consistent and organized efforts aimed at capacity-building and empowerment on the local level. This ministry of accompaniment has become integral to the Council's diakonia of sharing and acting together. Women, children, the indebted, the uprooted and the marginalized were the target groups of this type of diaconal service. The central committee adopted a new policy statement on uprooted people in September 1995. This statement recognizes the common predicament facing refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. It urges churches to familiarize themselves with the new and complex circumstances which are forcing people into this situation and to revisit the biblical principles which stress such values as hospitality, inclusion and dignity towards the stranger in our midst. The central committee also called the churches to mark the year 1997 as the ecumenical year of churches in solidarity with the uprooted.

39. In 1996 the central committee resolved to continue supporting advocacy work and networking for the rights of children with the direct involvement of children's organizations around the world. The WCC did not plan to contribute more aid supply to child victims, since many organizations exist worldwide for this purpose. The Council's role was once again to exploit the networking capability of member churches, locally based and globally connected.

One of the root causes of poverty is the debt burden. In 1997, concern over this issue caused the central committee to call the member churches to deepen their involvement in debt-cancellation campaigns. The concern of the Council on the debt question arose from the knowledge that more and more people are joining the marginalized and excluded because debt payments are squeezing national infrastructures. This assembly will discuss the question of debt and will make a statement on this pertinent matter.

Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

40. The Council and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) continued to build their ecumenical relations and collaboration and reconfirmed their commitment to the one ecumenical movement. The papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint, emphasizing the Roman Catholic Church's "irrevocable commitment" to the ecumenical movement as "an organic part of her life and work", should be considered as a milestone in the recent history of the ecumenical movement. Structured around the key notion of "dialogue", the encyclical foresees and encourages a "continuing and deepening dialogue", which can only be conceived as a "dialogue of consciences" and a "dialogue of conversion". Particularly significant for the WCC and the ecumenical movement, the encyclical spelled out the significance of Faith and Order, recognized that "the ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome... constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians" and invited "church leaders and their theologians" to "a patient dialogue" concerning the "exercise of this necessary ministry". Together with the encyclical, two other authoritative documents have articulated the theological foundations and pastoral directions for the ecumenical involvement of the RCC and its relations with other churches and ecumenical organizations. These documents are the Directory for the Application and Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993) and the Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work (1997). Although these documents address the internal ecumenical life of the RCC, their potential impact transcends the Roman Catholic Church. They are sources of inspiration for the whole ecumenical community. One of the most significant responses to the CUV process was that of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. This response affirms, in the light of the Papal Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, the common ground of ecumenism, based in the "one ecumenical movement", the common vision which holds together the churches' faith, life and witness, and the common calling which is built on the real though imperfect koinonia between the churches. The concluding remarks of the response highlight the value of the common journey as well as the fruits of a sustained collaboration between the RCC and the WCC: "The ecumenical understanding and commitment of the RCC is, in general, coherent with the present affirmations of the WCC member churches and of the WCC as they are expressed in the proposed Vision statement."

41. Against this background of positive developments and with a clear commitment to a constructive dialogue, the Joint Working Group (JWG) offered its seventh report as an account of fruitful relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC. Hence various forms of collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, as well as within the broader perspective of the one ecumenical movement, are reported. The JWG also put forward for further consideration three study documents, particularly significant for the present ecumenical debate: (a) "Ecumenical Formation: Ecumenical Reflections and Suggestions", (b) "The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness", and (c) "The Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues: Potential Sources of Common Witness or Division".

42. Our collaboration with the RCC through the JWG, Faith and Order, CWME and otherwise has been significantly enhanced in the last seven years. There remain a number of issues that must be addressed more deeply and comprehensively, such as the nature, purpose and methods of dialogue, the nature and structure of "authority" and "teaching authority" in the church, the relationship between the church as "local" and "universal", the importance of regional and national ecumenical instruments, etc. I strongly believe that as we are preparing to enter a particularly significant period in the life of the WCC, a period during which fundamental questions raised by a number of ecumenical partners, not least by the Orthodox churches, will be on our agenda, it will be important on the one hand to build on the experience of previous discussions within the framework of the JWG and, on the other, to attempt to find together with the Roman Catholic Church even more appropriate ways of deepening and enlarging the scope of our collaboration.

Towards financial stability

43. During the last seven years the Council has suffered serious financial upheavals. In fact, recent changes in the economic environment -- the recession in Europe, globalization and market liberalization trends -- have deeply affected the financial context in which the Council has to operate today. Not only have some of our traditional sources of income drastically shrunk, but new regulations placed on "non-profit" organizations, restrictive funding conditions and increasingly stringent reporting requirements have all contributed to a more difficult working environment for the Council and its staff.

The Council has been given ample notice from its traditional Northern and Western European partners that past levels of activity funding could not be sustained in the future. In response to this situation and based on the assessment of our Finance Committee, the Council must concentrate its efforts in three specific areas: first, it must develop its investment and real estate revenues as a way to decrease its dependence on outside contributions from traditional partners, who are subject to some of the same financial constraints as the Council itself. Second, it must diversify the geographical sourcing of its income, actively seek to reaffirm its links with long-standing ecumenical partners in North America and explore higher levels of income from churches and other partners in the Far East and elsewhere. Third, past experience has shown that the Council's decision cycle must be shortened and its expenditure level adjusted to incoming contributions on an ongoing basis, thus requiring a change in its financial monitoring approaches and methodologies.

44. In all of these endeavours the financial commitment of the member churches remains a basic factor. In addition to membership dues, the member churches are urged to contribute to the programmatic work of the Council; otherwise the Council will not be able to recover its financial stability in the near future. Spiritual, intellectual and human resources are undoubtedly essential for the advance of the ecumenical movement. I believe that material resources are equally important, and that they will largely determine the future course of ecumenism. In fact, the financial aspect of our ecumenical work must be given serious consideration. We cannot take any concrete steps forward in our ecumenical journey without the donors, who are our partners, those who support our work, cooperate with us, and accompany us in building a vision for the ecumenical movement.

45. These are only a few spotlights on the vast and complex area of the Council's ecumenical work. Needless to say that the actual work that has been done in the period extending from Canberra to Harare is far beyond what is outlined in these few pages. I would like to conclude this section of my report with a few comments:

a) The programmes and activities of the Council must be related to the basic functions given in the Constitution, namely the goals of visible unity, common witness, mission and diakonia. They must be relevant to the needs and expectations of the churches. The Council has reorganized its programmatic work on the basis of this rationale. Furthermore, it has sought to invigorate the interconnectedness of its programme priorities. This commitment and vision have provided a new methodology and style to the Council's work. However, further efforts must be made along the same lines.

b) Concern for inter-relationship has led the Council to aim for greater coherence and integrity in its work. In fact, a strenuous attempt for a holistic approach has characterized almost all aspects of the programmatic activities of the Council. In my opinion, considerable progress has been made and much experience has been gained in this respect. Yet much remains to be done in the future.

c) The programmes of the Council must generate relations and participation; otherwise they become mere activities. I believe that this vital dimension of the Council's work must be treated more seriously after Harare. In fact, the CUV has given a focal attention to these questions by emphasizing the active participation of the churches and national and regional councils of churches in the work of the Council.

46. The WCC cannot exist without the churches. It must respond effectively to the priority needs and changing conditions of the churches. This will always remain a great challenge for the Council. Therefore, the WCC should consider itself, in a sense, in a constant process of assessing its ecumenical witness, identifying its priorities, restructuring itself, and redefining its vision as a fellowship in relationship to the local churches. The CUV process is a concrete expression of this concern and commitment. It is with this understanding and in this perspective that I will now attempt to spell out the implications of the 50th anniversary of the WCC and the Declaration of Human Rights for the self-understanding and vocation of the Council as we move to the next millennium.

The 50th Anniversary of the WCC:

An Occasion for Self-Critical Assessment and Recommitment

47. 50 years ago, at a critical point of human history, a group of churches entered into a covenant committing themselves to witness and struggle together for the unity of the church. They said: "Christ has brought us here together at Amsterdam. We are one in acknowledging him as our God and Saviour. We are divided from one another not only in matters of faith, order and tradition, but also by pride of nation, class and race. But Christ has made us his own and He is not divided. In seeking him we find one another. Here in Amsterdam we have committed ourselves afresh to him, and have covenanted with one another in constituting this WCC. We intend to stay together." 9

48. For fifty years we have travelled together on the ecumenical ship. We have faced many storms. We have experienced periods of "hot" and "cold" wars. Confrontation and fear, uncertainty and tensions have become part of our togetherness. None of these trials were powerful enough to drive the ecumenical ship off its course. We have moved forward together. Our journey has been one of martyria. So many people, men and women, young and old have sacrificed their lives for causes that have become integral to the ecumenical vision. In this ecumenical pilgrimage each generation has spoken with its own language, exposed its own views, voiced its concerns, posed its challenges and articulated its own understanding of the ecumenical vision.

49. Have we been faithful to the vision set forth in the Message of the first assembly of the WCC? As we look back, we have both much to rejoice in and much to repent over. The Jubilee of the Council is an occasion for self-examination. What can we say in a spirit of accountability and in humility at this decisive turning-point of the history of the WCC? What are we entrusting to the next generation? This is a time of looking back, looking around, and looking forward with a self-critical assessment. Let me succinctly underscore a few points.

a) The Council offered the churches the context and opportunity to transcend their national ethnic, cultural, theological and political divisions and give tangible expression to the spirit of togetherness. Distrust, estrangement and misunderstanding were replaced by rapprochement, mutual confidence and better understanding.

b) The WCC became a fellowship where churches supported, challenged and corrected each other in a spirit of mutual responsibility and accountability. Within this fellowship the churches experienced their inherent interconnectedness, they expressed their own individual identities and discovered their differences, while always remaining firmly attached to the ecumenical vision.

c) The Council became a fellowship of churches where the member churches reflected and acted together, prayed and shared their spiritual and material resources. Concepts and methodologies of "giving" and "receiving", which dominated the early years of the WCC, were, with the steady growth of the ecumenical spirit and expansion of the ecumenical fellowship, changed into a real partnership. The Council challenged the churches to work and grow together towards a full and visible unity.

50. And now, the crucial question: where do we go from here? The WCC is an instrument, and not a goal in itself. It serves the churches in their common task of taking the gospel to the world and in their common calling to grow together in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ. From its very inception, the WCC has defined itself as "a council of churches, not the Council of the one undivided church", and as representing "an emergency solution, a stage on the road." 10 It remains so. The ecumenical pilgrimage continues with all its progress and setbacks, achievements and failures. It continues with renewed faith, hope and vision. It is irrevocable and irreversible. It cannot expose itself to the risks of dead-end roads or unknown destinations. Its life and witness are conditioned and guided by ecumenical vision. It is vitally important therefore that "on the way" we stop at every signpost to discern the right way to move forward safely.

Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches (CUV): a Process of Redefinition and Reorientation of the Ecumenical Vision

51. In 1948, when the WCC was formed, the world was facing tremendous uncertainties and deep anxieties. In 1998 we are not in a better condition. Enormous changes and upheavals that have been taking place in almost all spheres of human societies are impacting intra-church, interchurch and church-world relations and the life and witness of the Council. Crisis has always been with the WCC. This is what I call a crisis of growth, which challenges the Council to look and to move forward. At this moment, however, the Council is more seriously called into question than ever before. Do we, after fifty years of togetherness, still intend, as we stated in Amsterdam, to stay together and, as we affirmed in Evanston, to go forward together? We wrestled with this burning question all the way from Canberra to Harare. Challenged by member churches and the world's changing realities, we embarked on the critical process of trying to understand who we are as a Council. What is our specific nature and true vocation? What common ecumenical vision should guide us? The intention of the CUV process was to address these pertinent issues together with the member churches and ecumenical partners.

52. The CUV will acquire a focal place on the agenda of this assembly. It is important that we look at this process in the right perspective by taking seriously into consideration the new developments, emerging concerns and realities and changing ecumenical paradigms in the life of the churches in general, and the ecumenical movement in particular. At this point I would like to make a few observations:

a) Institutional ecumenism is in crisis. We are witnessing a remarkable outburst of people's ecumenism in different forms and in different parts of the world. Much of our constituency is disillusioned with the institutional expressions of the ecumenical movement. People, especially the youth, do not want to become prisoners of structures. They want to go beyond established systems, methodologies, procedures and agenda. They are looking for fresh air to breathe and wider space to live and to express their ecumenical concerns and convictions. They are creating new contexts and opportunities to come together. I strongly believe that the future of the ecumenical movement lies with committed and visionary young people, not with structures and programmes. Hence, unless the churches reown the ecumenical movement, and rearticulate clearly its vision by making it relevant to the life of the people the ecumenical movement may lose its vitality and sense of purpose.

b) The ecumenical priorities have changed. In its formative years the Council was mainly preoccupied with theological and doctrinal issues. After Uppsala a special emphasis was laid on concerns emanating from the social, economic and political spheres of human life. A realistic assessment of the present ecumenical predicament will point to two basic realities: first, issues related to unity and questions pertaining to society can no longer be treated separately; they must be seen in their dynamic and inseparable interconnectedness. We have achieved this insight in the last decade, and should continue to build on it. Second, it is highly probable that moral and ethical issues will acquire growing importance in the ecumenical debate in the coming years. The churches must therefore prepare themselves and develop methodologies by which these issues are treated with a realistic and pastoral approach and in an ecumenical spirit, respecting each other's cultural ethos and convictions.

c) We are faced with a new ecclesial situation. In many regions and confessional families the institutional churches' membership and their impact on societies are dwindling. People are leaving the institutional churches because they believe that these churches are not able to cope in relevant ways with changing realities. In Africa and Asia, as well as among the Indigenous Peoples, Christians are rediscovering their Christian faith within their own cultures. In Eastern Europe and in the former USSR countries, with the fall of communism and the establishment of freedom of worship churches are seeking ways to respond to the new situation. Furthermore, in different parts of the world new types of Christian communities and movements and new forms of religious life are emerging and are challenging traditional churches, structures and theologies. Due to many external and internal religious and non-religious factors, schisms and tensions are appearing in many churches. In some regions, church-state relations are becoming critical as the churches grow more and more frustrated with working under the umbrella of the state. All these factors will certainly lead the churches to review and reassess their role in societies.

d) Growing globalization is having a profound effect on the ecumenical movement and the churches' theology, spirituality and mission. It is imposing new structures, values and human relationships on peoples and nations, harmonizing on the one hand and fragmenting on the other. The context in which the churches are called to witness is becoming progressively more multicultural and multireligious. Furthermore, for many reasons the ecumenical movement is becoming more and more polycentric, multifaceted and multidimensional. It is being expressed in new ways and forms. All these realities will have tremendous impact on the churches' self -understanding and missionary engagement, and will call the churches to spell out more clearly their priorities and develop new missionary norms and strategies.

53. The ecumenical movement cannot claim that it has answers to all of these concerns or solutions to all of these problems. It must admit its weaknesses; celebrate its possibilities but acknowledge its limitations. Now more than at any time, the ecumenical movement is the proper context in which the churches are called to respond together to these new concerns and situations as they pray together, witness together, serve together and work for visible unity. The context and the image of ecumenism are changing, as are the very nature and scope of the ecumenical vision. Hence, the ecumenical movement needs a new self-understanding and self-expression and a clear sense of orientation as we move towards the next millennium. I believe that this present critical juncture of the history of the ecumenical movement also offers us an opportunity and a challenge, and that is how the WCC should deal with it.

54. The CUV process was initiated against this background. It should not be perceived, therefore, as a process aimed simply at internal structural and programmatic change. The CUV is a serious and integrated attempt, first, to give fresh expression to an ecumenical vision which is faithful to the gospel and responsive to the present conditions; second, to re-emphasize the crucial urgency of visible unity as the major goal of the ecumenical movement; third, to spell out the decisive importance of unity, mission, diakonia and justice as the bases of any rearticulation of ecumenical vision; fourth, to reflect the coherence and integrity inherent in the ecumenical vision in interchurch collaboration, Council-member church relations, and in the Council's programmes and agenda; and fifth, to encourage the active and responsible participation of member churches in all aspects of the Council's life. In other words, the CUV reminds us that the Council must become more rooted in and directed by the churches, while at the same time promoting wider ecumenical partnership at all levels of the church, and in all spheres of our ecumenical fellowship. It also helps us to see the ecumenical vision and the programmatic priorities of the Council in a broader perspective and in an integrated whole.

Growing together responsibly: a great challenge before us

55. The WCC is not a self-reliant, self-contained and self-sufficient organization. It is the churches in their togetherness. Therefore, the Council has no right to insist upon its self-understanding and agenda. The churches should say what it is, what it should become and what it should do. The CUV was not an internal affair. It was the churches' initiative. Member churches, the Roman Catholic Church and ecumenical partners, participated actively in the process. Furthermore, the CUV was intended to become a continuous process, not a limited attempt confined to a specific period of time and to some concrete areas of the Council's life and work. The CUV must be seen as the beginning of new comprehensive serious efforts aimed at challenging the churches to embark together on the critical journey of reassessing and rearticulating their common ecumenical vision.

56. In the context of the CUV process, the churches as well as the Roman Catholic Church, have strongly re-emphasized the importance of the WCC. Some churches, however, are not fully satisfied with the changes proposed by the CUV. They wish to go beyond. Others want to put the Council back on track since, in their view, the Council is moving away from its central vocation. Recent developments in WCC-Orthodox relations should be seen in this perspective. Any attempt aimed at an objective assessment of the prevailing malaise in WCC-Orthodox relations must take into consideration the evolution of Orthodox-WCC relations since the inception of the Council and the particular situation that was created in the life of the Orthodox churches after the fall of communism. Neither the time nor the nature of my report permits me to scrutinize this matter in detail. I would like, however, to make a few observations:

a) The Orthodox churches have played an important role in the formation and expansion of the WCC. They have brought significant contributions to ecumenical thinking and spirituality; but they have not integrated themselves fully into the total life and witness of the Council. This approach, which has become a permanent feature of Orthodox-WCC relations, was due, first, to some WCC tendencies and practices that were not compatible with Orthodox tradition; second, to the minority situation of the Orthodox churches within the WCC, which is clearly reflected in the composition of governing bodies and decision-making processes; and third, to the ethos and the agenda of the Council, which remained Protestant and Western in spite of the Orthodox presence and participation of churches from different regions. These factors and concerns created a distance between the Orthodox churches and the Council. Both the Orthodox dissatisfaction and desiderata were expressed by so-called "Orthodox statements" made in relation to major agenda items or on special occasions. The uniqueness of Orthodox theology and spirituality have been respected. Yet, too little has been done to bring them into creative interaction with the Protestant theology which continues to dominate the Council's theological language, thinking and methodologies.

b) The collapse of communism and the re-emergence of independent states have added a critical dimension to Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement. In fact, the influx of sects and new religious movements into Eastern Europe and the former USSR countries, the growing efforts to reaffirm the integrity and identity of Orthodoxy, the church's concern to find its proper place and role within the society on the one hand, and the controversial nature and perceived irrelevance of some of the Council's programmatic activities to the life of Orthodox churches on the other hand, have broadened the gap between the Orthodox churches and the ecumenical movement. They have come to regard the Council as a Western, Protestant and liberal movement in a milieu where Orthodoxy has been trying to reaffirm itself by going back to its authentic roots.

57. In time, the WCC discerned the growing Orthodox frustration and prevailing anti-ecumenical mood, and took a number of concrete steps. These were: the restructuring of the Council (1991), setting up a special programme on Christian religious education for Eastern Europe and Central Europe and the former USSR countries (1991), the consultation on Uniatism (1992), the statement of the central committee on proselytism (1993), etc. However, these Council initiatives did not bring about any substantial change in WCC-Orthodox relations. In fact, fundamental questions that the Orthodox churches were raising touched the deeper layers of the Council's existence. Thus the Orthodox churches have voiced serious doubts as to whether the CUV would be able to eliminate the root causes of their frustration, and they called for a "radical restructuring" of the Council. The leadership of the WCC responded immediately to the Thessaloniki statement (April 1998) of the Eastern Orthodox churches by inviting both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox member churches to a meeting of the mixed theological commission, proposed in the said statement before this assembly. The Orthodox churches felt that they needed more time for preparation.

58. I cannot outline here in detail the Orthodox concerns and demands. I would like, however, to summarize the substance of the Orthodox claim in two points. First, the Council should explore new forms of representation, participation and decision-making which will bring the Orthodox churches out of their minority situation and enable them to play a more active role in all aspects of the Council. Second, the Council, is shaping its programmatic framework, agenda items and constitutional and structural aspects, must find a way to reflect equally the convictions and sensitivities, traditions and expectations of all member churches.

59. I want to emphasize that while there is no crisis in WCC-Orthodox relations, the situation is, indeed, critical. Unless the assembly takes this present situation seriously, I fear that the Orthodox participation will steadily dwindle. It is my fervent hope that after the assembly the leadership of the Council and the representatives of all Orthodox churches will embark on a serious and comprehensive process of wrestling together with all questions and concerns that are hampering a more organized and efficient Orthodox participation in the Council. In my opinion, the Orthodox must come with a clear agenda and an open attitude. The churches of the Protestant and Anglican traditions, in their turn, must help the Orthodox to integrate themselves fully in the life of the Council by providing ample space and opportunities to increase the level of their participation. It is time that the Orthodox churches move from monologue to dialogue, from reaction to action, from contribution to participation, from being observers to becoming full partners in the WCC.

60. In Amsterdam the ecumenical pioneers said: "It is not always easy to reconcile our confessional and ecumenical loyalties. We also have much to gain from the encounter of the old-established Christian traditions with the vigorous, growing churches whose own traditions are still being formed. We bring these, and all other difficulties between us into the WCC in order that we may steadily face them together." 11 Differences of opinion, disagreements, tensions and even conflicts will always be part of this global fellowship of multitudinous ecclesial traditions, theological teachings, cultural ethos, national and ethnic identities. This is what we have learned in our fifty years of togetherness. We must both celebrate and bear the cost of our difference.

61. Orthodox frustration must be seen in the light of their commitment to the ecumenical movement. Criticizing the WCC is not being anti-ecumenical. The problem of the Orthodox is not with the importance and credibility of the ecumenical movement, but with the relevance of its agenda, language, methodology and procedures. Some of our Orthodox member churches are not with us in this assembly. Others are not with us the way they used to be. I am sure that we all realize that there is a problem, and that this is not an Orthodox problem but essentially an ecumenical problem. I believe that we have matured enough in our ecumenical journey together to see our problems and concerns in a broader perspective and in their inter-relatedness. This present situation must help us to know more about each other and to trust each other. I believe that our fellowship in the WCC can no longer be based on a majority-minority relationship. Unless this situation is remedied the Orthodox will always feel themselves threatened and marginalized. I also believe that we cannot impose our convictions and agendas on each other. We cannot express uneasiness against each other either, when we want to speak out on what we consider to be vital issues. The Council should provide an open space, in which churches engage themselves in creative interaction based on mutual respect, trust and responsibility.

62. The ecumenical movement, which is at a crossroads in a world in rapid transformation, may disintegrate if the churches fail to firmly recommit themselves to the ecumenical goals and vision. The churches can no longer afford to take refuge in their own confessions and to live in self-isolation. They must co-exist; otherwise they cannot meaningfully exist. They must interact; otherwise they cannot properly act. They must share their experiences and resources; otherwise they cannot grow. Agreed doctrinal statements will not lead the churches to full and visible unity and credible witness; they will merely help them "on the way". Under the ecumenical imperative, the churches must grow together responsibly. Growing together is, indeed, a costly process. It calls for conversion, renewal and transformation. Ecumenism is no more a dimension, a function of the church. It is essentially a mark of what it means to be the church because it affirms and serves the oneness of the church. Ecumenism is no more a question of choice, but the way we respond to the call of God. Therefore, being church means being ecumenical, i.e. being embarked on a common journey. The sign of the ecumenical boat is the cross. We are called to be one under the cross of Christ. This jubilee assembly calls us to reaffirm our common ecumenical commitment to grow together and to move forward together in courage and humility, and with a clear vision.

Human rights: a growing ecumenical concern

63. This assembly also calls us to redefine and rearticulate our commitment to justice, peace and reconciliation. In fact, human rights remain a key factor in any process or attempt aimed at justice, peace and reconciliation. Human rights are integral to ecumenical witness. And what a meaningful coincidence that in this assembly within the context of the 50th anniversary of our common ecumenical witness through the WCC, we are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of our common ecumenical engagement to struggle for human rights!

64. On 10 December 1948, by adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations affirmed that "the recognition of the inherent dignity and of equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." 12 Over the past fifty years, the UN has sought to implement this epoch-making declaration by adopting international covenants related to a number of specific aspects and areas of human rights. The Declaration of Human Rights however did not prevent millions of people from falling victim to inhuman practices: torture, execution, atrocities, repression and genocide. Men and women all over the world have made great sacrifices, even through martyrdom, to promote and protect human rights. While the UN has spoken eloquently in favour of human rights and the peaceful settlement of conflicts, it has proved its weakness in the face of human-rights violations. At many points charter commitments have been simply neglected or bypassed through unilateral actions. Fifty years after the declaration, the cries of the victims of human rights violations are still heard. The end of the cold war put an end to bipolar confrontation, but it was not the beginning of a "new world order" based on peace with justice. Once again the UN has difficulty in fulfilling its obligations to serve as a peace-making and peace-keeping instrument. While the major powers have from time to time established a fragile peace by military threats and interventions, in many regions uncertainty, confusion and volatile situations persist, and flagrant violations of human rights continue. In addition to these growing concerns, the issue of human rights faces three major challenges:

a) The effects of globalization in the area of human rights are far-reaching. Globalization has significantly changed existing political, social and economic relationships and has brought about a radical alteration in the values and structures of society. The process of globalization, which has penetrated almost all aspects and spheres of human experience, provided immense opportunities; at the same time it has projected new forms of socio-economic injustice and insecurity. Transnational organizations and international finance institutions exclude people from participation in the economy and accelerate unemployment, uprootedness and marginalization. Africa, where we are meeting, reminds us existentially of some of the critical issues that we face. In fact, war, violence, poverty, uprooted people, genocide, ecological disaster and other effects of globalization are part and parcel of the daily life of African people.

b) Religious freedom, which is one of the fundamental human rights, has re-emerged in this post-cold war period as a major issue in intranational and international relations. In a number of countries religion is being exploited to promote narrow nationalistic ends, thus creating divisions and polarizations. In some countries religion is being given constitutional power and privilege, thus destroying the secular and plural basis of these states. Religious intolerance and restrictions, fundamentalism and exclusiveness characterize the life of many societies. On the other hand, the aggressive methods used by foreign religious movements in pursuit of their proselytizing activities have created another complex situation for human rights.

c) The resurgence of ethno-nationalism has complicated the question of the right of people to self-determination. In its positive aspect the re-emergence of ethno-nationalism constitutes a search for justice and self-respect. People are seeking security within their own ethnic, religious and national groupings. Hence nationalism is a creative force in demanding respect for people's identity and in the nation-building process. But by being transformed into an ideology it may become a source of evil, a major hindrance to living together in justice and peace. Ethnic conflicts threaten inter-religious tolerance. They destroy the very foundation of pluralistic societies and create situations in which human rights are violated. In fact, in the past decade, ethno-nationalism has led societies into fragmentation, internal conflicts, ethnic cleansing and migration, striking a severe blow to human rights.

65. The question of human rights remains a permanent item and a top priority on the agenda of the Council and is integral to the very vocation of the church. The WCC has involved itself in the realm of human rights by condemning the violation of human rights, monitoring the respect for and implementation of human rights, assisting churches and groups engaged in the struggle for human rights, and promoting human rights values through education and communication.

66. I believe that in view of the revolutionary changes that have destabilized the political, social and economic order, and in light of the ecumenical experience we have gained in human-rights struggles over these fifty years, the Council must first, within its programmatic framework, give more serious attention to globalization, religious freedom and ethno-nationalism and their implications on the area of human rights; second, in initiating a new ecumenical policy and strategy on human rights, in my opinion the Council must further develop ecumenical social thought and a strategy that will promote and defend human-rights values by prevention and legal action, when they are violated, and thus lay the foundation of a new global ethics in collaboration with other religions.

This assembly will be called to adopt an updated ecumenical policy on human rights. On this point, let me share with you some perspectives and insights.

1) Preventive and punitive approach

67. In view of the current ethnic conflicts and increasing violations of human rights, the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts remain urgent international priorities. No international mechanisms can presently guarantee, secure and protect human rights, and set procedures for conflict prevention or resolution. Before and during the cold war, military intervention was considered by major powers to be the most efficient way of peace-making. In the post-cold war period, peace-building is proving to be a long and complex process. So far the churches have most often reacted to the situations of human rights violations rather than pro-acting for their prevention. How can the ecumenical movement help the churches to plan a new strategy for their human-rights struggle, and create local, regional and international networks? Conflicts can be solved or prevented through various forms of public monitoring and competent mediation; and human-rights violations can best be prevented through education for civic responsibility and by addressing their root causes.

68. Punishment under the law for violation is also essential to preventing human-rights violations. Impunity perpetuates injustice, which in turn generates acts of revenge and endless violence. Violators of human rights must be held accountable to humanity. The popular saying, "you can run but you cannot hide", is being turned on its head. Many perpetrators (states, nations, individuals) of massacres, genocide, war crimes and injustice are given impunity in the "vital and strategic interests" of regional or world powers, and are not called to justice. There is a crying need to bring to justice and to make accountable those responsible for policies leading to violations of the rights and dignity of women and children, communities and nations. Justice and accountability should also include provisions for reparation and restitution, and for the compensation of victims. After so many years of hard work, a permanent International Criminal Court has been established. This and other international mechanisms should help the UN to enforce human rights. The WCC must cooperate with churches, with ecumenical partners, with people of other faiths and NGOs to deal with situations and cases where impunity generates injustice and violence. Preventive and punitive approaches must be taken together as an inter-related whole.

2) In search of a global ethics

69. The church views society from a qualitatively different perspective. It cannot surrender the values of the gospel to the ambiguities of progress and technology. It cannot endorse values that are not compatible with the gospel. The church aims at a responsible society that is sustained and guided by ethical values and human-rights norms. For many years the church was concerned with the challenges of secularism and materialism. It is time that the church speak and act in a way which challenges all ideologies and trends that question the credibility of the gospel, and the dignity and integrity of the human person.

70. We belong to one oikos or oikoumene (household). We are concerned with the economics (oikos-nomos), the management of our common household. We are committed to the development of a basic common ethics that may lead societies from mere existence to meaningful co-existence, from confrontation to reconciliation, from degeneration of moral values to the restoration of the quality of life that restores the presence of transcendence in human life. Global culture must be sustained by a global ethics that will guide the relations of nations with each other and with the creation, and will help them to work together for genuine world community. Such a global ethics, the idea of which was launched by the Parliament of World Religions in 1993 should not reflect the Western Christian ethos; it must be based on a diversity of experiences and convictions. The church, together with other living faiths, should seek a global ethics based on shared ethical values that transcend religious beliefs and narrow definitions of national interests. Human rights must be undergirded by ethical principles. Therefore, dialogue among religions and cultures is crucial as the basis for greater solidarity for justice and peace, human rights and dignity. Religions must work together to identify areas and modes of cooperation in human-rights advocacy. In the thinking surrounding the creation of a global ethics, the following points must be given due consideration:

a) We must develop a culture of active nonviolence by transforming structures that generate violence and injustice. The WCC Programme to Overcome Violence has been engaged in the last few years in the formidable task of challenging and overcoming the spirit, logic and practice of violence by transforming the global culture of violence into a culture of just peace. The Peace to the City campaign is a concrete example of people working together as real partners with religions and other groups and movements. In its human-rights work the WCC must accompany the struggling communities by encouraging them to act and by building networks between them for collective action. To overcome violence we must address both its causes and its symptoms.

b) Building peace with justice must become a global strategy. Human rights form the essential basis for a just andpermanent peace. We must create local, national and international mechanisms and networks that can enhance the peaceful settlement of disputes. We must search for ways to move human-rights work from the reactive approach of defending people whose rights are violated to the proactive activity of building and empowering communities that are able to advocate and defend their own rights. National security must be replaced by common security, national interests by common interests: justice for all, peace for all, security for all. This effort should constitute not just a strategy, but a basic ethical principle. At the Seoul JPIC convocation, the WCC affirmed its commitment to seeking every possible means of establishing justice, achieving peace and solving conflicts by active nonviolence. Religions, with their inner spiritual resources, can offer opportunities for repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

c) We must build a culture of human rights that will provide a constructive and responsible use of power. Often, democratic institutions legitimize power, rather than serving the needs of people. Any expression or use of power that does not carry with it responsibility and accountability is a source of evil. Power becomes a liberating force when it is geared towards justice, encourages participation in social, economic and political institutions and promotes inclusiveness and democracy in the structures of governance.

71. In the oikoumene of God there can be no exclusion, no violation of human rights and dignity. We must work for an ethics that offers a new vision of global convergence in order to check the destructive consequences of globalization, technology and secularization, an ethics that promotes a culture of solidarity and the just sharing of resources, an ethics that is not based on charitable philanthropy but on justice. Therefore, let us "turn to God" who in Christ recreated and liberated humanity as a community to be united under his reign, and who requires that humanity live as a coherent, just and responsible society in the perspective of the kingdom.

"Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope"

72. In Amsterdam the churches focused their attention on "Man's Disorder and God's Design". Are we not facing, after fifty years, an even more complex human disorder with still more far-reaching consequences? Can we change the course of history? Can we propose new alternatives to ideological and socio-economic systems and structures that generate injustice, dehumanize societies and jeopardize the integrity and sustainability of creation? We must "point to God's kingdom", 13 as Karl Barth stated at the Amsterdam assembly, and "turn to God" to discern God's design for the world today. In fact, turning to God and pointing to God's kingdom is never passive and defensive. It requires sacrificial engagement in God's mission, which is essentially for transforming the whole of humanity and the creation in the perspective of the kingdom. Therefore,

Let us turn to God, and in God let us turn to our fellow human beings

73. We have all become neighbours in a "global village", black and white, rich and poor, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist followers of other faiths or atheist. Torn by our differences and tensions, we do not yet know how to live together in a world where we are bound to live together as one community.

Turning to God implies turning to our neighbour in active love, justice and reconciliation. We are a missionary people, not in the sense of dominating others by imposing our own values and cultures, but in the sense of sharing the "good news" with all people. Hence, dialogue with our neighbour does not in any way diminish our full commitment to our faith. In dialogical interaction with others, our own faith is enriched, refined and strengthened. To dialogue means witnessing, i.e. living the Christ-event in the midst of ambiguities, uncertainties and polarizations of this world. It also means listening and seeking to understand the faith and perspectives of others. Dialogue is a safeguard against syncretism. It is a search for a wider community.

In a world where technological culture and globalization foster dehumanization, in a world where new ideologies of secularization deny the presence of the ultimate reality and promote materialistic and consumerist values, the church, in collaboration with other faiths, is called to reshape, renew and reorient society by strengthening its sacred foundation. In the pluralist societies of today we have a shared responsibility with our neighbours for a common future.

Let us turn to God, and in God let us turn to his creation

74. We are living in a precarious creation that is moving swiftly towards the unknown. The world's eco-system is seriously threatened, and its population is exposed to moral degeneration, spiritual decay and physical annihilation. Statistics showing the scale of poverty and starvation, environmental destruction and violence are simply alarming. The Evanston assembly stated that humanity has become its "own enemy. It seeks justice but creates oppression. It wants peace, but drifts towards war. Its very mastery of nature threatens it with ruin." 14

The creation has become an object of human exploitation. Turning to God means repenting for what we have done and are still doing to creation, our God-given oikos (home). The creation belongs to God; humanity is its steward. Hence any process or development that jeopardizes the sustainability of creation must be questioned. Humanity must restore right relations with the creation.

Let us turn to God, and in God let us turn to ourselves

75. We cannot transform the world unless we ourselves are transformed. What kind of church do we project for the 21st century? A church confined to nation-states or ethnic groups and exclusively concerned with its self-perpetuation; or a missionary church, open to the world and ready to face the challenges of the world? The future course of the ecumenical movement is largely to be determined by our ecclesiological perceptions and convictions. The ecumenical movement cannot survive without a vision that is sustained by a holistic view of church, humanity and the world.

The church cannot endorse the compromises that the world offers. The church must incarnate the gospel in its own life and in the life of societies. Still ringing in my ears is the voice of a young person I once heard crying out ""here is my church? What is it doing?" The faithful need a church that listens to them and cares for them. They want a church that fulfils itself as a missionary reality. The church must rise out of its institutional captivity and become a "church for others". And we are together the church, the people's church; together we fulfill our vocation. The churches that live together in one place must form a renewed community, a concrete example of conciliar fellowship. The world will listen to us if we are together and if we act together in obedience to the gospel and in faithfulness to the command of Christ. Together the churches should become a sign of hope in a world gripped by meaninglessness and despair.

And finally let us turn to God revealed in Jesus Christ

76. He is the source of our being and existence, our hope and joy. We believe in a God who himself first turned to humanity in Christ and invited us to turn to him. God always turns to us in grace, even if we are not ready to turn to him in faith and repentance. God has always remained faithful to his covenant (Gen. 9:11; Deut. 4:25-31). The question posed to us in this assembly is: Are we faithful to God's covenant with us?

In fact, we have more often turned to hatred and violence, to injustice and power. We have turned to ourselves and ignored the beyond, and claimed to control our own destiny. We have made the world self-centred, closed on itself and deprived of hope and transcendence. Turning to God means to be consciously aware that we do not belong to ourselves, but to God. It means turning away from all values, ideologies and life-styles that drain the ultimate reality from our life. Humanity cannot survive without the eschatological dimension. We must recognize the inadequacy and relativity of all human resources, of miraculous achievements of technology, and turn to God in a spirit of humility and repentance. We must turn from alienation to reconciliation with God, from our ways to God's way and stand under the judgment of God.

77. In Amsterdam (1948) we recognized the disorder of humankind in the face of God's design for the world.

In Evanston (1954) we proclaimed Christ as the hope of the world.

In New Delhi (1961) we confessed Christ as the light of the world.

In Uppsala (1968) we heard the call of Christ "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).

In Nairobi (1975) against the oppression and divisions of the world we affirmed Christ as the source of liberation and reconciliation.

In Vancouver (1983) we celebrated Christ as the life of the world, a world full of evil and death.

In Canberra (1991) we prayed to the Holy Spirit to renew the whole creation.

And now in Harare we turn to God to rejoice in hope.

Turning to God constitutes a new quality of relationship with God, with one another, with humanity and with the creation.

Christian hope is rooted in the new life given to the world through the cross and resurrection. Our hope is not a theoretical reality, an unrealized eschatology. Our hope is incarnational. We are people of hope (Rom. 5:4-5), we are pilgrim people on the way to the kingdom.

78. The jubilee is a call for reconciliation and new beginning. We are approaching a particular turning point in history. Are we ready to live the gospel and take it to the world by proclaiming it, through martyria in life and even in death, as the source of liberation, reconciliation and transformation? Are we ready to reaffirm our commitment to the visible unity? After a long and common process of theological reflection and convergence on baptism, eucharist and ministry (BEM), are we courageous enough to recognize mutual baptism as a concrete step forward in our common search for full and visible unity? In 2001, the two present calculations for Easter, namely the Gregorian and Julian calendars, will fall on the same date (15 April). Could this not be the beginning of a common celebration of Easter?

79. This is a critical assembly, indeed. We have come here with hope and despair, enthusiasm and frustration. Is this paradox not part of our life together? We are different from each other, and will remain different in many respects. Yet what brings us together is the common vision of unity, and our firm engagement to working together towards that goal. On 13 December, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the WCC, we will be invited to reaffirm our commitment by saying:

"We intend to stay together
Neither lack of progress, nor setbacks,
Neither failures nor uncertainties
Neither fears nor threats
Will weaken our intention to continue to walk together on the way to unity,
Welcoming all who would join us
Widening our common vision
Discovering new ways of witnessing and acting together in faith
There is no growth without risk. Yet, we must grow together responsibly, challenging, understanding and respecting each other. This is the call of God. This is the sacred task before us. It is my deep desire that our prayers and meditation, our reflections and actions in the coming days be strengthened, enriched and guided by this vision and commitment. And, let us, with this hope in heart, "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope."

  1. W.A. Visser 't Hooft, ed., The Evanston Report: The Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 1954, London, SCM, 1955, p.1.
  2. The Nature and Purpose of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement, Faith and Order paper no. 181, publication forthcoming, para. 52, p.25.
  3. Thomas F. Best and Martin Robra, eds, "Costly Commitment", in Ecclesiology and Ethics: Ecumenical Ethical Engagement, Moral Formation and the Nature of the Church, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1997, para. 17, p.28.
  4. Living Letters: A Report of Visits to the Churches during the Ecumenical Decade -- Churches in Solidarity with Women, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1997.
  5. David M. Paton, ed., Breaking Barriers: The Official Report of the Fifth Assembly of the WCC, London, SPCK, 1976, p.316.
  6. Building a Just and Moral Economy for Sustainable Communities: Statement to the High-Level Segment of the 5th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the WCC, 10 April 1997, New York, pp.1-2.
  7. W.A. Visser 't Hooft, ed., The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Held at Amsterdam 1948, London, SCM, 1949, p.78.
  8. Now Is the Time. Final Documents and Other Texts: World Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, Seoul, 1990, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1990.
  9. Amsterdam 1948, p.9.
  10. Ibid., pp.28-29.
  11. Ibid., p.56.
  12. Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  13. Op. cit., p.33.
  14. Evanston 1954, p.1.

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