8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on the Way
3. The Work of the WCC: Past, Present and Future

3.1. Introduction
One purpose of an assembly is to receive and respond to an accounting of what the churches have done together through the WCC since they last met. The report From Canberra to Harare was included in advance materials mailed to delegates. This 53-page text, which included illustrative photographs, gave highlights of the work of the General Secretariat and the four units of the WCC (unity and renewal; churches in mission -- health, education, witness; justice, peace and creation; sharing and service). On Friday, 4 December, delegates heard reports from the moderator, the general secretary, and the Finance Committee. On Monday, 7 December, delegates were invited to attend a hearing on one of the units or the General Secretariat. Members of the Programme Guidelines Committee were distributed among the hearings, enabling them to prepare the part of their report assessing the work of the WCC in these areas since the Canberra assembly.

3.2. Report of the Moderator, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia

3.3. Report of the General Secretary, Konrad Raiser

3.4. Discussion of the Reports of the Moderator and General Gecretary
Twenty-one people were able to speak in the allotted time for reactions to the reports; 26 more delegates would have liked to comment. All the delegates were well prepared with carefully organized thoughts when they approached the microphones scattered around the assembly floor. They were recognized by Soritua Nababan who moderated the discussion.

Those who responded to the moderator's description of Orthodox concerns expressed appreciation for his analysis and urged the delegates to support the recommended process of creating a "mixed theological commission", though some regretted the choice of that phrase. Several people said that concerns being voiced by the Orthodox churches are shared by other churches as well. One person described the challenge as "changing the basic style and culture of the WCC to let all the churches experience it as their home". Delegates affirmed trying to change the style of decision-making in the Council, using a consensus model.

Delegates voiced appreciation for the moderator's appeal to integrate youth into the work of the Council. It was noted that this has been part of the Council's history which should inform its future, but that the young people of today "will not be radical in the same way as they were at Uppsala in 1968". It was suggested that guidelines for youth involvement be enhanced.

An appeal was made for the assembly to address "the terrible effects of globalization", the problems caused by governmental indebtedness, the irresponsible use of economic power and the corruption that sometimes exacerbates problems. Some delegates expressed appreciation for the possibility of addressing human rights at the assembly. One delegate wanted staff support for the Indigenous Peoples programme to coordinate efforts around the world. Another voiced the importance of having the WCC exercise leadership in seeking reconciliation where conflicts have erupted.

Several delegates commented about the state of ecumenical life together through the Council. Challenges identified were: how to deepen the fellowship among the churches, including the cultivation of a greater sense of mutual accountability; how to widen the fellowship to include the fastest-growing churches and deepen relationships with the Roman Catholic Church; how to place ecumenical spirituality at the heart of ecumenical life; and how to articulate more clearly the ecclesial significance of life together through the Council, reaffirming the trinitarian nature of the basis. The proposal for an ecumenical "forum" received mixed reviews.

The reports were referred to Policy Reference Committee I, which recommended that they be received with appreciation and gratitude. On 12 December the assembly voted affirmatively.

Go to 3.5. A Common Understanding and Vision: Plenary Discussion
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