world council of churches

8th assembly and 50th anniversary
preparatory materials

Preparing for Padare
Signposts for a Common Journey

The eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches will be one of the most representative gatherings of Christians ever held - with representatives of ecumenical organizations and groups, delegates from member churches, observers and visitors coming from all around the world. The five days of the Padare - the meeting place for common deliberation in the Shona tradition of Zimbabwe - will broaden opportunities for participation beyond the scope of any previous WCC assembly. The Padare will be a unique space in which to experience, nurture and celebrate the fellowship among Christians which has developed in and grown with the ecumenical movement.

Participants will be overwhelmed but also enriched by the encounter of so many different forms and expressions of Christian faith which have taken shape on the long journey of Christian communities through history. The Padare will be a chance to realize how the Spirit leads the community of faith far beyond any individual horizon. This community belongs together not by ethnic, national or cultural ties, not by race, gender or class, but because its members are called by Jesus Christ and baptized in his death and resurrection by the Spirit. The diversity of contributions will challenge everyone. For many, it will be a new experience to share the same space with others whom they have never met and who represent such different cultural backgrounds, experiences and realities. Some may be tempted to try to dominate and control the space (so that it feels more like "home"); others to take their distance, perhaps even condemn those who are "not like us". In either case, the opportunity to engage in dialogue, enquiring about and probing one another's opinions, practices and beliefs, will be missed.

It is important for all who want to participate in the Padare to prepare themselves for such a gathering of Christians with sometimes divergent and even contradictory convictions. The space for dialogue and deliberation created through the Padare requires an ethos of humility and respect for others which can perhaps best be described as the ethos of a common journey of faith. The eighth assembly will be another meeting place on the ecumenical pilgrimage which began when Jesus crossed the borders of the Jewish communities and continued when the apostles had to change their fundamental opinions because the Spirit was calling the people of the nations into the fellowship of the church (Gal. 2:11-14; Acts 10, 11, 15). Trusting the guidance of the Spirit, they could name and confront what separated them. With a deep passion about faith in Christ, they challenged each other, not avoiding confrontation in order to discern what to do and where to go. But they did not harass, persecute or oppress anyone.

Drawing on the biblical witness (including the account of the first council of the apostles recorded in Acts 15) and on the longstanding experience of dialogue and encounter in ecumenical conferences and previous WCC assemblies, one can identify a number of basic signposts for the common journey of individual Christians, churches and ecumenical groups. These can be of help in preparing assembly participants for the experience of the Padare:

Challenging each other, we should

Experiencing new opportunities together, we should
  • seek and be open to the reconciliation of memories;
  • embrace change and renewal;
  • gladly take up opportunities for common witness;
  • be thankful for guidance into the will of the Spirit;
  • expect to be helped in discerning what will advance the visible unity of the church.

Accepting the obligations of being together, we should
  • ensure that our attitudes and behaviour are compatible both within and outside of the space where we meet;
  • avoid actions that are inconsistent with the relationships of fellow pilgrims on a common journey;
  • not lobby delegates, but engage in open dialogue with each other;
  • be ready to support one another, acting with patience and forbearance towards one another and accepting the need for mutual accountability.

Recognizing that participants may sometimes find that the crossing of cultural, confessional and linguistic boundaries - which is essential to the Padare - is more disturbing than enriching, the Executive Committee has proposed the formation of a Padare Advisory Group, made up of assembly delegates and other participants. The obligations and responsibilities of the Padare Advisory group are:
  • to be present in and around the Padare event, especially where controversial issues or other reasons for tensions are likely to arise;
  • to provide mediation in situations where misunderstandings and conflicts arise;
  • to provide interpretation of events within the Padare to the Assembly Business Committee and to the press;
  • to approve changes and additions to the programme requested in the course of the Padare event itself.

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of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor