world council of churches

Eighth Assembly
Assembly Committees

Public Statements

Public statements are one way in which the WCC responds to critical issues on the international agenda. The basic provisions for making such statements are set out in WCC Rule X:
In the performance of its functions, the Council through its Assembly or through its Central Committee may issue statements on any situation or concern with which the Council or its constituent churches may be confronted. While such statements may have great significance and influence as the expression of the judgment or concern of so widely representative a Christian body, yet their authority will consist only in the weight which they carry by their own truth and wisdom, and the publishing of such statements shall not be held to imply that the World Council as such has, or can have, any constitutional authority over the constituent churches or right to speak for them...
This Rule goes on to indicate specific procedures for statements to be issued by the WCC when an assembly is not in session.

A public statement may take various forms, including consultation reports and assessments of situations, pastoral letters and appeals to member churches, resolutions, and representations and appeals to governments and intergovernmental bodies.

Public statements are only one form of response to international affairs available to the Council; and in many situations other forms of action may be more effective. These include pastoral visits to churches in difficult or critical situations, discussions with governments, interventions with intergovernmental bodies, delegations dispatched to study and report on specific issues or situations, confidential representations to governments, and support to and solidarity with churches and action groups. All of these are undergirded by continuous monitoring of developments as they affect the life and witness of churches in particular situations and the fellowship of churches as a whole.

The Central Committee has identified the main criteria used in selecting issues on which public statements are made:

While this list is not an exhaustive or hard and fast set of rules, it has provided useful guidance for ensuring that the Council speaks effectively.

Procedure at the assembly
The outgoing Executive Committee proposes to the assembly's Business Committee a list of issues on which it considers statements to be timely and significant. The approval of the assembly is sought on these issues at an early business session, at which time delegates will also be informed of procedures and deadlines for proposing additional issues on which they believe the assembly should speak. The Public Issues Committee then reviews these proposals in the light of the criteria listed, and selects topics on which it recommends that statements be issued, taking into consideration the time constraints and other limitations under which the assembly works.

The topics selected should be of considerable international and ecumenical significance. The Public Issues Committee will not propose statements on specific issues or situations which can be dealt with in the normal course by the general secretary, the officers or the Central or Executive Committees. Nor will it propose statements on issues for which other forms of action would be more appropriate.

The Public Issues Committee prepares draft statements which are brought before a business plenary of the assembly for adoption.

Assembly Committees
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