8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
The Padare Experiment
"Meeting place" was too big, but cordial

A unique experiment in the 50-year history of World Council of Churches assemblies was launched in Harare with the opening of the Padare.

"Padare" is a Shona word meaning "meeting place". Traditionally in Zimbabwean, it designates a gathering to deliberate on common issues. Over a period of five days during the Harare assembly, more than 600 exhibits, performances, presentations and discussions on a vast array of issues and activities were presented at the Padare by WCC member churches and related organizations.

The children's Padare

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7124-34)

Some delegates to the assembly said the most interesting and important developments of the meeting occurred at the Padare rather than in the formal plenary discussions. Others expressed frustration over the multitude of choices and the far-flung locations of certain events.

WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser said Council officials were "overwhelmed by the response of churches" wanting to participate in the Padare. The goal of the Padare was, he said, "to make visible the richness and health of the life of the churches". Rather than "simply reacting" to actions and programmes of the WCC, Padare participants had the opportunity to "come with their contributions to the whole life of the ecumenical movement". Raiser added that he hoped "to draw from the Padare ideas for the WCC agenda for the future".

The wide range of subjects presented in the Padare included a number that could be and indeed have been sensitive in many churches, including biotechnology, interfaith cooperation, sanctions against Iraq, capital punishment, debt forgiveness for poor countries and the role of women in the church. Homosexuality, the subject of 11 Padare offerings, was expected to be the most controversial subject, as many churches believe it is not a legitimate topic for discussion at Christian gatherings. Sessions such as "Church Experiences with Educational Programmes on Sexual Orientation" did draw large numbers of participants, but did not provoke the noisy confrontations some observers had predicted.

Before the Padare opened, Raiser said he was not afraid of controversy growing out of it. "Of course there will be disagreements, with so many people discussing so many important issues," he said. He noted that an advisory group had been established "to maintain the open spirit of the Padare", adding: "This is not a place for resolutions, but for the free exchange of ideas, and sometimes they will be controversial."

Padare offerings covered a wide variety of topics.
Among them:
  • alternatives to violence in solving conflict
  • racism and race relations
  • prayer and spirituality
  • "koinonia" (the community of the church)
  • the role of the diaconate
  • globalization and debt relief
  • evangelicals and the ecumenical movement
  • disability issues
  • the church's response to HIV/AIDS
  • the problem of child prostitution
  • urban ministry
  • environmental concerns and climate change
  • the relevance of Christian communication

The Padares were not always easy to find ...

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7122-34a)

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