World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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3 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 2

A giant teak cross carved by a Zimbabwean artist, depicting the sufferings, liberation and spirituality of Africa, was the centrepiece of an act of worship to open the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Zimbabwe.

The African theme was underlined by the Rev. Eunice Santana of Puerto Rico, a President of the WCC, in her sermon: "How wonderful and significant to hear the words of Jesus here, in mother Africa, where they take on a unique rhythm and flavour; in mother Africa, so easily forgotten and ignored by the powerful when convenient, so unknown by so many, so exploited and stepped upon by others, but also so beloved by so many of us. Here, in this continent, in Africa, where the same Jesus received asylum and protection as an infant two thousand years ago."

Africa was the predominant flavour in an international service of music, dance, biblical reflection and gifts as 4,000 members of the Assembly met at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. Along with the 4.5 metre cross, presented to the WCC by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), delegates from other parts of the world brought forward their gifts, including crosses of different shapes and a huge drum.

Ms Santana addressed the many challenges that people in different parts of the world are facing today. Among them she talked about violence against women, globalisation, debt and wars that continue to destroy many countries throughout the world. She drew comparisons to issues in the first century; there was still "a society in which exploitation, marginalisation, religious, political, social oppression and poverty are the order of the day for the great majority of the people."

The service opened with a welcome from the Rev. Enos Chomutiri, the President of the ZCC. He thanked the WCC for the honour accorded to Zimbabwe by hosting a very important meeting in the lives of churches all over the world, especially as it marked the WCC's 50th anniversary.

In response, Dr Konrad Raiser, the General Secretary of the WCC, thanked the churches in Zimbabwe for inviting the Council to hold its Eighth Assembly there. He said that although there were many roadblocks on the way to the Assembly, he was happy that through combined efforts and commitment, the meeting was now being realised. Planning to hold the meeting in Harare and particularly at the university had presented many logistical problems and this even resulted in the original dates of Assembly being shifted to suit the new semester system at the university.

After the welcome messages, there were short reflections of why the Council gathers for Assemblies and the important issues that underlined previous ones. In Amsterdam, the Assembly had recognized the disorder of humankind in the face of God's design for the world. It also acknowledged that God's design is the glory of a world reconciled to him, confirmed by harmony in all creation.

The Evanston Assembly lifted up Jesus Christ as the Hope of the World. This Assembly was also reclaiming this hope. The New Delhi Assembly celebrated the flame of Jesus's life among the people of the world. The flame was now flickering, now flaming bright, challenging the shadows that overwhelm the world today.

In Uppsala, the people lifted up their hearts and proclaimed God's promise - "Behold, I make all things new". The Nairobi Assembly acknowledged that Jesus frees and unites. The Vancouver Assembly gathered in faith before Jesus Christ. It acknowledged that "Jesus Christ is the life of the World". The last Assembly in Canberra called on the Holy Spirit to renew the whole creation.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 332, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.