World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

4 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 4

Christians were urged today to reverse a trend in which "profiteering has gradually replaced prophecy". The call was made at the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which entered its second day in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Professor Wanda Deifelt told the Assembly: "Sometimes profits are much more valued in our churches than prophets are and the co-operative spirit among us has given place to competition. For this as a Church we should repent."

Stressing that "sin by omission" is similar to pretending that cleanliness is purity of heart, shesaid: "Let us dare to be prophetic, to get dirt on our hands, the dirt of the slums, of the poor, of the children who sleep on the streets... of small farmers who have lost their land, let us get dirt on our hands by reaching out and holding the hand of the other, the one who challenges our truths and our certainties."

Professor Deifelt was one of three leading Christian scholars who urged the Christian community to maintain a clear focus on its ideals to be effective in addressing pressing world issues. Her concerns were echoed by Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, who said: "Various complexes push us to a conventional behaviour, to arrogance, hypocrisy, multi-formed, self-centred expectation".

Archbishop Anastasios, of the Greek Orthodox Church, said there was a tendency in the ecumenical movement to address many issues while forgetting that the power of Christians "does not come from our own projects and decisions but is found in how God acts in us through his Church". Without absolute obedience to the will of God, "without readiness for sacrifice, without purity of heart, without unselfishness and courageous love, the particularity of Christians is lost".

The third speaker, Dr Kosuke Koyama, whose books include "Waterbuffalo Theology", underlined that one could not love a neighbour if one was not open to being loved. He noted that while God spoke all languages, no human being could speak an isolated language and maintain an exclusive self-identity. "All peoples are webbed. The Church is in the world. There are no two words of God; one for the Church and another for the world."

The three presenters were addressing a plenary on the Assembly theme "Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope". The archbishop talked about "anamnesis' (remembrance), while Professor Deifelt discussed "metanoia' (conversion) and Dr Kayoma made a presentation on the topic "Rejoice in Hope". Afterwards participants in the Assembly met in groups for sharing and reflection.

At a press conference afterwards, the speakers were asked if the issue of sexual orientation threatened to divide ecumenism. Professor Deifelt, a member of the Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil, said that all human beings were equal before God and should be treated with equal dignity. "All human beings reflect the divine image, independent of class, race, caste, gender, age or sexual preference," she said. "If we look into each other's eyes, we can catch a glimpse of the divine. When human relationship is broken, we can no longer face each other, look into another person's eyes. Either we look from above, in a position of power, or we look from below, as we experience powerlessness."

Archbishop Anastasios summed up the issue of homosexuality by saying: "Everybody has a place in the Church. People who are not sinners have no place in the Church. We speak about many issues while forgetting the essential element of our identity: living the anamnesis in the certainty that our power does not come from our own projects and decisions, but is found in how God acts in us through His Church."

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.