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


WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 41

The first reading of the official Message of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare, Zimbabwe, was greeted with polite applause and scathing criticism Friday (11 December).

"It will disappear down the sink like a marshmallow," complained the Rev. Gregor Henderson (Uniting Church in Australia), who said that the first draft of the four-page message is "a disappointment".

"It's too long and won't have an impact. It won't be published in our church papers or read from the pulpits. It's too general . . .[It] says nothing that couldn't have been said at Amsterdam [the founding Assembly of the WCC] 50 years ago." The message, he said, should speak of the progress that has been made in the ecumenical movement. "It should be a ringing call that will make some impact."

The Rev. Ruth Bottoms (Baptist Union of Great Britain) questioned a reference in the statement to the waters of Baptism and the claim that "we are brought to this newness of life, bound to Jesus and to all others baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity".

"This is not the case," she said, pointing out that member churches are as divided over Baptism as they are over the ways the Eucharist is observed. "We Baptists would want to speak of our common faith in Jesus Christ as our basis for unity," she said.

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt (Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, USA), moderator of the message committee, said that committee members had gone to Assembly hearings, Padare offerings, Bible studies and worship services in an effort to determine how delegates and visitors are experiencing the meeting.

"This is not a report," he said. "It is a message intended to involve the central themes of this Assembly." Themes highlighted in bold in the paper include Jubilee, Africa, HIV/Aids, disabilities, young people, Churches in Solidarity with Women, staying together and message of hope.

The message, which will come before the delegates for a second reading Saturday (12 December), is prepared for participants in the Assembly and "for the churches, to bring the experience of the Assembly into their own lives and situations," Hoyt said. "It is intended for the whole world, to give them a clue what has happened among us."

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 339, 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.