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

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 51

Church leaders attending the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches exchanged crosses on Sunday (13 December) at a service of recommitment to its ideals and tasks.

As they underlined their shared vision for the ecumenical movement 50 years after the WCC's first Assembly in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, they declared: "We long for the oneness of the body of Christ, affirming the gifts of all, young and old, women and men, lay and ordained . . . We open ourselves for a culture of dialogue and solidarity, sharing life with strangers and seeking encounter with those of other faiths."

The service was held in a huge tent on the campus of the University of Zimbabwe, Harare, where 4,500 delegates and visitors have been meeting for the 12-day Assembly, which ends today (14 December). After an affirmation of togetherness, each delegate present received a cross to wear that had been crafted by a young Zimbabwean.

They were told: "May it remind you to tell the stories of your brothers and sisters in Christ when you go back home. May it mark you as one of those working towards unity in Christ." In front of them stood a giant teak cross carved by another Zimbabwean artist and depicting the sufferings, liberation and spirituality of Africa.

Concluding the worship, the congregation said: "We recommit ourselves in this 50th anniversary year to strengthen the World Council of Churches as a truly ecumenical fellowship, fulfilling the purposes for which it was founded -- to the glory of the triune God."

The service had opened with the African drums that have echoed throughout Assembly worship and events. Delegates were welcomed region by region with hymns that came from their places of origin. Each group took turns to call for unity, saying that as Christians from their part of the world "we give thanks that the triune God has drawn our churches closer together in faith and life, witness and service".

The largest delegation was that from Europe, followed by North America and Africa. The other regions were presented as Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Perhaps the most colourful introduction was that from Africa, which was marked by dancing and ululating as the worshippers sang the Shona hymn Uyai Mweya with a powerful marimba beat in the background.

The whole congregation then reaffirmed the WCC as "a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling.

"For 50 years we have been travelling together. We give thanks for the journey . . . We are challenged by the vision of a Church that will reach out to everyone, sharing, caring, proclaiming the good news of God's redemption."

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.