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

15 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 55
(corrected version)

A four-metre high backdrop bearing the design which became the symbol of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, and hung in the plenary hall throughout the meeting, has been bought by an anonymous delegate and donated to the All Africa Conference of Churches.

The Rev. Konrad Raiser, the WCC General Secretary, revealed the gift in his vote of thanks at the close of business in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Monday (14 December). The symbol was of a statue, designed by Chaz Maviyane-Davis and sculpted by Wilbert Samapundo, which shows a person with head lifted, turning as if to God. It was not disclosed how much was paid for the backdrop.

The stone statue itself, over one metre high, also stood on the plenary platform during the Assembly. Commissioned by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and given by them to the World Council of Churches, the statue will be taken back to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, where it will be displayed.

Dr Raiser thanked all the organisations and individuals involved before and during the Assembly in making it a success. Earlier in the day, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, on whose campus the Assembly met, said that it had been a momentous event in the history of the university. Graham Hill said that the WCC had brought two heads of state to the campus: South Africa's President Nelson Mandela and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe -- "leaders whose movements were supported by the WCC during liberation struggles".

Professor Hill, who was addressing a business plenary, recalled that during the struggles the university became "an island of democracy; staff and students spoke out against the colonial government, lecturers were deported and students fled to foreign countries". He added: "It is therefore befitting that you came to the island of democracy."

He described the university as a "microcosm of national culture and thinking", with a student body comprising 33 per cent female out of its l0,000 student population, in addition to 8,000 distance education students. "It would be impossible to head an institution like this without God's guidance and help," Professor Hill told his audience, pointing out that most of the students are Christians and that their Christian heritage has helped to maintain peace on the campus.

In response, the Moderator of the WCC's Central Committee, His Holiness Aram I, encouraged the Vice-Chancellor to uphold the university's reputation as that island of democracy.

The day ended with the massive worship tent pitched at the centre of the university glowing with candles as delegates, observers and visitors shared the last service. The candles brightened the whole campus as the congregation dispersed.

In his sermon, the Rev. Dr Emilio Castro, a former General Secretary of the WCC, said: " We are finishing an Assembly. Juridically speaking, we are beginning to walk towards the Ninth Assembly. But we have seen and lived once more the mystery of God's presence, and as a shaky ship we go on sailing, setting our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."

He said that the Assembly was not a meeting to agree on incidentals, not a meeting to substitute one word for another, even though it might need to do so -- it was a much more vital event than that. All the deliberations of the Assembly had sought for means and ways to share God's knowledge and power with the whole world.

The Assembly's new officers, Presidents and Central Committee were introduced and gave their committment to serve the WCC. Dr Castro told them and the whole congregation: "The passionate God has taken our lives and has recruited us into his creative power and service."

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.