world council of churches

8th assembly and 50th anniversary
preparatory materials

How does the assembly work?
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Because of the large size of the assembly and the limited time available in which to give adequate attention to all three of these features, the assembly programme has been carefully constructed to enable an effective flow of work according to procedures which are designed to allow for maximum participation.

During some of the time of the assembly all participants will come together for plenary sessions; at other times, they will meet in different groupings for specific purposes. Several periods of time have been set aside for encounters with the life and witness of the assembly hosts - the churches of Zimbabwe. On each day of the assembly, the working sessions are set within gatherings for worship; consequently, the assembly as a whole is rooted in prayer and becomes a public expression of faith and commitment.

What follows is an introductory and general overview of the different types of groupings through which the assembly works. To assist the delegates in participating effectively, an orientation will be held just before the opening session on 3 December; and additional information and suggestions will be provided in the assembly handbook which participants will receive when they arrive in Harare.

Plenary sessions
Most of the plenary sessions, in which all official participants are present, take place at the beginning and the end of the assembly. According to the WCC rules, plenary sessions fall into three categories: general sessions for ceremonial occasions, public acts of witness and formal addresses; deliberative sessions to receive and discuss substantive reports which raise important issues crucial to the life of the churches and the WCC but which do not lend themselves to detailed amendments; and business sessions for matters on which detailed decisions must be taken.

Deliberative plenary sessions during the eighth assembly will be devoted to reports from the moderator and general secretary; presentations on the assembly theme, on the Ecumenical Decade - Churches in Solidarity with Women, and on Africa; and reflection on the multi-year process of study and consultation "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC". The celebration of the WCC's 50th anniversary and the service of recommitment to the ecumenical movement will be the focus of a series of special plenary events on Sunday 13 December. Each of the business plenary sessions, scattered throughout the programme though concentrated in the last three-and-a-half days, will deal with a specific area for action announced ahead of time.

The Hearings and the Padare
Click to a detailed explanation of these sessions, which take place during the middle days of the assembly and focus on both evaluation of past work and suggestions for future work.

One of the first actions which the delegates take is to elect the committees which will function throughout the assembly. The tasks of some of these committees are set forth in the Rules of the WCC; others are responsible for detailed work on matters referred to them by an assembly plenary session, so that they can bring reports and recommendations for action to a subsequent plenary session.

Small groups
Essential to the life of the assembly are the small groups to which each participant is assigned. The large number of people present in each plenary session and even in the hearings sessions allows only a small percentage of those present to speak; and the intensity and complexity of the assembly programme may make it difficult to follow events even for those who have attended previous such gatherings. The small groups are thus designed to form a bridge between various parts of the assembly and to allow participants to engage more directly in discussing issues and sharing their own experiences. These groups (of 10 to 15 persons) will reflect the rich diversity of the participants and the churches from which they come, but all of them will focus on the biblical texts used in the daily worship services and the content of the plenary sessions which have preceded them. While interpretation in all of the Council's working languages is provided in plenary sessions, hearing and committee meetings as needed, the small groups bring together people who can communicate in one language.

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary
copy right 1998 World
of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor