World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

7 November 2001

Gesture of compassion following attacks on US:
International ecumenical delegation to be "Living Letter"to US churches

cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-33, of 21 September 2001
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-32, of 11 September 2001

Representatives of World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches will travel to the United States 8-14 November as a "living letter" of compassion to the churches and people of the USA.

The WCC executive committee was meeting in Geneva on 11 September when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Committee members, shocked by the news, spontaneously suggested the gesture.

The purpose of the visit, which begins in New York, is "to express the solidarity and compassion of the worldwide ecumenical fellowship" to US churches and to "discern together what 11 September and subsequent events mean for the witness of the churches" in the US and elsewhere.

The delegation is also coming to reflect on "the long-term consequences" of the attacks and the resulting allied military strikes against Taliban positions and terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the light of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence. The board of directors of the US Conference for the WCC, meeting in New York on 2 October, welcomed the visit and affirmed its purpose.

"The trip is seen as a pastoral visit by churches from around the world to the churches of the United States," said Jean S. Stromberg, executive director of the US Office of the WCC. "Many of the persons coming recognize that US people and churches are always quick to respond to need when disaster strikes other parts of the world. US church members have less often been on the receiving end of pastoral care and outreach by others, but receiving is as important for all members of the body of Christ as giving."

Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont of the Reformed Church of France, a member of the delegation, expressed his appreciation for the leadership role of the US churches during the crisis. "During the past weeks, we in France listened carefully to what the US churches said," Clermont noted. Europe as well as the US needs to "look into the future and understand why people are led to terrorism and hate because we will have to face similar challenges in the coming years," Clermont said.

Many members of the delegation are from areas of the world that are all too familiar with terrorism and religious and ethnic conflict.

Leading the delegation will be Bishop Mvumelwano Dandala, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and moderator of the WCC advisory group on regional relations.

Other "living letter" team members are:

Metropolitan Elias Audi, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, from Beirut, Lebanon

Bishop Samuel Azariah, former moderator of the Church of Pakistan and currently diocesan bishop of the Raiwand Diocese

Rev. Fr. Nicholas Balachov, secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations at the Department for External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church

Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation, Reformed Church of France

Rev. (Ms.) Septemmy Lakawa, teacher at the Jakarta Theological Seminary, Indonesia, and a member of the WCC executive and central committees

Ms. Jean Zaru, presiding clerk, Religious Society of Friends, Ramallah, Palestine

Accompanying the team will be the Rev. Kathryn Bannister, a United Methodist clergywoman who is moderator of the WCC US Conference and WCC president, and who will be with the team through the conclusion of its meetings in Chicago on 10 November. Also accompanying the team are Georges Lemopoulos, WCC acting general secretary, and Jean Stromberg, director, US office of the WCC.

The Rt. Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has invited New York City church leaders to an ecumenical service in the Episcopal Center chapel at 11.00h on 8 November. The service will be followed by lunch at the Center from noon to 14.00h.

The delegation will meet with New York pastors whose congregations were affected by the WTC disaster from 14.30h to 16.30h on 8 November.

The Most Rev. Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America will host a reception for the team Thursday evening, 8 November, in the Antiochian Chancery, Englewood, N.J. Joining the reception will be members of the Standing Conference of Middle Eastern Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders, a group of Christian and Islamic leaders based in the US.

In Chicago on 9 and 10 November, the delegation will meet with representatives of local ecumenical councils and WCC member churches at the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. On 11 November, the team will bring greetings to the Fourth Presbyterian Church and other Chicago churches.

The delegation will fly to Washington, DC, on 12 November, where it will meet with representatives of the US Catholic Conference/National Council of Bishops and with representatives from the American Muslim Council. The group will also attend worship Monday morning in Simpson Memorial Chapel of the United Methodist Building on Maryland Avenue.

The pilgrimage will conclude 13 and 14 November in Oakland, California, when the group meets with the US National Council of Churches general assembly.

For more information, please contact Philip E. Jenks, communications officer, US office, World Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 915, New York, NY 10115, tel. : (+1) 212-870-3193, mobile : (+1) 917-453-3106, WCC Contact.

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, 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.