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29 January - 6 February 2001
Potsdam, Germany

29 January 2001

Bishop reminds World Council of Churches:
The goals are difficult but Jesus is the way

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) opened its eight-day meeting Sunday evening (January 28) with a service of ecumenical worship in the 171-year-old St. Nikolai-Kirche in Potsdam, Germany.

The 158-member governing body of the WCC will be dealing with a variety of challenging issues and events, including the formal launch in Berlin next Sunday (4 February) of the Council's Decade to Overcome Violence. Also on the agenda are the thorny issue of Council finances and the report of the WCC's Special Commission on Orthodox participation.

In its opening worship, the Central Committee heard Bishop Dr Christoph Klein of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania declare that the achievement of these and other ecumenical goals depends on a common understanding of Jesus Christ as "the way."

When Jesus told his Disciples, "I am the way," Bishop Klein said, he meant that "the goal is only reached (if) we are really following Jesus on his journey."

Klein, who addressed the crowded church in German, is a member of the Central Committee and has served as a member of the WCC Commission for World Mission and Evangelism.

Sometimes ecumenical leaders sympathise with the Apostle Thomas, who asked how can we know the way, Bishop Klein observed. "The 'how' of this journey is what constantly preoccupies us and makes difficulties for us" and persons from different Christian backgrounds may wonder if their diverse ways of following Jesus will lead to the same goal, Klein said.

"Whether we are thinking of the Luther altarpiece which shows him in the pulpit of the church at Wittenberg, pointing to Jesus on the cross, or whether we are in an Orthodox church and see before us the victorious Christ Pantocrator, our common faith, still and always, is that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life," Klein said.

"We in the ecumenical movement are called to take those open questions which are put before us . . . and bring them closer to the goal of unity."

Following the service, Central Committee members were honoured at a reception given by the Council of Christian Churches (ACK) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which is hosting the meeting.

Präses Manfred Kock, president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, said he was delighted Berlin had been chosen as the location for the international launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

"I would like to thank everyone who shared our joy . . . in November 1989 . . . over the gift of peaceful reunion between the two parts of Germany," Kock said. "Since then, more than any other city in the world, Berlin has embodied the hope that antagonisms can be overcome by other means than violence."

Photos from the Central Committee

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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.