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

18 August 1999


From 26 August to 3 September Geneva will again be an international ecumenical meeting-point. For these ten days 158 Protestant and Orthodox delegates representing the 336 member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) will be meeting in the Ecumenical Centre. Between the assemblies, which take place every seven years, the Central Committee is the WCC's highest governing body and meets once every twelve to eighteen months.

The Moderator of the WCC Central Committee, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, will open this year's proceedings with his report on Thursday, 26 August. This will be followed by the report of the WCC's General Secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser.

Africa Plenary and Padare Presentations

The main thematic event will be the Africa Plenary on Saturday, 28 August, when the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts, Olara A. Otunna from Uganda, will be among the participants.

The Central Committee programme reflects the new ways of working which the WCC adopted for itself following its self-critical review and analysis on the occasion of its 50th anniversary last year. This time, besides the plenary sessions, there will also be more spaces for discussion, called "padare", as well as work in small groups. Among the themes which central committee members will be considering during the padare events are:

  • World Trade Organization (WTO) Millennium Round
  • The Kosovo crisis and the response of the churches in conflict situations
  • Ecumenical hermeneutics
  • Viability of the ecumenical movement
  • Towards a Protestant-Orthodox dialogue within the WCC
  • Worship and ecumenical spirituality
  • The future of religion
  • Evangelism
  • Ecumenical perspective on the future of Europe
  • Decade to overcome violence
By giving the work of Central Committee a stronger thematic focus, WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser hopes it will provide new stimulus and guidance for the way ahead. In his words, "The role of the Central Committee is policy-setting rather than micro-management. If Central Committee could already formulate the real questions, this would be a major step forward."

Plans for the Decade to Overcome Violence

The preparations for the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence, which is to be inaugurated in churches around the world in the year 2001, are being followed with particular interest by many WCC member churches.

What shape the Decade takes will depend, amongst other things, on the deliberations of this year's Central Committee. How can the WCC work strategically with the churches in order to create a culture of non-violence? What experiences can the different churches bring in from their own work for peace and reconciliation? What phases can the Decade be divided into? What are the most suitable approaches to conflict settlement and establishing a just peace? These are just a few of the questions that will be discussed by the Central Committee.

Where does Orthodox-Protestant dialogue go from here?

Where does Orthodox-Protestant dialogue go from here? This is another of the questions that will be considered by the Central Committee, and it will also be the subject of one of the padare sessions.

To give some background: at a meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, in May 1998 high-ranking representatives of 15 autocephalous Eastern-Orthodox churches discussed the growing dissatisfaction within their churches in regard to some of the WCC's activities and certain tendencies in some of its Protestant member churches. Although the communiqué from Thessaloniki reaffirmed the Orthodox churches' ecumenical commitment, it still left no doubt as to the seriousness of their concern about their membership of the WCC. The WCC assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in December 1998 took up the recommendation of the Thessaloniki meeting and approved the creation of a Special Commission, requesting that it should "study and analyse the whole spectrum of issues related to Orthodox participation in the WCC" and make proposals to the Central Committee "concerning the necessary changes in structure, style and ethos of the Council".

This year's Central Committee meeting will also continue to study these issues and work for a constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Protestants about their mutual relations.

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.