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CENTRAL COMMITTEE 1999 No. 5
LESSONS OF THE EIGHTH ASSEMBLY WILL
In the second day of their nine-day meeting in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, Committee members commented on a 12-page evaluation of the recent Eighth Assembly that includes seven recommendations for planning the next worldwide gathering.
Individual opinions were generally positive about the Eighth Assembly held last December in Harare, Zimbabwe, but Central Committee members seemed to agree that delegates had little time for debate. Most of the plenary time was taken up by introductory speeches or reports, Committee members said, and Assembly delegates had too few opportunities to discuss issues. "Sometimes (reports) were too long and you ended up dozing," said Idah Njobvu (Reformed Church in Zambia).
The 158 Central Committee members were elected from among the 965 church delegates to the Harare Assembly so most of them have strong opinions about the meeting.
The Rt. Rev. Barry Rogerson (Church of England) said the Eighth Assembly had been a "quiet success" and other Committee members agreed it was a good experience. "The Planning Committee and staff worked for years on the Assembly," said Metropolitan Athanasios of Heliopolis and Theira. "We should be very grateful not only to the WCC but to God for this Assembly."
Dr. Agnes Abuom (Anglican Church of Kenya) said it pained her that relatively few Zimbabwe church people participated in the Assembly and Donnalie E.C. Edwards (Church in the Province of the West Indies) of Antigua asked, "How much space was really opened up for the participation of Zimbabweans in the Assembly? When it came to doing business, the genuine participation of Zimbabweans was few and far between."
These and other comments will be forwarded to a reference committee for distillation into a final report that will come back to the Central Committee for action next week. In addition to church delegates, over 1,700 accredited visitors and several hundred day visitors visited the Assembly, according to the report. Estimates during the Assembly were as high as 5,000 visitors on peak days.
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.