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


3 September 1999


In its work over the years to come and following recommendations made at its Central Committee meeting in Geneva (26 August to September 3), the world's largest ecumenical organization will stress "being church", "caring for life", "ministry of reconciliation" and "common witness and service". Some of these themes were already being discussed in the early days of the ecumenical movement, while others emerged at the World Council of Churches' (WCC) assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, last December.

Being the church, said a report from the WCC's programme committee, "calls for an 'inclusive community' that gives visibility and increased participation to many who have been marginalized in the life of the church", among them women, youth, children, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities.

The WCC should encourage "safe arenas for dialogue" and full participation by all in the ecumenical endeavor, the report said, adding that the call for an inclusive community also "challenges churches divided by racial and/or ethnic identity".

Asking that WCC programmes "care for life," the programme committee called for emphasis on a "life-centered ethic, the culture of peace and non-violence, and upholding the right and dignity of people". While such an emphasis was part of previous WCC work, "new attention is needed to the spiritual dimensions of caring for life, particularly as these relate to ethical questions arising from bio-technology, birth control, abortion, and human sexuality".

Citing the theme of the recent WCC assembly -- "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope" -- the committee asked that WCC work be inspired by the theme of "ministry of reconciliation", focussing on spirituality. "The unity and reconciliation we seek can only be found when centered in worship, prayer, and a shared spiritual life and shared community," it said.

According to the report, "globalization" is a theological and spiritual challenge. The committee suggested that the WCC and its member churches focus on "common witness and service" in the midst of emerging global economies. The WCC should also concern itself with the "growth of religious plurality" and "changing understandings of missions and evangelism", including concern about religious freedom and proselytizing across Christian denominations. It should expand talks with partners of other religious bodies on how "common commitments to human rights and dignity can be translated into a global framework of values to which we all can subscribe".

The WCC assembly's call for a Decade to Overcome Violence, another emphasis in the years to come, "encourages our churches to challenge the powers and principalities that perpetuate violence in our world", the report said, and called on the WCC to work with member churches and others to create a "culture of non-violence".

The programme committee's recommendations were overwhelmingly approved by the Central Committee.

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.