World Council of Churches
Potsdam, Germany
29 January - 6 February 2001
Document No. GS 3.1



"Blessed are those who meditate day and night on the prayer Jesus taught: Your Kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."
, thus sings an ancient Syriac hymn.

Our faithfulness to Christ our Saviour requires that we, as one body, constantly turn to God, the source of our life, in thanksgiving and hope, and remain ever wakeful to do God’s will on earth. It is in this spirit that the World Council of Churches is called to carry out its task of seeking the unity and expressing the fellowship of our churches in manifold ways of witness and service. The Programme Committee perceives this calling as a key to understand and interpret the programmes and activities of the WCC.

I. Programme Committee Self-Understanding
1.1 In doing its work the Programme Committee sought to keep before it the following:

  1. The constitutional priority according to which "The primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the WCC is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity that the world may believe." (Article III of the Constitution). The Programme Committee noted that the self-understanding of the WCC as a fellowship of churches, involves both deepening and broadening this fellowship.
  2. The four questions raised by the Programme Guidelines Committee Report of the 8th Assembly held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998
    1. How do we as churches engage together in mission and evangelism in the midst of a highly pluralistic world?
    2. How do we understand baptism as a foundation for the life in community to which we are called to share together?
    3. How do we offer together our resources, witness and action for the sake of the world’s very future?
    4. How do we walk together on the path towards visible unity?

  3. The thematic framework adopted at the 1999 Central Committee meeting, the four themes being: Being Church; Caring for Life; Ministry of Reconciliation; and Common Witness and Service amidst Globalisation.
1.2 The Programme Committee spent a significant portion of its meeting developing a sense of its own mandate established in the Rules and seeking ways to carry that out. The ability for it to complete its tasks is challenged by several factors: the length of time between meetings, the brevity of its own meetings, and the considerable number of other governing and consultative bodies (commissions, advisory groups and boards) with whom it is in relation. According to the WCC Rules, the Programme Committee has an important function in developing a comprehensive view of the totality of the programmatic activity of the WCC. Its unique structure enables the interaction of Central Committee members, moderators of consultative bodies and extensive participation from Council staff. With this foundation in its diverse membership, the Programme Committee can assess whether the Council’s programmes fall within and are compatible with the major policies and visions established by the Central Committee. It can also assist the Council by recommending to the Central Committee new directions for the Council. Throughout its deliberations, the Programme Committee realized that it needed to explore alternative and creative ways to carry out its mandate, possibly through the use of sub-groups and/or an alternative meeting schedule.

The Programme Committee needed also to recognize the boundaries and limitations of its work, especially in relation to the work of the two other standing committees of the Central Committee. In regard to the Executive Committee: the Programme Committee realizes that it does not monitor or oversee the ongoing programmes and activities of the Council. The Executive Committee has that responsibility as well as the responsibility to determine the allocation of resources (Rule 6.2.b). In regard to the Finance Committee: the Programme Committee has recommendations in Section VII of this report for a change in the relationship. The Programme Committee’s responsibility is to report directly to the Central Committee in regard to the mandates given to it by the Central Committee (Rule VII).

The committee met for three days in Berlin prior to the Central Committee meeting, presented a report to Central Committee (GS 3) and then met during the meeting to further complete its work. The initial time included seeking to understand and assess the breadth of the Council’s activities.

II. Reception of Reports
The Programme Committee received reports of the consultative bodies, cluster activity reports, and planning documents for 2001. It also heard insights from staff and discussed within small groups its own reflections and experiences with programmatic activities. The results of these deliberations were presented in the earlier report to the Programme Committee (GS 3).

As noted in its earlier report, the Programme Committee:

Continually, throughout the discussion of the Programme Committee, two Council-wide initiatives were held up as central to the next years of the Council’s life: the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, and the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC. Both initiatives represent new models of relationship and pose opportunities and challenges to the future life of the Council.

III. Programmatic work of WCC
The Programme Committee considered carefully its first task. According to Rule VII.3.a) it shall:

Ensure that the development of programmes takes account of the major thrusts and policies adopted by the Central Committee as well as of the available financial resources.
Following its examination of the materials, the Committee expressed strong affirmation that the work reviewed is appropriate to the thrusts and policies expressed by the WCC through its Assembly and Central Committee. The Programme Committee affirmed the main direction of the planning document (PRO 17), and thanked staff members for their work, often done in demanding circumstances. Reference was made at various times to the four questions posed in Section 1.2 of this report and how much of the collaborative work done with other ecumenical organizations fits within the four areas posed by the questions. Especially as resources are strained and new methodologies emerge for ecumenical work, the Programme Committee encourages the staff and consultative bodies to publicize and celebrate joint projects involving churches regionally, through ecumenical organizations, or among themselves. It is hoped that in all cases the goal of "being church" will be at the centre of the relationship. "Being in fellowship is constitutive to being church" (General Secretary’s Report to the Central Committee 2000, GS 2).

Additionally, the Programme Committee reflected upon the need for the Council to uphold its ecumenical memory so that it may not be forgotten, realizing that new initiatives are often built upon programmes previously carried out by the Council and can be advanced by their insights. One illustration was the rich learning gained from the Ecumenical Decade for Churches in Solidarity with Women and the development of the "living letters" that strengthened the fellowship among churches. Another illustration was the way in which the insights of the Gospel and Culture studies affect the current work in Mission and Evangelism and may serve to influence the development of a future theme of a world mission conference.

Responses by Central Committee members to the preliminary report of the Programme Committee demonstrated that the Central Committee members had not received sufficient information to gain the necessary insight into the breadth of the Council’s work. Therefore, the Programme Committee presents in an appendix a description of areas of responsibility for the staff teams of the Council. These descriptions were developed through a collaborative process involving staff, consultative bodies and members of the Central Committee. (The latest suggestions and recommendations with regard to those descriptions made by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism and the Church and Ecumenical Relations Advisory Group were reviewed and affirmed by the Programme Committee.) The information can be helpful to the different consultative bodies in order to learn of each other’s work for more effective joint activity.

The length and extensiveness of the descriptions make it impossible to include in this report detailed information about the reported work of the WCC. Central Committee members and all others are encouraged to study the existing documents and receive further information on any of the descriptions listed in the appendix.

IV. Theological Inter-relationship
In continuing with the tasks of the PC, there was a discussion regarding Rule VII.3.b:

Consider in particular the theological inter-relationship of different World Council activities.
The search for closer fellowship and visible unity expresses itself in diverse ways. The goal of visible unity holds together the many different programmes and activities of the Council as a coherent whole. While considering the different WCC programmes and activities, the Programme Committee understands its mandate within the framework of Art. III of the WCC Constitution. What follows intends to aid in understanding the theological inter-relationship between the Council’s programmes and activities.

Once again, the primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the WCC is:

Several practical considerations follow regarding the way in which the above discussion of inter-relationship could be better understood:
  1. Insights on theological reflection being drawn from the experiences and traditions of the churches.
  2. The consistent practice of sharing outlines among team coordinators.
  3. The practice of mutual exchange of participants among related studies, e.g., theological anthropology contributing to the human sexuality study.
  4. A continuation of the theological awareness of the outcomes of programmes and activities even after their discontinuation (ecumenical memory).
  5. The inclusion of artistic forms to help convey and promote theological understanding, e.g., use of poetry and music.
  6. Media presentations which include the theological dimension of the programmes and activities.
  7. The practice of planning symbolic actions relating to the sacred earth be done in cooperation with the Indigenous Peoples Programme.
V. Providing for Evaluation
The Programme Committee understands its role in relation to the evaluation of WCC programmes in such a way as to
ensure that the development of programmes takes account of the major thrusts and policies adopted by the Central Committee (VII.3.a); and
to provide for and make recommendations for regular evaluation of programmes and activities (VII.3.d).
1. The task is not to do all of the evaluation as the Programme Committee, but to ensure and provide for such evaluation in keeping with the major thrusts and policies of the WCC, and in partnership with the consultative bodies named by the Central Committee and with staff assigned the responsibility to carry out the specific programmes and activities.

2. To carry out the tasks of evaluation, the Programme Committee has seen an overall framework for its work for the coming years:

  1. The Programme Committee has a responsibility to provide for an overall evaluation of programmes and activities that will take place between the time of the Harare Assembly and the next WCC Assembly. That comprehensive review and evaluation will need to take place at the time of the Central Committee meeting just prior to the next Assembly.
  2. The Programme Committee sees the next step in the process which was begun in Harare, and moved forward at the 1999 Central Committee, to be to prepare an interim (mid-term) evaluation of the activities and programmes.
3. This mid-term evaluation will be based upon reports received from each of the consultative bodies, and take into account Council-wide concerns, such as DOV, human sexuality, the focus on Africa, and the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation.
  1. It is the Programme Committee’s understanding that the evaluation process will take place at three different "levels" in the life of the WCC: (i) in on-going evaluation by staff of the current activities at all stages of implementation and planning; (ii) an evaluation of the programmes by the consultative bodies; and, (iii) an overall evaluation by the Programme Committee.

    At each "level", the basic criteria to be used is the material set forth in the Report of the Programme Committee on "Priority Setting and Evaluation for Programmes" (GS 3, approved by the 1999 Central Committee) which includes the criteria identified in the Institutional Frame [relation to the CUV process; Mission/Purpose; Fellowship; Coherence/Integration]; the Programme Management Tool [what the WCC can do more effectively than any other organization, Relevance, Urgency, Impact, Effectiveness; Centrality; Newness; and Learning]; and additional questions identified for Evaluation [communication of results of programmes; receiving of the programme in the member churches; and, ecumenically challenging the member churches in their own life and witness].

    Additional criteria identified by the Programme Committee to be included in the evaluation:

    • The principle of asking whether the programme or activity is most appropriately done at the level of the WCC, or should/could it be done at a more "local or regional level"?
    • The use of statistics to determine how inclusive a programme is, for example the inclusion of youth; and,
    • Is the work being done in the style of collaboration and cooperation now adopted by the Council?

  2. To enable the work of the Programme Committee at its next meeting, the Committee is requesting that, in addition to descriptive work and materials received from the consultative bodies on their on-going programmes and activities (each consultative body will prepare this material in its own style and its own need for giving direction to its activities), the consultative body’s report will include a section (to be no longer than two pages in length) providing the following summary information: (i) a conceptual, theological reflection on the nature of the work of the programme and activities; (ii) a description of highlights of actual work done; (iii) its own evaluation of the programme and activities, with reference to the priority areas of work; any difficulties experienced in achieving the objectives of the programme; and, emerging trends related to the programme and activities.

  3. Based upon its evaluation of these reports and materials, the Programme Committee will then make a report to the next meeting of the Central Committee.
VI. Emerging Directions
1. The current work of the WCC needs to be set within the context of common emerging directions in order for the programmes to continue to have relevance. It is the Programme Committee’s belief that dialogue on emerging trends helps the on-going evolution of programme and activities, as well as in the evaluation of these. Such dialogue should be a part of the discussions of the consultative bodies as they prepare reports to the Programme Committee in the future. We also recognize that consideration of emerging trends is within the mandate undertaken by Policy Reference Committee II. The Programme Committee will take into account and incorporate into its evaluation of programmes recommendations of the Policy Reference Committee II, as well as reports of consultative bodies.

2. As part of the overall evaluative process, the Programme Committee therefore encourages each consultative body, as part of the preparation of its evaluation, to reflect upon the emerging directions and trends in its activities and programmes, and to share these with the Programme Committee for its future discussions and work.

VII. Finance
Rule 8.i.c. indicates that "three members, to be designated by the Programme Committee from its membership" shall be members of the Finance Committee. The intention of the Central Committee was to ensure that there was an exchange of information to enable both the Finance and the Programme Committees undertake their separate, though mutual responsibilities for finance and programme activities. The Programme Committee has not been able to meet the Central Committee’s expectation.

The Programme Committee does seek to work closely in new ways with the Finance Committee so that it may accomplish its mandate regarding finances given in Rule 7.3.a. Hopefully, this could include the following points:

The Programme Committee would be helped in its deliberations if the programmes proposed had listed information about designated, undesignated or expected designated funds associated with them. The Programme Committee welcomed with gratitude the considerable funds made available by ecumenical funding partners to the work of the Council. Through continued representation by the Programme Committee within the Round Table, the two bodies can work together towards mutual goals of witness and service.

During the present round of the Programme Committee meetings, the financial information thought necessary for the committee’s responsibilities was not available, in part through restructuring and in part through new accounting categories. Through the good offices of the respective staff this will be solved by the Central Committee meeting in September 2002.

The budget for 2001 indicated significant reduction in operational and activity income that required a new or modified approach to ways in which programmes were undertaken. The Programme Committee underlines the need to continue pursuing collaboration with ecumenical partners and member churches, regionally, nationally and locally. The Finance Committee requested, for the purposes of income generation, that particular areas of programme activity be lifted up. The Programme Committee agreed and asked staff to assist in this process.

VIII. Specific Recommendations
8.1 The Programme Committee received a proposal concerning the next World Mission and Evangelism Conference from the CWME Commission. Recognizing both the importance and impact of previous CWME conferences upon the life of the churches and that mission and evangelism are at the heart of being the church, the Programme Committee recommends to the Central Committee that it affirms holding of this Conference in late 2004 or early 2005.

8.2 The Programme Committee recommends that the Central Committee have a padare offering at the 2002 meeting reflecting on issues of disability led by the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), and that a special plenary be held at the Central Committee meeting in 2003. The plenary would present the theological and ecclesiological statement being prepared for the churches by the EDAN/JPC with the Faith and Order Commission as a framework for the churches’ advocacy and pastoral role with the disabled.

8.3 In accord with affirmations of statements above affirming the need to strengthen the fellowship among the WCC member churches through collaboration and visitation, the Programme Committee recommends that the WCC look for ways to publicize visits among members churches and to encourage that those visits include consideration of the meaning of membership in the WCC fellowship.

8.4 Appreciating the efforts to build a spirit of community in the meetings of the Central Committee, the Programme Committee also recommends the regular use of Bible studies in meetings of the Central Committee and consultative bodies.



The following areas of responsibilities which were elaborated through a collaborative process involving the Programme Committee, the consultative bodies and staff have provided the framework for the planning documents by different programme teams for their work. (PRO 17).

General Secretariat:

  1. Strategic coordination, planning and evaluation of the activities of the Council and coordination of the work of the cluster directors.
  2. Planning, and organization of WCC governing body meetings,
  3. Provision of a supportive framework and congenial atmosphere to nurture and enhance the work of staff.
  4. Regular personal encounter with member churches and ecumenical partners.
  5. Stimulation of fresh thinking about the ecumenical movement and its coherence.
General Secretariat - Ecumenical Institute Bossey:
  1. The Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies, conducted as a residential programme of graduate-level academic studies and community life for students from various churches and countries.
  2. Organization of short courses and consultations.
  3. Activities of ecumenical education and research in cooperation with ecumenical partner institutions and centres.
  4. Promotion of education programmes and activities related to the Ecumenical Institute at other locations around the world.
  5. Maintenance of a centre for ecumenical meetings and conferences.
Issues and Themes -- Faith and Order:
  1. Assistance to churches and the fellowship of churches in addressing doctrinal and theological issues and related practices which are historically connected with the division and unity of the church.
  2. Integration of social, cultural, political, racial and ethical issues into ongoing theological discussion on the unity of the church.
  3. Examination and encouragement of steps towards unity being taken by churches and groups of churches.
  4. Exploration of ecumenical spirituality and the ecumenical significance of the varieties of Christian spirituality.
  5. Sharing of worship resources and encouragement of worshiping together ecumenically to contribute to the renewal of the churches.
Issues and Themes - Mission and Evangelism:
  1. Dialogue with churches and mission boards, societies and agencies to encourage a deeper understanding of and commitment to common witness and an increased practice of relationship and cooperation in mission.
  2. Promotion of reflection on authentic evangelism and enhanced commitment to its practice.-
  3. Encouragement of an understanding and practice of the mission of the churches as solidarity with the poor and marginalized.
  4. Assistance to the churches in understanding and carrying out their mission of promoting health, healing and wholeness.
  5. Promotion of ecumenical study and reflection on mission issues.
Issues and Themes -- Justice, Peace and Creation:<
  1. Supporting struggles for life in dignity in just and sustainable communities and analyzing the impact of globalization.
  2. Engaging churches and peace movements in addressing issues of violence and non-violence.
  3. Promoting life-centred ethics which affirms the inter-relatedness of justice, peace and creation.
  4. Advocacy for just and inclusive communities.
  5. Nurturing a vision earth as home and affirming a spirituality that is faithful to the voice of the earth and the children of the earth.
Issues and Themes - Education and Ecumenical Formation:
  1. Promoting reflection on, commitment to and practice of ecumenical learning and the development of ecumenical awareness in churches and networks at local, and global levels.
  2. Educational and pedagogical support for WCC study, programmes.
  3. Promotion of the development of lay leadership and reflection on the theology and ecclesiology of the laity as the people of God.
  4. Promotion of human resource development by the churches through the WCC Scholarships Programme.
  5. Assistance to churches in undertaking ecumenical theological education and ministerial formation, and support for the work of networks of theological schools.
Relations -- Church and Ecumenical Relations:
  1. Relationships with and between WCC member churches and their staff responsible for ecumenical affairs.
  2. Relationships with the Roman Catholic Church and with other churches which are not members of the WCC, especially evangelical, Pentecostal, Holiness and African Instituted churches.
  3. Relationships with regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches, Christian World Communions and international ecumenical organizations.
  4. Relationships with churches and ecumenical bodies and networks in the United States through the US office of the WCC and the US Conference.
  5. Coordination of programmes introducing the WCC and its work to visiting groups coming to the Ecumenical Centre.
  6. Follow-through the proposal to establish a "Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations".
Relations - Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing:
  1. Analysis and interpretation of the political, economic, social-cultural, religious and ecumenical situation in each region to assist the WCC and ecumenical partners in developing a comprehensive and collaborative ecumenical response to the realities and priorities of the regions.
  2. Facilitation of platforms such as regional groups and round tables for analysis, dialogue and cooperation with regional partners and agencies involved in development and ecumenical diakonia, mediation when necessary, and the building of South-North and South-South partnerships.
  3. Facilitation of human development and capacity-building to equip churches and ecumenical organizations in their ecumenical diakonia, including gender analysis and perspectives, institution and leadership development, self-reliance and viability of ecumenical partners, and coordination with Action by Churches Together (ACT) in emergency response and preparedness.
  4. Support for and strengthening of efforts by churches and, church related organizations in each region to help communities in the daily struggle for life with dignity and to respond to the concerns of people in critical situations. including street children, women and uprooted people.
Relations - International Relations:
  1. Monitoring and interpreting national and international political developments, and promoting actions of solidarity with victims of injustice, violence and displacement occurring as a result of these developments.
  2. Defence of human rights and religious freedom, especially through assisting churches and others in situations of religious intolerance and through efforts to replace, cultures of impunity by actions for truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation.
  3. Effective protection of the rights of uprooted people, greater awareness of their situation and assistance to churches and ecumenical partners in their ministries with the uprooted.
  4. Efforts to overcome violence through the elimination of nuclear weapons, effective control and reduction of conventional weapons, and the development of non-violent approaches to the prevention, mediation and resolution of conflicts.
  5. Coordination of an effective presence of the WCC and ecumenical partners in the United Nations and its related agencies.
Relations -- Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue:
  1. Relations between Christians and neighbours of other faiths, especially through the relations of the WCC to interfaith bodies and organizations of other faiths.
  2. Initiation of bilateral and multilateral dialogue with partners of other faiths to build trust, meet common challenges and address conflictive and divisive issues.
  3. Encouragement of Christian reflection on religious plurality and its significance for Christian identity and witness.
  4. Exploration of issues related to the beliefs of Indigenous Peoples and to the rise of new religious movements.
  5. Assessment of major trends in relations between faith communities and in the role of religion in the world.
Communication - Publications and Documentation:
  1. Publication and distribution of books, a periodical ecumenical journal, other publications and electronic media products.
  2. Maintenance of the ecumenical library and archives (print, sound and visual) as a resource for staff and researchers.
  3. Provision of required translation services in WCC working languages and other languages, coordination of translation and interpretation services for conferences, advice on language issues, maintenance of an up-to-date record of ecumenical terminology.
  4. Encouragement and support for outside bodies in the distribution of ecumenical and WCC communication materials in a variety of languages.
  5. Retail sale of WCC communication materials in the Ecumenical Centre and at important ecumenical events.
  6. Contacts with theological seminaries and faculties regarding the development of resources for the academic study of ecumenism.
Communication - Public Information:
  1. Relations with staff responsible for communication, in member churches and ecumenical partner organizations.
  2. Relations with secular, church and ecumenical media outlets and representatives, including Ecumenical News International.
  3. Encouragement and support of communication strategies and skills in the teams and promotion of exchange of information within the WCC staff.
  4. Development of communication of the WCC through visual media.
  5. Development of electronic communication of the WCC through the World Wide Web.

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