World Council of Churches
Potsdam, Germany
29 January - 6 February 2001
Document No. GS 3



1. 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 General 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 Continuing the work done at its last meeting, the Programme Committee reviewed the planning cycle. This includes both the cycle of meetings relating to Central Committee and the consultative bodies, staff and budgetary cycles. There was some frustration that this meeting of the Programme Committee was more than twelve months after some of the consultative bodies had met. A need for clarification was expressed concerning the relationships between the Executive Committee who have a monitoring and oversight responsibility for programmes and the role of the Programme Committee. In the second phase of its meeting during the Central Committee the Programme Committee expects to return to these issues.

2. Reception of Reports
The Programme Committee received reports of the consultative bodies [namely Commissions, Advisory Groups and Boards] that the Central Committee had set up at its last meeting, with the exception of a report from the Faith and Order Standing Commission, which had reported to the previous Programme Committee meeting. A brief oral introduction was given to the written reports. The Programme Committee had the opportunity for questions and comments.

The Committee also received Programme Cluster Activity Reports produced by the staff together with the planning document from Vision to Action 2001. For information reports were tabled to provide an over-view of the Council-wide activities of DOV, the Advocacy Alliance and the work of the Special Commission.

All these reports enabled members of the Programme Committee to begin to have an overview of the programmatic work of the Council in the last 18 months and to look to the future.

The Programme Committee warmly expressed its thanks to the staff and to all the consultative bodies for the work that is represented in these reports.

In reflecting on all the written reports the Programme Committee:

The Reports received are listed in an appendix to this report. Members of the Central Committee who wish to see any of these documents may request specific copies from Brigitte Constant via the Information desk. Central Committee is reminded that the Programme Committee works in English and only English versions of the reports are available. Members of the Central Committee should also note that a full set of documents consists of 180+ pages!!

3. Programmatic work in relation to the thematic framework
In addition to receiving the reports that expressed the breadth of the life and work of the WCC, the Programme Committee heard how the work relates to the four themes set as a framework.

Whilst it is impossible in this brief report to do justice to the breadth and variety of work being undertaken, it is hoped that the following brief synopsis will give Central Committee members a flavour of some of the work and enable them to share some of the Programme Committee's delight at what has been happening. It should be remembered that such a systematic listing of the work inevitably does not show how much work relates to more than one theme, and that there are also inter-relationships between programmes, (see diagram below).

Being Church:

Caring for Life Ministry of Reconciliation Common witness and service amidst Globalization These lists are by no means exhaustive.

4. Emerging Trends Facing the Churches and Society
The work of the Council needs to be continually reviewed in the light of emerging trends facing churches and society. The Programme Committee was helped to reflect on emerging trends at this time by a staff presentation. The following emerging trends and challenges were identified:

  1. Assertion of Identity: There are many different attempts world-wide to assert identity, be it national, ethnic or other types of identity. It occurs in churches in relation to mission training. The consequences can be racism, competition in mission, and the belonging to an ecumenical body for gain rather than out of calling and vision of unity.
    Being Church: Specifically, what does it mean to be church in a given context? There is a need to re-imagine the vision and role of national councils of churches in areas of conflict resolution and the meaning of mission into the 21st century.
  2. The Meaning of Solidarity in the 21st Century: In the 20th Century Solidarity was about identification with the victim. How can we move to a broader vision of mutual partnership? How do we move to solidarity that includes mutual accountability?
  3. The Human Yearning for Truth and Justice: What is the contribution of the churches to this search? How can there be accountability in relation to the past, how do we deal with issues of impunity amidst repentance, forgiveness and restitution, and how can we live affirming human dignity?
  4. Crisis of legitimacies: In many ways traditional identities come into question: legitimacies of social interventions, forms of mission, or institutions and even nation states.
  5. Spirituality as a critical dimension of all areas of life: For example churches are invited into dialogue about the nature of development, democracy, the sustainability of creation etc. Churches need to be able both to respond and to critique the reasons for their being invited into such dialogue.
5. Initial Discussion on the Programmatic Work of the Council
After receiving the reports and hearing perspectives on the work of the Council from staff regarding the work within a framework and the emerging trends, small groups of the Programme Committee reflected upon the presentations. The Programme Committee noted that there are several topics that promote integration and coherence within the work of the entire Council, such as DOV, Africa, globalization, etc.

Upon reflection, similar themes were found in the reports of the teams and staff groups. This was seen as an expression of the interconnectedness that exists within the work of the staff and served to provide hope for the future work of the Council through the implementation of the CUV process. What follows is a first and tentative assessment and reaction to all that had been presented to the participants, noting that this information will be helpful for the on-going evaluation process to be carried out by the Programme Committee. Central Committee members should be aware that at this stage some of the following comments received more or less agreement by the full programme Committee.

The following material is listed in the order given in a document used by the Programme Committee called, The World Council of Churches Planning Documents, 2001 (Pro 17).

Ecumenical Institute Bossey. Many consider Bossey valuable in developing methodologies for the critical task of training and preparing ecumenical leaders for the future. Bossey also serves an important function in maintaining the memory of the ecumenical movement and by providing a unique space for the development and encounter of different contextual theologies.

Special Commission. The Special Commission is crucial to the future life of the Council. The Commission’s reports will initiate debate and discussion regarding issues that are at the heart of the Council’s life and work, contributing to our future self-understanding as a Council and helping to deepen the fellowship among us.

Human Sexuality The Council has developed a reference group to assist staff and others in exploring this topic. Recognizing the extreme delicacy of this issue, it can serve as a model for how the Council can provide space for dialogue on topics that deeply divide our churches. We look forward to a report to the Central Committee in the future.

Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace. Even before its official "launch" many across the world embraced the Decade and envisioned ways that it could support efforts toward justice and peace. The assembly has issued a challenge to the churches to take part in overcoming violence, be it direct or structural, especially in light of the deep yearning among our people to build lasting peace grounded in justice. The DOV can facilitate a broadening of the fellowship between member and non-member churches.

Education and Ecumenical Formatio. Reports of staff indicate that member churches are requesting further resources for educational initiatives. Participants noted that, across the world, there is an increasing sense that denominational or confessional structures are gaining priority and are seen in competition to ecumenical structures. The WCC can support people in member churches and other ecclesial bodies searching for ecumenical ways of "being church." Education and ecumenical formation is needed at all levels, from the children to the elders of our churches. Particular attention needs to be given to a new generation of ecumenical leadership. Through these programs, the Council can encourage the building of the fellowship of churches in each place. Spirituality and liturgy can also serve as important forms of ecumenical sharing.

Faith and Order. The work of this program is essential to the present and future of the Council. The studies of the Commission, such as those addressing baptism, ecclesiology, theological anthropology, and identity all anticipate challenges and hopes that come before the Council. Most importantly, Faith and Order can assist churches to understand better what is meant by ecclesiological phrases such as "being church" and "visible unity."

Justice Peace and Creation. Caring for and encouraging a culture of life, peace and inclusiveness is at the heart of the Council’s work. In a time when people across the world are asserting their identities in many different forms, there is a need for the affirmation of people’s dignity in diversity and for supporting the commitment to the unity of the church for the renewal of human community. Recent reports on the environment and climatic change demonstrate the importance of caring for the creation amidst the threat that massive development poses to the sustainability of human and other forms of life on earth.

Mission and Evangelism. In looking at the different perspectives of the various traditions with regard to mission, evangelism and witness, the discipline of common prayer amongst other things can help in understanding the diverse and, at times, conflicting perspectives. Awareness has grown of the way at times and in some places there can be a sense of competition among the churches, marked by an insensitivity to each other’s tradition and history, even though these same churches are members of the same fellowships of churches. How does mission take place, whereby there is mutual strengthening of one another in the face of the world’s problems and a mutual respect with regard to diversity? In addition, careful reflection on the issues concerning the gospel and culture studies that have taken place need to continue.

Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing. Throughout the world, Christians in different regions seek to foster stronger relations, improve their quality of life, and build greater capacity for the sharing of resources. Sharing focuses on the integration of prophetic diakonia and ecumenical advocacy for building a sustainable community. In the face of tensions posed by the world, we need to define the solidarity that binds us together through the gospel. The WCC can support churches, regional ecumenical organizations, and other ecumenical partners in supporting ecumenical sharing and solidarity.

Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue. Inter-religious work has to concentrate increasingly on conflicts that have religious dimensions. Given the alarming and increasing tensions that lead to conflicts between peoples of different religions, the importance and necessity for inter-religious dialogue cannot be overemphasized. There exist within religious traditions powerful tools for peacemaking. Dialogue is only a first step that can lead to common actions. Given the enormous challenges facing this work member churches can create models to assist the Council in attempting to achieve its objectives.

International Relations The WCC provides a valuable and unique forum where Christians from many countries gather for common learning, reflection and joint action. It has provided a place for people, even from opposing sides of deep conflicts, to come together, not only for discussion and learning, but in recognition that they live together in the world. The Council can assist churches to share models of reconciliation and address global crises (such as the alarming rise in number of uprooted peoples and the proliferation of small arms).

Church and Ecumenical Relations. We lift up before the group the crucial issues of who we are as a Council and how we consider membership in a World Council of Churches. Additionally, we recognize the inherent tension between twin desires: a yearning to strengthen the bonds between us as members of the Council and, at the same time, a desire to broaden the participation in the life of the Council. We cannot overemphasize our need for creative consideration of new ways of relationship among us and deeper understanding of what it means "to be church." We hope for a renewed spirit among us in order to discern how God calls us today.

Communication. There is a need for Central Committee members to become good communicators about the work of the WCC. This can take place through education efforts by the staff and by the provision of resources that can be taken back to member churches. Central committee members are further encouraged to share their stories of communicating the programmes of the WCC, especially the DOV.

6. Evaluation
The Programme Committee has a responsibility to "provide for and make recommendations for regular evaluations of programmes and activities." (Rule VII 3d.) The discussions referred to above are a part of the beginnings of that process which the Programme Committee expects to continue in the second phase of its work during this Central Committee meeting. It will use the criteria adopted at the last Central Committee meeting.

Part of the evaluation task of the Programme Committee involves consideration of the coherence and integration of the work with the thematic framework. The Programme Committee has noted, and draws to the attention of the Central Committee that sometimes there can be an inherent tension between different priorities of the work of the Council. Examples highlighted by the Programme Committee include: i) the desire to both "broaden" and "deepen" the fellowship of the Council; and ii) the objectives of the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace alongside parts of the Study on the Use of Armed force in support of Humanitarian Purposes.

7. Financial Situation
The Programme Committee heard from finance staff members concerning the projected budget deficit for the year 2001. Committee members sought clarification concerning the details. The Programme Committee clearly understands that the financial situation has severe implications for the programmatic work The trend towards increasing amount of funding being designated raises questions about the "fellowship" of the WCC as opposed to it becoming an administrative body of churches and funding partners.

Within the discussion the Programme Committee suggested that staff of the Income Monitoring Office participate in the meetings of the Programme Committee in order to gain a greater understanding about the programmatic work and to keep matters of finance before the programme committee throughout its discussions. The Programme Committee encourages the development of a three year financial strategy alongside the three year planning cycle. The Programme Committee also requests that the Council`s budget income be shown with both operational and activities details.

8. Actions for Central Committee

8.1 Conference on World Mission and Evangelism
The Programme Committee received the proposal concerning the next World Mission and Evangelism Conference from the CWME Commission. It noted the Executive Committee`s encouragement of this proposal. The Programme Committee recommends to the Central Committee that they affirm the holding of a Conference on World Mission and Evangelism. The Programme Committee recognized both the importance and impact of previous conferences upon the life of the member churches, and that mission and evangelism are at the heart of the self-understanding of many of the member churches. The Programme Committee invites the comments of the Central Committee concerning the timing of the Conference in relation to other events in the life of the Council and of member churches.

8.2 Ecumenical Disabilities Advocacy Network (EDAN)
Recommendations have come to the Programme Committee to assist the WCC on further reflection upon the issues around disability. The Programme Committee recommends that the Central Committee have a padare offering at the 2002 meeting on this theme, and that a special plenary be held at the meeting in 2003. The plenary would present the second interim theological and ecclesiological statement being prepared for the churches by EDAN/JPC with the Faith and Order Commission as a framework for their advocacy and pastoral role with the disabled.

8.3 Churches to Churches Visits
The Programme Committee recognized the value and the potential of churches to churches visits, that is members of the fellowship visiting one another. During these visits some discussion could take place about the programmatic work of the Council and its relevance to member churches. In the second phase of its work at the Central Committee the Programme Committee will consider whether to bring a formal recommendation on this matter to the Central Committee. To assist it in its discussions the Programme Committee invites the comments of member of the Central Committee concerning this, recognising the realities of resource issues, both financial and human.

Appendix -Reports before the Programme Committee

Cluster Activity Reports
PRO 5.1 Activity Report - Cluster on Relations
PRO 5.2 Activity Report - Cluster in Issues and Themes
PRO 5.3 Activity Report - Cluster on Communication
PRO 12 Activity Report - The Ecumenical Institute Bossey

Reports from Consultative Bodies - meeting Jan-Apr 2000
PRO 6 Report of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
PRO 7 Report of the Advisory Group on Communication
PRO 8 Report of the Advisory Group on Women
PRO 9 Report of the Advisory Group on Youth
PRO 10 Report of the Advisory Group on Justice, Peace and Creation
PRO 11 Report of the Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation
PRO 13 Report of the Advisory Group on Church and Ecumenical Relations
PRO 14 Report of the Advisory Group on Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing
PRO 15 Report of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism
PRO 15A Proposal for a World Mission Conference
PRO 16 Report of the Advisory Group on Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue
PRO 17 From Vision to Action

Reports for Information
PRO 18 Communiqué of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC
PRO 19 Report of the Joint Consultative Group - World Council of Churches and Pentecostals
PRO 20 Decade to Overcome Violence
PRO 20.1 An Interpretative Report of the Responses to the WCC’s Initiative to the Decade to Overcome Violence Process
PRO 21 The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
PRO 21.1 Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Founding Meeting, Final Communiqué
PRO 22 Evaluation of Ecumenical News International (ENI) for the World Council of Churches (WCC), November 2000

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