WCC NEWS: A newsletter of the World Council of Churches, August 2000, Number 03

Inside issue number 3
August 2000
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Geneva 2000 elicits disappointment ... and hope

"Geneva 2000" - the NGO forum around the June UN General Assemblyís Special Session on Social Development - left a bittersweet taste in many mouths. An ecumenical team at the forum was disappointed with the results. But they were pleased that churches made a significant impact and cooperated closely with other NGOs: this augurs well for civil society's future ability to sustain and develop efforts to obtain justice for the poor and excluded.

Representatives of churches and other WCC-related organizations in the ecumenical team worked hard before and during "Geneva 2000" to get their views heard there. Hence their disappointment when their demands - eradication of poverty, debt cancellation and limiting large-scale movements of speculative capital - were not reflected in the Special Session's results. Still, according to team member Bernardino Mandlate, Methodist bishop of Maputo (Mozambique), intense discussion showed that "some of our concerns are finding fertile ground".

Geneva 2000 ecumenical team.

The ecumenical team organized by the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation kept a high profile before and during "Geneva 2000". Members came from worldwide WCC networks, member churches, religious groups and related organizations, with priority going to representatives from the South, women and Indigenous Peoples. To make the churchesí point of view on social development known, they lobbied government delegates to the forum and organized public round-tables, worship services and street demonstrations.

Members of the ecumenical team and other NGO representatives were particularly angry about a report entitled "A Better World for All", issued jointly by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan with senior officials of the OECD, the World Bank and the IMF. For WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, presenting the report at the opening of "Geneva 2000" was "a propaganda exercise" for the very institutions whose policies help prevent social development. By undermining its independence and authority, the report did "considerable damage to the credibility of the UN", Raiser said.

In reply, Annan defended the report on grounds that it contains the UNís "targets and objectives" for social development, for which the international financial organizations "now express their support as well". He acknowledged, however, that the controversial document is hardly more than a "compendium of desirable targets and objectives", and regretted that it "did not make a stronger and more explicit case" for the measures neeeded to achieve these - for example, debt relief, access to industrialized-country markets for the least-developed countries, and an increase in official development assistance.

The future holds new challenges and opportunities for churches and NGOs engaged in the struggle for development with a human focus. The part they played in "Geneva 2000" suggests they are well equipped to tackle them. As Joy Kennedy, a team member from the Anglican Church of Canada, said: "We are getting clearer about whatís needed. We are coming together."

Following the Geneva 2000 meeting, the WCC held discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the request of these two organizations.

More information: Geneva 2000

Former WCC general secretary Emilio Castro and IADB President Enrique Iglesias

Former WCC general secretary Emilio Castro and IADB President Enrique Iglesias

For more information visit the following web sites:
Latin American Council of Churches
Inter-American Development Bank

Latin America: IADB meets with protestant church leaders

Taking their first step towards a concerted effort to help the continentís poor, representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Protestant and Evangelical churches in Latin America met in Washington end April on "the struggle against poverty in Latin America". Some 230 million people live below the poverty line on that continent, which has the world's greatest inequality in income and opportunities distribution.

In a series launched by IADB president Enrique Iglesias, the April meeting followed earlier meetings with the Roman Catholic Church and Jewish communities in the region. After the meeting - organized by the IADB and the WCC and jointly sponsored by the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and the Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL) - church participants reported that while a number of prejudices and preconceptions had been cleared up, views on key issues continued to differ.

Stating its position in a paper entitled "Jubilee in a time of globalization", the 24-member church delegation called for an ethical revolution based on the biblical idea of Jubilee. Only such a revolution can change the present exploitation of nature and unjust distribution of economic resources, the paper said; Jubilee principles include responsible treatment of the environment, the right to life, good stewardship of material resources and the duty to do justice.

On the IADB side, senior officials shared information about the economic and social situation in Latin America and stressed the need to combat corruption. They also pointed out that social spending is not a major source of fiscal instability, but an essential investment in development. Among external factors aggravating poverty, the meeting identified the constant growth of foreign debt, falling prices for Latin American exports, protectionism in the developed countries and the uncontrolled flow of speculative capital.

Cancellation of foreign debt as urged by the church leaders was a point of disagreement. The IADB president insisted that cancellation would not eradicate poverty on the sub-continent. And when church leaders suggested that financial resources could be channelled through their congregations and organizations, the answer was that this could only be done by government agencies. Participants agreed, however, on the need to restore the ethical dimension in economic life and that that implies searching for new forms of cooperation in the fight against poverty. They suggested that churches cooperate with the IADB in defining policies and monitoring and evaluating bank programmes. The IADB for its part could train church members as facilitators for integrated development and help strengthen the churchesí service capacity.

Some of the participants in the study visit

Some of the participants in the study visit

US young adults to work for "the peace of Jerusalem"

In July thirteen young adults from the US on a study visit to Jerusalem committed themselves to building awareness in their churches and expanding advocacy on the different elements in the final status negotiations, particularly the question of Jerusalem.

This was one important outcome of the one-week study and exposure trip sponsored by the WCC. The young adult participants were introduced to the realities of the local situation through direct contacts with young people, political leaders, human-rights activists and members of local churches. They also attended a two-day seminar on the status of Jerusalem - a key issue in the Middle East peace process in that both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital and three religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) consider it their holy city.

The WCC has addressed the question of Jerusalem on numerous occasions since 1948. Its recent assembly in Harare (1998) reaffirmed the conviction that the three religions concerned "share responsibility to cooperate to ensure that Jerusalem be a city open to the adherents of all three". In addition, the assembly noted that "Jerusalem must remain an open and inclusive city" and that it "must be a shared city in terms of sovereignty and citizenship". At its last meeting, the central committee stressed that Christians have a responsibility "to pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem".

WCC News

Produced by:
WCC Public Information Team

Guest editor for this issue:
Juan Michel (Argentina)

Managing editor:
Kristine Greenaway

World Council of Churches
150 Route de Ferney
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6111
Fax: (41-22) 791 0361
Web: http://www.wcc-coe.org

For further information write to:
WCC Communication
150 Route de Ferney
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

New stage in WCC-Pentecostal dialogue

WCC relations with Pentecostalism entered a new phase in June this year with the first meeting of a new WCC-Pentecostal Joint Consultative Group.

No Pentecostals attended the first WCC assembly in Amsterdam in 1948. Some did attend the second (Evanston 1954) as observers, and two Pentecostal churches joined the WCC at the third assembly in New Delhi in 1961.

Relations deepened after the seventh assembly (Canberra 1991) emphasized the need for closer relations, which led to the creation of a WCC Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations. Three subsequent consultations with Pentecostals (Lima 1994, San Jose 1996, Bossey 1997) drew on WCC experience in supporting dialogue and cooperation with Pentecostals in Latin America. The eighth assembly (Harare 1998) approved the formation of a WCC-Pentecostal joint consultative group that met for the first time in June in St Pierre de Curtillo (France). Of the 20 participants, ten (including three from WCC Pentecostal member churches) were nominated by the WCC central committee while the other ten were Pentecostals from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.

The group aims at promoting better mutual understanding and reflection on topics of common interest. "There is great diversity both within Pentecostalism and in the ecumenical movement, and it is important that both sides learn to respect and appreciate each otherís diversity," says WCC executive secretary for Latin America Marta Palma, herself a Pentecostal.

The June meeting was a first step in this direction according to Cecilia Castillo, a pastor of the Pentecostal Mission Church of Chile. "Sharing our experiences of life and work with others has been important and extremely enriching for our daily living, our view of the present situation and our practice of the faith," she commented.

Rather than concentrating uniquely on documents, the group decided to place more emphasis on living experience. Suggested approaches included testimonies, oral theology in a context of prayer and worship, workshops, sharing in small groups and Bible study.

To extend and enhance participation the group considered organizing regional consultations alongside its own meetings, in cooperation with local ecumenical and Pentecostal organizations. Representatives of WCC member churches and Pentecostal churches in the region could take part. This might be a way of tackling what Castillo and Palma agree is an important challenge to the group's efforts to promote dialogue: how adequately to incorporate the Pentecostal movement's tremendous dynamism in the countries of the South.

Although the group did not draw up an agenda, it identified themes to be dealt with at its next meetings, beginning with "mutual perceptions": How do Pentecostals perceive the WCC, its member churches and the ecumenical movement, and vice versa? The Group will meet again next June in Quito, Ecuador.

For more information contact Ms Marta Palma

Marlin VanElderen
Marlin VanElderen

Marlin VanElderen
"In many ways he became not only the living memory but the conscience of the WCC in search of a new self-affirmation," said WCC general secretary Rev Dr. Konrad Raiser in his tribute to WCC executive editor Marlin VanElderen, who died on Monday 12 June aged 54.

A member of the Christian Reformed Church in the USA, VanElderen's unexpected and untimely death following a massive heart attack deeply saddened his colleagues in the Council and all who knew him in the worldwide ecumenical community.

A staff member of the Council for almost twenty years, Marlin VanElderen "leaves a gap that will not be filled for a long time", Raiser said.

(Contributions to the Marlin VanElderen Fund for the Development of Ecumenical Literature may be made to: Post Office account: CCP 12-572-3, or Bank account: UBS Geneva, no. 240-695149.00A)

More information: Tribute to Marlin VanElderen, 1946-2000.

Janice Love
Janice Love

Kathryn Bannister
Kathryn Bannister

Ecumenical commitment honoured
Dr Janice Love and the Rev. Kathryn Bannister have received special honours from the United Methodist Church of the United States for their commitment to the ecumenical movement. Love (47), associate professor of government and international relations at the University of South Carolina, has attended all the WCC assemblies since Nairobi (1975), where she was a youth delegate, and has been a member of the WCCís central and executive committees.

Bannister (29), the minister of four Methodist congregations in Rush County, Kansas, is the youngest of the eight WCC presidents elected at the Harare assembly (1998), and was a member of central committee following the Canberra assembly (1991).

Love and Bannister share the ecumenical vision and enthusiasm. "If we take seriously what we share in the eucharist," Love says, "we have no alternative but to get involved in efforts to overcome our divisions."

For Bannister, "it is very exciting to introduce the Council to others post-Harare, and to listen to people, reflect on new methodologies, meet people face-to-face, build relationships".

Jose Ramos Horta
Jose Ramos Horta
No to impunity
Calling for perpetrators of atrocities in his country to be brought to justice, East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta insisted that only an end to impunity "can prevent crimes against humanity from occurring time and time again". On a mid-April visit to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Ramos Horta, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with the Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, thanked the ecumenical movement for its support to his countryís independence. East Timor has been occupied by Indonesia for almost half a century; some 200,000 Timorese are thought to have lost their lives as a result. In August last year, when the population voted for independence from Indonesia in a UN-supervised referendum, tens of thousands more terror victims were forced to flee the country.

More information: Indonesia and East Timor: The Ecumenical Response

Vatche Manoukian Donation to Decade to Overcome Violence
Armenian philanthropist and benefactor Vatche Manoukian recently donated US$100,000 to the WCC-sponsored Decade to Overcome Violence. Announcing the donation, WCC central committee moderator His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Cilicia), described it as "a tangible manifestation of Mr Manoukianís concern for justice and peace and respect for human rights". Manoukian, his wife and son are pictured here with Aram I at a banquet at which the donation was announced.

More information: Decade to Overcome Violence

Juan Michel
Juan Michel
Guest editor
The guest editor of this issue of WCC News is Juan Michel, communications and publications officer of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate (IERP), and Buenos Aires correspondent of the Latin American and Caribbean News Agency (ALC) . Michel edits the IERPís monthly magazine and is responsible for the churchís media relations. IERP is a WCC member church with congregations in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. "Trying to make a Protestant evangelical viewpoint heard in the public debate in a context of extreme social exclusion is a very difficult but challenging task for us as a religious minority", says Michel.

Peace to the City in Music and Dance

Peace to the City
in music and dance

More information: Deace to the City dance production

Peace to the City in music and dance

A dance theatre production, "Peace to the City", will be staged for the first time ever on 2 September at the Christ Pavilion at World EXPO 2000 in Hanover (Germany).

"Peace to the City" uses music, dance, song and poetry to tell the story of what churches and communities are doing to contribute to peace and reconciliation in their respective contexts. Sponsored by the WCC as part of its Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010), the production is based on local initiatives in seven cities and five continents in the WCCís "Peace to the City" network.

Conceived by Brazilian artist and theologian Lusmarina Campos Garcia, the show involves two Brazilian groups: choreographer Marcia Milhazes' contemporary dance company, and the Aquarius music trio.

After the premiere at EXPO 2000 the production will tour churches, schools and theatres across Europe from 18 September to 2 October.

Next year the dance theatre goes on stage at the Church Women United assembly in Milwaukee (USA) in July, and then tours several US cities.

(Churches and organizations interested in scheduling a "Peace to the City" performance should contact: WCC Public Information Team, PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, Tel.: +41 22 791 6398, E-mail: ses@wcc-coe.org, ka@wcc-coe.org)

Recent WCC publications

David G. Hallman

How can we tackle contemporary threats to the earth and to human life? The author suggests a return to spiritual values like gratitude, humility, sufficiency, justice, peace, love, and faith and hope. The book explains how these can inspire respect for the earth and help to build sustainable communities. It also offers concrete examples of people putting this into practice, suggestions for study groups and a bibliography. Sfr.15.00, US$9,95, £6.50, English only.

Marc Reuver

Juridical Perspectives for the Ecumenical Movement
The churches are not divided only by doctrine and worship; legal structures and forms of organization also play a part. After examining the historical development of canon law and church order in the Protestant, Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, the book sets out the implications of ecumenism for this central, but often overlooked aspect of church life. Sfr.15.00, US$9.95, £6.50, English only.

World Council of Churches

A useful handbook of WCC
member churches, regional and international ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches and world confessional bodies. An introductory essay provides a detailed survey of the main events in the life of the ecumenical movement in 1999. It includes a list of WCC central committee members and staff, a chart of WCC structures and its constitution and rules. Sfr.9.90, US$6.90, £3.95, English only.

An illustrated brochure outlining the rationale and goals of the Decade, and presenting a series of questions that will help to raise the topic of overcoming violence at the level of local Christian communities and social organizations. Available in bulk on request, end August, in English, French, German, Spanish and Russian. Free of charge.

WCC Publications
Catalogue 2000

Contains a complete list of books, periodicals and audiovisual resources published by the WCC. English only. Free of charge.


Information brochure on seminars, workshops and graduate school courses. English, French, German. Free of charge.

Ecumenical connections

The WCC general secretary will lead WCC delegations to:

  • 08 - 09 September: The Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany.
  • 11 - 14 September: The churches in Armenia.
  • 14 - 28 October: The churches in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

    He will also attend:
  • 27 - 30 August: The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, New York, USA.

    Forthcoming visits and meetings in Geneva:

  • 30 August - 03 September A delegation of the leadership of the Church of Sweden.
  • 11 September: A group of Korean pastors and persons engaged in social services in the Presbyterian Church of Korea.
  • 12 - 14 September Bishop Johannes Friedrich of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria, Germany.
  • 18 - 22 September: The mission, ecumenism and development staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of WŁrttemberg, Germany.
  • 26 - 29 September: WCC executive committee meeting.
  • 03 - 04 October Consultation on "Mission and Ecumenical Cooperation" between Latin American and European churches.

  • Rapid and Decisive Action by the UN in Sierra Leone

    Responding to an urgent appeal from the countryís Inter-Religious Council, the WCC in May called for rapid and decisive action by the UN in Sierra Leone to "implement with vigour and strength its full mandate to protect peace and prevent the country from descending again into chaos and destruction". The WCC "knows first-hand the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone", where eight years of civil war have left more than 50,000 people dead, half a million displaced and some hundred thousand mutilated. A WCC delegation headed by its general secretary will visit the country next October.

    For more information: Press Update (15.05.00)

    Orthodox reaffirm ecumenical commitment

    "We reaffirm our commitment to the ecumenical movement through the World Council of Churches and our serious engagement in the work of the Special Commission that aims at a greater Orthodox participation and role in the WCC," says a final statement from the third meeting of the heads of Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle East.

    Attending the 4-9 May meeting in the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (Antelias, Lebanon) were: Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark; Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; and Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Cilicia).

    At an 8 May service marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, the three Orthodox leaders addressed a pastoral letter to the faithful in their churches urging them "to extend [their] diakonia to the needy, to become the witnesses of peace and justice, and to avoid violence and hatred".

    The leaders also encouraged the faithful "besides maintaining the integrity and credibility of our Orthodox faith... to remain open and responsive to new progress and new challenges in different realms of contemporary societies".

    Following renewed outbreaks of "fratricidal ethnic conflict" in Sri Lanka ...

    in early May, the WCC called upon the government and the Tamil Tiger rebel group "to lay down their arms now and to assume fully their shared responsibility to prevent further loss of precious human lives". The WCC welcomed a recent statement by the National Council of Churches in Sri Lanka, affirming that "a negotiated political settlement is the only means by which the conflict can be ended" and calling on both sides "to engage in immediate talks leading to a cessation of hostilities and the commencement of serious, bona fide negotiations". The last 17 years of the 30-year ethnic conflict between the Singhalese majority and Tamil minority have been especially ferocious, leaving a total of over 60,000 civilian victims.

    The withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon...

    in May was warmly welcomed by the WCC as "a step in the right direction". But the Council warned that without full implementation of all relevant UN resolutions the Middle East peace process is still in danger. Reaffirming its solidarity with the Lebanese people and its commitment to reconstruction, the WCC also expressed concern for the safety of minorities in the liberated zones.

    For more information: Press Release (29.05.00) and Press Update (31.05.00)

    Rev. Dr Konrad Raiserís visit to Haiti...

    in mid-May was the first paid to the Caribbean country by a WCC general secretary. Arriving amidst growing social and political tension, Raiserís chief objective was to garner first-hand information about the situation and life of the churches in this context. In his interviews with Haitian authorities, Raiser emphasized the local churchesí dismay at the deteriorating social situation and lack of legitimate government following the dissolution of parliament in January last year. Parliamentary elections held on 21 May, shortly after Raiserís visit, were monitored by an international team of ecumenical observers sponsored by the WCC and LWF. The team noted a number of irregularities in the election process and declined to act as observers in the second round.

    More information: Press release (09.05.00), Press Update(16.05.00), and Press Update (19.05.00)

    Escalating Conflict in the Malukus...

    has prompted the WCC to request the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to visit Indonesia immediately "to urge the government to stop the human-rights violations and atrocities being committed... by intruders backed and supported by the Indonesian army". The 18-months of violent confrontation between Muslim and (minority) Christian communities have left more than 3000 people dead and tens of thousands of refugees. In early June the situation deteriorated so much that the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) declared it was "threatening the very existence of the Christian community" in the islands.

    More information: Press Update (14.07.00)

    The role of Christian organizations in the fight against AIDS...

    was highlighted during the 13th international AIDS conference in Durban (South Africa), in mid-July. The WCCís Health and Healing team helped facilitate the International Christian AIDS Network (ICAN)ís participation, and ran a workshop with ICAN on innovative AIDS work by Christian groups.

    For more information contact Dr Manoj Kurian

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