Inside Issue N°9 - October 2002

A better way than violence
Special Commission Report provokes lively debate
Solidarity for Palestinian Christians
People (in memoriam)
People (new staff)
Search starts for next WCC general secretary
Brazil to host WCC's ninth assembly
75th anniversary of Faith and Order
Steps to improve WCC finances
Globalization a danger, says WCC moderator
Boy's moving testimony in Sudan's quest for peace
Online Giving

This issue's Guest Editor
Recent resources
General information on the WCC News

A better way than violence

Churches in the Pacific have pledged to work together to overcome violence in their communities, The pledge was made at the 11-18 September Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) assembly in Rarotonga, Cook Islands; at the assembly, World Council of Churches’ (WCC) member churches in the Pacific launched the Decade to Overcome Violence in their region.

Referring to the gospel vision of peace as a source of hope for change, Archbishop Sir Ellison Pogo of Melanesia said: “Christ has shown us a better way than violence.” Delegates spoke of the violence of armed conflict in the Pacific, the intrusion of transnational corporations acquiring national resources and distorting national economies, as well as of many forms of violence in local communities and families.

The churches promised to ask themselves how far their own words and deeds increase the potential of violence; set up signs for non-violent ways of living together in congregations, movements and groups; try methods of non-violent conflict resolution; and work.

Special Commission report provokes lively debate

From right to left: Special Commission co-moderator, Bishop Rolf Koppe of the Department of Ecumenical Affairs and Ministries Abroad of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), past moderator of the United Church of Canada Marion Best, WCC deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos and Karin Achtelstetter, WCC media relations officer, at a press conference following discussion in central committee on the Special Commission report.

The report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches (WCC) provoked lively debate on 29 August and 3 September during a meeting of the WCC central committee in Geneva.

The debate focused mainly on distinctions between confessional and interconfessional “common prayer”. The report recommended, inter alia, that planners of common prayer attempt to be sensitive to issues which might be difficult for some participants. One such concern is the leadership of women.

The report suggested that “planners should refrain from taking a confrontational stance on the question of ordination of women by implying that the current practice of a particular church is the only possible Christian position on the issue”. Orthodox and some Protestant churches do not ordain women.

Recognizing the weight of the argument that “if we cannot pray together, we cannot stay together”, and the value of common prayer “in situations of courage, renewal and inspiration”, the central committee “received” the recommended proposal for common prayer as a “framework document” and commended it for consideration at WCC gatherings.

The question of whether to replace voting with consensus as a method of decision-making at WCC meetings also provoked debate at the meeting. Some supported consensus as an opportunity for all perspectives to be heard and a common mind to be reached in a prayerful spirit. Others feared that small minorities could block timely and prophetic action by the WCC. The central committee agreed to test the process of consensus at its next two meetings in 2003 and 2005, work out appropriate procedures, and report to the WCC’s ninth assembly in 2006.

As recommended by the Special Commission, the central committee approved the establishment of a permanent committee on consensus and collaboration as an advisory body. Among the issues already referred to this committee are matters relating to “common prayer”, including its ecclesial nature, and the development of the life of common prayer within the fellowship of the WCC.

The central committee also approved revisions to WCC membership categories, which will now include member churches and “churches in association with the WCC”.

The Special Commission was created by the WCC’s eighth assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998, notably because of a perception that the “structure, style and ethos” of the WCC was making meaningful Orthodox participation increasingly difficult. The Commission’s final report noted that “strongly held convictions have been vigorously defended” during its deliberations, but affirmed that “the whole engagement has been characterized by a deep respect for one another’s spiritualities and a genuine desire to understand and to accommodate differences of confessional outlook”.

Solidarity for Palestinian Christians

Christians all over the world have been called to support and be in solidarity with Arab, and particularly Palestinian, Christians. This call has come from World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee member Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, who visited Palestine and Israel in August 2002.

Interviewed by WCC News on 28 August, Powell Jackson explained that this had been her third visit to the region in the past 18 months. She represented the WCC in a multifaith delegation led by Rev. Jesse Jackson at the invitation of the Middle East Council of Churches and the Palestinian Authority.

"Our aim was to encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to use non-violent means to solve their conflict," she said. Summarizing the views of the Muslim and Christian leaders they met, "both sides agreed that military means would not provide a solution, and want to end the current cycle of violence," she reported.

Palestinian Christians feel "isolated and forgotten", Powell Jackson emphasized. The conflict, the killings and the physical destruction of property have created despair. "That despair must be replaced with hope," and this requires a new approach of non-violence.

Powell Jackson is executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, a covenanted ministry of the United Church of Christ in the United States. She stressed the need for support by international communities committed to a non-violent approach. "Christians share a specific challenge to assure Palestinian Christians and other Christians in the region that they have not been forgotten."

See also information on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) in Palestine and Israel, with reports from the first group of ecumenical accompaniers.

PEOPLE: In Memoriam

Alan Brash (1913-2002)
After a long and fulfilling ecumenical life, Rev. Dr Alan Brash died on 24 August at his home in Christchurch, Aotearoa-New Zealand, at the age of 89. Having served the World Council of Churches (WCC) as director of Interchurch Aid, Refugee and World Service (1970-74), he was deputy general secretary of the WCC and staff moderator of the-then Unit II for four years from 1974. Upon retirement, Brash was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, and later returned to the national council of churches to become its first regional secretary in Auckland.
Augustina Lumentut (1937-2002)
A staff member of the Council of Churches of Central and Northern Celebes, Indonesia, Rev. Augustina Lumentut died after a short illness on 21 August. Lumentut was elected to the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) central committee at the WCC’s 1983 Vancouver assembly. She is described by Margaret Kirk in Let Justice Flow as an Asian woman who has worked creatively for the liberation of her people in a period of high Christian-Muslim tensions and persecution.
Keith R. Bridston (1924-2002)
An outstanding author and former director of the WCC’s New York office, Dr Keith R. Bridston passed away on 27 July in Tucson, USA. A professor of systematic theology at the Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California (1963-78), Bridston had served earlier as secretary of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva, and as director of the WCC’s Faith and Order commission. He also taught at Nommensen University in Sumatra, where he doubled as Lutheran World Federation representative. His books include Theological Training in the Modern World; Mission, Myth and Reality; and Church Politics: The Making of Ministers.
Lee Oo-Chung (1923-2002)
The South Korean Christian community lost a gifted leader with the passing away of Ms Lee Oo-Chung on 30 May at the age of 79. Lee’s leadership qualities were evident in her work as president of Korea Church Women United, president of the Korean Association of Women Theologians, and in her own church – the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) – where she presided over the National Church Women’s Association. Between 1953 and 1981, Lee taught theology at Hanshin University and Korea Women’s University and, in l997, founded the Women Making Peace movement. During the era of military dictatorship in her country, she was active as a pro-democracy and human rights campaigner.
Stephen Weagba Muin, Jr (1947-2002)
A former general secretary of the Liberian Council of Churches, Rev. Steven Weagba Muin died on 14 August in Monrovia, Liberia. He once served as Africa regional secretary of the World Student Christian Federation.
Patrick Campbell Rodger (1920-2002)
Acclaimed as an early advocate of women’s ordination in the Anglican church, Rev. Patrick Campbell Rodger passed away on 8 July at the age of 81. Among the highlights of his service to his church was his tenure, for eight years from 1970, as bishop of Manchester and then, from 1978 to 1986, of Oxford. Earlier, in 1961, he served as executive secretary of the WCC Faith and Order commission, a post he held up to 1966. Rodger also served as honorary assistant bishop of Edinburgh for 14 years until his final retirement in 2000.

PEOPLE: New Staff

Cluster on Communication
Juan Carlos Michel, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been appointed media relations officer. Michel is secretary of communication and publications of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate, and is also a free-lance correspondent for Latinamerica Press and Lutheran World Information.
Cluster on relations
Peter Weiderud, from Sweden has been appointed coordinator for international relations and director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA). Weiderud was a political adviser to the minister for foreign affairs in the Swedish government, and later director general for international mission and diakonia in the Church of Sweden.

Search starts for next WCC general secretary

The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee has opened a search for the Council’s next general secretary. During its 26 August-3 September meeting in Geneva, it appointed a search committee and adopted a “role description” for the position as recommended by that committee.

WCC member churches, regional and ecumenical organizations and related groups are to receive a letter soliciting nominations; the deadline is 15 January 2003, and a first interview series is scheduled for June 2003. If necessary, a second round of interviews will take place 23-24 August, so that the central committee can receive the search committee’s report and elect a new general secretary when it meets between 26 August and 2 September 2003.

The incumbent, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, retires in December 2003, having served as WCC general secretary since January 1993.
The situation in Asia was the focus of a plenary at the recent (26 August - 3 September) meeting of the WCC central committee. The plenary particularly addressed inter-religious relations, conflicts and violence, and mission. The central committee also approved a statement on South Asia as part of its actions on Public Issues.

Brazil to host WCC's ninth assembly

Loud applause from jubilant Latin American members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee met the announcement that the Council’s next assembly (in 2006) will take place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Before making its choice by written ballot vote on 2 September, committee members heard strong arguments from other contenders – invitations had been received from churches in Cyprus (Nicosia), South Korea (Seoul), and the UK (Glasgow). The decision was based on a feasibility assessment undertaken by Rev. Dr Gordon How.

Presenting Korea’s bid to host the assembly, Prof. Dr Samuel Lee of the Presbyterian Church of Korea cited his country as one of the best examples of successful Christian mission, and promised that Korea’s 12 million Christians would be delighted to welcome the delegates to Seoul. All eight churches composing the National Council of Churches of Korea, including the Roman Catholic Church, had endorsed the invitation, Lee reported. He noted that Korea is still divided, and that a WCC assembly could have a positive impact on efforts towards peace and reconciliation between North and South.

Pointing out that Cyprus would offer an opportunity for the WCC to go to an Orthodox country, Bishop Basilios Karayiannis of Trimithus from the Church of Cyprus described his country as a bridge between Middle East and Europe, and host to the Middle East Council of Churches.

The United Kingdom representatives indicated that while they would be delighted to host the assembly, they would support the invitations from the other three sites.

According to Gordon How, Porto Alegre had earned top marks on suitability of venue, local support, availability of volunteers, and convenience of travel and inter-city transit. It was also the least expensive venue.

WCC president Bishop Federico J. Pagura said Brazil would provide “a platform for WCC to experience and send a message of hope to the world on the wounds of the [free] market economy and new [trade] liberalism”. He noted that in Brazil, a strong ecumenical movement embraces both Protestants and Catholics, and that this will be the first-ever WCC assembly held in Latin America and the Caribbean.

75th anniversary of Faith and Order

Ecumenical service in the Lausanne cathedral celebrating Faith and Order's 75th anniversary (25 August 2002).
A large group of international representatives from a wide spectrum of church traditions gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 25 August 2002 to celebrate 75 years of Faith and Order (F&O) work in search of church unity at different levels.
A number of those present were World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee members attending a committee meeting in Geneva.

At an opening “convocation”, the younger generation, represented by an intern with the F&O team, addressed the gathering. Anastasia Vassiliadou, who studied theology at the university of Thessaloniki, Greece, and also in the United States, received prolonged applause when she said that youth “very much regret the almost complete lack of mutual accountability among the still divided but ‘holy’ churches, when society at large is forced by the ‘unholy’ mechanisms of globalization to practically break down all dividing boundaries”.

“God wills unity, not for the sake of the church but for the sake of the world, and we constantly pray to God: Your will be done,” Vassiliadou affirmed. “The future of our little universe depends on a reconciled world, a united Christianity.”

The celebration ended with an ecumenical service in Lausanne’s cathedral. In his sermon, H.B. Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania observed that “no one is ready to compromise on matters of faith. However, in no way do we have the right to return to the fortress of our past isolation.” He stressed that Christians “are called to go beyond our closed communities, to transcend prejudices, hesitations and fears, and to bear witness together to the risen Christ”.

Steps to improve WCC finances

On 3 September 2002, the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee approved the appointment of a “task group”, comprised of four of its members, to redress the organization’s financial situation.

According to a report from the WCC’s finance committee to the central committee, the Council had a deficit of CHF 2.5 million as of 30 June this year. The principal reasons, according to the report, were investment and foreign currency losses totalling CHF 1.9 million. Contributions from member churches and donor agencies have also dropped, due in part to the depressed state of international financial markets and an ailing global economy. At the same time, single-issue campaigns and civil society organizations have begun effectively to compete with the WCC for support, public attention and funding, including support by church-related agencies.

The situation, the central committee was told, calls for an immediate reduction of expenditure in 2002 and further cutbacks in 2003. Accordingly, the task group will recommend programme, activity and infrastructure changes in the light of finances and programme priorities. These recommendations will be acted upon by the WCC officers in mid-November.

“We are in a crisis,” observed WCC moderator, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, during a central committee plenary debate. “We all must struggle to look at the possibilities of increasing income and decreasing expenditure. We should take this message to our churches and our churches should respond to these challenges positively.”

Online giving
To give online or offline to WCC work on Africa, Israel/Palestine, overcoming violence, globalization, talking with other faiths and/or renovation of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, visit our website
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Recent Resources

Simon Oxley
Learning from One Another

Explores ways to encourage a creative informal approach to ecumenical learning and includes practical ideas on how such learning can be fostered in local congregations and church-related groups.
156pp., Sfr.17.00, US$9.95, £6.95,
Euros 11.00
Konrad Raiser
Transforming Globalization and Violence
Examines the root causes and long-term implications of international cooperation and cross-cultural hostility, and argues for the creation of an “ecumenical space” for dialogue and the building of community
182pp., Sfr.22.00, US$12.95, £8.95,
Euros 15.00

Michael Kinnamon
and Brian E. Cope eds

An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices
Significant passages from the most widely influential texts produced by assemblies, conferences and studies of the WCC and similar bodies, covering faith and order, life and work, and mission and evangelism. A resource for courses in ecumenism in theological seminaries and faculties of religion, and a reference guide.
562pp., Sfr.42.50, US$24.95, £16.95,
Euros 28.00

A study guide to help individuals and groups in the churches reflect and act in the Decade to Overcome Violence.
24pp., single copies free upon request; 25 copies Sfr. 35.00, US$ 23.50, £15.00, Euros 23.50 including postage -
Jim Forest
Voices of Orthodox Christians

The extraordinary story of the catacomb life of the church in Albania, and the efforts of people who have contributed to its resurrection, under the inspired leadership of Archbishop Anastasios.
128pp., Sfr.26.00, US$15.95, £10.95,
Euros 17.00


Globalization a danger, says WCC moderator

The moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC), His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, has warned that globalization “will sooner or later become a dangerous space if it is not given a moral orientation and spiritual sustenance”, and if it is not “transformed by the ecumenical vision”.

Reporting on 26 August to the WCC central committee meeting in Geneva, Aram I observed that, while globalization is creating a fenceless world, many churches are building confessional fences as a way of self-affirmation. “They are even afraid of ecumenism, considering it another expression of globalization,” he said.

For the moderator, the destiny of the world “lies in diversity, not homogenization, pluralism, not uniformity, wholeness, not disintegration, coherence, not contradiction”. Being a church together “means affirming our diversities” and “celebrating our common unity”.

On the same theme, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser observed that ecumenism is presently confronting a very complex situation. “We see an increase of denominationalism in all parts of the world, and a tendency among churches to affirm particular identities and to strengthen their institutional profiles.”

Raiser expressed concern that, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the debate on terrorism has divided the churches, notably on whether and under what conditions to support military interventions in the context of the “war on terrorism”.

He advised that, in seeking an alternative that can respond both to the challenge of globalization and to the “culture of violence”, the ecumenical movement needs to transcend the logic of power as domination.

Boy's moving testimony in Sudan's quest for peace
In a moving testimony, a l3-year-old Sudanese boy summed up the desperate quest for a lasting peace in his country, ruined by 19 years of civil war.

Abraham Madol Aguk minced no words when he told visiting World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser on 8 July that “the president, Omar el Bashir, and his soldiers killed my mother and my father three years ago, and now a church school is my parent”.

Aguk said that many Sudanese children have been orphaned by the war over the years, and were forced to witness the killing of parents who attempted to shield them against bullet showers from helicopter gunships.

In an appeal to the WCC, “we want you and the people of the world to help us have our own peaceful country in southern Sudan,” Aguk said.

Raiser’s pastoral visit to Sudan coincided with marathon ongoing peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya. Many adult Sudanese, however, were vividly aware that the only interlude of peace they ever experienced was from 1972 to 1978, following the Addis Ababa peace agreement brokered by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Led by Raiser, the WCC delegation visited southern Sudan’s Upper Nile region – declared by the government as a “no-fly zone”. The delegation later learned that a government helicopter gunship had that morning conducted surveillance flights over the villages before their arrival. “You took a great risk to demonstrate solidarity with us,” commented the executive director of the New Sudan Council of Churches, Dr Harun Runn.

Addressing a public gathering, Raiser stressed that Sudan should seek “peace of and for the people and not for the powerful. A peace agreement that will last is one owned by the people.” “The powerful”, he added, “tend to seek peace to dominate, and even though their people may be in relative peace, that would be peace of the fearful. True peace is rooted in justice. It has to be peace of those who are not afraid and who, therefore, have hope to last beyond the present.”

The WCC visit to Sudan was part of a broader tour to the Horn of Africa, 1-16 July 2002. Before arriving in Sudan, Raiser visited Tanzania. During a brief consultation with the Tanzanian prime minister, Frederick Sumaye, the latter recalled that the WCC had been “a dependable partner of Africa during the decolonization era”, and went on to call on churches to help in poverty alleviation.

In response, Raiser stressed the importance of mobilizing people’s potentials for development. He pointed out that the church, being “present at the grassroots” and “close to their condition and expectations”, could help translate Africa’s New Partnership for Development into the language of the people. (NEPAD is a new development body that seeks to promote better understanding between Africa and the wealthy nations in order to spur Africa’s development.)

From Sudan, Raiser went on to Ethiopia. In a meeting on 11 July with the Ethiopian president Girima W. Giorgis, the latter expressed great admiration for religious leaders – for their role in restoring peace between his country and Eritrea, and their contribution to the war against HIV/AIDS.

The guest editor for this issue of WCC News is Mitch Odero. He is a consultant information officer at the All Africa Conference of Churches, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also the acting director and editor of the All Africa News Agency, a pan-African ecumenical news and features service.
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Design: Marie Arnaud Snakkers
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Original: English

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