How can the ecumenical movement world-wide respond to the new challenges and opportunities of the 21st century? The question is being explored in a major international conference convened by the WCC in early December 2004 which will look at new challenges in the world situation and their implications for the ecumenical movement. read more ...
Churches and Christian leaders have endorsed the first International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September, following an invitation to the Council's member churches from WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia. read more ...
Preparations for the WCC's ninth assembly in 2006 are developing following the opening in Geneva of the assembly office to coordinate planning efforts. The ninth assembly, which is scheduled for Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006, will gather thousands of Christians from around the world for a period of fellowship, prayer and deliberation. read more ...
"Justice is the heart of the matter. All people and communities should participate in the economic, social and political decisions that affect them, and the aim of economic life should be to nurture sustainable, just and participatory communities." read more ...
Faith and Order Plenary Commission, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (28 July – 6 August 2004) "We became aware of reaching a moment of hope, having identified a framework which might enable churches to move forward in terms of mutual recognition," concluded the message of participants at the WCC Faith and Order plenary Commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur, one of the most representative theological forums for Christian unity.
read more ...
The WCC has strengthened its involvement in Sudan in recent months in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis and conflict in the war-torn country. In August, the WCC executive committee "urged the government of Sudan to protect its civilian population and to disarm the pro-government militia", calling on all parties to work for peace and reconciliation. The WCC committee recognized the international mobilization of churches and related agencies in support of peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts in Sudan. read more ...
Churches' concern over the situation in Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict, the role of religion in conflict, and working relations between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the United Nations Organization were the focus of a first meeting between UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia on 17 May 2004 in New York read more .../
A NEWSLETTER OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES. OCT 2004 . ISSUE No 14
A new vision for the ecumenical movement in the 21st century
WCC 9th assembly 2006
How can the ecumenical movement world-wide respond to the new challenges and opportunities of the 21st century? The question is being explored in a major international conference convened by the WCC in early December 2004 which will look at new challenges in the world situation and their implications for the ecumenical movement.
For several years, in consultations with a range of ecumenical organizations, the WCC has sought to identify the key areas of change necessary for a "reconfiguration" or renewal of the vision and structures of ecumenism.
The situation of churches has changed considerably since the creation of the WCC in 1948. Christianity has grown primarily in the Southern hemisphere, and many of the historical churches in Europe and North America are facing a period of decline. The number of ecumenical organizations, from the local to the international levels, has multiplied, and this increase poses challenges of sustainability, coordination and coherence, especially for international institutions.
The WCC conference will explore how best churches can witness and act together in the 21st century. In the words of WCC moderator Catholicos Aram I, "The ecumenical movement is in the hands of God … This is a time for critical reflection and discernment, a time for prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit."
Churches mobilize for International Day of Prayer for Peace
Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Archbishop Desomd Tutu, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
Churches and Christian leaders have endorsed the first International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September, following an invitation to the Council's member churches from WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and the head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, were among the many personalities who affirmed the churches' and faith communities' work for peace and justice in a series of inspiring two-minute video messages recorded for 21 September.
The Day of Prayer formed part of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010) . The invitation from the WCC called on member churches to pray for peace on 21 September or on the Sunday preceding or following that day.
The WCC initiative is linked to the International Day of Peace declared by the United Nations General Assembly. This is intended as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence, and as an opportunity for education and raising public awareness. At a meeting with Kobia in May 2004, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan warmly welcomed the idea of celebrating an International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September. Annan said the initiative responds to his hope that the UN Day of Peace will encourage people in different contexts to reflect together on what they can do for peace.
Preparations for the WCC's ninth assembly in 2006 are developing following the opening in Geneva of the assembly office to coordinate planning efforts. The ninth assembly, which is scheduled for Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006, will gather thousands of Christians from around the world for a period of fellowship, prayer and deliberation.
Alongside WCC programmatic work and the election of governing bodies, the assembly will provide space for a broad partnership programme which will offer churches, ecumenical organizations and other participants a chance to meet, present and discuss their work.
The theme of the assembly is "God, in your grace, transform the world", and a logo has been designed and launched to communicate the theme and identify the assembly. The logo, which represents both the hand of God holding the creation and a praying human hand, incorporates images of the dove of peace and the covenant rainbow. The shape and movement suggest a renewed and transformed world. The colours chosen are red, like the WCC's own logo, together with the national colours of Brazil.
(From left) Mr Graham Hacche, deputy minister of the International Monetary Found and Mr Bob Goudzward, moderator of a February 2003 WCC/IMF/WB joint seminar on development
"Justice is the heart of the matter. All people and communities should participate in the economic, social and political decisions that affect them, and the aim of economic life should be to nurture sustainable, just and participatory communities."
Rooted in a vision of economic justice upheld by the WCC's 1998 assembly, and a concern for critical analysis, the WCC is continuing its work on the impact of globalization on people and the churches and providing a unique international ecumenical platform to seek viable alternatives.
Building on a series of earlier WCC encounters with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), a 22 October 2004 meeting in Geneva offered senior leaders of the three organizations an occasion to share their perspectives on poverty eradication, human rights and social justice.
Earlier encounters between the three had focused on critical areas of "common ground" in the fight against poverty, but they also had addressed some negative perceptions within the WCC concerning IMF and World Bank policies, governance and operations.
Also in October, a WCC seminar on poverty eradication examined progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals set by 190 countries in 2000. Guest speaker Paul Boateng, the UK government's chief secretary to the Treasury, reported on a British initiative for eradicating poverty. He spoke about how far justice can be at the centre of debate among G8 countries, and explained how one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, an international financial facility, may work.
"Receive one onother..." - Batik mural on the theme of the meeting Faith and Order in Kuala Lumpur by Christian artist Hanna Vargbese from Malaysia
Faith and Order Plenary Commission, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (28 July – 6 August 2004)
"We became aware of reaching a moment of hope, having identified a framework which might enable churches to move forward in terms of mutual recognition," concluded the message of participants at the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur, one of the most representative theological forums for Christian unity.
The theme of the meeting, "Receive one another, as Christ received you, for the glory of God", invited participants "to reflect on our common obligation to welcome one another, to look beyond our divisions and to work together for the visible unity of the church".
Five Faith and Order studies were considered:
an ecclesiology study entitled "The Nature and Mission of the Church";
a study on baptism as "a primary basis of ecumenism";
a study on the role of the churches in situations of ethnic and national conflict;
a study on Christian understanding of the human person in the image of God, and
Other themes considered were the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the experience of united and uniting churches, and theological reflections on peace.
The 120 WCC Faith and Order Commission members represent the WCC member churches and several non-member churches, notably the Roman Catholic Church. The commission's work aims to promote the goal of the visible unity of the Christian church by undertaking studies on both doctrinal and non-doctrinal questions that have given rise to church division.
This year's meeting was the first to take place in a Muslim-majority country. Addressing the Commission, Malaysia's prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said: "We cannot stand before a compassionate God while there is so much we have left undone because we are disunited."
A NEWSLETTER OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES. OCT 2004 . ISSUE No 14
Renewed efforts for peace in Sudan
Internally displaced women at a meeting of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church Khartoum (July 2004)
The WCC has strengthened its involvement in Sudan in recent months in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis and conflict in the war-torn country. In August, the WCC executive committee "urged the government of Sudan to protect its civilian population and to disarm the pro-government militia", calling on all parties to work for peace and reconciliation. The WCC committee recognized the international mobilization of churches and related agencies in support of peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts in Sudan.
The WCC also urged the African Union and the United Nations to provide for an international peace-keeping force, the investigation of war crimes and the full deployment of independent observers to monitor the ceasefire and human rights in the region.
An ecumenical women's delegation co-organized by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches visited churches, community centres and internally displaced women in camps around Khartoum in July 2004.
The history of the World Council of Churches' involvement in Sudan goes back to 1971 when the Council helped broker a peace accord that lasted for 11 years – the country's only peaceful period since independence. Since then, the WCC has closely monitored Africa's longest-lasting civil conflict, and has supported efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace. In 2002 the Council appointed a special ecumenical envoy, the Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, to accompany the peace negotiations there. Kobia subsequently was elected general secretary of the WCC.
Responding to the emergency in the Darfur region, the WCC-related agency Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the Roman Catholic agency Caritas joined forces in June - the first time that the two relief networks had done so at the international level.
A NEWSLETTER OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES. OCT 2004 . ISSUE No 14
N E W W C C P U B L I C A T I O N S
TO APPEAR IN DECEMBER!
HISTORY OF THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT Vol. 3: 1968-2000
John Briggs, Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Georges Tsetsis eds
Project editor: Hugh McCullum
Internationally known authors describe the global context and the life of the churches, major themes which have preoccupied the ecumenical movement in the last third of the 20th century, and activities in the regions. The epilogue argues that the "ecumenical imperative has become more urgent than ever before".
Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the WCC when editorial work began, says in the introduction , "We live in a time of accelerated change. … This volume is intended to preserve the markers on the way and thus to assist a new generation in coming to terms with the legacy of those who have gone before…" The present general secretary of the WCC, Samuel Kobia, reminds readers that "if the past is forgotten, the present loses perspective and the future then lacks direction".
Part I: The Global Context of Ecumenism 1968-2000 Martin E. Marty * Major Trends in the Life of the Churches Lukas Vischer* The Ecumenical Movement during the Last Third of the Twentieth Century Michael Kinnamon* The Unity We Share, the Unity We Seek Melanie A. May * Christian World Communions in the Ecumenical Movement Harding Meyer
Part II: From Missions to Mission Birgitta Larssonand Emilio Castro * Interfaith Dialogue Israel Selvanayagam * Ecumenical Formation Ulrich Becker* The Bible in the Ecumenical Movement Hans-Ruedi Weber* The Contemporary Search for Spirituality K.M. George Inclusive Community Elisabeth Raiser* Ecumenical Social Thought Lewis S. Mudge* Justice and Peace in a World of Chaos Peter Lodberg* Racism and Ethnicity Hugh McCullum* Science, Technology, Ecology Stanley Samuel Harakas* Diakonia in the Ecumenical Movement Richard D.N. Dickinson* Under Public Scrutiny Martin Conway
Part III: The Significance of Regional Ecumenism Georges Tsetsis* Africa Mercy Amba Oduyoye* Asia K.C. Abraham and T.K. Thomas* Caribbean Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi* Europe Keith Clements and Todor Sabev* Latin America Dafne Sabanes Plou* Middle East Jean Corbon* North America Paul A. Crow Jr * Pacific
Part IV: The Changing Shape of the Ecumenical Movement John Briggs
The editorsJohn Y. Briggs is professor emeritus of the University of Birmingham, UK, and senior research fellow and director of the Baptist History and Heritage Centre at Regent's Park College in the University of Oxford. Mercy Amba Oduyoye is director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture of Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana. Georges Tsetsis is Grand Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and was permanent representative of his church to the World Council of Churches from 1985 to 1999.
December 2004, 704pp., Sfr.80.00, US$60.00, £35.00, €50.00
Volumes 1 and 2 available again! Vol. 1, 1517-1948. Among the authors are W.A. Visser 't Hooft, George Florovsky, Ruth Rouse and Kenneth Scott Latourette.
Ruth Rouse and Stephen Charles Neill eds Sfr.80.00, US$60.00, £35.00, €50.00
Vol. 2, 1948-1968. Authors include Lesslie Newbigin, Vasil T. Istavridis, Eugene Carson Blake and Hans Jochen Margull.
Harold E. Fey ed.Sfr.55.00, US$40.00, £23.00, €36.00
All three volumes – Sfr.200.00, US$160.00, £88.00, €130.00 – shipping free of charge
Essential information for coalitions working to prevent the spread of infection and to offer humane treatment and community resources. Sections cover HIV transmission, vulnerability to infection, socio-economic contexts, stigma and discrimination, prevention, care and therapy, advocacy and lobbying, as well as reflections on the churches, theology and HIV/AIDS.
Surveying instances of violence in many regions, often involving confrontation between religious communities, the author asks what violence does to those who perpetrate it. Moving beyond simplistic notions of "good" and "evil", he calls on people of faith to counter terror through the creation of an "axis of peace".
September 2004, 144pp., Risk Book Series, Sfr.19.00, US$15.00, £8.40, €12.30 SEEKING CULTURES OF PEACE: A PEACE CHURCH CONVERSATION
Fernando Enns, Scott Holland and Ann K. Riggs eds
A contribution of the Historic Peace Churches (HPC) to the work of the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence. Essays on the ecumenical context of this discussion, globalization, the gospel and our traditions within the contexts of HPC communities in North America, Nigeria and Colombia, and HPC resources for action, reflection and analysis in building a future of justice and peace.
Co-publication with Cascadia, Telford PA, and Herald Press, Scottdale PA, USA, March 2004, 260pp., Sfr.30.00, US$22.95, £12.90, €19.00
An exploration of the relationship between churches and persons with disabilities, drawing on personal stories of the lives of the authors and other members of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN). Includes the World Council of Churches' policy statement on disability, "A Church of All and for All".
This anthology explores various ways in which churches of the Orthodox tradition are meeting the challenges of a post-modern world. Topics of discussion include identity and ethnic conflict, globalization and human rights, violence, forgiveness and reconciliation, world mission and spirituality.
The story of one good man's struggle to be radically compassionate in his response to the needs of others. Ted Scott fixed his energy on persons, working fervently to address systemic issues affecting the poor, the marginalized and weak.
The official record of the seventh international consultation of United and Uniting churches, which surveyed issues challenging churches: the meaning of unity, the imperative of a mission which promotes unity rather than division, and the church's identity.
Liturgists, theologians, church leaders and pastors present their churches' current understanding and practice of worship, and reflect on the state of Christian worship and on opportunities and challenges facing the churches in worship, both individually and ecumenically.
April 2004, 340pp., Sfr.38.50, US$29.90, £15.95, €24.60 Reprints
For the second time, "The Roots of Violence" has won an award, this time the top prize (Platinum) in the religion and ethic category at the 37th WorldFest-Houston, USA, in April 2004.
The film deals with the aftermath of the war in Sierra Leone. "Where are you, God? It's something I have often asked myself. But I have learned that the real question is whether I have the courage to look for God in the midst of violence". (Tom Barnet, Lutheran pastor in Sierra Leone). Does God hide when the evil side of man takes over? In Sierra Leone thousands of people were massacred, had limbs amputated or were forced to fight as child soldiers in a meaningless civil war. Now a fragile peace has come to the country. Muslims and Christians work together to heal the deep wounds, but what does it take to build reconciliation? From Sierra Leone, those who committed the atrocities and their victims talk about their experience of violence and how they perceived God during the war.
The video is the result of cooperation between Peter Williams, WCC video producer; Anders Laugesen, DR1/Fakta, Denmark; National Council of Churches in Denmark; and Lutheran World Service, Sierra Leone.
Video: PAL or NTSC, English only, on VHS
DVD: zone 2, multi-language English/German/French/Danish
Sfr.29.50, US$19.50, €19.70 plus postage
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Churches' concern over the situation in Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict, the role of religion in conflict, and working relations between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the United Nations Organization were the focus of a first meeting between UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia on 17 May 2004 in New York. "On behalf of WCC member churches, I expressed admiration to Annan for his leadership role at a time when multilateralism is threatened and under attack," Kobia said after the meeting. The UN secretary-general acknowledged that both organizations' agendas are intertwined, and praised the partnership between them. Annan also welcomed Kobia's initiative to invite the Council's member churches to mark the International Day of Peace with prayer services.
VISIT TO KENYA AND RWANDA HIGHLIGHTS ECUMENICAL HOPE FOR AFRICA
"The African continent must learn to live with its history and understand the causes of its various conflicts, including the Rwandan genocide. It must learn to transform painful memory into a positive memory of God's promise. It must reaffirm human dignity based on the biblical understanding of the sacredness of the human being and the promise of a re-created society", said WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia during his April visit to Kenya and Rwanda. Kobia also pointed to the need for churches to confess their collective failure in addressing the Rwandan genocide when it erupted ten years ago. "We could have used the moral authority of the church and spoken out strongly, but we did not", he said.
GEORGIAN ORTHODOX LEADERS WILLING TO RESUME COLLABORATION WITH WCC
The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church has expressed his willingness to resume collaboration with the WCC following a first meeting of senior staff of the ecumenical body with the leadership of the church since its withdrawal from the Council in 1997. Among other issues, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II and other church leaders expressed their interest in collaborating in the areas of social witness and service of the churches, as well as in response to the challenges of globalization and European integration.
Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC:
CALL TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF ABORIGINALS AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS
The situation of the Aboriginals and the conditions in the Australian Baxter Detention Centre for asylum-seekers were crucial issues raised during the WCC general secretary's visit to Australia and the Pacific in July. Kobia stressed the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, and said it was "unacceptable that in a democratic civilized country like Australia, the government denies the basic rights of the original inhabitants". Kobia also called on the Australian government to abandon its policy of mandatory detention of asylum-seekers. He said the policy violates human rights and is "un-Christian".
WCC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING IN SEOUL, KOREA
Churches must play a "prophetic role" in the Korean unification and its peace process and are called to "mobilize support" for actions that reinforce stability, dialogue and exchange in the region, declared the WCC Executive Committee during its 24-27 August meeting in Seoul, South Korea. The Committee called for support of the new peace initiative in Somalia, issued a minute on Zimbabwe and deplored the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Sudan's Western Darfur region, urging the African Union and the United Nations to take political and humanitarian actions. The meeting also took a significant step towards the introduction of a consensus model of decision-making in meetings of the WCC.