The first full meeting of the new Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a chief governing body of the Council, began on 2 July in Geneva, Switzerland. Prayers, official addresses from the leadership of the WCC and welcome greetings from the Swiss churches marked the opening of the WCC Central Committee meeting – all set to focus on the theme ‘pilgrimage of justice and peace’ through the coming week.
The WCC Central Committee will hold meetings every two years until the next assembly. The committee which consists of 150 members from all global regions is responsible for carrying out the policies adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly, reviewing and supervising WCC programs and the budget of the Council. The 10th Assembly took place at Busan, Republic of Korea in October and November 2013.
At the opening of this week’s meeting, the WCC Central Committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom reflected on the significance of the theme ‘pilgrimage of justice and peace’, which is based on a call issued by the WCC Assembly.
Her address brought a special focus on the engagement of youth in the ecumenical movement. To bring back prophetic dynamism and emphasis into the ecumenical movement, we need to let the young generation own and define the ecumenical movement, she said.
Abuom shared aspirations for ecumenical spirituality to extend its boundaries to be more inclusive of the needs of churches and communities.
“A revitalized ecumenical spirituality must not be bound by narrow and tradition-bound religious, ecclesial and dogmatic frameworks if they have proven to be unhelpful to addressing the present needs. Rather, it must embrace a prophetic posture for justice, for peace-making and for the diaconal care for all living beings,” she said.
Abuom reflected on global issues related to poverty and inequality, weak governance, proxy conflicts and wars, as well as unemployment among youth. She spoke about the changing ecclesial and religious landscapes and challenges they pose. To address these issues, she stressed the importance of a transformation of ecumenism and revitalization of spirituality.
Reflections and perspectives
The WCC general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit shared reflections on the theme ‘pilgrimage of justice and peace’ in the report he presented to the Central Committee. He said, “The care for the one humanity, the willingness to care for the other’s humanity, to give it a priority, is a concern of our faith in Jesus Christ as God incarnated in our human life. True humanity needs the grace and the commitment to the will of God that comes from true spirituality.”
A “pilgrimage must mean that we are willing to be on a journey of faith,” he said.
“The pilgrimage of justice and peace helps us to move beyond our own limitations and boundaries, our own self-preoccupation in our personal lives and in our churches, into the mission of God in this world,” Olav added.
The issues addressed by the WCC general secretary that are likely to influence the work of the WCC and its member churches include reunification of the Korean peninsula, Christian unity, climate change, economic justice, rights of refugees and displaced peoples, ecumenical dialogue in ecclesiology, renewal of Christian mission, HIV and AIDS and concerns of women and young people.
Olav’s report stressed the importance of accompanying churches in situations of conflict. He said, “Our faith compels us as an ecumenical movement to stand in solidarity with churches and people in conflict and crisis situations. We are called to be a prophetic voice in the public sphere with the aim of offering a moral voice that influences processes which lead to justice and peace.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Nigeria, Syria and Israel and Palestine were mentioned by Olav as important countries in the churches’ work for justice and peace.
Participants of the Central Committee meeting were welcomed by François Longchamp, president of the state council of Geneva, Rev Dr Gottfried Locher, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches and Rev. Emmanuel Fuchs, president of the Protestant Church in Geneva.
The Central Committee meeting will continue until Wednesday 9 July.
Image: Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary. Photo: Peter Williams, WCC