The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee, which has been meeting in Switzerland, is working to translate the mandate of the WCC 10th Assembly into strategic plans and visible actions, focusing on the churches’ efforts toward a “pilgrimage for justice and peace”.
The recent WCC Assembly, highest governing body of the council, met in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2013 and stated in its closing message, “We intend to move together. Challenged by our experiences in Busan, we challenge all people of good will to engage their God-given gifts in transforming actions. This assembly calls you to join us in pilgrimage.”
The WCC Executive Committee meeting at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, outside Geneva, from 7 through 12 February, is the first since the assembly.
In his opening presentation, WCC general secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that the “pilgrimage is about true spirituality and true humanity.”
“I hope and pray that this focus on pilgrimage can make us able to be more honest and true human beings, to ourselves and to one another, open to how God’s spirit is guiding us as we are, but also in the world as it is,” he said.
Dr Tveit stressed the concept of “moving together” as churches. “We need to interpret what change of language, perspective, methods and tasks this will mean. We are a fellowship which started [in 1948] by affirming and reaffirming that we will stay together,” he said.
The world churches' chief gave several examples of the work carried out by the WCC and its member churches, intending to realize the vision of “just peace”. He mentioned churches in South Sudan and Syria, as well as several significant documents addressing issues related to Christian unity, ecology, environment, mission, economic justice and rights.
He also highlighted the possibilities of working more closely with the Roman Catholic Church, inspired by Pope Francis’ recent statements.
In her first report to the Executive Committee in her role as moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Dr Agnes Abuom, said: “We have come together after a few months since the 10th Assembly held in Busan, and with us and within us are feelings, expectations, concerns and issues that we bring to share at the table regarding our interpretation of the Assembly mandate, our roles and responsibilities.”
“We are meeting at a time when the situation in the world is presenting challenges in a new way to states, communities, churches, and the ecumenical movement,” she said, referencing the situations of violence in South Sudan, Syria, the Central Africa Republic and the growing inequalities between the rich and poor around the world.
Dr Tveit also echoed Abuom's comments when he said churches, despite their “differences and internal challenges, being on different sides of lines of conflicts or in different contexts, cultures and continents” are a “fellowship studying and understanding together”.
“Moving together on a pilgrimage of justice and peace demands stronger engagement of churches, social groups and civil society organizations as well as mutual cooperation between the WCC, Regional Ecumenical Organizations, National Christian Councils and member churches,” Abuom said.
She also called for a sense of hope amidst challenges within the church and world.
“We are challenged to provide signs of hope to a world that is groaning for justice and peace,” she said. “Let us be strong and very courageous in carrying out our duty as one of the governing bodies of the WCC. Remember it will be asked of us, what contribution have we made in the building of the kingdom of God?”
During their time at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, the committee will also be reviewing WCC plans and budget, issuing public statements and preparing documents for the upcoming Central Committee meeting in July 2014.
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.