After several hours of what Moderator Walter Altmann called “intense dialogue,” the World Council of Churches Central Committee decided Feb. 22 on a theme for the WCC’s 10th Assembly: “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace.”
Before arriving at its consensus decision, Central Committee members had been somewhat divided between peace and justice and Christian unity as themes for the October 2013 Assembly in Busan, South Korea.
The group’s Assembly Planning Committee (APC), apparently equally undecided on a single focus for the Assembly, suggested two options, the other being “In God’s World, Called To Be One.”
In an earlier session of its Feb. 16-22 meeting, the Central Committee asked its Policy Reference Committee to attempt to blend the two into a single theme. But the PRC’s suggestion, “God of Life, Lead us to Unity, Justice and Peace,” was quickly discarded, as were several variations.
“In Asia we have had many meetings seriously considering themes,” said Carmencita Karagdag of the Philippines Independent Church. “We also looked at integrating the two theme suggestions but concluded we wanted to highlight justice and peace, particularly considering the Asian context [of the Assembly site].”
Bishop Isaac Mar Philoxenos of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar (India) supported the decision to choose peace and justice over either unity or a blended theme.
“The context needs to be understood when we select a theme. ‘Unity’ causes us to lose our focus. We are always for unity, but we need the wider context of justice and peace, especially in Asia.”
Though supporting the final decision, the Rev. Will Ingram of the Presbyterian Church in Canada noted that “what is distinctive about the WCC is our search for Christian unity. The world too often dismisses us as being only concerned with justice and peace.”
WCC General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit said the unity theme can be incorporated into the life of the 10th Assembly through the three sub-themes also adopted by the Central Committee: 1) Life together in Faith: unity and mission, 2) Life together in Hope: for justice, peace and reconciliation in the world, 3) Life together in Love: for a common future.
The Central Committee also suggested the APC consider adding a fourth sub-theme, “Life together in interreligious community life,” as interfaith relations have been a prominent part of the body’s deliberations during this meeting.