The World Council of Churches (WCC) “is defined by all the three key words in our name. We are global, in all continents, and therefore also in solidarity with one another, seeking peace in all its meaning for the whole earth,” said the WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.
He said it is time to “harvest the fruits” of ecumenical life and work, and pondered “what we have learned” since the WCC 9th Assembly at Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006.
The WCC general secretary was reporting Aug. 29 August to the Central Committee, a primary decision-making body of the WCC which reflects and deliberates on the present and future work of the council, making course corrections while also recognizing and celebrating its achievements.
The Central Committee meeting is currently taking place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete here. This is the last meeting of the current Central Committee before the WCC’s 10th Assembly to be held in Busan, Korea in 2013.
Since the last Central Committee meeting in 2011, Tveit noted, the theme of the next assembly “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” has been setting directions for the programs of the WCC.
Tveit reported on the outcomes of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in May 2011 in Jamaica. Inspired by the churches in Jamaica, he said, “participants got a renewed theological, moral and spiritual incitement to unite in the call to a just peace”.
He reflected on the idea of “justice and peace” and the importance of “the common manifestation of the church as a fellowship of peacemakers and the ecumenical movement as one uniting different peace initiatives”.
The general secretary updated the committee on the council's support for the churches in Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, the Papua islands in Indonesia, and in Nigeria. He mentioned ecumenical initiatives related to human rights situations in these countries.
Sharing concerns over churches in situations of conflict, Tveit went on to say, “Christians in the Middle East and North Africa should not feel that they are alone within the fellowship of churches, particularly in times when they - and we as a council - find that the Christian presence in that region is in danger for several reasons.”
Tveit also urged the churches to address issues spinning off from the financial crisis in Europe. He said it is particularly significant that the Central Committee meeting is in Greece, a country which has directly faced the brunt of the crisis.
He also mentioned unity, as both “a gift of life and a gift of love” for the churches, saying, “We are called to bring this into the life of humanity where we live, and even to the care for the unity of creation where we respect the balance of life and the most vulnerable dimensions and conditions of life.” He went on to say that the tendency of working for the few but not for the many is a challenge to unity.
He discussed the process of developing a statement on the state of progress toward Christian unity, which will be presented to the WCC 10th Assembly.
Speaking on the new understanding on “mission and evangelism”, growing out of a recent WCC conference on the subject, Tveit praised the inclusion of such aspects such as “mission of life”, and “mission from the margins”, which he said respond to our realities today.
“The WCC has an important role of being part of the wider ecumenical reflection on the definition and initiatives for mission and evangelism,” said Tveit. “We carry a legacy of important discussions about mission; but we also represent a richness of traditions and churches’ practices of mission in their daily lives,” he added.
In his conclusion, Tveit identified “just peace” as an important component in the strategic direction for the work of the WCC. He stressed the significance of defining future priorities, as well as reflecting on the “unique value” of WCC programs.
Among other matters, he also mentioned the council's leading role in interfaith initiatives, common actions on poverty, wealth, ecology and water, wider involvement of youth, and the further development of educational resources at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Switzerland.