From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC GENERAL SECRETARY CALLS FOR
04 May 1996 20:41:26
95331 WCC GENERAL SECRETARY CALLS FOR
BROADER ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT
by Jerry L. Van Marter
GENEVA--Acknowledging that the ecumenical movement has become "a
polycentric network," World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary
Konrad Raiser has suggested opening up membership in the organization to
ecumenical agencies that are not churches.
The WCC currently has more than 320 Protestant and Orthodox member
Addressing the WCC's 150-member Central Committee here Sept. 14,
Raiser said that "while the WCC is the most comprehensive ecumenical
instrument on the world level ... the WCC cannot and should not pretend to
be its main center." Furthermore, he added, "openness to participate in
the ecumenical movement is not identical with readiness to become a member
of the WCC."
In addition to proposing the new category of membership for nonchurch
organizations, a suggestion Raiser admitted he had not discussed with other
WCC officials beforehand, the general secretary also posed a second
possibility: the organization of "a new association of ecumenical
organizations" of which the WCC would be but one of many members.
At a press conference following his address, Raiser said participation
by the Roman Catholic Church is the key to the future of the ecumenical
movement. "Any such model which would not facilitate the integration or
full participation of the Roman Catholic Church would have failed its
purpose," he declared.
Raiser's comments came against the backdrop of severe financial
difficulties for the WCC. The Council finished 1994 approximately $3.4
million in the red and its net income has dropped by 50 percent in the last
15 years. Most other international church bodies also face financial
problems, and, Raiser said, ways need to be found to pool "human and
Raiser spent most of his speech reflecting on the WCC study process,
"Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC," that was launched
by the Central Committee in 1989. It is designed to culminate in a new
"charter," which member churches could "endorse as a living statement of
common ecumenical perspective and orientation" when the WCC celebrates its
50th anniversary in 1998 at its Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe.
"The polycentric character of the ecumenical movement makes it
imperative to ask how its
oneness' or wholeness,' which has repeatedly been affirmed in policy
statements, can be preserved against the tendencies of fragmentation and
competitiveness," Raiser said.
The oneness being sought, he continued, is not so much a matter of
structure as of faith. It is "ultimately rooted in Jesus Christ as the
only center' and nourished by living trust in the presence of the Holy
The Harare Assembly is a "kairos moment" for the ecumenical movement,
Raiser concluded. "It is my conviction that the present situation in the
world, in the churches and in the ecumenical movement as a whole obliges
the WCC to take courageous steps forward in order to rekindle the
ecumenical spirit and to provide orientation and leadership for the one
ecumenical movement on the eve of the 21st century."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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