From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Title: Raiser: new configuration of ecumenical movement needed

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Wed, 27 Aug 2003 10:09:11 +0200

World Council of Churches
Press Release 03-29.02e
For Immediate Use
27 August 2003


Raiser outlines need for new configuration of ecumenical movement

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser re-affirmed the need for a new configuration of the
ecumenical movement in his last report to the Central Committee as World
Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary.	

Emphasizing the need to move the whole Christian community to a renewed
common witness in the 21st century, Raiser outlined a process to consider the
"re-configuration of the ecumenical movement". "The WCC takes this initiative
not out of institutional self-interest, but in response to its constitutional
mandate to further and maintain the coherence of the one ecumenical movement
in its diverse manifestations," he said.   

A consultation will be held in Lebanon in November with a view to analysing
the challenges presented by a changing world. It will identify key areas of
change, and design a process of study and consultation which could lead to
proposals being put to organisations involved, including the WCC itself at
its assembly in 2006.  

Raiser acknowledged the difficulties faced by the ecumenical movement,
comparing them with those faced by the United Nations (UN): "Shortage of
funds, increase of bilateralism, growing competition between UN agencies and
the NGO community, and defensiveness of governments over against the
influence of civil society organisations on the shaping of a new
international order. Generally, there is a trend to respond to the challenges
by way of pragmatic organisational and structural changes, hoping to increase
'relevance' by adopting 'looser, lighter and more flexible structures'".  

However, he continued, "We cannot be content with a pragmatic and functional
re-adjustment of structures to facilitate cooperation and render (ecumenical
organisations) more effective." Instead, "The aim should be to rally the
partners again around a common set of values and attitudes, to sharpen the
sense of a common mission."   

In pursuit of this, there is, according to Raiser a "fundamental value
option: in favour of multilateralism vs bilateralism, in favour of a
conciliar model of ecumenism over against the confessional model, in favour
of a wide notion of ecumenism over against the concentration towards an
ecumenism of churches as organised bodies".				     

Consequently, "The legitimate partners in this emerging conversation are all
those who, irrespective of their relationship with the WCC, recognise the
basic affirmations of faith as expressed in the basis of the WCC, and who
acknowledge that the churches, in spite of their institutional limitations,
are the main actors of the ecumenical movement."  

In his report, Raiser referred to issues to be addressed at this Central
Committee, including bio-technology, and work among people with disabilities:
"The expectations that the churches find the courage to address the
fundamental spiritual and moral questions among people today is increasing
everywhere." Speaking of advances in genetic technology, he suggested that
"Even human life is no longer protected by those fundamental ethical
convictions which affirm the sanctity and inviolability of life." Commending
the work of the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network (EDAN) and its
document, A Church of All and for All, "Its theological reflections also have
a direct bearing on the ethical challenges arising in the field of
bio-technology," Raiser said.  

He also spoke of developments in the WCC since the last Council meeting,
expressing his satisfaction that the efforts made to deal with the Council's
"critical" financial situation had proved successful and that forecasts were
"modestly encouraging". "However," he continued, "we have not yet reached the
point of financial equilibrium, and the decline of contributions has not been
halted." Further recommendations will be considered by the Central Committee.

Raiser also referred to the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox
Participation in the WCC. Speaking of the meeting of the Steering Committee
last June, he said that it had "revitalised the spirit of the Special
Commission". He highlighted that the committee strongly reaffirmed the
report's vision, especially on common prayer, "while admitting that it may
have failed to communicate this vision in a convincing manner." He welcomed
the positive responses to the ongoing work of the Commission from, in
particular, the Church of Greece and the Russian Orthodox Church.   

At the conclusion of his report, Raiser expressed his gratitude to the
Central Committee members and his colleagues. "Those who carry on the task
most directly have my heartfelt prayers and support for every success," he
said. "But more, I have confidence in the future, for the movement in which
we are engaged is ultimately in God's hands and God will complete what we
have had to leave unfinished."	

The full text of the WCC general secretary's report to Central Committee is
available on our website at:  

A high-resolution photograph of the general secretary is available for use
with this release:  

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Office,  
tel: +41 (0)22 791 64 21 /61 53


The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which
meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in
1948 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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