From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] WCC leader calls for new ecumenical structure

Date Wed, 27 Aug 2003 16:16:46 -0500

Note #7899 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

WCC leader calls for new ecumenical structure
August 27, 2003

WCC leader calls for new ecumenical structure

Religious groups urged to 'rally around' common values, attitudes

By Laurie Spurr
Ecumenical News International

GENEVA - The outgoing general secretary of the world's biggest ecumenical
organization called on Aug. 26 for a major change in the way churches work

In a speech to the central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC)
here, General Secretary Konrad Raiser urged a "reconfiguration" of global and
regional church-related organizations.

He said the ecumenical movement must address problems similar to those faced
by the United Nations, including a shortage of funds and growing competition
between organizations.

He did not propose a specific plan.

But the WCC must "rally the partners again around a common set of values and
attitudes, to sharpen the sense of a common mission," Raiser told the
committee, the WCC's main governing body, which is meeting from Aug. 26
through Sept. 2.

The Geneva-based organization has 342 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican
member denominations, many of which also belong to various regional and
national councils of churches and other world communions and fellowships. It
also works with the Roman Catholic Church on a number of issues.

Raiser argued during last year's central committee meeting that better
cooperation among those bodies could reduce duplication of efforts. But he
said in Tuesday's speech that he was not talking only about greater

"Important as a consideration of the funding base may be for the different
partner organizations," he said, "this is just one factor within a larger
goal of sharpening the profile of a value-driven ecumenism."

Besides church denominations and regional and world church bodies, the new
cooperation he envisions would include agencies that fund ecumenical mission
and service activities and international ecumenical organizations that focus
on particular causes, Raiser said.

"The future of the ecumenical movement cannot be left in the hands of the
churches alone," he said, adding that his idea was not "to centralize the
ecumenical movement and to bring everything under the control of the WCC."

The council would remain a "fellowship of churches," he said, and would try
"to foster the coherence of the ecumenical movement without claiming a
position of central control."

The "reconfiguration" proposal is likely to be the last major initiative of
Raiser's almost 11-year tenure as the administrative head of the WCC.
Implementing it would probably be up to the new general secretary to be
elected on Aug. 28 and to take office early next year.

For nearly 10 years, church leaders have been calling for more cohesiveness
among ecumenical groups, to little effect.

During its 1998 General Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, the WCC supported the
creation of a global forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organizations
that would include not only WCC member denominations but also the Roman
Catholic Church and major Pentecostal and Evangelical bodies that don't now
belong to the council.

Raiser announced earlier this month that the WCC has proposed a top-level
meeting in Lebanon in November to look for ways of streamlining international
church structures.

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