World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 firstname.lastname@example.org For immediate release - 06/09/2006 05:24:55 PM
NEW PROGRAMME STRATEGY "EQUIPS WCC FOR DYNAMIC ENGAGEMENT"
The main governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has adopted a streamlined programme strategy that provides a new framework for the next seven years of ecumenical action and advocacy.
"The decisions made this week equip the WCC for a dynamic, integrated and deliberate engagement with some of the major challenges facing our churches and the world at the start of the 21st century," WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia noted after the conclusion of the Council's central committee meeting, held in Geneva, 30 August - 6 September 2006.
Central committee endorsed a reorganized programme strategy, stemming from decisions made at the WCC's 9th Assembly in early 2006. The focus was on six areas:
· WCC and the ecumenical movement in the 21st century; · unity, mission, evangelism and spirituality; · public witness: addressing power, affirming peace; · justice, diakonia and responsibility for creation; · ecumenical and faith formation; and · interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Communication will receive renewed priority in the coming period, as the WCC reinforces efforts to raise its own profile and to influence the international agenda.
Speaking at the closure of the meeting, general secretary Kobia emphasized the "urgently critical nature" of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and underscore d the importance of interreligious dialogue in all aspects of the Council's work.
The central committee also gave priority to ongoing work for unity and fellowship. Kobia said there was now a clear process with timelines for carrying that work out. He said Christian world communions would be included in the process.
The Middle East region was at the centre of a series of statements on issues of international concern. A major new ecumenical advocacy initiative for peace in the divided region, proposed earlier by the WCC general secretary, was also approved.
Major public issues on which the committee agreed action were:
· The war in Lebanon and northern Israel: central committee called for a sustainable and unconditional ceasefire and lifting the blockade of Lebanon;
· Children in conflicts, with focus on Northern Uganda: expressed concern at the threat to international peace and security and impediments to the provision of humanitarian emergency aid as a result of the ongoing conflict;
· Just trade: called on churches to encourage their governments to continue working for a new multilateral trade mechanism, with a new set of multilateral trade rules which are just and democratic;
· A compassionate response to HIV and AIDS: called for universal access to treatment, care and support, and encouraged churches to continue to play a critical role in overcoming the pandemic and to welcome persons living with HIV and AIDS;
· Extra-judicial killings in the Philippines: called on the government of the Philippines to disband "death squads", private militias and paramilitary forces and instruct the military to cease listing churches and church workers as "enemies of the state";
· Conflict in Sri Lanka: called on the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to put an immediate end to all hostilities and resume peace negotiations;
· Sudan: requested that the viability of arranging a high-level delegation made up of church representatives and members of the Islamic community to visit and meet with government officials in Sudan as well as representatives of the Darfur region be considered;
· Kosovo: encouragedreligious leaders of Kosovo to continue to work for reconciliation.
New commissions and advisory bodies
The central committee mandated the integration of four existing consultativ e bodies into a strengthened Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. Kobia said the commission will foster coherence, interaction and cooperation at the strategic and programme levels. The new body will coordinate ecumenical action on a spectrum of key ecumenical concerns, including public affairs, diakonia and development, justice, peace and ecology, and interreligious relations and dialogue.
Other commissions and consultative bodies which were confirmed by the central committee are: the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaborati on, Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, Commission on Ecumenical and Faith Formation, the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, the Joint Consultative Group between Pentecostal Churches and the WCC, and the Joint Commission between Christian World Communions and the WCC.
In line with priorities agreed at the 9th Assembly, a new 25-member youth body was established to foster greater participation and support for young ecumenical leaders in the WCC. The youth body is expected to increase the visible presence of young adults in the life and work of the Council.
Staffing and finance
Reviewing the finances and budget of the Council, the committee was informed that, despite an underlying decline in income, the Council was enjoying improved financial stability and was able to maintain its current programmatic priorities. Current staffing levels - 162 full-time working positions - will be reorganized around the revised programme strategy.
Two churches entered the process established by new rules governing WCC membership approved by the 9th Assembly . The Lao Evangelical Church and the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil were welcomed for an interim period during which they will participate in the work of the WCC and interact with the local fellowship of member churches in their own contexts. The next meeting of the central committee will consider the reception of the two churches into the fellowship.
Marvellous gift of unity
Concluding his first meeting as central committee moderator, Rev. Dr Walter Altmann underlined that the churches in the WCC were continuing "a journey of gratitude for God's marvellous gift of unity".
He told a press conference following the meeting that the week-long gathering of church members from throughout the world had strengthened ecumenical fellowship and commitment in times of fragmentation, a globalized economy and conflict.
"Ecumenical commitment is more necessary than ever," he said.
More information on the WCC Central Committee meeting is available at: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/events-sections/cc2006.html
Additional information: Juan Michel, +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 email@example.com
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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.