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World Council of Churches Assembly brings hope for work yet unfinished
Korea will be the setting for the 10th WCC Assembly, an occasion for setting the future agenda of the council, for speaking with a public voice on behalf of churches, and for gathering together in the fellowship of prayer and celebration. It will also be an occasion of mutual learning, says general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. "Churches will engage in open and accountable conversations," dialogue that is significant because "justice and peace imply addressing core values of the kingdom of God, the will of God, the Creator." Tveit prays that, at the assembly, "we all meet the God of life."
The theme, "God of life, lead us to justice and peace," will provide a focus for theological reflection. Bible studies will look at moments in biblical history when, though life was threatened, justice and peace prevailed through God's grace. The Assembly is viewed as a pilgrimage, imagery that offers "a link between spirituality and work that is urgently needed." Delegates to the Assembly from the PC(USA) are Gradye Parsons (stated clerk) and Laura Mariko Cheifetz (newly on the staff of Presbyterian Publishing; pictured left), with Robina Winbush (associate stated clerk) and Everdith Landrau (newly selected associate pastor at Caldwell Presbyterian Chruch, Charlotte, N.C; pictured right) serving as alternates. Non-delegates may register as "Assembly participants."
Preparatory resources and proposed documents are now availabe online.
(1) Use a congregational resource, "Pilgrimage to Busan: An Ecumenical Journey into World Christianity," with a downloadable leader guide and participant's guide, designed for study groups, adults forums, or day-long retreats.
See a video "On the Road to Busan," which presents a brief history of much of the WCC's life through looking at its Assemblies. (American Presbyterians may recognize brief glimpses of two previous stated clerks, William P. Thompson and Clifton Kirkpatrick; they will hear the voice of Theo Gill, WCC editor and PC(USA) minister, one of the principal narrators.)
(3) Use the Bible studies that will be used in discussion groups involving all participants in Busan. Reflect on the theme and sub-themes of the upcoming Assembly through reading and hearing varying voices.
(4) Download the Assembly's
Programme Book for a preview of what will be happening in Busan.
(5) See especially the unity statement, "God's Gift and Call to Unity--and Our Commitment,"
that has been drafted for the Assembly's adoption and already presented to the WCC Central Committee in August.
Religious freedom discussed in preparation for WCC Assembly
The World Council of Churches has a long record of promoting religious freedom and protection of minorities. Now the UN's special rapporteur for religious freedom, German professor Heiner Bielefeldt (pictured), was the keynote speaker at a mid-September consultation on "Politicization of Religion and Religious Rights of Minorities" convened by the WCC's commission of the churches on international affairs (CCIA). The consultation discussed a document on the issue due to be presented to the WCC Assembly in Busan. Bielefeldt moved the paradigm away from simply protecting minorities to protecting human rights, including insistence of describing people as "citizens" rather than "minorities." In a recent interview he described obstacles and issues involved in addressing religious freedom. It (like all other human rights) is intended first and foremost to protect human beings (not particular belief systems), he said. Other speakers at the consultation highlighted particular settings in which Christians find themselves. The speeches by Bielefeldt and WCC general secretary Olav Tykse Tveit are available for listening online.
Program will provide opportunity for PC(USA) visitors
A special Visitors' Program for PC(USA) folks going to the tenth WCC Assembly is being coordinated by PC(USA) pastor Gun Ho Lee (pictured).
He says it will be conducted "in a spirit of madang (the traditional Korean courtyard connecting different parts of the house)." There will be opportunities for discussion and celebration as pilgrims at the Assembly.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches
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Reformed Christians are now committed to one another in a communion
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), born in June 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, unites into a single body over 80 million Christians in 108 countries belonging to 230 denominational bodies (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Waldensian, and United churches). Its definition of itself as a "communion" is new for Reformed Christians and articulates a commitment to "mutual caring, respect and service of one another, as witness to our common calling by the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ.” No church in the communion may claim precedence or dominance over any other. The ordinations and rites of each will be accepted by every other part of the communion. Theologically, the new body has the key task of inter-Christian dialogue with other communions (for example, with the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation) and within the Reformed communion itself. It will also give attention to interfaith relations.
Jerry Pillay (pictured left) of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in South Africa has been the first president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches since its formation in 2010. Yvette Noble-Bloomfield (pictured right), moderator of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, is WCRC vice president. PC(USA) stated clerk Gradye Parsons and his predecessor Clifton Kirkpatrick, are members of the executive committee. Peter Bergdorff of the Christian Reformed Church in North America is also a member from the U.S. The current WCRC general secretary is Setri Nyomi. His successor is expected to be named by mid-2014.
A quarterly newsletter, Reformed Communiqué, is available for free subscription, either as a full edition by post or through selected stories sent by e-mail. Sign up online. News releases and messages from particular member churches are available online; a blog is also maintained.. The council's publication, Reformed World, is available for paid subscription. A Power Point presentation of WCRC is available online.
WCRC consultation proposes human trafficking focus in 2014
for an awareness-raising campaign on human traffficking during Lent in 2014 developed in a 25-person international consultation convened in Cuba last March by the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The issue brings together the concerns of WCRC on gender rights and economic transformation. Dora Arce-Valentin (pictured near left), a Cuban minister who heads the WRCR office for justice and partnership, says economic issues leave people vulnerable to being tricked or sold into forced labor. The UN representative for the PC(USA) and WCRC, Ryan Smith (pictured far left), told the consultation participants that human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in its profits for illegal traders. Arce-Valentin organized the consultation.
WCRC does a lot with a little
A financially challenged WCRC executive committee adopted a strategic plan for 2011-2017 that is centered around communion,
justice, partnership, and participation in God’s mission in the world. In the year ahead, the Theological Communion and Mission office will focus on an ongoing network of theologians and on a program for young theologians and newly-ordained clergy. The Justice and Partnership office will focus on human trafficking, the relationship of women and men, and the global financial system. WCRC is committed to support the witness of the "Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth" adopted by the former World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) in 2004. As it supported thought and action on the basis of this covenant, WCRC called for an international economic conference in partnership with the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical bodies. A result is the "Sao Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life," adoptd in 2012.
Ecumenical panel on finance and economy established
A group of economic experts has been convened to develop advocacy strategies for churches who are working toward ethical, just, sustainable economic systems. This is a follow-up of the Sao Paulo Statement. At an initial meeting in late August 2013, one of those present was Barry Herman (pictured), a visiting fellow at a the New School in New York City.
More Disciples–Reformed cooperation is possible
An increased relationship of two families of Reformation churches has occurred as the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council (DECC) has become an associate member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). Disciples leader Robert Welsh, of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ in the U.S. and Canada, has said he believes this will increase possibilities for congregations to do things together; it will also mean greater ability to share with one another at the global level. Listen to Welsh preach about the Disciples' commitment to Christian unity.
See the report of the Joint Consultative Committee between the World Council of Churches and the World Christian Communions which will be presented to the WCC Assembly in the fall of 2013.
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Caribbean and North American Area Council works within its context
"Regional councils should be the locus of much of WCRC's work," a strategic planning team has said. And much still remains to be done to provide links from the worldwide body, WCRC general secretary Setri Nyomi has said. CANAAC is WCRC's regional expression in the Caribbean, U.S.A., and Canada. See links to its member churches. The PC(USA)'s Neal Presa (pictured) has served as CANAAC's convenor; Robina Winbush serves on the steering committee.
CANAAC met in the Dominican Republic in September 2011 together with the Council for World Mission's Caribbean and North America Council for Mission. A major social justice concern before the groups was the second-class working conditions of Caribbean seasonal migrant workers throughout the region.
Educational resources from CANAAC available for the churches
A timely downloadable educational resource guide titled Power to Resist and Courage to Hope: Caribbean Churches Living out the Accra Confession is available. It includes analyses of the global economic and ecological crisis, Bible studies, sermon and liturgical resources, and examples of how churches have played a role in challenging injustice in the Caribbean region. Presa said of it, "For us in the industrialized North, this book is a needed call to pay attention to how many of the policies and principles by which we live have adverse consequences on the Caribbean and indeed, the whole world."
For those wishing to purchase the curriculum, see the PC(USA) web site.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) program on gender justice has appealed for increased attention to how words and images—including "wrong reading of the Bible"—can harm women. A workshop to test models for reading the Bible to address violence against women was hosted in January by the Presbyterian Church in Grenada. Two resources are now available: Righting Her-Story: Caribbean Women Encounter the Bible Story (downloadable from WCRC), for which PC(USA) ecumenical officer Robina Winbush has made contributions, and Created in God's Image: From Hegemony to Partnership, concerning male masculinity (also downloadable from WCRC).
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The World Council of Churches
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WCC programs are streamlined
The WCC, at 60 plus years of age, now has nearly 350 members. Its newest member is the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, accepted into membership in March 2013. The WCC is governed by a Central Committee, of which 25 members have been selected to serve as an executive committee. Four of these have come from the U.S. during the period since the last WCC Assembly: Vicken Aykazian, Lois Dauway, Larry Pickens, and Tyrone Pitts. The WCC staff person responsible for North American regional relations is a Canadian, Natasha Klukach (pictured far right), who is a program executive for the Church and Ecumenical Relations.
The Central Committee approved a streamlined, flexible structure that puts the programmatic work of the council under two headings: unity and mission, public witness and diakonia. The associate general secretaries for these are Hielke Wolters and Isabel Phiri (pictured near right).
Consultation looks at theological tools for considering the global economy
In a consultation closely linked to the work of the World Council of Churches, the John Knox International Reformed Center in Geneva sponsored a June consultation of theologians as part of its 60th anniversary celebration. The participants explored the theological tools available for insights on global economics, a task related to the WCC efforts begun before the last WCC Assembly. See the introduction and text of the Agape Call for Action 2012 to learn about the WCC's work on economic and ecological justice. The John Knox Center, a short walk from the Ecumenical Centre that houses the WCC, is a common location for ecumenical visitors to meet and find housing. Its history is inextricably tied to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Consultation participants from the U.S. were Cynthia Moe-Lobeda of Seattle University, Douglas Meeks of Vanderbilt University, and Marion Grau of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (pictured).
WCC joins in seeking statement on participation of people with disabilities
"A Church of All and for All," a statement on participation of people with disabilities in the life of the churches, was produced a decade ago and has been given new consideration at a meeting in the Netherlands attended by a dozen persons, most with disabilities themselves. The gathering called the document only a beginning but decided to retain it and to press for a new statement as well. The lead writer of the 2003 paper said, "Our theological reflections reveal an understanding of healing that is not commonplace. Exclusionary churches . . . are themselves ill. We must stretch ourselves to look at healing in new ways." Behind the statement are the World Council of Churches program for just and inclusive communities, the Faith and Order Commission, and the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (a program of the WCC on the international level).
Faith and Order Commission releases new document.
A Faith and Order study process extended over a long period of years has resulted in a what is said to be a culminating document, "The Church: Toward a Common Vision." The WCC web site also has a number of prior documents on the church available for download.
Seminar marks relationship between WCC and Global Christian Forum
A September seminar in Geneva brought together representatives of the World Council of Churches and the Global Christian Forum (GCF), plus participants from other international ecumenical organizations, to affirm their distinctive yet complementary roles in the work of Christian unity. The GCF came into being after a WCC Assembly called for a space where organizations which are not part of the WCC could interact with bodies which are a part of the council. Speaking at the seminar were Olav Fykse Tveit for the WCC, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson for the GCF, and Richard Howell of the Asia Evangelical Alliance. Granberg-Michaelson (pictured) is the former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America. See a summary of their important remarks.
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Global Christian Forum
A Forum is a process
The Global Christian Forum has described itself as a "promising and unique process." It brings together, in mutual conversation and recognition of their shared spirituality, streams of world Christianity that may have been isolated from one another in the past. The first worldwide forum took place in 2007 in Nairobi. In the fall of 2011, a second gathering—a relatively small worldwide gathering of 287 persons— met in Manado, Indonesia, where they especially discussed the shifts in worldwide Christianity and the upsurge of Pentecostal and charismatic movements. They asked the question, What is the Spirit saying to the Church locally and globally? And they expressed a need to broaden diversity in the GCF as well as the need to address the disparity in resources and the imbalance in power. Larry Miller (pictured), former general secretary of the Mennonite World Conference, was appointed as the Global Christian Forum secretary from 2012, as a secondment..
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World Student Christian Federation
Internationally, Americans share in WSCF leadership
The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) encompasses 106 national student movements. Its general secretary is Christine Housel (pictured far right), an American Episcopalian. The WSCF vice-chair is also an American, Shantha Ready Alonso. One of the North America regional co-chairs is Presbyterian Rachel Medema (pictured, near right) and Luciano Kovacs, originally from Italy's Waldensian Church, is North America secretary. There are regional secretaries for Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia/Pacific as well as North America.
In the U.S., SCM-USA is growing as part of WSCF
WSCF is lending active support to growing a Student Christian Movement (SCM) as its organizational expression in the U.S., a reorganization after the movement was abandoned decades ago. SCM-USA is a student-led grassroots body that can provide a space for students and young adults to be formed ecumenically, trained as leaders to engage in critical thinking on social issues, and reflect theologically. The WSCF North American region and SCM-USA mounted their most recent national leadership conference in Washington, D.C., on April 12-14, 2013. The conference organizer was Itang Young (pictured). Read the concept paper that described it during the planning stage.
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On this web site:
Ecumenical Relations: International: for regional councils/conferences of churches around the globe
Seeking Justice: ecumenical organizations' work for economic and ecological justice
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