Clifton Kirkpatrick, left, at the inauguration of WCRC. Photo
by Erick Coll/UGC
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U.S. Presbyterians there as WCRC is born
When the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WCRC) was born in June 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a delegation of the PC(USA) was there at the Uniting General Council (UGC). See its report. The WCRC unites members of the former World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) into a single body that represents over 80 million Christians in 108 countries belonging to 230 denominational bodies (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Waldensian, and United churches).
WCRC's 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.
WCRC is like the five loaves and two fishes, departing staffer says
Departing staff woman Patricia Sheeratan-Bisnauth told the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) executive committee in May that
“WCRC is like the biblical parable of the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two fishes. God will never leave us without what we need to do our work.” Her assurance came to a financially challenged committee, reflecting the work that gifted people from around the world have been able to do in spite of financial limitations.
The 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. It focuses on youth leadership development; increased collaboration with regional church groups to address gender, environmental, and economic issues; and a visible connection between Reformed theology and justice concerns.
Mission and the study of Reformed theology in today’s world, along with renewed worship models, are also key. 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. 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.
The new WCRC president, Jerry Pillay (pictured right),
is general secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in South Africa. PC(USA) stated clerk Gradye Parsons, his predecessor Clifton Kirkpatrick, and PCUSA minister Neal Presa are members of the executive committee. From the U.S., Peter Bergdorff of the ChristianReformed Church in North America is also a member. Setri Nyomi of Ghana, former general secretary of WARC, now has the same role in WCRC. Mark Koenig, who heads the PC(USA) UN office in New York, also represents WCRC at the UN. See reports to the executive committee from the WCRC president and general secretary, as well as the texts of various oral presentations. or
Resources from Reformed celebrations remain for use
Presbyterians at all levels of the church can access materials prepared for the WCRC Uniting General Council meeting:
• Bible study. The Bible study and reflection resource for the Council meeting can be used by individuals, congregations, and other groups as a way of sharing in an event without having been present.
• Worship. "Bonds of Peace," a hymn on unity written by PC(USA) minister Barbara Price-Martin and her sister Linda Price Draper, was the theme song for the meeting. Hear the hymn sung. Download a one-page handout for its use by a congregation.
• History and the future. For those who want to review what has happened, some of the history of the uniting process remains apparent in a page of the CRC web site. A paper by PC(USA) stated clerk emeritus Clifton Kirkpatrick looks at the future of the Reformed movement.
• Reports and sermons. The various reports, sermons and worship resources available on the WCRC web site provide much to study. Note that Clifton Kirkpatrick, PC(USA) stated clerk emeritus, preached a half of the opening sermon.
Note: Materials also remain from the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth: Read the Calvin09.org prize-winning sermon submitted by PC(USA) minister Ben Daniel of San Jose, California. Download a simple "John Calvin -- 500 years after." Take the Trouw C-Factor quiz that tests whether you are a Calvinist. Use the 60-minute DVD, "John Calvin: His Life and Legacy," prepared by PC(USA) Congregational Ministries Publishing.
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.
The council's publication, Reformed World, is available for paid subscription. Some older issues (published by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) are available for free download). The January 2010 issue is on "Communion and Justice: Eight regional perspectives for one communion.
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.
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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. CANAAC is WCRC's regional expression in the Caribbean, U.S.A., and Canada. In the immediate past, it has
sought to contextualize the work of WARC's Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth in this region.
PC(USA) minister Neal Presa (pictured) has served as CANAAC's convenor, and Robina Winbush serves on the steering committee. See links to member churches of CANAAC.
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.
Violence against women addressed in Caribbean Bible study
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 masulinity (also downloadable from WCRC).
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Presbyterian Rebecca Todd Peters talks to other WCC Faith and Order participants
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Plans for next WCC Assembly emphasize peace, justice, and unity
In a decision that will affect focus and programming before, during, after the next Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the WCC Central Committee has determined that the theme of the WCC's Tenth Assembly meeting in Busan, Korea in 2013 will be a prayer, "God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” The Central Committee's moderator, Walter Altmann, had originally argued that justice, peace, and unity should all be reflected in a theme, as a common vision. Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary, had shared his conviction that the churches are called to be one in faith but also in action on behalf of a just peace with dignity for all; he later said,
“[S]eeking justice and peace is a call to unity – and may be clearly interpreted as such.” Just peace became a dominant motif of the 2011 Ecumenical Peace Convocation that ended the Decade to Overcome Violence.
The biblical text for the theme will be Isaiah 42:1-4. Three sub-themes for the Tenth Assembly adopted by the Central Committee: 1) Life together in faith: unity and mission, 2) Life together in hope: for justice, peace and reconciliation in the world, 3) Life together in love: for a common future. The Central Committee also suggested that program planners consider adding a fourth sub-theme, “Life together in interreligious community life.”
Still under discussion is the question of how the assembly might be made "open and more inviting to increase participation and interaction with the wider ecumenical movement."
Rapidly changing realities require quick adaptation
A delegate told the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee on 17 February that, if the WCC cannot adapt quickly enough to rapidly changing ecumenical and interreligious realities, fixation on internal governance and institutional survival may "suck the life out of the ecumenical movement." A Central Committee exploration of change focused on the "ecclesial and ecumenical landscape" and "interreligious relations and cooperation." Lebanese Armenian
Nareg Alemezian said member churches must
"live the fellowship of the WCC beyond a merely institutional framework" and participate in "a prayerful movement with Christ at its center."
Ecumenical movement has not come far enough in gender issues
Bernice Powell Jackson (pictured left), the North American president of the WCC, expressed her sadness to a February Central Committee session that the ecumenical movement seems to have moved away from a 1981 commitment for 50% participation of women at Assemblies and Central Committee meetings.
Magali Nascimento Cunha (pictured right), a Brazilian woman, said that, although numbers are important, even more important is women
"being able to speak, being able to do, to lead, women being respected as partners being seen, being heard, their gifts being recognized and valued." Robina Winbush and Judy Angleberger are the the Central Committee members from the PC(USA).
Central Committee speaks to public policy issues
Among the public policy issues addressed by the WCC Central Committee in February 2011 are statements on violence in Libya, water and sanitation as a human right, rights of migrants/migrant workers, and the situations in Colombia, among indigenous peoples of Australia, and for Christians in the Middle East. It recorded its resolve to strengthen ecumenical work on HIV/AIDS.
WCC programs are streamlined
The WCC, at 60 plus years of age, now has some 350 members. The WCC Central Committee has structured WCC programs into six areas:
Four of the 25-member WCC executive committee come from the U.S.: Vicken Aykazian, Lois Dauway, Larry Pickens, and Tyrone Pitts. Garland Pierce (pictured) joined the WCC staff in May as the senior assistant to the WCC general secretary; coming from a previous senior position in the National Council of Churches U.S.A.
See the 2010 annual review from the WCC and separate financial reports.
Important areas of study are pursued by WCC bodies
• One of the current Faith and Order studies deals with unity beyond moral dissent, related to moral discernment issues—such as questions concerning human sexuality—which are divisive both within and between churches. Its working group is co-chaired by PC(USA) scholar Rebecca Todd Peters. It is anticipated that a text with their reflections will be available to the churches by 2013 for discussion.
• WCC member churches have been particularly requested to respond to the document, "The Nature and Mission of the Church" as part of the Faith and Order study process. Participants from the Orthodox churches gathered in Cyprus in March 2011 to offer a distinctly Orthodox perspective on the issues of ecclesiology. See their response, which will be input toward redrafting. A full revised text ready for the next Assembly may not be possible, PC(USA) participant Katharine Sakenfeld told the Faith and Order meeting in late 2009. There is also a concern that voices from the global South and from women be more clearly heard as reflection continues. The ecclesiology text, "Called to be the One Church," was adopted at the last WCC Assembly.
A third Faith and Order study deals with how churches relate to their sources of theological authority. A report from 2008 on "The Teachers and Witnesses of the Early Church" (also called the Cambridge report on Tradition and the traditions) recommends that ecumenical gatherings whether at WCC or more locally, opportunities are taken when appropriate to read and study patristic texts together." Further papers were read and discussion occurred at the 2009 Faith and Order meeting on Crete.
Hear MP3 presentations on various questions about Faith and Order. Access documents and see the report of the plenary meeting in October 2009 on the island of Crete. See the blog Aimee Moiso, a PC(USA) participant, wrote during the Crete meeting. Canadian Anglican John Gibaut directs the Faith and Order Commission.
• The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) has decided to hold a small 200-person mission conference in 2012. In 2007 CWME affirmed it would work on evangelism and an interfaith code of conduct on conversion. It will cooperate with Faith and Order on study of The Nature and Mission of the Church and will continue work on health / healing.
• A global platform for theological reflection is convened yearly to facilitate common understanding on crucial issues. The process brings together church leaders, theologians, ethicists, social scientists, and activists from different parts of the world and different traditions. The 2010 theme was
"Unity and mission today: voices and visions from the margins."
WCC involvement in HIV/AIDS work reaches 25th anniversary
WCC involvement in HIV/AIDS work was begun in June 1986. A special focus on sub-Saharan African, the area most heavily hit by the pandemic, led to the establishment of
the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA), which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2012. EHAIA was begun in cooperation with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and other stakeholders. One of its regional coordinators, Congelese doctor Hendrew Lusey (pictured), says that he faces two challenges: a cultural unwillingness to discuss sexuality and the infancy of ecumenism on the continent; there are also unequal power relations between men and women. In February 2011 the WCC central committee challenged the churches to renew their commitments to HIV/AID work and to strengthen regional / national networks.
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World Christian Communions
While almost all the WCC's programmatic work is already carried out in consultation with ecumenical partners, it is giving special attention now to coordinating these relationships and deepening its partnership with regional ecumenical organizations (REOs), national councils of churches (NCCs), Christian world communions (CWCs), and specialized ministries. A Joint Consultative Commission brings the WCC and CWCs together, including the global confessional families of Anglicans, Disciples, Eastern Orthodox, Friends (Quakers), Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholics.
The annual Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions last met on October 31-November 4, 2010 in Geneva. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches was represented by Douwe Visser.
World Student Christian Federation
Social networking platforms now functioning for WSCF
WSCFConnect.org is a new social network for WSCF students, senior friends, and supporters. There is also a Facebook page, and it is possible to follow tweets on Twitter. The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) encompasses 106 national student movements. Its general secretary is Christine Housel (pictured far left), an American Episcopalian. The WSCF vice-chair is also an American, Shantha Ready Alonso, a Roman Catholic who served as an intern with the National Council of Churches. One of the North America regional co-chairs is Presbyterian Rachel Medema (pictured, near left) 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.
WSCF focuses on ecological justice and theology
The WSCF has embarked on a two-year global campaign for water justice. The campaign relates to two WSCF themes, overcoming violence and economic justice. An article in the April newsletter notes that the UN predicts that access to water may be the biggest cause for conflict and war in Africa and elsewhere in the next 25 years. Water commercialization and water pollution have also become serious threats. A March seminar on
“Christian faith and ecology: towards an eco-ecumenical theology” at a Buenos Aires theological institution was partially sponsored by the regional World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) as well as the World Council of Churches. An Argentinian biologist spoke of the bidirectional nature of the redemption offered in Jesus Christ—the restoration of the relationship of humans with the Creator and also the healing of relations between humans and the rest of creation.
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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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