Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship News
“Transforming Worship” was the title of a Conference held in July 2017 and organised by the Worship Working Group of the National Assembly (videos and other resources from the conference can be downloaded here), but it is also a good description of how the group sees its work.
The Christian Unity National Conference was held on 21-22 October at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Melbourne. It brought together 25 people from each of the Synod Ecumenical Relations Committees and the Christian Unity Working Group plus some people who have been involved in ecumenical activities or dialogues.
World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee Report
22-28 June, 2016
‘Pilgrimage: Discerning the Landscapes Together’
The meeting of the Central Committee, the WCC’s main governing body until the next assembly, was called to order by its moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, who urged member churches to be catalysts for change in a ‘rapidly changing and increasing pluralistic world’.
During the week of the meeting I was actively involved in multiple aspects of the life of the council. Throughout this report I will detail my involvement with ECHOS Commission, Gender Advisory Group Work, ECHOS’ Buddy/Mentor Program, Key Statements and Decisions, General Report of the meeting and my nomination to the Executive Committee.
ECHOS Commission – Pre Central Committee Workshop
ECHOS Commission is the Commission of the World Council of Churches that works on issues, topics and areas concerning young people (loosely considered up to 30 years of age) involvement in the ecumenical movement.
I have been a member of this Commission ever since my nomination at the previous Central Committee meeting in 2014. I am on the leadership team of this Commission.
Half of our membership is made up of the youth advisors and central committee members.
Due to WCC budgetary constraints, we were unable to have a full commission meeting at the same time as the Central Committee meeting but insisted of meeting one day workshop prior to the meeting with those who would be in attendance.
During this one-day workshop I facilitated the group through further community building activities, reviewing the outcomes from our initial meeting in Cairo in May 2015, looked at the work that had been completed during this time and planned future work of the commission.
The ‘Youth Desk’ of the WCC is considered a ‘transversal program’, a program that cuts across many of the areas of the work of the council. The Commission attempts to mirror this approach and to imbed in different areas across the life of the Council. Our work is broken down into three main areas: Communication, Networking and Ecumenical Education and Formation.
Work throughout the year continues through online communication methods, with our next face-to-face meeting tentatively scheduled in August 2017, Romania.
ECHOS’ Buddy/ Mentor Program
Within the structure ECHOS, I am the subgroup moderator for the Ecumenical Education and Formation sub-group. During one of our Skype meetings, the idea of establishing a Buddy/Mentor Program for the Central Committee meeting and a plan was formulated.
Myself and another member of the subgroup, then contacted all members of the Central Committee through a staged process of finding out who may be interested to be involved in this initiative.
We received positive response from a number of members to be involved in this program, with over 50 people being involved. This involved members from many of the regions of the WCC.
People were then paired together with someone of the same gender and were encouraged throughout the meeting to meet in unofficial times and share with each other their thoughts, feelings, annoyances and pray together. A couple of all of participant gatherings were also organised that I facilitated.
The response of the program was positive and a number of recommendations and references were made to the program through the committee reports. The recommendations were based around further developing the program to existing and future members of the Central Committee.
The program was a good way to continue develop the fellowship and friendship that existed, mentoring was a two way process.
Gender Advisory Group – Report and Future Work
Following on from our initial meeting in Cyprus of the Gender Advisory Group, the Advisory working group had met again in Berlin, Germany in November 2015.
Our initial TOR had lent strongly towards developing a Gender Policy for the WCC, this is still in process but our main focus was framing the existing and future work of the council around Gender.
Our report covered four Pressing Issues and proposes for each of them recommendations for further work in the Council and its governing, advisory and consultative bodies. These themes are: Theological Education, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), Centring the Experience of Women in the WCC and Women’s Experience in Church, Home and Community.
The report was initially sent to Programme Committee for discussion and was approved prior to sending it through to Central Committee for final approval. The report of the Policy Committee also picked up on certain aspects of the report notably the recommendation concerning work of the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration developing new mechanisms of achieving a fairer representation of the commitment of ‘fair and adequate representation’ (Recommendation 3:1).
The Central Committee approved the report and the main recommendation ‘The Central Committee affirms the direction of the Council’s work on just community of women and men as presented in the Report of the Gender Advisory Group, requests the executive committee, commissions, reference groups and the general secretary to study the relevant recommendations and report back to the Committee in 2018 on action taken.
This report can be found on the WCC Website.
A date for the next Gender Advisory Group has yet to be determined.
Key WCC Central Committee Statements and Decisions
The agenda of the Central Committee was full of approving reports from the General Secretary, Moderator and Executive Committee, Committee work and approving of reports, plenary discussions, excursions, bible studies, regional and confessional meetings, prayers, eating a lot of salmon and dealing with the constant daylight!
Below are the list of Public Statements approved by Central Committee and other major decisions.
Public Statements from the Central Committee (these can be found on the WCC Website)
- Statement on the Forced Displacement Crisis
- Statement on the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict and Peace Process
- Minute on Human Rights Situation in West Papua
- Statement on Religion and Violence
- A Call for Solidarity and Action for Puerto Rico
- Minute on Human Trafficking and Migration and Smuggling
- Statement on outcome of UK Referendum on EU membership
- Resolution on outcome of the Indigenous People’s Conference on Reconciliation Process and Indigenous Peoples ( Candice Champion was a Uniting Church in Australia representative at this Conference).
- Statement on Colombian Bilateral Ceasefire Agreement
- The Gift of Being: Called to Be a Church of All and for All
- Principles of a Child Friendly Churches
- Review of reports of the Commissions
- Church Recommit to Accelerate HIV Response
- Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace
- 2018 World Mission Conference: A Tentative Proposal
New member churches included as part of the WCC include: Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), South Africa, Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) for the southern region of Malawi and the council of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI).
General Report of the Meeting
This is my second Central Committee meeting that I have attended and even though I feel like I do not know everything yet, my understanding of how things work is starting to further develop.
It was a worthwhile time reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and understand more about how this organisation operates.
This time I played a more active role with my involvement in ECHOS, coordinating the buddy/mentor programme, Gender Advisory Work and contributing to the discussion in Program Committee, Asian Regional Meeting and the plenary.
It will still be an ongoing learning and developing process as I continue to be further involved over the coming years.
Nomination to the Executive Committee
Finally, this happened! I was nominated to the WCC Executive Committee.
Initially I had my reservations about this nomination for a variety of reasons that I expressed multiple times throughout the meeting in the plenary, regional meeting and closed session.
In the eyes of WCC I am desirable person on paper, I tick many of their boxes. I am a woman, I am lay, I am young and I am from the Asian region. But my reservation was around the process that WCC go about nominating people and ‘invite’ people to be involved in these commissions and committees and the ability of the UCA to support in this involvement.
I expressed my concerns around this process, that we are more than just names on lists and we have lives and commitments beyond the WCC.
During the meeting I was in contact with Chris, Morag and Arvil updating them on the process and my initial reservations. Part of my personal concern centred around not having a clear understanding of where I will be in two years, let alone the next two months.
But through your ongoing support and encouragement I believe I will be able to fulfil this commitment and learn a lot along the way.
My term on executive committee does not begin until 2018, first meeting occurring in the days prior to the next Central Committee meeting in Geneva June, 2018.
Finally, I realise that this is a long report with a lot of information, thoughts and reflections outlined throughout. If you have any questions that you have regarding this report please let me know. I will be attending your meeting in August to officially present this report.
Thank you for your continued support.
United and Uniting Churches were called together by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to define their role in the wider ecumenical movement at the 9th consultation meeting.
The 9th consultation was in Chennai, India from 25 November to 2 December 2015, themed “Living in Tents: Pilgrimage of the United and Uniting Churches”.
On Monday evening the dialogue members gathered informally after dinner to share personal and denominational news. A special feature of this time was the acknowledgement of the important contribution made to the dialogue by Rob Gallacher, who has served with distinction both as an observer (2001 -2004) and as a full member (2005 – 2015) and for whom this was to be his final meeting.