Friday, 29 June 2018

World churches walking together

Written by Emily Evans, WCC Executive and Central Committees Member
Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

The centrepiece of the 70th-anniversary celebrations of the World Council of Churches (WCC) was a visit by Pope Francis.

I was at the meeting in Geneva representing the Uniting Church in Australia and as a member of the WCC Executive and Central Committees. I had the privilege to personally greet Pope Francis.

The Pope used his landmark visit to urge the worldwide Christian community to ‘walk, pray and work together’.

In 1948, the WCC was founded in the great hope that unity among churches might be a sign and servant of the unity of humankind, and the peace which the world cannot give, but which God promises.

In 2018, the WCC continues to long and work for the gift of unity - for the church and for the world.

As part of the celebrations, we recalled many stories of reconciliation and renewal over the lifetime of the WCC.

It is heartening to note that what seemed to be an ‘impossible possibility’ in 1948 has proved to be a lasting and visible sign of the unity God brings.

The world today is very different from the world of 1948.

During this week, statements were made by the WCC concerning various global situations, including Colombia, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo, North and South Korea, and the Middle East.

It was a moment of great joy to witness members from both North and South Korea worshipping together and standing united in a commitment to the peace process.

The statement on the Korean Peninsula acknowledged how closely the commitments expressed in the recent Panmunjom Declaration matched the key objectives of ecumenical advocacy in the past three decades for peace and unity in Korea.

The WCC is now tasting the harvest of its unwavering advocacy for peace on many fronts. The dawn of reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula, Thursdays in Black campaign and in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the WCC partner ICAN, as together it campaigns to abolish nuclear weapons.

The WCC used this anniversary moment to recommit ourselves and our churches to continue the journey together.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, reminded us, “The fruit of unity cannot ripen without divine grace.”

We have learned over 70 years that human endeavours often fail, but that the grace of the God who is always faithful is with us and will bring to fulfilment the prayer of Jesus “that they may be one”.

Pope Francis commended the WCC for its great contribution to ecumenism and challenged us to “let the Spirit strengthen our steps as we walk, pray and work together: this is the great path that we are called to follow.”