WCC NEWS: WCC moderator: Unity and just peace as assembly themes

Categories: Ecumenism

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From WCC media <noreply@wcc-coe.org>
Date Wed, 16 Feb 2011 18:40:51 +0100


World Council of Churches - News


For immediate release: 16 February 2011

Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches
Central Committee, argued forcefully today that unity as well as justice
and peace should be included in the theme for the next assembly of the
world’s largest ecumenical body.

The planning committee for the WCC’s 10th Assembly in October 2013 in
Busan, South Korea, is proposing to the Central Committee that they choose
one of two suggested themes -- “God of life, lead us to justice and
peace,” or “In God’s world, called to be one.” Altmann feels both
themes reflect a common vision.

“The proposed themes should not be seen as basically alternatives,”
Altmann said in his opening address to the 150-member Central Committee,
meeting here from 16 to 22 February. “Each of these two perspectives is
part of the one overall understanding of the ecumenical calling and
commitment that unites our fellowship.”

The focus on justice and peace is necessary, said Altmann – a Brazilian
Lutheran – because events such as the global financial meltdown and
recently successful democracy movements in Arab countries “bring to our
attention the risks of policies that affront human dignity and oppress
whole populations.”

That is why, Altmann said, “the eradication of poverty, the campaign
against hunger and commitment to justice in international economic
relations must remain on the WCC’s programme agenda.”

At a press conference after his address, Altmann said the influence of
liberation theology – with its focus on combatting poverty and
oppressive governments through Christian community organizing and action
– can be seen in his native Latin America. “The struggles of the
1960s, 70s and 80s are bearing fruit today,” he said.

He called for the WCC to “place even more intensively on its agenda our
concern for the Middle East, especially for the Holy Land.” The
inability of the nations involved to achieve the “essential aim” of
peace, he said, is not due just to the complexity of the Middle East
situation “but also to a persistent lack of political will to make the
concessions that are essential in order to attain [just peace].”

Altmann expressed particular concern for the Christian minorities in many
Middle Eastern countries, noting that the WCC’s efforts “contribute to
creating and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect and recognition
on which peace with justice can be built.”

Such efforts are no less important within the ecumenical movement, Altmann
continued; hence the need for an assembly theme embracing unity. A
suggested biblical text supporting such a theme, John 17:20-23,
“expresses better than any other the basis of our ecumenical calling and
commitment,” he added.

Because Christian unity “is a reality in the heart of God,” Altmann
said, the task of the churches is “to persevere in that unity, not to
depart from it, not to rebel against God and not to break off relations
with one another.”

And because unity is not “the result of establishing institutional
structures,” Altmann called for a “broadening and deepening” of the
ecumenism that recognizes that “there is only one ecumenical movement,
of which the WCC is a part.”

Noting that last year WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit was
invited to address major Pentecostal and evangelical gatherings, Altmann
said “respectful meetings should be followed by deepening relations ...
on the basis of spiritual discernment and theological reflection.”

Such efforts, he concluded, “require open minds, prayerful attitudes and
rigorous theological work."

Full text of the moderator's address (Link:

More information on the Central Committee meeting (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=24e713a130e13367574a )

Photos of the meeting (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=bc7d75d9b26e9cfba5f7 )

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 349 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 Olav Fykse Tveit,
from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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