Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, appointed Geneva Secretary for the 2016-21 quinquennium, recently attend the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee on 7-9 June. This was the first meeting she attended representing the World Methodist Council in this role. Also attending the WCC Executive Committee meeting was Bishop Mary Ann Swenson from The United Methodist Church, serving as vice-moderator. The overarching theme of the meeting was that of “Unity.” This was stressed by WCC General Secretary Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit as he addressed the group, stating that WCC’s main objective is to advance visible unity, through prayer and common service to the world. He said, “The unity that the WCC is able to express, in turn, contributes to the unity of humankind.” What visible unity looks like is often a dividing question in the ecumenical movement. “The opposite of visible unity is not invisible unity, it is visible division”. He emphasized on the importance of journeying together in the pilgrimage of peace and reconciliation. “Without peace there is no unity,” he said.
While addressing the committee, Dr. Tveit shared some examples of how unity is taking shape in the ecumenical community. Peace in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula remain priorities of the WCC, and Tveit celebrated signs of visible unity in the “healing of memories” between the churches of the Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church during worship services in Lund, Sweden, and Hildesheim, Germany. Bishop Wenner recommends the resource, From Conflict to Communion for further study. Tveit also shared that an evaluation was recently conducted on the work of the Global Christian’s Forum (GCF) which was birthed two decades ago after the WCC called for a new forum for encounter and conversation. The next Global Gathering of the GCF will take place in Bogota, Columbia, April 24‐27, 2018.
Engaging with the WCC
Bishop Wenner also shared plans for the World Missions Conference to be held at the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Missions in Atlanta, Ga., USA. The theme will be “Moving in the Spirit: Called to transforming discipleship”. She hopes for a “strong presence of the Methodists and Wesleyans as we identify ourselves as a mission movement.”
Advanced students have a chance to take part at the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) Programme.” Through the program, young theologians will engage in the theme of mission and have a unique ecumenical experience. The deadline for applications is July 31, 2017.
The World Council of Churches will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018! Celebrations are planned at various meetings of the WCC throughout the year including the meeting of the Central Committee in June.
The Role of Geneva Secretary
The position of Geneva Secretary has been vacant for at least the past 5 years, and some re-visioning has taken place with Bishop Wenner’s assuming the role. She sees the Geneva Secretary focusing on two key tasks:
- Connecting the work that is been done in the World Methodist Council, the European Methodist Council (EMC) and the member churches with the work of the WCC most of member churches are a part off.
- Communicating with the WMC, the EMC and their member churches what’s being done through the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation and other World Communions and letting leadership, staff and other WCC members know of the gifts and graces we as Wesleyans can offer to strengthen the common witness of the Christian Churches in the current age.
Bishop Wenner states, “I do not only see my role in the “faith and order” part of the ecumenical work … but also in the ‘Life and Work’ part. We as Methodists have a lot to offer in the current challenges with our emphasis on evangelism and social justice.
“I was very well received at this first trip to Bossey and Geneva and the leadership as well as staff persons whom I met are looking forward to a more intensive cooperation in the future,” she said.
Some thought is being given to maintaining a presence at the WCC headquarters, along with other representatives of World Christian Communions. This would allow further cooperation and connection, and provide a Methodist/Wesleyan presence.
At the conclusion of her report, Bishop Wenner said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this new office.”