The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee met in Amman, Jordan from 17-23 November to approve the 2018 plan and budget and prepare for renewal of the WCC strategic plan. The Executive Committee also discerned the way forward for the WCC’s involvement in Palestine and Israel by learning more about the particular situation in Jordan and the Middle East, then discussing the challenges of the churches and the WCC response. The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, All Palestine and Jordan, Theophilos III, welcomed the group.
His Majesty King Abdullah received a WCC delegation to discuss the current situation in the Middle East. During the meeting, King Abdullah assured the delegation that Jordan, under the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, will continue efforts to preserve the city’s holy shrines and defend the property of its churches at all international forums.
King Abdullah reiterated that Arab Christians are an integral part of the region and a key element of its identity, affirming that the protection of rights is the duty of all.
King Abdullah also underlined efforts Jordan continues to exert to disseminate the values of tolerance and moderation and to build bridges of dialogue and understanding among the followers of different religions.
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said: “Jordan is a unique model of coexistence”, praising its endeavours in encouraging religious dialogue and launching initiatives that foster fraternity, tolerance and moderation.
Executive Committee emphasizes peace, justice and unity
The Executive Committee gathers at a time when the WCC is renewing its efforts in a number of areas. A new Ecumenical Global Health Strategy is underway. Through the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme (EHAIA), and a recent in-depth impact assessment is underway to guide the organization’s next steps in working to overcome HIV and AIDS as a public health threat. Finally, the WCC Executive Committee approved the strategic plan for the period of 2018-2021 for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
The Executive Committee received the report from the Mid-Term Evaluation Team, made initial preparations for the Central Committee meeting in 2018, and defined the next steps in the building project.
Theophilos III said: “We welcome you to Amman in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and we bring you the blessings of the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
He added: “We are delighted to be able to host this meeting of your Executive Committee, and we wish to express our continued commitment to the work of the World Council of Churches.”
Theophilos III underlined in his opening address: “You come to the Middle East at a difficult time for our region. The world community is united in the view that a vital, vibrant Christian community is an essential part of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious landscape of the Middle East. We are indigenous to this region.”
The Patriarch concluded: “We hope very much that our World Council of Churches will continue in its mission in the Middle East to secure the position of the Christian Community against the new threats to our existence and freedom.”
“We know that we have come at a time when our brothers and sisters in this region face great challenges,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, extending gratitude to Patriarch Theophilos III and the local churches receiving the Executive Committee.
“We deeply appreciate the way we have been invited here, to deliberate, work, and pray together, and we look forward to continuing to support each other on our journey as a worldwide fellowship of churches”, Tveit added.
A pilgrimage graced by faith
WCC Central Committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom said that most WCC programmes and visits have engaged the pilgrimage of justice and peace, a foundation for WCC’s work since the 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2013.
“Our pilgrimage of justice and peace has been graced by faith,” she said. “We began the journey together not knowing everyone. But we took a bold step to move together. We now know each other.”
By taking cautious steps together, she added, the WCC fellowship can now raise questions to and with one another, sometimes not comfortable questions. “But at least we feel that on the journey we have come to a stage where we can raise these questions,” she said. “Our journey together has centered around issues of love, care, humanity, and God’s creation.”
The Executive Committee will need to review its own performance, Abuom concluded. “What we are leaving for the generations to come?”
She added: “As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, he will guide us in our reflections and decision. We can ask God to give us wisdom to journey into the future with courage so that tomorrow we can give an account to our Lord and Saviour and to those who have entrusted his mandate to us.”
A quest for unity
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in his report, emphasized a quest for unity within the WCC’s work, particularly as it relates to justice and peace across the world.
“We are gathered here in a peaceful and hospitable setting, in a region of many conflicts and challenges,” said Tveit. “We are here to learn more about the realities of those challenges, but also to learn more about the rich traditions, the Christian presence and witness here, and the initiatives to live together in justice and peace for all.”
As the WCC moves through the mid-term between its 10th and the 11th assemblies, we live in a world where the dividing and fragmenting powers are strong, reflected Tveit.
“The approach we have as WCC to be together on a pilgrimage of justice and peace has proved its relevance,” he said. “As we prepare for the 70th anniversary we are in a modus of thanksgiving and proving how this body is alive, moving and taking new initiatives for the sake of the unity of Christians and the churches in the world.”
Tveit emphasized a new quest for unity, and among his personal experiences was a two-week visit to WCC’s churches and partners in the Pacific region. “In the different encounters with them, I was reminded how the WCC represents the Christian family in the whole world, and how our member churches make significant contributions to this understanding of being united as humanity, as creation and as sisters and brothers in Christ,” he said. “The hurricanes and the extreme weather including drought, rain, and wind in many parts of the world have made many more around the world feeling themselves what the peoples from the Pacific have talked about for a while.”
Visits to the Pacific region as well as to various sites observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation had an impact on the WCC’s mutual relationships in a short and a long-term perspective, reflected Tveit. “We restored the sense of contact and attention and we shared ideas for the future mutual involvement,” he said.
Unity is a key issue for the pilgrimage of justice and peace in Africa and for the preparations of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Tanzania next year, continued Tveit. “The call to unity for the nations is much stronger when the churches also find their own credible expressions of unity,” he said.
The WCC has paid particular attention to the situation in Palestine and Israel, and the injustices, conflicts and occupation that still are obstacles to a just peace for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. “The call to just peace is as urgent and significant as before, if not even more,” Tveit concluded.
In Amman, the Executive Committee shared experiences and developments from churches in the different regions, and reflected on the impact of the current political climate on the ecumenical movement. The committee also received an update on celebrations of the WCC 70th anniversary and preparations for the WCC 11th Assembly.
The prophetic voice of the council – seven statements
The Executive Committee issued a “Minute on the situation in Zimbabwe” as developments in Zimbabwe have led to the resignation of President Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power.
The Executive Committee issued a statement expressing concern over the ways in which church institutions and properties in Jerusalem are threatened as a result of contracts of disputed legality, the efforts of radical settler groups, and policies of the government of Israel.
The Executive Committee issued a statement on recent developments in Iraq affecting the prospects for sustaining religious and social diversity, and the future of the nation and its peoples.
While celebrating new steps taken towards global elimination of nuclear weapons, the Executive Committee also fears the cycle of confrontation on the Korean peninsula might slide into nuclear warfare.
The Executive Committee issued also a “Statement on Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and on 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.”
“The Amazon, the green heart of the Earth, is mourning and the life it sustains is withering,” begins a statement released by Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee issued a statement on the detention of Bishop Carlos Morales and the situation in Mindanao, Philippines.
Visit to the refugee camp and Petra
The Executive Committee members visited the historical city of Petra, as well as other biblical sites in the area. They also visited the refugee relief centre affiliated with the Near East Council of Churches at the Azmi Mufti refugee camp near Irbid, where they listened to a briefing on the services presented to more than 5,000 Palestinian refugees. The different excursions and meetings, allow people, in a more practical way, to see the implications of the situation and the WCC’s involvement in Palestine and Israel.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee met in Amman, Jordan from 17-23 November. The Executive Committee is the governing body that carries out essential business for the WCC. The group provides direction to the general secretary on work and developments while deepening common understanding on specific issues. The WCC Executive Committee is formed by the WCC Central mCommittee, which elects 20 of its members along with the Central Committee moderator, two vice-moderators and the WCC general secretary, as well as the moderators of the WCC programme and finance committees.
Please contact WCC director of communication Marianne Ejdersten: firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 507 63 63
This article originally appeared at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre.