06 July 2023

Commissioner Jane Paone at the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches

Following the 11th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe in 2022, the Central Committee met at the WCC Ecumenical Centre in Geneva from 21-27 June 2023 in the significant year of the WCC’s 75th anniversary.

Commissioner Jane Paone, Secretary for International Ecumenical Relations, International Headquarters, represented The Salvation Army as advisor to the Central Committee, which meets every two years.

Acting together for justice, reconciliation and unity

The strategic plan for the next eight years was outlined by the new General Secretary, Revd Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, who stated: ‘We live and witness in a world which is at the same time God’s beautiful creation and broken by ecological crisis, war, pandemic, systemic poverty, racism, gender-based violence, human rights violations, and many other sufferings.’ In response, the assembly invited the churches to continue their common journey in acting together for justice, reconciliation and unity.

The General Secretary continued that, as Christians, we realise ‘… our hope and trust is in the Triune God who continues to inspire and call us to be agents of hope. Faith communities remain a strong hope for promoting metanoia [transformation] in the hearts, minds and actions of people and communities that the world so urgently needs. Faith communities engaged in humanitarian work and trauma transformation are signs of hope.’

Regional meetings were held to give space for exchanges between those representing the Pacific, Caribbean, North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, addressing the questions ‘What does the Spirit say to the churches?’ and ‘How do we respond and show unity?’

Celebratory worship and lively debates

A celebratory worship service in the Cathedral of St Pierre, Geneva, on Sunday 25 June gave local churches the opportunity to join and witness the unity of spirit in this group, which brings together more than 200 representatives from around the world.

In his Bible message, the new Moderator, Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, compared the challenging situations of a post-war world of 75 years ago with today’s. He emphasised that ‘Service to Christ is intrinsically connected with service to the world.’ When people encounter Christ personally, responding to the invitation to ‘come and see’ (John 1:46), their whole perspective changes. There is, therefore, hope for the future.

Choir during 75th anniversary worship in St Pierre Cathedral, Geneva (Credit: Albin Hillert)
Choir during 75th anniversary worship in St Pierre Cathedral, Geneva (Credit: Albin Hillert)

Youth delegates and advisors were also involved in the plenaries and smaller committees. Lively debates on some sensitive topics, times of prayer, respectful listening and sharing led to a consensus and ownership. There were moments when a pause for reflection and prayer were necessary. There were also times of dancing and joy! Morning prayers prepared hearts and minds for the daily programme and gave a solid foundation. These moments of worship helped everyone on the pilgrimage of moving towards justice, reconciliation and unity.

Business plenaries also featured in the agenda, with a desire for stronger accountability. Goals were linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and indicators set so that they can be communicated to outside partners.

Pilgrimage towards unity

The week provided opportunity to enter into fruitful conversations (also during informal breaks) with Church leaders, lay people and representatives from other global Christian agencies. ‘Koinonia’ – the fellowship of the Body of Christ – was experienced. Members of the Central Committee are expected to encourage their respective churches in this pilgrimage towards unity. As people of the way, we are also on the way. We are on a journey together, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us and expecting God to surprise us.

Resources are available on the WCC website: Central committee, June 2023 | World Council of Churches (oikoumene.org)

IHQ Communications based on a report by Commissioner E. Jane Paone

Tags: Europe, News