EYN president Samuel Dante Dali represented the world community of the Church of the Brethren at the recent Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Dali, whose own national body Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, is a member denomination of the WCC, attended as proxy for Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.
Noffsinger was one of those elected to the WCC Central Committee by the WCC 10th Assembly in November 2013, but was not able to attend because the meeting coincided with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.
The Central Committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC until the next assembly, meeting every two years. The committee consists of 150 members from all global regions and is responsible for carrying out the policies adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly, reviewing and supervising WCC programs, and the budget of the council.
Churches to continue their “pilgrimage of justice and peace” in the world
At the opening of the Central Committee meeting July 2-9, the moderator Dr. Agnes Abuom reflected on the significance of the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace,” which is based on a call issued by the WCC Assembly.
The final message from the WCC 10th Assembly states, “We intend to move together. Challenged by our experiences in Busan, we challenge all people of good will to engage their God-given gifts in transforming actions. This Assembly calls you to join us in pilgrimage.”
Emerging concerns for the global Church
Renewal of churches’ commitment towards Christian unity as well as solidarity with churches in conflict situations remained in focus during the meeting. Countries where churches’ work for justice and peace is being prioritized include the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, and Israel and Palestine. Strategies were also developed on how to promote churches’ work for the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
Climate change, ecological and economic justice, and sharing of resources among the churches emerged as major topics during the six-day meeting. The current situation in Mosul, Iraq, was highlighted through a statement. The need for stronger engagement from youth in the ecumenical movement was stressed. A statement “Towards a Nuclear-free World” recommended ways for churches to work to end nuclear dangers and respond to the witness of those affected by continuing nuclear tragedies – from Hiroshima in 1945 to Fukushima in 2011 and beyond.
In his report, the WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit highlighted the significance of ecumenical, inter-religious, and ecclesiological dialogue, as well as Christian mission. He mentioned the need to enhance support for refugees and displaced peoples, as well as efforts from the churches in addressing issues related to HIV and AIDS. In pursuit of “justice and peace” Tveit encouraged a stronger participation in the churches from youth, women, as well as people with disabilities.
The Central Committee accepted an application from the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa to be re-admitted as a member within the WCC after having parted ways with the council due to fundamental disagreements on policy during the apartheid era. Applications from the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Blantyre Synod in Malawi, as well as from the Council of Baptist Churches in Northeast India, were also accepted. Action will be taken on these applications at the next Central Committee meeting in two years’ time.
As the members of the Central Committee returned to their home communities across the world, they will consider some key questions: What is a pilgrimage? What are justice and peace? Why a pilgrimage of justice and peace?
The answers will depend on the realities faced in a particular country or community, reflected Marianne Brekken of the Church of Norway. “We have been challenged by the realities we are facing in different contexts,” she said. “It was a hard reality to face and hear about how we can be a fellowship when we are in crisis. To hear about the situation in Nigeria is hard for me, coming from Norway. Through sharing, we are also walking together.”
Earlier in the meeting, WCC Central Committee members from areas challenged by conflict shared their stories with colleagues, bringing a new understanding to people who don’t often hear such firsthand accounts.
— This report includes sections of several press releases from the World Council of Churches.