Text and photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren
Brief glimpses of the experience of the WCC’s 11th Assembly, held in the German city of Karlsruhe from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8, 2022.
Find a full photo album at https://www.brethren.org/photos/world-council-of-churches-assembly-2022/
The Church of the Brethren has been a member denomination of the WCC since its start in 1948. As a founding communion, the Church of the Brethren has sent delegates, observers, staff, and/or communicators to the assemblies that are held about every eight years in different parts of the world.
Morning and evening prayers (Brethren would identify them as worship services) were at the heart of the assembly, and demonstrated visibly and audibly the ecumenical goal of Christian unity and also the diversity of the participants.
Leadership came from the breadth of the Christian traditions involved with the WCC, and from every part of the world. Emphasis has been given to including leadership of women, those with disabilities, youth and young adults, indigenous peoples, laity as well as clergy.
Delegates and their advisors, along with Central Committee members and others, were seated at the delegate tables during the business sessions. The business was carried out using a consensus style.
On the agenda: elections of the WCC presidents representing the continents of the world, and the 150 members of the Central Committee; documents relating to the organization and maintenance of the WCC and its programing; and statements on current issues facing the worldwide Christian community.
At the head table, Agnes Abuom served as moderator for the business sessions in her role as moderator of the WCC Central Committee. From the Anglican Church of Kenya, Abuom is a development consultant serving both Kenyan and international organizations coordinating social action programs for religious and civil society across Africa. She was the first woman and the first African ever to serve as assembly moderator. She also has served on the WCC Executive Committee, was the first Africa president for the WCC from 1999-2006, and has been associated with the All Africa Conference of Churches, the National Council of Churches of Kenya, and Religions for Peace.
The WCC Assembly is one of the most–if not the most–diverse Christian gathering, with people attending from 350-plus member churches on every continent and a wide variety of Christian traditions. In addition to delegations from member churches, guests and observers and representatives attend from partner organizations and Christian bodies that collaborate and work with the WCC including the Roman Catholic Church, and interfaith representatives from Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths.
The historic peace churches–the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)–met with the Moravians as a “family” of churches. During the course of three such meetings, the peace church voice was discussed and the group took a look at the business coming to the assembly from the point of view of the peace witness.
Plenary sessions presented and helped the assembly identify the urgent issues and concerns facing the Christians of the world.
The climate crisis and environmental justice rose to the top of priorities, along with the rights of indigenous peoples, the migration crisis, racism and the need for racial justice, inclusion of youth and young adults in church leadership, the war in Ukraine, the continuing violence and suffering in Palestine and Israel, among many more.
On the weekend, while delegates who were named to committees prepared the business documents for the assembly, other participants had the option for excursions. Buses and trains took groups to visit churches and ministries, historical Christian sites, and places of interest around Karlsruhe and the wider region.
The urgency for churches to take action on climate change and environmental justice was stated in no uncertain terms by young adults at the assembly. A group of young adults including delegates and assembly stewards, or volunteer assistants, held a march and rally encouraging the delegate body to make a forceful decision for climate action.
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