Glimpses of the World Council of Churches Assembly

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.

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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.

The Church of the Brethren group at the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, standing together from the churches in Nigeria and the United States: (from left) Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), who was EYN’s delegate; Nate Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., and advisor for the Church of the Brethren delegation; Anthony Ndamsai, vice president of EYN and advisor for the EYN delegation; Liz Bidgood Enders, delegate for the Church of the Brethren in the US; Koni Ishaya, attending as an international theological student, who has been working for EYN in the area of peacebuilding; David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the US; Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., who has been serving a term on the WCC Central Committee; and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren in the US.

Pictured at left are two additional participants at the assembly who identify as Church of the Brethren: Zoughbi Zoughbi from Palestine, shown here participating in the youth-led climate rally; and Sara Speicher from the United Kingdom, who worked with assembly communications, shown here (at center) greeting the Church of the Brethren delegation.


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.

Prayer during a meeting of the Historic Peace Church representatives–from the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Society of Friends or Quakers–and the Moravian Church representatives.
The prayer tent was a temporary structure placed in a square in the center of Karlsruhe’s Kongresszentrum, a municipal center that includes a concert hall and large auditorium among other buildings.


Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, leads the business sessions, assisted by vice moderators from the Central Committee, and by acting general secretary Ioan Sauca.
Delegates hold up orange cards to show their agreement with or approval of what is being said on the business floor. Blue cards are held up to signify disagreement, or by those having questions or wanting more discussion. Green cards are held up for official votes.

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.

Church of the Brethren (US) delegate Liz Bidgood Enders helps present a paper on “War in Ukraine, Peace and Justice in the European Region,” which also addressed the migrant crisis. She served on the writing team for the paper, as one of the delegates named to the Public Issues Committee.


The Christian world was well represented, in all of its variety.

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.

Peace churches

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.

Church of the Brethren delegate Liz Bidgood Enders (at right) and Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter (third from right) during one of the meetings held by the “church family” of the historic peace churches and the Moravians.


The plenary sessions included panel discussions (below) but also music and dance and drama, often focused on biblical stories. Above: a wheelchair dance highlights the leadership of people with disabilities. At right: dancers help bring a focus on the concerns of indigenous Pacific islanders.

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.

Weekend excursions

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.

One of the Saturday excursions was led by members of the peace movement in Germany, with a focus on nuclear weapons. The excursion group prayed outside the gates of a German air force base where US nuclear weapons are stored and maintained by US military personnel. Several peace movement organizations sponsor a peace site outside the base, shown above.
At left and below: views of the Maulbronn monastery, which is a world heritage site. One of the Sunday excursion groups spent the day there, hosted by the Monastery Church congregation that continues to worship in and help maintain the centuries-old sanctuary and church building complex originally built by Cistercian monks. Above: a vineyard on the hill above the monastery.

Climate justice

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.

Young adults “took over” the microphones on the business floor on one afternoon, in an attempt to call for more young adult leadership in the WCC and its member churches.


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