World Council of Churches Central Committee calls for reconciliation in a fragmented world

A compilation of WCC releases

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee concluded a week of meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, June 21-27, with a call for Christians to turn to God as a worshipful, thankful, and hopeful people. The committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC between assemblies.

“Motivated by our hope in Christ, let us continue to play our part in God’s mission to the whole world as agents of reconciliation in a broken and fragmented world,” said vice-moderator Merlyn Hyde Riley, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, in the concluding sermon. “We return to situations of distress and dissatisfaction, pain and suffering but our spirit of thanksgiving will serve as a source of inspiration to fellow believers and witness to unbelievers and seekers as we keep focus on the work of God in Jesus Christ.”

Climate change as a justice issue

A plenary session raised the concern of serious food insecurity on a global scale, with emphasis on climate justice as a matter of both faith and action. People must be justice seekers, as justice and righteousness go together.

The WCC and its Central Committee commemorated the international ecumenical organization’s 75th anniversary on June 25 with a celebration at Saint Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland. The Church of the Brethren was one of the founding member denominations when the WCC was created in Amsterdam in August 1948, three years after the end of World War II. Photo by Albin Hillert/WCC

Speakers such as Armstrong Pitakaji of the United Church in the Solomon Islands shared the effects of climate change on their people. Pitakaji said the Pacific islands are vulnerable to climate change. “Let us be clear we are not drowning. We are fighting.” The churches in his area are seeking support for losses and for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

“These days, we are called to care for more than the widows and orphans of yesterday,” said Karen Georgia Thompson of the United Church of Christ in the United States. “The call to care for our neighbors as well as ourselves spans a range of issues with complex intersections and global effects. All the challenges we identified in our table conversations as part of our communities have global dimensions, and the global dimensions we name all have local manifestations.”

New Commission on Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Bylaws were adopted to create a new Commission on Climate Change and Sustainable Development as proposed by the WCC’s 11th Assembly last year. The Central Committee asked “the general secretary to inform the member churches about the creation of a new commission and request nominations.”

The other six commissions of the WCC are Faith and Order, World Mission and Evangelism, Education and Ecumenical Formation, Churches on International Affairs, Young People in the Ecumenical Movement, and Health and Healing.

The WCC Central Committee meeting. Photo by Albin Hillert/WCC

Youth advisors

The Central Committee appointed 17 youth advisors to a 2023-2030 term in order to strengthen the voice of young people in its work. The number is meant to achieve the target of 25 percent youth participation in the committee, and every person named was either a participant at the WCC’s 11th Assembly or was nominated by their church.

Strategic Plan 2023-2030

Approval was given for a Strategic Plan 2023-2030, determining that the “Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity” will serve as a programmatic umbrella. “Some member churches have adopted this approach already, others are just beginning to receive this idea of a spiritual journey which can be taken together,” said a statement.

A discussion of the common understanding of unity clarified that the focus for the WCC is on the unity of the church as a sign of God’s reconciling of all humankind and all of creation. “Yet, different ideas were exchanged, when to invite people of other faiths to become part of the companionship, especially in multi-religious contexts,” reads the report. “The common understanding of ecumenical diakonia provides more coherence to the programmatic work.”

Minutes and statements

Endorsement of Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and preparation for COP28: Noting the effects of climate change, meeting at a time of record sea surface temperatures and record high air temperatures, the statement acknowledges that “while some measures for the alleviation of the impacts of climate change are ongoing, the primary root causes of the climate crisis, namely fossil fuels, are barely addressed.” The minute requests the general secretary and staff, in consultation with WCC member churches and partners, to develop a statement for COP28 addressing urgent climate concerns.

Ecumenical Solidarity with Africa and People of African Descent: The minute observes that “this year also marks the 60th anniversaries of both the African Union and the All Africa Conference of Churches, and of the March on Washington.” It invites “continued solidarity and support of all members of the worldwide ecumenical fellowship for the churches and peoples of Africa, and for all people of African descent in their ongoing search for equal human rights.”

Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh): The minute reiterates profound concern about the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) due to the closure and blockade by Azerbaijan of the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to Armenia. It calls on Azerbaijan “for the immediate lifting of the blockade and to re-open the Lachin corridor to allow for the two-way free and safe passage of civilians, transport, and goods along the corridor and to guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access to alleviate the suffering of the Armenian population of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).”

Suspension of food aid to Ethiopia by USAID and WFP: The minute supports statements and letters from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia. The central committee appeals to “USAID and WFP, while investigating these allegations, to resume urgently this essential assistance to Ethiopian communities and people whose lives depend on it.”

SAYFO1915 (Syriac and Assyrian Genocide): The central committee requests “the general secretary to make preparations for observing the 110th anniversary of SAYFO1915 in 2025.”

War in Ukraine: The central committee continues to monitor with great concern the dangerous, destructive, and deadly consequences of Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. “We express once again the international ecumenical fellowship’s grief and dismay at the escalating toll of lives lost and communities destroyed,” notes the minute, which also request the “general secretary to exercise all possible efforts through the churches to bring this conflict and its appalling consequences to an end.”

Kosovo and Metochia: The central committee expresses its concern regarding the volatile situation in Kosovo and Metochia, and its effects on the legal and religious rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the region.

Palestine and Israel: The minute notes that 2022 was the deadliest year in Palestine and Israel in recent history. “Home demolitions, land annexations, and violations of international human rights law continue in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, hindering all efforts for peace and coexistence,” reads the minute. The Central Committee urges the international community to assume a greater role in supporting the protection of communities, and also calls on the international community “to take an active role to help reverse violent trends and to initiate practical solutions to achieve just and sustainable peace for all in the Holy Land, independent of political agendas and economic interests.”

Cyprus: The minute urges the international community “to strengthen its position on the situation in Cyprus, to support more intensive diplomatic efforts to secure a resolution based on the applicable principles of international law, and to support the continuation of encounters and confidence-building between the religious communities of the island for peaceful coexistence.”

Philippines: The Central Committee released a statement on the human rights situation in the Philippines. “The family members of the thousands killed under the previous Duterte administration are still working for justice and accountability but have few legal options in local and national courts,” reads the statement, which goes on to condemn “in the strongest possible terms the extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights violations being committed in the Philippines, and calls upon the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to stop these violations, to uphold human rights, to ensure that impartial investigations are carried out to hold perpetrators accountable, and to engage seriously and constructively with the three-year United Nations Joint Programme on Human Rights in the Philippines.” It also affirms the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, member churches, and ecumenical partners and others “for their courageous work with and for the poor in the face of violent opposition, and supports their call for the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines…to resume the formal peace negotiations and to address the root causes of the armed conflict.”

Korean peninsula: The 70-year-old War Armistice Agreement should be replaced with a peace treaty, said a public statement. “In a time of renewed escalation of tensions and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, we recall that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice Agreement which established a ceasefire, but not a formal end, to the Korean War. We pray for peace and dialogue to end this dangerous cycle, and for denuclearization not only of the Korean Peninsula but of the entire world.”

Myanmar: The situation for people in Myanmar–including more than one million ethnic Rohingyas–is increasingly concerning, said a minute. “It is with great distress that the WCC has been receiving reports of the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilian political leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, lack of due process for those arrested, the disproportionate and deadly use of force against protestors, and restrictions on independent media and access to information.” The minute notes attacks by Myanmar’s military on civilians, schools, health facilities, and churches. “We are also concerned about the plight of the many refugees from Myanmar who remain in limbo, including more than one million ethnic Rohingyas.”

Artificial intelligence: A public statement expressed concern at the accelerating pace of development and application of generative artificial intelligence (AI). “Concerns about this type of technology have been longstanding in the ecumenical movement,” the statement notes. “The central committee affirms the concerns expressed by many regarding the absence of effective regulation of the accelerating development of a technology with such vast acknowledged potential for harm as well as for good.” The statement invites member communions to “advocate with their governments for swift action to establish appropriate regulatory regimes and accountability frameworks, and to engage in theological reflection and study through their theological education institutions on the ethics of AI and its implications for human self-understanding, taking into account its potential positive as well as negative consequences.”

— Find more reporting from the WCC Central Committee meeting at


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