World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Potsdam, Germany
29 January - 6 February 2001
Document No. PRI 13


Adopted

REPORT OF THE POLICY REFERENCE COMMITTEE I

Relationships between Christian World Communions and the World Council of Churches.
The Committee takes note of the steps taken to initiate, facilitate and strengthen the relationships between the WCC and the Christian World Communions as called for in the CUV document. After several meetings of a small task force appointed to prepare this process, the question of the relation between conciliar and reconciled diversity models of unity has risen. A brainstorming meeting in Bossey in July 2001 on the relationships of Christian World Communions and the WCC prepared by the staff of Church and Ecumenical Relations, Faith and Order, Bossey and the General Secretariat will focus on this question.

The Committee has given particular attention to the relationship between the WCC, Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Given the expectations expressed at the Harare Assembly, the committee regrets that so little progress has been made on practical co-operation, including the possibility of holding co-ordinated assemblies.

The work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation may have impact on this matter as well as the work of Policy Reference Committee III which is considering a proposal on the nature of future assemblies.

The Committee affirms the mandate of the WCC/WARC/LWF staff working group and makes the following recommendations in this light:

  1. The Committee recommends that the Executive Committee presents a report on current co-operation and plans for future co-operation between WCC and CWC (such as WARC and LWF) for the sake of our common service and as an expression of our fellowship in Christ, to the meeting of the Central Committee in 2002

  2. The Committee further recommends that the Executive Committee brings to the September 2002 Central Committee meeting an appraisal of the possibility for future co-ordinated assemblies of WCC, the WARC and the LWF.

Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church
The Committee affirms the agenda and the work of the Joint Working Group. Committee members stressed the importance of communicating the results of the Joint Working Group to the WCC member churches and the Catholic Episcopal Conferences and urges them to disseminate this to their local constituencies The Committee also suggests that the Decade to Overcome Violence provides an opportunity for initiating common action.


Joint Consultative Group between the WCC and Pentecostals
The Committee is impressed by the achievements so far in this very difficult area and affirms the importance of this consultative group. It hopes that the Joint Consultative Group will provide a context for the ongoing discussion of the issue of proselytism. As it looks to the future work of this new group, the Committee strongly urges that adequate funding be made available to enable its annual meetings. The committee also offers this recommendation to stimulate and support future work:

The committee recommends that the Central Committee encourage further relations and encounters between Pentecostals and member churches at local levels.

Interim Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC
The Committee reviewed the Interim Report of the Special Commission and the plenary discussion of this Report by the Central Committee. Members expressed gratitude to God for the deepening of honest dialogue and the spirit of fellowship that has grown through the work of the Special Commission.

The life of this Commission, in the words of one member, is like a young and tender plant that has begun to grow, but requires nurture and care. The Committee hopes that the work of the Commission can be under-girded by local encounters between Orthodox and other churches to build further an atmosphere of mutual enrichment and understanding. While challenging and serious questions need to be addressed in the coming period of the Special Commissionís work, the framework and progress thus far offer promise for the fruitful completion of its task by the time of the next Central Committee meeting.

The Committee also emphasised the importance of all member churches of the WCC being well informed about the work of the Special Commission. Further, the Committee recognised the wisdom and benefit of the Commissionís work being done in various Orthodox settings, enabling Commission members to share the living realities of these churches.

In light of these factors, the Committee makes the following recommendations:

  1. The Committee requests the Executive Committee to explore holding a future meeting of the Central Committee in an Orthodox context.

  2. The Committee requests the Central Committee to encourage member churches to undertake local encounters and visits between Orthodox and other member churches to foster understanding and mutual co-operation.

  3. The Committee requests the General Secretary, in reporting on this Central Committee meeting,
    • to communicate to member churches a summary of the Special Commissionís task and work thus far, and
    • to invite the member churches to accompany the work of the Special Commission with their prayers

    Membership Issues
    The Committee had a fruitful dialogue around the discussion paper on membership (PRI 5). In particular, members noted the crucial relationship between the "fellowship of the member churches," described by the CUV process as the central reality of the WCC, and particular organisational expressions of membership. The process of reflecting on various models of membership for the WCC obviously involves ecclesiological issues.

    In light of these factors, as well as the issues raised by continued membership applications, the Committee welcomed and affirmed the Group of Membership Study appointed by the Executive Committee. Further, the Committee emphasised the importance of keeping its task closely linked to the work of the Special Commission.

    The Committee also expressed strong support for the co-operative work being done by staff on membership contributions. It is noted that initial results of this work have increased the percentage of member churches making specific membership contributions from 48% to 54%. Intensifying this work to increase membership contributions, which is undesignated income, to CHF 10 million by the Ninth Assembly is strongly affirmed.


    The Question of Baptism
    During the course of the discussions, the issue of baptism was raised several times. The agenda of the Joint Working Group with the Roman Catholic Church, the Joint Consultative Group with Pentecostals, and the study on membership, for instance, all include a focus on how baptism is understood by churches, and the significance of this issue for ecumenical fellowship. Attention to our understanding of baptism is an important entry point for exploring the ecclesiological questions which are now clearly before the WCC and will be addressed by the Special Commission. Therefore, the Committee makes the following recommendation:

    The Committee recommends that the Central Committee establish a clear process to engage the member churches in a reflection on the meaning and significance of baptism for their participation in the ecumenical fellowship.

    The Forum Proposal
    The Committee reviewed the progress of the Forum proposal (Documents REL 2 and PRI.11) and the work of the Continuation Committee. Different ideas and models of a Forum have been proposed in various circles and are not yet clarified. The main task at this point is to continue this exploration, addressing all the questions and uncertainties.

    The Committee believes that a patient process, as well as attention to regional dialogues, are necessary for this exploration to proceed. Committee members pointed to the proposed CWME world conference as a potential space for enabling further exploration of the Forum. In addition, the relationship of the present annual gathering of Christian World Communion executives with the proposed Forum should be examined.

    Current efforts up to this point have focused on engaging Evangelical and Pentecostal constituencies. The Committee urges overall caution and care as we proceed, and it anticipates a greater clarity of purpose to emerge. The WCC has been helping to facilitate this exploration while recognising that it shares this task with other partners. Committee members do not want the Forum to lead to an alternative institutional structure competing for financial resources and ecumenical loyalties. At the same time the Committee is aware of the tension between the WCCīs role as a steward of its present organisational reality and its call to be the servant of the wider ecumenical movement, maintaining in both roles the focus on the goal of visible unity.

    The Committee acknowledges the necessary independence of the Continuation Committee, and wishes to offer its advice as well as to encourage this process of careful exploration. Questions were raised and clarification sought regarding the mandate and financing of this initiative. The committee hopes that the purpose of the Forum and its unique contribution will be further clarified and that it will strengthen the depth of fellowship while contributing to the ultimate goal of visible unity.

    In this spirit, the Committee notes with gratitude the progress to date and encourages future exploration to continue, focusing with care and sensitivity on the questions and possibilities of the Forum proposal.


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