World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Potsdam, Germany
29 January - 6 February 2001
Document No. PRIII 4


Adopted

REPORT OF THE POLICY REFERENCE COMMITTEE III

The Committee had two main tasks:

  1. To consider the reports by the Officers, the Moderator and the General Secretary, and to prepare the response by the Central Committee
  2. To consider questions regarding the institutional functioning of the WCC, its governing structures and matters of legal and constitutional concern.
REPORT OF THE OFFICERS (GS 1.1)
Following each meeting of the Executive Committee the General Secretary communicates the decisions to the Central Committee. In addition, the actions taken by the officers are being communicated to members of the Executive Committee. The Minutes of the Executive Committee are sent to the full Central Committee. There have been few requests for further information or explanation. The Secretariat would welcome more feedback from Central Committee members since the Executive Committee is a standing sub-committee of the Central Committee. It is suggested that e-mail correspondence be considered when communicating with Central Committee members when and where possible. Currently communication via e-mail is in place for members of the Executive Committee only.

The Committee considered the decisions taken by the Executive Committee and the Officers since the last meeting and offers the following observations:

Inter-Religious Dialogue:
In addition to the general guidelines for dialogue with people of living faiths, special guidelines for Christian/Jewish and Christian/Muslim dialogues have been prepared by the WCC. The work of the WCC in this area aims mainly at assisting member churches in their conversations with people of other faiths. The new emphasis on developing ecumenical perspectives and guidance regarding international inter-religious initiatives and events is commended.

Advocacy:
The committee commends the establishment of the new ecumenical mechanism for global advocacy, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. It endorses the criteria in choosing the topics (HIV/AIDS and Globalisation and World Trade) as pressing world issues that can also be addressed at regional, national and world levels.

Public Issues:
The Committee acknowledges that the Executive Committee in its actions has taken seriously the need to stay within the framework of policy previously adopted by the WCC. Attention is drawn to the booklet "The Role of the World Council of Churches in International Affairs" which sets out the rationale behind WCC decisions on public issues.

Finance:
Members of the Central Committee were reminded of the need to bring to the attention of member churches the obligation to pay membership fees. Meetings with church representatives are being organised in all regions of the world to highlight this need.

ACT and ENI:
The Committee took note of the fact that the Executive Committee has approved the statutes and by-laws of ACT International setting up ACT as an association under Swiss law. It also acknowledged that the Executive Committee had authorised the steps necessary for implementing the decision regarding ACT and ENI.

The Committee recommends that the Central Committee:
MODERATORíS REPORT (GS 1.2)
The committee welcomed the Moderatorís willingness to speak fearlessly on the issue of violence and non-violence. His aim of provoking a debate has certainly succeeded! The purpose of the Decade is to overcome violence and it builds on the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women and on previous WCC studies and initiatives on this subject.

It is important to remember that the aim of the address was to start a debate and expose the ambiguities that emerge when one examines the subject in any depth. However, it was questioned whether the churches could legitimise acts of war or justify violence even in a just cause. It was felt that the emphasis of the churches should be on the doctrine of a "just peace" and on how violence can be transformed and examples sought from around the world of how this has been achieved. This would lead to theological reflection, and the telling of stories as powerful tools within the Decade goals.

The Committee received reports on the discussion in small groups. It noted that the Moderatorís Report had led to a lively debate and expects that the Reference Group for the Decade will take the observations in these reports into account in developing further the conceptual framework of the Decade.

The Committee recommends that the Central Committee:


GENERAL SECRETARYíS REPORT (GS 2)
The committee is grateful for this clear statement on the current state of the churches in the world today. It heard with appreciation the testimony that the General Secretary on visits to Member Churches is being received as a brother in Christ rather than an administrator.

It valued 1) the analysis of the situation of church and society in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 2) The summary of differing ecclesiologies . It would have been helpful to have had a brief summary of Europeís world role in the 19th century.

The concept of Ecumenical Space has generated considerable interest within the Central Committee and challenges members to think further about its implications. Further work obviously needs to be done, for example on what it means to be all embracing, inclusive, holding a wide diversity of views and a place where everyone can participate. Concern was expressed what this might mean for the WCCís identity and what the cost implications might be.

The Committee recommends that the Central Committee:


WCC GOVERNING STRUCTURE (PRIII 2)
This discussion began with a working paper presented to the committee following the request of the Central Committee in 1999 to look at the nature and purpose of the Assembly, something which has not happened for thirty years. A wider discussion will need to involve member churches, assembly delegates as well as the Central Committee.

The following questions need to be addressed.

  1. The role of the assembly. Should it remain a legislative body as well as a deliberative one that also meets for fellowship and worship? To remove its legislative functions altogether might be to reduce it to a "talking shop" and might not attract attendance by church leaders.

  2. Method of voting. How should decisions on certain issues be arrived at? Majority voting and consensus were not the only possible alternatives. Some churches have experience of insisting on a 2/3 majority on some issues, voting by groupings and the respecting of a qualified minority vote. One also has to remember that the authority granted to any action by WCC governing bodies is very limited.

  3. Central Committee. Should members be chosen not through election by assembly delegates but by way of delegation from member churches on a regional/ confessional/ social basis remembering the particular emphasis of the WCC on the importance of representation by women and youth? This would presuppose a grouping of member churches for purposes of representation. It would also have the advantage of strengthening the involvement of national/regional councils of churches as well as linking these bodies more closely to the WCC and hence improving communication. This new model however, needs further work and staff are urged to look at various methods and criteria of representation for consideration at the next meeting of the Central Committee.

  4. Terminology. Are the titles Assembly, Central Committee, Executive Committee the most helpful ways of depicting the character of a fellowship of churches?
The Committee recommends that the Central Committee:
TIMETABLE (PRIII 3)
The Committee looked at the present and suggested timetable for the 9th Assembly and the meetings of the Central Committee. It fully accepted the reasons for postponing the Assembly to 2006 both because of the amount of work planned by the WCC in these years - the Special Commission, planning of our assembly and the election of a new General Secretary and because there are major assemblies held by ecumenical partner organisations from 2001-2005.

Ideally the committee would like to have a Central Committee meeting every year but recognizes the cost implications involved. It took seriously a proposal from the Finance Committee that there should not be a Central Committee in 2003. Since however, this would have implications for the election of a new General Secretary and since the proposed program of work for 2002-2003 is crucial to the work of the Council, it proposes a meeting of the Central Committee for 2002 and 2003. 2004 could then pass without a meeting of the Central Committee which would then meet again in early 2005. This would give the new General Secretary time to settle in before a Central Committee meeting and also allow time for final decisions about the Assembly to be made while reducing the over-all budget.

The Committee recommends that the Central Committee:


HUMAN RESOURCES
The committee received with appreciation a report from the Human Resources director outlining the new remuneration and staff development systems.

FORUM OF CHRISTIAN AND ECUMENICAL ORGANIZATINS (REL 2 and PRI 11)
The Committee welcomed both the idea of a Forum and what had already been done to explore its feasibility. It felt that it was important for the WCC to engage in dialogue with non member churches where previously there had been a degree of distrust. However, important as it was, the committee was clear that it did not want the setting up of competing ecumenical structures, nor that the WCC should bear costs. Regional/global forums could also be set up to deal with specific issues from time to time as an alternative to an institutionalized structured global forum.


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