Churches in the world

The churches and society

The churches in ecumenical fellowship

Finances and organization

WCC structures




Print versions of
"WCC YEARBOOK 2003: The Year in Review 2002"

(with lists of member churches, national and regional ecumenical bodies, specialized ecumenical organizations, members of the WCC central commitee and staff, and the texts of the WCC Constitution and Rules)
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The ecumenical movement confronts a world of challenges, a world filled with ambiguities. On the one hand, the vision and need of churches to work towards visible unity in worship, service, faith and practice - to recognize in each other elements of the “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” - has been acknowledged by most Christian churches and integrated into their self-understanding. Only a minority of Christian communities would openly question or resist the call to greater fellowship.

Yet we also face the following realities:

  • an increase in denominationalism and the need to affirm particular identities;
  • a younger generation that seems less and less attracted by institutional forms of church unity and cooperation;
  • single-issue campaigns and civil society organizations that increasingly compete for support, public attention and funding, so that a multifaceted, ecumenical approach to issues of justice and service encounters apathy in a climate dominated by expectations of quick, dramatic and visible results;
  • a proliferation of ecumenical organizations and agencies that, on the one hand, signal the success of the ecumenical vision and yet, on the other hand, increase pressure for coordinated decision-making and action as well as for adequate funding.
  • All these realities are magnified by the impact of globalization, which challenges churches and ecumenical organizations to hold together both local and global identities, to strengthen communities and to promote a just and sustainable vision of humanity while encouraging interconnection, dialogue and solidarity.

    At its meeting in late August and early September 2002, the WCC central committee surveyed the state of the World Council and the many challenges confronting it near the mid-point between the eighth and ninth assemblies. The committee took a number of important actions continuing emphases identified at Harare in 1998, and these directions are reported in the chapters that follow. The central committee also made several key decisions regarding the immediate future of the WCC, electing a search committee to nominate a successor to Konrad Raiser on his retirement as WCC general secretary at the end of 2003, adopting a series of recommendations arising from the final report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC, and voting to proceed with arrangements for the ninth assembly to be convened at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in February 2006.

    In an end-of-year report, Konrad Raiser underlined five important features of the broad context that is shaping the work of the World Council as it journeys from Harare to Porto Alegre:
    1. The significance of the Council’s fundamental commitment to church unity in a world where many are experiencing the fragmentation of communities under the impact of globalization.
    2. The imperative for religious communities and religious leaders to affirm reconciliation and peace, rejecting violence as they build reconciled societies.
    3. The challenge of economic globalization pushing large numbers of people and communities to the margin, excluding them from full inclusion and participation.
    4. The need to review the organization of the worldwide ecumenical movement and to consider a new “ecumenical architecture”.
    5. The continuing central role of the ministries of service and solidarity, fundamental to “being church” and meeting human needs.

    As the WCC turns its energy to preparation for its 2006 assembly in Porto Alegre, leaders are voicing a renewed commitment to meet the many challenges faced by the fellowship of Christians in a world still so much in need of unity, justice and peace.