Churches in the world
The churches and society
The churches in ecumenical fellowship
Finances and organization
"WCC YEARBOOK 2003: The Year in Review 2002"
a COMPANION VOLUME (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)
are available from WCC publications.
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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
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
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
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
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.