Ecumenical Greeting Delivered by the Representative of the World Council of Churches, Ms Teny Perri-Simonian on behalf of the General Secretary, The Revd Dr Samuel Kobia to the 13th ACC Meeting
President of the Anglican Consultative Council,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Grace and Peace to you. I am sure that your prayers, deliberations and resolutions at this 13 th meeting of the Consultative Council will help you continue your Christian vocation as a living communion. By so doing, you will also strengthen the fellowship of churches within the World Council of Churches (WCC) on their way towards koinonia, in response to their common calling to unity, mission and service.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Archbishop of Canterbury and President of the Anglican Consultative Council. During out meeting the Archbishop reconfirmed the commitment of the Anglican Church to the fellowship of churches within the World Council of Churches. Our cooperation has been has been fruitful for the ecumenical movement. I reminded him of the visits of his predecessor His Grace Robert Runcie and invited him both to our 9 th Assembly to be held 14-23 February 2006 in Porto Alegre, brazil, and to the World Council of Churches in Geneva after the Assembly. I use this opportunity to reiterate my invitations. We shall continue walking together according to the prayer of Jesus Christ that all may be on in order that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21).
In 1998 the Eight Assembly of the WCC adopted the policy stated. “Towards a Common Understanding and Vision”. The document called for the strengthening and deepening of relationships with and among member churches. It encouraged the WCC to widen its relationships to include non-member churches. And, not least, it recognized the important relationship between the WCC and the Christian World Communions, stating that
“these relationships should be marked by mutual accountability and reciprocity, and the Council should seek ways to share tasks and resources with these partners in the ecumenical movement. Such sharing is particularly important for … world-wide communion of churches of which most if not all members are also member churches of the WCC” (CUV, Chapter 4).
I therefore extend my greetings to the representatives of the Anglican Provinces, which are also members of the World Council of Churches. A strong relationship between the WCC and the Anglican Consultative Council through our common member churches will be enriching for both of us. It will strengthen the Anglican member churches’ sense that they are part of the worldwide fellowship of Christians, and it will remind all the churches in the World Council that ecumenical commitment can be nourished by rootedness in an ecclesial tradition (CUV, Chapter 4).
Driven by this spirit, I would like to identify four areas of work that are on the agenda of the WCC and will also impact the life of the Anglican Consultative Council:
Bilateral Dialogues: Although bilateral dialogues and theological and ecclesiological discussions have been successful, they will contribute to visible unity only when they are discussed in a multilateral context. The bilateral forum of the Faith and Order Commission has served as the place for such conversations. Only by strengthening Faith and Order will we be able to bring together the results of these dialogues and also identify new issues for discussion in bilateral dialogues.
The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches was created in response to questions raised by Orthodox member churches. The work of the commission demonstrated that the issues raised by the Orthodox also reflected the concerns of other member churches. On the basis of the final report of the Special Commission, the Central Committee added a theological criterion to the WCC membership requirements and proposed a new category of membership, “members in association with”. This new category will enable smaller churches to join the Council, and, in other cases, will allow churches in difficult situations to withdraw from the Council temporarily and yet remain in association with the Council until the period of difficulty has passed.
The Special Commission also proposed that WCC governing bodies adopt consensus decision-making as an alternative to voting. This concept is not new for the WCC; certain member churches live this experience based on their theology and ecclesiological self-understanding: for example, conciliarity’ in the case of Orthodox churches, and ‘suspending judgement’ in the case of the historic peace churches.
‘Difficult questions: Like the Anglican Communion, the WCC finds itself facing sensitive issues which challenge both individual churches and churches in their relations with each other. Many of these issues relate to fundamental questions of anthropology and ethics. Today, member churches of the WCC do not speak with one voice on a number of new sensitive issues; indeed, in some cases they have not yet found the language to talk constructively with one another about them. We have begun using a methodology of “listening to one another”, especially in the area of human sexuality. In February 2005, the Central Committee adopted an aide-memoire to help churches journey together towards mutual understanding in these areas. Can we learn together how to shape a common response to difficult questions?
Ecumenism in the 21 st Century: Since 2003 the WCC has undertaken a study process in order to respond to the changing Christian landscape, and to the need to revitalize the ecumenical movement. Statistics reveal that Christianity is thriving in the South, and new churches are springing up in all regions and challenging the ecumenically committed historic churches. Ecumenical organizations seeking Christian unity at the global, regional and national levels have multiplied, and this brings new questions regarding their financial sustainability and the role within the one ecumenical movement.
Being the Church and serving the one ecumenical movement are central ecumenical issues today. A consultation held in December 2004 proposed the establishment of a Continuation Group convened by the WCC, to which Christian World Communions are also invited. This group will take up the reflection on the new configuration of the ecumenical movement. I would wish that the plurality of the Anglican Church as it has enriched the World Council of Churches, and the experience of the Anglican Consultative Council as a world communion, will contribute to this process.
The areas of concern I have tried to identify have no “expiration date”. They will remain with us as we prepare the 9 th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. At the Assembly we shall pray, celebrate and reflect on the basis of the theme “God, in your grace, transform the world.”
I pray that this theme will not only help us draw lessons regarding the areas of concern mentioned above, but will also help us move together in building s spirituality based on our respective ecumenical treasures. Only through prayer and spirituality may we respond to the devastating problems of the world and to the changing ecumenical scene. Nor may we forget that the youth of today will inherit our legacy and, therefore, we are responsible to prepare them as active participants in building the household of God.
In conclusion, I would like to ask our member churches in the Anglican Consultative Council to help strengthen the fellowship of the World Council of Churches in its proclamation of our common faith, prophetic witness, mission and service so that our unity may be visible and the world may believe.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Dr Samuel Kobia