That's a wrap on the WCC 11th Assembly
September 14, 2022
“We long for a wider movement ... a unity in which God establishes justice, an equal place for all, through which creation may be renewed and strengthened.”
This line captures the spirit of the delegates’ message released on the final day of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly, which calls people of faith and goodwill across the world to deeper unity as together they seek a more just and reconciled world.
“Amid all our diversity,” the message reads, “we have relearned in our assembly that there is a pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation, and unity to be undertaken together.”
Acknowledging the global moment in which the Assembly took place, including ecological crisis, conflict, violence and inequality, the statement names a common calling “in discovering how Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”
“Unity, which is a gift from God, and which arises from reconciliation and is grounded in his love, enables us to address the world’s urgent problems.
“We will find a strength to act from a unity founded in Christ’s love, for it enables us to learn the things that make for peace, to transform division into reconciliation, and to work for the healing of our living planet.”
The Assembly closed on 8 September after eight days in the German city of Karlsruhe, gathering more than 3000 delegates and other participants from across the global communion.
It followed a daily rhythm of worship, morning and evening prayer, regional groups and plenary sessions where creation care, climate justice, gender justice, peace, and Christian unity were all on the agenda.
Several Uniting Church members were present at the gathering, including official UCA delegates President Rev Sharon Hollis and Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer. National Interim Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev Mark Kickett attended the Assembly as an advisor and spoke on a panel at the Indigenous Peoples pre-Assembly gathering.
Emily Evans, who is an outgoing member of the WCC Central and Executive Committees after nine years, was a key facilitator of the consensus decision-making processes used throughout the gathering. You can listen here to Emily talk about her time on the Central Committee on Dwelling, the President’s podcast.
The eight-yearly Assembly ushers in new leadership for the WCC, including a new Central Committee, the chief governance group which carries forward the work of the WCC in between Assemblies. Uniting Church President Rev Sharon Hollis was among 150 Assembly delegates elected. Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria was elected the Central Committee’s Moderator.
The Assembly also elected eight new Presidents, one each from the WCC’s six regions and two from orthodox churches, whose role is to promote ecumenism and the work of the WCC in their region.
A second major statement emerged in the final days of the Assembly which urged priority attention to the climate emergency and acknowledged the significant impacts already experienced by vulnerable communities.
“Christ’s love calls us to deep solidarity and a quest for justice for those who have contributed to this emergency the least, yet suffer the most, physically, existentially, and ecologically, through a transformation of systems and lifestyles.”
“We are running out of time. We must repent from our continuing human selfishness, greed, denial of facts and apathy, which threatens the life of all creation."
The gathering addressed various other peace and justice issues, including the war in Ukraine, the consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, the Syriac-Aramaic genocide, human rights in West Papua, peace on the Korean peninsula and peace in the Middle East.
In the last of several vlogs, Rev Sharon Hollis and Colleen Geyer shared with the wider UCA across the week, they spoke about the highlights of their time and how belonging to the global Christian community can enable a more faithful witness in the world.
“I’ve been a little amazed at the deep sense that if the church can find a way to be more united amongst ourselves, then we are a powerful voice in the world for the things that we hold dear,” said Rev Hollis, “both our life of faith and our commitment to justice, to reconciliation, to climate justice and to creating a climate where peace might be possible.”
“In a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before, I realise why the stakes are so high around ecumenism and why it really does matter and must matter.”
Ms Geyer spoke about the richness of meeting in smaller groups each day and the inspiration of the deep faith which could be seen as people from across the communion shared and prayed together.
“There were a couple of times in my home group where someone challenged the group to think differently or to consider new perspectives, and the richness of having people from different churches around the globe helped you to go so much further and deeper in your thinking.”