From 31 August to 8 September this year, more than 4000 people from across the global church will gather in Karlsruhe, Germany, for the World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly. Normally taking place every eight years, this will be the first gathering in nine years due to COVID-19. The theme is, 'Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity'.
A number of Uniting Church people will be present, including our official delegates who have the right to speak and decide, and participants who are invited to attend workshops and bible studies alongside the business of the meeting.
We asked them about their hopes and what they are looking forward to most!
Rev Sharon Hollis, UCA President
UCA delegate to the Assembly, Thursdays in Black Ambassador
I’m looking forward to seeing how the WCC uses consensus decision-making and what I can learn. I’m also looking forward to the daily Bible Studies that will reflect on the Assembly theme. I’m hoping to be spiritually and theologically enriched by praying, studying, talking and listening with a worldwide gathering of Christians from many traditions, denominations, countries and cultures. I’m hoping my mind and heart are expanded by such a diverse gathering of the church. I’m hoping to have a much better understanding of how members of the WCC think and pray about key issues facing the church and a deeper commitment to act with Christians around the world to address climate change, war and injustice.
COLLEEN GEYER, assembly general secretary
UCA delegate to the WCC Assembly, Thursdays in Black Ambassador
The global reach of the World Council of Churches reminds us that the Uniting Church is part of a larger fellowship of Christian Churches and people of faith. Together we share the story of Jesus in our own communities and try to make a difference. Stories of faith, of justice, of collaboration, of new ways to be Church are just part of what I’m looking forward to at the Assembly. Meeting people I know and many more I don’t is an amazing opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to grow in my own faith. Just how I’ll be changed I don’t really know, but I’m fairly sure I will be changed. Not long now!
REV MARK KICKETT
ADVISOR to the wcc assembly
Rev Mark Kickett, National Interim Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, will attend the WCC Assembly as an advisor, and will attend and speak at the Indigenous Peoples Pre-Assembly gathering.
OUTGOING CENTRAl AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER, member of the consensus facilitation team
I’m looking forward to seeing the fellowship of member churches coming together in one place to listen, learn and reflect together. Also to working with WCC leadership, moderators, plenary leaders and everyone at the Assembly to guide and advise them in using consensus decision making.
My hopes are that we reflect on where we have been through the pilgrimage of justice and peace: celebrating the blessings, visiting the wounds, and transforming injustices together. That the strategic direction of the next 8 years is developed and that the desire for Christian Unity remains at the core of the work we do together as a fellowship of churches.
REV DR AMELIA KOH BUTLER
I will be participating as an observer, immediately after being at the World Methodist Council Steering Committee and leading worship for the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women Global Assembly. Both gatherings will help me to bring GLocal perspectives to WCC. G-Local refers to both Global and Local. The Methodists are taking seriously the preparation for the WCC Assembly by ensuring that these gatherings prepare and study documents and hold workshops related to the WCC themes, so we will be well and truly ‘warmed up’ for the meeting. I will be going to the Pre-Assembly Gathering, called a Just Community of Women and Men. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones and learning new cultural understandings. Eastwood Uniting Church Congregation has shown its encouragement by preparing a tapestry to be added to the WCC Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance banner. It focuses on being on Wallemattegal country (where the snapper fish live) and our ongoing work towards reconciliation.
REV TARA CURLEWIS
I attended the 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea as an ecumenical advisor, a unique ecumenical experience that inspired me to attend the 11th Assembly in Kahlsruhe as a participant. I’m looking forward to the main plenary session each day that emphasises and builds on the Assembly theme. Each plenary is inspired by a biblical passage of Christ’s compassion and presented creatively to generate broad ecumenical discussion.
The opening plenary celebrates the purpose of God’s love in Christ for the whole creation, reconciling all things on earth and in heaven (Col. 1:19f.; Eph. 1:10). In a broken world, churches are called by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit to proclaim the hope of reconciliation and unity for all.
The second is rooted in the parable of the Good Samaritan with a focus on Christ’s compassionate love, which transcends boundaries and borders, calling us to care for the stranger with love and hospitality. The third affirms the wholeness of life and the compassion of Christ who is the light of the world (John 9:5). It will challenge indifference and systemic injustice, illustrating life-affirming alternatives that reflect the deeply interconnected world in which we live.
The fourth is about affirming justice and human dignity, requiring a radical impatience with practices that foster the sin of systematized, structural inequality and abuse. The plenary will hear from the marginalised and consider Christ’s liberating love. The final plenary will be an opportunity to reflect on what Christian unity means today and the new horizons for the mission of the church.
The Assembly is centred very much on prayer and worship. I’m particularly looking forward to the opening worship as it gathers the Assembly from the corners of the globe. The conversations with others attending the assembly are always a time of growing together in ecumenical fellowship and understanding of the challenges their church or part of the world is experiencing.
A personal highlight for me will be reconnecting in person with many ecumenical friends from around the world. I also hope that the theme will inspire a renewed energy in the church for climate justice, care for creation, justice for the marginalised, and a fresh focus on unity in Christ for the church today.
REV MARIE AND BRUCE WILSON
We found the Canberra Assembly in 1991 a mind-blowing experience in so many ways. We then went to Harare, Porto Allegre and Busan. Each one is different but significant. I am particularly looking forward to the worship – the experience of so many forms of liturgy and being introduced to new hymns, prayers and insights. One of my hopes is that with General Secretary of the WA Council of Churches Simone Micke going as a participant, she will bring back to our council a wider view of what ecumenism can mean in a time when survival seems to be the main vision of so many churches.