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The World Alliance of Reformed Churches
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WARC sets agenda for years ahead
WARC has seven core areas in which it will work and active networks to turn these callings into reality:
- Justice in the economy and the earth
- Spiritual renewal and renewal of Reformed worship
- Communion within the Reformed family and unity of the church ecumenical
- Interpreting and re-interpreting the Reformed tradition and theology for contemporary witness
- Mission in unity, mission renewal and mission empowerment
- Inclusivity and partnership in church and society
- Enablement of Reformed churches to witness for justice and peace
See the actions of the 217th General Assembly in support of WARC’s agendas.
WARC's president is Presbyterian stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick. Other Americans on its executive committee include Susan Davies (United Church of Christ) and Oliver Patterson (Reformed Church in America).
Two WARC-related Presbyterian churches in the U.S.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) has approved a plan to create nongeographic, transitional presbyteries to receive congregations seeking to join it. Most of the PC(USA) congregations that have voted to leave the denomination from 2001 to the present have chosen to go into the EPC, according to a chart prepared by The Layman Online. The EPC, like the PC(USA), is a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and of its regional Caribbean and North American Area Council (CANAAC).
Consultation prepares for John Calvin jubilee in 2009
In preparation for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth in 2009, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches co-sponsored an international consultation in April to define themes and coordinate planning, together with other Swiss-based bodies. A document, What is the significance of Calvin's legacy?, is available online.
Heads of seminaries to discuss training clergy to face twenty-first century
Princeton Seminary hosted a WARC consultation in June for some 50 heads of Reformed theological institutions from every continent. They built friendships, shared experiences and expertise, and pledged to work further together. Attendees included Brian Blount and Louis Weeks (Union/PSCE), Philip Butin (SFTS), Cynthia Campbell (McCormick), William Carl (Pittsburgh), Laura Mendenhall (Columbia), Iain Torrance (Princeton), and Heidi Hadsell (Hartford Seminary). Read the report and see the participants list.
WARC addresses the gap between women and men in leadership
Among WARC's commitments is support for women in ministry as a means toward partnership between men and women. "Women in ministry seek new models of leadership which are built on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and his resistance to the ethics of domination and control," WARC's Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth has said. A WARC consultation in Kenya on June 29-July 4 examined
participatory models that address the gap between women and men in leadership
in the church and society, and eleven women from the global South, aged 25 to 41, are receiving WARC scholarships to study for ordained ministry. Since 2001, 49 women have benefited from such scholarships.
Reformed dialogues continue
The international Pentecostal-WARC dialogue met for a fifth session in South Africa on May 21-24, 2007. It dealt with the broad theme of "Experience in Christian Faith and Life" through looking at "justice." The dialogue's Pentecostal co-chair is David Daniels of McCormick Seminary, and the WARC co-chair is Joe Small of the PC(USA) staff. See a report of the dialogue's fourth session ( 2006), which explored ways Pentecostal and Reformed Christians experience koinonia in the local congregation and between churches.
The international Lutheran-Reformed Joint Commission has undertaken a study on church communion that reflects on the two confessional families' ecclesiological approaches. It next meets in August 2007. The two co-chairs are Presbyterian Anna Case-Winters (pictured) of McCormick Seminary and Lutheran Kathryn Johnson of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. The Lutheran World Federation and WARC have met to dialogue since the early 1980s.
WARC-related meetings produce documents on globalization
WARC has a mandate to deal with globalization since it adopted a key document, "Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth" (known as the Accra Confession), at its last general council meeting. Since then, a call to do this work alongisde other faiths and civil society has come from Living out the Accra Confession and its implications for our spirituality and mission, a document issued by a 2006 international forum.
The Manila Declaration, produced at a WARC consultation on the Theological Analysis and Action on Global Empire Today, identifies two key aspects of global empire: global militarization and neoliberal economic globalization. It particularly asks churches whose “missions and peoples have historically been involved in empire building" to examine their structures, liturgy, political allegiances, funding agencies, and policies in order to "reshape their life . . . in the anti-imperial biblical heritage." Mark Taylor of Princeton Seminary was one of the consultation theologians.
WARC's North American churches respond on economic justice
WARC's Covenanting for Justice Network equips churches to engage in theological reflection, discussion, and action for global economic justice. Gretel Van Wieren, a Reformed Church in America minister with a doctorate in environmental and economic ethics, has become a consultant for this work in North America. She and a WCC representative were present in Louisville in April when 15 leaders from six churches gathered to consider how to engage church members together. They recognized the anger, the fear, and individualism that make it hard for WARC's Accra Confession to be heard in North America. To further work around the Accra Confession, they agreed
- publish and distribute an educational pamphlet on the confession
- introduce it to appropriate bodies within each denomination
- incorporate it into agendas of some upcoming events at theological institutions
- organize scholarly events to look at the political and economic legacy of the transatlantic slave trade
- develop a model for regional community-based hearings on economic and environmental injustices, to be used by churches in collaboration with community organizations
Documents on globalization yield to practical projects
The Making a Difference Project (MADIP) is a way for the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, and the United Protestant Church in Belgium to grapple with the Accra Confession's meaning. The learnings and expertise of each church become available to the other partners through direct involvement and mutual reflection. In one MADIP program, teams of youth and their leaders lived in the Congo for a month and were exposed to local realities through joining local workers in alternative agriculture, street cleaning, caring for senior citizens and orphans, a weaving project, and the construction of a library and a performing stage -- all within a framework of worship, Bible studies, games, outings, and cultural evenings. They linked their experiences to their faith, life in their home contexts, and the Accra Confession. The WARC coordinator is Jet den Hollander.
Lutheran World Federation consultation complements WARC themes
In work that is a complement to WARC's efforts on globalization, an Lutheran World Federation international consultation in June 2007 examined being the church in the midst of empire. It was held in the U.S. -- in St. Paul, Minnesota -- because "from the outside, Christians in the U.S.A.. seem . . . complicit with . . . empire, reinforced by expressions of religiosity that facilitate the imposition of empire." Disturbing features of empire today include the "quest for power and profit and the avoidance of accountability" and cooptations of structures and cultures. A Danish participant looked to the idea of "the inverted Messiah" to counter empire: "Jesus being identified not with the highest in society, the sovereign, but with the lowest."
Equal engagement in mission partnership requires change, says Nyomi
Setri Nyomi told the Christian Reformed Church and its worldwide mission partners in June that intentionality is required for "true partnership, in which sisters and brothers can share equally in mission engagement in a multidirectional fashion." Mission is no longer simply sending to Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Caribbean; now missionaries from other parts of the world can be welcomed to North America and Europe as well. The first calling in mission is to our own neighborhoods. Churches need to stay relevant to their own communities and help to transform them to deal with survival issues such as globalization, war, dicrimination and environmental degradation. These are especially problems in the global South, which would want partners in mission from the global North to take these realities seriously. "We need to covenant for justice together and be partners both in presenting the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ and in creating a more just world."
WARC's Caribbean and North American Area Council provides context
CANAAC, the area council for WARC in the Caribbean and North America, is made up of 20 member communions who work to place WARC priorities in a regional context that includes both "northern" and "southern" neighbors. It next meets in Guyana on February 18-22, 2008. A CANAAC youth gathering and an executive committee meeting will take place in the Cayman Islands in October. PC(USA) minister Neal Presa is the convenor.
The World Council of Churches
WCC membership list | WCC structures | WCC historical overview | WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle |
| WCC program areas: priorities, activities, and projects |
WCC program directors selected
Current WCC programs can be seen through three lenses:
- Living out Christian unity more fully
- Being neighbors to all
- Taking greater care of creation
Structurally, the WCC's central committee has organized these into six areas in a streamlined framework, and directors have been announced. They are:
- WCC and the ecumenical movement in the 21st century: Martin Robra (German, in the WCC since 1994 with responsibility for ethics and ecology)
- Unity, Mission, Evangelism, Spirituality: Jacques Matthey (Swiss, in the WCC since 1999 working in mission and evangelism)
- Justice, Diakonia, and Responsibility for Creation: Hielke Wolters (Dutch, directed Dutch ecumenical office for industrial and rural mission, has a doctorate earned in India)
- Education and Ecumenical Formation: Ioan Sauca (selected last year; Romanian Orthodox, in the WCC since 1994 and director at Bossey Institute since 2001; interested in mission and spirituality, interfaith relations, interconfessional encounter)
- Communication: Giving voice and witness in the world: Mark Edward Beach (American Mennonite, now director of communications for the Mennonite Central Committee; award-winning feature and news writer)
- Planning and Integration: Aruna Gnanadason (South Indian, in the WCC since 1991 with responsibility for the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women and for coordinating Justice, Peace, and Creation department)
Leadership has not yet been announced for:
The WCC central committee is moderated by Dr. Walter Altmann. Its membership, posted on the WCC web site, includes Robina Winbush and Judy Angleberger from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Kobia travels to visit churches
Samuel Kobia, the WCC general secretary, is taking a series of journeys that give opportunities to visit churches and to focus on issues. In 2007 these include:
- India, February 13-20, seeing disaster assistance, Dalit discrimination, the range of Christian communities
- United Kingdom, April 24-29, May 2-4, addressing global migration, Edinburgh 2010 planning
- Ireland and Northern Ireland, April 29-May 1, recognizing the need to reconcile memories and seek reconciliation; looking at prisoner abuse
- Eritrea, May 16-19, affirming the WCC commitment to peace, reconciliation, and nation building
- Latvia, May 29-31 and Estonia, May 31-June 2, looking at ecumenical challenges in secularized, post-communist societies
- Germany, June 6-10, recognizing the role of globalization in conflicts being labeled as religious
- Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, June 21-26, expressing solidarity with churches and concern for the future of all peoples affected by the area's conflict
- Tanzania, July 1-3, looking at problems of genocide, ethnicity, interreligious relations, poverty
Water conference faces stark realities
The Ecumenical Water Network -- an initiative of the World Council of Churches together with other organizations including the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, and Church World Service -- was hosted in a May 2007 conference by the All Africa Council of Churches and host Uganda's national council. On the African continent that is suffering severe water crises, the conference heard that the Darfur conflict was sparked by battles over water and pastureland. Experts warned of circumstances elsewhere where small clashes could become larger. The conference affirmed that "solutions need to be sought together with affected populations, and be based on mutual respect for the right to water of all people involved." Governments must "deal openly and fairly with water issues, prioritizing the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable people, and exploring ways for peaceful collaboration and sharing among . . . states." Read a conference report.
Global Ecumenical Network on Migration puts spotlight on key issues
The Global Ecumenical Network on Migration (GEM) provides a means of churches, ecumenical bodies, and church-related organizations to work with the UN and other bodies. It looks at the relationships between migration, racism, and xenophobia; it examines the impact of migration upon the churches. For the WCC, this issue also raises questions about interfaith relations. A June network meeting was held in Kenya.
Speaking in Wales, WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia called migration the human side of globalization. He said welcoming strangers is neither optional nor conditional for Christians. Their full integration requires willingness to receive from them. Migrants bring things, including different theological traditions and social attitudes, that can enrich churches but also divide them. See the WCC central committee statement of 2005 on practicing hospitality.
Oikocredit has new ezine
Oikocredit, a privately financed cooperative society that is among the large financers of microcredit worldwide, was established after the WCC Assembly in 1968 heard the cry, "Why do churches invest without scruples in banks that might channel their investments to industries that support the Vietnam War and apartheid? Can't we invest our funds in a better way, more in line with the social teaching of the church?" After slow beginnings, Oikocredit now reports, in 2007, that it has more than doubled its investments in developing countries. Oikocredit Ezine, newly begun, will offer four issues per year and is receiving subscriptions online. The PC(USA) encourages congregations to invest in Oikocredit.
ACT Development comes into being
The global emergency response alliance, Action by Churches Together International ( known as ACT) was joined in February 2007 by ACT Development, a global alliance of WCC member churches and related organizations that works toward the elimination of poverty, human rights abuses, and injustice. The WCC will convene its executive committee in its first years, and a small secretariat will be housed in Geneva.
The alliance draws together 55 ecumenical organisations and churches, collectively running programs in 157 countries with more than 14,000 staff and a combined budget of about US$1 billion. Church World Service, a member, is represented on the executive committee by Rick Santos. ACT Development will not be a funding transfer agency.
Consultations explore climate change and development
A WCC-sponsored consultation in April worked
toward a common platform for churches' involvement in the UNFCCC COP 13 climate change negotiations in Brazil next November-December as well as looking at church participation in actual projects. It focused on
actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and legitimate goals for new development projects.
From the U.S., both Church World Service and the Evangelical Environment Network participated.
The WCC working group on climate change contributed to another conference -- a meeting on water in Uganda, sponsored by the Ecumenical Water Network and the All Africa Council of Churches, among others -- when one of its members read a paper on the impact of climate change to fresh water access. He said,
"The industrialization of the developed countries has come at a cost to ecology. The majority of the victims are people who are not responsible for global warming." This being true, the conference looked at
the need for teaching water management in regions adversely affected.
Documents, resources, and links on climate change and other earth concerns are found on the WCC web site. Material for World Environment Day 2007 (observed on June 5 but useful for churches on the Sunday before or after that date) are available for ecumenical use.
WCC Faith and Order standing commission looks at past, present, future
The Faith and Order Commission is the primary reference point designated by WCC member churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and some Pentecostal churches for WCC work to bring about visible unity and overcome divisions between the churches. Its plenary commission has been called "the most diverse church-based theological forum in the world" and brings together a wealth of confessional and regional perspectives.. Faith and Order texts are intended to promote discussion between and within churches. See the currently available texts.
A 30-person standing commission on Faith and Order, which meets at least once every 18 months and last met on June 12-18, has selected ecclesiology, baptism, and worship; ethical decision-making; and questions of authority as areas for study in the immediate future, in addition to the issue of Christian self-understanding in a religiously plural world that will be studied in cooperation with other parts of the WCC. It also helps plan the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Looking backward, the standing commission in June commemorated the 25th anniversary of publishing and sending to the churches the landmark document, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry.
The standing commission has called a meeting of the Faith and Order plenary for October 2009.
In December 2006, WCC's Faith and Order held a consultation for "A theological reflection on cruelty -- the ugly face of violence" in Puidoux, Switzerland, that attempted to do theology based on actual violent experiences of people, e.g., racism, sexism, xenophobia. Other consultations in its Decade to Overcome Violence series have looked at redefining power, affirming human dignity and rights of people, and realizing mutuality in a world of diverse identities. Michael Trice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was the December co-chair.
Commission on World Mission and Evangelism plans for next conference
An April meeting of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) proposed that its next world mission conference be in late 2011. The date takes into account the centennial celebrations for the 1910 Edinburgh world mission conference.
At its meeting, the commission emphasized the importance of new work on evangelism and expressed eagerness to contribute to a code of conduct on conversion. It will cooperate with Faith and Order on questions of mission and unity -- in particular on the study process around the draft document, The Nature and Mission of the Church -- and will continue ecumenical work on health and healing. Geevarghese Mor Coorilos (pictured) of the Malankara Syrian Church in India is the CWME moderator, and Presbyterian Marian McClure is the volunteer recording secretary. CWME members come not only from WCC member churches but also from the Roman Catholic Church and several other Christian bodies. They will next meet in Bangalore, India, in October 2008.
World Christian Communions
The World Council of Churches is giving special attention now to deepening its partnership with regional ecumenical organizations (REOs), national councils of churches (NCCs), Christian world communions (CWCs), specialized ministries, and international ecumenical organizations. While almost all the WCC's programmatic work is already carried out in consultation with ecumenical partners, coordination of these relationships is still needed.
Commission of WCC and World Christian Communions meets first time
Decades of work to foster trust and partnership between conciliar and confessional ecumenists has resulted in the convening of a Joint Consultative Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian World Communions (CWC), which met for the first time on May 10, 2007, in Geneva.
The commission was formally recommended by the 9th Assembly of the WCC in 2006. The global confessional families of Anglicans, Disciples, Eastern Orthodox, Friends (Quakers), Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic are included. The commission will
explore coordination of programs, the implications of overlapping memberships, and the feasibility of CWCs taking advantage of WCC assemblies as an occasion for their meetings. The moderator of the Joint Consultative Commission is Armenian Apostolic bishop
Nareg Alemezian (ecumenical officer of the Holy See of Cilicia headquartered in Lebanon), and the moderator of the
Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions is Robert Welsh (ecumenical officer of the Christian Church / Disciples of Christ in the U.S.). The body will next meet on May 14-15, 2008, when they expect to look at existing cooperation between the WCC and CWC and to identify areas for future collaboration.
Cliff Kirkpatrick has said, “Finding a way to hold confessional and WCC assemblies in the same space and with interaction with one another will be a major step towards a truly ecumenical assembly of the churches, which has been a long-time goal of the ecumenical movement.”
Joint meeting of Reformed and Lutherans proposes joint assemblies
In November 2006, the officers of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) met together for the first time, co-chaired by their two presidents -- Clifton Kirkpatrick of the PC(USA) and Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. They recommended that LWF and WARC not hold separate assemblies after 2010 and that they meet in a new type of assembly together in 2013. The Joint Consultative Commission the WCC and the Christian World Communions is expected to advise the WCC central committee in February 2008 on the feasibility of a 2013 ecumenical assembly.
World Reformed Communion proposal moves forward
Actions to bring together larger segments of the Reformed family worldwide are moving forward. The executive committee of the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) approved in principle the proposal to form a new ecumenical organization, the World Reformed Communion (WRC), in March 2007. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) executive committee will discuss the same proposal in October 2007. The current decisions are grounded in a formal proposal issued in 2006 by WARC president Clifton Kirkpatrick and REC president Douwe Visser on behalf of a joint committee.
REC had canvassed its member churches. As part of its recent approval, the REC executive committee expressed concern that the WRC have:
- a Reformed confessional basis that faithfully reflects the essentials of the Christian gospel as historically expressed and understood in the major confessional documents of the Reformed churches worldwide
- a structure that fosters fellowship and theological kinship with other members of WRC while maintaining the unity of the whole
REC would like the WRC to be completely established in both governance and operations by 2010. This would require that both REC and WARC hold a major meeting in 2009.
YWCA conference looks at women's leadership on HIV/AIDS
In an event coinciding with the YWCA's world council meeting, the Y sponsored a 1500-person international summit on women's leadership on HIV/AIDs on July 4-7 in Nairobi, Kenya in partnership with the
International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS and other international organizations. A declaration and suggested strategies emerged from the meeting. (ENI #07-0531)
The women believe that, by "taking leadership into our hands and uniting in strength as a movement of women," they can lead change. They will seek broad rights for women as a means of engaging the issue, as well as seeking meaningful self-determination for women who are infected with HIV/AIDS by involving them; ensuring the physical, sexual, and psychological safety for women and girls; and promoting their sexual and reproductive health. WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia challenged men to join with the efforts of women. The WCC has an Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA).
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