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World Council of Churches Assembly


The ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil drew to its conclusion with closing prayers on the afternoon of February 23, 2006. PC(USA) Associate Stated Clerk Robina Winbush preached.

In describing the Assembly, our network member Joyce Manson has written, “There was a life- giving wholeness present everywhere. Joy – in living the future God has begun, is presently continuing, and will finish and make manifest – marked all. The music and dance in worship lifted the spirit, reminding me to live lightly, remembering where my home is. Courage and risk, rather than withdrawal, were predominant. The personal and corporate were assumed to be seamless in the expression of God’s abundant life. Those of differing abilities were present and were accommodated with gentleness, grace, and patience. Youth and age traded concerns and insights Women were present as bishops and as clergy from all continents as never before.” She also noted the increased emphasis on interreligious relations.

During the Assembly's final days, Robina Winbush (pictured) and GAC member Judy Angleberger were elected to the WCC Central Committee. Using consensus decision making, the assembly selected new program priorities, with special emphasis on spirituality, ecumenical formation, global justice, and prophetic witness. Within these, it can be assumed there will be opportunities for special attention to youth, persons with disabilities, and relationships with persons of other faiths. The WCC will continue to respond to and reach out to Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals who are not a part of the council.

In the years just ahead, special focus will be given to work toward three goals for visible Christian unity that can be expected to have major impact upon Christians locally -- first, full mutual recognition of one another’s baptism  [see below]; second, a common date for the celebration of Easter; and third, a common ecumenical assembly that would bring together not only council members but others parts of the Christian family around the world.

What other ways can the Assembly’s accomplishments be described? Cliff Kirkpatrick told WARC Update, “I think the 9th Assembly has reshaped the direction of the ecumenical movement in several ways. It has given the churches a new passion to broaden, deepen and reconfigure the ecumenical movement. It pointed (quite successfully) to a new way of making decisions within and among our churches, the way of consensus. It has built a common passion around two major mission priorities: an end to violence and a call to economic and ecological justice in our world.”

See the recommendations from the PC(USA) delegation to the World Council Assembly offered to the PC(USA) 217th General Assembly (2006) for action. Click on to the LES system, go to committee 7, and click on item 07-04.

If you wish to invite one of the PC(USA) persons who attended the Assembly to visit a PC(USA) congregation, middle governing body, or council, e-mail Robina Winbush for names of those who attended from your area of the country.

Download a four-page report on the Assembly, with color photographs.

See an interview with the newly reelected WCC president from North America, Bernice Powell Jackson.

Make use of articles, press releases, and documents available after the Assembly:

  • The message of the ninth Assembly, in the form of a prayer.
  • A summary news article about the Assembly.
  • WCC adopts consensus decision making news story.
  • Ecclesiastical and Ecumenical Implications of a Common Baptism, a study in the report of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches (beginning on p. 45), highly commended; also see a section of the report that looks at Roman Catholic participation in national and regional councils (beginning on p. 90).
  • The Called to Be the One Church discussion that brought forward WCC reflection on ecclesiology. Read the document as adopted by the Assembly. Read a Canadian update and a Christian Century article on the WCC ecclesiology discussion. (You may also want to see the Faith and Order paper #198 on The Nature and Mission of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement.)
  • Public Issues statements on Latin America, the responsibility to protect vulnerable populations, United Nations reform, terrorism and counter-terrorism, the elimination of nuclear arms, water, and mutual respect and dialogue with people of other faiths. Click to find the document list, then click for the document you wish to read.
  • The AGAPE document: Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth.
  • The Global Christian Forum is a larger table for ecumenical relationships in which the council can participate. To see the assembly’s action on it, click and find paragraph 34.
  • Speeches linking Christian unity to the wider unity of humankind: read an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury and click for a summary of a presentation by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
  • A Minute on mutual respect, responsibility and dialogue with people of other faiths adopted by the Assembly.
  • One of the new hymns prepared for the Assembly. Download “God, in your grace.”
  • Browse the web site of the Assembly for other materials.
  • From Harare to Porto Alegre, 1998-2006 recounts the activities of the WCC from the time of the 8th Assembly to that of the 9th. It can be downloaded from the web.
  • Finally, former Office of the Stated Clerk staffer Theo Gill, who now works in Geneva, wrote about WCC Assemblies for Presbyterian Outlook and Religious News Service reported on the challenges evidenced in this Assembly. An article by Judy Angleberger in the spring 2006 issue of Ecu-Dialogue describes her experience of the Assembly. For another view of the Assembly, see The Presbyterian Layman, April issue.


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© 2006 Ecumenical & Interfaith Network - PCUSA

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