Disciples News Service

Unity of the church for the sake of the world: WCC dispatch #10

By Nathan Wilson

“Unity of the church, the unity of the human community and the unity of the whole creation belong together,” is the central claim in the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) draft statement on unity as presented to participants in its 10th Assembly, meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea.  

“Our unity as brothers and sisters of Christ is inextricably tied up in the unity God desires for creation,” said Dame Mary Tanner, moderator for the unity plenary and current WCC president from Europe.  It is a unity “not of our own making,” Tanner reminded participants, but rather one that is “grounded in the communion of love that flows through the Holy Trinity.”

“Creation,” says the draft statement, “is a gift from the living God. We celebrate creation’s life in its diversity and give thanks for its goodness (Gen. 1).  It is the will of God that the whole creation, reconciled in the love of Christ through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, should live together in unity and peace (Eph.1).”

The statement describes a world caught in the “tension between the profoundest hope and the deepest despair,” and although the WCC has come a long way on its ecumenical journey, there is still far to go.  “It is a scandal and a wound that we do not eat and drink around the one table of the Lord,” Tanner said to the applause and agreement of participants.

Other speakers noted objections to visible unity emanating from current WCC constituencies, such as those who speak against the ecumenical movement for fear of losing their traditions noted by H.E. Metropolitan Nifon, professor for Missiology and Ecumenism at the Orthodox Theological Faculty of Targoviste.  “How can we ignore our broth- ers and sisters who are actively seeking unity?” he said.

The Rev. Dr Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, echoed this sentiment, saying that we persist in holding on to peculiarities and don’t seek signs of the one Christ in other churches.  Callum also described conflicts on moral issues, weak promotion of unity among young adults and racism outside and within the church as objections to expressing visible unity.

Callam ended on an encouraging note: “The challenges may be great, but the opportunities are immense!”