INDIANAPOLIS (9/4/09) – The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 26-September 2, was marked by a new spirit of hope for the ecumenical movement as it took several actions that give new focus to the WCC’s future. The most significant decision was the election of a new General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, a 48 year-old Norwegian pastor, theologian and church leader.
Reflecting on his election, Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a member of the Central Committee, stated, “Dr. Tveit impressed me as a person of deep faith and commitment to Christian unity in all its many dimensions. He is an engaging speaker who conveys warmth and passion for his calling to ecumenical service. With Olav Tveit we welcome a new generation of ecumenical leadership which bodes well for the future of the movement.”
In congratulating the WCC General Secretary-elect on behalf of the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council (DECC), Dr. Robert Welsh, ecumenical officer for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and General Secretary of the DECC, said, “Disciples of Christ around the world express our thanks to Dr. Sam Kobia for his years of service as General Secretary of the WCC, especially as he has offered a consistent word of hope to the ecumenical movement and as he traveled extensively to strengthen a closer relationship with the WCC’s member churches.
“We now look forward to working closely with Dr. Tveit as he takes up the important work of leadership in the WCC,” continued Welsh. “He is coming at a critical time in the churches’ witness to unity and wholeness in a world that desperately longs for authentic signs of peace, justice and reconciliation. We offer him our support and our prayers for God’s blessing and guidance in the coming years.”
Other key decisions taken by the Central Committee that will shape the future program of the WCC and its 348 member churches in more than 110 countries, and that offer direction to the ecumenical movement, include:
• Selected Busan, South Korea as the site for the 10th General Assembly to be held in 2013. It is hoped that holding the Assembly in Korea will focus the WCC’s work in peace-making and might contribute toward the reconciliation and reunification of the divided peninsula.
• Received a report from the planning committee for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) that is scheduled for May 17-25, 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica. The hope is that this convocation will issue an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace as the culminating work of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence that began in 2001.
• Passed a series of public statements that address a variety of urgent and on-going international issues challenging Christians and churches in their common witness in the world:
– Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The committee called on the government of Pakistan to "guarantee the rights of all religious minorities in the country". It also stated that Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law has become "a major source of victimization and persecution" of religious minorities who are living "in a state of fear and terror".
– Israeli settlements. The committee called on the Israeli government to freeze and begin to dismantle settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It also encouraged a commitment to non-violence and peace negotiations.
– Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The committee urged the WCC member churches "to publicly condemn violence against women" in the DRC. It urged all parties to the conflict to put an end to all acts of sexual violence and called on the government "to end impunity for rape and to evolve effective strategies to combat sexual violence."
– Just finance and the economy of life. The committee noted that the global financial system has "enriched some people but has harmed many more, creating poverty, unemployment, hunger and death" and "widening the gap between rich and poor". It called on member churches "not to retreat from their prophetic role," and proposed "new indicators of progress" for the economy.
– Darfur, Sudan. The committee condemned "the mass atrocities committed against innocent civilians in Darfur". It urged the government of Sudan "to assume full responsibility for the protection of its citizens" regardless of ethnicity or other affiliation and to "allow uninterrupted humanitarian assistance to reach all suffering people in Darfur."