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WCC assembly will signal ‘life in the ecumenical movement’

 


WCC assembly will signal 'life in the ecumenical movement'

June 13, 2005

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The upcoming ninth assembly of the World Council of Churches will demonstrate "that there is life in the ecumenical movement," according to a United Methodist who sits on the planning committee.

Lois Dauway, also a member of the WCC's Central Committee, noted that while business sessions will be conducted, the assembly is not a meeting for "institutional maintenance."

The real excitement and energy, she added, will center around the worship services, Bible studies and an informal program for delegates and visitors alike called "Mutirao," which means coming together or celebrating together in Portuguese.

A United Methodist delegation will be among the more than 3,000 expected to attend the assembly, which meets Feb. 14-23 at the Pontifical Catholic University in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The number of participants includes some 700 delegates and their advisors, representing the 340-plus WCC member churches.

The planning committee has made a commitment to involve youth aged 18 to 30 years in the assembly, according to Dauway, who is an executive with the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Beyond designating a percentage of the delegation for youth, another 150 youth will participate in the Feb. 9-26 youth stewards program.

In addition, a Feb. 11-13 pre-assembly youth event will allow more affordable participation, particularly for youth from Latin America. Six youth interns have been working in the council's Geneva office on assembly planning.

"Energy for the ecumenical movement traditionally has come from youth," Dauway said, noting that the council wants to attract and involve more youth.

Even youth who are not delegates, she added, will be invited to participate in special ecumenical conversations designed "to inform the programming and the overall direction of the council" for the near future.

Those conversations will have four themes - changing religious and cultural context; changing ecclesial and ecumenical context; changing international and political context and changing social and economic context.

Financial constraints have reduced the overall number of delegates, presenting "a major challenge on a lot of levels," she added, including the need to have a diverse representation.

Many member communions are allotted only two delegates to the assembly and, she pointed out, "to this day, most of the heads of communion around the world are male. In this country (United States), it's mostly white males."

To help create more diversity, the planning committee added an "at-large" category of delegates. WCC officers met in early June to consider applicants for that category.

Another way to achieve diversity is through the "Mutirao." Open to anyone attending the assembly, it will offer worship, seminars, cultural events and exhibits and allow opportunities to expand upon the theme of the assembly and plenary sessions.

The last WCC assembly took place in Zimbabwe in 1998. In Brazil, the assembly is being hosted by that country's National Council of Churches, which includes the Methodist Church in Brazil, a WCC member. Other Brazilian council members are the Roman Catholics, Syrian Catholic Orthodox, Christian Reformed, Episcopal, United Presbyterian and Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Dauway noted that Latin America is a region that lately "has not gotten the attention that it needs and deserves" and Brazil embodies some of the issues the WCC will be dealing with, such as land use and ownership.

The assembly also will be the first for the WCC's chief executive, the Rev. Sam Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya. Dauway said she is appreciative of Kobia's leadership and believes he has created "a very helpful balance of spirituality and justice" for the council.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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