18 September 2017
Some forty professionals working on ecumenical relations in different member churches in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East as well as North and South America, are currently gathered in Geneva, Switzerland. Their four-day meeting affords them an opportunity to learn about the various programmes of the World Council of Churches (WCC) as well as from each other.
Evangelist Joshua Lian from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), who is participating for the first time in a meeting of the ecumenical officers’ network said he has gained a new understanding of how the activities of his church and of the WCC as a whole are mutually relevant and can benefit each other, for example in the area of children’s programmes.
For Miriam Weibye, this is also the first meeting as ecumenical officer for the Scottish Episcopal Church, though as a Central Committee member for the Church of Scotland she already knows the WCC well from the governance perspective. She appreciates that, compared to a governing body meeting, the much smaller ecumenical officers gathering allows more time for learning about each other’s experiences and seeing how they can be applied to one’s own context.
Whereas the Central Committee often needs to focus on very specific problems and the different, sometimes conflicting perspectives that representatives bring to these, the network creates space for a better overview of what the WCC is and does. “Having the time to be relational helps moving forward,” says Weibye.
While most of the 16-19 September meeting takes place at the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, participants came to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, where the WCC has its offices, on Monday, beginning the day in prayer alongside staff of the WCC and other church organizations located in the building.
“You and I are called to perform a ministry that is simultaneously compassionate, priestly and missionary, because this is the good news for today’s world” said Prof. Victor W.C. Hsu, outgoing ecumenical officer of the PCT, in his homily. Reflecting on the experiences of the natural disasters experienced by other ecumenical officers from Aotearoa New Zealand and Thailand present at the meeting as well as on the prophet Isaiah, Hsu concluded: “Indeed, we must be rebuilders not just of ruins but also of spirits.”
Various staff members of the WCC and partner organizations based in Geneva presented their work to the ecumenical officers in the forms of a market place and a talk show. Asked about high points of WCC’s work, the general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said that for him, it is a highlight “when we can address issues together and those who are suffering say that it actually makes a difference”, even when the solution is not yet found, as for example in Korea.