World Council of Churches
Members of the Central Committee, meeting in June 2018 as representatives of the fellowship of the WCC, send the following message to the member churches and the wider world.
We greet you and warmly invite you to join with us as we celebrate 70 years since the creation of the World Council of Churches. We are ‘a fellowship of churches that confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together our common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’(Art 1WCC Constitution)
We give thanks to the Triune God that, 70 years ago after a time of bitter war, churches remembered the prayer of Jesus ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21) and committed themselves to call one another to unity. Having reached our ‘three score years and ten’ (Psalm 90:10) we celebrate that so much has been given and received among us, while recognizing that there is more yet to come. In our anniversary year, we affirm that we will continue to move together on a journey that has its beginning in the call of God to a pilgrim people and its end in the unity of the whole creation.
We praise God that the churches in our fellowship, and other churches like the Roman Catholic Church, have grown so much closer to one another than they were 70 years ago. We have seen more clearly what unites us. We have stories to share of reconciliation and renewal, of searching theological dialogue and the overcoming of differences. Love and fellowship between us have deepened during our ‘lifetime’ together. What seemed to be an ‘impossible possibility’ in 1948 has proved to be a lasting and visible sign of the unity God brings.
Throughout our seventy-year history, we have constantly adapted our focus, responding to the needs of the member churches and the challenges of the world, growing in communion and visible unity so that the world may believe. We hold in grateful memory many significant steps on our journey, such as ‘Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry’, the ‘Programme to Combat Racism’, the conciliar process on ‘Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation’ and the ‘Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women’; and our forebears who engaged in this work. In the steps of those who have gone before us, we are now engaging in transforming discipleship. Now we taste the harvest of the WCC’s unwavering advocacy for peace, in the dawn of reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula, and in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to our partner ICAN, as together we campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. We continue to call for an end to rape and violence through ‘Thursdays in Black’.
We have seen how Jesus Christ is present within us, in the whole world and especially with those at the margins of our communities. We choose to join him there in mission to the world. We have affirmed, without compromise, the inherent dignity of all humankind and we have called for justice for a wounded and violated earth and changing climate. We have re-imagined our being together as a pilgrimage of justice and peace, in which we find our unity as we travel together on God’s earth.
We are impatient for a growth of grace in the church and in the world, and pray together each day for God’s will to be done. While celebrating the gifts that God is offering to us and to our fellowship, we repent and confess, with sorrow and regret, that we have not yet reached the full, visible unity to which we call one another. Our churches still cannot all share together around the Lord’s table. We pray for those Christians who are persecuted, suffering wherever they are, especially in the Middle East. All Christians live in a world marred by division and disunity. There are new challenges for humankind, as there are profound inequalities, violence, racial injustice and division. Today we grieve for the suffering of refugees and migrants, of separated families, of people trafficked into slavery, of boats turned away from the shore, and of human rights denied.
We give thanks for all those who live and work as good and faithful stewards on a daily basis in our churches, proclaiming the Gospel in words and deeds, responding to all who suffer and campaigning for justice, We are all called to be witnesses of Christ around the world.
In 1948 the WCC was founded in the great hope that unity among churches might be a sign and servant of the unity of humankind, and of that peace which the world cannot give, but which God promises. In 2018 we continue to long and work for the gift of unity; for the church and for the world. We gladly take this anniversary moment to recommit ourselves and our churches to continue the journey together. His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, reminded us, as part of our celebrations, that ‘The fruit of unity cannot ripen without divine grace.’ We have learned, over 70 years, that human endeavours often fail, but that the grace of the God who is always faithful is with us and will bring to fulfilment the prayer of Jesus ‘that they may be one’.
We celebrate, this year, a long common pilgrimage on the path to unity; walking together, serving justice and peace. His Holiness Pope Francis, in graciously visiting us in our year of celebration, strengthens our hope that, under God’s hand, all our prayers for unity will be fulfilled.
We give thanks to God who has guided our steps so far, and we set out on the same path once more, with zeal and fervour renewed. We invite you to be part of the journey, and to participate in what God is doing and will do, in and through our fellowship of churches. All praise be to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.